Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Collisions

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seat beltUnder Georgia law, motorists are required to wear approved seatbelts when driving and while riding as a passenger in a car or truck, and for a good reason. Studies have repeatedly shown that seatbelt use can reduce both the frequency and severity of injuries sustained in Georgia car accidents.

As a general rule, when a plaintiff’s negligence contributes to the accident resulting in their injuries evidence of the plaintiff’s negligence is admissible. This evidence may be used to defeat a plaintiff’s claim against a defendant or to reduce the total amount of damages owed to the plaintiff by the defendant. A common question when it comes to seatbelt use is whether a motorist’s failure to use a seatbelt can be used against them in a claim for damages against another driver that caused an accident.

States are split on this issue. Some states allow seatbelt non-use evidence to be used as substantive evidence of a plaintiff’s negligence in the liability phase of a trial. In these states, jurors are able to apportion fault to the plaintiff based on the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt. Other states do not allow this evidence to be considered in the liability phase of a trial, but allow jurors to consider seatbelt nonuse evidence when calculating damages. This has the effect of reducing a plaintiff’s damages award for the “preventable” injuries that could have been avoided had the plaintiff been wearing a seatbelt.

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vehicle injuryRecently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case discussing the issue of a plaintiff’s diminished future earning capacity, as well as the expert testimony necessary to establish such a claim. The court ultimately determined that the jury’s award was supported by the evidence and affirmed the $2 million verdict.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, who was a competitive high-jumper, was involved in a serious car accident with the defendant. Initially, the plaintiff designated an expert who was to testify regarding the impact the accident had on the plaintiff’s personal life and athletic career. The court created a timeline for the case, and assigned certain deadlines. The deadline for the disclosure of witnesses was set for May 12, 2017.

On May 12, 2017, the plaintiff substituted the expert he planned to call as a witness, and amended a previous statement to the court, clarifying that he would be seeking compensation for “diminished earning capacity, diminished ability to work, labor or earn wages.”

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car accidentRecently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case discussing what venues are appropriate in a case brought against multiple motorists, one of which was an uninsured motorist (UIM). The case required the court to determine if the venue-selection clause in the state’s UIM statute applies to cases involving a named defendant in addition to an unknown, “John Doe” defendant. Ultimately, the court concluded that the UIM statute did apply, and affirmed the lower court’s decision to deny the named defendant’s request to transfer venue to his home county.

Georgia’s Uninsured Motorist Statute as Applied to Hit-and-Run Drivers

When a motorist causes an accident, anyone injured as a result of that driver’s negligence can pursue a claim for damages against the driver. However, after a Georgia hit-and-run accident, the injury victim will not be able to file a case against the driver because his identity is unknown.

Thankfully, most Georgia insurance policies contain UIM coverage and a plaintiff can proceed with a case against the hit-and-run driver by naming “John Doe” as a defendant. Under the state’s UIM statute, any “John Doe” driver is deemed to be uninsured and “shall be presumed to be in the county in which the accident causing injury or damages occurred, or in the county of residence of the plaintiff, at the election of the plaintiff in the action.”

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving a dispute between the plaintiff and an insurance company. The question the court was tasked with answering was whether the plaintiff adequately complied with the requirements of the insurance policy, such that the insurance company was obliged to cover her accident claim.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was involved in a car accident in August 2015. A week or two after the accident, the plaintiff sought medical care for her injuries. However, the plaintiff continued to suffer significantly, which prevented her from working. The plaintiff soon afterward filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver; however, notice of the lawsuit was not provided to the insurance company until April 2016.

At the time of the accident, the vehicle the plaintiff was driving was owned and insured by her ex-husband. That insurance policy contained language that, in order to obtain coverage, a claimant needed to notify the insurance company immediately of any accident. The insurance company sought dismissal of the case against it on the basis that the plaintiff failed to provide immediate notice after the accident.

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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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

Legal News GavelIn 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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.

Legal News GavelThe 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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