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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.

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imagesWe want our readers to enjoy safe and happy holidays. And to help with that, we also want to remind our readers about many of the winter holiday hazards that come along with this wonderful time of year. During past holiday seasons, we have brought these dangers to our readers’ attention. In our view, we cannot give too many reminders about these potential hazards. The National Safety Council (NSC) is a great resource for holiday safety. You will find safety tips and reminders on the NSC site, from tree decorating safety to slip and fall protection to poison control. Children and pets need to be protected during this busy time for parents, caregivers, teachers and just about everyone else. We are all rushing it seems, which can cause us to forget safety measures. We can forget things as simple as leaving the dog in a home with Poinsettias which are dangerous for them or  leaving small toy pieces that can be a choking hazard for little ones. Everything from small button batteries to properly cooked food is covered in their materials.

Holiday Road Travel Safety

Last year, the Georgia Department of Public Safety noted that there were eleven fatal crashes and deaths over the Christmas holiday alone. Literally hundreds of crashes and injuries occurred during this time frame. Keep your family safe by making sure your vehicle is road ready. Take a look at our post last week about getting your car ready for winter driving. When you do take a family road trip or even drive to the store, make sure everyone is buckled up and that the little ones are properly secured in their car seats. Holiday road travel causes congested highways, which can fray nerves and cause accidents. Remember that getting to your friends and relatives safely is more important than anything else. So make sure to slow down and drive defensively. And if you have had some holiday cheer and need a designated driver, get one. Too often we see accidents caused by drivers who are under the influence. DUI’s are of major concern during the winter holidays as well.

Holiday Fire Safety from Turkey Fryers to Christmas Trees

First, some startling statistics. Nearly 50,000 fires occur over these holidays. Tragically, there are about 500 fatalities and over 2,000 injuries in past years. Shocking as it may be, the Red Cross says that one out of every 22 Christmas tree fires result in fatality. Holiday home accidents, particularly fire-related accidents, are often caused by cooking mishaps such as fried turkey injuries and fires, unattended candles, dry Christmas trees, unsafe fireplaces, space heaters, holiday decorations and frayed electrical cords.

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Last year a two-year old boy was playing in one foot of water in a small lagoon at a Disney resort in Florida. The boy was not far into the water, but was standing on the shoreline. There were no fences, no signs warning of alligators, but only a “no swimming” sign nearby. The boy’s parents were standing close to where their son was playing. Seemingly out of nowhere an alligator attacked the boy. His father immediately tried to get the alligator to let go of his son, but the strength of the animal was too great for human hands.  The bereaved parents of the little boy said early on that they did not plan to take legal action against Disney. Instead, they turned their attention to healing and began the Lane Thomas Foundation to support families whose children are in need of organ transplant. Disney built a small lighthouse statue on the property to memorialize Lane and to bring awareness to the work of the Foundation.

For some time now it has been uncertain whether Disney knew about alligators on the property where the little boy lost his life. According to a recent Washington Post article, Disney knew a great deal. Hundreds of alligators had been removed from that resort over the years and several only a short time before the boy was attacked. Had the family brought a lawsuit for the boy’s fatal injuries, it is very likely that Disney would have been held liable for the death of their son given their prior and superior knowledge of the premises and their failure to warn guests of the danger. Disney likely would have settled the litigation in any event, since the publicity would have been, and was, harmful to Disney and damaging to its reputation.

But the question remains, what is the duty of a property owner to warn and to protect against such injuries or death? In Georgia, the case of Landings Association, Inc. v. Williams, 291 Ga. 397, 397-98, 728 S.E.2d 577, 579 (2012) dealt with an alligator attack in a residential development on the Georgia coast. The area had been inhabited by alligators prior to the building of the development. An elderly mother staying at her children’s home, went for a walk one evening and was later found dead, with catastrophic injuries to her body. The alligator that killed her was also found later. In that case, the Georgia Supreme Court determined that the property was so well-known by the public to have had alligators on site for years, the land owner could not be held liable for the death of the woman.

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Get Ready for Safe Winter Driving

For those who prefer the warm months, transitioning to early sunset and cold, wet, rainy weather is not the most welcome change. But as Atlanta residents know, eventually winter will be here and before it arrives in earnest, we should prepare. Putting the cover on the grill and closing up the pool, with our memories of spring and summer, we look to winter and holidays to keep our spirits lifted until the sun returns. As the weather cools and heavy winter rains, ice and wind arrive, there are risks for Atlanta motor vehicle accidents and injury. Now is the time to prepare and to get our vehicles ready for winter-weather driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is an excellent resource for winter driving preparation. NHTSA’s recommendations are very helpful and could keep you and your family protected and out of harm’s way this winter. One of their top suggestions is to get your car or cars serviced. When the weather is cold and your vehicle breaks down, you and your family could end up waiting on the roadside for help. Getting your vehicle checked out thoroughly could avoid this potentially dangerous situation.

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Atlanta Pick Up Truck Loses Tire and Hits Vehicle

Several years ago, a tragic Atlanta truck crash occurred on I-85 when a tire flew off a truck and hit the windshield of a van traveling in the opposite direction. The van driver, a mom, lost her life instantly and without warning. Her daughter was in the vehicle and survived the accident. Tragically, a very similar Atlanta truck accident occurred recently on Georgia 400. A pick up truck traveling at a normal rate of speed lost a wheel and a tire. The tire ultimately flew into the windshield of a woman’s car as she was driving on the opposite side of the road. The impact caused fatal injury to the driver. The deceased driver was a mom of two on her way to work. Her co-workers were stunned by the news and her family is in grief. The deceased mom was a cherished co-worker and loving friend. It is difficult to imagine what her family and community are experiencing. The shock of a sudden accident and loss of life is always difficult to accept.

The driver of the truck was cooperative with investigators and also expressed his sadness over this event. He also mentioned that he had taken a recent trip with the truck and had no mechanical issues with it in the past. The authorities do not expect to charge the truck driver with any crime. Thus far, there is no explanation as to why the wheel and tire came off the truck. However, authorities believe this accident may have been caused by some sort of mechanical failure. The precise nature of the failure is not yet known.

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1330873_27868463-300x182At Scholle Law we keep apprised of all new developments in Georgia law and our highest court’s cases and decisions. Because we are metro Atlanta injury lawyers, we pay particular attention to those cases that might impact access to healthcare services after an injury or accident. From time to time, we like to bring our readers information about the decisions of our courts.

The Georgia Supreme Court has recently issued its opinion in a case involving a Georgia health facilities law. Some have said this law limits free markets, but others see it as an important regulation of health care facilities planning. In the case, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the law which was challenged by a Cartersville, Georgia surgical center that sought to add an operating room. The surgical center intended to add the operating room to expand their contracts with physicians who might use the center in conjunction with their own medical practices.

Official Code of Georgia section 31-6-40 (a) (7) (C) provides that new health services facilities (those less than one year old) must apply for, and obtain, a Certificate of Need (CON) before moving forward with expansion of their facilities. The facility that brought the lawsuit did not believe it was governed by this law and also sought to have it declared unconstitutional. They argued that the law violates the constitution violating two basic areas of Georgia’s Constitution. First, a clause of the Georgia Constitution that prohibits what are called “Anti-Competitive Contracts;” and second, the due process clause of United States Constitution. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the Certificate of Need provision and declared that it is constitutional.

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