When discussing car accident lawsuits, we think often of suing the “other driver.” However, the Georgia Department of Transportation reports 43 percent of deadly crashes in the state last year were those involving just one driver. If you were injured in a single-vehicle accident in Georgia, an attorney can help you recover damages.
An average of four people die daily on our roads – more than 1,550 in all last of year, according to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety in Georgia. Of those killed, 17 percent were pedestrians (who most often perish in single-vehicle crashes.) Meanwhile, the serious injury rate for Georgia car accidents has climbed from 11.3 per 100 million miles traveled in 2007 to 17.63 million miles traveled in 2018.
It’s not uncommon for passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and sometimes even the driver to recover damages for single-vehicle crashes, but from whom and exactly how much will depend on:
- The circumstances of the crash;
- Whether the at-fault party(ies) had insurance, and if so, what kind and how much;
- The victim’s own insurance;
- The degree to which injured person was at-fault (if any fault was shared).
When there is only one vehicle involved in a car accident, the legal inference is the person in the best position to avoid the crash is the one who was driving. This is a reasonable presumption, given that 70 percent of Atlanta car accidents are the result of operator negligence and error (i.e., excessive speed/driving too fast for conditions, alcohol or drug impairment, distraction or fatigue).
However, the driver isn’t necessarily the only one responsible, and in some cases, may not be liable at all.
Defendants in Single-Vehicle Accidents in Georgia
There are numerous scenarios in which third-party defendants may find themselves liable for a single-vehicle crash. As Atlanta injury lawyers can explain, civil claims and litigation for crash injuries aren’t limited to a single defendant, and sometimes those injured in these crashes may claim damages from more than one defendant.
Some examples may include:
- Employer of the driver. Under the doctrine of respondeat superior, an employer is responsible for the negligent conduct of an employee who was acting in the course and scope of employment. We see this a lot in truck accident cases. There’s also the possibility an employer may be not just vicariously negligent but directly negligent if, for instance, the company failed to properly vet its employee or required workers to be in constant contact via their smartphones, even while driving. In single-vehicle crashes, we’d see this mostly filed by injured pedestrians, bicyclists or survivors of those killed. Passengers (assuming they are employees, too) and drivers would most likely be covered via workers’ compensation coverage.
- Vehicle owner. Owners of vehicles can be liable for a crash even if they weren’t the one driving. There’s the family purpose doctrine, which as noted in 2007 by the Georgia Court of Appeals in Hicks v. Newman, imposes liability for the negligence of an immediate family member using the vehicle for a family purpose when a vehicle is maintained by the owner for the use and convenience of his/her family. Vehicle owners can also be held liable for when they give permission for others to use their car (permissive use doctrine), when they negligently entrust the vehicle to another, knowing they may be a danger on the road (negligent entrustment) and even if they fail to take steps to prevent reasonably foreseeable theft, as the Georgia Court of Appeals established in the 1958 case of Roach v. Dozier.
- Bar, Restaurant, Nightclub Owner, Social Host. If an alcohol vendor or social host serves drinks to a person who is either underage or visibly intoxicated knowing that person is likely to drive from that location, that person/business could be held liable for a single-vehicle crash under Georgia’s dram shop law.
These are just a few examples of cases where a third-party besides the driver could be liable for your crash injuries in single-vehicle collision. There may well be others, like vehicle manufacturers (defective parts), cities/municipalities (negligent road maintenance) and uninsured/underinsured motorist carriers (for crashes involving “phantom” vehicles).
An injury lawyer can advise you of the full extent of your rights.
The foregoing answers are not legal advice and are merely a general overview. You are advised to consult a lawyer to address your specific situation regarding your situation. For more information or to inquire about a free consultation, contact Stephen D. Apolinsky, an experienced Atlanta injury attorney, at Apolinsky & Associates at (404) 377-9191 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.