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Understanding the Pursuit of a Wrongful Death Case

wrongful death

Understanding the Pursuit of a Wrongful Death Case

Wrongful death, under Georgia law, occurs when a loved one’s death results from a criminal act or another’s negligence. An action seeking legal relief for a wrongful death is a type of civil suit filed by a private individual and should not be confused with any criminal charges which are prosecuted by the state. If you are planning to pursue legal relief for a wrongful death, it is first important to understand whether you are entitled to relief under Georgia law.

Proper Plaintiff

A wrongful death claim allows for a decedent’s family members to seek damages against the person or entity that caused the death. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Section 51-4-2 allows for the spouse, if the decedent was married at the time of the death, to file a wrongful death action. If the decedent was not married at the time of their death, then the right to bring the wrongful death action passes to the decedent’s children. If the wrongful death action is to recover for the loss of a child, then O.C.G.A. § 51-4-4 and 19-7-1 apply. These codes explain that if the decedent is a minor child or child without a spouse or child of their own, then the right of recovery belongs to the parent or parents of the decedent. Finally, in the absence of any claimants under § 51-4-2 or 51-4-4, the administrator or executor of the decedent’s estate may bring an action under § 51-4-5, and hold any damages received for the benefit of the next of kin. 

Available Damages

In a wrongful death action, the plaintiff seeks to recover monetary damages. Under Georgia law, these damages are measured by the “full value of the life of the deceased, as shown by the evidence”. The evidence of damages may be proven by using economic losses associated with the decedent’s death. These economic losses may include, but are not limited to, lost wages, benefits and loss of future earnings. Additionally, Georgia courts will allow evidence of non-economic losses, such as loss of companionship, care or consortium, to be considered provided they are shown to be relevant.   

Statute of Limitations

In Georgia, the statute of limitations for filing a wrongful death claim is generally limited to 2 years under O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. This two-year period begins to run from the date of death, and if a claim is not filed within this window, the right to recover is extinguished. However, there are certain circumstances which will pause or “toll” the statute of limitations. Some specific scenarios where a toll may occur are:   if the survivor (person entitled to bring the claim) is legally incompetent because of intellectual disability or mental illness, who are such when the cause of action accrues, the time is tolled until their disability is removed; or if the survivor is younger than 18 years of age when a cause of action accrues, the time is tolled until he or she reaches the age of 18 years. It is important to consult with a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who can confirm the exact amount of time you have to file a wrongful death claim under the statute of limitations.  

Why Choose H. Lehman Franklin P.C.?

Wrongful death lawsuits can be complex and difficult to prove. For this reason, it is beneficial to consult with and retain an experienced attorney who understands the Georgia wrongful death laws and can help you navigate the complicated process. H. Lehman Franklin has been practicing law for over 30 years, in which time he has helped countless families find the closure and justice they deserve. He and his team are compassionate, understanding, and well versed in current Georgia wrongful death laws. A lawyer from H. Lehman Franklin P.C. will fiercely represent you, while providing both legal and emotional support throughout the legal process. To learn more about the process of filing a wrongful death suit in Georgia, or to schedule a free consultation, call our offices today at 912-764-9616.  This is your opportunity to stand up for a loved one and seek fair compensation for what amounts to a devastating and needless loss of life.