Articles Posted in Auto Accidents

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Effective July 1, 2011, all children passengers 8-years-old or younger must be placed in a suitable baby seat or booster seat and ride in the rear seat of the car. Drivers who do not follow this new Georgia law will face fines and points against their license, if cited by the police.

According to the Georgia Attorney General’s website:

  • ALL children under the age of 8 whose height is less than 57 inches must ride in the backseat of a car.  A child is safer in the back and farthest away from the force of an airbag.  Remember that airbags are designed to save adults, and since they deploy with great force they can be fatal to children.
  • Children under the age of 8 are required to be in either a car seat or a booster seat suitable for their age and height.
  • If there is not a back seat in the vehicle (e.g., a truck) or if other restrained children are in the back seat, Georgia law permits a child under the age of 8 to sit in front if restrained in the proper car seat or booster and the child weighs at least 40 pounds.
  • Georgia’s Primary Safety Belt Law allows law enforcement officers to issue a citation if they OBSERVE a seat belt offense.  They do not need to stop the driver for another traffic violation first, as in some other states.
  • Violating these laws can result in a fine of up to $50 and one point against your license per improperly restrained child.  A second incident may double the fines and points.

Beyond the Law
Experts suggest several other tips to ensure your child’s safety while riding in a motor vehicle:

  • Children under the age of 13 should ride in the backseat.
  • Holding a child in your lap or placing a car seat in the front seat instead of the back could put your child’s life in serious danger.
  • Avoid using a used child car seat or one that has been in an accident.
  • Buckle up even on short trips around the corner.  Most car accidents occur within a 5 mile radius of the home, according to a 2001 study by Progressive Insurance.

This is a great new law which helps protect children from being seriously injured or killed if they are involved in a Georgia accident. Normal seat belts do not adequately protect our children because they are designed for adults. While children who are taller than 4 feet 9 inches are exempt from the law, the better practice is to continue to use booster seats placed in the rear seats for all children.
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As an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer, I understand that automobile accidents are one of the leading causes of lower back pain. Common back injuries resulting from auto accidents include a herniated disc, lumbar or lower back strain, and spinal cord injuries. These injuries can cause serious and debilitating pain in the lower back, making everyday activities – like working, caring for your family, or engaging in leisure activities – difficult. In fact, about 10% of these auto accident back injuries lead to long-term disability for Atlanta car accident victims who we have represented over the years.

Spinal cord injuries, in particular, can cause serious nerve damage, resulting in paralysis, loss of feeling in certain areas of the body, and loss of reflex functions. Spinal cord injuries can also lead to secondary medical problems including infection, sexual dysfunction, muscle spasms, loss of bladder control, and centralized hypersensitivity or pain in certain areas of the body.

Treatments for lower back pain include orthopaedic care, physical therapy, chiropractic care, prescription medication and surgery. However, for people suffering from spinal cord injuries whose chronic pain has proved unresponsive to prior treatments, doctors have begun using Spinal Cord Stimulators.

Spinal Cord Stimulators are prescribed for the treatment of chronic pain (lasting 3 months or more) and work to manage chronic lower back pain by intercepting and altering the perception of pain signals from the nerve pathways along the spine to the brain. Spinal Cord Stimulators are devices with internal and external components. A battery-powered stimulator is placed inside the abdomen, upper buttocks or collar-bone area, while wires called leads are implanted along the spinal cord and attached to the stimulator. A hand-held remote control helps the patient moderate his own pain.

Although a Spinal Cord Stimulator has recently provided good pain relief for one of my clients who was severely injured in an Atlanta auto accident, these devices also come with many risks, including, but not limited to, infection, allergic reaction, scarring, loss of blood and need for blood transfusion, loss of function of any limb or any organ, paralysis, brain damage, need for repeat surgery, persistent pain, cardiac arrest or death. In addition, the implanted battery inside the stimulator will wear out over time and additional surgeries will be required to replace the battery. Current batteries can be expected to last between three and five years, and the cost of a single surgery to replace a dead battery may be as much as $30,000.
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A new study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety holds no surprises for Atlanta car accident attorneys. The study seems to indicate massive support for more federal and state traffic safety laws that can help prevent accidents. But wait, more laws, more regulations, more governmental interference in our lives. Is this really necessary? Well….maybe.

It seems that most people (or at least the most vocal ones) want less government and less regulations. However, according to the study, 62% of respondents wanted the federal government to get more involved in passing traffic safety laws that could protect motorists by reducing the incidence of undesirable driving behaviors. A further 57% also want states to get involved in traffic safety matters. 70% of respondents said they want traffic safety laws be more strictly enforced.

Besides, there also seems to be plenty of support for stronger graduated driver licensing programs in Georgia. 62% of the respondents wanted new drivers to undergo an education program before they begin driving with a full license. Also, 60% of respondents said they wanted more auto safety features to prevent accidents. I for one, believe that drivers permits and licenses are being issued to teenagers who simply do not have the advanced cognitive brain development to safely drive. While this is not a condemnation of our youth, it is simply a fact that the human brain, and especially the male human brain, does not fully develop cognitive ability until at least the early 20’s. While most young teenagers are simply dying to drive, what would be the harm in pushing back the legal driving age (and the age that they can get driving permits) a couple of years. In my opinion, the down side is minimal, but we could save a lot of lives if we did this, as a state.
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Most Atlanta injury lawyers are well-versed in the more common car accident injuries such as orthopedic injuries (broken bones and fractures) and soft tissue injuries (torn or bruised ligaments, muscles or nerves). However, there is an increased incidence of mild to moderate brain injuries (also known as closed head injuries) diagnosed in Atlanta car accident victims.

Many times, closed head injuries are more debilitating than meets the eye yet go undiagnosed at first. The reason is simple: many doctors (and inexperienced accident lawyers) focus on the soft tissue or orthopedic injury because it is more obvious and fail to recognize the severity of the closed head injury.

Most symptoms of closed head injury are easily identified by family members and include brief periods of dizziness, overwhelming fatigue, vision problems, short-term memory problems, and unexplained irritability.
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Spring is in the air, and many Atlantans, weary of the winter weather, will be heading out in their bicycles. It’s the right time for Atlanta bicycle accident attorneys to warn bikers of the special risks they face out there. While bicyclists can do nothing to compensate for the negligence of motorists, they can increase their own risks of surviving an accident, by wearing a helmet, riding a properly functioning bike and obeying all road safety rules.

The number one rule of bicycle safety is – wear a helmet. A helmet will not completely protect you from traumatic brain injury in the event of an accident, but will reduce the chances of suffering a seriously debilitating head injury. The helmet should be well-fitting and fit snugly on your head.

Before you begin a ride, check and make sure that the handlebars are functioning properly, and the wheels are secure. Make sure that your brakes are functioning properly.

Dress for bicycling. Wear brightly colored or neon clothes to stand out in traffic. A motorist is more likely to notice you if you’re wearing a neon yellow T-shirt and a matching yellow helmet.
Avoid biking at night as much as possible. If you really must bike at night, equip your cycle with reflectors and bright lights.

Avoid all distractions. Avoid cycling while listening to music, or talking on your handset.
Be extra careful when you enter intersections -these are bicycle accident magnets.
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Every responsible Atlanta parent will make sure that their child is safely secured in a child car seat before driving. However, not every car seat will protect your child from serious injuries in an accident. Many of these seats are only tested for their protection against injuries in a front impact accident, but not injuries sustained in a rollover accident, a rear-ender or a side-impact collision. While every parent surely has nothing but the best of intentions in trying to keep their children safe in the car, they can only act on the information that is provided to them. Unfortunately, this is information is not always accurate and up-to-date. A further investigation into the information related to car seats for infants and children bears this out.

The Washington Post has a new report that should concern any Atlanta injury attorney or parent. According to the report, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has limited abilities to test the effectiveness of car seats and prevent injuries to children. Most of these tests only determine the effectiveness of the car seat in front impact collisions, and the agency does not have a suitable-sized crash test dummy to test the effectiveness of the seats during rollovers, side impact crashes and rear end accidents. As an Atlanta car accident attorney, I see that some of the most serious injuries occur in these kinds of crashes. What that means is that in an accident like this, children who are secured in their car seats may have little chance of escaping serious injuries.

Besides, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has failed to keep pace with the change in the size and weight of America’s children. A growing population of overweight children has meant that parents have had to look out for large-sized car seats. Unfortunately, the NHTSA has failed to develop a plus-sized crash test dummy that it can use to test the effectiveness of car seats. In a situation like this, parents have no choice, but to believe the assurances of manufacturers when they buy plus-sized car seat.
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Many of our clients sustain serious injuries in Atlanta automobile accidents. Insurance companies often dispute the severity of the injuries. Because x-rays can penetrate human tissue, they provide an excellent picture of the body’s anatomy and injuries thereto. X-rays are films of the body structures and look like negatives of photographs. When bones are fractured, the break is visible as a black line. This is why X-ray can provide an objective form of proof of a fractured bone or herniated disc spinal injury from an automobile accident.

In other types of cases, such as dental malpractice, for instance, radiographic evidence in the form of an x-ray, Cone Beam CT Scan (“CBCT”) or other type of film studies, can provide objective evidence of an injury caused by the malpractice. Sometimes these objective tests are performed before, during and after the treatment in question by the at-fault defendant. Other times, it is captured by care and treatment given by a subsequent treating doctor or dentist. But, in any case, the old adage: a picture is worth a thousand words, is equally applicable to x-rays and the like when it comes to proving dental malpractice or medical malpractice.

Of all the cases that we handle, x-rays are the most important in dental malpractice cases. The following are used in dental cases and become important in the evaluation and pursuit of dental malpractice cases:

Bite-wing X-rays (right)
highlight the crowns of the back teeth. Dentists take one or two bite-wing X-rays on each side of the mouth. Each X-ray shows the upper and lower molars (back teeth) and bicuspids (teeth in front of the molars). These X-rays are called “bite-wings” because you bite down on a wing-shaped device that holds the film in place while the X-ray is taken. These X-rays help dentists find decay between back teeth.

Periapical X-rays (left)
highlight only one or two teeth at a time. A periapical X-ray looks similar to a bite-wing X-ray. However, it shows the entire length of each tooth, from crown to root.

Occlusal X-rays (right)
are larger than most X-rays. They highlight tooth development and placement in children. Each X-ray shows nearly the full arch of teeth in either the upper or lower jaw.

Extraoral Radiographs
Extraoral X-rays are made with the film outside the mouth. These can be considered the “big picture” X-rays. They show teeth, but they also provide information on the jaw and skull. Extraoral radiographs are used to:

  • Keep track of growth and development
  • Look at the status of impacted teeth
  • Examine the relationships between teeth and jaws
  • Examine the bones of the face

Extraoral X-rays are less detailed than intraoral X-rays. For this reason, they are usually not used for detecting cavities or flaws in individual teeth.

Panoramic X-rays show the entire mouth on a single X-ray. They include all teeth on both upper and lower jaws. This type of X-ray requires a special machine. The tube head that emits the X-rays circles behind your head while the film circles across the front. That way, the full, broad view of the jaws is captured on one film. Because the machine moves in a set path, you have to be positioned carefully. Devices attached to the X-ray machine hold your head and jaw in place. All this may look and feel intimidating, but the process is very safe. It often uses less radiation than intraoral X-rays.

Cephalometric projections are X-rays taken of the entire side of the head. They are used to look at the teeth in relation to the jaw and the person’s profile. Orthodontists use cephalometric projections to determine the best type of orthodontic treatment.

Cone-beam computed tomography (CT) provides three-dimensional images. You stand or sit while the machine rotates around your head. The beam is cone-shaped, instead of fan-shaped as in a standard medical CT. A cone-beam scan uses less radiation than a medical CT scan but far more than any standard dental X-ray. The cone-beam CT is particularly useful for dental implant selection and placement.

Standard computed tomography (CT) usually must be done in a radiologist’s office or a hospital. Typically, you will lie down while the image is taken. The radiation exposure is higher for this type of CT than for a cone-beam CT. A standard CT scan may be done to determine size and placement location for implants.

Digital Radiographs
Digital radiographs are one of the newest X-ray techniques. Standard X-ray film is replaced with a flat electronic pad or sensor. The image goes into a computer, where it can be viewed on a screen, stored or printed out. Digital X-rays taken at different times can be compared using a process that highlights differences between the images. Tiny changes therefore can be caught earlier. Used properly, digital X-rays use about half the radiation of conventional film.
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As an Atlanta personal injury lawyer, I don’t hesitate to call out auto companies when they prioritize profits before consumer safety. It’s, therefore, also necessary to hand kudos where it’s due, when these very same companies take initiatives to reduce the risk of accidents and enhance motorist safety. Across the country, Ford Motor Company has been conducting driving clinics aimed at preventing accidents involving teenage drivers, and at many schools struggling with slashed budgets, these programs have been, quite literally, a lifesaver. With teenagers beig able to obtain drivers licenses at such an early age, even though study after study has confirmed that their brains are not fully developed until their mid-20’s, this is a great idea.

In Georgia, teenagers in several counties can benefit from the safety programs that Ford Motor Company conducts in collaboration with the Governor’s Highway Safety Association. The initiative includes a day of driving safety activities for high school students, including a three-course driver program. The program, called the Ford Driving Skills for Life program, has teenagers learning what it is really like to drive drunk or driver with distractions. This is done through the use of simulators and goggles.

The drunken-driving course, for instance, involves driving around orange cones in a “sober state”. The students are given Innocorp Fatal Vision Goggles that simulate driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08%. That is the legal limit for drunken driving in the state of Georgia and most of the rest of the country. Finally, the teen driver is given another pair of goggles that simulates a much higher level of blood-alcohol. The teens find that while they can drive carefully and concentrate in a sober state, it’s very hard to do so with a level of .08%, and almost impossible to do when their blood-alcohol levels are higher than .08%.
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Another pedestrian was killed on Saturday night in Gwinnett County. She appears to have been trying to cross the street. The woman was hit by an unidentified jeep.

Pedestrians in the Atlanta area run a significant risk of injury or death. Many roads have no sidewalks or safe areas to walk, and drivers do not watch for pedestrians. Even getting to a bus stop can be hazardous.

Many drivers aren’t sure what to do when they encounter a pedestrian. In 1995 the Georgia legislature changed the cross walk law such that drivers must “stop and stay stopped” for pedestrians, not just yield to them. Be sure you know the law. You’ll avoid a ticket and maybe save a life. In the City of Atlanta, for instance, police will cite drivers who proceed through the intersection prior to all pedestrians clearing the cross walk. While it is nearly impossible to drive in downtown Atlanta traffic and not do this, you do run the risk of being ticketed for this technical interpretation of the law (instead of the common sense interpretation which requires, as evidenced by the applicable Georgia codes below, the driver to yield to pedestrians in the cross walk and to proceed through the intersection once the pedestrians are out of harm’s way). The applicable Georgia law that governs this area is as follows:

§ 40-6-91. Right of Way in Crosswalks:

(a) The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subsection, “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel.

(b) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and walk or run into the path of a vehicle which is so close that it is impractical for the driver to yield.

(c) Subsection (a) of this Code section shall not apply under the conditions stated in subsection (b) of Code Section 40-6-92.

(d) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.

§ 40-6-92. Crossing roadway elsewhere than at crosswalk:

(a) Every pedestrian crossing a roadway at any point other than within a marked crosswalk or within an unmarked crosswalk at an intersection shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway unless he has already, and under safe conditions, entered the roadway.

(b) Any pedestrian crossing a roadway at a point where a pedestrian tunnel or overhead pedestrian crossing has been provided shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway if he uses the roadway instead of such tunnel or crossing.

(c) Between adjacent intersections at which traffic-control signals are in operation, pedestrians shall not cross at any place except in a marked crosswalk.

(d) No pedestrian shall cross a roadway intersection diagonally unless authorized by official traffic-control devices. When authorized to cross diagonally, pedestrians shall cross only in accordance with the official traffic-control devices pertaining to such crossing movements.

§ 40-6-22. Pedestrian control signals:

Whenever special pedestrian-control signals exhibiting the words WALK or DON’T WALK or symbols so directing a pedestrian are in place, such signals shall indicate as follows:

(1) Word or symbol message WALK — Pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal. Every driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped for such pedestrians; and

(2) Flashing or steady DON’T WALK — No pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such a signal, but any pedestrian who has partially completed his crossing on the WALK signal shall proceed to sidewalk or safety island while the DON’T WALK signal is showing.

§ 40-1-1.(10) Definition of a Crosswalk:

“Crosswalk” means (A) That part of a roadway at an intersection included within the connections of the lateral lines of the sidewalks on opposite sides of the highway measured from the curbs or in the absence of curbs, from the edges of the traversable roadway; or (B) Any portion of a roadway at an intersection or elsewhere distinctly indicated for pedestrian crossing by lines or other markings on the surface.

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In Georgia, ignition interlock devices are used to keep repeat drunk driving offenders off the streets and prevent accidents involving these motorists. A new study shows that increased use of such systems can actually help reduce the numbers of repeat drunk driving offenders.

Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the arrest rates for drunk driving dropped by as much as 67% after ignition interlock devices were installed in offenders’ cars. The researchers point to this as ample proof that enhanced use of ignition interlock devices could help keep more numbers of DUI offenders off the streets, and prevent alcohol-related car crashes.

Atlanta car accident lawyers would agree. In Georgia, the Metro Atlanta area and rural communities struggle with large number of drunk driving offenders. While a typical offender may be punished with license suspensions and fines, very often, these penalties constitute a slap on the wrist, and may not be sufficient to prevent motorists from driving intoxicated again. While criminal punishment is a deterrent, holding at-fault drunk driver’s accountable for the injuries they cause in car wrecks is another way to deter their actions.  According to the CDC:

  • In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly one-third (31%) of all traffic-related deaths in the United States.
  • Of the 1,149 traffic deaths among children ages 0 to 14 years in 2013, 200 (17%) involved an alcohol-impaired driver.
  • Of the 200 child passengers ages 14 and younger who died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes in 2013, over half (121) were riding in the vehicle with the alcohol-impaired driver.
  • In 2012, over 1.3 million drivers were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.3 That’s one percent of the 121 million self-reported episodes of alcohol-impaired driving among U.S. adults each year.
  • Drugs other than alcohol (e.g., marijuana and cocaine) are involved in about 18% of motor vehicle driver deaths. These other drugs are often used in combination with alcohol.

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