Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an insurance dispute. According to the court’s opinion, a woman suffered injuries while she and her husband were visiting their friend’s home to look at a pickup truck he owned. When the couple arrived, the truck’s owner moved the car about eight feet forward so that they could walk around and inspect the vehicle. The owner parked the car on an incline, placed it on neutral, and set the emergency brake. The owner asked the woman to pull the “hood latch” but warned her to avoid the emergency brake. However, the woman inadvertently pulled the emergency brake, and the vehicle rolled off and ran her over. The couple filed a lawsuit against the owner, alleging that the woman suffered multiple injuries and damages because of the owner’s negligence. The truck owner sought coverage under his homeowner’s policy; however, the insurance company denied coverage.

When an individual suffers injuries or damages in a Georgia accident, they may file a lawsuit against the at-fault party or a claim for damages with the other party’s insurance company. In many cases, the at-fault party’s insurance provider will try to deny coverage by pointing to specific terms in the insurance contract. Often this leads to undue delays and requires the injured party to endure a lengthy legal battle with the at-fault party or their insurance company.

In this case, the insurance company argued that in addition to other circumstances, their policy does not provide coverage for injuries that arise out of the “ownership, maintenance, use, or loading of motor vehicles.” The trial court found that the truck was in “use” when the accident occurred, because the parties were evaluating the vehicle’s operability and functionality. The appeals court found that there are ambiguities regarding the term “in use.”

Sometimes, accidents happen out of pure chance or bad luck, with no one to blame. Often, however, accidents resulting in injuries are preventable and caused by someone else’s negligence. In these cases, Georgia law allows the victim, hurt because of someone else’s actions, to file suit to recover monetary damages. Damages in a Georgia personal injury accident can cover past and future medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and more. For this reason, these civil suits are incredibly important to victims and their families in the aftermath of an accident, especially a costly one. Thus, plaintiffs must understand all the rules governing personal injury lawsuits fully, because one mistake could result in the case being dismissed, and the plaintiff barred from recovery.

One of the important aspects of filing a suit to keep in mind is the rules governing notice. Plaintiffs, when they file a lawsuit, are required to notify the other party. The rules of notice may change depending on the defendant. For instance, in Georgia, a plaintiff filing a suit against a city must do so per Georgia Code § 36-33-5-(e). This notice must be ante litem, or given in advance of the filing of the case. This means plaintiffs have to let the city know they intend on suing the city before the actual lawsuit can be filed. This notice must include a number of specific things, and failure to properly notify a city properly will result in the claim being dismissed, regardless of what the city did.

For example, take a recent Georgia Appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured when she attended a street festival in the city. During this festival, she stepped into a hole in a crosswalk area and suffered a broken leg, requiring surgery and physical therapy. According to the plaintiff, residents complained about this hole to the city previously, but the city failed to fix it. The plaintiff, intending to sue the city for negligence, filed a complaint and provided ante litem notice to the city. However, the court ultimately dismissed her case, because she failed to include everything needed in the notice. Specifically, OCGA § 36-33-5 (e) requires a plaintiff to include the specific amount of monetary damages sought from the city, and the plaintiff only said that “the value may exceed $300,000.00.” Because of this, the plaintiff’s case was dismissed and she was unable to proceed in her suit against the city, even though she had been injured.

Property owners and business owners may be liable for injuries or other damages caused by third parties committing criminal acts against members of the public who have been invited onto their property. A recently released decision by the Court of Appeals of Georgia addresses the standards for pursuing a Georgia personal injury lawsuit against a property owner for injuries suffered by a lawful invitee to the premises as a result of the unlawful conduct of a third party.

The plaintiff in the recently decided case is a truck driver who had parked his truck in a lot owned by the defendant as part of an agreement between the defendant and the plaintiff’s employer. The plaintiff woke up in the middle of the night by a man who was parked against his truck and attempting to break-in. The plaintiff opened his door and stepped onto the other man’s truck. The other driver attempted to drive away from the attempted robbery, causing the plaintiff to fall under the moving truck and get run over, which resulted in serious injuries to the plaintiff.

The plaintiff sued the defendant property owner, alleging that the parking lot was supposed to be secure, and that the defendant owed the plaintiff a duty to protect him from any intervening criminal acts committed by third parties. Before trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment against the plaintiff, which was granted by the trial court, which determined as a matter of law that the criminal act was not foreseeable to the defendant, and therefore no cause of action existed.

Injury victims who are hurt as a result of the negligence of an employee of a government agency or municipality face additional hurdles in seeking recovery for their loss. A state appellate court recently released a decision in a Georgia premises liability case, siding with a Georgia city and illustrating this point. As a result of the recent ruling, the injured plaintiffs will be unable to pursue their claim against the city.

The plaintiffs in the recently decided case are a group of people who were injured when a dock ramp owned by the city of Savannah collapsed while the plaintiffs were waiting to board a ferry that was alleged to be a part of the city’s municipal road system. The dock collapse injured several people, who filed suit against the city and municipal transit authority operating the ferry, alleging that they negligently operated the ferry system. Before trial, the city disputed its liability for the claim, alleging that as a municipality it was immune from a negligence lawsuit. The trial court ruled against the city’s motion, finding that under Georgia law, a city can be sued for failure to maintain public roads, which includes ferries.

The city appealed the ruling to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, claiming that they had sovereign immunity from the suit under Georgia law. The appellate court agreed with the lower court that the ferry system, and therefore the dock that collapsed, were part of the public road system as required by state law for the city to waive sovereign immunity. However, the court went on to find that the city ultimately was immune from suit because the city did not have notice of any defect in the ramp, nor should they have noticed it by practicing ordinary care and due diligence in maintaining the ramp and ferry system. Because the plaintiffs presented insufficient evidence to the court to demonstrate that the city should have known about the dangerous ramp, they will not be able to pursue their claim against the city.

Georgia negligence claims involving loss of life can become more complicated than accident lawsuits with only injuries. When a victim of negligence dies as a result of a car accident or other mistake, there may be separate lawsuits filed on behalf of multiple parties who could be entitled to compensation from the negligent party. The Court of Appeals of Georgia recently released a decision that addressed a dispute between the heirs to an accident victims estate and the beneficiaries of his wrongful death claim. As a result of the recent decision, the case will be remanded to a lower court for further proceedings.

The recently decided case involved claims which were initiated as a result of a man being killed in a Georgia motorcycle accident. The man was killed when he swerved to avoid a trash receptacle that a jury found was negligently left in the road by the defendant at trial. As a result of a settlement agreement made before trial, at trial, the plaintiffs accepted a judgment amount of $1,000,000, which was less than the $4,000,000 that the jury awarded. The settlement was to be divided between two separate claims against the defendant, the “wrongful death claim,” and the “estate claim.”

Because the decedent had executed a will that excluded his children before he died, any proceeds of the estate claim would be given exclusively to his surviving spouse. However, under the wrongful death claim, his four children would be entitled to some of the settlement proceeds. The settlement agreement itself did not state what portion of the $1,000,000 awarded would go to each claim, although the trial court entered a ruling that applied the entire settlement amount to the estate claim, therefore excluding the man’s children from any of the settlement proceeds. The children then filed an appeal to the Court of Appeals of Georgia, seeking a ruling that they were entitled to some of the settlement.

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.

Georgia roads pose a serious danger to pedestrians attempting to cross the street. This danger is compounded when it is dark outside or in conditions with low visibility. In a recently decided case, the Georgia Court of Appeals reversed a lower court’s ruling in favor of the plaintiff in a fatal auto-pedestrian accident case. As a result of the appellate ruling, the plaintiff will not have the chance to recover damages from the death of her spouse.

According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff sued the defendant after he struck and killed her husband in an early morning auto-pedestrian collision. Evidently, the decedent was hit while he was crossing a poorly lit road, over a mile from the nearest crosswalk. Using the testimony of an expert witness, the plaintiff argued in her complaint that the defendant, who was driving to work at the time of the crash, was negligent in failing to see the pedestrian, and therefore liable for damages related to his death. Before trial, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment with the court, arguing that there was no legal basis to find he was negligent. The defendant’s motion was denied by the court, which resulted in the recently decided appeal.

According to the Georgia Court of Appeals, a valid negligence claim must establish four elements: (1) a legal duty to conform to a standard of conduct raised by law for the protection of others against unreasonable risk of harm; (2) a breach of this standard; (3) a legally attributable causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and (4) loss or damage to plaintiff’s legally protected interest resulting from the breach. On appeal, the defendant argued that the plaintiff’s complaint failed to meet the first element of a negligence claim.

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.