Out to Lunch – County Employee Drives Ten Minutes While “Unconscious” Resulting in a Georgia Car Accident Lawsuit
In the blink of an eye, lives can be forever altered. When we join the flow of traffic, we literally put our lives into the hands of others about whom we know nothing. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, we venture forth in good faith somehow believing that other drivers will obey traffic signals and behave as responsible humans are supposed to do. Usually it all works out for us. We get home with the groceries and the dry cleaning almost always.
Sometimes, though, we don’t.
The Classic Ran a Red Light Car Accident Lawsuit
In the case of Lee v. Thomason, 277 Ga. App. 573 (2006), a collision between two vehicles leads to serious injury. The crash occurred when one vehicle (the defendant’s) ran a red light and hit the second vehicle driven by the plaintiff, which was traveling across the intersection with the green light.
A Defense Strategy of Claiming Unconsciousness
The most mysterious fact in this case was that the defendant, an employee of Fulton County, claims to have “passed out” about ten minutes before the collision. He cannot explain how he managed to maintain his vehicle’s forward motion for those ten minutes. Remarkably, his pickup truck not only continued its forward motion, but it also remained in the correct lane and did not swerve during that time. (This is, we imagine, somehow related to the well-established rule that says if the driver of a vehicle is unconscious at the time of an accident, his unconsciousness is a valid defense.)
The question of whether or not the defendant was conscious when the collision happened was an important one. The law says that the unforeseeable and sudden loss of consciousness may be a defense to a claim a driver caused an accident. However, because the defendant had made statements indicating that he was, indeed, conscious at the time of the accident, the jury was not required to accept his unconsciousness as a defense.
The Result of the Car Accident Lawsuit
When the plaintiff and his wife sued the second driver, the jury found in favor of the plaintiffs who were awarded, $1,437,000 for bodily injuries, and $938,000 for the wife’s claim of loss of consortium.
The defendant was an employee of Fulton County Water Department and was represented at trial by his employer’s insurance carrier. As frequently happens, the defendant’s counsel requested that no mention be made of who was paying the defendant’s attorneys. This is often done in order to avoid the implication that the defendant had lots of money available to pay the plaintiff’s. This motion was granted as is usual, however, during trial there were several mentions of the Defendant’s employment unrelated to the question of whom was paying the bill. This was one of the errors the lawyers for the defense used to appeal this verdict.
The defense also laid out a series of objections to the trial court’s actions including its denial of their request for a Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict – that the trial judge over-rule the verdict of the jury and render its own verdict – and that since the plaintiff’s injuries did not appear to be debilitating, that the court deny the wife’s claim for loss of consortium.
The court of appeals found that the mentions of the defendant’s employment did not color the decision of the jury. It further found that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant may, indeed, have been conscious at the time of the accident. It also found that “loss of consortium” has a broader meaning than the simple absence of the sexual relationship between a man and a woman. In short, the Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s verdict.
Lawyers who work for insurance companies put up rigorous fights to keep their wealth in the coffers of the company and out of your pockets. They will, however, happily expend the money it takes to appeal a verdict if there is even the slightest chance they can overturn the trial court’s judgment.
In our judicial system, this review process is an important one and is loaded in favor of the jury. It is the basic principle of the Georgia Courts that a jury’s decision is the most accurate one available.
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If you have been injured by the negligence of someone else, don’t settle your case until you have consulted with a personal injury specialist. As a lay-person, you may not know the powerful way tiny facts in a case can change the outcome of a civil action. You need a fully trained specialist in personal injury law to advocate for you in court.
Call the The Millar Law Firm today for a free case evaluation. You’ll be glad you did.
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.