Wrongful death claims are the most serious type of personal injury case. When someone loses their life due to negligence, homicide or a defective product, the legal issues can be complicated. Determining liability and damages is no small hurdle.
Here are some key things that surviving loved ones should know about pursuing a wrongful death claim in Georgia.
1. The deadline for filing a claim can come fast
In Georgia, the deadline (or “statute of limitations”) for filing a wrongful death claim is the same as other types of personal injury lawsuits: two years. The clock starts ticking on the date of your loved one’s passing.
However, that deadline can be extended (or “tolled”) in a handful of situations. If your loved one’s estate is stuck in probate, that time won’t count toward the deadline (up to a certain limit). Likewise, if your loved one’s death is the subject of criminal proceedings, the deadline will be tolled while those proceedings are pending (again, up to a certain limit).
2. Only certain people can file a claim
To bring a wrongful death claim, you must be a surviving family member or personal representative (executor) of the person’s estate. Family members include spouses, children and parents.
3. Multiple types of damages are available
Georgia law allows for two types of damages (or financial compensation) in wrongful death claims:
- Economic damages: These cover financial losses tied to the death, including medical care, funeral expenses, lost wages resulting from time off work you had to take to care for your loved one, and any other accident-related out-of-pocket expenses.
- Full value of the victim’s life: Georgia law allows survivors to obtain adequate compensation for their loved one’s loss of life. That includes loss of companionship and loss of financial support for the remainder of their life. Importantly, the statute says you don’t need to offset this amount by any expenses your loved one would have incurred had they survived.
Proving damages can be difficult in wrongful death cases. It is often necessary to enlist a forensic accountant who can calculate a reasonable estimate of all your losses – past, present and future. That’s why it’s so important to work with a trusted injury lawyer who can enlist the right experts to build a strong case for you.