A car accident death is one of the hardest situations you can deal with. When you’re involved in an accident where someone dies, it can be harrowing—whether you were in the car with them or not. Legally, what happens after a fatal car accident will depend on your relationship to the person who passed away:
- If you were a close relative of the deceased, you may be eligible to recover money in a wrongful death claim.
- If you were the driver in either vehicle, you could face criminal charges, traffic citations, and potentially liability for the accident—but only if you are the one at fault.
- You could also face liability via your insurance if the driver was someone on your insurance policy.
If you are involved in a fatal car accident, it is important to take care of yourself first. It is natural to feel shock and grief. If you lost a loved one, you must take care of funeral arrangements and your own emotions—which can be draining. And you may have injuries of your own if you were in the car. We are here to help. Call us for a free consultation and we can get your questions answered.
What if my loved one was the one who died in the accident?
Georgia law gives close family members the right to recover money for the loss of a loved one. There are two separate types of claims you might file:
- A wrongful death claim recovers money for loss of the deceased person’s life. We do not believe that this money can make up for such a loss, or ever come close. Its purpose is to help offset the financial and personal impact of losing someone close to you. There is no easy way to calculate an amount for this, but the courts may look at the money the deceased would have earned over a lifetime, and additional compensation for the enjoyment your loved one lost by not living out his or her natural life expectancy.
- You can also enter a claim on behalf of the deceased’s estate to recover the costs of medical bills, funeral costs, and pain and suffering.
Only certain people can file a wrongful death claim in Georgia, in this order of priority:
- The spouse and children
- The children alone, if there is no spouse
- A parent, if there is no spouse or children
- The estate, if there is no spouse, children or parent.
Wrongful death claims are complicated and typically need expert opinions on life expectancy, projected earnings, and the pain and suffering the deceased experienced. The insurance companies will always try to minimize the amount paid, and they are shrewd negotiators. A lawyer’s help is critical to getting what you deserve in a wrongful death claim.
What happens if I was driving?
If you were a driver or your car was involved in the accident, the normal rules of fault apply. The driver who is at fault for causing the accident is the one whose insurance covers all costs, up to the policy maximum. If the costs are higher than what the policy will pay, or if there’s no insurance at all, the driver may be held personally liable for paying. you may understandably be worried about criminal charges, lawsuits and insurance premiums.
- Either driver may be at fault depending on what happened. This could include the driver who passed away, the driver of a vehicle where a passenger passed away, or the other driver. Simply because you survived and someone else died does not mean you are fault.
- If the driver was someone else covered by your insurance policy, such as your teenager or a person you loaned the car to, your insurance policy will usually cover the claim, up to the policy limits.
- Your car insurance rates may or may not go up as a result. If this was your first claim, you may not see any difference in the amount you pay for car insurance.
If you were involved in a fatal car accident, resist the urge to apologize or blame yourself. You need legal help immediately. Our Atlanta Georgia car accident attorneys can evaluate your case. You may even have a claim against a third party for your own injuries.
Talk to an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer for Free
Our law firm has built its reputation on helping accident victims. We never charge you money unless we win money for you. Let us give you a FREE consultation to help you understand the right next steps for your case—with no obligation. Call us at (404) 341-6555 or fill out the form to the right to get your free consultation today.