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As the recent AJC article points out, texting while driving is illegal in Georgia. Not only is it illegal, but it also contributes to many catastrophic car accidents on Georgia roads every year. The prohibition against texting while driving is expressly found in the Georgia Rules of the Road. Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241, all Georgia drivers shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of the state of Georgia and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract the driver from the safe operation of the driver’s vehicle, provided that the proper use of a radio, CB radio, amateur ham radio or mobile telephone shall not be a violation of the Code. However, this code section was updated in 2010 to make explicitly state that “no person who is 18 years of age or older or who has a class C license shall operate a motor vehicle on any public road or highway . . . while using a wireless telecommunications device to write, send, or read any text-based communication, including but not limited to, a text message, instant messaging, e-mail, or Internet data.Wireless telecommunications device is defined as, “a cellular telephone, a text messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand alone computer, or any other substantially similar wireless device that is used to initiate or receive a wireless communication with any other person. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.2 et. seq.

So, in other words, drivers must use due care while using the cell phones while driving in Georgia, however they may not type or read text messages while driving. This is not to say that since a driver was “only on the phone” will the inquiry of whether the driver was negligent and whether the negligence caused the victim of the wreck’s injuries cease. The law is clear that one may utilize the privilege of talking on a cell phone while driving in Georgia, however there is a corresponding duty to not let your telephone call distract you in any way, especially in a way that will contribute to you causing an accident. This type of negligence has become more and more prevalent in our investigation of Atlanta car wrecks. More and more drivers, and especially commercial drivers who are certainly in a position to cause a lot more damage due to the size of the vehicles they driver, are distracted while talking on the phone, or are texting and this is often determined to be the cause of the wreck.

Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, automobile accident cases, personal injury cases, dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.

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As evidenced by this recent news article which investigated the number of school bus accidents and how they were reported, many Georgia school systems are under-reporting the number of school bus accidents, which hampers efforts to properly investigate school bus accidents, the extent of injuries sustained by school aged children involved in these school bus accidents, and the resolution of these cases. On average, there are about 2 accident per day in the metropolitan Atlanta area involving school buses according to the Georgia Department of Eduction. However, due to the aforementioned under-reporting by the school districts, the numbers are probably higher. Considering that students are not required to wear seat belts while being transported on the bus, the risk of serious injury to students while riding school buses is high. In addition, school officials are not able to use accurate data to make decisions that impact student welfare and safety. For example, if the true accident numbers for Atlanta area school districts are not know, it makes it difficult for the school districts to make proper decisions about whether certain drivers need additional safety training, whether certain buses are not working properly and possible contributing to accident, or whether certain school bus routes are disproportionately involved in serious accident — and thus should be changed in the interest of student safety.

Even though students are not required to wear seat belts while riding the school bus, most school bus accidents involve only minor injuries. In these accidents, bus drivers are charged for negligently causing the wreck about 1/3 of the time. Common examples of school bus driver negligence which causes accidents are: following too close, not properly judging the clearance of the front of the bus while turning, and not properly backing the bus up and running into another vehicle while doing so. However, as we have seen recently, school bus drivers have also been accused of speeding, texting while driving and improper lane changes which have caused many serious injuries in Atlanta and the surrounding areas.

Since it is never clear whether the school district is operating the school bus directly, or the transportation has been outsourced, there are a number of potential road blocks for recovering for your child’s injury. Should your child be injured on a school bus, it is important to quickly gather all of the pertinent information and timely notify any governmental agencies of the potential lawsuit. This is known as an anti-litem notice and must be timely delivered to the governmental entity or the right to sue may be lost forever.

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A woman injured in an Atlanta elevator fall has sued for negligence according to this recent article in the AJC. According to the article, the woman, a Grady Hospital, employee fell 9 floors down the elevator shaft injuring her tailbone, back and legs. Most times, when an employee is injured on the job in Georgia, the exclusive remedy for compensation for the injured worker is a worker’s compensation claim. This is known as the worker’s compensation bar, and it is a very broad bar to overcome in Georgia. However, there are exceptions and this suit is for negligence since the injured work is suing an alleged negligent third-party (in this case, Otis Elevator who apparently, at least according to the lawsuit on file with the court, maintained and serviced the elevators in question). Suing a negligent third-party is one of the major exceptions to the worker’s compensation exclusive remedy bar.

Elevator operators (as well as those who install, service and maintain the elevators for others through the legal doctrines of agency or respondeat superior) have a heightened duty to ensure the safety of the elevator passengers. This duty extends to properly inspecting, servicing, repairing and maintaining the elevators in such a fashion that ensures that those that ride the elevators are not injured. A failure on the elevator operators part to comply with this duty amounts to negligence and, if proved in court, subjects the elevator operator to be liable to the injured passengers for all injuries that flow from the negligence. In most instances, the injured elevator operator will have damages in the form of past and future medical bills, past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and sometimes a decreased ability to enjoy life or work. As is so often stated, each case is different and the old egg-shell Plaintiff adage in these cases is applicable, i.e., you take your plaintiff as you find them. In this case, this woman according to the lawsuit fell 9 floors down and elevator shaft. The damages she sustained are unique to her and must be proven. Someone else could suffer the similar fall and have far worse and more severe damages than this plaintiff in this particular lawsuit. That is why a jury trial is the best forum to resolve such as situation, rather than a worker’s compensation hearing (which does not get tried to a jury).

Robert J. Fleming has been handling wrongful death cases, dental malpractice, bus accidents, car accident cases and premises injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years. He practices in and around the Atlanta, Georgia area including handling lawsuits in Fulton, DeKalb, Clayton, Gwinnett, Cobb and other counties and nearby cities including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like discuss your case in complete confidence, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.

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According to a recent article, a husband and wife told detectives in Florida that they were introduced to a man by a mutual friend and that in later social interactions the man told them he was a dentist and had a dental practice in South Carolina before moving to Florida. The couple said they paid the man cash and that he had offered to do the work from home to keep costs low. However, when he extracted the wife’s tooth and left leaving a tooth fragment (or root tip) behind, causing her medical complications, the couple began their own research and soon discovered that the man was not a dentist. The couple also told detectives about another potential patient they had introduced to the man before knowing he wasn’t a dentist. When detectives met with that patient, they told police that the man had pulled about 10 teeth without anesthetic for him and made him dentures. According to the article, the man accused of posing as a licensed dentist was contacted by a detective, working undercover, and also arranged to meet him for dental work, according to investigators.

While these patients apparently did not use much investigative prowess in selecting their dentist, it is important for you to choose your dentist wisely. The best method is to talk with friends and other people who you trust (such as your attorney, or better yet an attorney such as Robert J. Fleming, who regularly handles dental malpractice claims) and get recommendations for dentists that these people have direct knowledge of. Care should be taken to select a dentist who is competent in the procedure for which you need care. Extractions, root canals, dental implants and other procedures are complex and only a general dentist who is trained in and skilled in the specific procedure should be chosen. Better yet, choose a specialist who has additional training and experience in the area that you need dental work in. For instance, a complex extraction might best be performed by a skilled oral surgeon rather than you general dentist; a complicated root canal with curved roots might best be performed by an Endodontist who has experience with these types of root canals and so on. Why: Because many of the procedures require expertise and can easily end up causing dental injuries due to malpractice if performed by a dentist who does not have the training, experience and skill to perform the procedure according to the standard of care.

Attorney Robert J. Fleming has been handling dental malpractice and medical malpractice lawsuits for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 20 years in and around Atlanta, Georgia and its surrounding areas, including Alpharetta, Austell, Avondale Estates, Chamblee, College Park, Conyers, Duluth, Decatur, Doraville, Hapeville, Johns Creek, Jonesboro, Lawrenceville, Norcross, Peachtree City, Riverdale, Roswell, Sandy Springs, Stone Mountain, and Smyrna. If you have been seriously injured and would like quality legal representation, contact Robert J. Fleming directly on (404) 525-5150 or contact us online.

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As reported by the AJC, the City of Atlanta has agreed to a $1.8million payment in a case involving fraud allegations.

The City of Atlanta did not admit liability as part of the settlement reached with the U.S. Departments of Justice and Labor over federal subsidies to employers that provided on-the-job training after the Great Recession. According to the article, The Justice Department’s False Claims Act investigation found that Atlanta’s workforce agency paid out job training funds while failing to provide required services. Investigators think the city subsidized employees who were ineligible, did not receive training, or received inadequate training, the settlement agreement states. The City of Atlanta (or its agents) apparently also did not assess clients to determine what help they needed. The article further notes that “[f]ederal officials stated as part of the settlement agreement that it did not intend to launch civil investigations into 58 current workforce development agency employees. But the settlement does not release the city from administrative sanctions or free individuals from criminal prosecution. The city also agreed to fully cooperate with federal investigator.”

In addition to the above, City of Atlanta liability (through its agents or employees) can be premised on most legal theories that are available in private causes of action in Georgia such as breach of contract under O.C.G.A. § 13-1-1 or O.C.G.A. § 51-1-1 or O.C.G.A. § 51-1-11, damage to realty under, conversion, nuisance, numerous negligence theories, gross negligence, negligence per se, premises liability, negligent security, medical malpractice, breach of a non-delegable duty, principal and agent liability, partnership and joint venture liability, bailor and bailee liability, and others.

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During the 2008 Session of the Georgia General Assembly, a law was passed that requires your automobile insurance carrier to provide revised Uninsured Motorist Coverage unless you reject this coverage in writing. This New Uninsured Motorist Coverage provides additional protection at a higher premium than the coverage you currently have. If you or other eligible insured’s are injured or have property damage caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, the New Uninsured Motorist Coverage provides protection that will pay for your damages in addition to the at-fault driver’s Liability Coverage limit up to your New Uninsured Motorist Coverage limit. If you reject the New Uninsured Motorist Coverage, you may select Uninsured Motorist Coverage-Reduced by At-Fault Liability. This coverage is comparable to the coverage you currently have. Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage provides less protection than the New Uninsured Motorist Coverage, but the Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage is available at a lower premium. Unlike the New Uninsured Motorist Coverage that provides up to a full limit of protection over and above the at fault drivers liability coverage, Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage will only pay up to the difference between the at-fault driver’s Liability Coverage and your Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage. This means Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage will allow you to collect from the at-fault driver and your Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage, combined, up to the same limit of Traditional Uninsured Motorist Coverage you have purchased.

Under the official code of Georgia, O.C.G.A. § 33-7-11, there are three separate rejections/choices to make for an Uninsured Motorist (“UM”) policy.  You can 1) reject UM coverage completely, 2) accept UM coverage in an amount lower than your liability limits, or 3) choose add-on or reduced-by coverage. These are important decisions that you should make before you have to make a claim for UM benefits under your Georgia Automobile Liability Insurance policy. 

As a Georgia attorney who regularly handles cases involving complex insurance issues, my advice is simple: take as much Uninsured Motorist coverage that you can afford and that your insurance company will allow you to take. Why? Because I have, unfortunately, seen too many cases in which the at-fault driver had minimum coverages (in Georgia this would be $25,000 in liability coverage) and the injuries exceeded the at-fault driver’s liability coverage. Most times in this situation, we look to the client’s UM coverage for excess coverage and make a claim for the UM coverage after exhausting the at-fault driver’s insurance. However, I have also been involved in cases where the UM coverage was rejected by the client or is woefully inadequate to fairly compensate the client for the injuries sustained in the wreck. So, once again, the advice from me: take as much Uninsured Motorist coverage that you can afford and that your insurance company will allow you to take.

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In Allstate v. Evans, 409 S.E.2d 273 (Ga. App. 1991), the Georgia Court of Appeals held that the defendant’s insurer has the right to pay to other claimants up to the policy limits  (i.e, exhaust the policy) and, if this is done, they will not be liable to a subsequent claimant or judgment creditor.

In the Evans case, the Court noted that the case concerned the right of a casualty insurer to exhaust the policy coverage applicable to a common disaster or occurrence by selectively settling a portion of the claims against its insured arising from the accident, to the detriment of other claimants who are thereby denied the means to satisfy their claims against the insured. The Evans case was a case of first impression for the Georgia Court of Appeals, with the Court stating in the opinion, “there are no Georgia cases dealing with this particular issue. However, the courts of other jurisdictions which have confronted the issue appear to have held uniformly that “[a] liability insurer may, in good faith and without notification to others, settle part of multiple claims against its insured even though such settlements deplete or exhaust the policy limits so that remaining claimants have no recourse against [the] insurer. . . Were the rule otherwise, an insurer would be precluded from settling any claims against its insured in such a situation and would instead be required to await the reduction of all claims to judgment before paying any of them, no matter how favorable to its insured the terms of a proposed settlement might be. Such a policy would obviously promote litigation and would also increase the likelihood, in many cases, that the insured would be left with a total adjudicated liability in excess of his policy limits.”

The Court, did however note in dicta: “There is neither any evidence nor any allegation that the appellant in this case acted in bad faith in settling with the other claimants. Applying the foregoing rule adopted by other jurisdictions which have considered the issue, we consequently hold that the trial court erred in ruling that the appellant was liable to the appellees for the full amount of the judgments which they had obtained against its insured.”

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If you are the victim of a dog bite attack, it is important to identify the owner of the dog and to determine where the owner lives and whether the owner has homeowner’s insurance that will cover the damages related to the dog attack. Fortunately, Georgia has a statute which allows the dog bite victim to discover all insurance that may cover the loss. Pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28, the victim should request from the dog owner to provide within 30 days the insurance information for each known insurer which may provide coverage for the attack, such as homeowner’s policy or umbrella policies written for the homeowner.

Damages for such an attack normally include compensation for past and future medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering. The pain and suffering figure is provided to compensate the victim for being attacked, and for having to live the rest of their life with a permanent scar, as well as the emotional trauma and fear which sometimes accompanies the dog bite victim in the future. The personal injury/physical damages are affected by the location of the attack and scars, the age, race and gender of the victim (with a young African-American female more likely to be more affected by scarring due to her relatively young age, being female and the propensity for African-Americans to develop keloid scars which are much more pronounced and almost always require revision surgery or are permanent). Emotional damages would be impacted by the extent of  the scars, whether they will heal over time, and to what extent the incident have affected the victim emotionally. The emotional aspect of damages in these types of case should not be underestimated. Being attacked by a vicious dog is a traumatic event and can be emotionally debilitating for some victims. Future psychological care and treatment, the inability to freely come and go as they please and a fear of similar situations as that which precipitated the attack are all relevant inquiries that must be factored into any settlement of these types of cases. 

Most dog bites are clear liability cases against the insured homeowner. The attack usually occurs following the owner leaving the dog unattended, without required tags, and/or unleashed in the yard, which is not properly enclosed. As a direct result of the negligence, the dogs escape and, more often than not, viciously attack the victim. Most county’s animal control laws require the owner to secure their dogs in a manner that would have prevented them from escaping, and the attack constitutes negligence per se of violating the law. 

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According to the recent AJC article, the school district and bus company who supplied the driver continued to allow a driver who was the subject of complaints to continue transporting school children. After receiving several complaints about a bus driver’s dangerous driving and behavior, the school district in Hamilton County, Tenn., informed the bus company, the district said in a written statement released Tuesday. And it wasn’t a single conversation, but two, the school district said. Yet, neither the bus company nor the school district took any steps to take the alleged dangerous driver off the road until it was too late. According to the article, “three days later, the same driver was still behind the wheel and speeding down a narrow, residential road in Chattanooga — a road not on his route — when he lost control of the bus and crashed. The crash killed six children and injured 30 other students from, including two who remained in critical condition Tuesday afternoon. The school bus driver, 24, was arrested the night of the crash and charged w i t h mu l t i p l e counts of vehicular homicide.”

The school bus driver apparently left the school building area in the bus shortly after 3 p.m., but before any students were dropped off, he ran the bus off one side of the road and back across before hitting a telephone pole and a tree, according to the article which cited Chattanooga police.

Due to the complaints and the resulting inaction, the bus company, and perhaps the school district may be held vicariously liable for driver’s negligence. In addition, a thorough investigation should be undertaken immediately to determine the practices and procedures employed by the bus company in the hiring of drivers and whether theses practices and procedures were followed in this instance. Under most state laws, the employer is liable for all of the negligent acts of its employee, and is further liable under an additional cause of action called negligent hiring if it turns out that the company was negligent in investigating the background of the driver or if it turns out that the driver was not fit to be behind the wheel of a school bus transporting school children to and from school. This inquiry is factually intensive and will almost certainly be developed in the coming months.

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Not only is Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport the world’s busiest, it also is one of the airports in which people suffer the most personal injuries. Many of these injuries occur while passengers are boarding or exiting planes, while transferring to connecting flights in the airport terminals, or when exiting the airport terminal and parking garages. This is especially true with the recent increase in passenger travel through Atlanta, which acts as a the major connecting hub for the South.

The airlines which transport passengers and the Airport (which is owned, operated and managed in varying degrees by, among others, the City of Atlanta, the Atlanta Airlines Terminal Corporation “AATC”, and the individual airlines) are responsible for maintaining safe traveling conditions for passengers and their families while traveling. Many passenger are hurt while traveling and many of these people are injured due to the negligence of one or more of the entities who are responsible for ensuring the safety of the passengers. During the busiest travel times, there is a marked increase in injuries to elderly or disabled patients who are injured while being assisted through the terminal by airline or airport employees, to passengers as they are boarding or exiting the airplanes, from falling overhead items when the plane is in the air, from unsafe conditions on airport elevators and escalators, and from inadequate security in and around the airport approaches and parking areas.

Due to the complex operational nature of the Atlanta Hartsfield Airport and how the operation and maintenance of the airport is conducted, it is essential that an incident report be made if a passenger is hurt in the airport. In most cases, it is up to the injured person to request, and often times insist, that an incident report be made. Once the incident report is made, you should request a copy of the initial incident report, along with an Incident Report number and the name and contact information of anyone that the injured passenger should follow-up with. You should also try to get the name, telephone number and address of any witnesses to the incident, regardless of whether they are on the Incident Report or not. This information usually proves to be helpful in keeping track of the claim, witnesses and who has worked on the claim for the insurance company or AATC. This process also documents the injury and will, in most cases, document the location of the accident, the injuries that were sustained, the name and contact information of any people involved and any additional information that might be important.