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Can the Victim’s Family Sue for Vehicular Homicide in Georgia?

A vehicular homicide case can be extremely traumatic for the deceased person’s surviving family members. While all families want justice in these scenarios, there is more than one way to go about it.

Vehicular homicide is a very serious offense, and legal action is almost certain to follow. While you and your family deserve justice, you cannot control whether the other driver is criminally charged. Criminal charges are assessed and prosecuted by the government, not individuals. However, you and your family may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent driver who caused your loved one’s death. In Georgia, damages for wrongful death include the full value of the deceased person’s life and damages they could have claimed had they survived. Often, family members can file wrongful death lawsuits, but a personal representative may also file if there are no eligible surviving family members.

If your loved one was the victim of vehicular homicide, the person responsible deserves to be brought to justice. Our Atlanta wrongful death lawyers can help you take action for your loved one and your family. For a free case review, call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.

Legal Action for Vehicular Homicide in Georgia

Vehicular homicide cases are not just accidents. The driver who caused the accident may be criminally charged under O.G.G.A. § 40-6-393 with homicide by vehicle and potentially face years behind bars. While a criminal conviction may help bring your family justice, victims’ families cannot control whether a driver is charged or convicted.

What you and your family can control is a civil lawsuit. Whether or not the other driver is criminally charged, you can sue them for the wrongful death of your loved one. Wrongful death cases are often complex, the stakes are high, and our Alpharetta wrongful death lawyers can assist you.

Wrongful Death of an Adult Family Member

In many cases, wrongful death lawsuits related to vehicular homicide fall under O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2, which governs cases involving the loss of a spouse or parent. Exactly who is a party to the lawsuit may depend on who files the case and whether the deceased person had any children.

Typically, any damages awarded to a surviving spouse are split equally with any surviving children. This means that if you are awarded $100,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of a spouse in a vehicular homicide accident and have 3 children, you and each of the children are awarded $25,000.

A surviving spouse also has much authority over the case. If you choose to release the defendant from the case for whatever reason, you may do so without the concurrence or permission of any children who might also benefit from the case.

Wrongful Death of a Child

The loss of a child is not only incredibly painful but legally different from a wrongful case for an adult. Wrongful death cases for children, including unborn children, fall under O.C.G.A. § 19-7-1. Under this law, minor children are under the control and custody of their parents. Either parent may file a wrongful death case for the loss of a child, but the situation becomes more complicated if the parents are divorced or separated.

A parent who has lost or waived their custody rights usually cannot file a wrongful death lawsuit for the loss of a child. Additionally, parents are legally entitled to the services and proceeds of a child’s labor (e.g., household help, caregiving, babysitting) and may claim the value of those proceeds in a wrongful death lawsuit. However, if the parents are divorced or separated, only the parent with custody of the child may claim those services and proceeds.

Possible Damages You Can Recover in a Wrongful Death Case for Vehicular Homicide in Georgia

Damages in any wrongful death lawsuit are complex and often significant. Part of the problem is that family members have a hard time assigning monetary value to their loved one’s life. Although this feels callous and cold, it is the only way courts can compensate family members and attempt to right serious wrongs.

Georgia explains damages in wrongful death cases a bit vaguely. According to O.C.G.A. § 51-4-1(1), damages are based on the full value of the life of the deceased person. Of course, this is a very subjective way of examining a person’s life, and courts have developed strategies for evaluating these damages.

First, we must examine the tangible aspects of your loved one’s life. This may be somewhat less difficult to assess as it is based on things like assets, finances, income, and property. You may use your loved one’s income, the value of any property they owned, and the value of any services they provided to calculate the full value of their life. If your loved one had significant assets, we might need to comb through financial records before arriving at an estimate.

Next, we must examine the intangible aspects of your loved one’s life. This is far more difficult, as many intangible aspects are not tied to an exact monetary value and are very subjective. Our Savannah wrongful death lawyers can help you accurately calculate damages. Many intangible aspects include your loved one’s ties to the community, family relationships, friendships, future prospects or plans, and more.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Vehicular Homicide in Georgia?

While we have briefly gone over who may file a wrongful death claim, determining who can file is sometimes more complicated than it seems. When a person passes away, numerous loved ones may want justice and wish to file a lawsuit. Friends, family, children, and other loved ones deserve justice. However, only family members or a personal representative can file the case.

The law is strict about which family members may file a wrongful death lawsuit. In cases of wrongful deaths of adults, a surviving spouse must be the one to file the case. The deceased person’s children may file the case if there is no surviving spouse. If the children filing the case are minors, the children’s guardian or a next friend may assist.

Parents may file a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of a deceased child under certain conditions. If the child was a minor, both parents or whichever parent has custody may file the case. If the child was an adult, a parent might file a wrongful death case only if the deceased person has no surviving spouse or children.

According to O.C.G.A. § 51-4-5(a), a personal representative of the deceased person’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit if no one else is eligible or entitled to do so. The personal representative may hold onto any recovered damages to deliver to any next of kin of the deceased person. On top of that, the law also states that the personal representative may recover for funeral, medical, and other expenses from the deceased person’s injuries if the wrongful death resulted from criminal actions or negligence, including vehicular homicide.

Call Our Georgia Wrongful Death Lawyers for a Free Case Review

Surviving family members go through a lot when they lose someone to vehicular homicide. The process can be overwhelming, and our Warner Robins wrongful death lawyers are here to help you get justice. For a free review of your case, call Howe Law at (844) 876-4357.

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