Interstate highways and other high-speed roads can be especially dangerous to drivers and their passengers during times of increased traffic. According to a local news report, a Georgia car accident on an Interstate in the Atlanta metro area sent several people to the hospital with significant injuries. It also shut down traffic on the interstate for several hours. The news source reported that the major accident occurred on a Saturday night in September on I-20 near I-285, and although the exact cause of the crash is unknown, at least 15 people were sent to the hospital as a result of the crash.

Multi-vehicle accidents often have multiple causes which can vary for each of the vehicles involved. On highways and interstates, speed is often a contributing factor in accidents that subsequently involve other vehicles, triggering a chain-reaction crash. Drivers and passengers can be injured by crashing into walls or center dividers, as well as impacts from the front of their vehicles, in addition to damage caused if they are hit by a vehicle from behind that was unable to stop in time to avoid the accident ahead. Drivers on high-speed roads have a duty of care to be mindful of their speed, in addition to the distance that they are following the car in front of them so that they can safely stop in time in the event of a crash up ahead.

Drivers who are traveling at an unsafe speed or following too closely and contribute to a multi-car accident can be held accountable for their negligence through a Georgia personal injury claim. However, not all drivers involved in a multi-car accident are at fault. A driver caught in the middle of a pileup may be injured by no fault of their own. Georgia drivers are required to carry liability insurance for damages that result from an accident that is fully or partially their fault, and a knowledgeable attorney can pursue claims against all drivers who contributed to an accident that injured their client, as well as the affiliated insurance companies.

The procedural rules for filing a Georgia negligence lawsuit can be complex, and are always important for a plaintiff to follow. However, strict compliance with procedural requirements is especially important when a plaintiff seeks damages from a government entity. A recent decision by the Georgia Court of Appeals affirming the dismissal of a personal injury claim filed against the state of Georgia should serve as a reminder of this importance.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff was a woman who alleged that she was injured as a result of an escalator malfunction while attending an Atlanta Falcons game at the Georgia Dome in the fall of 2015. The woman claimed the operators of the Georgia Dome were negligent by failing to maintain and inspect the escalator, and she was seriously injured by the malfunction. The plaintiff sued the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, which is the state government entity that operates the Georgia Dome, requesting over $6 million in damages as compensation for her injuries and loss.

Before a trial was held over the plaintiff’s claim, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, alleging that the plaintiff’s complaint did not comply with the Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA), which is the state law outlining the standards for procedural requirements for a negligence claim against a government entity in the state of Georgia. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion and dismissed the plaintiff’s lawsuit, ruling that the plaintiff’s complaint did not give adequate notice to the defendant of the nature of the claim, as required under the GTCA. The plaintiff appealed the ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals.

Georgia property owners owe a duty to the public to maintain their property in a safe condition. Consequently, landowners can be held liable for damages when someone is injured as a result of an accident resulting from premises that are negligently designed or maintained. In a recent ruling, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a plaintiff who made such a claim after he slipped and fell while descending the stairs from a restaurant.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case sued the operator of a restaurant after suffering injuries when he fell in an attempt to descend the last step between the restaurant’s entrance landing and its parking lot. The plaintiff alleged that the last step presented an unreasonable hazard because there were no markings or handrail to indicate the presence of the final step. In the trial court, the defendant denied responsibility for the plaintiff’s injuries, claiming that under Georgia law they could not be held liable because the plaintiff had successfully navigated the step on his way up the stairs before entering the restaurant, and therefore had knowledge of the hazard. The trial judge rejected the defendant’s motion for summary judgment and allowed the case to proceed toward a trial. The defendant appealed.

The Georgia Court of Appeals acknowledged that the defendant’s theory of defense was applicable under state law, but upheld the trial court’s ruling allowing the case to proceed. The court explained that under Georgia law, a property owner can avoid liability for a slip and fall injury when a hazard which was previously navigated is a “static condition” that is readily discernible to a person exercising reasonable care for his own safety. The court agreed that the staircase landing which caused the plaintiff’s injuries was a static condition, however, they rejected the defendant’s claim that it was readily discernible as a matter of law. Specifically, the court noted that the step was not marked and that there was no railing or warning sign. Thus, the question of whether a person exercising reasonable care would have noticed the step must be decided by a jury at trial.

Medical providers and hospitals can be held accountable for medical malpractice if the negligent or criminal conduct of their employees results in harm to a patient. In a recently issued decision, the Georgia Court of Appeals explained the requirements for a plaintiff to collect damages for a medical malpractice claim arising from the improper conduct of a hospital employee.

The defendant hospital was sued after one of their employees faced criminal charges for falsifying medical test results and concealing the actual results of the plaintiff’s tests. The plaintiffs underwent mammogram testing at a hospital operated by the defendant, and the technician who was responsible for transmitting the test results to a radiologist for interpretation instead forged results, making it appear as if everything was normal without a radiologist reviewing the test.

The plaintiffs sued the defendant in state court, alleging that the hospital was vicariously liable for any damages caused by the employee’s conduct. The complaint claimed that the actual test results may have shown abnormalities, and that the employee’s misconduct resulted in misdiagnosis, as well as the burden of undergoing a second mammogram. The trial court allowed the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward a trial, and the defendant appealed.

Recently, a Georgia appeals court issued a ruling after a defendant appealed a trial court’s denial of his motion for summary judgment. The case stemmed from a car accident where the decedent was fatally injured while crossing the road in front of the defendant’s car.

According to the opinion, the defendant was on his way to work when the victim walked onto the highway. The defendant alleged that he heard a vibration and his car jerked, but he did not realize he hit anyone. The impact caused the defendant’s window to shatter. In an attempt to avoid another collision, he drove down the highway until he could park his car on the side of the road. When he returned to the accident scene, he realized that he injured the pedestrian. Tragically, the pedestrian suffered fatal injuries.

The pedestrian’s wife filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver. She alleged that he was negligent in operating his car and did not exercise due care. The defendant moved for summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiff failed to provide evidence that he engaged in any negligent act or omission. The trial court denied his motion for summary judgment, resulting in this motion to the appeals court. In reviewing the case, the Georgia appeals court discussed state negligence standards in personal injury lawsuits.

Recently, an appellate court reversed a lower court’s decision to grant the summary judgment motion of a property management in a Georgia slip-and-fall lawsuit. The case stems from an accident where a 60-year-old woman slipped and fell at her apartment complex. According to the facts as laid out by the court, the plaintiff was walking to get the mail when she tripped on an undetermined obstruction.

Evidently, the plaintiff sued the owner of the complex and the property management company under a premises liability theory. The trial court denied the owner’s motion for summary judgment but granted the property management company’s motion. The woman appealed the decision and argued that the property management company should be liable because they had sufficient control over the property.

Under Georgia law, owners and occupiers have specific statutory duties to the property they control. These individuals and entities must exercise “ordinary care in keeping the premises safe”. In certain instances, property management companies are considered independent contractors. However, these contractors may have the status of an occupier if they are in control of the property. In fact, in some cases, Georgia property management companies have the same duties as the actual owner of the property. The transfer of responsibility may lead to the owner not owing a duty to an injury victim if they surrender possession to the independent contractor.

Recently, an appeals court issued an opinion addressing governmental immunity in Georgia personal injury lawsuits. The lawsuit stems from the tragic death of a five-year-old boy who died after being struck and killed when exiting a school bus.

According to the opinion, the bus driver stopped the bus near the child’s home, and then activated the vehicle’s flashing lights, stop sign, and crossing gate. The child was previously instructed to look back at the bus driver before crossing the double-yellow line. However, the boy stepped off the bus, saw his mother, and started to cross the road without looking back. As the boy stepped off the bus, the bus driver saw an oncoming truck, at which point she honked the horn and waved to the child. Unfortunately, it was too late and the boy was struck and killed by the oncoming vehicle.

The family filed a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit against the bus driver, claiming that she was negligent in allowing the child off the bus without assuring that there was no traffic. The lower court granted summary judgment in favor of the bus driver based on governmental immunity. The plaintiffs argued that governmental immunity should not bar their case because the driver had a duty to keep students on the bus until all of the traffic stopped. The plaintiffs claimed that this duty was “ministerial” and “absolute”; therefore, governmental immunity should not apply.

This week, citizens in Smyrna and Covington learned that the EPA has identified their communities as having elevated cancer risks due to the release of a toxic gas called ethylene oxide.  In Smyrna, the plant that releases ethylene oxide is run by Sterigenics, and in Covington, the plant is known as BD Bard.   The EPA confirmed that ethylene oxide is a carcinogen in 2016, having previously found it was a probable carcinogen, and further determined it was 30 times more likely to cause certain cancers than scientists had known.   Scientific studies have linked exposure to ethylene oxide to a variety of cancers, including Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Multiple Myeloma, Leukemia, and Breast Cancer.  If you live in those affected areas, you can protect your loved ones by:

  • Organizing with your neighbors and being vocal, especially to the media.

In a recent case, a state appellate court reversed a Georgia trial court’s ruling and found that a plaintiff did not need to present an expert affidavit in her lawsuit against a health clinic. According to the opinion, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against a health clinic after she sustained injuries because of a botched blood draw. The woman alleged that the blood draw was performed negligently and without her permission. The clinic filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, claiming that the plaintiff needed to file an expert affidavit. In response, the plaintiff argued that the blood draw was non-consensual. However, the trial court granted the clinic’s motion to dismiss, and the plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court reviewed Georgia Code § 9-11-9.1, which addresses the requirement of affidavits in professional malpractice lawsuits. Generally, when a plaintiff files a lawsuit against a Georgia health-care facility based on vicariously liability and professional malpractice, they must submit an expert affidavit. Expert affidavits are used to determine whether a defendant has complied with the professional standard of care required of them. Generally, a plaintiff must establish that the medical professional owed them a duty, the defendant breached a generally accepted professional standard of care, that this breach caused the plaintiff harm, and that the plaintiff suffered a compensable injury.

Typically, to establish the standard of care, the plaintiff must present an affidavit from a qualified expert and this affidavit must be filed with the lawsuit. This expert must be able to testify to their qualifications and be able to establish at least one negligent act or omission by the defendant. However, this is not applicable when professional skills or judgment are not involved. The court found that a technician does not fall into any of the enumerated categories in the statute, and thus, an expert affidavit was not necessary.

Plaintiffs pursuing a Georgia personal injury claim must establish four elements to prove their case: 1.) a duty owed by the defendant to the plaintiff against an unreasonable risk of harm; 2.) the defendant’s breach of that duty; 3.) a legally attributable causal connection between the breach and the injury; and 4.) a loss or damage that resulted from the breach. A plaintiff normally has the burden to prove all of the elements, meaning that a plaintiff should provide sufficient evidence to allow a fact finder to reasonably conclude that it is more likely than not that the defendant was negligent by establishing each element.

The element of causation can be difficult to prove in some cases, particularly in cases involving multiple parties and defendants. The mere possibility the defendant caused the plaintiff’s loss is not sufficient to prove the element of causation. In addition, the plaintiff must prove not only that the defendant’s conduct was the actual cause of the plaintiff’s loss, but also that it was a proximate cause of the loss, which requires a showing that there is sufficient connection between the defendant’s conduct and the injury.

Multi-party cases can also involve complicated issues of contributory and comparative negligence. Generally, if a plaintiff had a certain degree of fault in causing the crash, the plaintiff cannot recover for his or her injuries. However, normally if a plaintiff is found to be less than 50 percent at fault, the plaintiff can still recover some compensation, although their damages award will be reduced by their percentage of fault.