When you experience injury in a car accident or a slip and fall on a wet floor in a grocery store, the skill and experience of your personal injury lawyer often have a profound impact on the financial compensation you receive for your injuries and other losses. While some injury victims attempt to negotiate directly with the responsible party or his or her insurance company, unrepresented injury victims often make mistakes in terms of what might seem to be the most basic aspects of pursuing a civil lawsuit. These types of miscalculations reveal that even aspects of a claim that seem rudimentary might necessitate the knowledge and expertise of a top Atlanta personal injury lawyer. In this articles, we review a Georgia Court of Appeals decision allowing a plaintiff to bring additional claims beyond the statute of limitations covering the initial claims because of their relationship to the original claims.
In Thomas v. Tenet Healthsystem, the plaintiff was rushed to the hospital after suffering an injury in a motor vehicle accident. She was transported on a backboard because the paramedics at the scene suspected she might have suffered a back injury. The treating doctor at the hospital arranged for a CT scan, but a second doctor read the results and informed the treating physician that the plaintiff did not suffer an injury to the cervical spine. Following receipt of this information, the treating physician directed a nurse to remove the injury victim’s neck brace and to discharge the patient. The plaintiff was subsequently determined to have a spinal cord injury.
Plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the physicians and the hospital alleging that removal of the neck brace worsened the spinal injury and caused her to suffer quadriplegia. The complaint asserted medical malpractice claims against the physicians and vicarious liability against the hospital. After the statute of limitations would have expired, the plaintiff sought to amend the complaint alleging a negligence claim against the hospital. The hospital filed a motion to dismiss the additional claims based on the statute of limitations, which was granted by the trial judge.
The appellate court reversed the trial judge based on a finding that the “removal of the collar arose out of the conduct, transaction, or occurrence set forth in the original complaint . . . .” The court noted that during discovery plaintiff learned the hospital had a policy that only allowed physicians to remove collars for the cervical spine. The court reasoned that the new claim was still a negligence claim against the hospital based on the conduct of an employee, which was essentially the same claim as the original complaint though the identity of the negligent employee was different.
The Georgia Court of Appeals allowed the plaintiff’s lawsuit to move forward with the new claims. Failure to bring all claims when filing a personal injury lawsuit can lead to otherwise meritorious claims being barred, injury victims should seek prompt and experienced legal advice to avoid these types of complications.
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