Family Purpose Doctrine in Georgia Automobile Accident Cases

This article by Georgia personal injury lawyer Richard Armond is designed to give the reader a brief explanation of Georgia's "family purpose doctrine" or "family car doctrine" as applicable to automobile accident cases. The doctrine is one that is rooted in the law of agency and allows a plaintiff to pursue a claim for damages against the owner of an automobile who was not the driver during an accident when, in certain circumstances, a member of the owner's family was driving (in situations where the doctrine is applicable, a plaintiff can sue, for example, the parents of a minor child in addition to the child so that there is a source of recovery for damages).

What is the "family purpose doctrine?"

"The family purpose doctrine in Georgia provides that "[e]very person shall be liable for torts committed by . . . his child . . . by his command or in the prosecution and within the scope of his business, whether the same are committed by negligence or voluntarily." Thus, "when an automobile is maintained by the owner for the use and convenience of his family, such owner is liable for the negligence of a member of the family having authority to drive the car while it is being used for a family purpose."" Dashtpeyma v. Wade, 646 S.E.2d 335, 337 (Ga. App., 2007).

In other words, a parent (or other member of a driver's household depending on the facts) can potentially be held liable under Georgia law for negligent acts of a driver from the household pertaining to the use of the family car for family use. A common example would be parents being held liable for an accident caused by their teenage son who was driving the family car home from school. There are, however, many other scenarios in which the doctrine can apply.

What legal elements muse be present for the "family purpose doctrine" to allow for liability?

There are four necessary preconditions along with a requirements regarding the parent/owner/furnisher's authority and agency under Georgia law. The four preconditions are:

(1) the owner of the vehicle must have given permission to a family member to drive the vehicle;

(2) the vehicle's owner must have relinquished control of the vehicle to the family member; 

(3) the family member must be in the vehicle; and 

(4) the vehicle must be engaged in a family purpose.

Dashtpeyma at 337.

Then, the authority and agency requirements, if those preconditions have been satisfied, are:

". . . [T]he doctrine renders the defendant vicariously liable if [defendant] had the right to exercise such authority and control that it may be concluded that an agency relationship existed between [defendant] and the family member with respect to the use of the vehicle." Id.

What is the purpose behind the "family purpose doctrine?"

"The policy behind the origin of the doctrine was the ever increasing number of automobile collisions and the frequency with which the negligent driver was found to be judgment proof. In the case of a family at least, this factor was minimized by finding liability as to the owner of the car who allowed family members to use the car for family pleasures." Anderson v. Lewis, 809 S.E.2d 260, 261 (Ga. App., 2017).

In other words, it is a policy based principle of law designed to give those people injured in automobile accidents by drivers who do not have funds to cover the losses (example: teen drivers) the ability to pursue the claim against a member of the household of the driver who supplied the car (example: the parent who gave the teen a car).

Conclusion:

This is a very brief summary of an area of Georgia law that can sometimes benefit a person who has been injured in a car accident. Factual scenarios such as whether grandparents supplying a car to a grandchild can be held liable, whether family members are actually part of the same household, and whether the doctrine even applies to certain parents of children depending on parental rights or household living arrangements are just some of the issues that can arise in this area of the law.

The law can be very fact specific when a motion for summary judgment is litigated on the family purpose doctrine and a knowledgeable plaintiff's attorney licensed in the State of Georgia is needed to protect the interests of an injured person.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile wreck, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

How to Settle a Personal Injury Claim for a Minor Child in Georgia

No parent ever wants to experience his or her child being seriously injured because of someone’s negligence. Should you have to pursue an insurance claim or a lawsuit on behalf of your child, Georgia has some special rules governing how personal injury cases involving minor victims (children under the age of 18) are settled.

When a minor child is injured and someone is at fault, a personal injury attorney will typically send the at-fault party and/or his insurance company a demand letter in an attempt to settle the claim. If a fair settlement is not reached through a demand letter and negotiations, or when circumstances such as time considerations dictate, a personal injury lawyer will file a lawsuit (see the prior post “Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Minor Child in Georgia” for more info on who can file a lawsuit on behalf of a minor in Georgia). What happens in Georgia cases involving injured minors when a settlement is reached either before or after the filing of a lawsuit?

This blog post answers the question of what happens in the event a personal injury settlement is reached on behalf of a minor child in Georgia.

In a typical case when a settlement is agreed upon the insurance company and/or the defendant will send a release to the plaintiff. By signing the release the plaintiff agrees to settle the case in accordance with the financial payment terms and to release the defendant from further liability. When a minor is the plaintiff, however, the law does not always allow for such a simple process. The law differs when minors are involved based on the amount of the settlement.

It is important in reading below to understand that the law in Georgia defines “gross settlement” as “the present value of all amounts paid or to be paid in settlement of the claim, including cash, medical expenses, expenses of litigation, attorney's fees, and any amounts paid to purchase an annuity or other similar financial arrangement.” O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (a). When speaking of the value of settlements below I am speaking in terms of “gross settlement” as defined by Georgia law and which includes all of the items listed above.

When the gross settlement is more than $15,000.00:

All personal injury settlements on behalf of a minor in Georgia in which the gross settlement amount is more than $15,000.00 require court approval to finalize the agreement regardless of whether a lawsuit has been filed. O.C.G.A. §§ 29-3-3 (d) and (e). Typically, court approval will be petitioned for in probate court in cases in which no lawsuit has been filed, and, in cases in which a lawsuit has been filed, it must be done in the court where the lawsuit is pending. Id.

In many cases involving settlements on behalf of minors in which the amount is $15,000.00 or more, there must be a conservator in place before any court will approve the settlement.

  • When a conservator is required: When the gross settlement is for $15,000.00 or more and when subtracting out attorney's fees, expenses of litigation, and medical expenses which shall be paid from the settlement proceeds, the present value of amounts to be received by the minor after reaching the age of majority (18) is still $15,000.00 or more, then a conservator must be in place before any court will approve the settlement. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (g). The guardian of the minor must file a petition in probate court to become conservator and then once appointed as conservator he or she asks the appropriate court (probate if no lawsuit was filed, the court where the lawsuit is pending if a lawsuit was filed) to approve the terms of the settlement.

  • When a conservator is not required: In cases in which the gross settlement is for $15,000.00 or more and when subtracting out attorney's fees, expenses of litigation, and medical expenses which shall be paid from the settlement proceeds, the present value of amounts to be received by the minor after reaching the age of majority (18) comes out to less than $15,000.00, then no conservator is required. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (f). In this scenario the guardian may petition the appropriate court (probate if no lawsuit was filed, the court where the lawsuit is pending if a lawsuit was filed) to approve the terms of the settlement without first becoming a conservator.

When the gross settlement is $15,000.00 or less:

When a gross settlement has been reached for personal injuries to a minor and the amount is $15,000.00 or less, Georgia law allows the guardian of a minor to settle the claim withoutfirst becoming a conservator and without the approval of any court. O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 (c).

Personal injury cases involving injured minors in Georgia can be complex and an attorney experienced in navigating through both the traditional litigation process as well as the probate court process is a necessity. Attorney Richard Armond is experienced in handling personal injury cases on behalf of minors in Georgia.

If you are the parent or guardian of a minor who was injured or killed as a result of someone’s negligence, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Loss of Consortium under Georgia Law

Georgia loss of consortium law

Often you will read a plaintiff in a lawsuit was awarded "loss of consortium" damages. This post by Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond addresses what "loss of consortium" is under Georgia law. The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and handles serious injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

Loss of consortium damages are available only to married persons under Georgia law

Loss of consortium in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia is a type of damage available only to a plaintiff who is the spouse of the injured person. When one or both spouses have been injured or when one spouse is deceased because of the negligence or bad act of another party, the spouse(s) can seek loss of consortium damages. These damages are not available to other loved ones of the injured party such as children, parents, fiances/fiancees, or other significant others--only spouses in a legal marriage.

What are loss of consortium damages for under Georgia law?

They are for loss of services of the injured spouse. Loss of services includes household labor, but it is not limited to that and also includes loss of society, companionship, affections, and all matters of value arising from marriage. As you can see, loss of consortium damages are for both the loss of the spouse's ability to help with household labor, but also for those intrinsic aspects of a marriage such as the loss of relationship with one's spouse. Yes, this can include things such as loss of a sex life which is often one of the first things mentioned in news stories, but it also includes things like the inability to travel the world with one's spouse.

How are loss of consortium damages calculated in Georgia?

A large part of loss of consortium damages are somewhat immeasurable. How then does a Georgia jury measure such damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit? The judge will instruct the jury that these damages are measured by 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. There does not have to be direct evidence of their value. In other words, a jury hears evidence of the marital relationship before the tort was committed and does its best to determine how much it has changed since. The jury then decides how much that is worth based on their personal beliefs and values, i.e., their enlightened conscience.

In wrongful death cases and those serious injury cases where the injury will last the rest of the lifetime of one of the spouses, the jury looks at the joint life expectancy of both spouses (how long they would have lived together as a married couple). This can often be shown by mortality tables or expert testimony.

Text of the Georgia jury charges on loss of consortium:

A married person has a right to recover for the loss of consortium, sometimes called loss of services, of the spouse. You should be careful to remember that 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.
— Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions, Fifth Edition, 66.400
When permanent loss of consortium occurs, you would determine the damages on the basis of the joint life expectancy of the husband and wife, that is, by how long they would both have lived together if the injury of the spouse had not occurred. That joint lifetime loss would have to be reduced to its present cash value.
— Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions, Fifth Edition, 66.401

Hopefully this post gives some understanding of what is meant by "loss of consortium" under Georgia law.

If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence or bad act of another in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Dogs Attack Three People in Gwinnett County

According to this story from Gwinnett County in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, two dogs on the loose in Lawrenceville, Georgia, yesterday attacked three different people, leaving an elderly man severely injured from head to toe. As a personal injury and wrongful death lawyer in Lawrenceville, I have seen way too many of these dog bite cases recently. According to the story the owner received six citations and the dogs were euthanized.

It is important to remember that the victims, especially the elderly man who was mauled, may have a long road to recovery with substantial medical bills and pain and suffering. According the news story, the elderly man was crossing the street when the dogs attacked. This should make liability against the owner clear.

Elements of a Georgia Dog Bite Claim

I have written before on the legal elements of a dog bite lawsuit in Georgia (click here for that blog post). Those elements, pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7 are:

  1. A person owns OR keeps,
  2. A vicious or dangerous animal,
  3. Which the person carelessly manages OR allows the animal to go at liberty,
  4. Injury is caused by the careless management or letting the animal go at liberty, and
  5. The injured person does not provoke the injury

As explained in my earlier blog post cited above, the second element involves a plaintiff showing a vicious propensity of the animal which attacks. However the plain language of O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7 contains and exception to this requirement by stating, "[in] proving vicious propensity, it shall be sufficient to show that the animal was required to be at heel or on a leash by an ordinance of a city, county, or consolidated government, and the said animal was at the time of the occurrence not at heel or on a leash."

In other words, if the dogs were running loose in violation of a local ordinance, as the AJC story seems to indicate, the vicious propensity element will be met. 

Gwinnett County's Dog Bite / Animal Running at Large Ordinance

Gwinnett county has such an ordinance. Gwinnett County code section 10-71 states:

(a) It shall be unlawful for any owner or possessor of any dog to fail to keep the dog under restraint or control as provided for in this section.

(b) A dog is considered not under restraint or control when it is running at large, whether wearing a collar and tag or not . . .

Are the Funds to Pay for a Dog Bite Victim's Recovery?

One question for the victims of yesterday's dog bite attacks will be the source of recovery. Does the dog's owner have homeowners liability insurance and/or an umbrella policy to cover the damages to these innocent victims? Dog bites are actually the number one source of homeowners insurance liability claims

Let's all hope that the victims in these Gwinnett County dog bite attacks yesterday in Lawrenceville, Georgia, are able to recover to good health. 

If you or a loved one have been the victim of a dog bite, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

When can punitive damages be awarded in a Georgia lawsuit?

Georgia Punitive Damages Law

The place to begin when researching punitive damages in Georgia personal injury and wrongful death cases is the plain language of the pertinent statute, O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1. Punitive damages may be awarded in Georgia personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits only when there are "aggravating circumstances." See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(a). Punitive damages are not for deterring a certain type of behavior in society at large, but rather "to penalize, punish, or deter" a particular defendant. Id. This blog post by Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, based personal injury and wrongful death trial attorney Richard Armond gives an overview of punitive damages law in Georgia. 

What evidentiary standard must be met for a Georgia jury to award punitive damages?

Clear and convincing evidence. This is a higher standard than is required for a jury to find a defendant liable for general and special damages. The typical civil standard is "preponderance of the evidence," which is a simple balancing test where if the evidence is slightly greater than 50% against a defendant then that defendant can be held liable. 

Punitive damages, however, "may be awarded only in such tort actions in which it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression, or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to consequences." See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(b).

Clear and convincing evidence is defined as "evidence that will cause the jury to firmly believe each essential element of the claim to a high degree of probability. Proof by clear and convincing evidence requires a level of proof greater than a preponderance of the evidence (but less than beyond a reasonable doubt). See Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instruction # 02.040, Fifth Edition.

Are there punitive damage caps depending on the type of Georgia personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit?

Yes.

Product Liability Cases:

In product liability cases there is no limit or cap to the amount of punitive damages which can be awarded under Georgia law. However, punitive damages can only assessed one time against a particular defendant anywhere in the State of Georgia. Further, 75% of the punitive damages awarded go to the State of Georgia, less a proportionate part of the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorney's fees. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(e).

A major reason for this is the policy behind punitive damages. Georgia laws states that punitive damages are awarded "not as compensation to a plaintiff but solely to punish, penalize, or deter a defendant." O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(c).

Specific Intent to Harm Cases and Cases where the Defendant was Drunk or High:

In cases where it is shown that the defendant specifically intended to do harm (example: an assault with a baseball bat) to the plaintiff, or that the defendant was negligent while "under the influence of alcohol, drugs other than lawfully prescribed drugs administered in accordance with prescription, or any intentionally consumed glue, aerosol, or other toxic vapor to that degree that his or her judgment is substantially impaired," no cap exists in Georgia on punitive damages. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f).

Further, no requirement exists under Georgia law in specific intent to harm/drunk and high cases in which the punitive damages get divided between the state and the plaintiff as is the case with products liability cases. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f).

Finally, punitive damages in specific intent to harm cases can only be awarded against an active tortfeaser (example: a bar knowingly serves a person too much alcohol and lets him drive drunk...only the drunk driver can have punitive damages awarded against him even if the bar is liable for its negligence under dram shop laws for general and special damages). See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(f).

All other Georgia Tort Cases:

The vast majority of Georgia personal injury and wrongful death cases, however, will unfortunately fall under the catch-call category of all other Georgia tort cases not listed above. For those cases punitive damages are capped under Georgia law at $250,000. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(g).

Conclusion:

If you or a loved one are the victim in a Georgia personal injury or wrongful death case, punitive damages are something that should be explored. The complaint (the lawsuit you file) must specifically pray for the award of punitive damages or else you cannot pursue them at trial. See O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1(d)(1). An experienced attorney is needed to handle cases with potential punitive damages so that this potential source of recovery is handled properly.

If your or a loved one have been injured or lost in a personal injury or wrongful death case in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Can Georgia Judges Reduce Personal Injury Jury Awards (Remittitur)?

This blog post by personal injury attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, a Gwinnett County personal injury and wrongful death practice available to handle cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State Georgia, answers the question of whether a trial judge in Georgia has the authority to reduce the amount of a plaintiff's jury verdict at the conclusion of a lawsuit. The answer, though it typically rarely happens, is yes. Georgia judges also have the authority under the same statute, though it is even rarer, to add to the amount of damages awarded in a personal injury verdict.

What is the legal authority in Georgia law for a judge to add to or reduce the amount of damages awarded in a jury verdict?

The statutory authority is found at O.C.G.A. § 51-12-12 which states:

"(a) The question of damages is ordinarily one for the jury; and the court should not interfere with the jury's verdict unless the damages awarded by the jury are clearly so inadequate or so excessive as to be inconsistent with the preponderance of the evidence in the case.
(b) If the jury's award of damages is clearly so inadequate or so excessive as to any party as to be inconsistent with the preponderance of the evidence, the trial court may order a new trial as to damages only, as to any or all parties, or may condition the grant of such a new trial upon any party's refusal to accept an amount determined by the trial court.
(c) Only one grant of a new trial by the judge may be based upon the powers conferred by this Code section. The first grant of a new trial other than one ordered under this Code section and which order granting the new trial is not based on this Code section shall remain governed by Code Section 5-5-50."

As you can see, Georgia judges have the legal authority to add or subtract from the amount of damages awarded in a jury's verdict. The common law term for adding to a verdict is called "additur" and for subtracting from a verdict it is called "remittitur" (note: remittitur also has a second meaning in the practice of law, that being when a higher court such as an appellate court "remands" or sends a case back to a lower court). However, this ruling is not final as you will see below.

When can a Georgia judge reduce or increase the amount of a personal injury lawsuit verdict?

As stated in O.C.G.A. § 51-12-12(a), damages are ordinarily reserved for a jury to determine, and they should only be altered when they are "clearly so inadequate or so excessive as to be inconsistent with the preponderance of the evidence." Again, this happens rarely, and from observation, it is much rarer for a judge to add to a verdict than to subtract from a verdict.

What happens if a judge reduces a Georgia personal injury lawsuit verdict?

As stated in O.C.G.A. § 51-12-12(b), the judge may order a new trial as to damages only (wherein proving liability for a tort would not be at issue), or the judge can order a new trial on damages only and condition the new trial on either the plaintiff, defendant, or both refusing to accept the judge's ruling reducing (or adding to) the amount of damages. In other words, the judge's decision to add to or subtract from a verdict does not have to be final as the statute contemplates a trial on damages only in such an event. In the rare event when a judge subtracts from a verdict, the issue for a Georgia personal injury plaintiff is whether the amount awarded is appropriate. Ask any attorney who has tried numerous cases and you will learn no two juries are exactly alike. There is always the possibility a second jury could award even less than the judge had reduced the first verdict (as well as the possibility of a higher verdict). 

If you or a loved one have suffered a personal injury in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Premises Liability Issues Case Example: Gwinnett Hotel Crime Victim

Analysis of Potential Premises Liability under Georgia Law

Crime victim abducted at Gwinnett hotel

This blog post by Georgia personal injury and wrongful death trial lawyer Richard Armond of the The Armond Firm, LLC, focuses on premises liability lawsuits by crime victims against hotels. Today in Gwinnett County an apparent crime victim was allegedly kidnapped at a hotel. Richard Armond has a unique skill set at handling these types of cases based on his many years of experience as a senior assistant district attorney for Gwinnett County. While this post discusses premises liability and negligent security issues, please keep in mind that the news story linked in this story is being used merely as an example for some of the issues involved in these cases. Nothing in this blog post is intended to represent in any way that the hotel in this case was negligent or liable in any way. Cases such as these require a full investigation before a lawsuit can be brought.

According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, a woman was abducted at gunpoint from a Gwinnett County hotel today in Peachtree Corners, Georgia. According to the report the Gwinnett County Police Department believes this case is a legitimate kidnapping case. Two victims, a man and a woman, were in a room at the hotel when a gunman came to the door, robbed the man, abducted the woman, and fled in the male victim's car.

Georgia's Premises Liability Statute for Hotel Customers

The applicable Georgia statute for hotel and motel customers, tenants, and guests is O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 which states:

Where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.

At issue in any Georgia premises liability case where the victim of a sexual assault, physical assault, battery, or other forcible crime involving physical or emotional injuries will be the hotel's level of care in keeping the hotel grounds safe.

What factors affect whether ordinary care has been met?

A Georgia personal injury attorney will be particularly interested in whether a hotel has a history of similar incidents on its property when a crime like this Gwinnett County hotel abduction occurs. To investigate an attorney will likely need to to file an open records act request with the local police jurisdiction to see what crimes have occurred at the hotel in recent years. Later, in the discovery process, the attorney will demand all incident reports maintained by the hotel, as well as serve interrogatories and/or depose hotel employees about crime on the property. Further, a private investigator may be utilized to interview persons who may have information about the property. Additionally, an expert witness in the hotel industry may be needed to demonstrate ordinary care.

Won't the defense just argue that the crime perpetrator is responsible?

Yes, that is part of the job of a civil defense attorney. However, Georgia law has protections for hotel guests through premises liability laws. Many crimes are completely preventable, so long as hotel operators do not turn a blind eye towards crime problems on their premises. Ordinary care is owed to hotel guests and if ordinary care in a particular area involves things like an on-duty security guard, adequate lighting of parking lots, breezeways, and halls, security cameras, parking passes for guests' vehicles, restricted access at certain hours, and other ordinary precautions used by hotels, then the law puts responsibility also on the hotel owner and/or operator. 

O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33 is also another tool of civil defense attorneys. This Georgia statute provides for damages to be apportioned in accordance with the fault of parties and non-parties. So, for example, if a jury finds a hotel 20% at fault and the crime perpetrator 80% at fault, a $100,000 jury verdict would mean the hotel would only be responsible for 20% or $20,000. Often the crime perpetrators do not have assets from which to collect a judgment.

Crime Victims Have Rights

Crime victims in Georgia have rights, both as victims in the criminal justice system, as well as civilly. If you or a loved one have been injured in a crime that occurred on the premises of a hotel or any other business, please contact personal injury attorney Richard Armond. He has the unique skill set of years of experience prosecuting these cases. Based in Gwinnett County, he takes cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or loss in on the premises of a hotel or any other business contact Gwinnett County based injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Do icy road conditions negate auto accident claims?

Today there is a slight mix of snow and sleet falling in metro Atlanta as we are getting the first wintry weather of the season. Schools are closing early today and we will likely have the usual Atlanta panic where bread and milk are cleared out at the grocery stores. While there is usually a slight over-reaction to snow in Atlanta, we all remember the bad ice storms of the past where people are stranded on highways and cars and trucks are wrecked as drivers lose control.

If you are struck and injured by a vehicle in wintry weather conditions do you still have a case?

Probably yes. Georgia law requires drivers to drive safely even taking into account weather and highway conditions. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180 requires:

"No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. Consistently with the foregoing, every person shall drive at a reasonable and prudent speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railroad grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, when approaching and traversing a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions."

Consistent with O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180 if you are injured in a traffic accident where another driver loses control in icy or snowy conditions (or any other weather conditions), the law still holds the other driver accountable. You may have a claim for negligence and violating O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180.

Negligence involves proving (1) a duty, (2) a breach of that duty, (3) causation, and (4) damages. The other driver has a (1) duty to drive at a reasonable and prudent speed given the weather conditions. If he loses control of his vehicle he has (2) breached that duty. If he has struck and injured you he has (3) caused (4) damages. That is a potential claim under the laws of Georgia.

Insurance adjusters will sometimes try to deny claims based on weather conditions by arguing that the weather conditions made the accident unavoidable or that they were an act of God. That is simply not the law in Georgia. 

If another driver has struck and injured you in poor weather conditions in Georgia, please contact attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Emory and Grady to Study Atlanta Traffic Accidents

In metro Atlanta every day, numerous people are injured in traffic accidents. Unfortunately, many of the accidents involve injuries requiring transport by ambulance to the hospital. These cases often involve the need for a metro Atlanta based personal injury lawyer to help an injured party recover for medical bills, pain and suffering, missed work, and other damages.

Last week, Emory University and Grady Memorial Hospital were awarded nearly $4 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to study Atlanta car crashes and subsequent injuries (click here to read Emory's press release). They will collect data on the performance of vehicles that are six years old or newer, as well as data on injuries requiring transport to Grady by ambulance or helicopter. 

Hopefully, this five year study of over 300 patients will result in useful data to make metro Atlanta safer for Georgia drivers.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a traffic accident and would like to speak with a Georgia personal injury lawyer please contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

The Importance of Medical Records in Proving Your Georgia Injury Claim

In order to recover financial compensation in a personal injury claim, the plaintiff, or injured party, must prove, among other elements, causation and damages. Typically, medical records are the most important source of proof of damages, and can be useful in proving causation.

Medical records serve as documentation that an injury arose from a particular event. This is why it is so important if you are injured in any type of accident, whether automobile, workplace, slip and fall, etc., to seek immediate medical treatment. The immediate need for care demonstrates to an insurance company or jury that the recent event caused your injury. Medical records and opinions from medical experts can also be used to show the event caused a new injury or exacerbated an old injury when the defendant is claiming you have a pre-existing injury.

Medical records are also used to calculate the amount of damages. This is the dollar amount your loss is worth. Medical records can help to put a hard dollar amount on the amount spent on your care to date. This will include your initial visit to the emergency room or physician, follow up treatments, rehabilitation, and any other medical care necessary. Your physician's prognosis can also be used to show future medical expenses when care for your injury may be ongoing for months or years. 

Medical records can also be helpful in showing non-economic damages such as pain and suffering, mental and emotional distress, loss of quality of life, etc. Though the medical records will not put an exact dollar figure on these losses, they are part of a total claim and the medical records can speak to what a victim has suffered. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident and need medical attention, go to the emergency room or your physician immediately. Your health should be priority number one. Follow the treatment recommendations of your medical providers. If you would like to speak with an attorney about your injury please contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.