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What is a Wrongful Death Action?

Wrongful death claims prevent parties that responsible for an individual’s death from avoiding liability.

If your family member has been killed as a result of another party’s acts or omissions, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party. A wrongful death suit is a cause of action that allows a decedent’s close relatives to bring a civil case against the party who caused their death. This cause of action was established in order to prevent a loophole that would result in parties who cause injuries to be civilly sanctioned, but not those who cause death, merely because the decedent is not alive to file a claim. In essence, a wrongful death action allows a decedent’s relatives to stand in their place and to seek compensation for the wrongful act or omission that caused their death.

Who can file a wrongful death action?

Each state has specific statutes that articulate what parties can file a wrongful death action on a decedent’s behalf. Under Georgia law, a surviving spouse of the deceased individual can bring a wrongful death action on their behalf. If no surviving spouse exists, then the decedent’s surviving children may file a wrongful death action. In the event that the decedent has neither a surviving spouse nor surviving children, their surviving parents may pursue a wrongful death action. If the decedent does not have a surviving spouse, children, or parents, then the administrator of the decedent’s estate may file wrongful death action.

When should a wrongful death action be filed?

Like all other civil claims, a statute of limitations applies to wrongful death actions.

The statute of limitations is generally two years but can vary from a year to eight years, depending on the type of personal injury that resulted in the death. As such, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible in order to avoid missing the opportunity to file a wrongful death claim.

What types of damages may be allocated in a wrongful death action?

Georgia law enumerates the types of damages that a claimant can recover if they prevail on a wrongful death action. Specifically, the claimant is entitled to the full value of the decedent’s life. This includes the decedent’s projected earnings, the value of other services they would have performed, and intangible factors such as, their quality of life and pain and suffering before death. This amount is not discounted to account for taxes or living expenses. In addition, damages may be awarded to compensate for the decedent’s medical bills and funeral expenses. In the event that the surviving spouse brings a wrongful death action, Georgia law requires the surviving spouse to share any damages that are recovered equally with the decedent’s surviving children.

If your loved one has been killed as a result of another party’s acts or omissions, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can review the circumstances of your case and advise you on your legal rights.