Articles Tagged with personal injury

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Although personal injury and wrongful death claims are often brought up in the context of negligence–i.e., unintentional but reckless acts–there are situations in which the victim is injured or killed through an intentional criminal act. In such situations, the victim or his or her family can definitely seek damages against the criminal.

What about local law enforcement and private entities that were charged with protecting the public from a particular criminal? Can they also be held liable?

SecureAlert, Inc. v. Boggs

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In 2014, Georgia enacted the Business Security and Employee Privacy Act (BSEPA), more popularly known as the “Bring Your Guns to Work” law. The purpose of this law is to prevent private and public employers in Georgia from restricting the freedom of their employees to keep firearms in their cars while at work. Basically, an employer may not “search the locked privately owned vehicles of employees or invited guests on the employer’s parking lot,” so long as any guns are kept “locked out of sight within the trunk, glove box, or other enclosed compartment.”

Lucas v. Beckman Coulter, Inc.

So long as an employer complies with the BSEPA’s requirements, it cannot be held civilly or criminally liable for any injury arising from the “transportation, storage, possession, or use of a firearm” from its premises. The law makes two exceptions, however, for cases in which the employer itself actually commits a crime using a firearm or it otherwise “knew that the person using such firearm would commit such criminal act” on its premises.

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Your parents probably told you, “Watch where you’re going!” more than a few times when you were kid. This is not just good advice. It is also an important reminder that you are expected to be aware of your surroundings at all times. From a legal standpoint, your awareness or lack thereof may be a critical issue in a personal injury case, particularly when you have alleged negligence on the part of a property owner.

Cherokee Main Street, LLC v. Ragan

Consider this recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. This is a car accident case that originated in Cherokee County a little over four years ago. On the day in question, the plaintiff was shopping at a department store in a local shopping center. After leaving the store, she walked down a sidewalk past another store–one of the defendants in this case. The sidewalk had a ramp leading into the parking lot. But there was no formal crosswalk markings.

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Winning a personal injury judgment following a car accident does not always guarantee that the victim will actually get paid. There are cases in which a defendant who lacks adequate financial resources will file for protection under federal bankruptcy law. This can delay and in some cases defeat collection of a valid personal injury judgment under Georgia law.

For instance, in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, the debtor’s non-exempt property is liquidated to pay any creditors to the extent possible. The remaining debts may then be “discharged.” This does not mean that the debt itself is void. Rather, a discharge means that the debtor is no longer legally obligated to repay the debt, and the creditor may take no further collection action against that individual. However, if there are multiple parties liable for a judgment, the bankruptcy of one defendant does not affect the enforceability of the judgment against the other, non-bankrupt defendants.

Flanders v. Jackson

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Everyone recognizes that teachers have a difficult job. We also trust teachers with the education and well-being of our children. So, when the worst happens and a child dies while in a teacher’s custody, grieving parents will understandably seek accountability and justice through the courts.

Barnett v. Caldwell

Unfortunately, when it comes to teachers employed by public schools, the legal system makes such accountability difficult. Although the Georgia Constitution states that a state employee may be personally liable for “negligent failure to perform” a “ministerial” function, they are generally immune from lawsuits arising from discretionary acts. In non-legal terms, if the law mandates a state employee do something, then he or she can be sued for negligently failing to do so. If the employee has discretion to do something, however, then he or she cannot be sued if that decision caused injury to a third party, unless the victim can prove that the employee acted with “actual malice” or “actual intent to cause injury.”

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One of the recurring questions that arise in personal injury cases is determining who is covered by an auto insurance policy. Since most claims are paid via some form of insurance, whether it is that of the negligent driver or the victim’s own uninsured motorist coverage, it is critical to ascertain from the outset who is and is not covered. Rest assured, the insurance company will make every effort to deny coverage if it has a plausible legal reason to do so.

Stanley v. Government Employees Insurance Company

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently addressed an interesting variant of our recurring question: Does an uninsured motorist (UM) policy cover the fianceé (or common law spouse) of a named insured? The plaintiff in this personal injury case was driving a vehicle owned by his employer when he was the victim of a head-on collision with another driver. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries and sued the other driver for negligence.

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When it comes to product liability, Georgia courts have long held that a manufacturer can be held responsible for its “failure to warn” customers about potentially harmful defects that it knew about (or should have known about). This duty extends to any “nonobvious foreseeable danger” arising from the normal use of a given product. In other words, a manufacturer has no duty to warn you of the risks of using its product in something other than its intended manner.

Reichwaldt v. General Motors LLC

Does this duty to warn extend to third parties–i.e., individuals other than the actual customers–who may be harmed by the normal use of the product? In 2016 we discussed a Georgia Supreme Court decision, Certainteed Corporation v. Fletcher, involving a pipe manufacturer whose products contained asbestos. In that case, a woman developed mesothelioma after inhaling asbestos dust from clothing worn by her father, who worked with the defendant’s pipes. The Supreme Court said it was “disinclined” to hold that the manufacturer “owed a duty to warn third parties based on the fact that, in this case, such a warning may have been effective.”

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Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage provides valuable protections for Georgia residents who are injured in a car accident caused by a driver who either failed to purchase insurance–in violation of the law–or lacks sufficient coverage to fully compensate the victims for their losses. All Georgia insurers are required to offer UM coverage and must adhere to certain restrictions contained in state law. Even if a customer agrees to the terms of a UM policy that conflicts with state law, that does not override the law, nor does it permit an insurer to escape liability.

Georgia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company v. Rockefeller

Consider this recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals. This case involves a UM policy held by the the defendant, who was injured in a two-car accident with another driver. The defendant said the other driver caused the accident and filed a personal injury lawsuit against him in Georgia state court. Because the defendant had reason to believe the driver was “underinsured,” he also served his UM carrier, the plaintiff in the present case.

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Many personal injury claims involve more than one defendant or negligent party. Historically, if a Georgia court found multiple defendants liable for an accident, all of the defendants could be held collectively responsible for any monetary judgment. This is known as “joint and several liability.” But in 2005, the Georgia legislature amended the state’s tort laws to require a jury (or judge) “apportion its award of damages among the persons who are liable according to the percentage of fault of each person.”

Renaissance Recovery Solutions, LLC. v. Monroe Guaranty Insurance Company

This amendment has largely–but not completely–eliminated joint and several liability in Georgia. In fact, a federal judge in Augusta recently addressed a case in which a state court previously, and apparently erroneously, issued a joint and several liability verdict.

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All parents have certain legal obligations towards their children. Under Georgia law, a parent must provide for a child’s “maintenance, protection and education” until he or she reaches 18 years of age. Obviously, this includes paying for a  child’s medical care, including care for injuries caused by a third party’s negligence.

Mujkic v. Lam

Of course, the parents do have the right to seek compensation from the negligent party for their out-of-pocket costs. But parents need to be aware of Georgia’s strict deadlines for pursuing such claims in courts. The law in this area is sometimes confusing, but judges do not excuse ignorance or honest mistakes when it comes to filing deadlines.