Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog
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Pedestrian3As lawyers, we help our clients with some of the most difficult challenges of their lives. One of those is severe spinal injury. After a serious accident, whether a spinal injury results from a dive into a swimming pool with insufficient depth or a motor vehicle crash, an injury victim and his or her family faces huge hurdles. The number of spinal cord injuries in the United States is tracked by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama. According to their statistics, there are about 12,500 new cases of spinal cord injury each year and currently there are about 275,000 people dealing with this issue today. While medical researchers are making strides in the area of spinal cord injuries, these remain extremely challenging.

What is a spinal injury?  Spinal cord injuries include those that harm a portion of the spinal cord itself. But this can also include the nerves that are at the base of the spinal canal. These devastating injuries impact a person’s life in significant ways, often making it difficult to earn the income that the person was once able to earn and live in the way the person is used to having lived in terms of mobility. But there is much that can be done with support and rehabilitation to ensure that a person who has suffered such an injury can return to independence.

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1175023_magnoliaAs 2015 begins we want to wish all of our readers a very happy and healthy new year. We are grateful for the opportunity to share our perspective on the law and our community. Whether we are sharing perspectives on national or Georgia law or how our legal system impacts our daily lives, we are committed to sharing ideas with our readers and helping those who have suffered injury or who have lost a loved one after an accident or other catastrophic event. We take this responsibility very seriously and we value our readers. So thank you for being a part of our community and for taking the time to read our posts.

This new year brings one of the most amazing stories of survival we have ever encountered. Most of you have already heard about this story, but it is worth greater consideration. When earlier this week we learned of the survival of a 7-year-old child after her parents, sibling and cousin were killed in their private plane, we were stunned. The little girl who went through the fear of the emergency that befell her parents flight home from Florida … and then left a burning Piper PA-34 to find help … is nothing short of a miracle. Sailor’s father was a commercially licensed pilot, as well as a flight instructor, who knew how to fly. He made a distress call of engine trouble and was told by air traffic controllers where the nearest runway was from his point of emergency. The plane crashed in the deep woods of Kentucky. Despite the dark and forested woods that had many downed trees and thick brush, creek beds and other obstacles, this little girl found her way to one of the three homes that are occupied year-round in this rural area. Most homes in the area are vacation homes and are left vacant until warmer weather. So in addition to getting through the woods in the dark with no shoes, this child found refuge in the home of a 71-year old man who knew what to do and called 911. He too is a special part of this story of survival as he took this child in immediately and called for help.

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Thumbnail image for iStock_000006258480Small.jpgIn my last post, I shared several concerns about the recent murder of Karen Pearce near a Decatur parking garage. I raised the question about whether the crime could have been avoided or solved sooner had there been surveillance cameras. As noted in that post, the City Manager and I exchanged emails regarding this issue. In that discussion, Ms. Merris mentioned that the city was considering requiring property owners to have minimum lighting and security standards for their properties. I am not sure what that would involve. It sounds like a good start, but the city also needs to take responsibility for having its own security cameras to intercept and track criminals after they leave a private property, not only to aid in apprehension but to prevent other crimes from occurring. MARTA has security cameras, and these were apparently instrumental in later placing Presley near Decatur around the time of the murders.

As mentioned in my prior post, the suspect in the case was picked up at a MARTA station after he tried to get in without a ticket. But what if he had not tried to jump the turnstile? It is possible that someone else could have been killed, because the authorities were not able to identify his likeness as he walked through the Decatur Square after allegedly murdering Ms. Pearce. There were no cameras to help solve this horrific crime.

And what about the property owner? What is the owner’s obligation to ensure that crime does not occur on the premises? Under Georgia law, a property owner has a duty to protect those lawfully on its premises from unreasonable risks of harm. Generally though, the property owner or operator in Georgia is not liable for the criminal acts of others on his property. However, there are exceptions. The true legal test is the superior knowledge of the landowner vis-à-vis the injured victim. If the owner or operator of the property has greater knowledge of the danger of criminal acts than the potential victim on the premises, the owner/operator can be held liable.

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iStock_000006258480Small.jpgFor a small town adjacent to the much larger city of Atlanta, Decatur is a relatively secure city with a relatively low crime rate. Although there are isolated instances of street crimes, including muggings and robberies, these generally do not involve loss of life. But for the past week local residents, including my family and myself, have been shaken and concerned about their safety. The recent shooting death of a Smyrna hairstylist and nursing student, Karen Pearce, less than a block of the Decatur Square, caused confusion and fear within a normally relaxed community.

Before going further, we want to express our sympathies to Ms. Pearce’s family and friends. It is truly a human tragedy for her loved ones. On behalf of our firm, we extend our deepest condolences.

Immediately after her murder, there was little known by the public about the crime. Initial reports indicated a lack of camera surveillance on the property or even near the property on which Ms. Pearce was killed. I will get to this issue, but first the background on this crime. What is known is that the victim was enjoying time with friends, that she left her friends on her own and was on her way to the parking deck where her car was parked. She never made it there. Her body was found later near One Decatur Town Center along a driveway separating the office building from the parking deck.

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Thumbnail image for ago-180_1z.jpgOver the recent months, we have posted on a big issue within corporate giant General Motors; whether and when corporate executives knew of a problem with their ignition switches prior to the massive recall this past year. The company has recalled these ignition devices after they are alleged to have caused serious and fatal injuries in several cases. One of the most difficult aspects of the GM recall is the culture that allowed knowledge of these defects to be kept from regulators and the general public. When we hear of situations like this, we hope that this is isolated within the culture of a particular company. But recently it has come to light that another American manufacturer may also have known of defects and kept that knowledge from regulators and the general public. This time the product is something used to carry precious cargo, our children.

We have just learned that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun an investigation into the kids corporate giant, Graco Children’s Products. The issue they are reviewing is whether the company failed to inform American consumers that there was a major issue with its car safety seats for children. The agency has announced that it intends to determine when the company knew that its child seats had a major safety issue. The issue with the seats involves difficulty consumers have had in getting their children unbuckled.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emergencyvehicle.jpegFor two decades now, HERO units have been used in and around metro Atlanta to get traffic flowing after an accident on our interstate highways. This work has proven very important as our traffic congestion has worsened over this period, especially in the Atlanta metro area. HERO units are also able to provide some support to those stranded on the road due to mechanical problems with their vehicles or even when someone in the vehicle needs first aid of some sort. Recently, our HERO’s have even been provided updated uniforms, in conjunction with the 20th Anniversary of the program. HERO work is very helpful to our community. It can also be dangerous when, in the process of clearing an accident or attending to stranded drivers, others on the road do not drive carefully around them.

Just such an incident is currently under investigation after a HERO unit was hit by a vehicle on I-20 as the unit was present following an accident. Tragically, the HERO unit was working on a fatal single vehicle crash in which a driver had been ejected. The initial determination is that the original driver lost control of his vehicle after attempting to change lanes. While the HERO unit was doing its work, a distracted driver, who was also allegedly traveling too fast, hit the HERO unit and another vehicle. That driver was charged with speeding and other violations.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgThe auto air bag recalls have taken a turn after a law suit was filed earlier this week in federal court. Prior to this filing, most of the litigation involving the defective air bags has been brought in class actions, rather than cases filed by individual plaintiffs. Only one other federal action is known to have been filed thus far. The new federal filing comes in the wake of horrific air bag deployments that have severely injured and killed an estimated five victims. The particular air bag at issue was manufactured by the Takata Corporation, whose airbags have been installed in millions of vehicles. The company has been involved in car safety for many years and has never had such widespread issues with their products.

Unfortunately and tragically, there is now a major recall on many air bags made by Takata that were installed in nearly ten different car makes and models. These airbags have been known to distribute shrapnel metals on deployment. In the most recent filing, the propellant is alleged to be the problem, making the “explosive” nature of the deployment dangerous for those it is intended to protect. Although the malfunctions have occurred in warmer climates, the recall is likely to spread nationwide.

This federal case was filed in South Carolina. The wrongful death action has been brought by the brother of a woman who died after an airbag opened and caused catastrophic injuries to her spinal cord. She was driving her Honda and was involved in a single car accident in which her airbag deployed; she passed away a couple of weeks later. Honda is also named in the lawsuit. The victim’s brother is in a position to claim damages for her injuries and death. We have often posted on the rights of family members to file a wrongful death action. Georgia law specifies those who are permitted to file a lawsuit in the event that a close family member dies due to the fault of another person or entity. When a loved one is fatally injured the surviving husband or wife, children, parent and any other heir or next of kin, designated by a will or by Georgia probate law, may file a wrongful death action.

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downhill-skier_6188.jpgThe most recent advance in downhill skiing may not be skis, not boots, not aerodynamic clothing … it is airbags. These new airbags for skiers are intended to protect skiers from catastrophic injuries after losing control on a run. Many well-known skiers have suffered severe injuries in recent years and some have had to drop out of racing or jumping at Olympic Games due to their injuries. An airbag system for skiers will be permitted for use at the World Cup and other major races. This is not something that skiers are required to use, but officials have been working on the system with manufacturers and are hoping skiers will give the airbags a try.

The possibility for serious injury is a risk that skiers are simply willing to take. But a rash of accidents, that included high-profile skiers, which included severe limb and brain injuries was the motivator for this new device. The airbag system which can be worn as part of the skier’s racing gear, is intended to inflate when it senses that the athlete is out of control. Although the device has been tested to ensure that it doesn’t slow the racer down or interfere in their performance, it remains to be seen whether racers will adopt the device. One of the more difficult aspects of the development of the device has been ensuring that it deploys at precisely the right moment. Some truly horrific injuries have been suffered by skiers over the past several years. It is hoped that this device will help avoid further injury to life and limb.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000017099921XSmall.jpgAtlanta’s local and global CNN has just published the entire list of every vehicle that General Motors has recalled during 2014. The list is stunning and worth a look to ensure that your vehicle is not on it. If you own a vehicle that is on this list, you could well avoid serious injury or even death, as some vehicles on this list have significant defects that have done just that. Those owners who sit back and think it won’t happen to them, it won’t be their car or truck that ends up having one of these recalled defects, are taking a significant risk. This is something that cannot be stressed enough. Don’t let that recall notice sit in your mail pile, make an appointment and get your car in for service.

The GM recalls are unprecedented in their breadth and depth. In general, CNN Money reports that one in every five US vehicles has been recalled this year. There are one million vehicles currently on the road that have uncorrected defects. This includes GM and non-GM vehicles, but it is also a stunning number. What happened to the quality control at GM could happen at any company. It was a combination of faulty parts, a culture of silence and a lack of executive responsibility. The GM recalls have cost the company $2.5 billion and there was no profit this past quarter. The CEO Mary Barra has stated that it may well be a no-bonus year for GM workers.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emergencyvehicle.jpegIn recent years we have seen an increase in dangerous situations arising from those evading law enforcement on our roads and highways. Just last week in California, a California Highway Patrol officer on a motorcycle was unable to stop or to cite a group of riders also on motorcycles who were taunting him. Although these riders engaged in numerous violations, the officer had to let them ride off, since he had to wait for back up and the riders failed to respond to his siren and signal to pull over. Once back-up arrived he and his colleague tried to follow the riders, but this chase became too dangerous once it was off the highway and on city streets. Although in this situation there was no one injured, it could have become very dangerous. It seems that increasingly there is a failure on the part of some to do things we used to take for granted, such as pulling over for an emergency vehicle or for law enforcement. And as this disrespectful, and often illegal, way of responding to the instructions of our law enforcement and first responders rises, so does the impact on innocent bystanders.

Case in point, the price that one teen may pay for having attempted to evade Georgia State Patrol officers as they pursued him in a stolen vehicle. His alleged failure to stop now means that he will be charged as an adult in Fulton County not just for stealing a vehicle, but for murder. As he attempted to get away from law enforcement, he is alleged to have run a red light and in turn crashed into another vehicle that was traveling through the same intersection, killing a passenger. Yet another vehicle was hit during this pursuit and others were injured. Reports indicated that five individuals were taken to the hospital after this hot chase. This teen has many charges to deal with now, including DUI, unlicensed driving, serious injury by vehicle and many more.

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