Georgia Collisions Due to Driving Under the Influence
Georgia law imposes harsh criminal penalties for driving under the influence (DUI) including prison sentences, increased bail charges, license suspension, and more. Unfortunately, in spite of these penalties, people are not deterred from drunk driving. If you have been hurt by a drunk driver, the standard of proof for your civil case is lower than the standard for a criminal case. A verdict of not guilty in a criminal case does not necessarily mean you can’t recover in a personal injury lawsuit. Michael Braun, an experienced Atlanta personal injury attorney, may be able to help you recover compensation if you have been hurt by a drunk driver in Atlanta or any of the surrounding areas.
What Kinds of Damages Can I Recover?
If you were hurt by a drunk driver, you can recover for past, present, and future economic and non-economic losses including: all medical expenses; out of pocket costs; lost wages; pain and suffering; and sometimes loss of consortium for your spouse. Medical expenses are based primarily on the actual medical bills you have incurred. However, if you are going to need further medical care into the future because of very severe injuries, an expert will need to testify on the likely cost of your long term care. Similarly, if you are out of work because of an injury caused by a drunk driver, you may be entitled to compensation for the related losses. Even if you took days off as sick days or vacation, you can seek compensation just as if you had not.
Less tangible losses are also recoverable. Pain and suffering varies from case to case and it’s meant to compensate you for your actual pain and suffering. In most personal injury actions, the damages are compensatory. You will be asked questions through discovery or at deposition about how much pain you were in and how your injuries have affected your daily life. Similarly, if you were married and your injuries took a toll on your marriage, your spouse may have a claim for loss of consortium. He or she will have to testify about the impact of the accident on his or her daily life, and loss of your affection and help while you were injured.
It is rare for punitive damages to be awarded in personal injury cases. However, in a drunk driving accident, it may be possible to prove the defendant’s conduct was reckless and wanton. We may be able to request punitive damages on your behalf. Punitive damages are damages designed to punish the defendant and deter others from engaging in similar wrongful acts. The standard for proving punitive damages is clear and convincing evidence.
Additionally, Georgia has dram shop laws. This means you may be able to sue the person or entity that served the drunk driver in addition to the drunk driver. This can be helpful to make sure you are adequately compensated for your injuries because in some cases, the entity that served the alcohol has greater resources than the driver. A plaintiff suing under this standard must prove alcohol was served to the driver by a bar, restaurant, liquor shop, or host, that the server noticed or should have noticed the driver’s intoxication when serving the alcohol, that the server knew the driver would soon drive a motor vehicle when served the alcohol, and that the drunk driver caused damages.
Bringing a DUI Incident Case in Georgia
Generally, personal injury claims must be brought within two (2) years of the date that the accident occurred or the claim arose. There are sometimes exceptions to this rule. In all cases, it is wise to consult with a personal injury attorney as soon as possible because memories and other evidence can degrade over time. Michael Braun, an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer, serves clients who have been injured in Atlanta and surrounding counties. Contact us at (770) 421-6888 or via our online form to schedule your free consultation.
Taking Legal Action After Fatal Car Accidents in Georgia
When a loved one is involved in a fatal car accident, you may experience mixed emotions. On the one hand, you need time to grieve, and no amount of money can bring your loved one back. On the other, you may be faced with medical bills, funeral expenses, pain and suffering, and the loss of income that your spouse brought home. If you have been hurt or a loved one has been killed in a car accident in Atlanta or surrounding country, Michael Braun, an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney, may be able to help you recover compensation.
In Georgia there are two separate claims that can be made in the event of a car accident that results in death. The first is a wrongful death claim, which is brought under Georgia’s wrongful death statutes as set forth in Section 51-4-1 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.). This belongs to survivors designated by statute. The second is your loved one’s survivor action brought under O.C.G.A. §§ 9-2-40 and 9-2-41, which belongs to his or her estate. The executor or administrator of your loved one’s will (possibly you) can bring a lawsuit seeking compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, and pain and suffering endured by the loved one before death.
Wrongful Death in Georgia
The rules set forth in O.C.G.A. § 51-4-2 specify the order in which family members may bring a wrongful death claim. If the decedent was married at the time of the car accident, the surviving spouse is entitled to bring the claim. If a spouse refuses to file suit, his or her children may not sue for wrongful death solely on their own behalf. Any recovery by the spouse is shared with the children. A spouse does not receive less than one-third of the recovery, regardless of the number of children that must share in the award. But if there is no spouse, the claim vests in any living children. Where there is neither a spouse nor any children of the decedent, the decedent’s surviving parents may sue. If there aren’t any parents, the decedent’s estate can bring the claim.
What can be recovered? Under O.C.G.A. 51-4-1, a wrongful death claimant may recover the full value of the life of the person who died. There are no deductions made for what the person would have spent on food, rent, or other living expenses. This means that a claimant recovers based on the decedent’s lost income accounting for the decedent’s education and level of income at the time of death, as well as what he or she would have made in the future. If the decedent was expected to make significantly more money within a few years due to training or performance, the pay raise factors into the award. Claimants can also recover out-of-pocket expenses like funeral costs and medical bills. Based on their relationship to the decedent, a claimant may also be able to recover for loss of companionship and protection.
Retain a Knowledgeable Attorney to Recover Damages
The aftermath of a fatal car accident is painful. If your spouse, parent, or child was killed in a car crash, it is important to retain your own experienced Atlanta car accident lawyers to build a strong case and help you recover the damages you need. Our office serves clients who have been injured in Atlanta and other local areas. Contact Michael Braun today at (770) 421-6888 or via our online form to set up your no-cost initial consultation.
Distracted Driving Accidents
To Victims of Distracted Driving Accidents
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that about 20 percent of all motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2008 were caused by some form of “distracted driving.” Distracted driving is driving while paying attention to something other than the task of driving. It includes texting, eating, putting on makeup, or looking up driving directions on a smart phone. Often, a distracted driver is a negligent driver. Michael Braun’s experience as an Atlanta personal injury attorney may help you recover damages if you have been injured by a distracted driver in Atlanta, or any of the surrounding areas.
Proving Fault in Georgia Personal Injury Cases
Most accidents happen due to driver carelessness. Most are preventable. Legal liability is sometimes clear—such as when both people agree what happened—but often it requires the analysis of experts to determine who was at fault. An accident reconstruction expert can look at the damage to the vehicle, the position of the cars, skid marks, and other physical evidence to assess what really happened. A plaintiff whose case is based on negligence must prove (1) the defendant’s duty to her, (2) breach of that duty, (3) the breach actually and proximately caused the accident, and (4) damages. Although this sounds straightforward, in practice it can be tricky because often multiple causal factors are at play: distracted drivers, the weather, traffic, and more.
What if I Was Distracted Too?
Often an accident happens because all parties involved were distracted. Georgia follows a doctrine of modified comparative negligence. This means that if you were negligent, too, your recovery may be reduced by your percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if a trier of fact finds that you were 20% responsible for an accident and the total damages award is $500,000, you will only be able to recover $400,000. However, if you were 50% or more at fault, you are barred from recovering anything. This is one important reason why you should retain an experienced personal injury attorney rather than try to handle a case yourself. A capable personal injury attorney will work hard to make sure you are not held responsible for 50% or more of an accident, which would bar your recovery.
When multiple parties are at fault for an accident, a case becomes more complex. You can only recover from a party the amount of damages he or she is responsible for. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-31 bars joint and several liability and allows a jury to: 1) reduce a damage award according to a party’s percentage of fault, and 2) consider the percentage of fault of any entities who were not parties to the suit for the purpose of determining the fault of the named parties. Each person or entity at fault remains liable only for the amount of damages for which he is at fault under subsection (b) of O.C.G.A. §51-12-33.
Recover Damages With the Help of a Georgia Personal Injury Attorney
Insurers will often investigate an accident scene right away. It is important to retain your own attorney to investigate as soon as possible, so that you do not give the other driver’s insurer an advantage. Over time, memories fade and evidence can disappear. Michael Braun, an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer, serves clients who have been injured in Atlanta and the neighboring areas. Contact us at (770) 421-6888 or via our online form to schedule your free consultation.
Wrecks Caused by Driver Fatigue in Georgia
Nobody is immune from the risk of driver fatigue. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are groups that are at greater risk for drowsy driving crashes including young people, shift workers, and people with untreated sleep conditions. In fact, one study found that drivers younger than 30, a group that makes up only 1/4 of licensed drivers, were involved in almost two-thirds of drowsy-driving crashes. Night shift workers also make up a population that experiences higher levels of driver fatigue. They typically get 1 1/2 hours less sleep in a 24 hour cycle than do people who work during the day. This is partly because they have to contradict circadian patterns so that they can sleep while it is light out. Choosing to drive while drowsy is dangerous. If you have been hurt by a drowsy or otherwise negligent driver, If you have been hurt by a drowsy or otherwise negligent driver, Michael Braun, an experienced Atlanta car accident attorney, may be able to help. He serves those who have been hurt by negligent drivers in Atlanta and surrounding counties.
Filing a Negligence Lawsuit After Your Accident
To bring a lawsuit for negligence against a defendant, a plaintiff must show that (1) the defendant had a legal duty to conform to a particular standard of conduct, (2) the defendant breached that duty, (3) actual and proximate cause, and (4) actual damage to the plaintiff resulting from the breach. If a defendant is driving while fatigued, he or she should pull over and sleep it off. All drivers owe a duty to other people on the road to drive carefully and obey traffic rules. This includes the duty not to endanger other drivers and pedestrians on the street by driving in a state of fatigue.
In Georgia, if a defendant violates a Uniform Rule of the Road (Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Chapter 6 starting with § 40-6-1), his or her actions can be considered negligent per se—this means the defendant failed to follow a standard of reasonable care as a matter of law. For example, a fatigued driver who fails to stop at a stop sign or runs a red light can be considered negligent per se. This does not mean liability per se; a plaintiff must still prove other elements such as causation and damages.
If you successfully prove the elements of negligence, you may be able to recover past, present, and future medical expenses; out-of-pocket costs; past, present, and future lost wages; pain and suffering, and more. However, Georgia follows a modified comparative negligence doctrine for its personal injury and wrongful death cases. This means that a defendant may raise the plaintiff’s own negligence as an issue and ask the court to evaluate the plaintiff’s percentage of fault for his or her own injuries. The amount that the plaintiff is able to recover is reduced by his or her percentage of fault if the plaintiff is 49% or less at fault. But if a plaintiff is found to be 50% or more at fault, he is barred from recovering any damages.
Trustworthy Georgia Car Accident Attorneys
It can be difficult to know who was at fault for an accident just by looking at the scene. That is why it is so important to retain an established personal injury attorney. Often both sides will retain experts to reconstruct what happened to cause the accident. Michael Braun, an experienced Atlanta car accident lawyer, serves clients who have been injured in Atlanta, as well as other nearby areas. Contact us at (770) 421-6888 or via our online form.