The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled recently that an injured person can proceed with a lawsuit against a government, even though the injured person did not provide a full accounting of the losses caused by the injury initially.
Woman Wins Case For Damages From a Pothole
The court, in a split decision, ruled in favor of the injured woman, who fractured and tore tendons in her left ankle in June 2010 after stepping on the edge of an unrepaired pothole in a Dalton State College parking lot.
A little over three months after the injury, the woman sent a notice to the state detailing the accident and the nature of her ankle injuries. She indicated that she did not know the full extent of her damages because she was continuing to receive medical treatments at the time.
In response, the state requested more information, including medical bills and written verification of any lost wages. The student did not respond.
A few months later, the state sent another request for the documents and also explored a potential settlement. The student, through her attorney, eventually provided a list of her injuries along with estimated monetary damages. She sought a settlement of $110,000.
Rejecting the Georgia State’s Settlement Offer
After rejecting the state’s offer to settle the case (payment of her medical bills of $10,128.24), the student filed a personal injury lawsuit against the Board of Regents for the state’s university system. A trial court judge dismissed the woman’s claim on the basis that her pre-suit notice of claim did not satisfy Georgia law.
However, the Appeals Court reinstated the student’s lawsuit, saying the lawsuit could proceed.
The traditional rule in Georgia was that individuals could not sue the government for personal injuries. However, the state has modified the law to allow claims for personal injury damages as long as the injured person follows various pre-lawsuit procedures, including providing a sufficient description of the injuries and expected damages.
The primary purpose of the notice requirement, the appeals court majority wrote, is to ensure that the state receives adequate information before a lawsuit is filed to allow settlement discussions.
The student in her notice of claim indicated the alleged nature, location, and cause of her injuries, the majority concluded. The lack of a description of losses in the notice was justified because the woman did not know the full extent of her injuries at the time, according to the court.
Interestingly, the court majority observed that the better practice (but not required under law) is for an injured person to provide to the government information about damages and injuries that might be available at the time of the notice of claim, including medical bills and any lost wages.
Filing claims against the state for personal injuries can be tricky and complicated. If you have suffered injuries because of the actions of the government, you owe it to yourself to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to fully assess your legal rights.
The case is Myers v. Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (Case No. A13A1597).