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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case, raising the question of whether the accident victim was entitled to compensation from his own insurance carrier under the underinsured motorist clause of the insurance policy. The court ultimately determined that, although the insurance contract clearly prevented the plaintiff from being compensated given the specific facts of the case, that clause was unenforceable because it was contrary to Georgia’s Underinsured Motorist statute.

Rear-End AccidentThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured in a serious car accident. The plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the other driver. However, the plaintiff soon realized that the other driver did not have adequate insurance to compensate him for the injuries he sustained in the accident. The plaintiff received $25,000 from the other driver’s insurance company.

The plaintiff, who was employed at the time of the accident, also obtained workers’ compensation benefits in the amount of nearly $200,000. However, these benefits provided a weekly benefit that was less than what the plaintiff was normally earning, and they did not include any compensation for pain and suffering or future medical expenses. Thus, the plaintiff was still owed compensation for his lost wages as well as compensation for his pain and suffering and future medical expenses.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case that was brought by a woman who was seriously injured when a tree that had previously sustained major damage fell on her while a maintenance worker was attempted to safely lower the tree to the ground. The case presented several interesting questions regarding the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. Ultimately, the court affirmed a lower court ruling that permitted the plaintiff’s case to proceed toward trial.

Fallen TreeThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a tenant at an apartment complex owned and operated by the defendants. During a particularly nasty storm, a tree on an adjacent piece of property sustained major wind damage and toppled over, landing partially on top of the apartment building. The plaintiff was concerned about the danger the tree posed and contacted the defendants, asking them to remove the tree.

After several attempts at contacting the defendants, the tree remained suspended from the apartment building. The plaintiff knew a fellow resident who occasionally worked for the defendants, performing maintenance throughout the complex when it was necessary. The plaintiff contacted the maintenance worker and arranged to have him take down the tree.

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On TV and in movies, we have all seen the “surprise witness” called at trial. But in reality, surprise witnesses are not supposed to occur, and Georgia law permits harsh penalties for parties that fail to disclose witnesses. In a recent Georgia medical malpractice case, one plaintiff found this out when it was too late.

GavelIn that case, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim against a doctor and his medical practice in Fulton County. The plaintiff claimed that the doctor failed to timely diagnose and treat an abscess in his thoracic spinal cord, which paralyzed him. The parties engaged in discovery, and four years later, when the case went to trial, the plaintiff called a nurse to testify. The nurse was not specifically identified as a witness in the plaintiff’s discovery responses or in the pre-trial order, and the defendant argued she should be excluded as a witness.

In the early stages of discovery, the defendant asked the plaintiff to identify potential witnesses. The plaintiff responded by stating that he objected to the request and directing the defendants to his complaint, affidavits, and medical records. He also stated that he would supplement his response if more information became available. The plaintiff later supplemented his responses, but he never identified the nurse as a potential witness or a person with knowledge relevant to the complaint.

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In Georgia medical malpractice cases, plaintiffs must carefully follow all of the relevant procedural requirements or risk having their case dismissed. In a recent case, a court had to consider whether the plaintiffs properly named the defendants and amended their expert affidavit after the statute of limitations had passed.

Chest X-RayIn that case, the patient was admitted to a medical center in May 2011. Three days after she was admitted, she was found unresponsive due to a hypoglycemic event. She was discharged for hospice care with a severe brain injury and died the following month. In May 2013, the executor of the woman and her husband’s estate filed a claim against various defendants, including the hospital and the attending doctors, along with an expert affidavit. The plaintiffs then withdrew the lawsuit and properly filed a renewal complaint in March 2014. In this complaint, they added a medical group as a defendant. The affidavit filed with the renewal complaint did not specifically mention the medical group by name. The plaintiffs then filed a third affidavit, which included specific acts of negligence allegedly committed by the medical group. The plaintiffs finally filed another affidavit, stating that the expert’s opinion regarding negligence extended to the medical group’s employees and physicians who treated the patient.

The medical group filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that the plaintiffs’ claims should be dismissed as untimely. They contended that the claims against the medical group employees or physicians, apart from two doctors specifically alleged in the complaint, were filed after the statute of limitations had expired.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a Georgia premises liability case involving the tragic drowning death of a young child at a condominium swimming pool. The case required the court to determine the condo association was liable for the child’s death. Finding that the association was not negligent in any way, the court dismissed the case against the association.

Pool WaterThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in this case was the father of a young boy who drowned in a swimming pool that was located at the condominium complex where his aunt lived. At the time of the accident, the aunt was not present, but the boy was with several other family members. According to the evidence presented at trial, the pool was very crowded on the day of the accident, and the young boy was under water for approximately five minutes before he was discovered. There was also some evidence suggesting that the person who called 911 was unable to promptly give the address of the condo complex, potentially delaying the arrival of emergency responders.

After his son’s death, the boy’s father filed a personal injury lawsuit against the condo association, claiming that the association was negligent for failing to have a lifeguard present, failing to have a safety rope distinguishing the shallow part of the pool from the deep part of the pool, and failing to post a sign with the pool’s address.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an interesting opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving one named defendant and an unnamed hit-and-run driver. The case required the court to interpret several statutes and determine if the plaintiff’s choice of venue was proper when neither the plaintiff nor the sole named defendant resided in the county where the case was filed. Ultimately, the court concluded that venue was proper because under Georgia law, a hit-and-run driver is assumed to reside in the county where the accident occurred.

Rear-EndedThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were two passengers in a car that was being operated by a friend on a Georgia highway. At some point, an unnamed driver crossed into the plaintiffs’ lane, requiring the driver of the vehicle carrying the plaintiffs to slow down quickly. As the vehicle slowed, the defendant, who was traveling directly behind them, slammed into the rear of the vehicle.

The plaintiffs filed a personal injury lawsuit against both the unnamed hit-and-run driver as well as the driver who rear-ended them. The plaintiffs filed the case in the county where the accident occurred, which was not where the named defendant lived.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a wrongful death case brought by the parents of a college student who drowned while on a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. The case required the court to decide if the defendant university could be held liable for the student’s death. Ultimately, the court concluded that the university could not be held legally responsible for the student’s death because he assumed the risk of danger by entering the water.

Crashing WavesThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a 20-year-old student at a local Atlanta-area university. The student signed up for a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica. Prior to embarking on the trip, university staff went over a few of the dangers of swimming in the ocean, and they asked if all of the students were comfortable swimmers. All of the students indicated that they could swim.

During the trip, a professor accompanied several students to a beach recommended by hotel staff. The students went into the water and stuck together in a group. However, at some point, a rip current began pulling the students out to sea. The plaintiff’s son was trying to stay afloat when he was overcome by a wave. The others lost sight of him, and his body was discovered three days later.

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Each day, 28 people across the country die in crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2015, 10,265 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes. In addition, almost 1.1 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics in that same year. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), almost 40 percent of all fatalities in Georgia car accidents are alcohol-related crashes.

Passed OutUnder Georgia law, a person cannot drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle if they are under the influence of alcohol or any drug to the extent that it is unsafe for the person to drive. A person also cannot have a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.08 or more within three hours of driving or being in control of the vehicle.

Victims of Georgia drunk driving accidents can recover damages caused by an intoxicated driver through a personal injury lawsuit. If successful, a plaintiff’s damages may include amounts for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income, personal property damage, and potentially punitive damages.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued an interesting opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was struck by a hit-and-run driver. While the identity of the driver remained unknown, the plaintiff was able to obtain the license plate of the car as the driver left the scene. In a case against the vehicle’s owner, the court allowed the plaintiff to proceed toward a trial or settlement, finding that she has a legally cognizable claim.

Rear-View MirrorThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was struck by an unidentified male motorist. However, as the hit-and-run driver fled the scene, the plaintiff was able to obtain the license plate of the vehicle and provided it to the responding police officer. The officer looked up the vehicle’s information, finding the owner’s name, and determined that the vehicle was owned by a woman who the plaintiff acknowledged was not driving at the time of the accident.

Once the plaintiff had the owner’s name, she then sought insurance information for the vehicle. The insurance request came back with another woman’s name. The plaintiff initially filed a personal injury lawsuit against the woman who insured the car. Later, she asked the court to add the vehicle’s owner to the case as well. The court denied the plaintiff’s request to add the vehicle’s owner, finding that the issue was moot because the owner was not an “indispensable party” because she was not driving the car.

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Last month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a case that was brought by a woman who was struck by the defendant’s vehicle at night. The court ultimately determined that the plaintiff did not present sufficient evidence to give rise to a material issue of fact, and thus the trial court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s case rather than allow it to be heard by a jury.

CrosswalkThe Facts of the Case

After returning home from work on a November evening, the plaintiff decided to talk a walk along the road near where she lived. The plaintiff was wearing all black, and it was about 7:30 at night. The plaintiff was walking alongside the road on a worn footpath, since there was no sidewalk in the area where she was walking. She passed a crosswalk, determining that it was not a good place to cross due to the fact that it was located at the top of a small hill, and visibility was reduced. Instead, the plaintiff walked for a few more minutes along the road before attempting to cross.

The plaintiff looked both ways before starting to cross the four-lane road. She noticed the defendant’s vehicle approaching but decided to cross anyhow. Once she reached the median, she again looked and saw that the defendant’s vehicle was still approaching. The plaintiff testified that she could not tell how fast the defendant’s vehicle was moving, but she would not have begun to cross if she thought the vehicle was speeding. However, as the plaintiff started to cross, she was struck by the defendant’s vehicle. The responding police officer cited the plaintiff for “darting” out into traffic and for walking on the roadway while intoxicated. The defendant was not cited.

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