Georgia law determines who is authorized to bring a wrongful death claim. For instance, if the decedent was married, his or her spouse is usually the only person who can bring the claim.
Even if the victim’s children are not authorized to bring the claim, the children will share in the recovery of wrongful death compensation. According to Section 51-4-2(d)(1) of the Georgia Code, wrongful death retrieval “shall be equally divided, share and share alike, among the surviving spouse and the children per capita, and the descendants of children shall take per stirpes.”
To put it simply, the Georgia Code dictates the following distribution of wrongful death compensation:
When the victim’s spouse and no more than two children are still living, they will each receive an equal share of the compensation. For instance, if the victim has two children and a surviving spouse and the amount available for distribution is $700,000, the spouse and each child would receive $350,000.
If the victim’s spouse is not alive but the victim’s children are, each child receives an equal share of the compensation. If the amount available for distribution is $800,000 and the victim had two children who are still living, each child would receive $400,000.
If any of the victim’s children are no longer living, the share that would have been distributed to that child will be distributed equally among the child’s children and grandchildren. For the case in point, if the victim has a surviving spouse, one living child, and two grandchildren from a child who died, $600,000 would be divided as follows: $200,000 to the spouse, $200,000 to the surviving child, and $100,000 to each grandchild (each child of the child who died).
This special ruling applies if the departed victim had more than two children. Section 51-4-2(d)(2) of the Georgia Code offers that the living spouse shall never receive less than a third of the recovery. For instance, if the amount available for distribution is $600,000 and the victim has a surviving spouse and three living children, the spouse would receive one-third (or $200,000), leaving $400,000 to be divided equally among the three children (or $133,333.33 each).
Another thing to point out is when a child is a minor and his or her share of the distribution is less than $15,000, the child’s surviving parent will manage the money on the child’s behalf. When the distribution exceeds $15,000, a financial guardian (also known as a guardian of the property) must be selected to manage the funds until the child turns 18.
It is rarely wise to ask a judge to make that distribution because it may lead to damaging evidence that the defendant’s insurance defense lawyer will use against the parents at the wrongful death trial. To avoid the risk that the jury will reduce the compensation based on troubling evidence that it hears about the parents, it is always wise for parents to agree to share the recompense equally.
If you have more questions about the distribution of compensation for a wrongful death claim in Georgia, contact Durham Law Group. Our experienced wrongful death lawyers can provide the help you need.