Articles Tagged with Georgia personal injury attorney

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

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

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.

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

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.

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.

In personal injury lawsuits, it is not uncommon for the plaintiff to file one or more amended complaints. Sometimes these amendments add factual or legal allegations. In other cases, the amended complaint actually names additional defendants.

Preferred Women’s Healthcare, LLC v. Sain

A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals, however, establishes some limits to how far a plaintiff can go to add a defendant, particularly in situations in which Georgia’s statute of repose comes into play. This particular case, Preferred Women’s Healthcare, LLC v. Sain, is a medical malpractice lawsuit. The plaintiff is the widower of a woman who died from complications arising from cancer.

In common law there is a rule known as res ipsa loquitur, which is Latin for “the thing speaks for itself.” This rule basically allows a judge or jury to infer a defendant’s negligence from an event, even when the plaintiff can not provide more direct evidence that the defendant did something wrong. Georgia courts have taken a narrow view of res ipsa loquitur arguments in modern times, with the Georgia Court of Appeals noting it should only “be applied with caution and only in extreme cases.”

Huntoon v. United States

Even in cases in which a court does apply res ipsa loquitur, that is not always a guarantee that a plaintiff will recover actual damages. Consider this recent decision by the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta, Huntoon v. United States. In this case, the plaintiff received surgery at a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospital in Florida. According to the plaintiff, when he came out from under anesthesia, he “noticed swelling and severe pain in his right arm.” This was later diagnosed as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS).

Following a car accident, you may receive certain benefits from your own insurance company. If you later end up suing a negligent third party for damages related to the accident, your insurer may have the right to recover part of any money you receive from the case. To put it another way, you may not be allowed to recover twice for the same injury–once from your insurance company, and then again from the negligent driver in court.

Appling v. State Farm Fire and Casualty

A recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, Appling v. State Farm Fire & Casualty, offers a helpful example. In 2013, the plaintiff was injured in a car accident. The other driver’s insurance company agreed to settle with the plaintiff for the limits of the policy, which was $25,000. As this was not enough to compensate the plaintiff for his total injuries, he then filed a claim with his own uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) carrier, which was State Farm.

Georgia law imposes a two-year statute of limitations on most personal injury claims. For example, if you were injured in a car accident on January 1, 2017, you would normally have until January 1, 2019, to file a lawsuit against the negligent driver. There is an exception to this rule, known as the renewal statute, that states if you file a lawsuit before the two-year deadline expires, and you later dismiss the case voluntarily, you can still refile within six months of that dismissal.

Now, it is important to emphasize that the renewal statute does not let you extend the statute of limitations itself. In other words, let us say there were two defendants you wanted to sue in connection with your car accident. You filed a lawsuit against Defendant A within the statute of limitations. But after the original two-year deadline expired, you dismiss the lawsuit and file a new complaint naming both Defendant A and Defendant B. The court would dismiss Defendant B from the case because the renewal statute does not permit you to add a defendant who was not named in the original lawsuit filed before the statute of limitations expired.

Aaron v. Jekyll Island State Park Authority