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One of the first legal questions you need to answer before filing a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia is, “What is the proper venue?” Venue refers to the locality where a case is heard and tried. In the State of Georgia, civil cases are tried in a superior court for a particular county.

What happens if you live in one county and want to sue someone who lives in another county? Under the Georgia Constitution, venue is “in the county where the defendant resides.” So let’s say you live in Cobb County and are involved in a car accident with someone who lives in Gwinnett County. According to Georgia law, you would have to file a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant in Gwinnett County Superior Court.

Now, suppose you were involved in a three-car accident and you want to sue both of the other drivers, each of whom lives in a different county. In that scenario you could sue both defendants in either county. So, if one defendant lived in Cobb and the other in Gwinnett, you could select either county’s superior court.

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It is well understood that in Georgia, a store owner is liable for injuries caused by hazardous conditions on store premises. But what exactly do we mean by “premises”? For instance, if you are walking down the aisle of a supermarket and slip on a puddle of water, there is no question that you are on the store owner’s premises. But suppose your slip-and-fall occurred in the parking lot adjacent to the store? Is the store owner still legally responsible?

Boyd v. Big Lots Stores, Inc.

A July 31 decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals helps explain how the law works in this area. This case involved a personal injury claim brought against a well-known national retailer. The plaintiff was shopping at one of the defendant’s stores, which is located in a larger retail shopping center. As the plaintiff exited the store and headed for her car, she slipped and fell in the parking lot. She suffered injuries as a result of the fall and sued the store owner for damages.

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In just about every city there are certain places known to host dangerous (and illegal) activities. City officials are often aware of the threats posed by such places but fail to take appropriate action to protect the public. If someone is injured or killed as the result of these public hazards, however, can the city itself be held legally responsible?

City of Albany v. Stanford

In 2016, a Dougherty County jury answered “yes” to this question. The specific context was the horrific 2010 murder of a 20-year-old man at an illegal nightclub in Albany. The victim, who was from Butts County, was visiting his aunt in Albany at the time. Some friends took him to a local recording studio known as Brick City.

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It is common practice following a Georgia car accident for the victim to negotiate a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company. Typically, the insurer agrees to settle for the policy limits in exchange for a “release of all claims” arising from the accident. Either party may also impose a deadline for the other to accept the terms of the settlement.

DeMarco v. State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently examined an unusual case involving the widow of a deceased accident victim who attempted to enforce a settlement agreement three years after the fact. The accident itself occurred 11 years ago, in July of 2007. The victim’s car was knocked by one vehicle into a third vehicle. The victim subsequently sued the owner and driver of the third vehicle for damages.

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A key question in most premises liability cases is, “What constitutes a hazard?” After all, not every object that may obstruct a customer’s path is is necessarily dangerous. It is important to establish why a particular object constitutes a hazard–which leads the follow-up question of whether or not the management of the premises took reasonable steps to identify and correct that hazard.

Powell v. Variety Wholesalers, Inc.

Consider this ongoing federal lawsuit in Statesboro that centers on a clear plastic clothes hanger. One day in 2015, the plaintiff and her granddaughter went shopping at a department store owned by the defendant. The two women used one of the store’s changing rooms to try on clothes. As they exited the changing area, the plaintiff “slipped and fell” on the clear hanger, which according to her was “lying in the middle of the aisle.”

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In any personal injury case, it is helpful to have as much documentation as possible regarding the actual injury. For example, if you slip and fall in a supermarket, it can help your case for damages if the store maintained video surveillance of the area where your accident took place. In the absence of such firsthand evidence, defendants may attempt to use outside experts to “reconstruct” the accident in a manner that conflicts with your version of events.

O’Neal v. Norfolk Southern Railroad Company

Consider this ongoing federal lawsuit pending before a judge in Macon. This case is not a supermarket slip-and-fall, but rather a workplace accident involving two men who worked for Norfolk Southern Railroad. The employer’s identity is important because there is a special federal law–the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)–which governs personal injury claims involving railroad employees.

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An often under-appreciated category of damages in personal injury cases is the victim’s loss of future earnings. Also referred to as “diminished earning capacity,” this basically covers the amount of money the victim would have earned during the remainder of his or her lifetime but-for the injury caused by the negligent defendant. Obviously, loss of future earnings will vary depending on the victim. In some cases, it may not be possible to calculate these damages without the assistance of expert witnesses.

Lee v. Smith

Consider this recent case from the Georgia Court of Appeals. The underlying lawsuit involves a car accident. The plaintiff alleged the defendant’s negligence caused the accident. The defendant conceded liability but contested the amount of damages.

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Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides you with important financial protections in the event of an accident with a driver who lacks sufficient insurance to fully compensate you for your injuries. What about a situation in which you are driving someone else’s car? Can you claim UM benefits under their policy?

Jones v. Federated Mutual Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this issue in the context of a somewhat unusual case. The plaintiffs were test-driving a car owned by a dealership. At the time, neither plaintiff had his or her own auto insurance.

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A wrongful death lawsuit is a special kind of personal injury claim. Unlike other torts, however, wrongful death is purely a creation of state law. Historically, if a negligent act killed the victim, the personal injury claim died with them. Under Georgia’s wrongful death statute, however, the victim’s surviving spouse or children may bring their own claim against the negligent parties.

Bibbs v. Toyota Motor Corporation

Generally speaking, you cannot recover twice for the same injury. In other words, if a victim initially survives an accident and successfully pursues a personal injury claim, the family cannot seek additional damages via a wrongful death lawsuit if the victim subsequently dies. The wrongful death statute is only designed to ensure the victim’s family recovers the same damages she could have recovered herself had she survived.

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Guardrail accidents have gained increasing public attention in recent years. A guardrail is supposed to help a vehicle absorb the impact of a collision, but in far too many cases, it is the guardrail that causes serious injury or death. As reported by ABC News in 2014, a University of Alabama study found that “a re-designed version of a widely used guardrail end terminal ‘placed motorists at a higher level of risk of both serious injury and fatality’ than the original version.”

Stopanio v. Leon’s Fence and Guardrail, LLC

More recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the potential legal liability of the state Department of Transportation and one of its private contractors for an allegedly defective guardrail. This tragic case began with a 2011 accident on I-75. The plaintiff was driving southbound on the highway through Valdosta. Traveling in front of the plaintiff was a second car containing her parents.