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Following a car accident, you may receive certain benefits from your own insurance company. If you later end up suing a negligent third party for damages related to the accident, your insurer may have the right to recover part of any money you receive from the case. To put it another way, you may not be allowed to recover twice for the same injury–once from your insurance company, and then again from the negligent driver in court.

Appling v. State Farm Fire and Casualty

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Appling v. State Farm Fire & Casualty, offers a helpful example. In 2013, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The other driver’s insurance company agreed to settle with the plaintiff for the limits of the policy, which was $25,000. As this was not enough to compensate the plaintiff for his total injuries, he then filed a claim with his own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) carrier, which was State Farm.

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Georgia law imposes a two-year statute of limitations on most personal injury claims. For example, if you were injured in a car accident on January 1, 2017, you would normally have until January 1, 2019, to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. There is an exception to this rule, known as the renewal statute, that states if you file a lawsuit before the two-year deadline expires, and you later dismiss the case voluntarily, you can still refile within six months of that dismissal.

Now, it is important to emphasize that the renewal statute does not let you extend the statute of limitations itself. In other words, let us say there were two defendants you wanted to sue in connection with your car accident. You filed a lawsuit against Defendant A within the statute of limitations. But after the original two-year deadline expired, you dismiss the lawsuit and file a new complaint naming both Defendant A and Defendant B. The court would dismiss Defendant B from the case because the renewal statute does not permit you to add a defendant who was not named in the original lawsuit filed before the statute of limitations expired.

Aaron v. Jekyll Island State Park Authority

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A common point of contention in slip-and-fall cases is whether or not the business owner had “constructive knowledge” of the hazard that injured the customer. Constructive knowledge is not the same thing as actual knowledge. In other words, let us say a customer slips on a puddle of water in the aisle of a supermarket. It is likely that the store’s management did not actually know there was a spill beforehand. But the store owner may still be legally liable if the customer can prove that management “should have known” there was a spill through the exercise of due diligence.

Put another way, if the store had no policy in place to regularly inspect the aisles for potential hazards–or the employees failed to follow such an inspection policy–that can be sufficient to prove “constructive knowledge” on the part of the owner.

Orr v. Macy’s Retail Holdings, Inc.

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With all the discussion of “fake news” in recent years, it is important to remember that a free press is critical not only to the functioning of our government but also in holding businesses and other private entities–such as hospitals–accountable to the public. Indeed, good reporting often exposes private abuses and negligent acts that enable victims to pursue personal injury claims.

Carbone v. Cable News Network, Inc.

With that in mind, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta recently issued a major decision in a case involving the use of Georgia law to stop a defamation lawsuit against CNN. The plaintiff in this case previously served as CEO of a hospital in Florida. During his tenure, CNN published a report that claimed the hospital’s mortality rate for pediatric, open-heart surgery was more than three times the national average.

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As we get older, it seems we need to take more and more prescription medications just to get through the day. We trust our doctors and pharmacists to ensure that these drugs are safe–not just on their own, but also when taken in combination with one another. But when this trust fails, and the patient suffers, who can be held legally responsible?

Allen v. The Kroger Company

A case now pending before a federal judge in Macon raises this exact question. The plaintiff is the mother of a woman who died after taking a combination of amitriptyline, a medication used to treat various types of mental illness, and morphine. According to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, her daughter had prescriptions for both medications, which were filled at the defendant’s pharmacy six days apart.

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Are you thinking about taking a cruise? Before you buy your tickets, you need to think about the potential legal implications if you are injured while onboard a ship. Do not assume that the normal personal injury laws applicable to businesses and individuals in Georgia are in effect on the “high seas.” Indeed, much of what happens on a cruise ship is governed by maritime law, which is often not as friendly toward injured passengers as you might think.

Caron v. NCL (BAHAMAS), LTD.

A recent decision by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta offers a helpful illustration. Keep in mind, while this case was originally filed in a Florida court, it applies federal law, and the 11th Circuit’s rulings are also considered binding on federal courts here in Georgia.

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When it comes to surgical procedures, any Georgia healthcare professional will tell you their top safety priority is ensuring the proper sterilization of any equipment that gets near the patient’s body. Indeed, there is always a risk of transmitting a potentially lethal infection to a patient, even during “routine” surgery.

Collett v. Olympus Optical Co.

Of course, doctors and nurses are only effective in preventing infections if they have the right tools. So, what happens when a medical device manufacturer produces a defective product? The patient may suffer an infection and be forced to seek damages in court.

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The term “hazing” is used to broadly describe a wide range of social rituals designed to humiliate or embarrass the subject. Sometimes hazing is nothing more than a silly prank. But when it involves physical or sexual abuse of any kind, that crosses a line–and the victims have the right to seek damages via a personal injury lawsuit.

L.A. v. Riverside Military Academy

Hazing has been in the news recently here in Georgia due to a lawsuit filed against Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. The lawsuit was filed in Georgia federal court on November 15, 2018. The plaintiff is identified only by the initials “L.A.” According to the complaint, the now-18-year-old L.A. attended Riverside when he was between the ages of 12 and 13. The lawsuit was filed in federal court because L.A. currently lives in Chicago.

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Workers’ compensation is a state-run insurance system designed to provide “no-fault” benefits to employees injured on the job. No-fault means that a worker may receive medical and income replacement benefits without having to establish the employer was negligent or somehow responsible for the injury. However, the injury must occur in the course of employment and not some “individual pursuit.”

Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation

Georgia courts have long held that an employee who is on a scheduled lunch or rest break during the workday is engaged in an “individual pursuit,” and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured during that time. Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that principle in a case addressing an employee was injured while preparing to leave work for lunch.

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In Georgia, workers’ compensation is intended to provide employees with an “exclusive remedy” against their employers for job-related accidents. This means that the employer is required to pay certain benefits, regardless of fault. In exchange, the employee has no legal right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The exclusive remedy rule does not, however, apply to third parties whose negligence may have contributed to the accident.

Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Of course, there are scenarios in which a third party may try and claim protection under the workers’ compensation law as “statutory employers.” Here is a recent example of such an attempt. In this case, Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc., the plaintiff worked as an electrician. The defendant hired an electrical contractor to assist in some renovation work on one of its facilities. The plaintif, in turn, worked for the contractor.