This is probably one of the saddest stories you’ll hear all year. A Georgia 16-year-old was driving his mom and two siblings in the family SUV when he turned into the path of semi-truck, causing an accident. He was killed, as were his two siblings. His mom was critically injured in the accident. Georgia State Patrol determined that the teen failed to yield and that was the primary cause of the accident.
The impact of the trucking accident ejected his two siblings aged 12 and 14 from the vehicle. They were both pronounced dead at the scene in the early hours of the morning. Both the driver and his mother (age 41) were rushed to the hospital in critical condition.
It is believed that the driver, who had just acquired his license, was driving himself and his siblings to school that morning when the crash occurred. While the semi-truck sustained damage, it is unclear if the driver was injured in the crash. The children’s school canceled all afterschool activities, including sports, to commemorate the students.
Will the Family Be Able to Sue?
Even though the police report said that it was primarily the teen driver’s fault, that doesn’t necessarily mean that it was. Police have a duty to ensure that everyone is okay and make sure they get to the hospital if they’re injured. That is their first and primary duty. Secondly, they have to record the scene to preserve evidence. Then they have to clear the scene. Lastly, they investigate what happened and make a determination as to fault.
Since no one in the driver’s car was able to give their side of the story, police only have the semi-truck driver’s story. There may also be video surveillance of the accident and other eye-witness reports to corroborate or refute the story that the semi-truck driver gave police.
In Georgia, car accident lawsuits are decided on what is known as comparative negligence. Comparative negligence means that two individuals can be to blame for an accident. This occurs more often than you probably think. For instance, let’s assume that the semi-truck driver’s account is correct and the driver of the SUV failed to yield. That does not absolve the semi-truck driver from obeying the laws of traffic. If the semi-truck driver contributed 50 percent of the blame or more, the commercial trucking company that employs him would be on the hook for damages.
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Understanding Comparative Negligence in Georgia
Georgia has what is known as a modified comparative fault rule. Some states have “pure” comparative fault rules that allow plaintiffs to sue even if they’re 99 percent responsible for an accident. It is assumed in these states that the liability of the other driver (who is only one percent at fault) would offset the other driver who is 99 percent at fault.
In an effort to limit claims in the State of Georgia, the law bars plaintiffs from filing lawsuits in which they contribute more than 50 percent of the blame. They can still file a claim if they are 50 percent responsible for an accident, but their 50 percent would offset the other driver’s 50 percent. That doesn’t, however, mean that it isn’t worth the effort to file a claim.
As an example, let’s say that the semi-truck was speeding when the accident occurred. The speeding prevented the truck from braking in time and avoiding the accident. Let’s also assume that the driver of the SUV failed to yield during the accident. A determination is made that both drivers contributed 50 percent of the blame for this accident.
The damages for the family include three (maybe four) wrongful death lawsuits and one injury claim that will likely leave the victim with permanent injuries. The damages for the trucking company include property damage to the truck itself.
Let’s say the family is awarded a total of $15 million in overall damages, while the trucking company needs to perform $30,000 in repairs. How much would the trucking company pay?
Since the truck driver’s liability is set at 50 percent, the family would receive 50 percent of the total money damages, or $7.5 million minus whatever property damage claim the trucking company can make. That is still a significant amount of money.
Police Reports and Accident Reconstruction Specialists
Police officers do not employ accident reconstruction specialists when determining the cause of an accident. It is fully within the realm of possibility that the trucking company is partly liable for this accident, despite the fact that the police report seems to indicate otherwise. There are a number of ways that the trucking company could be liable, including the possibility that their driver was speeding.
Additionally, it’s possible that the truck’s brakes were slipping and the truck failed to stop in time to avoid the SUV. Perhaps the driver was distracted and further investigation will reveal this.
In order to make such determinations, personal injury lawyers investigate all aspects of the accident. This includes gaining access to any surveillance footage that might have caught the accident on tape, eye-witness statements, and using sophisticated accident reconstruction software.
By analyzing damage to both vehicles and cross-referencing it with facts we know about the accident, accident reconstruction specialists can catch something that the police might have missed. That isn’t to say that the police aren’t very good at investigating, but their primary interest is not in filing civil claims against negligent parties; their primary interest is making sure that everyone is okay.
The moral of the story is that even in cases where the police are saying that you are primarily the blame for an accident, that doesn’t mean that you necessarily are. Nor should it prevent you from speaking to an attorney about the prospects of filing a suit against another driver.
Talk to a Kennesaw, Georgia Personal Injury Attorney Today
Even if you’re partly to blame for an accident, you can recover money damages from another party who was also negligent. The attorneys at the Roger Ghai Law Offices will represent your interests and ensure that you are compensated as much as you can be. Talk to us today to schedule a free consultation.