When families lose people they love due to another person’s negligence; they are left with grief and various financial burdens such as lost income, medical bills, and funeral expenses. A family member or spouse is often left to wonder if there are any legal options available during a challenging time.
Two options are available to Georgia residents: survival actions and wrongful death lawsuits. While both of these options provide families with a way to recover damages from the person responsible for their loved one’s death, they are different in several important ways. We will discuss these options in-depth below, outline who is eligible to file for these claims, and when it may be a good idea to discuss these options with a wrongful death lawyer.
What is a Wrongful Death Claim?
Wrongful death claims can be brought against a negligent defendant who may have intentionally or recklessly killed a person. Wrongful death claims can be filed in various accidents, including slips and falls, construction accidents, medical malpractice, and car crashes. If a defendant’s actions, no matter how unintentional they are, causes another person’s death, you may be eligible to receive a wrongful death settlement.
Wrongful deaths are specific legal claims that can be brought against a defendant to benefit the loved one’s beneficiaries. They can be brought on behalf of the deceased person’s spouse, parents, or children (family members). Wrongful death suits can be filed on behalf of the surviving family by a personal representative.
A wrongful death lawsuit will seek damages that will compensate the victim’s family for the loss they are dealing with due to the victim’s death.
What is a Survival Claim?
Survival claims compensate the deceased victim’s estate for any losses they may have suffered before their death. These types of claims are similar to a personal injury claim on behalf of your loved one. The case will be prosecuted in the same way a personal injury lawsuit would be.
Survival actions focus on the suffering that a deceased loved one’s family has endured, rather than on their financial losses or agony. The deceased loved one’s estate in a survival action may recover damages related to the accident, which is similar to what they may have recovered in a personal injury case if they were still alive.
Suppose the deceased individual lived for a short time after the accident. In that case, even if it was only momentarily, a survival claim allows their estate to recover for any mental anguish or pain they may have endured due to the accident. The administrator of the deceased person’s estate typically brings forth a survival action. In a survival action, the claims a person may have had if they had survived the accident would be brought by their estate.
Wrongful Death vs. Survival Action
There are two main differences between survival laws and wrongful death laws. Wrongful death laws set forth legal procedures for bringing a wrongful death case, and they also allow the estate to bring a lawsuit. If wrongful death laws didn’t exist, a wrongful death lawsuit could not be filed by the estate. Survival action and wrongful death laws also allow certain types of damages to be awarded separately to the estate for a loved one’s death.
To sum it up, wrongful death laws allow a loved one’s estate to award damages to their beneficiaries (people who have suffered financially due to their death). Survival laws will enable an estate to award damages that the deceased loved one may have been able to recover if they had not died, including lost earnings and pain and suffering.
How Settlements Are Handled According to Georgia Law
In Georgia, settlements are handled differently for each type of case in the following ways:
- The settlements are distributed to different partie.
- Unlike survival actions, the proceeds of a wrongful death settlement are not subject to inheritance taxes
According to Georgia law, the deceased’s spouse, along with their attorney, can file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of themselves or their minor children. If no surviving children or spouse exist, the settlement will go to their parents if they are still living. If the parents are also deceased, the settlement will be distributed to the next of kin.
The estate’s executor named in the will (or, if there is no will, another interested party) will file a petition with the court to establish the estate legally after a wrongful death has occurred. Any money received in a wrongful action will go directly to the estate. The estate will also manage the funds. The estate’s representative will pay off any outstanding debts or bills the deceased may owe and issue the remainder of the funds, minus state taxes, to their beneficiaries.
The only people who qualify to be a beneficiary in a survival action are those the deceased individual designates in their will. These individuals will receive any remaining funds left over from the estate. If the deceased individual does not have a will, the money will be distributed according to Georgia’s probate laws.
Speak with Our Wrongful Death Attorneys
For more information about filing a wrongful death or survival action claim, contact the Eichholz Law Firm. Our experienced legal team can help you take legal action against the negligent party responsible for your loved one’s death.