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What if a Person Dies Before Bringing a Personal Injury Lawsuits?

Personal injury lawsuits are always contentious and come with a set of stipulations, especially in a state like Georgia. Depending on the nature of the case, your options as well as deadlines to file lawsuits may vary. If one has been injured in a car accident, or due to negligence on part of someone trusted, it is always advised to have an experienced personal injury lawyer look into the case. This becomes more important in a situation where the person involved in the lawsuit dies before bringing the claim. Let’s discuss this in detail below.

Death before filing a lawsuit

Unfortunately, only too often, families in Georgia find themselves faced with the death of a loved one due to negligent, careless, or even criminal acts of another person or party. In such situations, the State of Georgia allows them to file what is known as a ‘Wrongful Death Lawsuit’ on behalf of the deceased. There are certain very specific rules with respect to who can file the lawsuit.

The Georgia Wrongful Death Act strictly vests ownership of a claim for wrongful death as follows:

  1.     to the spouse of the decedent;
  2.     if there is no spouse, then to the decedent’s children;
  3.     if there is no spouse or children, then to the living parent(s) of the decedent; and
  4.     if there is no spouse, children or living parent, then to the administrator of the decedent’s estate.

In situations where there is no surviving spouse, child or parent, then whoever is appointed Administrator of the decedent’s Estate must assert the wrongful death claim.

What are the damages available for wrongful death in Georgia?

Damages available to family or estate administrators in Georgia are usually categorized into two separate and distinct types of wrongful death claims.

The first type of wrongful death claim is the most common brought by (or on behalf of) the deceased’s surviving family members. It is a claim to establish an account for the ‘full value of the life of the deceased’ and includes:

  1.     Financial losses on account of wages and benefits the deceased person may have earned if they had lived
  2.     Intangible losses like loss of companionship, care, or other benefits family members would have otherwise received from the deceased person

The second type of wrongful death claim is typically brought by the deceased person’s estate, to remedy the financial losses related to the deceased person’s death, and includes:

  1.     Medical costs for treatment of the victim’s past injuries or illnesses
  2.     Funeral and burial costs
  3.     Pain and suffering the deceased endured before they died

Your personal injury lawyer with experience of working on such cases is usually the best person to comment on the exact amount you should expect to receive, depending on the specifics of your case.

Time limits to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia

Under Georgia’s statute of limitations, wrongful death claims must be filed within 2 years after the death. If the claim is not filed within this time limit, the possibility of bringing forth such a claim is almost always lost.

There are certain exceptions to this. If there’s a criminal case attached to the wrongful death, the day count starts only after the criminal case has been completed.

Another exception is if the deceased person’s estate hasn’t gone through probate, in which case, the filing deadline is extended to 5 years.

The exception would also be made in cases where;

  1.     The accident has left the victim incapable of filing a lawsuit, such as a coma. Here, the statute of limitations may be set from the time at which you regained consciousness or mental faculty. 
  2.     The victim was a minor and faced abuse by a schoolteacher. In this case, the deadline starts from the day which the victim turns 18. 
  3.     The injury or damage was not discovered until a later date, such as in cases of a defective medical device.

Steps to Take if You Are Considering a Wrongful Death Case

The most important aspect after the death of a loved one is to allow the family time to mourn and recover. But in case the family wants to pursue a wrongful death claim, there is significant work to do, with respect to evidence gathering, as well as filing paperwork and managing deadlines.

For this same reason, the sooner you involve a qualified attorney, the better your chances of developing a strong case and receiving the right compensation while causing minimal disturbance to your family. Attorney Riah Greathouse has been counsel of record in over 1000+ criminal and civil matters throughout Georgia with a high rate of success. He can be the right advisor and guide to help you through this difficult time. 

When you’re ready to choose a personal injury attorney to represent you, we’d love to talk with you. Contact Greathouse Trial Law for a free consultation.

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Riah Greathouse, Esq.

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