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Fatal Car Accident: How to Pursue a Wrongful Death Claim

A young woman sits hunched over on a couch with her head down
Unfortunately, deadly car accidents are a common occurrence in Atlanta. On average, four people die in fatal collisions across the state of Georgia every day.

In 2019, nearly 1,500 people were killed in car crashes. Around 60% of victims were not wearing seatbelts. Most deadly crashes are caused by unsafe driving behaviors, such as distractions, impairments, or speeding.

If you lost a loved one in a recent car accident, we urge you to speak with a wrongful death lawyer to review your rights and protect your family while they are going through this difficult time.

Next Steps After a Fatal Car Crash

The investigation phase of a wrongful death claim is one of the most important parts of a case. A complete, thorough, and aggressive inquiry is needed to create the wrongful death cause of action as quickly as possible.

The best way to accomplish this is by hiring an experienced wrongful death attorney. At our firm, our personal injury team looks at the following:

  • Police Reports and Officers

One of the first things that must be done is to request all police accident reports regarding the fatal crash.

Law enforcement officials who were at the scene of the car accident, or were charged with investigating the collision and interviewing witnesses or the defendants may also be contacted and interviewed.

This also allows us to double-check the police report against what witnesses or the police observed to ensure accuracy. Some police reports skip details that aren’t related to criminal charges but could be helpful in civil court.

  • Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team Reports

The Georgia State Patrol has a Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team (SCRT) that investigates fatal car accidents within the state. It is composed of investigators who are specially trained to reconstruct the crash and properly document evidence from the collision, which may be used in court.

The team members are strategically stationed throughout the state so they can assist troopers and officers in the field with fatal wrecks. The report the SCRT team provides is invaluable information for assessing fault, vehicle speed, areas of impact, and other vital factors.

  • 911 Accident Recordings

It’s important to secure a copy of any 911 tapes of the fatal car crash to find out who called, what they may have witnessed, and what was said. These tapes often have critical information that allows car accident lawyers to further investigate the claim and interview callers with follow-up questions regarding the incident.

  • Spoliation Letters

When there are corporate or company defendants and insurance companies involved, an attorney will immediately send a spoliation letter to the defendant driver, their insurance, or the defendant company (such as a hospital).

A spoliation letter is essentially a notice to the opposing parties in a wrongful death claim that requests they preserve any and all evidence that may have any bearing whatsoever on the claim. This is a demand that they do not destroy or conveniently “misplace or delete” evidence.

If the parties cause the destruction, alteration, or the loss of any of these documents or material things, it will give rise to a legal presumption that the evidence would have been harmful to their side of the case.

  • Medical Bills and Records

Copies of the deceased person’s medical bills and medical records from the fatal accident, as well as all prior medical records, will likely be needed. It is often important to interview the responding EMTs to find out what efforts were performed to try and save the victim at the scene or during the ambulance ride to the emergency room.

  • Post-Accident Statements

The actual perpetrator of the accident or crime is often willing to confess to what happened, especially if they are remorseful and/or the criminal charges have been resolved. We want to secure any and all statements they may have made at the scene of the wreck to anyone, as well as any potential admissions of responsibility after the crash.

  • Funeral and Burial Costs

Part of the wrongful death claim process after a deadly crash is to gather all information and bills for the deceased person’s funeral, cremation, or burial. If the death occurred out of state, or if the burial is to occur in another location that requires transport of the body, these costs can also be included in the request for damages and reimbursement.

  • Working With the Media

There are times when news media outlets may report on the fatal crash or incident which led to the wrongful death. Online news articles, videos, and social media posts are all useful in recreating the scene and understanding what happened. If needed, additional investigation and conversations with the media reporters may be conducted to gather more information.

Fatal Car Accident Lawyers

A thorough investigation early on is the basic foundation upon which a car accident and wrongful death claim can be built. It is important to know not only what to investigate, but who will assist you in this investigation.

This is where experience is so important. You need a law firm that is structured with the staff, equipment, resources, and finances to perform all of the important functions listed above and more.

To help families who have lost a loved one in a crash, Attorneys Gary Martin Hays and Sarah Jett wrote the book The Authority on Wrongful Death Claims in Georgia. Free copies are provided to all our clients.

Our law firm takes the burden off of grieving families during this time-consuming and difficult process. We work to make sure the value of the life of the person lost is not ignored or underwritten.

These are the hardest cases we are called to represent but we do so knowing that it is in service to those justice and closure the most. Whether the wreck happened today, yesterday, or recently, please give Gary Martin Hays & Associates a call at (770) 934-8000 for immediate legal assistance with your case.

Categories: Car Accident Posts
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