Did Someone Else’s Negligence Injure You in Georgia?
Local Personal Injury Attorneys Explain What to Know About Filing a Claim
Any injury, especially a permanently disabling injury, may cause a lifetime of expenses, difficulties and pain. You may face hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills and you may be unable to work while you recover. If someone else caused of your injuries, then you should not have to shoulder these financial and economic burdens yourself. Usually, you can file an insurance claim to recover injury-related expenses and other damages. If the insurance company does not make a fair offer or there is no insurance policy that covers your situation, then you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit directly against the liable party. A personal injury attorney can represent your best interests in negotiations or in the courtroom to help ensure you get the recovery you deserve.
Below, our local Georgia lawyers explain the basics of personal injury claims and applicable state laws. However, no two injuries are the same, so the process of filing a personal injury claim may vary from case to case. The best way to learn how the law applies to your situation is to consult a personal injury attorney. If you need immediate legal assistance, then consult our directory to find a lawyer near you.
When Can I File a Personal Injury Claim?
In general, the law allows you to file a personal injury claim when someone else’s actions cause you physical or financial injury. However, your claim must also meet certain legal standards as well. Typically, for your claim to be successful, you and your attorney must demonstrate that:
- The person against whom you are filing the claim (the defendant) owed you a duty of care. The standards for what constitutes a “duty of care” may vary depending on the situation. For example, business owners must take all possible action to eliminate dangerous conditions that may harm customers. On the other hand, owners of private property owe visitors a duty of care, but are usually held to a less strict standard than business owners. Additionally, everyone has a general duty to avoid reckless behavior, including reckless driving, which may endanger those around them.
- The defendant breached the duty of care. In most cases, you must present evidence that the other person acted negligently. For instance, a driver may neglect traffic laws by speeding, which may then cause a car accident.
- You suffered real damages as a result of this negligence. A personal injury claim cannot undo an accident; instead it compensates you for your monetary expenses (and sometimes other damages as well). Therefore, you must show that your suffered real injuries and that these injuries directly resulted from the defendant’s negligence.
In some circumstances, the strict liability doctrine may apply to a personal injury claim, which alters the requirements for a successful case. If the defendant is “strictly liable” for an accident or injury, then you do not have to prove negligence. It is enough that you demonstrate the connection between the defendant’s actions and your injuries. Strict liability most commonly applies to product defect claims.
What Personal Injury Damages Can I Claim?
Personal injury laws give you the right to hold another person or entity legally and financially accountable if the actions of that person or entity caused you harm. In general, you can recover two different types of damages: compensatory damages and punitive damages. Compensatory damages, as the name implies, compensate you for your losses, both economic and non-economic. These may include:
- Medical bills, past and future. You can usually claim all injury-related medical expenses, including the cost of rehabilitative therapies and specialized medical equipment. If you require ongoing medical supervision or assistance from a trained medical worker, then you can include these costs as well.
- Property damage. If the accident that caused your injuries also damaged your property, then you can claim repair or replacement expenses.
- Lost wages. If your injury keeps you from working, then you may be able to recover your lost income and/or earning potential.
- Pain and suffering. In a case involving severe injuries, you may be able to recover additional compensation for physical pain and suffering. The amount is usually directly related to your medical expenses.
- Loss of consortium or companionship. If your injuries are severely disabling, then you may be entitled to compensation for the damage done to your marital or family relationships.
On the other hand, punitive damages punish the defendant for grossly negligent or reckless actions, rather than compensate the plaintiff. An award of punitive damages is rare, however, and only applies to the most serious situations. Additionally, some states, including Georgia, limit the amount of punitive damages the court may award.
What Are Georgia Personal Injury Laws?
Georgia personal injury laws place limits on the amount of compensation you can recover in certain types of cases by imposing “damage caps.” These damage caps apply only to non-economic damages, which means that there are no restrictions to recovering the full amount of your medical bills and actual expenses. Only damages like pain and suffering, and loss of consortium are limited by damage caps. Additionally, all damage cap laws include exceptions for cases involving wrongful death and serious injuries, such as severe traumatic brain injuries.
Georgia is one of only a handful of states that imposes a non-economic damage cap on all personal injury claims. In 2005, the Georgia Legislature passed the Georgia Tort Reform act, which placed a number of caps on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice claims. The limits were:
- $350,000 in actions against health care providers
- $350,000 in actions against a medical facility
- $700,000 in actions against multiple medical facilities
- $1,050,000 in actions against multiple healthcare providers and medical facilities
This means that, no matter the type of accident or situation that caused your injuries, you can only recover a maximum of $1,050,000 in non-economic damages, if your case called for it.
Punitive damage caps are the most common limitations on recoveries from lawsuits. Federal laws limit awards of excessive punitive damages, but some states impose even more restrictions. The Georgia punitive damages cap is $250,000.
Georgia law also eliminates “joint and several liability” rules, which can seriously impact a plaintiff’s ability to recover. According to joint and several liability doctrine, a plaintiff can recover the full amount of his or her damages from any or all liable parties. Instead, Georgia imposes “several liability”. For example, if you were involved in an accident with a semi-truck, and you were awarded a judgment of $5 million against the driver and the trucking company, under joint and several liability both of the involved parties would be collectively liable for the full judgment amount. But, under “several liability”, if the driver could not pay, then the trucking company would still only be responsible for their portion of the judgment, or $1 million. The courts could order the driver to pay the balance, but if it were determined that he was unable to pay, then you would only receive what the trucking company contributed.
Hurt and Need a Lawyer? Consult Our Local Georgia Listings
If you have concerns about a personal injury matter or have a question about the law, then feel free to ask the lawyers. Otherwise, consult our local listings to find an attorney near you who can review your unique claim and offer you customized legal advice.