Personal Injury Lawyers in Savannah, Georgia
When you or your family members have been injured in Savannah, Georgia, the most important thing for you to do is hire personal injury attorneys who understand how important your recovery is. We understand the importance of getting back on your feet after an injury physically, emotionally and financially. Sawan & Sawan is a personal injury law firm in Savannah, Georgia. Our team of personal injury lawyers stand ready to help. If you or your family needs a personal injury attorney in Savannah, Georgia, call us today.
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Personal injury cases involve many aspects of law where our attorneys can help tremendously. When you’re injured in Georgia, you need to understand the specifics of Georgia State law. You must deal with insurance companies, other parties (usually with other attorneys), the court system, Medicaid in some circumstances, hospitals, chiropractors and various other individuals or organizations. With over 35 years of combined experience – the personal injury lawyers at Sawan & Sawan can help quickly and effectively negotiate and work with these parties to resolve your claims as soon as possible in order to allow you to focus on what matters most – your health and your recovery.
Reimbursement and Subrogation of Medical Bills
Our clients frequently have questions about their medical bills. This is understandable because subrogation and reimbursement between all the various organizations involved with a personal case is complicated. As to personal injury cases in Georgia, any entity that provides benefits to an injured victim may be entitled to a share of the financial award. For example, if properly perfected, a hospital or doctor may have a lien on the proceeds. By statute, Medicare, Medicaid or the victim’s own health insurance company may seek recovery of the medical bills they paid. Social Security or a private insurer that has paid disability income benefits may also assert an interest in the award. Finally, worker compensation payments, a no-fault carrier, or other benefit provider may also assert a reimbursement claim. It is, therefore, imperative that an injured victim be advised of all these third party claims when discussing the case with an personal injury attorney. Many people don’t understand these issues and when they do, argue that they should not have to reimburse them as they have paid premiums for this coverage. Many of these claims can be successfully compromised which prevents lawsuits and potential damage to credit for nonpayment of these liens.
The Georgia statute for hospital, nursing home, and physicians liens are found at O.C.G.A. 44-14-470-476. Under this statute, the medical providers must provide written notice of their lien to all applicable persons and entities within thirty days after the person has been discharged. Due to subsequent amendments to this requirement, however, considerable ambiguity now exits as to when the medical provider perfects such a lien. These medical liens are subject to any attorney’s lien which has first priority. This guarantees the attorneys are paid first. Although this requirement is strict, case law has held that the failure to file within the thirty day window does not preclude a hospital from enforcing the lien against a third-party having actual notice. In that situation, the lien attaches at the moment of treatment. Filing only becomes and issue with respect to those who do not have any knowledge of the lien.
As to health and disability insurers, the law in Georgia is clear that traditional subrogation clauses are unenforceable against the one who caused the injury. Conversely, language permitting the insurer to be reimbursed from the victim’s own recovery are valid if the victim has been fully compensated. This is known as the “Make Whole Doctrine”. The Georgia legislature, has set forth a clear statutory scheme which governs different benefit providers for reimbursement of medical expenses or disability benefits in personal injury cases. See, O.C.G.A. 33-24-56.1. The statute only permits reimbursement if the victim receives complete compensation and the claim is reduced by the pro rata share of attorney fees and litigation expenses.
As to medical benefits paid, Medicare has a right of subrogation from either the victim’s own insurance company(medical payments) or from any settlement proceeds. This is federally mandated pursuant the federal statute and must be strictly adhered to. Medicare may waive its subrogation claims if in the interest of the program. Medicaid is a joint federal/state program which provides benefits to those that qualify. Georgia as well as other states has enacted legislation establishing subrogation similar to Medicare. The Medicaid Department has a great deal of discretion in the recovery of it’s medical liens. It may compromise, settle, and execute a release for its convenience.
Worker’s Compensation subrogation was established by O.C.G.A. 34-9-11-1. The right is subject to the “complete subrogation “ rule. The right does not exist unless the employee has been fully compensated for his injuries, including both economic and non-economic damages. The trial court must determine whether there has been full compliance.
Dog Bite Lawyer in Savannah, Georgia
Georgia’s dog bite statute is found at O.C.G.A. 51-2-7. in the state code of laws. In addition to dog bites, the statute also covers injuries caused by other animals. In order to prove that the owner is liable under the statute you must show that:
- the animal is vicious or dangerous;
- the owner was careless with the animal or let it go which caused the injury; and
- the injured person did not provoke the animal.
Unlike other states (such as Ohio which has a strict liability dog statute), Georgia is a negligence state. You must prove that the owner knew that the dog was “vicious” or “dangerous”and acted without reasonable care to restrain the dog or to protect people from injury. If this occurs, then the owner has breached his or her duty of care to protect the public. Because of that breach, the owner would be responsible for all proven damages. The statute also specifies that a leash ordinance or law may be used to prove that the dog had “vicious and dangerous propensities.”
For example, if a person is walking down the public sidewalk and gets bit by an unleashed dog, if that person proves in court that the location required use of a leash, then the court can consider the dog “vicious and dangerous”. The leash law does establish a type of strict liability claim within the negligence parameters.
A dog owner has several possible defenses under Georgia law to respond to a dog bite claim. They include, lack of knowledge, reasonable care, and provocation. Because Georgia is a negligence state, a duty of care must exist with the owner. For example, if the owner has no prior warning of the violent propensity of the dog, then no duty is created. However, as previously mentioned failing to have a required leash where a law or ordinance requires one would be enough to show knowledge. A dog owner would also not be liable if they were not careless or did not let the dog go free. The owner would not be liable if you provoked the dog. You may not tease, torment, or abuse the dog then claim liability against the owner. If it is found you were a trespasser, then recovery may be limited.
In 2017, in what could be a far reaching decision, the Georgia Supreme Court held that a jury must decide whether a woman viciously attacked by a pit bull can collect from her neighbor. The unanimous decision sets an important precedent for Georgia dog bites in that it helps courts determine whether dog owners may be held liable for their pet attack. The question, the court said, is whether the dog previously exhibited such dangerous behavior that its owner should have know it had tendency to attack someone. In the decision, the court said if a dog had previously snapped at someone – not actually bitten someone – that could still be enough to show that the owner knew he or she had a vicious animal on their hands. This court’s ruling adds another level of protection to victims of dog bites in Georgia. The “should of known standard” now only requires a potential snap at someone.
Finally, the Georgia statute of limitations for dog bite cases is two years from the date of the incident. By that time, you must either settle the matter or file the lawsuit in the appropriate court of law.
Medical Malpractice Lawyer in Savannah, Georgia
In Georgia, medical malpractice occurs when a medical professional-such as a doctor, dentist, nurse or a medical institution (such as a hospital) violates its standard of care when treating you and causing an injury or even your death. The definition of standard of care may vary slightly from state to state, but in general, a standard of care is a generally accepted set of standards and practices used by medical professionals to treat patients suffering from a specific ailment or disorder. The standard of care will vary depending on a number of factors, such as the persons age and overall health.
When you file your Georgia malpractice claim, you will have to prove that the doctors violation of the standard of care is what caused your injury. This can be difficult to prove. Often times, it requires the use of expensive expert witnesses who are knowledgeable about medicine. As to filing your lawsuit, all states set their own statute of limitations for medical malpractice claims. A statute of limitations is the time limit within which an injured patient must file a claim. Once that time has run, the patient will be unable to proceed in the courts. In Georgia, the statute of limitations is found at O.C.G.A. 9-3-71. That statute of limitations is two years from the date of injury or death.
Georgia also has a statute of repose which limits the patient’s ability to file a claim against a medical professional. According to the statute of repose, an injured patient only has up to five years to file a suit after the act that caused the injury. An exception is allowed for foreign objects. In foreign object cases, the lawsuit must be filed within one year after discovery of the foreign object. This law can be found at O.C.G.A. section 9-3-72.
Damages are the monetary awards you may be entitled to if you can prove your medical malpractice case in court. There are different types of damages available to injured patients. The first is known as compensatory damages. This includes compensation for financial losses, such as medical costs and wages lost due to days of missed work. Another type of compensation is known as non-economic damages. This compensation is for such things as pain and suffering. The last type of damages is known as punitive damages. Punitive damages are used to punish a medical provider or entity whose reckless actions caused a patient injury. In Georgia, punitive damages are allowed, but only in cases where there is very clear and convincing evidence that shows the healthcare provider’s behavior included things as willful misconduct, malice, or fraud when treating a patient.
In Georgia, medical malpractice damages caps for non-economic loss are confusing. Originally, the legislature set the caps at the following:
- Each claim against a healthcare provider: $350,000 cap
- Each claim against a named healthcare facility: $350,000 cap
- Each claim against multiple healthcare facilities: $700,000 cap
- Overall cap for any single medical malpractice case: $1.05 million
The confusion occurs because in 2010, the Georgia Supreme Court declared these caps unconstitutional. So while Georgia as well as other states continue to enforce these caps, there is a lot of controversy over their application to medical malpractice cases. There has and will continue to be a lot of debate between professional for cases filed in the future. These caps do not apply to economic damages. In essence, there is no limit on how much compensation an injured person can receive for medical care, lost earnings, lost future earning capacity or any other economic losses attributable to the malpractice committed.
Finally, according to O.C.G.A section 9-11-9.1, when any medical lawsuit is filed in Georgia’s courts (besides the initial complaint), the injured person must also file an affidavit prepared by a qualified medical expert who will offer his or her sworn opinion as to at least one negligent act committed by the health care provider who is being sued, including the expert’s factual basis for that opinion. Failure to file an “affidavit of expert” will likely lead to the dismissal of your medical malpractice lawsuit. You may be able to get an extra 45 days to file the affidavit if the statute of limitations deadline is fast-approaching , and you have only recently hired an attorney.
Wrongful Death Lawyer in Savannah, Georgia
In Georgia, the wrongful death statute is found at O.C.G.A. 51-4-2., Under this statute, the family of the decedent who is killed by the wrongful act of another person or company has the right to bring a wrongful death suit. The family can make a claim for “the full value of the life of the decedent.” This claim must be filed within two years from the date of death (although in certain circumstances, it can be shortened or lengthened). This will be discussed later on. If the decedent is survived by a spouse, then they have the right to bring a wrongful death action. If there is no spouse, then any surviving children can bring the claim. If the decedent is a child, then the parents or appointed guardian can bring the claim. A person doesn’t have to be the Administrator, Executor, or Personal Representative of the deceased. With two distinct claims, surviving members usually bring a wrongful death claim while the Administrator brings the claim on behalf of the Estate. Practically speaking, the same person usually brings both claims.
When looking at “the full value of life” the law allows the jury to look at the issue from the decedent’s prospective. (See Brock v. Wedincamp, 253 Ga App. 275, 281-82 (2002)). This issue has two prongs: the decedent’s relationship to family and friends as well as contributions to society and tangible losses. Claims on behalf of the estate may also be brought. These types of claims include the pain and suffering and mental distress experienced by the decedent prior to death.
As discussed, Georgia recognizes two separate and distinct types of wrongful death claims. The first claim looks at the full value of the decedent’s life. Such tangible items as past and future lost wages and loss of benefits. As to intangible items, it would include loss of care, companionship, and other intangible benefits the person gave to loved ones. The second claim deals with the decedent’s estate and focuses on the financial losses as well as emotional damages related to the decedent. Damages include: medical expenses related to the last illness or injury, funeral and burial expenses, and conscious pain and suffering endured by the descendant just prior to death.
Finally, as to the statute of limitations, as previously mentioned there are exceptions to the two year statute of limitations. The statute is tolled if there is a criminal case in court that deals with the same events as the wrongful death case. There the statute is suspended until the criminal case is concluded. This includes felonies as well as misdemeanors. The two year statute would commence on the date the criminal case is finished. In addition, if the estate is not probated, then the statute is tolled for up to five years. In some cases, that could result in allowing the claim to be filed for up to seven years after the death.
Losing a family member is one of the most difficult situations to have to deal with, but losing someone due to the negligence or intentional act of another creates even more emotional impact! While the family must properly grieve, they must also gather as much evidence as soon as possible after the wrongful death. Witness statements, crash reports, photographs, review of the crash scene, and surveillance video are just some of the evidence that should be obtained. Without a quick response, the family will be at a distinct disadvantage as the defendant will have gathered as much information as possible.
Maritime Injury Lawyer in Savannah, Georgia
Georgia is located on the southeastern coast of the United States. Due to this location, it has four seaports. They are owned and operated by the Georgia Ports Authority (GPA). The two most used ports are located in Savannah and Brunswick. They are very important facilities as they are deep-water ports. Although maritime trade has a significant impact on Georgia’s economy, many seamen and longshore workers are severely injured due to unsafe working conditions, old vessels, and negligence caused by their employers. Being employed at port facilities or on vessels is very hazardous. The work is physically exhausting and hazardous. The employees need to handle heavy objects and work around machines that can cause very serious injuries. Many of these machines are neither operated or maintained properly. An empty shipping container weighs 4,700 pounds and if not handled properly can cause serious injury or death to a maritime worker.
Some of the injuries sustained in this work environment are: slips, trips, and falls, crane collapses, barge accidents, exposure to hazardous toxic agents, fires, collisions, forklift accidents, elecotrutions, explosions, and terminal fires. All of these injuries are potentially serious, life threatening, and often deadly. As to occupational injuries, maritime workers suffer back and neck injuries, traumatic brain injuries, burns, dental injuries, drowning, lacerations, amputations, and puncture wounds. To assist these workers, federal laws such as the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Worker’s Act were passed creating maritime worker’s rights. These laws have protected and will continue to protect the worker for work related-injuries caused by the negligence of their employers or for unsafe working conditions either at sea or on land.
Recovery for the personal injury and death that occurs on vessels as a result of maritime injuries in Georgia and at sea have a number of federal maritime statutes and provisions under general maritime law that results in a complicated analysis. Was the worker an employee or a passenger? What was the location of the injury? And if dealing with longshore and harbor workers, you have to look at both. For example, in a maritime slip and fall case where the victim falls overboard when walking up a gangway to board a vessel, determining who can be sued, and for what damages are just some of the issues that need to be addressed. That will depend on whether the victim was a passenger, a seafarer, or a longshore worker.
The statute of limitations for these maritime torts which include the above is three years from the time of injury or death unless otherwise noted. These limitations are found at: 46 U.S.C. 30106.
As to a passenger, under general maritime law, the elements of a claim for negligence are the same as under state law. That is duty, breach, causation, and damages. Thus, vessel owners owe a duty of reasonable care to a passenger and no duty of care to trespassers, except to refrain from purposeful injury. In addition, passengers also have two statutory causes of action. The first is the suing of the vessel owner, the vessel’s master, and the vessel itself for the injuries caused by the failure to be in compliance with inspection standards, manning requirements, or defect in the vessel. The second is the ability to sue the vessel’s master, mate, engineer, or pilot for those injuries. The conduct is not only negligent but includes willful misconduct, or failure to obey navigation laws. 46 U.S.C. 30103.
Dennis P. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Georgia
Christopher A. Sawan
Licensed in Ohio and Michigan