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Industrial accidents are often the result of a chain of events. There are usually multiple parties whose negligence or intentional failures led to an innocent worker’s injury. Of course, when the victim files a lawsuit, these parties are quick to try and deflect blame to one another.

Hill v. Konecranes, Inc.

An ongoing federal lawsuit in Savannah, Hill v. Konecranes, Inc., provides an apt illustration of this principle. This tragic case involves the 2015 death of a crane operator. The victim worked for International Paper Company (IP) in Augusta, where he used a gantry crane to move timber. Konecranes, Inc., was the company responsible for manufacturing and installing the crane. IP also retained Konecranes to perform regular inspections of the gantry crane.

Most personal injury lawsuits involve accidents, i.e. unintentional but negligent conduct, but sometimes a personal injury arises from criminal activity. When this is the case, the criminal party can be held liable in a personal injury lawsuit–but their insurance company probably will not cover any award of damages. That is because insurers typically include criminal activity from the scope of their policy coverage.

Marcus v. Country Mutual DO-013 Insurance Company

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Marcus v. Country Mutual DO-013 Insurance Company, provides a helpful illustration of this principle. This case unfortunately began with a scenario that has become all too common in Georgia — a white person reporting “suspicious” African-Americans to the police. According to court records, the woman repeatedly complained to law enforcement in Macon about several African-American youths. When questioned, the juveniles explained that the woman had repeatedly shouted racial epithets at them. The police advised the youths to “stay on the other side of the street when passing by her house, knowing that [she] was upset and hostile.”

In personal injury law, you often come across the phrase “actual or constructive notice.” This refers to a property owner’s knowledge with respect to a given hazard. Actual notice means the owner knew the hazard existed. Constructive notice, on the other hand, means the owner “should have known” there was a hazard based on the exercise of reasonable care.

Lebron v. Royal Caribbean Cruises LTD

It is critical for a plaintiff in any personal injury case to establish the existence of either actual or constructive notice. Without such proof, a court will dismiss the plaintiff’s claims. At the same time, judges need to be careful to not dismiss a valid lawsuit based on an incorrect interpretation of the evidence.

Workers’ compensation requires Georgia employers to pay medical and wage replacement benefits to employees injured “in the course of” employment. This includes not only injuries that occur while actively working, but also during times “incidental” to a job, such as entering or exiting the employer’s premises. However, employers are not liable for injuries that occur when an employee is engaged in an “individual pursuit.”

Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation

In 2018, we discussed a decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Frett v. State Farm Employee Workers’ Compensation, where an employee was injured during a scheduled lunch break. To briefly recap, the employee was a claims adjuster at State Farm. The employer required her to take an unpaid 45-minute lunch break each day. On the day in question, the employee clocked out for lunch, went to the break room to prepare some food, and slipped and fell as she exited the room.

If you are injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of another person, your typical remedy is to file a personal injury lawsuit in state court. Depending on certain factors, the defense may have the right to transfer the case to federal court. This is known as “removal.”

Removal is permitted under federal law when two specific conditions are met: First, the “amount in controversy” must be more than $75,000; and second, there must be “complete diversity” between the parties. This means that if you are a Georgia resident, all of the defendants named in your lawsuit must be non-Georgia residents. If even one defendant is from the same state as you, you can have your lawsuit returned to state court.

Hickerson v. Enterprise Leasing Company of Georgia, LLC

If you are injured in an auto accident, you naturally assume that your insurance policy will help cover your damages. As with any contract, you need to carefully review and understand the terms of your policy. You may need to comply with a number of conditions before the insurer is legally obligated to provide you with coverage. Your failure to comply can–and will–be strictly held against you by the courts.

Geico General Insurance Company v. Breffle

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Geico General Insurance Company v. Breffle, provides a cautionary example. This case involves an insured driver (the plaintiff) who was injured in an April 2016 auto accident with another vehicle. The plaintiff sought medical treatment for his injuries a few days after the accident. In December 2016, about eight months after the accident, the plaintiff underwent a surgical procedure as part of his treatment. Later, in March 2017, the plaintiff’s doctors advised him that he would need a second surgery.

Have you ever participated in an activity in which the organizer asks you to sign a release or waiver? As you might imagine, such documents are designed to help minimize the organizer’s legal liability in the event you are injured. One way to do this is by restricting your ability to file a personal injury lawsuit; instead, the waiver or release may require you to submit to binding arbitration.

Atlanta Concorde Fire Soccer Association, Inc. v. Graham

How far can an arbitration agreement go? For instance, can the agreement bind third parties who did not actually sign the release? The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed such a case, albeit one that applied California law to the subject.

When an employee of a private business causes an auto accident, the victim can seek to hold the employer accountable under the legal principle of vicarious liability. What happens when the employee works for a local government? In that scenario, it is still possible to hold the public employer accountable, but there are a number of procedural hurdles that the victim must clear first.

Green v. Baldwin County Board of Commissioners

A May 5 decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Green v. Baldwin County Board of Commissioners, illustrates the difficulty such hurdles can pose. This case involves a June 2015 auto accident in Baldwin County. The plaintiff was stopped at an intersection when a police car driven by a sheriff’s deputy rear-ended her.

Personal injury cases in Georgia follow what is known as the “contributory negligence” rule. This basically means that the defendant may try and argue the plaintiff was partially responsible for their injuries. A jury will then assess the relative fault of each party and reduce the plaintiff’s damages accordingly.

In some cases, the judge may decide that the plaintiff voluntarily and knowingly assumed a particular risk. In these situations, the judge will not submit the case to the jury. Instead, the court will dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint based on this “assumption of risk” defense.

Thompkins v. Gonzalez-Nunez

It is a longstanding rule in Georgia that employers are “vicariously liable” for torts committed by their employees. In other words, if you are hit by a delivery van that runs a red light, you can sue the company that employs that driver for damages. But there is an important caveat to this rule–the driver must have been “acting within the scope of his employment” at the time of the accident. If the driver was actually running a personal errand, even in a company-owned car, then the employer is not legally responsible.

Mannion & Mannion, Inc. v. Mendez

A recent decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals, Mannion & Mannion, Inc. v. Mendez, illustrates what we are talking about. This personal injury case arose from a March 2016 auto accident. A mechanic, one of the defendants here, left his employer’s business to take his lunch break. The mechanic did not have a set lunch time and did not have to “clock out”; he simply told his co-workers he was leaving.

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