Articles Posted in Personal Injury

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Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case involving the question of whether the plaintiff’s insurance company was responsible for his injuries, based on the policy’s uninsured motorist clause. Ultimately, the court determined that the accident was not within the scope of the plaintiff’s insurance policy because the vehicle involved in the accident was furnished for the plaintiff’s everyday use.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff, an employee of a logging company, was provided with a logging truck to help carry out his duties. The truck was owned by his employer, but the evidence suggested that the plaintiff was able to keep the truck overnight at his own residence once he was done working for the day.

One day, the two tires on the truck blew out. The plaintiff pulled over and called his employer, who arrived to assist in changing the tires. However, while the two were changing the tires, one of the tires blew out, injuring the plaintiff.

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All Georgia motorists are required to maintain a certain level of auto insurance in order to legally drive. The purpose of this requirement is to ensure that anyone who causes a Georgia car accident is able to cover at least some of the the costs of medical and other expenses expenses for the accident victims. However, determining whether a person, vehicle, or accident is covered under an insurance policy is not always as straightforward as policyholders believe.

Legal News GavelA recent case brought this difficulty to light after a plaintiff who was injured in an accident involving a horse-drawn carriage sought coverage for his medical expenses. Ultimately, the court’s opinion held that, although the accident victim’s uninsured motorist (UIM) policy was not implicated in the accident, the carriage driver’s policy may cover the plaintiff’s injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was injured while a passenger on a horse-drawn carriage. At the time, the carriage had just finished participating in a Christmas parade. The driver of the carriage maintained a liability policy with the defendant insurance company. The plaintiff also maintained an unrelated policy with the defendant insurance company. The plaintiff’s policy contained an uninsured motorist provision covering the plaintiff in the event that an at-fault driver was uninsured.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Supreme Court issued an opinion in a Georgia dog bite case requiring the court to discuss and clarify the law when it comes to an owner’s liability for injuries caused by his dog. Under the specific facts presented in the appeal, the court concluded that the plaintiffs did present sufficient evidence that the defendants’ dog did have a dangerous propensity of which the defendants were aware. As a result, the court held that summary judgment in favor of the defendants was not proper.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiffs and the defendants were neighbors. The defendants’ adult son moved back into their home and brought his dog, Rocks, with him. Rocks was at the defendants’ home for about two weeks when the defendants noticed he was acting aggressively. On one occasion, Rocks snapped at the defendant wife as she tried to feed him. On another occasion, Rocks growled at the plaintiff’s husband when he was visiting the defendants.

The following week, the plaintiff’s wife came over to visit the defendants. Rocks was in the backyard and not in his kennel, although he was on a leash. When the plaintiff wife entered the yard, Rocks charged at her, lunged, and latched onto her leg, causing serious injuries.

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Earlier this month, the state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to discuss the fireman’s rule. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s allegedly negligent actions were both the cause of the incident necessitating the plaintiff’s presence at the scene as well as the cause of the plaintiff’s accident. As a result, the court determined that the fireman’s rule precluded the plaintiff’s recovery.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

On the day of the accident, a motorist was traveling on a Georgia highway when he lost control after encountering a patch of grass clippings that had become wet and slick after a rainstorm. The motorist’s vehicle slid off the road, rolled over, and then came to a stop in a roadside ditch. The motorist called 911 for assistance.

The plaintiff received the radio call for assistance and sped to the scene, traveling at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. The plaintiff unfastened his safety belt so that he could more quickly exit his vehicle upon arrival, but as his vehicle encountered the same patch of wet grass clippings, he lost control. The plaintiff’s patrol car veered off the road and struck a tree, severely injuring the plaintiff.

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Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals issued a written opinion in a premises liability case that was brought by a college student who slipped and fell while walking from one class to another on a rainy day. Ultimately, the court concluded that the plaintiff presented enough evidence to survive the defendant’s summary judgment challenge, allowing her case to be submitted to a jury.

Legal News GavelThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a student at Georgia Perimeter College. At the time she arrived at school, it was a nice day with clear weather. The plaintiff attended her first class, which was in a windowless classroom. After her first class ended, she went to her second class, which was in the same building and was also in a windowless classroom. Her second class ended at 11:15. During this time, the weather changed, and a rainstorm rolled in.

While the plaintiff was on the way to her third class, she slipped and fell in a puddle of water. The size of the puddle was contested, with the plaintiff claiming it consisted of “standing water,” and a professor who came to her aid estimating that there was less water present, about as much as if a wet paper towel had been wiped across the floor. The area where the plaintiff slipped was not near a door, and the water had been tracked in by fellow students.

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The are many types of motor vehicle accidents, as well as many different causes. After an accident occurs, if the parties cannot come to an agreement on who is responsible, it is left up to a jury to determine who was at fault in causing the accident, who is entitled to receive compensation for their injuries, and how much each party should receive. While some accidents do not present much difficulty to the courts in determining who was at fault, at other times, the process can be quite complex. This is especially the case when there are multiple vehicles involved, or when the fault is shared among all parties.

School BusIn situations in which each motorist may be partially at fault for the accident, Georgia courts use the rule of “modified comparative fault” to determine who is entitled to recover and which damages they should receive. Under the doctrine, any party who is less than 50% at fault for the accident can seek compensation from the other parties involved. However, if they are successful, their damages award will be reduced by their own percentage of fault.

For example, if a motorist is involved in an accident with another driver and is determined to have incurred $500,000 in damages, but he is also determined to be 10% at fault for the accident, he will receive $450,000 instead of the total $500,000.

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In a recent case, a Georgia appeals court determined a gas company was not responsible for a home explosion after the company’s employee left a warning card about a leak for the homeowner, and the homeowner disregarded the instructions on the note, causing an explosion. In November 2010, an explosion occurred in a detached apartment on the homeowner’s property. The owner had turned off the natural gas to the apartment and to his house because no one was living in the apartment and because he was not using it in the house. The owner then rented the apartment to a co-worker and asked the natural gas company to turn the gas back on.

Legal News GavelAn employee from the gas company came over, unlocked the meter, and turned the gas on. When he did so, he saw that the meter showed there was a leak in the fuel line or an open line, so he turned the gas back off. He did not lock the meter. He did not know at the time there was an apartment behind the house. He left a warning card at the house that explained the meter could not be turned on until a leak had been fixed. The employee noted on the card that the meter was off but was unlocked for a plumber.

The owner’s stepson’s girlfriend was home at the time and signed the warning card. The employee also said he left a card on the meter, although the owner said he did not see a card when he returned home. The owner explained that he saw the warning card but did not understand that he had a leak. The owner then asked a friend, who had done odd jobs for him in the past, to come turn his gas on. A couple of days later, the coworker moved into the apartment along with a friend. He ignited a lighter to light an incense, and there was an explosion that set the apartment on fire. The coworker and his friend were hospitalized for burns.

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The parents of a seventh grader filed a wrongful death lawsuit against a teacher after their child died under her care. The parents alleged that the teacher, who left her classroom unsupervised in violation of a school policy, caused the death of their child. In a recent opinion, a Georgia appeals court dismissed the lawsuit, finding the teacher was entitled to official immunity. The teacher was working at Benjamin E. Mays High School, a public school in Atlanta. The child was a seventh-grade student in the teacher’s classroom, which shared a bi-fold wall with another classroom.

Legal News GavelAccording to the allegations, one afternoon, the teacher left the classroom. While the teacher was gone, the child and another student engaged in horseplay. The child fell, and the other student landed on top of him. The teacher returned about 15 minutes later and then left again. The child then collapsed and became unconscious. The teacher returned about 15 minutes later and called 911. The child was pronounced dead at the hospital. The autopsy revealed that he died from blood loss, resulting from the dislocation of his collarbone.

Purportedly, the teacher originally was not truthful when asked about the incident, telling the principal she was in the classroom the entire time. Soon afterward, it was revealed that the teacher had left the classroom. It was unclear why the teacher left the classroom. In her deposition, the teacher said that she had asked the teacher in the adjoining room to listen for her class when she left the first time, but not when she left the second time. The school had a policy that stated that students were never to be left in the classroom unsupervised.

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In a recent case, after a 19-year-old was injured while riding a horse at a summer camp, he brought a lawsuit against the individual who provided the horses. The boy had been riding the horse at the camp where he worked as a camp counselor in the equine activities program. He had been out on a trail ride with the horse when the horse jumped over a small stream. The boy lost his balance and fell off the horse, and the horse landed on top of him. The defendant had contracted with the summer camp to provide the horses.

Legal News GavelThe boy sued, alleging negligence and willful and wanton disregard for the safety of persons riding the horse. The defendant moved for summary judgment, based on the immunity granted by Georgia’s Equine Act. The Equine Act limits the liability of those involved in equine activities but provides for some exceptions. The boy argued that two exceptions applied in his case.

First, he claimed the defendant was liable because he provided an animal but failed to make reasonable efforts to determine the ability of the participant to engage safely in the activity and to safely manage the animal. The court found that in this case, the defendant provided the horse to the camp, and the camp supervisor assigned the particular horse to the boy. Thus, since the defendant did not assign the horse to the boy himself, the exception did not apply. Another exception exists when a person willfully or wantonly disregards the safety of the participant. Here, this horse had been provided to the camp for two previous summers, and there was no evidence of previous incidents with this horse. As a result, the second exception also did not apply. The court noted that the boy’s injuries resulted from the inherent risks of equine activities, which is the type of injury the Act was meant to protect. Accordingly, the boy could not recover from the defendant under the Act.

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The details are important in personal injury lawsuits. A recent case demonstrated how a lawyer’s small misstep caused one family to be stuck with inconsistent jury awards. In Small v. Sayre, the state’s supreme court ruled that since the lawyer for the plaintiffs failed to raise a challenge to the damages awards before the trial court, the issue was waived on appeal.

Legal News GavelThe family brought a claim against a driver after they were injured in a car accident. The husband was driving when he was rear-ended, and he, his wife, and his daughter were injured. They sued the other driver for their injuries, and the case proceeded to trial. After the trial, the jury found the other driver was negligent and awarded each person compensation for their injuries. The jury awarded the wife damages for past medical expenses and pain and suffering, but it did not award her any future economic or non-economic damages. The jury also awarded damages to the husband but awarded him damages for past pain and suffering without an award for any past economic damages or any future damages.

After the verdict, the family appealed the decision. They argued that the damages awards were inconsistent and that they were not supported by the evidence. However, the lawyer failed to challenge the potentially inconsistent verdicts in the trial court. The lawyer failed to make a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict or ask for a new trial. Because of the misstep, the family’s arguments were waived on appeal. As a result, the Supreme Court affirmed the verdicts as the jury decided them.

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