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Family members have rights under Georgia's wrongful death law

Losing a loved one unexpectedly is absolutely a tragic experience. Motor vehicle collisions are a common source of sudden losses. You may have unresolved issues, such as having had a negative last interaction with your loved one. Worse, you have to somehow adjust to a future without someone you cared for and depended on for much of your life. When a death happens suddenly, it can lead to overwhelming grief. It may be all that you can handle to simply make arrangements for a memorial service or funeral.

One thing that your family should not overlook is responsibility for the accident. In many cases, one driver may be primarily responsible for the crash. Decisions like choosing to text while driving or getting behind the wheel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs can prove to be deadly mistakes. If you lost a loved one because someone else was negligent or engaged in a criminal act, you may have the right to pursue a wrongful death claim.

What qualifies as wrongful death and who can file a claim?

Under Georgia law, wrongful death specifically refers to an unexpected death that is not the result of natural causes. The cause of death must relate to negligence, illegal acts or similar wrongful actions. Deaths caused by workplace accidents, accidental firearm discharges or motor vehicle collisions may qualify as wrongful deaths. So, too, may any death that results from a criminal action on the part of the responsible party.

There are legal limits to whom may pursue a wrongful death claim under Georgia law. Typically, surviving spouses, children of the deceased, living parents in cases with no spouse or children. Barring any of those close family ties, the person responsible for the estate of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim.

A wrongful death claim can help you recover some of your losses

While no legal action can bring back the loved one that you lost, a wrongful death claim can help you recover some of your financial losses related to the death. The law allows for the recovery of expenses related to a funeral and burial, as well as any medical expenses incurred prior to death. The law in Georgia also allows for a survival claim seeking compensation for the pain and suffering of the deceased and other losses that person could have sought compensation for, had he or she lived.

The law also allows people to seek compensation for the "full value of the life of the decedent," which could include income and potential future earnings, services this individual provided to the family (such as childcare, maintenance work or cleaning), as well as non-economic values like companionship and support. Although winning a claim won't undue the harm resulting from this loss, it can help hold the person who caused the accident accountable and offset some of the financial pressure that resulted from the death.

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