Final Georgia Traffic Fatality Count for Thanksgiving Travel Period

The last thing anyone wants to think about around the holidays is the need for a personal injury and wrongful death attorney or the statistics of Georgia traffic wrecks and fatalities. Unfortunately, with the high volume of motorists traveling and the fact that some people choose to drink and drive, car accidents, deaths on our roadways, and DUIs are more prevalent around major holidays.

The Georgia Department of Public Safety has released the final statistics for the 2018 Thanksgiving travel period. Statewide 15 people lost their lives in traffic crashes during the 102 hour period. Ten of these deaths were investigated by the Georgia State Patrol, while local agencies in Gwinnett County (1 fatality), DeKalb County (3 fatalities), and Cobb County (1 fatality) also investigated roadway fatalities.

The report also indicates there were 242 people injured in car or truck wrecks investigated by just the Georgia State Patrol over the travel period. The Georgia State Patrol alone also made 339 DUI arrests during the time frame.

As we head into the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, please take extra precaution on the roads and report suspected drunk drivers.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of an unsafe driver, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

High Volume Predicated for 2018 Georgia Thanksgiving Travel

The Georgia Department of Public Safety has issued a press release regarding the Thanksgiving 2018 holiday weekend and the expected traffic accidents and fatalities during the travel period.

The report cites AAA with the prediction that this year will be the highest travel volume since 2005 with the vast majority of travelers in automobiles.

Last year the Georgia State Patrol alone investigated 665 crashes that resulted in 373 injuries and 11 fatalities. Certainly, the statewide numbers were higher if one were to take into account county and city police department investigations.

Please be safe on the roads this year and have a happy Thanksgiving!

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of an unsafe driver, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Georgia Traffic Fatalities for Labor Day 2018

According to WSB-TV, traffic fatalities in Georgia for Labor Day weekend in 2018 were double the number of fatalities from 2017. Additionally, DUI arrests and crashes increased from 2017 to 2018 for the Labor Day holiday weekend.

As cited in the WSB story, there were 18 traffic fatalities over the Labor Day holiday weekend this year in Georgia, while only nine last year. Total crashes increased to 446 from 396 the prior year, while DUI arrests increased to 332 from 248 the prior year.

Many holidays have higher fatality, accident, and DUI statistics than regular weekdays and weekends. Part of the reason for this is the consumption of alcohol and other intoxicants during holiday celebrations and part of the reason is the increased travel (with more vehicles on the road) during holidays.

The 2018 Labor Days statistics cited in the WSB story certainly do not show a trend when the only comparison is with the previous year, but they do offer all of us a safety reminder. When on the roads around any holiday, take extra safety precautions because there will be more cars on the road and there may be more intoxicated drivers out there. 

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed as a result of an unsafe driver, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Georgia Pedestrian Fatalities on the Rise This Year

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, fatal traffic accidents involving pedestrians are up 16% in Georgia this year. Georgia's new hands-free law goes into effect on July 1, 2018, but experts are looking for additional ways to prevent this increase in pedestrian fatality accidents. The AJC story notes that increased horsepower and larger vehicles may be a factor in the increase. This blog post by Richard Armond, a serious injury and wrongful death lawyer in Lawrenceville, Georgia, briefly highlights some of the sobering statistics involving pedestrian deaths in Georgia.

The AJC story linked above includes statistics which demonstrate the dangers to pedestrians in Georgia. Pedestrian fatalities appear to have been, in general, increasing over the last decade. Last year there were 260 pedestrian fatalities and there have been 111 so far this year. Further, Georgia had the fourth most fatal hit and run crashes in the United States in 2016, with 72 fatalities. Those numbers also appear, in general, to have been on the rise over the last decade. 

Please keep these statistics in mind when utilizing roadways and sidewalks as both a pedestrian and a driver to keep everyone safe and healthy. 

If you have lost a loved one in a pedestrian accident or you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a pedestrian traffic accident, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

The Definitive Guide to Georgia's New Hands-Free Distracted Driving Law

HB 673 Signed by Georgia Governor; New Hands-Free Distracted Driving Law, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241, Explained

Today Governor Nathan Deal signed into law House Bill 673, the Hands-Free Georgia Act, Georgia's new hands-free distracted driving law. This blog post, by serious injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard C. Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, offers an in-depth explanation of the new law. The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, near the Gwinnett County Justice and Administration Center, and handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. Please remember this post is for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice.

HB 673 Amends Three Georgia Code Sections and Repeals Two Others

Georgia's new hands-free distracted driving law will be found at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 and goes into effect on July 1, 2018. HB 673 significantly amends O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 which currently criminalizes failing to use due care while operating a motor vehicle, but specifically allows for "proper use of a mobile telephone" except as prohibited in O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2. HB 673 completely repeals O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-241.1 and 40-6-241.2, effective July 1, 2018, and amends or puts in place a new hands-free distracted driving law at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241, also effective July 1, 2018.

HB 673 also amends O.C.G.A. § 40-5-57, which sets the points assessed against driver's licenses for various traffic offenses. Effective July 1, 2018, a first violation of the new hands-free distracted driving law at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 will be a one point violation, a second violation will assess two points, and a third or subsequent violation will assess three points to a person's driver's license. This appears to be for lifetime violations such that the points will increase up to a third lifetime violation of the hands-free distracted driving law regardless of how far in the past other violations occurred.

Additionally, HB 673 amends O.C.G.A. § 40-6-165, relating to the use of "wireless communication devices" while operating school buses. Essentially, school bus drivers cannot use a "wireless communication device" for any reason while loading or unloading passengers, and they cannot use them while a bus is in motion unless the use is similar to a two-way radio for the purpose of communicating with school officials or public safety officials.

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Georgia's New Hands-Free Distracted Driving Law Explained

To begin understanding Georgia's new hands-free distracted driving law (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241), we must understand the definitions of various devices used in the statute.

Definitions:

Under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(a)(3):

"'Wireless telecommunications device' means a cellular telephone, a portable telephone, a text-messaging device, a personal digital assistant, a stand-alone computer, a global positioning system receiver, or substantially similar portable wireless device that is used to initiate or receive communication, information, or data. Such term shall not include a radio, citizens band radio, citizens band radio hybrid, commercial two-way radio communication device or its functional equivalent, subscription based emergency communication device, prescribed medical device, amateur or ham radio device, or in-vehicle security, navigation, or remote diagnostics system."

Essentially, any type of cell phone, smart phone, flip phone, etc., is included in the definition. Further, laptop computers, tablet computers/iPads, and GPS systems which are not "in-vehicle" (presumably meaning permanently installed, but this may be a source of litigation regarding vagueness) are also included in the definition. However, some more old fashioned forms of electronic communications such as CB radios and systems which are "in-vehicle" are not included in the definition. 

Further, under O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(a)(1):

"'Stand-alone electronic device' means a device other than a wireless telecommunications device which stores audio or video data files to be retrieved on demand by a user."

A "stand-alone electronic device" means anything which stores audio or video that can be viewed immediately, such as an iPod or MP3 player, a GoPro, or for those older readers it would include Walkmans, Discmans, camcorders, etc.

These pertinent definitions are important to understand exactly what is prohibited in the new Georgia hands-free distracted driving law.

What is now illegal under Georgia law (effective July 1, 2018)?

  1. Anything which distracts from the safe operation of a vehicle. The new O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b) requires, "[a] driver shall exercise due care in operating a motor vehicle on the highways of this state and shall not engage in any actions which shall distract such driver from the safe operation of such vehicle." In other words, regardless of whether a cell phone or other device is used at all it is a violation of Georgia law for a driver to take part in any action which distracts her from driving safely. This would include anything such as turning around to discipline children, doing makeup, eating a cheeseburger, etc., IF the action distracts her from driving safely (a case in Georgia was dismissed several years ago when a driving was cited for eating a cheeseburger while driving--the issue was proof that that driver was driving unsafely--these types of actions are not per se unlawful, but only unlawful if a driver is being unsafe because of doing them). However, if a person can do those things while safely driving, they would arguably not be violating the law (which will be a subject of litigation)--this would especially be true if those types of actions are done while at a red light or when the car is technically being operated but stationary. 

  2. The mere act of holding within a person's hand a cell phone (or any "wireless telecommunications device" as defined above) or any other device to store audio or video which can be accessed on demand (so long as defined as a "stand-alone electronic device" above). This where the new Georgia hands-free distracted driving law has its teeth and differs from the old law. As of July 1, 2018, a driver cannot even hold his cell phone in his hand at all while his vehicle is in operation, nor support the prohibited devices with any part of his body, such as holding a phone between ear and shoulder. Operation, under already existing law, will include any time a motor vehicle's engine is on and on a roadway, regardless of whether stopped at a red light, stuck in stand-still traffic, or driving down the road. This hands-free provision will be found at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(1). The statute does, however, allow for the use of an earpiece, headphone device, or device worn on a wrist to conduct only voice-based communication. Though not explicitly stated in O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 it does not appear to prohibit receiving or placing calls from systems installed in a vehicle (as they do not appear to fit the definition of "wireless telecommunications device" or "stand-alone electronic device") or the use of a cell phone to place or receive a call so long as the phone is not supported by the body in any way *(see below "What appears to be legal under the new Georgia hands-free distracted driving law which may not have been intended?"). 

  3. Writing, sending, or reading a text (or any other written communication) on a cell phone (or any device defined above as a "wireless telecommunications device" or "stand-alone electronic device"). This provision will be found at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(2) and makes it illegal while operating a vehicle (which, again, includes being a driver at a red light) to read a text, instant message, email, a website, or any other internet data. However, it specifically allows both sending a text by voice when a person's voice is automatically converted to text and using those devices for navigating by GPS *(see below "What appears to be legal under the new Georgia hands-free distracted driving law which may not have been intended?"). Keep in mind that these devices cannot be held in a driver's hand or supported by her body in anyway while sending text by automatic voice conversion or while using GPS.

  4. Watching a video or movie while operating a vehicle while using a "wireless telecommunications device" or "stand-alone electronic device." This prohibition is found at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(3). This subsection specifically allows, however, watching data related to the navigation of a vehicle.

  5. Recording or broadcasting a video on a "wireless telecommunications device" or "stand-alone electronic device." O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(c)(4). However, this subsection specifically allows electronic devices used solely for continuously recording or broadcasting video, i.e., you can use dash cams to record your trip, and onboard computers which record your every movement (most new cars have this built in) are also lawful. 

Special Provisions for Drivers of Commercial Motor Vehicles

The definition of a "commercial motor vehicle" can be found at O.C.G.A. § 40-1-1(8.3) and, generally, involves vehicles used in commerce over a certain weight, passenger capacity, or which transport hazardous materials. When driving a "commercial motor vehicle" the new law, in addition to the prohibitions applicable to all drivers, also makes unlawful at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(d):

  1. Using more than a single button on a wireless telecommunications device to initiate or terminate a voice communication.

  2. Reaching for a wireless telecommunications device or stand-alone electronic device in such a manner that requires the driver to no longer be: (A) In a seated driving position; or (B) properly restrained by a safety belt.

What appears to be legal under the new Georgia hands-free distracted driving law which may not have been intended?

  • Placing and receiving calls when not holding or supporting a defined device with a person's body in any way. The new O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 appears to intend to allow for use of on-board phone systems installed in vehicles. However, it also appears that at least as to non-commercial drivers, if a cell phone is on the seat next to a driver, he may place and answer calls so long as he does not support the phone in any way, AND so long as he does not violate the "catch-all provision" of anything which distracts from the safe operation of a vehicle found at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b). This will potentially be a source of litigation in criminal/traffic cases, but it appears that if a driver is, for example, at a red light and stopped he would be able to place or answer a phone call from his cell phone so long as he does not hold or support the phone with his body by using the phone while it is laying next to him.
  • Use of GPS on cell phones and other like devices. The Georgia General Assembly specifically included in the definition of "wireless telecommunications device" cell phones and GPS receivers (presumed example:  Garmins and Tom-Toms) which are not "in-vehicle" and made them subject to the hands-free requirement. The General Assembly specifically excluded in-vehicle navigation from the definition, which presumably means the GPS systems permanently installed in vehicles, attempting to make some distinction between portable and "in-vehicle" GPS. While the intent of the new O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 is to save lives and prevent dangerous traffic collisions, subsection (c)(2) specifically allows a driver to enter as much text as the driver wants so long as it for GPS navigation (so long as the driver is not holding or supporting the defined device), with no distinction as to the device being portable or in-vehicle under the allowed acts (so why the distinction?).

This appears to be the biggest weakness of the new law. Anyone who has used a GPS knows it can take quite a while to enter this information and can be just as much of a danger to others as texting and driving. OF VERY IMPORTANT NOTE:  it is definitely clearly still illegal to support in one's hand or body a cell phone or any other portable GPS receiver while operating a vehicle, but subsection (c)(2) would allow for using a cell phone or portable GPS while operating a vehicle so long as, for example, the device is laying on the seat or mounted to the dashboard. ALSO OF IMPORTANT NOTE:  Even when using a cell phone or portable GPS and not holding or supporting the device, it will still be illegal to violate the catch-all of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b) to do "anything which distracts from the safe operation of a vehicle."

In criminal/traffic prosecutions, the State will likely not have to prove that a driver was not otherwise lawfully using his GPS on his cell phone--this appears to be akin to an affirmative defense which a person charged could assert, and, if asserted, the State would then have to disprove it. See May v. State, 179 Ga. App. 736 (1986). However, in most traffic citation cases the police are not going to have access to see what was actually happening on a cell phone at the time they observed a potential violation unless a driver gives consent or the police obtain a search warrant to look into the phone. The State may not have evidence to disprove such an affirmative defense if one is truthfully asserted. This may slightly take away some of the teeth of the new statute in prosecutions, but definitely weakens the prevention aspect as drivers can enter info into a GPS so long as not violating the hands-free/support subsection or the catch-all due care/distraction provision.

What additional actions are specifically legal under the new O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241?

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(g) specifically allows the following four uses of a "wireless telecommunications device" or "stand-alone electronic device" with one major exception to these allowances:

"(1) While reporting a traffic accident, medical emergency, fire, an actual or potential criminal or delinquent act, or road condition which causes an immediate and serious traffic or safety hazard;

(2) By an employee or contractor of a utility services (defined at O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(a)(2) to basically include what we commonly know as utilities) provider acting within the scope of his or her employment while responding to a utility emergency;

(3) By a law enforcement officer, firefighter, emergency medical services personnel, ambulance driver, or other similarly employed public safety first responder during the performance of his or her official duties; or

(4) While in a motor vehicle which is lawfully parked (again, being stopped at a red light is included in the operation of a vehicle and is not considered being parked)."

However, the major exception is that these acts are not exempt from the catch-all provision of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241(b) which basically prohibits anything which distracts from the safe operation of a motor vehicle. In other words, it is still against Georgia law to, for example, call 911 while driving to report a crime in progress if it distracts from the safe operation of the car.

Punishments:

In addition to the points on a driver's license explained above, violating any part of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 is a misdemeanor. 

  • a first offense in a 24 month period (from offense date to offense date) involves a maximum $50.00 fine
  • a second offense in a 24 month period (from offense date to offense date) involves a maximum $100.00 fine
  • a third or subsequent offense in a 24 month period (from offense date to offense date) involves a maximum $150.00 fine

However, the law allows for first time a person is charged with violating O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 for the person to be found not guilty if she produces in court a device or proof of purchase of a device which allows for compliance with the statute in the future (example:  earpiece for hands-free calling). It is extremely important to note that anyone taking advantage if this provision must affirm she has not previously used the provision. Along with that, one should know that making a false statement in an official governmental matter or perjuring oneself are both felony crimes which a person might face if caught making this affirmation more than once.

Conclusion

The new O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241 appears to be a significant improvement in terms of making Georgia's roads safer by making our state a "hands-free" state to combat distracted driving. According to the CDC, approximately nine people are killed and over 1,000 are injured each day in the United States because of car crashes involving a distracted driver. In 2015 alone 3,477 lives were lost and 391,000 people were injured in United States automobile crashes involving a distracted driver. Let's hope this new law will make our roads safer and protect the lives of everyone on Georgia's roadways.

If you or a loved one have been seriously injured or a loved one was lost in a traffic collision, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation or fill in your contact info here

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Photo by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

Loss of Consortium under Georgia Law

Georgia loss of consortium law

Often you will read a plaintiff in a lawsuit was awarded "loss of consortium" damages. This post by Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond addresses what "loss of consortium" is under Georgia law. The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and handles serious injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

Loss of consortium damages are available only to married persons under Georgia law

Loss of consortium in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Georgia is a type of damage available only to a plaintiff who is the spouse of the injured person. When one or both spouses have been injured or when one spouse is deceased because of the negligence or bad act of another party, the spouse(s) can seek loss of consortium damages. These damages are not available to other loved ones of the injured party such as children, parents, fiances/fiancees, or other significant others--only spouses in a legal marriage.

What are loss of consortium damages for under Georgia law?

They are for loss of services of the injured spouse. Loss of services includes household labor, but it is not limited to that and also includes loss of society, companionship, affections, and all matters of value arising from marriage. As you can see, loss of consortium damages are for both the loss of the spouse's ability to help with household labor, but also for those intrinsic aspects of a marriage such as the loss of relationship with one's spouse. Yes, this can include things such as loss of a sex life which is often one of the first things mentioned in news stories, but it also includes things like the inability to travel the world with one's spouse.

How are loss of consortium damages calculated in Georgia?

A large part of loss of consortium damages are somewhat immeasurable. How then does a Georgia jury measure such damages in a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit? The judge will instruct the jury that these damages are measured by their reasonable value as determined by the enlightened conscience of impartial jurors taking into consideration the nature of the services and all the circumstances of the case. There does not have to be direct evidence of their value. In other words, a jury hears evidence of the marital relationship before the tort was committed and does its best to determine how much it has changed since. The jury then decides how much that is worth based on their personal beliefs and values, i.e., their enlightened conscience.

In wrongful death cases and those serious injury cases where the injury will last the rest of the lifetime of one of the spouses, the jury looks at the joint life expectancy of both spouses (how long they would have lived together as a married couple). This can often be shown by mortality tables or expert testimony.

Text of the Georgia jury charges on loss of consortium:

A married person has a right to recover for the loss of consortium, sometimes called loss of services, of the spouse. You should be careful to remember that services the law refers to are not only household labor but also society, companionship, affection, and all matters of value arising from marriage. There does not have to be any direct evidence of their value, but the measure of damages is their reasonable value, as determined by the enlightened conscience of impartial jurors taking into consideration the nature of the services and all the circumstances of the case.
— Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions, Fifth Edition, 66.400
When permanent loss of consortium occurs, you would determine the damages on the basis of the joint life expectancy of the husband and wife, that is, by how long they would both have lived together if the injury of the spouse had not occurred. That joint lifetime loss would have to be reduced to its present cash value.
— Georgia Suggested Pattern Jury Instructions, Fifth Edition, 66.401

Hopefully this post gives some understanding of what is meant by "loss of consortium" under Georgia law.

If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence or bad act of another in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Determining the number of accidents under insurance policies in Georgia

This blog post by Gwinnett County based wrongful death and personal injury lawyer Richard Armond addresses Georgia's legal standard for how courts determine under particular sets of facts where multiple people are injured whether an insurance policy covers an insured for a single accident/occurrence (with a single policy limit of liability coverage) or more than one accident/occurrence (with more than one policy limit of liability coverage) when the policy does not specifically define an accident. The Georgia Supreme Court in 2010 adopted a "cause theory" for making this determination as explained below. This is extremely important in cases where more than one person is injured because often multiple plaintiffs have but a single policy limit to cover their losses, but every so often the facts dictate multiple accidents/occurrences in which the policy limits of liability coverage apply separately. Trial attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, is based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and he handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia.

Many insurance policies, whether auto, home, or other types of liability policies, cover an insured for liability on a per accident or per occurrence basis. An example is with liability coverage on an auto policy where a person has bare minimum bodily injury liability coverage allowed under Georgia law of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If the insured gets in one wreck which injures two people who incurred $100,000 in medical bills, the policy will only cover a total of $50,000 (and no more than $25,000 as to each person) and not the total loss of $100,000. However, if the the insured's car was drivable and ten minutes later he wrecked and injured a third person, this would typically be a separate accident and the policy limit of liability coverage would be available to cover the insured for damages to that person. 

Sometimes, however, it is difficult to determine whether injuries to multiple people happened in one accident or occurrence or multiple accidents or occurrences. The Georgia Supreme Court case of State Auto Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Matty, 690 S.E.2d 614, 286 Ga. 611 (Ga., 2010) sets forth the applicable legal standard in Georgia for determining whether injuries were sustained in one accident or occurrence or multiple accidents or occurrences. This case is incredibly important in serious injury and wrongful death cases involving more than one injured person because it dictates, as to most common liability policies, whether a single policy limit will apply to all victims, or whether more than one policy limit will be available.

In State Auto Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Matty a negligent driver struck a bicyclist, killing him, and then just over a second later struck a second bicyclist, seriously injuring him. The negligent driver's auto policy had a bodily injury liability policy limit of $100,000 for each accident. The insurance company contended these facts constituted a single accident with a single limit of $100,000, while the claimants contended the facts demonstrated two accidents with a two $100,000 limits of coverage. Id. at 690 S.E.2d 616.

The Georgia Supreme Court adopted a "cause theory," meaning that to determine if a set of facts involves one accident or more than one accident, a court looks at the number of causes of the injuries and asks if "there was but one proximate, uninterrupted, and continuing cause which resulted in all of the injuries and damage." Id. at 690 S.E.2d 617. Further, in the context of an automobile accident "courts look to whether, after the cause of the initial collision, the driver regained control of the vehicle before a subsequent collision, so that it can be said there was a second intervening cause and therefore a second accident." Id.

Ultimately, in the Matty case under the facts outlined above, there were two accidents and not just one because there was some evidence through the testimony of an accident investigator that "after the cause of the initial collision, [Rachel] regained control of the vehicle before [the] subsequent collision, so that it [could] be said there was a second intervening cause and therefore a second accident." State Auto Prop. & Cas. Co. v. Matty, Docket No. 11-10419 [unpublished opinion], (11th Cir. 2011).

It is important to note that the Matty case before the Georgia Supreme Court is limited to cases in which the applicable insurance policies does not explicitly define "accident." If a policy includes some specific definition in which a scenario such as that in Matty is a single accident, then the policy will likely only cover one policy limit as a matter of contract law between the insurance company and the insured driver. 

Cases in which multiple people are injured can be complex. An experienced serious injury and wrongful death attorney is needed to properly determine and argue coverage issues to ensure no stone is left unturned regarding potential insurance to cover a loss. 

If you or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of another in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

Filing a Lawsuit on Behalf of a Minor Child in Georgia

This blog post by Richard Armond, a personal injury and wrongful death attorney with The Armond Firm, LLC, a Gwinnett County law practice based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, discusses who can file suit when a minor child suffers an injury because the negligence or bad act of another.

O.C.G.A. § 9-11-17

A minor, for the purposes of Georgia's Civil Practice Act, is anyone under the age of 18 years. If a minor suffers a personal injury because of another's negligence or bad act the law provides the method for the minor to pursue a lawsuit. O.C.G.A. § 9-11-17(c) states:

"(c) Infants or incompetent persons. Whenever an infant or incompetent person has a representative, such as a general guardian, committee, conservator, or other like fiduciary, the representative may bring or defend an action on behalf of the infant or incompetent person. If an infant or incompetent person does not have a duly appointed representative, he may bring an action by his next friend or by a guardian ad litem. The court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for an infant or incompetent person not otherwise represented in an action or shall make such other order as it deems proper for the protection of the infant or incompetent person. No next friend shall be permitted to receive the proceeds of any personal action, in the name and on behalf of an infant, or incompetent person, until such next friend shall have entered into a sufficient bond to the Governor, for the use of the infant and the infant's representatives, conditioned well and fully to account for and concerning such trust, which bond may be sued on by order of the court in the name of the Governor and for the use of the infant. Such bond shall be approved by the court in which the action is commenced and such approval shall be filed in such clerk's office."

The typical way a lawsuit for personal injury to a minor child gets filed in Georgia is by having one of the parents or guardians of the child bring the complaint for damages (lawsuit) on behalf of the minor as "next friend." As you can see from the statute, any guardian, conservator, or similar type representative can bring suit on behalf of the minor. Let's say John Doe Jr. is injured in a car wreck by another driver. His father John Doe Sr. could bring suit. The complaint could be styled as John Doe Jr., a Minor, By Parent and Guardian, John Doe Sr., Plaintiff v. Bad Driver, Defendant. Many times a parent will also be named as a plaintiff individually as well, as parents can sometimes be compensated for "loss of services" of the child or for medical bills and other expenses the parents have incurred. 

Other times a guardian ad litem or other representative is needed to file suit on behalf of the minor. This is generally the case when a parent or parents may be liable for the injuries to the child. An example in a car wreck case would be when both a parent and the other driver were negligent in their driving. Some other person besides that parent is generally best for filing suit to protect the minor's rights. 

As you can also see from the statute above, the funds from any recovery in the lawsuit are for the minor child and not the parent (unless the parent has also sued individually). It is very important to take note that in any recovery of a gross amount greater than $15,000, court approval is required pursuant to O.C.G.A. §§ 29-3-2 and 29-3-3.

Lawsuits on behalf of minor children can be complex to navigate and you should always strongly consider retaining a Georgia personal injury attorney to handle the case properly.

If your child has been injured by the negligence or bad act of another in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

How to Obtain Insurance Coverage Info in Georgia under O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28

This blog post by personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, a Gwinnett County law practice based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, addresses how a plaintiff obtains the defendant's insurance coverage information to begin negotiations.

Automobile Insurance Companies

The easiest cases to begin negotiations with an insurance company for an at-fault party are car accident and trucking accident cases. Why? There is typically a Georgia motor vehicle accident report and the other side's insurance policy number is listed in the report. It is a simple matter of contacting that insurance company and then sending a letter of representation which demands the policy information. Such a letter typically will cite O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28(a)(1), which requires the insurance company to provide, upon request of the plaintiff, within 60 days of the request, and under oath, the following:

  1. disclosure of each known policy of insurance issued by it, including excess or umbrella insurance,
  2. the name of the insurer,
  3. the name of each insured, and
  4. the limits of coverage.  

Homeowners Insurance Companies

When an injured person has a claim against a homeowner, the process can be somewhat more complicated. When a person is injured because of the negligence of a homeowner, sometimes there may be no official report written by law enforcement such as there is in car accident cases. Even when an incident involves a police response, the homeowners insurance information is not something that gets reported like in car accident cases where the information has to be provided. 

A Georgia personal injury attorney will often send a letter to the homeowner demanding the insurance information similar to what is sent to auto insurance companies above. Georgia law requires under O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28(a)(2), that an insured person or company shall "within 30 days of receiving a written request from a claimant or the claimant's attorney. . .disclose to the claimant or his attorney the name of each known insurer which may be liable to the claimant upon such claim." The statute, however, does not provide a remedy to the claimant if the homeowner does not comply. The practical effect is that often the only way to get that information if a homeowner does not comply and you do not know the insurer is to file a lawsuit. That often results in the homeowner's insurance company getting involved quickly and responding to the statutory requirement of a plaintiff obtaining the information through discovery.

Other Tortfeasors/Liable Parties

When a business or some other liable party is at fault, the process is similar to the process with homeowners claims. However, larger businesses will often have in-house counsel or will at least obtain counsel upon receiving a demand for insurance information pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 33-3-28(a)(2). There is also typically a registered agent to send such a demand to and the understanding of the need to comply with the law. If there is no response then the result is often an earlier than usual filing of a lawsuit much like with homeowners insurance cases.

If your or a loved one have been injured by the negligence of another in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.

National Work Zone Awareness Week

This week is National Work Zone Awareness Week, which is designed to bring attention to motorist and worker safety issues on roadways. This blog post by wrongful death and personal injury lawyer Richard Armond of the The Armond Firm, LLC, in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, is designed to spread the message regarding the dangers of work zones on highways and includes some safety tips.

The statistics cited by the Federal Highway Administration regarding work zones are most alarming. In 2016 there were 765 work zone fatalities in the United States and 712 in 2015. In 2016, 143 of those fatalities involved workers, while in 2015 there were 130 workers lost. Most people recognize the dangers involved in the hard work those workers are doing, but those statistics indicate it is also very dangerous for motorists traveling through work zones.

Wrongful deaths in automobile accidents of any type are tragic, but often preventable. The Federal Highway Administration offers the following safety tips when driving in highway work zones:

  • Know Before You Go. Check your phone apps, agency websites, and the radio for the latest traffic information to ensure a safe and timely trip.
  • Wear Your Seatbelt. It is your best defense in a crash.
  • Expect the Unexpected. Work zones change often. The area you drove through yesterday may look different today.
  • Avoid Distractions. Distracted driving in a work zone can have deadly consequences. Put down your phone and keep your eyes on the road.
  • Pay Attention to Other Drivers. Narrowed traffic patterns provide less ability to maneuver around other vehicles safely. Paying attention can prevent the need for evasive actions in work zones.
  • Don't Speed or Tailgate. Keep a safe distance from the vehicle ahead of you and don't speed. Tailgating and speeding lead to crashes with other vehicles and field workers.
  • Obey Road Crews and Signs. Flaggers know how best to move traffic safely in work zones. The warning signs are there to help you and other drivers move safely.
  • Be Patient and Stay Calm. Work zone crew members are working to improve the road and make your future drive better. Stay calm and drive safely.

Source:  https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/publications/fhwahop18044/index.htm#source2

Please drive safely and attentively around highway work zones for your safety and for the safety of the workers and other motorists.

If you or a loved one have been injured in an automobile accident, please contact Gwinnett County based personal injury and wrongful death lawyer Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation. 

Attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, handles serious personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. He is licensed to practice law by the State Bar of Georgia and is based in Lawrenceville, one mile down the road from the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center. Call him today for a free consultation at (678) 661-9585. The information above is for informational purposes only as of the date of publication and should not be relied upon as legal advice, nor does the reading of it form an attorney-client relationship. Always consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.