Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim in Alabama and Georgia?

Injury & Accident Attorney Serving Nearby Areas of Columbus & Fort Benning, Georgia and Phenix City, Alabama

Posted: November 23, 2020

Death is always devastating to those left behind, especially when it comes suddenly and unexpectedly to someone in perfect health. When your loved one’s death is caused through the actions of someone else, you can get compensation, even if criminal charges aren’t applicable.

Wrongful death claims can be filed when someone is killed through the negligence or wrongful action of another party (person, business, or governing body) – especially an accident or injury for which the deceased could have filed a personal injury lawsuit if they’d lived.

However, the process of getting compensation after a wrongful death can be extremely complex, and is often specific to the state in which the death occurs.

Wrongful Death in Alabama

What is included in a wrongful death claim in Alabama?

Unlike other states, Alabama does not provide compensation for medical expenses, funeral expenses, emotional distress, loss of companionship, and other losses after a wrongful death. Instead, it only allows for punitive damages.

Unfortunately, this can make cases harder to win, since the family will need to prove not only that the other party’s negligence resulted in their loved one’s death, but that the other party was so negligent that they need to be punished. Having an experienced wrongful death lawyer on your side can help build a successful claim.

Who can bring a wrongful death claim in Alabama?

Unlike other states, Alabama does not allow family members of the deceased to file a wrongful death claim. Only the administrator of the estate can file a wrongful death claim. However, there is nothing preventing a family member from being appointed the administrator of the estate. If no administrator was already named in the deceased’s will, however, the court will appoint one.

The award is then distributed to the heirs of the estate, rather than the administrator, if they are not the same person. Even if the deceased left a will, the damages go to the heirs (determined by Alabama’s intestacy laws) rather than those designated in the will, as the estate and damages from a wrongful death claim are considered separate. 

How long do you have to file a wrongful death claim in Alabama?

Generally you have two years from death to file a wrongful death claim in Alabama.

However, this changes if you are filing a claim against a city or county rather than a person or business. If filing against a city, the deadline is six months, and the deadline is one year when filing against a county.

Wrongful Death in Georgia

There are two avenues to compensation available to surviving family members after a fatal accident in Georgia: wrongful death claims and estate claims. Both claims are treated and handled differently.

What are the types of claims?

Wrongful death claims provide compensation for “the full value of the life of the decedent” as perceived from the perspective of the deceased.

The “full value of life” is calculated based on the value of aspects such as:

  • The deceased’s relationships with friends and family
  • Life experiences they will miss out on, such as walking a daughter down the aisle at her wedding
  • Wages they would have earned
  • The value of their role in the household (such as repairing things around the home or being the primary caregiver of any children)

Estate claims provide compensation more in line with what is typical for an injury claim, including:

  • The deceased’s pain and suffering
  • Medical expenses arising from the fatal injury
  • Funeral and burial expenses

Who can bring each type of claim?

Georgia has specific laws about who can file a wrongful death or estate claim.

If there is a living spouse, only the spouse can file a wrongful death claim. If the deceased also has surviving children, the spouse must act as a representative of the children and share any compensation with the children, although the spouse will always receive at least one-third share, no matter how many children there are.

If there is no spouse, then the children can file a claim. If there are no children, then the parents can file a claim. If there are no parents, then the administrator of the estate (as named in the deceased’s will) can bring the claim. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator.

Only the administrator of the estate can file an estate claim. If there is no will, the court will appoint an administrator based on Georgia’s intestate succession laws.

How long do you have to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia?

Generally you have two years from death to file a wrongful death claim in Georgia.

We Help Families After Fatal Accidents

After an unexpected death of someone you love, you need time to grieve. But bills often begin to pile up before you have the time you need. When that happens, contact the Law Offices of Gary Bruce. We’ll take up the fight for you, so you can focus on what matters.

Category: Personal Injury
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