Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia–Who Has The Right To The Claim?

Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia–Who Has The Claim?

A wrongful death case is one of the most emotionally difficult legal actions a plaintiff will have to pursue.  After all, someone has lost their life due to the negligence of another.    

These cases also have the possibility of generating substantial outcomes at trial for the loved ones left behind.  The value of the deceased’s life naturally has tremendous value.

However, under Georgia law, not all family members have the right to pursue or share in the wrongful death award.  Lets examine who has the wrongful death claim in Georgia.  

Who Has The Claim?

The Georgia wrongful death statute provides a hierarchy of individuals that have the right to and ability to bring a wrongful death action:

    • First Person To Have The Claim—Surviving Spouse The surviving spouse is always the first person in line who has a right to the wrongful death claim.  However, keep in mind that if there are also surviving children of the deceased, the surviving spouse does not get 100% of the proceeds of the wrongful death claim.  The surviving spouse must share proceeds from a wrongful death with any surviving children of the deceased.  If there isn’t a surviving spouse, you move to the next individual(s) in the hierarchy.  
    • Second In Line To Have The Claim—Surviving Children – The children of the deceased have the sole right to the wrongful death claim if there is no surviving spouse.  Naturally if there is more than one surviving child, they share in any proceeds obtained equally. 
    • Third In Line–Surviving Parents – If there is no surviving spouse or surviving children, the next in line who can pursue the wrongful death claim is any surviving parents of the deceased.  However, when the parents are no longer together at the time of death, a court must decide what portion of any award each parent receives if an agreement between the parents cannot be reached. 
    • Fourth In Line—The Next of Kin – We only reach this far down the hierarchy if there are no surviving relatives from the list above. 
    • Last In Line–Administrator/Executor of the Estate – Anyone named the administrator or personal representative of the estate of the deceased has the wrongful death claim if none of the above exist.  

Who Does Not Have The Claim?

This hierarchy of who has the legal right to pursue and receive proceeds from a wrongful death claim in Georgia can be harsh.   For example, over the years we have been approached several times by longtime girlfriends or boyfriends of someone who recently was killed.  Some of these folks had been together for 20 plus years.  Georgia law gives them no rights to pursue a wrongful death claim much less share in any proceeds from a claim.  

Likewise, siblings very rarely have a right to a wrongful death claim.  Only if there is no surviving spouse, children or parents due they potentially have a right to pursue a claim.  

Be Careful Of The Statute of Limitations For Filing Suit

You must be very mindful not only of who has the legal right to bring a wrongful death claim in certain situation but you must also be careful of the statute of limitations in wrongful death cases.  

More often than not the statute of limitation applicable to a wrongful death claim in Georgia is two years.  Certainly if the death resulted from a motor vehicle accident, this will the limitation period. However, there are certain claims where the limitation will be longer or shorter.   Be careful.  

It is always smart to speak to a wrongful death lawyer early on after you have lost a loved one to figure out who has the right to pursue the claim and by when it must be pursued in court.