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imagesWe want our readers to enjoy safe and happy holidays. And to help with that, we also want to remind our readers about many of the winter holiday hazards that come along with this wonderful time of year. During past holiday seasons, we have brought these dangers to our readers’ attention. In our view, we cannot give too many reminders about these potential hazards. The National Safety Council (NSC) is a great resource for holiday safety. You will find safety tips and reminders on the NSC site, from tree decorating safety to slip and fall protection to poison control. Children and pets need to be protected during this busy time for parents, caregivers, teachers and just about everyone else. We are all rushing it seems, which can cause us to forget safety measures. We can forget things as simple as leaving the dog in a home with Poinsettias which are dangerous for them or  leaving small toy pieces that can be a choking hazard for little ones. Everything from small button batteries to properly cooked food is covered in their materials.

Holiday Road Travel Safety

Last year, the Georgia Department of Public Safety noted that there were eleven fatal crashes and deaths over the Christmas holiday alone. Literally hundreds of crashes and injuries occurred during this time frame. Keep your family safe by making sure your vehicle is road ready. Take a look at our post last week about getting your car ready for winter driving. When you do take a family road trip or even drive to the store, make sure everyone is buckled up and that the little ones are properly secured in their car seats. Holiday road travel causes congested highways, which can fray nerves and cause accidents. Remember that getting to your friends and relatives safely is more important than anything else. So make sure to slow down and drive defensively. And if you have had some holiday cheer and need a designated driver, get one. Too often we see accidents caused by drivers who are under the influence. DUI’s are of major concern during the winter holidays as well.

Holiday Fire Safety from Turkey Fryers to Christmas Trees

First, some startling statistics. Nearly 50,000 fires occur over these holidays. Tragically, there are about 500 fatalities and over 2,000 injuries in past years. Shocking as it may be, the Red Cross says that one out of every 22 Christmas tree fires result in fatality. Holiday home accidents, particularly fire-related accidents, are often caused by cooking mishaps such as fried turkey injuries and fires, unattended candles, dry Christmas trees, unsafe fireplaces, space heaters, holiday decorations and frayed electrical cords.

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Last year a two-year old boy was playing in one foot of water in a small lagoon at a Disney resort in Florida. The boy was not far into the water, but was standing on the shoreline. There were no fences, no signs warning of alligators, but only a “no swimming” sign nearby. The boy’s parents were standing close to where their son was playing. Seemingly out of nowhere an alligator attacked the boy. His father immediately tried to get the alligator to let go of his son, but the strength of the animal was too great for human hands.  The bereaved parents of the little boy said early on that they did not plan to take legal action against Disney. Instead, they turned their attention to healing and began the Lane Thomas Foundation to support families whose children are in need of organ transplant. Disney built a small lighthouse statue on the property to memorialize Lane and to bring awareness to the work of the Foundation.

For some time now it has been uncertain whether Disney knew about alligators on the property where the little boy lost his life. According to a recent Washington Post article, Disney knew a great deal. Hundreds of alligators had been removed from that resort over the years and several only a short time before the boy was attacked. Had the family brought a lawsuit for the boy’s fatal injuries, it is very likely that Disney would have been held liable for the death of their son given their prior and superior knowledge of the premises and their failure to warn guests of the danger. Disney likely would have settled the litigation in any event, since the publicity would have been, and was, harmful to Disney and damaging to its reputation.

But the question remains, what is the duty of a property owner to warn and to protect against such injuries or death? In Georgia, the case of Landings Association, Inc. v. Williams, 291 Ga. 397, 397-98, 728 S.E.2d 577, 579 (2012) dealt with an alligator attack in a residential development on the Georgia coast. The area had been inhabited by alligators prior to the building of the development. An elderly mother staying at her children’s home, went for a walk one evening and was later found dead, with catastrophic injuries to her body. The alligator that killed her was also found later. In that case, the Georgia Supreme Court determined that the property was so well-known by the public to have had alligators on site for years, the land owner could not be held liable for the death of the woman.

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Get Ready for Safe Winter Driving

For those who prefer the warm months, transitioning to early sunset and cold, wet, rainy weather is not the most welcome change. But as Atlanta residents know, eventually winter will be here and before it arrives in earnest, we should prepare. Putting the cover on the grill and closing up the pool, with our memories of spring and summer, we look to winter and holidays to keep our spirits lifted until the sun returns. As the weather cools and heavy winter rains, ice and wind arrive, there are risks for Atlanta motor vehicle accidents and injury. Now is the time to prepare and to get our vehicles ready for winter-weather driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an excellent resource for winter driving preparation. NHTSA’s recommendations are very helpful and could keep you and your family protected and out of harm’s way this winter. One of their top suggestions is to get your car or cars serviced. When the weather is cold and your vehicle breaks down, you and your family could end up waiting on the roadside for help. Getting your vehicle checked out thoroughly could avoid this potentially dangerous situation.

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Atlanta Pick Up Truck Loses Tire and Hits Vehicle

Several years ago, a tragic Atlanta truck crash occurred on I-85 when a tire flew off a truck and hit the windshield of a van traveling in the opposite direction. The van driver, a mom, lost her life instantly and without warning. Her daughter was in the vehicle and survived the accident. Tragically, a very similar Atlanta truck accident occurred recently on Georgia 400. A pick up truck traveling at a normal rate of speed lost a wheel and a tire. The tire ultimately flew into the windshield of a woman’s car as she was driving on the opposite side of the road. The impact caused fatal injury to the driver. The deceased driver was a mom of two on her way to work. Her co-workers were stunned by the news and her family is in grief. The deceased mom was a cherished co-worker and loving friend. It is difficult to imagine what her family and community are experiencing. The shock of a sudden accident and loss of life is always difficult to accept.

The driver of the truck was cooperative with investigators and also expressed his sadness over this event. He also mentioned that he had taken a recent trip with the truck and had no mechanical issues with it in the past. The authorities do not expect to charge the truck driver with any crime. Thus far, there is no explanation as to why the wheel and tire came off the truck. However, authorities believe this accident may have been caused by some sort of mechanical failure. The precise nature of the failure is not yet known.

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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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