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Undue Nit-picking by Georgia’s Court of Appeals?

In a recent decision, a Georgia court of appeals dismissed a woman’s lawsuit against the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT), finding that she failed to satisfy the requirements in her “ante litem,” or pre-lawsuit, notice. The woman sued the DOT, alleging that one of its employees had negligently caused a crash in which the woman was injured. The DOT argued that the case should be dismissed because the woman’s ante litem notice did not specify the amount of damages claimed.

Rule BookIn Georgia, the Georgia Tort Claims Act requires a party with a tort claim against the State to provide the State with written notice before filing the claim. The notice has to specify the “amount of loss claimed.” The notice must provide this information “to the extent of the claimant’s knowledge and belief and as may be practicable under the circumstances.”

In the woman’s ante litem notice, which she filed about a week after the crash, she stated that as a result of the collision, she suffered great pain and suffering. She claimed her total damages had “not yet been determined” because she was “still under the care of her treating physician,” and she would “claim the full amount of damages allowed by law.”

The court determined that the woman’s statements did not fulfill the law’s requirement to provide the information to the extent it was practicable at the time. Although she was still incurring medical bills, she was required to state the amount of loss she knew at the time of the notice. The court found that she failed to state the amount of loss of which she knew at the time she filed the notice. In addition, her statement that she would claim the amount of damages allowed by law was not sufficiently specific because, even though there may have been a cap on the damages she could recover, it had nothing to do with the amount of damages she claimed. As a result, the court found she failed to satisfy the notice requirements and dismissed the case.

Wrong result for the wrong reason:  how was the state harmed by this “insufficient” notice?  Will this decision lead plaintiffs to state arbitrarily high amounts of losses in order to avoid such harsh results?  If so, how does that help the state evaluate claims?  Perhaps the Supreme Court will be the voice of reason if this case is appealed.

Ante Litem Notice Requirements

Under Georgia law, if a plaintiff brings a lawsuit against a government entity, the plaintiff must give notice of the claim by filing an ante litem notice. Generally, notice of the claim must be given in writing within 12 months of the accident. The notice must state:

  • The name of the government entity that is being sued;
  • The time when the loss was incurred;
  • The place it occurred;
  • The nature of loss suffered;
  • The amount of loss claimed; and
  • The acts or omissions that caused the loss.

Consult an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney

Serious car accidents can take a toll emotionally and financially. At the McAleer Law Firm, we handle claims arising from serious or catastrophic injuries sustained in a wide range of accidents. Our attorneys are ready to fight for the rights of victims in the Atlanta metro area and other Georgia communities, such as Alpharetta, Conyers, Decatur, Gainesville, Lawrenceville, Macon, Norcross, Roswell, Sandy Springs, and Stone Mountain. Whether you have been injured or are entitled to temporary or permanent disability benefits, our legal team stands ready to aggressively assert your rights. Call the McAleer Law Firm at 404-622-5337 or contact us through our online form.

See More Posts:

Georgia Appellate Court Finds Accumulated Rainwater on Train Platform Is Not a Dangerous Condition, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, May 1, 2017.

Georgia Appellate Court Puts Plaintiffs’ Case in Free Fall, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, April 24, 2017.