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Georgia Court Allows Wrongful Death Suit Arising from Car Accident to Go Forward

A victim of a car accident may be able to bring a variety of claims against a negligent driver.  But Georgia law – like many states – sets forth certain limitations to recovery depending on the relative responsibility of the parties involved in the accident.  For example, under a Georgia statute, which applies to actions arising in Atlanta and throughout the state, a plaintiff in a “tort” action is not entitled to receive damages if he or she is found to be 50 percent or more responsible for the injury or damages alleged.  This issue and many others relating to car accidents involving negligent driving can be difficult to understand, especially with respect to how it applies to your particular case.  If you have been injured in a car accident it is important to contact an experienced Atlanta injury attorney who understands the local laws and procedures and can help to protect your rights to a recovery.

In a recent case, Reed et al. v. Carolina Casualty Insurance Co. et al., (Ga. Ct. App. 2014), plaintiff brought a wrongful death action on behalf of his son who died in a car crash on Interstate 285.  Plaintiff sought to recover damages for his son’s injuries and death.  According to the facts revealed at trial, at about 2:00 a.m. back in August 2008, Rimantas Labeika improperly parked a tractor-trailer in a prohibited area – the emergency lane on the right side of the highway, just past the entrance ramp. He parked there to rest after driving the maximum number of hours regulated by law.

About an hour later, Thomas Reed, II, was approaching the intersection of Interstate 285 in rainy conditions.  He had been drinking and had a blood alcohol level of .095.  As he entered the Interstate, taking the curve too fast for the weather conditions and his rate of speed, he lost control of the car. He struck the guardrail and ultimately crashed into the rear of tractor-trailer parked at the side of the road.  The impact caused the gas tank to rupture, resulting in a fire. The driver’s cause of death was blunt force trauma and thermal injuries.

Defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the decedent was at least 50 percent at fault for his own death.  The trial court agreed and granted summary judgment.  Plaintiff appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by concluding as a matter of law or undisputed fact that the driver was 50 percent or more responsible for his own death.  The court of appeals reviewed Georgia tort law regarding recovery of damages in a tort action.  A plaintiff is required to prove that defendant’s negligence was both the “cause in fact” and the “proximate cause” of the injury in question.  Here, the court found that there was an issue of fact as to whether the decedent would have died if the tractor-trailer had not been parked illegally in the emergency lane.

The court also concluded that there were, “at a minimum,” questions of material fact as to each party’s negligence in connection with the crash and the degree to which each party was at fault for the decedent’s injuries and death.  For these reasons, the court concluded that are issues of fact that must be resolved by a jury.

Car accidents can cause serious injuries and even death.  If you have been injured in a car accident due to another’s negligence, 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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