Family May Be Able to File Wrongful Death Suit Against Driver Although Criminal Charges Have Not Been Filed
Earlier this month, 35 year old Atlanta resident Sarah Christy Gililand was killed after being struck by a vehicle while on an early Sunday morning walk. Gililand was struck by a car driving along Peachtree Road, north of Dresden Drive. She was taken to an area hospital where she died of injuries sustained during the collision. According to police reports, Gililand was not in a crosswalk when the collision occurred.
Georgia State Patrol conducted an investigation. However, in a statement released to local media, Georgia State Patrol indicated that they do not anticipate filing charges against the driver of the vehicle that struck Gililand.
Wrongful death suits allow the victims family to recover damages on their behalf when the death was caused by another’s negligence.
In Georgia, the family of an individual who has been killed as a result of someone’s negligence can bring a lawsuit against the individual who is liable for their death on the victim’s behalf. This type of civil claim is referred to as a wrongful death claim. It is often brought by the family of the victim when criminal charges are not brought against the individual responsible for the victim’s death or when, a criminal case has failed.
To prevail on a wrongful death claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was liable for the victim’s death by a preponderance of the evidence. This is a lower standard of proof than in criminal cases where the defendant must be found liable by clear and convincing evidence or beyond a reasonable doubt.
Under Georgia law, a plaintiff can recover for damages attributed to the defendant, even when they are partially at fault.
In some circumstances, a victim’s family may bring a wrongful death suit even when the victim was partially at fault for their injuries or death. This legal theory is referred to as contributory negligence. Under Georgia law, a victim may recover for damages if they were 49 percent or less at fault for the accident that caused their injury or death. As such, in a wrongful death action brought in Georgia, a court of law will determine the total damages and each party’s percentage of liability. If the victim is found to be less than 49 percent liable for their injuries, they will be awarded damages corresponding to the percentage of liability attributed to the defendant.
Therefore, even though police reports indicated that Gililand was not in the crosswalk at the time the accident occurred, her family may still be able to bring a wrongful death action on her behalf. If her death is determined to be the result of negligence, the court will determine whether her portion of liability was 49 percent or less. If so, she may be entitled to damages.
If your loved one has been killed in an accident that may have been the result of someone else’s negligence, you should contact an Atlanta personal injury attorney immediately.