Articles Posted in Negligence

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In a personal injury case, you cannot recover damages against a defendant based on negligence if you voluntarily assumed the underlying risk. To put it another way, if your own negligence caused the accident, you cannot blame someone else. In some cases, the plaintiff’s responsibility is considered so obvious, a judge will not even let a negligence claim proceed to trial.

Fuller v. McCormick

Here is one such case. The plaintiff worked as a farmhand. During the 13 years of his employment, the plaintiff regularly operated a Bobcat utility vehicle to perform various tasks around the farm.

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Property owners are liable for injuries caused by their failure to correct or repair dangerous conditions. But what if the owner has rented or leased the property to someone else? Under Georgia law, an owner who has “fully parted with possession” (i.e., a landlord) is not liable for injuries sustained by third parties on the premises.

There are two exceptions to this rule. First, the landlord is liable if the injury was the result of “defective construction.” Additionally, the landlord is responsible for his or her own “failure to keep the premises in repair.”

Aldredge v. Byrd, et al.

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If you are injured due to a hospital’s negligence, you would assume that you have the right to sue for damages. If the hospital is a charitable institution, however, it may not be that simple. For nearly a century, Georgia courts have recognized a special “charitable immunity” that protects such hospitals from personal injury lawsuits.

Lewis v. Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation, Inc.

The charitable immunity doctrine has a long and sordid history. It first crept up in a case decided in the 1830s by the House of Lords, which used to be the United Kingdom’s highest court. Although the Lords later repudiated their decision, American courts in the late 19th century picked up on the idea of charitable immunity and ran with it.

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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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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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“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.

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Most of us participate in some form of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. But because social media makes it so easy to keep in touch with friends, family members, and colleagues, we often forget that most of what we post to these sites become public record. There is no true privacy online, and even if you later delete an embarrassing (or incriminating) message, there is no guarantee it has not been stored somewhere else, waiting to be used against you at a later time.

One place an unfortunate social media post may work against you is a personal injury lawsuit. In a typical personal injury claim, the plaintiff seeks compensation for economic damages–i.e., medical costs and lost wages incurred as a result of the defendant’s negligence and noneconomic damages for things like “pain and suffering.” The defendant, in turn, will look for any evidence to minimize a potential damage award, and if possible to prove the plaintiff suffered no genuine injury to begin with.

Social media can offer a bonanza of exculpatory evidence to an aggressive defendant. For example, let’s say a plaintiff is in a car accident and sues the defendant for negligence. The plaintiff alleges that she suffered permanent injuries in the accident and is therefore unable to perform the same recreational activities that she could before the accident. If the defense subsequently finds a picture on the plaintiff’s Facebook page of her kayaking two weeks after the accident, that would obviously not be helpful to the plaintiff’s case.

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Expert testimony is often a critical component of a personal injury case. Judges and jurors are not technical experts and often require assistance in understanding evidence. When it comes to “simple negligence,” though, expert testimony is generally unnecessary. A jury does not need help when common sense is sufficient to weigh the evidence and reach a logical conclusion.

Gardner v. Clark

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a tragic case in which a trial judge improperly demanded expert testimony where none was necessary. The plaintiffs in this case were the children of a woman who died in November 2009. The mother lived in a mobile home that she rented from the defendant.