Articles Tagged with Georgia personal injury attorney

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

This may sound like a test question from an introduction to philosophy class: If a truck hits two vehicles in succession, one right after the other, is that one accident or two accidents? When it comes to dealing with insurance companies, however, this is not just a hypothetical issue. How the law defines “accident” can significantly affect the award of insurance benefits to accident victims.

Grange Mutual Insurance Company v. Slaughter

The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta recently confronted this “one accident or two” question in a complex personal injury case, Grange Mutual Insurance Company v. Slaughter, arising from an October 2015 incident. The driver of a dump truck owned by Four Seasons Trucking (FST) illegally crossed a center line and hit two other vehicles in rapid succession.

Class actions allow multiple individuals who suffered a common personal injury to file a single lawsuit against a defendant or group of defendants. Typically, the plaintiffs who file the class action decide whether or not to bring their case in state or federal court. But in some cases, the defendants may force the “removal” of a class action from state to federal court.

A 2005 law, the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA), permits defendants to do this. CAFA provides for removal when there are more than 100 plaintiffs in the class, the amount they seek is more than $5 million, and at least one plaintiff is a resident of a different state than at least one of the defendants. However, removal is not allowed when the class action arises from “an event or occurrence in the State in which the action was filed, and that allegedly resulted in injuries in that State or in States contiguous to that State.”

Spencer v. Specialty Foundry Products Inc.

In July 2019, a woman from Lawrenceville attended her son’s football practice at a local field. The woman walked by the field’s bleachers when she slipped and fell on an uncovered drain. She suffered injuries as a result of this fall and subsequently sued Gwinnett County, which operated the field, and a number of related parties, mostly unidentified county employees. The now-plaintiff alleged that the County’s failure to properly maintain or repair the drain caused her accident.

Gwinnett County, GA, v. Ashby

Gwinnett County promptly moved to dismiss the lawsuit. It cited the longstanding legal principle of “sovereign immunity,” which holds that a person cannot sue the state or any of its subdivisions–such as a county–unless their claims are expressly authorized by the Georgia General Assembly. The County insisted that no such legislative waiver of sovereign immunity applied to the plaintiff’s lawsuit. In response, the plaintiff cited a state law known as the Recreational Property Act (RPA).

In the 1990s, the General Assembly adopted the Georgia Street Gang Terrorism and Prevention Act (GSGTPA). This law gives prosecutors and local governments powerful tools to address “criminal gang activity” in their jurisdictions. The Act also permits victims of gang violence to file personal injury lawsuits for triple damages. The law does not specify the particular types of lawsuits that can be filed, or even who the possible defendants must be, only that the “finder of fact”–i.e., a jury–must first decide if the plaintiff’s action is “consistent with the intent of the General Assembly” when it adopted the GSGTPA.

Star Residential, LLC v. Hernandez

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed the application of the GSGTPA to a personal injury lawsuit, Star Residential, LLC v. Hernandez, brought by a man against the owner and operator of his apartment complex. Specifically, the plaintiff said he was “shot from behind in an unprovoked attack and robbery” committed by three unidentified men. The plaintiff was paralyzed as a result of his gunshot injuries.

As you probably know, if you are injured on the job, your employer must pay you certain medical and wage replacement benefits under Georgia’s workers’ compensation law. Indeed, workers’ compensation provides what is considered an “exclusive remedy” in these situations. That is to say, you cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer so long as it complies with the workers’ compensation law.

The exclusive remedy of workers’ compensation does not apply to potential claims against third parties. For example, if you are driving a company-owned truck on a delivery and get hit by a drunk driver, workers’ compensation does not prevent you from suing that driver. Of course, if you do successfully pursue a personal injury claim against the drunk driver, then your employer may seek to recoup some of the workers’ compensation benefits previously paid to you.

Sprowson v. Villalobos

Is a parent automatically liable for a car accident caused by their minor child? Not under Georgia law. That said, there is an exception known as the “family purpose doctrine.” The doctrine dates back to a 1915 case, where the Georgia Supreme Court said:

If a father or mother, owning an automobile, and keeping it to be used for the comfort and pleasure of the family, should authorize a son to drive it for the comfort or pleasure of the family, this would make the owner liable for the negligence of the son operating the machine for such purpose.

The General Assembly later codified a form of the family purpose doctrine, which states a person is “liable for torts committed by … his child … by his his command or in the prosecution and within the scope of his business.” The Supreme Court further in a 2000 case that there are four preconditions to applying the doctrine:

“Sovereign immunity” is the legal concept that the state itself cannot be sued without its consent. In Georgia, sovereign immunity applies to all state departments and agencies, unless the General Assembly adopts an explicit waiver. One such waiver is the Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA), which does permit victims to file personal injury claims against the state under specific circumstances.

Georgia Department of Transportation v. Thompson

There are exceptions to the exception. A person cannot sue under the GTCA, for instance, if their claim involves a state agency’s or state employee’s “failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty.” That is to say, you can sue the state if it fails to follow its own policies and you are injured, but you cannot sue based on the state’s failure to exercise discretionary authority. There is a similar “design exception,” which protects the state from lawsuits arising from the decisions it makes in the planning, design, or construction of public highways.

In Georgia, there is normally a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury claims. So for instance, if you were injured in a car accident that took place on March 1, 2018, you would have until March 1, 2020, to sue the negligent driver. If you tried to sue after the statute of limitations expired, a court would be required to dismiss your case, regardless of the merits.

Now, Georgia law also “tolls” or stops the two-year clock when the personal injury claim arises from a criminal act (as opposed to mere negligence). This tolling period lasts from the date of the criminal act “until the prosecution of such crime or act has become final or otherwise terminated.” However, this tolling period typically cannot exceed six years.

Department of Public Safety v. Ragsdale

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