If someone’s mother or father dies due to the negligence of another person, the children may be able to recover for the wrongful death of their parent.
In Georgia, when someone’s death is negligently caused by another, the law has a hierarchy for determining who may bring a claim for wrongful death. First, the law allows spouses to recover for the death of their husband or wife. But many times, the decedent (or person who died), did not have a spouse at the time of their death who could inherit his or her claim. If there is no surviving spouse, the victim or decedent’s children are the beneficiaries of the wrongful death claim. The claim is split equally amongst all children.
For example, if a single father with 3 children dies in a trucking accident caused by the negligence of another driver, there is no surviving spouse to make a wrongful death claim. Even if the father had a significant other who he was not married to, that person cannot recover for his wrongful death under Georgia law. Instead, the claim passes to his children in equal shares. So, each of the 3 children is entitled to a 33.33% share of any award given or settlement reached for the father’s wrongful death.
A child losing a parent can be detrimental to his or her upbringing in countless ways. The child’s loss can also give rise to legal issues not contemplated before his or her parent’s death. Who will the child live with? Who will support them? How and for how long? Another question that must be answered when the child’s parent died due to another’s negligence is who will bring the wrongful death claim for them.
What if the surviving child is a minor?
Many times, the children of the deceased parent giving rise to a wrongful death action are minors at the time of their parent’s death. In Georgia, a minor is anyone under the age of 18. Minors are prohibited from bringing claims and filing suit on their own. So, the person with the legal capacity to file. As you can imagine, a minor child who loses both parents or an unmarried parent likely does not have a legal guardian. So, a legal guardian and custodian must be appointed for the child to recover. The guardian can be another loved one and can be appointed by the court. Either way, the guardian brings the claim on behalf of and for the benefit of the child.
Court approval of a minor settlement
When a settlement occurs and one or more of the beneficiaries are children, Georgia law requires court approval of any settlement greater than $15,000.00 to ensure the interests of the minor children are protected. After a settlement is reached, the adult guardian who brought suit on behalf of the minor child beneficiary can seek approval of the settlement from 2 different courts. If the case was filed in a state or superior court in Georgia, the same court where the wrongful death suit was pending may approve the settlement. If the settlement occurs prior to filing a suit, a probate court in Georgia is likely the most efficient and effective way to obtain court approval.
These courts look at how the funds will be disbursed to make sure there are safeguards in place. After all, it is in everyone’s interest to hold the funds until the minor is of age and mature enough to responsibly receive a significant amount of money. The factors considered by the judge obviously vary from case to case, but for large sums like those awarded for wrongful death, a trust usually needs to be created for the child.
As you can see, the legal issues faced by children who lost their parent(s) due to the negligence of someone else are extremely difficult to navigate—especially where the children are minors. The lawyers at Rafi Law Firm have years of experience representing the guardians of minor children in personal injury lawsuits. Rafi Law has also obtained court approval of minor settlements in wrongful death cases stemming from car accidents, trucking accidents, and negligent security. Call us today at 404-800-1156 for a free consultation.
For more information about how to determine the beneficiary for a wrongful death claim, click here.
For information about Kate’s Club, an Atlanta Organization which aims to provide resources and counsel children who have lost a parent or sibling, click here.