The loss of a loved one in a traffic accident is a tragedy and, unfortunately, this is the leading cause of death related to negligence in the United States, followed by biking and workplace accidents. In 2021, data from the Georgia Department of Transportation reported that 2,807 vehicles were involved in crashes in Georgia. Of these, 1,773 resulted in lethal injuries, 394 were seriously harmed, and 423 had visible injuries.
Distracted driving: primary cause for car accidents in Georgia
Car accidents occupy eighth place in the leading causes of death for people of all ages across the United States. According to a 2021 report from the Georgia Department of Driver Services (DDS), over 57,000 people were charged for distracted driving throughout the year. Unfortunately, it appears that 2022 will follow a similar trend since there have already been 9,407 recorded infractions of distracted driving as of this year.
In recent years, the primary cause of car accidents in Georgia has been the use of electronic devices while driving. It is estimated that, in 2021, 70% of the deaths related to a traffic accident were the result of irresponsible and distracted behavior from drivers. The majority of these cases qualify for filing a wrongful death claim.
What is a wrongful death?
Wrongful death is a term used when negligence or intentional actions have caused the death of another person. In Georgia, the deceased person’s relatives are allowed to file a wrongful death claim within a two-year period (exceptions apply) of the incident. You can learn more details here.
What kind of damages can you claim in your wrongful death lawsuit?
If you decide to pursue a wrongful death claim, then you will need the help of a personal injury attorney who specializes in this area. They will make sure the process takes place during the appropriate legal time frame, and that all requirements are met in order to obtain the maximum compensation. Regardless of whether or not the death was caused intentionally, or if it was the result of a traffic accident, bad praxis, or the negligent conduct of a third-party, you may make a claim for compensation based on:
- Compensation for the value of the deceased person’s life.
- Financial losses: here you can include medical care bills related to the treatment of the deceased person, funeral costs, and any other expenses that can be proven to have been caused by the accident.
- Loss of a relationship with the deceased, this includes the company and guidance that the person provided for other people and family members.
- Loss of inheritance, this includes the possible assets, savings, and interest that the deceased could have accumulated and left for their beneficiaries if they had not lost their life.
- Compensation for the anguish, suffering, and emotional pain brought about by the death, this includes the cost of any medical treatment necessary for dealing with the loss of a loved one.
Also, in cases where your lawyer deems it possible, you may make a claim for punitive damages.
Punitive damages, also known as exemplary or vindictive damages, are awarded when the defendant’s negligence or indifference is determined to have caused fatal damage, leading to someone’s death. Punitive damages are designed to further punish irresponsible behavior that leads to the death or harm of a person. They also serve the purpose of discouraging any similar conduct by imposing additional consequences.
What you need to know about punitive damages
Punitive damages are part of a more complex process since they are considered to be an extraordinary occurrence. As such, they are not always awarded and it is required to show that the defendant deserves to be punished. The difference is that compensatory damages are meant to compensate for the damage caused to the victim’s family, while punitive damages are used as a punishment for the defendant, who then indirectly pays an additional sum to the victim’s family. We can see how each of these serve different purposes.
In the case of a traffic accident being the cause of death of your relative, you will have to demonstrate that careless and distracted driving led to the accident. You must also show that this carelessness directly led to the death of your relative. In Georgia, it is punishable by law to drive while using a phone, to drive carelessly, and to drive with distractions, but you must show that these violations took place.
Do I need the help of a personal injury attorney near me?
Yes, you will need the help of a personal injury lawyer in Georgia that specializes in car accidents and wrongful death in order to properly file your claim. For example, you will need a lawyer that can request the defendant’s phone records to verify if they were using their phone in any capacity at the time of the accident. Your personal injury lawyer can also, when available, ask for camera footage from the nearby businesses or homes to see if any of it can be submitted as evidence.
There exists a vast amount of evidence that a personal injury lawyer can rely on to form a connection between an accident and a death, as well as for proving the aggravating circumstances that will allow them to show that the defendant deserves the maximum punishment. This will help condemn the defendant to paying punitive or exemplary damages for the negligent conduct that resulted in the death of your relative.
Not every car accident that involves someone’s death will qualify for punitive damages. However, when dealing with negligent or careless behavior that is considered to be breaking the law, it is highly likely that an experienced personal injury lawyer will be able to show the connection necessary to award you payment for punitive damages. This ensures you and your family will receive the maximum compensation possible.
It is very common for lawyers to ask for punitive damages, but there are only a few of them that actually know the evidence required to prove that they should be awarded. Regardless of whether the defendant acted intentionally or negligently, you will be able to file a claim against the person responsible for your loved one’s death.
It is possible to take your wrongful death claim to the highest level and set a precedent that disincentivizes the behavior that led to your loved one’s death. Our Atlanta car accident and personal injury attorneys have a lot of experience in this area and are available to help you navigate through this painful circumstance.
Photo courtesy of Luis Galvez – Unsplash