March 28, 2024

What Is the Deadline for Georgia Wrongful Death Car Crash Claims?

With nearly 43,000 car crash fatalities reported annually, grieving loved ones are frequently put in the unenviable position of deciding whether to pursue a wrongful death claim. 

If the accident was caused by another party’s negligence, then family members may consider filing a wrongful death lawsuit to receive financial compensation. Other motivations for filing a wrongful death claim include seeking justice and accountability, and potentially deterring others from causing fatal harm. 

The question for these types of cases often becomes how long a relative has to file a lawsuit after a fatality. This time limit is referred to as the Georgia wrongful death statute of limitations, and it is generally two years from the date of the person’s death. 

What Is a Wrongful Death Claim? 

Most states define a wrongful death as a civil claim that allows surviving family members to seek compensation for the death of a loved one caused by negligent, reckless, or intentional acts of another party. 

Unlike a criminal case, in which the perpetrator faces fines and jail time, a civil wrongful death lawsuit requires the liable party to financially compensate the victim’s loved ones or their estate. 

In addition to car accidents, other situations that can lead to wrongful death claims include medical malpractice, workplace accidents, defective products, and criminal acts. 

Examples of Wrongful Death Car Accident Claims 

Every wrongful death case is unique, and a number of circumstances can lead to a car accident-related wrongful death. Situations that can lead to wrongful death include: 

  • Drunk driving
  • Distracted driving
  • Fatigue
  • Reckless driving
  • Defective parts
  • Poor road conditions
  • Negligent vehicle maintenance 

Why Georgia Has a Statute of Limitations for Wrongful Death Claims 

Though it seems harsh to impose a time limit on when you can sue someone who caused the death of a loved one, the Georgia wrongful death statute of limitations (as codified by O.C.G.A § 9-3-33) serves a vital function with the legal system. 

Requiring prompt action helps ensure that evidence is preserved and memories about the incident remain fresh. It allows for a sense of fairness and legal certainty, avoiding the threat of living in perpetual uncertainty that a lawsuit could be just around the corner. Courts also have crowded dockets, and limiting the time one has to file a lawsuit helps to keep their busy schedules manageable. 

Who Can Bring a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia? 

Georgia law places limitations on who can file a wrongful death claim. For example, no matter how much you love your best friend, you won’t be able to file a wrongful death claim (unless, perhaps, your best friend is also your spouse). 

In general, the following people can initiate a wrongful death claim in Georgia: 

  • Surviving spouses
  • Surviving children (if the victim is unmarried or the spouse does not want to or cannot file a claim)
  • The parents of the victim if the person is unmarried
  • The victim’s estate if there are no spouses, parents, or children 

Contact an Experienced and Compassionate Georgia Wrongful Death Attorney 

The two-year statute of limitations for wrongful death claims in Georgia has some notable exceptions for instances in which the person who caused the death is also facing criminal prosecution or the party at fault is a government employee or entity. It is important to seek the advice of an attorney to determine the proper path to move forward. If you have a family member who’s been seriously injured or killed in a car accident, please give our wrongful death lawyers a call at 404.955.8910, and The Foster Firm will help you through this difficult time. Let our family take care of your family.