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highway at nightRecently, a famous musician was involved in what is being reported as a possible hit and run accident along I-285. According to media reports, the musician died at the scene of the accident after he was ejected from his vehicle when it struck a tree. Reports also indicate that the driver of the vehicle believed to be responsible for the accident fled the scene.

While this particular accident is notable because of the famous figure involved in the crash, the sad fact is that hit and run accidents happen frequently in Atlanta and across Georgia, even though there is a law in place requiring drivers to stop at the scene of an accident.

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Most appellate cases dealing with car accidents focus on one or more of the four traditional elements of negligence:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. This is not surprising, since these are usually the most contentious issues during the trial phase of litigation. Recently, however, a Georgia appeals court was asked to consider a case that sounded in contract, rather than negligence. The issue was whether or not the parties had entered into a binding contract to settle a car wreck lawsuit for the policy limits of the defendant’s liability insurance policy.

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The state of Georgia has more than 1,250 miles of interstate highways running through it. In the greater Atlanta area alone, six heavily traveled interstates (I-20, I-75, I-85, I-575, I-675, and I-285) converge, carrying millions of motorists through the city each year.

Although the majority of Atlanta motorists are locals, a good many are bound for vacation in a neighboring state. This is especially true during the summer months, when the kids are out of school and the beaches (or theme parks) are calling.

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busy interstateIn the recent case of Mavromatis v. Murphy, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, was presented with pre-trial motions in limine from both the plaintiffs and the defendant. The plaintiffs were a married couple whose car was allegedly struck by the defendant motorist when the defendant attempted to change lanes on I-75.

According to the plaintiffs, the collision between their vehicle and the defendant’s vehicle caused their car to strike a concrete median, resulting in severe and permanent personal injuries. In the defendant’s answer, he admitted that he was responsible for the wreck and that he was negligent. However, he disputed the amount of damages claimed by the plaintiffs.

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In the litigation of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, disputes often arise between the parties as to whether or not a particular piece of evidence is “admissible,” meaning that it can be presented to – and considered by – the trier of fact (the jury, in most tort cases) in resolving the issues in the case.

If a party disagrees with a trial court’s ruling on an issue involving the admissibility of a piece of evidence, he or she sometimes can seek review from a higher court. Recently, a Georgia appellate court was presented with such an issue in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the widow of a man whose husband allegedly died as a result of the defendants’ negligence.

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street at nightThe Supreme Court of Georgia recently entered an order announcing that a settlement has been reached between the parties in the case of Wyche v. Georgia Department of Transportation. Previously, the court had issued a writ of certiorari to review the decision of the court of appeals in the matter, directing the parties to submit briefs on the issue of whether the plaintiff’s negligence claims fell within certain exceptions to the Georgia Tort Claims Act’s waiver of sovereign immunity.

In the court of appeals decision issued last June, that court had reversed a trial court’s denial of the defendant’s motion to dismiss.

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The discovery phase of a truck accident or motor vehicle collision case can be lengthy and protracted, especially when serious injuries or deaths are involved. Typically, the more money is at stake, the harder the insurance company fights against a payout.

Many issues are determined by “motion practice,” as the process of asking the court for assistance about discovery and other matters is often called. This includes issues such as whether a particular party has to supply the other with a document or other information, and it can also include a court order regarding the exclusion of certain testimony or other evidence at trial. Evidence not seen by the jury at trial cannot be used to determine liability or damages, so these rulings can be very important.

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tireEarlier this week, officials closed a portion of I-75 north of Atlanta due to an accident that allegedly happened after the front tire of a motor home blew out, causing the vehicle to veer from the middle lane to the side of the roadway and strike a car that was parked on the shoulder.

The car was then pushed into the middle lane of the roadway, where it caught fire. Fortunately, the vehicle was unoccupied, its owner having apparently abandoned it on the side of the road for unknown reasons.

After striking the car, the motor home went down an embankment, finally stopping after running into a tree. Miraculously, no injuries were reported in the accident.

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car on fireAccording to statistics from the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, the number of traffic fatalities has been steadily decreasing over the past several years. In 2007, there were 1,641 traffic fatalities on Georgia roadways, but in 2013 there were only 1,179. The target number for 2016 is 1,130. While this reduction in traffic deaths is encouraging, the number is still far too high.

According to statistics maintained by the state, some of the leading causes of fatal car accidents in Georgia are drug and alcohol use, speeding, and failure to wear a seat belt. In recent years, deaths from accidents involving distracted driving (texting, cell phone usage, and use of other electronics) have also been on the rise.

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The vast majority of civil lawsuits are settled out of court, some prior to suit being filed and others while the suit is pending. In fact, it is not even all that unusual for a case to settle “on the courthouse steps” on the day a case is set for trial. This makes sense because a settlement gives each party a say in the outcome of the case, whereas a jury verdict does not. It also precludes the possible expense and delay of an appeal.

The one thing that all settlements have in common is that the parties must agree on the terms. Recently, two litigants in a car accident lawsuit thought they had reached a mutually agreeable settlement, but, as the attorneys attempted to put the parties’ oral agreement in writing, it became evident that they had not agreed on all of the terms after all.

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