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.

Determining the number of accidents under insurance policies in Georgia

This blog post by Gwinnett County based wrongful death and personal injury lawyer Richard Armond addresses Georgia's legal standard for how courts determine under particular sets of facts where multiple people are injured whether an insurance policy covers an insured for a single accident/occurrence (with a single policy limit of liability coverage) or more than one accident/occurrence (with more than one policy limit of liability coverage) when the policy does not specifically define an accident. The Georgia Supreme Court in 2010 adopted a "cause theory" for making this determination as explained below. This is extremely important in cases where more than one person is injured because often multiple plaintiffs have but a single policy limit to cover their losses, but every so often the facts dictate multiple accidents/occurrences in which the policy limits of liability coverage apply separately. Trial attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and he handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

Many insurance policies, whether auto, home, or other types of liability policies, cover an insured for liability on a per accident or per occurrence basis. An example is with liability coverage on an auto policy where a person has bare minimum bodily injury liability coverage allowed under Georgia law of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If the insured gets in one wreck which injures two people who incurred $100,000 in medical bills, the policy will only cover a total of $50,000 (and no more than $25,000 as to each person) and not the total loss of $100,000. However, if the the insured's car was drivable and ten minutes later he wrecked and injured a third person, this would typically be a separate accident and the policy limit of liability coverage would be available to cover the insured for damages to that person. 

Sometimes, however, it is difficult to determine whether injuries to multiple people happened in one accident or occurrence or multiple accidents or occurrences. The Georgia Supreme Court case of State Auto Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Matty, 690 S.E.2d 614, 286 Ga. 611 (Ga., 2010) sets forth the applicable legal standard in Georgia for determining whether injuries were sustained in one accident or occurrence or multiple accidents or occurrences. This case is incredibly important in serious injury and wrongful death cases involving more than one injured person because it dictates, as to most common liability policies, whether a single policy limit will apply to all victims, or whether more than one policy limit will be available.

In State Auto Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Matty a negligent driver struck a bicyclist, killing him, and then just over a second later struck a second bicyclist, seriously injuring him. The negligent driver's auto policy had a bodily injury liability policy limit of $100,000 for each accident. The insurance company contended these facts constituted a single accident with a single limit of $100,000, while the claimants contended the facts demonstrated two accidents with a two $100,000 limits of coverage. Id. at 690 S.E.2d 616.

The Georgia Supreme Court adopted a "cause theory," meaning that to determine if a set of facts involves one accident or more than one accident, a court looks at the number of causes of the injuries and asks if "there was but one proximate, uninterrupted, and continuing cause which resulted in all of the injuries and damage." Id. at 690 S.E.2d 617. Further, in the context of an automobile accident "courts look to whether, after the cause of the initial collision, the driver regained control of the vehicle before a subsequent collision, so that it can be said there was a second intervening cause and therefore a second accident." Id.

Ultimately, in the Matty case under the facts outlined above, there were two accidents and not just one because there was some evidence through the testimony of an accident investigator that "after the cause of the initial collision, [Rachel] regained control of the vehicle before [the] subsequent collision, so that it [could] be said there was a second intervening cause and therefore a second accident." State Auto Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Matty, Docket No. 11-10419 [unpublished opinion], (11th Cir. 2011).

It is important to note that the Matty case before the Georgia Supreme Court is limited to cases in which the applicable insurance policies does not explicitly define "accident." If a policy includes some specific definition in which a scenario such as that in Matty is a single accident, then the policy will likely only cover one policy limit as a matter of contract law between the insurance company and the insured driver. 

Cases in which multiple people are injured can be complex. An experienced serious injury and wrongful death attorney is needed to properly determine and argue coverage issues to ensure no stone is left unturned regarding potential insurance to cover a loss. 

If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence 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.

Georgia Good Samaritan Law

Georgia has a law found at O.C.G.A. § 51-1-29 which protects any person, including medical professionals, from liability when rendering emergency care in good faith at the scene of an accident or emergency to a victim. This statute is typically referred to as a "Good Samaritan Law," and it encourages people to give aid to accident victims.

The intent of the law is to allow people in Georgia to be able to render care and aid to accident victims and victims of other emergencies without fear of a future lawsuit for some mistake that is made. In other words, it encourages the giving of help by shielding Good Samaritans from liability. 

The full text of O.C.G.A. § 51-1-29 reads as follows: 

"(a) Any person, including any person licensed to practice medicine and surgery pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 34 of Title 43 and any person licensed to render services ancillary thereto, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victims thereof without making any charge therefor shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission by such person in rendering emergency care or as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the injured person.
(b) As used in this Code section, the term "emergency care" shall include, but shall not be limited to, the rescue or attempted rescue of an incapacitated or endangered individual from a locked motor vehicle." 

When a person in Georgia is injured in a car accident, trucking accident, or any type of emergency, people can render aid on scene as Good Samaritans and the law shields them from a future lawsuit. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in car or truck accident 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 storefront car crash news story

This blog post by Lawrenceville, GA personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond focuses on storefront car crashes. The Armond Firm, LLC, is located in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and litigates cases throughout metropolitan Atlanta and across the State of Georgia. If you or a loved one have been injured or lost in a storefront car crash accident contact trial attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation regarding a potential personal injury or wrongful death case.

Today a pickup truck reportedly crashed into a business in DeKalb County, Georgia. According to the AJC news report no injuries were reported. As you can see in the linked story there was, however, significant damage to the business and some power lines. 

Statistically storefront car crashes can be quite dangerous. According to the Storefront Safety Council operator error (30%) and pedal error (26%) are the leading causes of storefront car accidents. Their site reports this data was compiled from analysis of 11,000 accidents from 2013-2017. 

Storefront car crashes are a public safety concern. Fortunately in the local Atlanta news story nobody was injured. However, there are nearly 500 deaths in storefront car crashes nationwide each year. 

From the perspective of a personal injury and wrongful death attorney, most of the time the driver of the at-fault vehicle will be liable and the driver's liability insurance carrier and the victim's (if available) uninsured motorist insurance carrier will be sources of recovery. 

However, as the Storefront Safety Council points out, proper safety practices by a business can prevent these crashes. In parts of the country ordinances and laws are in place with safety measures designed to protect innocent victims of these car vs. pedestrian accidents. Additionally, some businesses have had a history of more than one of these types of crashes. In some instances it is feasible a business could also be subject to premises liability depending on all the facts and circumstances of a case.

If you or a loved one have been injured or lost in a car accident, pedestrian accident, storefront car crash, or any other accident in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based car and pedestrian accident 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.

Holding Employers Responsible for Employees' Torts in Georgia

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, he handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.

"Respondeat superior" is a doctrine from common law which holds a party liable for his agents. In Latin the term translates to “let the master answer.” It is a way holding employers liable for the torts of their employees that are committed during their employment. This type of liability is called “vicarious liability,” in that it holds one person, for example, a corporation, liable for the acts of another, that being a single employee of the corporation.

The common law doctrine is codified in Georgia law at O.C.G.A. §§ 51-2-1 through 51-2-5.1 as applied to people (Title 51, Chapter 2 deals with imputable negligence and also includes two additional code sections dealing with holding owners or keepers of animals liable for acts of the animals). In general O.C.G.A. § 51-2-1 requires that to impute negligence from one to another, the relationship must be that of principal and agent. This is very commonly seen in the employer-employee relationship. O.C.G.A. § 51-2-2 requires, essentially, that the agent/employee must be acting within the course and scope of his employment when the tort occurs to hold the principal/employer liable.

There can be significant litigation in holding an employer liable for the acts of his employee. Sometimes the battle is whether the employee was acting within the course and scope of his employment. An example would be the service technician driving the company car with a company advertisement on the side of the car when he causes a traffic collision. If it was on the employee’s lunch break, but at a time when he was on call to respond to customer calls, you can imagine the arguments each way as to whether he was in the course and scope of his employment. You can also imagine how changing just one or two of those hypothetical facts could change the outcome of the argument. Other battles can be over whether a person is an employee or an independent contractor in which O.C.G.A. § 51-2-5 would then potentially apply.

If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of the employee or independent contractor of any business you need to speak with an attorney to protect your rights with respect to recovering for the damages. Contact attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

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 Dram Shop Statute

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Lawrenceville, Georgia in Gwinnett County, he handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.

Dram shop laws refer to laws that hold liable establishments that serve alcohol to patrons who then drive and injure or kill innocent victims. The Georgia dram shop statute is O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40. The pertinent part of the statute is subsection (b) which provides:

“(b) A person who sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person of lawful drinking age shall not thereby become liable for injury, death, or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such person, including injury or death to other persons; provided, however, a person who willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is not of lawful drinking age, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, or who knowingly sells, furnishes, or serves alcoholic beverages to a person who is in a state of noticeable intoxication, knowing that such person will soon be driving a motor vehicle, may become liable for injury or damage caused by or resulting from the intoxication of such minor or person when the sale, furnishing, or serving is the proximate cause of such injury or damage. Nothing contained in this Code section shall authorize the consumer of any alcoholic beverage to recover from the provider of such alcoholic beverage for injuries or damages suffered by the consumer.”

In other words, when a person in Georgia is injured or killed by a driver who was driving under the influence of alcohol, in addition to recovering damages from the DUI driver, the person or business that either sold, furnished, or served the alcohol to that driver may also be held liable and may be an additional source of recovery. O.C.G.A. § 51-1-40(b) applies when alcohol is sold, furnished, or served:

(1)

a.  Willfully, knowingly, and unlawfully to a person under 21 years of age, OR

b.  Knowingly to a person who is in a noticeable state of intoxication;

(2) Knowing that such person (either the under 21 person or the noticeably intoxicated person) will soon be driving a motor vehicle; and

(3) when the sale, furnishing, or serving is the proximate cause of the injury or damage.

The statute further provides a defense to the person or business serving the alcohol to under 21 persons when relying on an identification showing the person was 21 or older. In any dram shop case there will be significant battles during the course of negotiation or litigation regarding each of the three elements outlined above. It is very important to have a lawyer representing you if you have been injured by a DUI driver as dram shop cases can be very complicated to prove. While a battle, dram shop laws are a potential source of a significant increase in recovery to victims of DUI drivers who often have significant losses. Many victims of DUI wrecks sustain life-altering injuries, and, unfortunately, there are way too many DUI Vehicular Homicide wrecks in Georgia.         

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in DUI motor vehicle wreck in Georgia, contact attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

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.

 

Dog bites are the number one source of homeowners liability claims.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Gwinnett County, he handles serious injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.

Dog bites are the number one source of homeowners insurance liability claims, and, according to the Insurance Information Institute, they account for more than one-third of all homeowners liability payouts. In Georgia, under O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, a dog owner can be liable for a bite when he either (1) knew of the vicious or dangerous nature of his dog and was careless in managing the dog or let it go at liberty, or, (2) lets the dog go at liberty when he is required to keep it “at heel” or on a leash by any city or county ordinance (this second method proves a vicious propensity in the dog without requiring any history of prior viciousness). In all cases the dog attack victim must not provoke the attack. The statute applies to all animals, with the exception of domesticated fowls, and not just dogs. If an animal attacks, the owner can be held liable under Georgia law.

Dog owners, regardless of the dog’s breed, can be held liable. This is true whether it is a large pit bull, chow, or doberman, or whether the dog is a toy Maltese. Obviously in many cases, the larger and stronger the dog, the worse the injuries will be. Dog owners can be held liable for bites that may require a few stitches as wells as the horrific dog attacks we sometimes hear of on the evening news. It is important to get an attorney working on a case right away. Key witnesses such as neighbors move away over time. When a vicious propensity of a dog is a key element to prove in these cases you want an attorney getting to work right away.

The full text of O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7 reads:

“A person who owns or keeps a vicious or dangerous animal of any kind and who, by careless management or by allowing the animal to go at liberty, causes injury to another person who does not provoke the injury by his own act may be liable in damages to the person so injured. 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. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated fowl including roosters with spurs. The foregoing sentence shall not apply to domesticated livestock.”

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury because of a dog bite please contact attorney Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

For a link to the Insurance Information Institute statistics, click here.

The information above is for informational purposes only 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 actions against hotel operators by crime victims.

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is licensed to practice law in the State of Georgia. Based in Gwinnett County, he handles serious injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Call him for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585.

In and around Atlanta, Georgia, we hear all too often of guests at hotels and motels who are injured as victims of violent crimes that occur on the premises of the hotel. Georgia law allows for holding hotel operators liable for damages suffered by victims on their premises. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 provides “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.” Hotel owners and operators are either owners or occupiers of the land they operate their businesses on and owe their guests ordinary care in keeping the hotels safe.

Many hotels have a history of guests being the victims of violent physical and sexual assaults and do not take measures that amount to ordinary care in keeping their guests safe. Victims of these crimes deserve justice not only through the criminal justice system, but civilly as well. There is good reason why the laws of Georgia protect them in both the criminal and civil sides of the law. Physical and emotional injuries can have a great impact on crime victims and can be costly as medical and counseling bills add up. People are usually on business or vacation when using a hotel and simply expect it to be a clean, safe place to rest their heads at night. Hotel operators who turn a blind eye to safety issues can and should be held responsible to their guests.

No one should be a victim of a shooting, physical assault, sexual assault, or any other type of criminal injury at a hotel that has ignored these issues in the past. Attorney Richard Armond, as a Managing Assistant District Attorney in the Gwinnett District Attorney’s Office, prosecuted and supervised the prosecution of these types of crimes on behalf of victims for years. In his own firm, he now provides that experience to victims of these crimes to recover just compensation in premises liability actions.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury as a result of a crime or other incident at a hotel or motel in Georgia and you would like to speak with an attorney contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation.

The information above is for informational purposes only 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.