Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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.

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Many Georgia residents take out “umbrella” policies to provide extra insurance protection in the event of an accident. An umbrella policy provides liability coverage above and beyond standard homeowners or automobile insurance. For example, let’s say your auto insurance policy provides $25,000 in coverage for bodily injury. You get into an accident and the other driver sues you for damages. The court awards the driver $100,000, which obviously exceeds your policy limit. At this point, if you have an umbrella policy, which typically provides coverage in the millions of dollars, it would cover the rest of the judgment.

Massey v. Allstate Insurance Company

You can also purchase an umbrella policy for uninsured motorist coverage. This refers to insurance that pays for injuries that you sustain in an accident caused by another driver who either has no insurance or lacks sufficient coverage to pay for your total damages. Georgia law requires all insurers to offer uninsured motorist coverage of at least $25,000 for bodily injury to a single person (or $50,000 for multiple people injured in the same accident). The customer has the option of rejecting UM coverage, but it must be offered.

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In any kind of personal injury case, it is important to be as precise as possible in your recollection of events. Obviously, nobody has a perfect memory, and you may be called to testify about an accident months or years later. But the words you use are taken seriously and literally by the court. You cannot expect a judge or jury to “know what you meant,” especially when your testimony undercuts a key argument in your case.

Hartman v. Clark

Consider a recent slip-and-fall case from here in Georgia. The plaintiff was patronizing a restaurant owned by the defendant. In a deposition, the plaintiff said she entered the restaurant’s bathroom, and after about 5 or 10 minutes she exited one of the stalls and “fell backwards,” causing injuries to her back and ankle.

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Dangerous and defective products injure thousands of Americans every year. Children and teenagers are especially vulnerable to poorly designed or manufactured products. Every parent’s worst nightmare is finding his or her child seriously and permanently injured due to a manufacturer’s reckless or negligent acts.

Ballinger v. Top Swords LLC

Last November there were news reports about a Kentucky teenager injured in a “freak accident” at his home. These early reports only said that the victim, a high school sophomore, “was injured when a piece of metal entered [his] forehead, causing trauma.” In fact, the trauma was so severe that the victim was in a coma for six weeks.

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Personal injury litigation is often a lengthy process, involving months or even years of pretrial discovery, followed by a trial and possibly several rounds of appeals. What happens when the defendant simply fails to respond to the plaintiff’s lawsuit? Does the plaintiff automatically win?

Anderson v. Family Dollar Stores of Georgia, LLC

In legal terms, a defendant who fails to answer a properly served complaint “defaults.” This does not necessarily mean that the plaintiff is entitled to damages. The default only means the judge must take the factual allegations in the plaintiff’s complaint as true. The judge must then determine if those allegations are properly pled–i.e., that they actually state a legal basis for granting relief.

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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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Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a $7 million advertising campaign to warn drivers about the dangers of railroad crossings. The DOT noted that while the total number of railroad incidents have been in decline over the past decade, a person or vehicle is still hit by a train roughly every three hours. In 2016, there were 232 reported deaths due to railroad crossing accidents.

Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

Recently the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta dealt with a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2011 railroad crossing accident. The victim was severely injured when a train struck her. She claimed she could not see te approaching train due to “overgrown and improperly maintained vegetation at the railroad crossing.”

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Negligent security cases are often the most difficult types of personal injury cases for victims to prove. Negligent security falls under the broader category of “premises liability,” i.e. a property owner’s legal duty to keep that property in reasonably safe condition for customers and other invitees. While premises liability does not ordinarily extend to criminal acts committed by third parties, a property owner may be responsible for failing to provide adequate security, including proper lighting, locks, or guards.

Fair v. CV Underground, LLC

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a negligent security claim against a well-known Atlanta shopping center. The plaintiffs were the parents of a man shot and killed on the defendant’s premises. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals agreed the parents failed to present a case that could survive summary judgment.

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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.