Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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After an Atlanta car accident, an injured person may need to hold an at-fault driver accountable in a personal injury lawsuit. However, many insured drivers in Atlanta only obtain the minimum requirements of liability insurance. The minimum coverage for bodily injuries is only $25,000 per person and $50,000 per incident. Most people do not have significant assets that would allow them to cover another person’s losses beyond what their liability insurance provides.  If you were in an accident with an at-fault driver who was uninsured or underinsured, you may need to turn to your own uninsured/underinsured coverage in order to recoup your losses. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, the court considered the denial of a defendant car insurance company’s motion for summary judgment on an underinsured motorist claim.

The insurance company argued that the insured didn’t provide notice as soon as possible after a car accident with an underinsured driver. At the time of the accident, the insured was named on one of the defendant’s policies. It provided for $250,000 in uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

The insurance policy specified that notice should be provided as soon as possible after an accident. The notice, to be valid, needed to name the identity of the insured; the time, place, and details of the collision; and the names and addresses of the person injured, along with any witnesses to the car accident. There were also policy conditions with which the insured needed to comply.

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Sometimes Atlanta car accidents are caused not by negligent drivers but by negligent handling of animals or other hazards. In a recent Georgia car accident case, the court considered the obligation of those who keep livestock to appropriately secure them. The case arose one night when a plaintiff was driving south on State Highway 11 with her child. Her car hit a cow owned by the defendants. The cow was standing in the road. The plaintiffs sued the defendants for negligence under OCGA § 4-3-1 and Section 6-34 of the Jasper County Code of Ordinances.

The defendant family asked for summary judgment on the grounds that they’d used ordinary care in maintaining their livestock and fences and that the local ordinance was preempted by state law. One family member’s affidavit set forth that her obligations on the family farm included checking the fences. It was her opinion that a five-foot-high board fence with a five-strand barb wire was enough to confine the livestock. She had inspected the fence after the accident and attested that the gates were closed, and the fences were working properly. She couldn’t figure out how the cow escaped the fenced area. Prior to the incident, the cow had never escaped. In response to the summary judgment motion, the plaintiffs argued that the fence was plainly not enough because three cows were in the road at the time of the collision. The defendants’ motion was denied.

On appeal, the defendants argued that the evidence demonstrated they used reasonable care in taking care of their fence and their cows. They also argued that the plaintiffs’ case was based on speculation; admissible evidence hadn’t been presented to counter the defendant’s showing of their ordinary care.

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Generally, government entities have sovereign immunity against an Atlanta car accident lawsuit, unless they’ve specifically waived that immunity. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, a couple sued the Georgia Department of Transportation for negligence stemming from a crash in which the wife and kids suffered serious injuries. In a motion to dismiss, the Department argued it had sovereign immunity. The lower court denied the motion and the Department appealed.

The case arose when the wife and two kids were driving down State Route 11. As the wife came to the intersection, a vehicle driving north was waiting in a passing lane to turn left onto a road that ran perpendicular. A third vehicle driving north swerved to avoid striking the left-turning vehicle and instead hit the wife’s car causing the three occupants to suffer serious injuries.

The wife and her husband sued the Department under the Georgia Tort Claims Act, claiming that it was negligent in the maintenance, building, and design of State Route 11 at its intersection with the other road. They claimed the Department had failed to give the minimum mandated sight distance for drivers coming to the intersection, failed to post enough proper speed warnings, and failed to slope the shoulder of Route 11 properly. They attached an engineer’s affidavit to their complaint. Among other things, the affidavit claimed the Department knew of the history of accidents, but hadn’t fixed the issue.

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Sometimes expert witnesses become necessary in personal injury cases, including lawsuits arising out of Atlanta car accidents. An accident reconstruction expert may provide important testimony about how the accident happened. A medical expert may provide useful testimony about the kinds of medical treatment and care that might be needed in the future. It may be important to locate credible experts as needed early on to prove your case. In a recent Georgia Supreme Court case, the lower court excluded an expert defense witness’s testimony. It reasoned the expert hadn’t been adequately identified in the scheduling order. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear and determine two issues. First, the Court sought to answer whether the lower court could exclude an expert from testifying only because he was identified after the court’s deadline. Second, the Court looked at what factors the lower court would need to consider if using its discretion on whether to exclude an expert’s testimony where the expert has been identified after the deadline.

The plaintiff had been a high jumper. He was in a car crash that caused him a fractured hip. The defendant acknowledged he was to blame for the crash. The plaintiff sued the defendant for a wide range of damages, but didn’t include lost wages. In interrogatories, the defendant asked the plaintiff to identify expert witnesses who would testify at trial and asking for an itemization of special damages being claimed due to the accident including future lost earnings. The plaintiff’s responses to interrogatories indicated he hadn’t decided on expert witnesses who would testify, and stated he would supplement later according to the requirements of the Georgia Civil Practice Act.

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In a recent Georgia appellate decision, a woman was involved in a car accident with a couple, and the couple sued for medical expenses that arose from the accident. During the trial, the defendant admitted that she was liable for the collision, but she disagreed that she’d caused the plaintiffs’ injuries and disagreed with how much was awarded in damages. The husband was awarded $734,563.78.

The defendant appealed the denial of her motion for a new trial to argue that:  (1) the lower court made a mistake in applying the wrong legal standard by restricting her biomechanical expert’s testimony and stopping him from testifying that the force created in the collision was enough to cause the husband’s herniated discs and back, and (2) the lower court made a mistake in not granting her motion for a directed verdict on a claim for future medical expenses.

Before trial, one of the plaintiffs moved to stop the defendant’s biomechanical expert from testifying about his opinion that the force created by the collision couldn’t have caused the plaintiff’s spinal injuries. The defendant’s attorney said that at first he thought that the expert could testify about the forces particular to the accident and whether these forces were strong enough to cause the particular claimed injuries in the case.

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There are a number of affirmative defenses that may be raised by a Georgia defendant when faced with a lawsuit arising out of a car accident. One of these is the Act of God defense. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, the appeals court considered a lawsuit that involved a woman hitting a man and his dog while they crossed the entrance to a parking lot. The man sued the woman for negligence, requesting compensatory and punitive damages. The defendant argued an Act of God defense.

Discovery was conducted. The plaintiff brought a motion for summary judgment. The lower court denied the motion as to punitive damages, and also granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the act of God defense raised by the plaintiff.

The plaintiff appealed. The appellate court reversed on the denial of the plaintiff’s request for summary judgment as to punitive damages. However, the appellate court also affirmed the lower court’s granting of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment on the Act of God defense.

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If your car accident occurred while you were on the job, you may not be able to recover damages, because your exclusive remedy may be workers’ compensation benefits. In a recent Georgia car accident case, a plaintiff was injured and sued his employers and two individuals. He claimed the employers, for whom he worked as an airport shuttle driver and maintenance worker, were negligent in not letting him get medical care or insurance coverage. He argued that this delay exacerbated his injuries. The employer filed for a dismissal or, in the alternative, summary judgment. It argued that workers’ compensation was the plaintiff’s exclusive remedy. The lower court didn’t address the argument about exclusive remedy, but denied the motion to dismiss.

The case arose when the plaintiff’s car, owned by his employer, was reportedly struck by a car owned and driven by the individual defendants. The plaintiff was driving a car owned by his employer. When he sued, he claimed the employer was negligent in failing to give him access to medical insurance coverage, and this failure exacerbated his injuries and caused him to experience multiple strokes.

The employer answered and admitted the plaintiff was an employee, but then moved to dismiss the claims on the grounds that workers’ compensation was his exclusive remedy. The prior lawsuit he’d filed in 2015 against the employer had alleged an injury in the course of his employment. In interrogatories, he’d claimed he got into an accident when he was going back to work after picking up parts.

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There are different theories under which parents can be held vicariously (indirectly) liable for their child’s negligence while driving including the family purpose doctrine and respondeat superior. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, the court considered a Georgia car accident in which one driver sued a second driver for negligence and her parents for vicarious liability. The drivers crashed into each other when the defendant was 28 and living with her parents. The defendant co-owned the car she’d been operating with her mother. Her mother had co-signed for a loan so that the defendant could get the car.

The car insurance policy was in the names of the parents, but the defendant provided the father with the money for the loan payments and reimbursed her father for the insurance premiums. She paid for gas and maintenance and had sole possession of the vehicle’s keys. Her parents didn’t have any say in whether she operated the vehicle. She worked for her father’s company, but at the time of the accident she was driving to go volunteer and wasn’t acting as her father’s agent.

The mother and father filed a motion for summary judgment on the vicarious liability issue. The father argued he didn’t have any ownership of the car, and the mother argued she didn’t have authority or control. The plaintiff argued that there were issues of material fact on whether the parents could be held responsible under respondeat superior or the family purpose doctrine. The parents’ motions were denied.

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Special rules apply if you are injured in a car accident caused by improper maintenance of a public road. You’ll need to provide notice to the government in a very specific way, and failure to do so can result in dismissal of your claim. In a recent Georgia appellate decision, a driver was hurt in a single-car accident on State Route 42. He sued the Georgia Department of Transportation arguing that its improper maintenance of the roadway resulted in too much water accumulating and the accumulation caused his truck to hydroplane into a tree, causing catastrophic injuries.

The Georgia Department of Transportation filed a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction and based on sovereign immunity. It claimed the plaintiff hadn’t complied with the ante litem notice requirements of the Georgia Tort Claims Act. The motion was denied, and the appellate court granted an application for interlocutory appeal.

The appellate court explained that the Georgia Tort Claims Act, found at OCGA section 50-21-20 was enacted to balance strict sovereign immunity against the need for limited exposure of the State treasury to tort liability. The Georgia Tort Claims Act offers a restricted waiver of sovereign immunity in specific cases where a claimant follows the requirements of the Georgia Tort Claims Act. Among other things, these requirements mandate a strict compliance with the ante litem notice provisions of section 50-21-26.

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If you’re injured in a Georgia car accident, it is imperative to work with an experienced plaintiff’s attorney, even if you believe a settlement can be reached with an insurer. It is important to retain an attorney before discussing the matter with the other driver’s insurer at all, and certainly before entering into settlement negotiations. In a recent Georgia case, the defendant’s vehicle hit the plaintiff’s vehicle. On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower court had erred in denying his motion to enforce a settlement agreement by prohibiting evidence and questioning about a treating doctor’s financial interest in the case, and by excluding evidence and questioning related to the treating doctor’s credibility and potential bias.

After the plaintiff claimed she’d been injured by the defendant’s car, she hired an attorney. Her attorney sent a settlement demand for the policy limits of $25,000 to the defendant’s insurer. On top of asking for payment, the settlement demand said it was contingent on receipt of certain sworn affidavits about how much insurance coverage was to be had and a limited release. If these conditions weren’t met and payment wasn’t made, the settlement demand would be withdrawn in 30 days.

The defendant’s insurer called to say it would pay policy limits. However, the insurer couldn’t’ issue the check right away and had to wait until defense counsel told her to do so. The plaintiff’s attorney said he would wait to hear back.

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