Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

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iStock_000001983354XSmall-300x199We often advise our readers on aspects of the law that might not be familiar to them, but could impact their lives. A recent opinion by the Georgia Supreme Court, published in December 2017, is instructive on the way timing can impact a personal injury case. As lawyers we deal with timing on a daily basis. Most people have heard of the phrase “statute of limitations.” Most lawsuits must be brought within a particular time frame from the time of injury or accident. That is why we often remind our readers that if you are injured by the fault of another person, in an accident for example, it is important to protect against the statute of limitations and when appropriate, file a legal action before the right to do so is lost.

Since these statutes of limitations laws impose time restrictions as to when a litigant must file a legal action, we pay close attention to cases in which these issues are resolved in our court system. In the recent Georgia Supreme Court case, a wrongful death lawsuit was brought against Grady Memorial Hospital Corporation by relatives of a woman who had passed away at the hospital. In Georgia, wrongful death cases   can be brought by family members close to the deceased person, against a person or entity that they claim is responsible for the death of that person. These family members include a spouse, parent or child of the deceased person. Others include heirs or next of kin or others appointed by a probate court.

In the case brought against Grady Memorial, the trial court awarded Grady what is called summary judgment. This is a procedure that allows the trial court to review the case to determine whether it should continue. If there are no disputed facts, the court can issue a summary judgment. The trial court issued a summary judgment, but did not determined the amount plaintiffs should be awarded for having to formally serve process on the hospital until several months later.
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iStock_000003411145XSmallRecently, an elderly Norcross husband and wife drove along a local road not suspecting it would be their final moments together. Their vehicle was suddenly struck by another car. Behind the wheel of that vehicle was a 17-year old teen. The auto collision was the result of a rapid and tragic series of events. The teen had come upon stop sign with a vehicle stopped at it. Apparently, to avoid hitting the stopped vehicle, he swerved his vehicle and traversed several traffic lanes hitting the elderly couple’s vehicle. The impact on the couple’s car caused it to travel across two lanes of traffic. Both the husband and the wife passed away due to injuries sustained in this auto crash.

The teen has been charged with several violations of Georgia law, including failure to obey a stop sign and reckless driving. The most severe consequences could come if the teen is indicted and convicted of vehicular homicide in the first degree. Georgia’s vehicular homicide provision is found in Official Code of Georgia Annotated provision 40-6-393 (a). In this provision, homicide by vehicle in the first degree can occur when a person is driving in a manner that results in the death of another, even if the person charged did not intend to harm anyone. The consequences of a conviction of the provision can be severe — prison for three years minimum or a 15 year maximum.

This Georgia auto crash is under investigation. But one thing is certain. The life of this teen has been changed forever. Even if he is not convicted of this crime, he will have to live with the consequences of a failure simply to stop at a stop sign. Perhaps only he knows why this was not possible.

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iStock_000001983354XSmallThis past April, Interstate 16 near Savannah was the site of one of the most horrific truck accidents we can recall in recent history. As most readers know, five nursing students were killed in that crash. Georgia Southern University has continued to be affected by the loss and recently some of the families of the women have filed wrongful death lawsuits due to this crash. It is reported that the tractor-trailer driver failed to apply his brakes or to perform evasive action when the truck he was driving slammed into the vehicle in which the students were riding. The lawsuits indicate that the driver was responsible for another accident several years ago after he fell asleep while driving.

Just last month, another terrible tractor-trailer crash took place on this same road in the same area as the nursing students’ tragedy. In that crash five people lost their lives. And just this past week, the Georgia State Patrol has reported that three were killed on this road in Treutlen County after a tanker truck hit their auto. In that crash, the driver has not been charged at this point, but the investigation is still pending.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgThe auto air bag recalls have taken a turn after a law suit was filed earlier this week in federal court. Prior to this filing, most of the litigation involving the defective air bags has been brought in class actions, rather than cases filed by individual plaintiffs. Only one other federal action is known to have been filed thus far. The new federal filing comes in the wake of horrific air bag deployments that have severely injured and killed an estimated five victims. The particular air bag at issue was manufactured by the Takata Corporation, whose airbags have been installed in millions of vehicles. The company has been involved in car safety for many years and has never had such widespread issues with their products.

Unfortunately and tragically, there is now a major recall on many air bags made by Takata that were installed in nearly ten different car makes and models. These airbags have been known to distribute shrapnel metals on deployment. In the most recent filing, the propellant is alleged to be the problem, making the “explosive” nature of the deployment dangerous for those it is intended to protect. Although the malfunctions have occurred in warmer climates, the recall is likely to spread nationwide.

This federal case was filed in South Carolina. The wrongful death action has been brought by the brother of a woman who died after an airbag opened and caused catastrophic injuries to her spinal cord. She was driving her Honda and was involved in a single car accident in which her airbag deployed; she passed away a couple of weeks later. Honda is also named in the lawsuit. The victim’s brother is in a position to claim damages for her injuries and death. We have often posted on the rights of family members to file a wrongful death action. Georgia law specifies those who are permitted to file a lawsuit in the event that a close family member dies due to the fault of another person or entity. When a loved one is fatally injured the surviving husband or wife, children, parent and any other heir or next of kin, designated by a will or by Georgia probate law, may file a wrongful death action.

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DUI Picture 1.jpgA recent Gwinnett County car crash may well have been the result of excessive speed and alcohol use. This often-deadly combination is part of the investigation currently under way after a tragedy occurred in Buford. The crash occurred in the early morning hours, which is statistically a more dangerous time to mix driving, drinking and speed. The first reports of the crash are that two men were fatally injured as they traveled together. As their vehicle approached an intersection, the man who was driving did not stop at a stop sign at the intersection of the Buford Highway. Unfortunately and tragically, a second vehicle was driving on the Buford Highway approaching that same intersection at the same time. The second vehicle was unable to stop in time to avoid hitting the car in which the men were traveling. Although the facts are not clear yet, it is possible that the second vehicle was driving faster than the speed limit and there may have been alcohol involved. The two adults and two children in that vehicle sustained injuries that were reportedly not life threatening. The two men lost their lives.

It is not reported whether the driver of the vehicle that hit the men’s car will be charged with any crimes. There are currently no facts that would indicate the specific charges that might flow from this tragic crash. Possibly excessive speed could be charged, as well as Georgia’s homicide by vehicle laws in some degree might be under consideration by authorities. It is not clear whether the suspected alcohol involved the fatally injured driver or the driver who hit the vehicle in which the two men travelled.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgThe tragic death of a three-year old in Alpharetta last month has resulted in license revocation of the day care facility in which he was killed and the filing of a civil law suit by the child’s parents. The owner of the facility has been in business for 25 years. Her home serves as a day care center and is licensed by the Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning. The agency investigated the event that ended in the child’s death and based on that, noted that there were significant violations including dangerous conditions on the property. The allegation with regard to the child’s death is that part of a twine type cord was on the play yard swing and the child apparently was caught in that rope and essentially was asphyxiated. The child was left on his own for a short period of time when the tragedy occurred. Although the care giver contacted emergency support and applied CPR, the child ultimately passed away at a local hospital.

The owner of the center has appealed the license revocation. She will have an opportunity to present her case once the Office of State Administrative Hearings sets a date for her to tell her story and why she should be able to stay in business.

Sadly, this horrific death is not the first of its kind in the recent past. A child in England died in similar manner in 2012. She was caught in a rope that had been at the top of the slide. She as alone for 20 minutes and had passed away by the time she was found. It was her first day of nursery school. That center was also criticized for an alleged failure to follow safety rules. Both the facility and the care giver responsible for the child were taken to court. The nursery school was supposed to put ropes away when children were not playing with them and no child was to be on a slide alone. In that little child’s case, the physician stated that she might have been saved had she been found sooner.

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Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for distracted driver.jpgThere is no doubt that distracted driving has become a dangerous practice among drivers throughout the country and within Georgia and the metro Atlanta area. Perhaps it is human nature to believe that we are above any tragedy that could occur if we text and drive or use our phones to make a call while trying to steer our vehicles. Unfortunately, this is actually a false sense of security, because it has been shown again and again that these distractions make it difficult for drivers to consistently manage the many faculties needed to properly and safely drive a motor vehicle. In a crash that occurred last month in the Austell area, one woman lost her life and another is now under arrest for this activity that is alleged to have caused a terrible crash on the C.H. James Parkway.

The driver alleged to have caused the crash that led to the death of a 36-year old female local basketball coach, had a text on her phone, calls that were received and a call that was made at the time of the crash. She apparently deleted the text to try to keep police from seeing that she had done this before the crash took place. But this information is not possible to delete or to avoid from the ultimate view of investigators in a situation like this. The police have finished their investigation and as a result, have charged the driver with a violation of Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 40-6-393 which includes second-degree homicide by vehicle. She has also been charged with violating involving driving too closely to the vehicle ahead of her and driving with a license that had expired.

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Thumbnail image for 1175023_magnolia.jpgA funeral mass will be held Sunday night at Seton Hill University after the school’s women’s lacrosse coach died over the weekend in a terrible bus crash on the Pennsylvania turnpike. Her unborn baby was also lost in this tragic crash. The driver of the bus was also killed.

There are many times in my practice as an Atlanta bus accident lawyer that I have counseled grieving families and friends. But it is so very difficult to imagine the sorrow of her family and friends, as she looked forward to the arrival of a child this summer.

Our hearts and our prayers go out to the coach’s surviving husband and child and the entire Seton Hill and surrounding community stunned by this event.

The bus that was transporting the women’s lacrosse team to an NCAA-II match at Millersville University in Pennsylvania was traveling on the Pennsylvania turnpike in the morning hours. The weather was a bit rainy and there might have been some light snow falling at that time. The coach and two other passengers were airlifted to a hospital nearby. But the coach passed away shortly after arriving at the facility and the driver passed away at the scene. Many other minor injuries were reported, but none appear to be life threatening.

The AP and USA Today report that this accident is one of three team crashes since the end of February alone. This bus careened off the turnpike and crashed into a tree. The crash is under investigation and is puzzling to authorities since it occurred on a flat stretch of the turnpike at a location which is not considered to be highly dangerous in any way. The front of the bus was severely damaged on impact.

One early theory is that the driver either fell asleep at the wheel or experienced a medical emergency while driving. The bus operator immediately sent a representative to the scene of the accident. The company has a good safety record.

Last week another bus that had a team on board in New York state, was hit by a car that had spun out of control on the road. One car passenger died and several players were injured. Recently, another bus that was transporting a University of Maine women’s basketball team left highway after the driver had a medical issue. The driver was hurt as were a player and coach.

The Center for Truck and Bus Safety has been working on various studies to determine what happens when drivers of large vehicles become impaired. In this case, we do not know whether the driver became ill and had a life-threatening medical event or became drowsy. There are systems being studied to waken drowsy drivers while they are on the road and eventually these systems might save lives.

There is no way to relieve the shock and grief that we all feel hearing about a crash such as this one. The only thing we can do is support the study of how these crashes might be avoided if humanly or scientifically possible.

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sobriety check pointOne of the things many of us take for granted is that when we have a disabled vehicle, others on the road will take greater care and avoid hitting us. But what happens when drivers are either under the influence or do not anticipate a road condition that is unexpected? This is part of what we need to do as drivers, expect the unexpected and slow down depending on road conditions. In my work as an Atlanta accident injury lawyer, I have seen the terrible impact of drinking and driving. I have had the privilege of serving on the Board and Steering Committee for Georgia Mothers Against Drunk Driving and have supported the organization through my law firm.

Unfortunately, a recent local example of drinking and driving came to my attention as I read with sadness that an alleged drunk driver slammed into a disabled vehicle killing a Cobb County man. He was stalled on the I-285 westbound ramp from I-75 north in Clayton County. His vehicle was struck from behind by a cargo van that was driven by the alleged drunk driver. According to reports, charges are now pending both against the driver and a passenger of the van, both of whom are alleged to have been under the influence of alcohol.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has worked very hard to reduce the destructive impact of drunk driving in America and has helped to lower the numbers of drunk drivers on our roads. They note that we take “233 billion trips in cars each year,” but that one in every two thousand trips involve drivers who have been drinking and are under the influence of alcohol. Shockingly, just about one of every three deaths on our roads involves drunk driving which shows just how deadly drinking and driving is on our streets and highways.

All the statistics should give us pause. Difficult to imagine, but the fact is that on average drunk driving kills someone on America once an hour. Yes, once an hour. Think about this — nearly 10,000 people in our country die on the roads every year. Beyond the tragedy of preventable deaths, the facts also reveal that every 90 seconds someone is injured due to drunk driving. And a staggering number of these deaths, injuries and accidents in general are caused by those who have engaged in this bad behavior previously.

When you are on the road, you are most likely driving along with a drunk driver. Sometimes we see them weaving or driving erratically and we call 911 to report this. It is very important to contact authorities if you observe a driver that seems impaired.

Removing these drivers from the road is getting easier … ignition interlocks for drunk driving offenders can now help stop these drivers from ever getting on the roads. Let’s work together to avoid this dangerous and deadly behavior.

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iStock_000016429140XSmall.jpgWe have recently posted the statistics on teen car accidents, particularly in the area of distracted driving. In a recent fatal accident in Athens, a young teen’s life has forever changed, but he will likely not be charged with causing the crash. The accident in Athens has ended in tragedy for two families. As a Georgia wrongful death lawyer, I have represented many families dealing with the passing of a loved one due to a vehicle crash or other serious accident. Fatal accidents are very difficult to cope with for victims families and for others involved, but the circumstances surrounding the Athens crash are unusually and terribly sad.

A couple was driving in the early evening this past Monday with their two children to visit Santa at a nearby mall. It was their wedding anniversary. Their vehicle, driven by the wife, was making a left turn on Timothy Road in Athens. Her husband and the kids’ dad, was sitting in the passenger seat.

As the vehicle was turning left, it was struck by a teen driving through the intersection. The crash hit the passenger side of the car and killed the husband. The wife told police that she did not see the oncoming vehicle driven by the teen. It is believed her ability to see the oncoming vehicle was made difficult due to a car that was making a left turn from the opposite direction.

By all reports the young teen is a wonderful young man. He had just completed his volunteering with his youth group and his nursing home job when the accident occurred.

As reported in the Banner-Herald the children sustained minor injuries, as did their mom. The teen had some minor injuries from his deployed air bag. But from the reports, this fine young man was “emotionally devastated by the fatal crash.” One of the saddest parts of this tragedy is that the couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary and the boys birthdays are just before Christmas as well.

The Official Code of Georgia section 40-6-71 provides that “[t]he driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road, or driveway shall yield the right of way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.” Intersections are very dangerous places. Accident rates are very high due to the turns being made and the risks of collision as happened in this tragic crash. If you cannot see around other vehicles in an intersection, do not turn. Wait until you can see that there are no vehicles coming towards your vehicle. Oncoming vehicles have the right of way and you must yield to them.

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