A 21-year-old man, who was allegedly intoxicated, lost control of his pickup, killing a 16-year-old high school cheerleader.
The girl, a junior at Mill Creek High School, was the front-seat passenger in a pickup truck heading north on Sugarloaf Parkway toward State Route 316, authorities said. The driver, a 21-year-old male, failed to navigate onto the ramp and struck a concrete barrier. “Gone from our sight, but never our hearts,” a tribute posted on the school’s Facebook page reads. “… Our deepest condolences go out to her family and we hope the many happy memories she has left behind will offer some peace in this difficult time.”
The driver now faces several criminal charges, including driving under the influence, failure to maintain a single lane, and first-degree vehicular homicide.
Legally, injured passenger claims are almost exactly like injured driver claims. Emotionally, injured passenger claims have some additional dimensions that a Marietta personal injury lawyer must be able to handle.
Most passengers have close personal relationships with most drivers. So, victims and survivors often don’t want to “blame” the driver for the “accident.” We should take some time to debunk both of these incorrect ideas.
Civil claims do not blame anyone for anything. Criminal courts assign blame by punishing offenders. Civil claims simply compel people to take responsibility for their mistakes. This responsibility includes paying compensation for damages. If Julie runs over her neighbor’s mailbox, she should pay compensation. If Julie injures her neighbor’s daughter, Julie should likewise pay compensation.
On a side note, tortfeasors (negligent drivers) usually are not financially responsible for these damages or any other litigation costs. An auto insurance company usually pays all these expenses.
Additionally, most car crashes aren’t “accidents.” People accidentally leave the lights on. They do not accidentally drive while intoxicated and lose control of their vehicles. Accidents are inevitable and unavoidable. Most car crashes are neither inevitable nor unavoidable. Indeed, driver error causes about 98% of vehicle collisions in Georgia.
Liability Issues in Alcohol-Related Wrecks
To establish negligence, or a lack of care, in an alcohol-related wreck, a Marietta personal injury attorney may use direct or circumstantial evidence.
Basically, intoxication is a complete loss of mental and/or physical faculties. In these cases, police officers typically make DUI arrests. Indeed, many jurisdictions have mandatory arrest policies in these situations. When tortfeasors violate safety laws and cause wrecks, they could be responsible for damages as a matter of law.
The negligence per se rule usually applies even if the tortfeasor “beats” the DUI in criminal court.
Impairment is a partial loss of mental and/or physical faculties. Today’s vehicles are so complex to operate, as well as so big and so fast, that the duty of care requires motorists to be at their absolute best before they get behind the wheel. A slight impairment could cause a serious injury. Evidence of impairment includes:
- Erratic driving before the wreck,
- Bloodshot eyes, odor of alcohol, and other physical symptoms, and
- Tortfeasor’s statements about alcohol use.
The burden of proof in a civil case (a preponderance of the evidence, or more likely than not) is quite low. So, a little evidence goes a long way.
Roughly this same circumstantial evidence is admissible to prove intoxication at the time of sale. In Georgia, commercial providers are vicariously liable for car wreck damages if they sell alcohol to intoxicated people who cause wrecks.