The Blog

Accidents on Snowy & Icy Roads: What’s the law in Georgia?

With the winter weather covering our state, many people are probably wondering — What’s the law in Georgia when it comes to snow and ice on the roads, especially if there’s been car or semi-truck accident. Well, let’s take a quick look at this area of the law:

HIGHWAYS AND ROADS

First things first, we need to look at the black-letter law in Georgia, which is codified under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-180. This statute reads:

No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. […], [E]very person shall drive at a reasonable and prudent speed […] with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. (emphasis added)

So, what does this legalese really mean? You need to be careful when you are driving on icy and snowy roads here in Georgia. Notably, snow and ice among other conditions cannot be used as an excuse by someone if there’s a car or semi-truck accident. Another question also arises, but what if the other driver is going under the speed limit, and still there’s accident on the road? Georgia law, regardless, requires a person to drive at a “reasonable” speed, which doesn’t necessarily equate to driving the speed limit.

There are other laws on the books in Georgia that can also come into play for accidents. You’ve all probably seen videos on the news of vehicles skidding through an intersection and getting into an accident. But, just because there is ice or snow near a stop-sign, a person still is responsible for coming to a complete stop. It’s technically O.C.G.A. § 40-6-72. Here are a few others too: You must maintain your lane (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-48).  You still can’t follow someone else too closely (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-49). [FYI – It’s a relative standard so please remember to keep extra space on days like today when you are on the road to avoid an accident.]

Second, here’s a little non-legal tip: Insurance companies may try to deny claims if there’s not an accident report because it may turn into your word against their driver’s so make sure you report this accident right away and get an accident report. Do be prepared though to wait a while, if you can, because the police and fire departments are going to be stretched pretty thin with responding to accidents.

Most importantly, we hope you are safe and enjoying your snow day or perhaps couple of days. If you have any other questions abut accidents or need a bit more advice (but hopefully, you haven’t been in an accident in Georgia), feel free to give us a call at (404) 566-8964 or shoot us an e-mail at kevin@patricktriallaw.com.

What is a limited liability release?

There are generally two types of possible releases to sign after a you get close to settling a case in Georgia: A General Release and a Limited Liability Release. So what’s the difference between them? What one should I sign? What does a limited liability release look like? Well, let’s take each one of those questions in turn:

First things first, always be careful when an insurance company hands you a general release. A general release is a settlement document that settles virtually everything in a case. You are releasing absolutely everyone “known and unknown” that may have been responsible for your injuries. With a limited liability release, as the name suggests, you are limiting it to certain people or entities. For example, you may settle with one the person who caused the car accident, but can still go on to pursue your on UM, which means under/uninsured benefits through your insurance company.”

As a practical matter, second, your default should pretty much always be a Limited Liability Release given the risks of a signing a General Release. This situation often comes up in the context of an automobile accident with a ‘minimum limits’ at-fault driver. Georgia law only requires that people carry $25,000 in insurance coverage. If a person hits you and your medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, etc. exceed that amount, a Limited Liability Release will be the way for you to come back to your own insurance company for compensation.

Finally, you probably are wondering exactly what a Limited Liability Release looks like in Georgia. Here’s a template of one (with our usual disclaimer that’s not offered for legal advice):

LIMITED RELEASE PURSUANT TO O.C.G.A. § 33-24-41.1

______________________, (“the UNDERSIGNED”), for and in consideration of the sum of ___________ ($__________), to the UNDERSIGNED, in hand paid, receipt and sufficiency of which is hereby acknowledged, does hereby and for the heirs, executors, administrators, successors and assigns of the UNDERSIGNED acquit, remise, release, and forever discharge:

(1)       _________ __________________ (“INSURANCE CARRIER”) with regard to Policy No. _______________; from any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature, including but not limited to, all known and unknown bodily and personal injuries of the UNDERSIGNED, all hospital bills, doctor bills, drug bills, and other medical expenses, that belong to the UNDERSIGNED or which may hereafter accrue to the UNDERSIGNED on account of or resulting from the incident, casualty or event which occurred on or about ________________ near or around ______________(“INCIDENT”); and

(2)       _______________________  (“LIMITED RELEASEE”), except to the extent other insurance coverage is available which covers the claim or claims of the UNDERSIGNED against the LIMITED RELEASEE, from any and all claims, demands, rights, and causes of action of whatsoever kind and nature, including but not limited to, all known and unknown bodily and personal injuries of the UNDERSIGNED, all hospital bills, doctor bills, drug bills, and other medical expenses, that belong to the UNDERSIGNED or which may hereafter accrue to the UNDERSIGNED on account of or resulting from the INCIDENT.

All parties acknowledge that the payment referenced herein does not make whole nor fully compensate the UNDERSIGNED for losses sustained as a result of the INCIDENT.

This Limited Release is entered into pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 33-24-41.1, and its force and effect shall be as contemplated by that statute.  This Limited Release does not release INSURANCE CARRIER with regard to other insurance policies issued to LIMITED RELEASEE or to any other person or entity, including the UNDERSIGNED, and the UNDERSIGNED maintains all rights to pursue recovery with regard to insurance policies not identified by policy number herein.

This Limited Release shall not release any persons or entities not specifically named.

All parties deny liability, and all parties may deny liability in any future action.

The UNDERSIGNED understands that the injuries sustained are or may be permanent and progressive and that recovery is uncertain and indefinite.  The UNDERSIGNED has relied wholly upon his or her own the judgment, belief and knowledge as to the nature, extent, effect and duration of said injuries and liability, if any, and such is made without reliance upon any statement or representation of any other person.  The UNDERSIGNED acknowledges that no promise, inducement, or agreement not herein expressed has been made and that this Limited Release contains the entire agreement between the parties.  The UNDERSIGNED is 18 years of age or older, of sound mind and laboring under no disabilities.  The foregoing representations are made in order for the parties released hereby to rely upon them in effecting this Limited Release.

The UNDERSIGNED acknowledges prior receipt of this Limited Release and that it is notice in writing of lack of consent of the LIMITED RELEASEE to this settlement and that the this Limited Release does not preclude the LIMITED RELEASEE from asserting claims against the UNDERSIGNED.

The UNDERSIGNED agrees to take reasonable steps to satisfy or otherwise resolve valid and enforceable liens accrued as a result of the UNDERSIGNED’s alleged injuries arising out of the INCIDENT and agrees to effect necessary probate matters, if any, in due course.

This ________ day of ___________, 20___.

___________________________

[Insert name of release]

Sworn to and subscribed before me,

This _____ day of _______, 20___.

____________________________

Notary Public

In short, be careful what you sign and talk to a lawyer first. We’re here to help so feel free to give us a call or send a message anytime: (404) 566-8964 or kevin@patricktriallaw.com

Are personal injury settlements taxable?

People often wonder whether or not their personal injury settlement is considered taxable income. It’s a great question and a very real consideration for any case. Fortunately, the IRS has given us a fair amount of guidance on this topic. The most important aspect is that the IRS typically will not disturb a settlement that is “consistent with the substance of the settled claims.” This terminology basically means that the government will not alter a settlement so long as the parties are being truthful about the nature of it.

Let’s consider six different types of settlements:

Personal Physical Injuries or Sickness: If a person receives a settlement for a personal injury case, such as an automobile accident, and the settlement is a lump sum payment i.e. there is not a specific breakdown of the settlement distribution, then the full amount is not taxable. A person does not need to include the settlement proceeds in his or her income. As a practical matter, a personal injury attorney will typically request that the settlement in this form. Interestingly though, if a settlement is broken down, i.e. “X” for medical bills, “Y” for pain and suffering, and “Z” for lost income, then the IRS may tax the settlement. A person will be required to report it on Line 21 of Form 1040 as “Other Income.”

Building on this topic, settlements oftentimes contemplate Emotional Distress and Mental Anguish. This type of settlement typically is not taxable, but again, the IRS has a few exceptions. The main exception is non-physical injury or physical sickness, i.e. a person was not physically harmed in the case. Those amounts are included as taxable income. A person can, however, reduce this amount by any payments made for medical expenses attributable to emotional distress and previous deductions for medical expenses that did not give a tax benefit. Again, those portions would be reported as “Other Income.”

Lost Wages or Lost Profits: A person may miss time from work. This situation usually arises in the context of an employment related case, such as discrimination based race, religion, or national origin. Those proceeds are taxable. Additionally, that part of the settlement is subject to employment tax withholding by the employer. The employee needs to report those proceeds as “Wages, Salaries, Tips etc.” on Line 7 of Form 1040. Another situation is lost profits from a person’s business. That portion of the settlement is again subject to self-employment taxes.  The IRS has offered guidance on it in Publication 334.

Loss-in-Value of Property: Quite simply, if a settlement is less than the value of the property, then it generally does not need to be reported on a person’s tax return. In rare circumstances, a property settlement is more than the value of the property. If it’s the case, then a person is required reported as a capital gain under Schedule D of Form 1040.

There are a few other areas that will occasionally come into play: Interest and Punitive Damages. Interest on a settlement is generally taxable obviously as “Interest Income.” It’s reported on Line 8 of Form 1080. Punitive damages, which are generally designed to punish or deter conduct, are also taxable income even if the punitive damages arose from a personal injury case. Much like the other areas, punitive damages are reported as “Other Income” on Line 21 of Form 1040

We hope this synopsis of settlements and taxability is helpful to you. If you would like more information on this topic or have any additional questions, then please feel free to contact me at kevin@patricktriallaw or 404-566-8964.

Five Tips to Starting and Growing a Personal Injury Law Practice

Starting a law firm takes a lot of hard work and effort, but it’s one of the most rewarding journeys. The State Bar of Georgia’s Young Lawyer’s Division recently gave me the opportunity to offer advice to younger lawyers for starting and growing a personal injury law practice. To this end, I would respectfully offer other lawyers with similar aspirations five tips for this journey:

Tip One – Plan Ahead

            Starting a law practice may initially seem like an insurmountable challenge for a younger lawyer, but through preparation the dream of starting a practice will come to fruition for you. I found it useful to sit down and make a flowchart of the various aspects of my nascent practice. There are the obvious questions, like what type of law, where to practice; and even, what will be my firm’s name? Not only do you need to have a clear grasp of these issues, but also pragmatic considerations should drive your focus. For example, you need to look into enrollment periods for your spouse’s or partner’s health insurance plan, as well as when your 401(k) plan will vest at your soon to be previous employer. In sum, you should take the time to develop a clear plan and work hard to stick with it.

 Tip Two – Get involved

            Even with a plan in place, the inevitable question remains: “How will I get cases?” The key to developing a case pipeline is becoming actively involved in the profession and the community. Other attorneys are one of the best sources of referrals. Instead of simply asking them for cases, a valuable way to capitalize on your connections is to hold yourself out as an asset to them by offering specialized knowledge about an area of the law, like daycare negligence. The general public, as a practical matter, infrequently encounters attorneys so community events, such as booths at outreach events, are a great way to meet new people. I recommend placing a sign-in sheet or perhaps having a bowl for a raffle because they are an unassuming way for you to gather contact information.

Tip Three – Leave on Good Terms

            While you may feel a bit awkward over leaving your previous position, you will most likely not be the first or the last to leave it. You, however, will be remembered by the way you choose to depart from it. During the weeks and even months leading up to your departure, you should continue doing your job because you still have a duty to them and, most importantly, your clients. It’s only fair. An effective way to juggle your seemingly dual roles is setting a separate work schedule when you are technically off-the-clock. Once you decide to inform them about your decision, you should not be afraid to ask everyone for advice and assistance. For example, your secretary may already have a list compiled of your various e-file login names and passwords.

Tip Four – Hold Yourself Accountable

            You are now your own boss and likely wearing a number of other hats, like the administrative assistant and office manager. To balance all of these new responsibilities, I found it useful to compartmentalize my tasks for the day and week ahead of me. Early on Monday, I like to update my calendar with marketing events; whereas, Friday afternoons are a good time to create journal entries for the week’s expenses. Another way to ensure personal accountability rests with surrounding yourself with like-minded individuals. If you know that they will arrive early and stay late, then you naturally will follow their example. At the very core, embrace the challenges, work hard (and smart) because the benefits will flow directly to you.

Tip Five – Be Yourself and Say “Thank You”

            People are going to come to your firm because they know and trust you as an attorney and person. You’ve made it this far so don’t change! When the cases do come your way, a thank you note to the referral source with a small token of appreciation, like a lottery or movie ticket, goes a long way. You instill a sense of commitment to the case and pave the way for future referrals. By far though, the most important “thank you” should go to your family and friends. They have been by your side throughout this entire process and always remember to be there to support their dreams in the future.

Please feel free to reach out to me directly at (404) 566-8964 or kevin@patricktriallaw.com if I can ever be of any assistance to you and your practice.

 

Three Tips After an Automobile Accident

Over the years, we have developed four tips to help you and your loved ones after a car accident in Georgia. We know that there is a lot going through your mind right after an accident in Georgia. It’s scary! The police are arriving at the scene. The paramedics are coming too. Then, shortly after the accident, there are the seemingly endless calls from the insurance companies asking you for statements and oftentimes making you feel like you did something to cause the automobile accident, but when in reality you did absolutely nothing wrong. The truth: You need to take steps to protect yourself after an accident. These five steps will help guide you along the way after a car accident:

STEP ONE: CALL FOR EMERGENCY HELP AND GET AN ACCIDENT REPORT

Please call 911! We all know that the health and safety of everyone involved in the accident is far and away the most important thing after an automobile accident. It’s easy sometimes to feel guilty for calling for emergency help, especially if the at-fault driver in the accident, tells you that they accept responsibility and will pay for the damages to your vehicle. Far too often though, we have seen the situation play out where you leave the scene without calling the police and paramedics. The person that caused the accident then decides to change his or her story and then claim, “It wan’t my fault.” Without the accident report, the case already become much more difficult, i.e. your word against the other person’s story. The insurance companies will then use it to your disadvantage and may then try to reduce the offer in your case or perhaps even not make any offer to compensate you at all after the accident. We promise that by calling for emergency help you are doing the right thing after the car crash.

STEP TWO: TAKE PICTURES OF THE AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT

These days, a cell phone is a useful tool for taking photos of the damage to all the vehicles and the car accident scene. Many times the insurance company and an adjuster will try to downplay the severity of the car accident, but the pictures are worth a million words. They will show the damage and impact from the collision. Most of us know to take pictures of the vehicles themselves, but there are other very important pictures. Look for skid-marks! Skid marks are crucial, especially in tractor -trailer cases, because they can be used to determine the precise speed of the vehicle or truck that collided with you. If there’s not skid-marks, then the other driver may have been really distracted right before the accident. We have encountered situations where the other driver was texting,  eating, or even sleeping just before hitting a car. Another though: Make sure you snap a picture of the license plate of any people that arrived on the scene because it’s a good way to track them down after the accident, especially if you forget their names or write down the wrong phone number in the moment. Stories change, but the facts don’t.

STEP THREE: UNDERSTAND INSURANCE INFORMATION

While you probably know that Georgia law requires all drivers to maintain automobile accident liability insurance, there is a very scary truth to it: Other drivers only have to carry the minimum limits of $25,000. This amount of insurance for a car accident may seem like a lot of money at first glance, but in reality, it’s pretty small. Think about this — A hospital stay alone or just one surgery can exceed this amount. So please make sure not only get the other driver’s insurance card and write down the name of the insurance company and policy number, but also definitely contact your insurance company because you need to know about your insurance. You should make sure you have UM insurance, which stands for “uninsured motorist” or “underinsured motorist,” to protect you and your family in this type of situation. A quick side note: Make sure your UM coverage is “add-on.” We will talk more about it in another post soon! Anyway, you (or your lawyer) do need to let you insurance  company know about the accident right away; otherwise, your insurance company may not honor you insurance policy with them after an accident. Whatever you do, don’t give a recorded statement to the other insurance company. It’s a trap! Georgia law does not require one despite what the insurance company may try to tell you.

Of course, you should also get professional help! Feel free to give us a call if you ever have any questions about your automobile accident in Georgia. We have handled these types of cases throughout the state whether in Atlanta, Athens, Columbus, Macon, Rome, and Savannah. You can always reach us at (404) 566-5880 or kevin@patricktriallaw.com.

Unique Aspects of Wrongful Death Cases in Georgia

Wrongful death cases in Georgia are unique in many respects. Unlike some personal injury cases, there are actually two separate and distinct claims for wrongful death. Another aspect to these claims is the ‘hierarchy of people,’ such as a spouse or a child, that are permitted to bring a claim. Damages are recoverable by both the estate of the deceased person and the wrongful death claim itself. Notably, the full value of a person’s life is measured from the perspective of the deceased person, as opposed the the perspective of that person’s family and friends.

TWO TYPES OF WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIMS

While it’s understood that a wrongful death case stems from the loss of a loved one, many people are unfamiliar with the underlying legal claims. There are actually two different claims. The first claim is a traditional wrongful death action, and the second is a separate and distinct claim brought by the estate of the deceased person.

  • Wrongful Death Claim: Georgia law allows for the recovery of the full value of the life of the deceased person. The spouse of the deceased person will usually bring this claim. If the spouse is unable to bring a claim, then the “next of kin,” such as the sons and daughters, will be responsible for bringing the case.
  • Estate Claim: Unlike a wrongful death claim, an estate claim is filed by the estate. This claim is aimed at measuring the value of the deceased person’s life, but rather it is brought to recover the expenses of the estate, like burial and funeral costs, as well as any pain and suffering by the deceased person.

THE STATUTE OF LIMITATIONS

The statute of limitations means the time allowed to bring a case before it is barred by Georgia law. In Georgia there is typically a two year statute of limitations for a wrongful death claim. Depending on certain facts and circumstances, this period may be longer or shorter for a case. The statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the negligent act. For example, a loved one may have been in a serious tractor-trailer accident and been hospitalized for several weeks before ultimately losing his or her life. The statute of limitations begins to run at the time of the negligent act, i.e. the accident, as opposed to the time the person passed away. This situation often presents itself when a person survives for many months or perhaps even years after the accident so the key is obtaining legal counsel right away to ensure the at-fault party will be held accountable under the law.

A HIERARCHY OF PEOPLE

Georgia law basically has established a hierarchy of relatives who are permitted to bring a wrongful death case. The purpose of this system is avoiding multiple family members brining identical claims. The order is rather intuitive, as follows:

  • Spouse: The spouse is the first person with a right to bring a wrongful death claim. If the deceased person had a spouse and children, then that the spouse is legally required to bring a claim on his or her own behalf and also on behalf of any children.
  • Children: If the deceased person did not have a spouse, then the children are vested with the wrongful death claim, and they have a right to file suit. They would then split the award evenly amongst themselves.
  • Parent: If the deceased person did not have a spouse or children, then any surviving parent would be the proper person to bring the wrongful death claim.
  • Estate: If deceased person does not have any family, then that person’s estate will also have the right to bring the wrongful death claim. The recovery would then be divided up based on the Georgia probate rules.

DAMAGES FOR THE WRONGFUL DEATH CLAIM

As a general framework, the damages for this part of the claim again are the “full value” of the life of the deceased person measured from his or her own perspective. The factors are both economic and non-economic. The economic factors include the amount of lost wages assuming the person was working at the time of his or her death. To calculate this amount, it is important to consider the deceased person’s salary, job benefits, like a 401(k) and bonuses. Whereas, the non-economic factors include the intangible value of missing his or her children, a lifetime with his or her spouse along with the enjoyments of daily life. Establishing a concrete monetary figure is a difficult process because compensation can never truly heal a family, but there are tools such as a life-expectancy table to understand the likely amount of time lost as a result of an untimely death.

DAMAGES FOR THE ESTATE CLAIM

As a threshold matter, an estate needs to be set up for the deceased person. If the deceased person left with a will, then there will most likely be a representative for the estate. If, however, the person did not have a will, which is called intestate, then there are a set of laws in Georgia to determine the representative. The representative will have the authority to hire an attorney, dictate the course of the case, and ultimately agree to a settlement.

While it is relatively easy to calculate some parts of the estate claim, such a funeral costs and medical expenses, the more challenging part is determining whether or not there was pain and suffering for the deceased person. If the person immediately lost his or her life, then there may not be a claim. Interestingly though, Georgia law does allow recovery for even a few seconds of conscious pain. If the person lived for a period of time, then there will be a claim for pain and suffering for the estate. The decision is left to the “enlightened wisdom of a fair and impartial jury.” This standard is obviously a bit ambiguous so it is crucial to have an attorney, doctor(s), and other experts that will make a clear presentation to the jury about the scope of the pain and suffering for the deceased person.

If you have lost a loved one because of the negligence of another person or company, then please contact us right away for your free consultation. We understand that these are truly challenging times for you and your family members and will treat you with the utmost of compassion and respect. At the same time, we will make sure to gather all of the critical information to advance your case to ensure the justice your lost loved one deserves. Kevin can be reached at kevin@patricktriallaw.com or (404) 566-5880.

Drafting Requests for Production of Documents in Automobile Accident Cases

Our first and second blogs in this series focused on Requests for Admission and Interrogatories in automobile accident cases. They are both very effective discovery tools, but, as a practical matter, the documents themselves can “make or break” an automobile  case. Requests for Production of Documents are governed by O.C.G.A. 9-11-34, which again is a rather complicated statute. The key to advancing an automobile accident case is a streamlined set of requests to send to the at-fault party, as shown below:

O.C.G.A. 9-11-34: Requests for Production of Documents

(a) Scope. Any party may serve on any other party a request:

(1) To produce and permit the party making the request, or someone acting on his behalf, to inspect and copy any designated documents (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, phono-records, and other data compilations from which information can be obtained, translated, if necessary, by the respondent through detection devices into reasonably usable form), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any tangible things which constitute or contain matters within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26 and which are in the possession, custody, or control of the party upon whom the request is served; or

(2) To permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation thereon, within the scope of subsection (b) of Code Section 9-11-26.

(b) Procedure.

(1) 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. The request shall set forth the items to be inspected, either by individual item or by category, and describe each item and category with reasonable particularity. The request shall specify a reasonable time, place, and manner of making the inspection and performing the related acts.

(2) The party upon whom the request is served shall serve a written response within 30 days after the service of the request, except that a defendant may serve a response within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The response shall state, with respect to each item or category, that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, unless the request is objected to, in which event the reasons for objection shall be stated. If objection is made to part of an item or category, the part shall be specified. The party submitting the request may move for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 with respect to any objection to or other failure to respond to the request or any part thereof, or any failure to permit inspection as requested.

(c) Applicability to nonparties.

(1) This Code section shall also be applicable with respect to discovery against persons, firms, or corporations who are not parties, in which event a copy of the request shall be served upon all parties of record; or, upon notice, the party desiring such discovery may proceed by taking the deposition of the person, firm, or corporation on oral examination or upon written questions under Code Section 9-11-30 or 9-11-31. The nonparty or any party may file an objection as provided in subsection (b) of this Code section. If the party desiring such discovery moves for an order under subsection (a) of Code Section 9-11-37 to compel discovery, he or she shall make a showing of good cause to support his or her motion. The party making a request under this Code section shall, upon request from any other party to the action, make all reasonable efforts to cause all information produced in response to the nonparty request to be made available to all parties. A reasonable document copying charge may be required.

[…]

(d) Confidentiality. The provisions of this Code section shall not be deemed to repeal the confidentiality provided by Code Sections 37-3-166 concerning mental illness treatment records, 37-4-125 concerning mental retardation treatment records, 37-7-166 concerning alcohol and drug treatment records, 24-9-40.1 concerning the confidential nature of AIDS information, and 24-9-47 concerning the disclosure of AIDS information; provided, however, that a person’s failure to object to the production of documents as set forth in paragraph (2) of subsection (c) of this Code section shall waive any right of recovery for damages as to the nonparty for disclosure of the requested documents.

Just like Interrogatories there’s not a single right way to draft Requests for Production of Documents, but each set needs to be tailored to the specific facts of the case by starting off with a general template, like the one down below. Another good idea for a template is to have the requests correspond with the previous interrogatories.

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 PRODUCTION TO DEFENDANT

1.

Any and all videotapes, photographs, plats or drawings of the vehicles, parties, scene of the incident or any other matter material to the incident underlying this litigation.

2.

Any and all videotapes, photographs, reports, data, memoranda, handwritten notes, or other documents reviewed by or generated by any expert or technician identified in your response to Interrogatory No. 7.

3.

Any and all medical records, videotapes, photographs or other evidence concerning, referencing or depicting the Plaintiff.

4.

A copy of any and all photographs and/or videotapes depicting the Plaintiff doing anything.

5.

Any and all documents obtained through a request for production of documents or subpoena.

6.

Any and all documents regarding the property damage estimates of and the repairs to Plaintiff’s and Defendant’s automobiles.

7.

Any and all documents which would in any way challenge, diminish or refute any of the Plaintiff’s claimed injuries, medical and/or hospital bills, or lost earnings related to the subject incident.

8.

Any and all insurance policies, including declarations pages, which might provide benefits related to the subject incident regardless of whether the insurer agrees there was coverage.

9.

Any and all taped or written statements taken from Plaintiff, or any other potential witnesses to this lawsuit, by anyone acting on behalf of Defendant or Defendant’s insurer(s).

10.

Any and all documents, books, writings or other tangible things which support any defenses you rely upon in your defense to this lawsuit.

11.

A copy of the title and tag registration on the vehicle you were driving at the time of the subject incident.

12.

Any and all documents reflecting the disposition of any charges made against you in the subject incident.

13.

A copy of your current driver’s license and all drivers’ licenses you have held in the past five (5) years.

14.

Any and all documents related to Plaintiff’s medical treatment for injuries allegedly received in the subject incident.

15.

Any and all documents related to the medical treatment the Plaintiff received prior to the subject incident.

16.

Any and all documents which you contend in any way impeach or discredit the Plaintiff.

17.

Please provide copies of any and all Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MySpace or other digital documents relating to the plaintiff or their family that you have reviewed. If you contend the documents are privileged please provide a privilege log.

18.

            For any document which has not been produced on grounds of privilege, please state the following:

(a)   the date each document was generated;

(b)   the person generating each document;

(c)   the present custodian of each document; and,

(d)  a description of each document.

This _____ day of _________, ________.

Respectfully submitted,

____________________________________

[INSERT NAME, ADDRESS, AND CONTACT INFORMATION]

At the very core, this blog series demonstrates that the critical aspect to an effective car accident case is a streamlined discovery process. It’s amazing what you can learn about the other party in discovery, such as previous convictions and a poor driving record, but always be mindful too that the other party will have the same tools available to learn about your own client. So be prepared! Please don’t hesitate to contact us at (404) 566-5880 or information@patricktriallaw.com if you have any questions about your car accident and need legal assistance with your case.

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.

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.

 

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.