Someone close to you has died due to negligence.  Are you one of the designated people that can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party?  The laws in Georgia are quite specific when outlining who can file suit.  Here are the classifications:

Surviving Spouse

If the deceased has a surviving spouse, this is the first person that is eligible to pursue a legal claim for wrongful death with the help of a wrongful death attorney.  It is important to note that when a spouse wins settlement or judgment in these cases, the award in the case must also be shared with any surviving children that the deceased had.  The spouse will be entitled to one-third of the amount, with the remainder divided equally amongst the surviving children.

Surviving Children

In some cases, there is not a spouse involved, and the surviving children may file a suit directly through the courts.  Any award received would, of course, be split equally between the children.

Surviving Parents

If there is no spouse, and there are no surviving children, the parents of the deceased are able to file a wrongful death suit.  In cases of divorced parents, the divided distribution of the award is decided by the court.

Next of Kin

What if there are no spouses, children, or surviving parents?  It is possible that the estate has designated someone as “next of kin” to the deceased.  If so, then this person would be eligible to file a wrongful death suit.

Estate Administrator or Executor of the Estate

If there are persons that are named as beneficiaries of the estate of the deceased person, the Administrator or Executor of the estate can file a claim for those persons, even as they may not be entitled to file a claim on their own.  Any amounts granted would be divided by estate beneficiaries.

Can Anybody Else File?

The law is very specific about who cannot file a wrongful death suit in Georgia.  Boyfriends and girlfriends, even if they are engaged to the deceased, are not allowed to file wrongful death claims.  Close friends are not permitted to file any claim.  The basic rule of thumb is that people that are not legal family members or representatives of the estate cannot file a suit for wrongful death.

The Hierarchy

When considering who can file, a certain hierarchy of consideration by the court exists.  The explanations above follow that hierarchy, which starts with surviving spouse, then surviving children, then surviving parents, next of kin, and then the estate.  In other words, the court will not give preference to a parent’s claim over a spouse’s claim.

In these complicated situations when there are many family members that are grieving, things can get complicated, it is useful to have these rules in effect to understand how to proceed seeking damages in a wrongful death case.

If you need to start a wrongful death suit, hire a wrongful death attorney that specializes in these cases, and take advice from them to ensure that all the laws are taken into consideration.