Driver Injured by Tractor-Trailer in Rear-End Collision Can Sue Driver, Truck Owner

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reaffirmed the bedrock principle of personal injury law: Juries should hear the facts and determine liability except in extraordinary cases where the underlying facts truly are not in dispute.

The case involved a motorist and a driver of a tractor-trailer rig, both of whom swerved to avoid another collision immediately in front of them in heavy traffic and rainy conditions on the interstate.

The motorist, driving a Ford van, moved to another lane but had to brake and stop because of the traffic. The tractor-trailer, loaded with dialysis equipment for delivery, also braked, but could not stop in time to avoid colliding with the rear of the motorist’s van. The collision injured the driver and caused moderate damage to the vehicle.

Evidence in the case suggested that the driver of the truck was following the motorist too closely.

His employer’s trucking manual requires drivers to keep a safe driving distance from vehicles in front of at least one truck length for every 10 mph of speed. The driver and the trucking company’s accident reconstruction expert both admitted that the driver may have been following less than a full length of the tractor-trailer behind the motorist.

While the driver who caused the separate collision may have contributed to the motorist’s injuries, the driver of the truck by law nonetheless had to operate his vehicle safely and reasonably given the heavy traffic and wet road conditions.

Another key point of Georgia law: A driver of a vehicle rear-ended by another does not automatically prevail on liability. Motorists are obliged by law to operate their vehicles safely and reasonably at all times. For example, a vehicle that suddenly and without explanation swerves into the path of another and is hit in the rear may be nonetheless at fault for the accident.

The Appeals Court found that important questions of fact remain for the jury to decide, and it reversed a judgment in favor of the driver and his employer.

The case is Dogan v. Buff (Case No. A14A0806).

If you have been injured in a car accident caused by another driver in Atlanta, contact us for a free consultation with a knowledgeable car accident lawyer about your legal options.