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It is a well-established principle of Georgia personal injury law that an employer can be held legally responsible for the negligent acts of its employees. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident because a delivery van ran a red light, you can sue the company that owns the delivery van for damages. This is known as “vicarious liability.”

What happens when a teenager drives his or her parents’ car and causes an accident? Vicarious liability can also apply in these cases under a rule known as the “family purpose doctrine.” As explained by the Georgia courts, the doctrine holds that “the owner of an automobile who permits members of his household to drive it for their own pleasure or convenience is regarded as making such a family purpose his ‘business.’” So, by letting your child use your car, you are creating a “master-servant” relationship similar to when an employer authorizes an employee to use a company-owned vehicle.

Doby v. Bivins

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The Atlanta region is widely known as one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. All Georgia drivers have a legal duty to stop and yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. But pedestrians must also exercise care. Among other things, if a pedestrian crosses a road outside of a clearly marked crosswalk, he or she must yield to traffic. A pedestrian who ignores this rule assumes the risk of injury and may not be able to win a personal injury claim if hit by a car.

Politzer v. Xiaoyan

Here is an example of how Georgia courts will not show much sympathy for a pedestrian who fails to follow the rules of the road. The plaintiff in this case was out walking in her neighborhood one evening. It was already dark out and the plaintiff was wearing mostly black clothing. As she was completing her walk and returning home, the plaintiff crossed a road outside of the crosswalk, which she claimed was “unsafe” because drivers were known to speed through the intersection without stopping and yielding to pedestrians.

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Last year we discussed a Georgia Court of Appeals decision ordering a new trial in a premises liability case involving a well-known theme park in Cobb County. The case began when two patrons and their families were repeatedly threatened by rival gangs who were known to frequent the theme park. Even after some of the gang members threatened to shoot the patrons in the parking lot, park security failed to eject the assailants.

Shortly thereafter, a group of about 40 gang members did, in fact, approach the families in the parking lot, which was still on theme park property. Although the families escaped the approaching mob, some of the gang members proceeded to beat a bystander who happened to be seated at a bus stop near the park’s entrance.

The bystander later sued four of the men who attacked him. He also named the theme park owner as a defendant under Georgia’s premises liability law. A jury eventually found the plaintiff was entitled to $35 million in damages and apportioned 92% of the blame to the theme park.

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Teenage suicide is a serious public health problem in Georgia. According to the Jason Foundation, a leading suicide prevention organization, “suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18.” Suicide kills more teenagers every year than cancer, heart disease, and birth defects combined.

City of Richmond Hill v. Maia

When a parent loses a child to suicide, he or she understandably wants to know why it happened. In some cases, the suicide may have been provoked by the reckless or negligent act of a third party. The Supreme Court of Georgia recently clarified the circumstances where such third parties may be liable in a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the parents of a deceased child.

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Premises liability refers to a landowner’s legal duty to “exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe,” according to the Georgia Supreme Court. In other words, if you own a building and invite members of the public in, you must take reasonable precautions to protect your guests from a foreseeable harm. You are not required to insure the public’s safety from all possible or existing hazards, but you must exercise a certain degree of due diligence, i.e. inspecting your property regularly to see if any dangerous conditions exist.

Duff v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia

The key to any premises liability claim is establishing the existence of a hazardous condition. This generally requires a careful examination of the facts in a given case. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to assessing the existence of a hazardous condition.

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Many Georgia residents take out “umbrella” policies to provide extra insurance protection in the event of an accident. An umbrella policy provides liability coverage above and beyond standard homeowners or automobile insurance. For example, let’s say your auto insurance policy provides $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury. You get into an accident and the other driver sues you for damages. The court awards the driver $100,000, which obviously exceeds your policy limit. At this point, if you have an umbrella policy, which typically provides coverage in the millions of dollars, it would cover the rest of the judgment.

Massey v. Allstate Insurance Company

You can also purchase an umbrella policy for uninsured motorist coverage. This refers to insurance that pays for injuries that you sustain in an accident caused by another driver who either has no insurance or lacks sufficient coverage to pay for your total damages. Georgia law requires all insurers to offer uninsured motorist coverage of at least $25,000 for bodily injury to a single person (or $50,000 for multiple people injured in the same accident). The customer has the option of rejecting UM coverage, but it must be offered.

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Medical malpractice, like any personal injury claim, requires proof of two things: The defendant committed a negligent act, and that act was the “proximate cause” of the plaintiff’s injuries. Unlike other kinds of personal injury cases, such as car accidents, it is necessary to use expert testimony to establish negligence and proximate cause in medical malpractice claims. The reason for this is simple: The average person is not qualified to know the proper “standard of care” in a medical setting.

Central Georgia Women’s Health Center, LLC v. Dean

However, even a typical juror can understand when a doctor may be trying to deceive them. This may have been the case in a recent Georgia wrongful death lawsuit. A woman who tragically lost her premature baby received a medical malpractice judgment of more than $4 million against two physicians and a health clinic.

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In any kind of personal injury case, it is important to be as precise as possible in your recollection of events. Obviously, nobody has a perfect memory, and you may be called to testify about an accident months or years later. But the words you use are taken seriously and literally by the court. You cannot expect a judge or jury to “know what you meant,” especially when your testimony undercuts a key argument in your case.

Hartman v. Clark

Consider a recent slip-and-fall case from here in Georgia. The plaintiff was patronizing a restaurant owned by the defendant. In a deposition, the plaintiff said she entered the restaurant’s bathroom, and after about 5 or 10 minutes she exited one of the stalls and “fell backwards,” causing injuries to her back and ankle.

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There is always some kind of deadline when it comes to a personal injury claim. For example, in product liability cases–i.e., a lawsuit against a manufacturer who produces a dangerous or defective item that injures someone–Georgia imposes a 10-year “statute of repose.” A statute of repose is similar to a statute of limitation. Both set a cut-off date for a plaintiff to bring his or her claim before the court.

Gaddy v. Terex Corporation

The 10-year statute of repose begins with the “first sale for use or consumption of the personal property” that allegedly caused the plaintiff’s injuries. So, let’s say you bought a car in 2008. You are later injured in an auto accident due to a defect in the car’s design. This means the statute of repose will expire in 2018.

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Dangerous and defective products injure thousands of Americans every year. Children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to poorly designed or manufactured products. Every parent’s worst nightmare is finding his or her child seriously and permanently injured due to a manufacturer’s reckless or negligent acts.

Ballinger v. Top Swords LLC

Last November there were news reports about a Kentucky teenager injured in a “freak accident” at his home. These early reports only said that the victim, a high school sophomore, “was injured when a piece of metal entered [his] forehead, causing trauma.” In fact, the trauma was so severe that the victim was in a coma for six weeks.