Learning that your loved one’s death was caused by someone else, whether on purpose or due to a negligent mistake, can cause you to be overwhelmed with emotions. Even if you don’t know what your next step will be, you are clear on one point: you want the responsible party to be held accountable. While no one can roll back the clock to undo what has transpired, you can seek justice for the loss you have suffered. Knowing who can file a wrongful death lawsuit and who will receive monetary damages will allow you to take those first steps toward a resolution.
What Is Considered a Wrongful Death?
Simply put, a wrongful death is a death that occurs as a result of another person’s or entity’s negligent or intentional conduct. Examples include medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, car accidents, and homicide. When this happens, the responsible party may face criminal charges relating to the incident. Also, a separate and distinct civil cause of action may be taken against them. This civil case is known as a wrongful death lawsuit. The claim is typically brought by the victim’s close relatives, effectively enabling them to seek financial compensation for their losses.
Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Atlanta?
Not everyone who knew or had a relationship with the deceased can pursue compensation. The law permits only certain family members to file a claim. The following is a list of people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Atlanta and the order in which they are eligible:
1. The Decedent’s Surviving Spouse
If the deceased was married, the surviving husband or wife will have the highest right to bring the lawsuit. The spouse will represent both their own interests and those of any minor children the couple had at the time of the victim’s death.
In the event that the case is successful, the surviving spouse and children will split the funds recovered from the claim equally. However, the deceased’s spouse must receive at least one-third of the total damages awarded according to Georgia’s intestacy laws.
2. The Decedent’s Surviving Children
When there is no surviving spouse or the deceased was not married, any of the deceased’s legal children, regardless of age, can bring a suit. This includes biological, adopted, and out-of-wedlock children. While stepchildren who have not been legally adopted are ineligible, they may be provided for in the decedent’s will.
Generally, an adult child is allowed to bring their own claim. However, when there are surviving minor children and there is no living parent, a court will appoint a guardian who will file a lawsuit on their behalf.
If there is a successful outcome in the case, the wrongful death compensation will be shared equally among the children.
3. The Living Parents of the Decedent
If the victim has no surviving spouse or children, the right to file a suit passes to their surviving parents. This is regardless of whether the deceased was a minor or an adult.
Parents who live together and are legally married can file a wrongful death lawsuit jointly. Both parents have a right to bring a suit even if they live apart, are separated, or are divorced. In case one parent cannot be located or refuses to bring a wrongful death action, the other party can hire a wrongful death lawyer to file the lawsuit on behalf of both of them. If only one parent is alive, the surviving parent has the sole right to pursue the claim.
4. A Personal Representative of the Deceased’s Estate
Where the deceased was not married, did not have children, and there are no surviving parents, a representative of the deceased’s estate will have a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
If the case is successful, the representative of the estate must pass the awarded damages to the victim’s next of kin. In cases where the deceased had listed beneficiaries to their estate, the representative must follow these instructions and distribute the estate accordingly. If the decedent did not have a will, the damages will be distributed according to Georgia’s intestacy laws.
Individuals Ineligible to File a Wrongful Death Suit in Atlanta
In Atlanta, no other relative or friend of the deceased has a right to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Sadly, this means that siblings, fiancés, and significant others are among those who are ineligible. The only exception is when such an individual is the administrator of the decedent’s estate. However, these individuals may receive a portion of the damages if they are named in the victim’s will after an eligible family member files a suit.
Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit
When it comes to wrongful death cases, the eligible plaintiffs must file a lawsuit before the statute of limitations expires. In Atlanta, the parties have up to two years from the time of the victim’s death to file a claim. If a government entity is being held responsible, the statute of limitations is reduced to one year. If you file the lawsuit after this time period has elapsed, the defendant stands a good chance of succeeding if they petition the court to dismiss the case.
An Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer Can Help Your Case
A wrongful death case can have a lot of moving parts. Without the necessary legal expertise and experience, you may end up making costly mistakes. To ensure you do not jeopardize your chances of getting the compensation you deserve, make sure you have an experienced lawyer on your side when filing a suit.
Have you lost your loved one as a result of someone else’s negligence? If you fall into the category of people who can file a wrongful death lawsuit, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A wrongful death attorney will see to it that your case is handled with the utmost care so you can get fair and just compensation. Reach out today to discuss your case with a free consultation.