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Negligent Third Parties and Automobile Collision Causation

Sometimes when car accidents occur, they are the result of a third party’s negligence, who was not actually involved in the collision.

In one such case, Wolfe v. Carter, 726 SE 2d 122, Ga. Ct. App.  (2012), a man suffered injuries when he became sandwiched between two tractor trailer trucks, when an unidentified driver made a u-turn across the highway. Apparently, the visibility on that day was very poor, due to some thick fog-like smoke. The drivers of the vehicles and law enforcement officials reported an inability to see more than 20-30 feet ahead due to the conditions.

An officer that responded to the collision believed that a fire must have caused the smoke, and thus contacted the Forestry Commission, and learned that only one person, the defendant in this action, had conducted a controlled burn in the area. The officer did not know whether the smoke on the roadway was caused by the controlled burn and conceded that it could have been caused by any fire in the area. Thus, believing that the smoke was responsible for the collision, and that the defendant was the only individual granted permission to conduct controlled fires around that time, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant.

The defendant filed for summary judgment, and the trial court granted it, finding no proof that tended to show, “either that the burn was conducted or concluded improperly, or that smoke present on highway 341 the next day was even from the same general direction as the location of [defendant’s] prescribed burns.”

Furthermore, the court of appeals held that, even if the benefit of the doubt was interpreted most favorably to the plaintiff, the evidence was merely speculative, demonstrating just a possibility that the defendant’s fires were the cause of the hazardous condition. In order to be able to recover from the defendant, the plaintiff would have to show that the defendant’s fires were certainly the cause of the accident, and that the defendant was somehow negligent.

The plaintiff argued that the defendant engaged in gross negligence in conducting the burns, but the court did not agree, pointing to the defendant’s tests prior to conducting controlled burns, and other actions he took at the time.

The court did not address the disposition of any action taken against the truck drivers that collided into him at the time of the accident.

If you have been injured in car accident due to another individual’s negligent driving, the first thing you should do after seeking medical treatment and contacting law enforcement is to contact an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney as soon as possible. As one of the most sought-after personal injury attorneys in the state, Mr. Ozcomert has the advantage of over 20 years of litigation experience and caring dedication, affording you strategic legal representation. Call us today  at (404)-370-1000 in order to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

More Blog Posts:

Georgia Court of Appeals Case Demonstrates Importance of Acting Quickly Following Trucking Accident, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published December 11, 2013

Default Judgment in Georgia Car Accident Cases, Atlanta Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, published December 4, 2013


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