Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog
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iStock_000017099921XSmallFor some of us, the end of July means we are that much closer to the start of school. For those involved in managing and working on Georgia’s road projects, some of which are funded by the federal government, the end of July is of great concern. This is because Congress hasn’t yet extended the funding of the financial support provided to the states and many are watching the situation for developments and hoping for some reprieve. For some time now, Congress has provided only brief extensions to the funding. Of course, many road projects are key to driver and passenger safety, since unsafe conditions and deterioration can create hazards that result in accident or injury. One of the worst examples of the impact of aging infrastructure is the bridge collapse and fatalities in Minneapolis in 2007. The collapsed bridge was replaced only a year later with a new bridge that will ensure the safety of residents there for years to come. Dangerous conditions can put all drivers at risk of serious injury and worse.

The United States Department of Transportation has advised Georgia that the funds that support major highway projects here and around the country may be compromised.  The Wall Street Journal reported this week that money is running out and Congress has not funded the current programs. That means that MAP-21 which funds transportation improvements, will run out of money soon. That is of concern to our road and bridge safety as the projects include repair and replacement of infrastructure that helps us all keep safe on the roads.

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statue of libertyThe controversy over Georgia’s legalization of fireworks continues after Fourth of July celebrations became loud and caused serious injury. At a time when many states and cities around the country regulate the purchase and use of various types of fireworks, Georgia has enacted a law that permits greater use and availability of fireworks. The law won’t just cause annoyance to some over the Independence Day holiday, the use of fireworks is permitted all year long and can be purchased by those over the age of 18. If this seems to have the potential for loud and annoying activity in urban and rural areas alike, it does. Apparently, many residents were alarmed by the proximity of fireworks to their homes and the potential fire dangers in cities such as Atlanta. And some lawmakers are already making their own noise about amending or even repealing the law.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that although many incidents were reported around metro-Atlanta, some county police departments did not see a sizable change from prior years for things like reckless conduct with fireworks. Specifically, Cobb County advised that the volume of complaint calls was not much different than prior years. One Atlanta-area man was seriously injured when fireworks he lit malfunctioned and struck his leg. He was taken to Kennestone and has or will undergo surgery to his damaged limb. It seems likely that lawmakers who want to amend the new law will be collecting information from police departments and hospitals throughout the state.

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iStock_000001983354XSmallThis past April, Interstate 16 near Savannah was the site of one of the most horrific truck accidents we can recall in recent history. As most readers know, five nursing students were killed in that crash. Georgia Southern University has continued to be affected by the loss and recently some of the families of the women have filed wrongful death lawsuits due to this crash. It is reported that the tractor-trailer driver failed to apply his brakes or to perform evasive action when the truck he was driving slammed into the vehicle in which the students were riding. The lawsuits indicate that the driver was responsible for another accident several years ago after he fell asleep while driving.

Just last month, another terrible tractor-trailer crash took place on this same road in the same area as the nursing students’ tragedy. In that crash five people lost their lives. And just this past week, the Georgia State Patrol has reported that three were killed on this road in Treutlen County after a tanker truck hit their auto. In that crash, the driver has not been charged at this point, but the investigation is still pending.

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Old dead spruce lying in the woods

Last week, on a late spring evening, families gathered for a baseball tournament in Tupelo, Mississippi. As weather changed and a storm came in, a group of youth baseball players were told to stop play. As they walked off the field, a tree limb broke off and struck the head of a 10-year old boy. It is difficult to imagine the pain and chaos of these circumstances — as family and friends were present and other children were also injured. The boy’s injuries were the most serious and he was taken to the hospital. He did not survive his injuries.

Every year, trees cause serious injury and death. Unfortunately, a falling tree or tree limb comes with little or no warning. The tragedy in Mississippi gives pause, not only for the tragic circumstances, but concerns for our own families in what should be the most benign settings. During these spring and summer months when we spend so much time outside with our kids and families, we need to think about all aspects of safety. It is a good idea to also take a look around our own yards and gardens, to check on the health of trees around us. Any trees that look like they could have disease or could fall in a storm should be noted and considered for trimming or removal.

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airbagLast month, history was made in America. But not the way we would like it to be made. The federal government issued the largest recall in our history and one involving a Japanese company’s safety products. We have posted in the past about the airbag woes of Takata. The company has been sued by a number of injured victims and has been the focus of media and consumer concern about the potentially dangerous and defective airbags. The problem with these airbags is that they eject sharp shrapnel that could cause greater injury than the accident that triggers them to inflate.

The majority of the potentially deadly and dangerous airbags are thought to have been manufactured and put into cars made between 2002 and 2008. However, it is possible that vehicles made through 2014 could be included. The frightening potential for crash victims to be harmed by airbags they rely on for protection, has many car owners concerned about their safety and the safety of their passengers. There might not be one cause of the defect, but the danger of an airbag malfunction appears to be more likely in locations in which there is high heat and humidity. These conditions are thought to break down some of the internal parts that then causes the airbag’s propellant to burn too quickly which, in turn, places too much pressure within the inflation device.

Although this is a pervasive problem … and 34 million cars are involved in the recall … it has not been easy for consumers to find resources to determine which cars are part of the recall. The original notification by Takata to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), involved  vehicles made by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Toyota. To determine whether a specific vehicle is part of the recall, car owners can go to SaferCar.gov and search their vehicle’s specific VIN number. This number can be found on the driver’s side of the dashboard of your vehicle. It is easiest to see this when standing outside your car and looking where the dash and windshield connect. The NHTSA VIN site states that owners checking to determine whether their vehicle might be involved in the airbag recall are encouraged to check back often, since VIN numbers are provided by the car manufacturers and this process is taking time.

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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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