Articles Posted in Pedestrian Accidents

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An Atlanta, Georgia area woman died recently after suffering fatal injuries following an accident on Lake Allatoona. The woman was a passenger on a water ski when the collision happened just north of Little River Marina reported the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. After the incident, she was taken to Northside Hospital, where she died. A man, who was driving the personal watercraft, was also taken to the hospital with serious injuries, but his condition was not provided.

While this incident is under investigation and no fault has been assigned, it is important to note that boats on the waterways of Georgia (such as Lake Lanier, Lake Allatoona, Sinclair Lake and many other man-made and natural waterways in Georgia) are subject to laws that are quite similar to the Rules of the Road that govern drivers on Georgia’s roads. In other words, when operating a watercraft, one must do so in a manner that complies with the laws of Georgia and in a generally safe manner.

My firm has litigated a number of serious boating accidents and many of the outcomes are not quite as clear cut as they may, at first blush, seem. The Department of Natural Resources is charged with enforcing the Georgia boating laws, and a lot of the basic laws (such as who has the right of way in certain situations and who must maintain a look out) are not the same as the Georgia Rules of the Road. This can lead to drastically different outcomes when litigating these cases vis-a-vis a normal car wreck case.

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Local authorities in Atlanta are still trying to determine what happened. Surveillance footage from the MARTA station showed the victim on a scooter before the crash, but it did not capture the moment of impact, according to Atlanta police. As a result, investigators cannot technically say whether the man was riding the scooter when he was hit, but common sense needs to dictate here as a scooter was found in the street on the bus’ passenger side, and the scooter rider has died from injuries sustained in the MARTA crash.

Cobb County contracts with First Transit for the CobbLinc service, and county spokesman Ross Cavitt said officials are waiting on details from the contractor. The police are waiting for production of the video as arrangements are still being made to turn over video from the bus to Atlanta police. The bus driver has not been identified. The crash is believed to be the second deadly accident involving electric scooters in the city of Atlanta, with both of the fatalities involving MARTA. Just last month, a man on a Lime scooter was hit and killed while leaving the parking lot of the West Lake MARTA station in west Atlanta. The driver of a Cadillac SUV is facing charges in that crash, which resulted in the first electric scooter-related death. All of this comes as Atlanta police have ended a grace period for riders and started enforcing city code, which mandates that scooters be ridden in the street with other traffic, not on sidewalks.

The latest fatality was characterized as a “call to action,” by Atlanta City Council member Amir Farokhi who stated, “we need to invest more in complete streets — streets that accommodate cyclists, scooters, and pedestrians as much as they do cars. When someone dies on our roads, it, in part, represents a failure of design. It does not matter whether you are walking to lunch, biking to see a friend, scooting home, or driving to the grocery store, you should be safe as you move around the city. We can and must do better.”

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If anyone has attended an event in downtown Atlanta lately such as a Falcons game Georgia State basketball game, you may have noticed the proliferation of scooters and the drivers’ total disregard for vehicle traffic and signal lights. With all of the congestions surrounding events in downtown, scooters are a quick and easy way to negotiate the bitter downtown traffic and get to where you are going faster than by walking or driving. But, are they safe, and what are the rules of the road in regard to the use of scooters.

According to the Atlanta Police Department (“APD”), the city of Atlanta ordinance that applies to scooters (which are called “shareable dockless mobility devices and dockless mobility devices”, scooters “may operate in vehicle travel lanes, in bike lanes, and along shared use paths throughout the city,” according to the ordinance. All applicable state and local laws should be followed, it notes.

It goes without saying that electric scooters must obey all traffic laws and are not allowed to be ridden on sidewalks and pedestrian only areas.  The ordinance allows scooters to be operated within city parks, but they cannot be used on sidewalks or spaces solely for pedestrians. When on a shared use path, the riders “must yield to pedestrians in all cases,” the ordinance notes.

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ELECTRIC SCOOTERS ARE POPPING UP EVERYWHERE

Electric scooters are popping up all around Atlanta. Just last night we looked out the office window in Decatur and saw that someone had dumped a Lime Scooter in the City trash can in front of a popular restaurant in downtown Decatur. Like it or not, Electric Scooters or E-scooters are here to stay. Or are they?

ATLANTA AND OTHER CITIES ARE TRYING TO REGULATE THEM

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The number of bicycle miles traveled every year by riders who are older than 450  has increased from 1.9 trillion miles in 2001 to 3.6 trillion miles in 2009. In 1997, 26 percent of medical costs were due to riders 45 and older; by 2013, that had grown to 54 percent. Men continued to comprise the bulk of the injured, with 77 percent of costs in 2013 due to male riders.

What’s behind this increase and what does it tell us about how the circumstances surrounding bicycle rider injuries are changing. Well, as bicycle commuting to work rises in Georgia, so do the number of riders who are hit and injured on the roads of Atlanta and the surrounding areas. Year ago, it was not unusual to watch a movie and see scenes from urban areas in China and other parts of Asia and be struck by the number of people who were riding bikes, not for recreation and enjoyment, but rather to commute to and from work or to get around while working. Now, bikes have certainly become mainstream in Atlanta and it is not unusual to see someone commuting to and from work or making deliveries on their bike instead of their car. Many roads in Atlanta have been repainted or re-paved to add bike lanes and commuters have taken advantage of this increased access to the roads and have decided to ride their bikes instead of drive their cars. This results in better health, increased community awareness and cost savings in the form of less gas usage, decreased car maintenance and repair costs, and in some cases when an automobile is completely replaced by a bicycle, elimination of car insurance payments.

However, as is the case with most things in life, with the good comes the bad. And the bad in this case is that Atlanta bicycle riders are being hit and injured by Georgia drivers at an alarming rate. The medical costs associated with adult car on bike crashes was almost $25 billion in 2013 and, with increased bicycle usage by adult commuters, continuing to rise.

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An Alpharetta man who had stopped to aid another driver on I-75 was killed early Monday when a car struck his own vehicle.  The good Samaritan had pulled his Ford Explorer off behind a disabled Chevrolet Impala just south of Delk Road in Marietta about 4:35 a.m., Cobb police Sgt. Dana Pierce said. After turning on a set of white strobe lights on his vehicle, the victim got out and put on a reflective traffic vest, police said. Moments later, a 2006 Chevrolet Cobalt hit the rear of the Ford, causing it to hit the victim, who died on the scene.

Time and again, this is the end result of people (both who are broken down on the side of the road and those trying to aid someone who is on the side of the road) who are working on cars in the shoulder of the road. As an Atlanta Personal Injury Attorney who handles car accident cases, this is something that I see too often, and the results are almost always catastrophic. Anyone who finds themselves in this position should move as far to the right of the roadway as possible and not attempt to fix their car in the shoulder.

Due to the unique nature of a pedestrian being struck by a vehicle, there are unique legal issues which must be addressed as quickly as possible. Injuries in these types of accidents are usually extensive. The injured pedestrian is often taken from the scene by ambulance and not able to give their account of the accident to the investigating police officer. Because of this, legal representation should be sought quickly in order to protect the victims legal rights, even when the victim is in the hospital and cannot advocate for themselves. Many times, an immediate investigation can uncover witnesses and other evidence which can directly controvert what the at-fault driver (the drive who hit the pedestrian on the side of the road) tells the police of accident team. This can be crucial, not only for the trial or ultimate resolution of the case, but it can also affect insurance coverage, medical treatment and other issues related to the care and treatment of the injured person. Many times, there is only a short window of time to uncover this evidence before it is destroyed (either on purpose or accidentally).

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We have handled a number of cases involving clients who were severely injured while crossing both within a cross walk and outside of a cross walk. Despite popular belief, there are times when an injured pedestrian may recover for the negligence of a driver even if the accident does not happen within the confines of the cross walk. The rights and duties of pedestrians in Georgia are outlined below.

Ga. Code § 40-6-92.

(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.

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Causation (i.e., that the negligence causes or substantially contributed to the injuries that the Plaintiff is complaining of in the lawsuit) is one of the key legal hurdles that injured plaintiffs must overcome to prove their case at trial. Most times, it is best to have a treating doctor give testimony on causation to satisfy this legal requirement of proving your case. In Georgia, a physician’s testimony on causation may be introduced during the litigation in the form of an affidavit or Medical Report in certain situations at the pre-trial level. Below is a sample affidavit outlining this type of testimony.

AFFIDAVIT

STATE OF GEORGIA §

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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.