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Georgia Court Requires Strict Compliance with State Tort Claims Act

Georgia law governs personal injury lawsuits arising from any number of tort claims, including injuries arising from car accidents.  It is important to understand what laws apply to your particular claims and how you may properly comply with those requirements.  The significance of following the applicable local procedure cannot be overstated.  In Driscoll et al. v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claims for personal injuries arising from a car accident, for failure to provide the defendant with adequate notice of the claim.  This unfortunate result could have easily been avoided with the help of an experienced injury attorney who is fully familiar with the local laws and procedures applicable to cases in and around the Atlanta area.

In the Driscoll case, the plaintiff brought an action individually and as the administrator of his wife, Deborah Driscoll’s, estate.  According to the uncontested record, the decedent was killed on Interstate 285 when a wheel from an oncoming vehicle came off, crossed over the median, and struck her vehicle.  She died at the scene.  The van belonged to Georgia State University.  Almost a year after the accident, counsel for the decedent’s estate sent an “ante litem notice” (in accordance with the pertinent state statute) to the Risk Management Division of the Georgia Department of Administrative Services (the “DOAS”).  The notice included important items such as the date of the incident, location, injury and entities involved, as well as a brief description of the accident.  The notice failed, however, to provide “the amount of loss claimed.”

Some months later, plaintiff’s attorney sent a demand letter to the DOAS, and the following year, he filed a lawsuit seeking damages for injuries associated with the car accident.  The defendant claimed sovereign immunity and moved to dismiss the complaint for failure to follow the statutory requirements for the ante litem notice.  Under the state statute, a party who is injured by the State (in this case, the State’s vehicle’s tire caused the accident) may avoid the State’s defense of immunity as long as the plaintiff properly files a notice of claim.  Georgia law requires “strict” compliance with the statutory requirements, rather than “substantial” compliance.  Here, the plaintiff failed to include one element: the amount of loss claimed.

The trial court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss, as plaintiff’s ante litem notice failed to state any amount of loss whatsoever.  The court pointed out that it is not at liberty to ignore an element that is plainly listed in the statute.  The court of appeals acknowledged the harsh nature of the result in this case, but found that the Georgia Tort Claims Act mandated the result. This is a harsh result and one that could have been avoided.  This case is an unfortunate example of the need to consult with — and ultimately hire — an experienced, local injury attorney for any car accident claims.

If you have been injured in a car accident due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to a recovery for your suffering and losses. Stephen M. Ozcomert has over 20 years of experience handling personal injury cases, representing individuals who have been injured as a result of another’s negligent driving in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. Call us today at (404)-370-1000 to schedule your free initial consultation, or you can reach us through our website.

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