It is common for married personal injury victims that have accepted a settlement or won a judgment to wonder whether that money is their own separate property or is marital property. Even if you aren’t getting or thinking about divorce, it is good information to know.
Marital property is generally any property that is acquired during a marriage. This means that income and all of the things that married couples pay for with their income are generally considered marital property. Property brought into a marriage, and things like gifts and inheritance, are usually considered separate property. In most cases, a personal injury settlement is considered a mixture of both separate and marital property. To determine what portion of a settlement is marital property, Georgia courts do something known as equitable division.
Equitable is just the legal term for fair. Personal injury settlements are separated by equitable division, which basically means that the judge will divide the settlement in as fair a way as is possible. There are, however, certain principles that judges will follow.
As a general rule, compensation for medical expenses and lost wages that occurred during a marriage is considered marital property. This is because, in most cases, lost wages during a marriage are considered lost marital property, and a personal injury victim uses marital property to pay for medical expenses that are incurred during the marriage. It is fair for a spouse to share in this compensation.
However, Georgia law considers compensation for future medical expenses, future lost wages, or pain and suffering to be personal property. A spouse cannot claim any of this compensation as their own. As the Georgia Supreme Court has explained:
A personal injury claim settlement, to the extent that it represents compensation for pain and suffering and loss of capacity is peculiarly personal to the party who receives it. For the other party to benefit from the misfortune of the injured party would be unfair.
Considering the above, if you are negotiating a personal injury settlement and are also going through a divorce, it is important to make sure that the divorce settlement specifies exactly what portions of the settlement compensates different types of damages. Like any other assets, it is also possible for spouses to agree in writing that a settlement or specific portion of a settlement is separate property. If you have already accepted a settlement for a personal injury, the amount that is personal versus marital property will depend heavily on the language of the settlement and what the purpose of the compensation was for.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
If you have suffered a personal injury during the divorce process, it is important to understand your legal rights to any settlement or judgment you receive. Joel Williams Law, LLC, helps clients understand these and other related issues. This is also an issue you should discuss with your divorce attorney. If you would like more information or would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free case evaluation by calling (404) 389-1035 today.
Parents and caregivers of children have a legal duty to supervise children under their care. Negligent supervision of children can create a legal issue when a child hurts him or herself or when a child causes harm to someone else because no adult was watching them. In these cases, the adult that was supposed to be watching them can be held liable.
Negligent Caregivers and Harm to Children
When a parent leaves their child in another person’s care, they are placing a huge amount of trust in that person to keep their child safe. Caregivers — like daycare attendants, babysitters, nannies, teachers, coaches, and camp counselors — have a responsibility to safeguard children under their care. When caregivers fail to take reasonable steps to keep a child under their care safe, they have breached a legal duty and are liable for whatever harm is caused to the child as a result. Whether a caregiver acted unreasonably is a question of fact that must be determined on a case-by-case basis.
Georgia Parental Liability Laws
The other category of negligent supervision cases occurs when a child causes an injury to someone else. If a child was under the care of a daycare provider, teacher, guardian, or any other person with a legal duty to watch over the child at the time of the injury, then that party may be found liable to the person that was harmed. In all other instances, Georgia law holds parents vicariously liable for the wrongful acts of their children. This type of liability is not tied to a parent’s negligent supervision, but rather to the child’s actions. However, negligent supervision and parental vicarious liability are issues that are often closely tied together.
Under Official Code of Georgia Title 51 Chapter 2 Section 2, parents are liable for negligent and intentional torts committed by their children. Unsupervised children can cause harm in myriad ways because they lack mental and emotional maturity. Georgia courts have determined that liability under that § 51-2-2 extends to auto accidents caused by children under the “family purpose doctrine.” This means that, generally, whenever a minor causes an accident while driving the family vehicle, the parents can be held liable.
The Official Code of Georgia Title 51 Chapter 2 Section 3 additionally holds that parents are liable for the “willful and malicious” conduct of their children “in an amount not to exceed $10,000.00 plus court costs.” Because damages are capped at $10,000 for willful and malicious conduct, but not for negligent acts, it is important to have cases carefully evaluated to ensure that the proper statute applies. It is also important to note that § 51-2-3 states that it is not intended to provide a restrictive remedy, meaning that parents can be liable for the willful and malicious conduct of their children beyond the $10,000 limit if other theories of liability also apply.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
If you would like more information about this issue, or if you would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free consultation today by calling (404) 389-1035.
Personal injuries can cause immense physical pain, financial stress, and can interfere with daily life. They can also be devastating emotionally. The law recognizes all of these different types of harms and permits victims to recover damages based on each of them. When a victim has suffered mental and emotional harm as a result of a negligent act, they are able to bring a claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against the party responsible to recover pain and suffering damages.
Negligent Infliction of Emotional Distress (NIED) Claims and the “Impact Rule”
When a plaintiff can sue for NIED varies from state to state, but all states limit the situations in which a plaintiff can recover for emotional harm. Some states follow the “foreseeability rule,” which holds that a defendant must have reasonably foreseen that their conduct would cause emotional distress to the plaintiff. Other states utilize a “zone of danger rule,” which limits NIED claims to those plaintiffs that were within immediate risk of physical harm.
Georgia does not follow the foreseeability or zone of danger rules but instead follows the classic common law called “impact rule.” According to this rule, it doesn’t matter if the emotional distress was foreseeable or if the victim was within a zone of physical danger. Under the impact rule, the emotional distress must stem from a physical injury caused by the defendant. The upshot of the impact rule is that plaintiffs cannot bring a claim for NIED that stands apart from a physical injury, and NIED claims are therefore merged into the general compensatory damages sought by a plaintiff in a case. However, if a defendant’s conduct was “outrageous,” an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim can be brought as an independent claim.
Common Types of Emotional Distress in Personal Injury Cases
If a plaintiff can prove that the emotional harm they suffered is tied to a physical injury, they can recover damages for that harm. Common types of emotional distress suffered in personal injury cases include:
- Trouble Sleeping
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
If you have been the victim of a personal injury caused by someone else’s wrongful conduct and suffered any of these harms as a result, you are entitled to compensation for your emotional distress. In Georgia, there is no cap on the amount of damages that can be awarded for emotional distress.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
When victims are harmed by the wrongful conduct of others, they deserve compensation for what they have suffered. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, are dedicated to getting justice for accident victims in the state of Georgia. If you have been injured in an accident, they can help you understand your case, take the correct legal steps, and ultimately work to maximize your compensation.
If you would like more information or if you would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, today by calling (404) 389-1035 to schedule a free case evaluation.
Even the seemingly most straight-forward personal injury claims can be highly complicated. This is especially true when plaintiffs make claims against government entities. If you have been injured due to the negligent conduct of a government agency or government worker, you should know that it may be possible to bring a claim against the government for personal injury damages. However, these claims are difficult to make and should only be made with the assistance of an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney. Two big pitfalls that plaintiffs making claims against the government must be wary of are the doctrine of sovereign immunity and statutory ante litem notice requirements.
The Sovereign Immunity Doctrine
The first thing plaintiffs making claims against the government should understand is the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Hundreds of years ago when our system of law was first developing in England, the English kings decided that it would be a good idea if nobody could ever sue them because “the king can do no wrong.” And so the doctrine of sovereign immunity was born, which held that the monarchy was immune from lawsuits. Although the United States is far removed from the days of monarchy, our legal system has retained the doctrine of sovereign immunity, which now holds that the federal and state governments are immune from lawsuits. Despite the outdated rationale for the doctrine, it nonetheless remains firmly entrenched in Georgia law.
Therefore, to bring a claim against state or local governments, sovereign immunity must be overcome. For personal injury lawsuits, this can be accomplished by making claims through the Georgia Tort Claims Act (O.C.G.A. § 50-21-23). Under this law, the state of Georgia waived immunity for personal injury lawsuits. The law states:
The state waives its sovereign immunity for the torts of state officers and employees while acting within the scope of their official duties or employment and shall be liable for such torts in the same manner as a private individual or entity would be liable under like circumstances.
It is important for plaintiffs to understand that municipalities and counties in Georgia are also protected by sovereign immunity. Other laws have waived sovereign immunity for many claims against municipalities and counties. Generally, it is easier to make claims against municipalities than it is to make claims against counties. If you have been injured by a local government or government worker, it is important to consult with a Georgia attorney to understand whether or not sovereign immunity bars your claim.
Procedural Rules of the Georgia Tort Claims Act
Plaintiffs making claims against the government must also comply with special procedural rules that govern these types of claims. The biggest procedural misstep that Georgia plaintiffs make when making claims against the government is failing to comply with the ante litem notice requirement of O.C.G.A. § 50-21-26. Under this provision of the Georgia Tort Claims Act, a written notice of claim must be mailed by certified mail to Georgia’s Risk Management Division of the Department of Administrative Services and a copy of this notice must be mailed to the state agency that is being threatened with a lawsuit within 12 months of the date that the cause of action accrued. This notice must contain the following information:
(A) The name of the state government entity, the acts or omissions of which are asserted as the basis of the claim;
(B) The time of the transaction or occurrence out of which the loss arose;
(C) The place of the transaction or occurrence;
(D) The nature of the loss suffered;
(E) The amount of the loss claimed; and
(F) The acts or omissions which caused the loss.
This notice requirement has been strictly construed by Georgia courts, and a personal injury lawsuit cannot be made under the Georgia Tort Claims Act until this notice has been provided. Additionally, after this notice has been delivered, a lawsuit cannot be filed until the claim has either been denied or 90 days has passed. It is also important to note that claims against municipalities and counties have their own ante litem notice requirement laws that must be complied with.
If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident, Call Joel Williams Law, LLC, to Discuss Your Case Today
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, are dedicated to maximizing compensation in every case they take. They understand Georgia substantive and procedural law and know how to effectively make claims against government entities when those entities cause harm. If you would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free case evaluation today by calling (404) 389-1035.
If you have suffered a personal injury due to the conduct of someone else, hiring the right personal injury attorney to help you with your case is crucial. When personal injury victims try to get compensation without an attorney, they often don’t know the procedure for making a claim, don’t understand what rights to compensation they really have, and misjudge the value of their claim. Defense attorneys know all of these things and take advantage of unrepresented claimants. An experienced personal injury attorney that is familiar with your local laws can help you get the compensation you deserve.
Help You Understand Your Legal Rights and Options
Personal injury victims are often overwhelmed following an accident. It can be difficult to know what to do and what to expect going forward, not to mention how stressful it is coping with an injury. One of the most valuable benefits of hiring an experienced personal injury attorney after an accident is the peace of mind that a case evaluation can bring.
Investigate Your Case
Your attorney can help you gather all of the important information you will need to successfully make a personal injury claim. This will usually include investigating the cause of an injury and gaining access to your medical records. By investigating the underlying facts of your case, your attorney can determine all of your possible legal arguments, what evidence will be needed, and who all the possible defendants are.
File the Right Paperwork
One of the defining features of the practice of law is paperwork. An experienced personal injury attorney will know exactly what paperwork you need to file to succeed in making your claim. Having an attorney handle your case saves you the time and energy that this paperwork requires, and more importantly, ensures that your case is not derailed by technical mistakes.
Negotiate on Your Behalf
Most attorneys negotiate regularly as a part of their job. A personal injury attorney can use their knowledge of the law to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf and make sure that you don’t accept a low-ball offer.
Vigorously Represent Your Interests in Court
Although the vast majority of personal injury cases settle before going to court, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes defendants have a genuine disagreement about the law. Other times they are simply stubborn or otherwise unresponsive to negotiation attempts. When this is the case, it is imperative that personal injury victims have a qualified and experienced attorney advocating for their rights at every stage of litigation.
To Discuss Your Case, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, Today
If you’ve been injured in an accident, you don’t need to navigate the legal process alone. Joel Williams Law, LLC, offers free case evaluations and accepts cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that our clients don’t pay a dime in attorney’s fees unless and until we win their case for them. Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, Joel Williams Law, LLC, serves clients throughout the state of Georgia in all types of personal injury cases. Contact us today to discuss your case by calling (404) 389-1035.
Following a personal injury, the most important thing to do is to get all necessary medical care. There are also steps you can take to protect their legal rights as soon as an accident or the victim’s knowledge of harm occurs. Immediately following an accident, it is important to get all of the information you can get related to what happened, including the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses. If you are involved in an auto accident, stay on the scene and contact police so that a police report is created.
Record what happened as carefully as you can, and make sure any financial losses accrued, such as medical bills and lost wages, are carefully documented. When it comes to documenting your injuries, don’t rely solely on medical records. Take pictures of your injury as well, and make notes about how you feel.
Never discuss your accident with the party that caused the accident or with insurers without first discussing your case with your attorney. Keep information about your accident as private as possible until your case is resolved. Once immediate medical care has been obtained, the next step is to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.
What to Expect Once You’ve Hired an Attorney
If an attorney agrees to take your case, the attorney will begin to investigate the facts of your case and collect all the evidence that you will need to successfully make a claim. This means getting as much information as possible about the event that caused the injury and getting thorough documentation of all medical care that took place. Often, your attorney may want you to see additional medical professionals to better assess your injury. Your attorney will also help you calculate the full value of your claim.
After a case has been adequately prepared, a demand for compensation is usually sent to the responsible party or a claim is made to the responsible party’s insurer. At this stage, a defendant or insurer will either reject the claim or offer a settlement offer. In many cases, it is possible to negotiate a settlement that is fair, but this isn’t always the case. If a fair settlement can’t be reached, it is time to start preparing a lawsuit.
A personal injury lawsuit is started with the filing of a Complaint for damages. It is critical that this be done prior to the Georgia Statute of Limitations for tort claims. This petition must be served upon the defendant, and the defendant will be given time to file an answer. Following this, for several months the parties will conduct discovery. Discovery is the process by which the parties share information about the case with each other. In most cases, the parties, eyewitnesses, and any medical or vocational experts that may testify in the case will give testimony in the form of depositions. The lawyers will also file procedural and evidentiary motions at this stage. The vast majority of cases are settled after the discovery stage is over. However, if a defendant thinks they have a good case, or if they are just stubborn, the case will proceed to a trial.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
If you have been injured due to the wrongful conduct of someone else, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, can help you understand your legal rights and options, and if necessary, help you to initiate a personal injury lawsuit against the responsible party. Joel Williams Law, LLC, offers free case evaluations and accepts cases on a contingency fee basis. Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to discuss your case today by calling (404) 389-1035.
There are few things harder to cope with in life than the loss of a loved one. This is especially true when a loved one dies due to a preventable accident. If a person dies due to the wrongful conduct of someone else, family members of the victim generally have the right to bring a wrongful death claim against the responsible party or parties. A lawsuit can never replace what was lost, but under law, certain family members are entitled to fair compensation in these cases based on the “full value of the life of the decedent.”
Georgia wrongful death claims are governed by The Official Code of Georgia Title 51 Chapter 4. These are claims made by family members that are intended to compensate them for their own loss. Wrongful death claims are usually brought alongside so-called survival claims that are made by the decedent’s estate. Survival claims are intended to provide compensation to a victim’s estate for any pain and suffering endured by the victim because of the wrongful conduct.
Only Certain Family Members Can Bring a Wrongful Death Suit
There are strict limitations on which family members can bring a wrongful death claim. Under Georgia law, the following persons are entitled to bring a claim:
If there is a surviving spouse, they are entitled to bring the claim at the exclusion of all others;
If there is no surviving spouse, surviving children may bring the claim at the exclusion of all others;
If there is no surviving spouse or children, surviving parents may bring the claim at the exclusion of all others; and
If none of the above family members are alive, the claim can only be made by the estate.
Wrongful Death and Survival Action Damages
Survival claims are brought by the administrator of a decedent’s estate whereas wrongful death claims are brought by family members of a victim in their own right. Wrongful death claims compensate family members for things like loss of companionship, loss of shared income, and loss of services that the decedent provided. A survival claim compensates the decedent’s estate for things like medical and funeral expenses, and also for any pain and suffering that the decedent endured.
The Statute of Limitations
Wrongful death claims must be made within the timeframe set out by the Georgia Statute of Limitations. Under this law, wrongful death actions must generally be brought within two years of the date of the death. After two years from the date of death passes, a claim is generally completely barred. For this reason, it is important for family members to consult with an attorney as soon as possible.
Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to Discuss Your Case
The experienced wrongful death attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, are dedicated to helping Georgia clients get the compensation they deserve when they have lost a loved one due to the wrongful conduct of someone else. If you would like more information or would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, at (404) 389-1035 today to schedule a free consultation.
For many people in Georgia, cycling is an efficient, healthy, and enjoyable way to get around. For others, it is their exercise of choice or an occasional leisure activity. Whatever the reason cyclists are going for a ride, they should remember that it can be a dangerous activity. Bicycle accidents can be devastating because cyclists are in such a vulnerable position. Drivers have an enormous responsibility to be alert for cyclists and to safely share the road with them. But it is also important for cyclists to do their part by exercising caution when riding and following the rules of the road.
Things to Remember When Riding Your Bicycle
- Follow the Rules. Many people don’t realize that bicycles are considered “vehicles” under Georgia law and that cyclists must generally follow the same rules of the road as those governing motor vehicles. There are also several special laws that apply specifically to cyclists. Cyclists should be aware of these rules and follow them.
- Communicate With Drivers. Even drivers that are paying attention sometimes hit cyclists. It happens most often when a driver had no idea what a cyclist was doing. Cyclists should make appropriate hand signals and when possible, attempt to make eye contact with drivers before crossing through an intersection.
- Maintain Control of Your Bicycle. Yes, this one is obvious. But it is worth repeating. Accidents are caused every day because a cyclist was going too fast, was distracted and lost focus, or attempted to do something unsafe. Georgia has several laws intended to prevent cyclists from losing control. For instance, it is illegal for more than one person to ride a single-person bicycle at the same time, cyclists cannot legally attach themselves to a motor vehicle as they ride, it is illegal for cyclists to ride if they are carrying something that prevents them from being able to hold both hands on the handlebars at once, and cyclists can get a DWI just like motor vehicle drivers.
- Ride as Close to the Right Side of the Road as Possible. Cyclists should stay as far to the right as they safely can, except when turning left or avoiding hazards. This safety rule is also legally required.
- Wear a Helmet. You can reduce the risk of head injury by always wearing a helmet. In Georgia, riders under the age of 16 are legally required to wear a helmet.
- Be Visible. It is always a good idea to wear brightly colored clothing when cycling. If you ride at night, you should have a light and reflectors as well.
- Ride With Traffic. It is safer to ride with traffic. If you are riding against traffic, drivers will not be expecting you and may not notice you. By riding against traffic, you also reduce reaction time to avoid an accident.
If You Have Been in a Bicycle Accident, Joel Williams Law, LLC, Can Help
Unfortunately, even safe cyclists get into accidents. If you have been in a bicycle accident and been injured as a result, it is important to be aware of your legal rights and options. For more information or to schedule a free case evaluation, call Joel Williams Law, LLC, at (404) 389-1035 today.
Manufacturers and distributors of products have a duty to ensure that what they are putting onto the market is safe for consumers to use. When companies breach this duty, victims of harm have a right to compensation. There are often hundreds or even thousands of victims when defective pharmaceutical products or medical devices are placed onto the market.
When there is a large number of similar cases, rather than prepare all of them for trial at once, a select few are sometimes chosen to proceed to trial to serve as an example. These first cases are known as “bellwethers.” The idea is that after attorneys from both sides have seen how a similar claim plays out in court, they will be in a better position to agree to a settlement.
A recent such bellwether case was decided in favor of a major medical device company, indicating that other plaintiffs bringing similar claims may have an uphill battle. The plaintiff in the case, Doris Jones, was from Savannah, Georgia. Jones was the recipient of a blood clot filter, manufactured by the company Bard Medical. Unfortunately for Jones, the filter fractured and had to be surgically removed. Jones is not alone. As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, more than 3,000 other patients have claimed that they were harmed by defective Bard filters.
On June 4, 2018, a jury in Arizona ruled against Jones. The jury rejected the claim that Bard Medical failed to adequately test the filters before putting them on the market. Although this decision bodes well for Bard Medical, the company lost a similar claim earlier this year and was forced to pay $3.6 million, and there are currently several other bellwether cases going forward against Bard over the same alleged defect.
Jones’ attorney told reporters that Jones would be appealing the decision on the basis that the judge did not permit the right evidence to be presented to the jury. In particular, Jones sought to introduce evidence showing that the early versions of the Bard IVC Filters were known by Bard to be dangerous and had even caused deaths. However, because Jones was using a newer model with a different design, the judge did not feel the defects of these older versions were relevant.
Experienced Product Liability Attorneys
The experienced product liability attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, are dedicated to helping victims of defective products get justice. Sometimes medical devices are simply designed improperly. This seems to be the case with the Bard Medical blood-clot filters. In other cases, a manufacturing error causes a product to deviate from its intended design and become defective. It is also possible for a company to be liable under product liability law if it fails to adequately warn about dangerous side effects or risks that accompany the use of a product.
Joel Williams Law, LLC, believes that when companies make billions of dollars each year selling products to the public, they should be expected to pay a fair amount to victims when those products cause harm because of product defects. These types of claims are always complicated, and large companies will expend huge sums of money to avoid liability. It is imperative for victims of defective medical devices to have competent and skilled counsel on their side. If you or a loved one has been injured due to a defective product, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free case evaluation by calling (404) 389-1035 today.