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Can a Georgia Jury split the verdict between a sun-blinded driver and a negligently parked truck? Court of Appeals weighs-in.

Published March 10, 2018 by Ivory Roberson

Do you ever think back to your elementary school days and wonder what those earth science experiments were supposed prepare you for in life? Do you remember the day you gathered a few tablespoons of playground dirt into a pint jar, added water, topped off with a bit of vegetable oil, and then shook it like there was no tomorrow? You probably had no clue that on that day, you were learning about personal injury law.

When the shaking was complete, you had a jar full of dirty water. Try as you might, you could not see through the wet mess. Nor was it clear that you had done the experiment successfully. So, you shrugged your shoulders and put your little jar of mud soup on the corner of your desk as your teacher told you to do. The next day, you were able to see the clear result.

Sometimes that’s the way it is in the courtroom. It’s most obvious when one or more of the attorneys present represents a big insurance company. When those folks see that their client might lose the case and their company could be forced to pay out big money for their insured’s bad judgment, they are apt to muddy the water in a big way.

The Story of a Georgia Driver Getting Blinded By The Light

This case, Brown v. Tucker, 337 Ga. App. 704 (2016), was fairly uncomplicated in the beginning. A woman was driving a pickup truck in which other passengers were riding. As they came around the corner on this particular late afternoon, the setting sun blinded the driver, (later the defendant) making it impossible for her to see where she was going.

Instead of pulling over, donning her sunglasses, or even lowering her visor, she simply squinted and forged ahead. She continued in that way until she crashed into the back of a flatbed trailer that was parked on the fog-line of the road where the tractor pulling it had stalled. She admitted that she did not even see the trailer until she hit it.

As you may know, the fog line is the white line that marks the end of the traffic lane.  Witnesses said that part of this trailer did extend a few inches into the traffic lane. After the collision, the owner of the truck used a bulldozer to move the back end of the trailer completely away from the road.

The injured woman sued the driver of the pickup in which she had been riding. The defendant pickup driver insisted that the accident was caused by the truck driver and his act of leaving the trailer where he did. The entire case, then, revolved around whether the accident was caused by the driver who continued to drive in spite of not being able to see where she was going or the fact that the trailer was where it should not have been.

A Million Dollar Payout to Both Parties

The defense’s expert witness, a state trooper, offered his opinion that the cause of the accident was the protrusion of the trailer into the roadway. His opinion also included the fact that the driver could not see the trailer, saying, “If you don’t see something in the roadway, you’re going to hit it.” The trial judge did not allow this part of his opinion testimony to be heard by the jury since that conclusion was not the result of experience or expertise and could as easily be determined by the jury as the trooper.

Ultimately, the jury found in favor of the injured plaintiff and split the $2 million dollars in damages to be paid between the defendant pickup-truck driver, and the owner of the truck.

It was at this point that the insurance company attorneys began to shake the science experiment violently.

Both sides appealed the jury’s verdict. They brought up complaints about how evidence and testimony was (in their opinion) mishandled by the trial court. They complained that the trooper’s testimony wasn’t heard in its entirety, nor was testimony from one of the other passengers that the plaintiff had already received money from the defendant for her injuries. The plaintiff believed the defendant pickup driver was 100 percent at fault and didn’t want any damages to come from the truck driver. At that point nothing seemed clear or undisputable about this accident.

As with your science experiment, in time and with the diligence of the appellate court, the muddied waters ultimately settled out. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s verdict finding no fault with the way in which the trial court handled the case.

Why Personal Injury Lawyers…

When you sue for damages in court, you can never know for certain how it will all settle out. If, however, you retain a personal injury lawyer with extensive experience in these matters, your chances of prevailing are much better. When the quality of your life is at stake, and it usually is when these matters arise, you are wise to choose your advocates carefully.

At The Millar Law firm we only take personal injury cases. That means we spend every working day dealing with the pain and suffering of innocent others who seek justice. Our experience can make all the difference in a court of law.

We’re proud of our winning record. Call us today for a free case evaluation and see for yourself.

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