What Is the Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death in Georgia?

Having a loved one pass away as a result of a preventable accident can be extremely overwhelming and frustrating. This is known as a wrongful death case, and depending on the specifics of this case, you may be able to bring a lawsuit regarding wrongful death. 

You need to find a lawyer who is familiar with the Georgia wrongful death statute and one who can advise you through every aspect of the case. Losing a loved one in and of itself is not grounds for a wrongful death lawsuit. Instead, you must be able to show that another party is accountable for the injuries or illnesses that contributed to their death. 

When your loved one has paid the ultimate price due to another party’s negligence, you’re not alone. You deserve to have the support provided by an attorney who cares about your family’s future and some of the challenges ahead for you. 

By waiting too long, you’re not just running the risk of having your entire claim denied. You’re also delaying justice for you and your loved ones. Sadly, there is no way to turn back the clock and undo this horrible accident. However, you can help your family move forward into the future and close this chapter more easily. Coping with the grief and the overwhelm of knowing that someone else’s actions led to this is devastating. But when you take action, the law might be on your side to give you the opportunity to get financial support through a wrongful death claim. 

What Is the Georgia Wrongful Death Statute of Limitations? 

The statute of limitations is created by each state and confirms exactly how long surviving family members and other relevant parties have to file a lawsuit associated with wrongful death. In Georgia, this is outlined under OCGA 9-3-33. This is typically two years from the date of the deceased's death. However, this time period could be extended or reduced based on certain circumstances. 

For example, if you are alleging that the wrongful death was caused by a branch of the government, the deadline may be shorter, such as six months after the incident occurred. If someone is killed because of a violation of Georgia law, a circumstance to extend this Georgia wrongful death statute of limitations could apply as well. The statute of limitations can be paused pending the outcome of a criminal prosecution against the individual who broke the law. If you believe that you have grounds to file a lawsuit under wrongful death, it is in your best interests to schedule a consultation with an experienced attorney as soon as possible. 

Only a lawyer can tell you more about whether or not your case applies to the relevant wrongful death statutes and can advise you about the next steps if you choose to move forward. A lawyer is a very valuable support system. If you are not yet sure whether you have grounds for a case, make sure that you consult with an experienced lawyer immediately. Meeting with an attorney does not obligate you to file a lawsuit immediately but it does give you the best possible chance to get the support that you need.       

Meeting with a lawyer right away gives you the best chance to get support with your claim and to get clarity on what the justice process looks like. While your case might be resolved outside of court in settlement conversations, your lawyer might also tell you more about the time period expected if your case does go to court. In those scenarios, there are many different factors that can influence your case, but at least you will know what to expect should you decide to go forward with the lawsuit. 

A lawyer is there to guide you through from the day after the incident to the conclusion of your case, no matter what that looks like. You can do a lot to support your needs by finding an attorney with extensive wrongful death experience in Georgia. The Georgia wrongful death statute of limitations is only one aspect of your entire case, and you want an attorney who has been in your shoes before to help you and your family sort out this difficult time. 

Basics of Wrongful Death in Georgia

Beyond the Georgia wrongful death statute there are other specific laws and rules in place regarding wrongful death. This is because an unexpected death leaves surviving family members with emotional and financial havoc. This means that these individuals need to educate themselves about their rights and to pre-prepare to file a lawsuit as soon as possible. Specific Georgia statutes control what it means to say that something is wrongful death. 

Wrongful death does differ from personal injury law. Personal injury law covers those situations in which a person might be injured in something like a slip and fall accident or a vehicle accident. Wrongful death litigation, however, is a separate situation and requires a lawyer who is thoroughly experienced in operating their practice under this umbrella. 

What Is Wrongful Death?

Wrongful death is used to explain an unnatural or untimely death that was caused by someone's illegal or negligent conduct. This involves the possibility of a civil claim for monetary damages for those surviving family members due to the fact that their lives will be forever changed because they lost a loved one. Wrongful death is also a concept under civil law although there may be a separate wrongful death criminal law case handled by the authorities when your loved one passes away. For example, imagine that your loved one was killed as a result of a drunk driving accident. Police and other authorities might bring a separate criminal law case against the person who caused the drunk driving accident but this does not mean that you will be compensated from this lawsuit on your own. It may in some ways influence the civil law outcome in your individual case but it's handled completely separately and has different statutes and implications involved. 

A civil action can be brought even when criminal charges are currently pending against the defendant for the same issue. Furthermore, wrongful death cases filed at the civil level can be pursued during, before or after the criminal case. These are different proceedings and the outcomes are completely independent of one another. This is also important to note because criminal cases have their own statute of limitations that is different from that for Georgia wrongful death lawsuits. Even in the event that the person is not criminally convicted for this situation, you may still be able to recover civil damages. 

What Are the Grounds for Wrongful Death Lawsuits in Georgia? 

Filing a case under the Georgia wrongful death statute can include a variety of different types of cases. These involve whenever an individual, a public entity, or a business contributes or directly causes an unnatural death. Some of the most common causes for this in Georgia include dangerous construction, defective products, dangerous drugs, drunk driving, medical malpractice, careless or negligent conduct, nursing home abuse, dangerous medical devices, criminal acts, intentional homicide, or improper service of alcohol. In almost any situation in which the defendant's unsafe actions or product led to another person's death can form the basis of a wrongful death claim. 

Understanding Georgia's Wrongful Death Act

Every state has its own laws related to wrongful death lawsuits. There is no common law basis for a wrongful death claim. Each state, therefore, has its own unique statutes that govern issues such as who is eligible to pursue a wrongful death claim, how long the survivors have to file a wrongful death lawsuit, the kind of damages that can be recovered, and who is entitled to recover the proceeds of a wrongful death claim. In Georgia, the ownership of a claim for a wrongful death starts with the spouse of a decedent, if there is no spouse then it falls to the decedent's children, if there is no spouse and no children then a living parent of the decedent, and if none of these individuals are alive then this goes to the administrator of the decedent’s estate.

Pursuing a claim for wrongful death can be very overwhelming and frustrating when it comes to family members who are trying to move on with their lives and be able to close this chapter. 

It can be very devastating to realize that you have lost a loved one but recovering damages and no punitive damages may be one opportunity available to you. In Georgia, the courts have consistently held that punitive damages cannot be sought linked to a wrongful death claim but there is one exception to this. They can be brought in association with the survival action. The survival action is a personal injury claim that is filed by the decedent’s estate. Punitive damages can only be allowed when a defendant's conduct was malicious, intentional, or showed a callous disregard for the decedent's safety or wellbeing. 

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John Morgan