Most people think of murder when homicide is mentioned, but the legal definition of homicide is the killing of one person by another and a criminal act need not be involved. In Georgia, wrongful death lawsuits are most often filed when an individuals has been killed in a motor vehicle action caused by a reckless driver, but this type of litigation may also be pursued when the death involved was caused by a crime, an act of negligence or an accident involving a dangerous or defective product.
The plaintiffs in wrongful death lawsuits must generally initiate litigation within two years of the death. However, this time limit may be extended when the decedent’s estate is going through probate or the case is linked to an ongoing criminal prosecution. When wrongful death plaintiffs are successful, the damages they are awarded are calculated based on the value of the life of the victim. This means that compensation for lost income may be significant if the victim was young.
Most wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia are filed by surviving spouses, but children, parents and the executor or administrator of the deceased person’s estate may also initiate this kind of litigation. However, children can only file wrongful death lawsuits if the decedent is not survived by a spouse, and parents or estate administrators or executors are only able to take legal action if there is no surviving spouse and there are no surviving children.
It may be wise to consult with a personal injury attorney with experience in this area before filing a wrongful death lawsuit. This is because the damages awarded in these cases tend to be high, which means that wrongful death defendants usually mount vigorous defenses. Common defenses to wrongful death lawsuits include comparative negligence, assumption of risk, self-defense and a lack of causation.