Have you ever seen road rage occur while are you driving on the roads of Georgia? It is not uncommon in Atlanta and is usually demonstrated by creative finger gestures, motorists following another bumper to bumper for an extended period of time or vocal comments out the window toward another motorist. Sometime these actions result in automobile crashes – but at least the motorists are protected by seat belts, air bags and steel. Now, consider road rage between a bicyclist and a motorist. By most standards, the bicyclist has little protection except a helmet. Can you imagine an intentional collision by a motorist upon a bicyclist? I would think the end result isn’t pretty and usually involves a serious injury to the bicyclist.
On June 9, 2014, our imagination became reality for one Greg Germani, a 50-year-old bicyclist in Atlanta, who was the apparent victim of road rage by a motorist intending to hurt, harm and hit the biker. The impact occurred in Morningside, an area of in-town Atlanta that is well known for leafy streets and attractive homes. Witnesses have stated that there was a verbal altercation between Mr. Germani and the unknown motorist moments before the collision and that Mr. Germani was found underneath a silver SUV after the impact.
As of the date of this blog, the driver of the red Dodge Nitro SUV that collided with Mr. Germani is unknown and still at large. However, a red Dodge Nitro that matched the description of the vehicle involved in this crime has been located which exhibits evidence of property damage (possibly front and right side) consistent with a collision with Mr. Germani and his bike. This vehicle has been impounded. The police should be able to determine ownership of this vehicle by a VIN and tag search. Unless this vehicle was stolen, I would imagine that the owner of this vehicle will be subject to thorough examination by the police. And, the search continues for the driver…
It has been reported that Mr. Germani has been released from the intensive care unit at Grady Hospital where he was in critical condition and has been moved to Kindred Hospital, a post acute care facility, for further evaluation and treatment. Germani’s family hopes to relocate Mr. Germani to the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, which is a noted medical facility known worldwide for its brain, spinal treatment and rehabilitation. Due to state and federal privacy laws, Mr. Germani’s exact medical condition is unknown. Yet, one can safely assume that he suffered either a closed head and/or a spinal injury due to this crash. For his sake and the sake of his family, we certainly hope that he recovers fully.
This incident has both criminal and civil implications. First, the Atlanta Police Department considers this crash as an aggravated assault against Mr. Germani. In fact, surveillance video has been located that shows the Red Nitro SUV following after Mr. Germani and then fleeing the scene of the collision in the opposite direction without rendering aid, contacting the police/ EMS or identifying himself/herself to Mr. Germani.
As stated in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the police consider the incident the product of an aggravated assault. Under Georgia law, the unknown motorist may be convicted of aggravated assault, a felony subject to imprisonment one to 20 years, as the motorist used a dangerous instrument (motor vehicle) with intent to murder that caused serious bodily injury to the bicyclist. Despite a change in Georgia biking laws, no law could stop a criminal from causing harm to a bicyclist.
From a civil perspective, the unknown motorist would be liable for causing bodily injury, pain and suffering and medical bills for the treatment and rehabilitation of Mr. Germani. In a serious bicycle collision, bills for a serious spine or brain (closed head) injury could be in the hundreds of thousands. Typically, the auto insurer for the motorist would pay the injured an amount under the auto insurance policy. However, most auto policies exclude any damage or injury that was caused intentionally and/or the result of a crime. So, could the injured bicyclist be without recourse. It is possible that Mr. Germani’s auto insurer could be in play if Mr. Germani had uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) bodily injury coverage and the policy language covers this incident. It almost behooves Mr. Germani if the at fault motorist is convicted of an unintentional negligent crime versus intentional crime so that the motorist’s auto insurance policy can arguable be in play.
I have handled auto/bicycle collision cases in the past that have caused serious brain and spinal damage where settlements have been in the seven digits. Unless the UM policy of the bicyclist has a high policy limit (several hundred thousand or a million and over) and is applicable, then it would probably be of little to no benefit. I sincerely hope that Mr. Germani has sound and adequate medical insurance as no amount of money can cure serious brain and/or spinal injuries and the residual functional/cognitive/lifestyle impairments and restrictions. Truly, these injuries can profoundly change a person’s life.
The Law Offices of Kevin C. Ford is currently accepting bicyclist accident and collision cases throughout Georgia. If you or a loved one has been injured on a bicycle as the result of the negligence of a motorist, then please contact an experienced bicycle injury attorney for a free consultation to document and preserve evidence and present your claim in a competent and timely fashion. We have over 20 years experience and practice throughout the State of Georgia and can come to you. Please call 404-869-6969 or use our toll free number (855) LAW-FORD to secure your rights today!