October 2, 2020

Pitts Carr and Alex Weatherby

Who Gets the Money in a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

The death of a loved one is painful under any circumstances. When a person dies due to the wrongful actions of someone else, then certain family members may have a wrongful death claim for the fatal accident. If the wrongful death lawsuit is successful, then the family members may receive compensation for the death of their loved one.

In Georgia, the laws that govern wrongful death are highly complex and potentially difficult to understand. Specifically, it can be difficult to determine who can bring legal action and how wrongful death proceeds are distributed.

The Atlanta wrongful death attorneys of Carr & Weatherby can answer your questions and provide the information you need to get started with the legal process.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Suit in Georgia?

Georgia wrongful death statutes establish who has the right to bring legal action. The list of people who can file a lawsuit is short: 

  • A surviving spouse has first priority;
  • If there is no surviving spouse, the children can file;
  • If there is no surviving spouse or children, the surviving parents can file; and, 
  • If none of these persons are able to bring the suit, the personal representative of the victim’s estate may file a suit seeking compensation on behalf of the victim and the estate. However, should compensation be awarded, the funds are awarded to the victim’s next of kin.

There are exceptions to the law that could apply to your case. The best way to determine whether you have a valid wrongful death claim is to consult an experienced attorney.

Who Can You Sue for Wrongful Death in Atlanta, Georgia?

According to Georgia law, a person may be liable (that means, be sued) for wrongful death if that person commits negligence, recklessness, or intentional conduct that causes the death .

A list of examples of possible instances where wrongful death suits can be filed include but are not limited to:

  • Motor vehicle accidents,
  • Truck accidents;
  • Injury due to a dangerous defective product,
  • Injury due to negligence on private property, 
  • Injury due to criminal assault, and
  • Medical malpractice.

In general, in Georgia, a suit must be filed within two years from the date of the person’s death in most cases. The law provides some exceptions that can extend or limit the time limitation. In some circumstances, the time limitation can be as short as a few months if, for example, there is a city government involved.

In other instances, the time can be longer like when the injured person is a child. These are just examples. In order to know if a valid claim for wrongful death can still be asserted, you should talk with an Atlanta wrongful death attorney as quickly as possible.

How Long Until a Case will Be Settled, a Check Received, and Who will Receive the Funds?

The majority of cases settle. Although it isn’t possible to identify any average time to resolve a case, the truth is that wrongful death cases usually take time. If there is minimal insurance and clear liability, the case may be resolved in a matter of weeks. However, for a case with high insurance, disputed facts, or other complications, it often takes months or years to resolve the dispute. Once an experienced attorney has all of the facts of your case, they can give you an idea of how long it will likely take to resolve your case.

As for how wrongful death settlement distribution is made, the answer is determined based on the heirs under the statute. For example, should a partner be left alive after a spouse’s wrongful death, the spouse is legally entitled to no less than a third of whatever is awarded to the victim’s family under Georgia law. If the deceased left children behind as well, then those children are also entitled to recover. It can get complicated.

For example, if the victim left a spouse and no more than two children behind, the money is split evenly between all parties. However, if the deceased left three or more children behind, a special clause states that, as above, the spouse receives the third they are legally entitled to and then the remaining two thirds of the award is divided equally between all the children.

Yet another aspect of the statute states that if one of the victim’s children died before them, the money would be split evenly between the child’s children (the victim’s grandchildren). For example, a victim leaves behind a spouse and one child. However, the victim’s other child passed before the victim, leaving behind one grandchild.

The money would then be split evenly between the spouse, the surviving child, and the grandchild. Should there be multiple grandchildren left behind, the money that would have been awarded to the victim’s late child would be divided evenly among all those grandchildren.

As you can see, the Georgia laws are convoluted and potentially difficult to interpret, especially with regard to how wrongful death proceeds are divided. Talk to a knowledgeable attorney to determine specifically how the laws apply to your case.

Talk to an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney Today

A wrongful death case required compassionate, strong advocates. The wrongful death lawyers of Carr & Weatherby have a long history of impressive case results that demonstrate our commitment to getting it done for folks in wrongful death cases.

Call or contact us now to schedule a no-cost, no-obligation consultation and case review or to speak directly with one of our Georgia wrongful death attorneys.