Hawk Law Group | March 22, 2023 | Car Accidents
Traffic fatalities can result in criminal and civil penalties for the at-fault party. Family members may be overwhelmed by the magnitude of what happened to their loved ones. A Waynesboro wrongful death lawyer provides legal advice and guidance during the process of filing claims.
Criminal Charges for a Traffic Fatality in Georgia
The party who caused your loved one’s death could face criminal charges. One or more offenses could apply in a fatal traffic accident.
For example, a person could be charged with felony vehicular homicide, which could result in up to 15 years in prison. A misdemeanor vehicular homicide charge could be punished with up to one year in county jail. Likewise, a hit-and-run felony charge could result in one to five years in prison.
Criminal charges are handled by the prosecutor’s office in the county where the fatal accident occurred. The district attorney decides whether there is evidence to file criminal charges and, if so, the specific criminal charges to file.
However, the prosecutor might not file criminal charges after a fatal car crash. If not, that does not prevent family members from filing a civil lawsuit. The criminal and civil matters are separate.
Who Can Make a Wrongful Death Claim After a Georgia Traffic Accident?
The person’s relationship to the deceased determines whether they have a right to file a wrongful death action in Georgia. Only parents, a surviving spouse, or the deceased’s children can file a wrongful death claim. Parents are only permitted to recover compensation if the child is not married and does not have children.
What Damages Can a Family Member Receive for a Waynesboro Fatal Car Accident?
Damages for a wrongful death claim are different from the damages you can receive for a personal injury claim. The court uses numerous factors to determine the “full value of life” lost because of the car accident.
For example, the family members can recover compensation for the wages the deceased would have earned if not for their untimely death. Future promotions, bonuses, and other benefits could be included in the calculations. Even though the victim was unemployed when they died, the court can consider the person’s skills, training, education, and other factors to estimate future earnings.
The court can also award compensation to the family members for intangible benefits the person would have offered the family members had they lived. Those damages can include:
- Parental guidance
- Loss of companionship, love, and support
- Assistance with household chores
- Participation in child-rearing and childcare
A family can also be entitled to reimbursement for reasonable funeral and burial expenses, in addition to medical bills incurred between the accident and the person’s death. If the person experienced conscious pain and suffering before death, a wrongful claim settlement could also include compensation for these damages. If the facts of the case justify punitive damages, a jury could award the family members additional damages.
How To Prove Liability for a Wrongful Death Caused by a Car Accident
The family has the burden of proving causation and fault to win a wrongful death case. They must prove:
- The other motorist owed a duty of care to their family member
- The motorist breached the duty of care through their actions or failure to act
- The breach of duty was the proximate and direct cause of the family member’s death
- The deceased and the family suffered damage because of the wrongful death
Because the person died in the car accident, there is no one to testify about what happened except the other driver. Therefore, an attorney aggressively investigates the cause of the crash to gather evidence proving how the crash occurred and who is at fault. Evidence could include:
- Videos of the collision
- Testimony from eyewitnesses
- Statements made by the other driver and passengers after the accident
- Physical evidence from the accident scene
- Information from vehicle data recorders
An attorney might hire one or more expert witnesses to assist with the case. For example, the lawyer might hire an accident reconstructionist to determine how the crash occurred from the available evidence.
What Is the Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Waynesboro Car Accident?
The statute of limitations for a wrongful death lawsuit begins to run on the day the person dies. The deadline for filing a wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia is two years from the date of death. If the family does not file the lawsuit before the deadline expires, they give up the right to pursue a legal claim.
However, certain circumstances could pause the statute of limitations. For example, the court might grant a stay during a pending criminal case. A stay might apply if the person’s estate has not been probated.
You should never assume an exception applies in your case. It is best to talk with a Waynesboro wrongful death attorney as soon as possible.
Contact the Car Accident Lawyers In the Central Savannah River Area at Hawk Law Group for Legal Assistance Today
For more information, please contact the car accident lawyers at Hawk Law Group at our nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.
We serve throughout the Central Savannah River Area and its surrounding areas:
We also serve in Edgefield County, SC.