The following people have the right to file an action for the wrongful death of a child:
- First priority: Surviving spouse of the deceased child
- Second priority: Surviving child of the deceased child
- Third priority: Surviving parents of the deceased child
How can a deceased child have a surviving spouse or surviving child?
As with adults who die due to another party’s negligence or intentional actions, the spouse is the first party eligible to file for compensation. If there is no spouse, any living children are eligible to file.
While it is uncommon for a minor to have a spouse, in Georgia, 16- and 17-year-olds can get married with parental permission. This means that if a teen dies, he might leave behind a spouse or a child. If so, that surviving spouse or child has the legal right in Georgia to bring a claim against someone who wrongfully took the life of the decedent.
When do parents have a right to bring a claim for the wrongful death of a child?
A surviving parent can only pursue an action for the wrongful death of a child if the deceased child:
- Was not married
- Did not leave any surviving children
When do parents not have the right to bring a claim for the wrongful death of a child?
The deceased child’s parents cannot bring a claim if:
- The child had a spouse
- The child had a child
Also, the court can bar parents from pursuing a claim for wrongful death if they abandoned or failed to support the child.
Must both parents agree on bringing a claim for the wrongful death of a child?
No. If one parent refuses to bring a wrongful death claim, the other parent can still go forward with the action. The results will be binding on the parent who declined to participate.
How do the courts distribute the proceeds of a wrongful death claim between parents?
The general rule is that surviving parents will share the proceeds of the wrongful death claim equally, but this can change based on the circumstances. One parent can file a motion with the court for an unequal distribution of the proceeds.
After the conclusion of the wrongful death action, the judge will hold a separate hearing to determine what percentage of the recovery will go to each parent. The judge will decide what is fair, in light of these factors:
- The relationship each parent had with the deceased child,
- Each parent’s involvement in the permanent custody, control, and support of the deceased child, and
- Any other relevant factors
What happens if one parent is absent?
If one parent is absent, the court will allow the present parent to file a claim for the wrongful death of the child.
The court will set aside half of the recovery for the absent parent. After two years, the court can give the absent parent’s portion to the present parent.
Note: It is completely irrelevant whether the deceased child was born in or out of wedlock.
How do courts determine the damages in a claim for the wrongful death of a child?
Regardless of the age of the person who died, the damages for wrongful death in Georgia are equal to the “full value of the life of the decedent.”
Georgia courts interpret this as the total amount of money a person would have earned during an expected lifetime and the value of relationships and companionship. There is no deduction for the living expenses the deceased person would have incurred.
Call Jason R. Schultz for help with your wrongful death claim.
The wrongful death of a child is a tragedy. At the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C., we will treat you and your family with dignity, respect, and compassion as we work to recover all the compensation you deserve. Call us today at 404-474-0804 to set up your free consultation.