3 Key Considerations When Evaluating a Personal Injury Settlement Offer

Evaluating Personal Injury Settlement Georgia

For most people, receiving a personal injury settlement offer following an injury in Georgia is good news that carries with it one big question: Should I accept this offer? The following are three key questions to help you evaluate a personal injury settlement.

Will the Amount Cover Your Past and Future Accident-Related Expenses?

The financial impact of an accident leading to personal injuries can be devastating and long lasting. When considering an offer, make sure it covers all your past, current, and future, accident-related expenses including:

  • Past medical expenses;
  • Future medical expenses;
  • Lost wages from time out of work;
  • Future lost wages from impact of accident; and
  • Damage to your caror other property.

If the settlement amount does not, at a minimum, cover these costs, then it is too low. If you were not at fault, you should not be responsible for the costs you’ve incurred as a result of the accident.

How Much Pain and Suffering Has the Accident Caused?

If you’ve been injured in a car crash or other accident, you know that your losses incorporate more than just the financial losses. There’s the physical pain, anxiety, and mental suffering that you endured during your recovery from the accident. The emotional pain and suffering that often comes with having your life change in an instant is often more debilitating than the actual physical injuries. Common post-accident physical and emotional issues include headaches, nerve pain, back pain, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. Although a settlement cannot undo the accident, it should fully compensate you for your losses, including the pain and suffering you experienced.

How Strong Is Your Case?

When deciding whether to accept a Georgia personal injury settlement offer, you should consider the strength of your case. For a variety of reasons, some personal injury actions are harder to prove. If there are substantial hurdles in your case, for example, conflicting accounts of what occurred and no witnesses, then you have a higher risk of walking away with nothing if you turn down the offer and go to trial. In contrast, if you have a strong case, you may get less if you accept a low settlement offer and don’t go to trial.

When in Doubt: Ask Your Lawyer

Whether to accept a personal injury settlement is completely your decision. However, your attorney can help provide you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. Ask your attorney whether they think the offer is fair, why they think that, and whether they think you could do better at trial. Attorneys like the ones here at Williams Elleby, who focus on Georgia personal injury cases, have the real world experience that is necessary to determine whether a settlement is reasonable. They know what is fair and what is not fair and they can help you decide on a counter-offer and negotiate on your behalf.

If you haven’t already obtained a Georgia personal injury attorney, you can still hire one after you’ve received a settlement offer. Contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA to set up a free consultation with one of our caring, experienced attorneys. We’d love to discuss your case, your rights, and your options with you.

Vehicle Collision With Piedmont Hospital Leads to a Fatal Injury

Hospital Emergency Room Entrance Personal Injury Georgia

On June 30, 2020, a 75-year-old woman drove her vehicle into the emergency entrance at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. The collision resulted in serious injuries for four individuals. A fifth person died in the crash.

The accident occurred at approximately 8 a.m. at the entrance to the emergency department of the Piedmont Hospital. Security video recorded by the hospital shows that the driver collided with another vehicle in the driveway outside of the emergency room entrance. The driver then accelerated, pushing the other vehicle out of the way and launching into the glass doors. The vehicle continued through the doors, striking multiple people before coming to rest against a wall.

The injuries involved in the accident were devastating. In addition to property damage to the facility, multiple parties suffered broken bones and other severe wounds. These injuries could have long-term or even permanent consequences for the injury victims.

The Cause of the Crash

To date, the specific cause of the accident is unclear. While the video of the accident shows the driver accelerating into the building, the police have declined to press any criminal charges. According to their investigation, the police believe that the act was not intentional or criminal. The police report does not give a specific cause either, outside of alleging the driver lost control of the car.

Legal Liability

The cause of the crash could play a role in determining legal liability for the accident. If the driver caused the accident intentionally or through their own negligence, they could face liability for any injuries that occurred. However, if a medical emergency caused the accident, the driver may have a viable defense against a negligence claim.

The driver may not be the only party facing liability in this accident. Questions were raised by one injury victim regarding whether the hospital took all the necessary steps to prevent the accident. The emergency room entrance where the crash occurred lacks any form of posts or barriers that would have stopped the car from crashing into the emergency room doors. This is despite the fact that most of the other entrances at the hospital have some form of barrier designed to prevent vehicles from crashing into the doors. In this case, an experienced premises liability lawyer could help determine whether the hospital may face civil liability.

Contact Williams Elleby When Disaster Strikes

If you have suffered injuries in a crash, it may be difficult to identify all parties that contributed to your injuries. In some cases, you could be surprised at the number of individuals or entities that bear some responsibility for your accident. The right legal team can ensure you hold every responsible party accountable.

If you believe you are entitled to compensation for your injuries, do not hesitate to contact Williams Elleby right away. Our team is ready to evaluate your case and assist you with your claim. You can learn more about your options during a free, no-obligation consultation. Contact Williams Elleby today at 833-LEGALGA to schedule a free consultation as soon as possible.

How COVID-19 Is Impacting Car Crash Injury Claims in Georgia

Covid Car Crash Personal Injury Georgia

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the way attorneys, insurers, and crash victims handle Georgia car crash claims. From the ability of victims to obtain medical care to how legal professionals handle claims, every area of the Georgia car crash claims process is different.

Fewer Vehicle Accidents

As car accident attorneys and fellow Georgia citizens, one of the changes we are following closely is how COVID-19 is impacting driving in Georgia. As COVID-19 infection rates began to rise in the Spring of 2020, significantly fewer cars and slightly fewer trucks were on the road.

On March 14, 2020, Governor Brian Kemp issued an executive order in which he declared a public health state of emergency in Georgia.  This order has been amended and renewed several times. Shortly after his initial order, Governor Kemp issued additional restrictions that limited public gatherings and closed many businesses that were not considered to be essential. Schools closed and many people began working from home. All of these factors caused Georgia, like many other states, to see a decrease in car accidents.

In the late summer months of 2020, schools began to open, many of the Governor’s restrictions were lifted, and employees began returning to in office work. As a result, Georgia began to see an increase in traffic rates and a corresponding increase in car crashes.

Lower Car Insurance Rates

Less driving and fewer accidents led to car insurance companies reducing rates. Many automatically reduced car insurance rates for a short period of time. However, many have now reverted back to regular rates. If you are driving significantly less than when you obtained your policy, you may be able to renegotiate for a permanent reduction in premiums, or find another insurance company that will give you a lower rate. It is worth making a few calls.

Harder to Find Medical Care

One of the significant downsides to COVID has been reduced access to in-person medical care. This has made it more difficult to keep up with routine preventative care and to find initial and ongoing care after a motor vehicle accident. If you’ve been in a Georgia car accident and are struggling to find the medical care you need, watch this video we put out to learn more:

Fortunately, as we learn more about how to safely open the economy back up, doctors are beginning to increase their availability again.

Licenses Issued Without Driving Test

In late April, Governor Kemp permitted drivers to obtain their driver’s licenses without an in-person driving test. As a result, nearly 20,000 licenses were issued to Georgia drivers without an in-person driving test. Subsequently, the governor announced that those who received a license without an in-person test would need to pass an in-person driving test to maintain their license.

Longer Drives

Although COVID-19 took many drivers off the road during the spring and early summer of 2020, we suspect that for the foreseeable future, it will change how people are driving. There are still fewer daily commuters on the road than there were before COVID-19, but there has been a resurgence in driving for vacation, business, and school related activities.

With flights limited, often expensive, and risky due to the close proximity of passengers, people are taking good old-fashioned road trips for their vacations. This trend will likely continue through the winter holiday season. Longer drives, especially in winter weather, carry risks, and we urge everyone to follow these tips for a safe and fun winter road trip in Georgia.

Delayed Georgia Jury Trials

As the risk of COVID-19 infection began to increase, Chief Justice Harold D. Melton, issued an Order that suspended all jury trials as of March 14, 2020. Chief Justice Melton’s order was issued, in part, to protect Georgia citizens and court personnel from a situation in which they would be forced into close proximity with one another.

An unfortunate drawback to the suspension of jury trials was the inevitable backlog of civil and criminal cases. Without juries to resolve disputes, many cases came to a standstill. Nevertheless, new cases were being filed and this caused tremendous stress and delay for Georgia litigants.

In September of 2020, grand jury proceedings in Georgia resumed. Additionally, Chief Justice Melton is expected to sign an order on Saturday, October 10, 2020 that will allow jury trials to resume. It will take many months or even years for the case backlog to clear so any person with a car crash lawsuit in Georgia will need to be patient and expect it to take much longer than normal for their case to reach trial.

Need a Georgia Car Crash Attorney? Call Williams Elleby Today

If you have been injured in a Georgia car crash and want to learn more about your options, contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA (534-2542) to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys. We would love to help you navigate your situation during these uncertain times.

Abusive Litigation Lawsuits and Punitive Damages – Supreme Court of Georgia Overrules Decades of Case Law

Abusive Litigation Lawsuits Supreme Court of Georgia Williams Elleby

For years, Georgia law has held that plaintiffs in abusive litigation lawsuits may not seek punitive damages under any circumstances. That holding changed in February of 2020, thanks to a decision from the Supreme Court of Georgia.

The decision reversed a ruling from the Court of Appeals that held up the status quo. Now, plaintiffs pursuing compensation for abusive litigation have the right to seek punitive damages as well. Despite that right, there is no guarantee in any case that punitive damages will be granted.

What Is Abusive Litigation?

Because of the costly nature of litigation, Georgia has adopted a law that provides for recourse when a person or business faces a frivolous lawsuit. This law, known as “Liability for Abusive Litigation” provides civil liability for any party that files a lawsuit or continues with litigation in bad faith. According to state law, litigation is abusive if the party to the lawsuit:

  1. acts with malice, and
  2. acts without substantial justification, or the legal action is frivolous, groundless, or vexatious.

To proceed with a claim for abusive litigation, the defendant to the original lawsuit must notify the plaintiff that they intend to do so in writing. This notice must give the original plaintiff an opportunity to dismiss the case or discontinue their frivolous position. If they fail to do so, they could face a lawsuit of their own for abusive litigation. While a successful claim could lead to actual damages, prior case law prevented a person from seeking punitive damages if their abusive litigation claim was successful.

Coen v Aptean

The issue of punitive damages in abusive litigation claims reached the Georgia Supreme Court in the case of Coen v Aptean. In the case, plaintiff Coen and his employer were embroiled in litigation for years. Ultimately, the cases were decided in Coen’s favor. Coen then sued Aptean for abusive litigation and sought punitive damages. The trial court and the Court of Appeals both blocked Coen from seeking punitive damages, and the issue went to the Georgia Supreme Court. According to the Supreme Court, punitive damages are available as long as the claim for abusive litigation was not based on damages for injuries to happiness, peace, or feelings. The court held that outside of that narrow limitation, punitive damages were not a form of impermissible double recovery and were available in these cases.

How the Decision Impacts Current Law

The primary impact of this decision is fairly clear in that it allows most plaintiffs pursuing a claim of abusive litigation to seek punitive damages as part of their recovery. However, the decision could have other far-reaching consequences. The court confirmed that the phrase “all damages allowable by law” was as broad as many plaintiffs have long argued, which could mean statutes with that language allow for the recovery of attorney’s fees.

Discuss Your Claim With Williams Elleby

The law surrounding a plaintiff’s right to recovery continues to change. Given the constant updates to statutes and case law, it is crucial that you seek the guidance of experienced legal counsel before pursuing any legal claim. To discuss your options, call 833-LEGALGA to schedule a free consultation with Williams Elleby.

Do I Have to Provide Insurance Companies With My Medical Records?

Medical Records Provided to Auto Insurance Company Personal Injury

Automobile accidents happen in the blink of an eye, but the consequences of them, even when you are not at fault, last much longer. The physical and financial recovery from automobile accidents can take months to years. Dealing with insurance companies is often one of the more stressful parts of the experience.

As well-known Georgia personal injury attorneys, we often get asked whether insurance companies have to be allowed access to your medical records after an accident. The answer depends on which records they are seeking.

Insurance Companies Can Get Some Medical Records

If you’ve been in a Georgia motor vehicle accident with injuries and are seeking compensation for those injuries from your insurer, or another driver and their insurer, you will have to show documentation of your injury. Since your injury is at issue, insurance companies will be allowed some access to your medical records.

The purpose of permitting insurance companies access is to allow them to investigate the truth of your claim. The records they may review are those that could be relevant to your Georgia automobile accident claim. While insurance companies should be allowed to verify your claim, they’re known to overreach, get more of your medical records than they are entitled to, and try to use them against you.

Be Cautious of Medical Record Requests

Insurance companies hope to find some pre-existing injury in your medical records to point to as the cause of your injuries, rather than it resulting from the Georgia motor vehicle crash. For example, if you suffered a neck injury, an insurance company may try to blame it on a sports injury you suffered 10 years prior. They will look for anything in your medical records to support their position. Seemingly innocuous doctor’s visits from the past can be turned against you.

Insurance companies have tricky ways of getting these records, such as having you sign a medical record authorization form that is very broad or lacks proper HIPAA language, or requesting more records than they are legally entitled to in the hopes you will turn them over voluntarily because you don’t know you can deny the request. We recommend that you always consult with an attorney before granting an insurance company’s medical record request. An attorney can help you understand what requests are proper.  If any requests are not proper, the attorney can help you file the proper objectives and protect your medical privacy.

If you have been injured in a Georgia motor vehicle accident and are worried about pursuing your claims because of medical privacy concerns, contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA to set up a free consultation with one of our caring, experienced attorneys. We’d love to discuss your case, your rights, and your options.

Back to School in the Age of COVID-19

Back to School Safety Covid-19

August usually brings the excitement of a new school year.  Aisles at local department stores overflow with reams of lined paper, packets of highlighters and pens, and brightly colored spiral notebooks.  Children fill their last days of summer with sleepovers, ice cream, and hours by the pool before they are back in the classroom for eight hours a day. 

This year, however, August brings much uncertainty as the spread of COVID-19 has led to a life-altering pandemic.  Many Georgia public school districts, including Cobb, Fulton, Clarke, and Dekalb, have decided to begin the semester all virtually in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Other districts, like Paulding, are going forth with in-person learning, with enhanced safety measures reflecting CDC guidelines.  Private schools are also struggling with how to proceed during these uncertain times. In addition, childcare services for children five and under have drastically reduced their capacity with many centers closing due to concerns over the spread of the virus.  Most that remained open also diligently follow enhanced safety measures provided by the Georgia early education department, Bright from the Start. 

Considerations When Choosing a School/Daycare Facility

Prior to COVID-19, parents already had much to consider when determining which childcare or school program was best for their children.  For younger children, Bright from the Start, the Georgia pre-kindergarten program, provides parents with a checklist of considerations, but these considerations are also applicable to parents of K-12 students.  Considerations include the following:

  1. Will my child be safe, healthy, and thrive?
  2. What will my child do during the day?
  3. How are parents included?
  4. What will my child eat and when?
  5. How are staff supported?
  6. Do I agree with the discipline policy?
  7. What is the cost of care?

While these considerations are still important for parents, a few more have been added to the due to COVID-19.  Adherence to CDC guidelines is at the forefront of the checklist.  Parents must now make the choice between virtual learning and in-person learning.  Parents are looking at class sizes, mask requirements, and social distancing measures both public and private schools are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

When determining where to send their child to school, it is important for parents to remember that sovereign immunity applies to the Georgia public education system.  Under Article I, section II, paragraph IX of Georgia’s state constitution, it states “sovereign immunity extends to the state and all of its departments and agencies.”  This constitutional provision provides immunity to the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) from negligence claims against faculty and staff members of the department.  This means that if a child were to contract COVID-19 at school, whether or not the school was negligent in following CDC guidelines, parents cannot file suit against the school system. 

Even though there is sovereign immunity, public elementary and secondary education schools are provided the right to purchase liability insurance pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-991.  It is not explicitly required; therefore, it is important to consider whether or not one’s school board has purchased liability insurance.  Some school districts are self-insured while others have purchased liability insurance. Regardless, contracting COVID-19 will not be covered by liability insurance as there is no direct way to prove that one’s child became sick while at school.  Still, it is important to research liability insurance as a general consideration for school selection because the presence or absence of liability insurance is a big deal for auto-accident claims involving a school bus.

Similarly, daycare facilities are strongly encouraged but not required to purchase liability insurance.  Under O.C.G.A. § 20-1a-4, facilities that have not purchased liability insurance to cover events of negligence are required to post this fact in a prominent location and notify all parents.  Parents are also required to sign a form acknowledging their understanding that the facility has not purchased liability insurance.  Once again, it is unlikely contracting COVID-19 would fall under the coverage of liability insurance, but it is still important to consider as accidents at school are bound to happen, no matter how diligent the providers.  

Additionally, many local private schools are opening to in-person learning while taking extra precautions to do so. One example is Casa Montessori in Cobb County. Private schools have more flexibility than public schools and some cases are better suited to implement CDC guidelines to ensure a safe environment for returning school children.

How Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order Impacts Schools/Daycare Facilities 

On June 29, 2020, Governor Kemp renewed the public health state of emergency, extending the emergency until August 11.  Additionally, Governor Kemp updated Executive Order 06.29.20.02 titled “Empowering a Healthy Georgia.”  This order provides guidance for how citizens and government alike should combat the public health crisis of COVID-19.  Section VII focuses on how to protect children while still providing educational opportunities throughout the pandemic.  

The order allows school boards to depart from the traditional definitions of school year, month, and day detailed under O.C.G.A. §20-2-160(c)(2), providing flexibility for schools to determine for themselves how best to handle preventing the spread of COVID-19.  As of now, some counties have opted for virtual learning, where “independent study” will take place in the morning hours and classroom study over Zoom will take place in the afternoon.  Shortened school days are permissible under this order.

Governor Kemp’s order also provides a list of suggestions for how schools proceeding with in-person learning can protect their students from the spread of COVID-19.  These suggestions include screening for COVID-19 among individuals exhibiting symptoms, disinfecting surfaces often, encouraging outside lunch, discouraging students from using other students’ items, and requiring individuals who exhibit symptoms to not report to school.  It is strongly recommended for schools to follow this protocol; however, the order does not specifically require schools to follow this guidance.

In addition to providing recommendations for elementary and secondary education facilities, the order also details the running of daycare facilities.  Daycare facilities must adhere to the worker-child rations set forth by Bright from the Start.  Under Bright from the Start’s COVID-19 regulations, only 50 children, faculty, and staff can be in a single room at one time.  Not only must ratios be followed, extraneous transportation to and from the facility must cease.  The only transportation permitted under the order is transportation to and from the child’s place of residence.  Additional requirements, not suggestions as for elementary and secondary education, include screening children prior to them entering the classroom, restricting parental access to the classroom, having meals in the classrooms, not using toys that cannot be sanitized, and sanitizing bedding.  Parents can also look to the Bright from the Start’s COVID-19 page for more information on specific regulations. 

Considering the continued increase in COVID-19 cases, it is likely the public health emergency will be extended after August 11 and require another update to the executive order on “Empowering a Healthy Georgia.”  Parents should continue to stay up to date on orders published as they have a direct impact on their child’s education. 

How to Protect Your Child from COVID-19

There is no perfect solution to protect children from possible exposure to COVID-19 once they return in in-person learning. The risks can be minimized, but not eliminated. This is especially true for younger children who have difficulty understanding the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

With that in mind, it is important for parents to teach their children how to protect themselves against contracting the virus.  First, parents should encourage their child to wear a mask while at school.  Many schools are requiring masks, but even if they are not, masks are important in helping to slow the spread of the virus.  Parents might worry about if their child can comply with wearing a mask for long periods of time; however, there are ways for children to become comfortable with wearing one.  Parents, prior to school beginning, should practice wearing a mask with their children.  Increase the amount of time per day the child wears the mask until they are fully comfortable wearing it for eight hours at a time, as they would during school.  Additionally, you can teach children how to properly take on and off the mask without touching their faces.

A second way for parents to protect their children is to teach their children how to properly social distance.  Children will likely look forward to seeing their friends for the first time since in-person learning ended in mid-March, so it is important for parents to emphasize to their children to avoid, they best they can, any unnecessary contact or close interaction with other children and teachers. Anyone with children will understand the difficulty in this approach, but simply reminding the children of the importance of social distancing will have an impact. Parents can also teach their children different, non-contact, ways to greet classmates and practice playing games without touching one another.

Third, parents can pack their child’s lunch rather than relying on school-prepared lunches.  This will limit the amount of people involved in handling the child’s food and the amount of surfaces the child must touch prior to getting the food.  The surfaces include opening the fridge to get milk, grabbing the tray, and punching in their lunch number on the pad.  Parents should also practice opening lunch items with their child prior to the start of school and pack easy to open food packaging.  Once again, this will reduce the amount of hands that touch the child’s food.

Lastly, parents should pack portable hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes for their child.  In addition to encouraging frequent hand washing and sanitizing, parents should teach their child to wipe down surfaces.  Students should sanitize their desk each morning, the lunch table they are eating at, computer keyboards they are using, and any other surfaces that other individuals will be touching as well.  It is important, in an attempt to prevent further spread of COVID-19, for students take proactive measures to protect their own health.

These are just some suggestions for protecting children while attending in-person classes.  This is by no means an exhaustive list and parents should take into consideration risk factors, including asthma and autoimmune disorders, when deciding how to approach this school year.

School Buses

The return of in-person instruction brings more concerns than just those of the classroom and school building.  In-person instruction brings with it the use of school buses.  The Georgia statutory code (O.C.G.A.) details provisions concerning school buses and the liability associated with them.  O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1090 authorizes school districts to create insurance policies to insure students in the event of an accident. Additionally, O.C.G.A.  § 40-6-163 requires vehicles to stop when children are getting on or getting off school buses, and in turn penalizing drivers who do not.  The pieces of legislation do not waive the sovereign immunity detailed by the Georgia’s constitution, but, rather, find ways to provide compensation for potential injuries without the school board accepting liability for negligent actions.

As school buses are under the control of the school district, school bus drivers also enjoy the same sovereign immunity as other county employees.  With this said, it is up to the individual students to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, as there is no redress for negligent infection on the part of the bus driver.  Even under the best of circumstances, it is hard to control the spread of a simple cold or the flu when children are confined to such a small space.  Parents should encourage their children to space out as much as possible, wear a mask, and wipe down their seat before sitting down in order to ensure the least amount of contact with germs.

Parents’ Choice

The start of school will be a new experience for parents, students, and teachers alike.  Whether school is virtual or in-person, the risks of contracting COVID-19 impact the education-related decisions that parents make for their children.  In addition to the typical considerations of private versus public, liability insurance, and academic curriculum, parents must now consider how facilities are addressing CDC guidelines and how to best protect their child from contracting the virus.  Parents must look to executive orders, policies and regulations posted by school boards and Bright from the Start, as well as individual classroom functioning.  All of these considerations are understandably overwhelming for parents, but hopefully this post provides ample resources for making an informed decision.  The following resources are excellent sources of information on COVID-19 and requirements for in-person schooling:

Resources

Executive Order 06.26.20.02

https://gov.georgia.gov/executive-action/executive-orders/2020-executive-orders

Bright from the Start, COVID-19 Protocols

http://www.decal.ga.gov/BFTS/Covid19.aspx

Georgia Department of Education, COVID-19 Protocols

https://www.georgiainsights.com/coronavirus.html

Georgia Personal Injury Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

As Georgia citizens navigate through these uncertain times, the Williams Elleby legal team wants everyone to know that we are working hard to keep our offices clean and sanitary for our clients and visitors. If you or a loved one have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, we offer free consultations with our lawyers. The consultations can be in person, by phone, or virtually by Zoom. If you prefer in person meetings, please be aware that a face mask is required for the safety of our staff and guests. Simply call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to set up your consultation today.

Is It Against the Law to Not Wear Face Masks in Georgia During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

COVID 19 Wear Face Masks in Georgia

What Does the Georgia Government and CDC Recommend?

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise in Georgia, many of us are reaching for our face masks as we enter the workplace, run our errands, and enjoy our favorite activities. While many Georgians are willing to wear their face masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of infection, some residents choose not to. This has left many Georgians wondering what the laws and recommendations are for wearing face masks.

Local and State Enforcement

Recently, several cities and counties in Georgia created their own face mask mandates. For example, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order on July 8th requiring residents and travelers passing through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and within Atlanta’s city limits to wear face masks inside commercial buildings and when social distancing is impossible. Exceptions to the order include children under 10, people with medical conditions, and when people are in their own vehicles. Residents and visitors in violation of the order can receive a citation or even be arrested. If arrested and convicted, the offender may have to serve 6 months in jail or pay a fine of $1,000.00.

Other cities and counties around Georgia that passed their own face mask mandates include Athens Clark County, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, Dekalb County, Doraville, Dunwoody, East Point, Fairburn, Savannah, South Fulton, and Union City.

The individual city and county mask mandates came to a grinding halt on July 15th when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order blocking local governments from issuing face mask mandates that are more restrictive than his executive order. Governor Kemp is encouraging the wearing of face masks outside the home but not requiring them, which is in direct conflict with many local mandates. His executive order makes the local mandates unenforceable, but some cities remain defiant. The governor is currently suing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for continuing to impose the city’s more restrictive face mask mandate.

CDC Recommendations

Face Coverings

Currently, the CDC is recommending that anyone over the age of 2 wear a cloth face covering when out in public, when around others who do not reside in the same household, and when a social distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained. The CDC specifically mentions “cloth” face coverings in an effort to reserve surgical masks and N95 masks for first responders.

Unless seeking medical treatment, those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are suspected to have the virus should remain at home. Sick family members should isolate themselves in one area of the home to avoid contact with other members of the family and pets. The infected person should wear a mask when interacting with others, including at home. Care givers should also wear a mask while caring for a sick family member in addition to frequently washing their hands, sanitizing surfaces, and avoiding touching their face.

Going Out in Public

The CDC informs us that there are potential risks involved with going out in public right now. The more people we are around and the longer we are around them, the higher our chances are of contracting COVID-19. In an attempt to make our public outings safer, we should make sure we are wearing cloth face coverings, socially distancing at a distance of 6 feet apart, choosing activities in outdoor spaces, and practicing good hand hygiene. The CDC also put forth guidelines and operating procedures for restaurants, pools and beaches, and amusement parks to help us stay safe during outings.

When accessing a restaurant, to decrease the risk of infection, the CDC recommends that patrons continue to wear face coverings when not eating and drinking and continue to maintain a safe social distance. If possible, dining outside is preferable. Staff members should be required to wear face coverings. The restaurant’s bathrooms should be adequately supplied with soap to enable patrons to wash their hands when entering and leaving the restaurant. The CDC rates restaurants that are only using the drive-thru, curbside pick-up, and delivery options as having the lowest risk for transmission of the virus. Restaurants that pose the highest risk are those that are not practicing social distancing and allowing for both inside and outside dining.

If you decide to access pools and beaches, the CDC recommends face coverings when not swimming in the water. Although there is currently no evidence showing the transmission of COVID-19 through water at pools and beaches, these venues should also be taking extra safety measures. Some of these measures include cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as railings and lounge chairs, and properly washing and sanitizing towels, if provided to patrons. Pools and beaches should be posting signs as to how to stop the spread of the virus and promoting social distancing in and out of the water.

When accessing amusement parks, make sure to following the CDC’s guidelines for wearing face coverings, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. One can also make sure that the CDC’s recommendations for the safe operation of traveling amusement parks and carnivals are being followed. Some guidelines include the staff wearing face coverings, frequently washing their hands, and staying home when sick. Signs should be posted as to how to reduce the transmission of the virus in addition to PA system announcements and messages on social media. Surfaces should be frequently cleaned and disinfected, including those used by patrons during games, such as balls, hammers, and toy guns. Lines should be eliminated whenever possible, or there should be signs or tape on the ground to keep patrons 6 feet apart. Rides and attractions should have reduced seating capacity to further promote social distancing.

Can Georgia Businesses Be Held Liable if Customers Contract Covid-19?

As businesses reopen and try to get back to a new normal, there are some concerns about whether customers can sue if they contract the virus at a business. To avoid this issue, some business owners have begun asking customers to sign waivers of liability or releases to protect their businesses from lawsuits. It would be difficult to prove that someone was infected with the virus at a particular business location when there is up to a 2 week incubation period. Proving that a business did not follow operating guidelines set forth by the CDC would be less of an uphill battle.

However, on June 26, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 359 which will protect businesses, health care providers, and others from civil lawsuits results from COVID-19 infections. There are exceptions based on gross negligence, wantonness, and intentional acts. Businesses also need to post a warning sign at the entry point that includes specific statutory language in the size and font specified in Senate Bill 359.

Some businesses are taking matters into their own hands and requiring patrons to wear face masks if they want to enter the property and posting their policies on their website letting visitors know they are responsible for assuming the risk of contracting the virus. Six Flags Over Georgia, for example, developed and posted its own health and safety plan that follows the CDC guidelines. Some of their policies include the wearing of face masks, except when riding water attractions, and temperature checks as guests and employees enter the park. Their health and safety policy clearly states that they cannot promise guests will not be exposed to the virus during their visit. If guests decide to visit the park, they are agreeing to take on that risk, which is a way for the park to protect itself during the pandemic.

What Should I Do if I Am Not Legally Required to Wear a Mask?

During these unprecedented times, try to keep yourself and your family safe by following Governor Kemp’s executive orders and the guidelines set forth by the CDC. Wearing a face covering when leaving your home, although not legally required in Georgia, is an easy and effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and is highly recommended. If you are visiting restaurants, pools, or amusement parks, make sure these businesses are following the CDC’s recommended operating guidelines.

If you feel that you sustained an injury that was a result of someone else’s negligence during this difficult time and to see if you may have a legal case, please contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.

How to Evaluate a Personal Injury Attorney and Their Rates

Evaluate Personal Injury Attorney Williams Elleby

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, 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.

DUI Suspect Causes Three-Vehicle Crash in Cobb County

DUI Crash Cobb County Personal Injuries

On May 18, 2020, a high-speed vehicle accident in Cobb County resulted in serious injuries as well as an arrest for DUI. While the accident did not result in fatal injuries, these types of crashes claim far too many lives on Georgia highways.

According to the police report, 25-year-old Nicholas Demonthenes Braggs was arrested at approximately 8:30 p.m. following a two-vehicle collision. Braggs, who was driving a Hyundai Elantra, was traveling northbound on I-75 near South Marietta Parkway. The police allege Braggs was driving aggressively when he lost control during a lane change. While attempting to pass a Lexus ES350, Braggs struck the Lexus and lost control of his vehicle.

After striking the Lexus, the Elantra careened off a median and collided with a tractor-trailer. The drivers of the tractor-trailer and the Lexus reported only minor injuries, while Braggs and his passenger were taken to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital for the treatment of serious injuries.

After their release from the hospital the following day, both Braggs and his passenger were arrested. Braggs faced a range of charges including DUI, driving without a license, possession of marijuana, and an open container violation. Bragg’s passenger also faced open container and marijuana charges.

Negligence and DUI

When you suffer injuries in a car accident, you are only entitled to monetary compensation if you can establish the other driver acted negligently in causing the crash. This is true for accidents when the other driver is arrested for DUI. However, the law can work in your favor when you sustain injuries in a crash with an intoxicated driver.

Under the law, a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit must prove four elements to establish negligence. These include establishing a legal duty to conform to a standard of care, a breach of that duty, a causal link between the breach and the resulting injury, and measurable damages to the plaintiff. However, another legal theory known as negligence per se applies in accident claims involving drunken drivers.

Negligence per se is the theory that a defendant’s violation of the law results in a presumption that they acted negligently. This presumption effectively tips the scales in favor of the plaintiff in DUI-related injury claims.

That does not mean, however, that a successful claim is guaranteed. While the plaintiff may hold a presumption that the defendant was negligent, the defendant has the chance to rebut that presumption. While possible, it is a difficult task for intoxicated drivers to rebut the presumption of negligence.

Let Williams Elleby Help

Although the presumption of negligence can go a long way in your personal injury case, it is vital that you have the right legal counsel to maximize your chances of financial recovery. At Williams Elleby, we have experience holding drunken drivers accountable. We are prepared to aggressively pursue compensation from the driver that struck you.

If you have questions about your legal options following a collision with a drunk driver, do not hesitate to contact Williams Elleby. We are ready to put our extensive experience to work obtaining compensation on your behalf. Contact us online or call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule a free consultation.

I was Injured During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Is It Too Late for a Lawsuit?

Personal Injury COVID-19 Williams Elleby Attorneys

No part of American life was left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic remains a serious threat to our country but governments, businesses, and individuals are slowly starting to get back to a “new normal.” As this transition occurs, those who were injured immediately before or during the COVID-19 crisis are wondering what to do and whether there is still time to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for a wrongful injury. To help you better understand this issue, this article addresses the types of injuries that occurred, the usual deadlines, and the change to deadlines as a result of COVID-19.

Types of Injuries That Occurred During COVID-19

As a result of COVID-19, there was some decrease in certain types of injuries due to the changes in lifestyles that occurred. For example, with less driving, there were fewer accidents. Similarly, with fewer elective procedures, there were fewer elective procedure medical malpractice suits.

However, injuries still happened during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, and the types of injuries that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis are largely the same as those that occur in more normal times. Slip-and-fallsautomobile accidents, injuries from negligent security, and medical malpractice all still occurred during the COVID-19 crisis.

Treatment and Lawsuit Delays Due to COVID-19

While the types of injuries did not change, what people could do about those injuries that occurred prior to or during the height COVID-19 crisis changed drastically.

Many non-emergency medical offices were completely closed during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. This forced many people to put off treatment such as physical therapy for non-critical injuries. Additionally, many law firms and courts were at least partially closed or less available, preventing injured persons from immediately seeking legal counsel and pursuing lawsuits related to their personal injuries.

General Time Limit for Lawsuits for Injuries in Georgia

In civil (non-criminal) legal cases, there is always a time limit for bringing a lawsuit. The time limit is called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of lawsuit being brought but generally range from one to a few years. Statutes of limitation vary between states, so do not rely on information from California if you were injured in Georgia.

In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injuries is generally two years. The Georgia statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years as well. In normal times, exceptions to the statute of limitations are very narrow; a lawsuit can rarely be brought after the statute of limitations.

Time Limit for Lawsuits for Injuries Immediately Before and During COVID-19

Fortunately, on the legal side, the Georgia Supreme Court declared a statewide judicial emergency on March 14, 2020. The order, among other things, extended deadlines for filings in new and existing lawsuits. The order has been extended twice since March 14. The orders suspended, tolled, and extended deadlines, specifically, including statutes of limitations.

The most recent order, which was issued on June 12, 2020, sets forth a plan for re-imposing court deadlines. Under it, normal deadlines begin again on July 14, 2020. However, the 122 days between March 14 and July 14 are not included when calculating the statute of limitations for a given case. In short, most litigants get more time than they normally would to file their case.

If you suffered a personal injury during the COVID-19 pandemic and want to know if you have a case and if you still have time to bring your case, contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to set up a free consultation. We’d love to help you better understand your situation and options.