Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog
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concussionGeorgia is home to some of the finest research institutions in the country.  We recently learned that the University of Georgia is taking on an important and groundbreaking study concerning how concussions might impact driving capability. Considered to be the first study of its kind, researchers will be evaluating the cognitive and driving ability functions of athletes who have suffered a concussion. A concussion can also occur when someone slips and falls or is involved in a motor vehicle crash including a truck crash concussion, motorcycle concussion or car wreck concussion. The results of this study will be very helpful in determining when someone can safely return to driving after suffering this type of injury.

Concussions can cause a temporary loss of normal brain function including an alternation in the level of consciousness that a person would normally have. These injuries can cause cognitive impairment, reaction time, memory loss, balance problems and many other impairments that can take time to regain. The cumulative effect of concussions can be a serious issue, as we have seen with NFL players and long-term brain function.

Specifically, the question as to when someone who has suffered a concussion is really ready to get behind the wheel is an important and yet unanswered question. The concern is that someone who has suffered a concussion may have impairment with driving due to the “neuropsychological effects” a concussion can cause. Although the study is not a large one, the data recovered from the study could be extremely important. The data collection has already begun with a lab set-up that replicates driving conditions that include everything from passing another vehicle, to stopping a vehicle properly, to avoiding a sudden situation such as an unexpected intrusion into the street. The test subjects will be checked for cognition and driving skill after a concussion that will help determine when someone is ready to return to driving.

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iStock_000016429140XSmallOur hearts are heavy this week as two tragic accidents in our area have resulted in loss of life. One accident occurred this past week in Forsyth County involving a driver of a pick up and a flatbed truck. Reports indicate that while driving on a local road, a driver’s pick up moved so far to the right it left the road. This in turn caused the driver to attempt to correct the road departure. The driver lost control of his vehicle at this point and his vehicle slid directly into the oncoming lane of traffic. The tragic collision occurred when the pick up was broadsided at the driver’s side by an oncoming flatbed that had a large trailer attached to it. The impact caused both vehicles to head down an embankment. Sadly, the impact also became fatal to the pick up driver, whose catastrophic head injuries were so severe, he passed away at the scene of the accident.

This is a very sad outcome to something that can happen to any driver. Road departure situations are often dangerous and can lead to serious injury and death. These situations can occur so quickly, the driver has very little time to recover and return to his or her lane of traffic. Very often these accidents involve only a single vehicle. We have shared examples of this situation with our readers and just this past week a West Forsyth High School teen lost his life and his friend was injured in such an accident.

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584005_30246517Is trucking safer in America than it was ten years ago? Recently, families of fatal truck crashes weighed in on some testimony presented at a Senate hearing which they forcefully disputed. The trucking industry, through the American Trucking Associations (ATA) had claimed that trucking fatalities have been in a decline over the past ten years. However, victims’  families say the facts do not support this claim. In an impassioned letter to the relevant Senate committees written on behalf of many families through an organization called the Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), victim’s families challenged the claim that the trucking industry statistics on safety show an improvement in number of fatal accidents. In fact they said current truck safety is “dismal” and refuted the efforts to allow longer trucks driven by weary truckers which they assert will cause more fatalities. PATT is part of the Truck Safety Coalition which works to improve truck safety and makes recommendations on how to improve safety for truck drivers and trucking companies.

The families’ noted as “misleading,” the recent statements presented by a major trucking company before the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Surface Transportation and Merchant Marine Infrastructure, Safety and Security. In their statements, the general counsel of a major trucking company and the ATA made a number of recommendations on truck safety and also made the claim that fatalities related to truck accidents are in a decline and that truck safety is improving. However, the parent group refuted this statistic  in a letter to key senators. PATT noted that the 2013 statistics were worse than those from 2012.

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DriverlessGoogle seems to have a strong hold on much of what we do on line, but will Google take over driving our cars while we happily sit back and chat on the phone, write emails or get our work done as well? Actually this is likely to occur in the future and some states are already adopting regulations relating to these vehicles. But for now, Georgia has said it is too early to create a regulatory scheme for a technology that is so early in its development. Georgians are innovative people, we have some of the best tech institutions and companies in the world here, but some innovations have longer adoption cycles and need to be proven to be safe before we use them. And so it is that the autonomous vehicle that has no driver and does not include the controls we are used to seeing in motor vehicles, will not be seen on our roads or highways any time soon. A Georgia legislative panel has been looking into the wisdom of regulating this technology as other states have done and has published its finding: and that is a “no go” on that aspect of this innovation.

Many readers have seen film clips of these driverless cars. Google has created one that drives around its California campus … with no driver. Presumably, if Google has its way, the technology will be made available to all one day.  Passengers will be riding along without the need to pay attention to the road at all. The final word for now, which may not in fact be the final word is “proceed with caution.” In its report, the Autonomous Vehicle Technology Study Committee determined that the technology is at too early a stage for Georgia to begin regulating it. Instead, our state will wait and see. The report notes that a better approach is to allow the technology to mature and let the regulatory process follow. On the other hand, the report welcomes the developers of this technology to view Georgia as a place to come for a skilled technology work force and would open the doors to having a role in bringing the technology to the market.

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Pedestrian2In our last post, I shared the challenges involved in recovery after a spinal injury. This area of medical research is complex, but the rewards for progress are great. Making major strides with technology and medical advancement, has given those with catastrophic injury a better quality of life. Many organizations are dedicated to this effort. Within the National Institutes of Health (NIH) there are many related agencies, one of which is the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The wide-ranging research that is underway there involves not only this entity, but others that are privately and publicly funded. Just one example among many is the United Spinal Association which has its roots in the veterans’ spinal injuries of WWII. The New York City veterans who were paralyzed during that war founded the organization to ensure greater rights and support for those with severe injury. These courageous vets wanted to ensure that those with paralyzing injuries would have the opportunity to have good quality of life, as well as greater civil rights. The organization today continues this mission. Not only does it serve those with spinal injuries, it supports their family members and other that care for the injured.

In addition to the support provided by institutions and private foundations, centers of excellence in research and care of spinal cord injuries are found within hospital communities. Some of these hospitals are able to put research into practice and in so doing, refine that research. The areas of research focus at this time include those that involve replacement of damaged nerve cells and protecting the patient’s surviving cells from damage. Due to the sheer complexity of the spinal cord and its importance in many aspects of the body’s function, an injury to the spinal cord is not a static event. Rather it changes over time, making the treatment of such injury more complex as well.  Continue reading →

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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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