Drive Safely This Winter With Holiday Travel Tips

December 22, 2014

Whether or not you'll be home for Christmas, the holiday season is always a busy travel time. This year is slated to be even busier than usual. Due to the improving economy and the low price of gas, AAA predicts that 2014 will have the busiest holiday travel on record, with nearly 99 million Americans traveling more than 50 miles. Air travel is also expected to increase this year, to 5.7 million travelers.

The last days before Christmas are a particularly dangerous time to be on the roads, as people are rushing to finish their holiday shopping or leaving for trips out of town. For those wanting to avoid the worst of the traffic, traveling on the actual holiday may be your best bet. Fewer people are on the roads on Christmas and Christmas Eve.

Winter weather is another factor that makes holiday travel hazardous. Snow and sleet make roads dangerous and safe driving difficult. If you can't avoid being on the roads this holiday season, here are some tips to make your journey safer:

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Takata Airbag Recalls Continue to Expand

December 16, 2014

For months now, the Takata airbag recall has been making headlines. So far, the faulty airbags have been responsible for five deaths and hundreds of injuries around the world. Currently over 20 million vehicles have been recalled worldwide, including over 11 million recalled in the United States.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has become involved, urging owners of the affected vehicles to act on the recalls. However, the agency's powers are limited. In November, the NHTSA called for a national recall of vehicles with affected driver's side airbags. Takata refused to issue a nationwide recall, although the company said it would cooperate with manufacturers who chose to issue recalls. Honda, Takata's biggest customer, has issued a nationwide recall in accordance with the request by the NHTSA.

The current recalls by Takata only apply to vehicles in high-humidity areas. Takata justified its refusal by stating that scientific evidence shows the malfunction is only present in high-humidity environments, and that expanding the recall would delay getting parts to those at greater risk. The NHTSA is preparing to take further action.

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2016 Trial Date Set for Deadly GM Defects: Faulty Ignition Switch the Culprit in Personal Injury and Wrongful Death Suits

November 7, 2014

Some would say this has been a hard year for auto giant General Motors. Times have been even more difficult, however, for those consumers directly affected by the series of safety issues that have plagued the company, caused car accidents and prompted millions of recalls. The recalls affected several models, including Chevrolet Cobalts, Saturn Ions, Pontiac G5s, Chevrolet HHRs, Pontiac Solstices and Saturn Skys, primarily those manufactured from 2003 to 2007.

Loss in vehicle value aside, an ignition switch flaw in the vehicles has been linked to more than 30 deaths and instances of bodily injury. A federal judge in New York has slated the first of many trials for 2016 and those close to the lawsuit claim there was evidence that certain employees knew about the dangers posed by the ignition switch flaw for the last ten years, a full decade before the recalls were initiated.

According to the announcement finally made by GM earlier this year, the ignition switch may slip out of position when jostled, cutting power to and disabling life-saving devices - including air bags, steering capabilities, and brakes. Plaintiffs' attorneys hope the ruling in this first case will set a favorable precedent for those to follow.

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Halloween Safety Tips and Tricks to Avoid Personal Injury

October 13, 2014

While Halloween is a holiday, second only to Christmas, to which kids (and kids at heart alike) look forward to, it is also rife with opportunities for personal injury. From decorations to costumes to food safety, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. For many adults, some of the most fun to be had comes from adorning their homes with decorations. While waxing sentimental about your childhood as you erect life-size Ghostbusters on your front lawn, it is also important to keep in mind the safety of the children (and parents) who will soon be knocking at your door.

Although darkness is an integral part of Halloween, it also obscures vision and provides cover to latent dangers. For that very reason, make sure children wear reflexive tape or carry flashlights so motorists may easily spot them on the roads. Accompany small children on their treat-seeking excursions, encourage older children to trick or treat in groups, educate them all on the rules of the road, discourage accepting candy from or getting into cars with strangers and establish solid curfews. Discourage children from cutting through neighbors' yards or unfamiliar areas where hazards, such as uncovered potholes or felled trees, may not be immediately evident. If you expect to be visited at your home by miniature "ghouls" and "ghosts" this season, be sure to scan your yard, walkway, steps and front porch for obstructions, holes and other objects that may cause problems or slip and fall accidents.

Make sure your children know to wait until you have a chance to inspect their candy hoard before eating. If you are dishing out treats, avoid purchasing items with small parts or candies that present a choking hazard for small children. The same rule applies when selecting costumes. Also look for materials that are labelled as flame-retardant.

Make sure your children know to wait until you have a chance to inspect their candy hoard before eating. If you are dishing out treats, avoid purchasing items with small parts or candies that present a choking hazard for small children. The same rule applies when selecting costumes.

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Underage Drunk Driver Causes Georgia Wrong-Way Car Crash

July 24, 2014

Despite all commercial efforts, underage drinking continues to be a prevalent problem amongst today's youth. Underage drinking is prohibited nationwide and Georgia law makes it illegal for adult motorists to drive with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08 or greater and 0.02 or higher, for motorists under the age of 21. Not only is the practice of driving under the influence illegal, however, but it also has the added detriment of endangering lives. In fact, it's a risky business whenever anyone drives impaired. Just ask 18-year-old Alexandria Cymone Brooks, of Smyrna, Georgia. Following an early morning drunk driving car accident this past weekend, Ms. Brooks is currently languishing in jail, charged with two felony counts of serious injury by vehicle, DUI, underage possession and reckless driving, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The teen was allegedly driving her 2002 Nissan Maxima the wrong way on a major highway in Cobb County - southbound in the northbound lanes of I-575, near Barrett Parkway, - when she struck a 2005 Ford Focus head-on. When police arrived at the scene, an obviously still inebriated Brooks allegedly confessed that she had been drinking at a party shortly before getting behind the wheel of her vehicle.

Hers was a choice that would eventually cost both her, and her victims, dearly. Brooks faces possible license suspension, jail time and civil litigation while her two victims, a driver and her passenger, face a long road to recovery from the injuries they sustained. Both parties were lucky enough to escape with their lives. However, as many personal injury attorneys will tell you, that isn't always the case.

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Is Negligence Alone to Blame in Toddler's Hyperthermia Death?

June 30, 2014

For many in Atlanta, this summer began with a toddler's tragic death and...a question. On June 18th of this year, 22 month old Cooper Harris perished after his father mistakenly left him alone in the family car for seven hours as temperatures at the father's office park reached their peak. Per the coroner, the Cobb County, Georgia, toddler's official cause of death was hyperthermia, also known as heatstroke--except that it's actually turning out to be a bit more complicated than that.

The question on everyone's minds now is whether this is a case of simple negligence or whether something more sinister may be at play. For one, the father, Ross Harris, breakfasted with his son at a local Chik-fil-A and strapped him into his rear-facing car seat mere minutes before driving less than a mile to his office at Home Depot and leaving his son in the car. With surveillance video ostensibly showing the father returning to the car briefly at lunchtime (yet allegedly not discovering his son's body until 4 pm) and an investigation into the father's work computer revealing ominous research into how it long it takes an animal to die in a hot car, concerned citizens are crying foul - as are the police. After being questioned, the mother also purportedly admitted conducting similar searches all because, she claimed, she and her husband both feared making a mistake of epic proportions and wanted to learn what they could do to avoid it. Their proactive plan to educate themselves, however, seems to have backfired in the worst way imaginable.

So what information, exactly, is available on the information superhighway regarding heat stroke deaths? What might The Harris' searches have revealed?

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Discretionary Immunity and Remedies for the Motorist Injured in a Car Accident with a Police Officer

May 20, 2014

What happens when a personal injury plaintiff wants to file a claim for injurious acts committed by an on-duty police officer? Finding a remedy in such a situation has the potential to be an extremely difficult, albeit not impossible, road to traverse. Few people are aware that government officials, including police officers, enjoy a degree of official/discretionary immunity, which fortifies them against potential liability in many circumstances.

According to Georgia's doctrine of official immunity, "police officer who exercises discretion within the scope of the officer's authority and does not act maliciously or with intent to injure when investigating a complaint and arresting an individual is immune from liability for those activities under the doctrine of official immunity in an action for malicious prosecution...Even if the decisions by the officers are flawed, absent evidence of willfulness, malice, or corruption, such officers are entitled to discretionary immunity." 14 Ga. Jur. Personal Injury and Torts ยง 20:21.

Personal injury actions tend to be more successful where an officer's actions occur outside the scope of his employ or if and when the police department waives sovereign immunity. Waiver itself can be a tricky subject, often depending upon actions taken by the officer at the scene of the accident. While reluctant to overlook an on-duty police official's sovereign status, courts will often look at things like whether the officer's emergency lights were on and/or whether they were responding to an emergency call. Being aware that this "loophole" exists is one of the first steps towards a successful personal injury action, but Georgia car accident attorneys are best equipped to help injured plaintiffs navigate the murky waters of the doctrine.

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Texting While Driving Ban Not Enough to Deter Car Accidents Stemming from Texting While Driving

April 23, 2014

Despite the fairly recent spate of Georgia laws banning texting while driving, as well as an accompanying push by mainstream media to educate consumers nationwide, motorists continue to regularly engage in the practice-- either because they fail to recognize the very real risk presented by what has repeatedly been called one of the most precarious distracted driving activities, or because they purposefully choose to ignore it. Then again, the push against distracted driving is so recent that many people may find it difficult to fully comprehend the repercussions that the activity can have. Nonetheless, this lack of education does nothing to change the ultimate, and often fatal, effect that results.

A woman in Douglas County, Georgia, recently demonstrated just how fatal checking even one seemingly insignificant text message while behind the wheel can be, reports Alexis Stevens at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 26-year-old Danielle Garcia had allegedly just received a text message and was holding a conversation on her cell phone moments before she caused a fatal car accident that claimed two lives and resulted in significant injuries to other motorists involved. Among charges for second degree homicide by vehicle, following too closely and driving with an expired license, she also faces a charge for distracted driving--even though Garcia attempted to delete the text message before handing her phone over to police officials.

With technological advances steadily making the rounds in the communication realm, an increasing number of consumers are lured by the temptation to use their phones while in the car. Because, however, the number of car accidents caused by distracted driving is also on the rise, many personal injury attorneys are starting to feel that educational media utilizing the "shock factor" may indeed be the best deterrent currently available.

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Deadly Georgia Hit-and-Run Car Accident Claims Toddler's Life

April 8, 2014

The hunt continues for the driver of a white, late model pickup truck in Georgia. Officials say the motorist is responsible for callously striking two young children in DeKalb County Saturday afternoon as they waited on the sidewalk, near the entrance of a Tucker Walmart, to cross the street with their mother. Witnesses to the crime reported that they noticed the vehicle erratically making its way down the street just moments before the fatal accident.

One mall patron told local news channels in an interview that she very narrowly missed being hit by the motorist herself, only moments before the driver hopped over a curb, mowed down a two-year old toddler, Caleb, and his older sister, Meyaria, and sped off. Another witness reportedly told investigators that after the driver struck the children, he stopped briefly a few feet away to throw a beer bottle from the vehicle's cab. It's possibly an aggravating circumstance but, unfortunately, by the time he is caught, it will more than likely be too late to determine his blood alcohol content (BAC).

The two children were immediately transported to a local hospital. Their mother was not injured. Meyaria, 4, survived and is expected to recover, but 2-year-old Caleb tragically succumbed to his injuries. The local community is already vocalizing its grief and disbelief that someone could commit such a heinous act. The location where the pedestrian accident occurred has quickly become a shrine - with sympathizers leaving behind flowers, balloons and stuffed animals in memory of the deceased child.

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Driving While Drowsy to Blame for Thousands of Car Accidents Every Year

March 31, 2014

In recent years, many states, including the state of Georgia, have placed an even greater emphasis on the importance of curbing instances of distracted and drunken driving. Millions of dollars have spent on ad campaigns designed to directly target motorists to who text and drive, with one of the most noticeable campaigns being the "It Can Wait" campaign. This and similar campaigns use celebrity endorsements to solicit pledges from drivers to refrain from texting and driving. What the public fails to realize, however, is that another, just as dangerous activity has been contributing to upwards of 17 percent of fatal car crashes per year--yet, for some reason, it doesn't garner nearly as much attention.

Driving while drowsy is one of the top reasons thousands of Americans are involved in a car crash, with the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) citing it as the cause for upwards of 100,000 accidents annually. In 2010, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAAFTS) reported that two out of every five drivers (approximately 41 percent) reported falling asleep or nodding off while driving and, with episodes of drowsy driving primarily making an appearance after midnight (and, on a slightly smaller basis, during the mid-afternoon), certain groups of motorists, including younger drivers, commercial drivers, shift employees and people with untreated sleep disorders, are more susceptible to the phenomenon.

According to the NHTSA, because of the higher speeds and slower reaction times sleepiness causes, car accidents associated with drowsy driver are more likely to be serious or even fatal than the average car crash, with higher rates of morbidity and mortality. In fact, the behaviors characterizing drowsy-driving are eerily similar to those of inebriated drivers or drivers otherwise distracted. Unlike, drunk driving, however, there exists no instrument by which police officers can measure the degree of someone's "drowsiness" post-accident. This can interfere greatly with an investigation in the accident's aftermath and means that deterrence becomes even more important.

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Father Charged in Death of Own Child in Smyrna, Georgia DUI Car Accident

February 25, 2014

Fatal car accidents occurring as the result of a motorist driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are always tragic. Just as unfortunate, is when the resulting car crash claims not only the lives of other, innocent motorists but also the lives of the inebriated motorist's own passengers. All too often, we hear about the negligence of an irresponsible parent leading to the injury or death of a child. Such a situation is even more heartrending because children are essentially defenseless.

Barely able to walk, let alone see over a steering wheel or reach foot pedals, children are not qualified to be designated drivers. They cannot protest when their inebriated parent loads them into a vehicle, or drunkenly permits them to drive. They cannot confiscate the car keys from their parents' hands, and neither can they call for a ride. Oftentimes they are too young to fasten their own seatbelts and they certainly are incapable of properly installing their own booster seats. Instead, that's a duty to be fulfilled by their parents. It's most unfortunate that the people responsible for ensuring their children's' safety often fail to recognize the gravity of their responsibility - until it's too late.

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Snow Jam 2014 Culminates in Hundreds of Car Accidents, Few Injuries for the City of Atlanta

January 31, 2014

The names that people invented for this winter's catastrophe were just about as interesting as the snow storm itself, if not more so. From now on, the 2.6 inches of snow that effectively debilitated the entire city of Atlanta, Georgia for almost three full days and caused hundreds of auto accidents will be known alternatively as Snow Jam 2014, Snowpocalypse, and/or Snowmageddon. While one of those monikers sounds oddly like a concert title (and accordingly conjures up images of youths frolicking (see: jamming) about to their favorite tunes), the actual event was anything but. The city leadership's alleged ill-preparedness made it the butt of jokes nationwide, but for the people trapped inside the perimeter the distress caused by the storm was certainly no laughing matter.

Snow Storm Leon began early Tuesday, and by the end of the evening had culminated in hundreds of car accidents, abandoned cars and general headaches (see: migraines) for the city's citizens - and still the wind and snow continued to blow. Emergency vehicles were unable to access accident scenes due to the bumper-to-bumper traffic that resulted as everyone tried, en masse, to escape the storm in favor of the comfort of their homes. Many motorists elected to pull over and walk, and even more people found themselves spending the night in their cars as the storm continued and freezing temperatures made the icy roads too treacherous to traverse. Parents resorted to using 4x4s to pick up their children who were stuck at schools. At one point, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that emergency lines were receiving 300-400 calls on the hour.

By Tuesday night, conditions were so bad that police officials were allegedly only responding to auto accidents that involved more than two cars - and there were plenty of those. In fact, a majority of the accidents involved tractors trailers and multiple car pile-ups. Wednesday saw the snow begin to melt, only to re-freeze as temperatures dropped again, once again confining people to their homes. Thursday, motorists were still being warned about icy patches throughout the state as government workers began the cleanup process. By dawn on Friday morning, CNN reports that more than 2,029 cars that had not yet been claimed by their owners were towed from various locations throughout the Atlanta metro area.

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Georgia Truck Crash Due to Possible Brake Failure Nets $3.2 Million Verdict

January 21, 2014

A jury of 12 deliberated for 12 hours before returning to the courtroom with a favorable verdict for the plaintiffs, a husband and wife from Flowery Branch, Georgia who were the unfortunate victims of a horrendous truck accident. After almost three years and countless hours of preparation, the Parks received an award in the amount of $3.2 million - but only after allegedly faulty brakes on the Defendant driver's truck forever changed their lives. During the summer of 2011, the Parks were traversing I-85 when they noticed a HERO truck partially blocking the roadway. Ever-cautious, they stopped for the truck, as did another driver in front of them. However, a third vehicle, a truck owned by Atlanta Dealer Trades, failed to stop when the driver, Jessie Arnold, unsuccessfully applied the brakes. He proceeded to plow into the Parks' car from behind, "pushing their car 60 feet ahead and into another vehicle," according to the Daily Report.

The truck then proceeded to strike the car that had been in front of the Parks' car as well as the HERO vehicle, before finally coming to a rest on the highway. The truck had been recently purchased from another company, JCF Autotransport, Inc., and Atlanta Dealer Trades accordingly sought to have some degree of fault apportioned to that second company due to their alleged failure to maintain the truck's brakes. The Plaintiffs, however, dropped the second company as a defendant after their investigative efforts turned up no evidence of faulty brakes and the DeKalb County Court subsequently declined to allow the company to be included on the verdict form. Defendants plan to file an appeal and challenge both the Parks' claims for damages and the apportionment issue.

In total, the Parks accrued $200,000 and $154,173 in medical bills, respectively, with the need for additional medical services anticipated in the future. Damages requested included those amounts as well as attorney's fees, and estimated lost wages for six months (in the amount of $5,000 per month). All claims for punitive damages were dropped once it became clear that the jury was struggling to justify such a move. Once they were taken off of the table, the jury rendered the remainder of its verdict with relative ease.

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Atlanta Medical Malpractice Retrial Worth a Potential $50 Million Commences in Cobb County

January 8, 2014

According to the Daily Report, at the center of a medical malpractice retrial in Cobb County, Georgia, is whether an obstetrician will be held liable for a baby born with brain damage in 2008. The baby in question, Tucker Sutton, also called "Mighty Tuck" by his loved ones, sustained the injuries when he became trapped in his mother's birth canal for 1 minute and 58 seconds - what would have been a death sentence to most. Baby Tucker, however, survived--although he is likely to deal with the resulting health complications for the remainder of his life. In what the news medium has dubbed a "battle of expert witnesses," experts are expected to debate whether severe brain damage could have been avoided if the defendant obstetrician had delivered the child sooner and by cesarean section.

The previous case, which was tried in 2011, ended in a mistrial "with jurors reportedly favoring the defendant hospital and hung on the defendant obstetrician." In that first trial, the plaintiff parents requested damages of $50 million - estimated lifetime costs associated with the child's care. The hospital settled for an undisclosed amount, leaving the doctor as the only defendant in this case. Despite the settlement, and at the insistence of the obstetrician's counsel, however, the jury will be allowed to apportion fault to the hospital, resulting in a decrease in the amount of any damages the doctor might have to pay.

According to the defendant, the plaintiffs' birth plan called for a vaginal delivery and there was no viable medical reason to change the plan. The plaintiffs, on the other hand, believe a cesarean section could have mitigated their son's injuries. Upon hearing this, Georgia Medical malpractice attorneys immediately recognize that the crux of the problem is that C-sections in and of themselves, are not inherently risk-free. In fact, the defendant's attorney did not hesitate to point this out, telling the jury that the doctor did his part. ""C-sections are not risk-free," the defendant's attorney stated. "They carry with them their own complications, especially when infection is present like with this mom." Plaintiffs argue, however, that after the vaginal birth commenced and it became clear there would be complications, the defendant's inaction and purported negligence increased the risks for injury, which is why the doctor's actions are being called into question in the form of a medical malpractice claim.

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Major Jury Award in Troup County, Georgia Transport Accident Case

December 30, 2013

A Troup County jury has awarded the 94-year-old father of a disabled woman, Mary Ellen Humphrey, upwards of $3 million dollars after she was fatally ejected from a transport vehicle following a LaGrange, Georgia car accident. Pivotal to the plaintiff's victory in his wrongful death action, Greg Lands reports in the Daily Report's December 30 issue, was evidence that "restraining straps that should have been installed on the stretcher were missing." The single 63-year-old woman, who suffered from paralysis in her legs among a plethora of other health problems, had resided at a nursing home facility for approximately four years and required transport to and from the West Georgia Dialysis Center three times per week.

Ms. Humphrey had been placed on the stretcher and loaded onto a transport minivan owned by Brilansie Enterprises for a return trip from West Georgia Dialysis shortly before the 2010 auto crash. The resulting wrongful death suit was filed against the defendant driver (who perished later in an unrelated event), the executor of the defendant driver's estate, the driver of the transport van, Brilansie Enterprises (the transport company) and its insurer, and Southeastrans Inc., an Atlanta-based company that engages subcontractors who in turn provide NET to Medicaid and Medicare patients.

Evidence produced showed that Ms. Humphrey had been restrained by three straps across her torso when the defendant driver struck the vehicle, but the shoulder straps were conspicuously absent once she was extricated from the vehicle. The force of the impact "threw her forward from beneath...[the torso straps] and into the driver's seat 'with such force that it bent,' then continued forward, with her head slamming into the front console and her body wedged beneath the two front seats," according to the Daily Report's interpretation of the pre-trial order. Her injuries, which resulted in her death at the scene, included 18 broken ribs, a skull fracture, and a broken femur.

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