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In personal injury cases, before a case reaches trial, the parties engage in the discovery process. Discovery is the stage of litigation at which the parties exchange requested information that is relevant to the case or may lead to the discovery of other relevant evidence.

Defective TireThe rules of discovery require that parties make certain evidence available for the opposing side, even if that evidence is not favorable to the party that possesses the evidence. Along those lines, the rules prohibit the destruction of discoverable evidence. A recent Georgia personal injury case takes a look at when a plaintiff’s obligation to preserve evidence arises.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was the surviving spouse of a man who was involved in a serious car accident after the tread on one of his vehicle’s tires separated. After the accident, the plaintiff’s husband was taken to the hospital, where he remained unresponsive for several days.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving a plaintiff’s claims against two insurance companies. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff did not properly notify either of the insurance companies about the accident until after the deadline set forth in the policies had expired. Thus, the court held that the plaintiff’s claims against the insurance companies were barred.

Mailed ServiceThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was working as a truck driver when he was rear ended by another driver while waiting at a red light. The force from the collision pushed the plaintiff’s truck into the rear of another vehicle, causing the plaintiff to sustain a serious injury to his neck. The accident occurred in December 2013.

In March 2015, the plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who rear-ended him. However, at some point thereafter, the plaintiff realized that the at-fault driver may be uninsured or may not have enough insurance to cover his injuries, so the plaintiff named his own insurance carrier as a defendant in April 2015. At this time, the plaintiff also named his employer’s insurance carrier as a defendant.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to determine if the defendant, a local utility company, was entitled to government immunity. Ultimately, the court concluded that the utility was not entitled to immunity because the employee alleged to have caused the accident was not exercising his discretion as a government employee.

The Facts of the Case

Construction EquipmentThe plaintiff was injured in a car accident when she crashed into a pile of dirt and then into a back-hoe that the defendant utility company was using to replace a pipe underneath the road’s surface. According to the facts as laid out in the court’s opinion, the utility employee had removed the dirt covering the pipe and placed it in a large pile in front of the back-hoe. When the back-hoe was not in use, it was left on the shoulder of the road, partially in the roadway.

The plaintiff testified that she saw a “blur” and was unable to avoid the pile of dirt that was immediately ahead of her. After her car ran into the dirt pile, it then continued to crash into the back-hoe. The plaintiff’s car flipped over onto its side, and the plaintiff was injured as a result.

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia dog bite case requiring the court to determine if the lower court was proper to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims seeking punitive damages from the defendant dog owner. Ultimately, the court concluded that the facts gave rise to a material issue regarding the dog owner’s knowledge of her pets’ propensity for dangerousness and whether her actions on the day of the attack showed a conscious indifference to the safety of others.

Mean Dog GlareThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was taking her son’s dog to the neighborhood dog park. The dog was a five-pound Yorkshire terrier. When she arrived, she noticed the defendant and her two larger dogs were already in the fenced-in park. The plaintiff asked the defendant if she was going to leave soon, and the defendant just shrugged.

A few minutes later, the defendant started to put her dogs on their leashes. However, as she opened the gate to exit the dog park, the two large dogs got away from her control and ran toward the plaintiff’s dog. The plaintiff’s dog was killed as a result, and the plaintiff was seriously injured. The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, seeking punitive damages.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving an insurance dispute between an injured motorist and his insurance company. The case required the court to determine if the accident was covered under the driver’s policy or whether it was subject to an exception for vehicles being operated for hire. Ultimately, the court concluded that the insurance company failed to establish that the plaintiff was operating his vehicle for hire, and it found in favor of the plaintiff.

Insurance ContractThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a motorist who had occasionally provided an elderly woman with rides from her home into town. The normal arrangement was the plaintiff would pick the woman up at her house and take her to town, and in exchange she would pay him $7.

One day, the plaintiff was driving near the woman’s home when he saw her walking along the roadside. He pulled over and offered to give her a ride into town. The woman accepted, and although she had intended to pay him for the ride, she never did because the plaintiff was involved in a minor accident along the way.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia wrongful death lawsuit involving the death of a student while at school. The case presented the court with the opportunity to discuss the state’s official immunity doctrine as it applied to the defendant teacher’s decision to leave her classroom and ask another teacher to keep an eye on her students.

ClassroomUltimately, the court concluded that the school’s written policy to “never” leave the students unsupervised left some discretion in the hands of teachers. Thus, the teacher’s actions in leaving the class were discretionary, and she was entitled to official immunity.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs were the parents of a student who died after falling and breaking his collarbone while in class. At the time of the accident, the teacher in charge of the class had left momentarily and had asked the teacher of a neighboring classroom to keep an eye on her students.

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Landowners have a duty to those whom they invite or allow onto their property. The nature and extent of the duty owed to a visitor depends on several factors, most notably the relationship between the parties. Thus, trespassers are owed the least amount of care and business invitees the most.

Broken GlassWhen someone is injured on the property of another party, they may be entitled to compensation through a Georgia premises liability lawsuit. However, in order to succeed in a lawsuit against a defendant property owner, the victim must establish that the defendant violated the duty owed to the plaintiff. Most often, this is by failing to take some corrective action regarding a dangerous condition on the property.

One element of a Georgia premises liability lawsuit that is a frequent subject of litigation is the “superior knowledge” requirement. Essentially, a premises liability plaintiff must not only show that the defendant landowner knew (or should have known) of the hazard, but also that the landowner had superior knowledge of the hazard. A recent case illustrates how the Georgia Court of Appeals applies this rule.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving a plaintiff’s conflicting testimony and the effect it should be given. Ultimately, the court concluded that neither of the plaintiff’s statements should be accepted on its face by the court, and the case should be submitted to a jury so that it can resolve the factual issues involved.

Front-End DamageThe Facts of the Case

The case arose in the wake of a car accident involving the plaintiff and an uninsured motorist. Following the accident, the plaintiff filed a personal injury case against the other motorist. The plaintiff’s father had several policies with the defendant insurance company, each of which provided coverage for accidents involving uninsured motorists. Thus, the plaintiff named her father’s insurance company as a defendant in the case as well.

Before the case reached trial, the plaintiff provided answers to several questions posed by the insurance company. One of the questions asked who lived with the plaintiff, and she responded that she lived with her three children. When asked, she explained that her father lived across the street.

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Earlier this month, an appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to determine if a bad-faith claim against an insurance company should be permitted to proceed toward trial. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff presented sufficient evidence of each element of the bad-faith claim, and the case should proceed toward trial.

HandshakeThe Facts of the Case

The case is somewhat confusing in that the plaintiff in the case against the insurance company was the estate of a motorist who had caused an accident that resulted in the motorist’s own death and injured several others. Several of those injured in the accident filed a personal injury case against the deceased motorist.

The insurance company of the deceased motorist failed to respond to communications from the accident victims’ attorney, seeking to settle the case within the insurance policy’s limits. As a result, the accident victims rescinded their offer to settle the case, and that case proceeded to trial, where a large verdict was entered in the plaintiffs’ favor.

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Filing a claim in one state versus another or even one county versus another can seem like a minor detail, but it can make a big difference in the outcome of a case. Laws and local court rules differ from one place to another, and even the specific judges and jury pools can be an important consideration in a personal injury case. In a recent case, a Georgia appeals court discussed the considerations that go into determining where a Georgia wrongful death case should be heard.

Car AccidentIn that case, a girl was killed in a motor vehicle crash, and her mother filed a wrongful death action against a trucking company. She alleged that her daughter was killed after she was hit or forced off the road by a tractor-trailer owned by the defendant. The plaintiff also alleged that the driver pulled over and got out of the vehicle but then fled the scene.

The defendant was a domestic corporation, and the crash occurred in Bibb County, Georgia. However, the defendant’s principal place of business and registered agent were located in Jeff Davis County, Georgia. The plaintiff argued that the case should be heard in Bibb County because venue was proper there under the Georgia Motor Carrier Act because the claim arose in Bibb County. The defendant argued the case should be moved to Jeff Davis County because under OCGA 14-2-510(b)(4), a defendant corporation can remove a case to a Georgia county where it maintains its “principal place of business.” The case was moved to Jeff Davis County, and the court denied the mother’s motion to send the case back to Bibb County.

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