We try to get there fast, at what price!
As we go through our daily lives, the concentration is usually on rushing to the next thing and not on getting there safely.
When you are driving too fast, the likelihood of an accident increases. To avoid a trucking accident in Atlanta, it is important to maintain reasonable speed on highways where trucks are present. And if you have been involved in a truck accident, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced Atlanta injury attorney to help get you the award necessary to help pay for medical bills, rehabilitation and other out-of-pocket expenses.
Fairchild v. South Carolina Department of Transportation is a recent trucking accident case out of South Carolina. In this case the court looked to the issues surrounding damage awards for negligence in trucking accidents.
There was a South Carolina Department of Transportation (SCDOT) driver who was driving a dump truck with an attached rear trailer. In an attempt to make a u-turn on a highway, the driver merged into the median of the highway. Because of the length of the dump truck and the attached trailer, the rear of the trailer stuck out into the left traffic lane on the highway. Fairchild (plaintiff) was driving in that left lane on the highway. Upon seeing the trailer in the road, the plaintiff slammed on her brakes to avoid an accident. In doing this, a truck that was behind the plaintiff driven by Palmer (Defendant), crashed into plaintiff. As this was also a truck with a rear trailer attached, the force of this crash caused the plaintiff’s minivan to flip over and roll onto the median of the highway. Plaintiff suffered serious injuries and property damage.
Plaintiff sued SCDOT and Palmer. Upon signing a covenant not to sue with the SCDOT, Plaintiff continued her negligence lawsuit against Palmer. She sought actual damages for her property damage and physical injuries, as well as punitive damages.
The court in this case heard the appeal by the plaintiff because of the lower courts failure to instruct a jury as to punitive damages.
There are several different types of damages awarded in personal injury cases. The main types of damages are compensatory damages, often referred to as actual damages. These damages are awarded to compensate a victim for injury, property damage and/or harm suffered. On the other hand, punitive damages are awarded in cases where the defendant’s actions were so egregious, malicious or reckless as to inspire the court to punish them. These types of damages were created to have a deterrent effect on the public at large.
The court in this case looks to statute and case precedent to guide its decision. Where punitive damages are sought, the jury is responsible for the decision of whether to award these damages. However, it is the responsibility of the judge to give the jury instructions as to the proof necessary and the way to quantify these damages. Because the lower court failed to instruct the jury regarding this type of damages, this South Carolina court reminds the state courts of procedural policy.
Additionally, this court analyzed the rules that are essential when determining the application of the damages. Every driver has a duty to drive as a reasonably prudent person in similar circumstance. Statute also indicates that in order to act reasonably as a driver, you are not to speed or follow another vehicle too closely. This is a duty of care imputed on all drivers.
Where a driver fails to drive at a reasonable speed or follows too closely behind another vehicle, reckless, willful or wonton conduct is inferred. Where this conduct is inferred, punitive damages are appropriate.
Thus, this court held that the jury is responsible for making this decision although the law surrounding standards must be set by the judge. See more on this website