COVID-19 Update: How We are Serving and Protecting Our Clients.

african-businesswoman-discussing-with-remotely-woman-partner-online-sitting-front-laptop-working-start-up-office-talking-video-call-during-virtual-meeting-midnight-using-headphone-300x169To be fair, many personal injury victims and their families were not given much of a choice these past 18 months (closing in on two years, as a matter of fact). Everyone had a learning curve in the first few months of the pandemic—some steeper than others—but most attorneys, judges, and court personnel would agree that some court hearings can be easily conducted virtually.

Mediations, at least in the personal injury space, have worked quite well over Zoom. Our firm has been pleasantly surprised at the feasibility of getting results from mediation sessions where participants were spread across the country. In fact, our team would not be opposed to continuing virtual mediation sessions after the pandemic is fully under control. 

What is Mediation?

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Oyez, Oyez! Oyez!  All persons having business before the Honorable, the Supreme Court of Georgia, are admonished to draw near and give their attention, for the Court is now sitting. God Bless the State of Georgia and this Honorable Court.  May it please the Court.

Yesterday, I was honored to speak in the Georgia Supreme Court as part of the Court’s 175th Anniversary Celebration. The Celebration began Wednesday evening with a lovely dinner at The Commerce Club.  Thursday was a full day of seminar on the history of the Supreme Court and biographies of various former Justices. I spoke about the creation of the State Bar of Georgia in 1964, which was approved by the Georgia Supreme Court and five years later held to be Constitutional in two separate cases. It was one of the highest honors of my career. I am sharing with you below my presentation.

We are very fortunate to have the Georgia Supreme Court and the State Bar of Georgia, which, together, protect your rights to live in a Just society, grounded in the Rule of Law, so that all may reap the benefits and rewards that our system of Justice provides.

solen-feyissa-iurEAyYyU_c-unsplash-300x209Fair or not, almost every move you make after filing an insurance claim or lawsuit can be scrutinized. The insurance company or defense counsel might hire a private investigator to discreetly follow you around to try to gather evidence that’s harmful to your personal injury case. Unfortunately for personal injury victims, that’s not all the other side can do. 

If you have any type of social media account—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, to name a few—you are at risk of imperiling your personal injury case without even knowing it. That’s because plaintiffs’ social media accounts are discoverable in a personal injury lawsuit. 

What is Discovery?

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“Isn’t that a jury question?”  As a trial lawyer who has tried 75 jury trials in Georgia, that is my default position, i.e., a jury should decide each issue of fact. Not a trial judge and certainly not an appellate court. Juries perform this task of finding facts every day, in every courtroom in the United States. It’s what juries do…and it’s the very foundation our system of Justice is built upon.

Yet, too often, we see trial judges, and then even appellate judges, invade the province of the jury and decide the case for herself/himself. This, plain and simply, is not allowed. The Standard of Review of a denial of a motion for summary judgment, for example, requires [an appellate] Court to “view the evidence, and all reasonable conclusions and inferences drawn from it, in the light most favorable to the nonmovant. And at the summary-judgment stage, we do not resolve disputed facts, reconcile the issues, weigh the evidence, or determine its credibility, as those matters must be submitted to a jury for resolution.” Orr v. SSC Atlanta Operating Co., 860 S.E.2d 217, 222 (Ga. Ct. App. 2021), reconsideration denied (July 14, 2021). It really can’t be any plainer than that.

The United States Supreme Court, the highest appellate Court in the country, rarely, if ever, even discusses issues of fact, much less decides them. You can imagine my surprise, then, when in today’s oral argument in United States v. Tsarnaev I heard Justice Sotomayor ask exactly that question:  “Isn’t that for a jury to decide?”   Whoa! Wait a minute! What just happened?!  A Supreme Court Justice never asks a question like that, does she? And yet I heard it with my own two ears! Interesting.

christopher-burns-8KfCR12oeUM-unsplash-300x200If a person who is working on a Georgia construction site is injured by some other person’s negligence during the course and scope of their job, the injured person has several options. First, the injured worker would look to the company he works for workers’ compensation. If that employer has more than 3 employees, which is usually the case in construction, that employer is required to have workers’ compensation insurance.

Then, the injured worker may have other causes of action against other companies who were also present at the construction site and whose negligence may have caused the injury. This is why an injured worker should hire a plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer quickly after the injury. A good lawyer will be able to identify these other causes of action, including simple negligence actions against at-fault employees who are employed by a different company than the injured worker’s company, and even possibly products liability or premises liability actions against third parties. 

Should You File a Lawsuit?

insung-yoon-w2JtIQQXoRU-unsplash-300x200Just when everyone thought the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic was behind us, the Delta variant swept through the country and became the dominant strain in a matter of weeks. Plaintiffs in personal injury cases who thought they would finally get their proper day in court are now facing the prospects of more delays. 

Our team knows that nobody is more frustrated than personal injury victims and their families. Justice delayed, as it is often said, is justice denied. When you choose Attorney Robin Clark and the team to take your personal injury case to trial, we will fight for you until the end. 

Zoom Mediations—a Worthy Alternative?

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I have been enjoying seeing posts on social media of families taking their college-aged kids to their colleges and universities and helping them move in to their dorm rooms. This is a rite-of-passage for many young people as they begin their college careers and are perhaps living away from their home and their parents for the first time in their lives. The personal injury attorney in me can’t help but notice on the many dorm room photos online of how many of the high bunk beds have bedrails installed versus how many don’t. And this is the problem: no high bunk bed in any college dorm room should be without a bedrail installed.  The photograph above makes me happy because it shows a high bunk bed with a bedrail installed. This student will be safe when sleeping in this high bunk bed.

This issue came to light several years ago when Clark Jacobs, then a Georgia Tech student,  fell out of his lofted bed in his fraternity house. He fell 7 feet from his bed to the hard floor of his room. He was diagnosed with a fractured skull and a brain bleed which then led to a stroke. Five years and hundreds of hours of therapy later, including in-patient rehabilitation at Shepherd Center, Clark graduated from Georgia Tech in the summer of 2020.  I blogged about this incident last year and about a similar incident that happened to a young woman who was a student at Valdosta State University. That woman sued the Georgia Board of Regents and lost her case in the Georgia Court of Appeals. Valdosta State Univ. v. Davis, A20A1036, 2020 WL 4745074 (Ga. Ct. App. Aug. 17, 2020). Her attorneys petitioned the Georgia Supreme Court for Certiorari, but the Supreme Court declined to hear this case earlier this year, which means the Georgia Court of Appeals’ opinion stands.

Following my September 2020 blog on college bedrails,  Mariellen Jacobs, Clark Jacobs’s mother, reached out to me to discuss this ongoing problem. Given the fact that she had witnessed her son’s injury and recuperation first hand from an incident that, arguably, never should have happened in the first place, Mariellen Jacobs has become quite an expert on this subject matter. Her son endured a long recovery at Shepherd Center with medical bills totaling over $1 Million dollars. In Georgia, through the work of her foundation, Rail Against the Danger, Ms. Jacobs was able to convince the University System of Georgia (and all 26 state campuses) to become “rails ON” so that at residence hall check-in, every elevated bed has a safety rail in place to prevent injury. You can find information online that indicates that in at least a Georgia dorm room, a bedrail must be installed on the top bunk.  You will find this language in the Georgia Tech Housing and Residence Life webpage:

cytonn-photography-GJao3ZTX9gU-unsplash-1-300x200A personal injury lawsuit is a legal tool that can be used to obtain damages after someone (the plaintiff) is physically, mentally, or emotionally injured due to the intentional acts or negligence of someone else. If, unfortunately, the personal injury victim dies as a result of someone else’s actions, a family member of the deceased may be entitled to bring a wrongful death lawsuit. 

Someone in Georgia is said to have suffered a wrongful death if he or she died due to a crime, negligence, or “property” that has been “defectively manufactured.” The defective property does not have to have been negligently manufactured in order for a wrongful death claim to be brought.

What Kind of Damages Can a Wrongful Death Lawsuit Produce?

michael-longmire-lhltMGdohc8-unsplash-300x216After a serious car accident–one that involves damage to your car and the other person’s car, not to mention physical injuries–you’re in a precarious position. Between rental cars, medical bills, and lost wages, finances can quickly become a big problem. Insurance companies understand the situation you’re in, and they generally have no hesitation in using that to their advantage. 

It’s certainly not fair, but it’s the reality for victims of car accidents who need compensation. Being prepared for various stunts occasionally attempted by auto insurance companies can help you prepare for the upcoming process and protect your claim. 

  1. Offering a lowball figure to make the claim go away. 

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July 1 always welcomes in the new laws passed by the Legislature in the last Legislative session. Tomorrow Georgia will have several new laws that go into effect, many of which you may not be aware.

The first you should know about is “Joshua’s Law,” codified at O.C.G.A. § 40-5-10.  The genesis of this law is the untimely and unnecessary death of Joshua Brown, son of LuGina and Alan Brown back on July 1, 2003. It is ironic that the law in his name goes into effect on the 18th anniversary of Joshua’s death.  I had the distinct honor of representing LuGina and Alan in a successful wrongful death lawsuit in Fulton County against the Georgia Department of Transportation.  We tried that case to a jury and settled it on the last day of trial. Joshua then was 18 years old at the time of his death. He had been admitted to the Berklee School of Music and wanted to be a musician. I can remember when LuGina testified she talked about visiting Berklee with Joshua and when she saw the campus and all the students walking around she saw “a hundred little Joshuas.” I have never forgotten that moment in trial. It was so moving. Our lawsuit involved the negligent maintenance of the road Joshua was on when he lost control of his truck due to hydroplaning, ran off a steep, unprotected hillside and crashed into a tree. The Browns immediately threw their grief into action by creating “Joshua’s Law” and began lobbying the Georgia General Assembly for passage of the law that would mandate driver education in every high school in Georgia.  The Browns were the recipients of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association’s Courageous Pursuit of Justice Award for their relentless pursuit of justice against the Georgia Department of Transportation and for the creation of the new law “Joshua’s Law.”  The substance of the new law is as follows:

Effective: July 1, 2021
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