Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Most personal injury claims arising from an auto accident are paid via a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company. What happens when the insurer refuses to settle and the injured parties successfully sue the negligent driver for damages? In such scenarios, the driver may be able to sue the insurer for its “bad faith” refusal to settle the personal injury claim in the first place.

First Acceptance Insurance Company of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes

When does an insurance company’s “duty to settle” actually arise? Does the insurer have to wait for the injured victims to file a lawsuit? Or should the insurer reasonably anticipate when such a lawsuit is likely to occur? The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed both of those questions.

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In a typical personal injury claim arising from a car accident, the plaintiff is free to sue the defendant for damages at any time prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, which is normally two years for personal injury claims. However, when the defendant is a government employee, and the accident occurred while that person was acting in an official role, the plaintiff needs to jump through some additional hoops before a court will even hear the lawsuit.

For example, if you are injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of a Georgia county employee, state law requires that you present a claim to the county within 12 months. Basically, you need to give the county written notice before you can sue it. If you fail to comply with this notice requirement, a judge will dismiss any subsequent personal injury lawsuit based on that claim.

Moats v. Mendez

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Georgia follows what is known as “modified comparative fault” in personal injury cases. What does this mean? Well, let us say you are involved in an auto accident with another vehicle. You later sue the other driver for damages. If a jury ultimately determines that the other driver was 80% at-fault, that means you are 20% at-fault. You could still recover damages under this scenario, but your award would be reduced by 20% to account for your own “comparative fault.”

So, what happens if the jury decides you are both equally at-fault, i.e., you were both 50% responsible? In that case, you recover nothing. Georgia’s comparative fault law prohibits a plaintiff from taking anything in a personal injury lawsuit if he or she is found 50% or more at-fault.

Barrett v. Burnette

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If you want to file a civil lawsuit against someone in Georgia, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is basically the legal time limit to file a claim. For personal injury cases, Georgia’s statute of limitations is normally two years from the date the action “accrued.” For example, let us say you were injured in a car accident that took place on November 1, 2016. Under Georgia law, you need to sue the negligent driver no later than November 1, 2018. Even if you file one day past this deadline, the judge will throw out your case because legally, no court may hear a case once the statute of limitations has expired.

Williams v. Durden

However, there are certain events that can “toll” the statute of limitations. Tolling effectively stops the clock for a specified period of time. The burden is on the plaintiff to prove there is some legal grounds for tolling. In other words, do not assume you can simply file a personal injury lawsuit after the expiration of the two-year time limit unless you can cite a specific reason for tolling under Georgia law.

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Hit-and-run accidents are a common occurrence in Georgia. Many people are seriously injured by drivers who either do not know they caused an accident, or do know and flee to avoid taking responsibility. In either case, the victim is often left scrambling to identify the driver and take appropriate legal action to obtain compensation for their injuries.

Callaway v. Quinn

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals helps to illustrate the challenges hit-and-run accidents face in pursuing a personal injury claim. This case involves a 2015 hit-and-run accident. The plaintiff was driving her car and “stopped in traffic” when she was rear-ended by a “man driving a pickup truck” who “fled the scene.” Police investigators later found the truck abandoned in a nearby parking lot.

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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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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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Despite what you might think, most auto accident claims are settled out of court between the injured victim and the negligent driver’s insurance company. Only when settlement negotiations break down will a plaintiff normally resort to litigation, which requires a significant commitment of time and resources. In many cases, it is the defense’s unnecessary delays that cause the settlement talks to fail in the first place.

Stephens v. Castano-Castano

Consider this recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals. This case began when a defendant failed to respond in time to a settlement offer. Although the plaintiff proceeded to trial and won a substantial jury verdict, the Court of Appeals ordered a new trial based on an erroneous ruling by the trial judge.

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As a general rule in Georgia, your auto insurance policy’s liability coverage follows you rather than your vehicle. In other words, if you borrow a friend’s car and get into an accident that injures the other driver, your liability policy will pay for the damages. Of course, this presumes the vehicle you are driving is “covered” by the policy and not subject to any exclusions.

Progressive Mountain Insurance Company v. McCallister

One common exclusion is for vehicles operated as part of an “auto business.” What does this mean? A recent decision by a federal judge Waycross, Georgia, offers a helpful illustration. This case involves a rather complex accident that took place in 2016, which in turn led to litigation between a driver and his insurance company.

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Your parents probably told you, “Watch where you’re going!” more than a few times when you were kid. This is not just good advice. It is also an important reminder that you are expected to be aware of your surroundings at all times. From a legal standpoint, your awareness or lack thereof may be a critical issue in a personal injury case, particularly when you have alleged negligence on the part of a property owner.

Cherokee Main Street, LLC v. Ragan

Consider this recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. This is a car accident case that originated in Cherokee County a little over four years ago. On the day in question, the plaintiff was shopping at a department store in a local shopping center. After leaving the store, she walked down a sidewalk past another store–one of the defendants in this case. The sidewalk had a ramp leading into the parking lot. But there was no formal crosswalk markings.