Who is Liable in an Accident Caused by a Medical Emergency at the Wheel?

June 16, 2016

Sometimes, car accidents are the result of a driver having a medical emergency at the wheel. For instance, a driver who suffers a heart attack, stroke, or seizure may lose control of his or her vehicle, leading to a serious accident.

In cases like this, can another injured driver or passenger recover damages from the motorist who lost control as a result of a medical condition?

This can be a tricky question to resolve. Liability will depend very heavily on whether the motorist who had the medical emergency was aware of his or her health condition or the medical risks involved in driving.

For instance, if the motorist had a history of health problems such as diabetes, or had previously suffered episodes of seizures or diabetic coma, the court may consider that the motorist was negligent with respect to his or her medical condition and choosing to drive anyway. In other words, driving while you are aware of a medical problem that could place you at risk of suffering a seizure or some other problem which increases the risk of an accident could make you liable for damages.

However, if a motorist was not aware of his medical condition, and could not possibly have known about the risk involved, he may not be liable for a claim. For instance, if a person suffers a sudden first heart attack at the wheel, and causes an accident, it is unlikely that he could successfully be held liable in a personal injury claim.

Establishing that the other motorist had knowledge of his medical condition, but chose to drive anyway, can be challenging. Medical records, which are normally confidential, would need to be obtained via the litigation process and reviewed by an expert. This is one of the areas where quality legal representation can make a huge impact on a recovery for damages.

Nursing Home Workers Posting Embarrassing, Explicit Pictures of Residents Online

January 25, 2016

The explosion of social media has unfortunately meant more ways for unprofessional staff members at nursing homes to abuse vulnerable residents. A shocking exposé by ProPublica documents evidence of instances in which nursing home staff uploaded embarrassing, humiliating or degrading images or videos of vulnerable elderly residents in their care.

Many of these images were uploaded on social media networks like SnapChat, which displays pictures posted on it for a few seconds before deleting them. The ProPublica exposé investigated such instances, and found a total of 35 episodes that have occurred since 2012 alone. In all of these instances, staff members at nursing homes took pictures of residents in some of their most vulnerable states, and shared them on social media. Sixteen of the pictures or images were uploaded on SnapChat.

In some of these pictures and videos, residents were either totally or partially naked. In one instance recorded in 2014, a worker at a Washington-based nursing care facility uploaded a video of a resident sitting on a portable toilet. In yet another horrifying video, one worker can be seen slapping the face of an elderly resident using a nylon strap, to which the woman protests. In the background, other employees can be heard laughing.

Some of these cases have led to prosecution, and they should. In at least one case, the workers involved were fired. Some nursing homes have implemented stronger cell phone policies and stricter restrictions on the use of social media by staff members while on duty.

What seems to be more disturbing is that the number of these incidents is actually increasing. The ProPublica investigation analyzed the occurrence of these incidents over a period of four years, and found only 13 episodes recorded in the first two years. That number had ballooned to 22 cases in the next two years.

As social media use continues to rise, and the number of social networking sites that allow users to share content with others increases, the opportunity for sinister conduct on the part of nursing home staff also increases. It is important for facilities that are trusted with the care our sick and elderly be held to a very high standard, and implement policies to protect those who are vulnerable.

How to Stay Alert for Terror Threats During the Holidays

December 15, 2015

Times have changed. While this may be the most wonderful time of the year, recent headlines have carried more misfortune and tragedy than any of us care to see.

Terrorism is a real and present danger in the world today, and the threat persists even here in our homeland.

History has taught us to associate terrorism with travel and days of significance. Indeed, the national terror threat level often rises during periods of peak travel, including the winter holiday season. That makes December a time for not only celebration but also the exercise of caution.

Frightening as the nightly news cycle can seem, we all owe it to ourselves to live a free and fulfilling life. We must cast off the shackles of fear and embrace the world for all the wonder and kindness it offers. Of course, common wisdom dictates that we keep a level head on our shoulders.

Vigilance is a virtue. As our leaders have reminded us on recent occasions, we should take note of suspicious behavior and alert the authorities about our concerns. As the saying goes, "If you see something, say something."

While none of us can single-handedly stop the threat of terrorism in the world, we can at least do our part by staying alert and being prepared to take preventative action. Indeed, several planned attacks have been thwarted in the past because ordinary citizens exercised due caution.
Tips for Staying Alert to the Threat of Terrorism While Celebrating the Holidays

The United States government issued a newly heightened terror warning on Monday, November 23, 2015. It reads, in part:

"U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation. Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events."

That particular alert is in effect for three months and will expire on February 24, 2016.

As part of that call for awareness, experts offer the following advice for those who plan to celebrate the holiday season:

• Keep an eye open for suspicious activity while in public places or in big crowds.

• Exercise extra caution in theaters, sporting venues, hotel parties, bars, restaurants, entertainment venues, open markets, airports, and while using public transportation or aviation services. The government has advised avoiding these areas as much as possible.

• Remember that people who might attempt to carry out attacks can look and act like any other "average American."

• Don't doubt your instincts. If you see something suspicious, alert the authorities right away.

• Keep your cell phones charged and on your person when possible (if safe and allowed).

• Stay in touch with your family members and close friends. Make sure they know where you plan to be and how they can contact you. Share your travel itinerary with them in advance.

• Monitor local and national media. Know what's going on in the world.

• Be prepared for additional security measures, longer waits, and unexpected interruptions while traveling.

• Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP).
Stay Safe. Have Fun.

Remember: there is a difference between awareness and paranoia. Don't allow fear to overtake you. Even amid the elevated risk, incidents of terrorism are incredibly rare. The odds are in favor of your safety this season, so take comfort in that fact. Simply commit to staying alert while otherwise enjoying the happiest time of the year.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone!

Group Motorcycle Riding Safety

June 8, 2015

Motorcycling is a lot more fun with friends. Group motorcycling can be an exhilarating experience. However, when you are riding with other motorcyclists, there may be missteps, including miscommunications that could increase the risk of an accident involving one or several members of your group.

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends these safety tips.

Organize your ride beforehand. Chalk out your route, and determine where and how often you'll be stopping for rest breaks and fuel stops.

Before you begin the ride, determine the formation of your group. Group motorcycle riding is best done in a structured and organized formation, and not randomly. Your risks of being involved in an accident increase when you're riding with no predetermined formation. The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recommends a staggered formation that allows for safe and convenient riding. Avoid a side-by-side formation that lowers the amount of room motorcyclists have to maneuver.

Make new riders ride in the middle, so that they do not get left behind. A new motorcyclist is likely to panic when he is left behind, and may try to ride at high speeds, which could increase the risk of an accident. Before you begin the ride, determine the formation of your group.

Designate a leader for the group, and encourage all motorcyclists to frequently check their mirrors and allow the motorcyclists behind them to catch up. Doing this allows all members to stay as close to each other as possible, without being left behind.

At least one member of the group must carry a first aid kit that comes complete with emergency medical supplies, a fully-charged cell phone, and other essentials. Also ensure that another motorcyclist is carrying a full toolkit. All motorcyclists must ride with a full tank.

Ensure that all members of your group are familiar with common motorcycle hand signals that you can use to communicate with each other while you are riding. Practice these hand signals so that everyone in your group is on the same page.

GDOT Shows Distracted Driving a Factor in Increase in Traffic Accident Fatalities

May 28, 2015

Motor vehicle accident fatalities continue to be a problem across the United States. This is true in Georgia, where the traffic accident fatality toll in the first half of 2015 looks set to exceed the number recorded the previous year. The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) believes that distracted driving, accounts for much of that increase.

Thus far, according to the statistics, traffic accidents are up by 25% over the previous year. Georgia records an average of 100 fatalities every month, and at that rate, the total will be at least 1,200 fatalities by the end of the year. If that happens, it would be an increase of 4.6% from 2014. There have been close to 400 traffic accident fatalities in Georgia this year.

Other findings from the 2015 statistics should cause even more alarm. For example, many of the fatalities were not wearing seat belts at the time of the accident. Only 38 % of the motorists involved in fatal accidents were wearing seat belts at the time. In addition, 69% failed to maintain their lanes. These are crucial driving errors that dramatically increase the risk of being killed in an accident.

Even more worrisome is the fact that single-car accidents are on the increase. About 60% of the fatalities involved drivers whose cars crashed into trees, bridges, or other stationary objects. This seems indicative of distracted driving. Causes of serious car accidents vary, but it is likely that many of the drivers and/or passengers in these cases were inattentive, or preoccupied at the time of the accident.

It's hard to say for certain how many accidents in 2015 were linked to distracted driving. These accidents will result in investigations that will take many months to complete, and therefore, complete information will not be available for many months. However, when an accident involves a car and a stationary object, it is reasonable to assume that the driver was inattentive or distracted by something at the wheel. Other possibilities, however, include defective automobile parts, such as brake or tire failure.

According to the Georgia Department of Transportation statistics, in 2014, out of a total of 8,581 accidents linked to distracted driving, at least 18 were fatal. In 2009, out of 3,454 accidents directly linked to distracted driving, 11 were fatal accidents. That seems to indicate that the proportion of fatal distracted driving accidents is increasing steadily. During that same time, the number of people injured in distracted driving accidents increased by 181%.

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 § 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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