Articles Posted in Personal Injury

Say the words “truck accident” and most people immediately get a mental picture of an 18-wheeled tractor-trailer rig barreling down an interstate highway and somehow being involved in an accident worthy of a Michael Bay movie. If that is your mental image of a truck accident, you might be overlooking a common type of truck accident that is likely to strike much closer to home — accidents involving delivery vehicles, garbage trucks, and recycling trucks. COVID-19 has resulted in a lot more people ordering items online, and pretty much every neighborhood in the country has residential garbage and recycling pickup. This has led to residential streets swarming with delivery and refuse collection trucks that are in a hurry to accomplish their rounds and that are a lot larger than most passenger vehicles. The drivers of these vehicles are not just driving – they are focused on staying on schedule while they are delivering packages or picking up trash or recycling. That does not mean every driver of these trucks is distracted and dangerous, but it does not make them safer drivers, either.

Delivery Trucks are a Lot Bigger Than Your Car

Size almost always comes out on top in a traffic accident. Bigger vehicles weigh more and pack more force in a collision. It is just physics. Larger vehicles almost always emerge from accidents with smaller vehicles with less damage, fewer injuries, and fewer fatalities. Delivery vans, such as those used by Amazon and other companies, often weigh 11,000 pounds or more. A garbage truck can range from 40,000 to 64,000 pounds. Either of those vehicles has a substantial size and weight advantage over your passenger vehicle, which weighs an average of 4,000 pounds and can weigh as little as 2,400 pounds.

Just a few short years ago, ride-share services did not exist. It was less than a decade ago that the name “Uber” entered common usage, and the ride-share service became common in cities nationwide within a couple years. In the last six or seven years, ride-share services have proliferated, with Uber joined by Lyft, Sidecar, and who knows how many other services, some of them national, some regional, some serving only a few areas. No matter which service you use – and one in five Americans have used a ride-share service – the experience is largely the same. You use an app on your smartphone to ask for a ride, the car arrives quickly and gives you a ride to your destination, generally for less – often much less – than a traditional taxi cab would cost. Plus you can give the driver a bad rating if the service is not fast and courteous, an option simply not available with a taxi. What’s not to like?

Ride-Share Vehicles Get in Accidents, Too

The problem, of course, is that ride-shares, like the services offered by Uber and Lyft in Marietta and the surrounding area, are vehicles just like any others on the road. They can and do get into accidents. Ride-share drivers do not have special training, and no one really knows whether ride-share drivers get into accidents more or less frequently than the average driver on the road. A few years ago, a Chicago newspaper tried to find out, and learned instead that no government entity keeps statistics on ride-share accidents, and no ride-share service makes its accident statistics public. It is fair to assume, though, that ride-share drivers get into accidents at the same rate as pretty much every other driver on the road. So who pays if you get injured in a traffic accident while riding in an Uber, Lyft, or other rides-share service vehicle?

In late October last year, a pedestrian was killed in Marietta while crossing the intersection of South Marietta Parkway and Aviation Road. While tragic, pedestrian deaths are all too common and on the rise. In fact, a nationwide report found that in 2019, pedestrian deaths in the United States hit their highest level since 1988, with an estimated 6,590 pedestrians killed in traffic accidents. Further mirroring national trends, the Marietta pedestrian death occurred during darkness, more than two hours before sunrise. The death also highlighted national trends, as roughly one in five pedestrian deaths in the U.S. occur in intersections.

Walking Near Vehicular Traffic is a Dangerous Proposition

Let’s face it, walking along a roadway – let alone crossing one – can be a hazardous proposition. In 2017, an estimated 137,000 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms following traffic accidents. There is no telling how many did not seek ER treatment. Given the estimated 6,590 pedestrian traffic deaths in 2019, which is up from 2017, it is reasonable to believe that traffic injuries to pedestrians that were treated in emergency rooms also increased from 2017. Based on 2017 statistics, pedestrians are 1.5 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident, per trip, than are passenger vehicle occupants.

While some jobs appear to be extremely hazardous and others appear to be pretty safe, workplace injuries happen all the time, regardless of how dangerous the work “appears” to be. Loggers and professional fishermen work in the most dangerous jobs, but farmers, delivery drivers, garbage collectors, and septic tank workers also hold jobs that rank in the top 20 most dangerous. While those jobs are ranked by frequency of fatalities – virtually all jobs hold the potential for workplace injuries. The vast majority of workplace injuries are not fatal, and while many arise from the inherently dangerous nature of the particular job, others are far more subtle but no less debilitating.

Common Work Injuries Might Not be What You Expect

Workplace injuries happen in many different ways. Some are sudden and violent, as you might expect. Others, though, are caused by factors you might not see coming. Among the leading causes of on-the-job injuries are:

Spinal cord injuries have many causes, but at its most basic, a spinal cord injury is an injury to the spinal cord as a result of trauma leading to some level of loss of function of the spinal cord. This usually translates into a loss of body functions, as the nerves that control the body all pass through the spinal cord. Such loss of function can include anything from loss of feeling in the extremities – anything from temporary numbness in a finger or two all the way to permanent loss of feeling in an arm or a leg – all the way to paralysis, where you lose the ability to move parts of your body. Further, nerves do not heal, particularly in the case of a break in the spinal cord, meaning that spinal cord injuries are considerably more likely than other types of injuries to lead to long-term or permanent disability. These kinds of injuries can be both debilitating and expensive. The legal and health care legal costs related to spinal cord injuries are more than $29 billion each year and rising.

Traffic Accidents are the Main Cause of Spinal Cord Injuries

Traffic accidents, including passenger vehicle and motorcycle accidents, are the leading cause of spinal cord injuries each year in the United States. Traffic accidents account for almost half of all spinal cord injuries in the U.S. annually. This unwelcome distinction falls disproportionately upon motorcycle riders, who are easily the least well-protected users of the nation’s roads and highways. Even with a helmet on, a motorcycle rider is more exposed than anyone in the smallest, lightest passenger vehicle. In a collision with another vehicle, or even a single-vehicle accident, the motorcyclist almost always incurs worse injuries than the occupant of a passenger vehicle. Motorcycle riders have no steel cocoon surrounding them, nor anything to keep them from flying from their vehicles – rather, they are practically certain of being thrown from their bikes in an accident. This leaves motorcycle riders especially vulnerable to spinal cord injuries. In addition to colliding with another vehicle, they all too frequently are thrown from their bike and hit some other object, whether it be a tree, sign, telephone pole, another vehicle, or even “just” the pavement.

Side-impact crashes – commonly referred to as “T-bone” collisions – are among the most dangerous of car accidents for occupants of the vehicle being T-boned. A T-bone accident is one in which one vehicle strikes another straight into the second vehicle’s side at a perpendicular angle, hence the popular nickname. The car being struck in the side forms the cross of the “T,” while the striking vehicle forms the stem. T-bone accidents frequently are the result of one vehicle or the other running a stop sign or running the red light at a traffic signal. No matter how they occur, side-impact crashes can have devastating consequences for the occupants of the car on the receiving end of the side impact.

Side-Impact Collisions are Especially Dangerous

According to federal statistics, more than half of all traffic deaths from accidents involving passenger vehicles result from head-on collisions. That makes sense given the impact speeds involved in head-on crashes. Much more surprising, though, is that a quarter of all traffic fatalities occur in side-impact crashes – or T-bone accidents. Unfortunately, the lethality of side-impact collisions also makes sense. Many cars still on the road do not have side airbags, and a car hit from the side does not enjoy the protection of the front-end automobile architecture that has reduced the lethality of head-on collisions. There is no crumple zone on the side of a car. Side airbags were introduced in the late 1980s and early 1990s by Chrysler and Volvo on some models, and have become common in all passenger vehicles since the early 2000s, but they are not mandated by the government except for front-seat side air bags.

If you have driven on an interstate highway or other major multi-lane roads, then you know that large commercial trucks can be a hazard to other vehicles simply because they are so large. These tractor-trailer rigs, also referred to as semis or 18-wheelers, often consist of a large truck towing a trailer as much as 53 feet long, and rarely less than 48 feet long. These vehicles travel the nation’s roads and highways right alongside passenger vehicles every day, usually without incident. But when a tractor-trailer and a passenger vehicle collide, there is no mistaking which vehicle is going to get the worst of it. If injuries or deaths occur in such an accident, odds are that the occupants of the passenger vehicles will be the victims.

Truck Accidents Rarely Go Well for the Occupants of Passenger Vehicles

In 2018, nearly 5,000 people died in accidents involving large trucks, and another 151,000 were injured. Roughly 80% of the deaths were the occupants of passenger vehicles, pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists. A majority of the injuries likewise were suffered by people other than the occupants of the large trucks.

On October 30, a Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed an order granting a motion to dismiss in the lawsuit against the instant messaging app for breach of duty of care in designing the app’s speed filter.

Maynard et al. v. Snapchat, Inc.

The plaintiffs sued Snapchat, Inc., and the other driver involved in the accident to recover damages for injuries resulting from a car accident. Plaintiff alleged that said injuries resulted from the other driver’s use of a feature on the Snapchat application on her phone. The district court granted Snapchat motion to dismiss. In their appeal, the plaintiffs contend that their complaint is sufficient; Snapchat violated its duty of care by poorly designing its application.  

A Marietta man was charged with two counts of felony murder, two counts of serious injury by vehicle, felony fleeing, felony hit-and-run, reckless driving and speeding after leaving the scene of an accident in Midtown where an 18-year-old and a baby died.

Hit-and-Run

In Georgia, a driver’s obligation to stop after being involved in a car accident is contemplated in the Georgia Code. Under Section 40-6-270, the driver of a vehicle that has been involved in an accident that results in injuries, death of a person, or damages to another vehicle has the obligation to stop at the scene and stay there until he or she fulfills the following:

When an auto insurer unreasonably refuses to settle a personal injury claim against one of its policyholders, the policyholder can turn around and sue the insurance company for acting in “bad faith.” If successful, a bad-faith lawsuit can mean the insurer is liable for the full amount of any judgment that the accident victim obtained against the policyholder.

Whiteide v. Geico Indemnity Company

A federal appeals court recently asked the Georgia Supreme Court to resolve a number of legal questions arising from a successful bad-faith coverage lawsuit. The case was tried before a jury in federal court following Georgia state law. In situations like this, a federal court may opt to “certify” unresolved legal questions to the state’s supreme court before proceeding further.

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