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If a reckless driver injures someone in a car accident, the driver may not be the only person liable for damages. If the driver was operating a vehicle owned by his or her employer, the employer may be vicariously liable for the victim’s injuries. If the employer had the vehicle insured, the insurance company may bear the ultimate financial responsibility.

Great American Alliance Insurance Co. v. Anderson

Of course, insurance companies often will not pay out without a fight. With respect to automobile insurance, policies often exclude coverage for employer-owned vehicles that are not used with the employer’s permission. What precisely constitutes “permission” can be difficult to determine.

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Dog bites and animal attacks are scary experiences that can result in significant physical and mental injuries. Owners who fail to take responsibility for dangerous animals may be held liable in court. But victims may have difficulty recovering damages if they voluntarily assumed risk or had “equal knowledge” of the danger posed by a particular animal.

Gilreath v. Smith

Recently the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit brought by a woman injured in a rooster attack. The court upheld a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the rooster’s owner. The critical issue was the level of prior warning the victim received.

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In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Nathan Deal praised the work of Georgia’s Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS), whose employees are charged with protecting abused and neglected children. The governor singled out a case manager in Telfair County who saved an infant’s life. He also proposed a 19% wage increase for case managers throughout Georgia, noting that the state pays its child welfare workers less than every other state in the southeast aside from Louisiana.

Cowart v. Georgia Department of Human Services

Despite the governor’s support, not everyone is satisfied with the the work of the state’s case managers. In fact, the Department of Human Services, which oversees the DFCS, is currently facing a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the estate of a child who died, allegedly after a case worker failed to follow up on serious abuse allegations. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial judge’s decision dismissing the case, citing the need for additional evidence on a key legal issue.

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Dealing with personal and health care issues following a car accident is stressful enough. If your financial situation has also deteriorated to the point that you need to file for bankruptcy, you should understand the impact that might have on any personal injury claim arising from your accident. If you are not careful, the bankruptcy may let a negligent defendant escape responsibility for your injuries.

Make Sure to List All Potential Lawsuits

When you file for bankruptcy you must provide the court with a list of all of your known assets. This includes any pending or potential personal injury claims. A claim is considered part of your bankruptcy estate if the cause of action arose prior to filing. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident on January 10 and file for bankruptcy on January 20, any personal injury claim you might have must be listed on your Chapter 7 petition, even if you do not file a personal injury claim until January 30.

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The normal rule in Georgia personal injury lawsuits is that each party is responsible for its own attorney’s fees and costs. Of course, the Georgia legislature may alter this rule. One such exception is contained in a 2005 “tort reform” law that allows a defendant to recover attorney fees from a plaintiff under certain circumstances.

Richardson v. Locklyn

Specifically, if a defendant offers to settle a personal injury claim, the plaintiff rejects the offer, and the jury later returns a damage award that is “less than 75%” of the offer, the defendant is entitled to collect attorney fees. The judge may decline an award, however, if the defendant’s original offer “was not made in good faith.”

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Nursing homes and rehabilitation centers are responsible for patients who require ongoing medical care. When these facilities fail to follow proper protocols, the results can be fatal. Under Georgia law, any health care provider may be liable for wrongful death if there is a breach of duty that is the “proximate cause” of the patient’s demise.

Fields v. Taylor

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reinstated a wrongful death claim against a geriatrics doctor in Dublin. The lawsuit was brought by the daughter of a woman who died six years ago while under the defendant’s care at a rehabilitation center. The deceased had been admitted to the center temporarily while the daughter, her mother’s caregiver, was unavailable.

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One of the critical rules in personal injury law is the doctrine of respondeat superior. Basically, this means an employer is vicariously liable for a tort committed by an employee in the “course or scope” of his or her employment. For example, if a delivery van runs a red light and hits another car, the owner of the delivery van is liable under respondeat superior for the driver’s negligence.

Acadia Insurance Co. v. United States of America

There are many cases in which the application of this rule is not obvious. Many personal injury lawsuits against employers turn on the question of whether the employee was really acting within the scope of employment when the plaintiff suffered his or her injury. A recent decision by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta considered the unusual question of whether a “smoke break” occurs in the course of employment.

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Many Georgia car accidents are the result of a defect in the vehicle itself. Georgia product liability law recognizes three types of defects: manufacturing defects, design defects, and warning defects. The second group, design defects, includes any product that is not “reasonably suited to the use intended.” This means, for instance, that a product manufacturer may be held liable for damages if it selected an inappropriate or unsafe design.

Andrews v. Autoliv Japan, Ltd.

A design defect claim will only succeed if the plaintiff can prove the defendant actively participated in the design. Not every party who may have contributed some part of a vehicle is considered responsible for its design. A recent decision by a federal judge in Atlanta offers a helpful illustration.

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“Keep your eyes on the road,” is something every parent tells their teenager when teaching them how to drive. But paying attention to the road has become increasingly difficult in recent years with the advent of smartphone technology that makes it easy for people to text or chat with their friends while driving. “Distracted driving” is now considered a public safety problem on par with drunk driving.

More Than 3,000 Distracted Driving Deaths Every Year

The dangers of distracted driving are quite real. According to a recent New York Times article, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 272 teenagers were killed throughout the country in 2015 in “distraction-affected” car accidents. Overall, 3,263 out of 3,477 crash-related deaths in 2015–94%–involved distracted driving.

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Every year in the United States, natural gas explosions cause an average of 17 deaths, 68 injuries, and $133 million in property damage, according to a 2014 study published by the American Chemical Society. What is a gas company’s liability for personal injury claims brought by explosion victims? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this question.

Westbrook v. Atlanta Gas Light Company

This case arose from a 2010 natural gas explosion in Atlanta. The plaintiffs were a man and woman injured in the explosion. The male plaintiff had rented a detached apartment on a residential property. Prior to the plaintiff moving in, the owner contacted the local gas company to turn the gas on in the apartment.