Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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The term “hazing” is used to broadly describe a wide range of social rituals designed to humiliate or embarrass the subject. Sometimes hazing is nothing more than a silly prank. But when it involves physical or sexual abuse of any kind, that crosses a line–and the victims have the right to seek damages via a personal injury lawsuit.

L.A. v. Riverside Military Academy

Hazing has been in the news recently here in Georgia due to a lawsuit filed against Riverside Military Academy in Gainesville. The lawsuit was filed in Georgia federal court on November 15, 2018. The plaintiff is identified only by the initials “L.A.” According to the complaint, the now-18-year-old L.A. attended Riverside when he was between the ages of 12 and 13. The lawsuit was filed in federal court because L.A. currently lives in Chicago.

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Workers’ compensation is a state-run insurance system designed to provide “no-fault” benefits to employees injured on the job. No-fault means that a worker may receive medical and income replacement benefits without having to establish the employer was negligent or somehow responsible for the injury. However, the injury must occur in the course of employment and not some “individual pursuit.”

Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation

Georgia courts have long held that an employee who is on a scheduled lunch or rest break during the workday is engaged in an “individual pursuit,” and therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured during that time. Recently, the Georgia Court of Appeals reaffirmed that principle in a case addressing an employee was injured while preparing to leave work for lunch.

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In Georgia, workers’ compensation is intended to provide employees with an “exclusive remedy” against their employers for job-related accidents. This means that the employer is required to pay certain benefits, regardless of fault. In exchange, the employee has no legal right to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. The exclusive remedy rule does not, however, apply to third parties whose negligence may have contributed to the accident.

Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc.

Of course, there are scenarios in which a third party may try and claim protection under the workers’ compensation law as “statutory employers.” Here is a recent example of such an attempt. In this case, Felker v. Tyson Foods, Inc., the plaintiff worked as an electrician. The defendant hired an electrical contractor to assist in some renovation work on one of its facilities. The plaintif, in turn, worked for the contractor.

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Personal injury litigation often takes a long time to resolve. In many cases, the victims and their families need to wait years before seeing a dime from their claims. This can impose a substantial financial hardship, especially if you are an accident victim unable to return to work and earn a living due your injuries.

For this reason, there are many companies that now offer litigation financing. Basically, a third party advances funds to the plaintiff to help them pay personal expenses while the case is pending. If the plaintiff is successful, the plaintiff repays the funds to the third party, together with any previously agreed upon interest and fees. If the plaintiff recovers nothing from the case, they owe the financing company nothing.

Ruth v. Cherokee Funding, LLC

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There are a number of situations in which an individual or business may be held liable for a personal injury caused by someone else. Two of the more common ones involve the legal concepts of respondeat superior and premises liability. The first, respondeat superior, refers to cases in which an employee commits a tort in the course of carrying out the employer’s business. The second, premises liability, means a property owner had superior knowledge of a safety hazard that caused an injury to a person lawfully on the premises.

Manners v. 5 Star Lodge and Stables, LLC

Neither of these rules means a business is automatically liable for an accident just because it involves one of its employees or occurs on its land. Here is an example taken from a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision. In this case, a woman was accidentally shot while on the premises of a lodge. The Court of Appeals, upholding an earlier ruling by a trial judge, held that the lodge was not legally responsible for the plaintiff’s shooting or injuries.

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If you want to file a civil lawsuit against someone in Georgia, you need to be aware of the statute of limitations. This is basically the legal time limit to file a claim. For personal injury cases, Georgia’s statute of limitations is normally two years from the date the action “accrued.” For example, let us say you were injured in a car accident that took place on November 1, 2016. Under Georgia law, you need to sue the negligent driver no later than November 1, 2018. Even if you file one day past this deadline, the judge will throw out your case because legally, no court may hear a case once the statute of limitations has expired.

Williams v. Durden

However, there are certain events that can “toll” the statute of limitations. Tolling effectively stops the clock for a specified period of time. The burden is on the plaintiff to prove there is some legal grounds for tolling. In other words, do not assume you can simply file a personal injury lawsuit after the expiration of the two-year time limit unless you can cite a specific reason for tolling under Georgia law.

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Although medical malpractice cases are typically governed by state law, there are some situations in which federal law may also play a role. For example, the Federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) sets standards that hospital emergency departments must follow when accepting Medicare patients. Hospitals may be held liable for failing to meet its EMTALA obligations, such as failing to properly screen or treat a patient who presents with a qualifying emergency medical condition.

Pham v. Black

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the application of EMTALA to a medical malpractice claim against a Georgia-based hospital and several of its doctors. This case began when the now-deceased victim arrived at the hospital’s emergency room complaining of a “racing heart rate.” One of the defendants, Dr. Pham, was on duty that night and had general responsibility for admitting patients to the emergency department.

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An accident often leaves more than physical injuries. The victims also suffer emotional trauma that may persist for weeks, months, and even years after the accident itself. For this reason, Georgia law does recognize a variety of claims for emotional damages arising from an accident caused by a third party’s negligence.

Malibu Boats, LLC v. Batchelder

Just how far can such claims go? That is a question the Georgia Court of Appeals recently confronted in Malibu Boats, LLC v. Batchelder, a personal injury case arising from a 2014 boating accident in Rabun County, Georgia. The plaintiffs–a family including two adults and four children–took out a boat manufactured by the defendant onto Lake Burton.

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Although you might think negligence is a matter of “common sense,” the law is often not so simple. There are many situations in which a defendant who you might assume is negligent can still avoid liability due to a particular state law. Such exceptions unfortunately may leave victims with little or no recourse to seek damages.

Patton v. Cumberland Corporation

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals illustrates how one of these special legal exceptions work in practice. This case involves a single-vehicle truck accident. The plaintiff was riding in a truck with another man when it hit a fallen power cable. Although the driver tried to avoid the cable, the wire “caught the rear of the truck, lifting it 18 inches or more off the ground,” according to court records.

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Hit-and-run accidents are a common occurrence in Georgia. Many people are seriously injured by drivers who either do not know they caused an accident, or do know and flee to avoid taking responsibility. In either case, the victim is often left scrambling to identify the driver and take appropriate legal action to obtain compensation for their injuries.

Callaway v. Quinn

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals helps to illustrate the challenges hit-and-run accidents face in pursuing a personal injury claim. This case involves a 2015 hit-and-run accident. The plaintiff was driving her car and “stopped in traffic” when she was rear-ended by a “man driving a pickup truck” who “fled the scene.” Police investigators later found the truck abandoned in a nearby parking lot.