On an April afternoon near Chamblee, Georgia, a young factory worker had an encounter with a box truck that altered the course of his life significantly. The DeKalb County jury defined that significance to be worth over $3 million dollars.
In spite of the fact that the plaintiff in this case actually struck a disabled vehicle from behind, the jury found in his favor. Here are the facts.
The Story of the Accident
The plaintiff was traveling in the far left lane of I-285 at or about 55 miles per hour – the speed limit – when the vehicle directly ahead of him swerved unexpectedly. This sudden move obstructed the plaintiff’s view of the highway in such a way that he did not see the disabled box truck. The plaintiff’s Nissan Maxima sedan struck the rear end of the disabled Ford Econoline E359 cutaway van. The plaintiff claimed that he simply could not avoid the collision.
The defendant truck driver had run out of gasoline and pulled his vehicle to the far left side of the highway where part of the truck still protruded into the traffic lane.’
The plaintiff claimed to have slammed on his brakes when the vehicle ahead of him swerved, but when he did so he effectively lost steering control of his sedan. The crown of the road – that slight curvature of the highway designed to facilitate the runoff of rain – essentially pulled the passenger vehicle into the collision.
The Permanent Injuries Suffered by the Plaintiff
The plaintiff was taken by ambulance to the emergency room at Atlanta Medical Center in Atlanta. He was unconscious at admission to the hospital for treatment. He suffered three arm and elbow fractures to his left arm and a tear of his left rotator cuff.
The plaintiff immediately underwent surgery to install metal plates and screws to set and hold his shattered bones in place. His five-day hospital stay was followed by a long course of physical therapy however; he claims not to have fully recovered the use of his injured left arm.
The Missed Work – More Damages
The plaintiff returned to work six months after accident but with significant restrictions to the range of motion in his injured arm. His injuries make it difficult to lift or perform ordinary daily tasks that require the use of that arm. He claims that his injuries are permanent and will always limit his mobility and ordinary function.
The defendant truck driver told Judge Janis C. Gordon and the jury that he had performed his duties as a responsible driver. He maintained that it was the plaintiff who acted negligently, in effect, causing his own injuries by speeding and failing to pay attention to the road ahead of him. (In fact, it was the plaintiff who was ticketed at the scene as happens in most rear-end collisions. That charge was ultimately dismissed.)
The jury heard the testimony of accident reconstruction experts on behalf of the defendant who said that the plaintiff could, indeed, have avoided the collision had he simply remained in the center of his lane. They also alleged that he was guilty of speeding and of following too closely.
The Declared Negligence by the Court
Ultimately, the fact that the Defendant truck driver had run out of gas proved to be a deciding factor. Evidence presented at trial proved that the truck driver usually filled his gas tanks every 2.5 to 5 days. He had been driving on a single tank of gas for 3.5 days when he ran out of fuel. His negligence in failing to check his fuel gage proved to be important in the jury’s eyes.
Procrastination can be a very expensive habit.
In addition to the fact that he should have anticipated running out of gas, the defendant had moved from the right lane of traffic all the way to the left lane before he pulled off the highway, leaving part of his vehicle obstructing the ‘fast lane.’
Two eye-witnesses testified that the plaintiff was helpless to avoid the collision.
When the three-day trial was over and all witnesses and evidence heard, the 4-man, 8-woman jury deliberated only 2.5 hours before finding in favor of the plaintiff.
Even when the facts seem to demonstrate that the victims of accidents may have been responsible in some way, our system of justice takes common sense into account. What a defendant knew, or should have known, rightly becomes a weighty matter in the end.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s recklessness, don’t sign away your rights too quickly. Insurance adjustors want to settle accident claims quickly and to the advantage of their client. Before you sign anything, allow the legal professionals at The Millar Law Firm to review the facts of your accident. Such a review costs you nothing and could help you recover what is coming to you under our legal system. Visit our car accident page to learn more. Call or email us today.
LEGAL DISCLAIMER: The above article is a factually-accurate case history of an actual previously litigated or settled Georgia case. The case was reported on in local media and/or legal reporting services and it was not handled by The Millar Law Firm. However, we think our current and prospective clients may find this information interesting and informative as the case is factually similar to cases our office routinely handles. Please be advised that The Millar Law Firm makes no guarantees your case will have a similar outcome, as past results and results of our firm or of other lawyers and law firms are not indicative of future performance.