Good Georgia personal injury lawyers are needed whenever you have complicated legal issues concerning automobile accidents and other vehicle crashes.
These legal issues are not always as straightforward as they may seem. For example, just last year, the Georgia courts faced a question as to what does the law say if the meaning of the term “accident” in an automobile liability insurance policy if it is not expressly defined, and how do you determine if there was one accident or two when an insured vehicle struck one claimant and then very shortly thereafter struck another?
In 2010, in the case of STATE AUTO PROPERTY AND CASUALTY COMPANY v. MATTY et al. 286 Ga. 611 (2010), the Georgia Supreme Court decided the answers to these questions.
Here, a vehicle driven by the insured struck a bicyclist, killing him, and then struck a second bicyclist, seriously injuring him. An accident reconstruction expert testified that, assuming the insured traveled at a constant speed of 55 miles per hour, it would have taken her just over a second to travel between the two bicyclists.
The insurance company argued that this incident constituted one accident and that under the policy, it was responsible for providing only a single $ 100,000 limit of coverage; the policy contained a liability limit for bodily injury of $ 100,000 for all damages resulting from any one auto accident, regardless of the number of insureds, claims, and vehicles in the policy declaration or involved in the accident.
In order to answer these questions, the Georgia Supreme Court adopted the cause theory for use in liability insurance cases in Georgia, whereby courts looked to whether, after the cause of an initial collision, a driver regained control of the vehicle before a subsequent collision, so that it could be said that there was a second intervening cause and therefore a second accident.
The outcome of the case is that the Court concluded that the meaning of the term “accident,” when not otherwise defined in setting limits of liability, should be determined using the cause theory. The court held that this theory applied to the insurance contract at issue in this case and returned the case to the district court with directions to resolve the case by applying the cause theory to the facts of the case.
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