Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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An often overlooked element of many personal injury cases is the emotional harm sustained by the victim. Georgia courts have long recognized “negligent infliction of emotional distress” as a tort, but recovery is generally limited to cases in which the emotional distress is connected to a “physical impact.” In other words, if you are physically hurt in a car accident, you can sue the negligent driver for your emotional trauma, but you cannot seek damages for purely emotional scarring, i.e. watching a loved one die in an accident.

Coon v. Medical Center, Inc.

In 2000, the Georgia Supreme Court made an exception to the “physical impact rule,” holding that when a parent and child are both physically injured in the same accident, the parent can seek damages for the emotional distress caused by watching the child “suffer and die.” Recently, the state Supreme Court declined to extend this exception to another case in which a mother suffered emotional harm after watching a hospital mishandle the remains of her daughter.

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When is a dog owner legally responsible for an attack that injures someone else? Georgia law states that anyone who “keeps a vicious or dangerous animal” is liable for “careless management” of said animal. The question then becomes, how do you know when a dog is vicious or dangerous?

Steagald v. Eason

In 2015, the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a personal injury lawsuit brought by the victim of a pitbull attack. The court said there was no evidence that the defendants, the pitbull’s owner, had specific knowledge their dog might commit an “unprovoked attack on a stranger coming into the yard.” The court brushed off evidence of the pitbull’s “snapping” and other prior aggressive behaviors as “not unusual” for a dog.

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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 you have ever read a news article about a large personal injury award, you may wonder how the jury (or judge) came up with that figure. While calculating damages is not an exact science, it is also not mere guesswork. The plaintiff in a personal injury case must present evidence, such as bills or expert testimony, to establish the size and scope of his or her losses attributable to the defendant’s conduct.

What are Economic Damages?

Economic damages refer to quantifiable financial losses suffered by the plaintiff. For example, if you are in a car accident, your economic damages may include the following:

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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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In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Nathan Deal praised the work of Georgia’s Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS), whose employees are charged with protecting abused and neglected children. The governor singled out a case manager in Telfair County who saved an infant’s life. He also proposed a 19% wage increase for case managers throughout Georgia, noting that the state pays its child welfare workers less than every other state in the southeast aside from Louisiana.

Cowart v. Georgia Department of Human Services

Despite the governor’s support, not everyone is satisfied with the the work of the state’s case managers. In fact, the Department of Human Services, which oversees the DFCS, is currently facing a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the estate of a child who died, allegedly after a case worker failed to follow up on serious abuse allegations. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial judge’s decision dismissing the case, citing the need for additional evidence on a key legal issue.

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Dealing with personal and health care issues following a car accident is stressful enough. If your financial situation has also deteriorated to the point that you need to file for bankruptcy, you should understand the impact that might have on any personal injury claim arising from your accident. If you are not careful, the bankruptcy may let a negligent defendant escape responsibility for your injuries.

Make Sure to List All Potential Lawsuits

When you file for bankruptcy you must provide the court with a list of all of your known assets. This includes any pending or potential personal injury claims. A claim is considered part of your bankruptcy estate if the cause of action arose prior to filing. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident on January 10 and file for bankruptcy on January 20, any personal injury claim you might have must be listed on your Chapter 7 petition, even if you do not file a personal injury claim until January 30.

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The normal rule in Georgia personal injury lawsuits is that each party is responsible for its own attorney’s fees and costs. Of course, the Georgia legislature may alter this rule. One such exception is contained in a 2005 “tort reform” law that allows a defendant to recover attorney fees from a plaintiff under certain circumstances.

Richardson v. Locklyn

Specifically, if a defendant offers to settle a personal injury claim, the plaintiff rejects the offer, and the jury later returns a damage award that is “less than 75%” of the offer, the defendant is entitled to collect attorney fees. The judge may decline an award, however, if the defendant’s original offer “was not made in good faith.”

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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.