Passenger Injured in Violent Car Accident Can Sue for Watching Friend Die

It’s a traumatic ordeal no one ever wants to experience: watching a fatally injured friend’s life slip away after a serious car accident. But the at-fault driver who caused the deadly accident and the emotional pain can be held accountable.

Watching Passenger Get Injured in GA Car Accident

In a victory for injury victims, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently ruled that a man injured in violent car crash can seek damages resulting from watching his friend die in the accident.

A tractor-trailer swerved onto the shoulder of a highway near Dublin, Ga., and collided with a parked pickup truck. Moments before, the man’s friend had pulled over to check the connection between the pickup and a trailer it was towing. The collision crushed the friend between the pickup truck and trailer, killing him instantly.

The man, seated in the parked vehicle, struck the interior of the pickup truck. Blood from his friend splattered onto him through a broken window of the vehicle. He then exited the vehicle to see his friend’s lifeless body on the roadside.

Following the GA Car Accident

Following the horrific accident, the man sued the driver and the owner of the tractor-trailer for negligence. He is seeking compensation for injuries to his head, neck and back, as well as diagnosed depression.

Accident victims can pursue what’s known as emotional distress damages if they have a specific injury (such as depression), and compensation for treating the injury. However, Georgia law does not allow claims for emotional upset, grief, or fear resulting from an accident without a related monetary loss.

The Impact Rule: GA Injury Lawyers

Under what’s known as the “impact rule,” accident victims can seek emotional distress damages stemming from a physical injury.

The driver and owner of the tractor-trailer asked the court to dismiss the man’s claim for emotional distress resulting from witnessing his friend’s death.

However, the Court of Appeals ruled that the injured man is seeking compensation for all of his physical and non-physical injuries stemming from the accident. The man can still seek emotional distress damages, the court said, because the accident caused his depression and he incurred medical bills for treating it.

The entire Appeals Court, rather than a usual panel of three judges, ruled on the decision, which indicates the importance of this issue. The case is Oliver v. McDade.