Vehicular Homicide In Georgia
Last week, we talked about how this applies to OCGA 40-6-390, which covers reckless driving. Today we’ll be talking about another particularly painful legal subject: homicide by vehicle. This article is not meant to help educate people who have been charged with vehicular homicide. It is instead intended for families who were victims of a driver’s poor decisions. It will go through the rules that apply in Georgia and what to expect in a civil lawsuit against the driver or his estate.
First, let’s look back over negligence per se. Negligence per se is the idea that breaking safety rules is inherently unreasonable behavior, and therefore anyone who breaks a safety rule and hurts someone as a result is liable for the damages.
Homicide by vehicle is a key example of negligence per se. In cases of homicide by vehicle, the perpetrator didn’t mean to kill anyone, and may even feel terrible about it after the fact, but their indifference to certain safety rules has still resulted in a death, which they are now civilly responsible for. Read on to take a closer look at the details of OCGA 40-6-393, which is Georgia’s statute for vehicular homicide.
Homicide Is not Synonymous with Murder
Though all murders are homicides, not all homicides are murders. Homicide simply means the killing of one human being by another, regardless of intent. OCGA 40-6-393 is specifically about deaths that were unintentional, but resulted from one person negligently breaking certain rules of the road.
First-Degree Homicide by Vehicle in Georgia
To be guilty of first-degree homicide by vehicle, a driver must have broken one or more of a few specific laws, resulting in an accidental death.
The statutes that trigger a first-degree charge when a death occurs are those against overtaking a stopped school bus (40-6-163), reckless driving (40-6-390), intoxicated driving (40-6-391), and failure to stop for a police officer (40-6-395).
(a) Any person who, without malice aforethought, causes the death of another person through the violation of subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-163, Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391, or subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-395 commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than 15 years.
We’ve already discussed in detail the statutes concerning reckless driving and intoxicated driving. The conditions for reckless driving in particular can often be confusing in the abstract.
Regardless of what kind of law-breaking led to a fatal accident, the at-fault driver can also be charged with first-degree homicide by vehicle if that driver flees the scene.
(b) Any driver of a motor vehicle who, without malice aforethought, causes an accident which causes the death of another person and leaves the scene of the accident in violation of subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-270 commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than three years nor more than 15 years.
A driver convicted of first-degree homicide by vehicle will face jail time of between 3 and 15 years.
Second Degree Homicide by Vehicle in Georgia
If a driver causes a death without breaking any of the above laws, that driver is instead guilty of second-degree homicide by vehicle.
(c) Any person who causes the death of another person, without an intention to do so, by violating any provision of this title other than subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-163, subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-270, Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391, or subsection (a) of Code Section 40-6-395 commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the second degree when such violation is the cause of said death and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished as provided in Code Section 17-10-3.
Second degree homicide by vehicle is a misdemeanor, which makes it punishable by up to a year in prison and up to $1,000 in fines.
In some cases, drivers who have been arrested three or more times in a five-year period will have their driver’s licenses revoked. If such a person continues driving anyway, and causes a death, that’s also first-degree homicide by vehicle. In this scenario, the penalty is even higher.
(d) Any person who, after being declared a habitual violator as determined under Code Section 40-5-58 and while such person’s license is in revocation, causes the death of another person, without malice aforethought, by operation of a motor vehicle, commits the offense of homicide by vehicle in the first degree and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than five years nor more than 20 years, and adjudication of guilt or imposition of such sentence for a person so convicted may be suspended, probated, deferred, or withheld but only after such person shall have served at least one year in the penitentiary.
Someone who causes a death on the road while their license is revoked may be sentenced to up to 20 years in jail, and must serve at least a full year of actual time.
The criminal penalties laid out in 40-6-393 and related statutes are intended to deter further lawbreaking, but they do not include any particular consideration for the family of the deceased. Only civil law focuses on compensating survivors. If you’ve lost someone to homicide by vehicle, the guilty driver is also liable for your loved one’s wrongful death under negligence per se.
How Do I Know When to Pursue a Wrongful Death Case in Georgia?
Wrongful death law is a little more complicated than personal injury law, especially when it comes to who is entitled to pursue a suit against the perpetrator. If you’ve found yourself in the position of having to consider a wrongful death suit, the Wetherington Law Firm would like to express our condolences for your loss. We understand that losing someone to an accident is devastating, confusing, and extremely difficult to process. Unfortunately, timeliness is important to successfully filing a suit, so you’ll need to assess your options as soon as possible. To learn more about your rights as a survivor of a loved one’s wrongful death, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
Getting a fair settlement from an auto insurance company without professional help is improbable at the best of times. Even when all you need is a replacement vehicle, you’re going up against an established legal department that exists for the sole purpose of keeping payouts as low as possible. When the stakes are as high as getting justice for a lost loved one, expert representation is absolutely essential. In addition to getting you a much more comprehensive settlement to support you and your family through this incredibly difficult time, a good lawyer can also make the process much less stressful, giving you more space to grieve. Instead of having to defend yourself and your loved one from an insurance company’s blame-shifting tactics, you’ll have an expert to take the difficult calls for you and fight for fair acknowledgement of your family’s loss.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
The Wetherington Law Firm believes anyone with a legitimate case should have access to the top-tier representation they need, when they need it, without budgetary constraints. That’s why we work exclusively on a contingency basis. The only payment we accept is a percentage of the settlements we win for our clients.
Too often, the outcome of cases comes down to which side has the money to keep the fight going longer. When you work with us, you don’t have to worry about being forced out of court for lack of resources. Once we take your case, we’ll fight for you for as long as it takes, with no upfront or hourly fees. If we don’t win, you don’t pay at all.
To talk to a lawyer about your case today, reach out by phone or through the form on the right for a free consultation.
The Wetherington Law Firm Helps People Change the World
After the death of a loved one, taking care of yourself and your family may be your only concern, and that’s perfectly okay. The Wetherington Law Firm places our clients’ needs first, and we’ve helped many survivors win compensation for their losses. Some of our clients, however, have other ideas for what they’d like their cases to achieve, either to honor their lost loved ones or for their own peace of mind. If you’d like to leverage your case to make a lasting change that protects the lives of others, let us know. For example, if your loved one was killed by delivery driver who was rushing, we can help force the driver’s employer to reassess the pressures it places on its drivers. To learn about the causes we’ve already helped our clients fight for, just reach out and ask!