When dealing with potential liability for a car accident, not only can a driver of a vehicle be held responsible, but also the owners of the vehicle that was involved in the accident may be liable. Claims of negligent supervision, negligent training, or basic liability as an employer can all arise. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks at whether such liability can be expanded even further, allowing both owners and their alter egos to be held responsible for accidents that occur.
When individuals are involved in a car or truck accident, they can typically bring a tort action against another driver or a different defendant in order to recover compensation for their injuries. However, when a plaintiff was involved in the accident while on the job, additional workers’ compensation issues may arise. Under Georgia’s workers’ compensation laws, employees are required to provide compensation and coverage when their employees are injured during the course of normal work. The Georgia Court of Appeals recently considered whether an employee may bring a tort action to obtain such compensation when an employer fails to provide the requisite workers’ compensation coverage.
In Saxon v. Starr Indemnity & Liability Co., Saxon was employed as a delivery helper for Talmadge Royal, which delivered ice cream to convenience stores. Saxon was performing a delivery when the delivery driver rear-ended the vehicle in front of them, causing Saxon to suffer injuries. It was undisputed that Saxon was an employee of Royal and was performing within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident. However, Royal did not have workers’ compensation for its employees, and Saxon could not file a workers’ compensation request. Instead, several months later, Saxon filed a negligence claim against the delivery driver and Royal. He argued that the delivery driver had acted negligently and that Royal had been negligent in hiring and supervising the driver. Royal’s insurers quickly intervened, as did Saxon’s own insurer because his policy provided uninsured motorist coverage. The insurers moved for summary judgment, arguing that their policies did not allow Saxon to recover from Royal for the accident because his sole remedy was workers’ compensation coverage. Saxon argued that if the court took the insurer’s position, he would be denied any remedy for his injuries, and this was against public policy. The trial court disagreed and granted summary judgment. Saxon appealed.
When a plaintiff sues a defendant about a hazardous condition, he or she must allege that the defendant had knowledge of the condition and failed to address it or failed to warn others. Likewise, the plaintiff must also show that he or she did not have full knowledge of the danger before encountering it. While defendants may be held liable for injuries that occur on their property due to dangers of which they were aware, but a plaintiff was not, they usually cannot be held liable for injuries when a plaintiff knows of a dangerous condition and proceeds anyway. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks at when a plaintiff has such “superior or equal” knowledge to that of a defendant.
In Travis v. Quiktrip Corporation, Travis was a truck driver employed by Petroleum Transport Company. He delivered gas to gas stations around the country. In 2011, he was delivering gas to QuikTrip Corporation, at a station managed by Lloyd Thompson. While delivering the gas, he was hit by another driver and suffered serious injuries. He sued the driver, Thompson, and QuikTrip for his injuries. Travis quickly settled with the driver but maintained premises liability claims against Thompson and QuikTrip. He argued that the gasoline delivery process at QuikTrip was unnecessarily dangerous, since it often required drivers to kneel down in the middle of traffic at the station in order to measure gas tank levels. Drivers had repeatedly reported these dangers to QuikTrip, but it did nothing to address them.
In states around the country, including Georgia, property owners owe individuals who come onto their property a basic duty to protect them from harm. This means that property owners cannot knowingly maintain harmful or dangerous conditions on their property, such as broken railings or deep holes, that put the public at risk. But what about circumstances in which it is not clear that the property owner is aware the dangerous condition exists? In certain circumstances, the owner can be held liable for conditions he or she should have known existed, but owners will not automatically be held liable for an unknown harm just because it caused an injury.
In Youngblood v. All American Quality Foods, Inc., Ms. Youngblood was injured after she slipped and fell in a puddle of water that had formed at a grocery store. She was injured in the accident and sued All American Quality Foods, also known as Food Depot, for her injuries. She argued that Food Depot had a duty to use ordinary care in keeping its grocery stores safe for customers. In response, Food Depot moved for summary judgment, arguing that it had no notice that the water puddle existed and could not reasonably have prevented it from causing Ms. Youngblood’s injuries. The trial court agreed. Ms. Youngblood appealed.
If you are a motorist driving in Georgia, the chances are that you are sharing the road with many drivers who are not Georgia residents. Drivers may be passing through from other states on a road trip across the Southeast, or they may be visiting for a few days on a vacation. When this happens, and you are involved in an automobile accident with an out-of-state motorist, it can be more complicated to bring a lawsuit against the other driver for your injuries. Rather than simply bringing a lawsuit in the district where both you and the other driver reside, Georgia residents who are seeking to sue nonresidents must abide by the Georgia Nonresident Motorist Act (NRMA). The NRMA dictates how nonresidents can be sued and how they must be notified of any pending lawsuit. A recent case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia makes clear that proper notice of suit to out-of-state residents is imperative to the success of a lawsuit against such individuals.
In most instances, determining the ownership of a vehicle in an accident is a relatively straightforward inquiry. One can look at title and registration materials and determine who is on the official paperwork for the vehicle. But what happens when an automobile is being transferred from one person’s ownership to another person’s ownership when an accident occurs? Thankfully, Georgia law specifies the precise time when the ownership of a vehicle transfers, and this can be used to assist with questions of liability and insurance after an accident. A recent case decided by the Georgia Court of Appeals explains how such determinations are made.
In Selective Insurance Company of America v. Conner et al., a dispute arose regarding the ownership of an Xterra that was involved in an accident in Georgia. Ms. Conner had an accident with Ms. Craig, and Ms. Craig’s husband was killed. Although the case involved numerous factual disputes, solely before the court in this instance was the question of whether Ms. Conner owned the Xterra at the time of the accident, and accordingly who was charged with insuring the damages that resulted from the accident. On the morning of the accident, Ms. Conner went to the DMV in Georgia and filled out the necessary paperwork to transfer the title of the vehicle from a different party, Precision Tapping, to her own name. She completed the paperwork and paid for the transfer. However, it was only six days later that she received the new title for the Xterra. In the meantime, the accident occurred.
As we have previously discussed on this website, when automobile accidents involve state actors, such as during a police car chase, governmental agencies may be immune from liability under the doctrine of sovereign immunity. However, Georgia’s doctrine of sovereign immunity is not absolute. Instead, under Georgia’s Tort Claims Act, state agencies and employees acting within the scope of their official employment may, in limited circumstances, have their sovereign immunity waived. A recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals looks at whether a waiver of sovereign immunity applies to a state response to an out-of-control wildfire.
In order to successfully bring a claim for negligence under Georgia law, the plaintiff must be able to plead and prove the following elements: the existence of a duty of care on the part of the defendant, a breach of that duty, causation linking the breach to the alleged injury, and identifiable damages resulting from that alleged breach. These elements apply to most personal injury cases, including a lawsuit for injuries arising from a motor vehicle accident. In order to maximize your potential recovery for damages from injuries sustained in a car accident, you are strongly encouraged to consult with an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.
While each element is an integral and necessary part of a negligence case, the issue of causation is particularly important. Causation or “proximate cause” requires evidence of “a legally attributable causal connection between the defendant’s conduct and the alleged injury.”
When a plaintiff initiates a car accident case against an alleged defendant, he or she must be absolutely certain to comply with any applicable legal procedural requirements under Georgia law. For instance, the state code mandates that actions for injuries to a person must be brought within two years after the right of action accrues (or the date of the accident). Furthermore, the plaintiff must file the complaint and “serve” the defendant in accordance with state requirements. Failing to comply with these provisions could easily result in a dismissal of one’s claim, leaving the injured party with no legal recourse for recovery. To help avoid this unfortunate outcome, it is important to consult with a local Atlanta injury attorney who is fully aware of the laws affecting your particular claim.
In a recent car accident case, Covault v. Harris (Ga. Ct. of App. 2016), the plaintiff filed a complaint against a driver from Kentucky to recover damages for injuries he suffered in a car accident. The parties were both driving northbound on Peachtree Street in Fulton County when they reached an intersection, and the defendant failed to stay in his own lane and struck the plaintiff’s vehicle. A police officer arrived at the scene and prepared a report, listing the defendant’s address as 5406 Heafer Farm Lane, Louisville, Kentucky.
Under Georgia law, a person who has been injured in a car accident may be entitled to collect compensatory and punitive damages. Compensatory relief covers an injured party’s pain, suffering, and losses. By contrast, punitive damages are typically awarded under “aggravating circumstances” and are intended to penalize, punish, or deter a defendant. But not every personal injury case warrants an award of punitive damages. If you have been injured in a car accident, you are encouraged to seek the assistance of an experienced Atlanta injury attorney who will work to maximize your opportunity for relief.
In order to recover punitive damages, a plaintiff is required to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, or oppression, among other things. It is important to understand which conduct justifies an award of punitive damages and which doesn’t. Courts are typically called upon to interpret the “proven” circumstances of a car accident case in light of the local law. In a recent Georgia case, Dagne v. Schroeder (Ga. Ct. of App. 2016), the court upheld a jury verdict and judgment awarding a plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages following a car accident involving the parties.