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Georgia Loses Noted Jurist

The news last week was not just about elections. We learned of the passing of former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harris Hines. He and his wife were traveling back to Cobb from choir performance of their young granddaughter. Somehow the SUV he was driving may have strayed out of its lane and flipped over. Thus far, the cause of this lane departure crash are not known. Chief Justice Hines passed away, but his wife survived and is expected to recover from her injuries. Justice Hines was an Atlanta native who attended Grady High School and Emory University. He had only retired this past summer after many decades of service. We have lost a great jurist and a fine man. This very sad Atlanta auto crash has left the legal community and the courts and his judicial colleagues in mourning. Across the state, tributes have been pouring in for this Georgia native who had a stellar career on the bench.

Single Vehicle Atlanta Crashes

Single vehicle car accidents are not something we consider often. These crashes can involve serious injuries or even fatalities as was the case in the tragic Atlanta accident involving our former Chief Justice Hines.

These accidents can occur in various conditions. For example, a single vehicle can end up in a road departure crash due to speed on a curve or due to distracted driving. Other causes can involve a sudden medical event such as a heart attack or stroke. Some of these crashes are the result of alcohol or drug consumption or distracted driving. Continue reading

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Fatal Crash Investigation 

By now most readers have heard about the major limousine accident in New York state. This truly horrific crash caused the death of 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians. This fatal accident is now under investigation by the National Transportation and Safety Board (NTSB) which has sent a “go team” to determine the cause. The NTSB investigates only the most serious of accidents. The limo was carrying some young couples and others to a birthday party. What is a senseless loss of life, teaches important lessons for all of us. When we get into a cab or an Uber or Lyft vehicle, or when we hire a limo for that special prom or party, we need to know the driver and the vehicle are safe. And if we do not feel safe, or have concerns, we need to follow those instincts.

According to CNN and other news outlets, the vehicle failed inspection in September. This stretch limo had been altered to carry more passengers. The limo was not supposed to be on the road at all. This limo had been recently inspected by the New York State Department of Transportation. After that inspection, the limo was grounded by authorities as unsafe and unfit for travel. The brakes and braking system had been found in the past to be in need of repair for various reasons. The braking system will be one of the key factors in this crash. The limo sped down a hill and perhaps the driver applied the brakes, but they might have failed. The first party bus rented by this group of friends had broken down. The company apparently sent the limo that was involved in the accident. But it was not safe to drive. The owner of the limo company has now been charged with criminally negligent homicide in New York state for the loss of life. Continue reading

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Recently, I was a featured speaker at a National Business Institute educational program about auto injury litigation. This reminded me how important it is that drivers know what to do after an Atlanta auto accident. Some alarming statistics show why we should be concerned for highway and road safety. Georgia’s 2018 Labor Day reports indicate that twice as many lives were taken over this past Labor Day than in 2017. The Georgia Department of Public Safety maintains these statistics and has issued them to the public. Given the rise in serious auto accidents in and around our area, it is more important than ever that you know what to do and what not to do if you are involved in an accident.

Keep These Items in Your Vehicle

Most drivers know that they need to keep important documents in their vehicle in case of an accident or law enforcement stop. Registration and proof of insurance should always be at hand. If you don’t have a cell phone with a camera, put a disposable camera in your glove box. If you are involved in an accident are able to do so, take some photos of damage to your vehicle and that of the other driver or drivers. It is also helpful to take some photos of the scene. Only do this if it is safe to do so. Other items that are helpful to keep in your car or truck include a first aid kit, flashlight and flares in case you need to warn other drivers to use caution.

What to Do After an Accident

Accidents can be disorienting and sudden. You could have suffered injury after an auto crash and not know it. Once you are not in harm’s way, take a moment to collect yourself and remain calm. If you are able to get out of your vehicle safely, do so. If other vehicles are involved, check on the driver and passengers in case they need medical support. Call 911 for help if that is the case. They should also be checking on you. If your vehicle is operable, move your vehicle off the road to the shoulder if at all possible. Continue reading

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The tragic nationally-covered news of a fatal truck collision with a bus last week in New Mexico has again revealed that maintenance of commercial vehicles on the roads makes a difference, and one that can save or take lives. The truck, which was traveling on the New Mexico highway I-40, apparently blew a tire and jack-knifed as a result. The truck driver said one of the front tires blew out and he lost control of his vehicle. This caused the truck to cross over the median into oncoming traffic, hitting a Greyhound bus in a head on collision. Eight bus passengers and the driver have lost their lives. The driver of the truck survived the crash. Although the accident is under investigation, the initial conclusion is that the tire blow-out caused the crash.

The National Traffic Safety Board (NTSB) and local authorities are investigating the cause of this horrific crash. The impact of this collision caused catastrophic damage to the front and side of the bus. The authorities will be looking at every aspect of what happened. The truck’s tires will all be inspected as will the truck’s mechanics. The truck involved in the crash has the mandatory tracking device that all trucks are required to maintain. This device will help investigators to learn about the truck driver’s hours and driving patterns. The road itself, the median and whether there was an issue with either of those will also be evaluated to determine whether these were factors and if there is any way the accident could have been avoided. Continue reading

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This week, Atlanta hosts an important national conference for both the public and private sectors. The conference is the annual meeting of the Governors’ Highway Safety Administration (GHSA) which has set a very important and key theme … partnerships in traffic safety. The conference will center around a goal that is important for those across America, achieving zero fatalities on America’s roads and highways.  Here at Scholle Law, we fully support all efforts to ensure zero fatal vehicle crashes, since this will ultimately lead not only to fewer traffic deaths, but to fewer serious injuries as well.

It is truly an honor for Atlanta to be hosting this conference on a subject so important to all of us, particularly those of us working to help victims involved in motor vehicle accidents of all kinds that cause serious injury every day across our country. The conference will be covering topics of interest to regulators and first responders, such as autonomous vehicles, traffic safety technologies and improvements and communications among agencies and responders. Continue reading

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Over the years we have posted about many Atlanta truck accidents involving all kinds of trucks, including tractor trailers. These accidents can be very dangerous, particularly when two trucks collide and a fuel tanker is involved. This type of truck crash shut down I-20 for many hours earlier this week. Traffic was redirected as the clean up took many hours given the spill involved. Another truck crash the same day happened on I-285, blocking the eastbound lanes for several hours.

The cause of each of these crashes is not yet known. But we do know that truck crashes can be very dangerous and can cause severe personal injuries. Sometimes these crashes are due to driver fatigue. Given these recent truck incidents involving the many trucks that traverse Atlanta’s roads and highways each day, we want to remind our readers about some important aspects of trucking regulations.  Continue reading

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Vehicle Accidents in State and National Parks

Along with summer fun, summer safety is top of mind for many families. As well it should be. We recently wrote about the increased risks and dangers to teens and children in open waters as families head to the beach. Another important concern is staying safe in the outdoors, in places that are new to us and can result in personal injury. Georgia’s parks and recreational areas are wonderful places for family fun. But we all must be mindful when in the outdoors. Here are some tips for staying safe while traveling this summer.

Go slowly on mountain roads and pay attention in areas that are new to you as a driver. Last month a fatal truck crash at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park not only took one life, but caused injury to several others. This is the fourth crash that resulted in a fatality this year at the park. This most recent accident involved a pick up truck that was hauling a flat bed trailer. The trailer was carrying another pick up truck. Apparently the pick up truck driver lost control of his vehicle and was not able to handle the trailer he was pulling. He collided with two oncoming vehicles which resulted in several victims being taken to the hospital. The other accidents that occurred at the park this year, included a fatal fall from a bicycle, a fatal motorcycle crash and a single vehicle crash.

Our Parks Are Safe, When Warnings are Heeded

The National Park Service is a great resource for health and safety when preparing to visit a park. They report that many fatalities in national parks are preventable and are due to heat stroke and failure to bring sufficient water. Hiking and climbing can be exhilarating, but failing to take the dangers seriously can result in serious injury or worse. Visiting parks and recreation areas is a great part of summer fun. But visitors should heed warnings and avoid dangerous situations that can result in harm. This is a problem around the country.

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Hands Off That Phone While Driving!

We usually don’t think about summer being a particularly active time for our state government, but many laws do go into effect during the summer. Specifically, July 1 is the effective date of several big changes in our laws including the hands-free driving law that we wrote about several months ago. This new provision has been widely publicized, but now that it is in effect, drivers need to abide by it or possibly pay a fine. This means changes in driving behaviors are needed because they have now become illegal. It is important to remember that the hands free law was enacted because using phones, emailing and texting is so dangerous to drivers and to all others sharing the road.

The new “Hands Free Law” is extensive and prohibits drivers from holding a phone while driving. A driver can only use a phone for making and receiving calls using a wireless headphone, an earpiece or bluetooth in their vehicle. Touching a phone to make or answer a call is allowed as is GPS. Calls on electronic watches are permitted as are use of GPS on these devices.

A headset can only be used to speak on the phone. Listening to music using headphones is not allowed. Drivers are prohibited from texting while driving, unless the text is dictated. The new law prohibits a driver from writing, sending or reading a text message, an email or any things else that is web based. Videos are not allowed, unless it is for navigation.

It is permissible to use a phone to report a crash or other emergency. It is also permissible to use a phone when parked, but NOT at stop lights or stop signs.

Distracted Driving Causes Fatal Crashes

The increase in serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents compelled this new law. According to law enforcement and other experts, many of these crashes are due to distracted drivers. Statistics in other states with similar laws have resulted in a drop of fatal accidents by about 16 percent just in the first two years. This number increases as the public gets used to driving hands free.

Enforcement of the new law will likely be slow and steady. There are likely to be warnings, rather than fines to start with, but fines will eventually be imposed and they are significant amounts.

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pedestrians-300x199Georgia pedestrian deaths have increased this past year. Although a recent pedestrian accident and injury was somewhat different in the way it occurred, every fatality is shocking and sad. The tragedy that unfolded early morning last week on I-75 stunned the Atlanta community. A woman who ran into highway traffic was fatally injured after several vehicles struck her. The closing of I-75 caused significant delays. Traffic coming in from the airport and elsewhere was impacted. Several drivers involved in this situation or nearby as witnesses, stopped after realizing what was happening. Other drivers tried to maneuver around the tragedy and additional car crashes began to occur.

A pedestrian on a major highway is a fairly rare situation. But, have you ever had the experience of entering a crosswalk and having a vehicle whiz by nearly hitting you or your family? Many of us have had this experience. The law in Georgia is quite clear. If a pedestrian has entered the crosswalk, there are specific circumstances in which he or she has the right of way. There are several laws that apply in pedestrian situations.

Georgia pedestrian laws which were amended several decades ago require drivers to “stop and stay stopped” for pedestrians under specific circumstances. Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-91 drivers must stop for pedestrians who are within half the roadway or within one lane of their vehicle. It is not enough to slow down, the vehicle must stop. Even if other drivers are honking at you or going around your vehicle, you must stop. Drivers going around your vehicle are not permitted to do this. It is very very dangerous for those in the road or crosswalk. Pedestrians cannot simply leave a curb when a vehicle clearly cannot stop in time to allow them to cross. Pedestrians need to avoid these situations. Under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-92, even if a pedestrian is not in a cross walk, but has entered the road at an intersection, drivers must yield the right of way.

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It has happened again. Another infant has suffered vehicular heatstroke. In a recent infant heatstroke death, a dad was supposed to take his infant to child care, but went to work and forgot the baby was in the car. His wife usually took the baby to child care. In another recent case in South Carolina, a fatal error was made by a loving family. The baby’s aunt thought his older brother had taken the baby out of the car. His older brother thought his aunt had taken the baby out of the car, but that was not something he had ever done before. The baby was in the car for four hours in high heat. It is difficult to imagine the pain and suffering all the parents and families of these children must be feeling now.

As the temperatures rise, so does the danger of serious injury or death and the likelihood that more young lives will be lost in this way. Although the law in about 20 states prohibits leaving a child alone in a vehicle for any reason, several more are considering this legislation. Thus far, Georgia has not enacted laws  prohibiting this. However, if a parent or caregiver leaves an infant or child in a hot car, and the child is injured, other laws could be applied. Child endangerment or even murder charges can be brought as we have seen in the past in our state. No law can bring back a forgotten or left baby. Most of these situations are simply tragic mistakes. Rarely, this is an intentional act.

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