The Impact of Falling Objects: Legal Rights and Compensation

Man with both hands on head, looking straight at the camera.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistic (BLS), approximately 2.8 million workers are injured on the job each year, and more than 5,000 are killed. Many of these accidents are caused by falling objects. In fact, the United States Department of Labor has labeled falling objects as one of construction’s “fatal four” types of accidents. If you or a loved one has been injured by a falling object at a work site, you should be aware of your legal rights and options. Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter is dedicated to getting accident victims the compensation they deserve. To schedule a free case evaluation, call 833-LEGALGA today.

Falling Object Injuries on Work Sites

Whenever work is being done on multiple levels, there is always the risk that debris will fall or objects will be dropped. Employers have a duty under OSHA regulations to maintain a safe work site and ensure that workers have the proper protective gear. For example, OSHA Standard 1910.219 provides a long list of requirements to guard against handheld machinery used in overhead work causing injury. While, OSHA Standard 1917.112 requires the use of toeboards around edges of walkways to prevent objects from rolling off and injuring people below. Workers have a right to request an OSHA safety inspection if they feel conditions are unsafe, and employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers that make such a request. Ultimately, however, for workers covered by Georgia’s Workers Compensation Law, a determination of fault is ultimately irrelevant in most cases. This is because Georgia workers automatically receive benefits when they are injured on the job, regardless of who is at fault. However, compensation is also limited.

Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law

Workers’ compensation functions by providing workers injured on the job with automatic compensation for harm and with benefits if they become disabled. Workers’ compensation insurance also provides benefits to dependents if a worker dies as a result of a job-related injury. The tradeoff, however, is that workers are prohibited from bringing lawsuits against employers (or co-workers) if they suffer harm in the course and scope of their employment. Determining whether workers’ compensation applies is often complicated. In the State of Georgia, any employer with three or more employees is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. When jobs utilize contractors and subcontractors, it is often unclear at first whether a particular worker will be covered by the law. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams Elleby, help worksite accident victims navigate the law so that their rights are protected.

Non-Worker Victims of Harm

Non-workers are not covered by Georgia’s Workers’ Compensation Law. For instance, if a pedestrian strolling past a construction site is struck by a falling object, she is free to bring a negligence claim against the party or parties responsible for dropping the object. She could also bring a premises liability claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred.

Premises Liability vs Negligence: Who is Responsible

When a non-worker is injured by a falling object, she can bring a claim against any responsible parties. Many times, the person who drops the object is not the owner of the property where the injury occurs. In this situation, an injured party could have claims against both the person who dropped the object as well as the property owner. First, the claim against the person who dropped the tool would be a simple negligence claim. In pursuing this claim, a skilled attorney would examine whether the person who dropped the tool took reasonable precautions to guard against dropping the object. The attorney could look to OSHA standards that might apply to the jobsite in question. For instance, OSHA Regulations require that construction sites employee a number of fall protection measures when erecting or working on scaffolding.  The attorney could then analyze whether the negligent party properly complied with the regulations to show that the worker did not act reasonably while completing work at the site. Examples of Overhead Work Protection Measures:
  • OSHA Standard 1926.105 requires the use of overhead safety netting when work is completed more than 25 feet above the ground.
  • OSHA Standard 1910.145 requires the use of warning signs to warn of the risk associated with falling objects on a job site.
  • OSHA Standard 1917-112(d) requires the use of toeboards, or raised edges, to prevent items from rolling off of the edge while working overhead.
Second, there could be a premises liability claim against the owner of the property where the injury occurred. Premises liability claims can be brought when property owners are at fault for failing to keep dangerous conditions off their property. O.C.G.A § 51-3-1 provides that a landowner must take reasonable steps to keep its premises safe. Again, a skilled attorney could use the OSHA Regulations to show that the landowner was aware that work was taking place and failed to ensure that the proper safety protocols were met to prevent injury to people walking below.

Damages in a Personal Injury Suit

The final step in the process is determining the dollar amount of the injured person’s damages. Georgia personal injury law is intended to fully compensate victims for their harm. Compensation from a personal injury lawsuit, also called damages, is intended to pay for things like medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In cases where a defendant exhibited intentional or reckless conduct, punitive damages may be available. However, injury claims covered by the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law will be strictly limited to the compensation permitted under that law.  Georgia Worker’s Compensation Law provides a specific award schedule that dictates how much a worker’s injury is worth. However, when a non-worker is injured, the measure of damages is more fluid. A skilled attorney can utilize the injured party’s medical bills, along with evidence of missed time from work, and general pain and suffering to advocate for a more accurate measure of damages. The attorney is able to make specific arguments about how long it took for the injured party to recover. The length of recovery is important as the attorney can attached a dollar amount to the time spend recovering. Attorneys also rely on witness testimony and other evidence to paint a vivid picture of how the injury affected the injured party. This provides the jury with a detailed perspective of the injury and the suffering it caused.

For More Information, Contact Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter

Worksite accidents can be devastating, particularly when caused by falling objects. Victims need the support of qualified and experienced legal counsel on their side. The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter work hard to get accident victims the compensation they deserve. Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter serves clients throughout the State of Georgia. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury at a work site due to a falling object, the attorneys at Williams, Elleby, Howard, & Easter can help you understand what possible claims you may have and work to get you the compensation you deserve. To schedule a free consultation, call (833-534-2542) today.

Beyond Jail Time: The Civil Impact of Drunk Driving in Georgia

A clear glass of liquor on ice beside a set of car keys and handcuffs on a wooden table.

Drinking and driving is deadly. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), every day 37 people die in drunk-driving crashes, that’s one person every 39 minutes. Because the effects of drinking and driving are often catastrophic, the laws in Georgia to keep its citizens safe and keep people from drinking and driving carry some serious consequences, both criminally and civilly. Simply put, criminal cases involve jail time and fines and are prosecuted by the government, whereas civil cases involve money and involve disputes between people or organizations.

What is considered drunk driving?

Under Georgia law, it is illegal for people to drive a motor vehicle is their blood alcohol concentration percentages are as follows:

  • 08% or higher, if they are twenty-one years old or older operating a passenger vehicle (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391)
  • 04% or higher, if they are operating a commercial vehicle (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391)
  • 02% or higher, if they are younger than twenty-one years old.

What are the criminal consequences?

The consequences for drinking and driving vary depending on the circumstances. But generally speaking, if you are caught drinking and driving, according to the Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety:

First Offense

  • Possible jail time up to one year
  • Fine of $300 minimum, up to $1,000
  • License suspension of up to one year
  • 40 hours of community service, which is a mandatory minimum
  • $210 license reinstatement fee

Second Offense:

  • Minimum mandatory 48 hours in jail, possible 90 days to one year
  • Fine of $600 minimum, up to $1,000
  • License suspense of three years
  • Minimum 30 days of community service
  • $210 set license reinstatement fee
  • A mandatory clinical evaluation, and if indicated, completion of a substance abuse treatment program at the offender’s expense

Third Offense:

  • Minimum Mandatory 15 days jail time
  • Fine of $1,000 minimum, up to $5,000
  • License revocation for five years
  • Minimum mandatory 30 days community service
  • Violators name, photo and address published in local newspaper at violators expense
  • Declared as habitual violator
  • Mandatory clinical evaluation and, if indicated, completion of a substance abuse treatment program at offender’s expense.

What are the civil consequences of drunk driving?

In addition to the criminal consequences of driving under the influence, there can also be civil consequences if you cause a wreck and injure someone while driving under the influence of alcohol. The injured party has to prove that the at-fault driver was negligent in causing the wreck.

In order to prove negligence in a civil case, you have to prove “1) a legal duty to conform to a standard of conduct; 2) a breach of this duty; 3) a causal connection between the conduct and the resulting injury; and 4) damages to the plaintiff.” Johnson v. American National Red Cross, 253 Ga. App. 587, 591 (2002). If the Plaintiff can prove these elements by what’s known as the “preponderance of the evidence”, then the at-fault party will be financially responsible to the Plaintiff for the damages awarded by a jury.

Negligence per se is a legal theory wherein an at-fault party’s unexcused violation of a law creates a presumption that the defendant is negligent. It doesn’t prove the negligence – it only creates a presumption that the defendant is liable for negligence.

In a car wreck scenario where a person suffers injuries and the at-fault driver committed a DUI, there is a presumption that because the at-fault driver was driving drunk, they are then negligent for causing the wreck. In order to get this presumption it must be established that the at-fault driver was driving over the legal limit (this can happen when they plead guilty to the offense). Once that is established, the injured party can claim that because they violated the law, they are presumably negligence. At this point, the burden then shifts to the defendant, who must prove that they were not negligent in causing the wreck even though they were driving under the influence. Negligence per se is a powerful tool in proving the negligence of another because it creates a burden-shifting presumption.

Punitive damages for drunk driving!

With a DUI case, in addition to compensatory damages, the injured party can seek punitive damages from the at-fault driver. Punitive damages are damages awarded as a punishment or to penalize and deter the at-fault driver from engaging in the behavior that caused the injuries. Normally, punitive damages are limited to $250,000.00 in Georgia, but that is not the case if the at-fault driver is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Being able to pursue punitive damages greatly increases the value of your civil case against the at-fault driver and their insurance company.

If you have been injured in a wreck due to the negligence of another, especially by someone who was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you must find a lawyer who will aggressively fight on your behalf to ensure justice is sought from the wrongdoer and their insurance company. Contact the personal injury law firm of Williams Elleby Howard & Easter at 833-534-2542.  Not quite ready to call? Check out our YouTube channel for additional resources and information in our video covering alcohol and its effect on personal injury cases.

Georgia Slip & Falls: What To Do If You Slip & Fall On Ice Or Snow

Woman slips and falls on an icy driveway.

According to the CDC, unintentional falls are the leading cause of nonfatal emergency department visits in the United States. When temperatures drop, the risk of slip and fall incidents increases dramatically. Colder weather means that Georgians will encounter more icy staircases and frozen puddles on sidewalks. This increased risk poses potential legal challenges for property owners and victims alike. In this post, we will explore the laws surrounding slip and fall incidents in Georgia due to icy conditions.

Premises Liability in Georgia:

To determine who is responsible for a slip and fall on ice, we must first understand the basics of Georgia premises liability law. Georgia law holds landowners responsible for maintaining safe conditions on their premises. O.C.G.A §51-3-1 states that an owner of land who invites people onto their property must exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe. This means that property owners should take reasonable actions to guard against danger on their property.

Types of Visitors:

However, the steps an owner must take depends on the status of the injured person at the time of the injury. The law places different duties on a landowner depending on the category of person who is injured. When you walk onto someone else’s property, you are either an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser.

  1. An invitee is a person who is invited onto the property by the owner for both parties’ benefit. An example of an invitee is a customer entering a business to make a purchase.
  2. A licensee is a person on a property solely for her own interest. For example, Georgia law considers a social guest to be a licensee. See Stanton v. Griffin,361 Ga. App 205 (2021).
  3. Finally, a trespasser is a person who enters another’s property without permission.  Interestingly, a person can be considered a trespasser even if they enter another’s property accidentally. See Crosby v. Savannah Electric Co., 114 Ga. App. 193 (1966).

Duty to Visitors:

Georgia law provides different rules for landowners depending on the type of visitor.  A landowner owes a duty of ordinary care to an invitee. See O.C.G.A §51-3-1. This means that a landowner must take reasonable steps to make sure his property is safe for any invitee that comes onto the property.

However, a landowner owes a lesser duty to a licensee. A landowner must not injure a licensee willfully or wantonly. Stanton v. Griffin,361 Ga. App 205 (2021). In other words, the owner is only liable to a licensee if he intentionally injures the guest or acts in an extremely reckless manner.

Finally, a landowner owes no duty at all to a trespasser. See Crosby v. Savannah Electric Co., 114 Ga. App. 193 (1966). Therefore, it is difficult, if not impossible, for a trespasser to recover for an injury sustained on someone else’s property.

Comparative Negligence:

We must also consider whether the injured party contributed to her injury. Georgia recognizes the doctrine of comparative negligence. This allows a jury to consider whether the plaintiff did anything wrong to contribute to the injury. The jury can then assign a percentage of blame to either party depending on how much each party contributed to the injury. See Clark v. Rush, 312 Ga. App. 333 (2011). Therefore, if the injured party is found to be partially at fault for not taking reasonable precautions, their recovery may be diminished.

Bringing a Claim for a Slip & Fall on Ice:

Now that we understand the law, let’s discuss how it applies to a slip and fall on ice. Georgia law says that property owners must take appropriate steps to make their property safe. Negligence on the property owner may arise if they fail to:

  1. Monitor weather conditions: Property owners should stay informed about weather forecasts, especially in the winter months, and take preemptive measures to address potential ice accumulation.
  2. Remove ice promptly: If ice does accumulate, property owners are expected to promptly remove or mitigate the hazard. This may involve salting walkways, clearing snow, or posting warning signs.
  3. Warn visitors: In situations where the removal of ice is not immediately feasible, property owners must adequately warn visitors about the hazardous conditions.

Failure to take these reasonable steps could result in the property owner being held responsible for injuries that occur when someone falls. However, what is reasonable depends on the status of the person who was injured:

  1. For an invitee, the property owner could be at fault for simply failing to recognize that the ice formed and failing to take steps to remove it.
  2. However, a licenseewould not be able to recover unless she could show that the property owner intentionally put water on the sidewalk to cause the fall.
  3. Finally, a trespasser likely would not have a claim for injury no matter the actions of the property owner.

After determining whether the property owner acted reasonably under the circumstances, we must also determine whether the injured party acted reasonably. In other words, did she do anything that contributed to her injury:

  1. Did she recognize that there was ice on the sidewalk and decide to walk on it anyway?
  2. Did she see a sign warning not to enter due to ice and enter anyway?
  3. Was she distracted and not paying attention to her surroundings, which caused her to slip?

These are just a few examples of situations that could cause a jury to assign fault to the injured party and lower the amount she would recover based on Georgia’s comparative negligence rule.

Proving Liability:

To successfully pursue a slip and fall claim in Georgia, the injured party must establish the following elements:

  1. Duty of care: The property owner owed a duty of care to the visitor.
  2. Breach of duty: The property owner failed to meet the standard of care by neglecting to address the icy conditions.
  3. Causation: The breach of duty directly caused the slip and fall incident and subsequent injuries.
  4. Damages: The victim suffered measurable damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering.

We work through the invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser analysis to establish the duty of care that the property owner owed to the injured party. This involves asking questions to determine why the injured party was on the property at the time of the fall so that we can determine which category the person falls into. Once we know whether the injured party is an invitee, a licensee, or a trespasser we are able to determine the duty owed.

Subsequently, to determine whether the property owner breached her duty we examine the facts of the incident to determine whether the property owner acted with the level of care required under the duty analysis. For example, in the case of an invitee, we would try to determine how the hazard came to be on the property and whether the property owner took reasonable steps to protect against the hazard.

The next step is to determine causation. This simply means, did the hazard (the ice on the sidewalk) cause the injuries that the injured party is complaining of. Sometimes, this is very straightforward- a person slips on ice, falls, and breaks her arm. It is easy to understand that the fall caused the broken arm. However, in other situations, it is more complicated. For example, a person slips and falls on ice. Four days later, he starts having back pain. A year after that he has back surgery. In this situation, it takes months of examining medical records and talking with doctors to determine whether the fall on the ice caused the need for back surgery.

Finally, we examine the extent of the injury caused, the amount of medical bills incurred, any lost wages from missing time from work, and the overall pain and suffering to determine the total amount of damages caused by the fall. The damages calculation involves adding up all the losses the plaintiff sustained to determine the full value of the case.

Conclusion:

Navigating slip and fall incidents in Georgia resulting from icy conditions requires a careful examination of the circumstances and a thorough understanding of premises liability laws. If you find yourself in such a situation, seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney can be crucial in ensuring your rights are protected and justice is served. Call Williams Elleby Howard & Easter at 833-534-2542.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for our video on this topic and many more topics.

What is The Statute of Limitations on a Personal Injury Claim?

A gavel, eye glasses and a book with the title, Statute of limitations, on a desk.

Personal injury claims arise when an individual is injured due to the negligent or intentional acts of another person or entity. These claims range from car accidents and slip and falls to medical malpractice and product liability. If you are considering filing a personal injury claim, one of the first things you need to know is the statute of limitations that applies to your case. In this blog post, we discuss what the statute of limitations is, how it works, and how it can affect your personal injury claim.

What is the Statute of Limitations?

The Statute of Limitations is a law that sets a time limit for filing a lawsuit. This time limit varies depending on the type of case and the jurisdiction where the case will be heard. In the context of personal injury claims, it is the time limit for filing a lawsuit against the party responsible for your injuries.

How does the Statute of Limitations work?

The statute of limitations clock begins ticking on the date of the injury or when it was discovered. Once the clock starts ticking, the injured party usually has a set amount of time to file a lawsuit. If the injured party fails to file a lawsuit within the specified time frame, the case will likely be dismissed by the court. It’s important to note that this time frame is a strict deadline and courts rarely make exceptions.

How does the Statute of Limitations affect your Personal Injury Claim?

It is an important factor to consider when filing a personal injury claim. If you miss the deadline, you may lose your right to seek compensation for your injuries. Therefore, it’s crucial to act quickly and consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you determine the applicable statute of limitations and ensure that your claim is filed within the required time frame. Failing to file a claim prior to the statute running out is cited in our article on Seven Biggest Mistakes People Make After an Injury

The length of the statute of limitations can vary depending on the state and the type of personal injury claim. In some states, the statute of limitations for personal injury claims is as short as one year, while in others, it can be several years. Additionally, some states have different statutes of limitations for different types of personal injury claims, such as medical malpractice claims or claims involving government entities.

Conclusion

If you have been injured due to the negligence or intentional act of another party, it’s important to act quickly and consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. The statute of limitations can affect your ability to seek compensation for your injuries, so it’s crucial to understand the applicable time limit and ensure that your claim is filed within the required time frame. Experienced lawyers at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter can help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Call us today at 833-LEGALGA

Do I have a Personal Injury Case?

A bandaged hand writing the words, "accident, injury, claim, and compensation" in red marker on a clear screen.

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, you may be wondering if you have a personal injury case. This is a common question, and the answer depends on several factors. In this blog post, we will explore what constitutes a personal injury case and how to determine if you have one.

 What is a Personal Injury Case?

 A personal injury case arises when a person is injured due to the negligence or wrongdoing of another person, business, or entity. The purpose of a personal injury case is to seek compensation for the harm and losses caused by the injury. This compensation may include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.

 Examples of personal injury cases include car accidents, slip and falls, medical malpractice, product liability, and workplace accidents. In each case, the injured person (plaintiff) must prove that the other party (defendant) was negligent and that this negligence caused the injury.

How to Determine if You Have a Personal Injury Case

 To determine if you have a personal injury case, you should consider the following factors:

 Was there negligence involved?

To have a personal injury case, you must prove that the other party was negligent. This means that they failed to exercise reasonable care and that this failure caused your injury. Negligence can take many forms, such as a driver who runs a red light or a property owner who fails to fix a hazardous condition.

 Did the negligence cause your injury?

Even if the other party was negligent, you must prove that this negligence caused your injury. For example, if you slip and fall on a wet floor in a store, you must show that the wet floor caused your fall and resulting injuries.

 Did you suffer damages?

To obtain compensation in a personal injury case, you must have suffered damages as a result of your injury. Damages can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses. However, if you were not injured or did not suffer any losses, you may not have a personal injury case.

 Is there a deadline to file a claim?

In most cases, there is a deadline (statute of limitations) for filing a personal injury claim. This deadline varies by state and type of case, so it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss the deadline.

 Attorneys Joel Williams and Chase Elleby examine the things that should be considered in determining “Do I have a Personal Injury Case?” in this video:

Consult with an Attorney

If you believe you have a personal injury case, it is important to consult with an attorney who specializes in personal injury law. An attorney can evaluate the facts of your case and determine if you have a valid claim.

They can also help you navigate the legal process and negotiate with insurance companies to seek the compensation you deserve.

If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and have suffered damages, you may have a case. To determine if you have a case, consider the factors listed above and consult with one of our experienced attorneys today!  Call us at 833-LEGAL-GA.

Understanding the Types of Damages You May Recover from Personal Injury Case in GA

A male doctor holding up an x-ray, pointing something out to a surprised female patient.

If you’ve been injured due to someone else’s negligence or misconduct, you may be entitled to compensation for the damage you have suffered. Personal injury cases aim to provide financial relief to victims and help them recover physically, emotionally, and financially. In this blog post, we will explore the various types of damages that can be recovered in a personal injury case. You can also check out this video for a more in-depth analysis of the types of damages available in personal injury cases:

Understanding these types of damages is crucial for evaluating your case’s worth and ensuring you receive fair compensation. Let’s dive in!

     1. Economic Damages:

Economic damages, also known as special damages, cover the tangible financial losses incurred because of your injury. These damages are relatively easy to quantify and typically include:

     a) Medical Expenses: Compensation for past and future medical bills, including hospitalization, surgeries, medications, therapy, rehabilitation, and necessary medical equipment. In Georgia, trial judges normally provide the following instruction to juries regarding awards for medical bills: In all cases, necessary expenses resulting from the injury are a legitimate item of damages. “As to medical expenses, such as hospital, doctor, and medicine bills, the amount of the damage would be the reasonable value of such expense as was reasonably necessary.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.040

     b) Lost Wages: Reimbursement for income lost due to the injury, including missed workdays, reduced work hours, or potential loss of future earning capacity. Just like for medical bills, trial judges in Georgia normally instruct the jury about lost wages:

  • “Loss of earnings from the time of the alleged injury to the time of trial is a legal item of damages, and (the amount that may be recovered) (its measure) is the value of the earnings that the evidence shows with reasonable certainty the plaintiff has lost as a result of the injury. You may consider what the plaintiff was making at the time of the injury, what was made since the injury, the amount customarily paid in the locality for the kind of work the plaintiff does, and similar matters. There must be some evidence before you as to the plaintiff’s loss.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.100
  • If you find that the plaintiff’s earnings will be permanently (reduced) (destroyed), lost future earnings–just like lost past earnings–are to be determined on the basis of the earnings that the plaintiff will lose, and there must be some evidence before you as to the amount of such earnings. 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.201

     c) Property Damage: Compensation for the repair or replacement costs of damaged property, such as a vehicle in a car accident. The amount that should be awarded in the difference between the fair market value of the damaged property immediately before the injury and the fair market value o the damaged item just after the damage. 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.020

    d) Other Financial Losses: Compensation for out-of-pocket expenses related to the injury, such as transportation costs, home modifications, or hiring help for daily tasks.

2. Non-Economic Damages:

Non-economic damages, also referred to as general damages, focus on the intangible losses that are more challenging to assign a specific monetary value. These damages are subjective and vary from case to case. Common types of non-economic damages include:

     a) Pain and Suffering: Compensation for physical pain, discomfort, and emotional distress resulting from the injury. This includes factors like chronic pain, anxiety, depression, or loss of enjoyment of life. Georgia judges typically provide the following instructions to juries concerning pain and suffering damages:

  • “Pain and suffering is a legal item of damages. The measure is the enlightened conscience of fair and impartial jurors. Questions of whether, how much, and how long the plaintiff has suffered or will suffer are for you to decide. Pain and suffering includes mental suffering, but mental suffering is not a legal item of damage unless there is physical suffering also. In evaluating the plaintiff’s pain and suffering, you may consider the following factors, if proven: interference with normal living; interference with enjoyment of life; loss of capacity to labor and earn money; impairment of bodily health and vigor; fear of extent of injury; shock of impact; actual pain and suffering, past and future; mental anguish, past and future; and the extent to which the plaintiff must limit activities.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.501
  • “If you find that the plaintiff’s pain and suffering will continue into the future, you should award damages for such future pain and suffering as you believe the plaintiff will endure. In making such award, your standard should be your enlightened conscience as impartial jurors. You would be entitled to take into consideration the fact that the plaintiff is receiving a present cash award for damages not yet suffered.” 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.503

     b) Emotional Distress: Compensation for psychological trauma, mental anguish, and emotional suffering caused by the accident or injury.

     c) Loss of Consortium: This is a category of damages awarded to the spouse for the loss of companionship, affection, or intimate relations resulting from the injury. In Georgia, a married person has a right to recover for the loss of consortium, sometimes called loss of services, of the spouse. The services the law refers to are not only household labor but also society, companionship, affection, and all matters of value arising from marriage. There does not have to be any direct evidence of their value, but the measure of damages is their reasonable value, as determined by the enlightened conscience of impartial jurors taking into consideration the nature of the services and all the circumstances of the case. 1 Ga. Jury Instructions – Civil § 66.400

     d) Disfigurement or Scarring: Compensation for any visible marks, scars, or permanent disfigurement resulting from the accident or injury.

3. Punitive Damages:

Punitive damages, though less common, may be awarded in cases where the defendant’s conduct was particularly reckless, intentional, or malicious. These damages aim to punish the defendant and deter similar behavior in the future. However, their availability and limits vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case.

In the State of Georgia, punitive damages awards are governed by O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. and are capped at $250,000.00 in most cases. Reid v. Morris, 309 Ga. 230, 234 (2020). Punitive damage awards are not subject to the statutory cap in cases where the defendant acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f).

4. Wrongful Death Damages:

In cases where a personal injury results in death, certain damages may be recoverable through a wrongful death lawsuit. Under the laws of the State of Georgia, wrongful death damages should reflect the “full value of the life of the decedent as shown by the evidence.” Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga. App. 275 (2002).

In a personal injury case, understanding the types of damages you can recover is essential for assessing the potential compensation you may be entitled to. While economic damages cover the tangible financial losses, non-economic damages account for the intangible impact on your quality of life. Punitive damages and wrongful death damages serve specific purposes in cases involving severe misconduct or fatal injuries.

Call Williams Elleby Howard & Easter today to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney.  We will help you navigate the complexities of your case and ensure you receive fair compensation for the damages you have suffered.  833-LEGAL-GA.

Tips For Winning at Trial

Gavel and the scales of justice with a blurry image of book shelves in the background.

Young attorneys, we were once in your shoes!  Each trial is unique and going to trial can be daunting early on in your career.  If you’re trying a case, here are our top tips for being successful at trial.

Prepare Yourself

It may seem obvious, but preparing yourself is the number one tip to being successful at trial.  Prepare yourself with knowledge of all the deposition testimony and discovery responses.  Be intimately familiar with the facts of the case.  You should never have to look at a piece of paper in trial unless it is to introduce that document as an exhibit.  You should know your case like the back of your hand, inside and out, better than anyone else in the room.

Subpoena the Witnesses

Most likely you will be in close communication with your witnesses, but make sure to subpoena them as well.  Subpoenas give your witnesses an official legal excuse from work and ensures they will show up to trial.  From the plaintiff’s side, don’t always assume the defendant is going to show up for trial.  If you are going to call the defendant as a witness, subpoena him/her as well.

Use Pre-Trial Motions to Your Advantage

Motions in limine are those you can use ahead of trial to get the judge to rule on certain issues that may come up during the trial. These motions seek to limit evidence that is irrelevant, inadmissible or prejudicial to your client. Identify the important issues in your case.  If there is something that needs to be addressed by the court or can be addressed by the court ahead of time, file those motions.  Whether you win or lose those motions, you can adjust your strategy knowing what evidence or topics can or cannot be introduced at trial.

Pre-Organize Your Exhibits

Once you know what evidence is coming in or not, make sure your evidence is redacted appropriately, pre-labeled, pre-marked, and organized in the order in which you plan to introduce those records at trial.  Trial notebooks and exhibit lists are helpful.  Make sure all of this is done ahead of time and ready to go before the trial begins.  If you are using technology, make sure you have everything scanned in to your computer so you are not relying on an internet connection.

Know Your Judges Preferences

Every judge is different and has his or her own style on how the trial will be conducted.  Don’t be afraid to call or email the staff attorney to see how the judge handles certain things before trial begins. 

Prepare the Jury

In our opinion, jury selection is the most important part of a trial.  You should prepare for jury selection just as much as you do for the trial itself.  Don’t be afraid to talk about the issues of your case in jury selection.  If you don’t get an unbiased jury sitting in the jury box, your case is done before you even give an opening statement.  You must have open and honest dialogues with potential jurors about their feelings on certain issues.  One question a great attorney out of Savannah, Jeff Harris, once told us and we try to use with jurors is, “If you were injured due to the fault of somebody else, would you have any hesitation bringing a lawsuit against them?” If someone has hesitation, they are probably going to be a bad juror for you as a plaintiff.  Be prepared to ask tough questions to tease out biases potential jurors might have when dealing with a client that has previous injuries or preexisting conditions, etc.  You might also have to touch on more sensitive issues hot button political issues, gender, and race — whatever happens to be involved in your case.  If you’re worried something might be an issue for jurors, it probably is and needs to be addressed in jury selection.

Prepare Your Client

Preparing your client doesn’t mean you tell them what to say.  Preparing your client means to give them the knowledge and understanding of what the situation is actually going to be like when they are sitting on the witness stand.  What sort of questions can they anticipate?  Reassure them they can stick up for themselves.  Remind them to be polite. 

Prepare Your Cross Examinations

Preparing early will allow you to succinctly cross examine your witnesses.  We like to start preparing by writing out the story or narrative you want to give the jury.  Then break that down into leading questions you can ask the witnesses to tell the story.  You don’t want to argue with witnesses or get off on a tangent.  Consider what information you want and need from each witness and prepare accordingly to control the witness during your cross.

Limit Your Objections

Be selective with objections in trial unless it is something just egregious.  You are not necessarily limited to how many objections you can make, but the more you object as a plaintiff attorney, the more the jury might think you are trying to hide something.  You can also be more selective with your objections when you file the proper motions and deal with any evidentiary issues you might have ahead of time, pre-trial.

Check Out the Courthouse and Familiarize Yourself with the Environment

If you can, go to the courthouse before the trial and familiarize yourself with the space.  Find out what kind of technology is available, where the televisions are located, etc.  Rural counties might not have the best technology available so know what you are able to work with ahead of time.  If your client is able, take him/her with you to the courthouse ahead of time.  Most clients have never been in a courtroom before.  Let your client sit in the witness box and familiarize themselves with the space.  This usually helps your client feel a bit more comfortable when it is time for trial.

Be Respectful of the Jurors’ Time

Jurors were summoned; they didn’t volunteer to be in court.  They are taking time out of their lives and not getting paid much to be there.  Let the jurors know you have a duty to be there and you’re going to take the time needed to present your case, but you’re going to do so in an efficient manner and respect their time.

Think Hard About What Your Case is Truly Worth

At the end of trial, you are going to have to ask the jury to award a monetary value.  If you don’t believe your case is worth a particular value, the jury won’t either.  At the end of the case make sure your ask is fair and reasonable.  As a plaintiff’s lawyer, don’t let your ego get in the way.  We all see and hear of the really large verdicts, but most cases are not worth millions of dollars.  Some cases are worth $10,000.00 and others are worth $10,000,000.00.  If you have a $100,000 case and you ask for $1,000,000, you’re probably going to get awarded nothing or very little.  Make sure the ask is appropriate for the facts of your case.

For more information on Tips for Winning at Trial, be sure to check out our video on this topic and many more on our YouTube channel.

What’s the Deal with Domesticating Foreign Subpoenas?

Hand holding a pen about to sign a subpoena.

How to: domesticating a foreign subpoena in another state.

POV: It’s a dark and stormy Thursday afternoon and you’re a young, bright-eyed, paralegal working for the best personal injury firm that’s ever existed when the founding partner comes to you with a rather unique ask; conduct some research on how to domesticate a foreign subpoena in another state. He hands you one of the thickest books you’ve ever seen, and you accept this new challenge with genuine enthusiasm, although, you can’t help but notice the devious smile that slowly creeps across his face as he slips quietly back into his office. Your newfound enthusiasm is quickly replaced with dread. This formidable task grows all the more daunting as you clutch the 1,359-page book on Georgia’s Civil Procedure tightly against your chest and contemplate your life choices that have led up to this moment.

If you can relate in any way to the story above, then you have come to the right place. Welcome! As the young, bright-eyed, paralegal who was assigned the aforementioned task, and as a result is now an expert on the topic, I’m here to share my knowledge with the world!

While the thought of having a foreign subpoena for discovery (i.e., a deposition) domesticated in another state may seem daunting as first, the process is actually quite simple. Depending on which state the case is in and which state your witness is in, you may be able to rely on the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act (UIDDA) for guidance which makes the process the same for the 30+ states that have adopted it.

The example scenario is as follows: you’re working on a case and having trouble tracking down a witness that you need to depose, a tale as old as time. After doing some digging, you discover that the witness has, since the time of filing the initial lawsuit, moved out-of-state to Tennessee. You take a deep breath and login to your trusty Westlaw account to embark on a journey where you’ll hopefully learn something new: how to domesticate and serve a foreign subpoena in Tennessee. Your research will likely lead you to Tennessee Code § 24-9-203 which states that “a party may submit a foreign subpoena to a clerk of courts in the county in which discovery is sought to be conducted in this state.” Simply put, once you’ve successfully obtained your subpoena from the Georgia court where your lawsuit is pending you will mail the subpoena, now file stamped, to the appropriate clerk of courts in the Tennessee county where the witness resides. From there, your successfully domesticated foreign subpoena can be served on your witness by the Sheriff or by a private process server who understands the rules of civil procedure in Tennessee.

If you have a case that resides in a state that has adopted the UIDDA, but a witness that resides in a state that hasn’t adopted the Act, the process will look a little different. Once you’ve put on your thinking cap, you’ll have to initiate this arduous process with an Order to Take Out of State Deposition, a Commission to Take Out of State Deposition, a Stipulation to Take Out of State Deposition, or a Letter Rogatory. Next, you will have to request that a subpoena be issued from the court in the state where your witness resides by either submitting an application, filing a petition, by providing documents to the court or having an attorney file a petition. After you’ve successfully jumped through all the necessary hoops your subpoena should be ready to be served! At this point, you will need to consult with the state in which your case originated and a process server to determine who is authorized to serve the subpoena. Suffice to say, the exact process will vary depending on which states are involved so it is always best to comply with an individual state’s process as closely as possible to ensure that your subpoena is successfully issued, domesticated, and served on your witness in a timely manner.

Pro tip: When in doubt, reach out! Contact the clerk of courts office in the county where you are trying to have your subpoena domesticated and pick their brains on how to comply with their state’s rules and regulations. So go forth and utilize your resources, work smarter not harder, and tell no one of your dastardly plans to become the smartest person in the room. Good luck!

Written By Paralegal Rachel Wilson

How to Evaluate a Personal Injury Attorney and Their Rates

Evaluate Personal Injury Attorney Williams Elleby Howard & Easter

If you’ve been injured in an accident, slip-and fall, or medical procedure and are considering a personal injury lawsuit, your first step is to pick an attorney. This is an important and often daunting decision since your attorney will have a huge impact on the outcome of the case. The following are some tips to help you evaluate a Georgia personal injury attorney and their rates.

Evaluating Personal Injury Attorneys

The first step to evaluating a possible Georgia personal injury attorney is to learn about them. Review their website, Google search results, and online reviews. Look for an attorney who has solid ties to Georgia, has a strong legal education, is experienced in personal injury cases, cares about his or her clients, and has a good reputation. To make this evaluation, look for information about:

  • The attorney’s location and willingness to meet with you at a convenient location.
  • The attorney’s ties to the community.
  • Where the attorney went to law school.
  • The attorney and law firm’s experience working on personal injury cases in Georgia.
  • Awards and recognitionthe attorney has received.
  • News articles about the attorney or law firm.
  • The resultsof the attorney and law firm’s cases.
  • How the attorney’s law firm views its clients; for example, does the tone of the website sound like the firm cares about its clients or just treats them as a way to make money?
  • Reviews of the attorney and law firm’s work.

When reading reviews, pay most attention to the majority opinion. What do most reviewers think about the attorney? As with all types of online reviews, there are sometimes people who write reviews that do not accurately reflect the situation, and sometimes, unethical competitors even write bad reviews.

In addition to reading about the attorney, if possible, talk to anyone you know who has used the same attorney. Ask them about their experience working with the attorney. This type of first-hand information will help you learn what the attorney is really like.

Interview the Attorney

Don’t hire an attorney without talking to them first. You will get a much better sense of them during a conversation than you can based on just reading about them online.

Ask the attorney about their experience handling personal injury cases like yours, experience going to trial, the outcomes of their past personal injury cases, how much support they have from their law firm, their relationships with local experts, how often they will be in touch with you, and anything else you want to know about their abilities. A good Georgia personal injury attorney will be happy to answer these questions.

In addition to evaluating their experience, pay attention to how the attorney treats you, their tone of voice when answering your questions, and if you feel like they are someone you can trust. Trust is a cornerstone of the attorney-client relationship. You will be sharing confidential information with your personal injury attorney and trusting them to take action in your best interests.

Evaluating Personal Injury Attorney Rates

Determine whether the attorney’s fee is an hourly rate or contingency fee. Most personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency-fee basis which means you only pay the attorney’s fees if you win the case, or obtain a settlement in your favor. The fees come out of your recovery so you do not have to pay out of pocket. Contingency fee agreements must be in writing, so read the agreement carefully before you sign.

Consider Costs

In addition to the contingency fee, some law firms charge their personal injury clients for the legal costs associated with the lawsuit. Costs can include things like filing fees, expert evaluation fees, medical record fees, copying costs, mailing costs, and other expenses incurred in litigation of a lawsuit.

Ask prospective attorneys whether they charge for legal costs and if so, what costs they charge for. Also ask whether you are responsible for the costs if you do not recover money from the case. Consider costs and the risk of having to pay out of pocket when evaluating a law firm’s rates.

Take Experience Into Account

Experience should be considered in determining whether a law firm or attorneys’ rates are reasonable. For example, it is typically better to hire an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney with a higher rate than to pay a Georgia business law attorney with no experience at a lower rate.

Experience affects the outcome of the case, which affects how much you recover. It is possible to take home more money paying an attorney a higher percentage than paying a less-experienced attorney a lower percentage because the experienced attorney gets you a higher recovery from the lawsuit.

At Williams Elleby Howard & Easter, we understand that if you are considering a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia, you likely have questions about what it will cost you. We would be happy to talk to you about your potential case and our legal costs. Call us at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) or sign-up here to set up a free consultation.

Don’t Believe the Lies about Runaway Jury Verdicts

Lies about Runaway Jury Verdicts

When there is a big jury verdict in a personal injury case, you hear about it in the news. But what you don’t hear about are the thousands of other cases where victims receive little to no compensation. A $10,000 jury verdict doesn’t have the shock appeal that the news today often seeks. 

Due to this disparity in reporting, it can feel like juries in Georgia personal injury cases are out of control, regularly awarding multi-million dollar verdicts in personal injury cases. This simply isn’t true. In fact, juries sometimes award those injured in personal injury cases far less than they deserve.  Rockdale Hospital v. Evans, a case that was recently decided by the Supreme Court of Georgia, is an example of such a case.

Victim Suffers Catastrophic Injuries After Hospital Discharge

In 2012, Janice Evans awoke in the middle of the night with the worst headache of her life. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea followed. Shaun Evans, her husband, initially believed she was suffering from a bad bout of food poisoning; when the symptoms didn’t subside in almost two days, he took her to the emergency room at Rockdale Hospital.

Mrs. Evans complained of a headache that she rated as an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale. During her entire stay, her systolic blood pressure was over 200. While high blood pressure and headaches can be signs of brain bleeding, no one focused on the root cause of her pain.

After being discharged, Mrs. Evans continued to suffer from nausea, vomiting, and headaches. On January 22, 2012, Mr. Evans called 911 when Mrs. Evans was unable to get up from the couch. It was eventually determined that she had a blood clot in her brain and had suffered several strokes caused by a ruptured aneurysm. She underwent multiple surgeries in subsequent months. 

Unfortunately, Mrs. Evans never recovered. She is now permanently disabled and requires 24-hour care. She utilizes a feeding tube, cannot speak, and has severe cognitive and physical impairments.

Jury Awards $0 For Pain and Suffering

Mr. Evans brought suit against Rockdale Hospital for medical malpractice and loss of consortium. The Hospital defended itself by pointing the finger at the victim for not seeking care early enough and claiming that pre-existing conditions were to blame.

Following trial, the jury awarded $1.2 million for Mrs. Evans’ past medical expenses. However, the jury found that Mrs. Evans was not entitled to any compensation for future medical expenses, future lost wages, or for past or future pain and suffering. The trial court upheld the verdict.

Appellate Court’s Attempt to Do Justice is Thwarted

The jury’s decision to find the hospital liable for Mrs. Evans’ medical expenses, but award no compensation for pain and suffering, makes no sense, particularly given how catastrophic her injuries were. The Evans’ attorneys agreed and appealed the decision. The appellate court also agreed, holding that the award of $0 for pain and suffering was “clearly inadequate.”

Rockdale Hospital appealed the appellate court’s decision to the Supreme Court of Georgia. Unfortunately, the Supreme Court of Georgia reversed the Court of Appeals. Relying largely on the text of Georgia Code OCGA § 51-12-12, the Court held that approving the jury verdict was not an abuse of the trial court’s discretion and should be upheld.

The fact that Mrs. Evans will receive no compensation for her pain and suffering is a miscarriage of justice, but her case underscores the importance of bringing a strong medical malpractice case at the trial level. It also serves as a reminder of the people who suffer when juries return unreasonably low verdicts. To learn more about medical malpractice cases in Georgia, you can view this video by attorney Joel Williams, founder of Williams Elleby Howard & Easter.

If you have been injured in an accident and think someone else is at fault, the Georgia trial attorneys at Williams Elleby Howard & Easter would like to help you understand your situation and options. Call us at 833-LEGALGA to schedule a free consultation.