The Blog

Interrogatories in Automobile Accident Cases

Our first blog post in this series focused on Requests for Admission in automobile accident cases. You’ll remember that Requests for Admission ask the other party to admit or deny certain parts of the case. Interrogatories are a useful discovery tool. They are different though because they are asking the other party basically to provide a written response to questions, such as describing in their own words how he or she caused a car accident. Georgia law again can appear rather technical, as you can see from O.C.G.A. 9-11-33, but we are going to show you some general templates to help streamline this process for automobile accident cases.

O.C.G.A. 9-11-33: Interrogatories to Parties

(a) Availability; procedures for use.

(1) Any party may serve upon any other party written interrogatories to be answered by the party served or, if the party served is a public or private corporation or a partnership or association or a governmental agency, by any officer or agent, who shall furnish such information as is available to the party. Interrogatories may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party; provided, however, that no party may serve interrogatories containing more than 50 interrogatories, including subparts, upon any other party without leave of court upon a showing of complex litigation or undue hardship incurred if such additional interrogatories are not permitted.

(2) Each interrogatory shall be answered separately and fully in writing under oath, unless it is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated in lieu of an answer. The answers are to be signed by the person making them, and the objections signed by the attorney making them. The party upon whom the interrogatories have been served shall serve a copy of the answers, and objections if any, within 30 days after the service of the interrogatories, except that a defendant may serve answers or objections within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The party submitting the interrogatories may move for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 with respect to any objection to or other failure to answer an interrogatory.

(b) Scope; use at trial.

(1) Interrogatories may relate to any matters which can be inquired into under subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26, and the answers may be used to the extent permitted by the rules of evidence.

(2) An interrogatory otherwise proper is not necessarily objectionable merely because an answer to the interrogatory involves an opinion or contention that relates to fact or to the application of law to fact; but the court may order that such an interrogatory need not be answered until after designated discovery has been completed or until a pretrial conference or other later time.

(c) Option to produce business records. Where the answer to an interrogatory may be derived or ascertained from the business records of the party upon whom the interrogatory has been served or from an examination, audit, or inspection of such business records, or from a compilation, abstract, or summary based thereon, and the burden of deriving or ascertaining the answer is substantially the same for the party serving the interrogatory as for the party served, it is a sufficient answer to the interrogatory to specify the records from which the answer may be derived or ascertained and to afford to the party serving the interrogatory reasonable opportunity to examine, audit, or inspect such records and to make copies, compilations, abstracts, or summaries.

Just like Requests for Admission in car accidents cases, a general template for Interrogatories is a good starting point, and then you can modify them for your specific case. Each case is unique so remember that there’s no “one-size-fits-all” approach so it’s important to contact a car accident attorney right away to help guide you through your case.

Here you go:

IN THE STATE COURT OF [INSERT] COUNTY

STATE OF GEORGIA

[INSERT YOUR NAME],

Plaintiff,

Civil Action File No.:

JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

[INSERT DEFENDANT’S NAME],

Defendant.

PLAINTIFF’S FIRST CONTINUING INTERROGATORIES TO DEFENDANT

1.

State your full name, current address, current employer, date of birth, last four number of your social security number, and driver’s license number.

2.

State the name and address of any person, including any party, who to your knowledge information or belief:

(a)        Was an eyewitness to the incident underlying this litigation;

(b)     Has some knowledge of any fact or circumstance upon which your defense is                                     based; or,

(c)       Has conducted any investigation relating to the incident underlying this litigation or the background, employment, medical history or activities of the Plaintiff.

 3.

Identify any and all statements or reports given by any person identified in your response to Interrogatory No. 2.

 4.

Has any entity issued a policy of liability insurance to you or which is or arguably should be extending insurance coverage to you? If so, please state for each policy:

            (a)        The name of the insurer providing liability insurance;

            (b)       The limits of coverage;

            (c)        The name of the insured on the policy; and,

            (d)       The policy number.

 5.

Has any insurer referred to in your answer to Interrogatory No. 4 denied coverage or reserved its rights to later deny coverage under any such policy of liability insurance? If so, please explain.

 6.

State each and every fact supporting your contention, if made in answering the Complaint for Damages, that the Plaintiffs’ actions contributed to the incident underlying this litigation and identify:

(a)      Each eyewitness that will testify to those facts; and,

(b)      Each and every document or tangible piece of evidence that will evidence those facts.

             7.

If you intend to call any expert or technician as a witness at the trial of this action, for each expert or technician please:

            (a)        State the subject matter on which s/he is expected to testify;

            (b)       State in detail the opinions held by each such expert or technician; and,

            (c)        Give a complete summary of the grounds for each opinion held.

8.

Were you on the business of any individual or entity at the time of the subject incident? If so, please identify any such individual or entity, including name, address and telephone number.

9.

If you have ever been arrested or convicted of any crime (other than minor traffic offenses), even if that arrest or conviction has been removed from your record, please identify each crime or alleged violation, date of arrest, the arresting authority, the court in which any criminal proceeding against you was held, and the disposition of each charge.

10.

State each and every prior collision or prior insurance claim which you are aware of that the Plaintiffs have been involved in, or the Plaintiff has made, and state whether your agents have procured an ISO claims index report.

10.

State each and every fact supporting your contention, if made in answering the Complaint for Damages, that the Plaintiffs’ alleged injuries pre-existed the incident underlying this litigation and identify:

(a)       Each eyewitness that will testify to those facts; and,

(b)       Each and every document or tangible piece of evidence that will evidence those facts.

11.

State each and every fact supporting your contention, if made in answering the Complaint for Damages, that the Plaintiffs have uttered inconsistent statements with regard to material facts at issue in this litigation and identify:

(a)      Each eyewitness that will testify to those facts; and,

(b)     Each and every document or tangible piece of evidence that will evidence those                             facts.

12.

If you contend that the Plaintiffs has been convicted of pled guilty to a crime of moral turpitude and/or felony, please identify:

(a)        Each eyewitness that will testify to those facts; and,

(b)      Each and every document or tangible piece of evidence that will evidence those facts.

13.

What do you contend caused the incident underlying this litigation?

14.

State each and every fact supporting your contention, if made in answering the Complaint for Damages, that you are not the sole proximate cause of the incident underlying this litigation and identify:

(a)        Each eyewitness that will testify to those facts; and

(b)      Each and every document or tangible piece of evidence that will evidence those  facts.

15.

Do you contend that you have been improperly named as a party to this action and/or that improper or incorrect agents for service were utilized to effectuate service upon you? If you answer to either of these inquiries is “yes,” please provide a detailed explanation as to why you contend that you have been improperly named or the agents used for service were improper and provide the complete and correct name of the entities or individuals you contend should have been named and/or served.

16.

Do you contend that venue is improper in this court, that jurisdiction is lacking over you in this Court, or that service of process has been deficient in this matter? If so, please describe and state with specificity all factual and legal basis supporting any such contention(s).

17.

With regard to the vehicle being operated by you at the time of the subject incident, please identify:

(a)        The owner of the vehicle;

(b)       The frequency with which you drove the vehicle;

(c)        Who paid for the gas and maintenance on the vehicle; and

(d)      If you did not own the vehicle, state whether or not you had the permission of the owner to be driving the vehicle at the time of the subject incident.

18.

Do you have a driver’s license? If so, please state when you first acquired any driver’s license, what type it is, and what are/were the restrictions on it.

19.

At any other time, either before or after the subject incident, have you ever been arrested for driving under the influence or for any other drug or alcohol related charge?

20.

Do you have a cell phone? If so, please state your cell phone number and the name of your cell phone provider.

21.

Please produce a privilege log identifying each and every document you contend is privileged and stating the particular privilege for each.

22.

For each request to admit that you denied, please identify:

(a)        Each eyewitness that will testify to those facts supporting your denial;

(b)       Each and every document or tangible piece of evidence that will evidence facts supporting your denial; and,

(c)        Each fact upon which your denial is based.

24.

Describe in detail how the collision on [INSERT DATE] happened, stating in your answer all events relating thereto in their sequential order, including all actions taken by you to prevent the collision.

25.

State the name, web address, and user name for all blogs, online forums, and social networking websites that you have belonged to or had a membership in the prior twelve (12) months.

This _____ day of _________, ________.

Respectfully submitted,

____________________________________

[INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION]

We recognize that the key to a successful recovery in an automobile case is a clear discovery path and a willingness to bring your case to court. In fact, we used to represent insurance companies. Strong  discovery makes sure that those companies understand you are serious about getting the best result for your car accident. As always, feel free to contact us at (404) 566-5880 or information@patricktriallaw.com if you have any questions about your car accident and need legal assistance.

A thank you note…

As attorneys, we truly have the ability to affect the lives of others. So often, it is easy to overlook the fact that the legal process is unfamiliar to many clients even though we handle these issues on a daily basis. Our firm received a thank you note from a client the other day, and it reaffirmed the importance of our job of helping Georgia families in personal injury cases:

Hi Kevin,
I wanted to personally thank you for all that you did. I really appreciate the customer service and staying connected with me through the latter part of the case process. You handle personal injury cases all day but for the client it’s once every twenty years or more. So therefore we need to know and understand the process as much as possible.

Continue with that and be successful. Thank you for what you’ve done for me and my daughter

At Kevin Patrick Law, we care deeply about our clients. One of our main goals is making sure that we keep everyone up-to-date and informed throughout the process. It’s your case, and we work for you! Importantly, there’s no such thing as a silly question. If you or a loved one has been hurt and needs an attorney, please contact us at kevin@patricktriallaw.com or (404) 566-5880.

 

 

Requests for Admissions in Automobile Accident Cases

         After filing a lawsuit, the next step is beginning the discovery process. “Discovery” is the formal term for saying that the parties will exchange information and documents about the case. This process typically lasts six months in Georgia, but obviously the time period depends on the nature of the case. For example, complicated products liability cases tend to last longer than an admitted liability automobile accident. For the next series of blog posts, we are going to discuss three useful discovery tools, requests for admission, interrogatories, and requests for production of documents.

          The first type of discovery tool we are going to discuss are requests for admissions. Georgia law, O.C.G.A. 9-11-36, is pretty involved in this area as you can imagine:

(1) A party may serve upon any other party a written request for the admission, for purposes of the pending action only, of the truth of any matters within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26 which are set forth in the request and that relate to statements or opinions of fact or of the application of law to fact, including the genuineness of any documents described in the request. Copies of documents shall be served with the request unless they have been or are otherwise furnished or made available for inspection and copying. The request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party.

(2) Each matter of which an admission is requested shall be separately set forth. The matter is admitted unless, within 30 days after service of the request or within such shorter or longer time as the court may allow, the party to whom the request is directed serves upon the party requesting the admission a written answer or objection addressed to the matter, signed by the party or by his attorney; but unless the court shortens the time, a defendant shall not be required to serve answers or objections before the expiration of 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon him. If objection is made, the reasons therefor shall be stated. The answer shall specifically deny the matter or set forth in detail the reasons why the answering party cannot truthfully admit or deny the matter. A denial shall fairly meet the substance of the requested admission; and, when good faith requires that a party qualify his answer or deny only a part of the matter of which an admission is requested, he shall specify so much of it as is true and qualify or deny the remainder. An answering party may not give lack of information or knowledge as a reason for failure to admit or deny unless he states that he has made reasonable inquiry and that the information known or readily obtainable by him is insufficient to enable him to admit or deny. A party who considers that a matter of which an admission has been requested presents a genuine issue for trial may not, on that ground alone, object to the request; he may, subject to subsection (c) of Code Section 9-11-37, deny the matter or set forth reasons why he cannot admit or deny it.

(3) The party who has requested the admissions may move to determine the sufficiency of the answers or objections. Unless the court determines that an objection is justified, it shall order that an answer be served. If the court determines that an answer does not comply with the requirements of this subsection, it may order either that the matter is admitted or that an amended answer be served. The court may, in lieu of these orders, determine that final disposition of the request be made at a pretrial conference or at a designated time prior to trial. Paragraph (4) of subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 shall apply to the award of expenses incurred in relation to the motion.

(b) Effect of admission. Any matter admitted under this Code section is conclusively established unless the court, on motion, permits withdrawal or amendment of the admission. Subject to Code Section 9-11-16 governing amendment of a pretrial order, the court may permit withdrawal or amendment when the presentation of the merits of the action will be subserved thereby and the party who obtained the admission fails to satisfy the court that withdrawal or amendment will prejudice him in maintaining his action or defense on the merits. Any admission made by a party under this Code section is for the purpose of the pending action only and is not an admission by him for any other purpose, nor may it be used against him in any other proceeding.

          Well, that was a long statute… So what does it mean?  What does a request look like? How can a we apply it to my case? Think of a request for an admission as a “yes” or “no” question. It’s a great way to streamline issues for a case, such as confirming the correct court, establishing that the defendant was served with the lawsuit, and even trying to establish liability against the defendant.

          Here’s a general template for a request of admission:

IN THE STATE COURT OF [INSERT] COUNTY

STATE OF GEORGIA

[INSERT YOUR NAME],

Plaintiff,                                                                                         Civil Action File No.:

                                                                                                    JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

[INSERT DEFENDANT’S NAME],

Defendant.

PLAINTIFF’S FIRST REQUESTS FOR ADMISSION TO DEFENDANT

_____________________________________

          Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 9-11-36, you are hereby required to answer in the form provided by law the following Requests for Admission:

1.

          You have been correctly named in the present case insofar as it concerns the legal designation of names.

2.

         You have been properly served as a party defendant.

3.

          Process is sufficient with regard to you in this case.

4.

          Service of process is sufficient with regard to you in this case.

5.

          [INSERT COURT NAME] has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this case.

6.

          [INSERT COURT NAME] has personal jurisdiction over you as a party defendant in this case.

7.

          Venue is proper in [INSERT COURT NAME].

8.

          Plaintiff states a claim upon which this Court can grant relief.

9.

          Plaintiff has not failed to join a party under O.C.G.A. § 9-11-19.

10.

          You negligently caused the collision that is the subject of this case.

11.

          Plaintiff was not at fault in the collision causing his injuries.

12.

          Plaintiff did nothing wrong with regard to the collisions causing his/her injuries in this case.

This _____ day of _________, ________.

Respectfully submitted,

____________________________________

[INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION]

          We recognize that the key to a successful case is moving forward effectively and efficiently with it. Our firm doesn’t wait to the last minute to get things done for you. We do it right away (and even ahead of schedule)! Please contact us at (404) 566-5880 or information@patricktriallaw.com if you have any questions about your case and need legal assistance.

 

The Importance of a Right to a Trial by Jury

          Congratulations to Dillan and Isaiah! They were the winners of the 2016 Kevin Patrick Law Essay Contest. This year’s topic was “Why is the right to a trial by a jury of our peers such an important part of the Constitution?”  These two students offered wonderful insights into the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution. We are highlighting for you portions of their essays:

Dillan’s Essay

       The balancing act of justice. The Constitution of the United States of America was written in 1787 by 4 of 7 America’s founding fathers. And they were Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson. One of the founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, came to America alone at the age of 15.       

         Sixth Amendment guarantees a cluster of rights designed to make criminal prosecutions more accurate and fair under the law. The institutions of American criminal justice have changed to an extent that is clearly noticeable over the past several centuries, forcing courts to consider how old rights apply to new institutions and procedures. At that time there were local sheriffs but no professionalized police forces; instead ordinary men took turns serving as a peace officer with limited policing authority, typically in a small town.

         […]

          Jury service is the most common way in which citizens are able to have a direct role in our country’s judicial process. 

Isaiah’s Essay

          A jury of one’s peers does not mean a black defendant must be tried by a black jury or a female defendant must be tried by an woman panel. The objective is to select an impartial jury from a randomly selected juror pool who will be fair, listen to the facts of the case, and render and just verdict based on the evidence.

          Serving on a jury is the most direct and impactful way for citizens to connect to the constitution. It is more active and participatory than voting. Citizens can help perpetuate our system of laws, and stabilize our democracy. For a jury pool, the U.S. Supreme Court has held that courts may not remove a potential juror based solely on his or her race or gender.

          […]

       At Kevin Patrick Law, we believe that our work extends well-beyond the courtroom. We strive to be part of the community. If we can ever assist you or your organization, then please feel free to get in touch with us at kevin@patricktriallaw.com or (404) 566-8964.         

What does an automobile accident lawsuit look like in Georgia?

After an automobile accident, there are a number of questions, especially if an insurance company is not having meaningful negotiations, and you may begin to wonder: “What is my next step?” Well, the next step often times involves putting together a lawsuit. Formally, a lawsuit is called a complaint, which is the mechanism to bring your case before a judge and, ultimately, a jury. Drafting a lawsuit requires legal expertise, but there typically is a general framework for one, and it looks like this:

IN THE STATE COURT OF [INSERT] COUNTY

STATE OF GEORGIA

[INSERT YOUR NAME],

Plaintiff,                                                                                     Civil Action File No.:

                                                                                                 JURY TRIAL DEMANDED

[INSERT DEFENDANT’S NAME],

Defendant.

COMPLAINT FOR DAMAGES

           COMES NOW [INSERT YOUR NAME] (“Plaintiff”), by and through undersigned counsel and files this Complaint for Damages against [INSERT DEFENDANT’S NAME] (“Defendant”), and avers as follows:

PARTIES AND JURISDICTION

1.

            Plaintiff is a resident of Georgia and is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court.

2.

           Defendant resides at [INSERT DEFENDANT’S ADDRESS] in [INSERT] County and may be served with the Summons and Complaint at this address.

3.

          Defendant is subject to the jurisdiction of this Court and venue is proper.

BACKGROUND

4.

          On or about [INSERT DATE], Plaintiff was lawfully operating a vehicle eastbound on [INSERT ADDRESS OF ACCIDENT] in the city of [INSERT], [INSERT] County, Georgia.

5.

           Defendant was operating his vehicle traveling [INSERT FACTS, i.e. “directly behind Plaintiff’s vehicle”].

6.

          Defendant negligently [INSERT FACTS, i.e “followed too closely and struck the rear of Plaintiff’s vehicle”].

7.

          As a result of the collision, Plaintiff suffered injuries to his/her body.

COUNT 1: NEGLIGENCE

8.

          Plaintiff re-alleges and incorporates herein the allegations contained in paragraphs 1-7.

9.

          Defendant owed a duty to Plaintiff to exercise ordinary and reasonable care in the operation of his/her vehicle and to adhere to the laws of the State of Georgia in the operation of said vehicle.

10.

           Defendant was negligent and breached this duty.

11.

          Defendant was negligent in the following manner:

                   [INSERT REASONS, i.e. “Following too closely.”]

12.

          Defendant was negligent for [INSERT REASONS, i.e. “Following too closely.”] pursuant to O.C.G.A. § [INSERT LAW, i.e. “40-6-49”], which constitutes negligence per se.

13.

         Plaintiff did not cause or contribute to the incident and was not negligent in any manner.

14.

          As a direct and proximate result of Defendant’s negligence, Plaintiff sustained injuries to his/her body.

15.

          Defendant’s negligence is the sole and proximate cause of Plaintiff’s injuries.

16.

          As a result of Defendant’s negligence, Plaintiff has incurred special and compensatory damages, including past, present, and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

WHEREFORE, Plaintiff prays that he/she have a trial on all issues and judgment against Defendant as follows:

That Plaintiff recover the full value of past and future medical expenses and lost wages in an amount to be proven at trial;

That Plaintiff recover for mental and physical pain and suffering and emotional distress in an amount to be determined by the enlightened conscience of the jury;

That Plaintiff recover such other and further relief as is just and proper; and,

That all issues be tried before a jury.

This _____ day of _________, ________.

Respectfully submitted,

____________________________________

[INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION]

At Kevin Patrick Law, LLC, we have the legal expertise to handle automobile accident cases, and we have successfully tried these cases in Georgia. A complaint may look simple, but there are a lot of pitfalls if you don’t have a lawyer or even the “right” lawyer. We never settle for less and are here to help! Please contact us at (404) 566-5880 or information@patricktriallaw.com if you have any questions about your case and need legal assistance.

 

What are letters of representation, and why should you send them?

 

One of the first steps in a personal injury case is determining the amount of available insurance coverage for the at-fault party. The amount of available insurance oftentimes will dictate the amount of the maximum recovery in a case. Some companies and people carry large insurance policies, but there are also situations where they are either uninsured or carry small insurance policies. For example, all drivers of automobiles are required by Georgia law to have insurance coverage of $25,000, but obviously cases involving serious injures, especially ones that require surgery or long-term care, may easily exceed that amount. So a key first step in evaluating a case and your possible recovery involves getting the insurance information. Georgia, unlike some other states, has a law, O.C.G.A. 33-3-28, that requires people and companies to provide this information.

Here is a general template of the letter we send to the at-fault party’s insurance company:

[Insert Date]

SENT VIA CERTIFIED MAIL/ RETURN RECEIPT REQUESTED

[Insert Address]

RE: Letter of Representation and Request for Insurance Policy Information

Our Client:
Claim No.:
Date of Injury:
Policy Holder:

Dear Sir or Madam:

We have been retained to represent the interests of [Insert Client Name] who suffered personal injuries as a result of an automobile accident on [Insert Date] at [Insert Location]. All future correspondence and communication should be directed to our firm. The purpose of this letter is to notify you that our client may have a claim against any policy(ies) issued by your company depending on the amount of coverage, if any, for the at-fault driver.

Pursuant to O.C.G.A. 33-3-28, we request that you provide us in writing with the following information

a. Any and all known policies of insurance insuring the above-referenced policy holder including, but not limited to any excess or umbrella insurance;
b. The exact name of the insurer;
c. The name of each insured; and,
d. The limits of coverage.

You may provide a copy of the declaration page of any policy in lieu of this information. We trust that you will provide this information within the statutory time period. We are enclosing an affidavit executed by our client for your records. Also, our client expressly withdraws any Authorization for Release of Information or similar type of release. You do not have permission to contact our client’s employers or medical providers.

If you need anything further from us at this time, then please contact me at your earliest convenience.

With warmest wishes, I remain

Very truly yours,

Kevin Patrick

Enclosure: Affidavit

Also, there is usually an affidavit that accompanies the letter:

AFFIDAVIT REQUESTING POLICY LIMITS

STATE OF GEORGIA               )

COUNTY OF [Insert Name]   )

My name is [Insert Name]. I am over the age of eighteen (18) and do not have any legal disabilities.  I was involved in an [Insert Description of Accident] that occurred on [Insert Date] in [Insert Location]. This affidavit is given pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28. I request all insurance policy information, including limits of coverage, for all policies of insurance, including primary, excess, umbrella, etc., that may cover the injuries I suffered in this incident. I have a right to this information, and I request that it be produced in a timely fashion in accordance with Georgia law.

                                                                                   

[Insert Name]

The foregoing affidavit was acknowledged before me on [DATE].

                                                                                                                                   

                                    Signature of Notary Public – State of Georgia

                                    Personally known to me            OR Produced Identification                        

                                                                                                                                   

                                    Type of Identification Produced

Obviously, this letter can be modified to the particular facts and circumstances of the case and can be updated to include a person’s own insurance company to find out about their own insurance coverage, such as un/under-insured motorist coverage, because sometimes the at-faut party does not have enough insurance to compensate injured people. Most importantly, feel free to contact our office if you have any questions about legal representation and this type of letter.

Reflections on the State Bar of Georgia Young Lawyer’s Division

As we conclude the bar year and near the end of our YLD journey, I would like to take this opportunity to recognize the commitment made by my former law firm to supporting young lawyers, the life-long values fostered through the YLD and other members of the profession, and the importance of having a caring and supportive family:

I am forever grateful to Goodman, McGuffey, Lindsey & Johnson, LLP, for not only hiring me as a young associate many years ago, but also encouraging me to become actively involved in the YLD. During one of my first mid-year reviews, I was deeply touched when a senior partner asked me, “Kevin, what can we do to support you?” The firm truly recognized that the practice of law goes well beyond billable hours, and they invested in the future of our profession. Civic and professional development for young associates is paramount to a rewarding and fulfilling legal career. They were and still are my role models. Years from now, I certainly hope to extend the same encouragement and support to a younger lawyer embarking on a legal career.

Like the firm, the YLD teaches young lawyers the “right” way to practice law. The judiciary, senior members of the bar, and leadership of the YLD all took the time to serve as mentors for us. For example, I still remember Chief Justice Hugh P. Thompson speaking to the Litigation Committee. His humorous, but sage advice to “stop digging if you find yourself in a ditch” carries with all of us. During my first out-of-state YLD meeting to Washington, D.C., I recall former presidents of the State Bar, like Ken Shigley, sitting with us at dinner. The simple act of breaking-bread with us made us feel welcomed and appreciated as young lawyers. Along with the judiciary and members of the bar, former leaders of the YLD, like Sharri Edenfield, still remain actively engaged in YLD events, such as the Signature Fundraiser and Leadership Academy.

Most importantly, I am thankful for my parents, Charles and Denise Patrick, encouraging me to enter into the practice of law. I remember them sitting in the courtroom watching me participate as a junior and senior at The Walker School in the high school mock trial program. At the University of Georgia, my mother recalled the words of John Milton and encouraged me to study the Classics, especially the legal system during the Roman republic. And finally, Mom and Dad were ever so supportive during the first year of law school and were there along with my relatives to celebrate my graduation from Mercer University. My parents made countless sacrifices, believed in me, and ultimately recognized law was one of the noblest professions. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Valuation and Settlement Strategies for Day Care Negligence Cases

Daycare negligence cases present novel issues relating to valuation and settlement because the emotional and psychological damages can be difficult to quantify. Medical bills do not always accompany those damages. Furthermore, children may be unable to articulate the problems caused by an abusive situation at a daycare facility until they are more mature. By that point, the statute of limitations may have expired for certain claims.

The facility and insurance carrier usually attempt to downplay the value of case by harping on modest medical expenses, but there are other types of damages in these situations. For example, the increased costs of childcare can be multiplied over the course of several years, and parents have a right to be reimbursed for their time away from work for doctor’s appointments. A common approach for the facility and insurance carrier in calculating the total settlement offer is to simply multiply the special damages by a factor of one or two. The plaintiffs can combat this approach with dialogue along these lines: “We can all agree that this case isn’t just another soft tissue car accident case, right?” Emotional value carries a premium.

One way to maximize the ultimate value of a case is through a structured annuity settlement. An annuity is a contractual agreement with a financial institution designed to turn a lump sum settlement into periodic payouts over time. The gross payouts from an annuity has the potential to exceed the settlement amount itself. Whether this is a good option in any particular case will depend on the unique financial situation of the child’s family. A structured annuity settlement, if untouched, may help the family pay for higher education.

O.C.G.A. § 29-3-3 governs the settlement of minor’s claims. This statute is complex, but as a general rule of thumb, a parent or natural guardian is permitted to settle a minor’s claim without becoming the conservator or seeking approval from the court when the gross amount is less than Fifteen thousand dollars ($15,000.) From a practical perspective, a settlement for small claims right below this threshold helps to avoid protracted litigation and possible attorney’s fees.

Treating a child’s case as a ‘run of the mill’ accident violates everyone’s fundamental sense of right and wrong. As trial lawyers, we hold the keys to helping secure a brighter future for injured children and their families.

Juan’s Law: Saving Georgia’s Day Care Children

Given our firm’s focus on daycare negligence, we were delighted to meet Mrs. Jacqueline Boatwright-Daus, who as Mrs. Georgia International 2016, is championing the prevention of daycare injuries. She graciously put together an article for lawyers in the state of Georgia about her son’s story:

Fact Finding

After weeks of searching, I’d finally found the child care center for my 3 month old son. It was perfect; clean, small, and close to home. I spent two or more hours quizzing the center owner from my prepared list of questions. My eyes fixated on the owner’s body language, waiting for her to blink, or show any form of nervousness with each asked question, a fixation so strong that it was only broken when she dropped her pen and bent down retrieve it, revealing what sealed the deal; her state issued licensed. Twelve months later, that license would deem worthless in my opinion. My then 14 month old son was found head first in an unattended bucket of mop water containing bleach and other chemical at his state licensed child day care center leaving him semi-comatose and ventilator dependent. For next 10 years, our lives were emotionally, physically, and financially broken. His name was Anthony DeJuan Boatwright affectionally known as “Juan.”

Failure and Fault

To add insult to my son’s injury, I would find out that the state of Georgia does not require state licensed child care centers to carry any form of liability insurance nor to inform unsuspecting parents. This had to be one of, it not the greatest oversights in the history of law making. My plumber was licensed, insured, and bonded, so was the contractor that did work on my home. In fact, I had to have liability insurance on my car, my house, and the lovely pool in my back yard. Truth be told, I felt I’d failed my son; but I knew in my heart my state and the child care center failed my son and me by not sharing information that could have possibly impacted my decision in choosing a child care center. In the midst of being broke, busted, and borderline disgusted, I knew that my son’s life had to mean something. The world never got to know the little boy whose only clear articulated words were “thank you.” He never made it out of daycare.

Fight or Flight

After nearly losing everything I’d worked so hard to obtain, I chose to spend the rest of my life fighting for the children who were presently attending child care and those who were yet to come. I won my first battle in 2004 when then Governor Perdue signed Juan’s Law, requiring child care centers in Georgia to inform parents of their insurance status by posting if they were uninsured and by getting parents to sign an affidavit stating the parents were aware that they were leaving their child with an uninsured, although state licensed, child care center. My second battle was won in 2006 when then Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia signed Juan’s Law. Persuading the federal government of their involvement resulted in the US House passing The Anthony DeJuan Boatwright Act in 2007 and again in 2009. Should this pass out of the Senate, this would cover the nearly 40 other states that do not require child day care centers to carry liability insurance and I know save millions of lives of children around our country.

In sum, the efforts made by Mrs. Boatwright-Daus continue to help our children in day care facilities, but we must continue to press these issues in order to carry on the legacy of Juan.

Remembering “Old Ironsides” on Memorial Day Weekend

As we are beginning the Memorial Day weekend, we wanted to share with everyone the history behind Oliver Wendell Homes, Sr.’s famous poem “Old Ironsides,” which was written on September 16, 1830:

Aye tear her tattered ensign down

Long has it waved on high,

And many an eye has danced to see

That banner in the sky;

Beneath it rung the battle shout,

And burst the cannon’s roar;—

The meteor of the ocean air

Shall sweep the clouds no more.

Her deck, once red with heroes’ blood,

Where knelt the vanquished foe,

When winds were hurrying o’er the flood,

And waves were white below,

No more shall feel the victor’s tread,

Or know the conquered knee;—

The harpies of the shore shall pluck

The eagle of the sea!

Oh, better that her shattered hulk

Should sink beneath the wave;

Her thunders shook the mighty deep,

And there should be her grave;

Nail to the mast her holy flag,

Set every threadbare sail,

And give her to the god of storms,

The lightning and the gale!

The USS Constitution earned the nickname “Old Ironsides” during the War of 1812. This frigate with 44 guns defeated the British ship, HMS Guerriere, which interestingly was commissioned by the French, but later stolen by the British.  In any event, the Constitution was one of the original six frigates in the United States Navy. This ship was commissioned by the Naval Act of 1974.  After the Revolutionary War, the United States was heavily in debt and had actually disbanded the Continental Navy. Our first president George Washington gave the ship the name the Constitution for obvious reasons.

Turing now to the poem and author, Oliver Wendell Holmes chose for a moment to abandon his studies of law. He began to pursue poetry. During this time, he came across an article in the Boston Daily Advertise about plans to scrap this ship in September 1830. Holmes’ poem was published the following day and garnered attention throughout many cities, like New York and Washington.  As a result of his poem, the plans to scrap “Old Ironsides” were scrapped by the Navy, and now, it’s the oldest commissioned ship still floating in the world!