Who Has The Right To Sue For A Wrongful Death Case In Georgia

judge and lawsuitWhat is referred to as “standing” to sue are the legal terms which pertains to the right to file a lawsuit in a particular case. Because Georgia law is unique, it is not always clear who has the right to sue (the “standing”) for a wrongful death caused by the negligent act of a third party. If, in a hypothetical case, as a result of a severe tractor-trailer collision or car accident an innocent person is killed, the initial question that must be posed is who has the standing or the right to bring the claim for the wrongful death of the decedent. Typically, the answer is the heir-at-law or heirs-at-law of the decedent. If none exists, then the Administrator or Administratrix of the estate has the right to bring the claim.

Using our hypothetical, in such a case, if the decedent were married, the spouse would have the right or standing to sue. If the decedent was not married, but had children, the children would have the right to sue and, of course, if they were minors a Guardian-At-Litem would have to be appointed for such a purpose. If the decedent had neither a spouse nor children, then if the decedent’s parents were still alive, they would have the right to sue. If there were no parents alive, then the decedent’s siblings would have a right to sue. Again, if there were no family members alive, then the Administrator of the estate could bring the claim.

It is not unusual for our firm to receive telephone calls from family members inquiring about the right to file a claim for a wrongful death action. Oftentimes a brother will call seeking legal representation in a wrongful death case only to be told that a brother has no right to sue or standing because the decedent was survived by a spouse or children. This is true even in cases where divorce was contemplated or the parties separated. While every case is unique, the standard rule is that only heirs-at-law have a right to sue in a wrongful death case. In order to assess whether anyone has the right or a standing to sue in Georgia, experienced counsel should be consulted with early on in a case to determine who has the right to bring a claim for a wrongful death action in Georgia.


About Richard Hendrix

Richard W. Hendrix is a former state and federal prosecutor who has more than 30 years of experience in complex civil and criminal litigation. He has also served as a mediator in Alternative Dispute Resolutions (ADR).

Since joining Finch McCranie in 1985, Mr. Hendrix has built an extensive litigation practice focusing on wrongful death and serious personal injury cases as well as federal white collar criminal defense cases. He has successfully represented injured parties in personal injury cases throughout the state of Georgia. Mr. Hendrix has also effectively defended business and individuals, including a former US Congressman, against indictments and grand jury investigations. In 2006 and 2008-2012, he was selected to Georgia Super Lawyers.

He is admitted to practice in Georgia and South Carolina. Mr. Hendrix is licensed to appear before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia and the District of South Carolina as well as the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, Fifth Circuit, and Eleventh Circuit.

From 1979-1985, Mr. Hendrix served as an Assistant United States Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia. He was also Associate Independent Counsel for the investigation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development from 1991-1992.

Mr. Hendrix graduated with cum laude honors from Davidson College and he received his law degree from Emory University. Since 1992, Mr. Hendrix has been an Adjunct Professor of Litigation at Georgia State University College of Law. He is also a Master of the Bench with the Lamar American Inn of Court where he works to enhance the professional, ethics and skills of the legal community.

Mr. Hendrix has also authored numerous articles including: “High Speed Police Chases and Injured Innocent By-Standers,” The Verdict (Summer, 2015) “Tolling the Statute of Limitations in Tort Cases for Victims of a Crime,” The Verdict (Fall, 2007); “A Refresher On the Federal Tort Claims Act,” The Verdict (Winter, 1999); “Rule 16 and the Jencks Act: A Need for Legal Reform,” Calendar Call (Winter, 1996); “Corporate Criminal Liability: The Need for Effective Compliance Programs,” South Carolina Lawyer (March/April, 1993); “Crossing State Lines in Wrongful Death Actions: Traps for the Unwary,” The Verdict (Fall, 1990); and “White Collar Crime: New Tools for Prosecution,” The Atlanta Lawyer (Summer, 1986)