COVID-19 Update: How We are Serving and Protecting Our Clients.

Health-14-300x209Most car accidents result in either minor injuries or no injuries at all to the drivers and passengers involved. This information is useless to individuals who, unfortunately, are involved in serious crashes that require urgent medical care. Even worse, more than 100 people in the U.S. die every day due to negligence on the road. 

If everything goes as it should after an accident, the insurance company of the at-fault party will pay out the amount that victims (or their families) are entitled to. Sometimes, though, if the insurance company isn’t being fair, litigation may be necessary. If you have to pursue justice in court, you need to be aware of the types of damages (compensation) you may receive. 

Economic Damages

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Should your child’s university or college take steps to make sure his or her bunk bed is safe?  Either by lowering the upper bed or, if that cannot be done, by providing railings to keep the child from rolling out of the lofted bed?  This not a trick question. It may seem like common sense to you. The simple answer should be an easy “yes.” Right? But as Coach Lee Corso says on “College GameDay,”  “Not so fast!”

College students’ being injured by falling out of their bunk beds is, apparently, a fairly common and significant problem. You may remember the story of Clark Jacobs, a Georgia Tech student who fell out of his lofted bed in his fraternity house. He fell 7 feet from his bed to the hard floor of his room. He was diagnosed with a fractured skull and a brain bleed which then led to a stroke. Five years later and hundreds of hours of therapy, including in-patient rehabilitation at Shepherd’s Spinal Center, Clark graduated from Georgia Tech this summer.

The life-changing episode motivated Clark’s parents so much to try to make dorm rooms safe for students they started the non-profit Rails Against The Danger, whose mission is to educate the public about the danger of lofted beds in dorm rooms and to let students they have the right to demand the university make the bed safe by lowering it or providing safety bed rails.  It is estimated there are approximately 71,000 cases of loft bed/bunk bed-related injuries annually among children and young adults up to 21 years of age. Let that sink in. Some of these falls result in the death of the student. For example, at Miami University in Ohio, a 20 year old student died from a 6 foot fall from his bed in his fraternity. For a risk with potential outcomes so catastrophic, it is truly difficult to understand why universities just don’t simply provide bedrails and ladders with every bunk bed. As Clark Jacobs’s mother points out: “It is ridiculous to take a chance when the danger is so easily avoided. Many campus bunk beds don’t even have ladders, requiring the students to climb up the bed frame to get into bed,” she said.

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You may have heard of the recent death of a Milton high school teacher due to carbon monoxide poisoning while she was in her town home.  At least seven people in the connected town homes were injured, some seriously, by this carbon monoxide poisoning episode. It was so tragic and unexpected. The situation is still under investigation, but officials say they believe the exposure at the town homes was caused by an unoccupied vehicle left accidentally running in one of the town home’s garages. Investigators have since determined someone left their car running in their garage, sending the carbon monoxide through the adjoining homes.

Although this tragedy invoked the call for more people to have carbon monoxide detectors in their homes, I was surprised it didn’t also create an outcry that automobile manufacturers change their faulty design of ignition buttons.  This is referred to as “keyless ignitions.”  It has been well known for some time now that ignition buttons like the ones shown above have a faulty design that doesn’t allow the driver to know easily whether they have successfully turned off their car. There have been numerous instances of people dying from carbon monoxide poisoning in their homes due to their car still running in their garage that is attached to their home. It is no secret that these ignition “buttons” are defective in design and utilization.

The photographs above are from a rental car I drove recently.  The only visible difference from these two buttons is that one has the very small “OFF” that appears to be illuminated in yellow and the other one has a very small “RUN” that appears to be illuminated in yellow. The one on the right is when the car engine is running. The one on the left is when the car engine is off.  Do you see how hard it is to tell the difference?  Sometimes these engines are so quiet the driver cannot tell whether he or she has correctly pressed the button all the way in to turn off the car. And because these cars have “fobs” now rather than actual keys, you may be carrying the fob in your pocket or in your purse and you may be still close enough to the car even when you are in your home that the car “thinks” the fob is still in the car and it will continue to run. When the garage is attached to the house, carbon monoxide fumes can quickly and easily travel into the home, sickening anyone inside. This is even more likely and foreseeable when the garage is attached to a town home, as it was in the recent tragedy in Milton. Not only did the carbon monoxide travel into the first town home where the running car was garaged, it continued to leak into the attached town homes, sickening others.

Accident-10-300x200In the hazy aftermath of a car accident, it can be difficult to determine how to behave and what steps to take. Besides getting to safety, you also have to worry about preserving your eventual claim with your insurance company. This blog will cover some of the important details you need to know if you are involved in a serious auto accident in Georgia. 

  1. Call the authorities and get necessary medical attention. This is crucial even if you haven’t suffered any visible injuries. Many health problems, like traumatic brain injuries and other internal wounds, are often not immediately visible. Besides taking care of your health and wellbeing, getting medical care for any injuries is important for your eventual claim (documenting medical expenses). Generally, it is also against the law to leave the scene of an accident. 
  1. Take pictures, interview witnesses, gather (and preserve) evidence. Unless it is unsafe to do so, take out your cell phone and take a copious amount of pictures at the scene. Be sure to get closeups of the damage to your car and any visible injuries. When emergency vehicles get to the scene, they will clean everything up fairly quickly, so time is of the essence. Get contact information for anyone you think may have witnessed the accident; you don’t necessarily have to put them on the spot and interrogate them about what they saw. It can be useful to get a binder or folder so all documents pertinent to the accident can be in one place. 

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I have noticed during this Coronavirus Pandemic that there are more bicyclists and walkers out on our streets than usual.  It seems everyone is trying to use the time they, otherwise, might be spending at their office, getting some much-needed exercise. Over the past two months, bicycle sales saw their biggest spike in the U.S. since the oil crisis of the 1970s. Sales of adult leisure bikes tripled in April while overall U.S. bike sales, including children’s’ and electric-assist bicycles, doubled from the year before. Sales of commuter and fitness bikes in the same month increased 66 percent, leisure bikes jumped 121 percent, children’s bikes went up 59 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent. By the end of April, many stores and distributors had sold out of low-end consumer bikes. Now, the United States is facing a severe bicycle shortage as global supply chains, disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak, scramble to meet the surge in demand.

Unfortunately, with so many extra pedestrians and bicyclists on the street come more injuries from being hit by a car or truck.  This is especially true as walkers often walk in the streets themselves rather than the sidewalk to distance themselves from other walkers on the sidewalks. For bicyclists, many are hopping on bikes for the first time in years and may not be used to the traffic encountered on certain streets and the danger it brings.  In New York City, for example, bicyling injuires were up 43% during the Coronvirus crisis. I have not seen similar government-maintained statistics for Georgia, although the Department of Highway Safety does still have online a manual for bicycle riders from 2006.  You may find all of Georgia’s rules and ordinances regarding riding a bicycle on the Georgia Deparment of Highway Safety’s website, although it may be a little out of date.

I have represented numerous pedestrians and numerous cyclists in cases when they have been hit by a vehicle. Often, the driver of the vehicle does the right thing and stays with the cyclist and calls 911. But sometimes, the driver of the vehicle does the absolute wrong thing and leaves the scene and leaves the cyclist hurt and alone on the pavement. The vehicle driver who leaves the scene becomes a “John Doe,” identity unknown. Many injured pedestrians or cyclists may think there is nothing they can do to get justice in that situation, that the at-fault driver just gets away with it. But there is a little known method of recovery under the injured person’s uninsured motorist coverage, if the victim owns a car and it is insured with uninsured motorist coverage. That particular type of car insurance actually covers you as a pedestrian or cyclist if you are hit by an unknown vehicle, as long as there is some type of corroboration that it was, in fact, a vehicle that hit the person. Corroboration can be made by an eyewitness, physical evidence left at the scene, e.g., a car bumper torn off, damaged bike or possibly other evidence that you would expect to see in a vehicle v. bike collision.  Unless you practice this kind of personal injury law, like I do, you would have no reason even to be aware that your car insurance policy might cover you as a pedestrian or cyclist. It is not clear from reading most policies, and you sure can’t count on your insurance agent informing you of it.

Friends:

Today I am proud to present to you a tribute to Congressman John Lewis written by my summer law clerk, Austin Weatherly.  Austin will begin his law school journey next month as a 1L at University of Georgia School of Law. He did his undergraduate work at New York University and then spent the last few years working at Turner Broadcasting. It has been our pleasure having Austin with us this summer, sometimes in person at the office and sometimes virtually via Zoom.  I have known Austin and his family most of his life and he has proven himself to be an outstanding young man, a kind and caring person who treats others as he would have them treat him.  This will serve him well as a Georgia Lawyer. We know Austin is going to do great things at UGA Law and later in the practice of law. We will look forward to following his career. Now, enjoy his tribute honoring Congressman John Lewis.


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My name is Austin Weatherly, and I am currently serving as Robin’s law clerk. I was born into the congressional care of John Lewis. Until his passing, he had been my congressman my entire life. To me and my family he served as an example of the hard work required by a true patriot. Lewis exhibited a brand of patriotism rooted in realizing the potential and promise of America. He dreamed of a nation framed by the constitution, and built on freedom and equality. In an effort to honor John Lewis I have prepared this brief remembrance. 

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During the on-going global pandemic many states have adopted additional liability protections for the healthcare industry. Governors in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan have all signed executive orders codifying additional protections. In Georgia, Governor Kemp has signed a number of executive orders that provide different levels of legal immunity for those working to help with the state’s response to the public health emergency. Georgia’s most notable executive order regarding liability protections, was signed into action by the governor on April 14th.

Governor Kemp’s April 14th executive order offered nearly all healthcare workers and facilities the same protections as “auxiliary emergency management workers,” pursuant to O.C.G.A 38-3-35. This code offers sweeping protections against liability during a state of emergency. It states that the parties outlined cannot be held liable for death, injury, or damage to property, except in cases of willful misconduct, gross negligence, or bad faith. The specific designations of who is considered an “auxiliary emergency management worker,” are outlined in O.C.G.A. Codes, 31-7-1(4)(A), 31-7-1(4)(C)-(G) and 31-7-1(5). Based on these codes all active hospitals, nursing homes, ambulatory care facilities, surgical centers, testing lab facilities, birthing centers, imaging centers, or public health centers are protected. These protections went into effect upon the governor’s signature on April 14th and will be in place until the public health state of emergency ends. 

Even with executive orders in place to shield the healthcare industry from liability, Georgia lawmakers continued to work toward constructing additional protections. The Georgia house of representatives introduced House Bill 167, which offered increased protections for all Covid-19 related cases, and sought to make them permanent. This specific bill bounced between the Georgia house and senate, until many of the key considerations were absorbed into Senate Bill 359. On the final day of the legislative session SB 359 was adopted, superseding the governor’s April 14th executive order. The bill currently awaits the governor’s signature to be passed into law. Given the governor’s record, the signing of the bill should be considered a formality. 

white-volvo-semi-truck-on-side-of-road-2199293-300x200Auto accidents among passenger vehicles, especially when they occur on the interstate or freeway, can have devastating consequences for those involved. When an accident involves a large truck or tractor-trailer, though, this potential goes up exponentially. The average tractor-trailer is at least 20 times heavier than the typical passenger sedan and takes much longer to come to a complete stop. 

In addition to the increased possibility of serious injury or death with a trucking accident, there is also an increase in the number of liable parties. Who might be responsible for a trucking accident, and who will have to pay the plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit? This blog will explore four possible parties. 

  1. Truck Driver. In an investigation following a trucking accident, the focus usually begins with the actions of the driver. Was he texting on his cellphone? Was he making telephone calls or in a telephone conversation? Was he or she speeding or driving recklessly at the time of the accident? Was there an effort to stop the truck right before the collision? Was the driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs or suffering from lack of sleep? These are some questions that need to be answered in an investigation. 

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The global pandemic has caused many state legal systems to declare a judicial state of emergency. The state of Georgia is currently under state of emergency protocols that are set to last through August 11, 2020.  When jury trials will restart in Georgia is any one’s guess. I just received a new Order from the Chief Judge of the Northern District of Georgia, Hon. Thomas Thrash, dated July 10, 2020, extending the Federal Judicial Order through August 30, 2020. In his Order, Chief Judge Thrash stated:

Data from the Georgia Department of Public Health reflects that the average number

of new COVID-19 cases per day in the State of Georgia has increased and remains higher

heidi-fin-2TLREZi7BUg-unsplash-300x195One important aspect of many personal injury cases is the duty of care that the defendant owed at the time of the plaintiff’s injury. That is, how responsible is the property owner or manager for the injuries suffered by the victim? To help answer this question, Georgia courts generally classify plaintiffs into one of three categories: invitee, licensee, and trespasser. 

Say you slipped and fell due to standing water outside of a business. How liable is the business for your injuries? What if your slip-and-fall occurred at your friend’s house? This blog will explore the three duty-of-care types and what it means for your personal injury case.

Invitee. This first duty of care provides plaintiffs with the greatest chance to succeed in their personal injury case if the invitee classification does apply. An invitee is someone who has either been “expressly” invited onto a property or received an implied invitation to occupy the premises for business purposes. Patrons of a retail store and residents of an apartment complex are all considered to be invitees. 

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