Devin Wilcox and two other people were killed in a January car crash that happened while the players were celebrating their national championship. Now, his father filed a $40 million lawsuit against the school and two other entities, alleging that they were vicariously liable for the wreck.
Police said that a school recruiting assistant was racing against another SUV driven by another player late at night after the team celebrated their national championship win. They said she was driving at 104 mph and had a blood alcohol concentration of .197, more than twice the state’s legal limit. Two other students were seriously injured in the wreck.
“(The driver) was reckless, negligent, negligent per se, willful, wanton and consciously indifferent to consequences in her operation of that vehicle while her judgment was substantially impaired by alcohol,” the lawsuit states, noting that the vehicle she was driving, a Ford Expedition, was leased by the athletic department and assigned to her for work-related activities.
First Party Liability
In a car crash case, a Marietta personal injury attorney cannot recover any money from anyone unless the driver was negligent. The most common kinds of negligence in a car crash case are:
- Impaired Driving: Alcohol affects judgment abilities and motor skills. So, these drivers cannot make simple calculations, like how fast they can go before they lose control of their vehicles. And, because of their impaired motor skills, they cannot react quickly enough to avoid disaster.
- Aggressive Driving: Speed increases the risk of a wreck and the force in a collision. Speed reduces reaction time and, according to Newton’s Second Law, multiplies the force in a collision between two objects. If these kids were racing, that’s even worse. That behavior demonstrates a conscious disregard for the safety of others.
Extreme weather events, like cloud-to-ground lightning strikes, and defective products, like bad tires, cause a handful of car wrecks. But driver error causes over 98% of vehicle collisions in Georgia.
Driving late at night with football players probably is not in the written job description of a recruiting assistant or any other university employee. Nevertheless, respondeat superior employer liability probably still applies in such cases.
This vicarious liability theory applies if the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was an employee acting within the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash.
This assistant was clearly an employee. For negligence purposes, the “scope of employment” is not limited to situations like a delivery driver on a regular route. Instead, Georgia law defines this phrase very broadly. It encompasses any act that benefits the employer in any way.
Additionally, the wreck must be a foreseeable (possible) result of the employer/employee relationship. A Marietta personal injury lawyer can usually prove foreseeability unless the tortfeasor stole a car from the parking garage.
The bar that overserved the girl could be on the hook for damages as well. Georgia’s dram shop law states that commercial providers who illegally sell alcohol are vicariously liable for crash damages. Illegal sales include underage sales and sales to obviously intoxicated people.
Evidence on this point usually includes bloodshot eyes and other physical symptoms, along with purchase history and statements the tortfeasor made about intoxication.
Damages in a car crash case usually include compensation for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. In egregious cases like this one, additional punitive damages are available, as well.