Articles Posted in Personal Injury

If you have driven on an interstate highway or other major multi-lane roads, then you know that large commercial trucks can be a hazard to other vehicles simply because they are so large. These tractor-trailer rigs, also referred to as semis or 18-wheelers, often consist of a large truck towing a trailer as much as 53 feet long, and rarely less than 48 feet long. These vehicles travel the nation’s roads and highways right alongside passenger vehicles every day, usually without incident. But when a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle collide, there is no mistaking which vehicle is going to get the worst of it. If injuries or deaths occur in such an accident, odds are that the occupants of the passenger vehicles will be the victims.

Truck Accidents Rarely Go Well for the Occupants of Passenger Vehicles

In 2018, nearly 5,000 people died in accidents involving large trucks, and another 151,000 were injured. Roughly 80% of the deaths were the occupants of passenger vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. A majority of the injuries likewise were suffered by people other than the occupants of the large trucks.

On October 30, a Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed an order granting a motion to dismiss in the lawsuit against the instant messaging app for breach of duty of care in designing the app’s speed filter.

Maynard et al. v. Snapchat, Inc.

The plaintiffs sued Snapchat, Inc., and the other driver involved in the accident to recover damages for injuries resulting from a car accident. Plaintiff alleged that said injuries resulted from the other driver’s use of a feature on the Snapchat application on her phone. The district court granted Snapchat motion to dismiss. In their appeal, the plaintiffs contend that their complaint is sufficient; Snapchat violated its duty of care by poorly designing its application.  

A Marietta man was charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of serious injury by vehicle, felony fleeing, felony hit-and-run, reckless driving and speeding after leaving the scene of an accident in Midtown where an 18-year-old and a baby died.

Hit-and-Run

In Georgia, a driver’s obligation to stop after being involved in a car accident is contemplated in the Georgia Code. Under Section 40-6-270, the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident that results in injuries, death of a person, or damages to another vehicle has the obligation to stop at the scene and stay there until he or she fulfills the following:

When an auto insurer unreasonably refuses to settle a personal injury claim against one of its policyholders, the policyholder can turn around and sue the insurance company for acting in “bad faith.” If successful, a bad-faith lawsuit can mean the insurer is liable for the full amount of any judgment that the accident victim obtained against the policyholder.

Whiteide v. Geico Indemnity Company

A federal appeals court recently asked the Georgia Supreme Court to resolve a number of legal questions arising from a successful bad-faith coverage lawsuit. The case was tried before a jury in federal court following Georgia state law. In situations like this, a federal court may opt to “certify” unresolved legal questions to the state’s supreme court before proceeding further.

There is a common scenario that plays out following an auto accident. First, the injured driver sends a demand letter to the negligent driver’s insurance company, offering to settle for the limits of the latter’s policy. Next, the insurance company either accepts the offer unconditionally–usually by sending a check–or makes a counter-offer. A counter-offer constitutes a rejection of the original offer, so there is no agreement. But if the insurer does send the check, that is often enough to create a binding settlement, which the insurer and its insured may seek to enforce in court.

Claxton v. Adams

What if the insurance company sends a check, but it cannot be cashed right away? Is there still a binding settlement? Not according to a recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Georgia law requires insurance companies to act in good faith when resolving auto accident claims. For example, if you are injured in an accident caused by another driver’s clear negligence, the other driver’s insurance company is expected to make a good-faith effort to negotiate a settlement, especially when your damages meets or exceeds the limits of the actual policy. Conversely, if the insurer acts in bad faith, you can file a lawsuit and seek additional damages.

Kemper v. Equity Insurance Company

For example, a federal appeals court recently revived a bad-faith lawsuit brought against an insurance company by the victim of a motorcycle accident. The plaintiff in this case, Kemper v. Equity Insurance Company, was driving her bike down a road in Coweta County, Georgia. Another driver, who it turned out was intoxicated, crossed the centerline of the road and crashed into the plaintiff, causing her serious injuries.

A jury verdict in favor of the victim is often not the “last word” in a personal injury case. Aside from any appeal the defense might bring, the trial judge can also issue what is known as a “judgment notwithstanding the verdict” (j.n.o.v.) This basically means the judge finds that, based on the evidence presented during the trial, there can only be “one reasonable conclusion as to the proper judgment.” Put another way, j.n.o.v. is only appropriate when it is not a “close case” and the evidence–including any reasonable inferences someone could make from such evidence–inevitably leads to a conclusion that differed from that of the jury.

Gary v. Brown

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Gary v. Brown, illustrates the type of case in which a court may grant a j.n.o.v. This personal injury lawsuit involved a 2014 auto accident. The defendant rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle. The plaintiff did not initially seek medical treatment following the collision.

There is a well-established rule in American law that you cannot sue the government without its consent. This rule, known as sovereign immunity, imposes a high bar for anyone who wants to sue the government for the negligent acts of its employees. Basically, unless Congress adopts an express exemption to the sovereign immunity rule, the injured victim is out of luck.

Fortunately, Congress has adopted a fairly broad waiver of sovereign immunity for personal injury claims. The Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) allows individuals to sue the federal government for negligent acts, but there are multiple exceptions to this waiver. One of the most notable is the “discretionary-function” exception.

Under this exception, you cannot sue the federal government based on an employee’s “exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function.” In simpler terms, if the law gives a federal employee any amount of discretion on how to do their job, you cannot bring a claim under the FTCA based on how that discretion is used–even if the employee was negligent. However, if the employee failed to follow a specific federal law, regulation, or policy, then the FTCA’s waiver of sovereign immunity may still apply, as that does involve any discretionary function.

In general, monetary damages in a personal injury case are meant to compensate the victims for their losses. But there are cases in which a jury may award what are known as “punitive damages.” These damages are not meant to compensate, but rather to punish. Put another way, punitive damages are designed to “send a message” that certain types of outrageous or egregious misconduct will not be tolerated in a civilized society.

Punitive damages are considered an extraordinary remedy under Georgia law. This means that it is not enough for a plaintiff to show they were injured by the defendant’s negligence. Rather, state law requires proof by “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant engaged in “willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences.”

Ferguson v. Garkuhsa

In September 2002, Yahazia Odelia purchased two side-by-side plots from a cemetery in DeKalb, Georgia. The plots were known as Space 15 and Space 16, respectively. Odelia buried her sister in pace 16 and reserved Space 15 for her mother when her time came.

When Odelia’s mother passed away in 2016, Odelia was shocked to learn that the cemetery had re-sold Space 15 to another family in April 2005, who buried one of their loved ones in the plot previously reserved for Odelia’s mother. As you might expect, Odelia was not happy about this and took legal action.

In April 2016, a Georgia judge ordered the cemetery to disinter the remains of the person buried in Space 15 and to make that space available for the burial of Odelia’s mother, as they were contractually obligated to do in the first place. Odelia was finally able to bury her mother next to her sister in June 2017.

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