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1330873_27868463-300x182At Scholle Law we keep apprised of all new developments in Georgia law and our highest court’s cases and decisions. Because we are metro Atlanta injury lawyers, we pay particular attention to those cases that might impact access to healthcare services after an injury or accident. From time to time, we like to bring our readers information about the decisions of our courts.

The Georgia Supreme Court has recently issued its opinion in a case involving a Georgia health facilities law. Some have said this law limits free markets, but others see it as an important regulation of health care facilities planning. In the case, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the law which was challenged by a Cartersville, Georgia surgical center that sought to add an operating room. The surgical center intended to add the operating room to expand their contracts with physicians who might use the center in conjunction with their own medical practices.

Official Code of Georgia section 31-6-40 (a) (7) (C) provides that new health services facilities (those less than one year old) must apply for, and obtain, a Certificate of Need (CON) before moving forward with expansion of their facilities. The facility that brought the lawsuit did not believe it was governed by this law and also sought to have it declared unconstitutional. They argued that the law violates the constitution violating two basic areas of Georgia’s Constitution. First, a clause of the Georgia Constitution that prohibits what are called “Anti-Competitive Contracts;” and second, the due process clause of United States Constitution. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the Certificate of Need provision and declared that it is constitutional.

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iStock_000016030629XSmall-200x300It is difficult to accept the fact that as pedestrians we must now “walk defensively.” Not so long ago, we generally walked with a sense of safety and assurance. These days, increasingly, we need to concentrate while we walk near traffic to avoid a pedestrian accident. It is with sorrow that we share the story of the untimely passing of a Bartow County high school student. But if, in sharing this story, one life is protected that at least helps make some good from this tragedy. In the morning hours one recent Saturday, the young man walked to his final band competition. He was struck and killed from behind by a passing vehicle. The vehicles bumper hit him. Although we do not know whether he was walking on the side of the road or not, regardless, he was hit and died at the scene. His school band did not compete in the competition as they mourn the loss of this beloved peer and talented AP student.

In memory of this young man, we want to share some safety information with all of our readers. Georgia’s Governor’s Office of Highway Safety has a list of safety tips for pedestrians. To review those tips, please visit the site on pedestrian safety. One very important suggestions is that, in situations in which there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic as far away as possible from the road. Use crosswalks, and do what we teach our kids to do, look both ways before crossing. In fact, look both ways and then back to the left again before crossing.

Although the tragedy in Bartow County did not appear to involve a road crossing, as the young man was hit from behind, crossing the road can be very dangerous. Georgia law does provide some parameters for pedestrian safety. For example, Georgia law provides specific rules about when drivers must stop and remain stopped for pedestrians when they are in a crosswalk and have already entered that. Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-91 provides that drivers must stop and remain stopped to allow the pedestrian to safely cross. Passing around a vehicle that is stopped for a pedestrian is, of course, prohibited. But we have all seen this happen and we all know that it is very very dangerous and against the law.

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Truck3Some things are worth repeating and we think truck crash avoidance is one of those things. Atlanta highways are some of the most congested in the country. One of the challenges that comes along with that are truck accidents that can involve serious or fatal injury. Whether you are traveling on a local road or highway or you are on a interstate drive with your family, knowing how to travel safely around large heavy trucks is important. There is so much distraction on our roads these days. With large trucks and smaller vehicles sharing the road, paying close attention to what is happening around you is more important than ever. There are specific things you can do to protect yourself around these vehicles.

First, it is important to understand some key facts about trucks. Like smaller vehicles, they have blind spots, but truck blindspots are much, much larger. Know more about truck blind spots, could help keep you from a blind-spot truck collision. Because of this, it is important to be aware of where you are in relation to the truck’s blindspots. The general rule is that if you can see the truck driver in the truck’s side mirror, the driver should be able to see you as well. Conversely, if you cannot see the driver, it is likely you aren’t seen. Given these facts, try to avoid the blindspots, behind and on the sides of the truck.

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Summer in Georgia went out like a lion. Now that fall has arrived in earnest, we all hope that recovery from the dangerous storms that millions of Americans experienced, including so many of us throughout Georgia,  will be well underway before winter arrives. Georgians saw the power of mother nature, rain and wind from Irma that impacted many of us. Our coastal communities were severely impacted by both hurricanes Matthew and Irma, and some lives were lost. Two Georgians suffered fatal injuries when trees fell on their homes or vehicles. Trees were down, power was out and some buildings were damaged in the storm. As premises liability lawyers, we know that property owners need to protect their own families and others from potential harm from the impacted trees. We thought it might be helpful to share with our readers some of the recovery and safety tips we have collected from governmental agencies.

Governor Deal noted that because the storms hit Texas and Florida so hard, there were fewer immediate resources for Georgia than there might have been. Our storm recovery may take months and while this work continues our governmental agencies ask that we are patient and safe.

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car-ignition0switch-faulty-300x200We have posted several times over the past few years about the major recall and consequences of faulty ignition switches in General Motors’ vehicles. One case garnered a great deal of attention when the parents of a young Georgia woman who died due to a faulty ignition switch, sued GM. About 125 deaths were originally considered to be due to the faulty switches. Now there are more. The defective devices resulted in the recall of 2.6 million vehicles. Since the early stages of this recall, there are now hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death cases.

According to Reuters, attorneys for vehicle owners with defective switches who have suffered various damages, including fatal injury, are on the verge of losing a deal they were about to enter into with a trust holding GM assets. The plaintiffs lawyers are calling foul on GM, arguing that the company interfered with resolving the case through settlement using unsavory tactics, including threats. The “deal” would have resolved millions of claims, although about 2.5 million would have remained in another court. It took nearly half a year to come up with the settlement which now is at risk of unwinding. The trust, which maintains pre-bankruptcy assets of the company, was integral to this deal.

The plaintiffs’ attorneys are claiming that General Motors met with trust representatives and put undue pressure on the trust to pull away from the resolution of this huge case. Immediately after this meeting, the trust reneged on the deal they had reached (although had not yet signed) with the plaintiffs. Although no agreements had been signed, the negotiations were months and months of work for both the plaintiffs’ attorneys and the trust representatives.

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airbag-300x199A Georgia woman who, as a passenger in the front seat would commonly place her feet on the dashboard of the family car would say to everyone listening: “just don’t do it.” How often have you or an adult friend or family member done this very thing without a second thought? According to several interviews, including one reported in USA Today, the Georgia mom was severely injured two years ago after her family’s car struck a vehicle that shot out in front of theirs. She was the only one hurt in the crash and was not wearing a seat belt. Her husband and children were fine, but her injuries from the auto crash were severe. Her airbag deployed and because her legs were on the dash at the time of impact, she sustained serious injuries to her ankle, femur and arm. The way she put it, her “whole right side was broken.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety notes that airbags deploy at about 200 mph, which emits energy to save a life, but can hurt a misplaced limb as happened here.

One of the ironies about this car crash and her serious injuries is that the injured victim’s husband repeatedly warned her not to put her feet on the dash. He told her over and over again that one day she would regret this habit. He cautioned that if they were in an accident, she could be hurt having her legs up on the dash. When you stop and think about this, it makes perfect sense. As a former EMS (she cannot work in her field any longer) one would think she would have known or considered this … and apparently she did at times. But it was not enough to stop her from continuing to put herself in harm’s way because in her words, “it was comfortable.”

But on the day of the accident, her injuries were so severe that it has taken years to recover and she is still in pain. She is now trying to put her tragedy behind her by doing good and informing others of the dangers in this practice. The airbag that deployed on impact is credited with making her injuries less severe. But with legs in this position on the dashboard, and with airbags deploying, her leg was pushed back towards her body and her comfort became a life long regret. Having one’s limbs in the wrong location in a motor vehicle is extremely dangerous. Experts say the blast can be so powerful, it can cause serious damage to life and limb as it did for this mom. When you see a teen or older child putting their feet up in the car or on the dash, stop them. This is a simple way to keep your body in the position that is intended for your greatest safety in a motor vehicle.

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car-harmed-300x199We recently posted a series about several motor vehicle technologies that are now, and will be in the future, helping to avoid accidents. These technologies provide information to drivers about potential dangers and can even control the vehicle to avoid a crash and injury. Some technologies are being developed based on the data that has been collected over the past decade about why car and truck crashes happen in the first place. There are varied circumstances that can be involved in a vehicle crash, and particularly a multiple vehicle crash. While we wait for these technologies to become more standard in our vehicles, we hope readers will be mindful of the things they can do to help avoid accidents.

The federal government has engaged in several studies to determine what happens just before a collision and to identify the critical reasons for motor vehicle collisions. In a large National Motor Vehicle Crash Causation Survey (NMVCCS) which took place over a two-year period, data was collected about factors leading up to collisions. The study looked at what the experts called the “critical reason” or the last link in the chain that results in a crash. The study was not assigning fault, but rather looking at the final snapshot before an accident. Many factors can lead to an accident and the “critical reason” is not the same as who is at fault for the event. Literally millions of incidents were studied and experts found that the critical reason or the final piece of the “crash causal chain” turned out to be what the driver did or did not do in response to the situation.

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In our last post, we shared innovations involving braking systems and how those systems can help avoid crashes. In this post we continue with tech innovations for motor vehicles with support systems that can help avoid rear-end and side-collisions. In most of these systems, the driver must still maintain control of the vehicle, but can get some assistance when a crash is imminent.

Our federal agencies, including the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and vehicle manufacturers continue to be at the forefront of promoting technologies that will work to protect us while driving. From vehicle to vehicle communications to advance braking systems, these vehicle crash technologies are, and will continue to be, a part of our driving experience as technology integrates into our vehicles. This could not only lower the number of accidents we see every day, but help to save lives and avoid injuries. A few technologies are being tested now that are of great interest and provide promise for the future of motoring safety. From braking systems to video systems, we share some of the technologies that will be integrated into our cars and trucks now and in the future.

Forward Collision Systems, Lane Departure and Blind Spot Guides

Most drivers have experienced cars and trucks that follow too closely behind them. But what if drivers can be warned they are tailgating, a reminder that they are too close to the vehicle in front of them. This is how forward collision systems can help. Although the driver must maintain control of the vehicle, these systems can let the driver know that their speed is too high, they are too close to another car or truck in front or that a crash is about to happen. The driver still must do something to avoid the accident from happening. But both audible and video warnings could help.

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Tech Aids in Crash Avoidance 

Georgia drivers, get ready for big innovations in cars and trucks. Highway accidents are an everyday occurrence. We know that the vast majority of accidents, and the injuries that can result, are caused by driver choices or driver mistakes. In fact, statistics show that almost 95 percent of all accidents are caused by these human factors. So one of the big ways to avoid accidents is taking the human error out of the equation and letting technology help. Some of these technologies are a by-product of the driverless car research and others have been around for some time. In this two-part series, we will bring our readers some of the latest innovations that are available now and in the future.

New Braking Systems Anticipate Collisions

First up are braking systems that anticipate what is in front of the driver. These systems provide warnings to the driver that an accident is imminent. If the driver doesn’t brake sufficiently, the braking system will apply the brakes to avoid the accident. Some cars already having city braking systems that will stop a car before it hits another in front of it. This system warns the driver and then takes evasive action if there is no response or an inadequate response. The experts say these systems are still being made smarter and the technology will continue to develop. But one thing is fairly certain, eventually all vehicles will have some sort of warning braking system that is intended to avoid collision.

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AAA Helps Georgians Avoid Drunk Driving 

The American Automobile Association safety arm is very busy this time of year. The Fourth of July weekend is an important one for road travel and many happy celebrations of our nation’s freedoms. One of the more significant things about this holiday is the concern about drunk driving and highway safety. So much so, the AAA wants Georgia residents to know that they should not drink and drive … and to avoid that they will provide a ride, for free through July 5, 2017. Yes, for free.

The AAA calls this program Tow to Go and it is available on other holidays and in a few other states as well. It is completely confidential so that those using it do not have to be concerned about their privacy and a need for a ride. If folks have had more to drink than would enable them to drive safely, all that is needed is a phone to call for a FREE ride. You don’t have to be a AAA member to use this service. The telephone number for the free ride is 855-286-9246 — a tow truck will provide a ride as long as it is within 10 miles of the location pick up and is a home or other safe location. The program is co-sponsored by Budweiser and the Safety Foundation arm of the AAA.

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