Driver alleged to have been DUI
According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, a charter bus from Gwinnett County crashed and overturned today on its way to the Masters in Augusta, Georgia. The story reports that there were 18 passengers on board and several were taken to the hospital. Fortunately, it appears the injuries were not life threatening. The driver of the bus was alleged to have been a DUI driver at the time of the incident. As a Gwinnett County personal injury and wrongful death attorney who handles cases throughout the State of Georgia, this sad incident brings up several legal issues regarding the rights of the injured.
Federal Law Requires Minimum Insurance for a Bus with this Number of Passengers
Knowing that the bus was one which carried 16 or more passengers, under Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Subtitle B, Chapter III, Subchapter B, Subpart C, § 387.303 the owner/operator was required to maintain a minimum of $5,000,000 in insurance liability coverage. Hopefully, none of the non-life threatening injuries were catastrophic.
If even one person received a catastrophic injury such as paralysis, if the company had bare minimum coverage that one claim could take up all the liability coverage available. For this reason, it is very important for anyone injured in such an accident to seek an attorney immediately to assert his or her claim before policy limits are potentially exhausted.
Additionally, evidence can be collected and preserved the sooner an attorney gets to work on the case. Motor carriers and their insurance companies get to work immediately to reduce their exposure. Spoliation letters to preserve evidence and the right to inspect evidence are important tools for a plaintiff's lawyer.
Punitive Damages at Issue with DUI Allegation under Georgia Law
Another part of this case is that the driver of the bus was charged with DUI. As this blog post is based on the news report linked in the first sentence of the post I must stress that the DUI charge is an allegation only and everyone charged with a crime s presumed innocent until proven guilty. However, should a personal injury lawyer have facts to prove this allegation, punitive damages will be at issue in the case.
Under Georgia law, when a defendant was negligent while "under the influence of alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired," punitive damages with no cap or limit can be sought. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f). In other words, if a DUI is proven the plaintiffs are not limited to $250,000 in punitive damages as is the case with many other tort cases in Georgia.
Let's all hope these passengers recover to good health.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a bus wreck, DUI wreck, truck wreck, or any other type of auto accident, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation.
Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.