Articles Posted in Catastrophic Personal Injury

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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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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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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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Tragic Fatal Injury After Pine Tree Falls

Winter is a time for beauty and caution. The ice, snow and rain that has fallen in different parts of Georgia, bring beautiful images and can be dangerous. Just this month, storms in metro-Atlanta led to the tragic death of a woman when a tree fell on her car. The incident involved a rotten pine tree that dropped onto her Honda Civic on a DeKalb County road. She passed away after she was removed from her vehicle by emergency teams. In another frightening local incident, a child escaped injury and was safely rescued after a tree fell on a home. In California, where the rain has been relentless in the drought-ridden state, a woman was walking with her husband on the golf course near her home, when a tree fell on her and killed her instantly.

Responsibility for Injury or Death from Falling Trees

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iStock_000001983354XSmallIn the American legal system defendants are entitled to a defense. Sometimes the lawyers for the defense side of a case will turn the case back on the plaintiff — alleging that the plaintiff is fully or partially at fault. In a recent trial, the defense’s opening argument at the start of the case focused blame on the plaintiff. The trial involved a crash alleged to involve a faulty ignition switch made by General Motors. We have posted in the past about other faulty ignition switch cases involving serious injury or death. The trial began in an Oklahoma courtroom and was expected to be important to the plaintiffs in the consolidated GM ignition switch cases in Manhattan. It was expected that the case would be a predictor of the potential damages GM will deal with in the other cases against it.

In this trial, an Oklahoma man alleged he was injured by a faulty switch. But the defense argued that the plaintiff had been injured long before the faulty ignition accident and that the vehicle’s ignition switch was not the issue. Rather, they claimed the plaintiff fell asleep at the wheel of his vehicle. He was also alleged to have had some prior injuries which were actually the problem, not anything that occurred due to the vehicle’s ignition switch. His testimony conflicted with the facts. He made telephone calls when he said he was unconscious at the scene of the accident.

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iStock_000016429140XSmallOur hearts are heavy this week as two tragic accidents in our area have resulted in loss of life. One accident occurred this past week in Forsyth County involving a driver of a pick up and a flatbed truck. Reports indicate that while driving on a local road, a driver’s pick up moved so far to the right it left the road. This in turn caused the driver to attempt to correct the road departure. The driver lost control of his vehicle at this point and his vehicle slid directly into the oncoming lane of traffic. The tragic collision occurred when the pick up was broadsided at the driver’s side by an oncoming flatbed that had a large trailer attached to it. The impact caused both vehicles to head down an embankment. Sadly, the impact also became fatal to the pick up driver, whose catastrophic head injuries were so severe, he passed away at the scene of the accident.

This is a very sad outcome to something that can happen to any driver. Road departure situations are often dangerous and can lead to serious injury and death. These situations can occur so quickly, the driver has very little time to recover and return to his or her lane of traffic. Very often these accidents involve only a single vehicle. We have shared examples of this situation with our readers and just this past week a West Forsyth High School teen lost his life and his friend was injured in such an accident.

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downhill-skier_6188.jpgThe most recent advance in downhill skiing may not be skis, not boots, not aerodynamic clothing … it is airbags. These new airbags for skiers are intended to protect skiers from catastrophic injuries after losing control on a run. Many well-known skiers have suffered severe injuries in recent years and some have had to drop out of racing or jumping at Olympic Games due to their injuries. An airbag system for skiers will be permitted for use at the World Cup and other major races. This is not something that skiers are required to use, but officials have been working on the system with manufacturers and are hoping skiers will give the airbags a try.

The possibility for serious injury is a risk that skiers are simply willing to take. But a rash of accidents, that included high-profile skiers, which included severe limb and brain injuries was the motivator for this new device. The airbag system which can be worn as part of the skier’s racing gear, is intended to inflate when it senses that the athlete is out of control. Although the device has been tested to ensure that it doesn’t slow the racer down or interfere in their performance, it remains to be seen whether racers will adopt the device. One of the more difficult aspects of the development of the device has been ensuring that it deploys at precisely the right moment. Some truly horrific injuries have been suffered by skiers over the past several years. It is hoped that this device will help avoid further injury to life and limb.

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Thumbnail image for candles .jpgA railroad crash that took place last winter has now become the subject of a law suit in Chatham County State Court. The case involves a terrible accident that occurred during the filming of a biography about famed musician Gregg Allman and starring William Hurt. One of the scenes for the film involved a somewhat surreal image of a hospital bed on railroad tracks. The film’s producers chose a location for the scene to be filmed on and around railroad tracks owned by CSX Transportation. The production requested permission to film on and around the tracks. The transportation company apparently denied these requests twice and in writing, supporting the denials with specific concerns about the need to keep the tracks secure and safe. The production had permission to shoot on nearby property owned by a lumber products manufacturer.

However, for reasons that are not clear, the production decided to film on and very near the tracks. Various unidentified people were apparently sighted around the tracks by two CSX train operators on the day of the horrific accident. In one report it is claimed that the producers knew they did not have permission to shoot on the tracks, but let the filming go forward perhaps allowing the crew to believe permission had been given. As the filming was occurring, a CSX train traveled directly into the path of the filmmaking, hitting the objects that were on the tracks and killing a young woman involved with the production. She was fatally injured by flying debris.

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iStock_000001983354XSmall.jpgA Cobb County judge is making national headlines by permitting the family of a deceased woman to reopen their case against General Motors. As noted in prior posts, the parents of Brooke Melton, who died after her GM Chevrolet ignition switch failed, sought to unwind the settlement previously reached with the auto giant. The deceased woman’s case is very significant in that it helped reveal the faulty ignition defect which led to the largest automotive recall in the country’s history. The judge has now determined that the Melton family can begin discovery related to potential fraud by the company is covering up what they might have known about the defect and present material evidence that has come to light since the settlement was reached.

In the latest hearing, GM tried to convince the court that the settlement it had reached with the family should stand and that the case should not be permitted to be reopened. The lawyer for the automaker argued that if the Melton’s settlement could be reopened, there would be no finality in the process and parties would not be able to rely on settlements reached as being final. But the court disagreed and is allowing the family to reopen the case in what is essentially a new case, that will include the information that has come to light since the case was settled. The Melton family is now able to go forward to pursue in discovery what GM knew about the ignition switch defects prior to their daughter’s death.

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Thumbnail image for swimming-pool-100155245.jpgIn our latest post, we shared the sadness of the loss of two children in the Atlanta area in recent pool-related drownings. It is a tragedy for all of us when we lose a child in an accidental drowning. And over the past several years, the Atlanta area has seen a number of such tragic accidents including near-drownings in pools and lakes. We live in a beautiful area where we enjoy outdoor activities. We want to remind parents and caregivers about safety around pools, ponds and lakes. In addition to those outlined in our last post — swimming lessons and fencing — other key steps can be taken by caregivers and parents to help ensure safety around water with kids.

One of these key steps is close supervision. Just this past week, ABC News reported on a related pool safety issue: lifeguards. They are tasked with watching for dangerous situations in pools, but as parents should we really just rely on them? The piece questioned the wisdom of leaving kids at pools and relying on lifeguards to protect them from injury or drowning. The center of the piece was the tragic drowning of one family’s child while at a club pool with a lifeguard on duty. Their life’s work is now informing the public about taking responsibility for kids around water and not relying on someone else, including a lifeguard to make sure kids are safe.

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