Injured or Killed in a Car or Motorcycle Accident Anywhere in Georgia
or the Surrounding States
We are highly qualified car accident and motorcycle accident lawyers located in Atlanta. The trial attorneys at Ragland Law Firm, LLC have considerable experience handling personal injury and wrongful death claims and lawsuits arising from traffic accidents and pedestrian accidents involving cars, pick-up trucks, vans, motorcycles and other types of motor vehicles. In any motor vehicle accident case, their experience and expertise help them achieve two primary objectives: (1) to maximize the recovery of compensatory damages against the at-fault driver by understanding Georgia law governing automobile liability insurance and uninsured motorist insurance, and (2) to investigate thoroughly and pursue additional meritorious claims against other potential defendants such as the owner of the at-fault vehicle, the employer of the negligent driver, the business which sold alcohol to an underaged driver or noticeably intoxicated motorist, any entity responsible for negligent road construction or hazardous road conditions, and/or the manufacturer of a defective tire or uncrashworthy car, van or truck.Attorneys Serving Auto Accident Victims
in Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina
The survivors of a traffic fatality and any driver, passenger or pedestrian who is seriously injured in a car accident needs legal counsel from a trial attorney who is an expert in Georgia automobile insurance law and can pursue claims against any party whose negligence or defective product contributed to the crash. We handle automobile, motorcycle and pedestrian accident cases throughout all areas of Georgia, as well as Florida, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. We have the expertise and resources to pursue claims and lawsuits against drunk drivers, negligent road contractors, the employers of negligent drivers, businesses that negligently serve alcohol, and government entities that fail to rectify hazardous road conditions.
Under Georgia law, an automobile or motorcycle accident may give rise to many types of potential civil claims including:
- claims of wrongful death or personal injury against the negligent or at-fault driver;
- claims against drivers who recklessly cause accidents because they are distracted by the use of a cell phone;
- claims for punitive damages against drunk drivers who recklessly cause accidents which injure or kill other motorists or pedestrians. Read More In Our Drunk Driving Crash Practice Center ;
- dramshop liability claims against a business which unlawfully sold or served alcohol to an underaged driver or noticeably intoxicated adult. Read More In Our Dram Shop Liability Practice Center ;
- uninsured motorist claims where there is a hit and run, or the negligent driver has no automobile insurance;
- claims of vicarious liability against the employer of the negligent driver under the doctrine of respondeat superior;
- claims of vicarious liability against the owner of the at-fault vehicle under the “family purpose doctrine;”
- claims of negligent entrustment against the owner of the at-fault vehicle;
- claims against police departments for the conduct of a reckless high speed police chase;
- claims against negligent road construction contractors who create dangerous road conditions;
- claims against government entities or private companies responsible for negligently maintained or malfunctioning traffic control devices;
- claims against government entities or private companies responsible for unsafe road designs or hazardous road conditions;
- claims against governmental entities or private companies responsible for creating or allowing a hydroplaning hazard to exist;
- claims against persons or entities responsible for dropping or not removing dangerous highway debris;
- product liability claims against tire manufacturers which produced a defective tire; and
- product liability claims against car manufacturers which sold an uncrashworthy vehicle, or failed to timely recall vehicles with known defects.
The trial lawyers at Ragland Law Firm, LLC have pursued claims and lawsuits throughout Georgia on behalf of pedestrians, motorcycle riders and car accident victims in all of these circumstances. They have helped many Georgia auto accident victims recover compensation from both the negligent driver and numerous other parties whose negligence or unsafe product contributed to the injury causing event. They have also pursued punitive damages where the crash was caused by a drunk driver. Ragland Law Firm, LLC has successfully pursued these types of cases in Atlanta, Jonesboro, Cartersville, Rome, Gainesville, Athens, Douglasville, Carrollton, Conyers, Augusta, Griffin, Macon, Newnan, LaGrange, Columbus, and many other parts of Georgia.Statistics Prove the Dangers of Travel By Motor Vehicles
It is easy to know why so many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits in Georgia involve a car wreck or motorcycle accident. No form of transportation is more dangerous than cars, trucks and motorcycles. By any measure, more people are hurt or killed while traveling by motor vehicle than traveling by bus, train, plane or any other means. Indeed, government data shows that 90% of all transportation fatalities involve private passenger vehicles (i.e. cars, pick-up trucks, vans, etc.). The risks associated with driving an automobile or riding a motorcycle are vastly underappreciated by most people. Annually compiled statistical data consistently demonstrate that travel by motor vehicle remains relatively dangerous and results in thousands of deaths and serious injuries every year.
Automobile collision is the number one cause of accidental death in this country. In fact, car wrecks are the leading cause of deaths by any means (natural or accidental) of people between the age of 2 and 33. Teenagers are the most at risk. Motor vehicle accidents are to blame for about one-third of all deaths of teenagers (ages 15-19). During their lifetime, one in three Americans will be involved in at least one automobile accident which results in injury to a driver or other occupant.
Every year since 1990, there have been more than 6 million police reported motor vehicle accidents causing between 40,000 and 45,000 fatalities annually. That equates to one traffic fatality every 12-14 minutes. On average, nearly 3 million Americans are injured in motor vehicle accidents every year. The latest figures from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that in 2007, there were 6,024,248 motor vehicle accidents resulting in 41,059 fatalities and 2,491,000 injuries. In Georgia alone, there were 1,641 people killed in motor vehicle accidents in 2007, down slightly from the 1,693 fatalities Georgia suffered in 2006.
Car or Motorcycle Accidents in Georgia
Car accident victims in Georgia are entitled to seek compensatory damages from the driver whose negligence caused the crash in which they were injured or a family member was killed. Of course, the plaintiff in any personal injury or wrongful death claim or lawsuit has the burden of proving that the defendant driver was negligent and at fault in causing the traffic accident. The mere fact that the defendant’s automobile or truck collided with the plaintiff’s vehicle is not alone a sufficient basis for a damages claim or lawsuit under Georgia law. The victim must demonstrate that the crash was due to the negligent driving or other unsafe operation of the striking vehicle. If the defendant’s car or truck struck the plaintiff’s vehicle through no fault of its driver, then that non-negligent driver cannot be held liable for the plaintiff’s damages.Primary Causes of Motor Vehicle Accidents
Usually, a claim or lawsuit against the other driver is based upon proof that he or she was negligent and at fault in causing the accident in one or more of the following ways:
- violating one or more Georgia “Uniform Rules of the Road” which are codified at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-1 through 40-6-397;
- driving while impaired due to alcohol or drugs;
- driving while distracted due to a cell phone, radio, passenger, etc.;
- drowsy driving, falling asleep at the wheel, or driver fatigue;
- intentionally dangerous or aggressive driving.
and Use of Traffic Citations in Civil Lawsuits
It is a mistake to assume that the driver who receives a traffic citation from the police is automatically or necessarily liable for any injuries or damages suffered by the driver or occupants of the other vehicle. The decision by police to assign fault to a driver does not conclusively establish civil liability. Likewise, the issuance of a traffic citation by police does not establish liability in the civil case, nor does the non-issuance of a traffic citation preclude an injured party from asserting civil claims against the driver believed to be at fault in causing the accident. An injured motorist or pedestrian can pursue a civil claim against a driver they believe was negligent regardless of whether that driver was deemed to be at-fault by the police or whether that driver received any traffic citations.
It is important to keep in mind that a driver’s receipt of a traffic citation from police is a criminal matter to be resolved in separate proceedings before a different court and different judge. Because the traffic citation involves a criminal charge, it does not control the question of liability in a civil case which is an entirely separate legal proceeding. The adjudication of the traffic changes cannot be used in the civil case. In other words, a plaintiff cannot admit evidence that the defendant was found guilty of a traffic charge, nor can the defendant admit evidence that he was found not guilty of the charge to support his defense. Any findings of guilt or innocence in connection with traffic or criminal charges brought against a driver do not control and cannot be introduced in a civil lawsuit arising from a motor vehicle accident. The plaintiff must prove his case and the defendant must prove his defenses independent of any proceedings or decisions in the traffic or criminal case.Under Georgia Law, Guilty Pleas to Traffic Charges
Can Be Used Against a Negligent Driver
There is one exception. A plaintiff in a civil case can admit evidence of a driver’s plea of guilty to a traffic or criminal charge. Any plea of guilt by the defendant is considered an admission which can be used against him in a civil lawsuit. A guilty plea by the defendant is not the same as a guilty verdict by the jury at trial. The former can be used in a civil case, the latter cannot. Pleas of nolo contende are not considered guilty pleas and cannot be introduced as evidence against the plaintiff in a civil trial. Likewise, the fact that a driver pays a traffic fine after entering a plea of not guilty cannot be used against that driver during the civil case. However, Georgia courts have held that non-appearance at a scheduled hearing or trial and forfeiture of a cash bond constitutes a guilty plea and can be introduced as an admission by that defendant in a civil proceeding.Drunk Drivers Greatly Endanger Other Motorists and Pedestrians
There can be no reasonable debate about the role alcohol and drugs play in causing motor vehicle accidents. There have been many studies proving that any amount of alcohol results in the impairment of driving skills and makes the alcohol user a much less safe driver. Thus, it is a myth that someone is safe to drive a car or other vehicle after having only a few drinks. Impairment of driving skills begins to occur after only one alcoholic beverage is consumed. Of course, the risk increases dramatically the more alcohol a driver has consumed. Indeed, with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent, a driver is between eleven and twelve times more likely to cause a fatal crash than a driver with a BAC of 0.02 percent.
Despite the well known connection between alcohol use and driving impairment, people continue to drive while under the influence in alarming numbers. In 2006, there were 1.46 million DUI arrests in this country. Every year, nearly 1 in every 140 licensed U.S. drivers is charged with DUI. This epidemic amount of drunk driving leads to staggering human tragedy. According to estimates from NHTSA, drunk drivers cause approximately 30-40% of all traffic fatalities. Every 33 minutes, someone is killed by a drunk driver in America. The latest figures from NHTSA are that 12,998 people were killed in “alcohol impaired crashes” in 2007, down slightly from the 13,491 deaths reported in 2006. In 2007, there were 441 deaths due to alcohol-impaired crashes in Georgia alone. In addition to this death toll, drunk driving crashes are blamed for more than 600,000 injuries in this country every year.Georgia Drunk Driving Victim Lawyer
Atlanta attorney Daniel Ragland has extensive experience handling claims and lawsuits against drunk drivers in all parts of Georgia. He has dedicated much of his professional and personal life to the cause of eliminating drunk driving, and serving the victims of this crime. Because of his advocacy efforts and focus on the drunk driving problem, Mr. Ragland is especially passionate about representing victims and pursuing claims and lawsuits against drunk drivers in Georgia. For more information about Georgia lawsuits against drunk drivers and the practice of Ragland Law Firm, LLC in this area, go to this website’s Drunk Driving Crash Practice Center .Georgia Does Not Allow the Seat Belt Defense
There is no question that seat belts save lives and are the most important occupant safety feature found in a motor vehicle. Government figures show that approximately 55-60% of all vehicle occupant fatalities involve someone who was not wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. Therefore, drivers and passengers should always wear seat belts. However, the failure to wear a seat belt cannot be used against a personal injury or wrongful death plaintiff in Georgia. By statute, Georgia has effectively abolished the seat belt defense. O.C.G.A. § 40-8-76.1(d) provides as follows:
The failure of an occupant of a motor vehicle to wear a seat safety belt in any seat of a motor vehicle which has a seat safety belt or belts shall not be considered evidence of negligence or causation, shall not otherwise be considered by the finder of fact on any question of liability of any person, corporation, or insurer, shall not be any basis for cancellation of coverage or increase in insurance rates, and shall not be evidence used to diminish any recovery for damages arising out of the ownership, maintenance, occupancy or operation of a motor vehicle.Hit & Run Accidents and Pursuit of
an Uninsured Motorist Claim Under Georgia Law
In certain situations, including “hit and run,” car accident victims in Georgia may have a claim for uninsured motorist benefits. Likewise, injured pedestrians and survivors of pedestrians killed by negligently driven motor vehicles may be able to assert uninsured motorist claims under their automobile policies. Of course, there is no possibility of making an uninsured motorist claim unless the car accident victim or pedestrian has UM coverage on an automobile insurance policy insuring him, his vehicle(s) or the vehicle in which he was traveling at the time of the accident. By statute in Georgia, all auto policies must provide liability coverage with single limits of at least $25,000.00 and aggregate limits of at least $50,000.00. O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11(a). However, the inclusion of any uninsured motorist coverage is not mandatory. Thus, car accident victims and pedestrians must have included UM coverage on their auto policies before they can make an uninsured motorist claim following a traffic accident. In addition, no uninsured motorist claim will be allowed unless the crash was reported to the police immediately or very soon after the accident took place.
There are 3 primary circumstances which will give rise to an uninsured motorist claim in Georgia:
Ownership of the At-Fault Vehicle as a Basis for
1. the at-fault driver has no auto liability insurance;
2. the amount of the victim’s damages exceed the amount of liability insurance available to the negligent at-fault driver; or
3. the identity of the negligent driver or the identity of the owner of the at-fault vehicle are unknown for whatever reason including because the accident involved a hit and run.
Read More About Pursuing Uninsured Motorist Claims in Georgia
Liability in a Georgia Car Accident Case
The general rule in Georgia is that owners of motor vehicles are not vicariously liable for the negligence of persons who drive their vehicles solely because they are the owner of that vehicle. Put another way, mere ownership of the at-fault vehicle does not make an owner automatically liable for accidents in which the owner’s vehicle may be involved. Of course, a car accident victim can hold the owner of the at-fault vehicle liable if that owner was also the negligent driver. But, in instances where someone other than the owner is the negligent driver, the owner cannot be held liable for damages except in certain scenarios such as the following:
Other Types of Claims Arising From
1. the owner of the vehicle is also the employer of the negligent driver and the traffic accident took place while the employee was operating the employer’s vehicle during the “course and scope” of his employment (vicarious liability – respondeat superior );
2. the owner of the vehicle and the negligent driver are members of the same family who were living in the same household at the time of the traffic accident and the owner provided the car or truck to the driver for his “pleasure, comfort or convenience” (“Family Purpose Doctrine”);
3. the owner of the vehicle was negligent in loaning his car or truck to someone he knew to be an unfit, intoxicated or incompetent driver (negligent entrustment).
Motor Vehicle Accidents
Most automobile or motorcycle accident cases in Georgia involve claims against the at-fault driver, the owner of the vehicle, the employer of the at-fault driver (if the driver was “working” at the time of the accident), and/or the provider of alcohol to a drunk driver. However, aggressive lawyers will also analyze whether under the unique facts of each crash, there are other culpable parties against whom lawsuits should be brought. There are five primary areas of possible liability which might be considered in any car accidents case involving serious injury or wrongful death:
Damages Recoverable by Car and Motorcycle
1. Was the crash caused by a high speed police pursuit? If so, there may be meritorious claims against the police officer or police agency responsible for that high speed chase.
Read more about Police Chase Liability
2. Did unsafe conditions created by ongoing or recently completed road construction contribute to the crash? If so, there may be meritorious claims against the contractor or governmental entity responsible for such construction activity.
Read more about claims involving Negligent Road Construction
3. Did an unsafe road design, malfunctioning traffic signal, or hazardous road condition contribute to the crash? If so, there may be meritorious claims against the public or private entity(ies) responsible for such dangers.
Read more about claims involving Unsafe Road Design or Hazardous Road Conditions
4. Was the crash precipitated by the hydroplaning of a car, truck or motorcycle? If so, there may be viable claims against the public or private entity whose negligence created such hydroplaning hazard or who negligently failed to remedy that hazard after it was known.
5. Did a mechanical problem, automotive defect, or uncrashworthy vehicle contribute to the crash or to the death or injury of a vehicle occupant? If so, there may be meritorious claims of negligence and/or product liability against a tire manufacturer, automobile manufacturer, or entity which performed repairs on the vehicle.
6. Did a defective tire fail, blow-out, malfunction or otherwise contribute to the crash? If so, there may be meritorious claims of negligence or product liability against the tire manufacturer or other entity which inspected, repaired and/or installed that tire.
Read more about claims involving Defective Tires
Accident Victims in Georgia
Georgia law provides that in a personal injury case, motorists and pedestrians can always seek to recover “compensatory” damages against any defendant whose negligence caused or contributed to the traffic accident. Compensatory damages consist of the following two categories:
1. Special damages (also referred to as “economic” damages) – damages which can be quantified or proven with invoices or other evidence showing specific monetary charges, expenses or financial loss. Examples of special damages would include:
- charges for ambulance or other emergency transportation
- charges for medical care and treatment from a doctor, hospital or other health care provider
- charges for physical therapy, rehab services, in-home respiratory or nursing care, chiropractic treatment, etc.
- travel expenses, parking expenses and other costs incurred while obtaining medical care
- lost wages, salary, bonuses or other income
- lost business profits.
2. General damages (also referred to as “non-economic” damages) – damages which cannot be precisely quantified and their “value” is left to the subjective assessment of the jury. Examples of “general” damages would include:
- physical pain and suffering
- shock, fright and fear experienced before and after the accident took place
- emotional distress, depression and mental suffering caused by the accident and/or resulting injuries
- inconvenience, disruption, stress, worry and anxiety caused by the injury or the need to seek medical care
- scarring, disfigurement, amputation, paralysis or physical disability
- loss of memory, cognitive abilities or intellectual functions
- loss of any of the senses of sight, smell, hearing, taste or the ability to speak
- loss of the ability to participate in recreation, travel or other enjoyable activities
- loss of the mental or physical capacity to earn a living.
An injured motorist or pedestrian is entitled to recover compensation for the damages he has incurred or suffered as of the date of trial, and all damages he will likely suffer in the future. To recover his future damages, the plaintiff must present evidence which reasonably proves the type and extent of any future expenses, loss of income, pain, disfigurement, or other harm which are anticipated. Future “special damages” cannot be left to mere conjecture or speculation. In particular, if the plaintiff seeks “special damages,” he must provide sufficient evidence upon which a jury can determine the amount of those future expenses or economic loss with reasonable certainty.Obtain Representation From an Experienced
Georgia Car Accident Lawyer
We are Atlanta-based attorneys focused upon severe injury and wrongful death litigation. We have considerable experience representing motorists and pedestrians in auto accident and motorcycle accident cases in all parts of Georgia and the surrounding states of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina. We invite you to visit our Case Results page to learn more about some of the particular motor vehicle accident claims and lawsuits which the attorneys at Ragland Law Firm, LLC have successfully concluded. You are also invited to read our Frequently Asked Questions page where we have answered at least some of the questions often posed by motorists following a car, truck or motorcycle accident. We have the expertise and resources needed to pursue claims against both the at-fault driver and any other party whose negligent conduct or defective product contributed to causing the car or motorcycle crash. If the at-fault driver was intoxicated, we have a reputation for aggressively pursuing punitive damage lawsuits against drunk drivers. Visit our Drunk Driving Crash Practice Center to learn more about this topic. We are conveniently located near Perimeter Mall in Dunwoody, Georgia. Please contact us if you desire representation from an experienced Georgia auto accident lawyer.