Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog
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1330873_27868463The chances of getting a case heard in the highest court in the land are not very high. So when a case is accepted for hearing by the United States Supreme Court, the justices have a very good reason for doing so. Most people might not realize that although our high court has some of the hardest working judges in the country, the number of cases accepted is relatively small. Most cases are quite complex and require significant briefing and hearing prior to the Court’s ruling. In general, the Court is not required to hear most cases it is presented for review. There are few exceptions to this. Those seeking the Court’s review file what is called a petition for a writ of certiorari in which a party may ask the Court to hear a case. Of the 7,000 such petitions presented to the Court, only about 100-150 are accepted for review each year. Although personal injury, rather than criminal law is our area of law practice, we keep up generally on other areas of the law and particularly cases that are before the United States Supreme Court.

That is why it is significant that the Supreme Court has accepted a Georgia death penalty case for review. In the case, Mr. Timothy Foster was convicted of assaulting and then murdering an elderly woman in her home in Rome, Georgia in 1986. Foster, who later confessed to the murders after items belonging to the victim were found in his home, was sentenced to death in 1987. However, his lawyers petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a hearing on the issue of racial bias in the selection of the jury as every potential black juror was eliminated from the jury of this defendant who also is black.

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Truck4Last month, five Georgia Southern University nursing students lost their lives in a terrible tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 16 near Savannah. The magnitude of the crash was felt deeply throughout Georgia and within the GSU community. The loss of young life and the intended path of these productive young women was national news. CNN reported that the multi-vehicle crash occurred as these nursing students were finishing their first clinical rotations and otherwise would have been a moment of celebration, rather than mourning. These students were killed and others were injured due to the failure of a tractor-trailer to stop for their vehicles which were traveling very slowly on the highway due to a prior accident on that road. The reports indicated that the vehicles were consumed by flames after the truck struck them.

This week another tragic truck crash has occurred only 20 miles away from April’s tragic collision. In the most recent accident, a tractor-trailer is again alleged to have crashed into two other vehicles which then were consumed in flames. Five people lost their lives in this crash. The early reports indicate that the truck driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel of his truck. At the time of this posting, the driver, who has cooperated with authorities, has not been charged for causing this crash.

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DUI Picture 1A recent Georgia Supreme Court case involving the constitutional rights of those arrested for DUI has led to some interesting discussion and some legal maneuvering. In a Gwinnett County trial court criminal case, the defendant Mr. Williams was convicted of a DUI related to drug use. At the time of his arrest, his blood was tested by the authorities without a search warrant. The defendant sought to suppress the blood test evidence based on the lack of a search warrant under both the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution and a similar provision of the Georgia Constitution. In addition, the defendant asserted that the Georgia statute, Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-5-55,  which allows for implied consent to testing when drivers take the roads, is unconstitutional as applied in his case. He argued that his consent was not voluntary. The trial court denied his arguments and allowed the results of the test into evidence.

However, the Georgia Supreme Court found that the defendant’s arguments on this issue were meritorious and sent the case back to the trial court to reconsider the defendant’s motion to suppress. Under the Georgia law, if a suspected DUI driver fails to give voluntary consent to being tested, which is essentially waiving his or her right to require authorities to secure a warrant, authorities are then permitted to suspend a driver’s license for one year. The question that the Georgia Supreme Court reviewed was whether this essentially amounts to an involuntary consent, rather than a voluntary one.

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car harmedMost Americans have either had to deal with the sensitive issue of evaluating an elderly driver’s capability to continue to drive, or knows someone who has dealt with this issue. Many adult children have had the difficult experience of determining whether a beloved family member is capable of driving safely and avoiding injury to themselves or others. If you have not already confronted this in your family, you likely will at some point in your life. And the most important thing about this is that in doing so, you may be saving the life of your loved one or someone else. When this conversation becomes necessary, you may need the guidance of others who have come before you in this sensitive dialogue. Because as Americans, we cherish the ability to be independent and to go wherever we want to go, when and how we want to do so. Our elderly family members love their independence, just like we do.

But when we begin to see the signs that an elderly parent or loved one can no longer safely drive — because he or she is a danger to himself or others — we need to have the courage our elder loved ones wanted us to have as kids and we need to do something to help. As we age, driving can become more challenging.

If you Google “elderly driver,” you can find many fine resources to help with this challenge. But you might well also find an article on fatal crashes caused by an elderly driver. In preparing for this post, I found an article about two pedestrians who were walking their dog and were struck and killed by an elderly driver in Chico just this week.

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Pedestrian3A quick visit to a licensing office at the Paulding County Courthouse turned harmful and deadly for pedestrians talking and walking to their cars. A 60-year old grandpa was having a conversation with a woman with twin infants when they were all struck by a vehicle that traveled in their walking path. Another pedestrian was so badly injured with critical injuries, she later passed away at a local hospital. The tragic pedestrian accident was the result of an elderly driver parking her vehicle and possibly hitting the accelerator rather than the brakes of her car. According to reports, witnesses said that after the woman struck the pedestrians, she was aware of what had happened and was shaken and upset. She is now charged with the Georgia crime of second-degree vehicular homicide.

This recent vehicle accident raises the question: why do drivers mistake the gas for the brake?  In general, this type of accident occurs in small areas, like parking lots where the driver is driving slowly and using a vehicle’s strong idle and brake to move the vehicle. The experts say that in this scenario, the brain says to the driver using idle and the brake … “the vehicle is moving forward so the other pedal must be the brake.” And after this mistake, the brain gets overloaded and once shock sets in the action is tough to reverse as our brains don’t function as well under that level of stress. Other factors for elderly drivers include a potential lack of feeling in the right leg which ends up hitting both pedals at the same time.

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Texting and drivingThe recent publication of a major review of dash cam videos of teens driving distracted and crashing their vehicles, compiled by the American Automobile Association (AAA) is something every teen and every parent should watch. To begin with, the statistics on teen distracted driving are stunning — nearly 60 percent of motor vehicle accidents involving teens are caused by some sort of distraction. The distraction can be a cell phone or other teens in the vehicle. It can be texting or it can be simply the teen driver pointing out something on the road to a passenger.

The most recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety effort which compiles teen distracted driving video footage, is a bit difficult to watch. The videos which were studied in collaboration with the University of Iowa, focus on the very crucial 6 seconds before a crash event. Although in some teen car crashes the teen is alone, often there are other passengers that cause distraction. Many experts believe that the issue is driver experience, but perhaps it is most likely to be that and other factors. Teens are statistically more likely to engage in risk-taking behaviors and perhaps do not believe that anything terrible can happen to them, that they can text and drive because they are more careful than their peers. But this reasoning is not supported by the facts. Which is why watching videos of what has happened to thousands of teens, is perhaps a real wake up call for those teens and adults who think they are immune from the dangers of distracted driving.

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iStock_000016429140XSmallThe story of a young teen who received a life-saving heart transplant has ended in a tragic and horrific car crash. The Georgia young man was placed on a waiting list and received a heart transplant in a somewhat controversial medical situation in 2013.  He received the support of many who wanted to give him a second chance at life. Initially physicians in Atlanta were reluctant to provide him the new heart due to non-compliance concerns — specifically, that he would not take the proper medications after the transplant. But in the end, his supporters were able to convince the medical community that he should receive the new heart. And although he said he intended this to be a second chance and that he would change his path, which involved trouble with the law, that was not to be.

The young teen passed away recently after attempting to evade police who tried to stop him after an alleged home invasion of an elderly woman who had called 911. After he failed to stop for officers, they began chasing his vehicle. Prior to the chase, the allegations in this tragic end included the teen having engaged in the home invasion, stolen a vehicle and crashing it after having shot at a woman and hit another vehicle and a pedestrian. It appears that the others injured in the auto crash, will survive. But the young man’s injuries were too severe for his survival. He died in the crash of the allegedly stolen vehicle in Roswell, Georgia.

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iStock_000016429140XSmallThe Monday morning news was remarkably sad yesterday. The AJC reported on several motor vehicle wrecks that were nearly simultaneous. First, a fatal crash resulting in the deaths of two people in Lawrenceville and only a short way down the road another vehicle crash on Georgia 316. That first crash involved a head on collision involving two cars. In that collision, one driver was traveling in a car northbound and the other was driving southbound on Buford Road. Both drivers were killed in this accident and our hearts go out to their loved ones and their communities. Although other vehicles were involved in this crash, the drivers of those vehicles were not seriously injured.

Then, just down the road, another vehicle crash occurred. This crash involved a truck and a car. Specifically, a garbage truck and a passenger car ended up colliding with serious injuries apparently being sustained by one or both of the drivers involved. Although details were not forthcoming, the emergency authorities had to extricate one of the victims from the vehicle in which he or she was driving.

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concussion

March is a great month for thinking about health as we move from a very intense winter to the upcoming spring. March is also brain health awareness month. The Centers for Disease Control right here in Atlanta, have set aside the month for this important topic. They want the public to focus on many aspects of brain health. From high school coaches to parents to teen athletes, the CDC wants all of us to be better educated about brain injuries. One of the major areas of focus for this campaign are concussions. This subject has been in the news quite often in the past several years as experts have learned more and more about the effect of concussions, particularly cumulatively. There has also been more and more research in this field and many NFL players have come forward to share their experiences with cumulative concussions and how that impacts life after sports.

Most parents know that concussion can happen even when a child or teen gets a relatively minor bump to the head. The symptoms of concussion can take quite a while to show up, which makes it all the more important to pay attention to our kids when they complain of any symptoms. These can include: dizziness, headache and nausea just to name a few. There are many more symptoms about which parents should become aware which include differences between the size of the eye pupils, confusion or loss of consciousness. A more complete list of symptoms is found at the CDC Heads Up website, which is a great resource.

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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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