At the Corner of Careless and Reckless – Jury Sides with Innocent Victim in a Georgia Car Accident Case
We’ve all seen this guy on the highway. He drives erratically. He speeds up, weaves in and out of traffic and behaves as if he were on the track at Talladega. You shake your head and think to yourself: “That jerk is going to cause an accident.”
A Car Accident Victim That Had No Possible Way of Dodging the Accident
In the case of just such a scenario presents itself. Sadly, though, the victim in this case could not control any part of the situation in which he found himself. The victim had no way of “defensive driving” his way out of the horrible events that followed – he was literally crushed between a careless driver and a reckless one. His horrible injuries and his struggle to regain his life prove that in the time it takes a heart to beat, lives can be forever changed.
In the case of ROYALSTON et al. v. MIDDLEBROOKS, 303 Ga. App. 887, the chain of events present themselves this way; a man in his pick-up truck was waiting to make a left-hand turn along a stretch of Georgia highway when his vehicle is rear-ended by another driver. This causes the pick-up to be thrust forward approximately 20 feet into the path of a speeding sandwich delivery truck. The crash was so forceful that the delivery truck driver feared that the driver of the pick-up was dead.
The plaintiff was extracted from his vehicle only after the door and entire dashboard of his car were removed by emergency personnel. He was air-lifted to the hospital where he spent ten days in traction. He had multiple surgeries on his hip and wrist. With two months of in-hospital physical therapy he was able to learn to walk again. One of his legs is now significantly shorter than the other; this requires him to wear a special insole for the remainder of his life.
The ROYALSTON et al. v. MIDDLEBROOKS, 303 Ga. App. 887 Motor Vehicle Lawsuit
He sued drivers of both other vehicles involved for damages.
At trial, witnesses who observed the erratic driving of the delivery driver said that he had been driving erratically; speeding, changing lanes and weaving in and out of traffic. The delivery driver’s route supervisor testified that the driver was agitated over his workload for the day and had been angry and speeding when he left the worksite earlier that morning. An accident reconstruction expert testified that the delivery truck driver could have avoided the collision had he been paying attention.
In light of these facts the trial judge found that there was sufficient evidence to instruct the jury that this defendant may have been driving recklessly. The judge also advised the jury that punitive damages could be appropriate against the delivery truck’s employer who failed to check the driver’s driving record which showed his penchant for exceeding the speed limit. (His supervisor had also observed his bad driving habits and had reported that to the owner of the company, but no action had been taken.)
The Verdict & Awarded Compensation
The jury found in favor of the plaintiff and determined that the driver who rear-ended the plaintiff was 42 percent at fault, and the delivery driver was 58 percent at fault for the damages. The breakdown of the award was: $ 3,064,836 for compensatory damages, punitive damages in the amount of $ 1,000,000, 1 and attorney fees and expenses in the amount of $621,780.96. The court also awarded bad faith punitive damages of attorney’s fees.
Not surprisingly, the defendant’s appealed.
The appellate court upheld the trial court jury’s judgment holding that according to Georgia law: “Punitive damages may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences. (O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b).)
Simply put, this case demonstrates that when people are injured through no fault of their own by the reckless behaviors of others, they have a right to recover. Of course, the injured man cannot expect the court to return his months in the hospital or the pain he suffered, but he can ask that some of what he’s lost is returned to him.
If you are injured in an accident of any kind, you owe it to yourself to look into petitioning the judicial system for recovery. You may be forever live under the shadow of the negligence of others in terms of pain, suffering, and hard expenses for the rest of your life. This is not in keeping with Georgia law. You may have recourse.
Call the legal professionals at The Millar Law Firm for a free evaluation of your case. Perhaps you can gain some relief from the injuries you’ve sustained. Allow us to advise you on how you can let the judicial system work for you.