When it seems the negligence of another caused a fatal crash that killed a loved one, a wrongful death action may be necessary to hold that person responsible.
In 2012, 33,561 people died in motor vehicle accidents according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. That was a 3.3 percent increase in deaths from 2011.
While these numbers may seem a bit dated, they are the most recent publicly available statistics from the federal agency. A preliminary report from the National Safety Council earlier this year estimated a decrease in motor vehicle fatalities in 2013. However, the group still believes that more than 30,000 perished in auto-related crashes during 2013. Most of these accidents result from human error.
A human error does not always arise to the level of negligence, carelessness or recklessness. But there are several categories, such as texting while driving, impaired driving, speed and fatigue that may tip into the realm of negligent actions. A wrongful death lawsuit provides a remedy for loved ones when negligence caused a fatal crash. Of course, few admit to negligent conduct, so it often requires a thorough investigation to uncover.
Here are some the basic requirements in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Who brings a wrongful death lawsuit?
The surviving spouse, parent or a child or children may bring the wrongful death action.
One tragedy surrounding fatal auto accidents is that often the person killed is in the prime of life with a spouse and small children. Determining losses can also prove difficult and an expert might be needed to calculate lost future earnings taking into account yearly raises, possible missed promotions and inflation. Funeral expenses, medical bills, pain and suffering along with loss of consortium also factor into a damages award.
In some cases, more than one person might have been negligent in causing an accident. One driver may have been impaired and speeding faster than the conditions allowed. The other driver may have parked in an unlawful location. It would be up to a jury to assign fault between the parties.
Georgia law does not allow a plaintiff to recover any damages, however, if he or she was 50 percent or more at fault for the accident that caused the injuries. If a jury finds the plaintiff was 15 percent responsible for the crash, then the final award amount would be reduced by that amount.
Is there a timeline for filing a claim?
In Georgia, state law requires that personal injury claims generally must be filed within two years. The limitations period is shorter for a claim brought under the Georgia Tort Claims Act against the state. A plaintiff only has 12 months from discovering an injury to file suit.
After the loss of a loved one, it often takes time for the shock to subside and to return to everyday life. While planning final arrangements it is also important to contact a personal injury attorney to discuss the circumstances of the fatal accident and possible remedies.