Most car crashes in Marietta are not unavoidable accidents. In fact, they are entirely unavoidable, in most cases. The five types of driving impairment, which are outlined below, cause about half of the vehicle collisions in Cobb County. Speeding, driver inattention, and tailgating cause most of the other ones.
Impairment-related crashes usually involve either ordinary negligence (a lack of ordinary care) or negligence per se (the violation of a safety statute). To establish negligence, the victim/plaintiff must show that the tortfeasor (negligent driver) violated a legal duty, and that violation substantially caused the victim/plaintiff’s damages. In negligence per se cases, the tortfeasor is liable for damages if s/he violated a safety law, like speeding or DUI, and that violation substantially caused the crash.
Compensation in vehicle collision claims usually includes money for economic damages, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
This substance causes about a third of the fatal car crashes in Georgia. Alcohol retards motor skills, impairs judgement, and clouds the mind. With mental and physical skills inhibited, it’s impossible to safely drive a car. Moreover, impairment begins with the first drink.
To establish first party liability in these claims, victim/plaintiffs may use either direct or circumstantial evidence. If the tortfeasor was arrested for DUI, the tortfeasor may be liable for damages as a matter of law, according to the aforementioned negligence per se rule. Sometimes, the tortfeasor was impaired but not legally intoxicated. Circumstantial evidence, like bloodshot eyes and odor of alcohol, can prove negligence in these cases.
Alcohol-related crashes in Georgia usually involve third party liability as well. The Peachtree State has one of the broadest dram shop laws in the country. Section 51-1-40 of the Georgia Code holds bars, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial alcohol providers liable for damages if they sell alcohol to:
- Minors: Generally, the provider is strictly liable in these cases. The old “s/he looked like she was over 21” defense never holds water, and the “s/he produced a fake ID” defense usually does not work either, unless the fake ID was an out-of-state license.
- Noticeably Intoxicated Adults: To prove noticeable intoxication, victim/plaintiffs may use the circumstantial evidence discussed above.
Georgia’s dram shop law also applies to social hosts and other non-commercial alcohol providers.
Basically the same liability rules apply to drug-impaired drivers. Although there is no Breathalyzer test for drugs, police can and do arrest motorists for driving under the influence of a dangerous drug. That substance could be:
- Illegal street drugs, like cocaine and heroin,
- Prescription drugs, like Oxycontin and Xanax, or
- Certain over-the-counter drugs, such as NyQuil or Sominex.
The jury is still out, metaphorically speaking, with regard to marijuana. There is no clear evidence either way as to whether this substance dangerously impairs drivers.
Drowsiness and alcohol affect the brain in roughly the same way. Driving after eighteen consecutive awake hours, which is like a long day at the office, is like driving with a .05 BAC. Additionally, most people are naturally drowsy early in the morning and late at night, even if they are otherwise well-rested.
Alcohol and drowsiness have something else in common. Time is the only cure for alcohol impairment. Quick fixes and home remedies do not work. Similarly, sleep is the only cure for fatigue. Some common shortcuts, like turning up the radio or drinking coffee, only work for a few minutes, at best.
Drowsy driving is usually not against the law, so the negligence per se doctrine is probably unavailable in these cases. Truck drivers are a prominent exception. Both Georgia and the federal government impose strict HOS (hours of service) requirements on truck drivers. These rules include driving time caps and mandatory rest periods.
However, driving while drowsy clearly reflects a lack of care. These people know they should not get behind the wheel, yet they do so anyway. Roughly a third of drivers admit that they have fallen asleep while driving at least once.
There’s a difference between distraction and inattention, which was mentioned above. In attention means that the driver turned his or her head for a moment. Distraction involves one or more of the following:
- Manual distraction (taking one’s hand off the wheel),
- Visual distraction (taking one’s eyes off the road), and/or
- Cognitive distraction (taking one’s mind off driving).
Hand-held cell phones cause most distracted driving crashes. They combine all three forms of distractions. Hands-free cell phones may be even worse. They are visually and cognitively distracting. Plus, they give many drivers a false sense of security, so they take more risks.
Georgia has a very broad distracted driving law. It applies not only to cell phone use, but to other distracting behaviors, such as eating while driving. So, the negligence per se shortcut often applies in these cases. Plus, by its very nature, distracted driving indicates a lack of ordinary care. Keep your eyes on the road and keep your hands on the wheel are usually the first two lessons every driver learns.
Many chronic medical problems, like epilepsy, heart disease, and diabetes, may cause sudden loss of consciousness. Such loss of consciousness episodes usually cause extremely dangerous loss of control collisions. These types of crashes are really bad because there is no telling what will happen next.
Georgia usually suspends the drivers’ licenses of people with serious and chronic medical conditions. So, the negligence per se doctrine often comes into play here. Even if it is unavailable, drivers with dangerous medical conditions know they should not get on the road, yet they choose to do so anyway. Such reckless behavior constitutes not only a lack of care, but a conscious disregard for the safety of other people. That could mean punitive damages.
Contact a Hard-Hitting Lawyer
Impaired drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in Marietta, contact The Phillips Law Firm, LLC. You have a limited amount of time to act.