Jury Awards Student-Athlete $575,000 in Auto Accident
School is back in full swing for most students now after the holiday break. Many kids are off at college. While us parents like to focus on the academic value of college, the reality is that for the vast majority of college students the college experience is also about maturing socially, which means parties and alcohol.
It is no secret that parties involving underage drinking are a commonplace part of the college experience for most college students. Many people would tell you that the Greek system of fraternities and sororities are almost synonymous with college parties and excessive alcohol consumption. However, sometimes fraternity parties turn tragic. A personal injury lawsuit last year resulted in a Virginia jury awarding a $575,000 judgment to a female college scholarship athlete, and provides a reminder of the danger of mixing youth, alcohol and driving.
The plaintiff was a student athlete under scholarship on the George Mason rowing team. The university does not have fraternities on campus so the fraternities typically shuttle freshman girls living in dorms to their off-campus parties. A fraternity representative referred to as a “dispatcher” directs those interested in attending the off-campus fraternity parties to cars driven by brothers in the fraternity, who transport partygoers to the party by car.
On the day of the car accident, the dispatcher directed the plaintiff and two friends into a Volvo driven by a member of the fraternity. The designated “shuttle driver” proceeded down a two-lane road with a double-yellow line at an extremely high rate of speed. A witness that the shuttle driver passed shortly before the car crash indicated that he was traveling at the speed limit or slightly faster when the shuttle vehicle “blew my doors off.” The girls implored the driver of the shuttle to stop speeding but he dismissed their concerns saying, “If you don’t hear the tires screeching, you’re not really driving fast enough.” The driver of the shuttle car lost control of the vehicle, and the vehicle was involved in a rollover accident.
The plaintiff was thrown from the vehicle and suffered severe injuries including fractures to her back, broken ribs, a punctured lung and injuries to both carotid arteries. While she eventually almost completely recovered after a long grueling rehabilitation, doctors testified that the injuries to her carotid arteries created bulges in the vessels leaving her especially prone to strokes in the future. While the defense tried to utilize her rigorous rehabilitation efforts to minimize the damages, her rowing coaches indicated that she was not able to completely regain the level of fitness and endurance she had before the wreck.
This case also provides an example of the fundamental role that identifying all possible parties and their insurance coverage can have in the outcome of a personal injury lawsuit. The driver of the shuttle had only $25,000 in insurance coverage while the proven medical bills for the plaintiff’s injuries in the reckless driving auto accident were calculated at $75,000. Without naming the fraternity as a party to the litigation the insurance coverage would have covered no more than a third of the injury victim’s medical bills.
The evidence produced at trial revealed that the only requirements to be a shuttle driver were membership in the fraternity and a driver’s license. There were no measures taken by the fraternal organization or the current fraternity members to confirm that those serving as shuttle drivers had any training nor that there was evidence that they were safe drivers.
If you are sending your kids off to the University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Emory University, Kennesaw State University or any other college or university in Georgia, you should remind your kids about the importance of buckling up, slowing down and avoiding drinking and driving. The Georgia auto accident attorneys at Montlick and Associates have been committed to helping those who are injured or lose a loved one in a Georgia auto accident for over 36 years.
Our Georgia auto accident attorneys are available to assist 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.