Obviously, driving on the wrong side of the road and causing an accident is negligence, regardless of where you are driving and regardless of the reason that you are driving on the wrong side of the road. In Georgia, a negligent driver was sentenced to 10 years in prison for this negligence. According to the AJC article, the driver in this case caused serious harm and resulted in the long prison sentence after his car hit another car head-on, causing a five-car pile-up, while other victims were treated for minor injuries in the wreck. The driver pleaded guilty to two counts of serious injury by vehicle and one count of reckless driving. He will be on probation for five years after his prison term ends. This situation involved a terrible crash that has changed a family’s life forever. The seriousness of the situation cannot be overstated.
The maximum sentence for serious injury by vehicle is 15 years in prison. However, the 10-year sentence was apparently agreed to by the district attorneys’ office (“DA”), the family of the victim and the defendant. Driving on the wrong side of the road on an interstate (in this case I-75) is so negligent that one wonders if it rises to the conscious indifference to the life and welfare of others which is one of the inquiry’s a civil court would make to help determine if punitive damages might be appropriate in a civil case under similar circumstances. While the public is convinced that juries routinely award massive sums as punitive damages. The truth is that punitive damages are very seldom awarded. Punitive damages are requested in approximately 1000 Georgia tort cases each year, but are awarded in only a small percentage of those cases. The law in Georgia limits punitive damages to a particular purpose: “Punitive damages shall be awarded not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant.” The actual language in the Georgia code is found in O.C.G.A. Sec. 51-12-5.1(c) and says, “punitive damages may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.” O.C.G.A. Sec. 51-12-5.1(b). In most cases Georgia law caps punitive damages at $250,000. O.C.G.A. Sec. 51-12-5.1(g). However, punitive damages are not capped in two noteworthy instances: (1) where the jury finds that the defendant acted or failed to act “with the specific intent to cause harm,” and where (2) the defendant acted or failed to act under the influence of alcohol or drugs “to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired,” but “such damages shall not be the liability of any defendant other than an active tortfeasor.” O.C.G.A. Sec. 51-12-5.1(f).
Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits 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 in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, 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 and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.