Articles Posted in Personal Injury

You probably know that if you are injured on the job, workers’ compensation covers your employer’s liability for the accident. Workers’ compensation does not apply to third-party liability, however. In other words, if your work-related accident was caused by someone other than your employer (or someone working for your employer), you can still file a separate personal injury lawsuit against that party.

Newcomb v. Spring Creek Cooler, Inc.

Of course, unlike “no-fault” workers’ compensation benefits, you still have to prove that the third party did something wrong. The third party may turn around and argue you were either at-fault for the accident, or you should have been aware of the dangerous condition that caused your injuries.

In some personal injury cases, expert testimony is necessary to help establish causation. For example, if you sue your doctor for medical malpractice, you will need to present testimony from another qualified physician who can explain exactly what your doctor did wrong and how that “caused” your alleged injury. Other cases do not typically require such testimony. If you slip and fall on a puddle of water in the middle of a grocery store, you do not need an expert to explain what caused you to fall.

Wilson v. Kroger Co.

What if the defendant alleges another potential cause of a plaintiff’s injuries? Does the plaintiff need to call on an expert witness to rebut this alternate explanation? A federal judge in Atlanta recently addressed such a situation.

Workers’ compensation represents a legislatively imposed bargain between employees and employers. The bargain works like this: If the employee is injured in the course of employment, the employer agrees to pay certain medical and wage-replacement benefits. The employer is not required to admit fault for the accident, and the employee is not allowed to file a personal injury lawsuit seeking damages outside of the workers’ compensation system.

Savannah Hospitality Services, LLC v. Scriven

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Savannah Hospitality Services, LLC v. Scriven, clarifies the “exclusive remedy” nature of workers’ compensation. This case involves a 2016 auto accident. The plaintiff was driving a vehicle owned by his employer at the time. He subsequently filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver and owner of the other vehicle. (Such third-party claims are not covered by workers’ compensation.)

Personal injury claims are not always about car accidents or even physical injuries. Negligence can affect victims in many other ways, such as forcing them to incur a financial loss or depriving them of some other intrinsic right. That said, a plaintiff can only recover damages when the negligence was rooted in some legal duty owed him or her by the defendant.

Georgia Department of Labor v. McConnell

For example, the Supreme Court of Georgia recently issued an opinion, Georgia Department of Labor v. McConnell addressing the question of whether state officials owe a legal duty to protect the personal information of individuals from unauthorized disclosure. The background for this case was a 2013 incident in which an employee of the Georgia Department of Labor accidentally emailed a spreadsheet containing the personal information of over 4,700 residents of Cherokee, Cobb, and Fulton Counties to approximately 1,000 recipients.

One of the biggest mistakes a person can make following a serious accident is to not contact a lawyer. In some cases, the negligent party who caused the accident will try and convince the victim that it is unnecessary to speak with an attorney. The negligent party may even make promises to “take care of” the victim’s damages without the need for them to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Golden Isles Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Lowie

Unfortunately, such promises may be nothing more than a delaying tactic. The negligent party may simply be trying to keep the victim from filing a claim until it is too late–i.e., after the statute of limitations has expired.

Insurance companies and corporate defendants often try to deny a legitimate personal injury claim. It is one thing to litigate a case in court. But it is quite another when a defendant raises arguments it knows to be frivolous.

For this reason, Georgia law allows successful personal injury plaintiffs to ask for a determination of whether or not the defense “presented a frivolous claim or defense.” This requires the court to hold a “bifurcated” or two-part hearing. In the first part, the “trier of fact,” which is typically a jury in personal injury lawsuits, decides if the challenged defense was in fact frivolous. If the answer is “yes,” then the trier of fact must then assess an appropriate award of damages to the plaintiff, which may include attorney’s fees and litigation expenses.

Showan v. Pressdee

There are many deadlines a person needs to understand and comply with in a personal injury lawsuit. Perhaps the most critical deadline is the statute of limitations. In Georgia, an accident victim has two years from the date of the injury to sue the negligent defendants.

To give a simple illustration, let us say you are injured in a car accident that occurred on May 1, 2017. If you want to sue the other driver for damages, you need to make sure your lawsuit is filed no later than May 1, 2019. After that date, no Georgia judge can hear your case, regardless of its merits.

Herrin v. JC Penny Corporation, Inc.

Most personal injury claims arising from an auto accident are paid via a settlement with the negligent driver’s insurance company. What happens when the insurer refuses to settle and the injured parties successfully sue the negligent driver for damages? In such scenarios, the driver may be able to sue the insurer for its “bad faith” refusal to settle the personal injury claim in the first place.

First Acceptance Insurance Company of Georgia, Inc. v. Hughes

When does an insurance company’s “duty to settle” actually arise? Does the insurer have to wait for the injured victims to file a lawsuit? Or should the insurer reasonably anticipate when such a lawsuit is likely to occur? The Georgia Supreme Court recently addressed both of those questions.

Whenever there is an airplane crash, you inevitably hear the media talk about the “black box,” i.e., the data recorders that often provide accident investigators with valuable evidence when trying to piece together what went wrong. These days, many cars contain their own black box-type devices, which can prove equally valuable when preserving evidence for a potential personal injury lawsuit. Of course, this only helps if the vehicle itself is properly preserved and not lost or destroyed following the accident.

French v. Perez

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, French v. Perez, addressed just such a scenario. This case revolves around a December 2014 auto accident. The plaintiff was a passenger in his sister’s car. It collided with another vehicle operated by the defendant and owned by the defendant’s wife.

In personal injury cases you often hear about damages for “pain and suffering.” This includes mental as well as physical pain. While there is obviously no precise way to quantify such non-economic injuries, there are certain legal guidelines judges and juries must follow when determining such awards.

Warnock v. Sandford

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed this subject. In Warnock v. Sandford, a jury awarded nearly $11 million in damages to an auto accident victim for his physical and mental pain and suffering. The defendant appealed, alleging the judge improperly instructed the jury as to the law.