Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In a typical personal injury claim arising from a car accident, the plaintiff is free to sue the defendant for damages at any time prior to the expiration of the statute of limitations, which is normally two years for personal injury claims. However, when the defendant is a government employee, and the accident occurred while that person was acting in an official role, the plaintiff needs to jump through some additional hoops before a court will even hear the lawsuit.

For example, if you are injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of a Georgia county employee, state law requires that you present a claim to the county within 12 months. Basically, you need to give the county written notice before you can sue it. If you fail to comply with this notice requirement, a judge will dismiss any subsequent personal injury lawsuit based on that claim.

Moats v. Mendez

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All Georgia employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance. This provides medical and wage replacement benefits to employees who are injured in the course of their employment. For example, if you are in a car accident while driving a company-owned vehicle to make a sales call, you would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.

What happens when your employer’s insurance company is insolvent, i.e., it cannot pay out your claim? In that case, the Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool takes over. This is a nonprofit entity that effectively steps into the shoes of the insolvent insurer and pays any outstanding workers’ compensation claims.

Georgia Insurers Insolvency Pool v. Dubose

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Georgia follows what is known as “modified comparative fault” in personal injury cases. What does this mean? Well, let us say you are involved in an auto accident with another vehicle. You later sue the other driver for damages. If a jury ultimately determines that the other driver was 80% at-fault, that means you are 20% at-fault. You could still recover damages under this scenario, but your award would be reduced by 20% to account for your own “comparative fault.”

So, what happens if the jury decides you are both equally at-fault, i.e., you were both 50% responsible? In that case, you recover nothing. Georgia’s comparative fault law prohibits a plaintiff from taking anything in a personal injury lawsuit if he or she is found 50% or more at-fault.

Barrett v. Burnette

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We have all heard the famous police warning, “You have the right to remain silent.” It is a bedrock principle of constitutional law: No person can be compelled to testify against him or herself in a criminal proceeding. What about a civil lawsuit, such as a personal injury claim, arising from a potential criminal act? How does the Fifth Amendment affect a victim’s ability to seek compensation?

U-Haul Company of Arizona v. Rutland

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a case dealing with these issues. In U-Haul Company of Arizona v. Rutland, a widow sued multiple parties, alleging they were responsible for her husband’s death in an October 2015 car accident. To be more specific, a drunk driver operating a rented U-Haul truck crossed a center line and hit the victim’s car in a head-on collision. Police subsequently arrested the driver and charged him with vehicular homicide and DUI, among other charges.

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Personal injury claims against Georgia state officials are subject to a special set of constitutional and statutory rules. According to the Georgia Constitution, the General Assembly “may waive the state’s sovereign immunity” by law in cases in which an individual employee negligently injures someone. But “except as specifically provided” by such a waiver, the Constitution says, no public employee can be held liable for “the performance or nonperformance of their official functions.”

What does this mean, practically speaking? Basically, you can not sue an employee for exercising his or her own discretion in the performance of a job. You can, however, sue an employee who fails to carry out a legally mandated (or “ministerial”) task.

Wyno v. Lowndes County

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Back in 2017, we discussed a personal injury lawsuit dismissed by the Georgia Court of Appeals. The case involved a Georgia defendant and Michigan plaintiffs, but the underlying subject of the plaintiffs’ personal claim arose during their vacation in the Dominican Republic. The Court of Appeals determined the Dominican courts were the proper venue to resolve the plaintiffs’ allegations. But the plaintiffs appealed that decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia, which reversed the Court of Appeals in a judgment issued on February 4 of this year.

La Fontaine v. Signature Research, Inc.

To briefly review the facts of the case. The plaintiffs are a married couple. During their Dominican vacation, the wife was injured during a fall from a collapsed zip-line operated by a company known as CSA. The plaintiffs’ subsequently filed a personal injury claim in Georgia state court against a second company, Signature Research, that was responsible for inspecting and certifying CSA’s zip lines.

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Car accidents often leave victims with lifelong injuries that never fully heal. When these accidents are the result of negligence, the victim has every right to pursue a personal injury claim in court. But what happens when the negligent party is an employee of the federal government?

Rodriguez-Densley v. United States

This was precisely the scenario confronted by a federal judge in Macon during a recent case, Rodriguez-Densley v. United States. The underlying facts of this case are fairly straightforward. The plaintiff was returning home in her car. She approached a U-shaped residential driveway. At that same time, a United States Postal Service delivery truck was in the driveway.