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Serious Injury by Vehicle in Georgia
Last week, in our ongoing discussion of negligence per se, we talked about how this versatile legal concept applies to cases of homicide by vehicle, as defined in OCGA 40-6-393. This week, we’ll have a look at a related statute, OCGA 40-6-394, which covers serious injury by vehicle. Importantly, this article is not meant to help educate people who have been charged with serious injury by vehicle. It is instead intended for people who were victims of another driver’s poor decisions. We will go through the rules that apply in Georgia and what to expect in a civil lawsuit against the driver or his estate.
First, let’s review negligence per se. Ordinarily, in order to establish negligence in civil court, one has to prove that the defendant not only caused the injuries in question, but did so as a result of behaving in a way a reasonable person wouldn’t.
Negligence per se helps with this by simplifying the oft-debatable concept of reasonableness. Under negligence per se, breaking any kind of safety rule is considered inherently unreasonable, meaning that anyone who hurts someone else by breaking a safety rule is automatically liable for the damages.
All the rules of the road count as safety rules, so let’s dive into how this applies to OCGA 40-6-394.
What Counts as a Serious Injury?
Like reasonableness, seriousness can be pretty subjective in some contexts, but in the case of serious injury by vehicle, it’s fairly well-defined. A serious injury is one that causes permanent disfigurement or loss of function in one or more of the victim’s body parts.
Whoever, without malice, shall cause bodily harm to another by depriving him of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof useless through the violation of Code Section 40-6-390 or 40-6-391 shall be guilty of the crime of serious injury by vehicle.
This might happen, for example, in the form of amputation, severe scarring, or damage to the nervous system.
When Can a Person Be Charged with Serious Injury by Vehicle?
For someone to be charged with serious injury by vehicle, that person must, first of all, have caused a traffic collision that led to a serious injury for someone else. There are a couple of other requirements as well. The collision must have been accidental — an intentional collision would carry different charges, such as assault with a deadly weapon — and it must have happened while the at-fault driver was intoxicated (violating OCGA 40-6-391) or driving recklessly (violating OCGA 40-6-390).
Unfortunately, accidents do sometimes happen that have catastrophic consequences, in spite of all parties being relatively careful drivers. That’s why the reason for the accident, as well as the severity of the injuries, must be taken into account. Not driving recklessly or under the influence is the very least we should all be able to expect of each other on the road, and OCGA 40-6-394 reflects this standard.
Consequences of Serious Injury by Vehicle
Serious injury by vehicle is a felony, and it carries a prison sentence of 1-15 years.
A person convicted under this Code section shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than 15 years.
In addition, the at-fault driver is civilly liable for the victim’s losses under negligence per se.
What Damages Can You Recover as a Survivor of Serious Injury by Vehicle?
If you’ve been permanently injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, and the other driver was intoxicated or reckless, you’re entitled to full compensation for both your financial and emotional losses. These two categories of loss are known in civil law as “special damages” and “general damages.”
Financial Losses = Special Damages
Special damages are, intuitively, the easier type of damages to put a dollar value on, but they can still be tricky in a few important ways. Firstly, not all of your financial losses will come in the form of bills with easy-to-tally-up numbers on them. Some of your losses will likely be items you already owned, like your car, which will have to be appraised. Lost income also counts, so you’ll need do calculate what you would have been paid for any missed work time. Secondly, your special damages total shouldn’t just cover the money you’ve already lost but also the money you will lose due to the accident for the rest of your life. If you’re going to need ongoing medical care, or if you won’t be able to go back to your old employment, this can take some guesswork to make sure you’re covered for the long haul. Finally, in addition to demonstrating the financial damage you’ve suffered, you’ll need to prove that this damage is the direct or proximate result of the negligent driver’s actions. The Wetherington Law Firm can help you with each of these steps. To learn more, click here.
Emotional Losses = General Damages
Serious, permanent injuries affect so much more than your finances. If you’ve recently suffered an amputation, disfigurement, spinal cord injury, or brain injury, you’re likely going through an intense grieving process and struggling to adjust to a different lifestyle. You might be facing losses or changes in your hobbies, career goals, relationships, sexuality, and even identity. While they may not have defined dollar values, these kinds of losses deserve to be acknowledged too, and a monetary settlement is the best way the law has of doing that. While a general damages settlement won’t restore your lost function, it will make sure you and your family have the freedom to adjust in comfort and at your own pace, and for some, it provides a sense of justice and closure. The Wetherington Law Firm is experienced at making our clients’ pain understood and fighting for fair consideration for these priceless losses.
What If the Serious Injuries Cost the Victim Their Life?
If a reckless or intoxicated driver causes a death, the charge becomes homicide by vehicle instead of serious injury by vehicle, or perhaps both if there are multiple victims. If you’re looking for justice for a deceased loved one, that case would be one of wrongful death rather than personal injury. To learn more about the rules for wrongful death cases and how the Wetherington Law Firm can help, click here.
Why Do I Need a Lawyer?
In addition to helping with the complex process of calculating and proving the extent of your losses, a good lawyer can also take some of the most stressful and difficult tasks off your shoulders, to give you more space to heal and adjust. For example, after a serious car accident, you will usually be contacted by the other driver’s insurance company. This communication may start out seemingly friendly and helpful, but if you refuse to accept a smaller settlement than you’re owed, it can quickly turn hostile and invasive. You may be verbally attacked, lied to, blamed for the accident, or told that no one will believe you. Some insurance representatives will also take advantage of your legal inexperience and try to trick you into saying something that will hurt your case, making interacting with them dangerous as well as unpleasant. When you work with the Wetherington Law Firm, we handle these kinds of calls for you, protecting both your case and your peace of mind.
How to Hire the Best Car Wreck Lawyers in Atlanta
At the Wetherington Law Firm, we understand that you’re looking for legal representation as a way of safeguarding your financial future. You’re probably going through a difficult time financially as well as emotionally, and budgeting for legal fees may not be an option.
Sadly, many cases are determined according to which side can afford to drag proceedings on for longer, and we aim to correct this injustice wherever we can.
That’s why we work on a contingency basis. We take clients based solely on the merits of their cases, and we fight for them for as long as it takes, without hourly fees. Only when we win do we accept a percentage of our clients’ settlements. That’s our only payment; if we can’t win for you, we don’t charge.
To talk to a lawyer about your case today, just pick up the phone at 404-888-4444 or reach out through the form on the right for your free consultation.
The Wetherington Law Firm Supports Those Working to Change the World for the Better
Do you want something more than financial compensation for your accident? Are you looking for a way to prevent the same thing from happening to someone else? If you believe your injuries are the result of some deeper, underlying problem, the Wetherington Law Firm can help you use your case to find a solution. For example, if the negligent driver was served too many drinks in a local establishment, we’ll look into their designated driver policies. If your injuries wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for a safety feature failing in one of the vehicles, we’ll push for a manufacturer’s recall. To learn more about the changes we’ve helped our clients make for the protection of others, just reach out and ask.