Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia hit-and-run car accident discussing whether the plaintiff’s case should be permitted to proceed despite the fact that the defendant denied having been driving the car at the time of the accident. Ultimately, the court concluded that the circumstantial evidence presented by the plaintiff was sufficient to call into question the direct evidence presented by the defendant suggesting that he was not driving the vehicle.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured when another vehicle rear-ended her car. Evidently, the driver of the other vehicle sped off, and the vehicle was not located until later when police identified the vehicle in a nearby parking lot. The vehicle, which was registered to the defendant, was towed to a wrecking yard.

According to the court’s opinion, an officer went to the defendant’s house but no one answered despite it seeming to the officer as though someone was home. The wrecking service also contacted the defendant, informing him that he would need to contact law enforcement before the vehicle could be released to him. However, the defendant never did so. Ultimately, the police determined that the defendant had likely been driving the car.

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Earlier last month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case brought against the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) by a man who was injured in a single-car accident due to what he claimed was an improperly maintained roadway. The court ultimately rejected the plaintiff’s claim because he failed to follow the procedural requirements stated in the Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) precisely.The case illustrates the importance of having a dedicated and knowledgeable Georgia personal injury attorney that is experienced in pursing compensation from government defendants.

Ante-Litem Notice

Under the GTCA, any plaintiff who plans on bringing a lawsuit against a government entity must follow certain procedural guidelines in order to establish the court’s jurisdiction. Essentially, the government is presumed to be immune from all tort liability. However, the GTCA waives this immunity in certain circumstances if, and only if, the plaintiff complies with the GTCA requirements. If the plaintiff fails to comply with the requirements of the GTCA, then the court will not have power to hear the plaintiff’s case because the government will be immune from liability.

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Whenever a plaintiff files a Georgia premises liability lawsuit against a government entity, they must file an ante-litem notice to the government entity named as a defendant in the lawsuit. The ante-litem requirement is designed to provide notice to the government entity about the nature of the lawsuit so that the entity can conduct a pre-trial investigation.The requirements of an ante-litem notice are set forth in O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5. Specifically, the plaintiff must submit the ante-litem notice no more than six months after their injury, and they must detail “the time, place, and extent of the injury, as nearly as practicable, and the negligence which caused the injury.” If a plaintiff fails to file an ante-litem notice or files a notice that does not substantially comply with the requirements of O.C.G.A. § 36-33-5, the court hearing the case may dismiss the plaintiff’s case. A recent case illustrates how a Georgia premises liability plaintiff’s case was dismissed for failing to comply with the ante-litem notice requirement.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff inadvertently stepped in a manhole that was left uncovered. The next day, the plaintiff called the police department to inform them that he had stepped in an uncovered manhole, and he provided the address of 425 Chappell Road in Atlanta. The plaintiff also indicated this was near the intersection of Chappell Road and Mayson Turner Road.

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In a recent Georgia appellate case, a plaintiff appealed a trial court’s summary judgment motion in favor of Atlanta Gas Light Company (AGL). Following a natural gas explosion, the plaintiff filed a personal injury and wrongful death lawsuit against AGL. The record shows that a woman owed a rental home and in preparation for new tenants, she called the company to set up gas service at the residence. Before turning on gas service, the company sent a field specialist to conduct a safety check on the residence’s fuel line and appliances. During the inspection, he noticed that the supply line improperly led to the furnace, the gas line lacked a sediment trap, and the thermostat was inoperable. Based on his inspections, he turned off the supply valve and posted a warning that explained that the owner should not connect or use the appliance until it underwent repairs.

Shortly afterward, the owner’s step-son went to the property to prepare for new tenants when he noticed the warning and that the property did not have hot water. The owner contacted a repair service to fix the furnace. The technician noticed the warning, inspected the appliances, and returned to perform the work. However, the technician improperly completed the job, and the house experienced a gas explosion about nine months after AGL turned the gas on. The plaintiff suffered severe injuries, and two of her family members died in the blast.

The woman filed a lawsuit against the repair company and AGL. The repair company settled its case with the woman, and AGL moved for summary judgment, arguing that they did not breach their duty to the woman.

The government should do the bare minimum to maintain roads and public works infrastructure. Following an accident where an injury occurred due to poorly maintained roads or other public works issues, many plaintiffs consider filing a lawsuit against their local city or municipality. If successful, these claims can often serve as a wake-up call for local governments and encourage them to take further steps to ensure the public’s safety. However, personal injury lawsuits in Georgia against a municipality can often be complex and must adhere to specific legal rules and procedures.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, two plaintiffs sued their local city and its public works superintendent for injuries one of the plaintiffs sustained when their vehicle ran off the road. The plaintiffs alleged that the poor configuration of the roadway and deficient signage caused their vehicle to run off the roadway and crash into an embankment. In the plaintiffs’ complaint, they provided a general estimate of medical expenses, lost wages, and total damages incurred from the accident. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint against the city and the public works superintendent because the plaintiffs failed to include the specific amount of monetary compensation and damages they sought from the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the court had to consider whether the plaintiffs’ complaint complied with the rules concerning the “specificity of damages” requirement. The court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that their complaint lacked the specificity necessary to comply with Georgia rules. Providing an estimate of damages, the court reasoned, did not substantially comply with the requirements of specificity in Georgia.

Although a lawsuit may seem straightforward as a dispute between two or more parties, there are often many procedural details that occur behind the scenes that act as stepping stones in the course of litigation. Understanding and navigating these procedural requirements can often be challenging, but can also save parties time and money during the course of a lawsuit when appropriately handled by an experienced Georgia personal injury lawyer.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals case, the court considered a misunderstanding in a dispute concerning an important procedural issue. The plaintiff filed a suit against the defendant for a slip and fall action four days before the statute of limitations for her case was set to expire. The plaintiff did not serve the defendant until 12 weeks later. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case on the ground that the plaintiff had failed to present evidence that she had exercised proper diligence in attempting service after the statute of limitations expired.

On appeal, the court reversed the trial court’s decision, siding with the plaintiff. Because the plaintiff’s counsel was a member of the Georgia General Assembly, he was entitled to a statutory leave of court, which he had properly requested. This meant that the plaintiff’s counsel was entitled to an extension and temporarily relief from responding to the motions. Further, because the plaintiff relied on the court approving a scheduling order that both parties agreed to, the trial court erred in granting a motion to dismiss because the plaintiff was within the correct time frame and had no further obligation to respond.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion stemming from the tragic death of a Georgia nursing home resident who did not receive proper medical treatment for a bowel obstruction. According to the court’s opinion, the man was a resident at a nursing facility for approximately 11 years and was routinely treated by the nurses, physicians, and health care assistants employed by the facility. One evening, a licensed practical nurse (LPN) at the facility noticed that the man had brown vomit all over his clothes, and his stomach was distended. The LPN contacted the physician assistant, who told the LPN not to request a transfer to the hospital but ordered an x-ray. Since the end of her shift was approaching, the LPN became increasingly distressed and notified the nurse coming on duty and the director of nursing. However, no one examined the man until after his x-ray results arrived, which was after 10:00 a.m., at which point they transferred him to a hospital. He died later that night due to complications from his undiagnosed bowel obstruction.

The family of the man filed various claims against the facility, including a negligent staffing claim, and the jury apportioned fault among the facility and four other non-parties. The defendants appealed, arguing that the trial court incorrectly denied their motion for dismissal based on the negligent staffing issue. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to staff a registered nurse over the nighttime shift and instead relying on the judgment of an LPN. The defendants argued that the plaintiffs alleged ordinary negligence, but negligent staffing falls under professional negligence, which requires expert testimony.

Under Georgia law, a plaintiff alleging professional negligence must provide an “affidavit of an expert competent to testify” regarding at least one negligent act or omission that the plaintiff is alleging. These experts must be qualified through their knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education. However, ordinary negligence claims do not require expert testimony. Historically, Georgia courts have found that staffing decisions are generally business-related decisions and therefore do not sound in professional negligence. In this case, the court found that the director’s decision to only have a registered nurse on schedule during the day was a business-related decision and therefore did not require expert testimony. Ultimately, the appellate court affirmed the trial court’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff.

Not all injuries caused by Georgia car accidents are covered by the injury victim’s automobile insurance policy. However, other insurance policies may offer coverage to people injured by a motor vehicle in certain circumstances. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently ruled that a property owner’s homeowner’s insurance policy could be responsible for injuries caused to a woman who was injured in the owner’s driveway when she was run over by the homeowner’s truck.

The plaintiff was injured while she was looking at her friend’s truck in his driveway. She claimed to have inadvertently released the emergency brake while the vehicle was in neutral and was subsequently run over by the car, suffering substantial injuries. The woman pursued a personal injury lawsuit against the owner of the truck, as well as the insurance company who provided his homeowner’s coverage, seeking damages to compensate her for the injuries she sustained from being run over.

Before trial, the defendant insurance company pursued a ruling from the court to determine that they could not be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because of specific exclusions relating to motor vehicles in the homeowner’s insurance coverage at issue. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, finding that because the injuries arose out of the “use” of a motor vehicle, that the policy exclusion applied and the plaintiff could not pursue a claim against the insurance company.

Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia personal injury case that arose after an accident that occurred in the Dominican Republic. The case required the court to determine if the lower court correctly held that the case should be transferred from Georgia, where the plaintiff filed the lawsuit, to the Dominican Republic. Finding that Georgia’s out-of-state venue statute only applied to cases that were being transferred to other states, the court denied the defendant’s request to transfer the case.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was vacationing in the Dominican Republic when she was injured while on a zip-line course. Evidently, one of the zip-lines collapsed while the plaintiff was on the course.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the operator of the course. Because the defendant corporation was based out of Georgia, the plaintiff – who was from Michigan – filed the case in Georgia. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the “balance of private and public factors” weighed in favor of transferring the case to the Dominican Republic. Relying on OCGA § 9-10-31.1, the trial court agreed and dismissed the plaintiff’s case so that it could be refiled in the Dominican Republic. The plaintiff appealed.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving the question of whether the plaintiff’s insurance company was responsible for his injuries, based on the policy’s uninsured motorist clause. Ultimately, the court determined that the accident was not within the scope of the plaintiff’s insurance policy because the vehicle involved in the accident was furnished for the plaintiff’s everyday use.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, an employee of a logging company, was provided with a logging truck to help carry out his duties. The truck was owned by his employer, but the evidence suggested that the plaintiff was able to keep the truck overnight at his own residence once he was done working for the day.

One day, the two tires on the truck blew out. The plaintiff pulled over and called his employer, who arrived to assist in changing the tires. However, while the two were changing the tires, one of the tires blew out, injuring the plaintiff.

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