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In most cases, if you lose a spouse or parent due to third-party negligence, you can bring a wrongful death lawsuit under Georgia law to recover a wide range of damages, including the deceased relative’s lost wages, medical and burial expenses, as well as non-economic damages for their pain and suffering and your own loss of companionship.

If your loved one died as the result of a workplace accident, your legal options may be limited. Workers’ compensation provides the “exclusive” remedy for all on-the-job injuries, including those that are fatal. Since workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system, you do not need to prove the employer was negligent; however, your damages would be limited to those death benefits mandated by the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Act (GWCA).

Mangham v. Westin Hotel Management, LP

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Haggling with insurance companies following a car accident is an everyday occurrence for many Georgia motorists. At the end of the day, an insurance policy is a contract, and if the insurer refuses to pay a valid claim, it can be held liable under Georgia law. Specifically, Section 33-4-6 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated states that an auto insurer that rejects a claim “in bad faith” must pay not only for the policyholder’s losses, but also a penalty equal to greater than $5,000 or 50% of the insured party’s total liability.

Stiegel v. USAA Casualty Insurance Company

Could an insurer face liability beyond that provided under Section 33-4-6? According to a recent ruling by a federal judge in Columbus, the answer may be yes. In this case, an accident victim is alleging not just bad faith, but also potential violations of state racketeering laws.

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Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides valuable protections for Georgia residents who are injured in a car accident caused by a driver who either failed to purchase insurance–in violation of the law–or lacks sufficient coverage to fully compensate the victims for their losses. All Georgia insurers are required to offer UM coverage and must adhere to certain restrictions contained in state law. Even if a customer agrees to the terms of a UM policy that conflicts with state law, that does not override the law, nor does it permit an insurer to escape liability.

Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company v. Rockefeller

Consider this recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. This case involves a UM policy held by the the defendant, who was injured in a two-car accident with another driver. The defendant said the other driver caused the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against him in Georgia state court. Because the defendant had reason to believe the driver was “underinsured,” he also served his UM carrier, the plaintiff in the present case.

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Personal injury cases are generally a matter of state law. Many non-Georgia defendants will seek to transfer a personal injury claim to federal court. There are a number of reasons why they do this.

First, while a federal court must still decide the merits of a personal injury claim under the substantive law of the forum state, the trial itself is conducted under federal rules of evidence and procedure. This often benefits defense attorneys, who have more practical experience trying cases in federal court. Federal rules also make it easier for defendants to seek dismissal of a plaintiff’s complaint during the summary judgment stage, i.e. before the case gets to a jury.

Second, the jury pools in federal court are much broader than in state court. Let’s say you are in a car accident in Marietta. The negligent driver lives in Florida. If you file a personal injury claim in state court, the jury will be drawn from residents of Cobb County. But if the case is removed to federal court–the Northern District of Georgia–the jury pool suddenly expands to 46 counties. This can produce a final jury that is less sympathetic to a “local” plaintiff.

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Many personal injury claims involve more than one defendant or negligent party. Historically, if a Georgia court found multiple defendants liable for an accident, all of the defendants could be held collectively responsible for any monetary judgment. This is known as “joint and several liability.” But in 2005, the Georgia legislature amended the state’s tort laws to require a jury (or judge) “apportion its award of damages among the persons who are liable according to the percentage of fault of each person.”

Renaissance Recovery Solutions, LLC. v. Monroe Guaranty Insurance Company

This amendment has largely–but not completely–eliminated joint and several liability in Georgia. In fact, a federal judge in Augusta recently addressed a case in which a state court previously, and apparently erroneously, issued a joint and several liability verdict.

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Expert testimony is often crucial to product liability cases in Georgia. After all, most people, notably those who serve on a civil jury, lack the technical knowledge of how a given product or manufacturing process works. That is why experts are employed by plaintiffs to establish causation.

Under Georgia law, a trial judge has the discretion to allow expert testimony if three conditions are met:

  • There are “sufficient facts or data” in the record to support the expert’s opinions;
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All parents have certain legal obligations towards their children. Under Georgia law, a parent must provide for a child’s “maintenance, protection and education” until he or she reaches 18 years of age. Obviously, this includes paying for a  child’s medical care, including care for injuries caused by a third party’s negligence.

Mujkic v. Lam

Of course, the parents do have the right to seek compensation from the negligent party for their out-of-pocket costs. But parents need to be aware of Georgia’s strict deadlines for pursuing such claims in courts. The law in this area is sometimes confusing, but judges do not excuse ignorance or honest mistakes when it comes to filing deadlines.

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We often think of medical malpractice in terms of direct negligence by a physician or other health care provider, such as a surgeon making a critical mistake while performing a procedure and permanently injuring the patient as a result. Not all malpractice is about what a provider does. In many cases it is about what the provider has not done, or more precisely, what it fails to do in a timely manner.

Consider the well-documented issue of waiting times just to receive critical medical care. This is a problem that plagues both public and private healthcare providers. According to a 2016 MSNBC report, the average wait time for care at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities is about 21 days. Meanwhile, a 2014 review of hospitals in the Atlanta area are found an average wait time of 24 days for family practice doctors and 14 days for all medical specialties.

McKinley v. United States

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Each year more than 300 people die on Georgia roadways in drunk driving accidents. While prosecutors can file criminal charges against the drunk driver, that does not compensate victims and their families for their losses. Unfortunately, in many cases the drunk driver either has no insurance or lacks sufficient coverage to fully compensate the victims.

This is where uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage can come into play. Under Georgia law, all auto insurance providers must offer UM/UIM coverage as part of their standard policies. The customer has the option to decline such coverage, but must do so in writing. While you are free to purchase any amount of UM/UIM insurance that an insurer offers, state law sets minimum coverage at $25,000 for bodily injury per person (or $50,000 per accident). In many cases, it is a good idea to purchase significantly more coverage, as the damages from an accident can easily exceed $50,000, especially if there is serious injury or death.

Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Company v. Musgrove

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 people die every day in the United States due to “unintentional drowning.” Children between the ages of 1 and 4 are especially at risk. Among this age group, drowning is the leading cause of death aside from congenital birth defects.

Frazier v. Godley Park Homeowners Association, Inc.

Most child drowning deaths occur in residential swimming pools. In some cases, the pool owner’s negligence may be the proximate cause of the child’s death. You should not assume that just because a child suffers a fatal or non-fatal drowning, the owner is automatically liable. To the contrary, under Georgia law, a swimming pool owner “is not an insurer of its safety.”