Fatal Car Accidents
Fatal car accidents in Georgia occur multiple times a day, with state governor’s office of highway safety reporting between 1,600 and 1,200 traffic deaths a year. Particularly at-risk on our roads are:
- Drivers under 20;
As an auto accident lawyer serving Atlanta for more than two decades, Stephen M. Ozcomert is dedicated to fighting for the rights and financial stability of loved ones left behind due to the recklessness of negligent drivers, unsafe carriers and other responsible parties.
The death of a loved one can be tragic regardless of the circumstances. But when this gutting loss is the direct result of someone else’s careless or wrongful act, you may have numerous legal protections to help you recover damages and seek accountability.
Of course, there is no verdict or settlement that will bring your loved one back. However, you can honor them by ensuring those they cared most about will be taken care of as they would have assured in life.
These claims may be filed concurrently with any ongoing criminal investigation and prosecution, but your civil claim is a separate and distinct process. There may be some cases wherein a criminal court judge might order a convicted defendant to pay restitution to the victims’ survivors, but again, this is separate and distinct from the civil procedure. Additionally, civil litigation is a means to assert accountability beyond just the driver, if there are grounds to do so. Third-party liability can involve the bar that sold the driver alcohol, the owner of the car who entrusted it to a reckless driver or the employer who failed to properly vet or supervise its employees.
All of this will depend on the individual circumstances. Just a few examples of negligent driving that have a high likelihood of resulting in fatal injuries to drivers as well as innocent third parties:
- Driving while impaired by alcohol and/ or drugs;
- Excessively speeding or traveling at a speed unsafe for conditions;
- Driving while distracted in violation of O.C.G.A. 40-6-241.2;
- Fatigued driving, particularly among truckers.
With more than 20 years of experience successfully handling wrongful death claims for our clients, our Atlanta law firm is prepared to fight for you.Wrongful Death Claims After Car Accidents
While most car accident claims will be filed as personal injury claims, fatal crashes will result in wrongful death claims. Both generally require proof of negligence, but there are some differences.
Per O.C.G.A. 51-4-1 – 51-4-5, considers “wrongful death” to be one caused by a person, business or other entity as the result of actions that are negligent, reckless, intentional or criminal. Both negligence and personal injury claims require proof of negligence to prevail. That is, defendant owed a duty of care, duty of care was breached and that breach of duty resulted in injury/ death.
In Georgia, wrongful death claims must be filed within two years of the death. When this time limit expires, family is most likely barred from taking any legal action for their losses. This is known as the statute of limitations. Similarly, personal injury claims per O.C.G.A. 9-3-33 must also be filed within two years. Meanwhile, claims for loss of consortium must be filed within four years. However, if your claim is against a government municipality, your statute of limitations is shortened to 6 to 12 months. It’s imperative that you contact an experienced litigation attorney as soon as possible following your loved one’s death.
One of the first things we do as Atlanta car accident attorneys is to examine who has rights to file the claim. Under O.C.G.A. 51-4-2, persons entitled to recover damages for wrongful death of a spouse or parent include (in this order);
- Surviving spouse.
- If no surviving spouse, a child or children (minor or adult), including children born out-of-wedlock;
- If no spouse or child, parents may recover for the wrongful death of a child – minor or adult – per O.C.G.A. 19-7-1. (If parents are divorced, both parties have the right, though trial court has broad discretion in allocating damages.)
In the event there is no such person entitled to bring a wrongful death action of decedent, an administrator or executor of estate may be appointed to may file an action for wrongful death recovery, the amount may be held for the benefit of the next of kin.
In terms of damages, plaintiffs in car accident wrongful death lawsuits are seeking recovery of the “full value of the life of the deceased.” Although this may sound straightforward, it can quickly get mired in complexity. The first thing to understand is that the “value” lost is that of decedent not living out the rest of his or her life. This considers the economic value (i.e., lost annual wages, retirement benefits, how many working years decedent had left, etc.), as well as the loss of life enjoyment. Meanwhile, the loss incurred by relatives is a separate action for loss of consortium.
Some examples of what may be considered in the “value of a life” are:
- Loss of future wages, including possible raises;
- Retirement benefits;
- Loss of inheritance for children;
- Compensation for pain and suffering decedent felt prior to dying;
- Funeral expenses;
- Emotional distress;
- Punitive damages (in some cases where defendant’s actions were malicious, willful and/ or criminal)
Many fatal car accidents will additionally result in UM/ UIM claims (for uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage) because the insurance coverage available under the negligent party’s plan is often not enough to fully compensate crash victim’s survivors for their losses.
If you have been injured in a Georgia car accident, contact Atlanta Car Accident Attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert at (404) 370-1000.