East Cobb Car Accident Verdict Reversed Based on Judge’s Failure to Instruct Georgia Jury on Defendant’s Lack-of-Knowledge Defense

Our East Cobb County attorneys work on a variety of car accident injury cases every week and one of the frequent questions is “if the other driver got a ticket, how can they dispute liability?
Earlier this year, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case discussing the doctrine of negligence per se, as well as a trial court’s obligation to instruct the jury on the law of the case.

Steering WheelIn Georgia personal injury cases, negligence per se is a doctrine that allows the plaintiff to more easily establish that a defendant violated a duty of care. The doctrine requires the plaintiff to establish that the defendant violated a statute, the purpose of which was to protect against the very type of harm suffered by the plaintiff.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a car accident when the defendant’s vehicle, which was traveling in the opposite direction, crossed the center median and crashed into the plaintiff’s car. The plaintiff then filed a personal injury case against the defendant, claiming the defendant knowingly operated the vehicle while it was unsafe.

In response, the defendant claimed that he had a new steering kit installed by a local mechanic the week before and that the car drove normally until the day of the accident, when the steering suddenly went out. The plaintiff then added the mechanic as a defendant, and the case proceeded to trial.

At trial, the defendant testified, explaining to the jury that he had recently replaced the steering kit and that the car operated normally until immediately before the accident. The plaintiff presented expert testimony supporting her claims of negligence and negligence per se. Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that the defendant violated several statutes by knowingly operating an unsafe vehicle and that she was injured as a result of the defendant’s violation of these statutes.

The defendant requested that the jury be instructed that, in order to find him liable, the jury must first determine that the defendant knew he was operating an unsafe vehicle. The trial court rejected the defendant’s request, finding that it “unnecessarily complicate[d]” the issues. The jury ended up returning a verdict in favor of the plaintiff, and the defendant appealed.

On appeal, the case was reversed. The appellate court held that the lower court erred when it failed to instruct the jury on the defendant’s defense that he was not aware he was operating an unsafe vehicle. The court explained that the defendant appropriately raised the defense in his pleadings and presented evidence supporting the defense through his testimony. That being the case, the court held that the defendant met his burden of establishing the defense, and it was properly before the jury. Thus, the lower court was required to instruct the jury on the law applicable to the defense, and failing to do so was a reversible error.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. Attorney Christopher M. Simon is a dedicated Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney with extensive experience handling a wide range of Georgia injury claims. Attorney Simon provides free consultations for accident victims and their families, in which he can explain how he can help them recover compensation for the injuries they have sustained. To learn more about the law as it applies to your case, and how Attorney Simon can help you pursue the financial compensation you deserve, call 404-259-7635 to schedule your free consultation. Calling is free, and you will not be billed unless we are able to help you recover the compensation you deserve.

Read More:

Georgia Appellate Court Discusses Recreational-Use Statute in Recent Premises Liability Case, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published May 22, 2018

In a Georgia Slip and Fall Case, Testimony Turns the Tide, Atlanta Injury Attorney Blog, published April 23, 2018