Filing Personal Injury Claims in Savannah Georgia
Society is largely built upon a certain level of trust between its members that each individual will function properly and in such a way that avoids injury. Therefore, it can be a traumatic experience when the trust you place in an individual is broken due to that person’s action, or inaction, causing your injury.
If you have been injured by another individual or a member of a company or organization, you are likely entitled to a civil remedy under tort law.
A tort is a wrongful act or an infringement of a right that leads to civil, not criminal, liability. In order to obtain a remedy for the wrongful act or infringement of a right, it is the responsibility of the injured party to bring a lawsuit in a civil court of law. If criminal activity accompanied the act that caused your injury, that portion will be handled by the authorities.
In a personal injury situation, bringing a lawsuit may be the last thing you want to do, due to your current physical condition. However, bringing a lawsuit sooner, rather than later, can help to maximize your chances of being made whole by the courts. This is because Georgia law requires that all personal injury cases be filed within two years of the injury taking place. Filing a lawsuit outside of the two-year window will almost assuredly result in the court refusing to hear your case.
Elements of a Tort
To prove that a tort took place and you are entitled to a remedy provided by the court, it must be proven that:
- The defendant had a duty
- The defendant breached their duty
- The defendant’ breach was the proximate cause of the injury
- Damages exist
The word “duty” can easily be replaced by the word “responsibility” in that for the first element of a personal injury claim to be met, the defendant must have had a responsibility to do or not do something.
For example, you were injured by stepping on a rake which was left in your front yard by a lawn maintenance company. The maintenance company and/or its employee had a responsibility, or duty, to remove the rake prior to leaving your residence when their work was complete.
The second element that needs to be proven in a personal injury claim against a defendant is that the defendant breached their duty. Thus, in order to prevail in a personal injury claim, the defendant must have acted unreasonable under the circumstances.
Using the above example, the maintenance company’s failure to remove the rake in your front yard was a breach of their duty or responsibility to remove all potentially dangerous equipment from your residence.
Even though a case may establish that a defendant owed a duty to the plaintiff and that duty was breached, the case will fail if it cannot be established that the breach of the owed duty was the cause of the plaintiff’s injury.
Causation needs to be proven in both actual as well as proximate terms.
Actual causation requires that the defendant’s breach of duty be the cause in fact of your injury.
For example, but for the maintenance worker leaving the rake in your yard, you would not have stepped on the rake and sustained injury.
Proximate cause refers to how foreseeable an injury would be as a result of the action or in action of the defendant. This protects potential defendants from being liable for injuries that were in no way predictable as a result of their action or inaction. Therefore, in order for a recovery to be permitted, the injury must have been close in time or within the chain of causation linked to the action or inaction of the defendant.
Using the above example, a court would assess how likely the injury you sustained would be given that the maintenance worker breached his or her duty by failing to remove the rake from your yard.
Finally, in order to be successful in bringing a personal injury claim before the Court, actual damages must exist. This means that if you are unable to establish that damages were suffered as a result of the defendant’s breach of duty, your case will likely fail.
Damages can be established in many ways including, but not limited to:
- Loss of wages
- Medical expenses
- Physical pain and suffering
Damages are given as compensation for injury and are meant to make the plaintiff “whole” and in the same position they would have been had the injury not occurred. If the damages are small, only nominal damages will be awarded. However, the law in Georgia does not place a cap on how the amount of money a plaintiff can receive in a personal injury case against a defendant.
Further, the Court may award punitive damages. Punitive damages differ from compensatory damages in that they are meant to punish, penalize, and deter a defendant. Punitive damages are awarded in situations where it is proven by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant’s actions showed willful misconduct, malice, fraud, wantonness, oppression or that entire want of care which would raise the presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences.
It is important to note that Georgia is considered to be a Comparative Fault state in that your damage award will be reduced or eliminated if you are found to be partly or mostly at fault for your injury. By law, your total monetary award is reduced by the percentage of blame assigned to you.
Using the above example, if it is found that you are 50% responsible for the injury you incurred by stepping on the rake, and the Court found that your total damages amounted to $20,000; your total award will be reduced to $10,000 (50% of the original sum).
Contact our offices for a free consult. We can answer your questions about personal injury cases.