On the night of September 29, 2014, 18-year-old Atlanta resident Juan Ocompto died after being ejected from a 2002 Ford Explorer in which he was a passenger. Two other passengers suffered injuries and went to nearby hospitals, but ultimately survived. Law enforcement stated that they believed the driver was traveling too fast for the road and weather conditions on I-85, and lost control of the Explorer to incite the single-car rollover accident. The unidentified driver was arrested by police and an officer stated the investigation into the cause of the crash is ongoing. Charges are reportedly pending for the driver.
Can the passenger’s family recover?
Georgia law allows specific family members, such as surviving spouses, children, and parents, of a deceased accident victim to recover for their losses under certain circumstances. If the accident occurred because of the negligence or intentional act of another party, such family members may bring a wrongful death action against the responsible party. Wrongful death claims often arise out of incidents such as car accidents when negligence was involved.
When most people think about lawsuits involving car accidents, they tend to think of a driver or passenger in one vehicle bringing a claim against the driver of another vehicle. However, families of deceased passengers are able to recover in single-car accidents if the driver of that one car negligently caused the accident to occur. Some examples of damages available in Georgia wrongful death cases include:
- Medical expenses for treatment prior to the death;
- Burial and funeral costs;
- Pain and suffering experienced by the deceased prior to death;
- Loss of future earnings and related benefits the deceased likely would have earned had the death not occurred; and
- Loss of companionship, care, and other such intangible benefits loved ones will miss out on due to the death.
If you have lost a loved one and wish to discuss potential recovery through a wrongful death claim, the experienced Atlanta, GA injury attorneys at Goldstein Hayes & Lina, LLC can assist you.
Proving Negligence in Wrongful Death Cases
Like any other case for personal injury, you must sufficiently show that the defendant acted negligently or wrongfully in order to recover. There are many different acts of negligence in which a driver may engage to cause an accident. Such acts include the following:
- Distracted driving
- Impaired driving
- Violating traffic laws
- Aggressive driving
- Reckless driving
- Violating traffic signals
The family of a deceased passenger must present evidence and adequately prove in court that a driver engaged in some type of negligent activity and that the negligence caused the accident.
“Negligence per se” is a legal principle under which a court will find certain actions to be negligent simply because the act violated a safety law. In the recent I-85 accident, the driver was arrested, which means law enforcement had probable cause to believe he had violated a law. This means that the family of the deceased teenager may have an advantage in proving negligence if the driver broke any laws to cause the accident.