Included among the damages available through a Georgia car accident case are expenses related to future medical care. Sometimes, however, you may not know immediately if you require a specific procedure or further treatment because your injury is still progressing. In those instances, it is important to get a firm answer from your physician about their recommendations concerning your treatment and to solidify your plans to pursue those treatments. Otherwise, you may face barriers in being compensated for future medical expenses that have not been incurred yet.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, the court had to consider a case involving future medical expenses following a car accident. The plaintiff was driving his large SUV while helping a friend move some boxes. As the plaintiff approached the neighborhood where he was going to deliver his friend’s boxes, he pulled into a left-hand turn lane and paused while waiting for traffic to pass. Moments later, a vehicle driven by the defendant rear-ended the plaintiff’s vehicle at high speed, sending the SUV nearly 40 yards down the road.

Following the accident, the plaintiff suffered severe back pain. He met with an orthopedic surgeon several times to consider future treatments or surgery, but did not pursue the latter. The plaintiff subsequently sued the defendant, arguing that his negligent operation of her car caused the accident and injured his back. After trial, the jury rendered a verdict in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $25,000 in damages and $100,000 in future medical expenses. The defendant filed a motion striking the plaintiff’s award of future medical expenses, which the trial court granted. The plaintiff appealed.

Recently, a Georgia appellate court issued an opinion in a lawsuit stemming from injuries a man suffered while working on a homeowner’s property. According to the court’s opinion, the homeowner owned and operated a contracting, framing, and remodeling business. The plaintiff worked for the defendant’s company. On some occasions, the employer offered his employees an opportunity to perform tasks on his personal property, to earn extra money. This work was “completely separate” from their work for the company and was performed for the homeowner’s personal benefits.

On the occasion giving rise to the claim, another employee asked the owner if he could perform some tasks at his home on the upcoming Saturday. The owner agreed and paid the employee. The employee then asked the plaintiff if he wanted to make extra money by assisting him with the tasks; the plaintiff agreed. On the day of the incident, the homeowner left his residence while both the employee and plaintiff worked at his home. The employee told the plaintiff that the homeowner asked him to trim the fence and burn the brush. The employee began to spread gasoline to begin the fire; however, the brush blew up like an explosion and burned the plaintiff’s skin off.

The plaintiff filed a claim against the homeowner, arguing, that the homeowner was negligent for failing to supervise the brush burning, having gasoline on his property, not training the plaintiff as to the proper use of the gasoline, and not training the other employee on how to use or supervise the brush burning. Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that the owner was responsible for the employee under the doctrine of respondeat superior.

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.

We’ve all seen a “wet floor” sign at some point in our lives. Maybe you’ve even been unlucky and slipped on an unknown substance while grocery shopping. When slip and fall accidents occur as a result of another’s negligence, the business or individual who owns the property may be held liable through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, a plaintiff slipped and fell on a wet floor at the Atlanta airport where she was employed and sued the defendant for negligence, arguing that the defendant had superior knowledge of the slippery floor and a duty to warn her of the hazard. Because they failed to warn her, the plaintiff argued that the defendant breached its duty and failed to exercise ordinary care.

On the day of the incident, the plaintiff had completed her shift in the airport atrium and proceeded down the escalator to stop at an office to turn in her paperwork and cash. As she stepped off the escalator, she noticed a man cleaning the floors to her left and a “wet floor” sign posted nearby. As she was walking to the office, she turned to the right and slipped and fell. Landing on her right side, she hit her head and briefly lost consciousness. When she regained consciousness, her clothes were wet, but there was no visible water on the floor and there were no visible wet floor signs near where she fell. Following the accident, the plaintiff suffered from blurred vision and significant neck and spinal injuries that required surgery. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

Making the decision to send a loved one or family member to a personal care home or facility can often be a stressful process. Many families, in the process of making this decision, have to consider various factors. Will the facility treat my family member with care? What if an accident happens? Is it safe? While these are valid concerns, no one expects that their loved ones will be injured or even killed when they move into these homes. When accidents involving severe injury or even death occur on the premises of such a facility, those who are responsible may be held accountable through a Georgia nursing home negligence case or other type of premises liability action.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals opinion, an autistic resident died after choking on food at a personal care home. The resident had been diagnosed with severe autism, was unable to speak, and had the mental age of a three-year-old child. After his loved ones decided to place him in a personal care home, his guardian informed the facility that his food needed to be cut up “because he only swallowed.”

On the day of the incident, the resident returned to the dining area after finishing his own breakfast and attempted to eat a sausage he took from another resident’s plate. In the process of eating it, the resident choked. His caretakers at the facility attempted to rescue him by performing an abdominal thrust but were unsuccessful. The resident asphyxiated on the food and died. Subsequently, the administrator of the resident’s estate brought nine causes of action arising out of his care against the personal care home, some of its staff, and the owners of the home.

The Georgia Court of Appeals recently issued an opinion addressing the applicability of the family purpose doctrine in a Georgia car accident lawsuit. According to the court’s opinion, the accident occurred in 2016 when a minor was driving a car with her father as a passenger. As the teenager approached an intersection and began to turn left, the defendant was approaching the same intersection and continued straight into the plaintiff’s car. The defendant struck the passenger side of the plaintiff’s car resulting in the father’s death.

The father’s widow filed a wrongful death lawsuit against the defendant. In response, the defendant asserted a counterclaim for damages, arguing that the daughter’s negligence caused the accident. Additionally, the defendant evoked Georgia’s family purpose doctrine as an affirmative defense.

Georgia’s family purpose doctrine allows a car accident victim to hold the owner of the at-fault vehicle liable for damages if they can establish certain factors. Under the theory, the party evoking this doctrine must be able to prove that:

  • The defendant owned or had control of the vehicle involved in the accident;
  • The negligent driver was a qualifying family member living in the household of the owner;
  • The owner allowed the driver to use the car for “pleasure, comfort or convenience” of that family member;
  • The vehicle was being driven with the consent of the owner and for a “family purpose” when the accident occurred, and;
  • The circumstances amounted to an agency relationship between the owner and the qualifying family member.

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A state appellate court recently issued an opinion in a Georgia dog bite lawsuit. The case required the court to discuss the availability of punitive damages in certain Georgia personal injury lawsuits.

The plaintiff was a mail carrier who suffered serious injuries after a large dog attacked her during her route. According to the court’s opinion, on the day of the accident, the plaintiff needed to deliver packages to the dog owner’s front door. As she approached the door, the dog owner’s youngest son came out of the front door to accept the packages. When the mail carrier was returning to her vehicle, she heard the young boy exclaim “no,” and saw the dog was near her leg.

The 60-pound dog bit the plaintiff’s leg, and although she was able to kick him off her leg, the dog latched onto her arm. The dog owner’s older son heard the commotion and came to help pry the dog’s jaws open, at which point the dog finally released the woman’s arm. The woman called emergency personnel, who discovered various other bites on her body. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the homeowner, and a jury awarded her personal injury and punitive damages. The dog owner appealed, arguing that the woman was not entitled to punitive damages.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in an appeal from a judgment in favor of a plaintiff in her lawsuit against the City of Atlanta. The woman filed a lawsuit to recover for damages she incurred after driving into an open manhole. The woman contended that the government should be liable for her injuries because the manhole was a public nuisance. The city appealed a jury finding in favor of the woman, arguing that the woman did not meet her evidentiary burden.

Under Georgia law, a municipality “may be held liable for damages it causes to a third party from the operation or maintenance of a nuisance, irrespective of whether it is exercising a governmental or municipal function.” To recover for damages plaintiffs must present evidence that:

  1. The severity of the defect is a result of conduct that exceeds mere negligence;

Needing surgery can be a scary thing, and Georgia patients need to find doctors and surgeons that they trust to perform their procedures. Typically, operations in Georgia go well, and there are no issues or concerns. Occasionally, however, mistakes may be made, and accidents may occur, which can lead to significant injuries or even the death of the patient. When this does tragically happen, Georgia patients have the right to sue their negligent medical providers, to recover financially for the harm the medical provider’s mistake or carelessness caused.

The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently considered a medical malpractice case brought against the nurses at a hospital where the patient was treated. According to the court’s written opinion, the patient arrived for surgery on the morning of December 16, 2014. The patient was supposed to receive an antibiotic within one hour before the surgery began, and records show that she was given the antibiotic at 12:40 p.m. However, there is a significant dispute over whether the surgery started at 12:05 or 1:05 p.m., as there are medical records that have both times written on them.

What is clear, however, is that the patient, twenty days after the surgery, went back to the hospital complaining of drainage from the surgery wound. The problem continued to occur, even after a wound cleaning, and several days later, the patient suffered neurological deficits caused by an abscess, including right-sided paralysis. Over the next two years, the patient claims that she had to undergo multiple surgeries and therapies and suffered from permanent neurological injuries, all resulting from the initial brain infection. She sued the hospital and medical professionals who worked on her surgery, including the nurses, in December of 2016, alleging failure to properly administer the antibiotic within one hour before the surgery.

In a recent appellate opinion, a Georgia slip and fall injury victim appealed a trial court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of a store owner. On appeal, the woman argued that the trial court erred in finding that the store did not contain a dangerous condition, that she possessed knowledge of the defects, and that the distraction theory could not apply.

The case stems from injuries that the woman suffered when she visited the store. The woman’s neighbor drove her to the store and parked her car on the side of the store. The parking lot contained parking abutments in the parking spaces; parking for disabled vehicles had blue abutments. When the woman was leaving the store, she walked by a sidewalk display and became distracted by the display racks and other customers. As she stepped down from the sidewalk, she hit a slanted parking abutment and fell forward, suffering serious injuries to her knee, elbow, and head. Her lawsuit against the store alleged that the store breached its duty to keep their property safe.

Under Georgia law, premises liability plaintiffs must show that their injuries were the result of a hazard on an owner’s premises that they should have removed in the exercise of ordinary care. The two main elements that Georgia slip and fall or trip and fall victims must establish is that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and the plaintiff, despite exhibiting ordinary care, lacked knowledge of the danger because of the defendant. Moreover, where static conditions are at issue, if a person has previously successfully negotiated the condition, the person is presumed to have equal knowledge, and therefore cannot recover for subsequent resulting injuries. Further, if nothing obstructs the injury victim’s view, the owner may appropriately assume that the invitee will realize any associated risks. In these instances, plaintiffs may assert the distraction theory. The distraction theory includes situations where the plaintiff’s attention is distracted because of a natural and usual cause. However, merely failing to look ahead will not relieve their responsibility.

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