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How Is A Wrongful Death Settlement Distributed In Georgia?

When you suffer the wrongful death of someone you love, the person responsible should pay for their negligence. If that negligence contributed to the death of your loved one, you can file a wrongful death suit.

When you file a wrongful death lawsuit, the defendant does not face prison time. Instead, the defendant faces financial penalties if the judge or jury finds the defendant responsible for the wrongful death.

Often, the plaintiff and defendant reach a wrongful death settlement distribution before the case goes to trial. 

If you have questions about wrongful death settlement distribution, read on. We explain the following wrongful death settlement issues:

  • What types of wrongful death lawsuits are there?
  • Who can bring a wrongful death lawsuit?
  • How are wrongful death settlements paid out?

A victim’s grieving family may feel hesitant about pursuing a wrongful death suit. After all, no amount of money can replace their loved ones. 

However, a wrongful death settlement distribution can alleviate the financial strain that often accompanies an unexpected death.

A wrongful death settlement holds the negligent party financially responsible for allowing the tragedy to occur.

What Types of Wrongful Death Lawsuits Are There?

Under Georgia law, you can bring two types of wrongful death lawsuits.

  • Estate Claim. This wrongful death lawsuit recovers medical expenses, funeral and burial costs, and the victim’s pain and suffering.
  • Full Value of Life Claim. The wrongful death claim considers the companionship and support that a victim would have brought his or her family. Damages attempt to compensate the family for the absence of this companionship and support. The full value of life claims includes economic and non-economic damages.
    • Economic damages. These damages include the financial assistance the victim would have provided. Salary, health insurance, and other financial contributions belong in this category.
    • Non-economic damages. These damages include loss of consortium or companionship. This category attempts to reimburse emotional loss, which is difficult to calculate. 

Depending on your relationship to the victim, you may have both types of claims in your wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?

Georgia law requires that family members closest to the victim have the opportunity to pursue a wrongful death settlement.

People who may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the victim rank in this order.

  1. The victim’s spouse. If the person who suffered a wrongful death was married, the spouse may bring suit against the negligent party.
  2. Surviving children. The surviving children of the victim benefit from a wrongful death settlement. 
    1. If the victim was unmarried, the surviving children may bring a wrongful death action.
    2. If the victim was married, the surviving spouse must represent surviving children and share compensation with surviving children. However, a surviving spouse receives at least one-third of wrongful death damages. 
  3. Surviving parents. If the victim has no surviving spouse or children, the victim’s parents may bring a wrongful death lawsuit. Damages are split equally between surviving parents.
  4. The administrator of the estate. If the victim has no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the administrator of the victim’s estate can file a lawsuit.

This ranking of plaintiffs protects family members closest to the victim, allowing survivors time to consider a wrongful death lawsuit.

How are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

In most of the scenarios above, the distribution of the wrongful death settlement seems fairly straightforward. 

  • If a surviving spouse with no children files, the spouse takes the entire settlement.
  • For a surviving spouse with surviving children, the spouse takes ⅓ of the settlement, and the children split the rest.
  • If a surviving parent files in the absence of any spouse or children, the surviving parents split the settlement equally.

However, if the victim of the wrongful death has a deceased child and surviving grandchildren, things become complicated. The grandchildren cannot claim through their dead parent, which may seem unfair.

Wrongful Death Settlement Distribution Scenarios

For instance, Bob is married to Sue, and the couple has three grown children: Sam, Kate, and Mandy. Sam dies, leaving two surviving children of his own. Then, Bob dies in a truck accident.

When Sue brings a wrongful death suit against the truck company, she must share ⅔ of the settlement with Kate and Mandy. However, Sam’s surviving children receive nothing.

However, if one of the surviving children is an original party to the lawsuit, it changes the grandchildren’s rights. Let’s change the scenario above and keep Sam alive a little while longer.

When Bob dies in the truck accident, Sam is still alive. Sue files her lawsuit, and then Sam dies. Now, Sam’s children may claim Sam’s share of the settlement because Sam was an original party to the lawsuit.

Seek Expert Advice for Your Wrongful Death Lawsuit

If you’ve suffered a painful loss, it may be difficult for you to discuss the details of your loved one’s wrongful death. We’re here to listen to your case with sensitivity and respond with legal insight.

If you think you might have a wrongful death claim, contact us here today or call us. We’ll let you know if you’re eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit and answer your questions about wrongful death settlement distribution.

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