Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Collisions

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was struck by a hit-and-run driver. While the identity of the driver remained unknown, the plaintiff was able to obtain the license plate of the car as the driver left the scene. In a case against the vehicle’s owner, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed toward a trial or settlement, finding that she has a legally cognizable claim.

Rear-View MirrorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was struck by an unidentified male motorist. However, as the hit-and-run driver fled the scene, the plaintiff was able to obtain the license plate of the vehicle and provided it to the responding police officer. The officer looked up the vehicle’s information, finding the owner’s name, and determined that the vehicle was owned by a woman who the plaintiff acknowledged was not driving at the time of the accident.

Once the plaintiff had the owner’s name, she then sought insurance information for the vehicle. The insurance request came back with another woman’s name. The plaintiff initially filed a personal injury lawsuit against the woman who insured the car. Later, she asked the court to add the vehicle’s owner to the case as well. The court denied the plaintiff’s request to add the vehicle’s owner, finding that the issue was moot because the owner was not an “indispensable party” because she was not driving the car.

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In a recent decision, a Georgia court of appeals dismissed a woman’s lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT), finding that she failed to satisfy the requirements in her “ante litem,” or pre-lawsuit, notice. The woman sued the DOT, alleging that one of its employees had negligently caused a crash in which the woman was injured. The DOT argued that the case should be dismissed because the woman’s ante litem notice did not specify the amount of damages claimed.

Rule BookIn Georgia, the Georgia Tort Claims Act requires a party with a tort claim against the State to provide the State with written notice before filing the claim. The notice has to specify the “amount of loss claimed.” The notice must provide this information “to the extent of the claimant’s knowledge and belief and as may be practicable under the circumstances.”

In the woman’s ante litem notice, which she filed about a week after the crash, she stated that as a result of the collision, she suffered great pain and suffering. She claimed her total damages had “not yet been determined” because she was “still under the care of her treating physician,” and she would “claim the full amount of damages allowed by law.”

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The are many types of motor vehicle accidents, as well as many different causes. After an accident occurs, if the parties cannot come to an agreement on who is responsible, it is left up to a jury to determine who was at fault in causing the accident, who is entitled to receive compensation for their injuries, and how much each party should receive. While some accidents do not present much difficulty to the courts in determining who was at fault, at other times, the process can be quite complex. This is especially the case when there are multiple vehicles involved, or when the fault is shared among all parties.

School BusIn situations in which each motorist may be partially at fault for the accident, Georgia courts use the rule of “modified comparative fault” to determine who is entitled to recover and which damages they should receive. Under the doctrine, any party who is less than 50% at fault for the accident can seek compensation from the other parties involved. However, if they are successful, their damages award will be reduced by their own percentage of fault.

For example, if a motorist is involved in an accident with another driver and is determined to have incurred $500,000 in damages, but he is also determined to be 10% at fault for the accident, he will receive $450,000 instead of the total $500,000.

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Georgia courts have the power to issue legally binding rulings in the matters that are properly presented before them. However, before a court can hear a case and issue a ruling, certain procedures must be followed. One of the first procedures that must be followed in any personal injury lawsuit is for the plaintiff to serve notice of the lawsuit to each and every party who is named as a defendant.

Handing Off PapersIn Georgia, proper service must contain the parties’ names, the name and address of the plaintiff’s attorney, and the time and date that the defendant must appear before the court. Service can be made by a sheriff, a process server, or anyone else specifically appointed by the court to effectuate service. If a plaintiff fails to properly serve one or more defendants, the plaintiff will almost certainly run into problems down the road. A recent case in front of the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates the issue of how improper service can significantly delay a plaintiff’s case and potentially result in an early dismissal.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in an accident with a school bus. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, claiming that the school bus driver was negligent in the operation of the vehicle and that the school district was also liable through the theories of vicarious liability, negligent entrustment, and negligent hiring.

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In a recent case in front of the Georgia Court of Appeals, Richards v. Robinson, a school bus driver was sued for negligence after a school bus and a car were involved in an accident. The car’s driver was approaching an intersection and began a left turn when the school bus came over a hill toward him. The school bus was driving toward him in a right-turn lane with his blinker on. The car’s driver believed the bus was turning right at the intersection, but the bus driver intended to turn right after the intersection and drove straight through the intersection. The two cars collided.

School BusThe bus driver moved for summary judgment in his favor. He claimed the car’s driver failed to present evidence that he acted negligently. The court granted the motion, finding the bus driver demonstrated that there was no issue of material fact as to any essential element of the claim and that he was entitled to a judgment as a matter of law. However, a Georgia appeals court reversed the decision, finding there was a dispute of material fact.

One of the disputes in the case was whether drivers in the right turn lane were required to turn right at the intersection, or whether they could continue and turn at an upcoming right turn that was after the intersection. The court noted that the road sign before the first right turn indicated that vehicles in the right turn lane must turn right. This meant that it may have been negligent for him to drive in that lane when he was not turning until the second turn. The bus driver presented contradictory evidence, but this meant only that it was an issue for a jury. The evidence was sufficient for the car driver to prove the bus driver may have been negligent. As a result, the bus driver was not entitled to summary judgment.

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Hydroplaning occurs when a thin layer of water builds up between a car’s tires and the road. Since the tires lose contact with the road during a hydroplane, the car can skid, lose control, or crash. A car can become unpredictable when it begins to hydroplane, making it difficult for a driver to control the vehicle.

Wet RoadWet pavement contributes to almost 1.2 million crashes each year. Some drivers fail to adequately account for bad weather by failing to properly maintain lights, failing to drive at a safe speed, or failing to leave a safe distance between cars.

Drivers can take precautions to prevent hydroplaning accidents by properly inflating their tires, replacing old tires, driving at a safe speed during bad weather, maintaining a safe distance, driving in a lower gear, and avoiding cruise control in bad weather. But even with all these precautions, the roads themselves can make conditions dangerous for drivers.

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Car Accidents After Cars Run off the Road

Highway shoulders are a place where hidden dangers lurk for unsuspecting drivers.  The drop-off angle and drop off height of the pavement relative to the shoulder can lead to a car loosing control when attempting to re-enter the roadway.  There are national, state and local ordinances that regulate pavement drop-offs between the edge of the pavement and the road’s shoulder.  Unfortunately, and often, these regulations are ignored by contractors and in other instances erosion and wear and tear of the shoulder can lead to unsafe drop-offs.   Continue reading

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drinking-girl-1196775The plaintiff in this case was driving in her lane when the defendant was driving toward plaintiff coming from the opposite direction.  There were several witnesses who observed the defendant driving in an erratic manner.  For example, on several occasions, the defendant inexplicably stopped her car in the middle of the road and when cars behind her tried to pass, she would speed up and not allow them to pass.  Witnesses also observed her running a stop sign.  Soon after, the defendant driver caused a car wreck that injured the plaintiff and her passenger. Continue reading