Articles Posted in Accident Law

Recently, the Court of Appeals of Georgia issued an opinion in an appeal stemming from a personal injury lawsuit a plaintiff filed against the Georgia Department of Public Safety (GDPS). According to the court’s opinion, the plaintiff suffered injuries when he was involved in a car accident with a fleeing criminal in October 2014.

Pursuant to Georgia law OCGA section 50-21-26, the plaintiff provided the relevant administrative agency with ante litem notice of his intent to file a personal injury lawsuit against the GDPS. However, he failed to provide all of the information that the statute requires and subsequently withdrew his initial filing. After that, in 2017, the plaintiff sent a proper ante litem notice to the agency and renewed his action. In response, the GDPS filed a motion to dismiss, based on the untimely notice. The plaintiff argued that OCGA section 9-3-99 tolls his time for filing ante litem notice, because he was a victim of a fleeing criminal’s crime.

The Georgia Tort Claims Act (GTCA) provides that individuals having a tort claim against the State cannot bring an action against the State without giving the appropriate agency written notice of the lawsuit within 12 months of the date of the loss. However, the OCGA section 9-3-99 provides an exception to the period of limitation with respect to causes of action that arise out of a crime. The statute of limitations is tolled from the date of the incident until the act has been prosecuted or otherwise becomes final, so long as it is not more than six years after the original event.

When someone is injured in a car accident by a reckless, careless, or negligent driver, Georgia state law allows them to file a personal injury suit to recover for their injuries. These suits can be crucial for injured victims in helping them get their lives back on track. Often, car accident injuries result in significant medical expenses, lost wages, and even sometimes funeral and burial expenses. Filing a personal injury suit against the at-fault driver is often the only way that a family can avoid severe financial hardship in the aftermath of accidents.

However, to file a personal injury suit, the plaintiff must notify the defendant of the suit. It would be unfair to allow plaintiffs to move forward with a lawsuit without the other party knowing and able to defend themselves, and so our court system requires notice to be served on the defendant. However, in some cases, defendants may avoid getting served because they do not want to be sued. They may conceal their location, or leave the state and go somewhere unknown, to avoid being served notice. Many times, they may think that if they cannot be served, they cannot be sued, and the suit will eventually go away. However, Georgia law accounts for this tendency, and allows those who exercised due diligence in determining that the defendant was either out of state or avoiding service to serve notice in another way—through publication in a newspaper.

This was the option attempted by the plaintiff in a recent Georgia appellate case. According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured by the defendant in a car accident and attempted to file suit. However, she was unable to find or track down the defendant to serve him with notice, and so after trying for a while, she requested permission to serve notice through publication.

Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a Georgia car accident case after the trial court granted summary judgment in favor of a car insurance company in a contract dispute. On appeal, the court was tasked with addressing whether a date on an insurance policy was a scrivener’s error. The evidence shows that a man applied for a car insurance policy on February 23, 2017. On his application, he indicated that he requested bodily injury and property damage coverage, but he rejected uninsured motorist coverage, and excluded his wife as a covered party. There were various dates and times noted on the application; however, the most pertinent date was next to his applicant’s statement that was dated May, 23, 2017.

According to the court’s opinion, the policyholder’s wife suffered injuries in a car accident on March 31, 2017, and thereafter requested coverage. The claimant filed a lawsuit after the company denied coverage. The insurance company filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that the policyholder specifically excluded his wife from coverage. The claimant argued that the discrepancy of the dates in the insurance application creates an ambiguity regarding the effective date of coverage, and should preclude summary judgment.

Under Georgia law, courts should construe ambiguous insurance contracts in favor of the insured and against the insurer. This generally means that when a contract provision can be interpreted in two different ways, it should be construed in favor of the insured. However, this principle is limited to reasonable interpretations.

Georgia is home to many popular companies that offer individuals the opportunity to participate in exciting recreational activities. These activities include rock climbing, rafting, bungee jumping, and sky diving, among many others. However, although these companies typically employ trained and experienced instructors, accidents happen. Given the nature of these activities, accidents often result in serious injuries and even death. When someone suffers injuries while participating in a recreational activity in Georgia, the company or its employees may be liable for the victim’s injuries and damages through a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.

However, the majority of these companies require participants or their guardians to sign a liability waiver. Although many of these forms contain similar terms, they are generally tailored to the services the company provides, as well as the company’s policies and procedures. However, the underlying goal is to protect the company from financial responsibility if the participant suffers injuries.

Despite waivers of liability, there are some situations where the court will void the waiver and allow a lawsuit to proceed. These companies may still be held liable for their actions, even if the participant signed a waiver. Courts may find the waiver void and not binding in cases where the company or its agents engaged in gross negligence, when then contract’s language was vague, if there were hidden terms in the agreement, or if the company was violating state law.

With everyone glued to their devices more than ever, it’s no surprise that distracted driving accidents are on the rise. Even though many cars have hands-free answering mechanisms or navigation systems, accidents can still happen when drivers get distracted at a red light to check a text message or make a call. When these accidents happen, they can often be devastating. Those responsible for a distracted driving accident can be held accountable for their actions through a Georgia personal injury lawsuit.

In a recent Georgia news report, a serious crash occurred involving distracted driving. Evidently, the driver of a tractor-trailer crashed into the victim’s car inside a roundabout, causing both vehicles to slide into a nearby ditch. In the ditch, the tractor-trailer rolled on top of the victim’s car, and a rescue team had to remove the driver from her car. After being pulled out from roughly 20 feet down a hill, the victim was transported to a local hospital. Following the accident, the tractor-trailer driver admitted to investigators that he was using his cell phone and didn’t realize he was entering a roundabout intersection.

In Georgia, a new distracted driving law called the “Hands-Free Georgia Act” was passed in 2018 to curb rates of distracted driving accidents. Although it was illegal to text and drive in Georgia before the passing of this law, the Act now makes it illegal to use a mobile device while driving, unless you have a hands-free or Bluetooth system installed in your vehicle.

In Georgia, accident victims often face challenges when trying to recover for their injuries and losses. The majority of these issues arise from inadequate insurance coverage. Although the law requires Georgia insurance companies to provide under or uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage, many claimants face difficulties evoking the coverage. The three main issues that arise in these situations concern the stacking of commercial and personal insurance policies, recovering against an uninsured motorist, and uninsured motorist offsets.

Stacking occurs when insurance companies provide coverage to a driver under more than one policy. This is usually applicable when a driver suffers injuries when operating a non-owned vehicle with permission from the vehicle’s owner. In these situations, most policies consider the non-owner driver an additional insured under the policy. Issues typically arise when there is proration among more than one insurance company or policy. However, it is essential to note that there are exceptions to the general rule that “insurance follows the car.”

Exceptions and exclusions to UIM coverage may apply in situations where the car owner is a dealership, or the policy provides for specific exclusions. The law provides that Georgia statute OCGA § 33-7-11 covers UIM litigation, and resolution of coverage disputes must comport with the policy’s terms. A recent state court opinion stemming from a coverage dispute illustrates the common challenges that claimants face when evoking coverage.

The government should do the bare minimum to maintain roads and public works infrastructure. Following an accident where an injury occurred due to poorly maintained roads or other public works issues, many plaintiffs consider filing a lawsuit against their local city or municipality. If successful, these claims can often serve as a wake-up call for local governments and encourage them to take further steps to ensure the public’s safety. However, personal injury lawsuits in Georgia against a municipality can often be complex and must adhere to specific legal rules and procedures.

In a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision, two plaintiffs sued their local city and its public works superintendent for injuries one of the plaintiffs sustained when their vehicle ran off the road. The plaintiffs alleged that the poor configuration of the roadway and deficient signage caused their vehicle to run off the roadway and crash into an embankment. In the plaintiffs’ complaint, they provided a general estimate of medical expenses, lost wages, and total damages incurred from the accident. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs’ complaint against the city and the public works superintendent because the plaintiffs failed to include the specific amount of monetary compensation and damages they sought from the defendants. The plaintiffs appealed.

On appeal, the court had to consider whether the plaintiffs’ complaint complied with the rules concerning the “specificity of damages” requirement. The court ultimately affirmed the lower court’s decision to dismiss the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that their complaint lacked the specificity necessary to comply with Georgia rules. Providing an estimate of damages, the court reasoned, did not substantially comply with the requirements of specificity in Georgia.

As if dealing with a Georgia car accident isn’t stressful enough, managing the hurdles that come with being hit by an uninsured driver can bring on a massive headache of its own accord. Compensation may be available for your injuries, assuming you have uninsured motorist coverage on your car insurance policy. However, every insurance provider has specific rules governing what information you must provide and when it must be provided. When you are unfamiliar with your policy’s requirements and terms, the chances of noncompliance increase, potentially jeopardizing your claim.

In a recent Court of Appeals of Georgia decision, the court considered whether the plaintiff gave sufficient notice of an uninsured motorist claim to her insurance company. Evidently, the plaintiff was driving her employer’s car and was injured after being rear-ended by another vehicle while stopped at an intersection. Following the accident, the plaintiff returned to her workplace, picked up her own car, and went straight to the doctor’s office. Following an examination and x-ray from her doctor, she was told that she had whiplash. She had surgery on her neck two years after the accident.

At the time of the accident, the plaintiff was insured under an insurance policy written by the defendant that included uninsured motorist coverage. In the event of a claim under the uninsured motor vehicle coverage, the policyholder was required to notify the provider with all details as reasonably soon as possible after being examined and treated for an injury. In a letter to the insurance company, the plaintiff’s lawyer did not include any details of the plaintiff’s injuries, treatment, or medical expenses. Although this letter was sent to the insurance company shortly after the accident, the plaintiff did not file a suit for damages from the collision until two years later. The trial court determined that the plaintiff did not give notice to the defendant of her claim because it lacked details about the injury, treatment, and other required information. The plaintiff appealed.

When driving in, you should always exercise the utmost caution when operating your vehicle. When driving someone else’s car after they lend it to you, however, you should be extra careful—especially because if the vehicle gets damaged or you hurt someone in a Georgia car accident, you and the vehicle’s owner could be held responsible. The same principle applies to employers. If an employer lends a vehicle or gives control of a vehicle it owns to an employee with a demonstrated history of incompetence or other issues involving safely operating cars, the employer and the driver operating the car could be liable.

In a recent Supreme Court of Georgia decision, the court considered a negligent entrustment issue. According to the facts of the case, while attempting to cross the street, the decedent was struck and killed by a truck. The executor of the decedent’s estate subsequently brought a wrongful death and personal injury action against the defendants, the driver of the truck and his employer. Following the trial, the jury found the defendants 50 percent at fault, and the deceased 50 percent at fault, which meant the executor on the deceased’s estate was barred from collecting damages on behalf of the deceased’s estate. The executor appealed, arguing that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the defendant on its claims on negligent entrustment. The appellate court affirmed the lower court’s opinion, and the Georgia Supreme Court assessed the claim. The court ultimately reversed the lower court’s decision because the law that the lower court relied on to affirm the trial court’s decision was abrogated.

In Georgia, when considering negligent entrustment of a vehicle by an employer to an employee, liability is determined based on the negligent act of the owner lending his vehicle to another to drive with actual knowledge that the driver is incompetent or habitually reckless. An individual can be deemed unfit to safely operate a vehicle because of physical or mental impairment, a lack of experience, or age. If a driver does not have a valid driver’s license for the particular vehicle they are operating, the driver is also considered automatically incompetent under Georgia law.

When an individual passes away after an accident, it can be extremely difficult for their family. It can be even more difficult when that person was pregnant. In these cases, people will often file a wrongful death lawsuit against the responsible party, seeking damages to emotionally and financially recover. One type of damages compensates families for their pain and suffering. In a recent Georgia appellate court case, the court was tasked with determining whether the deceased’s pregnancy was a relevant factor when determining pain and suffering damages. Ultimately, the court concluded that the deceased’s characteristics – including her pregnancy – were relevant to the determination of damages.

In the recent case, a woman filed a lawsuit after her daughter, husband, and grandchild were killed in a car accident caused by the defendant. The plaintiff’s daughter had been pregnant and was on her way home from the doctor when she was killed in the accident. Additionally, the daughter had been on the phone with her mother during the accident. Because of this, the plaintiff heard her daughter scream moments before the accident that took her daughter’s life. At trial, evidence regarding the daughter’s state of mind during the accident – including the fact that she was pregnant – was evaluated when the jury awarded the plaintiff damages for the pain and suffering her daughter endured before being killed in the accident. The defendant appealed, arguing this evidence should not have been considered by the jury.

In Georgia, damages can be awarded for a person’s pain and suffering as the accident occurs, including being aware of their imminent death. The fright, shock, and mental suffering experienced by individuals during these accidents can be considered when the jury determines damages.

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