Generally, you only have two years from the day that your close relative died to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the wrongful death in Georgia. Depending on the facts of your case, however, you might have a little longer than two years. Since that time can fly by quickly, you should talk with a wrongful death attorney right away to protect your right to compensation for your loss.
Many people need at least a couple of years to deal with their grief and financial losses before they can handle the emotional impact of a lawsuit. Having a lawyer handle your legal matters allows you to focus on grieving, rebuilding your life, and caring for your family without risking your right to seek compensation.
What Happens If You Miss the Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia
The statute of limitations for wrongful death in Georgia governs the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit. Every state has laws on the books that say how much time you have to file an action with the courts. One type of case might have a one-year deadline, while another has a two-year, four-year, five-year, 10-year, or 20-year statute of limitations.
If you do not file a lawsuit within the amount of time the statute of limitation allows, you can be barred forever from seeking money damages for your losses. People who try to handle their lawsuits without a lawyer often get tricked by insurance adjusters into missing the deadline.
The person with the personal injury or wrongful death claim might negotiate with the adjuster for many months, only to discover that the deadline passed.
Sometimes a judge will toll, or extend, the deadline for specific exceptions, such as fraud, disability, and the status of being a minor, but you cannot count on that happening.
The Georgia Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death
Wrongful death is a type of personal injury. When a person dies because of personal injuries, the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Georgia is two years. The clock starts running on the day that the person dies.
Understanding Wrongful Death Actions
Under the Georgia wrongful death statutes, these actions can include cases in which the person died because of someone’s negligence, criminal activity, or a defectively manufactured product. The wrongful death statutes refer to all such deaths as homicides.
Medical malpractice has a statute of limitations of two years, but there are several exceptions to this general rule. If a defective product caused the death, the statute of limitations is usually two years.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia
Only a close relative, like a surviving spouse, parent, or child can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant who caused the death. It does not matter whether the children were born in or out of wedlock. The surviving spouse is first in line to sue the defendant. If the spouse releases the alleged wrongdoer, no one else, not even the decedent’s child or estate, can file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Let’s say that a parent was a passenger in the car in which her teenage child was getting the required practice hours with a permit before getting a driver’s license. The child panicked and crashed into a tree. The mother died from her injuries. The surviving spouse, the father, can release the child from liability for the wrongful death of the mother. None of the siblings can go after the child for financial damages.
If there is no surviving spouse, child, or parent of the deceased person, the estate can go after damages against the defendant for wrongful death in Georgia. The personal representative can file a lawsuit seeking compensation for the full value of the life of the deceased person on behalf of the next of kin. Also, the personal representative can request damages for the funeral, as well as burial and medical expenses from the injury and death on behalf of the decedent’s estate.
Exceptions to the General Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Georgia
Depending on the cause of death, you might have the opportunity for an extended statute of limitations. For example, a death from medical malpractice usually has a two-year deadline, but certain facts can shorten the time limit to one year or give you up to five years.
If, for example, a foreign object left in the body as the result of medical malpractice caused the death, you must bring the lawsuit within one year of when the patient discovered the negligence. For the purpose of this code section, Georgia law does not consider prosthetic devices, fixation devices, or chemical compounds as foreign objects.
A person who is legally incompetent because of mental illness or intellectual disability might have up to five years for someone to file an action for wrongful death on his behalf. Minor children sometimes get more time for a representative to file a lawsuit for wrongful death.
How to Get Legal Help With Your Georgia Wrongful Death Case
We know that you are suffering when you lose a close relative. At S. Burke Law, we will treat you and your family with compassion and respect. You are not a number with us. We will take the time to listen to you and help you determine the statute of limitations for wrongful death in Georgia that applies to your case. That way, you won’t miss important deadlines. Call us today at (404) 842-7838 for a free consultation.