Nothing is more traumatic that suddenly losing a loved one. As a wrongful death attorney, George McCranie helps people rebuild after someone’s negligence or misconduct results in the death of a cherished family member.

Unfortunately, wrongful death claims are highly complex—and most grieving families aren’t prepared to navigate this process alone. In this article, we explain  the essentials of Georgia wrongful death law and suggest ways you can get closure after the unthinkable happens.

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim?

Wrongful death claims aim to compensate families for the loss of a loved one. You may have a wrongful death claim if the death involved:

  • Criminal conduct, such as homicide
  • Drunk driving and other negligent driving behaviors
  • Car-pedestrian accidents
  • Motorcycle accidents
  • Medical malpractice
  • Nursing home abuse and neglect
  • Other misconduct and negligence

Most wrongful death claims center around someone’s negligence. In these cases, you must prove that the at-fault party owed your loved one a duty, failed to meet this obligation, and caused their fatal injuries.

Technically, there are two types of wrongful death claims. First, your deceased loved one’s estate can demand compensation for their medical bills, pain and suffering, and other damages associated with their last days.

Second, family members, such as children and spouses, can demand compensation for their losses, including lost financial support, loss of consortium, loss of companionship and parental guidance, and other soft (but invaluable) damages.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?

Not everyone can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia. Instead, the law limits it to surviving:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • The estate’s personal representative

In other words, close friends and long-time partners are often unable to file a lawsuit for their loved one.

What Is a Personal Representative?

Under Georgia probate law, you typically must open an estate after someone dies. A designated personal representative will help identify the deceased person’s assets, pay their debts, and distribute their property according to the state’s inheritance laws or the person’s will.

If your loved one had a will, they may have named a personal representative already. However, if they did not leave behind an estate plan, you’ll need to appoint someone to handle this difficult task.

Because opening an estate is essential to your wrongful death claim, you should consult with a lawyer before you file anything with the court. Your legal team may include probate attorneys and injury lawyers who can streamline the multiple processes required in your claim.

When Should I File a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?

Like all injury claims, there is a strict filing deadline in Georgia wrongful death cases. Typically, you have two years from your loved one’s passing to file your lawsuit. If you miss this deadline, you may lose out on compensation and the court may dismiss your claims.

However, you should never wait until the last minute to file a wrongful death claim. As mentioned above, this is a complex and time-intensive process. Your wrongful death attorney will need sufficient time to investigate your claims, open an estate, file the appropriate paperwork, and negotiate a fair settlement. If you wait too long, it may be impossible to do this all.

What Is My Wrongful Death Claim Worth?

No one can place a value on human life. Your loss simply isn’t quantifiable. However, there are factors that a wrongful death lawyer uses when calculating settlement values:

  • Your loved one’s medical expenses
  • Their pain and suffering while they were alive
  • Their lost income and wage-earning capacity
  • Your emotional distress, pain, and suffering
  • Lost companionship for both spouses, parents, and children
  • Replacement value of their household chores and contributions
  • Burial and funeral expenses
  • Punitive damages, under certain circumstances

Punitive damages are relatively rare but are possible in wrongful death claims. These damages do not compensate you for your injuries. Instead, they punish the wrongdoer for their grossly negligent or intentional conduct. If your wrongful death attorney believes that punitive damages are available in  your case, they will aggressively pursue this remedy.

If you recover compensation in a Georgia wrongful death claim, you typically will distribute the proceeds under Georgia’s inheritance laws. That means that if a person leave behind a spouse and children, they will usually each get a portion of the settlement or jury award. If the children are minors, these funds may be placed into a trust or will be overseen by their legal guardian.

Schedule a Free Consultation With a Wrongful Death Attorney

George McCranie is a respected trial lawyer who prides himself on attention to detail and his aggressive, smart legal tactics. If your family wants answers and closure after the unexpected loss of a loved one, contact our office today.