Fatal Car Accidents
Fatal car crashes leave the loved ones of the decedent reeling. In addition to grief, they may feel anger, anxiety, and many other emotions. They may also be concerned about how to pay rent, how they will be able to afford groceries, how every task that needs to get done will get done, and other practical considerations. Atlanta residents who have lost a loved one in a fatal car accident can consult Attorney Stephen M. Ozcomert to assert their rights.Bringing a Wrongful Death Claim in Georgia
Under Georgia law, O.C.G.A. section 51-4-1, a wrongful death is one that is caused by another person or entity's negligence, recklessness, intentional misconduct, or criminal acts. Most fatal car accidents arise out of negligence, which happens when the defendant fails to use reasonable care while operating a motor vehicle. To establish the defendant's negligence in connection with a wrongful death, you must prove the defendant's duty, a breach of duty, causation, and damages.
There are two distinct types of wrongful death claims. The first type recognizes the value of the decedent's full life. Monetary damages that may be recovered with this claim include lost wages and lost companionship. These damages, particularly those pertaining to loss of companionship, may vary dramatically depending on the relationship of the decedent to his or her family members.
Minor children of the decedent, for example, may request damages related to what the decedent would have spent to raise the child and send him or her to college. This portion of the recovery would be limited if the defendant were able to prove that the decedent did not plan to send his or her children to college. Adult children can claim damages for loss of inheritance. In some cases, such as a fatal car accident caused by drunk driving, punitive damages may be available to punish the drunk driver and deter similar acts in the future.
The second type of claim allows the decedent's estate to recover any financial losses directly suffered by the decedent or estate in connection with the death, such as medical expenses, funeral expenses, and the decedent's pain and suffering before dying.
Wrongful death claims must be brought either by a decedent's family members or his or her personal representative. The first person in line to bring the claim is the spouse of the decedent. When the decedent leaves behind minor children, the surviving spouse must also represent the children's interests. However, if there is no spouse or child, the surviving parents of the decedent are next in line to bring the claim. If there are no parents, the personal representative brings the claim. Any damages recovered are for the decedent's next of kin.
Whoever pursues the wrongful death claim collects the compensation and distributes it according to statute. If there is a spouse but no children, the spouse can keep all of what is recovered. If there is a spouse and children, the spouse must distribute the money equally among these individuals. In no event does a spouse receive less than one-third of the recovery.Protect Your Rights after a Car Accident by Consulting an Atlanta Attorney
The loss of a loved one is devastating. You should not have to worry about haggling with insurers and defense attorneys while you are mourning a family member's death. Personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Stephen M. Ozcomert is available to guide families in the Atlanta area through the process of holding negligent parties accountable. Call us at (404) 370-1000 or set up a free consultation via our online form. We also represent families in Decatur as well as other cities throughout Fulton and DeKalb Counties.