Wrongful Death and Car Accidents: Holding Negligent Drivers Accountable
When someone loses their life due to a driver’s negligence, it is considered a wrongful death. Surviving family members then have the right to legally hold the negligent party accountable for their actions.
What is Wrongful Death?
Wrongful death is a legal term used to describe a situation where the negligence or intentional actions of another individual cause a person’s death. In cases involving car accidents, wrongful death commonly occurs, for example, when a driver:
- Drives Distracted: This is one of the leading causes of fatal car accidents. Drivers who are distracted by their cell phones, food, passengers, or other things are much more likely to get into accidents.
- Drives under the influence: When drivers are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, their ability to operate a vehicle safely is significantly impaired.
- Speeding: Driving at excessive speeds reduces a driver’s ability to react to unexpected situations. Additionally, the higher the speed a vehicle travels, the more forceful the impact and the risk of severe or deadly injuries for all involved.
- Reckless driving: Drivers who engage in reckless behaviors such as tailgating, weaving in and out of traffic, or ignoring traffic signals are at a higher risk of causing fatal car accidents.
- Fatigued driving: Drivers who are tired or sleep-deprived have slower reaction times, decreased alertness, and impaired judgment.
Holding Negligent Drivers Accountable for Wrongful Death
When a person dies due to the negligence or wrongful actions of another driver in a car accident, the family or representative of the deceased’s estate may file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party. Potential compensation includes medical expenses related to the accident, funeral costs, loss of income, loss of companionship, the deceased’s pain and suffering, and more.
Wrongful death lawsuits are based on the legal theory of negligence, which involves proving the following four elements:
Duty of Care
The driver had a duty of care to the victim. This means that the driver had an obligation to act in a reasonably prudent manner and to take reasonable steps to avoid causing harm to others on the road.
Breach of Duty
The driver breached their duty of care by acting negligently, recklessly, or intentionally. For example, if the driver was speeding, texting while driving, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.
The driver’s breach of duty was the proximate cause of the victim’s death. In other words, the victim’s death directly resulted from the driver’s actions and would not have occurred otherwise.
The victim’s death resulted in monetary damages, such as medical expenses, funeral costs, lost income, etc.
Wrongful death lawsuits must be filed within a specific period of time, known as the statute of limitations, which varies by state. For example, in Georgia, you have two years from the date of death to pursue a claim, or you will lose the right.
An Attorney Can Help
Wrongful death cases can be emotionally challenging for the surviving family members, but working with a compassionate attorney can help alleviate some of the stress and anxiety associated with the legal process. Arrange a free consultation with a trusted Atlanta Wrongful Death Lawyer today for help seeking justice for the loss of your loved one.