Few details were available after a head-on crash in rural Newton County killed five people, all of whom were in the same vehicle.
The vehicles collided on Highway 142 at Adams Circle in Newton County, about 40 miles east of Atlanta, according to Newton County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jack Redlinger. The driver of the second vehicle involved was taken to an area hospital in critical condition, according to Redlinger.
Investigators are working to determine the cause of the crash, and it’s unclear what led up to the head-on collision.
Special Issues in Rural Crashes
Serious car wrecks in rural areas usually mean special evidence and medical treatment issues for a Marietta personal injury lawyer.
These wrecks are usually no-witness wrecks. The participants can give testimony, but their testimony is obviously biased. That’s especially true if the driver sustained a head injury which affected the driver’s memory, and most head injuries do that. Furthermore, if the victim didn’t survive the wreck, that person’s testimony is obviously unavailable.
This same unavailability often affects the police report. If only one driver told the reporting officer what happened, the report obviously contains only one side of the story.
Rural wrecks often have some other police report issues as well. Urban wrecks in Marietta or Atlanta often involve several agencies that have significant resources, especially when they pool these resources and work together on a car crash investigation. Rural wrecks are different. Generally, a single officer, who may or may not have much experience in this area, prepares the report almost as an afterthought. At the scene, emergency responders are usually too busy securing the area and tending to injured victims to worry about something like the cause of a crash.
These evidence issues are quite serious for victim/plaintiffs. They have the burden of proof in civil lawsuits. So, a Marietta personal injury attorney normally relies on electronic evidence in these cases, such as a vehicle’s Event Data Recorder.
An EDR is an onboard computer which, much like a commercial jet’s black box flight data recorder, measures and stores operational information, such as:
- Vehicle speed,
- Brake application,
- Steering angle, and
- Engine RPM.
Attorneys often work with accident reconstruction engineers to put these bits of evidence together. The result is usually a much clearer picture of what happened than the rudimentary police report provides.
As for medical bills, in a rural wreck, the closest hospital often isn’t very close. That distance usually means helicopter medevac. A short helicopter ride could cost as much as $25,000, which is about a 30 percent increase over the 2017 amount. This high expense often gives insurance company lawyers sticker shock, making informal settlement negotiations longer and more difficult.
Legal Issues in Head-On Crashes
Facts don’t exclusively determine liability (responsibility) for damages, especially in head-on and rear-end collisions. Multiple legal doctrines, such as the last clear chance rule and sudden emergency rule, often apply as well.
Last clear chance often applies in you’re-going-the-wrong-way collisions. All drivers have a duty of care at all times. If Driver A anticipates a wreck, because Driver B is going the wrong way, Driver A has a legal duty to avoid it. So, in this case, a court could hold Driver B responsible for the collision.
Significantly, there’s a difference between the last clear chance and any possible chance. In the above clip, those approaching semis didn’t have a clear chance to avoid the wreck. This rule also usually doesn’t apply if Driver A suddenly veered across the centerline.
Sudden emergency is a similar rule that sometimes applies in rear-end crashes. This doctrine excuses negligence if the driver:
- Reasonably reacted to
- A sudden emergency.
Once again, this rule doesn’t always apply. A stopped-short or stalled vehicle is normally an everyday hazard, which under the duty of care, drivers must anticipate and avoid. A true sudden emergency is a hood fly-up or other completely unanticipated event.
What to Expect in a Car Crash Claim
With this evidentiary and legal foundation in place, a Marietta personal injury attorney is well-positioned to obtain maximum compensation for your serious injuries. This compensation usually includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. However, as mentioned above, the road to fair compensation in a car crash case is often long, winding, and bumpy.
Insurance companies usually have a legal duty to settle undisputed car wreck claims within about a month. However, as outlined above, rear end/head on collisions are usually anything but uncontested. Disputes abound not only as to legal responsibility, but also as to the amount of damages.
Therefore, to kickstart settlement negotiations and preserve the victim/plaintiff’s legal rights, most attorneys file legal paperwork at this point.
Immediately thereafter, rather than admit responsibility and do the right thing, many insurance companies file procedural motions, hoping to convince a judge to throw the case out of court. If a lawyer laid a good foundation, this hope is very faint, at best.
The issues in a car crash claim usually crystalize during discovery. The law forces both sides to put all their cards face-up on the table, in terms of their claims and defenses. Judges harshly punish insurance companies who don’t fully cooperate with this directive.
If the case still hasn’t settled by this time, most Cobb County judges appoint professional mediators. These mediators not only know how to help two sides find common ground. They also enforce a judicial duty to negotiate in good faith. Each side must make some compromises to settle the case during mediation. Neither side can go through the motions and wait for the trial.
Largely because of the mediator’s skills and the good-faith negotiation duty, civil mediation is about 90 percent successful.
Injury victims are entitled to substantial compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced Marietta personal injury attorney, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. We do not charge upfront legal fees in these matters.