The insurance adjuster called and asked for a recorded statement; should you give it?

When it comes to car accidents, there are two kinds of insurance adjusters that you will deal with. The insurance adjuster for the car that caused the accident and your insurance adjuster. They each have distinct roles and you have different obligations to each of them. Let’s break it down further.

The Other Guys Insurance Adjuster

“Someone hit my car and their insurance company says they are still investigating even though it has been several weeks!”  It’s is a pretty common call we get and there are a couple of approaches.

  1. Remember that contingency fee (no win no pay) lawyers only work on cases with physical injuries involved. There is no way to get paid on property damage only, so if it is only repairs etc. any lawyer will be out of pocket for you.
  2. If it is property damage only, go through your own collision coverage as it will be much easier and then your company will get your deductible back in a behind the scenes process called inter-company arbitration.

Getting lost wages in an injury case is more difficult than getting medical care because the court applies a “proven with specificity” standard and prevents speculation as to what they might have been. This presents massive problems for people that have a cash income because if they are not paying taxes, then to claim it is tax fraud. Additionally, unless it is rock solid that income will be down, the courts will just throw it out.

In April 2019, a federal appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia personal injury case discussing the plaintiff’s claim for future lost wages. Ultimately, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim, finding the evidence of any decrease in future income to be too speculative.

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was sitting in her car, stopped at a red light, when an employee who worked for the defendant rear-ended her. The plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the accident. Specifically, the plaintiff suffered “a whiplash-type injury to her cervical spine, wrist swelling, and facial bruising with a minor laceration.” Additionally, the plaintiff claimed that her previous back injuries were exacerbated.

When someone is injured on the property of a commercial business, such as a grocery store, the injured party may pursue a claim for compensation against the owner of the property by filing a Georgia premises liability case. To succeed in a Georgia slip-and-fall case, an injury victim must be able to establish, among other things, that the defendant landowner had either actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard.

In cases where a landowner had actual knowledge of a hazard, establishing this knowledge is typically straightforward. However, in the majority of Georgia slip-and-fall cases, the defendant landowner disclaims any knowledge of the hazard. In these situations, the plaintiff must show that the landowner had constructive knowledge. Constructive knowledge is a legal concept in which a court attributes the knowledge of certain facts to a party based on the surrounding circumstances. In Georgia slip-and-fall cases, a plaintiff can prove constructive knowledge by showing that either:

  • the landowner or an employee was in the area of the hazard but failed to clean it up; or
  • the hazard was present for a sufficient time that the landowner should have discovered its existence through reasonable inspection procedures.

A recent case decided by the Court of Appeals of Georgia illustrates how courts review these slip-and-fall claims.
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There are a number of reasons why you might decide to fire your injury lawyer and either go it alone or interview a new lawyer.  The good news is, it is easy and painless to fire an injury lawyer so long as there are no offers on the case yet. These are the common questions;

  • I signed a contract, am I stuck?
  • If I fire the attorney, am I breaking the contract?

The first few decisions a Georgia personal injury plaintiff makes can be critical to the ultimate success of their case. In a recent Georgia premises liability case before the Court of Appeals of Georgia, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s case as untimely because the plaintiff originally named the wrong party as a defendant. By the time the plaintiff voluntarily dismissed her initial complaint and refiled a complaint naming the correct defendant, the statute of limitations had expired.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was injured at a water park. Just a few days before the statute of limitations expired the plaintiff filed a premises liability lawsuit naming “Georgia Department of Natural Resources d/b/a Summer Waves Water Park” as a defendant. Later, the plaintiff voluntarily withdrew that case and refiled a case naming “Jekyll Island State Park Authority, a/k/a Jekyll Island Authority, d/b/a Summer Waves Water Park” as the defendant. The two claims were based on the same injuries. The plaintiff claimed that the subsequent case was a renewal action and that it related back to the date of her original complaint.

The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s case was filed after the statute of limitations, and should be dismissed. The defendant argued that the plaintiff’s second case was not a renewal action because it named a different defendant. The trial court agreed with the defendant, and the plaintiff appealed.

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Earlier this month, a state appellate court released an opinion in a Georgia dog bite lawsuit discussing the element of causation, as well as the type of evidence that a plaintiff must present to establish liability against an out-of-possession landlord. Ultimately, the court determined that the plaintiff failed to present any evidence indicating that her injuries were a foreseeable result of the defendant landlord’s negligence actions.

The Facts

According to the court’s written opinion, the plaintiff was on a walk with her dogs a few blocks from her home when two pit bulls approached her. The approaching dogs initially began to quarrel with the plaintiff’s dogs, but when the plaintiff tried to separate the animals one of the large dogs knocked her to the ground and began to attack her. Thankfully, a passerby called the police, and officers were able to stop the attack. However, the plaintiff sustained serious injuries as a result of the attack.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the dogs’ owners. However, the plaintiff later added the landlord as an additional defendant, claiming that the landlord was negligent in failing to keep his property safe. This case involves the plaintiff’s case against the landlord.

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In a recent Georgia premises liability case before a Georgia appeals court, the plaintiff filed a premises liability claim after she fell at a medical office. Evidently, she was walking next to the lobby desk inside the medical office as she felt something grab her pant leg, causing her to fall. After her fall, the plaintiff saw that a wheelchair was sitting next to the lobby desk.

A desk attendant who helped her up testified that she also saw the wheelchair there when the plaintiff fell, but that it had not been there a few moments earlier when she had walked away from the desk. The medical office argued that the plaintiff failed to present evidence showing that she had tripped over the wheelchair or that the medical office had superior knowledge of that hazard.

Actual and Constructive Knowledge

Under OCGA § 51-3-1, a landowner who invites others onto the property for a lawful purpose is liable for injuries caused by the owner’s “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In a slip-and-fall case, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard, and that the plaintiff lacked knowledge of the hazard despite having exercised ordinary care because of the actions or conditions within the owner’s control.

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It is a tough lesson to learn but in Georgia you don’t have a claim for a slip and fall if there are wet floor signs and you still slip and fall. Remember the law does not require stores to be perfect, you just have to give customers a head’s up when there is a hazard like a wet floor. The Court of Appeal recently reaffirmed that when the ruled on a fall at Home Depot. Recently, a state appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia slip-and-fall case discussing the state’s distraction doctrine. Ultimately, the court rejected the plaintiff’s claim against the defendant hardware store because the plaintiff failed to notice a hazard that the court determined to be open and obvious.

In Georgia personal injury lawsuits, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant had superior knowledge of the hazard that caused the plaintiff’s injury. This requires the court to determine each party’s relative awareness of the hazard. A plaintiff, however, cannot benefit from exercising ordinary care while on another’s property. Thus, if a hazard is open and obvious and the plaintiff fails to notice it, the plaintiff may be precluded from pursuing a claim against the landowner.

The Facts of the Case

According to the court’s recitation of the facts of the case, the plaintiff was a customer at the defendant hardware store. The plaintiff entered the garden section of the store, and approached an employee to ask where a specific part was located. The employee instructed the plaintiff to follow him, and headed off toward the aisle where the part was located. The plaintiff stepped immediately behind the employee and began to follow him. After a few steps, the plaintiff slipped on pavement that was wet due to the recent watering of the store’s plants. It was undisputed that there were “Caution: Wet Floor” signs in the area.

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Determining liability in a Georgia car accident may seem to be a straightforward endeavor, and in some situations, that may be the case. However, when an accident involves multiple vehicles, establishing which parties are at fault and which parties are entitled to recover for their injuries can be a bit more complex.

To help judges and juries divvy up liability in Georgia multi-vehicle accident cases, courts use the comparative fault model contained in Georgia Code § 51-12-33. Under Georgia’s comparative fault model, any accident victim who is less than 50% at fault for causing an accident is able to recover for their injuries. However, in determining the appropriate amount of damages, the court will reduce the plaintiff’s damages award by their own percentage of fault. For example, if a motorist sustained $500,000 in injuries but was determined to be 10% at fault, the motorist’s total recovery amount would be $450,000 (the total figure of $500,000 less 10%).

Section 51-12-33 helps courts deal with other issues that can arise in a situation involving several potentially liable parties. For example, like the situation where a plaintiff is partly at fault, each defendant will be assigned a percentage of fault and will be responsible for their own share of the damages. This is regardless of whether there are other potentially at-fault parties that were not named in the lawsuit, for whatever reason. Additionally, a defendant cannot be held liable for amounts in excess of their own share, in the event that one of the other at-fault parties is unable to compensate a plaintiff. In other words, defendants will not be held jointly liable.

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