Police Investigating the Possibility That Georgia Driver's Fifteen Accident Rampage Was Intentional
The Georgia auto accident attorneys at Montlick & Associates recently discussed the insurance implications for drivers who were injured and the family that lost a loved one when 70-year-old drunken driver Michael Snider caused 15 car crashes across two Atlanta area counties.
Although this irresponsible intoxicated driver's disregard for the lives and safety of others is shocking, new information has emerged that makes this incident even more ominous. If the original report of an intoxicated driver causing a slew of crashes resulting in multiple injuries and a fatality was not bad enough, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is now reporting that law enforcement authorities are investigating the possibility that Snider may have intended to hurt people.
"If there was intent to harm people, the charges could be upgraded" from vehicular homicide and serious injury by vehicle, Gwinnett Police Cpl. Jake Smith said. "You could almost call it a homicide or aggravated assault investigation at this point."
The driver of the first vehicle struck by this drunken driver reportedly told the driver, "Do you know who I am? I do whatever I want." While this could simply be bluster from a highly intoxicated driver, this comment is only one piece of evidence that has led police to explore the possibility that Snider may have intended to cause injury to others.
There is a drastic difference both in terms of criminal culpability and civil liability when a driver acts recklessly by operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated as opposed to intentionally using one's motor vehicle as a weapon. While the potential vehicular homicide criminal charges associated with this kind of behavior are beyond the scope of this blog post, legal responsibility in a civil court may be based on "road rage."
Road rage essentially involves using one's vehicle with the intent of harming others. Whether this series of collisions was a serial hit and run drunken driving incident or intentional act to injure others on the road, punitive damages may be appropriate in both situations. However, if Snider actually set out to do harm to others, the punitive damages that are awarded could be substantially higher.
Another troubling aspect of this tragic story involves the potential culpability of the bar that served Snider. When Snider's son was told his father was in an accident, the son allegedly volunteered that his father was probably coming from a specific bar before even being told that the police believed that Snider had been drinking. The son also told police that "the bar continuously over-serves his father and (the son) has warned them to stop doing that."
If the bar continued to serve Snider despite the fact that he was "visibly intoxicated," this may raise the prospect of dram shop liability for the bar. While these claims often turn on whether the servers and/or bartenders should have known that Snider was intoxicated, his pattern of regularly drinking too much and driving home from this particular bar may have put the employees in the bar in a position to identify that he was not fit to drive.
We will continue to follow this sad story, but whether the actions of Snider were those of a reckless DUI driver or an intentional act to injure others, both civil and criminal liability may be necessary to obtain justice for the victims and their families. Montlick and Associates is available to provide effective legal representation to clients throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast, including but not limited to Albany, Athens, Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, Gainesville, Macon, Marietta, Rome, Roswell, Savannah, Smyrna, Valdosta, Warner Robins and all smaller cities and rural areas in the state. No matter where you are located our attorneys are just a phone call away, and we will even come to you. Call us 24 hours a day/7 days a week for your Free Consultation at 1-800-LAW-NEED (1-800-529-6333). You can also visit us online at www.montlick.com and use our Free Case Evaluation Form or 24-hour Live Online Chat.