We are rarely prepared for the death of a loved one. The emotional pain can be even more pronounced when someone else’s negligent or intentional act caused it.
If you recently lost someone close to you, you may be struggling with overwhelming grief and unexpected financial stress and strain. You may be entitled to compensation from a wrongful death claim or survival action.
When a person dies in Georgia due to someone else’s negligence, surviving family members may have the option to file two different types of legal claims – wrongful death and survival actions.
The Georgia wrongful death and survival action lawyers of Butler Kahn are well-versed in both of these options. The initial consultation is free. Contact us today.
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What Is the Difference Between a Wrongful Death Claim and a Survival Action In Georgia?
Wrongful death claims and survival actions share many similarities but also have several key differences.
A wrongful death claim seeks compensation directly on behalf of the deceased person’s family members. When someone suffers a wrongful death, their loved ones must deal with a wide range of personal and financial losses. Any money from a wrongful death claim goes directly to surviving loved ones to compensate them for such losses.
The money available from a wrongful death claim may include compensation for family members’ financial losses, such as the deceased’s current and future income, funeral and burial expenses, and the deceased’s medical expenses incurred before death. Family members may also receive compensation for the subjective costs of their grief, pain, suffering, and other personal losses related to the wrongful death.
On the other hand, a survival action is more like a personal injury claim made on behalf of the deceased person. Any compensation from a survival action goes directly to the deceased’s estate, after which it may be distributed to surviving family members.
Compensation available from a survival action is intended to compensate for the deceased individual’s suffering and financial losses. The estate may be entitled to compensation for the deceased’s medical bills and lost earnings, as well as the subjective costs of the pain and suffering the deceased endured before death.
How Is Wrongful Death Defined in Georgia?
Georgia’s Wrongful Death Act defines it as any death caused by the wrongful act of another party. State law allows surviving family members to file wrongful death claims for “the full value of the life of the decedent.”
In this case, the “full value of the life” of the wrongful death victim is based on the deceased’s point of view. This “full value” includes the value of both tangible and intangible aspects of their life.
The tangible values of a person’s life include the economic value of the work they did for others and the income and benefits they would have earned during a natural lifetime. Intangible value is the personal value assigned to worthwhile parts of living, such as spending time with loved ones, enjoying daily activities and recreation, and reaching important life milestones.
Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia?
Georgia’s wrongful death laws impose restrictions on the individuals who may bring wrongful death claims. However, unlike in some other states, surviving family members can file these claims themselves.
If a Georgia wrongful death victim has a surviving spouse, the surviving spouse has the sole authority to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased and the surviving spouse had children in common, the spouse is still the only party entitled to file a claim.
The surviving spouse is also obligated to represent the children in any wrongful death claims they file and then share any compensation they receive with the children. However, the spouse is always entitled to at least one-third of the monetary compensation from a wrongful death claim, no matter how many children there are.
If the deceased were unmarried, widowed, or divorced at the time of death, their surviving children would be jointly entitled to claim compensation. If the deceased had no surviving spouse, children, or dependents, the deceased’s surviving parents might be entitled to file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased left behind no surviving immediate family members, an administrator or executor of the estate could file a wrongful death claim.
Who Can Bring a Survival Action in Georgia?
Although surviving family members may benefit from a survival action, this type of claim is intended to compensate the deceased’s estate for losses experienced by the deceased before death. As a result, family members are not automatically entitled to bring a survival action.
Only a representative of the deceased’s estate has the right to file a survival action in Georgia. A representative of the estate could be the nominated executor of the deceased’s will, the administrator of the estate, or a court-appointed personal representative. Family members frequently act as representatives of their loved ones’ estates, but non-relatives can, too.
How Long Do Georgia Wrongful Death and Survival Actions Take?
In short, it depends. If the victim’s death was clearly the result of negligence and they left behind a relatively uncomplicated estate with few heirs, subsequent wrongful death claims and survival actions may resolve in a matter of months. However, any complications that arise could cause either type of case to drag on much longer, potentially even for years.
Wrongful death and survival actions involve lots of time-consuming and complicated steps, such as:
- Appointing the personal representative of the deceased’s estate
- Determining who is entitled to compensation from wrongful death and survival actions
- Investigating the cause of death, collecting evidence, and interviewing witnesses
- Calculating losses and reasonable compensation demands
- Filing legal paperwork with the court
- Participating in mediation sessions, settlement talks, trials, and appeals
No matter how long it takes to resolve a wrongful death or survival action, making sure you file your initial claims promptly is vital. Under Georgia law, surviving family members and personal representatives have only two years from the date of death to take legal action. If you wait too long to file, you could lose your right to seek compensation. This is known as the Statute of Limitations.
Our Georgia Wrongful Death and Survival Lawyers Can Help
No amount of money could ever make up for the loss of a loved one, but fair compensation for your losses can help you find the space to grieve, support yourself financially, and move forward with your life. It can also provide a measure of justice on behalf of the deceased.
The Georgia wrongful death and survival action lawyers of Butler Kahn are here to support you every step of the way. When your family is ready to consider the next steps, contact us for a free and confidential case review.