Frequently Asked Questions About Wrongful Death Claims and Compensation in Georgia

Key Points:

  • If a victim passes away due to an accident, then wrongful death laws will determine who can file a claim and recover compensation for their loved one’s death.
  • Typically, a surviving spouse, children, and parents can recover for the wrongful death of their family member. If no family members are eligible, then the victim’s administrator or executor can bring a claim to benefit the next of kin.
  • In Georgia, you usually have two years from the date of someone’s death to file a wrongful death claim.

What Exactly is a Wrongful Death Legal Claim?

In Georgia, a wrongful death legal claim is a civil lawsuit that can be filed when a person’s death is caused by the negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal acts of another individual or entity. The purpose of these claims is to seek compensation for the losses suffered due to the untimely death of a loved one. If the death could have been prevented if the other party did not make a neglectful decision, than it can potentially result in a wrongful death.

What Kinds of Accidents and Events Lead to Wrongful Death Lawsuits?

  • Motor Vehicle Accidents: These can include car, truck, motorcycle, bicycle, and pedestrian accidents where negligent driving, such as speeding, drunk driving, or distracted driving, leads to a fatality.
  • Medical Malpractice: Deaths resulting from a healthcare professional’s negligence, errors in diagnosis, treatment, aftercare, or health management can lead to wrongful death claims.
  • Workplace Accidents: Fatalities occurring in the workplace, especially in high-risk industries like construction, manufacturing, or mining, due to inadequate safety measures, equipment failure, or employer negligence.
  • Product Liability: Deaths caused by defective or dangerous products, where manufacturers, distributors, or retailers may be held liable.
  • Slip and Fall Accidents: Fatal accidents due to hazardous conditions on a property, where property owners failed to ensure safety.
  • Criminal Acts: Homicides or deaths resulting from intentional acts of violence.
  • Aviation and Boating Accidents: Fatal accidents occurring in air travel or maritime activities, often involving complex regulations and liability issues.
  • Public Transit Accidents: Deaths involving buses, trains, subways, or other forms of public transportation.
  • Exposure to Hazardous Substances or Environments: This includes deaths due to long-term exposure to toxic substances like asbestos, leading to diseases like mesothelioma.
  • Nursing Home Neglect or Abuse: Fatalities arising from neglect, abuse, or inadequate care in elder care facilities.

Which Types of Businesses Often Get Sued for a Wrongful Death?

Certain businesses are more likely to face wrongful death lawsuits:

  • Medical Facilities: For malpractice or patient care negligence.
  • Manufacturing Companies: Due to defective or unsafe products.
  • Construction Companies: Because of high-risk work environments and accidents.
  • Automotive Manufacturers: If vehicle defects cause death.
  • Transportation and Trucking Companies: From negligent driving or poor vehicle maintenance.
  • Nursing Homes: For neglect or inadequate care.
  • Chemical and Pharmaceutical Companies: If their products cause death due to toxicity.
  • Retailers and Food Service Providers: For selling contaminated products or causing allergic reactions.
  • Recreational Facilities and Amusement Parks: Due to equipment failure or safety issues.
  • Energy and Mining Companies: Because of the dangerous nature of their industries.

These businesses typically have insurance for such claims and are held liable if negligence is proven.

Who Is Entitled to Compensation After a Wrongful Death?

In Georgia, the order of who can file a wrongful death claim is as follows:

  • Spouse: The spouse of the deceased is the primary claimant. They are entitled to at least one-third of the settlement, and this right cannot be claimed by a boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Children: If there is no spouse, the decedent’s children can file the claim. Children, including those born out of wedlock, share in the claim with a surviving spouse, if there is one.
  • Parents: For a minor victim, the parents are eligible to file. Married parents file together, while divorced or separated parents can file individually. If one parent is deceased, the other has the right to file. Parents lose this right if they have given up parental control for reasons like consent to adoption, failing to provide for, or abandoning the child. For adult victims over 18, parents can only file if the deceased had no spouse or children.

Can an Executor or Administrator of an Estate Receive Wrongful Death Compensation?

When no one else is entitled to bring a wrongful death claim, then the administrator or executor of the person who died can bring a claim to benefit the next of kin.

An executor or administrator is typically named in an individual’s will and can be anyone over the age of 18 who is of sound mind. This person is usually someone that the deceased individual entrusted to properly administer their estate upon death.

An executor or administrator has the power to file a wrongful death claim only when no spouse, children, or parents survive the deceased person. A probate court can assign an executor or administrator if there’s not one provided for the deceased person’s estate.

Can a Boyfriend or Girlfriend Be Entitled to Wrongful Death Compensation if Appointed as Executor or Administrator of the Estate?

In most cases, a boyfriend or girlfriend is not automatically entitled to wrongful death compensation, even if they are appointed as the executor or administrator of the deceased’s estate. Wrongful death compensation typically goes to the legal heirs or closest family members of the deceased, such as spouses, children, or parents, according to state laws. However, if the deceased’s will explicitly includes the boyfriend or girlfriend as a beneficiary, they might receive compensation through the estate. The role of an executor or administrator is primarily to manage and distribute the estate’s assets as per the will or state laws, rather than to personally benefit from compensation awarded in a wrongful death case.

Who Do You Hire to Help You File a Wrongful Death Legal Claim?

If you need to file a wrongful death claim, you should hire a personal injury attorney who specializes in these types of cases. Look for an attorney with a lot of experience in wrongful death claims and a good record of winning cases or getting good settlements. It’s important that they understand the legal and medical details of your case, are kind and supportive, and have the right resources to help you, like medical experts. Make sure they explain things clearly and have a payment plan that makes sense for you, usually taking a percentage of the money you win rather than charging upfront. It’s also a good idea to choose someone who knows the laws in your area and is good at both negotiating and going to court if needed. Before deciding, talk to a few different lawyers to find the best one for you.

Is Insurance Coverage Necessary to Receive Compensation in a Wrongful Death Legal Claim?

To have a wrongful death claim it is not a requirement for the party at fault to have insurance, but having it can simplify the process of obtaining settlement payments. Without adequate insurance, it may be harder to receive the settlement amount. Insurance companies are generally more consistent in paying out for wrongful death claims, either in a settlement agreement or after losing in court. Some businesses or corporations might be self-insured and able to pay settlements, but securing large amounts from them can be difficult without proper insurance coverage. If the at-fault party lacks insurance or the backing of a financially strong organization, acquiring compensation becomes increasingly challenging and is not a guarantee.

Which Section of a Liability Insurance Policy Typically Provides Coverage for a Wrongful Death Claim?

In a liability insurance policy, wrongful death claims are generally covered under the Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) section. This part of the policy is specifically designed to provide coverage in instances where the policyholder is legally liable for causing injury or death to another person.

It includes financial protection for various damages such as medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, and pain and suffering of the deceased’s family or estate. Additionally, this coverage typically encompasses legal defense costs if the insured is sued, up to the policy’s defined limits. However, the specifics and extent of coverage can vary between different insurance policies and jurisdictions.

What Types of Expenses are Typically Compensated for in a Wrongful Death Settlement Claim?

  • Medical Expenses: Costs incurred for the medical care of the deceased before their death as a result of the injury or incident.
  • Funeral and Burial Costs: Expenses related to funeral services, burial, or cremation.
  • Loss of Income: Compensation for the lost wages or earnings that the deceased would have provided had they lived. This can include future earnings potential.
  • Loss of Support and Services: Financial value of the support and services the deceased would have provided to their dependents or family members.
  • Pain and Suffering of the Deceased: Some settlements include compensation for the pain and suffering experienced by the deceased between the time of injury and death.
  • Punitive Damages: In cases where the defendant’s actions were particularly egregious or reckless, punitive damages may be awarded as a way to punish the wrongdoer and deter similar conduct in the future.

How Long Do You Have to File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?

Generally, a wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of an individual’s death. However, this limitation can be extended if there is a pending criminal case or if the deceased person’s estate has not been processed through probate.

Is the Loss of a Loved One Due to Murder or a Criminal Act Eligible for Compensation Under Wrongful Death Claims?

Yes, the loss of a loved one due to murder or a criminal act can qualify for wrongful death compensation. In wrongful death cases, the claim is a civil action separate from any criminal proceedings that might be pursued by the state. This means that even if a criminal case is ongoing or has concluded, the family of the deceased can still seek civil compensation for their loss. The key aspect of a wrongful death claim in the context of a crime is proving that the death was caused by the wrongful or negligent actions of another party, which in the case of murder or a criminal act, is often clear.

However, it’s important to note that the standards of proof in a civil wrongful death case are different from those in a criminal trial. In a criminal case, guilt must be established “beyond a reasonable doubt,” whereas in a civil case, the standard is typically “a preponderance of evidence,” which is a lower threshold. This means that a party can be found not guilty in a criminal trial but still be held liable in a civil wrongful death claim.

They give back to the community. They donated thousands of pencils to the CCPS community to ensure that all kids have access to writing materials in class.

five stars
Jason B.
linkedin icon