Switch to ADA Accessible Theme
Close Menu
Atlanta Criminal Defense Lawyers > Blog > Personal Injury > Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Georgia?


A personal injury lawsuit allows the victim of a negligent or intentional act to sue the wrongdoer for monetary damages. This assumes, however, that the victim survived the injury. To put it bluntly, a dead person cannot sue. But certain parties can file a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit against the person or legal entities whose actions led to the victim’s death.

What Is a Wrongful Death Action?

A wrongful death is effectively a special type of personal injury claim created by state law. It can apply to both accidental and intentional deaths. In the latter case, a wrongful death lawsuit can succeed even if the defendant was never charged with, or convicted of, any criminal offense in connection with the victim’s death. As wrongful death is a civil matter, the objective is to obtain financial compensation rather than punish the defendant for their actions.

Standing and Wrongful Death in Georgia

Wrongful death relies on statutory rather than common law. Among other things, this means that only those persons specified by Georgia’s wrongful death statute have legal standing to bring a claim. Standing is determined as follows:

  • If the victim was legally married at the time of death, their surviving spouse has standing to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
  • If the victim was unmarried, their surviving child or children have standing. (This includes any children born out of wedlock.) Similarly, if the victim’s spouse initially files a wrongful death claim but dies during the proceedings, the original claim then falls to the victim’s children.
  • If the victim was unmarried and had no children, their surviving parent or parents have standing.
  • Absent any surviving spouse, child, or parent, the personal representative or administrator of the victim’s probate estate has standing.

Other relatives, such as a sibling or cousin, cannot bring a wrongful death lawsuit.

Standing does not just determine who files a wrongful death claim. It also controls who receives any damages recovered from the defendant or defendants. Under Georgia law, a wrongful death plaintiff is entitled to receive compensation for the “full value of the life of the decedent” based on the evidence presented in court. In the case of a victim who left both a spouse and minor children, the spouse is entitled to receive at least one-third of the final award of damages.

The victim’s estate may also pursue a separate claim for damages known as a survival action. This is essentially the personal injury lawsuit the victim would have filed had they survived the defendant’s actions. Compensation in a survival action primarily consists of the victim’s final hospital and medical bills and the costs of their funeral or burial.

Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers Today

If you have recently lost a spouse, child, or parent due to someone else’s conduct, it is important to speak with an experienced Atlanta personal injury lawyer who can advise you of your rights under the law. Contact Hawkins Spizman Trial Lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. We serve clients throughout Georgia including Atlanta, Dunwoody, Alpharetta, Cobb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, Johns Creek and Sandy Springs.

Facebook Twitter LinkedIn