Are Funeral and Burial Expenses Covered in a Wrongful Death Claim?
Few things in life are as painful as a loved one’s death. However, when another party’s reckless or negligent behavior results in the death of your family member, you might be able to gain some closure if you hold the liable party accountable through a wrongful death lawsuit.
In Georgia, family members can recover monetary compensation in a wrongful death lawsuit for various expenses such as funeral costs, burial expenses, the decedent’s lost future wages and benefits, and medical expenses leading up to the death. In addition, a wrongful death plaintiff may also be able to obtain compensation for the pain and suffering that the deceased person experienced before they died, or for the loss of care and companionship their loved one would have offered the family had they lived.
Who can file a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia?
Our state has very specific laws regarding wrongful death, and only certain individuals are allowed to file a claim for damages. These include the following:
- Surviving spouse. The first party eligible to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is the decedent’s surviving spouse. Any damages obtained will be split evenly between the spouse and surviving children. However, the spouse will receive no less than one-third of the total award.
- Children of the decedent. If there is no living spouse, the decedent’s children can file a wrongful death action on behalf of their lost parent.
- Surviving parents. If the decedent left no surviving spouse or children, their parents have the right to bring a wrongful death claim.
- Personal representative of the estate. The representative of the decedent’s estate can bring a wrongful death lawsuit and the estate will hold any damages secured by this party for distribution to the next of kin.
Making a wrongful death claim
State law allows for two separate legal claims for wrongful death. These include:
- The estate claimallows recovery for specific expenses which are considered the property of the estate and subject to the probate process. This may include medical bills, funeral and burial costs, and lost wages (when applicable). In addition, the estate claim includes the amount permitted for non-economic general damages. The court may also award punitive damages in cases of gross negligence.
- Therecovery for the full value of life claim is assigned as the family’s property and can be paid on a court-ordered schedule based on each party to the lawsuit. There are specific rules regarding who can file this claim, with the current legal spouse of the decedent being automatically assigned (when applicable). The court determines how the proceeds will be dispersed, including the potential holding of specific resources until underage dependents turn 18. Potential damages include:
- The full value of the decedent’s life
- Loss of future financial support
- Loss of consortium
- Loss of the relationship with a parent
- Mental and emotional anguish
The court will not assign punitive damages in the full value of life claim; they are generally reserved for the estate claim that is attachable by creditors in the probate process.
How much time do you have to bring a wrongful death claim in Georgia?
Wrongful death plaintiffs have two years after the date of the death to file a claim. However, in some specific cases, you may have longer to file; e.g., if there is a concurrent criminal case surrounding your loved one’s death pending. To ensure that you are entitled to file a claim, consult an experienced attorney. While a monetary award will never make up for your loss, a wrongful death claim can provide much-needed financial relief to allow you and your family to focus on the grieving process and move on with your lives.
With so much at stake, you must choose an attorney you can trust to pursue your wrongful death claim. Most wrongful death attorneys, including the attorneys at HLM, work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid unless they win your case. For competent and compassionate legal representation in a complex wrongful death matter, call Harris Lowry Manton LLP at 404-998-8847 in Atlanta, 912-417-3774 in Savannah, or fill out our contact form to set up your no-cost initial consultation today.
One of the nation’s top trial attorneys, Jeff Harris is an award-winning litigator who handles high-profile, complex cases across a wide variety of practice areas. He excels at securing justice for clients who have been seriously injured or killed, holding responsible parties accountable for their actions as well as their negligence.
Read more about Jeffrey R. Harris here.