Published on:

Ridesharing has become a popular way for many residents of the Atlanta metropolitan area to earn additional income via smartphone apps like Uber and Lyft. Before you sign up to offer rides for money, you should check with your car insurance company. Many standard insurance policies exclude coverage for “public or livery conveyance.” In fact, your existing policy may be canceled if you start offering rides for money without notifying your carrier. If you are in an accident while driving for Uber or Lyft, you may be on the hook for any damages.

Haulers Insurance Co. v. Davenport

What if you are just giving a friend a ride for no payment? Could your insurer declare that you were actually providing a livery service and refuse to cover your accident? According to a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, the answer is probably no.

Published on:

Many parents would be happy to see a public park or attraction that admits their children for free. But thanks to a recent decision by the Supreme Court of Georgia, those parents may want to think twice about the legal cost of “free” admission. According to the Court, if you do not pay for your child to get in, you might be surrendering any right to sue for damages if he or she is injured on the property.

Mayor and Alderman of Garden City v. Harris

This case involves a child who was 6 years old at the time of her injury. Her parents took her to attend a youth football game in a public facility owned by Garden City in Chatham County. The facility normally charges a $2 admission fee, but children ages 6 and under do not have to pay. So, while the parents paid for their own admission, they did not have to pay for their child.

Published on:

Everyone recognizes that teachers have a difficult job. We also trust teachers with the education and well-being of our children. So, when the worst happens and a child dies while in a teacher’s custody, grieving parents will understandably seek accountability and justice through the courts.

Barnett v. Caldwell

Unfortunately, when it comes to teachers employed by public schools, the legal system makes such accountability difficult. Although the Georgia Constitution states that a state employee may be personally liable for “negligent failure to perform” a “ministerial” function, they are generally immune from lawsuits arising from discretionary acts. In non-legal terms, if the law mandates a state employee do something, then he or she can be sued for negligently failing to do so. If the employee has discretion to do something, however, then he or she cannot be sued if that decision caused injury to a third party, unless the victim can prove that the employee acted with “actual malice” or “actual intent to cause injury.”

Published on:

One of the recurring questions that arise in personal injury cases is determining who is covered by an auto insurance policy. Since most claims are paid via some form of insurance, whether it is that of the negligent driver or the victim’s own uninsured motorist coverage, it is critical to ascertain from the outset who is and is not covered. Rest assured, the insurance company will make every effort to deny coverage if it has a plausible legal reason to do so.

Stanley v. Government Employees Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed an interesting variant of our recurring question: Does an uninsured motorist (UM) policy cover the fianceé (or common law spouse) of a named insured? The plaintiff in this personal injury case was driving a vehicle owned by his employer when he was the victim of a head-on collision with another driver. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries and sued the other driver for negligence.

Published on:

When it comes to product liability, Georgia courts have long held that a manufacturer can be held responsible for its “failure to warn” customers about potentially harmful defects that it knew about (or should have known about). This duty extends to any “nonobvious foreseeable danger” arising from the normal use of a given product. In other words, a manufacturer has no duty to warn you of the risks of using its product in something other than its intended manner.

Reichwaldt v. General Motors LLC

Does this duty to warn extend to third parties–i.e., individuals other than the actual customers–who may be harmed by the normal use of the product? In 2016 we discussed a Georgia Supreme Court decision, Certainteed Corporation v. Fletcher, involving a pipe manufacturer whose products contained asbestos. In that case, a woman developed mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos dust from clothing worn by her father, who worked with the defendant’s pipes. The Supreme Court said it was “disinclined” to hold that the manufacturer “owed a duty to warn third parties based on the fact that, in this case, such a warning may have been effective.”

Published on:

Before initiating any kind of personal injury lawsuit, it is important to gather all of the relevant facts and make sure that you are consistent and truthful in any pretrial statements you make, whether to your own attorney or to the court. Inconsistencies, even if they are honest misunderstandings or lapses in memory, can significantly harm your case. In some circumstances they can even prove fatal to a claim.

State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Corp. v. Fabrizio

You especially do not want to get caught in an inconsistency when dealing with an insurance company. A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals offers a useful illustration of why not. This ongoing lawsuit started with a 2013 car accident between the plaintiff and another driver. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver.

Published on:

Everyone understands that you need to be careful when walking in the rain. But just because it is raining outside, that does not automatically absolve store owners of their legal duty to keep their premises in reasonably safe condition for patrons and other invited guests. Put another way, while a store is not necessarily liable for injuries sustained by a customer who slips in a puddle of rainwater near the entrance, if there is evidence the entrance’s design is defective or hazardous, then the customer may have a claim for damages.

Hart v. Wal-Mart Stores East LP

Here is an illustration of this principle from an ongoing personal injury lawsuit from Columbus, Georgia. The plaintiff went to the local superstore to shop in its garden center. it was raining at the time. When the plaintiff stepped inside the store, he slipped and fell and sustained serious injuries.

Published on:

Acting as your own attorney is never a good idea. This is especially true when it comes to personal injury claims. Even a seemingly “simple” lawsuit arising from something like a car accident can implicate many complex questions of law. If you have never participated in a civil lawsuit before, you can easily get tripped up on even the most basic procedures, which in turn can finish your case before it even begins.

Clarke v. McMurry

A recent decision by a federal judge in Atlanta offers a helpful cautionary tale. The plaintiff in this case represented himself. He worked for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT). While operating a vehicle in the course of his work, the plaintiff was hit by a drunk driver. As a result, the plaintiff said he suffered a traumatic brain injury and “skeletal damage,” as well as “extreme emotional distress.”

Published on:

Dealing with an insurance company following a car accident can be a major hassle. As a result, some accident victims simply put it off. This is almost always a mistake. It is not simply a good idea to notify your insurer of your accident in a timely manner. In many cases, you can be denied coverage when you later file a claim.

Sharpe v. Great Midwest Insurance Company

Here is a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision that illustrates how unforgiving judges can be when it comes to enforcing notification requirements. This case arises from a 2013 truck accident in Statesboro. The plaintiff was driving a vehicle owned by his employer when he was rear-ended by another vehicle. As a result of the accident, the plaintiff sustained a serious neck injury.

Published on:

Auto insurance is designed to pay for damages caused by an accident. In many cases an insurer will negotiate a settlement with the injured party. While the insurer is not obligated to pay claims it determines are unsubstantiated, the insurer cannot simply refuse to pay without consequence. Under Georgia law, an insurer can be held liable for “bad faith or negligent refusal to settle a personal claim within the policy limits.”

What does this mean in practice? Say you have a policy that covers $100,000 for bodily injury claims per accident. You are subsequently involved in an accident and are determined to be at fault. The other driver offers to release any potential personal injury claim against you in exchange for the limit of your policy, i.e. $100,000. The insurer refuses to settle. The other driver sues you in court and the jury returns a verdict of $500,000. You could then turn around and sue the insurer for the $400,000 excess you had to pay as a result of its bad faith refusal to settle.

Whiteside v. GEICO Indemnity Company