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In Negligence Action, Court Determines Whether Defendant Owed Plaintiff a Duty of Care

road-construction-1431150-mCar accidents, by their very nature, are unpredictable. Drivers in and around the Atlanta area have a duty to exercise care when operating a motor vehicle. Accidents can be caused by any number of factors, including distracted driving, driver intoxication or fatigue, failure to obey traffic laws, speeding, and even inadequate signage in construction zones. One of the most important issues to determine in any car accident case is whether the other party (or defendant) owed the plaintiff a duty of care. In order to make this determination, it is important that you contact an experienced injury attorney who is fully aware of the local laws and procedures.

In a recent case, Diamond v. Department of Transportation, (Ga. Ct. App. 2014), plaintiffs were injured when their car fell into a ditch. The record shows that at the time of the accident, there was a road construction project – taking place in the area. Because of the construction zone, the road that plaintiffs were driving on – Lakeshore Drive (a county road), was rerouted. Mr. Diamond was driving the vehicle on what he believed was Lakeshore Drive, but instead, it was a grassy area where the road had been prior to the construction. Plaintiffs continued on the grassy area for 90 to 100 feet before their car plunged into a ditch.

Plaintiffs husband and wife each filed a negligence suit against several defendants, including the Department of Transportation (the “DOT”). Plaintiffs claimed (among other things) that the DOT had a duty to use generally accepted design and engineering standards and failed to satisfy this duty by closing the road, failing to construct a curb and gutter on the roadway, and failing to place adequate signs or other warning constructions on the roadway. Among other things, the DOT claimed that it owed no duty to the plaintiffs. The trial court granted the DOT’s summary judgment motion, ruling that the accident did not take place on a part of the highway system upon which the DOT owed a duty to motorists. Plaintiffs appealed.

Under Georgia law, a plaintiff in a negligence action must satisfy the following elements: 1) the existence of a duty on behalf of the defendant; 2) a breach of that duty; 3) causation of the alleged injury; and 4) damages resulting from the breach of the duty. On appeal, the DOT argued that it had no duty of care because the roadway in question was a county road. The court of appeals pointed out that a duty arises from a relevant state statute or common law principle recognized in case law. Here, the court confirmed the trial court’s decision, concluding that the plaintiffs failed to cite to a statute or case law that establishes a duty owed by the DOT to plaintiffs under the facts of this case. The plaintiffs did cite a statute that only refers to the DOT’s obligation to plan, construct and maintain public highways, but fails to address the circumstances at issue.

This case illustrates the need to consult was a highly experienced injury attorney who understands the local laws pertaining to car accident cases. If you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to a recovery for your suffering and losses. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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