The attorneys at the Law Office of Terrence R. Bethune recently scored a major victory on behalf of a female client injured in a car accident. The client was injured while driving on a local roadway when another driver failed to yield before entering the highway and struck the client’s motor vehicle with his own. As a result of the accident, the client sustained severe back injuries, resulting in medical bills and other compensable losses. Without needing to endure the time, cost, or stress of protracted litigation, our attorneys were able to secure $311,000 for the client through a settlement with the other driver’s insurance company. Indeed, our client has now obtained a substantial recovery without the risks associated with a jury trial.
However, even if litigation had been necessary, our client stood in a solid position to be victorious on her claim. Unsurprisingly, failing to yield is prohibited under Georgia law. Specifically, such negligent driving is proscribed by O.C.G.A. § 40-6-73, which provides “[t]he driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a roadway from any place other than another roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles approaching on the roadway to be entered or crossed.” When conduct leading to an injury is specially prohibited by an law or ordinance, an injured party need not prove all the standard elements of a negligence claim. Instead, a plaintiff may successfully assert his or her claim by, alternatively, proving negligence per se, which does not require a plaintiff to prove that the defendant breached his or her duty of reasonable care, since failure to adhere to a law designed to protect the public from injury is per se negligent.
Negligence per se under Georgia law is generally set forth in O.C.G.A. § 51-1-6, which states, “[w]hen the law requires a person to perform an act for the benefit of another or to refrain from doing an act which may injure another, although no cause of action is given in express terms, the injured party may recover for the breach of such legal duty if he suffers damage thereby.” To have a negligence per se instruction issued to a jury, the plaintiff must further show the following: 1) “[he or she] falls within the class of persons [the law] was intended to protect”; and 2) “the harm complained of was the harm the statute was intended to guard against.” Norman v. Jones Lang Lasalle Americas, Inc., 277 Ga. App. 621, 627-628 (2) (b) (627 SE2d 382) (2006).
Given that failing to yield is explicitly prohibited by a law intended, as evidence by its terms, to protect other drivers and avoid harm likely to arise from a motor vehicle collision, successfully asserting negligence per se would likely have been a straightforward endeavor. Indeed, negligence per se is commonly invoked in failure to yield cases. See, e.g., Edmond v. Roberson, 207 Ga.App. 101, 102-103(2), 427 S.E.2d 74 (1993) (holding that it is reversible error to not instruct a jury on negligence per se when evidence presented at trial showed the defendant violated OCGA § 40-6-70). However, even if for some reason a negligence per se instruction was unavailable, the client in this case was also in a strong position to successfully prove standard negligence, since a jury would likely determine that a reasonable driver would not have failed to yield when entering a roadway.
Notwithstanding our client’s likelihood of success on the merits, the settlement has given her more immediate recovery for her injuries. For those considering legal action to redress injuries resulting form the negligence of another, it is important to find counsel experienced in settlement negotiations, since there are undeniable benefits associated with avoiding a protracted legal battle. The Atlanta motor vehicle accident attorneys at the Law Office of Terrence R. Bethune have considerable experience with negotiating settlements with defendants and their motor vehicle insurers and can provide the assistance you may need. If you’ve recently been injured in a motor vehicle accident and are interested in learning more about your options, do not hesitate to contact us for a free case consultation.