In most instances, only close relatives of the deceased have the right to file wrongful death suits. Typically, it is spouses, children and parents who file wrongful death lawsuits. However, if there is no next of kin, the estate of the deceased can also file wrongful death suits.
Losing a loved one is never easy, especially if they died suddenly due to an accident completely out of their control. S. Burke Law understands how trying a time this is for everyone who knows your loved one. And while no amount of money can replace the relationship you had with your lost family member, receiving compensation is often something owed to you, particularly if the deceased was the primary breadwinner in the family.
Parties That May Collect Wrongful Death Claims
There are several different parties that may collect wrongful death claims including:
- A surviving spouse
- A surviving child
- Surviving parents
- The estate
It is important to note there is a time limit for filing a wrongful death claim.
Surviving Spouses Filing Wrongful Death Claims
Generally, surviving spouses have the priority as wrongful death beneficiaries. A wrongful death beneficiary is a person who holds the right to file wrongful death cases. Assuming the spouse and the deceased did not have any children, the spouse would collect the entire wrongful death settlement.
However, if the deceased did have children, they split the money between them. In this case, the spouse receives one-third of the settlement, and the children would split the remaining settlement.
Surviving Children Filing Wrongful Death Claims
If there is no spouse, but the deceased left behind children, the right to file a wrongful death claim falls to the children. Assuming they win the claim, the surviving children split the award equally between them.
Surviving Parents in Wrongful Death Claims
If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, the right to file a wrongful death claim falls to the parents. This does not change if the parents were not living together. Both parents split the settlement whether they are dating, married, divorced, or separated.
However, there are a few cases in which one of two surviving parents may file a claim and act as the sole wrongful death beneficiary. If one parent refuses to follow through in filing a personal injury claim, the other parent can file a wrongful death claim without him or her. Also, if one of the parents failed to provide for the deceased child, or totally abandoned them, that person may be unable to file a wrongful death claim.
The Estate in Wrongful Death Claims
If there are no surviving spouses, children, or parents, the estate can file a wrongful death suit in Georgia. Whoever is the estate’s administrator or executor would file the claim. The beneficiaries distribute the proceeds from the settlement. Georgia’s probate law determines how those funds are distributed.
The Statute of Limitations to File Wrongful Death Claims
Like most personal injury cases, wrongful death claims have a statute of limitations. Georgia’s state laws dictate the wrongful death claim must be within two years of the negligent act which caused your loved one’s wrongful death. That said, this does not mean your case resolves within that two-year timeframe. Simply, you must file the claim at the two-year mark.
Occasionally, there are instances when the clock on your two-year time limit stops running. This is not very common, but it does occur when there is a criminal case related to your wrongful death claim. If there is a criminal case dealing with the same circumstances as your wrongful death claim, the clock stops on your wrongful death claim until the criminal case concludes.
Call a Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney
Determining who can file a wrongful death suit in Georgia is the first step in collecting the damages you deserve for your loss. And speaking to a Georgia wrongful death attorney can help you in that process. S. Burke Law has represented many people in wrongful death cases.
We pursue a variety of damages in those claims which includes:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages and benefits
- Funeral expenses
- Loss of companionship
- Pain and suffering