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Who Has The Legal Right To Pursue A Wrongful Death Claim Or Lawsuit In Georgia?

The Georgia Wrongful Death Act at O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 et seq. governs which people are entitled to recover in the event of a death caused by a negligent party who is liable under that statute.

According to that statute, the spouse of the decedent is the party that controls the legal claim for wrongful death. However, that does not mean that the spouse is entitled to all the proceeds recovered from a claim. She must share these proceeds with the surviving children of the decedent. The spouse is the party, however, who would make legal decisions regarding the administration of the claim, such as which lawyer to hire, what legal decisions will be made and ultimately whether a the claim will be settled or litigated. The exclusive vesting of this role in the surviving spouse seems to stem from the Georgia legislature’s recognition that the surviving spouse was probably the closest person to the decedent. There also seems to be an understanding that many times the children of the decedent might be minors and that, in the case of a decedent with multiple children, it may be too confusing and cumbersome to share these decisions among too many people.

If the decedent was unmarried divorced at the time of his or her death, then any of the decedent’s children (biological or adopted) may pursue the wrongful death claim. If the decedent had no spouse or living children at the time of death, then one or both parents would then be eligible to pursue the wrongful death claim. If no spouse, children or parents were living, then the wrongful death claim is to be pursued by the Executor/Executrix or Administrator/Administratrix of the decedent’s estate.

The person who is legally authorized to pursue the wrongful death claim is not necessarily the person entitled to collect the proceeds from the claim. As stated above, the surviving spouse must share the proceeds with surviving children. The executor or administrator mush distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries in the decedent’s will or to his intestate beneficiaries.

For a more detailed discussion of the Georgia Wrongful Death Act, please click here.

The determination of who is entitled to receive a portion of any wrongful death settlement, award or verdict, and and the relative portion to each can be a complex question. Accordingly, it is wise to consult a Georgia attorney with experience in wrongful death cases.

From a main office in Gwinnett County, attorney Charles Scholle serves clients from offices in Buckhead and the Perimeter and represents victims throughout Atlanta and Georgia. To set up your free consultation, you can send the firm a message online or call toll-free at 866-972-5287 or in Atlanta at 770-717-5100.

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