Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Collisions

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an insurance dispute between an injured motorist and his insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the accident was covered under the driver’s policy or whether it was subject to an exception for vehicles being operated for hire. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company failed to establish that the plaintiff was operating his vehicle for hire, and it found in favor of the plaintiff.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a motorist who had occasionally provided an elderly woman with rides from her home into town. The normal arrangement was the plaintiff would pick the woman up at her house and take her to town, and in exchange she would pay him $7.

One day, the plaintiff was driving near the woman’s home when he saw her walking along the roadside. He pulled over and offered to give her a ride into town. The woman accepted, and although she had intended to pay him for the ride, she never did because the plaintiff was involved in a minor accident along the way.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving a plaintiff’s conflicting testimony and the effect it should be given. Ultimately, the court concluded that neither of the plaintiff’s statements should be accepted on its face by the court, and the case should be submitted to a jury so that it can resolve the factual issues involved.

Front-End DamageThe Facts of the Case

The case arose in the wake of a car accident involving the plaintiff and an uninsured motorist. Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the other motorist. The plaintiff’s father had several policies with the defendant insurance company, each of which provided coverage for accidents involving uninsured motorists. Thus, the plaintiff named her father’s insurance company as a defendant in the case as well.

Before the case reached trial, the plaintiff provided answers to several questions posed by the insurance company. One of the questions asked who lived with the plaintiff, and she responded that she lived with her three children. When asked, she explained that her father lived across the street.

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Filing a claim in one state versus another or even one county versus another can seem like a minor detail, but it can make a big difference in the outcome of a case. Laws and local court rules differ from one place to another, and even the specific judges and jury pools can be an important consideration in a personal injury case. In a recent case, a Georgia appeals court discussed the considerations that go into determining where a Georgia wrongful death case should be heard.

Car AccidentIn that case, a girl was killed in a motor vehicle crash, and her mother filed a wrongful death action against a trucking company. She alleged that her daughter was killed after she was hit or forced off the road by a tractor-trailer owned by the defendant. The plaintiff also alleged that the driver pulled over and got out of the vehicle but then fled the scene.

The defendant was a domestic corporation, and the crash occurred in Bibb County, Georgia. However, the defendant’s principal place of business and registered agent were located in Jeff Davis County, Georgia. The plaintiff argued that the case should be heard in Bibb County because venue was proper there under the Georgia Motor Carrier Act because the claim arose in Bibb County. The defendant argued the case should be moved to Jeff Davis County because under OCGA 14-2-510(b)(4), a defendant corporation can remove a case to a Georgia county where it maintains its “principal place of business.” The case was moved to Jeff Davis County, and the court denied the mother’s motion to send the case back to Bibb County.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to discuss the continued applicability of the “family purpose doctrine.” Ultimately, the court found in favor of the plaintiff, holding that the lower court improperly dismissed her case against the owner of a car that was driven by the owner’s grandson when the accident occurred.

Car AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a Georgia car accident that was allegedly caused by the other motorist. The other motorist was driving his grandfather’s car at the time of the accident. When the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit, she named both the driver of the vehicle as well as the owner as defendants.

The plaintiff was unable to locate and serve the driver of the vehicle with notice of the lawsuit, and the court dismissed the driver on that basis. After the driver was dismissed, the owner of the vehicle filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that since the driver was no longer a party in the lawsuit, he could no longer be held liable.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an accident that occurred when a suspect fleeing police struck the plaintiffs’ vehicle. The court was tasked with determining whether either of the sheriff departments that were involved in the chase could be potentially liable for the plaintiffs’ injuries based on a waiver of sovereign immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that one of the sheriffs involved in the chase may have acted with “reckless disregard for law enforcement procedures.” Thus, the department employing that sheriff was not entitled to summary judgment based on the department’s asserted immunity.

Sheriff DeputyThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were seriously injured in a car accident when their vehicle was struck by a motorist who had led police on a high-speed chase culminating in the suspect’s vehicle colliding with the plaintiffs’ as the two vehicles entered an intersection. The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against two sheriff departments that were involved in the pursuit, claiming that the sheriffs involved in the chase acted recklessly in pursing the vehicle after it failed to stop.

The Chase

A Lamar County sheriff’s deputy attempted to pull over a motorist for a minor traffic infraction. The driver, however, failed to stop and took the Lamar sheriff’s deputy on a high-speed chase of up to 125 miles per hour. Throughout the chase, the suspect was driving very aggressively.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving one named defendant and an unnamed hit-and-run driver. The case required the court to interpret several statutes and determine if the plaintiff’s choice of venue was proper when neither the plaintiff nor the sole named defendant resided in the county where the case was filed. Ultimately, the court concluded that venue was proper because under Georgia law, a hit-and-run driver is assumed to reside in the county where the accident occurred.

Rear-EndedThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were two passengers in a car that was being operated by a friend on a Georgia highway. At some point, an unnamed driver crossed into the plaintiffs’ lane, requiring the driver of the vehicle carrying the plaintiffs to slow down quickly. As the vehicle slowed, the defendant, who was traveling directly behind them, slammed into the rear of the vehicle.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the unnamed hit-and-run driver as well as the driver who rear-ended them. The plaintiffs filed the case in the county where the accident occurred, which was not where the named defendant lived.

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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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