Court Allows Non-Expert Witness to Estimate Speed in Georgia Motorcycle Accident Lawsuit

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from a Georiga motorcycle accident. Tragically, the motorcyclist died from injuries he suffered after colliding with a car. The motorcyclist’s representatives filed a negligence and wrongful death lawsuit against two of the car’s occupants, however, a trial jury found in favor of the defendants. The plaintiffs filed a motion for a new trial and a subsequent appeal based on the fact that the trial court inappropriately allowed a non-expert witness to testify to the motorcyclist’s speed. Further, they argued that the trial court should have declared a mistrial after testimony that the motorcyclist would have been cited for driving under the influence of methamphetamines, if he survived the accident.

At trial, the defendants presented several witnesses that testified that based on the sound of the biker’s engine, they believed that he was traveling around 80 to 100 miles per hour. The plaintiffs argued that the testimony was inadmissible because the witnesses did not see the biker. Under, OCGA section 24-7-701, non-expert witness testimony must be:

  • Rationally based on the witness’s perception,
  • Helpful in determining a fact in issue or to a clear understanding of their testimony; and
  • Not based on scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge.

In cases where speed is an issue, a non-expert witness testimony is appropriate when he testifies to the facts upon which he drew his opinion. Courts have held that witnesses can lawfully testify to their opinions of traffic signals, speed, and stopping distances between vehicles.

In this case, the eyewitnesses explained that their opinions stem from their experience riding, hearing, and seeing motorcycles, including the plaintiff’s bike on the day of the accident. Further, they testified that they saw the high rate of speed and way the biker passed their vehicles on the day of the accident.

Georgia courts have found that witnesses may testify to speed by citing the noise a vehicle made while in motion and the sound it made upon braking and impact. Additionally, witnesses may support their opinions by testifying to a vehicle’s condition upon impact, even if they did not see the vehicle in motion. In these cases, absent abuse of discretion, if a witness establishes their basis for forming and expressing their opinion, the trial court’s decision will not be disturbed. Ultimately, the appellate court found that the expert witness testimony was well-founded that the weight of the estimates was a decision to be determined by the jury.

Have You Suffered Injuries in a Georgia Motorcycle Accident?

If you or someone you know has suffered injuries in a Georgia car accident, contact the dedicated and experienced attorneys at McAleer Law. The attorneys at our law firm have extensive experience handling all types of personal injury lawsuits across Georgia. We have recovered substantial compensation on behalf of our clients for damages related to their medical expenses, lost wages, property damage, and pain and suffering. Car accident cases require a comprehensive understanding of Georgia’s personal injury laws, and you deserve an attorney with the experience and dedication necessary to get you the result you want. Contact us for a free consultation at 404-622-5337.

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