The unexpected death of a sibling may be one of the hardest things you ever have to go through. When your loved one’s death was the result of another person’s negligent behavior or intentional act, it can be even all the more painful.
Understandably, you may want to seek compensation for the financial expenses as well as the pain and suffering associated with the death of your sibling. At times, other family members may wish that you handle any legal claims or lawsuits involving the wrongful death on their behalf.
In most cases, under Georgia state law, siblings can not sue for wrongful death. However, the circumstances of every case are unique. It is advisable to consult an experienced wrongful death lawyer; he or she can review your claim and advise you on how best to proceed so that your family gets the restitution they deserve.
Below we will discuss the details of wrongful death cases in Georgia and what role a sibling may play in the legal action.
What Constitutes Wrongful Death in Georgia?
A person’s demise can be classified as a wrongful death when it is caused by a negligent act, crime, or a defective product of some kind. Simply put, a wrongful death occurs when another person or entity caused it, even if the death was unintentional.
For example, a wrongful death action may be brought after a deadly car accident caused by an aggressive or drunk driver. Also, cases involving medical malpractice or companies who fail to adequately warn of the risks or side effects of their products often result in wrongful death lawsuits.
Wrongful death claims have many variables and can be confusing. If you are unsure whether the manner in which your loved one passed would be considered a wrongful death, talk to a knowledgeable attorney. He or she can help you establish the facts of your case and the circumstances that led to the untimely death.
Proving a Wrongful Death in Georgia
In order to successfully bring a wrongful death lawsuit, you must be able to demonstrate that the deceased would not have died but for the negligent or wrongful behavior of another party.
To file a valid wrongful death claim, you must prove that:
- The at-fault party owed your loved one a duty of care: A duty of care is a legal obligation to take reasonable steps to protect others from harm. Drivers, medical practitioners, product manufacturers, and others owe those around them a duty of care.
- The at-fault party failed to uphold this duty of care: A person or entity was negligent or intentionally caused harm. For instance, a careless driver who caused the accident in which your loved one was killed did not adhere to his or her duty of care.
- Causation: The at-fault party breached their duty of care. In other words, that party’s negligent or intentional actions were the direct cause of your loved one’s death
- Damages: Surviving relatives suffered physical, emotional, or financial harm due to the death
By establishing such facts, certain family members or the estate of the deceased can bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable parties. Compensation may be awarded for the premature death in court. Oftentimes, an out-of-court settlement could be reached with those responsible.
Who Can Sue for Wrongful Death in Georgia
Georgia law clearly states who can and cannot bring a wrongful death claim or lawsuit after the death of a family member. Generally speaking, this right is reserved for certain immediate family members who were financially dependent on the deceased. Such ones bear the brunt of the impact of the victim’s death, and a wrongful death settlement is intended to help them make a financial recovery after their loss.
In most cases, only certain eligible parties can file a claim, in the following order:
- The deceased’s surviving spouse: The spouse of the deceased has the first right to file a wrongful death claim. This provision does not include former spouses; a divorce nullifies any right to a wrongful death claim.
- The deceased’s surviving children: If the deceased does not have a surviving spouse, his or her children can then bring a wrongful death claim. However, if the deceased’s spouse is still alive, the children cannot file a wrongful death claim, even if the surviving spouse forfeits his or her legal right to file.
- The deceased’s surviving parents: If the deceased has no surviving spouse or children, a surviving parent is the next eligible person to file a wrongful death claim.
- The personal representative of the deceased’s estate: If there is no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the administrator or executor of the deceased’s estate can bring a wrongful death claim.
Under Georgia law, no other extended family member, including a grandparent, domestic partner, or sibling, is eligible to sue for wrongful death. However, it is to be noted that a surviving sibling could be appointed as executor of the deceased’s estate and thus oversee a wrongful death lawsuit under certain circumstances.
The Role of the Executor of the Estate
The executor of the estate is a weighty and time-consuming role, as this person is responsible for managing the finances of the deceased person after he or she passes away.
Actions the executor of the estate may need to take include:
- Securing the deceased’s home
- Filing a will
- Managing will disputes among heirs
- Fulfilling credit obligations, such as credit card payments and other debts
- Returning Social Security Payments received after the death occurred
- Overseeing a wrongful death lawsuit
Most people choose to name an executor when making a will. Oftentimes, a person will name a close family member, such as a sibling, to this role. In this way, in the State of Georgia, a person can ensure that his or her sibling will be involved in the settlement of the estate upon death.
In the event that the deceased does not have a will, a probate court judge will likely appoint an executor of the estate, typically a close relative of the deceased. Under this legal provision, a sibling could be appointed as executor and thus file a wrongful death claim.
It must be understood that executors have a fiduciary responsibility to the estate. They cannot take money from the estate nor refuse to pay reasonable credit obligations. As this is a very involved responsibility, executors often seek professional assistance when dividing an estate.
Potential Damages in a Georgia Wrongful Death Suit
A settlement from a wrongful death lawsuit is intended to help a grieving family get back on their feet after suffering their loss and related financial repercussions.
In Georgia, there are two categories of losses that can be sought in a wrongful death case.
The first category of damages seeks to provide monetary compensation to the surviving family members eligible to file a wrongful death suit, for the full value of the life of the deceased. The second category of damages is intended to compensate the deceased person’s estate for financial damages related to the death.
Compensation for the surviving family members, for their losses
These family members may seek restitution for such things as:
- The deceased’s expected lifetime earnings
- Potential inheritances
- Lost medical coverage or health insurance
- Lost pension or retirement benefits
- Household services performed by the deceased
- Mental anguish, emotional distress, and grief
- Loss of advice, care, and emotional support
- Surviving spouse’s loss of companionship and protection
- Surviving minor children’s loss of parental training, companionship, and guidance
Compensation for the deceased’s estate, for death-related expenses
This claim is brought by the executor of the estate and may include compensation for such things as:
- The deceased’s pain and suffering prior to death
- Medical expenses related to the fatal incident
- Funeral expenses
- Burial costs
- Other financial losses associated with the person’s injury and death
An experienced wrongful death attorney can help your family determine a fair settlement amount for what you have gone through and all the damages you are entitled to receive.
Taking legal action will be well worth the effort. While no amount of compensation can make up for the loss of your loved one, a wrongful death settlement can help stabilize your family and hold the responsible party accountable for their negligent actions.
Reach Out to an Atlanta Wrongful Death Attorney for Advice
The untimely death of a loved one is truly heartbreaking. If your relative’s death was due to someone else’s negligence or reckless act, you owe it to your family to consider the benefits of filing a wrongful death lawsuit.
Oftentimes, siblings of the deceased find themselves in the unique position of supporting the spouse and surviving children in a wrongful death claim. A knowledgeable wrongful death attorney is the advocate you and your family needs during this trying time.
The Atlanta-based wrongful death lawyers of Hoffspiegel Law have dedicated their careers to representing and defending Georgia accident victims and their families. We are here to answer your questions and protect the legacy of those closest to you.
The Hoffspiegels have chosen a concentrated practice focus. This has allowed us to develop significant insight, comfort, and familiarity with the complexity of the cases we accept. As your legal warriors, we are committed to helping families heal after the tragic loss of a loved one.
Please contact an attorney at Hoffspiegel Law today. We handle all wrongful death suits on a contingency fee basis, which means your family won’t owe us anything until you get money for your claim.
Call us at (404) 760-8600 or click our Contact Us button for a free case evaluation. A member of our legal team is standing by to help.