The Impact of Driving Records in Georgia Car Accident Cases
You’re driving along on the way to work, when crash, someone runs a red light and hits your car. You’re injured pretty badly at the scene and left with a bunch of questions after the fact. “I wonder if the guy who hit me has a bad driving record.” “I wasn’t at fault. Will this affect my driving record?” You’re going to hire a lawyer to help, but in the meantime, you’re left worrying about the details. Here’s some insight into your concerns and what’s likely to happen once your case gets going.
The guy who hit you has a lead foot and lost his license twice after racking up points. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to use an at-fault driver’s past driving history against them in your injury case. The law won’t presume a person is at fault simply because he was at fault in the past. Similarly, a driver’s stellar driving history has no bearing on whether he or she is at fault in your case. Under the Georgia Rules of Evidence, you can’t testify or argue that you’re not at fault simply because you have no prior accidents.
That said, while it may be difficult to use a driver’s past driving record against them, it’s certainly not impossible.
Did you know that driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol is a problem in Georgia? From 2011 to 2015, 24 percent of all roadway fatalities involved impaired driving. That means there’s a good chance that guy who hit you was impaired, and maybe this wasn’t the first DUI case for him. If this is the case, his history of past DUIs may be admissible in order to award punitive damages as a way to punish or deter him from continuing to drink and drive.
Maybe you were hit by a famous brand’s delivery truck. In cases involving commercial drivers, the company may be responsible for hiring a poorly trained driver and end up owing damages. Take the case of comedian Tracy Morgan and a Wal-Mart driver in 2014 where Wal-Mart settled a multi-million-dollar lawsuit brought by Morgan who suffered brain damage in the New Jersey wreck. Because the driver from Georgia was accused of not sleeping for 24 hours before the accident, the company was held responsible.
Oh, and if that guy who hit you brags about being a safe driver when it isn’t true, his past driving history may suddenly become fair game in your accident case.
Some random website may have claimed that you can view someone’s driving record by clicking “here”, but if you followed that link, you discovered it’s not so easy. In Georgia, it can be difficult to find out if someone has a bad driving record without filing a lawsuit. Many law firms subscribe to various public records databases, not available to the general public—but even they don’t provide perfect information. Before filing suit (or recommending to do so), your lawyer will investigate the at-fault driver’s history thoroughly, but sometimes, you have to file suit to get anywhere. Once that suit is filed, the lawyer can demand the at-fault driver disclose his or her driving history. There’s no getting around that.
Yes…you have broken bones, you’ve missed work, and now you have a lawsuit on your hands, but “What’s going to happen to insurance?!” you wonder. If you weren’t at fault in the accident, you shouldn’t have to see a rise in your insurance premium, right? If you live in Georgia, you’re in the clear. Insurance companies are generally prohibited by law from raising your rates for reporting or being involved in an accident that was not your fault. Many people find this a relief, especially those forced to use their Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist (UIM) insurance benefits to receive fair compensation in their injury case.
The first thing to remember if you’re injured in a car accident or cause someone else to be is this: you are going to need a lawyer. You don’t want to pretend it never happened and wind up with piles of hospital bills or unrepresented in a suit against you. When you need a trusted ally in your car accident proceedings, hire the best.