Articles Tagged with Georgia personal injury attorney

Just a few short years ago, ride-share services did not exist. It was less than a decade ago that the name “Uber” entered common usage, and the ride-share service became common in cities nationwide within a couple years. In the last six or seven years, ride-share services have proliferated, with Uber joined by Lyft, Sidecar, and who knows how many other services, some of them national, some regional, some serving only a few areas. No matter which service you use – and one in five Americans have used a ride-share service – the experience is largely the same. You use an app on your smartphone to ask for a ride, the car arrives quickly and gives you a ride to your destination, generally for less – often much less – than a traditional taxi cab would cost. Plus you can give the driver a bad rating if the service is not fast and courteous, an option simply not available with a taxi. What’s not to like?

Ride-Share Vehicles Get in Accidents, Too

The problem, of course, is that ride-shares, like the services offered by Uber and Lyft in Marietta and the surrounding area, are vehicles just like any others on the road. They can and do get into accidents. Ride-share drivers do not have special training, and no one really knows whether ride-share drivers get into accidents more or less frequently than the average driver on the road. A few years ago, a Chicago newspaper tried to find out, and learned instead that no government entity keeps statistics on ride-share accidents, and no ride-share service makes its accident statistics public. It is fair to assume, though, that ride-share drivers get into accidents at the same rate as pretty much every other driver on the road. So who pays if you get injured in a traffic accident while riding in an Uber, Lyft, or other rides-share service vehicle?

In late October last year, a pedestrian was killed in Marietta while crossing the intersection of South Marietta Parkway and Aviation Road. While tragic, pedestrian deaths are all too common and on the rise. In fact, a nationwide report found that in 2019, pedestrian deaths in the United States hit their highest level since 1988, with an estimated 6,590 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents. Further mirroring national trends, the Marietta pedestrian death occurred during darkness, more than two hours before sunrise. The death also highlighted national trends, as roughly one in five pedestrian deaths in the U.S. occur in intersections.

Walking Near Vehicular Traffic is a Dangerous Proposition

Let’s face it, walking along a roadway – let alone crossing one – can be a hazardous proposition. In 2017, an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms following traffic accidents. There is no telling how many did not seek ER treatment. Given the estimated 6,590 pedestrian traffic deaths in 2019, which is up from 2017, it is reasonable to believe that traffic injuries to pedestrians that were treated in emergency rooms also increased from 2017. Based on 2017 statistics, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident, per trip, than are passenger vehicle occupants.

There is something about riding a motorcycle through the countryside, with the wind in your face, that is exhilarating. Motorcyclists say the ride feels like freedom, and they might have a point. On the other hand, freedom comes with a price, even when you are just talking about riding a motorcycle. While deaths from motorcycle accidents are declining, dropping 5% from 2017 to just under 5,000 deaths in 2018, riding a motorcycle is a highly hazardous activity, particularly compared to riding in a passenger vehicle. Riders on a motorcycle – drivers and passengers – are approximately 28 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than are the occupants of passenger vehicles per passenger miles driven. Only 3% of the registered motor vehicles in the U.S. – of all kinds – are motorcycles. Motorcycles account for only about .6% of vehicle miles traveled each year, and yet motorcycle riders and their passengers total about 14% of all road deaths annually.

Motorcycle Accidents are Far More Likely to End in Injuries

Federal statistics indicate that more than 80% of traffic accidents involving motorcycles lead to either the motorcycle’s driver, passenger, or both dying or being injured. In many ways, it is not a surprising statistic. There are no “minor” accidents for a motorcyclist. With only two wheels and no protective steel body around them, a traffic accident for motorcyclists virtually guarantees two things – the bike will end up sliding along the ground on its side and the motorcyclist will either be sliding along half under the bike or sliding along the ground without the bike. If the cyclist is lucky, there will not be a trip through the air before the sliding starts, and the slide will not end with a sudden impact into a stationary object. Needless to say, motorcyclists can be severely injured in an accident that leaves passenger vehicle occupants unscathed.

Side-impact crashes – commonly referred to as “T-bone” collisions – are among the most dangerous of car accidents for occupants of the vehicle being T-boned. A T-bone accident is one in which one vehicle strikes another straight into the second vehicle’s side at a perpendicular angle, hence the popular nickname. The car being struck in the side forms the cross of the “T,” while the striking vehicle forms the stem. T-bone accidents frequently are the result of one vehicle or the other running a stop sign or running the red light at a traffic signal. No matter how they occur, side-impact crashes can have devastating consequences for the occupants of the car on the receiving end of the side impact.

Side-Impact Collisions are Especially Dangerous

According to federal statistics, more than half of all traffic deaths from accidents involving passenger vehicles result from head-on collisions. That makes sense given the impact speeds involved in head-on crashes. Much more surprising, though, is that a quarter of all traffic fatalities occur in side-impact crashes – or T-bone accidents. Unfortunately, the lethality of side-impact collisions also makes sense. Many cars still on the road do not have side airbags, and a car hit from the side does not enjoy the protection of the front-end automobile architecture that has reduced the lethality of head-on collisions. There is no crumple zone on the side of a car. Side airbags were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Chrysler and Volvo on some models, and have become common in all passenger vehicles since the early 2000s, but they are not mandated by the government except for front-seat side air bags.

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.

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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