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All Georgia employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This provides medical and wage replacement benefits to employees who are injured in the course of their employment. For example, if you are in a car accident while driving a company-owned vehicle to make a sales call, you would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

What happens when your employer’s insurance company is insolvent, i.e., it cannot pay out your claim? In that case, the Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool takes over. This is a nonprofit entity that effectively steps into the shoes of the insolvent insurer and pays any outstanding workers’ compensation claims.

Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool v. Dubose

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Georgia follows what is known as “modified comparative fault” in personal injury cases. What does this mean? Well, let us say you are involved in an auto accident with another vehicle. You later sue the other driver for damages. If a jury ultimately determines that the other driver was 80% at-fault, that means you are 20% at-fault. You could still recover damages under this scenario, but your award would be reduced by 20% to account for your own “comparative fault.”

So, what happens if the jury decides you are both equally at-fault, i.e., you were both 50% responsible? In that case, you recover nothing. Georgia’s comparative fault law prohibits a plaintiff from taking anything in a personal injury lawsuit if he or she is found 50% or more at-fault.

Barrett v. Burnette

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We have all heard the famous police warning, “You have the right to remain silent.” It is a bedrock principle of constitutional law: No person can be compelled to testify against him or herself in a criminal proceeding. What about a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury claim, arising from a potential criminal act? How does the Fifth Amendment affect a victim’s ability to seek compensation?

U-Haul Company of Arizona v. Rutland

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a case dealing with these issues. In U-Haul Company of Arizona v. Rutland, a widow sued multiple parties, alleging they were responsible for her husband’s death in an October 2015 car accident. To be more specific, a drunk driver operating a rented U-Haul truck crossed a center line and hit the victim’s car in a head-on collision. Police subsequently arrested the driver and charged him with vehicular homicide and DUI, among other charges.

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Personal injury claims against Georgia state officials are subject to a special set of constitutional and statutory rules. According to the Georgia Constitution, the General Assembly “may waive the state’s sovereign immunity” by law in cases in which an individual employee negligently injures someone. But “except as specifically provided” by such a waiver, the Constitution says, no public employee can be held liable for “the performance or nonperformance of their official functions.”

What does this mean, practically speaking? Basically, you can not sue an employee for exercising his or her own discretion in the performance of a job. You can, however, sue an employee who fails to carry out a legally mandated (or “ministerial”) task.

Wyno v. Lowndes County

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When your child is seriously injured due to an apparently defective consumer product, you rightfully want to seek justice against the companies responsible for bringing the dangerous item to market. Under Georgia law, there are a number of possible legal theories to support a product liability claim. Of course, the facts of each particular case will dictate which theories are applicable.

Morgan v. Dick’s Sporting Goods, Inc.

For example, a federal judge in Gainesville recently denied most of a motion to dismiss a product liability lawsuit arising from injuries sustained by a minor child due to an allegedly defective bow-and-arrow set. According to the plaintiffs, the child’s parents, they purchased the set from a popular sporting goods retailer in Gainesville. The lawsuit alleges that a retail salesperson “assisted” the plaintiffs in selecting the particular bow-and-arrow set at issue.

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Back in 2017, we discussed a personal injury lawsuit dismissed by the Georgia Court of Appeals. The case involved a Georgia defendant and Michigan plaintiffs, but the underlying subject of the plaintiffs’ personal claim arose during their vacation in the Dominican Republic. The Court of Appeals determined the Dominican courts were the proper venue to resolve the plaintiffs’ allegations. But the plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia, which reversed the Court of Appeals in a judgment issued on February 4 of this year.

La Fontaine v. Signature Research, Inc.

To briefly review the facts of the case. The plaintiffs are a married couple. During their Dominican vacation, the wife was injured during a fall from a collapsed zip-line operated by a company known as CSA. The plaintiffs’ subsequently filed a personal injury claim in Georgia state court against a second company, Signature Research, that was responsible for inspecting and certifying CSA’s zip lines.

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Car accidents often leave victims with lifelong injuries that never fully heal. When these accidents are the result of negligence, the victim has every right to pursue a personal injury claim in court. But what happens when the negligent party is an employee of the federal government?

Rodriguez-Densley v. United States

This was precisely the scenario confronted by a federal judge in Macon during a recent case, Rodriguez-Densley v. United States. The underlying facts of this case are fairly straightforward. The plaintiff was returning home in her car. She approached a U-shaped residential driveway. At that same time, a United States Postal Service delivery truck was in the driveway.

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In personal injury lawsuits, it is not uncommon for the plaintiff to file one or more amended complaints. Sometimes these amendments add factual or legal allegations. In other cases, the amended complaint actually names additional defendants.

Preferred Women’s Healthcare, LLC v. Sain

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, however, establishes some limits to how far a plaintiff can go to add a defendant, particularly in situations in which Georgia’s statute of repose comes into play. This particular case, Preferred Women’s Healthcare, LLC v. Sain, is a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff is the widower of a woman who died from complications arising from cancer.

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Many Georgia workers are injured on the job due to defective equipment. While workers’ compensation covers an employer’s liability for such accidents, the injured worker may still file a civil lawsuit against the third-party manufacturers who were responsible for designing or manufacturing the equipment.

Vazquez v. Raymond Corporation

For example, a federal judge in Gainesville, Georgia, recently rejected an attempt to dismiss a product liability claim filed by a local forklift operator. In July 2016, the plaintiff was using a forklift rented by his employer to move a pallet of tires in a warehouse. At some point, the plaintiff “lost control of the forklift and crashed into a metal column,” which ended up crushing his left foot, according to court records.

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In common law there is a rule known as res ipsa loquitur, which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” This rule basically allows a judge or jury to infer a defendant’s negligence from an event, even when the plaintiff can not provide more direct evidence that the defendant did something wrong. Georgia courts have taken a narrow view of res ipsa loquitur arguments in modern times, with the Georgia Court of Appeals noting it should only “be applied with caution and only in extreme cases.”

Huntoon v. United States

Even in cases in which a court does apply res ipsa loquitur, that is not always a guarantee that a plaintiff will recover actual damages. Consider this recent decision by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Huntoon v. United States. In this case, the plaintiff received surgery at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Florida. According to the plaintiff, when he came out from under anesthesia, he “noticed swelling and severe pain in his right arm.” This was later diagnosed as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).