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Georgia DOT Settles Wrongful Death Lawsuit for $600,000

The family of a woman who was killed during an auto accident on I-85 will receive $600,000 from the Georgia Department of Transportation for their losses. The DOT has also delivered an apology to the family of the victim, Patricia Heller.

In January 2003, Heller, a healthcare consultant, was on her way to work at her employer’s Georgia office when her taxi spun out of control on a rain slicked highway, and crashed into a tree. She died from injuries sustained in the accident. Her husband filed a wrongful death lawsuit that named the Georgia Department of Transportation, city inspectors and others.

The claim against city inspectors was based on the fact that the accident was traced to a bald tire on the taxi, which had cleared inspection just the previous day. The claim against the Georgia Department of Transportation was based on the premise that the highway design of the section where the accident occurred was defective, and that a tree should not have been allowed to grow so close to the road.

A judge in Fulton County ruled that tree clearance was an issue for the city of Hapeville, and not the DOT. However, the judge allowed the defective highway design claim to go forward. Claims against the estate of the taxi driver who has since died, and a former city inspector responsible for inspecting the taxi, will now proceed.

The Georgia DOT not only awarded the family damages, but also apologized for their pain and suffering. It’s not frequent that state transportation agencies apologize for an accident, or even settle. Indeed, the Georgia DOT had delayed a settlement for years, insisting that it had governmental immunity (i.e, sovereign immunity) in this accident. This is, yet another, example of a single car accident which results in a favorable settlement to the passenger based upon a theory of recovery that focuses on the negligence, liability and recovery from third-party tortfeasors other than the driver. Such causes of action often focus on liability of governmental entities (such as the city, county or state) and/or private entities engaged in the design and maintenance of the roadways. While this case involves the recovery for the passenger of a taxi, other successful cases under this theory of recovery have involved substantial settlements for the drivers of cars involved in single-car wrecks or bicyclists or pedestrians injured on roadways which did not involve trucks or automobiles, but which rather focused on the unsafe design and construction of the roadway.

Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.