Fatal College Park Crash Raises Hit and Run Liability Issues
While vehicle occupants injured in collisions might be aware that they can pursue a claim for compensation from a negligent driver, there are situations when this option offers limited financial relief. A recent high speed pursuit by police of a suspected car thief that resulted in a fatal car accident provides a tragic example. Police were pursuing a fleeing suspect when the man attempting to allude authorities slammed into another vehicle, causing the death of a 76-year-old woman and a boy thought to be about 12 years of age, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC). The AJC news report indicates that College Park police requested assistance from the Atlanta Police Department (APD) when the chase crossed into Atlanta, but the APD never responded. The news article also indicates that the suspect ran a red light immediately prior to colliding with the other vehicle and then fled the scene of the crash.
While the suspected car thief might still be apprehended, the families of the fatality victims in this accident might never have the opportunity to pursue financial compensation from the fleeing driver. In hit and run accidents or other collisions involving an uninsured driver, motor vehicle injury and fatality victims often must identify third party defendants to obtain financial compensation for injuries. Even if the motorist suspected of stealing the vehicle involved in the collision is located, the driver might not carry liability insurance.
Our Atlanta auto accident lawyers recognize the challenges faced by victims of hit and run drivers and uninsured motorists. When our law firm is retained to represent clients in such situations, we explore other potential defendants with insurance or assets. Viable third party defendants will vary depending on the facts and circumstances, but some examples of parties other than a negligent driver who might be financially responsible for injuries in a car accident include, but are not limited to:
Vehicle Owner: Even though the owner of the vehicle was not driving, this does not mean that he or she cannot be liable. Owners who entrust their vehicle to drivers who they know or should know are not competent can be responsible for harm caused by a negligent driver. When a vehicle owner knows that a motorist has had his or her license suspended for DUI or that the driver has been at-fault in prior accidents, this type of knowledge might justify a damage award against the vehicle owner.
Repair/Maintenance Facility: While the vast majority of auto accidents are caused by negligent driving practices, such as traffic violations, some crashes are caused at least in part by mechanical malfunctions. If the brakes fail on a car or a tire blows out because of maintenance that runs counter to industry safety standards, the business that failed to service the breaks properly or that patched a tire that should have been replaced should be liable for damages.
Manufacturer of Components/Vehicle: While brake failure and other malfunctions can occur because of negligent maintenance, some accidents are caused because systems or parts of a car are defective. When a crash is caused or a vehicle occupant suffers more serious injury because of a defective vehicle or component, the automaker and/or company that designed, manufactured, or sold the faulty part or system should be liable under product liability law. In some cases, companies that design, manufacturer, or retail defective products can be liable on a strict liability basis, which means that the consumer does not have a burden to establish the precise negligent conduct by the defendant that caused the defect.
Driver's Employer: Many motorists traveling Georgia streets and roadways are engaged in job-related activities. If a driver is engaged in activities within the "course and scope" of employment, the employer should be liable for injuries caused by a careless or inattentive employee under a theory of respondeat superior, which literally means "let the master answer." When respondent superior applies, the employee's negligence in disobeying the red light or stop sign can be attributed to the employer. Although this legal doctrine does not apply to independent contractors (IC), a company can still be liable for the negligence of an independent contractor based on the employer's negligence in hiring, retaining, or supervising the negligent driver.
Injury Victim's Uninsured Motorist Coverage: When there is no viable third-party defendant, our lawyers also represent clients seeking compensation from their own uninsured motorist (UM) coverage. UM coverage is optional insurance that covers victims of uninsured, underinsured, or hit and run drivers. Georgia insurance companies are required to provide such coverage unless an insured opts out in writing. UM coverage in Georgia covers medical expenses and lost wages if the other driver has no liability insurance. UM coverage can also be used toward such expenses if the other driver is underinsured, but the extent of such coverage depends on the type and amount of UM coverage available.
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If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, our experienced Atlanta auto collision lawyers work diligently to pursue the fullest compensation for our clients. Montlick and Associates has been representing those who suffer serious injuries throughout all of Georgia and the Southeast for over thirty years, 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.
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