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As a general rule in Georgia, your auto insurance policy’s liability coverage follows you rather than your vehicle. In other words, if you borrow a friend’s car and get into an accident that injures the other driver, your liability policy will pay for the damages. Of course, this presumes the vehicle you are driving is “covered” by the policy and not subject to any exclusions.

Progressive Mountain Insurance Company v. McCallister

One common exclusion is for vehicles operated as part of an “auto business.” What does this mean? A recent decision by a federal judge Waycross, Georgia, offers a helpful illustration. This case involves a rather complex accident that took place in 2016, which in turn led to litigation between a driver and his insurance company.

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There is always some time limit applicable to bringing a lawsuit. This is known as the “statute of limitations.” In Georgia, for example, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is typically two years. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident on May 1, 2016, you have until May 1, 2018 to sue the negligent driver for damages. Even if you file just a couple of days after the statute of limitations expires, your case is barred as a matter of law.

Langley v. MP Spring Lake, LLC

While two years is the normal statute of limitations in Georgia, there may be situations in which a personal injury victim actually has less time to file a claim. Georgia courts have long recognized the rights of parties to “contract” away certain legal rights. According to a recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, this includes the time frame to file a personal injury lawsuit.

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Just as auto insurance provides liability coverage in the event a driver is sued for causing an accident, most Georgia homeowners’ insurance policies protect the homeowner in the event that someone is injured on their property. For example, if the homeowner was negligent in maintaining their driveway and someone has a trip-and-fall accident, the homeowners’ insurance carrier could be on the hook for the victim’s medical bills and other damages. As with any kind of insurance claim, it is important for the owner to promptly notify the homeowners’ insurance carrier anytime there is an accident that may lead to litigation.

Travelers Indemnity Company of America v. Jones

If there is any way for an insurance company to avoid paying a personal injury claim, it will take it. Consider this recent decision by a federal judge in Athens. This case arises from particularly tragic circumstances. A 23-year-old woman was going to a party at a house in Athens. But as she was still seated in her car, she was struck and killed by a stray bullet, the byproduct of a gun fight between two groups on the property.

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When bringing a premises liability claim in Georgia, a plaintiff does not have to establish that the defendant had actual knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. Instead, the plaintiff can show the defendant had “constructive” knowledge. Basically, this means the defendant should have known about the hazard, either because there was a prior history of similar accidents, or the defendant failed to maintain a reasonable inspection program for their property.

Knoeferl v. Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

Here is an illustration of what this means in practice. This is taken from a recent decision by a federal judge in Augusta in an ongoing personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff had gone to the defendant’s restaurant for lunch. While walking back to her car following her meal, the plaintiff fell over an “indentation in the pavement,” causing her to break her femur. She subsequently sued the defendant for its alleged negligence in failing to properly maintain its parking lot.

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The right to a jury trial is a basic tenet of our legal system. Jurors are entrusted to carefully consider all of the evidence and return a verdict in accordance with the law. Of course, there are times when a jury’s verdict is so inconsistent with the facts that a judge or appellate court must intervene in order to protect the interests of the plaintiff alleging a personal injury.

Evans v. Rockdale Hospital, LLC

For instance, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently ordered a new trial in a medical malpractice case because the jury contradicted itself. It found the defendant liable for a serious act of medical malpractice, yet awarded the plaintiff zero damages for her pain and suffering. The appeals court said such a verdict “shocks the conscience” and necessitated a full retrial of the case before a new jury.

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Premises liability laws ensure that property owners are held responsible for hazardous conditions that injure their invited guests or other members of the public who are lawfully on the premises. With respect to invitees, the property owner must exercise “ordinary care in the keeping the premises and approaches safe.” If the injured party is a “licensee” – someone who is permitted on the property but is not considered a customer or “servant” of the owner – then the owner is only liable for causing “willful or wanton injury.”

Harrison v. Legacy Housing, LP

Many premises liability cases turn on the status of the injured plaintiff, i.e. whether they an invitee or licensee. A recent decision by a federal judge in Macon offers a helpful illustration of this distinction. The plaintiff in this case was helping a friend perform work in an empty warehouse. After the plaintiff sustained a serious injury, he attempted to sue the warehouse’s owner under the theory he was an “invitee.”

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Is a “parade” the same thing as a “fair” or a “charitable function”? You probably never stopped to think about this comparison before, yet it is a central legal question in an ongoing personal injury case that was the subject of a recent Georgia Court of Appeals opinion.

Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company v. Claxton

The somewhat unusual facts of this case revolve around a mule-drawn carriage. The driver of said carriage offered a free ride to a passenger after the vehicle participated in a local Christmas parade in Telfair County. During this ride, a car rear-ended the carriage and injured the passenger.

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Car accidents may have many causes. Oftentimes it is simply negligence on the part of the driver. There may also be a defect in the vehicle itself, either as the result of a faulty part used during the manufacturing process or an inadequate repair. If there was, in fact, a problem with the car, the driver may not be liable for any damages sustained by third parties.

Almassur v. Mezquital

On March 15, the Georgia Court of Appeals overturned a $30 million jury verdict in a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2012 car accident in Forsyth County. The appellate court said the trial judge committed a significant error in refusing to allow a jury instruction proposed by the defense. That instruction, in turn, addressed whether the defendant driver’s actions on the day of the accident were “unknowing and unintentional.”

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We previously discussed a terrible wrongful death case, Walden v. Chrysler Group, LLC, in which a 4-year-old Georgia child died after his aunt’s Jeep Grand Cherokee exploded in a rear-end collision. The impact caused the Jeep’s rear-mounted fuel tank to explode, setting the child on fire. Following a trial, a jury held the Jeep’s manufacturer, Chrysler, 99% responsible for the child’s death and awarded the family $150 million in damages. Although the judge reduced that award to $40 million, Chrysler still appealed.

Is a CEO’s Salary Relevant to a Wrongful Death Claim Against his Company?

The Georgia Supreme Court recently affirmed the modified verdict after reviewing and rejecting Chrysler’s challenge to some of the evidence presented at trial. Specifically, Chrysler argued that it was unduly prejudiced by the plaintiff’s introduction of evidence related to the salary of the company’s chief executive officer.

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Georgia law draws a sharp distinction between ordinary negligence and medical malpractice. The former does not necessarily require an expert’s opinion to prove liability, but the latter does. Specifically, the Georgia Supreme Court has said that medical malpractice victims must present evidence from at least one expert witness in order to “overcome the presumption that the [defendant] acted with due care and establish the [defendant]’s negligence.”

Southeastern Pain Specialists, PC v. Brown

Even in cases of egregious medical malpractice in which you would think common sense would tell you there was negligence, Georgia courts still demand expert testimony. To drive this point home, the Georgia Supreme Court recently threw out a $22 million verdict against an Atlanta doctor and his clinic. The justices felt the trial judge failed to properly instruct the jury on the differences between ordinary and medical negligence.