What is Wrongful Death & Who Can File for It?

Written by Troy Marsh |

When someone else’s negligence leads to the loss of someone you love, no amount of money will ever replace that person in your life. However, a wrongful death suit can relieve the financial pressure, which may make moving forward a little easier.

The law gives survivors latitude to pursue damages in a wide variety of situations. In general, wrongful death suits can be thought of as a type of personal injury claim. This includes everything from car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, and defective products. Fatalities resulting from someone who intended to cause harm can also qualify, even if prosecutors decline to press criminal charges.

Each state determines who is eligible to file a claim differently, but in Georgia, the surviving spouse gets priority. The spouse will also have to represent the interests of any surviving children, but the surviving spouse will receive at least one-third of the settlement no matter how many kids there are. If there is no spouse or surviving child to bring the case to court, a wrongful death suit can be filed by surviving parents or, in some cases, by the personal representative of the estate, which is the administrator or executor.

In Georgia, the measure of damages for wrongful death is the full value of the person’s life to him or her.  Other amounts, such as funeral, medical, and other necessary expenses resulting from the injury and death of the deceased person are not recoverable in the wrongful death case, but they can be recovered in a separate claim.  To recover those amounts, the personal representative of the deceased person is the proper party to file suit against the responsible parties.  In other words, there are two separate claims that arise upon a person’s death, the wrongful death claim (for the full value of the deceased person’s life to him or her) and a separate claim for funeral, medical, and other necessary expenses.

Wrongful death law is extremely complex, especially when you’re dealing with the grief of a loved one’s passing.