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Photo Credit: WSB TV – Broadcast Screenshot

Our injury blog has never before posted a photograph of an actual crash, but this crash is different. This crash was totally avoidable and is made more poignant by the fact that the Georgia Hands Free law is awaiting Governor Deal’s signature. We think it is important for all to see the result of distracted driving. The teen who was driving the car in the photo was driving at a speed of over 100 miles per hour. She may also have been on SnapChat when her vehicle left the road, rolled over a few times and finally hit a tree. She is alleged to have caused the death of her friend who was a passenger in the vehicle. The teen driver is now charged with vehicular homicide. If she is found guilty, she may spend time in jail and she must live with the death of her friend for the rest of her life.

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Romaine Lettuce Recalls Raise Safety Concerns

In recent weeks, the romaine lettuce many Americans enjoy regularly has been under a cloud of concern with possible contamination of the bacteria known as E. coli. The bacteria is found in the environment and doesn’t always cause illness. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control notes that most E. coli are not harmful. The strains of the bacteria that we hear about can be very problematic, can cause illness and are transmitted in food, water and other means. The strain that is most often the problematic one causes thousands of illnesses annually and can result in hospitalization and can be fatal.

Not only can uncooked vegetables like tomatoes and lettuces be a problem, but the bacteria can also be found in raw milk, fruit and soft cheeses. Food that is not sufficiently cooked is also a danger.

Lawsuits Filed After Recalls and Outbreaks

Most Americans remember the major issue that the very popular Chipotle restaurants had in 2015. According the Washington Post in that serious outbreak 60 customers from 14 states were infected with the bacteria. The restaurant chain took extreme measures to correct this problem. But the cause of the outbreak was never determined. Many customers who became ill after eating at the chain settled lawsuits brought against the restaurant for causing their illnesses.

Food suppliers, distributors and restaurants are regulated by both federal laws and state laws. If you become ill after eating food or from store-bought romaine lettuce, for example, you may well be able to recover your medical expenses and other losses due to illnesses that are shown to have been the result of eating contaminated foods.

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One of the most tragic events in and around Georgia are fatal motor vehicle crashes. Loss of life on our roads and highways is something we all would like to see diminished in numbers. Only recently, a young woman lost her life maneuvering a curve on a Georgia highway. Lowering the number of fatal crashes in our state is something we can all support. The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) is dedicated to lowering the number of fatal crashes and has established an important goal: lower the number of annual fatal crashes across America by 1000.

Georgia’s Department of Transportation (GDOT) has set a goal in our state to reduce this number by 41 or more. Current statistics on fatal crashes in Georgia is not moving in the right direction. During 2017, there were 1550 who lost their lives on our roads. This is an increase of 33 percent and up from lower numbers in prior years such as 2014. In an effort to reduce loss of life in Georgia due to motor vehicle crashes, the Georgia Department of Transportation is continuing its major effort known as “Drive Alert Arrive Alive.” The increase in road and highway fatal crashes amounts to four lives lost on a daily basis and is above the national average. That is truly a sobering statistic. One of the culprits in this rise is distracted driving. Teen distracted driving is a particular concern.

These statistics are likely a major factor in the recent passage of a statewide hands free driving law in the Georgia Legislature which is on the Governor’s desk for signing. Local legislative efforts, which will be preempted by the statewide law on the Governor’s signage, were supported by families impacted by loss of life on Georgia roads, including the parents of one of the nursing students who was fatally injured in 2015.

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Distracted Driving Is Our Biggest Fear

Have you ever noticed another driver looking at their cell phone while you are driving in the next lane? Do you ever wonder if that person can actually safely drive and read a text or worse, send one? Most people will answer yes to that question. Just in time for April, which is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the AAA Foundation has released a new survey that reveals what American drivers are saying about this issue. Every year, the AAA surveys a large group of drivers over a one month period to find out what they are experiencing out on the road. It turns out that the most feared behavior on the road these days is distracted driving. About 88 percent of those surveyed say that this is their biggest worry, more than drunk or drugged driving and more than aggressive driving.

We all know that distracted driving is a major safety issue and causes serious and fatal car accidents. But do you know that it has now become the most feared behavior on the road? Despite the fact that one in three people have a family member who has been seriously injured or fatally harmed in a motor vehicle accident with varying causes and one in five have experienced an accident themselves, distracted driving still tempts them.

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Eye Surgery Advancements Do Carry Risks

There are many technological advancements that relate to care of our eyes. Our eyes may be the windows to our souls, but when we are fortunate to be born with vision, it is also a gift that we need to protect for our lives. That is why if our eyes or our vision are impaired as we age, or if we are born with compromised vision, Lasik and cataract surgeries are sought and often make improvements in our visual acuity. These procedures are relatively safe and are time-tested. However, there are also some instances in which a patient goes in for vision improvement surgery and leaves with vision impairment which might be immediate or may develop in the days and weeks after surgery. The American Academy of Ophthalmology is a good source to understand the benefits and risks of these procedures.

Lasik is Not Like Going to the Dentist

For many years, laser eye surgery or Lasik (Laser-Assisted In-Situ Keratomileusis), has been promoted as a nearly risk-free surgery that can help those who undergo it, can essentially toss their glasses out. The Food and Drug Administration approved Lasik procedures in 1998 and it is relatively safe. But this is not the only story with regard to Lasik surgery. In fact, about small percentage of patients who receive this treatment, end up with Lasik surgery injury or vision impairments. If you are one of these patients, it is life changing, or can be. These include anything from double or triple vision which can be disorienting and difficult to manage in daily life. Some patients have experienced sensitivity to light after a surgery, making night driving difficult.

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Takata Settles Airbag Cases to Reorganize

Last week, every major news outlet had an article about the news that Takata has settled its airbag litigations with everyone from injured victims to car makers. They did this to move out of Chapter 11 Bankruptcy and reorganize. The overall settlement sets up a trust fund that will be used to settle the many lawsuits still outstanding. Thus far, the faulty airbags have caused 16 deaths and caused nearly 185 injuries. That is tragic for those whose loved ones were lost due to the company’s failures to inform consumers and auto manufacturers about this problem or to correct this defect until it was too late. Their lives cannot be restored. Our trust in parts manufacturers might be restored over time.

We depend on car manufacturers and those who provide parts to our vehicles, to live up to the safety standards established under American laws and regulations. It shakes our trust when a device that is supposed to protect the driver and passengers from harm or injury in an auto crash, instead causes harm or death. Airbags have saved many lives since they were required in American vehicles. But when we get into our vehicles we don’t think that a safety device can malfunction and harm us, either by detonating for no reason or detonating in a car crash but causes additional harm. Over forty million American cars have these potentially faulty airbags. Any many many vehicles are still on the roads with them, since replacements have been difficult to obtain.

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Child Fatally Injured When School Bus Flips

Last week, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on a terribly sad Georgia school bus accident. With little detail but that the bus flipped on its side after traveling on a downhill curve on the road, we learned that a six year old child died after being taken to the hospital. The tragedy of one child being fatally injured is extremely painful for all involved. The community and her family are most certainly going through a very difficult time. Her classmates will need support after witnessing this bus accident. Thankfully, the other children on the bus were not injured seriously. Several of them and the driver had minor injuries only. This type of bus accident can happen anywhere, from Gwinnett County and across the state. When it does, there is great sadness in its wake.

When we send our children to school on the school bus, it is unthinkable that they might not return home safely. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration gathers statistics on many aspects of our highway safety. The school bus statistics gathered over a nearly ten year period show that school buses are relatively safe. Although we all would prefer that no child be harmed on a school bus, there are about 130 school bus fatalities per year in our country. A child is more likely to sustain a fatal injury in other types of vehicles than a school bus. These vehicles are built to protect the occupants.

School Bus Seat Belts are Not Required by Law

According to NHTSA, school kids are far more likely to be injured being driven to school in a passenger vehicle than being taken in a school bus. School buses are specifically mandated to have inherent safety features. For example, their color is most visible on the road. The seats create a compartmentalized protection for kids. The more dangerous part of the school bus experience is getting on and off the bus, which is why all states require the stop arms that are meant to keep drivers from driving past the bus while kids are present.

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DSC00671-300x200We are experiencing extreme temperatures for our area. Governor Deal has issued a state of emergency for 28 Georgia counties until Friday. We are concerned that Atlanta and Georgia residents may not be used to these temperatures and also may not know some of the unseen dangers during periods of extreme cold. We want to make sure our readers know what to do in these freezings temps. There are several areas of danger. From heating your home to driving, to keeping your kids warm while waiting for the school bus … we have a few tips for readers and suggest that you review important winter safety tips from the American Red Cross.

Driving in cold weather. As many of you know, the temperatures are below freezing right now especially when the sun goes down. Some areas are expecting snow and many counties are under a state of emergency. Even if it has not rained or snowed recently, there can be ice on the roads. This can be very dangerous. If you have to drive, slow down and put your car into a low gear. DO NOT brake quickly and if you need to brake, apply it slowly. If you begin to slide, steer into the slide. Make sure to turn your steering wheel in the same direction as your rear wheels are sliding. So if you feel the slide to your right, turn your steering wheel to the right. This will help you straighten out your vehicle. Be particularly careful on overpasses and bridges which can ice up quickly.

Heating safety. If you use a space heater make sure the heater is not near anything that is flammable, such as a curtain. Keep your space heater three feet away from other objects. It is not safe to use your stove as a heater. This can lead to fire and can also result in a build up of carbon monoxide which can be deadly. If you are home bound and without heat and need support, call 911 for help. These temperatures are dangerously low. If you have a friend or relative who might need heat, check in with them.

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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_000000947969XSmall-201x300 Across the country and around Atlanta, we brace ourselves for the injury and crash statistics after holidays. The Georgia State Patrol reported 12 total fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend which traditionally begins on Wednesday before Thanksgiving and ends on the Monday after. Overall, there were nearly 300 accidents that caused injuries with an overall motor vehicle crash count at over 600. The good news is that fewer resulted in fatality than last year — from 20 last year, to 12 this year. Only one local fatal accident was reported statewide, which tragically occurred in Gwinnett County.

The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety reports that more people lost their lives on our roads and highways in 2016 than in 2015. Over 350 fatal alcohol related accidents occurred in Georgia last year. As we approach the end of 2017, we are mindful that the upcoming weeks are among the most dangerous for motor vehicle crashes. Although most states around the country increase enforcement over the holiday season, driving over the holidays can result in accident or injury. The increased enforcement is intended to save lives, by taking impaired or aggressive drivers off the roads before they cause tragedy or loss of life. This can save lives of course. But every holiday season we learn about tragic circumstances that involve drivers who are distracted or under the influence.

Those who have been arrested or convicted of driving under the influence have a greater likelihood of doing this again. The period between Christmas and New Year’s day is a time to be cautious about the potential that drivers around you have been drinking and may be impaired. On average, during this time frame about 300 fatalities have occurred in past years. Our federal and state agencies take the lead over this period to remind drivers of the dangers of impaired driving.