Negligence can arise in a wide variety of situations, whether at home, on the road, or out in public. In all scenarios, however, certain fundamental elements of a negligence claim must be met. A plaintiff must establish that a defendant had a duty to prevent harm to the plaintiff, that the defendant breached that duty, and that the defendant’s actions were the cause of the injuries that the plaintiff suffered. Without these important elements, a plaintiff cannot hold a defendant liable, no matter how terrible the injuries were that were suffered. While these requirements may seem onerous, they serve an important function of ensuring that defendants are held liable for damages that they definitely caused, or could have prevented, but not for accidents outside their control. In a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the court took a look at circumstances in which it was less than clear that the defendant should be held liable for the plaintiff’s injuries.
While many accidents occur between vehicles owned by individuals, accidents also frequently occur that involve corporate vehicles. When this is the case, plaintiffs may seek to go after the corporate owner because they have deeper pockets for recovering medical and personal expenses. In a recent case before the Georgia Court of Appeals, the court considered whether a corporation could be held responsible for an accident that occurred when the son of the owner was driving a company vehicle.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some form of negligent conduct on behalf of one or more parties is the cause of most car accidents. A person who has been injured in such an accident may be able to recover damages from the negligent party. But in order to do that, one must be able to “plead” and “prove” the essential elements of negligence as required by Georgia case law: 1) a legal duty to behave in a manner that conforms to a standard created by the law for the protection of others against the unreasonable risk of harm; 2) a breach of this standard of care; 3) a legally based causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and 4) loss or damage suffered as a result of the alleged breach of duty. If you are unsure whether you are entitled to compensation for injuries related to a car accident, you are strongly encouraged to contact an experienced injury attorney from the local Atlanta area.
In a recent car accident lawsuit, Newsome v. LinkAmerica Express, Inc., et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2016), the court reviewed whether a jury should determine the issue of “ordinary negligence.” According to the facts, Eric Rivers worked for a truck company, LinkAmerica, which required him to have access to his tractor-trailer at all times. For this reason, Rivers kept the tractor parked in the street, next to the curb in front of his home. On a morning in 2011, the plaintiff was driving on that street when the bright sunshine affected his ability to see for a brief moment. He slowed down but struck the back of Rivers’ tractor parked in the road.
In many personal injury lawsuits, opposing parties are able to resolve a court action through mutually satisfactory settlement negotiations. Claims arising from automobile accidents are no exception. Depending on the circumstances surrounding a car accident, including any allegations of negligence and the necessary supporting evidence, settling a case is often a wise course of action. But there are important legal steps to follow when embarking on a settlement agreement. And it is equally important to understand the optimal point at which to settle, and for what amount. The best course of action is to consult with an injury attorney from the Atlanta area who handles car accident claims and is fully aware of the local laws affecting your particular case.
Under Georgia law, a settlement agreement must adhere to the rules applicable to contract formation and enforceability. Specifically, one party’s offer must be accepted without equivocation, or the response will be considered a “counter-offer” instead of an acceptance. Essentially, there must be a “meeting of the minds” on the key terms. In a recent case, Cone v. Dickenson (Ga. Ct. of App. 2016), the court reviewed evidence of the circumstances surrounding an oral settlement agreement to determine its terms.
Car accidents on Georgia roadways are often the result of negligence on behalf of at least one driver. And unfortunately, these accidents tend to cause injuries to innocent drivers and their passengers in increasing numbers. At the very least, however, injured victims and their families may be entitled to legal recourse to recover for their suffering and losses. In order to successfully bring a personal injury claim to recover damages for injuries from a car accident, the plaintiff must plead and prove negligence, which includes several elements. Identifying the essential elements and the proof needed to sustain an action is a complicated process. If you have been the victim of a car accident, you are encouraged to consult with an experienced Atlanta injury attorney as soon as possible.
It is important to be aware of the myriad defenses an allegedly negligent driver may be able to assert in a personal injury case. For instance, whenever a car or other vehicle accident involves a government entity, there is a possibility that the “defendant” (municipality) may be entitled to assert an immunity defense from liability, or being sued generally. Specifically, under Georgia law, states are not liable for losses resulting from the failure to provide, or the method of providing, law enforcement, police, or fire protection. This statute was interpreted in a recent Georgia case, Loehle et al. v. Georgia Department of Public Safety et al. (Ga. Ct. of App. 2015).