COVID-19 Update: How the Ford Law Offices Are Serving And Protecting Our Clients
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Bringing the Right Experience and Legal Insight to Georgia

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If you are reading this blog post, then it is probably because you received a letter from the Georgia Insolvency Pool regarding your bodily injury claim as a result of a car accident or workers’ compensation accident. This blog will focus on the car accident injury claim.  Basically, the insurance company for the at-fault driver which is responsible for handling your injury claim is in bankruptcy or receivership as it no longer has enough assets (money) to pay for your injury claim.  Covered claims under the Georgia Insolvency Pool generally requires that the insured (at-fault motorist) be a resident of Georgia at the time of the car wreck when either the insured or third-party claimant (injured innocent victim) was a resident of Georgia at the time of the automobile collision.

Typically, the Georgia Insolvency Pool (“Pool”) will request an affidavit from you that discloses contact and policy information regarding any other possible automobile insurance policy that could cover your injury claim (e.g. uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage on your own car policy) from the car crash besides the fault motorist’s insurer which is now insolvent.

The reason for that is that the Georgia Insolvency Pool is trying to limit its exposure (save money) to pay you for the claim.  If you have other coverage besides the at fault motorist’s insurer, then that other coverage becomes primary (pays first) and Georgia Insolvency coverage becomes secondary (pays second).   Under O.C.G.A. 33-36-14, your own insurance coverage (if applicable and existing – typically uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage under your own auto policy) must exhaust (pay out) its limits prior to any payment of your claim by the Georgia Insolvency Pool.  Moreover, the Pool gets credit for whatever the primary insurer pays to you.  And, your uninsured motorist bodily injury (“UMBI”) carrier may be able to recover (rare) what it paid to you from the assets of the insolvent insurance company.

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Recently, I settled a dog bite claim for $50,000.00 on behalf of a deserving client after filing suit in State Court of DeKalb County. The attack occurred in Waterford neighborhood which is located in Dunwoody – a suburb of Atlanta. The neighborhood was built back in the 1970s and has over several hundred homes. I consider it to be a large neighborhood. And, a lot of the neighbors own dogs – the majority of which are competent and responsible dog owners.

Our dog bite attack occurred back in the fall of 2018 and involved an unleashed grey/white male pit bull/Great Dane mix that had escaped through an open gate in the owner’s backyard. The dog immediately ran down toward the street and my client who at the time was walking her leashed two small dogs on the sidewalk. My client saw the pit bull and immediately picked up her smaller dog and attempted to walk away. However, the pit bull continued to circle her and my client was constantly moving in a circle to keep an eye on the pit. In the process of attempting to protect herself, she fell down upon the roadway. She was not sure if the pit had knocked her down or if she fell of her own accord onto her shoulder. When she attempted to get back on her feet off the ground, the pit started to bite her ankle when she was at her most vulnerable. The pit bit holes through her pant leg and socks and caused several dog puncture bite wounds to her ankle. My client was screaming from the pain but was able to get on her feet when the pit started to come back toward her to commence another attack.

My client was able pull out her pepper spray and sprayed the pit in the face which caused the pit to run back inside the fence of his owner. A fellow neighbor witnessed the attack and was able to close the fence door. Several drivers had stopped their cars in the roadway and witnessed the event – although, none got out to help. Allegedly, the owner of the pit was not home at the time of the attack and the pit had no previous history of attacks. DeKalb County Animal Services ordered that the pit be quarantined at home. Until there was confirmation of rabies vaccination for the pit, my client was on pins and needles.

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Governor Kemp’s order for all Georgia residents to stay at home went into effect on April 3, 2020 which effectively allows Georgia residents to get outside for exercise, shop for groceries, seek medical help and to keep going to work at jobs deemed “essential.”  Thus, the only motorists allowed on Georgia roads should be grocery shoppers, essential workers and persons seeking medical treatment.   As I look out my window from the office, I still see many motorists on Piedmont Road in Atlanta; however, daily normal traffic of approximately 35-40K+ cars on Piedmont Road has greatly reduced since enactment of the aforementioned order.

As there are motorists on the roads in Georgia, the possibly exists that some motorists may be involved in car collisions.  As a result of those car collision, drivers and passengers may be injured and require treatment.  But, where should persons as a result of car collisions treat in the Covid age?  I have heard that emergency rooms across Atlanta are accepting patients with life/death situations; whether or not injured motorists whose injuries do not rise to that level are being accepted at those hospitals is unknown.  Of course, the reality is that wait times at hospitals are increasing.

If a person injured as the result of a car wreck is unable to treat at the hospital, then there are other options for treatment including but not limited to, urgent care centers, pain management physicians, chiropractors, orthopedists and similar health care providers.  It is best to do your homework and Google or call different providers to see hours/times/availability to best care for your injuries.

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On February 4, 2020, a Gwinnett County jury of twelve, made a jury verdict award of $29,000.00 for my clients for injuries and bills sustained from a car collision in Lawrenceville, Georgia. The trial lasted one day in State Court of Gwinnett County.

On  January 15, 2018, Defendant was operating a Ford F250 truck owned by his employer in the course and scope of his employment and crashed into the rear of my client’s stopped vehicle.  The property damage to my client’s vehicle was minor to moderate. At the time of the collision, my client’s minor son was also in her vehicle.  My adult client complained of back and neck pain at the scene to the investigating police officer and her son complained of pain in his head and back.  Due to this pain, the clients went to Eastside Medical Center for examination and treatment.  Due to continuing pain, both clients sought treatment from an orthopedic clinic which housed chiropractors, physician assistants, physical therapists, pain management doctors and others.

My adult client underwent an MRI of her low back that reflected two disc herniations.  The treating doctor opined that the herniations were caused by the crash.  A herniated disc is similar to a jelly donut that has been squeezed so hard that the jelly has squirted out. It is a permanent injury with permanent pain.  My client testified at trial that she felt pain in her low back from the time of the collision until the present. By the time our case got to trial, my client had been suffering that pain for over two years!  The minor child had limited treatment.  The bills for my adult client were $9,809.26 and her son’s bills were $3,900.26.

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Recently, I settled an outstanding lawsuit against an owner of an alleged “service” dog that was brought into a national chain of steakhouses in Greater Atlanta.  Nowadays, it is not surprising to see service dogs in retail stores, restaurants and other public spaces.  For my earlier post regarding “service” dogs and dog bites,  click here.

The backstory on our case is that the owner of the dog was on a trip from West Coast and passing through Georgia on her way to the East Coast with her friend.  Along for the ride was a mixed breed large male dog that growled at the hostess on the way into the restaurant and again at the manager of the restaurant on the way out after the attack.  Several other employees were also ready and willing to testify as what occurred after the dog bite.  Upon deposition, it was clear that the owner of the dog was a difficult and angry person.  There was no evidence available to indicate that the dog was involved in prior attacks/bites at people/animals prior to our claim.

My client was a young server at the restaurant and did not ask the defendant whether or not her dog was an authentic  and genuine “service” dog at the time of service pursuant to a mix of restaurant policy and nebulous law from a county/state perspective.  What actually constitutes a “service” dog is still up for debate from a city/county/state/national analysis and there are no clearly enforced guidelines to steer individuals/businesses in this regard.  In fact, anyone can do a Google search for a service dog vest for sale, buy it, and upon receipt place it on their dog with no questions asked.  The defendant later admitted during discovery that the dog was not a trained “service” dog and only wore (and did not earn a service vest – most likely, to discourage prospective questions when she brought her dog into public places of accommodation/service.

50062_dog_bite-300x225Over a year ago, a young vibrant 12-year-old little girl was walking and skipping in the street with her friends in her DeKalb County neighborhood at night.  At or around the same time and unbeknownst to her, a neighbor’s pit bull mix dog either pushed open a side door or gate and charged down the driveway and into the street toward the children.

Unfortunately, my 12-year-old client did not hear or see the pit bull until it was too late.  And the cries and shouts of her friends beforehand were wasted.  She turned, tripped and fell down upon the ground where she attempted to kick at the dog to protect herself to no avail.  The strength of the pit bull’s jaw leveraged down upon the victim, bit her to the bone and ripped a chunk of flesh from her lower leg.

The  adult male owner of the dog contended that the little girl provoked the dog to attack by kicking it in the street.  For what cogent reason a young child would kick a pit bull at night, the owner could only speculate.  Of course, the owner’s contention was a lie.

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Attributed to Channel 2 News

A horrible news story came out today in Atlanta regarding a 5-month-old baby girl, Paige Bradley, who was killed in Forest Park, Georgia, by a German Shepherd dog. The back-story is that the dog had been around the baby for the baby’s entire short life.

The mother allowed the baby to go to a different home where a dog lived, ate, and slept. The male babysitter (and roommate to the mother) was asleep in a different room in the home at the time of the dog attack – the story does not indicate any details of barking, growling, noise or similar conduct at the time of the attack. The mother came to pick up the baby later that evening and noticed that the baby was not responsive – specific details of the particular attack were missing from the report.

I have represented numerous innocent victims statewide throughout Georgia who have been forced to file lawsuits against dog owners who have adopted dogs from the humane society, no kill shelters,dog-attack-1312618 and county adoption centers.  The adopted dogs in these cases have caused vicious attacks on children and adults alike; frequently, with permanent injuries and scarring that will last a lifetime and cause mental pain and suffering.

Without fail, the defendant owner(s) or possessor(s) of dogs in these dog bite cases highlight in their deposition and trial testimony that they graciously and selflessly adopted these dogs as puppies, young dogs, or adult dogs in an attempt to tug at the heart strings of the jury and garner sympathy for the plight that they owners find themselves in the suit.

While the adoption centers provide a great service to dogs of past owners that cannot or will not care for their own pets, the centers do not guarantee the temperament, personality or safety of these dogs to future owners.  In fact, when you review the adoption contract language that new owners are required to read and sign prior to taking possession of the dog, you see that the new owner affirms that the adoption center provides no representation or guarantee as to the temperament of their new pet and further understands that dogs are unpredictable animals that will behave in unknown circumstances and factual scenarios.

1307594_mobile_phone_in_handI was the first attorney in Georgia to be awarded punitive damages against a motorist who used his cell phone at the time he caused a car wreck.  This jury verdict was back in 2002 in DeKalb County, Georgia.  The law regarding distracted drivers has changed since that time; mainly, due to numerous and horrific collisions by distracted drivers that have resulted in death and serious injuries.  I have over 11 blogs regarding distracted drivers.

Today marks a milestone in curbing and preventing motorists from using cell phones while operating vehicles as Governor Deal has signed HB 673 that had been passed by both the House and Senate.  Effective July 1st, the State of Georgia has outlawed drivers from operating a motor vehicle while: 1) physically holding or supporting a cell phone; 2) writing, reading or sending any text or communication from a cell phone or stand alone device; 3) watching a video or movie on a cell phone or stand alone device; 4) recording or broadcasting a video from a cell phone or stand alone device.  Additionally, truckers are prohibited from: 1) using more than a single button to make or stop a call on a wireless device; and  2) reaching for a wireless or stand alone device that would result in the trucker getting out of his car seat or removing his/her seat belt.

However, motorists are allowed to: 1) send written communications by a voice activated device; 2) use GPS or similar device for navigation; 3) report an accident, hazard, criminal or emergency situation; and 4) use a cell phone or stand alone device while parked.  Moreover, utility workers, firefighters, police, ambulance personnel, etc. can use a cell phone or stand alone device while responding to an emergency while on the job.

u-s-supreme-court-washington-dc-1224318-300x226In 2018, the Supreme Court of Georgia in Cooper Tire & Rubber Company v. Koch, 339 Ga. App. 357 (793 SE2d 564), advised that the plaintiff has a duty to preserve relevant evidence when plaintiff actually anticipates or reasonably should anticipate litigation.   The above cited case involved a tire tread (manufactured by Cooper Tire) that separated from the left rear tire in 2012 which caused a Ford Explorer to strike a guardrail.  The driver suffered serious and permanent injuries and subsequently died from those injuries.

The left rear tire was the only part of the car that was saved from the Ford Explorer.  In 2014, the estate of the deceased filed a product liability claim against Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. which alleged catastrophic tread separation and resultant collision due to negligent design and manufacture, strict liability, and failure to warn. Cooper Tire filed a motion to dismiss the complaint due to spoliation of evidence.  The trail court denied that motion inasmuch as litigation was not reasonably foreseeable or reasonably contemplated by the plaintiff.

The Georgia Court of Appeals affirmed the order of the trial court and rejected Cooper Tire’s argument that the trial court focused exclusively on whether plaintiff subjectively knew that a lawsuit over the incident and tire tread allegation was likely. The Appellate Court held that there was a distinct difference between whether defendant “actually or reasonably should have foreseen litigation” versus the plaintiff.  The Court of Appeals held that the trial court did not abuse any discretion in relying upon Phillips v. Harmon, 297 Ga. 386 (774 SE2d 596)(2015), which applied an objective standard for spoliation.  Yet, the Court of Appeals did note that reasonable foreseeability of litigation involved both objective and subjective criteria.

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