Atlanta Injury Attorneys Blog
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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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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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