How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in Georgia?

Personal Injury Lawsuit in Georgia

After a car accident in Georgia, adults have 2 years to file a lawsuit for physical injuries. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. A lawsuit for property damage must be filed within 4 years of the date of the accident. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-32. These time limitations are called the statute of limitations. If a lawsuit is filed after these deadlines, it will be dismissed by the trial court.

There are some exceptions to these deadlines such situations where the injured person is a minor. The time limit for personal injuries to minors is extended until two years after the minor becomes an adult. O.C.G.A. 9-3-90(b). However, the child’s parent(s) must bring a claim for medical expenses within 2 years. Mujkic v. Lam, 342 Ga. App. 693, 695 (2017).

Do Not Wait Until the Statute of Limitations Is Close

Two and four years may feel like a long time but don’t be lulled into waiting to decide whether to file suit. The statute of limitations is the absolute last day on which a lawsuit can be filed, but a lot of work must be done before the lawsuit is filed.  You should seriously consider hiring a well-respected car crash attorney as soon as possible after any car crash.

Your attorney needs to understand and investigate the facts of your case then prepare the lawsuit for filing. If you hire an attorney shortly after a car crash, he or she may even have enough time to get your case settled without filing a lawsuit. Additionally, if you are not represented by an experienced legal team who can guide and advise you, you could inadvertently harm your chances in a future lawsuit.

For example, saying the wrong thing to an insurance adjuster may devalue your claim. Also, evidence must be collected before it is destroyed. Markings on the roadway may need to be documented before they disappear. Property damage needs to be photographed and measured before vehicles are repaired or salvaged. Medical records and bills must be gathered and lost wages need to be properly documented. In some instances, evasive defendants must be located so they can be served with the lawsuit and summons.

For these reasons, you should be vigilant and consult with an attorney that can guide you through the claims process as soon as you are physically able. A consultation does not commit you to filing a lawsuit; rather, it will provide you with more information so you can make an informed decision on how you would like to proceed. Even if you are currently unable to leave your home due to injuries, a personal injury law firm that cares about its clients will have other options available such as phone calls or in home visits.

Experienced Georgia Law Firm for Serious Injuries

If you have been in a car accident and want to learn about whether you have a legal claim, the automobile accident attorneys at Williams Elleby are here to help. Simply call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule a free consultation with one of our Georgia trial attorneys.

Understanding Elder Abuse and Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe

Personal Injury and Elder Abuse in Georgia

Georgia’s senior citizens deserve to live out their golden years without worrying about their safety. Unfortunately, many of these vulnerable citizens suffer from severe abuse and neglect. In many cases, this abuse occurs at the hands of those closest to them. It is estimated that 10 percent of all seniors have suffered abuse in their lifetime.

If your loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of a caretaker, acquaintance, or even a family member, they could have a claim for monetary damages. To maximize this claim, it can help to understand the nature of elder abuse as well as how to prevent it.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is any negligent or intentional act that causes harm or the risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Abuse can occur at the hands of caregivers or nursing home staff. In some cases, neighbors or family members could be responsible. There are five general categories of elder abuse. While not every act of abuse will slot neatly into one of these categories, for the most part, one of these categories will apply. The categories include:

  • Physical abuse. Physical abuse includes any act that causes pain or suffering. This form of abuse commonly involves striking, slapping of choking.
  • Sexual abuse. Any non-consensual sexual act is considered sexual abuse. This form of abuse is unfortunately common and underreported among seniors, as many have difficulty with communicating.
  • Emotional abuse. Abuse can occur even without physical injuries. Any words or gestures, including threats of violence, that inflict pain or distress on a senior are forms of emotional abuse.
  • Financial abuse. Financial abuse is the unlawful use of an elderly person’s assets. It can be as simple as stealing cash out of a purse, or as complex as fraudulently convincing a senior to rewrite their will.
  • Neglect. One of the most devastating types of abuse is neglect. Neglect involves withholding necessary care from a senior.

Steps to Prevent Elder Abuse

While elder abuse can be devastating, it is also preventable in many cases. By taking the appropriate steps, you could reduce the risk that one of your elderly family members will be abused. The three most important steps for preventing elder abuse include:

  1. Avoid Isolation. The more contact your loved one has with friends and family, the less likely abuse is to occur. What’s more, your loved one is more likely to report abuse.
  2. Keep Elderly Citizens Active. Remaining active will help elderly family members stay mentally sharp. This mental acuity will go a long way in helping a senior protect themselves or report wrongdoing.
  3. Help with Finances. While seniors have the right to manage their own finances, do not hesitate to offer assistance if they need it.

How an Elder Abuse Attorney Can Help

By taking steps to protect your loved one, you could greatly reduce the chances of abuse. However, when abuse occurs an attorney could help your loved one hold their abuser accountable through an injury lawsuit. To discuss your options, contact the attorneys at WILLIAMS | ELLEBY by calling 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542).

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Georgia Open Carry Laws Addressed by Supreme Court of Georgia

Openly Carry a Firearm in Georgia

For the second time, the Supreme Court of Georgia took up a case involving the right to openly carry a firearm at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (“The Garden”). Again, the case has been returned to the lower court.

This recent decision in Georgiacarry.org., Inc., et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Garden, Inc. results from a lawsuit first filed in 2014. The lawsuit, brought by gun rights advocates GeorgiaCarry.Org, alleges that The Garden’s ban on firearms is unconstitutional. While The Garden cites O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127, a law that gun bans are lawful on private property, the suit argues that the Botanical Garden is public property leased to a private entity.

The case went to the Supreme Court of Georgia the first time after the trial court initially dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed, and the Supreme Court agreed that the case was improperly dismissed. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Georgia remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

After the first remand, the trial court ruled against the plaintiff by deciding that The Garden has the right to prohibit firearms on its own premises. However, on appeal, Georgia’s highest court again sided with the gun group. According to a decision issued in October of 2019, the Court agreed the trial court should have heard the case instead of disposing of it through a summary judgment motion. The ruling was based in part on the fact that the lease between the City of Atlanta and The Garden was not in evidence. According to the opinion, the terms of the lease should be considered in determining whether The Garden may ban firearms. The Court specifically held,

“In this case, because the City is a public entity, if it is the holder of the present estate, then the leased premises is not private property within the meaning of the statute because property owned by a municipality is not “private property.” If the City thus owns the property, then the Garden has no right to exclude the carrying of firearms on the leased premises because it is not ‘in legal control of private property through a lease.’ If, on the other hand, by the terms of the 50-year lease with the City, the Garden holds the present estate in the property, then the property is ‘private property,’ the Garden is a ‘private owner,’ and it had the right to exclude Evans from carrying a firearm on the premises.”

The trial court will have a chance to determine the outcome of this case in the future. It is safe to assume the Georgia Supreme Court could have another say, as well.

Open Carry and Shooting Injuries

While the right to openly carry a firearm is a hot-button political topic, there is no debating the devastation that can occur from a gunshot wound. Firearms have the potential to lead to a large number of fatal injuries in a small amount of time. However, they also commonly result in serious but non-fatal injuries. While the amount of research around open carry and its impact on gun violence has only just begun, many anti-gun groups suggest loosening gun laws correlate to more shooting injuries. Other groups such as The Heritage Foundation dispute that higher rates of gun ownership are associated with higher rates of violent crime.

Shooting Injuries and Civil Lawsuits

If you have suffered injuries following a shooting, you could have a viable injury claim against several parties. First, the person responsible for shooting could face civil liability in addition to criminal charges. Whether the shooting was intentional or an act of negligence, you could have legal recourse against that person.

In addition to the shooter, Georgia law allows civil claims against property owners and occupiers when the shooting is the result of inadequate security measures. If you suffered shooting injuries on the property of another person, there is a chance you could have a negligent security claim against the property owner or manager. If the owner or occupier was aware of the increased risk of violent crime on the property and did not take steps to stop it, you could have a claim against them for failing to adequately protect you.

How a Gun Injury Lawyer Could Help a Shooting Victim

Williams Elleby attorneys have developed a reputation for defending the legal rights of shooting victims throughout Georgia. Regardless of whether the shooter or a careless property owner was at fault, our team can help you determine whether you have a viable case. To learn more, give us a call at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule your free consultation.

Allstate and Bad Faith Insurance Claims in Georgia

Personal Injury and Bad Faith Insurance Claims in Georgia
Many insurance companies have a well-earned reputation for being difficult to deal with. In our experience, Allstate is among the worst because it often drags out even the simplest of claims for months or even years longer than necessary. Serious negotiations are part of the claims process; however, there is an important line between negotiating in good faith versus bad faith. While many insurance companies walk a fine line between good and bad faith, Allstate has developed a reputation among Georgia lawyers for pushing those boundaries. This is especially true when Allstate’s insured causes a crash.

Duties of Automobile Insurers under Georgia Law

Georgia law imposes important duties on car insurance companies. If a claim is brought against you, most injured claimants will give your insurance company an opportunity to settle the claim within your policy limits. If the injured party has a lawyer, the claim will usually be sent to your insurance company in compliance with the terms of O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1. This statute lays out the basic requirements of a pre-suit settlement demand where the injured person’s attorney will give your insurer an opportunity to settle the claim and protect your personal assets. When your insurance company receives an offer of settlement, it must put your interests ahead of its own. “[W]here a person injured by the insured offers to settle for a sum within the policy limits, and the insurer refuses the offer of settlement, the insurer may be liable to the insured to pay the verdict rendered against the insured even though the verdict exceeds the policy limits. The reason for this rule is that the insurer may not gamble with the funds of its insured by refusing to settle within the policy limits.” McCall v. Allstate Ins. Co., 251 Ga. 869, 870 (1984). If an insurance company receives a legitimate settlement offer pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1 and refuses to pay, you will likely get sued. When the lawsuit results in a verdict and judgment that exceeds your policy limits, you are legally responsible for paying the amount that exceeds your policy limits. Your insurance company will be responsible for paying any amount within the liability limits of your policy. In situations like this, all may not be lost. After a judgment in excess of your policy limits is entered against you, you may be able to bring a claim against your insurance company for the excess amount if your insurer refused to settle for an amount within your policy limits.

Bad Faith Automobile Insurance Claims in Georgia

Georgia allows for bad faith claims with multiple types of insurance policies. The most common type of “bad faith” claim is one that is brought after an insurer rejects a time limited offer of settlement that an attorney sends in compliance with O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1. O.C.G.A § 9-11-67.1 settlement offers are sent to the insurer of a driver that caused a wreck. When an insurance company fails to use good faith in negotiating car accident claims, it can leave its insured open to substantial financial exposure and mental anguish.  The insurer also exposes its insured to protracted litigation, the time and expense of attending depositions, participating in discovery and attending trial, the emotional anguish of reliving the collision and harm caused, and other financial loss such diminished credit ratings. Therefore, Georgia allows an insured to sue his or her own insurance company when it acts in bad faith during settlement negotiations. In order to succeed in a bad faith lawsuit against a liability insurance carrier, the insured will need to prove:
  1. The insurer failed to give equal consideration to the interests of its insured,
  2. The insurer failed to accord its insured the same faithful consideration it accords its own interest,
  3. The insurer refused to settle because of an arbitrary belief that the insured was not liable, or
  4. The insurer refused to entertain a settlement offer with no regard given the position of its insured.
See Southern General Ins. Co. v. Holt, 262 Ga. 267 (1992) and O.C.G.A. § 9-11-67.1. If an insured is successful in his or her bad faith claim, special damages, general damages, punitive damages, and legal fees may be available. There are also laws discouraging bad faith negotiations with uninsured motorist claims. Uninsured motorist policies protect you when the person that causes an accident lacks enough liability insurance to cover your damages. Under current Georgia law, bad faith penalties for claims against an uninsured motorist insurance carrier are not as severe as those available for liability claims. Yet, if the insurance company makes a frivolous or unfounded denial, they could open themselves up to penalties. If litigation is required to recover on a bad faith claim, the plaintiff could also recover the cost of their attorney fees. You should always seek the advice of a reputable Georgia lawyer if you are considering bringing any type of bad faith claim.

Allstate and Their Approach to Settlement

Allstate’s aggressive approach to avoiding responsibility on liability claims has come back to haunt them more than once. Few of these instances are as memorable as a 2017 decision in Madrigal v. Allstate. In that case, there was substantial evidence that Allstate’s insured was responsible for an accident. When the third party sought the full policy limits of $100,000, Allstate rejected it outright. In the days that followed, Allstate developed additional information that pointed to their insured as responsible for the claim. This included an independent witness that contradicted their insured’s account of what happened. Ultimately, a jury found Allstate’s actions to be in bad faith and returned a verdict for more than $14 million.

Duty of an Insured Cooperate with the Insurance Company

Although automobile insurers must work to protect their insureds, their insureds also have a duty to cooperate with their insurer. Most automobile insurance policies contain what is commonly referred to as a “cooperation clause.” The “cooperation clause” requires an insured to cooperate with his or her insurance company anytime the insurer investigates or defends any claim brought against its insured. Quite simply, you have a contractual duty to cooperate with your automobile insurance company after you cause a wreck. In this context, cooperation means that you must timely report any accident, give your insurer a recorded statement, and attend any necessary legal proceedings like a deposition or a trial. If you willfully and intentionally refuse to cooperate with your insurer, the insurer may deny coverage for any civil claim brought against you.

How an Attorney Could Help

One important thing to consider in these cases is that insurance companies like Allstate treat their policyholders differently if they have competent legal representation. While an insurer might be willing to string you along, they are more likely to deal fairly if they know your attorney is ready to take action against a bad faith settlement offer. If you find yourself in this situation, contact the Georgia trial lawyers at Williams Elleby by calling 833-LEGALGA or (833-534-2542).

Protecting Yourself After A Car Accident During The COVID-19 Outbreak

COVID 19 Personal Injuries Car Accident Georgia

During the current COVID-19 outbreak, we want everyone to know that there are additional steps that you can take to protect yourself after a car accident. Obviously, the safest thing to do for yourself and your community is to stay at home until the CDC, state, and local authorities give everyone the go ahead to resume normal day to day operations. We understand, however, that this is not always possible especially for essential workers and individuals that must travel to gather household essentials. The Williams Elleby team encourages everyone who must travel to protect themselves by adhering to the following suggestions during the COVID-19 outbreak.

STEPS TO TAKE BEFORE DRIVING TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM COVID-19

Most people take reasonable steps to maintain their vehicles under normal circumstances but now is the time to go the extra mile. The last thing anyone needs during this time is to find themselves broken down on the side of the road without proper safety equipment.

Before leaving your house, make sure to have these items in your vehicle:

  1. Plastic disposable gloves
  2. Face mask
  3. Hand Sanitizer
  4. Fix-a-flat or similar product
  5. Cell phone
  6. Plastic bags

Also, we strongly recommend taking the time do give your vehicle some extra attention. A few steps to minimize the risk of a break down are:

  1. Check the air pressure in your tires
  2. Change your oil and filter
  3. Change your air filter
  4. Check your spark plugs and battery
  5. Make sure your tire iron, jack, and spare tire are readily accessible
  6. Top off your windshield wiper fluid
  7. Check your vehicle’s power steering, brake fluid, and coolant

CRITICAL STEPS AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT DURING COVID-19 OUTBREAK

Even if we take all the proper precautions, we cannot control the actions of other drivers. If you are involved in a car accident during the COVID-19 outbreak, there are some precautions you can take to protect your legal rights and keep your family safe. After an accident, immediately put on your gloves and face mask if you are physically able. If you get out of your car, remember to stay at least 6 feet away from the other driver(s).

Some post-accident rules are the same as those you should follow under normal circumstances like:

  1. Do not leave the scene of the accident
  2. Call 911
  3. Take pictures of the property damage with your cell phone
  4. Notify your automobile insurance company
  5. Do not admit fault

Other post-accident rules must be amended due to COVID-19 concerns. For example, you still need to exchange information with the other driver(s), but you should do so from a safe distance. For example, you can exchange cell phone numbers and text each other your contact information and insurance information. When the police arrive, politely explain that you would like to maintain a safe social distance while cooperating with the officer’s investigation. If you need to go to the hospital, consider calling an in-home family member to take you to the emergency room instead of riding in an ambulance (of course this only applies to injuries that are not life-threatening).

After you exchange information with the other driver and cooperate with law enforcement, remove your plastic gloves and place them in a plastic bag. Immediately sanitize your hands with hand sanitizer and do not touch your face. If anyone else is in your vehicle, resist the urge to touch them until after you are home, and have thoroughly cleaned yourself.

One of the most difficult challenges facing car accident victims in the COVID-19 era is finding medical care. Obviously, the emergency room is not ideal except in the direst of circumstances. Also, many doctor offices are closed or not accepting new patients. However, some medical facilities are offering telehealth options. If you are in the Cobb County area, medical facilities like Benchmark Physical Therapy and Resurgens Orthopaedics offer virtual visits that can be completed using a computer, laptop, tablet, or smartphone. If your injuries are back or neck related, chiropractic offices may be a good option. Cobb County providers that you may consider are Lake Pointe Wellness Center and Lake City Chiropractic.

Most importantly, listen to your body and take the necessary steps to get the care you need so that your injuries do not get worse.

CONTACT A PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER

In order to properly protect your legal rights, it is very important to contact a reputable personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident. Williams Elleby partners, Joel Williams and Chase Elleby, are available for free phone consultations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Simply call 833-LEGALGA  (833-534-2542) to speak with us today.

If you prefer a more personal touch, we can arrange for a ZOOM meeting at a time that is convenient for you. We are here for you in your time of need.