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Accidents happen, perhaps especially on the roadways. When drunk drivers are present, accidents – often serious, sometimes fatal – are that much more likely to happen. Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is among the top causes of traffic accidents in the United States every year. In 2018, drunk drivers were involved in 29% of all traffic fatalities. That percentage has been consistent for many years. More than 10,500 people died in 2018 in traffic accidents in which at least one driver had a blood alcohol content of .08% – the legal limit in every state. On average, an alcohol-related traffic death happened more than once per hour in 2018, at an economic cost of more than $44 billion.

While driving under the influence usually is the result of drinking alcoholic beverages, times change, and both legal and illegal drugs now are a factor in about 16% of all traffic accidents. These drugs can include prescription drugs, especially painkillers, that impair performance as well as illegal drugs ranging from marijuana to heroin or fentanyl or other opioids, whether legally or illegally obtained.

The Holidays Only Enhance the Risk of Being Hurt by a Drunk Driver

If you have driven on an interstate highway or other major multi-lane roads, then you know that large commercial trucks can be a hazard to other vehicles simply because they are so large. These tractor-trailer rigs, also referred to as semis or 18-wheelers, often consist of a large truck towing a trailer as much as 53 feet long, and rarely less than 48 feet long. These vehicles travel the nation’s roads and highways right alongside passenger vehicles every day, usually without incident. But when a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle collide, there is no mistaking which vehicle is going to get the worst of it. If injuries or deaths occur in such an accident, odds are that the occupants of the passenger vehicles will be the victims.

Truck Accidents Rarely Go Well for the Occupants of Passenger Vehicles

In 2018, nearly 5,000 people died in accidents involving large trucks, and another 151,000 were injured. Roughly 80% of the deaths were the occupants of passenger vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. A majority of the injuries likewise were suffered by people other than the occupants of the large trucks.

On October 30, a Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed an order granting a motion to dismiss in the lawsuit against the instant messaging app for breach of duty of care in designing the app’s speed filter.

Maynard et al. v. Snapchat, Inc.

The plaintiffs sued Snapchat, Inc., and the other driver involved in the accident to recover damages for injuries resulting from a car accident. Plaintiff alleged that said injuries resulted from the other driver’s use of a feature on the Snapchat application on her phone. The district court granted Snapchat motion to dismiss. In their appeal, the plaintiffs contend that their complaint is sufficient; Snapchat violated its duty of care by poorly designing its application.  

A Marietta man was charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of serious injury by vehicle, felony fleeing, felony hit-and-run, reckless driving and speeding after leaving the scene of an accident in Midtown where an 18-year-old and a baby died.

Hit-and-Run

In Georgia, a driver’s obligation to stop after being involved in a car accident is contemplated in the Georgia Code. Under Section 40-6-270, the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident that results in injuries, death of a person, or damages to another vehicle has the obligation to stop at the scene and stay there until he or she fulfills the following:

On October 17, a man was struck by a motor vehicle while crossing I-75 on foot. The victim was pronounced dead on the scene, and the driver of the car that struck him indicated that the victim walked out into the lane in front of his vehicle. In Georgia, there were 261 pedestrian fatalities in 2018, and 253 in 2017. Pedestrian deaths in Georgia increased by 60% between 2013 and 2018. Authorities are still investigating the circumstances of the incident and the cause of the pedestrian crossing the highway on that point.

Pedestrians who suffer injuries after being struck by motor vehicles may be entitled to recover damages by filing a personal injury claim.

Negligence and Personal Injury Claims

In any civil trial, both sides have the right to have their case heard by an impartial jury. As you may know, before any trial begins, the attorneys for both sides have an opportunity to question potential jurors–a process known as voir dire–and challenge any juror whose impartiality may be reasonably questioned.

What happens if the jurors lie or omit potentially critical information regarding their background? Does their participation in the final verdict taint the outcome? Can the losing side ask for a new trial based on the assumption they would have challenged the juror for cause had they known the whole truth?

Torres v. First Transit, Inc.

In 2001, a couple purchased donor sperm from a sperm bank so that they could conceive a child. The sperm bank represented that it carefully screened all of its donors, to the point where it only accepted about 5% of potential donors. More to the point, the sperm bank told the couple here that the sample they purchased–identified as Donor #9623–was one of their “best” donors.

That turned out to be not quite true. In fact, Donor #9623 made a number of false and misleading statements during the screening process. For example, although he said he had no criminal history, he had multiple prior arrests for burglary, trespassing, and drunk driving. The donor also lied about his educational background.

Such omissions may not seem like a big deal, but the donor also failed to disclose that he had a history of mental illness, for which he required multiple hospitalizations. The couple who purchased the donor’s sperm only learned of this years later, after the child they conceived was born and had started to manifest symptoms of mental disorders himself. The child also has a genetic blood disorder that was not acquired from the mother.

When an auto insurer unreasonably refuses to settle a personal injury claim against one of its policyholders, the policyholder can turn around and sue the insurance company for acting in “bad faith.” If successful, a bad-faith lawsuit can mean the insurer is liable for the full amount of any judgment that the accident victim obtained against the policyholder.

Whiteide v. Geico Indemnity Company

A federal appeals court recently asked the Georgia Supreme Court to resolve a number of legal questions arising from a successful bad-faith coverage lawsuit. The case was tried before a jury in federal court following Georgia state law. In situations like this, a federal court may opt to “certify” unresolved legal questions to the state’s supreme court before proceeding further.

There is a common scenario that plays out following an auto accident. First, the injured driver sends a demand letter to the negligent driver’s insurance company, offering to settle for the limits of the latter’s policy. Next, the insurance company either accepts the offer unconditionally–usually by sending a check–or makes a counter-offer. A counter-offer constitutes a rejection of the original offer, so there is no agreement. But if the insurer does send the check, that is often enough to create a binding settlement, which the insurer and its insured may seek to enforce in court.

Claxton v. Adams

What if the insurance company sends a check, but it cannot be cashed right away? Is there still a binding settlement? Not according to a recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The typical premises liability claim involves a customer who is injured slipping and falling in the aisle of a store. In such cases, the legal question is whether or not the store owner breached its legal duty to keep its premises “in a reasonably safe condition” for invited members of the public. The owner is not, however, required to absolutely guarantee a patron’s safety.

ABH Corporation v. Montgomery

In some cases, a store owner’s duty may extend possible criminal acts that occur on its premises. But this can be much trickier to prove than a simple slip and fall. This is because the victim must prove that the store owner had “reason to anticipate” the criminal act and failed to exercise “ordinary care” to protect the public. The mere fact that a crime occurred, or even that the neighborhood may be considered more prone to criminal activity, is not enough to establish the store owner’s legal liability.

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