Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Collisions

Plaintiffs pursuing a Georgia personal injury claim must establish four elements to prove their case: 1.) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff against an unreasonable risk of harm; 2.) the defendant’s breach of that duty; 3.) a legally attributable causal connection between the breach and the injury; and 4.) a loss or damage that resulted from the breach. A plaintiff normally has the burden to prove all of the elements, meaning that a plaintiff should provide sufficient evidence to allow a fact finder to reasonably conclude that it is more likely than not that the defendant was negligent by establishing each element.

The element of causation can be difficult to prove in some cases, particularly in cases involving multiple parties and defendants. The mere possibility the defendant caused the plaintiff’s loss is not sufficient to prove the element of causation. In addition, the plaintiff must prove not only that the defendant’s conduct was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s loss, but also that it was a proximate cause of the loss, which requires a showing that there is sufficient connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury.

Multi-party cases can also involve complicated issues of contributory and comparative negligence. Generally, if a plaintiff had a certain degree of fault in causing the crash, the plaintiff cannot recover for his or her injuries. However, normally if a plaintiff is found to be less than 50 percent at fault, the plaintiff can still recover some compensation, although their damages award will be reduced by their percentage of fault.

In a recent Georgia car accident case before a state appellate court, the plaintiff filed claims arising out of a car accident that killed her husband and seriously injured her son. She filed a claim against the local Emergency Medical Services (EMS), alleging that they failed to properly treat her husband’s and son’s injuries. She also filed a claim against the local County Road Superintendent (Superintendent), alleging that he failed to inspect and maintain the road. Both defendants claimed they were entitled to immunity. The trial court agreed, dismissing the claims against them, and the plaintiff appealed. On appeal, the court considered whether the defendants were protected by immunity.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s husband was driving with his 12-year-old son in Atkinson County when he hit a hole in the road, and after he regained control of the truck, he hit a second hole and crashed into a tree. EMS responded to the scene and found the husband trapped on the driver’s side, and the son seated on the passenger side. The son allegedly told one emergency medical technician (EMT) to check on his father who was unconscious, but the EMT told him that they had to “get [him] out first.” The EMT told the son to jump off the truck, and when he said he could not jump, the EMT told him that jumping was the way he would get off. The son did so, and “had to walk” to the stretcher. However, the EMT who assisted the son testified that he picked up the son, laid him onto a stretcher, and carried him to the ambulance. The father was unconscious but breathing, and was removed from the truck, but stopped breathing while he was in the ambulance. EMS tried to resuscitate the husband, but he died of his injuries.

If a lawsuit is filed against a public entity or a public official, the public entity or official may be protected by official immunity. A public official is protected by official immunity if the official “has engaged in discretionary acts that are within the scope of his or her authority, and the official has not acted in a willful or wanton manner; with actual malice; or with the actual intent to cause injury.” In contrast, official immunity does not protect against ministerial acts that are performed negligently. Generally, ministerial acts are acts that are “simple, absolute, and definite,” and require “merely the execution of a specific duty.” In contrast, discretionary acts are acts that “call for the exercise of personal deliberation and judgment,” and acting on one’s own conclusions “in a way not specifically directed.”

Georgia personal injury cases generally have to abide by a two-year statute of limitations. This means that plaintiffs have two years after a car crash or other personal injury incident to file a lawsuit in court. However, there are exceptions to that rule, as one recent Georgia case demonstrates. In that case, the plaintiff was able to file the claim beyond the two-year statute of limitations because of the issuance of a traffic citation as a result of the crash.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the crash occurred between two cars in Fayetteville, Georgia in 2014. The collision took place on October 16, and thus, the statute of limitations would normally have run on October 16, 2016.

The plaintiff filed her lawsuit on November 10, 2016, and the defendant argued that the case was filed after the statute of limitations and should be dismissed. However, the plaintiff contended that the statute of limitations was tolled because the defendant was issued a traffic citation due to the crash.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to determine if the plaintiff’s recovery amount should be reduced by the amount of money that the insurance company paid the plaintiff before the case was resolved. Ultimately, after closely reading the language in the insurance contract, the court concluded that such an offset was appropriate, reducing the plaintiff’s recovery amount by over $22,000.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff had an insurance policy with the defendant insurance company. The case arose when the plaintiff was injured in a Georgia car accident with an uninsured driver. Evidently, the uninsured driver failed to yield at an intersection, striking the plaintiff’s vehicle. The matter of whom was at fault was not important to the court’s opinion; it was assumed that the other driver was responsible for the accident.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the uninsured driver, and a jury returned a general verdict in the plaintiff’s favor for $157,400. The plaintiff’s insurance company paid the judgment, but requested that the total amount be reduced by the amount of money it paid to the plaintiff during the pendency of the lawsuit.

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In 2017, our client was travelling down a 4-lane divided highway when a truck driver, driving only his tractor, pulled out of a parking lot and into the path of his motorcycle. Our client had no chance to avoid the collision and died almost immediately upon impact.

Initially, the trucking company denied responsibility for our client’s death.  However, our thorough investigation and accident reconstruction work ultimately convinced the trucking company to abandon this defense.  One of the key reasons the trucking company initially denied fault for our client’s death in this trucking accident case was because Continue reading ›

A state appellate court recently released an opinion in a Georgia car accident case discussing the state’s spoliation doctrine as it pertains to relevant evidence that was accidentally destroyed by a third party before trial. The spoliation doctrine is an important one for Georgia personal injury victims to understand because it can result in serious sanctions against the party that destroys or fails to preserve relevant evidence.

The Case’s Facts

The plaintiff was a widower, the surviving spouse of a woman who died when the vehicle she was driving hydroplaned after encountering standing water on the highway. The allegations were that the defendant city failed to keep a storm drain clear, resulting in the excess water accumulating on the road’s surface.

Evidently, after the accident, the plaintiff’s vehicle got towed to a scrap yard. The scrap yard demanded the plaintiff pay storage fees, or else the vehicle would be destroyed. Initially, the scrap yard contacted the plaintiff directly, but later the plaintiff’s attorney stepped in as the contact person. The plaintiffs’ attorney specifically asked that the vehicle be stored.

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Under 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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Recently, 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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Recently, 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.

The 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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