According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2,597 people were killed in United States traffic accidents in December 2010. Of those, 775 deaths involved alcohol-impaired drivers. A 2006 study by the NHTSA estimated that there is one drunk driving fatality in the United States every 30 minutes.
Georgia's Driving Under the Influence Laws are complex. Georgia DUI injury attorney Shane Smith can sort through the intermingled laws that potentially create complications in a DUI case.
In a notorious case decided in another state, a 16-year-old driver was sentenced to probation after he drove drunk and killed four people, paralyzed another and injured others. The driver came from a wealthy family and a psychologist testified that he suffered from "affluenza," an invented condition not recognized in medical texts where a child's parents neglected him such that he should not be as criminally culpable. Despite public outrage, the state Attorney General has publicly announced that there is nothing his office could do to correct the sentence which could have sent the DUI driver to prison for 20 years with at least two years before parole eligibility for a manslaughter conviction.
The victims' families have now filed wrongful death and personal injury lawsuits, seeking to have the civil justice system impose penalties where the criminal court failed.
Georgia juries in wrongful death claims may consider the victim's life, age, health, business situation, activities and other facts relevant to the case. Jurors may also consider the victim's expected earnings during the duration of his working lifetime, his medical benefits or retirement/pension that would have been accrued, any expected inheritance he had not yet received and the victim's physical or mental suffering endured prior to death as a direct result of his injuries.
Additionally, a jury may decide whether punitive damages are relevant. These are financial awards that serve to punish the wrongful or negligent party for its behavior. Punitive damages may not be awarded in Georgia wrongful death cases to surviving family members. However, punitive damages have been awarded in Georgia wrongful death cases that were brought by an estate's administrator associated with the victim's accident-related pain and suffering.
If you have questions about Georgia DUI laws, get the answers in Clayton County DUI injury attorney Shane Smith's book, I Was Hit By a Drunk Driver: What Do I Do Next? Contact the Law Offices of Shane Smith to schedule a free legal consultation.