Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia

Georgia law defines wrongful death as death of another person caused by negligent, reckless, intentional or criminal act. The law permits a victim’s estate or surviving family members to bring a claim for damages against an at-fault party.

Those who can bring a wrongful death claim include:

OCGA § 51-4-2 governs who can bring a wrongful death claim in Georgia:

  • Surviving spouse. A spouse must also represent the interests of minor children. The law entitles spouse to not less than one-third of total recovery, regardless of number of children.
  • Surviving adult children (known as sui juris under the law) may bring a wrongful death claim in absence of a spouse.
  • Surviving parent of a deceased.
  • Personal representative of the estate of the deceased.

Other relatives, such as step- or half-siblings, aunts or uncles, cousins, or grandparents, typically cannot bring a wrongful death claim, unless they are named estate administrator for the deceased.

In some cases, a last will and testament is left by a decedent, which establishes an estate representative. If a victim dies without a will, it is considered an intestate estate. In this case, an estate administrator will be established by a probate judge, in accordance with Georgia laws governing intestate estates.

Statute of limitations on wrongful death claims in Georgia is two years. Consultation with an experienced wrongful death attorney in Atlanta is best done at the earliest stages of such cases. You can discuss the steps to establish an estate in probate court, which will be required before an estate can pursue damages on behalf of a decedent.

Recoverable Damages in Georgia Wrongful Death Lawsuit

Georgia wrongful death claims are governed by OCGA § 51-4.

The law recognizes two types of claims:

A wrongful death claim by the family, which aims to take full measure under the law of the “full value of life” of a deceased:

  • Wages and benefits: This includes future earning capacity.
  • Loss of companionship: And other benefits a deceased provided to family members.

An estate claim brought by or on behalf of deceased person’s estate to recover estate losses resulting from a victim’s death, including:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Punitive damages

Experienced Atlanta wrongful death attorneys will spend significant time and resources determining “full value of life” under Georgia law. Unlike some states, Georgia does not use a formula or cap in determining value of life.

Elements to Determining Full Value of Life

Economic Damages

Economists and other expert witnesses are often called upon to look at a decedent’s age and health, as well as his career and future value of labor performed.

Intangible Damages

Must also be carefully considered and calculated. Factors that may be considered include a decedent’s relationships, family circumstances and living conditions. This may include testimony of family and friends.

Life Expectancy

Georgia evidence code uses the Commissioners 1958 Standard Ordinary Mortality Table and the Annuity Mortality Table for 1949, Ultimate. These resources may be augmented with other evidence or witness testimony to determine how long a victim may have lived.

The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact the experienced wrongful death attorneys at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or send us an email.


About the Author

Stephen Apolinsky

Stephen D. Apolinsky is a Personal Injury Attorney who specializes in representing individuals and families concerning wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases. Stephen is licensed to practice in Georgia, Alabama, and the District of Columbia. With over 33 years of experience representing personal injury victims, Stephen has successfully tried over 80 cases to verdict before judges or juries, and has negotiated over 300 cases to out-of-court settlements. Stephen has been recognized as a Georgia Super Lawyer, and as a Top 100 Trial Lawyer by the National Trial Lawyers Association.