What is Premises Liability?

In Georgia, premises liability is a legal concept that holds owners and occupiers of land responsibile to those who enter their premises. These duties vary according to the relationship between the owner and the person entering the premises.


Exercising Ordinary Care

Business owners may be liable to their business invitees for failing to exercise “ordinary care” in keeping their premises and approaches safe. However, the owner or occupier’s duty to a social guest is to not “knowingly expose” the guest to “an unreasonable risk of harm.” The lowest duty of care is owed to trespassers, which is to not injure the trespasser willfully. 


Examples of premises liability cases include:

  • slip and falls

  • inadequate security

  • defective stairs and railings

  • injuries from falling merchandise in stores

  • swimming pools which are not adequately fenced

  • exposure to dangerous chemicals

  • dog bites

  • defective ladders

  • slippery surfaces

Other hazards may exist when buildings are constructed in a manner that does not comply with applicable building codes. 


How to Win a Premises Liability Lawsuit in Georgia

To be successful in a Georgia premises liability lawsuit, you generally must prove the following:

  1. A dangerous condition existed on the property

  2. The owner or occupier of the property had knowledge of the dangerous condition

  3. The owner or occupier failed to remove or warn of the dangerous condition

  4. The dangerous condition was the cause of your injury 

Whether you have been injured in a public area such as a store, shopping mall, hotel, office building or apartment complex, Williams Elleby Howard & Easter can help you understand your rights and options under Georgia law. Contact us at 833-LEGALGA for your FREE consultation today

If a Truck Strikes Two Vehicles in Succession, Is It Two Accidents?

A white tractor trailer in a wreck with a silver car that has sustained severe damage.

Most of the time, there is no dispute between an insurance company and its insured motorists on whether an accident occurred. However, a recent decision in the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit answered the question on whether a truck hitting two vehicles in succession was one or two accidents.

This is an important question for insurance purposes given the way insurance policy limits work. Typically, insurance companies are only required to cover the cost of an accident up to the limits prescribed by the policy. However, these policy limits are typically per accident. In other words, if striking two vehicles in succession qualifies as two accidents, the insurance company is potentially on the hook for twice as much money.

Grange Mutual v. Slaughter, et al.

The case that answered this question in the 11th Circuit arose out of the Northern District of Georgia. The court decided Grange Mutual Casualty Company v. Terri Slaughter, et al. on May 1, 2020. This case is an appeal of a lawsuit filed in the Northern District of Georgia in 2016.

In October of 2015, a truck driver crossed over the center line of a highway in Georgia and struck two vehicles in quick succession. The facts of the case established that there was no corrective action taken after the first collision but prior to the second.

Grange Mutual was the insurer of the truck in question. In 2016, they filed a lawsuit in federal court in an effort to determine their obligations under the insurance policy. The primary question was whether or not the two collisions constituted one or two accidents under the language of the policy.

Decision at the Trial Level

In its decision, the trial court held that the collisions only constituted one accident. This decision was made after the Georgia Supreme Court adopted the so-called “cause theory.” Under this theory, the court found that a single accident involves “continuous or repeated exposure to the same conditions resulting in bodily injury or property damage.”

The defendants in Grange v. Slaughter appealed the trial courts order. They argued that the terms of the insurance policy defined an accident differently. The defense pointed to language in the policy that suggested two collisions constituted two accidents, even if they only happened a second apart.

The court was not swayed and found the language of the policy was unclear, requiring the court to ultimately define the phrase “accident.” Additionally, the court pointed out that the policy mentioned that multiple vehicles could be involved in the same accident. The court reasoned that following the defendant’s definition of accident would conflict with this language.

The Appellate Decision

Ultimately, the appellate court sided with the trial court. They agreed that the language of the insurance policy was unclear, requiring the court to define what constitutes an accident. The 11th Circuit also relied on the “cause theory” as prescribed by Georgia law. It found that because the truck driver did not regain control of the vehicle between the first and second collision, both crashes were part of one uninterrupted and extended cause.

Let Williams Elleby Howard & Easter Handle Your Claim

It is important to note that this disagreement ultimately boiled down to the language of the insurance policy. The Georgia personal injury lawyers at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter will work tirelessly to ensure your insurer holds up their end of the deal following an accident. Contact us online to schedule a free consultation or call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to discuss your case right away.

How Do You Prove Whiplash Injuries at Trial?

A side view of a male figure with transparent skin, revealing his skeletal and muscular system in three different positions, demonstrating whiplash.

Some personal injury claims are more difficult to prove than others. There is little dispute when an injury victim claims to have suffered a broken bone. Bone fractures are easily identified on an X-ray scan and, in some cases, are outwardly visible.

The same is not true for whiplash injuries. Whiplash is a soft tissue injury that commonly occurs in motor vehicle accidents. Because it can be challenging to prove the existence and extent of soft tissue injuries, many insurance companies will balk at paying out claims based on whiplash. With the right attorney and an aggressive approach, you could recover the compensation you deserve.

Understanding Whiplash

Whiplash can occur in any situation where a significant impact causes the head and neck to violently whip from one direction to another. According to the Mayo Clinic, these injuries are common in motor vehicle collisions due to the sudden impact of a crash.

The Johns Hopkins Clinic defines whiplash as an injury to the neck caused by the neck forcibly bending forward and back again in rapid succession. This movement can tear and strain the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the neck and shoulders.

It is the status of whiplash as a soft tissue injury that makes it challenging to definitively diagnose the condition. While bone injuries show up on X-ray scans, the same is not true for soft tissue damage. That said, there are ways to show a jury that a whiplash injury not only exists, but also that it is severe.

Evidence of Whiplash

The most important step in proving your whiplash injuries is to seek medical treatment right away. If you delay treatment for your injury, you could face claims from the insurance company that your injuries occurred under different circumstances or that they are not real at all. By seeking medical care, you can obtain the records you need to show a jury you suffer from whiplash.

While X-rays will not typically provide evidence of whiplash, other scans could. Your doctor might be able to document your condition using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This type of scan can create detailed images of soft tissues, which your doctor can use to highlight your injury.

A computed tomography (CT) scan could also highlight your soft tissue damage. These scans take a series of images of your body from different angles, making it possible to evaluate muscle, fat, and organs.

Your doctor can also testify as to your physical condition. Your medical records could reflect that you were experiencing stiffness, pain, and the lack of mobility in the neck. Together, this evidence could show a jury that your whiplash injuries are substantial.

Discuss Your Whiplash Claim With Williams Elleby Howard & Easter

Ultimately, it is the role of your attorney to prove the amount of damages you deserve. When you work with the attorneys of Williams Elleby Howard & Easter, you can rest assured we will put our extensive experience to work for your claim. Call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation right away.

What Is a Declaratory Judgment?

A red and white graphic saying declaratory Judgement.

Most of the time, an individual who suffers an injury in a vehicle accident will pursue a legal claim against the at-fault driver for compensation. If the at-fault driver has liability insurance, the policy typically requires them aid in the driver’s defense and protect them from any liability claims.

One unique exception to this general rule involves declaratory judgments. A declaratory judgment is a lawsuit filed by the insurer instead of the insured driver. In a declaratory judgment, the insurer may ask the court to determine whether or not the accident in question is covered under the policy. Insurance companies use these suits as a tool to determine whether they are obligated to pay out on a claim without risking allegations of bad faith from their insured driver. If the court finds the policy does not apply, the insurance company can refuse to defend their insured driver or shield them from liability claims.

When Declaratory Judgement Lawsuits Are Appropriate

In Georgia, the time frame an insurance company has to file a declaratory judgment action varies. If the insurer intends to file this action in state court, they must do so before they deny the underlying insurance claim. Once an insurance claim is denied, the Georgia Court of Appeals has held that there is no longer a “justiciable controversy” for the courts to decide.

Lawsuits in federal court are treated a little differently. Federal cases operate under federal law, which takes a broader view of the declaratory judgment process. Previously, federal courts have held that insurance companies may file declaratory judgment actions after they have denied a liability claim.

What Happens to Underlying Lawsuits?

In some cases, an insured driver will file a lawsuit prior to the initiation of a declaratory judgment. This can happen after a suit is filed by one driver against the other. Typically, an insurance company that files a declaratory judgment action during ongoing litigation will seek to join the declaratory judgment action to the underlying lawsuit. In this lawsuit, the insurance company frequently seeks to stay the case until the completion of the declaratory judgment action. This allows the courts to decide the issue of coverage before the insurance company is forced to decide if they will defend their insured driver or not. Halting the underlying case also prevents the insured driver from hiring outside counsel and running up legal bills that could be the responsibility of the insurance company if they lose the declaratory judgment action.

How an Attorney Can Help

You have the right to be heard in a declaratory judgment action involving your insurance policy. Often, the attorney who assists you with your injury claim can advocate for you in a declaratory judgment case as well. The trial attorneys at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter are prepared to assist you through every aspect of your injury case. We can evaluate your injuries and investigate the specific language of your insurance policy. We know what is at stake in your case and we will work tirelessly for a favorable outcome. To learn more, contact us online or call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule a free consultation right away.

What Is the Timeline in a Georgia Personal Injury Lawsuit?

A stack of four old hardcover books with a wooden gavel on top, beside a large hour glass.

No two personal injury cases are alike. What’s more, even cases with similar fact patterns can reach wildly different conclusions. Between two similarly situated plaintiffs, one could obtain a quick settlement while another could face years of litigation.

Despite these differences, there is a general timeline that applies to every personal injury lawsuit. Unless a case reaches a settlement, this timeline typically results in a trial by jury. The following steps outline the course most lawsuits will take in Georgia.

The Demand Letter

There are steps you must take before you can ever file a personal injury lawsuit. According to O.C.G.A. Section 9-11-67.1, a plaintiff may send a written demand to the at-fault driver or their insurance company prior to filing suit. The law requires the plaintiff to give the other side 30 days to consider the offer in the demand letter.

The Complaint

After the insurance company receives the demand letter, a plaintiff can initiate the lawsuit by filing a document known as the complaint. The complaint lays out your allegations in broad terms. It identifies each defendant and the damage claims you have against them.

Filing the complaint on its own is not enough to move a personal injury lawsuit forward. You must also perfect service against each of the defendants in the case. Once the defendants are formally notified of the claim, they have a set amount of time to file a formal response. This response must address each aspect of your claim and either admit or deny its accuracy. If the defendant fails to answer, the court may enter a default judgment against them.

Often, a defendant will file a series of motions before entering their answer. If there is a fatal error or other problem with the complaint, a court could dismiss the case based on these motions.


The discovery phase allows both sides to sift through and evaluate the evidence in the case. Through the use of written questions and depositions, both parties can identify the evidence the other side intends to use at trial. This prevents any unfair surprises at trial.

The Trial

The truth about personal injury cases is that they rarely go to trial. An analysis by the Justice Department of tort cases in federal court found that approximately 2% of all lawsuits ultimately went to trial.

That said, taking a case to trial is often your best chance of obtaining the compensation you deserve. In some cases, the other side will simply not be willing to make a fair settlement offer. In other cases, the defense might not have the assets necessary to settle your claim.

During the trial, both sides will have a say in picking the jury. Each side will also put on evidence, including any witnesses who can help establish liability or prove the amount of damages. In the end, the judge or jury will make the determination on whether or not you will obtain a judgment.

Talk to an Attorney Today

Never take on the challenge of a personal injury lawsuit alone. Let the Georgia attorneys at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter assist you in pursuing the compensation you deserve. To learn more, call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.