Punitive Damages for Drunk/Intoxicated and Distracted Drivers in Motor Vehicle Wrecks

You were in a bad car wreck and you have been seriously injured. The accident was caused by someone who was not completely focused at the wheel. The offending driver’s insurance company is now calling, wanting to quickly adjust your motor vehicle accident claim. You do not know what your rights are regarding the recovery of medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, punitive damages, etc. What do you do? The smart course is to keep the insurance company at bay to ensure your right to adequate compensation is preserved. You should call a personal injury attorney who is an expert in this area of the law – someone who understands both the civil and the criminal aspects of DUI car wrecks and/or texting and driving car accidents. The Dow Firm, P.C.’s principal, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391 it is against the law for anyone to drive a motor vehicle (car, motorcycle, boat, tractor-trailer, etc.) under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Besides alcohol (beer, wine and liquor), prohibited substances which cause DUI include, but are not limited to, methamphetamine, cocaine, marijuana, glue, aerosol or other toxic vapor. This roadway rule is based upon the reasonable assumption ingesting any of these substances and getting behind the wheel of an automobile renders a person a less safe driver.

Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919.

Many serious injuries and wrongful deaths arise from people operating motor vehicles while impaired. Driving while intoxicated is conduct so dangerous that Georgia’s legislature has specifically passed a civil law against driving under the influence which works in tandem with the statute that makes DUI a criminal offense.

In instances where a person is injured by a DUI driver (under the effects of alcohol, prescription drugs or illegal drugs), unlimited punitive damages can be assessed against the motor vehicle operator who causes the wreck. In pertinent part, O.C.G.A. § 51-12-5.1 states, “In a tort case . . . if it is found . . . that [an impaired driver] acted or failed to act while under the influence of alcohol [or] drugs . . . there shall be no limitation regarding the amount that may be awarded as punitive damages . . .” This is noteworthy because under Georgia law there is usually a maximum cap of $250,000.00 on exemplary damages (punitive damages) which can be awarded against a bad actor in other (non-DUI) types of cases.

If a person has been injured by a DUI driver, in addition to a claim for general damages (physical and mental pain and suffering) and special damages (medical expenses, lost earnings, vehicle repair costs, etc.), a claim will exist for punitive damages. Under the Georgia civil code, that claim may have no dollar limit placed upon it. Simply stated, drunk and intoxicated driving cases involve serious offenses which carry substantial dollar exposure for the offending DUI driver. Similarly, if a wrongful death arises from the reckless driving and acts of a drunk or intoxicated driver and the person who suffered a wrongful death experiences conscious pain and suffering before death, punitive damages may be awarded against the DUI driver in a wrongful death lawsuit.

All DUI wrecks (injuries and fatalities) involve various technical considerations (such as sobriety testing, toxicology, blood alcohol content, accident reconstruction and the bisection of criminal and civil law) and are significantly more valueable than some other types of non-DUI auto accidents. Insurance companies know this to be true and an accident lawyer knowledgeable about these matters (who the insurance company will respect and pay adequate compensation to for the client) is essential. For that reason, wrecks involving cars, 18-wheelers, motorcycles and boats with DUI drivers should be handled by a law firm, like The Dow Firm, P.C., which is experienced in the investigation and resolution of these complicated matters. A proper personal injury attorney should supply representation in these types of cases, otherwise a client’s motor vehicle accident case can result in an inadequate settlement.

Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919.

While and “accident attorney” is key in these types of cases, it is important to remember that drunk driving accidents are actually not considered “accidents” in the eyes of Georgia law. This is so because our state takes into account the fact that a drunk driver chooses – before the wreck – to drink and get intoxicated. With this pre-intoxication knowledge imputed to the ultimately drunk driver, the law assumes the negligent driver assumed the risk of causing innocent parties (passengers, other motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians) serious economic/compensatory damages in the form of medical bills, lost wages and property damages as well as non-economic/general damages like permanent disfigurement, emotional distress, physical injury, etc.

While impaired drivers and drunk drivers pose a significant threat for causing auto accidents, a phenomenon has developed in recent years involving drivers who are less safe, not necessarily because they are intoxicated drivers, but due to distraction. With the invention and proliferation of communication technology (cell phones and digital tablets), widespread hazards have been created which affect all motorists at all hours of the day. Like DUI drivers, distracted drivers pose a threat to everyone on the roadway. However, what is particularly worrisome about distracted driving is that it is more prevalent than drunk driving.

In the past, there were certain hours (between 10 p.m. at night and 3 a.m. in the morning) when there was an increased risk of driving due to the presence of motorists operating vehicles after a night of partying. That has changed because virtually everyone who has a motor vehicle also has a cellular telephone. This means that there is a higher incidence of people on the road who are possessed of technology which can distract a driver. Now, driving at any hour of the day can be a safety gamble. Whereas head-on collisions often occur in the context of drunk drivers leaving their lane around midnight, this same fatal wreck can happen in the middle of the day without any chemical substance involved because a person is texting and driving. Unfortunately for the innocent victim hit head-on, the damage consequence is the same. In fatal car accidents, vehicles do not distinguish between drunk driving and distracted driving. To be clear, a negligent driver texting and driving is considered just as dangerous as a drunk driver with a blood alcohol content with a concentration over .08 grams.

The State of Georgia has progressively taken steps to address the epidemic of distracted driving. In 2010, the legislature passed the state’s first statutes limiting the legality of the use of cell phones and wireless communication devices behind the wheel. These laws were subsequently modified in 2015. Now, effective July 1, 2018, under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 it is illegal for a driver to even hold a cell phone, much less use one to make a call, read or author a text, watch a video or record a video, while operating a motor vehicle. In essence, Georgia has taken a strict no-use policy as to cell phones in order to address the risk of danger associated with distracted driving accidents/motor vehicle accidents caused by people who are texting while driving.

Unfortunately, as everyone knows laws will always be broken. For that reason, The Dow Firm, P.C. is ready to prosecute auto accident personal injury and wrongful death claims for distracted driving in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 as well as DUI under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-391. And as it pertains to punitive damages, it is likely that certain offenses involving distracted driving – now that an express law is in place – will give rise to serious exemplary damages exposure for offending drivers who cause wrecks while on their cellular phones. The Dow Firm, P.C. has a demonstrated history of success in handling texting and driving matters along with drunk driving and intoxicated driving matters, having obtained significant compensation for victims through excess verdicts and large settlements in such cases over the last two decades.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is focused on investigation and prosecution in auto accidents.

Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is proud to represent clients with DUI and driving-related claims in Glynn County (Brunswick, Country Club Estate, Dock Junction, Everitt, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, Sterling, St. Simons Island and Thalman), Brantley County (Atkinson, Hickox, Hoboken, Hortense, Lulaton, Nahunta, Trudie and Waynesville), Camden County (Colesburg, Dover Bluff, Harrietts Bluff, Kings Bay Base, Kingsland, St. Marys, Tarboro, Waverly, White Oak and Woodbine), Wayne County (Jesup, Odum and Screven), McIntosh County (Cox, Crescent, Darien, Eulonia, Pine Harbour, Ridgeville, Shellman Bluff, South Newport, Townsend and Valona), Pierce County (Blackshear, Bristol, Mershon, Offerman and Patterson), Chatham County (Bloomingdale, Garden City, Georgetown, Isle of Hope-Dutch Island, Montgomery, Port Wentworth, Pooler, Savannah, Skidaway Island, Thunderbolt, Tybee Island, Whitmarsh Island, Wilmington Island and Vernonburg) and counties throughout the state of Georgia.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is located in Brunswick, GA, however, our firm investigates wrongful death claims and DUI-related injury cases throughout Georgia.

Personal Injury Claims, Settlements & Lawsuits – Learn the Distinctions

Personal Injury Claims, Settlements & Lawsuits – Learn the Distinctions

In Georgia law, there are material distinctions between personal injury claims, personal injury lawsuits and personal injury settlements.

On a continuum, a personal injury claim (or, in the instance of a death, a wrongful death claim) arises before anything else happens. Specifically, when a wrong-doer (either intentionally or accidentally) causes another person harm, springing from that harm is the legal construct of what is known as a “cause of action”. In other words, the person harmed has a reason (a cause) to initiate legal action of some sort against the wrong-doer to secure a recovery for his/her loss. When a person asserts his/her right to recover for damages (either in or out of court), the person is asserting a personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim. A claim is basically a person’s declaration that he/she has a right and is entitled to be compensated under the stated circumstances.

A personal injury claim/wrongful death claim can be asserted either in or out of the context of a lawsuit by way of a “demand to settle”. A personal injury claim or a wrongful death claim which is made before a lawsuit is filed in court is called a “pre-suit demand”. If a claimant’s demand is accepted under these circumstances, the parties will have reached a “pre-suit settlement”. However, a case need not be settled before suit is filed in order for a personal injury claim/wrongful death claim to be resolved. Once a lawsuit is filed in court, a claim can still be settled if the parties agree to end the case by way of a “litigated settlement”. In that situation, the parties agree that, despite the filing of the personal injury or wrongful death claimant’s lawsuit, the claim will be resolved without the need for a jury trial. The dispute will be terminated and the claimant’s case will be dismissed.

It should come as no surprise that most personal injury/wrongful death claims settle out of court before a jury renders a verdict in the case. This is true given (1) the uncertainty of litigation (where a case is determined by jurors who are virtual strangers to a controversy), (2) the costs of litigation (which encompass the opposing parties’ time, effort and money) and (3) the economy of litigation (which balance the costs associated with bringing a case to trial compared to the potential amount a claimant might recover).

The Dow Firm, P.C. is equipped to and does assert its clients’ claims in whatever forum necessary and pursues its clients’ personal injury claims and wrongful death claims in whatever manner necessary, including resolution via trial by jury if required. The Dow Firm, P.C. has secured over 50 million dollars ($50,000,000) in judgments and recoveries in serious injury and wrongful death cases in a little over a decade. You can contact The Dow Firm, P.C. at (912) 264-1919 or (800) 557-JDOW or receive a free case evaluation by accessing this page and filling out the 1 minute form.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is proud to offer services and represent clients with wrongful death and personal injury claims in Glynn County (Brunswick, Country Club Estate, Dock Junction, Everitt, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, Sterling, St. Simons Island and Thalman), Brantley County (Atkinson, Hickox, Hoboken, Hortense, Lulaton, Nahunta, Trudie and Waynesville), Camden County (Colesburg, Dover Bluff, Harrietts Bluff, Kings Bay Base, Kingsland, St. Marys, Tarboro, Waverly, White Oak and Woodbine), Wayne County (Jesup, Odum and Screven), McIntosh County (Cox, Crescent, Darien, Eulonia, Pine Harbour, Ridgeville, Shellman Bluff, South Newport, Townsend and Valona), Pierce County (Blackshear, Bristol, Mershon, Offerman and Patterson), Chatham County (Bloomingdale, Garden City, Georgetown, Isle of Hope-Dutch Island, Montgomery, Port Wentworth, Pooler, Savannah, Skidaway Island, Thunderbolt, Tybee Island, Whitmarsh Island, Wilmington Island and Vernonburg) and counties throughout the state of Georgia.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is located in Brunswick, GA, however, our firm is able to manage wrongful death claims and personal injury cases anywhere in Georgia.

Georgia Distracted Driving Laws

The legal impact of driving while texting/using a cell phone

Hand-held communication devices make the world lot more accessible. Smartphones serve as a portal for the quick retrieval of information and an immediate link to others. In that regard, technology is good. But for all the utility they provide, the prevalence of cell phones and the distraction they create can also make the world a much more dangerous place to be, particularly on Georgia’s roadways.

Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919.

It used to be folks could anticipate reckless driving under somewhat predictable circumstances at somewhat predictable times (typically committed by DUI drivers in the early morning hours after “last call”). But with the widespread introduction and use of cell phones, nearly anyone at any time can turn an ordinary day or night into a tragic nightmare involving death or serious injury inflicted by a motor vehicle. In other words, the risks posed by drivers using cell phones has increased the frequency of random head-on collisions, drifting sideswipe impacts, roll-overs after running off the road and overcorrecting, etc.

Understanding that distracted driving (driving while texting/using a cell phone) has become a serious problem in Georgia, state and federal laws have been enacted to prohibit this dangerous practice from occurring. O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-241 outlaws certain use of wireless telecommunication devices in moving vehicles on the roads of Georgia. Likewise, the deadly threat posed by the combination of tractor-trailer operation and the use of cell phones by tractor-trailer drivers has been identified and expressly addressed by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) for many years with the implementation and enforcement of 42 CFR §§ 392.80 and 392.82. In fact, as for commercial drivers, a FMCSA study found that tractor-trailer drivers involved in texting were 23 times more likely to experience a critical driving event than a non-distracted driver. (So when you see a trucker behind the wheel on a cell phone, understand that is a serious threat to your safety and a violation of federal regulation designed to protect you and the rest of the motoring public.) And while laws are in place to prescribe safe behaviors, obviously not everyone follows the rules. When this happens the harms which the laws are designed to guard against can become a reality.

Over the years, The Dow Firm, P.C. has had the unfortunate opportunity to see the effects distracted driving and texting while driving visited upon unsuspecting, innocent drivers, passengers, bicyclists and pedestrians. This law firm knows how to investigate and prosecute claims where reckless drivers, due to cell phone texting, messaging, calling or internet searching, have injured or killed others.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is focused on investigation and prosecution in reckless driving cases and has a demonstrated record of successful outcomes for patients victimized .

Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is proud to offer services and represent clients with texting and driving-related claims in Glynn County (Brunswick, Country Club Estate, Dock Junction, Everitt, Jekyll Island, Sea Island, Sterling, St. Simons Island and Thalman), Brantley County (Atkinson, Hickox, Hoboken, Hortense, Lulaton, Nahunta, Trudie and Waynesville), Camden County (Colesburg, Dover Bluff, Harrietts Bluff, Kings Bay Base, Kingsland, St. Marys, Tarboro, Waverly, White Oak and Woodbine), Wayne County (Jesup, Odum and Screven), McIntosh County (Cox, Crescent, Darien, Eulonia, Pine Harbour, Ridgeville, Shellman Bluff, South Newport, Townsend and Valona), Pierce County (Blackshear, Bristol, Mershon, Offerman and Patterson), Chatham County (Bloomingdale, Garden City, Georgetown, Isle of Hope-Dutch Island, Montgomery, Port Wentworth, Pooler, Savannah, Skidaway Island, Thunderbolt, Tybee Island, Whitmarsh Island, Wilmington Island and Vernonburg) and counties throughout the state of Georgia.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is located in Brunswick, GA, however, our firm investigates wrongful death claims and all types of automobile-related injury cases anywhere in Georgia.

Call us today at (912) 264-1919.

Insurance coverage in personal injury trials – What you need to know in Georgia

Typically in a personal injury trial, a deliberating jury will want to know about insurance. Specifically, the jury wants to know if the negligent defendant has liability insurance and, if so, how much. The jury also wants to know if the injured victim has health insurance to help compensate for the medical expenses incurred due to the defendant’s misdeeds.

Whenever the jury’s questions about insurance come out of the jury room to the judge, the answer is the same, “The jury cannot consider the issue of the parties’ insurance coverage.” Why is this so? Georgia law prohibits the jury from knowing anything about insurance because there is an ill-founded concern that if juries could learn information about a defendant’s insurance coverage (which would relieve a liable defendant from having to actually pay out of his own pocket for his personal negligence) awards would be unreasonably high in favor of injured parties. Conversely, jurors cannot know about a plaintiff’s health insurance coverage because they will assume (erroneously) the plaintiff’s medical bills have been covered and therefore there is no need for an award for such damages.

The Dow Firm, P.C. has a strong record of holding negligent defendants and their insurance companies responsible for their actions. The Dow Firm, P.C. has secured over 50 million dollars ($50,000,000) in judgments and recoveries in serious injury and wrongful death cases in a little over a decade. You can contact The Dow Firm, P.C. at (912) 264-1919 or (800) 557-JDOW or receive a free case evaluation by accessing this page and filling out the 1 minute form.

Several things must be understood about the dynamic of a personal injury action and, in particular, insurance coverage matters.

A defendant’s insurance information is actually revealed in jury selection

In a personal injury case in Georgia, before a jury trial commences, the presiding judge will ask the potential jury panel questions during jury selection about their affiliations with particular insurance companies. The reason for this questioning is to identify whether any jurors have insurance or stock holdings with the on-trial defendant’s insurance company. If a juror has an interest in the same insurance company that is providing coverage to a negligent trial defendant, the juror will have to be excused from consideration due to a conflict of interest. As such, if you are called for jury duty in a personal injury case where the defendant has insurance, the jury selection process itself will likely reveal the fact the defendant has insurance and with whom the defendant has insurance.

What is the difference between a personal injury claim and a lawsuit? Find out more.

In almost every personal injury case the defendant has insurance

In almost every personal injury case tried before a jury, the defendant has insurance. The jury is just prohibited from knowing about it and for that reason the attorney for the injured party cannot bring the existence of the defendant’s liability coverage to the jury’s attention. Given the cost of litigation, however, it is fair to expect that if an attorney is representing a defendant at trial in a personal injury suit, the defendant has insurance and his defense is being provided by his insurance company’s preferred attorneys.

Personal injury victims with health insurance have to reimburse their own insurance companies

In almost every personal injury case tried before a jury, if an injury victim does have health insurance which has paid injury-related medical expenses, any recovery for these expenses will have to be paid back to the victim’s healthcare insurance company. This reimbursement scheme is called, “subrogation” which is a formal way of saying, “double-dipping”.

This is an absolutely true characterization, because while the insurance company is entitled to repayment from an injury victim’s recovery, the insurance company is not required to reimburse the injury victim’s monthly premiums. In other words, before and after the time of a plaintiff’s injury, the health insurance company is permitted to collect the injured plaintiff’s insurance premiums (in contemplation of the plaintiff needing healthcare). Then it also gets reimbursed out of the jury’s verdict for the medical expenses it (the insurance company) paid for which were caused by the negligent defendant. Basically the healthcare insurance company gets paid twice and the personal injury victim gets nothing in return for his/her premium. What is more, the healthcare insurance company gets to collect its money free of charge, thanks to the efforts of the plaintiff and his/her attorney. Incredibly though, there is no downside for the insurance company. If a victim and his attorney advance their time and money and lose a case at trial, the insurance company (which would have sought reimbursement from a recovery) does not have to share the burden of an unsuccessful litigation.

This is can be especially onerous on the plaintiff when, after waiting years for trial and after counsel has expended countless hours and several thousands of dollars in litigation expenses, a jury issues an award of just medical expenses. In such a case, a jury (which unwittingly believes an award of medical expenses will help restore the victim to his/her place before the injury) has actually done little to nothing to address the victim’s losses.

The defendant’s attorney is paid by the insurance company to represent the defendant and the defendant does not have to pay out-of-pocket for the legal representation or the jury verdict in favor of the injured plaintiff

In almost every personal injury case tried before a jury, the attorney for the defendant has been paid (and will continue to be paid during and after trial) regularly and at a definite hourly rate by the defendant’s insurance company and the defendant will not have to personally pay any legal fees. As such, a defendant faces no real burden for ongoing legal fees and a defense attorney faces no financial risk in handling the case for as long as a matter may exist. As long as a case is active, a defense attorney can expect that his fees will be paid. This stands in stark contrast to the method of payment that an injured person has with his lawyer.

The contingency fee method is the only realistic and fair way for injured parties to secure legal representation

Most injured parties hire lawyers on a contingency fee basis. Under such an arrangement, someone who is hurt is able to secure representation without paying a lawyer “up-front” and “out-of-pocket”. With a contingency fee, the attorney agrees to receive delayed payment (if at all) for the present provision of legal services. Payment is ultimately made in the form of a percentage of the amount recovered for a client. Typically contingency fees range between 25% and 40% of a client’s gross recovery and the fixing of a lawyer’s fees depends upon factors such as the nature and complexity of a legal matter, the costs of pursuing a given legal matter and the likelihood of recovering for the client in a legal matter. Unlike defendants who are provided legal representation funded by their insurance companies, after an accident injured parties ordinarily do not have the luxury of appointed legal counsel waiting at-the-ready. Conversely, the insurance company adjusters and their stand-by lawyers often spring into action to gain advantage in a case against an unrepresented person who has been hurt.

Legal services and litigation costs can be expensive, so many people who have been injured cannot afford to fund claims against insurance giants to receive due compensation for their losses. When dealing with mounting medical expenses and diminished income from work (missed due to injuries), a personal injury victim is typically not in a position to pay a lawyer by the hour. If an injured person had to choose between food, shelter, medical care and a monthly legal bill, the priorities would stack-up in a way that the victim’s legal rights would have to come last. In other words, healthcare for painful injuries and feeding oneself to avoid starvation is paramount. This is where the utility of the contingency fee arrangement is apparent.

Contingency fee arrangements are extremely risky for plaintiffs’ lawyers

Under this financial arrangement, a plaintiff’s lawyer will be paid a fee only if and only when his client secures a recovery. This makes plaintiffs work especially risky. To be clear, there is absolutely no guarantee a plaintiff’s lawyer will actually be paid for his representation of an injury victim. While the insurance industry tries to poison public perception by suggesting trial lawyers are “greedy,” the reality is that attorneys who handle plaintiffs’ cases are very courageous and willing to believe in their clients, themselves and the jury system. Further, they are truly committed to the principle of justice for all. Before one believes the insurance industry’s propaganda about plaintiff’s lawyers in general, it is essential to understand that a personal injury attorney essentially works for free until the client recovers. Ask yourself how many people you know who would go to work for years at a time without being paid and without the guarantee that payment was ever going to occur despite years of labor? After that, consider how it feels knowing the fate of an injured person’s future rests in your hands and that your law firm’s investment and dedication to a case will be ultimately entrusted to twelve (12) complete strangers – jurors – to decide the value of your client’s compromised life and your years’ worth of work in just a matter of days. That is the everyday reality in the life of a victim’s advocate.

What makes this fee arrangement even more daunting is the fact that plaintiffs’ lawyers must invest not only their time but also their own money in their clients’ cases. So, in addition to not being paid for legal services until the resolution of a claim, a claimant’s attorney will usually end up advancing substantial amounts of litigation expenses (often in the tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars) just to get the case ready for a trial. Bills for witness fees (especially experts who charge hundreds/thousands per hour depending upon a given specialty), deposition costs, cross-country travel expenses and the like are funded by a victim’s lawyer just to bring the truth before a jury. This litigation financing can go on for years and can ultimately go unreimbursed if a jury finds in favor of a defendant or issues a verdict that is less than full compensation to a client. This is the truth the insurance propaganda machine does not readily distribute. Nevertheless, the prospect of a jury believing the insurance industry’s spin about “greedy” trial lawyers filing “frivolous” cases is a reality and risk bravely and proudly accepted by lawyers who work on a contingency fee basis in championing citizens’ rights.

As such, if an attorney has taken a case to trial for a client it is fair to expect that the lawyer truly believes in the client and the case. After all, in almost every personal injury case tried before a jury, the plaintiff’s lawyer experiences diminishing returns the more he works on the case.

Recognizing the financial dynamic at play in the attorney-client relationship for an injury victim who has to battle an insurance company tends to give folks a different appreciation of the contingency fee arrangement and the lawyers who utilize them.

An insurance company’s tactic of low-ball settlement offers that forced a plaintiff to trial is hidden from a jury

Another insurance-related secret kept from juries is an insurance company’s history extending insufficient settlement offers. Simply stated, if a case ends up at trial, it is likely the insurance company has been unreasonable in the handling of the claim (by making low-ball offers to settle in hopes of frustrating the plaintiff into submission). In fact, some insurance companies have been proven to have organizational strategies designed to prey upon the financial and physical disadvantages of personal injury victims by stalling the resolution of cases and forcing victims to survive on the modest means their compromised circumstances can allow. (See, for instance, AAJ Report: Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America and Auto insurers play hardball in minor-crash claims from CNN.com – February 9, 2007).

Many times a victim will succumb to the financial and emotional pressure caused by their tragedy and finally agree to settle a case on the insurance company’s terms just to try to make ends meet for the short term. However, some victims and their lawyers remain determined to outlast the delay tactic and, on principle, bring their cases before juries. When that happens, a plaintiff should be completely compensated for all damages, otherwise it is a victory for the insurance company and a reward for its intentional plan to thwart justice. The insurance industry’s thought process is that the more it makes claimants work to get fair compensation for their losses, the more claimants’ lawyers will become discouraged, refuse to fight and encourage their clients to just settle for what is offered. By design, insurance companies often consciously elect to waste court resources, string injury victims and plaintiffs’ attorneys along and gamble with trial juries in hopes of saving money on claims to realize increased profits.

The Dow Firm, P.C. understands the insurance industry and specializes in motor vehicle, healthcare, premises and other injury and death claims. If you have a case, contact us via this quick form or call (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation.

What “negligence” and “damages” are really about in Georgia law

The words “negligence” and “damages” are actual terms of art, defined by Georgia law. However, they are often misunderstood and maligned due to their misuse and manipulation by and before the general public, certain members of the legal community and special interest groups. As a result, frequently the concept of personal injury law brings to mind negative thoughts. This misperception, however, is generally unfair as the area of personal injury has a legitimate place in this state’s body of civil law.

In the purest sense, negligence and damages are about personal responsibility.

The Dow Firm, P.C. specializes in motor vehicle, healthcare, premises and other injury and death claims. Please contact us here or call (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation.

It is imperative to note in Georgia, the civil justice system is in place to enable all people to civilly resolve their disputes. The system is designed to allow people and entities to solve their legal problems in a fair and just fashion no matter their physical might, financial means or background. In essence, the civil justice system is a framework for order and fairness aimed at eliminating barbarianism (where the strong/rich prevail) and preventing chaos (where wild-west-like shoot-outs constitute methods of “dispute resolution”).

Negligence is a legal concept embraced by society and the law as worthy of recognition and enforcement. It is not a term only invented and abused by television lawyers trying to generate business. The concept of civil liability for negligence is grounded upon the common sense sentiment that people should be responsible for their actions. It recognizes the rule of cause and effect. “Negligence” is a person’s failure to exercise the proper level of caution required in a particular situation. Stated simply, negligence occurs when someone has acted irresponsibly.

When someone is injured due to another person’s failure to use proper caution, the harm arising out of the negligence is called, “damages”. The insurance industry (whose companies profit when justifiable personal injury and wrongful death claims are not paid) has attempted to distort the legitimacy of the concept of damages. Insurance companies and other special interest groups have developed catch phrases such as, “frivolous lawsuits,” “run-away juries” and “jackpot justice” to debase the seriousness of personal injury law. The intent has been to make the general public think that a person seeking compensation for a real loss is a dirty proposition. Admittedly, some shameless “personal injury” lawyers (who are more interested in increasing their own profits as opposed to actually helping others) have aided this perception notwithstanding their seemingly “sincere” advertising slogans and television demeanor.

But in reality, a person’s right to collect monetary damages (for pain and suffering, medical expenses, lost wages, etc.) has been codified in Georgia’s statutes for nearly 250 years. See, O.C.G.A. 51-12-1 et seq. Georgia law recognizes that a person’s losses (economic and non-economic) should be satisfied when they are caused by negligence. The truth underpinning our civil justice system is that unless or until a time machine is invented by the insurance industry that can undo a person’s injury or death, the law’s only prescription for addressing a negligently caused loss is monetary compensation.

The next time you think about personal injury law, imagine if you were negligently injured and you had to suffer the losses due to an injury. In that case, would you consider your plight “frivolous”? If the insurance company had discounted your situation and had attempted to settle your case in an unfair and insulting amount, would you believe you were seeking “jackpot justice” from a “run-away jury”? The answer to both questions is an emphatic, “No.” You would want to be completely compensated for all of your “damages” caused by someone else’s “negligence” and you would utilize your constitutional right to a trial before a fair-minded jury to do so. When one mulls over the prospect of being an actual injury victim, the concepts of “negligence” and “damages,” despite their sometimes bad publicity, seem much more genuine and righteous.

The Dow Firm, P.C. battles on behalf of parties hurt by wrong-doers and we fight to collect monetary damages when they are caused by negligence.

The Dow Firm, P.C. has secured over 50 million dollars ($50,000,000) in judgments and recoveries in serious injury and wrongful death cases in a little over a decade. You can contact The Dow Firm, P.C. at (912) 264-1919 or (800) 557-JDOW or receive a free case evaluation by accessing this page and filling out the 1 minute form.

The truth about tort reform

Tort “reform” is a dupe-the-masses movement designed to limit all individuals’ access to the country’s civil courts by restricting their constitutional right to a trial by jury. This push (engineered by the insurance industry and big business) is intended to affect everyone – including you and your family. These private interests advance the false notion “enormous” costs, allegedly shouldered by society-at-large, exist due to the litigious nature of unscrupulous claimants and greedy trial lawyers.

The Dow Firm, P.C. understands how the insurance industry works and specializes in motor vehicle, healthcare, premises and other injury and death claims. If you have a case, contact us via this short form or call (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation.

Various chambers of commerce, collectively comprising one of the world’s largest business federations, are a driving force behind the push to curb citizens’ rights. In support of universal tort reform, these and other organizations pump out misinformation to the public suggesting the economy suffers horribly (and therefore, everyone suffers financially) due to “frivolous” lawsuits.

In many states, legislatures have responded to the special interest groups’ propaganda by erecting serious procedural barriers inhibiting individuals’ abilities to seek and secure complete justice. Elected officials have gladly taken action to satisfy the public’s ill-founded sentiments in order to gain political popularity. In doing so, these politicians have disregarded the fact that the information supporting the “public opinion” has been created by private interests bent on eviscerating everyone’s constitutional rights for their singular financial gain. Likewise, the legislators have ignored empirical data that reform does not work to bring about the results it is allegedly designed to produce. State insurance commissioners, independent insurance-based studies and certain medical groups, to name a few, have confirmed as much.

In actuality, tort reform has generated horror story after horror story for folks who have been victimized first by a bad-actor’s negligence and then second by the justice system (remaining after tort reform) that ineffectively addresses the results of the negligent actor’s conduct. Ironically, the civil justice system left standing in many states after the introduction of tort reform has left many of its alleged intended beneficiaries befuddled and victimized themselves. In fact, the tort reform movement, while seemingly noble wrapped in its rhetoric and skewed data, is riddled with hypocrites who, upon being wronged themselves, rush to the courts for complete justice. (See, Not In My Backyard I and Not In My Backyard II).

Remarkably, the smear campaign perpetrated against trial lawyers (which the general public all-to-often joins) unwittingly aids the private interests intent on destroying citizens’ constitutionally granted jury trial rights. Consider this. Trial lawyers are the tort reform opponents by default because no one knows when, how and by whom they will be negligently injured or killed. For that reason, the general public is not in a position to organize and collectively mount a defense to the tort reform movement. Everyone has a stake in the game – they just do not realize it. Only after a person is victimized by a negligent party and then further violated by a rigged civil justice system, does he or she discover the fallacy of the battle cry for “tort reform”. Regrettably at that point it is too late for the victim to proactively and effectively rebut the tort reform myth. The victim then just becomes a statistic and another “for instance” case.

Plaintiffs’ lawyers are in the fray everyday championing injured peoples’ rights under the increasingly difficult rules imposed by successful tort reform measures. Because of that, plaintiffs’ counselors are the most concentrated faction in-the-know about the tort reform lie. That is why the tort reform interests seek to discredit trial lawyers by calling them “greedy” and contending everyone is hurt by “frivolous” lawsuits. In actuality, citizens’ only true, organized voice before and after an injury is the group of lawyers tort reformers encourage the public to revile.

Call The Dow Firm, P.C. at (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation or send us a request by filling out this one-minute form.

For more truth about tort reform, visit the following sites:

The Committee for Justice for All (CJA)

The American Association for Justice’s Patients’ Rights site

The Center for Justice and Democracy (CJ&D)

Public Citizen (especially the discussion of the U.S. Department of Justice’s study debunking common tort reform myths)

The AAJ’s recent report regarding the non-reduction of insurance premiums in tort reform jurisdictions

The public actually trusts good lawyers

Abraham Lincoln was a lawyer and an exceptional thinker. In or about 1850, Lincoln shared a number of thoughts concerning the practice of law, generally, and the attributes of his chosen profession. Significantly, Lincoln pointed out:

“…There is a vague popular belief that lawyers are necessarily dishonest. I say, “vague” because when we consider to what extent confidence and honors are reposed in and conferred upon lawyers by the people, it appears improbable that the impression of dishonest is very distinct and vivid. Yet the impression is common – almost universal. Let no man choosing the law for a calling for a moment yield to this popular belief. Resolve to be honest at all events and if, in your own judgment, you cannot be an honest lawyer, resolve to be honest without being a lawyer…”

Lincoln’s sentiments still resonate today. When people are hurt and they find their lives turned upside down by tragedy, they entrust their fate to the character and integrity of their lawyer. In the purest sense, a good plaintiff’s lawyer is designed to be the shield and the sword for people who personally lack the ability to fight for their cause.

The Dow Firm, P.C. accepts this repose of trust and responsibility from clients with great honor. And the firm is ever-conscious of the truth found in Lincoln’s words when a new client – be they a bank president, a blue-collar wage-earner, a doctor, a disabled person, a business owner and member of the chamber of commerce or any other legitimately injured and wronged individual – brings a case to the firm for assistance.

Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today for a free consultation via this secure contact form or call our Georgia office at (912) 264-1919.

The McDonald’s Coffee Lawsuit Facts

Everyone knows what you’re talking about when you mention “the McDonald’s lawsuit.” Even though this case was decided in August of 1994, for many Americans it continues to represent the “problem” with our civil justice system.

The business community and insurance industry have done much to perpetuate this case. They don’t want us to forget it. They know it helps them convince politicians that “tort reform” and other restrictions on juries is needed. And worse, they know it poisons the minds of citizens who sit on juries. Look here to read more legal information that is withheld from the public and trial juries.

Unfortunately, not all the facts have been communicated – facts that put the case and the monetary award to the 81-year old plaintiff in a significantly different light.

If you are the victim of negligence by an individual or a corporation, contact The Dow Firm today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919. At The Dow Firm, P.C., we make a difference in the lives of the folks who entrust us with their cases.

According to the Wall Street Journal, McDonald’s callousness was the issue and even jurors who thought the case was just a tempest in a coffee pot were overwhelmed by the evidence against the Corporation.

The facts of the case, which caused a jury of six men and six women to find McDonald’s coffee was unreasonably dangerous and had caused enough human misery and suffering that no one should be made to suffer exposure to such excessively hot coffee again, will shock and amaze you:

Fact No. 1: For years, McDonald’s had known they had a problem with the way they make their coffee – that their coffee was served much hotter (at least 20 degrees more so) than at other restaurants.

Fact No. 2: McDonald’s knew its coffee sometimes caused serious injuries – more than 700 incidents of scalding coffee burns in the past decade had been settled by the Corporation – and yet they never so much as consulted a burn expert regarding the issue.

Fact No. 3: The woman involved in this infamous case suffered very serious injuries – third degree burns on her groin, thighs and buttocks that required skin grafts and a seven-day hospital stay.

Fact No. 4: The woman, an 81-year old former department store clerk who had never before filed suit against anyone, said she wouldn’t have brought the lawsuit against McDonald’s had the Corporation not dismissed her request for compensation for medical bills.

Fact No. 5: A McDonald’s quality assurance manager testified in the case that the Corporation was aware of the risk of serving dangerously hot coffee and had no plans to either turn down the heat or to post a warning about the possibility of severe burns, even though most customers wouldn’t think it was possible.

Fact No. 6: After careful deliberation, the jury found McDonald’s was liable because the facts were overwhelmingly against the company. When it came to the punitive damages, the jury found that McDonald’s had engaged in willful, reckless, malicious, or wanton conduct, and rendered a punitive damage award of 2.7 million dollars. (The equivalent of just two days of coffee sales – McDonalds Corporation generated revenues in excess of 1.3 million dollars daily from the sale of its coffee, selling 1 billion cups each year.)

Fact No. 7: On appeal, a judge lowered the award to $480,000, a fact not widely publicized in the media.

Fact No. 8: A report in Liability Week, September 29, 1997, indicated that Kathleen Gilliam, 73, suffered first degree burns when a cup of coffee spilled onto her lap. Reports also indicate that McDonald’s consistently keeps its coffee at 185 degrees, still approximately 20 degrees hotter than at other restaurants. Third degree burns occur at this temperature in just two to seven seconds, requiring skin grafting, debridement and whirlpool treatments that cost tens of thousands of dollars and result in permanent disfigurement, extreme pain and disability to the victims for many months, and in some cases, years.

The most important message this case has for you, the consumer, is to be aware of the potential danger posed by your early morning pick-me-up. Take extra care to make sure children do not come into contact with scalding liquid, and always look to the facts before rendering your decision about any publicized case.

If you are the victim of willful, malicious or wanton conduct by an individual or a corporation, contact The Dow Firm today for a free consultation or call (912) 264-1919.

Courtesy of Legal News and Views, Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers

How insurance companies profit

The insurance industry is the only sector of the economy which makes all of its money by limiting the amount of money it loses. Understand that insurance companies generate revenue by accepting premiums from their policy holders. These companies then increase their revenues by investing the premiums in the market for an additional return.

For that reason, any personal injury or wrongful death claim paid by an insurance company (either by way of settlement or through the satisfaction of a jury verdict) will affect the overall profits of that company. Also, because insurance companies make secondary revenue by investing in the market, when the economy is in a downturn the insurance companies find themselves in a less profitable position. Accordingly, when the economy is weaker insurance premiums across the board tend to go up, insurance claims are resisted even more ferociously and cries for “tort reform” and campaigns about “too many frivolous lawsuits” get amplified and become more frequent. This “insurance cycle” resulted in the “litigation crises” of the mid-1970s, mid-1980s and today’s “crisis”. It is no coincidence the “crises” and the movements to limit individuals’ rights have all taken place simultaneously with a downturn in investment markets.

Given the insurance industry’s unique business model, it is obvious why individual insurance companies delight in collecting premiums yet vigorously resist paying legitimate claims for fair value. This also explains why insurance companies will even cheat their own insureds and fight their claims to the last. It is “just business” and the decisions of an insurance company have nothing to do with fairness regardless of what their deceivingly “caring” slogans indicate. Insurance company profits are always the motive.

The Dow Firm, P.C. battles on behalf of parties hurt by wrong-doers and we fight for our client’s personal injury and wrongful death claims.

The Dow Firm, P.C. has secured over 50 million dollars ($50,000,000) in judgments and recoveries in serious injury and wrongful death cases in a little over a decade. You can contact The Dow Firm, P.C. at (912) 264-1919 or (800) 557-JDOW or receive a free case evaluation by accessing this page and filling out the 1 minute form.

Healthcare provider immunities and the destruction of patients’ rights

In Georgia, when a healthcare provider commits negligence resulting in an injury or death of a patient, significant laws are in place designed to protect a healthcare provider from liability and, at the same time, render a patient legally helpless. In the past several years the license to injure patients in Georgia has continued to grow thanks to insurance and healthcare industry lobbies successfully exerting pressure on the state’s elected officials. Below are just some of the laws, interspersed with other pertinent healthcare data, which exist that make the State of Georgia a scary place to receive healthcare and an even scarier place to attempt to protect your rights arising out of medical malpractice.

The Dow Firm P.C. specializes in medical malpractice, nursing home and doctor error cases where personal injury and wrongful death occur. The Dow Firm P.C. has secured over 50 million dollars ($50,000,000) in judgments and recoveries in serious injury, motor vehicle, healthcare and wrongful death cases in a little over a decade.

Contact The Dow Firm P.C. today via this 1 minute form or call our Georgia office at (912) 264-1919 for a quick and free case evaluation and consultation.

Peer Review – the shield that cuts like a sword

“Peer review” is a statutory scheme applicable to the healthcare industry in Georgia where secret investigations into medical errors occur, unbeknownst to injured patients and the public at large. Specifically, under Georgia’s peer review law the healthcare provided to a hospital patient who suffers a bad outcome (such as a death or other serious injury) is secretly reviewed by a group of healthcare providers called a “peer review” or “quality assurance” committee. These reviews occur without a patient’s consent, participation or knowledge. Once the committee has concluded its investigation, its findings remain confidential and cannot be disclosed to the injured patient or, in the case of death, the surviving family of a patient killed by medical negligence.

The philosophical reasoning behind the peer review statutes is that healthcare providers should be encouraged to scrutinize their work so that future healthcare can be better delivered “for the public’s good”. In actuality, the peer review function has become an abused process whereby hospitals and healthcare providers hide their mistakes and bury information to keep the truth about negligence from being discovered in legitimate malpractice litigation.

In most cases involving a serious injury or death occurring at a hospital, it is more than likely the matter has been the subject of a peer review for which a finding of neglect will not be revealed.

The extent of this deception is remarkable when one considers the number of preventable deaths attributable to medical errors which occur annually in hospitals alone.

The staggering number of hospital/medical malpractice deaths occurring annually

A 1999 study by the Institute of Medicine, which is part of the National Academy of Sciences, established that each year between 44,000 and 98,000 hospital patients in the U.S. die from medical malpractice. These figures reveal medical malpractice to be one of the leading causes of death in the United States as more people die each year as a result of medical errors than from motor vehicle accidents. This study is not alone in finding that medical malpractice has become an epidemic in the United States.

The 1990 Harvard School of Public Health study of medical malpractice found that nationally, more than 180,000 people die, at least in part, because of medical mistakes. What is even more interesting is the fact that the vast majority of patients harmed by medical malpractice do not protect their legal rights by seeking financial compensation for their injuries. The Harvard Medical Practice Study discovered that only one (1) in eight (8) patients harmed sought redress in the form of an injury claim. This, of course, totally debunks the insurance and healthcare industry’s claim regarding “frivolous” medical malpractice suits driving up healthcare providers’ premiums. Discrediting the cry for healthcare liability reform even further, is research which has shown that of those who do pursue litigation arising out of medical negligence, only one (1) in sixteen (16) recovers any damages.

The healthcare community’s conspiracy of silence

Every medical provider (whether it is a doctor, nurse or otherwise) anticipates the day when they could be responsible for their own healthcare negligence which has harmed or killed a patient. For that reason, there is great camaraderie within the healthcare community (especially the professional communities found in smaller towns). This kinsmanship serves as yet another layer of defense injured parties must penetrate to elicit the truth about healthcare negligence.

Doctors know it is serious business when someone is injured due to medical malpractice. The stakes are life and death and that reality comes with a substantial price-tag. For that reason, healthcare providers never want to “sell-out” another healthcare provider for fear that their day will come. Often, the end result is sparse medical charting which fails to reveal a full picture of a patient’s care. This enables providers to revise history or lack any recollection of specifics at a later date (as in a deposition). Likewise, where there is a question concerning the quality of care rendered by a healthcare provider, other providers are reluctant to stand up and tell the truth on behalf of an injured party, yet all-too-ready to come to the aid of a colleague. Stated simply, there is an added degree of difficulty proving a healthcare negligence case because the providers stand as gate-keepers to much of the essential information.

Liability immunity for certain providers committing negligence which hurts or kills patients

In 2005, Georgia’s legislature created what is one of the worst statutes ever put on the books. Unfortunately, it affects all Georgians seeking emergent healthcare in a hospital’s emergency room, obstetrical unit or surgical suite. Fortunately, however, the statute is so harsh and poorly drafted it may be unconstitutional and subject to being overturned by the Georgia Supreme Court.

In practical terms, if you experience a medical emergency (such as chest pain) which sends you to the hospital for care and your providers seriously injure you while providing treatment due to obvious and avoidable medical negligence (like misdiagnosing a heart attack as indigestion), the statute intends to make it virtually impossible to hold the wrongdoers responsible.

This is true because O.C.G.A. § 51-1-29.5 requires that patients must prove their providers were not only negligent, but grossly negligent. In essence, a patient (or his surviving family) has to prove a substantially heightened level of negligence. Basically, it has to be shown the healthcare provider completely disregarded or intended to kill that patient. As absurd as this proposition sounds, this is the law in Georgia at this point in time.

Further, in proving such a medical injury case, a patient must establish gross negligence with clear and convincing evidence. In other words, besides raising the level on the type of negligence you must prove to protect your rights, the legislature also increased patients’ burden of proof beyond the ordinary burden of “a preponderance of the evidence”.

The good news about O.C.G.A. § 51-1-29.5 is that juries are ultimately in charge of the outcome of an emergency case. If there is any question about whether a healthcare provider’s treatment of a patient constitutes negligence or gross negligence, a jury, not a judge, is the final word on the determination.

If the people sitting on a trial jury disagree with this statute in principle and the facts in a case which are put before the jurors provide an arguable basis for finding against a provider’s negligence, a jury can defeat the intended unfairness of this statute by finding gross negligence by clear and convincing evidence and indicating as much on the jury’s verdict form.

A healthcare provider can admit killing a patient and not have the admission held against him.

Many people believe criminal defendants have all the rights in court at the exclusion of crime victims in a criminal trial. With the passage of O.C.G.A. § 24-4-416 civil case defendants in medical negligence trials have even more rights than criminal defendants. Under the cited statute, a healthcare provider can commit negligence upon a patient then admit the negligence to the patient and later keep his admission out of court.

O.C.G.A. § 24-4-416(b) states:

“In any claim or civil action brought on behalf of a patient allegedly experiencing an unanticipated outcome of medical care, any and all statements, affirmations, gestures, activities or conduct expressing benevolence, regret, apology, sympathy, commiseration, condolence, compassion, mistake, error, or a general sense of benevolence which are made by a health care provider or an employee or agent of a health care provider to the patient, a relative of the patient, or a representative of the patient and which relate to the unanticipated outcome shall be inadmissible as evidence and shall not constitute an admission of liability or an admission against interest.”

Incredibly, this statute actually permits a doctor to admit an error to the patient, patient’s relative or patient’s representative and then forbids a jury from hearing the truthful admission at trial. In theory, Georgia law gives healthcare providers and their attorneys license to completely obstruct justice. As a practical matter, a doctor can admit negligence out of court then put up a completely inconsistent defense before a jury.

This becomes apparent when one considers the procedural trial rules applicable to criminal defendants. If a criminal defendant admits committing a crime, this evidence is presented to a jury for consideration because anything criminal defendants say “can and will be used against them in a court of law” in Georgia. Medical malpractice defendants, however, are given even more protection than their criminal counterparts.

The Dow Firm, P.C. is a Georgia-based law firm focused on medical malpractice, hospital negligence, healthcare provider misconduct, and all aspects of personal injury and wrongful death law. Contact The Dow Firm P.C. today via this 1 minute form or call our Georgia office at (912) 264-1919 for a quick and free case evaluation and consultation.

“Do unto others…” is not allowed in court – Georgia Trial Practice Law Info

It has been said, “Some surgeries are “minor” – that is until the doctor starts cutting on you.” As thought-provoking as this saying is, under Georgia trial practice law, the spirit of that message is prohibited from being raised for a jury’s consideration at trial by a plaintiff’s lawyer. Stated another way, in Georgia the attorney for an injured party is not permitted to deliver a “Golden Rule” argument to a jury. The unfounded fear behind this nonsense rule is that juries applying the principle of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” might yield unusually high verdicts for injured parties out of pure sympathy. If you sit on a jury, however, it is perfectly natural to consider how you would feel if it was your life that had been altered by another person’s negligence. Using life experiences and collective common sense, a jury should consider the permanent reality a plaintiff faces once trial is over (and jury duty has ended) and the plaintiff has to carry on with life.

Despite this truth, the prohibition of the Golden Rule argument is but one of many procedural obstacles that can (and often will) obscure the truth about a person’s desperate situation in a personal injury matter. In actuality, there are a number of things about which a jury is forbidden from knowing or considering. In the end, this ultimately harms plaintiffs, benefits defendants and confounds jurors when, only after trial while discussing the case with a plaintiff’s attorney, they learn the real truth that was kept from them (such as the defendant’s prior/subsequent bad conduct, the insurance company’s low-ball settlement offer strategy, the history of claims and litigation involving the defendant and other evidence the judge elected to keep out of the case).

The Dow Firm P.C. is dedicated to knowing the law and representing good people in Georgia with legitimate personal injury/death claims against the insurance industry and the wrongdoers involved. Please contact us for a free consultation and case analysis here or call our Brunswick, GA office at (912) 264-1919.

A defendant’s conduct before and after injuring someone is usually not admissible in court

Often at trial, information is kept from a jury which one would ordinarily consider to be completely relevant in deciding a matter in real life. Common sense issues like a defendant’s prior negligence history before inflicting a personal injury or a defendant’s acts after inflicting a personal injury upon a victim are matters usually not permitted into evidence for a jury’s consideration.

A defendant’s general character

Everyone knows a person typically acts in conformity with their demeanor and habits. However, a defendant’s general character is ordinarily not to be considered at trial. In other words, a party’s behavior in another matter normally cannot be considered in the determination of a new matter before a jury. For instance, a jury in a medical malpractice case in Georgia cannot know that a defendant doctor has been sued and found liable for professional negligence on five (5) previous occasions. The “reasoning” behind this rule is that parties should be judged on their isolated conduct in a particular circumstance. In actuality, defendants who appear at trial are often more likely to be “repeat offenders” and this truth is what caused them to be sued in the first place and what has inspired a plaintiff to take a case all the way to a jury against the bad actor.

A defendant’s subsequent remedial measures (error corrections)

A jury is usually not permitted to know about the steps a defendant takes to correct a problem after a person has been injured. For instance, if a person falls at a Kingsland, GA restaurant which knowingly has slippery tile at its entrance, the restaurant can replace the tile after its customer has been injured and then contradict the truth and argue to a jury the tile was not dangerous without any concern about the evidence of the tile’s replacement coming to light. While this deceitful turnabout defies logic, the legal “reasoning” behind this evidentiary rule is that by keeping such evidence away from juries, defendants will be encouraged to eliminate dangerous conditions (before someone else gets hurt) without fear of their repairs being used against them to prove their negligence in the first case. As to the practical effect of the rule, what often occurs is that a plaintiff stands before a jury hoping the jurors will recognize the defendant’s negligence of which the plaintiff, the defendant and the court are already aware.

The Dow Firm, P.C. specializes in motor vehicle, healthcare, premises and other injury and death claims. If you think you have a case, contact us here or call (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation.

Georgia Personal Injury (Tort) Law Basics

Under the Georgia civil justice system, a civil wrong (called a “tort”) is remedied by a plaintiff asserting a claim and maintaining an action against a defendant. Personal injury tort law in Georgia is based upon the concepts of foreseeability and accountability. In other words, a defendant’s liability to a plaintiff is grounded in the rule of cause and effect.

There are two (2) basic types of torts – intentional torts and “accidental” torts arising from negligence. As the term suggests, an “intentional” tort stems from a person’s intentional conduct. (An example of an intentional tort would be a “battery” where a person intentionally and without justification punches another person breaking the other person’s jaw). Conversely, an accidental tort arises in a situation where a person, while not specifically intending to cause harm, nevertheless causes another person harm by failing to exercise due caution. (An example of such a tort would be where a person, while driving a car, takes his eyes off the road to use his cell phone and, because he has failed to maintain a proper lookout for other cars ahead, negligently and “accidentally” rear-ends the car stopped at the red light in front of him).

Do you have a personal injury, medical, motor vehicle, wrongful death or similar case? Contact The Dow Firm, P.C. today by filling out this quick form or call our Georgia office at (912) 264-1919.

In a basic tort action, four elements exist: (1) a duty, (2) a breach of the duty, (3) proximate causation and (4) damages. In order to establish liability and secure a civil, monetary recovery under Georgia law, a plaintiff must establish all four of the above-mentioned elements.

A duty is essentially a party’s responsibility to do something or not do something. For instance, a driver in Georgia has an obligation to stop his car at a Stop sign before proceeding into an intersection.

A breach of duty is essentially a party’s failure to do or not do something that is required of him under the applicable circumstances. For instance, if a driver fails to stop at a Stop sign and instead drives directly into an intersection, he has breached his affirmative duty to stop his vehicle as required by Georgia’s driving laws.

Proximate causation and damages are less distinct and more intertwined. Proximate causation is the natural and actual consequence of a breach of duty. Stated another way, proximate causation is the bridge between one party’s breach of a duty and another party’s damages caused by the breach. Using the example of the negligent motorist referenced above, if a driver (in breaching his duty to stop at the Stop sign) wrecks into the side of another vehicle lawfully passing through the intersection and the impact injures the other motorist, the breaching driver has caused (“proximate causation”) the damages (bodily injuries) of the other motorist.

Damages (also referred to as “losses”) are the end result of a breach of duty. Essentially the breach and the damages are linked together by proximate cause. Generally speaking, under Georgia law the prescribed method for calculating personal injury damages is monetary compensation. In other words, when one party breaches an existing duty and causes harm to another person, the remedy is for the breaching party to pay the damaged party an amount of damages designed to make the injured party whole.

Damages in a personal injury action essentially come in three basic forms, special, general and punitive damages:

  • Special damages (such as healthcare expenses, lost earnings, etc.)
  • In Georgia, these damages are typically established by exact proof (like wage calculations).

  • General damages (such as lifestyle compromises, physical pain, mental/emotional suffering, etc.)
  • In Georgia, these damages are typically established by the “enlightened conscience” of a jury applying its collective common sense, experience and human emotion to the facts in a particular case.

  • Punitive damages (basically a civil “fine” designed to punish a wrongdoer for committing a given act/omission)
  • In Georgia, the amount of these damages is somewhat regulated by statute and the issuance of punitive damages must be warranted by clear and convincing evidence as determined by a jury.

    The Dow Firm, P.C. understands the Georgia civil justice system and specializes in motor vehicle, healthcare, premises and other injury and death claims. Contact the firm today via this short form or call (912) 264-1919 for a free consultation.

Questions to ask before hiring a Georgia personal injury / wrongful death attorney

Questions to ask before hiring a Georgia personal injury attorney or wrongful death attorney

There are several questions prospective clients should ask before hiring a Brunswick personal injury lawyer or wrongful death lawyer in Brunswick, GA because the right questions will help clients select the right attorney and law firm.

The Dow Firm, P.C. can help you find the right personal injury and wrongful death counsel.

Please call our Georgia office at (912) 264-1919 or send us a contact request here to take the next step towards finding the right legal representation.

Below are some of the questions to ask before hiring a personal injury lawyer / wrongful death lawyer and his/her law firm:

  • How many cases does the attorney handle at one time and does the attorney handle other types of cases besides personal injury and wrongful death cases?

  • Georgia personal injury and wrongful death cases are fact intensive and require particular legal analysis which only attorneys – not unlicensed case managers – can provide. An attorney’s case load can bear upon the effectiveness of representation as an attorney spread too thin can be prevented from devoting the necessary amount of time to a particular case. Further, an attorney who is a jack-of-all-trades may not have the particular insights needed to handle some types of cases such as medical malpractice, tractor-trailer wrecks or premises liability matters (such as slip and fall and trip and fall cases). Intimate knowledge of the applicable Georgia case law, statutes, regulations (state and federal) and ordinances (Brunswick, GA and Glynn County, GA) can make all the difference between a successful and a failed legal representation.

  • What percentage of an attorney’s cases are brought into suit as opposed to being settled before the suit is filed?
  • While it is estimated that 96 percent of Georgia personal injury and wrongful death cases are settled before they go to court for trial, every legitimate serious personal injury attorney should be prepared to go to trial for his/her clients and should be comfortable and experienced in trying cases. Many firms boast about their alleged trial skills or advertise about their “mock courtrooms” when, in reality, the same never really get much practice, use or testing at all. Brunswick, GA, St. Simons Island, GA and Glynn County, GA personal injury and wrongful death victims (like victims in all parts of Georgia) need lawyers who can take a case through trial – not just the settlement phase.

  • How many cases has an attorney tried before a jury?
  • Even though most personal injury cases settle out of court, real trial lawyers know that sometimes a trial is necessary in order to get fair recoveries for clients. Insurance companies and defense lawyers know which law firms and which attorneys are afraid to fight (or which firms/attorneys are not really good courtroom advocates) and they will take advantage of such weaknesses knowing that these firms/attorneys will buckle and get their clients to settle for less-than-favorable amounts. Clients definitely want to select a Brunswick, GA personal injury and wrongful death attorney that has tried an appropriate number of cases before a jury.

  • Will an attorney give his/her cellular and home telephone phone numbers to his/her clients?
  • Sometimes clients need counsel at odd hours. For that reason, clients deserve an attorney who can help them around the clock. If an attorney has a reluctance to share his/her cell phone or home telephone numbers, a prospective client must wonder what type of accessibility he/she will have with the personal injury lawyer or wrongful death lawyer after the initial hiring phase.

  • Will the attorney or law firm actually handle the Brunswick/St. Simons personal injury or wrongful death case or refer it to another attorney or firm?
  • Many professed personal injury attorneys and professed wrongful death attorneys claim to be adequately equipped to handle matters pertaining to matters such as serious auto accidents, DUI injuries and fatalities, nursing home negligence, semi or 18 wheeler wrecks, wrong-site surgeries, motorcycle wrecks, medication errors, dog bites, legal malpractice, surgeries with retained surgical sponges, etc. when, in actuality, these law firms only serve as a middle-men that refer clients to firms that actually do the legal work. When prospective clients meet with an attorney, they should find out who will be working on their case from start to finish and whether the attorney in the meeting is going to just refer their case to another lawyer or law firm. If the attorney suggests he/she is going to call a colleague or have another law firm work on the case with him/her, it might be best to keep looking for and hiring an attorney/firm who will be the client’s actual representative, not just a referring source.

    General information regarding Brunswick, GA and St. Simons, GA personal injury and wrongful death legal representation

    Because of the gravity of the situation in a wrongful death or a serious personal injury matter, detailed attention must be paid to the facts. Unfortunately, what is overlooked by many law firms is that detailed attention in such cases must also be paid to the clients at all times during the attorney-client relationship. At some firms, clients become “files” which get shelved and put away after the first meeting. Service and availability end at the time of hire – they do not last throughout the life of the representation.

Not so at The Dow Firm, P.C.

Though we may not be acquainted with you when you first call, we will quickly get to know you. And you will quickly get to know us. You will interact with and have access to your lawyer not only at the beginning of the relationship, but at all times through the conclusion of your case.

That is your right and that should be your expectation. We never lose sight of the fact we are in the business of solving grave problems that involve real lives. We recognize injured parties (and/or survivors of those wrongfully killed) want access to their attorney for personal advice. Our clients deserve and receive individual guidance and necessary support as they face important legal decisions. That is founding member J. Dow III’s guarantee and approach.

Brunswick GA Personal Injury Attorney – The Dow Firm, P.C.

The Dow Firm, P.C. knows that when the misfortune of a personal injury or wrongful death occurs, a victim’s rights should be timely and effectively preserved by counsel with the experience, the resources and the commitment to address all the complex issues which naturally arise. A good personal injury law firm should be nimble and aggressive, able to quickly gather/secure important evidence and plan and act in advance of future case developments. In the world of personal injury law, bigger does not necessarily mean “better” and a “one-size-fits-all” approach is not sufficient to address the nuances of a unique and particular case.
It is the conviction of The Dow Firm, P.C. that the law firm a client hires should be the firm that represents the client. The firm “hired” should not be a clearing-house which refers the client out to another law firm which can better handle the problem.

And it is our position that already burdened clients should not be forced to navigate a massive organizational bureaucracy – a maze of staff members or “case managers” – in hopes of one day reaching their chosen legal counsel. A client should not feel privileged to talk to his/her lawyer – it should be the other way around.

A personal injury law firm should be concerned with maximizing results for clients, not obsessed with financing the next media campaign in order to bring in more clients. A client’s well-being, not the weight of a law firm’s high-dollar advertising budget, should dictate a representation.

We let the other guys make the “heart-felt” television commercials and flashy internet video-ads. At The Dow Firm, P.C., we are content to make a difference in the lives of the folks who entrust us with their cases.

If you have questions, feel free to contact here or call The Dow Firm, P.C. 912-264-1919.

References are available upon request.