Articles Tagged with car accident

In Georgia, a defendant in a personal injury case arising from a car accident may argue what is known as the “sudden emergency” defense. Put simply, this means the defendant alleges he or she was presented with a sudden emergency and had insufficient time to react. If this was the case, the sudden emergency relieves the defendant of any and all liability for any accident arising from the sudden emergency.

Woodard v. Dempsey

The key to this defense is that the defendant could not have reasonably foreseen the emergency—otherwise it is not really a “sudden” emergency. An ongoing federal lawsuit in Atlanta illustrates how factual disputes over whether a defendant has alleged an actual emergency may arise.

Dealing with insurance companies is often the first legal issue that needs to be managed following a car accident. While many cases are amicably resolved with insurers without the need for litigation, accident victims always need to tread carefully lest they inadvertently sign away their legal rights. As a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision illustrates, when you propose to settle a case you must be prepared to live with the consequences.

Partain v. Pitts

The plaintiff and defendant in this case were drivers involved in a car accident. The plaintiff sued the defendant, alleging the latter’s negligence caused the accident and the plaintiff’s resulting injuries. Four days after filing suit, the plaintiff’s attorney sent a settlement letter to the claims adjuster for the defendant’s car insurance carrier. The letter said the plaintiff would agree to sign a limited liability release in exchange for $50,000, which was the coverage limit of the defendant’s insurance policy. The letter further said the offer would only remain good for two weeks, and the plaintiff’s attorney had to receive a check by the deadline, otherwise the settlement offer was rescinded.

Many Georgia car accidents involve motorists from other states. If you are injured by a nonresident driver’s negligence, you can still seek to recover damages through the Georgia courts. It is important to understand that there are special conditions imposed by Georgia law in such cases. You must make every effort to locate the out-of-state defendant and ensure he or she is properly served with a copy of your lawsuit. As a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision illustrates, these requirements are not optional.

Covault v. Harris

The plaintiff in this case was involved in a two-car accident in Fulton County, Georgia. The plaintiff and the defendant were traveling towards the same intersection when, according to the plaintiff, the defendant “failed to maintain his lane and struck [the plaintiff’s] vehicle.” According to a police report taken at the scene of the accident, the defendant was a resident of Kentucky driving a rental car. The plaintiff subsequently learned the defendant’s home address by reviewing Kentucky’s voter registration records.

When a car accident involves two or more vehicles, an injured person may seek damages against all responsible parties. The jury must then apportion fault among all of the parties—including possibly the victim—when awarding damages. While judges typically do not second-guess a jury’s apportionment of fault, there are exceptional occasions in which the courts find a jury’s verdict simply cannot be supported by the available evidence.

Redmon v. Daniel

Here is a recent example from here in Georgia. The victim in this case was a male pedestrian walking along a highway exit ramp in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Two vehicles were using the ramp, a Chevrolet and a garbage truck. The Chevrolet struck the victim first. The driver later testified the victim was “in the middle of the road” and she did not see him until the impact.

Many car accidents are the result of a defect in the design or manufacture of part of the vehicle. A manufacturer may be held liable under Georgia law for such defective products. A jury may also find a manufacturer failed to adequately warn consumers about certain safety risks associated with a product.

Key Safety Systems, Inc. v. Bruner

On November 19, the Georgia Court of Appeals upheld a $4.7 million verdict holding a seat belt manufacturer partially liable for the tragic death of a 47-year-old mother of two. In September 2007, the victim was riding in the family’s Jeep Wrangler, which her daughter was driving. For undetermined reasons, the Jeep left the roadway and rolled over. Despite the fact mother and daughter were wearing seat belts, the mother was ejected from the vehicle and died. A witness at the scene testified that the victim, who survived for a short time following the rollover, said she could not understand why she was ejected as she was wearing her seat belt. The victim’s husband later testified his wife was “emphatic” in always wearing her seat belt.