Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Georgia courts enforce strict jurisdictional requirements when it comes to personal injury lawsuits. This means you cannot proceed with a case unless the court has both the appropriate subject-matter and geographic authority over the parties. Even when a case does satisfy all jurisdictional requirements, a court may still refuse to hear if there is another, more “convenient” forum available to resolve the dispute.

La Fontaine v. Signature Research, Inc.

This is known as the doctrine of “forum non conveniens.” Under Georgia law, a court may “decline to adjudicate” a lawsuit whenever it “finds that in the interest of justice and for the convenience of the parties and witnesses a claim or action would be more properly heard in a forum outside this state.” This rule, formalized by legislation in 2005, superseded earlier rulings by the Georgia Supreme Court on this subject.

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After you have been in an accident, it is critical to gather as much information as you can about what happened. Every little detail may prove crucial if and when you file a personal injury claim against the responsible parties. If possible, you should use your smartphone to take photos of the accident scene and take down the names and contact information of any witnesses. Most importantly, write down every detail that you can remember. Memory becomes more unreliable as time passes, especially if you have been seriously injured, so never assume that you will accurately recall key facts later.

All of these admonitions are even more important if your accident involved negligence on the part of a state or municipal agency. Under Georgia law, before pursuing any personal injury claim against the government, you must first provide an advance (or ante-litem) notice to the relevant agency “stating the time, place, and extent of the injury, as nearly as practicable.” If a victim does not make this notice within six months of the accident, he or she cannot pursue their claim in court.

Williams v. City of Atlanta

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Many nursing care facilities in Georgia pressure their residents to sign arbitration agreements. This means that in the event of a dispute, such as allegations of negligence or abuse against the nursing home, the resident waives his or her right to seek a jury trial and instead must allow an arbitrator to hear the case. Nursing homes and other health care providers prefer arbitration because it can limit a victim’s right to discovery–i.e., to seek evidence of abuse or neglect, and the final decision cannot be reviewed in court.

United Health Services of Georgia, Inc. v. Alexander

Judges will enforce nursing home arbitration agreements even when the terms are unfair to residents. But what happens when a family member signs an agreement on behalf of a deceased resident? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such a case.

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Dealing with insurance companies following a car accident often involves a good deal of back-and-forth negotiations. If you are the victim seeking compensation, you have the right to make a conditional offer, that is, to release some or all potential claims against the insured person in exchange for a timely payout. Typically this payout will be for the maximum benefits provided under the insurance policy.

Grange Mutual Casualty Company v. Woodard

What if you condition a settlement offer on receiving payment the insurer sends but is not received by the specified deadline? A federal appeals court in Atlanta recently addressed this question in a case arising from a tragic 2014 car accident here in Marietta.

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When you visit a public pool or are invited to use a private pool, the operator assumes a certain duty to “exercise ordinary and reasonable care for the safety” of you and any other guests. This means, for instance, if someone drowns in the pool due to improper maintenance or a lack of safety equipment, the pool operator may be legally liable. But what happens when someone drowns in a public body of water such as an ocean?

Downes v. Oglethorpe University, Inc.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this question in the context of a wrongful death lawsuit. The victim was a college student who died while participating in a study abroad program. The parents sued the school, alleging its negligence led to their son drowning in the Pacific Ocean.

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While personal injury cases arising from motor vehicle accidents tend to involve cars or trucks, it is important not to overlook other kinds of vehicles such as buses. For instance, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported last December that there were “more than 700 accidents” involving school buses in Metro Atlanta during 2016–a rate of nearly two per day. These accidents resulted in over 300 injuries to students and teachers.

Croy v. Whitfield County

Bus operators, including school districts and public transit agencies, can be held liable for damages when driver negligence leads to passenger injury. Personal injury lawsuits against public agencies in Georgia are often complicated by additional notification requirements. Since the State of Georgia and its political subdivisions are normally immune from personal injury claims, plaintiffs must strictly comply with these requirements just to have their cases heard.

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Many single-car accidents are the result of a defective part. If that is the case, the driver may have a personal injury claim under Georgia product liability law. Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11 states that a court may order a manufacturer to pay damages to any person “who suffers injury to his person or property” as the result of merchandise that “was not merchantable and reasonably suited to the use intended.”

Phillips v. Owners Insurance Company

Given that product liability cases are highly fact-specific and by their very nature revolve around a particular item, it is critical to preserve any and all physical evidence from a car accident. It may take several months or years to fully investigate the cause of the accident and the potential liability of the numerous manufacturers involved. When evidence is lost or destroyed, it can adversely affect a victim’s case.

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While premises liability is often associated with commercial businesses (think a slip-and-fall at the supermarket), any property owner may be held responsible if an invited guest is injured. This is why homeowners insurance policies typically offer liability coverage. For instance, if someone falls down the stairs at your house, your homeowners insurance will cover the medical bills.

Allstate Property and Casualty Insurance Co. v. Roberts

What if someone is injured on your property in a criminal act? Insurers often try to disclaim coverage in such situations. But depending on the precise wording of the policy, the insurer may still be liable.

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It is a well-established principle of Georgia personal injury law that an employer can be held legally responsible for the negligent acts of its employees. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident because a delivery van ran a red light, you can sue the company that owns the delivery van for damages. This is known as “vicarious liability.”

What happens when a teenager drives his or her parents’ car and causes an accident? Vicarious liability can also apply in these cases under a rule known as the “family purpose doctrine.” As explained by the Georgia courts, the doctrine holds that “the owner of an automobile who permits members of his household to drive it for their own pleasure or convenience is regarded as making such a family purpose his ‘business.’” So, by letting your child use your car, you are creating a “master-servant” relationship similar to when an employer authorizes an employee to use a company-owned vehicle.

Doby v. Bivins

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The Atlanta region is widely known as one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. All Georgia drivers have a legal duty to stop and yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. But pedestrians must also exercise care. Among other things, if a pedestrian crosses a road outside of a clearly marked crosswalk, he or she must yield to traffic. A pedestrian who ignores this rule assumes the risk of injury and may not be able to win a personal injury claim if hit by a car.

Politzer v. Xiaoyan

Here is an example of how Georgia courts will not show much sympathy for a pedestrian who fails to follow the rules of the road. The plaintiff in this case was out walking in her neighborhood one evening. It was already dark out and the plaintiff was wearing mostly black clothing. As she was completing her walk and returning home, the plaintiff crossed a road outside of the crosswalk, which she claimed was “unsafe” because drivers were known to speed through the intersection without stopping and yielding to pedestrians.