Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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In any personal injury case, it is helpful to have as much documentation as possible regarding the actual injury. For example, if you slip and fall in a supermarket, it can help your case for damages if the store maintained video surveillance of the area where your accident took place. In the absence of such firsthand evidence, defendants may attempt to use outside experts to “reconstruct” the accident in a manner that conflicts with your version of events.

O’Neal v. Norfolk Southern Railroad Company

Consider this ongoing federal lawsuit pending before a judge in Macon. This case is not a supermarket slip-and-fall, but rather a workplace accident involving two men who worked for Norfolk Southern Railroad. The employer’s identity is important because there is a special federal law–the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)–which governs personal injury claims involving railroad employees.

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An often under-appreciated category of damages in personal injury cases is the victim’s loss of future earnings. Also referred to as “diminished earning capacity,” this basically covers the amount of money the victim would have earned during the remainder of his or her lifetime but-for the injury caused by the negligent defendant. Obviously, loss of future earnings will vary depending on the victim. In some cases, it may not be possible to calculate these damages without the assistance of expert witnesses.

Lee v. Smith

Consider this recent case from the Georgia Court of Appeals. The underlying lawsuit involves a car accident. The plaintiff alleged the defendant’s negligence caused the accident. The defendant conceded liability but contested the amount of 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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Guardrail accidents have gained increasing public attention in recent years. A guardrail is supposed to help a vehicle absorb the impact of a collision, but in far too many cases, it is the guardrail that causes serious injury or death. As reported by ABC News in 2014, a University of Alabama study found that “a re-designed version of a widely used guardrail end terminal ‘placed motorists at a higher level of risk of both serious injury and fatality’ than the original version.”

Stopanio v. Leon’s Fence and Guardrail, LLC

More recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals addressed the potential legal liability of the state Department of Transportation and one of its private contractors for an allegedly defective guardrail. This tragic case began with a 2011 accident on I-75. The plaintiff was driving southbound on the highway through Valdosta. Traveling in front of the plaintiff was a second car containing her parents.

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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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Although personal injury and wrongful death claims are often brought up in the context of negligence–i.e., unintentional but reckless acts–there are situations in which the victim is injured or killed through an intentional criminal act. In such situations, the victim or his or her family can definitely seek damages against the criminal.

What about local law enforcement and private entities that were charged with protecting the public from a particular criminal? Can they also be held liable?

SecureAlert, Inc. v. Boggs

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There are often situations in which the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit may need to amend his or her complaint. Sometimes an amended pleading is necessary to correct a mistake. In other situations, an amendment may be appropriate to add a new argument or even a new defendant that needs to be brought into the litigation.

Findley v. City of Atlanta

Georgia trial courts are expected to be fairly liberal in granting permission to file amended complaints. Even if a defendant has already filed his or her own responsive pleadings, that does not necessarily prevent the plaintiff from seeking leave to amend. In fact, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently reinstated a personal injury lawsuit that was improperly dismissed by the trial judge before giving proper consideration to the plaintiff’s motion to add a defendant.

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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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There is always some time limit applicable to bringing a lawsuit. This is known as the “statute of limitations.” In Georgia, for example, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is typically two years. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident on May 1, 2016, you have until May 1, 2018 to sue the negligent driver for damages. Even if you file just a couple of days after the statute of limitations expires, your case is barred as a matter of law.

Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC

While two years is the normal statute of limitations in Georgia, there may be situations in which a personal injury victim actually has less time to file a claim. Georgia courts have long recognized the rights of parties to “contract” away certain legal rights. According to a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, this includes the time frame to file a personal injury lawsuit.

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The right to a jury trial is a basic tenet of our legal system. Jurors are entrusted to carefully consider all of the evidence and return a verdict in accordance with the law. Of course, there are times when a jury’s verdict is so inconsistent with the facts that a judge or appellate court must intervene in order to protect the interests of the plaintiff alleging a personal injury.

Evans v. Rockdale Hospital, LLC

For instance, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently ordered a new trial in a medical malpractice case because the jury contradicted itself. It found the defendant liable for a serious act of medical malpractice, yet awarded the plaintiff zero damages for her pain and suffering. The appeals court said such a verdict “shocks the conscience” and necessitated a full retrial of the case before a new jury.