Hawk Law Group | January 18, 2023 | Car Accidents
According to the Georgia Department of Health, motor vehicle crashes were the second leading cause of injury deaths in the state in 2020. Georgia had the fourth-highest number of traffic deaths in the nation that year. There were 1,664 traffic fatalities statewide in 2020.
No one ever thinks that they will cause a fatal car accident until it happens to them. Unfortunately, you could go to jail after a fatal car accident, depending on the facts of the case. You could also face civil liability if the family files a wrongful death lawsuit.
Charges Related to Fatal Car Accidents that Could Result in Jail Time
Prosecutors could use several criminal offenses to charge someone who caused a fatal car accident. Vehicular homicide is a wobbler offense. You can be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor.
Felony vehicular homicide charges include traffic deaths involving:
- DUI accidents
- Overtaking and passing a school bus when the stop flag or signals are activated
- Hit-and-run accidents (leaving the scene of an accident)
- Reckless driving
- Attempting to elude or flee from law enforcement officers
Misdemeanor vehicular homicide charges arise when a driver is negligent or commits traffic offenses that result in death.
The maximum jail term for a misdemeanor vehicular homicide conviction is one year. Felony vehicular homicide can be punished by three to 15 years in prison.
Criminal charges require the state to prove that the person is guilty of the legal elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. The case is heard in criminal court. However, the family members of the deceased individual could file a wrongful death lawsuit seeking damages.
Wrongful Death Lawsuits for Fatal Car Accidents in Augusta, GA
A wrongful death occurs when a person’s negligence, criminal acts, or intentional misconduct cause someone’s death. A wrongful death claim seeks compensation for damages the family members incur because of the death of their loved one.
Only certain family members can file a wrongful death claim in the State of Georgia. The deceased person’s surviving spouse, children, and parents can file a claim. Parents can only recover damages if their child is not married and does not have children.
Damages for a wrongful death case are divided among eligible family members according to the deceased’s Will. If the person did not have a Will, state law dictates how wrongful death damages for a fatal car accident are divided.
For example, the spouse receives one-third of the damages if there is no Will. The remaining two-thirds is divided equally among the person’s children. Even if there is a Will, a surviving spouse is entitled to claim one-third of a wrongful death award.
What Damages Are Awarded for Wrongful Death Claims for Fatal Car Crashes?
It is impossible to put a value on a person’s life or the value of that person’s life to their loved ones. However, the only remedy the civil court can offer family members for a wrongful death claim is a monetary award.
Compensation for a wrongful death claim includes:
- Lost wages the person would have earned had they lived
- The value of household services and childcare
- Funeral and burial expenses
- Medical bills incurred between the fatal car accident and when the person died
- Compensation for the person’s conscious pain and suffering the person experienced before death
- Loss of companionship, guidance, support, and love
- Parental guidance for the loss of a parent
The amount awarded for a wrongful death claim depends on many factors. Experienced Augusta personal injury lawyers understand how to present the evidence in a way that maximizes the value of damages.
What Is the Deadline for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim for a Fatal Car Crash in Augusta, GA?
The statute of limitations (deadline) for filing wrongful death claims in Georgia is two years from a person’s death. If the person died because of a car accident, the deadline does not begin on the accident date unless the person died that day. The statute of limitations begins on the day the person dies.
However, there may be exceptions to the two-year deadline. It is always best to seek legal advice as soon as possible after losing your loved one. If you miss the filing deadline for a wrongful death claim, you lose the right to hold the person responsible for your loved one’s death accountable for their actions.
Make Sure You Understand Your Legal Rights After a Fatal Car Accident in Augusta, GA
Individuals involved in fatal car accidents should seek legal advice about criminal charges from a criminal defense lawyer. An Augusta wrongful death lawyer can advise family members and drivers regarding wrongful death lawsuits.
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.