August 2011 Archives

Feds Reject Petition Calling for Seat Belts on School Buses Despite potential For prevention of Injuries in Bus Accidents

August 30, 2011

The federal administration has rejected a petition by consumer safety groups calling for the installation of seat belts on school buses. According to the administration, it does not have enough evidence to indicate that the benefits of installing seatbelts on all school buses would justify the heavy expenses involved. This position is reprehensible. It is well known that seatbelts save lives and in this case, we are talking about the lives of innocent children.

As Atlanta bus accident lawyers and parents ourselves, the topic of school bus safety is one that's particularly close to us, especially now that schools have started and thousands of children across Atlanta and Georgia are traveling by school buses. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration this week announced that it is rejecting a petition by consumer safety groups, asking for seatbelts on all school buses.

Safety groups including the Center for Auto Safety and the National Coalition for School Bus Safety had submitted a petition for a federal mandate for seat belts on all school buses. However, the agency has said that requiring seatbelts on all school buses means heavy expenses. According to the agency estimates, installing seatbelts would cost between $5,485 and $7,346 for a large school bus. These seatbelts are expected to cost between $375 and $600 each.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration believes that the safety benefits from requiring seat belts on school buses do not justify these expenses. The agency also believes that it would be better for the federal administration to stay out of this issue, and leave it to state and local governments.

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Dogs at Issue in New Distracted Driving Crackdown

August 26, 2011

A new study by AAA and Kurgo has reported that 52 percent of drivers admit to "petting their canine companions instead of paying attention to the road," and another 17 percent allow their pets to sit in their laps while driving. This is all according to an article published on Edmunds Inside Line. Kurgo, a pet travel company, polled 1,000 dog owners who had traveled with their pets in the past 12 months.

Car accident attorneys in Georgia know this doesn't bode well for drivers with furry friends. Looking away from the road for a mere two seconds doubles a driver's risk of being involved in a car crash. Think about those two seconds. Now, picture how many seconds it takes you to pet your pooch and watch that level of risk increase significantly.

The problem, researchers summarized, could probably be rectified if more owners seriously considered restraining their pooches. Interestingly enough, many of those polled admitted that they knew operating a vehicle with an unharnessed animal was risky business, yet chose to engage in it anyway. 83 percent of drivers agreed that an unrestrained pet is dangerous, but only 16 percent reported restraining their pet.

Here are some of the top reasons why drivers elect to let their pets ride unrestrained:

•42 percent think their dog is calm and therefore doesn't need a restraint;

•For another 39 percent, it never crossed their minds that their pet might need to be harnessed;

•29 percent think a short trip (like going to the store) isn't a big deal;

•12 percent want their dog to be able to put his/her head out the window.

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Most Americans Strongly Support Rules to Reduce Teen Car Accidents

August 25, 2011

Automobile accidents are the biggest factor in teen wrongful deaths. Car accident lawyers believe that those fatality numbers could drop if more states, including Georgia adopted stronger teen driver graduated driver licensing programs. A new survey indicates that such programs have strong support.

The survey by Allstate Insurance involved more than 1,000 adults, and tried to determine their reaction to the pending Safe Teen and Novice Driver Uniform Protection Act (STANDUP). This legislation would set strict standards for driver's licensing programs, and would also set uniform guidelines for graduated driver's license programs. As things currently stand, there is no single uniform federal standard that states have to meet while developing graduated driver's licensing programs.

As a result, different states have different rules, and while some states have implemented necessary rules like restricting the number of passengers that teenagers can have while on a provisional driver's permit, other states have rules that are too lax to keep teenagers safe or inculcate good driving practices.

In the survey, 59% of respondents said that they were in favor of implementation of a three-step licensing program for teenage drivers. Additionally, more than 60% of the respondents were in favor of stronger restrictions on teenagers, like driving at night or with teenage passengers. There was also tremendous support for banning the use of cell phones while driving for teenagers. More than 80% of the respondents were in favor of a ban like this that would reduce the number of accidents caused by distractions.

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Construction Worker Killed in Georgia On-th-Job Accident

August 11, 2011

A construction worker from Jacksonville was killed last week in an accident at a construction site in Georgia. The accident occurred at the College of Coastal Georgia in Glynn County. The victim suffered an electrical shock and fell from a ladder. Unfortunately, Georgia workers' compensation law has fallen behind the times. The workers' family will only be able to recover a relatively small amount through the workers' compensation system.

The construction industry is one of the most dangerous workplaces in America. Construction worker deaths account for one out of every three workplace accident fatalities in the country. That is an appalling safety record, and it is one that Atlanta Workers' Compensation lawyers have been extremely concerned about.

The thirty-two-year-old worker was working on the ladder, and had just reached out to turn on a piece of machinery. Suddenly, there was a loud sound, and the worker fell down several rungs of the ladder. There were no witnesses at the scene. The victim was rushed to the Southeast Georgia Health System's Brunswick Hospital, but he succumbed to his injuries.

The worker was employed by a subcontractor working at the site. The College of Coastal Georgia is investigating the accident. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is also expected to begin an investigation into this accident. The construction site is a $12 million project for the College of Coastal Georgia.

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Does Too Much Auto Safety Technology Increase Car Accident Risks?

August 10, 2011

Atlanta car accident lawyers have acknowledged that the fact that cars now come with newer, better and improved auto safety aids to prevent accidents is a major reason why auto accident wrongful deaths are down over the past decade. However, as Americans get more used to cars that seem to be designed purely to avoid accidents, there is a danger that driver input and participation in the driving process will decrease, raising inattention, and even increasing the risks of an accident.

A report in Wired.com asks the critical question - could auto safety devices actually be a little dangerous? There is no doubt that auto safety technologies like Lane departure warning systems, adaptive cruise control and pedestrian warning systems play a critical role in reducing accident wrongful deaths. These warning systems can alert a driver to an object or a pedestrian in their path, thereby motivating drivers to slow down and avoid a auto accident. Lane departure warning systems sound an alarm when the motorist is dozing off at the wheel, and is in danger of veering off his lane.

For thousands of Americans, these systems are now part and parcel of the driving experience. However, there may be a danger on depending too much on auto safety technologies. These systems are designed to reduce a driver's focus on the road. Automobiles nowadays are designed to take much of the responsibility for safety off a driver's shoulders.

There's no doubt that these safety devices are very important in certain situations. For instance, when a driver is tired and returning home from a double work shift, a lane departure warning system can alert him to a possibly serious accident hazard. On Atlanta's congested streets, these auto safety devices could prove a blessing. However, a driver who is traveling on a relatively safe, empty highway with no accident risks in sight, could actually become complacent and too relaxed while driving. A person like this could simply be coasting along, and may be unable to react appropriately when a sudden accident threat emerges.

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Lack of Access to Trauma Care Places Georgia Tourists at High Risk of Car Accident Death

August 8, 2011

For most Atlanta residents planning a vacation this summer, access to emergency trauma care in their vacation destination is not really at the top of the priority list. In fact, most people on vacation don't give a second thought to whether their holiday destination has easy and quick access to trauma care in the event of an accident with serious injuries, or other emergency. A new interactive map released by the American Society shows that some of the country's most frequented holiday spots have pitiful access to trauma care.

Last week, the American Trauma Society released a map which allows users to check the availability of trauma care across the country. Splatters of purple cover those areas that have good access to trauma care. Atlanta car accident lawyers were not surprised to find that in Georgia, the only areas that have good access to trauma care are located in the metro Atlanta region. The rest of the state, especially rural areas, have poor access to trauma care facilities.

Across the rest of the country, you'll find that some of the biggest tourist magnets have no access to trauma care. If you're headed to Martha's Vineyard, Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone, or the Key West, be warned - these areas are some of the worst positioned in the country when it comes to emergency critical care,. If you are in these areas, and are involved in a car accident or any other type of emergency that requires emergency trauma care, you could be in serious trouble.

Critical care is important because it is often the only factor deciding whether a person survives a serious accident. If an accident victim can be rushed to a trauma care facility within the first sixty minutes of being involved in a serious accident, his chances of surviving with minimal damage increase substantially. If, on the other hand, he has been unfortunate enough to be injured in an accident on a rural road, with the nearest trauma care facility miles away, then his chances of surviving the accident begin to drop. In Georgia, most fatal accidents occur in rural areas that are located far away from the nearest trauma facility. In south Georgia, there are almost no trauma care hospitals to speak of. That is a horrible situation, and places people in these areas at a high risk of death if they are involved in accidents.

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Metrolink Train Accident Settlement Illustrates Dangers of Tort Reform

August 7, 2011

Earlier this month, a judge carved up a $200 million settlement fund to be divided among dozens of people who had filed personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits against Southern California's commuter rail network and other defendants. For many of these plaintiffs, the settlement money will barely cover medical costs, leave alone the crushing expenses they can expect over the rest of their lifetime. For Atlanta car accident lawyers, the limited liability rail operators enjoy illustrates the dangers of tort reform.

In September 2008, the Metrolink commuter train crashed into a freight train near Los Angeles, killing twenty-five people and injuring more than 100 people. Many of these people sustained serious injuries because they were in the first car that sustained maximum impact from the collision. Many people suffered spinal cord injuries and head injuries, and some of them still continue to receive treatment for these injuries close to three years after the accident.

However, Metrolink's liability in the event of an accident was capped at $200 million. The cap was enforced as part of the Amtrak Reform an Accountability Act in 1997, which was meant to help rail operators become more profitable. A $200 million settlement seems fair, unless you are dealing with a catastrophic accident, in which 25 people have died and more than 100 people are severely injured. Investigations showed that the accident had been caused by the carelessness of the Metrolink engineer at the controls, who had been texting at the time of the accident.

For the Los Angeles judge who was given the unenviable task of dividing $200 million among all the defendants, every day presented a Sophie's choice-type dilemma. Many of these personal injury and wrongful death plaintiffs deserved to be compensated far more than they were under the terms of the settlement. Many of the people who lost loved ones in the accident lost breadwinners, and these people face an immense financial struggle ahead. One victim of the accident, a foreign exchange student, suffered serious brain injuries, and is still in rehabilitation. She received the biggest settlement of more than $9 million, but her caregivers expect her to need therapy for several more years. As the judge noted in his ruling, one person who died in the accident left behind a special needs child. The average age of children lost in accident was nineteen years.

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U.S. Defense Contractor Faces Negligence claims after the Wrongful Death of U.S. Soldiers in Afghanistan

August 6, 2011

Alleged failure to conduct a proper background check on an interpreter has U.S. defense contractor Mission Essential Personnel facing charges of negligence in the deaths of two American soldiers, according to Associated Press reporter Richard Lardner. The wrongful death suit filed by surviving members of the soldiers' families alleges the company was in a rush to hire interpreters when it brought on the gunman, and may have omitted important hiring procedures. The contractor serves as the U.S. government's primary supplier of linguists. Central to the case will be whether the wrongful deaths were the result of negligent hiring and negligent retention. Likewise, the precautions taken after the employee was terminated must also be examined.

Just a few months after arriving at the base near Kabul, Nasir Ahmed Ahmadi was fired for his increasingly strange behavior - troops later confessed they thought he may have been on drugs. Whatever the case, shortly after his termination, an incensed Ahmadi went on a shooting rampage, killing two soldiers and wounding a third. To wrongful death attorneys, it seems the entire episode could have been avoided with the employ of proper screening techniques.

Typically, when hiring in volatile situations like this one, thorough psychological exams and background checks are and should be conducted on all prospective employees. In fact, this is a standard practice in most hiring situations. Of course, MEP claims this is something it did, telling the Associated Press in a statement that Ahmadi was "thoroughly vetted for his deployment, including medical, physical and counter-intelligence screening." However, if what they assert is really the case, one has to question the overall effectiveness of their screening methods. To put it more simply, is it truly possible that within a few months after "testing" Ahmadi's condition deteriorated to the point of such instability? While possible, it is probably unlikely.

The production of records during the discovery phase of the lawsuit may answer many questions regarding whether the required screening took place, but leaves unanswered queries regarding effectiveness. Ascertaining effectiveness will undoubtedly take a thorough and time-consuming analysis.

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Bavis Family may be the First to Recover in a Wrongful Death Suit against Airline Stemming from the 9/11Tragedy

August 2, 2011

No one knows the terror that Mark Bavis faced as his flight was hijacked and subsequently crashed into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. However, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled on Wednesday July 27th, 2011, that Bavis' family may be able to recover "terror" or pain and suffering damages for the minutes of terror that Bavis endured before his death if they prove that the defendants in the wrongful death claim they have filed are liable. After the death of Mark Bavis on September 11, 2001, the Bavis family filed a wrongful death claim against the Massachusetts Port Authority, United Airlines and Huntleigh USA Corp, a security company. In addition to ruling that the family may seek terror damages, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein also released the Massachusetts Port Authority from the case.

The Bavis family claims that the above mentioned defendants are responsible for the death of Mark Bavis, who was aboard United States Airlines Flight 175 on September 11th, because the defendants failed to ensure that weapons were not brought aboard the plane. In order for the family to prevail in their wrongful death case against the remaining defendants, the family will have to prove that the hijackers got the weapons aboard the plane as a result of the defendant's negligence.

During the after math of the September 11th attacks, thousands of families were compensated through a special fund created by congress. A smaller group of around one hundred families have filed wrongful death suits against the airlines or private security companies charged with securing checkpoints, like Hellerstein. All of these suits, except the Bavis case, have been resolved outside of court resulting in these families receiving, in total, around $500 million. The Bavis case, which is set to go to trial in November, is the only remaining case of its kind, and it is the only case to go to trial.

According to the New York Times, Judge Hellerstein, after listening to both arguments regarding the issue of damages, indicated that he would likely allow the jury to come up with a figure for the pain and suffering Mark Bavis endured during the final twenty-one minutes of his life. The Judge stated, "My thinking is tending toward allowing terror damages." Judge Hellerstein also stated to the New York Times that the main issue of the trial is whether United Airlines and Huntleigh were negligent in screening, which the Judge said was their responsibility. According to Judge Hellerstein, "The plaintiffs will have to prove that the way that the terrorists got stuff aboard is the way that everybody gets stuff aboard, that is, through screening." Regarding the evidence that Judge Hellerstein would allow during trial, he stated that he would limit the evidence to what United and Huntleigh knew or should have known, as opposed to what the FBI, CIA or other intelligence agencies knew regarding the threat.

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