A Georgia jury should have an opportunity to hear the facts in a fatal car crash involving a drunk driver and an illegally parked tractor-trailer, according to a recent Georgia Appeals Court ruling.
The owner of the tractor-trailer tried to get the case dismissed based on the argument that Georgia law doesn’t allow people to recover money for personal injuries if the injured person is more than 50 percent at fault for causing an accident.
The drunk driver died after colliding with the rear of the tractor-trailer, which was parked in the emergency lane of an interstate highway just past an entrance ramp. The force of the impact ruptured the gas tank of the drunk driver’s SUV, causing the vehicle to catch on fire. He was declared dead at the scene of the accident from blunt trauma and burn injuries.
The driver had a blood-alcohol level that exceeded the legal limit, and evidence suggested he was driving too fast for the dark, rainy conditions and for the interstate entrance ramp. The tractor-trailer driver had pulled over next to a guardrail so he could rest.
The deceased driver’s family argued that he would not have died except for the presence of the illegally parked tractor-trailer.
The Appeals Court ruled that the degree of fault of the owner of the truck and the truck driver, who was cited for improper parking in a prohibited area, remains an open question for a jury to decide. The court said a trial court judge should not make that determination of fault before trial and dismiss the case.
A jury, the Appeals Court said, needs to consider whether the truck driver caused the decedent’s death by illegally parking in the emergency lane.
“There remains … at a minimum, questions of material fact as to each party’s negligence in connection with the collision and the degree to which each party was at fault for the decedent’s injuries and death,” the court wrote.
It is reasonably foreseeable, the court noted, that a motorist might negligently lose control of his vehicle at night in wet conditions and strike a tractor-trailer parked in an emergency lane of an interstate highway, and that striking the tractor-trailer might possibly cause a fire and worsen injuries resulting from the collision.
The deceased driver had no reason to be aware that a tractor-trailer was illegally parked in the emergency lane near an interstate entrance ramp, according to the court.
If you have been injured in a Georgia motor vehicle accident, let an Atlanta car accident attorney help you assess your legal rights.
The case is Reed v. Carolina Casualty Ins. Co. (No. A13A2270).