Both Georgia and the federal government impose numerous restrictions on how people behave. Criminal laws in theory deter people from taking actions that would cause harm to others or at least impose consequences if someone violates certain statutes.
There are dozens of laws in Georgia that specifically apply to the operation of a motor vehicle. Unfortunately, despite the requirement for licensed drivers to undergo thorough education, many drivers intentionally choose to violate state traffic laws. They do things that are obviously illegal at the wheel. Examples include exceeding the posted speed limit by a significant amount, racing on public roads and driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
What rights do surviving family members have when illegal driving conduct causes a fatal crash?
Fatal collisions can lead to civil litigation
Georgia state law explicitly permits surviving family members to request compensation after fatal crashes. When a crash is the result of illegal activity, that makes the driver of the other vehicle or possibly a third party, like their employer, vulnerable to a wrongful death lawsuit.
The dependent family members of the deceased individual can file a lawsuit asking for the full value of their life in court-ordered compensation. Such lawsuits can help families defray the cost of a tragic collision, as motor vehicle insurance is often far too low to cover the cost of losing a family member.
Prosecution does not prohibit such claims
Some people do not understand their rights and may confuse certain criminal laws with restrictions on civil actions. Frequently, people think that they cannot sue for wrongful death if the state of Georgia or the federal government already prosecuted the responsible party.
However, a civil lawsuit does not violate double jeopardy protections. You can absolutely file a lawsuit against a driver convicted of intoxication at the wheel if their drunk driving incident cost a family member their life. In fact, their conviction in criminal court could make it easier for you to bring a civil claim.
Still, criminal convictions are not necessary for a successful wrongful death claim. Families denied the justice of criminal prosecution may find that the lower standard of evidence in civil court gives them an opportunity to hold a driver who did something illegal responsible for the impact of their actions.
Making sense of the rules that apply to wrongful death claims in Georgia can help those trying to resolve the consequences of a loved one’s death.