DeKalb County Woman Dies in Rear End Accident While Trying to Help Flooded Driver

As a Gwinnett County auto accident lawyer, I was sorry to read in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about how the recent rains claimed their first life Sept. 23. Barbara Jean Smith of DeKalb County was killed after she stopped at Spaghetti Junction to help a driver whose car had spun out on the wet roads. She was out of her vehicle and standing on the ramp from I-85 south to I-285 east when a third driver rear-ended one of the stopped vehicles, pushing the vehicle into Smith and Smith over the edge of the bridge. She fell about 50 feet onto the northbound lanes of I-85, the newspaper said, and died at the scene.

Smith’s three children, ages 19 to 22, describe her as a generous person who was sometimes impulsive in her urge to do good. She may have been acting on impulse when she stopped for the spun-out driver, Donald Sykes of Covington in Metro Atlanta. She had lent Sykes her cell phone and was standing with him on the elevated shoulder of the road when Marcelino Chavez-Lopez rear-ended one of the stopped cars. The crash pushed the stopped car into the two, throwing Smith over the bridge’s railing and leaving Sykes with multiple fractures. Chavez-Lopez is charged with second-degree vehicular homicide, driving without a license and failure to stay in his lane.

I’m sorry to say that, as a Metro Atlanta car wreck attorney, I have long been aware that stopping by the side of the road is not very safe. Drivers who pull into shoulders and breakdown lanes to take care of car trouble or other unavoidable problems are killed far more often than they should be by drivers who drift out of their lanes. In fact, this is such a widespread problem for law enforcement and emergency personnel that Georgia has a Move Over Law requiring motorists to change lanes or slow down when passing emergency vehicles on the side of the highway. Drivers have a legal and moral obligation to be careful at all times, of course, but it’s especially important to slow down and stay aware when passing stopped vehicles on a busy, high-speed highway.

In addition to their grief, Smith’s three children face an uncertain financial future. Her 20-year-old son was out of work and had been staying with her, and her 19-year-old daughter had depended on partial financial support while attending college. Unfortunately, our Georgia motor vehicle accident lawyers routinely meet accident victims with these sorts of financial worries, often because they’ve lost an income right when they start receiving five- or six-figure medical bills and other costs of the accident. Auto insurance from the at-fault party is supposed to cover all of the accident-related costs, but in many cases, insurance companies stonewall or find excuses to deny expensive claims. At the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle, we negotiate aggressively on behalf of these victims and, if necessary, sue to enforce their rights in court.

If you’ve lost a loved one or been seriously injured by a driver who wasn’t paying attention, the Law Offices of P. Charles Scholle can help. To set up a free, confidential evaluation of your case, please contact us through our Web site or call toll-free at 1-866-972-5287.

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