Articles Tagged with personal injury

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It is a well-established principle of Georgia personal injury law that an employer can be held legally responsible for the negligent acts of its employees. In other words, if you are injured in a car accident because a delivery van ran a red light, you can sue the company that owns the delivery van for damages. This is known as “vicarious liability.”

What happens when a teenager drives his or her parents’ car and causes an accident? Vicarious liability can also apply in these cases under a rule known as the “family purpose doctrine.” As explained by the Georgia courts, the doctrine holds that “the owner of an automobile who permits members of his household to drive it for their own pleasure or convenience is regarded as making such a family purpose his ‘business.’” So, by letting your child use your car, you are creating a “master-servant” relationship similar to when an employer authorizes an employee to use a company-owned vehicle.

Doby v. Bivins

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The Atlanta region is widely known as one of the most dangerous metropolitan areas for pedestrians. All Georgia drivers have a legal duty to stop and yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. But pedestrians must also exercise care. Among other things, if a pedestrian crosses a road outside of a clearly marked crosswalk, he or she must yield to traffic. A pedestrian who ignores this rule assumes the risk of injury and may not be able to win a personal injury claim if hit by a car.

Politzer v. Xiaoyan

Here is an example of how Georgia courts will not show much sympathy for a pedestrian who fails to follow the rules of the road. The plaintiff in this case was out walking in her neighborhood one evening. It was already dark out and the plaintiff was wearing mostly black clothing. As she was completing her walk and returning home, the plaintiff crossed a road outside of the crosswalk, which she claimed was “unsafe” because drivers were known to speed through the intersection without stopping and yielding to pedestrians.

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Last year we discussed a Georgia Court of Appeals decision ordering a new trial in a premises liability case involving a well-known theme park in Cobb County. The case began when two patrons and their families were repeatedly threatened by rival gangs who were known to frequent the theme park. Even after some of the gang members threatened to shoot the patrons in the parking lot, park security failed to eject the assailants.

Shortly thereafter, a group of about 40 gang members did, in fact, approach the families in the parking lot, which was still on theme park property. Although the families escaped the approaching mob, some of the gang members proceeded to beat a bystander who happened to be seated at a bus stop near the park’s entrance.

The bystander later sued four of the men who attacked him. He also named the theme park owner as a defendant under Georgia’s premises liability law. A jury eventually found the plaintiff was entitled to $35 million in damages and apportioned 92% of the blame to the theme park.

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Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Transportation launched a $7 million advertising campaign to warn drivers about the dangers of railroad crossings. The DOT noted that while the total number of railroad incidents have been in decline over the past decade, a person or vehicle is still hit by a train roughly every three hours. In 2016, there were 232 reported deaths due to railroad crossing accidents.

Liberty Surplus Insurance Corp. v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

Recently the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta dealt with a personal injury lawsuit arising from a 2011 railroad crossing accident. The victim was severely injured when a train struck her. She claimed she could not see te approaching train due to “overgrown and improperly maintained vegetation at the railroad crossing.”

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Property owners are liable for injuries caused by their failure to correct or repair dangerous conditions. But what if the owner has rented or leased the property to someone else? Under Georgia law, an owner who has “fully parted with possession” (i.e., a landlord) is not liable for injuries sustained by third parties on the premises.

There are two exceptions to this rule. First, the landlord is liable if the injury was the result of “defective construction.” Additionally, the landlord is responsible for his or her own “failure to keep the premises in repair.”

Aldredge v. Byrd, et al.

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Mental illness is a serious problem for many Georgia residents. Tragically, many people do not get the care they need until it is too late. In some cases, mental health care providers are negligent in failing to take immediate action to prevent a victim from harming him or herself.

Everson v. Phoebe Sumter Medical Center

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a Georgia man who died as a result of his untreated mental illness. The lawsuit specifically accused the hospital and psychiatrist who saw the victim a few days before his death with failing to properly diagnose his condition and take appropriate action.

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An often overlooked element of many personal injury cases is the emotional harm sustained by the victim. Georgia courts have long recognized “negligent infliction of emotional distress” as a tort, but recovery is generally limited to cases in which the emotional distress is connected to a “physical impact.” In other words, if you are physically hurt in a car accident, you can sue the negligent driver for your emotional trauma, but you cannot seek damages for purely emotional scarring, i.e. watching a loved one die in an accident.

Coon v. Medical Center, Inc.

In 2000, the Georgia Supreme Court made an exception to the “physical impact rule,” holding that when a parent and child are both physically injured in the same accident, the parent can seek damages for the emotional distress caused by watching the child “suffer and die.” Recently, the state Supreme Court declined to extend this exception to another case in which a mother suffered emotional harm after watching a hospital mishandle the remains of her daughter.

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When is a dog owner legally responsible for an attack that injures someone else? Georgia law states that anyone who “keeps a vicious or dangerous animal” is liable for “careless management” of said animal. The question then becomes, how do you know when a dog is vicious or dangerous?

Steagald v. Eason

In 2015, the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a personal injury lawsuit brought by the victim of a pitbull attack. The court said there was no evidence that the defendants, the pitbull’s owner, had specific knowledge their dog might commit an “unprovoked attack on a stranger coming into the yard.” The court brushed off evidence of the pitbull’s “snapping” and other prior aggressive behaviors as “not unusual” for a dog.

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Dog bites and animal attacks are scary experiences that can result in significant physical and mental injuries. Owners who fail to take responsibility for dangerous animals may be held liable in court. But victims may have difficulty recovering damages if they voluntarily assumed risk or had “equal knowledge” of the danger posed by a particular animal.

Gilreath v. Smith

Recently the Georgia Court of Appeals dismissed a lawsuit brought by a woman injured in a rooster attack. The court upheld a lower court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the rooster’s owner. The critical issue was the level of prior warning the victim received.

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In his recent State of the State address, Gov. Nathan Deal praised the work of Georgia’s Division of Family and Child Services (DFCS), whose employees are charged with protecting abused and neglected children. The governor singled out a case manager in Telfair County who saved an infant’s life. He also proposed a 19% wage increase for case managers throughout Georgia, noting that the state pays its child welfare workers less than every other state in the southeast aside from Louisiana.

Cowart v. Georgia Department of Human Services

Despite the governor’s support, not everyone is satisfied with the the work of the state’s case managers. In fact, the Department of Human Services, which oversees the DFCS, is currently facing a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the estate of a child who died, allegedly after a case worker failed to follow up on serious abuse allegations. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently reversed a trial judge’s decision dismissing the case, citing the need for additional evidence on a key legal issue.