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What Happens When a Loved One Is Killed by a Drunk Driver? 

The Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC  June 11, 2024

Few events in life are more devastating than losing a loved one to a drunk driver. The loss is sudden, unexpected, and profoundly painful.

While the emotional toll is immense, there are practical and legal matters that must be addressed. Understanding what happens next can help you take the necessary steps toward justice and healing. 

The Immediate Aftermath

When a loved one is killed by a drunk driver, the immediate aftermath is often overwhelming. You may be dealing with shock, grief, and confusion.

These initial steps can help you survive this traumatic time with a clearer sense of direction and are necessary for building a case against the drunk driver:

1. Notify the Authorities 

Contact the police as soon as possible. They will handle the accident scene and start an investigation. 

2. Gather Evidence 

If possible, take photos of the accident scene, gather witness statements, and collect any other useful evidence. 

3. Obtain a Police Report 

Get a copy of the police report once it's available. This document will be critical for legal and insurance claims. 

4. Contact an Attorney 

Consulting with a lawyer who specializes in wrongful death or personal injury can help you understand your rights and the legal steps you need to take. 

5. Inform Your Insurance Company 

Notify your insurance provider about the accident to initiate any necessary claims and to understand your coverage. 

Legal Actions and Considerations

The death of a loved one due to a drunk driver often leads to both criminal and civil cases. 

Criminal Case 

In Georgia, driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense. When it causes a fatality, the driver can face vehicular homicide and other charges. The prosecutor will handle the criminal case, aiming to prove the driver’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. 

Civil Case 

While a criminal case aims to punish the offender, a civil case seeks compensation for the victim’s family. This can include: 

  • Medical expenses: Costs incurred before the loved one's death. 

  • Funeral costs: Expenses related to the burial and service. 

  • Loss of income: Financial support the deceased would have provided. 

  • Pain and suffering: Emotional distress caused by the loss. 

  • Loss of companionship: Compensation for the emotional and personal loss experienced by family members. 

  • Punitive damages: In some cases, the court may award punitive damages to punish the offender and deter similar conduct in the future. 

  • Mental anguish: Compensation for the psychological impact and mental suffering experienced by the victim's family members. 

  • Legal fees: Coverage of the legal costs incurred while pursuing the civil case. 

Drunk Driving Laws in Georgia

Understanding Georgia's specific laws related to drunk driving can help you build a stronger case.  

Legal BAC Limit 

The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for drivers over 21 is 0.08%. For commercial drivers, it is 0.04%, and for drivers under 21, it is 0.02%. 

Implied Consent 

By driving in Georgia, drivers automatically consent to BAC testing. Refusal can result in license suspension. 


Penalties for DUI in Georgia include fines, imprisonment, community service, and mandatory DUI education programs. Vehicular homicide charges can lead to more severe consequences, including long-term imprisonment. 

These laws are put in place to deter drunk driving and ensure that offenders are held accountable. 

Seeking Justice and Compensation

The path to justice involves holding the party responsible accountable and seeking compensation for your loss. This process includes filing a wrongful death claim, which can cover various damages: 

  • Economic damages: These include medical bills, funeral costs, and loss of future earnings. 

  • Non-economic damages: These include pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of companionship. 

Consulting with a personal injury lawyer who understands these claims can make a significant difference to the outcome of your case. 

Enlist Personal Injury Representation in Atlanta, Georgia

If you are in Atlanta, Georgia, and looking for a personal injury lawyer, consider Attorney Walter Gabriel. He understands the benefit that African American attorneys can provide to their communities, and he uses his personal and legal background as a black attorney to serve his community. 

Early in his legal career, Walter gained invaluable trial experience as an Assistant District Attorney in one of the nation’s toughest courtrooms. He argued multiple cases before jurors for successful verdicts in hotly contested trials. Walter is licensed to practice law in Louisiana and Georgia. He is known for being friendly, comforting, knowledgeable, and approachable. 

If you’ve lost a loved one to a drunk driver, reach out to the Law Firm of Walter Gabriel, LLC for the support and legal expertise you need during this challenging time.