Should I agree to mediation for my personal injury case?

This blog post by serious personal injury and wrongful death attorney Richard Armond addresses questions surrounding mediation as a means to resolving personal injury and wrongful death cases. Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, near the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center. He handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution in which opposing parties agree to have a neutral party called a mediator listen to each party’s presentation of the case in attempt to reach an agreement to amicably resolve a case short of going to trial. Mediation, as opposed to arbitration, is non-binding. In other words, if either party in a mediation does not like the end result then they do not have to agree to the proposed resolution and can walk away still retaining the right to pursue claims or defenses in a lawsuit.

How does mediation work?

Mediation is less formal than proceedings in a court of law. Each side will agree to a particular Georgia registered mediator to hear the case between them and will schedule the mediation hearing for a particular date. Prior to that date, either side typically is allowed to present a summary and materials to the mediator in advance of the mediation to give the mediator a synopsis of the case and their position going into the hearing.

On the date of the mediation, each party will typically be assigned to their own room. The parties typically sign an agreement that the discussions which take place cannot be used against either party in any subsequent litigation. This is to encourage open talks in an attempt to settle the case. The parties will then get together briefly in a room so that each side can give an opening statement if they wish. Basically, this allows any party to state with everyone present what they believe the facts of the case are and what the damages are. Then, the parties retreat to their assigned rooms for private meetings with the mediator.

The mediator will often meet with the plaintiff and his or her attorney first to get the exact amount demanded and discuss the case from the plaintiff’s perspective. The mediator will then leave the room to meet with the defendant and his or her attorney. If the defendant has a counteroffer the mediator will then leave their room and present it to the plaintiff. The process can go back and forth a few times or many times. The goal of each side is typically to reach an appropriate resolution of the case.

Sometimes sides are able to resolve a case relatively quickly. More often, a mediation can go on for hours or even a full day. Sometimes it is clear that one side is being unreasonable and because of that the mediation ends quickly. Other times cases can be complex as strengths and weaknesses of cases, both in the facts and the law, are discussed with the mediator and negotiations continue.

If an agreement is reached the mediator will typically complete a brief settlement memorandum that each party signs regarding the terms of the agreement. If either side does not reach the result they wanted they can walk away to continue litigating the case in court. As stated earlier, the process is much less formal than court proceedings as the rules of evidence are not at issue, each side presents their case outside the presence of the other side, and things like presenting information in advance that would not be allowed in a court of law are permissible in mediations.

Is it a good idea to mediate a wrongful death or personal injury case?

That is a question for your attorney who knows the facts and law of your case inside and out. My experience is that mediation can be a very useful tool to get a case resolved appropriately without the risk of a trial. There is minimal downside to a mediation in that if either party does not like where the final settlement offer is at they may get up and leave without any of it effecting their case in court. Mediation in personal injury and wrongful death cases, however, is not free and the expenses to each side can be thousands of dollars. There is also strategy involved and personal opinions vary amongst attorneys as to how to present a case at a mediation. Some lawyers almost never present information in advance and others routinely waive opening statements. It is best to trust and listen to your lawyer during the mediation process.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in Georgia because of the bad act or negligence of another party, 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.

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.

Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Minor Child in Georgia

This blog post by Richard Armond, a personal injury and wrongful death attorney with The Armond Firm, LLC, a Gwinnett County law practice based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, discusses who can file suit when a minor child suffers an injury because the negligence or bad act of another.

O.C.G.A. § 9-11-17

A minor, for the purposes of Georgia's Civil Practice Act, is anyone under the age of 18 years. If a minor suffers a personal injury because of another's negligence or bad act the law provides the method for the minor to pursue a lawsuit. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-17(c) states:

"(c) Infants or incompetent persons. Whenever an infant or incompetent person has a representative, such as a general guardian, committee, conservator, or other like fiduciary, the representative may bring or defend an action on behalf of the infant or incompetent person. If an infant or incompetent person does not have a duly appointed representative, he may bring an action by his next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for an infant or incompetent person not otherwise represented in an action or shall make such other order as it deems proper for the protection of the infant or incompetent person. No next friend shall be permitted to receive the proceeds of any personal action, in the name and on behalf of an infant, or incompetent person, until such next friend shall have entered into a sufficient bond to the Governor, for the use of the infant and the infant's representatives, conditioned well and fully to account for and concerning such trust, which bond may be sued on by order of the court in the name of the Governor and for the use of the infant. Such bond shall be approved by the court in which the action is commenced and such approval shall be filed in such clerk's office."

The typical way a lawsuit for personal injury to a minor child gets filed in Georgia is by having one of the parents or guardians of the child bring the complaint for damages (lawsuit) on behalf of the minor as "next friend." As you can see from the statute, any guardian, conservator, or similar type representative can bring suit on behalf of the minor. Let's say John Doe Jr. is injured in a car wreck by another driver. His father John Doe Sr. could bring suit. The complaint could be styled as John Doe Jr., a Minor, By Parent and Guardian, John Doe Sr., Plaintiff v. Bad Driver, Defendant. Many times a parent will also be named as a plaintiff individually as well, as parents can sometimes be compensated for "loss of services" of the child or for medical bills and other expenses the parents have incurred. 

Other times a guardian ad litem or other representative is needed to file suit on behalf of the minor. This is generally the case when a parent or parents may be liable for the injuries to the child. An example in a car wreck case would be when both a parent and the other driver were negligent in their driving. Some other person besides that parent is generally best for filing suit to protect the minor's rights. 

As you can also see from the statute above, the funds from any recovery in the lawsuit are for the minor child and not the parent (unless the parent has also sued individually). It is very important to take note that in any recovery of a gross amount greater than $15,000, court approval is required pursuant to O.C.G.A. §§ 29-3-2 and 29-3-3.

Lawsuits on behalf of minor children can be complex to navigate and you should always strongly consider retaining a Georgia personal injury attorney to handle the case properly.

If your child has 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.

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.

Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Indictment

Georgia Nursing Home Abuse Case

Personal injury attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, near the Gwinnett County courthouse. He handles personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. This post involves recent news as reported in the AJC regarding an indictment of three staff members of a DeKalb County, Georgia, nursing home. As the baby boomer generation ages, nursing home abuse will unfortunately likely become more prevalent in the news.

Richard Armond was an experienced prosecutor who handled elder abuse prosecutions before leaving the Gwinnett District Attorney's Office to start his own firm. He uses that knowledge to protect the rights of elder persons and their families in the event a nursing home abuse lawsuit needs to be considered.

A brief summary of the news report on the incident

Three nursing home employees were indicted in DeKalb County, Georgia earlier this week according to the AJC. One of the employees was charged with felony murder and neglect of an elder person. The other two employees were charged with offenses relating to neglect of an elder person. It must be stressed at this time that those charged have a presumption of innocence. The victim was an 89 year-old World War II veteran who, according to the report, was captured on surveillance video in respiratory distress and calling for help. This case has been in the news previously for the wrongful death civil lawsuit aspect of the incident. 

Georgia criminal law on protection of elder persons

Georgia law has two main code sections dealing with crimes involving neglect and exploitation of elder persons. Both code sections outlined here involve criminal punishments of one (1) up to twenty (20) years in prison. 

  • O.C.G.A. § 16-5-101. Neglect to a disabled adult, elder person, or resident. Subsection (a) of this code section states:  "[a] guardian or other person supervising the welfare of or having immediate charge, control, or custody of a disabled adult, elder person, or resident commits the offense of neglect to a disabled adult, elder person, or resident when the person willfully deprives a disabled adult, elder person, or resident of health care, shelter, or necessary sustenance to the extent that the health or well-being of such person is jeopardized."

O.C.G.A. § 16-5-101 is what appears to be the underlying basis for all of the charges in the indictment. It criminalizes (a) willful (b) deprivation (c) of an elder person (or disabled adult or resident) (d) of health care or shelter or sustenance (e) to the extent health or well-being is jeopardized. It appears from the story that the allegation involves willful deprivation of health care to the 89 year-old World War II veteran. The essence of this statute is deprivation.

  • O.C.G.A. § 16-5-102. Exploitation and intimidation of disabled adults, elder persons, and residents; obstruction of investigation. This statute primarily addresses knowing and willful bad acts done towards elder persons (and disabled adults and residents), though it also criminalizes deprivation of essential services (and also has subsections addressing threats, intimidation, and obstruction). Subsection (a) of this code section states: "Any person who knowingly and willfully exploits a disabled adult, elder person, or resident, willfully inflicts physical pain, physical injury, sexual abuse, mental anguish, or unreasonable confinement upon a disabled adult, elder person, or resident, or willfully deprives of essential services a disabled adult, elder person, or resident shall be guilty of a felony. . ."  

O.C.G.A. § 16-5-102 is often used by prosecutors when a person financially exploits an elder person or when a person does some bad act such as a physical or sexual assault on an elder person. 

Both of these code sections have additional provisions including exceptions to liability, but the intent here is to provide a brief summary and comparison of the two statutes.

The felony murder aspect of the indictment

Georgia law at O.C.G.A. § 16-5-1 involves the crime of murder. "Malice murder" involves either an express deliberate intention to take a life or it can be implied when there is no provocation and circumstances show an abandoned and malignant heart. Again, this post is a brief summary on the law relating to the AJC news story. Malice murder is not the type of murder that will be at issue in this particular nursing home incident. 

Also in O.C.G.A. § 16-5-1 is the crime of "felony murder." Felony murder is basically where a person, while in the commission of a felony, causes the death of another person. This appears to be the basis of the nursing home neglect indictment in DeKalb County, Georgia. Essentially, the argument by prosecutors will be that while committing the felony crime of neglect of an elder person the alleged perpetrator caused the death of the World War II veteran. 

This Georgia case in DeKalb County while likely continue to receive media coverage for both the civil lawsuit and the criminal prosecution. Georgia nursing homes should be places of care and not abuse. Our elderly loved ones should live their last days with grace and dignity. 

If you or a loved one have been injured or lost because of neglect or abuse in a nursing home or other care facility in metro Atlanta or anywhere in the State of Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based nursing home abuse 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.

DeKalb County, Georgia School Bus Pedestrian Fatality Accident

This blog post addresses an incredibly sad story in the Atlanta news today. It involves a wrongful death of a child in an auto accident/pedestrian accident case and personal injury to the child's mother. This incident happened in DeKalb County, next door to Gwinnett County where my practice is located. I handled personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. This post addresses some of the legal issues in a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death case such as the tragic one today.  

Today the AJC is reporting heartbreaking news from DeKalb County, Georgia, where an eight year-old girl and her mother were struck by a car. The girl has died and her mother has moderate injuries. Reportedly the girl and her mother were in a marked crosswalk and crossing the street for her school bus, which was stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign out. The driver of the car, whose name has not been released, has allegedly been arrested and charges are allegedly pending.

First and foremost thoughts and prayers should be with the mother of the child and her family.

Potential Liability in this Georgia Pedestrian Fatality and Injury Accident

I have written before about Georgia's rules of the road applicable to school buses (click here for that post). From a legal perspective this case would, after full investigation to determine if the driver was at fault, involve potential claims by child's parents for wrongful death and a personal injury action for the mother based on her injuries. 

In addition to evaluating negligence of the driver of the car, the early reports from the AJC seem to indicate the potential of violations involving O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 for unlawfully meeting a school bus and O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91 for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. 

Investigation in a Georgia Pedestrian Fatality or Injury Case

Typically in fatality accidents such as this one the accident investigation unit of the DeKalb Police Department will complete a full investigation including an accident reconstruction report. They will typically download any data from the onboard computer of the offending vehicle to determine potential negligence based on speed or lack of braking. They will also typically do a full analysis of the vehicle to determine if there were any defects with the vehicle and to determine if it was properly maintained in areas such as the braking system and tire tread. Sometimes they will also look at cell phone records of the driver to see if phone usage at the time is an issue (distracted driving or texting and driving). 

Sources of Recovery in a Georgia Pedestrian Fatality or Injury Case

If it can be shown that the driver of the car in this Georgia pedestrian accident is liable through negligence and/or other violations of the rules of the road, the amount of automobile liability insurance she carried will be the first source of recovery of damages. Hopefully, this is more than the Georgia minimums of $25,000 per person and $50,000 total in any one incident. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for motorists in Georgia to have bare minimum coverage.

A second source of potential recovery, and a major reason why a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death lawyer should be retained promptly, is uninsured motorist coverage on any auto policy in the household of the mother or child. It is important to protect your household to have this coverage on all of your auto policies. The reason is because this coverage can be a source of recovery in any accident involving a motor vehicle, including when a member of your household is struck as a pedestrian. This coverage can cover any loss should the driver of the car not have insurance or any amount of loss that can be proven as greater than the other driver's policy limit. Uninsured motorist coverage typically has strict time limitations and requirements for how your insurance company must be notified in the event of an injury. Failure to comply with your policy can result in a denial of coverage and a personal injury lawyer can ensure this is done correctly. 

Again, car accidents and pedestrian accidents such as the one today are tragic and heartbreaking. One family will never be the same. Our thoughts in prayers are with the girl and her family. 

If a loved one of yours has been injured lost in a car accident, pedestrian accident, or any other type of personal injury or wrongful death incident 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.

Georgia Legal Issues: Fatal Car Accident in Gwinnett County

Fatal Car Accident in Gwinnett County

This past Monday a construction worker was fatally injured when he was struck by a car in a tragic accident near Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, according to a report from the AJC. This post will outline someone of the issues a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney practicing in Gwinnett County or metro Atlanta would look at if a loved were to do a free consultation for a case such as this. Trial lawyer Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, offers free consultations on Georgia personal injury and wrongful death cases.

The essential facts of the AJC report are that a construction worker who was wearing a reflective jacket and helmet was struck by a car in the area of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road (Ga. 317) and I-85 near I-985 in Gwinnett County, Georgia. The construction worker died later at the hospital. According to the Gwinnett County Police Department charges are forthcoming on the driver. 

"Modified comparative negligence" law in Georgia

One of the first things a Georgia injury attorney in a wrongful death case would look at in a case like the fatal car accident in Gwinnett County outlined in the AJC story is liability. In a consultation setting, this may not always be clear. Georgia law is a "modified comparative negligence" state, as per O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. A plaintiff can recover if he, or in the case of wrongful death those who can recover on his behalf, is less than 50% at fault. If the deceased was negligent in some way (example: was he in the roadway where he should not have been or was he follow proper safety protocols), but 49.9% responsible or less, there can be an award. If a jury ultimately finds the plaintiff 50% or more at fault, there is no recovery. Also, the plaintiff's recovery is reduced by the percentage he is at fault. An attorney would not necessarily know enough details at a consultation to know who all the parties in a lawsuit would be, but the driver of the vehicle, the worker's employer, other construction companies working at the site, conditions of the site, etc., are all things an attorney will analyze.

A Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney in a fatality car accident case such as this one will try to determine:

1.  Was the driver of the vehicle at fault? The police seem to indicate charges are forthcoming. I stress that at this time full details are unknown as to whether the driver violated any laws or was negligent in his or her operation of the vehicle. However, if there is evidence of negligence and/or a violation of the rules of the road the driver and his insurance company will be a potential source of recovery. Later, we would be able to determine how much insurance coverage was in place.

2. Was the construction worker an employee at the time (and not an independent contractor)? Georgia law has some limited allowance for recovery for a death during the course of employment at O.C.G.A. § 34-9-265 (workers compensation). A Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney will certainly look to see if the workers compensation laws are applicable to any wrongful death in the course of employment.

3. Was the victim responsible in any way? Again, not knowing all the details of the investigation, this will be difficult to ascertain at a consultation, but it is something to analyze when investigating the case. 

4. Are there any other parties who were negligent or contributed to this death? You always have too look at all aspects of the case. Were other companies working on the road and may they be responsible?

5. Did the victim have uninsured motorist coverage on any auto insurance policy in his household? If so, the insurance company must be notified promptly as any such policy may likely cover him for this wreck, but there are typically strict time limitations in those insurance contracts which require notification in writing to the insurance company promptly. 

Who is the proper person to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased?

A Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney will need to determine who can bring a claim and lawsuit in a case such as this. I have posted before (click here) on who the proper party is in a lawsuit. The correct person must bring the action. Additionally, if workers compensation is applicable, Title 34, Chapter 9 will control who, if anyone, has a claim as a dependent of the deceased.

The initial AJC report seems to indicate this tragic car accident may have wrongfully took the life of a person. Our thoughts and prayers are with those he left behind. Georgia fatality traffic accidents occur too frequently and leave families without a loved one and often in financial distress.

If a loved one of yours has been lost in a car accident or any other wrongful death at the hands of another 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.

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.

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.