Legal News & Updates

Where can I bring a lawsuit if there is a Georgia resident and non-resident involved in the car accident?

People come to visit Georgia from all parts of the county, especially the south-east, so there are many non-residents traveling on Georgia roads. Car accidents inevitably occur between Georgia residents and people visiting out of town. So the question arises: “Where can I bring a lawsuit if I am involved in a car accident with both a Georgia resident and an out-of-state driver?”

It’s a great question, and there’s a relatively simple answer…., but first things first, we need to explain the concept of venue. Venue basically means the specific circuit, i.e. county or counties,  or if we are talking about federal court the judicial district, where a person can file a lawsuit. From a practical perspective, venue is one of the most important considerations in a case. Some places in Georgia are very conservative, which is good if you are a defendant, and other parts are much more liberal and tend to award larger amounts in personal injury cases.

For people that have been involved in a car accident with a driver from Georgia and a driver from another state, Georgia law has a specific statute on the books to deal with this situation. It’s O.C.G.A. 9-10-93 — PERSONAL JURISDICTION OVER NON-RESIDENTS (Venue). The statute itself is rather long and a bit wordy, but we should be able to boil it down to its component parts. Let’s give it a try:

Venue […] shall lie in any county wherein […]  the tortious act, omission, or injury occurred […]. Where an action is brought against a resident of this state, any nonresident of this state who is involved in the same […] occurrence […] may be joined as a defendant in the county where a resident defendant is suable.

So at the very core, this statute means that a non-resident can be sued in the same county as the Georgia resident. Take this example:

Driver 1 is from Georgia and lives in Fulton County. Driver 2 is from Minnesota. Driver 1 and Driver 2 are both careless and run into Driver 3 in Gwinnett County. Driver 3 can sue Driver 2 in Fulton County.

Keep in mind too, a Georgia resident can be sued in the county where the car accident took place, but that person has a right to transfer it to the county of their residence within 45 days of service. That’s a topic for another day though!

One other quick thing to point out about this statute. If the case against the Georgia defendant resolves, and the out-of-state driver’s case is still pending then the venue can change. Let’s look back at our example:

Driver 3 settles with Driver 1. The case can then be transferred from Fulton to Gwinnett County.

While this change may not seem all that important from a technical perspective, it has a very real impact on cases and should always be considered if the other venue is more favorable to your client.

As always, thanks for taking the time to read our blog, and feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about automobile accidents in Georgia. My direct number is (404) 566-8964 or you can always send an e-mail to me at kevin@patricktriallaw.com.

Did you know: Georgia law allows for a lawsuit directly against an insurance company after a trucking accident?

Georgia law generally bars a jury hearing about the presence of, or lack of insurance in automobile accidents cases. It’s grounds for a mistrial, which means that the parties have to start the trial all over again with a new jury. The reason: An automobile accident (or just about any other case) should be tried on the merits as opposed insurance coverage, etc. As a practical matter, we all realize that insurance does play a role in cases, but still be very careful about mentioning it…EXCEPT in truck wreck cases:

The statute is O.C.G.A. § 40-1-112, and it’s referred to as “The Direct Action Statute.” We’ll save you from having to parse though all of it because it’s very long, but here is the basic parts:

(c)  It shall be permissible under this part for any person having a cause of action arising under this part to join in the same action the motor carrier and the insurance carrier, whether arising in tort or contract.

FYI — We’ve put it in bold to make it a bit easier to read and, hopefully, understand for everyone.

Remember though, there are some exceptions for accidents in Georgia so let’s briefly touch on a few of them (and they may seem pretty obvious too):

  • School busses; Taxi cabs; Hotel shuttles; Non-Profit vans with a capacity of 15 or less; and, Government vans/trucks.

“So what does this mean from a practical perspective if you’ve been injured in a trucking accident here in Georgia?” That’s a common question we get — This answer could go on for ever, but let’s consider one really important point: A jury hearing about an insurance company along with the trucking company and probably the driver too helps them to understand truly the seriousness of the accident and the heightened duties for commercial carriers. It’s a lot different than a typical automobile accident case that just involves another individual. As a practical perspective, again, the insurance company and the commercial truck company is less sympathetic of a defendant(s), especially when juxtaposed to a real person that has been hurt because of their collective negligence.

A quick little legal pointer too: A jury will not get to hear about the excess carriers, i.e. if there are several levels of insurance. This situation is pretty common in truck accidents because the trucking companies will have several lawyers of insurance coverage. For example, the mandatory minimum insurance a commercial truck must carry is $750,000 (everyday drivers just have keep $25,000 in at-fault insurance). Oftentimes, we will see one or even two umbrella insurance policies with a range of several million dollars. If you want to read the actual case, it’s Werner Enterprises, Inc. v. Stanton, et al. 302 Ga. App. 25 (2010).

We hope you found this blog post useful, and as always, feel free to reach out to us if you have any questions about truck accidents in Georgia, but we sure hope you don’t need to because that means you or a loved one has been hurt in a wreck. Tucking accidents are complicated cases so make sure you are not alone. We’ve handled numerous truck wreck cases throughout Georgia and can be reached at kevin@patricktriallaw.com or directly at (404) 566-8964.