Fatal New Year’s Eve Wreck in Barrow County

Investigators believe alcohol was the primary factor in a serious collision that killed one person and sent another one to a hospital.

The wreck happened near the intersection of Dee Kennedy Road and Emperor Lane. According to state troopers, a 55-year-old man, who was behind the wheel of a pickup truck, smacked into the rear of a 20-year-old’s Ford Focus. The force of the collision caused both drivers to lose control of their vehicles. The Focus left the road and careened into a tree, killing the driver almost instantly. Emergency responders rushed the other driver to a nearby hospital.

Charges are pending against the truck driver as the Georgia State Patrol Specialized Collision Reconstruction Team continues its investigation. 

First Party Liability in Alcohol-Related Wrecks

Authorities determined to crack down on drunk drivers in the 1980s. All these years later, alcohol still causes about a third of the fatal car wrecks in Georgia. This substance clouds judgement and adversely affects motor skills. People who are under the influence of alcohol often misjudge things like the distance between themselves and another vehicle or the timing of a red light. Additionally, they are less able to control their vehicles and adapt to changing situations.

If an emergency responder issues a citation for DUI or a related offense, the negligence per se shortcut could apply. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) could be liable for damages as a matter of law if:

  • They violate a safety law, and
  • That violation substantially causes injury.

Authorities normally issue DUI tickets if the driver was intoxicated. Most people are intoxicated after they have three or four drinks. Alcohol impairment is different. Dangerous impairment, which includes the aforementioned effects, usually begins with the first drink. Evidence of impairment includes:

  • Physical driver symptoms, like bloodshot eyes,
  • Erratic driving prior to the wreck,
  • Tortfeasor’s statements about alcohol use, and
  • Previous likely alcohol consumption.

If the tortfeasor recently visited a bar, restaurant, or other commercial establishment that served alcohol, it is more likely than not that s/he had at least one drink there. More likely than not (a preponderance of the evidence) is the burden of proof in civil court.

Third Party Liability

The aforementioned evidence, especially physical symptoms, could also be admissible to prove vicarious liability. Commercial alcohol providers could be financially responsible for car crash damages if they illegally sell alcohol to patrons who cause vehicle collisions. Examples of illegal sales include:

  • Underage patron,
  • After-hours or before-hours sale,
  • Unlicensed sales, and
  • Sales to intoxicated individuals.

Additionally, a car crash must be foreseeable to the provider. Foreseeability is often difficult, but not impossible, for a Marietta personal injury attorney to prove in packaged alcohol transactions. However, it’s usually foreseeable (possible) that a person will open a beer and drink it on the way home.

Vicarious liability theories, like dram shop alcohol provider liability, are especially important in catastrophic injury and wrongful death claims. Frequently, individuals do not have enough insurance coverage to provide fair compensation in these cases. Georgia has one of the lowest auto insurance minimum requirements in the country.

Compensation in a vehicle collision matter usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering.

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