Concerns have been raised after a stretch of I-20 has seen a dramatic increase in accidents and even deaths. The 13-mile stretch in Carroll County is currently part of an expansive construction zone. After the death of a local school teacher, the contractor who is conducting repairs to the stretch is now the target of a wrongful death lawsuit.
While many blame the construction that is now taking place for congestion, the Department of Transportation claims that there is simply increased traffic in that area. How they can draw that conclusion, however, remains unclear.
Truck Driver Veers off the Road
One of the most recent accidents involved a truck driver who veered off the road. According to the truck driver, he noticed traffic slowing down in a hurry. In response, he veered his truck away from the cars and off the road. While no one was hurt in the accident, it provides yet more evidence that construction along the I-20 near the Alabama state line is creating serious problems for drivers.
Construction Began in 2016
Since construction began in 2016, there have been over 1000 accidents, 240 injuries, with 64 of those injuries considered “serious” injuries. 13 of those accidents resulted in deaths.
Part of the problem is that the construction is along a rather tight corridor where there are only two-foot shoulders. There is also a split in the freeway that can prove confusing to some drivers. The split routes westbound traffic heading directly next to eastbound traffic.
The result is a staggering amount of accidents over a three-year period for a relatively small stretch of highway.
According to one sheriff, folks aren’t paying attention to the road because they’re driving distracted. This causes them to “slide right under” tractor-trailers. Indeed, these accidents are usually fatal because once the car enters underneath the undercarriage of the tractor-trailer, it generally rips the entire roof right off the vehicle. This is also why federal law requires tractor-trailers to have rear underride guards. Mandatory installation of these devices has drastically reduced the amount of deaths that occur in rear-end collisions. However, this law did not go into effect until May of 2019.
DOT Says Accidents Have Actually Declined
The Department of Transportation has statistics that somehow compile the amount of traffic through the corridor. They maintain that, regardless of the escalating number of accidents, fatalities, and injuries, the average number of accidents has actually declined. In fact, they calculate that the number of accidents per number of miles driven on the road has actually been reduced by the construction. No doubt, these statistics will be used to dismiss cases against the State of Georgia and the contractor who they have employed to facilitate the construction.
The DOT says that of the 13 fatal accidents that occurred on that stretch of road, only one has occurred since 2017 when construction workers installed the two-foot shoulders. That accident was Jasmine McGhee, a local school teacher. Her family is now suing the construction company for wrongful death in contributing to the conditions that led to her death.
Lawsuit Blames Construction for School Teacher’s Death
A lawsuit filed against both the construction company responsible for the road construction and the driver of a truck who collided with Jasmine McGhee’s vehicle are responsible for contributing to her death. Traffic had come to a halt in the stretch of construction and a distracted truck driver rear-ended her vehicle. McGhee’s family has already settled with the trucking company and now they are filing a separate action against the construction company.
Archer Western, the state’s contractor is being blamed, at least partly, for creating an unsafe environment that contributed to the rate of accidents in the corridor. In a lawsuit like this, the plaintiff must not only show that the company was negligent but also show that there was something they could have done differently to render the dangerous condition less dangerous. Lastly, their failure to take that action caused or contributed to the death of a driver.
In this case, the plaintiff’s attorney is arguing Archer Western should have had a police officer there with flashing lights to slow down traffic in the area. In this case, there was an officer there, but his car was parked too far forward into the stoppage and did not provide adequate warning to drivers that traffic was slowing down. This, in part, contributed to the accident that took the life of the 26-year-old school teacher.
Defenses to This Lawsuit
Archer Western construction company will attempt to limit their liability by claiming that they did everything in their power to ensure that the corridor was as safe as it possibly could be. Since the onus is on the plaintiff to show that they failed in their duty of care, the plaintiffs must successfully argue that there was something that they neglected to do that would have prevented this accident.
The positioning of the police officer is the main bone of contention between the plaintiffs and the defendant. The plaintiffs must show that the positioning of the police officer did not sufficiently work to warn drivers about the slow down.
While this is likely, to what extent it contributed to the accident is a matter of speculation. Since the truck driver admitted that he was distracted and looking for his cell phone when he crashed into the school teacher, convincing a jury or judge that there is a secondary liability here may be difficult.
An effective attorney would draw attention to the negligence involved in the placement of the officer and argue that failure cost a woman her life.
Car Accident Attorney Acworth
Dangerous construction zones and distracted truckers contribute to the thousands of accidents that happen on American roads each year. Talk to the Roger Ghai Law Offices if you’ve been injured due to the negligence of another person.