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If you lose a personal injury case, you might decide to fight to the end by appealing the judgment. Georgia allows you at least one shot at an appeal if you have proper grounds for one. Most appeals are unsuccessful, but that should not deter you if you believe you have a solid reason for doing so.


In Georgia, you have 30 days from the date of the judgment to appeal your case to the Georgia Court of Appeals. If you miss the deadline, you are almost certainly out of luck. 

New Evidence

An appeal is not a new trial. Consequently, an appeals court will not accept new evidence. The court will not hear new testimony, for example. It will simply review the record of the trial court and decide on your appeal that way. 

If you win your appeal, it’s because the appeals court saw something they didn’t like in the trial court record.  Sometimes, they will allow the opposing lawyers to offer oral arguments and subject themselves to a Q & A session with the judges.

Burden of Proof

The party who appeals the decision bears the burden of proving that the trial court was wrong. In this way, the original defendant (at-fault party) will bear the burden of proof if they are the party that appealed the trial court’s decision.

The Standard of Review

The standard of review defines the strength of the standard that the appellant (the party that appealed) must overcome to overturn a decision of a trial court that they might be appealing. 

The most common standards of review at the appellate level are de novo, abuse of discretion, clear error, sufficiency of the evidence, plain error, and harmless error. 

De Novo

In a de novo review, the appeals court gives no deference to the trial court. Instead, they decide the issue without reference to the trial court’s decision. Just about the only issues entitled to de novo review are pure issues of law, such as the interpretation of the wording of a statute.

Abuse of Discretion

The “abuse of discretion” standard applies to decisions involving the discretion of a trial court, such as a decision on a procedural matter (whether to admit a certain item of evidence, for example). To prevail under this standard, there must be very little doubt that the trial court was wrong.

Clear Error

The ‘clear error’ standard applies to the trial court’s findings of fact, such as its determination of the credibility of an expert witness. The expert witness did not appear before the appeals court (because appeals courts do not hear witness testimony). Meanwhile, the trial court judge directly observed the expert witnesses’ testimony and demeanor. 

As a result, the appeals court will not overturn the trial court’s decision on an issue of fact absent ‘clear error.’  Since this is a very difficult standard to meet, the appeals court almost never overturns a trial court’s findings of fact. 

Sufficiency of the Evidence

‘Sufficiency of the evidence’ refers to whether, as a whole, the evidence presented at trial was sufficient to justify the outcome. An appeals court might apply this standard to the issue of whether the trial court’s award of non-economic damages was sufficient, for example. 

The appeals court will support the trial court’s decision on this issue unless there is no evidence at all to support it. 

Plain Error

The ‘plain error’ standard applies to obvious errors not objected to at trial. The appeals court will consider overruling the trial court only if these errors were extremely serious.

Harmless Error

After a court determines that an error occurred, it will determine whether the error was harmless or prejudicial. Even if it was prejudicial, the appeals court might decide It was harmless because it was unlikely to have affected the outcome of your case. 

If it was harmless, the appeals court will ignore it. If it was not harmless, you might qualify for a reversal or a remand ((see below).

Possible Outcomes of Your Appeal

There are three possible outcomes to your appeal:

  • The court dismisses your appeal. This means the trial court’s decision stands. You can appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia, but it’s highly unlikely that they will hear your case even if it has merit. In that case, you must either accept the trial court’s adverse judgment or find an appropriate federal issue and sue in federal court.
  • The appeals court overturns the trial court’s decision for obvious error. If that happens, congratulations! You win.
  • The appeals court remands your case back to the trial court with instructions on what legal principles it must apply. If that happens, the trial court will reconsider certain aspects of its decision and might rule in your favor. That means you get a ‘second bite of the apple.’  

Dismissal is probably the most common outcome of an appeal.

Yes, You Definitely Need an Experienced Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer To File an Appeal

Of course, you have the legal right to file an appeal on your own. The problem is that appeals are difficult enough to win even with the aid of an experienced lawyer. They are almost impossible to win for people who choose to represent themselves. It’s best to find a Georgia personal injury lawyer to help you with your appeal.

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