Georgia looking to fix school bus passing law

One thing we want Georgia traffic laws to do is to keep us safe on the roads through reasonable enforcement. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Georgia General Assembly is looking to fix Georgia’s school bus passing law that went into effect on July 1, 2018. The statute at issue, O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163(b), arguably was written such that it is no longer a violation to pass a school bus from the opposite direction of travel when on a road divided by a center center turn lane. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr came to that opinion on August 20, 2018.

As the Atlanta Journal-Constitution story reports, Georgia lawmakers in both the House and Senate are looking to fix the law this year. This law is a major safety issue for our state and needs to be changed. The story cites a survey of school bus drivers in which 10,988 drivers witnessed 7,465 illegal passes in just a single day.

Further, there has been at least one documented wrongful death of a child since the new law went into effect. This past October in Colquitt County two children were struck while crossing the street to a waiting, stopped school bus. According to WCTV one child died and the other was seriously injured.

Hopefully, the Georgia General Assembly will fix the apparent error with school bus passing law and make our roads safer for children getting on and off the school bus.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile or pedestrian wreck, 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.

Poll on public compliance with Georgia hands-free driving law

An article in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution (link here) cites a poll by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs about how Georgia drivers are obeying the new hands-free law that went into effect on July 1 of last year. According to the article, 45% of those surveyed obey the new law all the time, while an additional 40% obey the law most of the time. However, 8.5% of the respondents said they seldom obey the law and 4.3% said they never obey it.

Encouragingly, the article mentions preliminary figures show fatality accidents appear to be down 7% last year, after several years of increasing numbers of roadway deaths led to the passage of the law to combat distracted driving.

As more statistics become available over the next few years, we may have a better idea whether the Hands-Free Georgia Act is making our roads safer. Distracted driving is a real danger and hopefully this law is and will prevent deaths.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile wreck, 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.

Family Purpose Doctrine in Georgia Automobile Accident Cases

This article by Georgia personal injury lawyer Richard Armond is designed to give the reader a brief explanation of Georgia's "family purpose doctrine" or "family car doctrine" as applicable to automobile accident cases. The doctrine is one that is rooted in the law of agency and allows a plaintiff to pursue a claim for damages against the owner of an automobile who was not the driver during an accident when, in certain circumstances, a member of the owner's family was driving (in situations where the doctrine is applicable, a plaintiff can sue, for example, the parents of a minor child in addition to the child so that there is a source of recovery for damages).

What is the "family purpose doctrine?"

"The family purpose doctrine in Georgia provides that "[e]very person shall be liable for torts committed by . . . his child . . . by his command or in the prosecution and within the scope of his business, whether the same are committed by negligence or voluntarily." Thus, "when an automobile is maintained by the owner for the use and convenience of his family, such owner is liable for the negligence of a member of the family having authority to drive the car while it is being used for a family purpose."" Dashtpeyma v. Wade, 646 S.E.2d 335, 337 (Ga. App., 2007).

In other words, a parent (or other member of a driver's household depending on the facts) can potentially be held liable under Georgia law for negligent acts of a driver from the household pertaining to the use of the family car for family use. A common example would be parents being held liable for an accident caused by their teenage son who was driving the family car home from school. There are, however, many other scenarios in which the doctrine can apply.

What legal elements muse be present for the "family purpose doctrine" to allow for liability?

There are four necessary preconditions along with a requirements regarding the parent/owner/furnisher's authority and agency under Georgia law. The four preconditions are:

(1) the owner of the vehicle must have given permission to a family member to drive the vehicle;

(2) the vehicle's owner must have relinquished control of the vehicle to the family member; 

(3) the family member must be in the vehicle; and 

(4) the vehicle must be engaged in a family purpose.

Dashtpeyma at 337.

Then, the authority and agency requirements, if those preconditions have been satisfied, are:

". . . [T]he doctrine renders the defendant vicariously liable if [defendant] had the right to exercise such authority and control that it may be concluded that an agency relationship existed between [defendant] and the family member with respect to the use of the vehicle." Id.

What is the purpose behind the "family purpose doctrine?"

"The policy behind the origin of the doctrine was the ever increasing number of automobile collisions and the frequency with which the negligent driver was found to be judgment proof. In the case of a family at least, this factor was minimized by finding liability as to the owner of the car who allowed family members to use the car for family pleasures." Anderson v. Lewis, 809 S.E.2d 260, 261 (Ga. App., 2017).

In other words, it is a policy based principle of law designed to give those people injured in automobile accidents by drivers who do not have funds to cover the losses (example: teen drivers) the ability to pursue the claim against a member of the household of the driver who supplied the car (example: the parent who gave the teen a car).

Conclusion:

This is a very brief summary of an area of Georgia law that can sometimes benefit a person who has been injured in a car accident. Factual scenarios such as whether grandparents supplying a car to a grandchild can be held liable, whether family members are actually part of the same household, and whether the doctrine even applies to certain parents of children depending on parental rights or household living arrangements are just some of the issues that can arise in this area of the law.

The law can be very fact specific when a motion for summary judgment is litigated on the family purpose doctrine and a knowledgeable plaintiff's attorney licensed in the State of Georgia is needed to protect the interests of an injured person.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia automobile wreck, 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.

Utah change in legal BAC limit to 0.05 may save lives

This blog post addresses a change in DUI law designed to prevent wrongful deaths and serious injuries in automobile accidents involving alcohol impaired drivers. Earlier this week a new law went into effect in Utah lowering the legal BAC to 0.05. Other states will surely be watching to see what effect this change has in saving lives in DUI related traffic accidents.

The USA Today (link to story here) published an interesting piece regarding some of the statistics regarding DUI accidents and fatalities pertaining to the lower 0.05 BAC limit. The story cites and links to a study (link to study on National Institutes of Health website here) by James Fell and Robert Voas which “concluded that a .05 BAC limit would prevent 11 percent of fatal crashes involving alcohol and save nearly 1,800 lives each year.”

The USA Today story further cites NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) statistics which show that when a person has a BAC between 0.05 and 0.079 that person is seven times more likely to be in a fatal accident than a person with no alcohol in his blood.

They also cite statistics from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) which show a person can start exhibiting impairment from alcohol with a BAC as low as 0.02 and that driving skills worsen considerably when a person’s BAC reaches 0.05.

Of particular note in the story, though 67% of fatality DUI accidents involve drivers with BACs of 0.15 and above, in 2016 there were 2,017 alcohol related fatalities nationwide involving drivers with BACs of under 0.08 (the legal limit currently in Georgia).

It will be interesting to see what effect this change has on traffic fatalities in Utah in 2019. If it has any significant impact on saving lives I would predict other states will soon follow by changing their laws. The USA Today story notes that most developed countries already have stricter DUI limits such as Utah’s new 0.05 legal limit.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia traffic accident with a DUI 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 New Year's Travel Period

The Georgia Department of Public Safety has issued the final statistics regarding automobile accidents and fatality wrecks for the New Year’s travel period which began at 6:00 PM, Friday, December 28, 2018, and ended at 11:59 PM, Tuesday, January 1, 2019.

In total 18 people lost their lives in traffic crashes in Georgia during this recent holiday travel period.

These fatal crashes were investigated by the Georgia State Patrol, Dougherty County Police, Loganville Police, Atlanta Police, Rockdale County Sheriff’s Office, Chatham County Police, Gwinnett County Police, Newton County Sheriff’s Office, and DeKalb County Police.

The Georgia State Patrol alone investigated 550 traffic wrecks that resulted in 223 injuries and seven fatalities. They also made 368 DUI arrests and issued 6,971 citations during the New Year’s travel period.

Here is hoping you and your loved ones had a safe New Year’s celebration and will have a happy and prosperous 2019!

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia 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.

Georgia Traffic Accident and Fatality Statistics for Christmas 2018

The official statistics for Georgia traffic fatalities for the 2018 Christmas travel period are in and tragically 26 people lost their lives. According to the Georgia Department of Public Safety, there were 700 traffic crashes resulting in 333 injured persons handled just by the Georgia State Patrol (not accounting for local agencies). The Georgia State Patrol alone also made 285 DUI arrests.

Of the fatal accidents in Georgia for the 2018 Christmas travel period, the incidents occurred in the jurisdiction of the following agencies: Georgia State Patrol, Atlanta Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, Columbia County Sheriff’s Office, DeKalb County Police Department, Clayton County Police Department, Savannah Police Department, Lawrenceville Police Department, Dade County Sheriff’s Office, and Floyd County Police Department.

These statistics are based on a 126 hour travel period from 6:00 PM, Friday, December 21, 2018 to 11:59 PM, Wednesday, December 26, 2018.

If you or a loved one have been injured or killed in a Georgia 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.

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.

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.