Articles Posted in General Negligence

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We recently posted a blog about premises liability and an Atlanta MARTA rider’s suit against MARTA. That case ended on Friday with a jury award of 1.4 million to the plaintiff.

This verdict re-affirms the importance of property owners’ responsibility to maintain a safe environment for guests an invitees on that property. The jury did not find Elevator Specialists, Inc., the company MARTA fired in 2007, to be liable. MARTA and the remaining firm contracted to maintain station escalators, Schindler Corp., had a responsibility to anyone riding their escalators to keep them in safe working condition.

MARTA is governed by a board, consisting of representatives appointed from the city of Atlanta (3 members), and the remainder of the counties of Fulton (3 members), Clayton (2 members) and DeKalb (4 members). Additionally, there is 1 member from the Georgia Department of Transportation, and 1 member from Georgia Regional Transportation Authority) who also serve on the MARTA Board of Directors.

Positions on the MARTA board are directly appointed by the organizations they represent. Although the state of Georgia does not contribute to MARTA’s operational funding, it still has voting members on the MARTA board. A similar situation existed for both Clayton and Gwinnett counties during most of MARTA’s history; as a consequence of passing the authorization referendum but not the funding referendum.

The highest position at MARTA is the general manager and chief executive officer. In October 2007, Dr. Beverly A. Scott was named the new general manager. Prior to joining MARTA, Dr. Scott served as GM/CEO of the Sacramento Regional Transit District. She has over 30 years of experience in the transportation industry. After 5 years at MARTA, she decided not to renew her contract with MARTA’s Board of Directors. Scott’s last day was December 9, 2012. Keith Parker is MARTA’s General Manager/CEO. Prior to Dr. Scott, MARTA’s General Manager was Richard McCrillis from 2006 to 2007. In October 2007, McCrillis retired after 22 years of service at MARTA.

The Georgia General Assembly has a standing committee that is charged with financial oversight of the agency. During the 2009 legislative session, Representative Jill Chambers,  introduced a bill that would place MARTA under GRTA, and permanently remove the requirement that MARTA split its expenditures 50/50 between capital and operations. This would allow MARTA to avoid service cuts at times when sales tax revenue is low due to recession, without having to ask the state legislature for temporary exemptions (typically a 55/45 split) as it has received before. The bill was not passed, but the funding restrictions were removed in 2015.

Due to it’s quasi-governmental structure, suing MARTA has it pitfalls. If you have suffered a serious injury on MARTA premises or due to the negligence of MARTA, you should hire an experienced Georgia lawyer who is well versed in how to sue MARTA.
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Going into a court building can be like walking into an alternate universe. Everyone has seen TV courtrooms. They show lots of wood paneling, grumpy judges and savvy lawyers. What popular media is less likely to show you is the behind-the-scenes administration where the bulk of the legal work gets done before anybody puts on a suit or stands in front of a jury.

If you walk into the Dekalb County Court building, you immediately realize there is more to it than a courtroom. Once you get through security, a maze of signs and arrows point you to different clerks and different courts. Some of them make sense. “Juvenile Court” is self-explanatory. Other terms that attorneys throw around are less obvious.
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As reported by Katy Ruth Camp of the Marietta Daily Journal, the new Cobb County Superior Courthouse is stunning and fits in so nicely with its surroundings. Cobb County has been the scene of many important personal injury jury trials and it is nice to see that the facilities are being kept state of the art.

As a trial attorney who handles a lot of cases in Cobb County (with many clients who reside in Marietta as well as Atlanta and the surrounding areas), I am grateful for the new courthouse, as it provides a more efficient and secure environment for our Cobb County trials. As an added bonus, the building is a fine architectural example of how a modern structure can be built to satisfy today’s mandates of court security (think bullet-proof walls and security checkpoints leading to Judges Chambers) and efficiency, yet look like an old courthouse from the outside so that it fits in with its surroundings. Not a small feat.

I am proud of what they have done in Marietta. I hope this style is extended to other courthouses in the metropolitan Atlanta area such as the court complexes in Fulton County (downtown Atlanta), Gwinnett County, DeKalb County (downtown Decatur), and Clayton County.

Since 1995, when I was sworn in as a new attorney, I have tried cases in Rockdale, Cobb, Fulton, DeKalb County and many other jurisdictions. Newer courthouses usually incorporate new technologies such as wi-fi and Elmos in the courtroom, which allows the trial lawyers to try their case more effectively. Most trials now include Powerpoint presentations, accident re-enactments, google earth, iPads, and many other types of technology which help us, as trial lawyers, to explain the case to the jury in a way that makes sense and is easily understood.

Use of technology to display evidentiary exhibits or illustrative aids changes the dynamic in a courtroom in productive and helpful ways. For judges, technology can increase opportunities to control the proceedings, set time limits, and decide matters quickly and without undue delay. For jurors, it can increase the sense of participation and improve the understanding of the facts. For lawyers, the faster pace, coupled with the need to respond to visual cues for objections as well as the traditional oral cues, puts a premium on a concise case theory and thorough preparation. This benefits the lawyers, as they can prepare the case presentation before hand and do not have to rely on written notes to present to the jury.

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Sometimes, a strategic decision is made by plaintiffs to try their case to a judge only and not pursue a jury trial. Some plaintiff lawyers relax their approach to these types of trials. However, a relaxed approach should be avoided for a number of reasons. The Georgia rules of evidence provides a framework for preserving error. These rules of evidence are in place and should be complied with by Georgia litigators in order to allow the appellate court to determine whether any of the evidentiary rulings by the trial court were error–and if so, was it reversible error which mandates a new trial.  From a more practical standpoint, preservation of error allows the trial judge to re-consider an erroneous ruling once she has had an opportunity to hear the evidence being offered. This should be kept in mind before and during the trial, in order to make sure that the judge has all of the correct evidence that she needs to make the correct decision–and one that will be upheld should it be appealed.
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Do I need a lawyer? This is a common question many people ask after being seriously injured in a car wreck or other personal injury accident. In order to properly answer this question, I think it is helpful for an injured person who is wondering whether they need to hire an experienced Georgia injury lawyer to read the following actual post which recently appeared on a Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer list-serve:

Help!
A potential client has $22,000 in medical expenses and needs surgery, but she just signed and faxed off a General Release to the other driver’s insurance company today for $25,000 policy limit on her own and she now wants to hire me to peruse the $100,000 in remaining available Georgia Uninsured Motorist Coverage Insurance.
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I would like to start off by wishing all of our proud and deserving Georgia veterans a happy and healthy 4th of July, or more appropriately, Happy Independence Day. Without these brave men and woman, we could not celebrate this day. Any celebration would not be complete without acknowledging their heroic efforts and monumental sacrifices in all of our wars and “police actions.”

I am a proud Army veteran. I joined the army right out of high school and completed my enlistment prior to starting college. I signed up for a two year enlistment. I proudly served my country as a Military Policeman. But, fortunately for me, the Army gave me so much; much, much more than I gave back. In exchange for two short years of service, I received the opportunity to go to college and to make something of myself. After all, I was able to complete my Army tour and finish college in about the same time it took to simply go to college. However, not all of our veterans are as fortunate. Of course, too many have given the ultimate sacrifice while defending our Country, their lives. Many have suffered crippling physical injuries while defending our Country. Many more have suffered horrific emotional injuries from the ravages of war. Clearly, these worthy veterans gave much more to our Country than they received. We owe them our deepest gratitude. What made me think of this was a recent visit I had with a great American and staunch Veteran Advocate, Marshall Berman.

A few weeks ago, we had the pleasure of hosting a small brunch for Marshall and his family. Marshall is a special person. You see, he cares a lot about other people, and one of his life-long goals is to help our military veterans. He has done great things for our veterans in the past. For instance, while he worked at the Georgia Department of Labor, Marshall was instrumental in improving the lives of our south Georgia military veterans by making it more convenient for them to receive the medical and employment-related services many of them so dearly needed.

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A jury has ordered American Physicians Insurance Corp. to pay $3.8 million for acting in bad faith by delaying payment on a claim it knew its client was liable for, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal. Court records show that American Physicians Assurance Corp. initially offered the plaintiff $75,000 despite estimating her injuries to be worth $1 million. Daniels was left permanently disabled after her doctor botched a cosmetic procedure he suggested she have while she underwent a hysterectomy. Full Article

In Georgia, if an insurer denies the claim of its insured based on inadequate evidence or based on inadequate investigation, it may be properly inferred by a judge or jury that such denial of payment of the claim was made in bad faith. Once this is established, the insurer who acts in bad faith is liable to the insured for damages, a statutory penalty and attorneys’ fees.

As experienced injury lawyers, we deal with many insurance companies. Many of them are guilty of bad faith by not adequately protecting the interests of their insureds. Attorney Robert J. Fleming has had great successes in helping seriously injured clients fully recover for their injuries. We do this by thoroughly investigating every case. Many times, this involves making a time-sensitive demand on their insurance company to pay the policy limits or face a suit for bad faith, in addition to the suit for damages the the insured client has suffered due to negligence. please contact us so that we can help properly evaluate your case.

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Many patients who are being treated for personal injuries are finding that a co-pay is no longer sufficient to visit the doctor’s office. In a new trend, doctors’ offices are demanding full payments up to the deductible amounts, often before the doctor will see the patient. An industry analyst says that, as insurance companies and employers have started requiring consumers to pay more of the costs of care, doctors’ offices have shifted their fee recovery to consumers. Read Full Article.

One of the most important concerns for accident victims in Georgia is being able to pay for and receive the proper medical care needed to recover from the accident. If you are seriously injured in an car accident, for example, and suffer a back injury (herniated disc or bulging disc in the back) which requires surgery, your medical bills pile up quickly. This new approach by the medical providers could cause problems. I advise clients to utilize the medical payments coverage that comes with their car insurance policy and then to use health care coverage.

Robert J. Fleming has successfully represented many clients in Atlanta and the surrounding areas who have been injured due to the negligence of others in many different types of accidents. One of the first things we do when you hire us to represent you is to determine which methods you have available to pay for the medical treatment you need to recover from the accident. If you have been in a bad wreck, you likely will not be in the best emotional position to make these determinations. However, this is what we do for our client every day. We can sit down with you and, in any orderly fashion, figure out your best course of action to make arrangements to pay your medical bills. We also take great care to determine responsible parties and all available insurance to pay for the damages that you have sustained in the car accident or other type of accident. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, slip and fall on commercial premises, or some other type of accident that was not your fault and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact us today for a free initial consultation to discuss the specific facts of your case.