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iStock_000001983354XSmall-300x199The Georgia Supreme Court recently issued an opinion that has clarified the liability of property owners for serious injuries sustained by invitees to their property. About ten years ago, a man was departing Cobb County Six Flags Over Georgia when he was severely beaten. His injuries resulted in permanent brain damage. A jury awarded the victim $35 million in damages, but the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that the damage award was not apportioned properly between the defendants and sent it back to the trial court for a new trial. This ruling was appealed and the case went to the Georgia Supreme Court. The high court’s decision held that Six Flags could be held liable for the injuries and that the apportionment of damages various defendants will pay did not require a full retrial of the case.

The case clarifies certain aspects of Georgia law with regard to property owner liability. The victim in this case was an invitee under Georgia law. Official Code of Georgia section 53-3-1 states that when an owner or occupier of land, effectively invites others on the premises for a lawful purpose, the property owner is liable for damages to those harmed by the owner’s “failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.” In this case, the plaintiff was brutally beaten by some seasonal employees and others who planned an attack on him as he left the park and waited for a bus.

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1175023_magnoliaA recent bus accident has brought mourning to a community and reminds us of the fragility of life. We are deeply saddened to learn of a devastating crash that has left an Alabama community in shock, many injured and a young life taken. A teen church group awas on its way from Huntsville, Alabama to Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport for a mission trip to Botswana when the bus overturned onto another vehicle. There is currently no information about what caused this accident and no information about those in the other vehicle.

The church bus had about 38 people on board, mostly teens and young adults. One report noted that 33 out of 38 passengers on the bus may have been injured and one teen lost her life. The reports are not clear on the precise numbers. We do know that many injured passengers were taken to various hospitals around Atlanta. Some were released after treatment. One report indicated that two victims sustained traumatic injuries and were still in the hospital. The young woman who lost her life in this bus crash was a recent high school graduate. Her family has shared some of her journal entries that reveal the fine person that she was. Apparently, she had only recently received a scholarship to Auburn University.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will be taking on the investigation of this crash. The bus is not registered as a commercial vehicle with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Rather it is registered as a private passenger-non-business vehicle which carries different requirements than those associated with commercial vehicles. . The church has provided information to authorities saying that there were ten drivers for the three buses they own which are registered for interstate travel. The church apparently has no record of prior accidents or issues concerning their transportation history.

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iStock_000017099921XSmall-300x199Here in Atlanta we have had our share of big traffic news. The I-85 overpass bridge collapse this past March brought our city into the national headlines, but also brought it to a slower pace. Drivers maneuvered around the collapse using detours. The cooperation of drivers and efforts by the Georgia Department of Transportation led to the recent reopening of this part of I-85 in time for the Memorial Day holiday. At the recent ribbon cutting ceremony, Governor Deal and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and others celebrated the opening of the 700-foot section of our highway that caused so much disruption in Atlanta. The rebuild included the removal of millions of pounds of debris, The rebuild took an impressive 54,000 hours of human construction time.

Amidst “I survived” parties, we are all grateful to have this portion of Interstate 85 open to traffic. Weather cooperated as the rebuilding process went forward. Patience has its virtues and Atlantans pulled together to get through this big inconvenience. Safety in the rebuilding process was top of mind for the contractor in charge of the project. Many safety inspections later, we are all relieved that the collapse is now part of Atlanta history.

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Florida Diving Tragedy Takes Lawrenceville Man

In our last post, we shared important information about water safety and small children. The fun and excitement of water play can last a lifetime. But the safety concerns associated with water don’t end with little ones. Older kids, teens and adults must also be mindful of the safety measures needed around water. Only last week, we learned that a Gwinnett County man apparently drowned in Florida while on a diving trip there. The Florida authorities are performing an autopsy to determine what caused his passing. He found with his regulator out of his mouth. This event reminds us that water can be dangerous for people of all ages, not just little ones.

Georgia Resources for Boating Safety & Education

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swimming-pool-100155245-232x300All parents and caregivers know the joy children have around water. Water play is something kids look forward to as the weather warms up. A recent incident reminds us of the dangers for injury around water, especially for toddlers and children under the age of four. This spring we are already learning of tragic situations in which toddlers wander into their own yards, or those of friends or relatives, and are found too late. Across the country children have been found unconscious or drowned, like the two-year old toddler who lost his life last week in Virginia. This is not an easy subject to think about, but it is truly critical that we all focus on the dangers of pools, lakes and even bath tubs and little ones.

The statistics for small children and unintentional drownings are stunning. Drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of four. For young children, the statistics show that swimming pools are the most common location for these tragedies. When children are found unconscious in a pool and survive, there can be incredibly difficult challenges, such as brain injury. The Centers for Disease Control note that half of non-fatal submersion victims can suffer various cognitive disabilities that can be quite severe and life changing.

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iStock_000001983354XSmall-300x199A recent Editor’s Pick in the Albany Herald discusses the positive impact of a law that we believe is important for many to know about. As is the case in other states, Georgia has a Good Samaritan law. Georgia’s Good Samaritan law is found at the Official Code of Georgia Annotated 51-1-29. Good Samaritan laws protect medical professionals and the public from liability when they voluntarily and gratuitously assist or provide care to an injured victim. They are also intended to enable those having a medical emergency or those hurt and in need, to get the help that could save their lives or protect them from further injury.

These laws are now being expanded to an epidemic that is found across our country. Most Americans are aware that thousands in our country are addicted to prescription drugs, such as opioids. Many of these individuals are vulnerable to overdoses which can lead to death. To help those who might be saved after overdosing on these drugs, many states including Georgia have taken a step to save lives.

The Georgia General Assembly has enacted a specific law that allows the public to contact emergency help for those who may have overdosed on these drugs, without fear of criminal or other liability. This means that even if there are other illegal drugs or contraband on the premises, they will not be held for these potential crimes. The law is called the Georgia 911 Medical Amnesty Law and is helping to save lives in Georgia. Another aspect of this law protects first responders from liability in administering help or medications, such as Narcan, that can reverse an overdose for at least a period of time so that the individual can get medical care.

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079a696b93bebde4be49cba5451afb42-200x300Inflatables are everywhere these days, especially in the spring and summer months. They attract kids and parents alike, with fantastic colors and cartoon-like big houses and slides and castles. They are lots of fun for all, but bounce houses can be dangerous when they are not in great condition or not anchored correctly. These scenarios happen nearly every day in the Atlanta area. Your children are invited to a birthday party and the family of the birthday boy or girl have a bounce house set up in the yard. Or you attend a community event with your family and a bounce house is set up … it is a big draw for the kids. Exciting and fun experiences for the kids await, but the dangers are real and parents need to be mindful of them.

Earlier this week, a gust of wind lifted a bounce house into the air with children inside. The bounce house was anchored and set up at a church carnival in South Carolina. Five kids were taken to the hospital, with two kids sustaining serious injuries. Four of the kids are back home, one may still be hospitalized. The family has hired a lawyer to speak on their behalf. It is difficult to imagine the fear those kids felt as they were lifted into the air. It is painful to think about what the parents must have felt watching their children float up and away. All the kids survived. But the house ended up later hitting a power line with no children inside it at the time.

This is a serious matter because injuries from bounce houses and other inflatables have been on the rise for the past two decades. In a ten-year period over 100,000 people have been hurt in these apparatuses. The injuries can be serious and sometimes have been fatal.

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distracted-driver-200x300Over the years, we have shared posts about a wide variety of accidents with our readers. We do this because we want to help our readers understand why accidents happen and how to avoid them, if at all possible. Earlier this week, a truly horrific crash occurred in Texas. You may have heard about the crash involving a pick up truck and a church van. Thirteen people lost their lives in this crash. One survivor remains in the hospital. The crash turns out to have been completely avoidable. Thirteen people could still be with their families today, but for a 20-year old driver who was texting while driving on a two-lane road. He crossed over the line and struck the church van.

A driver behind the pick up truck noticed the driver traveling erratically and crossing the line. He contacted two different sheriff’s offices informing them that the truck was driving dangerously. But the crash happened before that was possible. And tragedy struck. After the crash the witness was there to listen to the young driver’s guilt … apologizing over and over again for having texted while he was driving. Although authorities have yet to confirm this was the cause of the crash, the witness indicated that the driver admitted this to him on the scene. This will be part of the investigation.

The church members were elderly and were wearing lap seat belts at the time of the crash. Experts reveal that in a crash like this one, a lap belt doesn’t protect passengers as well as a three-point shoulder belt. This is because passengers are more likely to sustain head injuries.

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6d15d15970fbc3199681f82df666c287-300x169Late last year, the federal Department of Transportation announced a proposed rule in what is called a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which started a 90 day public comment period. The announcement didn’t seem to get much notice, but we think it is actually a very big deal. The rule relates to something called vehicle-to vehicle or V2V technology. This new technology would apply to “light vehicles” meaning cars and similar vehicles that we drive every day in Georgia. The idea behind this technology is simple, but quite significant. It could allow vehicles to avoid some crashes and possibly protect occupants from serious or fatal injury. That is quite a stunning turn, particularly in light of driverless cars and could help deal with the upsurge in distracted driving.

This technology is very much targeted at saving lives, but also includes privacy guarantees so that personal information about the vehicle’s owner or occupants are protected. According to the former Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, who hailed the new technology as a remarkable advance in safety, V2V allows vehicles to have a complete “awareness” of the vehicles around them. The work supporting the technological advance has been going on in our federal agencies for the past few years and hopefully will continue. It is thought to be a very important addition to the advances being made in the area of driverless cars. If we are to have  driverless cars on our roads, this V2V technology will help those vehicles to drive more safely.

Although some of this seems like an episode of the vintage animated cartoon show, The Jetsons, it is quite real and will be our future. The combination of driverless and V2V could create a highway and driving experience that is actually less stressful and less dangerous than the current driving experience. But this will take a long while and will involve not only the vehicle to vehicle communications, but the ability for vehicles to communicate with things like traffic lights and railroad crossings.

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This morning on the Today Show, NBC took an entire segment to talk about the unseen dangers of house fires. This timely piece on fire danger hits close to home. ESPN reported only this past Sunday that a Monroe, Georgia house fire took the life of Quentin Moses. He was not only a former Miami Dolphin, but also a defensive end and MVP 2005 for the University of Georgia. The cause of the fire is not yet reported. But tragically, not only did Mr. Moses pass away, his friend and her 10-year old child also lost their lives in this tragedy. Moses has been the assistant football coach Reinhardt University for several years. The news of his passing has clearly touched many in our community. Jason Taylor and others who knew Moses well have expressed their sorrow over the loss of life taken so young. He was 33 years of age.

It is believed that the fire may have begun in the kitchen. It may have been related to cooking or to an electrical issue. Classes were cancelled this afternoon at Reinhardt University for a celebration of Moses’ life. He was said to have inspired his student athletes with his positive attitude and wonderful smile.

The tragic loss of a young man, his friend and her daughter, perhaps could have been avoided. We do not know at this point. However, we do know that there are many many homes, in fact most homes, that are not as protected against such a tragedy as we might think.

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