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Truck4Last month, five Georgia Southern University nursing students lost their lives in a terrible tractor-trailer crash on Interstate 16 near Savannah. The magnitude of the crash was felt deeply throughout Georgia and within the GSU community. The loss of young life and the intended path of these productive young women was national news. CNN reported that the multi-vehicle crash occurred as these nursing students were finishing their first clinical rotations and otherwise would have been a moment of celebration, rather than mourning. These students were killed and others were injured due to the failure of a tractor-trailer to stop for their vehicles which were traveling very slowly on the highway due to a prior accident on that road. The reports indicated that the vehicles were consumed by flames after the truck struck them.

This week another tragic truck crash has occurred only 20 miles away from April’s tragic collision. In the most recent accident, a tractor-trailer is again alleged to have crashed into two other vehicles which then were consumed in flames. Five people lost their lives in this crash. The early reports indicate that the truck driver may have fallen asleep at the wheel of his truck. At the time of this posting, the driver, who has cooperated with authorities, has not been charged for causing this crash.

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Pedestrian3As lawyers, we help our clients with some of the most difficult challenges of their lives. One of those is severe spinal injury. After a serious accident, whether a spinal injury results from a dive into a swimming pool with insufficient depth or a motor vehicle crash, an injury victim and his or her family faces huge hurdles. The number of spinal cord injuries in the United States is tracked by the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center at the University of Alabama. According to their statistics, there are about 12,500 new cases of spinal cord injury each year and currently there are about 275,000 people dealing with this issue today. While medical researchers are making strides in the area of spinal cord injuries, these remain extremely challenging.

What is a spinal injury?  Spinal cord injuries include those that harm a portion of the spinal cord itself. But this can also include the nerves that are at the base of the spinal canal. These devastating injuries impact a person’s life in significant ways, often making it difficult to earn the income that the person was once able to earn and live in the way the person is used to having lived in terms of mobility. But there is much that can be done with support and rehabilitation to ensure that a person who has suffered such an injury can return to independence.

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Thumbnail image for iStock_000015148283XSmall.jpgIf the number of hit and runs in the Atlanta area is any indication, it appears to support evidence that there is an upward trend across our country in this crime. From 2000 to 2006, we saw a 20 percent increase in hit-and-run accidents nationally. The crime is becoming so prevalent, many state and local governments are increasing penalties for all types of hit and run accidents. Only recently, Texas added stiffer penalties for fatal hit-and-runs. The situation is so bad in Los Angeles, the LA Weekly Blog has been running stories about the rampant increase in this crime which garnered national attention in a 20/20 story. I applaud efforts to give potential hit-and-run offenders a reason to obey the law, as well as greater publicity about this crime.

In my work as an Atlanta injury lawyer, I help families recover after serious injury and trauma. When an accident or injury occurs and victims need medical help, time can be critical is saving life and limb. After an accident and in the best of circumstances, medical attention can be critical to a victim’s survival. But when victims are ignored by hit-and-run drivers, their injuries can be worsened by the passage of time without help.

Just this week, two accidents involving hit-and-run drivers have impacted the lives of the victims, one of them has died at age 16. In the first accident, a total of three cars apparently hit the teen, but only one of them stopped. It is thought that the victim was riding a skateboard that slipped away from him and the teen walked into busy traffic to get the board. He was a student at Monroe Area High School.

Authorities know that he was first hit by a Honda, then by a truck and lastly by a Chevy Tahoe. The driver of the truck was the only one to stop at the scene of this accident. Some drivers who were not part of this accident stopped to help as well.

A second driver was interviewed and is talking with authorities. That driver and the third one who is yet to be found, could well face hit-and-run charges and perhaps vehicular homicide since the teen tragically died from his injuries. Reports indicate that one of the driver’s who did not stop has been interviewed after his or her vehicle was identified.

In another horrific hit-and-run two friends were sitting on a wall near and Atlanta park in the early morning hours on Saturday. They were hit by a car that left its lane and veered into them. Both apparently were hurt badly, with such severe injuries as broken pelvis and partial leg amputation. The young female victims of this accident are 22 and and 21 years in age and are best friends.

Reports indicate that the driver of the vehicle that hit these young women may have been driving a stolen rental car. He was said to have run after hitting the two. The person involved in this is still being sought and the public is being asked to help with information.

The law in Georgia is clear, do not engage in hit-and-run. Under Official Code of Georgia Annotated, section § 40-6-270 drivers are required to stop at or return to scene of accident that results in injury or death of any other person or damage to a vehicle. In addition, drivers in these circumstances are to help any injured person with reasonable assistance, including getting medical attention. It is also required that the driver make reasonable efforts to get medical help and also to contact the police or other agency, to report the crash and get help. This law also provides for a felony if the accident is the cause of death or serious injury to others occurs.

I sincerely hope that with greater attention to the penalties involved in this type of accident and the fact that it is a crime in our state, drivers will understand not only their legal obligations, but their moral obligations, to assist those they injure on the roads. My heart goes out to the families of these young people who have been injured or lost their lives in these sad circumstances.

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iStock_000001983354XSmall.jpgUnless you are in a car accident, work for an insurance company, or serve as a legislator or lawyer, the technical aspects of auto crash cases might not be something you think about much. But there is a new law that went into effect earlier this month and it makes some changes that are noteworthy. As an Atlanta auto injury lawyer, this is a law that will come up often in my law practice.

The new law adds requirements for auto personal injury demands which also relate to what are called insurance bad faith claims. It sets out new requirements for pre-lawsuit demands to automobile liability insurers made by injured parties. The new law is codified in Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 9-11-67.1 and will be discussed below.

Georgia law requires that when insurance companies provide liability insurance coverage to drivers that cause injury or damage to property, they must act in “good faith” when a claim is made by the injured party. After an accident, sometimes the facts warrant a claim being made that is for the full amount of the policy held by a driver who is responsible for causing such injury or property damage.

The impact of a demand for the policy limits that is not met by the insurer has been established in the Georgia courts under two major cases: Southern General Insurance Co. v. Holt and State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Smoot. These cases established that when a driver is at fault for an accident and resulting injuries and property damage that exceed the limits of that driver’s policy with the insurer, the insurance company can be held accountable for the excess if it acted in bad faith in dealing with the claim.

The law in this area is significant. It means that insurance companies have to act very carefully when an injured party makes a demand to the insurance carrier for the full amount of the policy and that is denied. If the insurer doesn’t pay and a trial ensues with the actual amount of damages awarded turns out to be greater than the policy limits, the insurer can be held to pay the at-fault driver the amount in excess of the policy limits, if it acted in bad faith in failing to pay the policy amount in the first place. The insurer can also be held to pay what are called punitive damages when they act in bad faith in these situations.


Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 9-11-67.1,
sets out more specific requirements on the timing and payment of an injured party’s demands under a policy. It provides that the settlement offer must be in writing, must set out a time frame for acceptance which cannot be less than 30 days from the receipt of the offer and some other specifics such as the parties that will be released from liability if the offer to settle is accepted.

After an offer to settle is made, the recipient can seek information and clarification and this will not be deemed a counter offer. Payment is permitted in various forms including electronically, but the payment cannot be required to be made in less than ten days after the written acceptance of a settlement offer.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgA tragic accident recently took the lives of three young men and critically injured another in Brooks County, Georgia. Before saying more, I want to express my sympathies to the families and friends of those involved in a fatal crash in the city of Quitman in southeast Georgia. There is nothing more tragic than the loss of young life. In my work as a Gwinnett County injury lawyer, I have represented the families of loved ones who have suffered serious or fatal injuries.

What we know thus far is that four Brooks County High School football players were traveling to an early morning practice when their car veered off the road and hit a tree. Three of the high school students were killed and one was ejected from the vehicle and was airlifted to a hospital in Jacksonville, Florida.

The high school’s football team is reported to have completed its best season on record. It also won its region last season as well. One of the players who passed away in this crash was an all-region player.

There is a tragic familiarity of this crash with others around the country in which teens riding together in a vehicle are at a higher risk of death or injury than when they drive alone. The road departure nature of this crash is also all too common with teen drivers.

Sadly, we know that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens. The statistics should be a concern for every parent of a teenager. In the past few years, an average of seven teens (ages 16-19) lost their lives every single day in our country and nearly 3,000 lose their lives annually in motor vehicle crashes.

Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control advise that vehicle crashes are preventable. We know that the highest risk is for teens between the ages of 16- to 19 and that after age 20 the statistics improve. Until the age of 20 however, male drivers and passengers are most at risk.

In addition, other teens in the vehicle increases the crash risk of unsupervised teen drivers. And younger drivers have a greater risk of properly estimating the dangers involved in any given hazardous situation. Anticipating risk is also an area of difficulty for teen drivers. For example, teens leave less distance between their vehicle and the one ahead especially when other teens are in the vehicle.

Use of seat belts and speeding are two common additional risks that teens will take when driving. Unfortunately, teen use of alcohol and distracted driving have also become contributing factors for motor vehicle crash teen deaths and serious injury.

Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems, such as that enacted and in force in Georgia, delay full licensure and provide teens a chance to gain driving experience under proven low-risk conditions. Parents can help immensely in this area by learning about the GDL requirements and entering into the parent-teen contract available on Georgia’s Department of Driver Services website.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000017099921XSmall.jpgAs promised, this is the second in a two-part post regarding the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s advice to summer road travelers. These tips could be critically important in keeping you and your family safe and sound on Georgia’s and America’s highways.

The work I do as a Gwinnett County car accident lawyer has informed my concerns about these issues. Sometimes accidents occur because drivers have failed to take the necessary precautions before they get on the roads.

I have represented many injured victims who have been harmed by the negligence of another driver who has failed to make sure their vehicle is operating correctly or is safe for the roads. Whether driving a vehicle that has unsafe bald tires or braking problems, these negligent drivers could have saved themselves from an accident had they taken the time to ensure their vehicle was safe for road travel. As we noted in our prior post, making sure that all your vehicle’s fluid levels, brakes, lights and other mechanical issues are in proper order.

It is also important to keep you and your family safe by making sure that simple precautions are taken. One of the most important reminders for summer car travel is never leave your child or children in the car alone. Never leave them in the car with the car running and do not leave them alone in the car with the car engine off. Both are dangerous. It takes only a very few minutes for a car to heat up in the sun. Many infants and children lose their lives during the hot summer months when parents do a quick errand and leave the kids in the car. It is not worth a lifetime of pain for a quick trip into the convenience store without the kids.

Summer travel can be tiring, especially when we have other family members in the vehicle and we are taking care of their needs on a long road trip. NHTSA says staying focused while driving is really important to your family’s safety. The most important thing for drivers is to avoid fatigue and to do this, schedule breaks along the way. Do not try to push through hours of travel to reach your destination. Stop not only for food or water, but also for time to stretch a bit and let the kids take a break from the car as well.

If you are feeling too tired to continue, find a place to stay overnight and get the rest needed to drive safely. It is also a good idea to share the driving duties with other competent drivers in your family.

As we all know, the warmer weather means that more motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians will be out on the roads. We need to remember to share the road with all. Be aware of the potential for motorcycles at intersections, since this is the location of many motorcycle crashes with other vehicles. Motorcycles are much lighter than other vehicles and can stop more quickly. That means that keeping your distance behind a bike is more important so that you can stop if the motorcyclist slows down or stops in front of you.

Summer months means that more pedestrians are out as well. Make sure that you expect the unexpected and know that often pedestrians are difficult to see at night or in bad weather. Stop for pedestrians when they are walking across the street, whether in a crosswalk or not. Sometimes we see vehicles zooming through intersections even when other vehicles are stopped for pedestrians. This is a recipe for disaster.

It goes without saying that all drivers must pay attention to their driving. If you are sharing the driving, talk about the importance of avoiding distracted driving. The use of cell phones, texting while driving and other such activities is dangerous and can lead to an accident.

We all should know by now that buckling up is vital to the safety of everyone in your vehicle. From proper child seat safety to adults being strapped into the seats, every person in the vehicle must be buckled up not only to avoid ejection in case of a collision, but also in the event that your vehicle is struck by a drunk driver.

Keep a roadside safety kit in your vehicle. You can pick up a first aid kit at your local pharmacy. In addition, having operative flares, a change of clothing, drinking water and extra wiper fluid are all helpful. Even though you might have a GPS system, you cannot always rely on these when you are traveling away from home. Good old fashioned maps are a good thing to keep in your glove compartment.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for iStock_000003411145XSmall.jpgWe have posted in the past about hit-and-run accidents in the Atlanta metro area. These seem to be on the rise, but they are no less illegal than they were the last time we shared stories of this crime. In the past two decades, I have observed more and more of this type of crash in my law practice as an Atlanta injury lawyer. It is distressing for our communities.

Over the past few days, two significant hit and runs have been reported in our area. As Independence Day celebrations are coming up, there is a concern that those out and about on Georgia’s roadways be aware of compromised drivers who might be under the influence. With the holiday coming, authorities are looking out for compromised drivers and those who hit-and-run.

As noted, hit-and-run accidents have been reported in two separate instances in our area. In one tragedy, the Cobb County police are looking into a pedestrian death which occurred in the early-morning hours June 30th, at a gas station near Factory Shoals Road and Mableton Parkway. A man in his late 30’s was hit and taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. He was pronounced dead after being hit.

Early reports indicate a possible altercation in which the victim had been “jumped” according to neighbors. They report that the victim may have been hit by the men when he ran into the street trying to get away from them. There is no police confirmation of this story.

The vehicle involve is thought to be a red Honda Accord which would have sustained damage. Authorities want citizens to call in with any information about a vehicle fitting this description.

In another hit-and-run, a motorcyclist was hit by the driver of a white Jeep Grand Cherokee in Sandy Springs. The motorcyclist is in critical condition after the Jeep turned in front of his bike. The driver fled and police are trying to locate that person, using pieces of the jeep that were left behind after the crash. Police only know that the Jeep left the scene going westbound on I-285. The Jeep’s grill and front bumper are missing from the vehicle. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Sandy Springs police.

Georgia law absolutely prohibits hit and run after a vehicle crash. A hit-and-run that involves injury or death is even more serious than one that only involves property damage. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-270 says that not only should those drivers involved in a crash assist at the scene, that driver should also make sure the injured person is cared for by medical help. Many do not realize that it is also the duty of someone who has been involved in a crash to actually take the injured person to get medical attention if law enforcement does not arrive.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for emergencyvehicle.jpegCobb County has seen its share of roadway tragedies in recent weeks. Earlier this week another very sad accident from Georgia interstate travel has emerged, this time involving the deaths of two young people. One, a 19-year-old driver and the other an eight-year old passenger. Authorities are still trying to piece together what happened and are urging any witnesses to come forward. If anyone reading this post saw this accident, prior to the minivan leaving its lane of traffic, they are asked to contact Cobb County police. In my practice as a Cobb County car accident lawyer, I have found that witnesses can be very helpful in putting together the events and causes of a motor vehicle accident.

What is known thus far is that a minivan driven by the 19-year-old with the younger child in the vehicle, was driving on I-575 in Cobb County northbound. For reasons that are currently under investigation, the minivan crossed the median — which is a grassy separation between the directions of traffic — and entered the southbound lane of traffic. This tragic accident occurred in daylight hours in the afternoon and in dry conditions. Determining why the minivan left its lane of traffic will be a puzzle the authorities must now put together. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is so that family and friends can understand what happened to their loved ones.

Reports from the police in an email to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution state that: ” ‘As the Chrysler entered into the southbound lanes, it was struck in the driver’s side by the commercial truck.’ ” Both the driver and the child in the minivan passed away at the scene of the accident.

The driver of the truck sustained some injuries that are not life-threatening. He was taken to WellStar Kennestone Hospital and treated there.

It appears that the truck driver was not at fault in this accident. It also doesn’t appear that the vehicle driven by the teen had some inherent defect, although we do not yet know that. We do not know whether speed or distracted driving or some other error by the teen driver was involved.

Generally, in cases in which deaths occur on the road and someone or some entity like a car manufacturer has culpability for the accident, it is possible for the families to consider a wrongful death suit. In this case, the truck driver might be able to help with the events leading up to the crash and the minivan entering his lane of traffic.

Authorities are also asking for eyewitnesses to come forward about what they saw. When accidents occur, eyewitnesses can be very important in piecing together what happened. Later, authorities and often lawyers must put together the accounts to try to determine what actually happened. It is most helpful if there are several eyewitnesses who can tell authorities what they saw — eventually leading to a better picture of the facts.

Eyewitness testimony can be helpful, but it also needs to be treated like other evidence and weighed by a jury for its reliability. In some states, during a criminal trial for example, the reliability of eyewitness testimony must be part of the instructions to the jury before they deliberate. In Georgia, this instruction is not mandatory which means that a judge can decide whether to allow expert testimony about the reliability of eyewitnesses.

In a recent United States Supreme Court decision, the justices determined that it is up to the jury to weigh the evidence, even that of an eyewitness in a criminal trial. In that case, Perry v. New Hampshire, the Court declined to place new limits on the use of questionable eyewitness testimony in criminal cases.

If you see something happening on the road, or are a witness to an accident or a crime, it is important that you come forward to say what you saw. This can be important information to help put the facts together in any given accident or case.

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Thumbnail image for candles .jpgA Forsyth County family is mourning the loss of their son and a high school is in shock with the loss of a teen this past weekend. All that is known thus far (as reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) is that the young man, who by all accounts had a bright future ahead, was killed when he apparently crossed Georgia Highway 306 into the opposite lane and crashed into a mailbox.

This terrible accident occurred in the early hours of Saturday morning and the authorities have stated that alcohol was not a factor in the accident. The young man will be laid to rest this week. His church community is also devastated by the loss of a young man that was devoted to his faith.

It is very difficult to understand the loss of young life. It is also very difficult to cope with and to manage feelings of loss and anger. We know that one of the most terrible tragedies for a parent is outliving a child. In his book, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” the author, a theologian, asks this question trying to cope with the death of his 14-year old son. It is a question I face directly and indirectly when representing and supporting the parents of deceased children after an accident in my Gwinnett County injury law practice.

Every family and every parent must come their own conclusion about this through their own lives, their own beliefs and their own healing process. As a counselor at law I can say that there is far too much emotional grief involved in these tragedies to also manage the legal and medical issues that are often also involved.

With regard to teen driving, we all need to remember that new drivers are less experienced drivers and that teens are most at risk for loss of life when behind the wheel. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens in the United States. Every year there are more than 5,000 teens (ages 16-20) who suffer loss of life in vehicle crashes. Weekends are the most vulnerable period of time for these crashes.

Even a fine and well-intended teen, as this young man apparently was, can fall asleep at the wheel due to fatigue or drive too fast for conditions and be unable to safely correct an error. Teens are inexperienced drivers, no matter how competent they can seem. We do not know what happened in this accident, but authorities believe the young man may have over corrected after traveling into the opposite lane of traffic and hit the mail box.

All teens are at a higher-risk to be involved in a fatal crash. And this is made more risky with failures to use seat belts and to drive distracted. Again, there is no evidence that this occurred in the passing of the Forsyth teen.

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SUV on sideRecently, a major accident closed I-85 for about eight hours. The accident happened in the very early morning hours in Jackson County. In an accident scenario with which I am familiar as an Georgia motor vehicle injury lawyer, the RV involved jumped lanes and ended up over an embankment.

The RV’s passengers included a popular band, Party on the Moon. One of the band members who was a passenger in the wreck, reported that the RV’s driver slumped over the steering wheel and the vehicle hit the cable barrier on the road shoulder, then crossed traffic lanes and fell down an embankment ending up on its side.

Nearly all of the 14 passengers were injured and ten were taken to a Gainesville hospital, with two transported to an Athens hospital. Two of the passengers remained hospitalized after several hours.

It was reported that one of the band members made an attempt to steer the RV after the driver was unable to drive, but could not stop the vehicle from going out of control after it hit the cable on the side of the road.

Road barriers can be helpful in saving lives, but they are also known to be dangerous in certain circumstances.

Last year, a young student was hailed as a hero for avoiding a possible bus crash by stopping the ignition of his school bus when the driver slumped over the steering wheel. In that situation, the bus was not traveling at a high rate of speed, but the student’s quick thinking to turn the wheel to the right and take the key out of the ignition, was stunningly fast thinking. Not only that, but he and another student gave the driver chest compressions.

No other vehicles were involved in this tragedy, but they could have been. This type of accident underscores the importance of paying close attention at all times when driving. Distracted driving is not only often a violation of Georgia law under the Official Code of Georgia Annotated section 40-6-241 which prohibits texting while driving, it makes it more likely that in an emergency the distracted driver will not be ready to best respond. When you are on the road and a car comes at you from the opposite lane for example, evasive action might be necessary. If you are driving distracted, this quick response might not be possible.

Current restrictions on distracted driving include: Text messaging is prohibited for all drivers, those under the age of 18 are prohibited from using cell phones, regardless of whether they are using a hands-free device, and school bus operators may not use cell phones while driving when passengers are on board.

In addition, when you see a vehicle that seems to be losing control on the road, it could be an impaired driver or vehicle. It could be someone under the influence, but it might also be someone having a medical emergency.

Recently, a friend told me a story about passing a vehicle with a driver slumped over the steering wheel and blocking traffic. Other drivers were honking and driving around him. My friend called 911 and was told that the situation had been reported and that help was on the way. It is never a good idea to assume that we know why a vehicle is not being driven properly. Be a good samaritan and contact 911 when you see something unusual. It might just save lives.

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