Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

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An “uninsured motorist” policy provides coverage to the insured when he or she is the victim of an accident caused by another party that has insufficient resources to pay the full amount of any legal damages. In this context, “uninsured” also means under-insured. Thus, for example, if Driver A is in an accident caused by Driver B, and Driver B’s insurance only covers half of the damages awarded in a subsequent lawsuit, Driver A’s uninsured motorist carrier would pay the remaining half.

But what if Driver B is an agent of the State of Georgia? Normally, state agencies (and their employees) enjoy “sovereign immunity” from most civil lawsuits. The idea is that a state cannot be sued in its own courts without its consent, which is normally granted through legislation. However, when a local government in Georgia purchases liability insurance, sovereign immunity is waived up to the limit of said policy. What does this mean for accident victims with uninsured motorist coverage? A federal judge in Savannah recently attempted to answer this very question.

FCCI Insurance Company v. McLendon Enterprises, Inc.

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Although it’s commonly said that police “protect and serve,” a local government is not necessarily liable when its sworn officers fail to protect the general public from harm. In a 1993 decision, the Georgia Supreme Court adopted what became known as a “public duty doctrine.” This doctrine holds that a municipality can only be liable for nonfeasance–a police officer’s failure to act–if there’s a “special relationship” between the individual alleging negligence and the local government. As defined by the Georgia Supreme Court, this means the police must give the person “an explicit assurance” of protection or assistance that the person then relies upon to his or her detriment.

Stevenson v. City of Doraville

Recently, the Supreme Court considered the application of the public duty doctrine to a negligence lawsuit arising from a multi-car traffic accident in DeKalb County. During a rainstorm one evening, a driver on Interstate 285 experienced car trouble. The driver was in the lane nearest the median. He attempted to cross six lanes and bring his car onto the shoulder, but the car stalled in the middle of the road.

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Under Georgia law, the winning party in a personal injury (or any other civil) lawsuit is usually not entitled to recover attorney fees or costs in connection with the litigation. As the Georgia Supreme Court noted in a 1941 decision, “Where there is a bona fide controversy for the tribunals to settle, and the parties can not adjust it amicably, there should be no burdening of one with the counsel fees of the other, unless there has been wanton or excessive indulgence in litigation.” The Georgia legislature may make exceptions to this rule, however, and one such example was the subject of a recent Georgia Court of Appeals decision.

Horton v. Dennis

This case began with a 2008 accident in Telfair County. A tractor trailer crossing Highway 31 near McRae crashed into a truck. The truck driver suffered serious injuries, including a mild traumatic brain injury and permanent erectile dysfunction.

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Under Georgia law, a property owner must exercise “ordinary care” in maintaining safe conditions for persons invited onto the premises. If an invited person subsequently alleges he or she suffered an accident or injury due to the owner’s failure in this regard–a premises liability claim–then the burden is on the accuser to first prove the owner “had actual or constructive knowledge of the hazard that caused the accident.” Once the accuser meets this burden, then the onus shifts to the owner to prove that it was the accuser’s action or inaction that caused the injury.

Daugharty v. FDIC

A pending case before a federal judge in Valdosta illustrates how premises liability law works in practice. The plaintiff here visited a local bank in 2011 to close an account. This was her first time visiting this particular branch of the bank. She entered and exited the bank through a walkway leading from the parking lot to the bank’s doors. On her return trip after exiting the bank, the woman “tripped over a protruding lip of concrete in the walkway, fell to the ground, and injured herself.”

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NAIC.jpgThe National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ eighteen month investigation of Allstate’s claims handling practices ended this month with Allstate agreeing to pay a $10 million dollar settlement. The primary focus of the investigation and settlement relates to Allstate’s use of a claims handling software called Colossus. Allstate has agreed to make several changes to it’s claims handling policies. However as a injury claim lawyer, I still advise caution when dealing with giant insurance companies like Allstate.

Their are many types of insurance claims where hiring a lawyer is typically not necessary, such as clear liability property damage claims. When dealing with a company like Allstate, whether you hire a lawyer or not, it’s always a good idea to at least consult with a lawyer. Most personal injury lawyers provide free consultations and information gathered from a lawyer consultation can be an invaluable resource for determining whether you are being treated fairly by an insurance company.

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I just finished up a case where a violent head on collision was caused by a texting teen. In my case, luckily no one was killed, but texting and driving is a huge problem that is killing American teens. Do Something.org’s Thumb Wars is a national campaign to help educate drivers on the dangers of texting and driving. Check out the site, they have free thumb socks! What are thumb socks you ask? Watch the video.

In the video above Ken Jeong (Community, The Hangover) and Joel McHale (Community, The Soup) share the sobering fact that car accidents are the leading cause of teen deaths in the U.S., while demonstrating how difficult it is to text when your thumbs are wearing socks.

In an attempt to fix this huge problem, the State of Georgia recently passed a law banning texting while driving. So who knows, if fear of a big traffic ticket doesn’t stop the problem, maybe thumb socks will.

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crime stoppers.jpgAtlanta has seen a flood of wrongful death and catastrophic injuries caused by hit and run drivers this summer. Numerous metro area police departments are pursuing active hit and run investigations. This week DeKalb county caught the man believed to be responsible for the fatal hit and run collision on Flat Shoals road June 12, 2010. The man charged with vehicular homicide is a Cobb County school administrator and WSBTV has the full story.

According to police investigators, a Crime Stoppers tip led to the accused’s arrest in this case. It is good to see the victim’s family get justice thanks to programs like Crime Stoppers. The program works. If you have information about a hit and run incident or other crime you can call Crime Stoppers at (404) 577-TIPS, (404) 577-8477.

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lexus.jpgToday, a Lexus LS 460, like the vehicle pictured to the left, struck and killed a pedestrian walking next to Roswell Road. According to the Sandy Springs Police the Lexus left the road, struck a man walking on the sidewalk, and immediately left the scene.

We have seen a rash of horrific hit and run incidents in Atlanta this summer. One report after another of cowards with complete disregard for human life leaving the scene of accidents hoping to avoid traffic citations. Hopefully, they will catch this one. The Police believe the Lexus was black or gray in color and likely has damage to the right front fender and right headlight.

If you know anything about this incident or see a Lexus LS 460 with similar damage call the Sandy Springs Police Department at 770-551-6900

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WhiteCamaro.JPGSmyrna Police are looking for the driver of a 2001 or 2002 white Chevrolet Camaro involved in a hit and run incident, Saturday night, July 17th. According to the police investigation, the Camaro struck a parked car and while attempting to flee the scene struck a young woman causing serious injuries. The 17 year old woman was taken to Grady for treatment and according to a recent Marietta Daily Journal report is still in intensive care.

It is appalling a young woman is in intensive care because the Camaro’s driver did not want to take responsibility for causing a simple traffic accident. Smyrna Police believe the left front quarter panel and driver’s side door of the white Camaro are damaged and the car is likely missing the driver’s side mirror. If you have any information about this incident call the Smyrna Police at (770) 434-6666 or (770) 434-9481

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From my experience as a Marietta Injury Lawyer, collisions on the Interstates are typically the most likely to cause death and serious injury. There are a number of reasons for this including the increased speed limits and the large number of tractor trailers that use the freeways. It is extremely dangerous to stop your vehicle on the interstate, but sometimes it just can’t be avoided. There are some steps you can take to reduce this danger.

Except for emergencies, never voluntarily stop your vehicle on the interstate. However, if your car breaks down on the Interstate, get your vehicle to the right shoulder as quickly and safely as possible. If you stay in your vehicle keep your seatbelt on. If you are going to get out of the vehicle use the passenger’s door to exit the vehicle. Once out of the vehicle, do not stand near your vehicle or any travel or emergency lanes. Put some safe distance between yourself and the roadway and call 511 (HERO vehicles) and 911. However, sometimes car trouble is immediate and it is not always possible to get over to the right shoulder.

Personal injury lawyers in Atlanta and Marietta sometimes see the more difficult situation when cars break down in interstate travel lanes. This is a terrible situation. Even with the use of hazard lights, it is often difficult for drivers to appreciate a vehicle is stopped on the interstate. When cars are rear-ended at highway speeds the results are often fatal. The Georgia State Patrol and DOT officials recommend you stay in your vehicle, call 911 and 511, and wait for help to arrive. However, State Patrol officers I have talked to say they probably would not sit in a car stopped in a travel lane for fear of getting blasted by a fast moving vehicle. One must use their best judgment when confronted with this situation because leaving your vehicle to walk or run to a safe location can also be extremely dangerous.

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