Many car accidents in Atlanta, Georgia, have resulted in unintended injuries and fatalities. Fatal accidents are caused by the negligence or recklessness of a driver. In Georgia, relatives of a deceased accident victim can file a wrongful death claim. Aside from the civil action, the at-fault driver may face a vehicular manslaughter charge.
The District Attorney’s Office files a vehicular manslaughter charge against an individual who broke the law resulting in another’s death. It is a severe charge that carries driver’s license suspension, fines, and imprisonment.
The victim’s family can also file the wrongful death action irrespective of whether or not the at-fault driver gets convicted for vehicular manslaughter. This article discusses vehicular manslaughter and the legal options available to the relatives of a deceased car accident victim.
If you lose a loved one in a car crash that is not their fault, our experienced Atlanta wrongful death lawyers at The Weinstein Firm can fight to recover monetary damages for you and your family. Contact us for excellent legal advice and representation.
What Is Vehicular Manslaughter?
Vehicular manslaughter is the crime of causing death due to illegal driving, negligence, reckless driving, or speeding. There are two different charges of vehicular manslaughter under Georgia law:
First Degree Vehicular Manslaughter
First-degree vehicular manslaughter is considered a felony offense in Georgia. This crime occurs when a person without malice aforethought causes the death of another by:
- Violating Georgia reckless driving laws
- Overtaking a school bus illegally
- Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Fleeing from law enforcement; or
- Committing a hit and run
A felony conviction for vehicular manslaughter carries severe penalties. Under the Georgia Code (O.C.G.A. 40-6-393), the person faces three to fifteen years in prison upon conviction. A person can get convicted for felony vehicular manslaughter if they have been declared a habitual violator.
A habitual violator is a person who has been convicted for three or more severe traffic-related offenses within five years. They are subject to stiffer penalties of imprisonment, usually not less than five but up to twenty years.
Second Degree Vehicular Manslaughter
A person is charged with a misdemeanor if it is second-degree vehicular manslaughter. It occurs when a person unintentionally causes the death of another by committing simple traffic offenses, which includes:
- Violating traffic laws such as going through a red light or stop sign
- Driving over the speed limit
- Failing to maintain a lane; or
- Distracted driving
In Georgia, second-degree vehicular manslaughter carries a penalty of one year in prison or $1,000 in fine or both.
Legal Options Available in Atlanta Car Accidents Involving Vehicular Manslaughter
Whether or not a driver is charged with vehicular manslaughter, the victim’s family can sue for damages. They have the right to file a claim for wrongful death in a civil suit against the at-fault driver. A criminal conviction for vehicular manslaughter does not affect a wrongful death civil suit. The lawsuit does not have to follow the successful conviction in criminal court.
Generally, only persons with a relationship with the victim can sue for wrongful death. In Georgia, only the surviving spouse, children, estate representative, or the victim’s parents are eligible to sue.
Wrongful death claims allow the victim’s family to seek damages for the cost incurred from the sudden death. The family members must file the claim within two years from the date of the accident. However, if a criminal case for the same event is in court, time is suspended until the case is complete.
Compensatory damages are recovered for the total value of the victim’s life, including financial and intangible losses. One of the challenges faced is determining the value of the financial cost incurred, especially the pain and suffering. Thus, the expertise of an experienced lawyer or financial professional is needed to assess the financial cost.
The victim’s family members can recover the following compensatory damages:
- Funeral expenses
- Medical expenses
- Ambulance cost
- Lost of the deceased victim’s earning capacity
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of companionship
- Lost wages and benefits
Contact an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Today!
Losing a loved one due to the negligent actions of another can be devastating. If your family member was killed in a car accident, you may be eligible for financial compensation. Our compassionate and experienced Atlanta car accident lawyers at The Weinstein Firm will take immediate action for you.
We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t have to worry about paying us upfront. Contact us today for a free consultation. We are here to help you protect your rights and recover maximum compensation.