June 2013 Archives

Georgia Public Safety Suspends Shuttle Company

June 29, 2013, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emergencyvehicle.jpegThe Georgia Department of Public Safety has shut down the airport bus company that was recently involved in a significant collision at the airport. Readers will recall our post on this incident in which the shuttle bus driver and 16 passengers were injured. As I have found in my practice as an Atlanta bus accident lawyer, there were some factors involving the driver's qualifications and the condition of the vehicle that were not up to safety standards.

The driver was not licensed to drive a commercial vehicle when the bus she was driving while making a u-turn on Loop Road near Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, collided with a tractor trailer. The drivers of both vehicles were charged.

The state has ordered that the company involved, MTI Limo, suspend its operations until safety standards can be met. All of MTI's vehicles, both limos and shuttle buses, have been taken off the road. At this point, there will be no transporting of the public until the company complies with all safety requirements and shows that all its drivers are properly licensed and are medically cleared to drive.

After the crash that took place in late May, state investigators got to work with safety inspections and found numerous violations within the MTI vehicle fleet. Their vehicles not only had brakes that did not pass inspections, they also had tires that were not in compliance and were going bald and drivers that were not properly licensed as was the case with the driver in the May crash.

The company says it is ready to correct its violations and safety record. They are quoted as stating that they will work with the state and federal regulators to ensure they are in full compliance.

The timing of the suspension comes on the heels of a major compliance push across the state. Earlier this month, the Motor Carrier Compliance Division (MCCD) of the Georgia Department of Public Safety teamed up with inspection officers from across the United States, Canada and Mexico for Roadcheck 2013. This is a yearly effort that promotes both the safety and the security on North American highways over a three-day enforcement push.

During the event this year, the focus was on cargo loading which is very important in the safety of large commercial vehicles. When cargo falls off a commercial vehicle or shifts while being driven, there can be grave consequences causing loss of control and instability.

Officers also performed "in-depth safety compliance inspections of passenger carrier vehicles such as limousines, shuttle buses, and motorcoaches as part of their annual "Commercial Vehicle Safety Plan." Every day on Georgia's roads, these inspections are taking place and are on the rise. They help to keep all of us safe on our roads and highways.

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Fatal Car Crash -- New Facts Emerge and Mom is Cleared

June 26, 2013, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for AutoAccident3.jpgA woman who was initially thought to have been responsible for a crash that killed her own infant and her boyfriend has been cleared by the Georgia State Patrol. No charges will be filed in this case. She herself was injured in the crash and suffered a broken neck. Her name and the accident went national as she lay in a hospital bed at Grady Memorial Hospital.

As an Atlanta car accident lawyer, I know that it often takes some time to put the facts of an accident together properly. Unfortunately, the loss that this young mom suffered was probably made more painful given that she was incorrectly thought to have been responsible for the accident in a way that sounded as if she had been driving recklessly. Neither is correct.

After an investigation done by the Georgia State Patrol, the entire matter has changed direction. As reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the GSP has issued their accident investigation results and this mom's name was cleared. It was determined that at the time of the accident, her boyfriend was driving. It was also determined that the early reports that there was some sort of racing going on was not factual.

The investigation used all possible sources, such as witnesses and videos from a Covington local business. The young mom was initially thought to have been speeding on Georgia I-20 in her Honda Accord. Her mom told authorities that her daughter's boyfriend had been driving and that there was no racing involved. It was determined that the victims were transported to hospitals and that the first GSP trooper to arrive at the scene was provided witness reports that were incorrect.

Although the GSP has not said this directly, it appears that early witness reports were simply not correct. The reliability of eyewitnesses has long been a controversial subject. Just last year, Emory University hosted a symposium on the question as to whether eyewitness testimony is as reliable as some might think.

So what did happen in this very tragic fatal car crash? It is thought that the young mom's vehicle was traveling westbound on I-20 in the center lane. Her boyfriend was driving and somehow lost control of the vehicle, hitting a guardrail on the right shoulder of the road. As often happens when motor vehicles hit guardrails, the car was pushed back into the lanes and in this case, the car ended up in the left lane of traffic. The vehicle was then hit by
another vehicle.

In reconstructing the accident, the GSP was able to capture video that showed the couple and the baby at a gas station. The mom's boyfriend left the driver's seat to fill the car with gas and returned to the driver's seat. The fatal crash took place only a few miles away within about five minutes of the gas stop.

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Trucking Toddler Drives Home a Lesson In Safety

June 22, 2013, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000016030629XSmall.jpgAs parents we worry about many things. Generally, we don't worry much about a two-year-old getting into the driver's seat of a truck and driving it into a house.

Earlier this week a Grayson, Georgia toddler made national news after he put his dad's pickup truck into gear and drove into the wall of his neighbor's home. Amazingly, no one was injured in the incident. As an Atlanta injury lawyer, my law practice and this accident reminds me that anything can happen at any time. We need to be mindful during our busy days that nothing is more important than the safety of our kids and sometimes we need to slow down a bit to protect them better.

The neighbor's home was damaged and gas and water lines were broken. These good neighbors were relieved after coming home from a shopping trip and finding a truck in the side of their house, that no one was hurt and that the little boy was fine. They were quoted as saying that they were simply grateful that everyone was fine and that their home could be fixed, but sometimes people can't be.

Amazingly, this little one was able to get his dad's truck into gear and roll a little ways into the wall of the neighbor's home across the street. His dad had been unpacking the truck, most likely never thinking that something like this could happen.

This got me thinking about how things can change in a moment and how important it is to expect the unexpected. So often we simply leave a child in the car to run into the house to get something we forgot or we leave a sleeping child in the car until he or she wakes up after we get back to our homes.

In this incident, the dad was unpacking the truck. It is possible that the dad was thinking leaving the little boy in the truck was safer than taking him out and trying to watch him while he was unpacking the vehicle. It would be very tough to anticipate an accident like this one.

But there is a lesson in this situation and we need to take heed as parents. When we are with our kids, nothing is more important than their safety. So when we are driving them, we need to be buckled up and so do they. We need to avoid talking on cell phones or doing things that we know are extremely unsafe and illegal, like texting and driving prohibited under Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-241.1.

When we leave our vehicles even for a short time, kids should not be left on their own. Especially during the summer months, cars can become very hot very quickly and this causes extreme danger for kids left in cars. Even when it is 72 degrees outside, the inside of a car can quickly move to over 100 degrees. Heat stroke causes about 40 deaths per year of kids left in cars. Sometimes parents and caregivers have forgotten that there is a little one sleeping in the back seat and tragedy can result. Just last month a Florida woman was arrested after her baby died in the back seat of her car. She left him there for an undetermined period of time, but long enough that he was unable to survive the heat.

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Now We Recall -- Chrysler Bends to Pressure to Correct Jeeps

June 18, 2013, by

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgImagine sitting at an intersection in your SUV simply waiting to make a turn. Your little nephew is in the back seat on the way to his tennis lesson when life changes forever.

In 2012, what might have been a serious rear-end crash became a deadly one as a pick-up truck rear-ended the SUV and the latter vehicle burst into flames.. Remi Walden, a four-year-old child, could not be rescued from the back seat of his aunt's car. He is one of 51 people who have died in a Chrysler SUV fire.

Remi was from Bainbridge, Georgia and that makes our state front and center in Chrysler's decision to recall the vehicles. The sheer horror of this little boy's death would warrant a look at the cause of these fires. As an Atlanta motor vehicle accident lawyer who has represented families who have lost loved ones, I can only imagine the small bit of solace that comes from the news today that Chrysler will recall many vehicles like the one Remi was riding in with his aunt.

The boy's family has filed a lawsuit against, among others, the driver of the pickup. They allege in the litigation that the truck was following too closely when it slammed into the Jeep. The impact ruptured the Jeep's gas tank and quickly ignited the SUV in flames. The child was sitting in a booster seat in the rear of the vehicle and could not be rescued.

Until today, the company had refused to recall the vehicles despite a request by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration urged that the Jeep's gas tank could in fact rupture just as did in Remi's case --- and that could result in a fire.

The specific years, makes and models for the recall are Jeep Grand Cherokees from 1993 through 2004 and Jeep Libertys from 2002 through 2007. The manufacturer will be inspecting vehicles and will install trailer hitches to protect the gas tanks. Owners from these years with these models should make sure that they have their vehicle inspected. Some owners might have had a trailer hitch installed by another company, but they are entitled to have Chrysler install this for them to ensure their safety.

Despite their agreement to recall these vehicles, the company contends that these SUV's are not defective. The federal government has disagreed with this position.

In Remi's family's case, the lawsuit alleges that the car manufacturer placed the gas tank precisely where it should not be ... in the crumple zone of the vehicle. They claim that the company knew that it was dangerous, but failed to correct the situation. Chrysler denies this to be the case.

Cases like this and customer outcries have now led the company to relent on its prior refusal to recall the 2.7 million older Jeep Grand Cherokee and Liberty SUVs that might have a risk of a fuel tank fire on impact as Remi's aunt's SUV did.

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Georgia Ambulance Tragedy: Two Paramedics and Patient Die in Crash

June 6, 2013, by

Truck4.jpgWe have posted in the past about the necessity to move over for workers on the roads and for emergency vehicles. Even while driving on country roads, when an emergency vehicle is behind us or even coming towards us, the law and common sense requires that we pull to the shoulder and stop as soon as feasible.

This past week a tragic accident occurred in Irwin County, Georgia that reminds us all of the necessity to pull over for emergency responders and the terrible consequences of failing to do so. In my work over the past two decades as a Gwinnett County truck injury lawyer, I have represented many victims and families of those harmed while sharing the road with a large truck.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and USA Today report that two paramedics and their patient died in a crash on two-lane Georgia highway 32. Apparently, a tractor-trailer and a passenger car were traveling the westbound lane. An ambulance carrying a patient was traveling eastbound with its siren sounding and lights flashing. When the car pulled over for the ambulance which was approaching from the opposite lane, the tractor-trailer jack-knifed across both lanes, including the one in which the ambulance was driving. The ambulance crashed into the jack-knifed truck that was in its lane. Tragically, the paramedics and the patient died in the crash.

The accident is now under investigation by the Georgia State Patrol. This crash requires the use of the Specialized Crash Reconstruction Team which involves specially trained investigators that will be looking into the cause or causes of this tragic accident. It is possible that charges will be filed once the investigation is concluded and this team is well-versed in documentation required for court evidence and prosecution of those responsible for fatal crashes such as this one.

As readers know, trucks can be involved in serious and dangerous accidents because they are large and heavy. They have a high center of gravity and also have reduced braking efficiencies. Due to these factors, it is critical that these vehicles drive at the speed limit or below it depending on the weather and other circumstances.

It is also very important that truck drivers drive with sufficient distance from the vehicle it is following to stop or pull over in circumstances that are unexpected. Stopping distances are much greater than those of a passenger vehicle. If you are on the road and you are being tailgated by a truck, the situation could become very dangerous in an accident or other unanticipated circumstances as happened here.

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Arrest Warrants in Shuttle Bus Crash

June 6, 2013, by

Thumbnail image for Truck9.jpgThe College Park police issued warrants for those believe to have been involved in a hotel shuttle bus crash. The three persons for whom warrants were issued were expected to surrender yesterday. According to CBS Atlanta, the warrants were issued for a shuttle services manager and two drivers that they say were driving during a hotel shuttle bus crash last month. The accident occurred on Loop Road which is near Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. In my work as an Atlanta bus accident lawyer, I know that the injuries involved can be serious.

This crash occurred late last month when a truck driver made a U-turn after realizing that he was going the wrong direction. During the turn, the shuttle bus hit the trailer of the truck. In this crash, the shuttle bus driver along with 16 passengers were injured. It is now suspected that the brakes on the bus may not have been in proper working order.

The truck driver is charged with several violations of Georgia law, including making an improper left turn and causing serious injuries with his motor vehicle. Under Georgia law, if you are driving recklessly (Official Code of Georgia section 40-6-390) and you cause serious injury to others, you can be charged under Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-394 which defines serious injury as "bodily harm to another by depriving him of a member of his body, by rendering a member of his body useless, by seriously disfiguring his body or a member thereof, or by causing organic brain damage which renders the body or any member thereof." Bone fractures, burns, loss of consciousness and other physical issues can also constitute serious injuries in Georgia.

The shuttle driver is also facing charges. She is alleged to have been driving the shuttle without a proper Georgia driver's license and operating a vehicle that was not safe.

The owner of the shuttle bus company stated that drivers are required to do a safety inspection of their shuttles before they take on passengers for the day. He apparently has already hired a safety consultant to help create safer traveling for all, but it is too late for this incident. He said he will be implementing improvements to ensure that drivers are properly licensed with commercial licenses and perform inspections under the supervision of a manager. He seems to believe that the potential lack of appropriate licensing in the case of the shuttle driver here, was an oversight.

Undoubtedly, if the passengers have sustained ongoing injuries, which often cannot be known for some period of time, the shuttle bus company and the trucking company and others might well end up in civil litigation for what appears to be negligence on their part.

Commercial transportation such as buses, cabs and shuttles have different levels of responsibility than do others on the roads. Applying for a commercial driver's license in Georgia requires a written test and a driving test by appointment only. For information on how to get a commercial driver's license, go to the Georgia Department of Driver Services. Commercial driver's licenses are required under the following circumstances: if you will drive a combination of vehicles weighing 26, 001 pounds or more; if you will drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of 26, 001 pounds or more; if you are transporting 15 or more persons (including the driver) in a vehicle designed for carrying this number of passengers; or if you will drive a vehicle of any size that requires hazardous material placards.

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