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Allstate Insurance recently completed an analysis of the best drivers in America by reviewing the frequency of property damage caused by drivers insured by Allstate from 2013-2014.  The analysis and conclusions were published in a report that looks at the 200 biggest cities (as identified by U.S. Census Bureau’s Annual Estimates) in the United States.  The purpose of the study was to contribute to the ongoing discussion of driving safely and attentively behind the wheel – particularly, as to the popular driving season in the summer.  For our purposes, the study concluded that Atlanta had some of the worst drivers in the country and that 183 of the biggest cities in the United States had safer drivers than us.  FYI, Boston was the worst with a rank of 200 – I think the haphazard road and highway configuration is to blame…. Brownsville, Texas had the safest drivers…

Of course, Allstate has a vested interest in the results of the study as Allstate’s general aim is to take in insurance premiums from customers and minimize payouts to persons injured and property damaged by Allstate insured drivers.  As an interesting side note, I read that Allstate recently requested (from Georgia Insurance Commissioner – aka rubber stamp) and received a 25% increase in the premiums it charges in the State of Georgia.  And, sure enough, I checked the price of my renewal of office insurance policy and it increased exactly by 25%.

Some other general statistics gleaned from the study reflect that the average driver will be involved in a collision (there are no accidents – just negligence of behalf of the motorist) at least once every 10 years and that distracted driving causes 26% of motor vehicle collisions. Allstate polled more than 4,500 drivers and published some interesting statistics on distracted driving:  37% of motorists talk on the phone while driving; 39% of motorists say texting is largest contributor of distracting driving; 34.3% of motorists say their ability to talk on the cellphone or text while driving is poor (while less than 1% say it is excellent); 60.4% say texting and distracted driving is about as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs; and 35.7% of the motorists know someone who has been involved in a car crash caused by distracted drivers. For more information in a well-written blog on distracted driving, please click here, here, here and finally here.

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I am an admitted dog lover.  From a review of my pictures as a toddler to the present, it is clear that dogs have been and still are a large part of my life.  My wife just reminded me that I should also mention that she brought a cat (Ollie) into my life and he has been a good family pet as well. 😉

The last three dogs that I have adopted over the years have all been rescue dogs.  The first dog, Griffin, was found on Griffin Street in The Bluff – a rough and tough part of Atlanta – as I was working on a real estate project back in 1999.  The second dog, Roscoe, was found as a pup snoozing in the middle of a dirt road on a large farm in Valdosta.  The third dog, Rudy, was found (and purchased) on the side of Tara Blvd in Jonesboro as I saw a developmentally disabled teenager carrying the pup by his neck as I was driving back to the office from a pre-trial conference in the State Court of Clayton County.  Unfortunately, the first two dogs have succumbed to cancer.  Yet, both dogs lived past the age of 14 and were provided a good home, a big yard and lots of cold water.  And, yes, the value of the lives of these two dogs was profound and inestimable to me.

I get many phone calls to my office from strangers regarding animal law in Georgia.  These calls range from dog bites to veterinarian/day care malpractice/negligence.  A great majority of the phone calls revolved around the concept of the monetary value of the loss of the life of a pet due to alleged veterinarian/daycare negligence relating to diagnosis or treatment, among other areas.  I always felt bad to deliver the bad news to these owners when I would tell them that in general, Georgia law viewed dogs as the personal property of the owner and not worthy of anything more than market value plus reasonable expenses incurred to cure the animal and that the intrinsic value of the pet to the owner was not relevant.  In most cases, this method of determination of value made such cases too expensive to pursue.

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Bellwood: Community comes together to mourn loss of star child student

The northwest Atlanta neighborhood of Bellwood is still in deep mourning following a vehicle incident which resulted in the death of one child and critically injuring another two youngsters.  Atlanta police are still investigating the circumstances, although what is known so far is Isiah Ward, 9, has died from injuries sustained while his brother Roland, and friend Timothy Hood, 12 are still in a critical condition.  Isaiah was kept alive on life support until Sunday afternoon.

The driver of the vehicle, Ryan Lisabeth, 28, is under suspicion of Driving Under the Influence (DUI) while in control of a vehicle which struck the children on the sidewalk of Joseph E. Boone Boulevard on the evening of Friday 22nd May. While Atlanta police continue with their inquiries, the local community has vociferously expressed their support for the families involved and pledged to seek justice on the children’s behalf. Although Lisabeth had sought to be bailed, the judge denied his bond leaving him in custody – which is perhaps a small mercy given the depth of feeling in the community against him and the groundswell of public opinion about the tragedy.

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For purposes of this blog post, let us assume that you were not at fault for the collision and do not have medical insurance or medical payments coverage (on your own auto insurance) that would otherwise be available to pay your medical, therapy and hospital bills that you incurred as a result of your injuries in your car crash.  In Georgia, the insurer for the at-fault motorist is not obligated to pay your medical bills as soon as you incur them or when such bills become due and payable.  Typically, medical bills are paid out of a lump sum money settlement after you have finished your treatment. That is why it is always important to use an experienced personal injury attorney to fight for the highest settlement possible!

TIP 1:  Buy medical payment coverage on your auto insurance.  This coverage is cheap and will pay the medical bills that you incur as a result of your car crash irrespective of whether you were at fault.

On occasion, auto insurers will (surely try) promise to pay you (an unrepresented victim) a small paltry sum for pain, suffering and inconvenience and represent it will “pay” your medical bills.  Don’t fall for it – it is a sucker’s bet – and you if you agree to it – then you allow the at-fault insurer in essence to control your medical treatment – and your interests are obviously opposed to one another.  If you have a question regarding this contention, then please contact me and I will happy to speak to you. Now, back to the topic at hand.

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I remember the day and the time that it happened to me.  It was a Saturday night around 11 p.m. in the mid 90s and I was leaving a restaurant in a small retail shopping center in Atlanta near Collier Road after meeting with some friends.  I walked out into the parking lot and spent over 10 minutes looking for my car. I retraced my exact steps when I initially arrived at the restaurant from parking the car and walking into the restaurant. I attempted this fruitless maneuver several times without success.  At this point, I was a little concerned.  I knew that I only had two drinks at a nearby restaurant and that my inability to find my car was not based on my intoxication or lack of familiarity with the surroundings.

I decided to walk one more time to what I thought was my initial parking spot.  I looked all around and didn’t see the car.  Then, I decided to look down.  Sure enough – there was shattered car window glass on the ground in my spot – you know, the type of glass that is shatter proof and crumbles upon impact.  At this point, I called the Atlanta Police Department and filed my stolen car report.  APD found my car the next day near the water treatment plant.  Some perps had stolen the vehicle for a joyride and damaged the vehicle beyond its fair market value – not hard to do, as this was a late model Pontiac Bonneville.  Fortunately, I had the right type of auto insurance that compensated me for my loss.

What happened to me that night was not an aberration of human behavior in Atlanta?  Typically, the higher the population, the higher the incidence of crime, particularly, in a large metropolitan city.  Unfortunately, car theft, break-ins and resulting property damage in retail shopping centers in Atlanta are on the rise.

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Georgia Uniform Vehicle Accident Report Overlay

Unfortunately, you were involved in a car collision as a driver, passenger or pedestrian.  The investigating officer arrived at the scene of the car wreck; performed an investigation; and then spoke to you and stated that you could pick up your Georgia Uniform Accident Report (GUVAR) either in person or on-line within several days.  If you chose to obtain your car accident report on-line, then you probably read my blog regarding how to buy your report over the computer.  However, the police agencies that utilize www.buycrash.com in Georgia typically do not offer the Georgia Uniform Vehicle Accident Report Overlay with the report.  Yet, you can typically pick up the overlay form at the police station.

What is the overlay and what does it have to do with your car accident report?  The overlay is broken down into twenty-one (21) separate categories that function to provide crucial information regarding the who, what, when, where and why of car crashes in Georgia. The categories are as follows: alcohol and/or drug test given, type test, driver condition, direction of travel, vision obscured by, vehicle condition, vehicle maneuver, pedestrian maneuver, first harmful event/most harmful event, contributing factors, vehicle class, vehicle type, traffic control, cargo body type, vehicle configuration, traffic-way flow, weather, surface condition, light condition, manner of collision, location at area of impact, road composition, contributing road defects, road character, damage to vehicle, age, sex, taken for treatment, injury code, construction/maintenance zone codes, ejection, safety equipment, extrication, air bag function, seating position and points of initial contact.

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On February 11, 2016 around 1 a.m., a MARTA bus operator collided into a pickup truck driver while operating the bus route covering Cascade Road and Spring Park Drive.  The impact of the crash was a head on collision and the damage to the truck was severe.  The severity of the property damages is not surprising as MARTA New Flyer buses are quite large (35’ – 40’) and may very well weigh between 24,000 – 29,000 lbs.

The driver of the pickup truck was identified as Ashley Mount, 63. The police and MARTA are investigating the collision and it appears that there is video of the incident from an on-board camera in the bus.  The bus operator and four bus passengers were taken to the hospital for treatment. Our heartfelt condolences go out to the family of Ms. Mount.

Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) is a legal entity created by a special act of the Georgia Legislature.  MARTA was created in 1971 and was initially a bus system.  Since that time, MARTA has grown into a bus route network that provides connection to the MARTA rail system of 38 train stations in Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb Counties along with bus service that has been expanded to Cobb and the airport.  Recently, Gwinnett County was pondering a MARTA rail extension.  MARTA services over 438,900 passengers on a daily basis. MARTA is funded by a 1% sales tax in Fulton, Clayton and DeKalb Counties and also receives federal funding.

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Let’s take a look at an interesting scenario. A young man in his late 20s is involved in a car crash through no fault of his own.  At the time of the wreck, he is coming back from the gym where he had a thorough workout.  The collision involved a side impact to his passenger door.  He experiences pain in his neck, shoulder and back at the scene and is transported to the hospital.  Upon release from the hospital, the ER physician tells him to follow up with his choice of health care providers for any continuing pain.

The next day, the man decides to visit a clinic that provides chiropractic and medical treatment.  He undergoes several months of treatment and, while his neck and back get better, his shoulder continues to be in pain and he experiences limited range of motion.  The medical doctor refers him for an MRI (magnetic resonance image) of his shoulder that enables the doctor to see the shoulder tissue. The MRI results indicate that the man tore the minor labrum (part of a ring of cartilage that helps to form the shoulder socket) and he undergoes surgery to repair the tear.

After surgery and several months of physical therapy, the man is able to obtain 85-95% of range of motion in his shoulder.  However, the orthopedic surgeon places the man on a permanent restriction of no military pushes or any activity that involves lifting his arms above his head.  Consequently, he is unable to perform about 30% of the exercises that he used to do several times a week at the gym to stay in shape and build muscle.

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Two weeks ago, I tried an auto injury case in front of a six (6) person jury in the State Court of Cobb County, Georgia.  Judge Carl Bowers was the presiding judge at this trial and made fair and consistent rulings on the evidence. Prior to this trial, State Farm had undergone some type of a reorganization and the supervisor was contacted (versus the adjuster) by the defense lawyer as to settlement authority. It was relayed to me the morning of the trial that the supervisor had decided to offer zero dollars – no in-depth explanation was provided.  But that was okay because I had prepared for this trial and both my client and I were ready.  By way of background, Cobb County has been known as a conservative venue for car wreck cases.  However, with changing demographics and opinion regarding human losses and injuries caused by car crashes, that old assumption is no longer true.

Let me tell you the facts of our case.  In July of 2012, my client was operating a Lincoln Town car (built like a tank) and was stopped at an intersection at a red light when the defendant collided into his vehicle from the rear.  As luck would have it, the collision was captured on the dash cam video of a Douglas County Sheriff who had been traveling down the road in the opposite direction. However, Georgia State Patrol had jurisdiction of the wreck and completed their investigation.  In my career, I think I have only had several cases that reflected the car crash on video. After investigation, the trooper cited defendant for following too closely behind my client’s vehicle than was reasonable and prudent.

In terms of the property damage, my client’s vehicle was totaled and his trunk reflected intrusion of several feet.  The strength of the impact caused my client’s seat to break and my client was forcibly thrown backwards striking his head and neck against the back seat.  He does not recall losing consciousness but felt a headache and some neck pain at the scene despite telling both the defendant and the trooper that he was not hurt.

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In 2011, I filed suit against the Cobb County Board of Health (and its employee) for damages caused to my client due to a rear end collision that took place in Marietta on November 23, 2009.  My client  was stopped on Pat Mell Road with his left turn signal activated waiting for traffic so as to turn into his driveway.  My client’s roommate was outside the home and witnessed a Ford Econoline (owned by Cobb County Board of Health and operated by an employee) van slam into the rear of my client’s vehicle. The impact was so great that it broke my client’s car seat, knocked my client unconscious and propelled his vehicle 50’ from the point of impact.

My client’s roommate immediately ran after the car to the point where the vehicle had come to a rest following the crash.  Upon his arrival, my client was slumped back in his seat and unable to speak.  My client was taken by ambulance to the Wellstar Kennestone Hospital.  After he was discharged from the hospital, my client followed up with an orthopedic surgeon on January 4, 2010.  My client received conservative treatment from the provider including physical therapy and prescription medication for continuing pain in the low back that traveled down his legs.

My client underwent a magnetic resonance image test or what is commonly referred to as an “MRI” of his low back. The MRI test produced a computerized image of the internal body tissue of the low back. The MRI demonstrated a disk herniation (a protrusion of fibrous material outside of the disc in the spine) in his low back at the lumbar (low back) five sacrum (low back) one level.  A herniated disc is analogous to a jelly donut that has been squeezed hard enough to allow jelly to squirt out the side.  After the MRI, my client received several epidural steroid injections in his low back over the course of several months that did not provide any appreciable improvement from pain.