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.
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.
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.
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.
The most important evidence in most personal injury cases are the medical records of the plaintiff. For a plaintiff to prove that their harm was caused by the defendant’s actions, they must provide proof in the form of medical records showing the cause of the injuries complained of. Medical records are also needed to prove almost every aspect of damages. Past and future medical bills can only be verified with documentation from healthcare providers that show the costs of needed treatment. If a personal injury impacts a plaintiff’s ability to work, medical records are crucial to proving why this is by showing the extent of an injury. Medical records can also be used as evidence to show the extent of pain and suffering that a plaintiff endured as a result of an injury. Because medical records are so important to a case, plaintiffs should ensure that their attorneys have access to them as soon as possible. Defendants are also entitled to access the medical records of a plaintiff.
Medical records are highly sensitive, so there are strict privacy laws that must be adhered to when healthcare providers can provide these records. The primary law governing the release of medical records is the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Under HIPAA, healthcare providers must keep medical records confidential unless the patient authorizes it or there is an emergency. There are also several Georgia laws regulating medical records that must be adhered to.
Because of these laws, a lawyer cannot simply request the records from the provider, nor can a plaintiff simply call the provider up on the phone and ask them to send the records over to a third party. The process for releasing medical records involves signing an authorization for release and submitting it to the provider so that they have the request in writing. This is usually sufficient when records are held in Georgia, but in some cases even this is not enough, and a lawyer must have a court issue a subpoena to the healthcare provider, which orders them to provide the records.
Authorizations for Release of Medical Records
An authorization for the release of medical records will give your attorney the ability to request medical records from your healthcare providers. In most cases, a similar authorization is provided to the defendant in a case. It is important to note that these records can only be used as part of your personal injury lawsuit. If sensitive medical records are released that a plaintiff would not like to be public information, it is possible to file those records into the court record under seal. This means that the records will be used as evidence in the case but will only be viewable by the parties, the attorneys, and the court.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
If you have been injured in an accident, it is important to fully understand your legal rights and options. Personal injury lawyers should make sure all medical records and bills are gathered and organized for every client’s injuries in order to maximize compensation. This includes carefully documenting medical care and properly authorizing your attorney to access all records. Joel Williams Law, LLC, is dedicated to helping personal injury victims throughout the state of Georgia. To discuss your case, contact Joel Williams law, LLC to schedule a free consultation by calling (404) 389-1035 today.
Personal injury victims place a lot of trust in their lawyers to get them the compensation that they deserve. Because so much is on the line, finding the right lawyer to represent you following a personal injury can be stressful and even intimidating. Ultimately, you want to make sure you find a lawyer that has experience, that is knowledgeable, and that you can trust. There are things every personal injury victim should consider to help them find the right lawyer for their case.
Focus on Local Attorneys
If you were injured in Georgia, you almost certainly want a Georgia-licensed personal injury lawyer to represent you. Moreover, you want to find a lawyer that has experience practicing in your local court system. A lawyer need not necessarily have an office set up in your hometown, but you at least want to hire a lawyer that knows the local rules.
Like everything else, you can find personal injury lawyers in your area on the Internet. This isn’t enough by itself, but it is a good place to start. A little research using your search engine of choice is a good way to get a rough idea of your options, to find links to law firm websites, and to see what lawyers have good reputations. It is also a good idea to search for potential attorneys on the Georgia Bar Association website to check their public disciplinary record and to ensure that they are licensed and in good standing.
Look for a Proven Track Record
As you look for information, keep in mind that the most important factor to consider is the track record of the lawyer. You want to hire a lawyer that not only has experience practicing law, but has experience winning personal injury cases in court. A lawyer that is willing to vigorously represent clients in court is a valuable asset to have on your side.
Take Advantage of Free Consultations
If you are satisfied that a lawyer has a good reputation and the right experience, the next step is to schedule a consultation. Nearly all personal injury attorneys offer free case evaluations. These are an excellent way to not just get a better understanding of your case, but also to find out if a lawyer is a good fit for you. As the American Bar Association explains:
The lawyer will be helping you solve your problems, so the first qualification is that you must feel comfortable enough to tell him or her, honestly and completely, all the facts necessary to resolve your problem. No one you listen to and nothing you read will be able to guarantee that a particular lawyer will be the best for you; you must judge that for yourself.
Joel Williams Law, LLC, Gets Justice for Personal Injury Victims in Georgia
Located in Kennesaw, Georgia, the experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, are dedicated to maximizing compensation in every case. More than that, they are committed to providing accessible and compassionate service to every client. If you have been injured and would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, to schedule a free case evaluation by calling (404) 389-1035 today.
To win a negligence lawsuit, a plaintiff must prove each of the elements of a negligence claim. These are 1) that the defendant owed them a duty; 2) that the defendant breached their duty by failing to uphold a reasonable standard of care; 3) that the injury complained of was caused by the defendant’s conduct; and 4) that the plaintiff suffered some actual harm as a result of the injury. Generally, a plaintiff has the burden of producing evidence to prove each of these elements. This means that a plaintiff must produce evidence showing that the defendant’s conduct breached a standard of care and that the breach caused Plaintiff’s injuries.
However, in cases where the circumstances indicate almost certainly that an injury was caused by negligence, a court may presume that the defendant breached a duty even without the plaintiff presenting evidence of breach. This is called the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, which means “the thing speaks for itself.” Res ipsa loquitur is recognized under Georgia law and can be useful to plaintiffs in certain limited circumstances.
Application of Res Ipsa Loquitur in Georgia
Georgia courts have long accepted the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur. When a court decides to apply res ipsa loquitur, it creates a rebuttable presumption that the defendant was negligent and the burden shifts to the defendant to prove that they did not breach their duty of care. Under Georgia law, res ipsa loquitur can be applied when:
- the plaintiff’s injury is of a kind which ordinarily does not occur in the absence of negligence;
- the injury was caused by an agency or instrumentality within the exclusive control of the defendant; and
- the injury must not have been due to any voluntary action or contribution on the part of the plaintiff.
Although Georgia law has accepted the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur, it is rarely applied. The Georgia Supreme Court held that res ipsa loquitur “should be applied with caution and only in extreme cases.” Res ipsa loquitur is thus an extraordinary remedy for plaintiffs who were almost certainly injured by negligence, but due to a lack of evidence, are unable to prove exactly what the defendant did or exactly what happened.
An example of res ipsa loquitur being applied is the case Atlanta Coca-Cola Bottling v. Engle.. In this case, the plaintiff was injured by a piece of broken glass that came from inside of a Coca-Cola soft drink bottle. Because the evidence showed that the broken glass was inside of the bottle before the plaintiff opened it and that the condition of the bottle had not changed since it left the manufacturer’s control, the court determined that the element of breach could be presumed without any evidence being presented.
Not Applicable in Medical Malpractice Suits
Unlike in most other states, Georgia courts have expressly ruled that the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur does not apply in medical malpractice suits. This is because Georgia law presumes that medical services at issue in a case were performed with due care. In a Georgia medical malpractice case, a plaintiff must always produce evidence showing that the defendant was in breach, even if the injury seems to have been obviously caused by negligence.
For More Information, Contact Joel Williams Law, LLC
The experienced personal injury attorneys at Joel Williams Law, LLC, have deep knowledge of Georgia tort law. Joel Williams Law, LLC, is dedicated to getting accident victims the compensation they deserve. If you would like more information or would like to discuss your case, contact Joel Williams Law, LLC, today by calling (404) 389-1035.