Articles Tagged with georgia state government

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All Georgia motorists have a duty to obey the rules of the road and drive with care. Even when a driver does everything by the book, an accident may still occur due to someone else’s negligence or due to a public nuisance created by improper design or maintenance of the roadway. In the latter scenario, the local government responsible for operating the roadway may be liable for personal injuries sustained by an accident victim.

Mayor and Alderman of City of Savannah v. Herrera

Normally Georgia cities and municipalities are protected from civil lawsuits by sovereign immunity. The state legislature has waived this immunity in cases in which a local government fails to correct a known roadway defect. As explained by the Georgia Court of Appeals in a 2005 decision, “municipalities generally have a ministerial duty to keep their streets in repair, and they are liable for injuries resulting from defects after actual notice, or after the defect has existed for a sufficient length of time for notice to be inferred.” This includes defects arising from both man-made and natural causes.

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Car accidents are not always the result of driver negligence or error. Sometimes the road is to blame. When state and local authorities fail to properly correct a hazardous roadway condition or are negligent in the design of the road itself, it may be possible for an injured driver to recover damages.

Just becomes something is legally possible does not mean that it is easy. In fact, the Georgia Court of Appeals recently threw out two personal injury lawsuits arising from alleged road defects. In both cases the appeals court adhered to a much stricter interpretation of the law than the trial courts, which thought the plaintiff’s claims had some merit.

The Georgia Department of Transportation v. Balamo

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After you have been in an accident, it is critical to gather as much information as you can about what happened. Every little detail may prove crucial if and when you file a personal injury claim against the responsible parties. If possible, you should use your smartphone to take photos of the accident scene and take down the names and contact information of any witnesses. Most importantly, write down every detail that you can remember. Memory becomes more unreliable as time passes, especially if you have been seriously injured, so never assume that you will accurately recall key facts later.

All of these admonitions are even more important if your accident involved negligence on the part of a state or municipal agency. Under Georgia law, before pursuing any personal injury claim against the government, you must first provide an advance (or ante-litem) notice to the relevant agency “stating the time, place, and extent of the injury, as nearly as practicable.” If a victim does not make this notice within six months of the accident, he or she cannot pursue their claim in court.

Williams v. City of Atlanta

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If you are injured on someone else’s property, you can normally bring a premises liability claim if there is evidence the owner was somehow negligent. Unfortunately, the rules are much different for injury victims if they are injured on government property. Both the federal and Georgia governments are normally immune from lawsuits unless they consent to be sued. With respect to the federal government, Congress adopted the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), which authorizes individuals to bring personal injury lawsuits against the government under state law in certain circumstances.

What do we mean by “certain circumstances”? The FTCA does contain a number of exceptions, which courts are required to strictly construe in favor of the federal government, as it is presumed to have immunity unless expressly waived. One of the most common exceptions applies to “discretionary” actions by government employees. This exception holds that a person may not file a personal injury claim against the government based on an employee’s “failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function.” In other words, if an employee fails to carry out a duty mandated by law, a person can file a claim under the FTCA. But if the employee has any discretion to act (or not act), the government cannot be held liable.

Fagg v. United States