$6,440,000 Personal Injury Verdict Awarded in Cobb County, GA

A Georgia jury in the State Court of Cobb County awarded a man post-apportionment damages of $3.45 million with an additional $1.84 million in attorney’s fees for injuries he sustained after falling into an unguarded concrete pit beside a golf course clubhouse in Hiram, Georgia.

Insurance Company Rejects Lower Settlement Offers

The verdict came after the Defendant’s insurer rejected numerous offers to settle for less than the insurance policy limits. Plaintiff’s counsel, Joel Williams of Williams Elleby and Matthew Stoddard of The Stoddard Firm, said that multiple attempts to settle the case were made throughout the course of litigation, culminating with Plaintiff proposing a high-low agreement of $465,000 – $1.5 million after closing arguments (The high low agreement would have limited the Defendant’s exposure to $1.5 million [an amount within the insurance policy limits] if the verdict were for a higher amount but guaranteed the Plaintiff at least $465,000 if the verdict was for less). However, the Defendant’s insurance company declined all of Plaintiff’s offers to settle within its insured’s policy limits, forcing the case to trial and subsequent verdict.

The case was defended by Beth Bentley and Bill Casey of Swift, Currie, McGhee, & Hiers. Stoddard and Williams were complimentary of the professionalism displayed by Bentley and Casey. Williams’ stated, “Beth and Bill are excellent lawyers that did the best they could with a tough set of facts.”

Facts Leading to Fall from Unguarded Concrete Pit

The case initiated from an incident on February 6, 2021, when Plaintiff was invited to a country club in Hiram, GA to pick up his girlfriend who was the bar & grill manager at the club. The Plaintiff arrived at the bar and had some drinks while waiting for his girlfriend to finish her shift. As the bar was closing, Plaintiff’s manager/girlfriend asked him to go put some DJ equipment in his truck. The plaintiff walked outside and put the equipment in his truck. It was a cold and rainy night, so Plaintiff wanted to get back inside. He tried to re-enter the bar & grill, but the Defendant’s employees had locked all the doors and turned off all exterior lights. Plaintiff attempted to call his girlfriend to open the door.

When Plaintiff’s phone calls went unanswered, he decided to walk around the building and see if any other doors were unlocked. He made it around one side of the building when he fell nearly 12 feet from an unguarded retaining wall and into a concrete pit where he landed on his head, broke multiple bones, and sustained a brain injury. In this picture, emergency worker’s can be seen attending to the injured Plaintiff at the bottom of the dark and unguarded pit:

Plaintiff’s Injuries

Plaintiff was rushed to the emergency room where he spent nearly a week in the hospital. Upon release, he began treating with an orthopedic surgeon who eventually recommended that he undergo a cervical fusion surgery. He had the procedure and recovered well. However, his life was forever changed by the seriousness of his permanent injuries. Plaintiff’s past medical bills at the time of trial were about $362,000.00.

Defendant Failed to Act on Warnings

Testimony revealed that approximately four months prior to the fall, the Defendant hired a landscaping company to remove bushes and trees that acted as a natural barrier around the edges of the concrete pit. The bushes can be seen in this photo (sorry, the picture quality is poor but it is the best picture available):

At the time of removal, the landscape company warned Defendant that the pit was dangerous and that they should install a fence to guard the pit. There was also evidence that the unguarded pit violated municipal safety codes previously adopted by the City of Hiram. In additional to violating safety codes, the evidence showed that the Defendant had another concrete pit on the opposite side of its building that was guarded by a metal railing as shown in this photograph:

Furthermore, one of Defendant’s employees testified that she observed children playing tag near the pit. Another employee testified that Defendant discussed concerns about a drunk person falling into the pit at a management meeting prior to the fall. The Defendant’s owner, testified that safety was the company’s number one priority and that the Defendant intended to place a fence along the pit due to safety concerns. Despite all this, a fence was not installed before Plaintiff’s fall because it remained on a to-do “list” while the company completed other projects during its “slow season.” Shockingly, some of those other projects included installing decorative split rail fencing around other areas of the golf course.

The Defenses

Stoddard and Williams said the Defense asserted a plethora of defenses. The defense argued that Plaintiff was a trespasser who never paid for his drinks (despite testimony from the club manager that he saw a tab with Plaintiff’s name on it); that Plaintiff was drunk at the time of the fall; that Plaintiff should have used his phone’s flashlight to see where he was going; that Plaintiff was not allowed on the part of the property where the fall occurred; that Plaintiff left a path and walked through the woods to reach the pit; and finally, that Plaintiff’s spinal injuries were degenerative and not caused by the fall.

Trial Begins

Trial began on December 18, 2023, before Judge Jane Manning in the State Court of Cobb County. Plaintiff’s counsel relied on testimony from Plaintiff, his ex-girlfriend/bar manager, the landscaper, ex-company employees, and Plaintiff’s treating physicians. Defense counsel called two of the Defendant’s employees, along with a code expert, toxicology expert, and neurologist to dispute liability and causation.

In the lead up to trial and throughout, Plaintiff continued to make offers within Defendant’s policy limits to resolve the case. However, Defendants declined all of Plaintiff’s offers, never offering more than $585,000. After a four-day trial, the jury spent about five hours deliberating before returning a verdict for $4,600,000 in compensatory damages. The jury apportioned 25 percent of the fault to Plaintiff, reducing the total compensatory award to $3,450,000. The jury also found there was bad faith in the underlying transaction and awarded $1,840,000 in attorney’s fees pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 13-6-11. In awarding attorney’s fees, the jury found that the Defendant’s conduct demonstrated a conscious indifference to the consequences of its actions (i.e. failing to act on its admitted knowledge of the danger, its failure to heed warnings from its landscaping contractor, its failure to comply with code, and other things).

Stoddard and Williams agree that this is a very sad case involving serious life altering injuries and that this tragedy is made worse by the fact that the Defendant is now facing a judgment that exceeds its insurance limits due to its insurer’s refusal to accept multiple settlement offers within its insurance limits. Plaintiff’s counsel, Joel Williams, explained, “This is the perfect example of what happens when insurance companies refuse to protect their insureds. Insurance companies readily accept our premium payments but they often fall short when we need them to do what we pay them to do: Protect us, and our assets, when we face liability claims. Special interest groups love to blame lawyers for so-called “nuclear” or “excess” verdicts but the truth is that we would rarely see large jury verdicts if insurance companies would accept reasonable settlement offers and protect their insureds when they are given an opportunity to do so, as we did numerous times prior to the verdict in this case.”

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

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 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.

Ordering Medical Records for a Personal Injury Case

A doctor sitting at a desk,writing on a clipboard.

Understanding the Importance of Medical Records:

When pursuing a personal injury claim, obtaining accurate and complete medical records is crucial. Additionally, these records serve as vital evidence to support your claims and demonstrate the extent of your injuries. Medical records provide an objective account of your injury and how it impaired your life. These records can include physician notes, diagnostic reports, laboratory results, imaging studies, surgical reports, and other relevant documents. Collecting comprehensive medical records is vital for building a strong personal injury case.

Identify Relevant Providers and Facilities:

The first step in ordering medical records is to compile a list of all medical providers and facilities where you received treatment for your injuries. This may include hospitals, clinics, specialists, physical therapists, chiropractors, and any other healthcare professionals involved in your care. Gathering accurate and up-to-date information about these providers will make the record retrieval process more efficient.

Differentiating Legal Requests from Patient Requests:

When requesting medical records, it’s important to understand the distinction between legal requests and patient requests.

  1. Legal Requests Are: Typically made by an attorney or legal representative on behalf of a client. These requests are governed by specific laws and regulations, such as the [Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)] in the United States. Legal requests are often more formal and should adhere to the following guidelines: 

          a. Written Request: Create a written request that is addressed to a specific facility the client received treatment at. This authorization                        should include specific details, such as the time frame of treatment for records being requested, the healthcare providers involved, and                  the purpose of the request.

b. HIPAA Compliance: Ensure that the legal request complies with all HIPAA regulations. This includes protecting the privacy and confidentiality of the client’s medical information throughout the process.

     2. Patient Requests: As a patient, you have the right to access your own medical records. Patient requests are typically more straightforward,             but it’s still important to follow certain steps:

a. Authorization: Complete and sign any necessary forms provided by your healthcare provider to authorize the release of your medical records. These forms may vary depending on the provider’s policies.

b. Identification: Provide valid identification to verify your identity when making the request. This is to ensure that your medical records are only released to the authorized person.

c. Time Frame: Specify the time frame for the records you need. Including the dates of treatment relevant to your personal injury case.

d. Fees: Some healthcare providers may charge a fee for copying and processing medical records. Inquire about any applicable fees and payment methods.

In the state of Georgia physicians may charge a fee for copying and mailing patient records under O.C.G.A. § 31-33-3 and may even require the payment be made “up front”. These charges are determined by the Georgia Department of Community Health.

Methods for Ordering Medical Records:

Once you understand the type of request you need to make, there are several methods available to order medical records:

  1. Written Request: Prepare a written request and include all necessary details and authorizations. Send the request by certified mail, return receipt requested. This method provides proof of delivery and ensures a paper trail.
  1. Online Portal: Many healthcare providers have online patient portals where you can access and download your medical records. Ask your medical provider if they offer this option and follow their instructions for accessing the records.
  1. Fax or Email: Some healthcare providers accept requests via fax or email. Ensure that the method you choose complies with their guidelines and includes all required information and authorizations.
  1. In-Person Request: You can visit the healthcare provider’s office or medical records department in person and fill out a request form. Some facilities may require you to show identification or provide specific details to verify your identity. This method allows you to clarify any questions or concerns directly with the staff.

Remember that healthcare providers may have specific policies, procedures, and associated fees for accessing and obtaining medical records. It’s essential to contact them directly to understand their requirements and any associated costs.

Organize and Review the Records:

As you receive the medical records, organize them in a systematic manner. Create a secure digital or physical file to store and safeguard the documents. Review the records carefully, noting any inconsistencies or missing information. Discuss any concerns or questions with your attorney to ensure a thorough understanding of the records.

In situations involving numerous medical providers, it may be helpful to summarize the medical records in a chronology that lists things like dates of service, diagnoses, treatment plans, etc.

Medical records can be powerful evidence in a personal injury case. Work closely with your attorney to determine how best to use the records strategically. They can help establish the link between the accident and your injuries, demonstrate the severity of your condition, and support your claim for damages.

Conclusion:

Ordering medical records is a critical step in building a strong personal injury case. By understanding the importance of medical records, complying with privacy laws, and working closely with your attorney, you can navigate the process effectively. Remember to be organized, thorough, and proactive throughout the process, ensuring that you have all the necessary documentation to support your claim. Seek legal guidance to maximize your chances of a successful outcome.

WILLIAMS ELLEBY provides legal representation for personal injury and wrongful death cases in Georgia. When you choose our firm, you are not just a client. You are a real person with real problems. You deserve a personal injury lawyer that will fight for justice, offer encouragement, and stand by you through all the tribulations you may face. Your case deserves us. Give us a call at 833-LEGAL-GA (833-534-2542) for a free consultation.

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 at 833-534-2542.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for our video on this topic and many more topics.

The Amount of Compensation I Can Expect for My Personal Injuries?

The front end of a car is smashed after a car wreck. The underside of another car lying on it's side is visible in the background.

How Much Compensation Can I Expect?

If you’ve suffered personal injuries due to an accident or negligence, you’re likely concerned about receiving fair compensation. Understanding the factors that determine the amount of compensation you can expect is crucial for managing your expectations and ensuring a just settlement. In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key aspects that influence personal injury compensation and provide you with valuable insights.

1.  Nature and Extent of Injuries:
The severity and long-term implications of your injuries play a significant role in determining the compensation amount. More severe injuries, such as spinal cord damage or traumatic brain injuries, often result in higher compensation due to their substantial impact on your life, including medical expenses, rehabilitation, and loss of earning capacity.

2.  Medical Expenses:
Compensation should cover all reasonable and necessary medical expenses associated with your injuries. This includes hospital bills, surgeries, medications, physical therapy, assistive devices, and ongoing treatments. It is crucial to keep track of all your medical bills and related expenses to ensure they are factored into your compensation claim.

3.  Loss of Income:
If your injuries have caused you to miss work or rendered you unable to continue working in your previous capacity, you may be entitled to compensation for lost wages. This includes both the income you have already lost due to the injury and potential future earnings that may be affected.

4.  Pain and Suffering:
In addition to financial losses, compensation also takes into account the physical and emotional pain and suffering you have endured. This category is subjective and often calculated using formulas based the specific facts of your case, the severity of the injuries, and their impact on your daily life.

5.  Property Damage:
If your personal injuries resulted from a car accident or similar incident, compensation may also include the repair or replacement cost of damaged property, such as your vehicle or personal belongings.

6.  Comparative Negligence:
In some cases, the court may consider the degree of fault or negligence on your part and reduce the compensation amount accordingly. If it is determined that you or a third-party contributed to the accident or injury, your compensation may be adjusted proportionally.

7.  Insurance Coverage:
The insurance policies involved, such as auto insurance or liability insurance, can have a significant impact on the compensation you receive. Policy limits and coverage types may restrict the maximum amount available for your claim. Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate through the complexities of insurance claims.

8.  Legal Representation:
Working with a skilled personal injury lawyer can make a substantial difference in the outcome of your case. A knowledgeable attorney can assess the unique circumstances of your situation, negotiate with insurance companies, and build a strong case to maximize your compensation.

Determining the exact amount of compensation for personal injuries can be complex, as it depends on various factors specific to each case. While there is no “one size fits all” answer, understanding the key elements involved can help you gauge the potential compensation you may be entitled to. Remember, seeking legal advice from a qualified personal injury attorney is crucial to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Stay informed, document your losses, and call us today to discuss your case. The attorneys at Williams Elleby will advocate for your rights during this challenging time. 833-LEGALGA.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for our video on this topic and many more.

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 can help you navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation you deserve.

Call us today at 833-LEGALGA

How Long Does It Take To Settle A Personal Injury Case?

Close up of Business people shaking hands, finishing up meeting.
If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, you may be wondering how long it will take to settle your personal injury case. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the length of time it takes to settle a personal injury case can vary widely depending on a number of factors. In this blog post, we’ll explore some of the factors that can impact the timeline for settling a personal injury case.
1. The Severity of Your Injuries
One of the biggest factors that can impact the timeline for settling a personal injury case is the severity of your injuries. If you have suffered serious injuries that require extensive medical treatment and rehabilitation, it may take longer to settle your case as your attorney will need to gather all of the necessary medical records and bills to calculate the full extent of your damages.
2.  The Complexity of Your Case
The complexity of your case can also impact the timeline for settlement. If liability is clear and there are no disputes over the extent of your damages, your case may settle quickly. However, if liability is disputed or there are multiple parties involved in the accident, it may take longer to negotiate a settlement.
3.  The Insurance Company
The insurance company involved in your case can also impact the timeline for settlement. Some insurance companies are more willing to negotiate a fair settlement than others. Some may try to delay or deny your claim in order to reduce their payout. If the insurance company is being difficult, it may take longer to settle your case.
4.  The Negotiation Process
The negotiation process can also impact the timeline for settlement. Your attorney will need to gather all of the necessary evidence and documentation to support your claim, and then negotiate with the insurance company or other parties involved in the accident to reach a fair settlement. This process can take time, especially if there are multiple rounds of negotiation required.
5.  The Court System
If your case goes to court, the timeline for settlement can be even longer. Court cases can take months or even years to resolve, and you will need to wait for a court date to be set before your case can be heard. In some cases, it may be necessary to file a lawsuit in order to get the compensation you deserve. In general, it’s important to remember that settling a personal injury case can take time. The attorneys at Williams Elleby will work diligently to negotiate a fair settlement, but the process can be complex and may require patience and persistence. If you’ve been injured in an accident, it’s important to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case and learn more about the potential timeline for settlement.  Call Williams Elleby at 833-534-2542.  Be sure to check out our YouTube channel for our video on this topic and many more topics. .

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

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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 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.

Common Myths about Personal Injury Attorneys

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For those that have never needed a personal injury attorney, it might be easy to believe or perpetuate the common myths we hear about our profession.  Let’s address the common myths we hear and explain what really happens at a personal injury firm.

Myth #1: Lawyers Will Sue for Anything

Technically you can sue for anything, but good lawyers consider the cost and if there is a credible claim to be made. Most personal injury attorneys are fronting their own money and advancing case expenses for your case.  Attorneys will only bring claims they believe have merit or a reasonable chance for success.

Myth #2: Lawyers Take All The Money

Personal injury attorneys work on contingency, meaning they do not get paid unless their clients get paid.  Injury attorneys earn a percentage of the recovery, the amount settled for or awarded at trial.  The percentage amount varies based on the type of case and whether the case is in suit or not in suit. Most attorneys charge somewhere between 30% and 40% for the vast majority of injury cases.

Myth #3: Lawyers Chase Ambulances

Any reputable lawyer is not going to “chase down” cases however, there are some lawyers and even non-lawyers that try to find cases and then sell those cases to other lawyers.  Unfortunately, this does happen, but it is not fair to assign that stigma to all personal injury attorneys. Reputable attorneys do not find you in the emergency room or contact you after an injury.  If an attorney is approaching you about a car wreck offering his or her representation, please know that is unethical and against the law.  You do NOT want an attorney that chases you because that means they are so desperate for clients that they are willing to violate legal and ethical rules just to gets clients.

Myth #4: All Cases are Worth A Million Dollars

You don’t want a million-dollar injury case because if your case is worth that much, something life altering happened and you are terribly injured.    Each case is different and evaluated on many factors that include property damage, severity of injury, treatment, pain and suffering, missed work, and so on.  Personal injury attorneys try to get you what is fair and reasonable based on your unique case.

Myth #5: All Personal Injury Lawyers Try Cases

It is important to know that not all personal injury attorneys try cases.  Some attorneys will not even put cases in suit, meaning they won’t file a complaint or do litigation to get maximum value for your case.  These attorneys look to settle cases early and as fast as possible because that is their business model.  Injury victims should always ask about a lawyer’s trial experience before deciding whether to hire the lawyer.

Myth #6: Lawyers are Too Expensive

Some people believe you have to pay a retainer in order to hire an attorney.  That is not the case with personal injury attorneys.  Again, most injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis, meaning they don’t get paid until they obtain a financial recovery for their client.  Contingency fees are variable as discussed in Myth #2 above; however, if an injury attorney wants to charge 45%-50% for a simple car wreck case, they are likely asking too much. Take your time and interview several attorneys, ask about their contingency fee, then choose the right one for you. 

Myth #7: Lawyers Drive Away Business from the State

This myth was generated by politicians. Any reputable business is going to have insurance. Attorneys will almost always give corporations and individuals the opportunity to settle their case within their insurance limits.  Good attorneys are not in the business of forcing people into bankruptcy or running businesses into the ground.  Of course, attorneys want to ensure their clients are fully compensated for their damages. However, forcing someone into bankruptcy doesn’t benefit anyone, not even the injured client because the full judgement is rarely collectible when the defendant is in bankruptcy.  Politicians might try to speak about a rare case to vilify someone or increase their political platform, but those politicians are usually speaking on behalf of the insurance industry and the lobbyists who fund their election campaigns.

Myth #8: My Lawyer Can Solve My Problems

An individual lawyer cannot solve all of your legal problems.  Attorneys, just like doctors, specialize.  For example, our firm can help you with personal injury matters such as a car wreck case, slip and fall, bicycle accident, medical malpractice, burn injuries and more, but we are not the firm to call when you are getting a divorce or find yourself in a criminal case.  Remember to seek out and ask for an attorney that has expertise in your area of need.