There has often been confusion about the meaning of wrongful death and when legal action may occur, as well as if a statute of limitations applies. In simple terms, if a person is killed due to the misconduct or negligent actions of another, the deceased’s survivors may be entitled to pursue a civil action (known as a wrongful death lawsuit) for damages caused by the party at fault.
Reasons to file a wrongful death lawsuit
There are many grounds for filing a lawsuit in which an individual was killed due to the negligence of another person or entity. The most common types of these claims include:
- Automobile accidents – if the death was caused by a party who neglected to drive responsibly and in a safe manner.
- Medical malpractice – if the death was due to substandard treatment or negligence by a healthcare professional or provider.
- Premises liability – if the death was caused by unsafe conditions while on the defendant’s property.
- Product liability – if the death was caused by a faulty product.
Is there a statute of limitations?
In these instances, the statute of limitations varies from state to state. In general, the rule is that the defendant must file the legal action within two years of the alleged misconduct. However, if the act involves a minor or an individual with special needs or disabilities, limits may be as short as one year. On the other hand, some timeframes may not begin until the date of discovery. An example of this may include a patient whose doctor was negligent and failed to diagnose a terminal condition; the statute would not begin until the patient learns about the illness, otherwise known as the date of discovery.
How does the statute affect residents of Georgia?
Like a variety of other states, the standard time limit of two years applies to Georgia to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the individual(s) or the business or organization at fault. Additionally, proof of negligence must exist and a member of the deceased’s family must initiate the claim. Family members may include:
- Parent(s): If the deceased has no children or spouse, his or her parent(s) may file the claim. Any damages would be awarded to the parent(s) in their entirety.
- Spouse: If there is a spousal survivor, then he or she may initiate the claim. If there are also children, any compensation awarded to the family would be disbursed as one-third to the spouse with the remaining funds split equally among the children.
- Children: If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased’s children may file a claim. Any compensation awarded would then be dispersed equally among the children.
However, if the deceased has no parents, children, or spouse to file on his or her behalf, the estate may bring forth such a lawsuit to the court. Any damages awarded to from the court would be held by the estate and dispersed accordingly by probate to any surviving next of kin.
The Bottom Line
Here are a few steps to ensure you follow the best course of action with your claim:
- Research applicable laws and statutes.
- Meet the burden of proof with evidence that the defendant’s action caused the death.
- Contact an attorney who is familiar with the laws in your local jurisdiction.
If you have a loved one that died due to negligence or dangerous conditions, you may be entitled to file a wrongful death lawsuit. Contact Tate Law Group today for a consultation at (912) 234-3030.