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Georgia Court Upholds Finding of “Negligence Per Se” in Car Accident Case

Under Georgia law, a violation of the Uniform Rules of the Road (the “Uniform Rules”) is deemed sufficient to establish “negligence per se.” This means that a defendant who violates the statute and causes an injury to someone else is automatically deemed to be negligent. At this point in a personal injury case, the burden would then shift to the defendant to show that the violation was not intentional and in the exercise of ordinary care. In order to understand how these laws and procedures could affect your right to a recovery in a car accident claim, it is essential that you contact an experienced injury attorney from the Atlanta area.

According to Section 40-6-48 of the Uniform Rules, a vehicle must be operated as nearly as practicable entirely within a single lane on a roadway. Furthermore, the law states that a vehicle may not move from the lane until the driver has first determined that such movement can be safely made. A driver who fails to adhere to this provision may be deemed negligent per se, should an accident and injury result.

In a recent car accident case, Whole Foods Market Group, Inc., et al. v. Shepard (Ga, Ct. of App. 2015), a Whole Foods employee, Kevin Hulsey, hit a car that was driven by Richard Shepard as Hulsey allegedly attempted to change lanes. The evidence indicated that both drivers were heading south on Interstate 75 when the right front wheel of Hulsey’s truck hit the left rear wheel of Shepard’s vehicle, causing it to spin out of control and hit the truck two more times. Shepard testified that he was driving in his own lane and had no intention of changing lanes immediately before the accident. Hulsey, on the other hand, stated that he had just started to change lanes when he felt the cars collide. He also testified that he checked his mirrors to look for other vehicles before attempting to change lanes.

Shepard brought this personal injury action, alleging that Hulsey was negligent per se for violating the Uniform Rules of the Road. In response, Hulsey testified that he had not yet moved out of his lane at the time of the crash. Shepard contended that the court should disregard Hulsey’s testimony as contradictory to his earlier deposition testimony. The trial court granted Shepard’s motion on the issues of negligence, proximate cause, and liability. The defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in determining that the testimony conflicted.

The court of appeals reviewed the “Prophecy Rule,” which in general requires a court to disregard favorable portions of contradictory testimony on a motion for summary judgment. Here, the court found that the Prophecy Rule authorized the lower court to disregard the parts of the conflicting testimony that were favorable to Hulsey in ruling on the summary judgment motion. Accordingly, the court of appeals concluded that the evidence, with the exception of the contradictory testimony, revealed that Hulsey began to change lanes and collided with Shepard’s vehicle in his lane. By virtue of these facts, Hulsey violated Section 40-6-48 and was deemed negligent per se.

Since the defendants failed to provide evidence to rebut the finding of negligence per se, the court affirmed the decision granting summary judgment. This case nicely illustrates the importance of thoroughly understanding how the Georgia Code and applicable case law can affect one’s right to a recovery for injuries sustained in a car accident. Anyone who is injured as a result of another driver’s negligence is encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney as soon as possible. Stephen M. Ozcomert is an injury attorney with over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been hurt as a result of another’s negligence in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule a free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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