Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog
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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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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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