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Personal Injury Action Arising From Collision with County Fire Truck Goes to a Georgia Jury

Under Georgia law, it is well established that a plaintiff is not entitled to recover damages for injuries sustained simply because an accident occurred. Put another way, the injured party must plead and present evidence showing that the accident was caused by another’s negligence. While this may seem logical, there are many legal requirements that parties must be aware of and comply with in order to present a successful claim for recovery. Each case presents unique facts and circumstances that can play a huge role in whether and to what extent someone is entitled to compensation for suffering costs and losses.  In any car accident case, injured victims are encouraged to reach out to an experienced injury lawyer who handles these matters on a routine basis in and around the Atlanta area.

In a very recent case, Brown v. DeKalb County et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015), the plaintiffs were in a car accident with a DeKalb County fire truck.  Brown was driving a car with her four minor children as passengers when it collided with a fire truck at an intersection. The plaintiffs brought this personal injury action seeking damages for injuries sustained in the collision. There was conflicting testimony as to many aspects of the moments leading up to the crash.  For example, it is not clear from the testimony whether Brown’s car struck the fire truck upon entering the intersection with a green light, or whether the truck struck Brown’s car as it entered the intersection against a red light. Furthermore, the parties do not agree as to the weather conditions at the time of the collision. The plaintiff said it was raining heavily, while the defendants claimed it was drizzling.  Also, the parties dispute the speed of the truck as it entered the intersection.

There were many sources of testimony, from people in both vehicles, eyewitnesses, and even an accident reconstruction expert. Significantly, the parties do not dispute that the first truck was responding to an emergency call at the time of the accident, and it was blowing an air horn as it entered the intersection. All of this information is particularly important because Georgia law identifies the rules of the road for authorized emergency vehicles. Under Section 40-6-6, fire trucks may proceed past a red light “only after slowing down as may be necessary for safe operation” and “with due regard for the safety of all persons.” In this case, if there was evidence that the driver of the fire truck failed to comply with these provisions, he or she could be deemed negligent. DeKalb County moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. The plaintiffs appealed.

The court of appeals reversed the decision, pointing out that there was a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the fire truck adhered to the statutory provision indicated above. Here, there was testimony that the truck was traveling 60-70 miles per hour at the time of the collision. According to the court, this testimony precluded summary judgment.  The court further pointed out that circumstantial evidence with respect to the speed of a vehicle may be sufficient to support a jury’s conclusion on the issue of negligence.

This case is an important example of knowing and understanding how the local laws governing cases in Atlanta can affect a plaintiff’s recovery for damages after sustaining injuries in a car accident. An experienced attorney who handles negligence cases would be able to assess your claims and prepare a strategy to seek compensation for your suffering and losses.  Stephen M. Ozcomert is an injury attorney with over 20 years of experience handling car accident cases, representing individuals who have been injured 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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