Articles Posted in Car Collisions

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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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Fortunately, I have never had the real life experience of seeing a wrong way driver at night on the highway. In the daytime, I have seen numerous wrong way drivers in cities with many one-way streets, like downtown Atlanta and Savannah, but I did not feel threatened as these drivers were traveling fairly slow and I saw that they quickly figured out their mistake without harming anyone. However, recently in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, a city that boasts the highest number of taverns per person in the country, a wrong way driver entered the eastbound lane of I-94 (a major highway) and traveled in the opposite direction and struck an innocent motorist in a head on collision. The collision happened at night and tied up traffic for two miles, and clearing the accident took more than five hours. Sadly, the wrong way driver passed away. The details are sparse and do not contain any information as to whether this wrong way driver was impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. Yet, at 8 p.m. at night, it is hard to believe that such a driver was guilty of simply bad judgment.

The question becomes…. what would cause a motorist to drive the wrong way on a major highway? I believe the answer is simple: drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two. Studies indicate that the incidence of wrong way drivers increases at night between 1-3 a.m. And, if you are driving by yourself at or around the same time on the highway, then by all means, avoid the fast lane on the far left as if your life depended on it…because it does. That’s because research shows that most wrong way drivers typically enter the far left lane and encounter little resistance…until they do…at a high rate of speed.

Some of these wrong way drivers have been drinking at their favorite bar, restaurant or club. I remember a collision that involved a fatality where the grossly negligent and inebriated driver had just left a “gentleman’s club” in Atlanta. He entered I-75 traveling the wrong way, struck an innocent motorist and both were killed in the ensuing crash. Based on receipts from his credit card and blood alcohol test, it was determined that the at-fault driver had just left the topless bar and was heading home seriously intoxicated.

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I grew up watching Disney on the television channel at 6 pm in the 1970s. It was always a treat and Walt Disney World seemed like a magical place that was a world away from Wisconsin. And it was. Located in Bay Lake, Florida, near Orlando, Walt Disney World was roughly 18 hours and 23 minutes away (1,250 miles) via I-65 South and I-75 South. At the time, most middle-class families traveled by car and we were no exception.

I remember our first trip to Walt Disney world – it was long and somewhat boring – down the asphalt heading South. I was too young to drive and I remember falling asleep for at least one-quarter to one-half of the trip. The free glass of orange juice at the Florida Welcome Center when we crossed the Florida state line was welcomed.

Fast forward to the present. A family of eight from Terrell, Texas decided to make their dream trip to visit Walt Disney World and attempted to make the 16 hour and seven minute trip of just over 1,000 miles. Of the eight occupants in the Chevrolet Tahoe, six were ejected, and five died, including parents Michael and Trudi Hardman, and children, Dakota, 15, Kaci, 4, and Adam, 7. The six family members that were ejected were not wearing their seatbelts. However, the driver of the vehicle, a 16-year-old, did wear his seatbelt and survived.

At the time of the crash, the family had traveled roughly 240 miles east of their starting point. The teenage driver, whose name has not been released, admitted that he fell asleep around 10:30 p.m. The SUV had veered left onto the median when the teenager woke up and overcorrected the vehicle while attempting to get the SUV back on the highway. Consequently, the vehicle rolled over.
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A former client of mine was operating his work vehicle in a safe and prudent manner in the early morning on August 19, 2014 in a southerly direction on Interstate 985 when all of a sudden he felt like a bomb had exploded both above and in his vehicle. In reality, my client’s van was struck by a small boulder that an adult threw from the Athens Street overpass above. The boulder struck the driver’s side front door which caused the entire window to shatter as the boulder traveled along the side of his van. If the boulder had come just a little bit closer to the front windshield or the driver’s side window, then I think I can say with certainty that my client would have been severely injured. The incident made national news.

Unfortunately, my client was not the only victim. Unbeknownst to him, a group of three to four men had voluntarily elected to throw heavy boulders at another vehicle below roughly one half hour later. In fact, one boulder had struck another vehicle as it entered the moon roof window and destroyed the back seat of the car. If an infant had been placed in the back seat of that car, then surely the infant would have perished.

Richard Elliot of WSB TV Channel 2 in Atlanta decided to interview my client in my office the day after this event. Mr. Elliot and I had actually met in the past regarding a separate newsworthy event and I had no concerns in allowing him to speak to my client. WSB TV aired the segment the night of the interview. In retrospect, the television segment was important in that it alerted the public and warned others from engaging in such a dangerous activity in the future.

As for the group of men involved in this incident, the Gainesville police had arrested two of the four men, Khyrie Harris, 21 and Juan Peterson, 18, and charged them with felony criminal damage and terroristic acts shortly after the incident. At the time of this blog, the police were still searching for Kendrik Perry, 19 and Michael Ellis, 21.
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Have you ever seen road rage occur while are you driving on the roads of Georgia? It is not uncommon in Atlanta and is usually demonstrated by creative finger gestures, motorists following another bumper to bumper for an extended period of time or vocal comments out the window toward another motorist. Sometime these actions result in automobile crashes – but at least the motorists are protected by seat belts, air bags and steel. Now, consider road rage between a bicyclist and a motorist. By most standards, the bicyclist has little protection except a helmet. Can you imagine an intentional collision by a motorist upon a bicyclist? I would think the end result isn’t pretty and usually involves a serious injury to the bicyclist.

On June 9, 2014, our imagination became reality for one Greg Germani, a 50-year-old bicyclist in Atlanta, who was the apparent victim of road rage by a motorist intending to hurt, harm and hit the biker. The impact occurred in Morningside, an area of in-town Atlanta that is well known for leafy streets and attractive homes. Witnesses have stated that there was a verbal altercation between Mr. Germani and the unknown motorist moments before the collision and that Mr. Germani was found underneath a silver SUV after the impact.

As of the date of this blog, the driver of the red Dodge Nitro SUV that collided with Mr. Germani is unknown and still at large. However, a red Dodge Nitro that matched the description of the vehicle involved in this crime has been located which exhibits evidence of property damage (possibly front and right side) consistent with a collision with Mr. Germani and his bike. This vehicle has been impounded. The police should be able to determine ownership of this vehicle by a VIN and tag search. Unless this vehicle was stolen, I would imagine that the owner of this vehicle will be subject to thorough examination by the police. And, the search continues for the driver…

It has been reported that Mr. Germani has been released from the intensive care unit at Grady Hospital where he was in critical condition and has been moved to Kindred Hospital, a post acute care facility, for further evaluation and treatment. Germani’s family hopes to relocate Mr. Germani to the Shepherd Spinal Center in Atlanta, which is a noted medical facility known worldwide for its brain, spinal treatment and rehabilitation. Due to state and federal privacy laws, Mr. Germani’s exact medical condition is unknown. Yet, one can safely assume that he suffered either a closed head and/or a spinal injury due to this crash. For his sake and the sake of his family, we certainly hope that he recovers fully.
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So, you have been in a car or truck accident. How do you obtain the police report? Assuming that your wreck occurred on public property, an officer has investigated the collision, made findings, assigned fault and provided you with a business card as to where/when/how you can retrieve your report after it has been finalized by the supervising officer. In the past, the report could be ready in three to five days by physically driving to the investigating police station, paying anywhere from 50 cents per page to a flat fee of $5.00, and providing your name, date of collision and site of collision to the records department. Usually the report was picked up by the at-fault and innocent parties, and perhaps their attorney and/or auto insurance company.

Nowadays, the process of obtaining an accident report has dramatically changed. And, the parties involved in that process are new–and determined to make a profit. Specifically, about four years ago, the Georgia Department of Transportation entered into a contract to sell crash reports to a for-profit, foreign corporation based in Kentucky identified as Appriss. This company operates and runs Buycrash.com.

Accident reports through Buycrash.com sell for $11.00 per report. Although state law limits the cost of such reports to the actual price of preparing the report. However, I find it hard to believe that the cost of preparing the report is more than twice the price than it was in the past. But, there are more players involved at each step of the process than gets a cut of this $11.00 buy: Georgia Department of Transportation, the specific investigating police entity and Appriss. Reports continue to arise that Georgia motorists and passengers feel they are misled as who exactly makes money from this site. The exact procedure of how the $11.00 is carved amongst these three (3) entities is unknown; however, it has been reported that local referring police agency to the website receives a sum of $2-$5 per report downloaded at Buycrash.com.

Prior to Buycrash.com, Georgia taxpayers were spending approximately $900,000.00 on an annual basis for the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) to prepare, manage and make over 380,000 reports available. Since the public-private contract with Appriss, Georgia has eliminated about 20 associated jobs at the GDOT.

To use Buycrash.com effectively, the user must fit within a certain class such as: 1) an individual with a personal, professional or business connection to the party to the car/truck accident; 2) an owner or leasor of the property damaged in the accident; 3) a person injured or allegedly injured in the accident; 4) a witness to the accident; 5) the insurance company that insured the party to the wreck or the property damaged in the crash; 6) a prosecutor or law enforcement officer; 7) a person allegedly liable to a person for causing the accident; 8) an attorney investigating a criminal aspect of the accident or an investigation into a roadway, railroad crossing or unsafe intersection or 9) a representative of a news media organization.

If you fit within the class of users described above, then you still need to know certain information about the accident to input into the website to actually find the report. The information required is the last name of the party/parties to the wreck, the date of the collision and the identify of the investigating police organization (e.g. Clayton County Police Department; Georgia State Patrol Post 48). Once the correct identifying information is keyed into the website, Buycrash.com will pull the desired report for purchase by credit/debit card and present you with a high quality document to print and/or save to your computer.
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In late January 2014, Greater Atlanta and the surrounding areas experienced a storm that brought snow and ice to the roads. The estimate for snow was two inches. The estimate for ice that formed afterwards was unknown. The result was chaos.

Tractor-trailers ignored regulation and attempted to come through the city and blocked up lanes. Schools seemingly all closed at the same time with parents rushing to the streets to pick up the children. Businesses and government offices were not far behind. On that day, it was not uncommon to travel five to seven miles in four to five hours.

I spent a good portion of the night helping to push stuck cars up Roswell Road in Buckhead. Neighbors came to our assistance and brought coffee and food. I asked an Atlanta Police officer to help, but he declined due to potential liability concerns. Later, an unmarked police vehicle was slamming his horn and using his speaker to tell us (the volunteers) to move a truck out of the road. This police officer didn’t bother to help.

I witnessed vehicles and trucks sliding into each other on declines and on inclines. Toward 8 p.m., a lot of folks were leaving their vehicles parked in shopping center lots, neighborhood streets and the main street (Roswell Road). I saw vehicles collide with other vehicles while attempting to maneuver on side streets to snag a choice parking spot.
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I am not a mechanic. However, I have been driving cars for more than 30 years and have been around a shop once or twice. Recently, an Atlanta mother died when a motorist’s wheel (rim and all) allegedly came off his vehicle and crushed the roof of the mother’s vehicle causing instant death.

Most motorists don’t pay attention to their tires unless they see a little yellow light on their dashboard alerting them to low pressure. I believe the same conclusion applies to motorists who actually rotate (front to the back and back to the front) their tires. But – I digress.

The question is how does a wheel disengage from a moving vehicle. Let’s start by covering the bases of how a tire might blow or rip from the rim. If a tire is underinflated, then the tire has more surface area flat on the road surface while still keeping the chassis suspended on four wheels. In this situation, the tire can flex beyond its elastic limit and overheat and blowout. By contrast, an overinflated tire combined with longstanding tire wear or a poor retread could lead to a blowout. When a tire is overinflated, the tire tread does not adequately grip the road as less tire tread lies flat on the road. Over time, an overinflated tire can lead to a blow out. Yet, these situations don’t account for a complete wheel and rim coming off a moving vehicle.

Here are the basics. A tire is fit around a metal rim. Between the rim and the tire is oxygen or nitrogen that helps fit and secures the tire to the rim. The metal rim is secured to the car by several lug nuts. Additionally, some older vehicles have wheel ball bearings (steel bars held together by a metal ring) that need to be replaced or re-greased over the lifetime of the vehicle. Newer model vehicles have ball bearings that are sealed and do not need any maintenance. The wheel bearings (set of ball bearings) help support the wheel and ride on the axle shaft. The wheel bearing is located at the hub in the center of the wheel. The hub is located where the lug bolts come through the wheel.
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This is not just another shocking headline; unfortunately, there was indeed a woman who resided in Craighead County, Ark., who tried to escape from the police using a child’s battery operated toy truck. To provide some background, Craighead County is located in the far northeast portion of the state and has a population just shy of 100,000 people. This county is composed of two county seats: Jonesboro and Lake City, where the sale of alcoholic beverages is prohibited by law. This incident occurred in Jonesboro.

Now to proceed to the facts of the crime. On March 3, 2013, around 5:30 p.m., 29-year-old Jamie Jeannette Craft was operating a 2001 Pontiac Grand Am on the streets of Craighead County. Just prior to the accident, Ms. Craft was traveling in excess of the speed limit and had no regard for the safety of others or their property. She sped around a corner and collided into a stationary mobile home under the panel of said trailer.

Could things actually get worse for the young Ms. Craft? Always crafty on her feet, she got out of her vehicle and immediately grabbed the adolescent daughter of a nearby witness and proceeded to step into battery operated Powers Wheel truck to commence her getaway. Looking ever conspicuous in her white sweatshirt sans pants and shoes, Ms. Craft was still trying to determine how to operate the toy truck when the witness took his daughter inside his home.

The witness then came back outside with his son (owner of the toy truck) and forced Ms. Craft to exit said vehicle at which point Ms. Craft started to scream and made a beeline for her mother’s mobile home. When police arrived, they had to hold Ms. Craft up by the shoulders and administer a portable Breathalyzer test, which registered a 0.217 blood alcohol content (BAC); this is three times the legal limit.
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