Since 2014, The Champion Firm Trucking Accident attorneys have won over $45 Million for injured Georgians. In February 2020, The Champion Firm won a confidential settlement in a wrongful death case against a Canadian trucking company and its driver who caused a fatal crash when he illegally parked his tractor-trailer on the side of a Georgia interstate.
What Happened? The Georgia Trucking Accident and Wrongful Death:
The truck driver parked the tractor-trailer in the emergency lane on a stretch of I-185 just outside of Columbus, Georgia, so that he could switch driving duties with his co-driver after becoming fatigued. It was dark outside at the time and the area where he parked had no lighting.
Our client’s husband was a truck driver himself. He was driving a gasoline tanker truck when he crashed into the back of the trailer, killing him instantly. The Columbus Police Department investigated the crash and determined that the other tractor-trailer was completely in the emergency lane at the time of impact. The police determined that our client’s husband left the travel lane and entered the emergency lane where he crashed into the trailer.
Before hiring The Champion Firm, our client consulted with multiple lawyers who turned the case down because of the difficulties in proving liability against the defendants. At first glance, the case had numerous issues, including the fact that the Columbus Police determined that our client’s husband caused the wreck by leaving the travel lane.
However, it was clear that the other driver had violated Georgia law (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-203) in using the emergency lane to switch drivers. Georgia law only allows drivers to use emergency lanes for actual emergencies. Changing drivers is not an emergency. Also, the investigating officers had reviewed the other driver’s logbooks and determined he had driven beyond the number of hours that are allowed for drivers under the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations.
The Case: The Champion Firm Process
Despite the numerous challenges in the case, Darl Champion decided to accept the case to try to prove what actually happened in the crash. We hired an accident reconstructionist who determined that the Defendants’ tractor-trailer was partially in the travel lane at the time of impact and that the collision took place in the travel lane. Most notably, there was roadway evidence in the form of tire marks indicating the point of impact was several feet in the travel lane. There was also a fluid dribble pattern from a shock absorber on the Defendants’ trailer that broke during the impact that indicated the trailer was in the roadway. Leaving a vehicle partially in the roadway is dangerous under any circumstances, but it is extremely dangerous in the early morning hours along a dark, desolate stretch of interstate where vehicles are traveling at high speeds.
In 2018, The Champion Firm filed the lawsuit in the State Court of Muscogee County against the Canadian trucking company, the driver, his co-driver, and the insurance company under Georgia Direct Action Statute (this allows plaintiff to name an insurance company as a defendant in a trucking case). The Defendants promptly removed the case to federal court and denied all liability. They vigorously defended the lawsuit for over a year. They hired several experts to prove our client was at fault.
The Champion Firm hired three experts: the accident reconstructionist, an expert on safety rules for truck drivers, and an economist who provided opinions about the expected lifetime earnings for our client’s husband had he not died. After both sides took multiple depositions, the Defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the federal judge to dismiss the lawsuit. The Defendants argued there was not enough evidence to allow a jury to find in our favor, and that under Georgia law the evidence showed our client’s husband was at fault for his own death. The Defendants also filed multiple motions to try to prevent our experts from testifying.
The Outcome: Confidential Settlement for our Clients
Based on all of the evidence we were able to uncover during the discovery process, the federal judge denied the Defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The judge concluded the evidence would allow a jury to find that the Defendants’ negligently used the emergency lane for a non-emergency, and that they left their trailer several feet in the travel lane. After denying their motion, the judge set the case for a pretrial conference. We thoroughly prepared the case for trial, assembled over 100 trial exhibits, and filed numerous pre-trial motions. Shortly before the pretrial conference, the Defendants agreed to settle the case for a confidential sum.
Representing Wrongful Death and Trucking Accident Victims across Georgia
This case demonstrates not only the importance of finding a lawyer who is not afraid to fight for you but also one who has the right skills, knowledge, and experience to prevail in a difficult case. The Champion Firm attorneys are frequently consulted by other lawyers on complex cases and are also contacted by clients who have had other lawyers turn down their cases. We know how to investigate and prove all types of serious injury and wrongful death cases, and we are not afraid to spend the time and money necessary to win.