September 16, 2019
Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby
Who can sue for wrongful death?
One of our areas of focus is helping families recover for the death of a loved one. We have handled numerous wrongful death claims, received one of the largest wrongful death verdicts in the history of the state, and recovered millions more for fatal accidents in Atlanta. As a Georgia fatal accident attorney, we are very familiar with the statutes that govern wrongful death claims in Georgia.
One of the most fundamental (and confusing) rules govern: who can file suit for wrongful death? It is easy to see how this could cause hardship. For example, if a father does not want to pursue a fatal accident claim, but a child does. Another example, if two children disagree on how to proceed with a wrongful death claim. There are three statutes that governs, generally, who has the power to bring a wrongful death claim.
The right to bring a wrongful death claim is governed by three statutes, O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2; O.C.G.A. § 51-4-4; and O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5. These statutes establish an order of priority for who can assert a wrongful death claim, absent some unusual circumstances. The order is as follows:
- A spouse has the first right to bring a wrongful death claim.
- If there is no surviving spouse, the children of the decedent may bring a wrongful death claim.
- If the decedent has no surviving spouse or children, then the decedent’s surviving parents have the right to bring the wrongful death claim.
- If no one else is entitled to bring the claim, the administrator or executor of the decedent may bring an action for and may recover and hold the amount recovered for the benefit of the next of kin.
There are some important exceptions to this rule. For example, a parent that totally abandoned their child may not bring a wrongful death claim. Also, if a person who is in the line of priority refuses to assert a claim, there may be a path for folks later down the line of priority to assert the claim.
This is only one of the many somewhat different and tricky rules that apply to wrongful death accidents in Georgia. That is why it is important to hire an experienced fatal accident lawyer in Georgia. Contact us today for a free consultation.