Georgia Governor Signs into Law a Fixed School Bus Safety Statute

Today in Atlanta, the Governor of Georgia signed a bill fixing last year’s school bus passing law, according to a report by WSB-TV. A full reading of the text of Senate Bill 25 can be found on the Georgia General Assembly’s website.

The bill amends O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163, which last year written in a manner that made it no longer a violation to pass a school bus (when loading or unloading children) from the opposite direction of travel when on a road divided by a center center turn lane.

That has been fixed as the problematic language has been deleted from the statute. Now, it is against the law again in Georgia to pass a school bus from the opposite direction when it is loading or unloading children on all roads except in the situation where it occurs “with separate roadways that are separated by a grass median, unpaved area, or physical barrier need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on the separate roadway or upon a controlled access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway." O.C.G.A. § 40‑6-163(b) (2019).

This law went effect immediately, so as of earlier this morning, February 15, 2019, safety measures in the law appear to be restored in Georgia. Hopefully, this fixed law will prevent tragic wrongful deaths and injuries for Georgia’s children.

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.

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.

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

Georgia holding phone while driving ban set to pass

As a personal injury and wrongful death lawyer in Lawrenceville, Gwinnett County, Georgia, who handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia, I have made frequent blog posts following this year's session of the Georgia General Assembly and the hands-free driving bill. HB 673, which bans driving while holding a phone, appears to be set to pass through the Senate for the governor's signature according to WABE

Supporters of the bill estimate it may reduce traffic fatalities by 20 percent annually, amounting to 300 lives saved on Georgia roadways each year.

The current Georgia laws combating distracted driving are often unenforceable. While O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241.2 bans sending or reading text messages, another similar statute, O.C.G.A. § 40-6-241, allows for the "proper use" of mobile telephones. 

In order to stop a vehicle for a violation of the law, a police officer must have a reasonable, articulable suspicion before activating the blue lights and using police power to effectuate a traffic stop. It is currently very hard to make such a stop when a person is allowed to dial phone numbers and look at a phone to do so. Further, even if an officer has specific facts to believe a person is texting rather than engaging in "proper use" the officer cannot look into a person's phone without either consent of the person or a search warrant (a significant hurdle on a routine traffic stop). 

The new law may make enforcement easier and cut down on dangerous distracted driving activities. This may make Georgia roads safer for everyone.

If you or a loved one would like to speak with a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death lawyer please contact Richard Armond at (678) 661-9585 for a free consultation today.

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 hit and run car-pedestrian accident

Georgia personal injury case issues in a hit-and-run car and pedestrian accident

A sad story out of Cobb County, Georgia, is in the AJC regarding an incident yesterday in which an alleged hit-and-run driver struck with his car a six year-old boy who was a pedestrian. As a personal injury attorney based in Lawrenceville, Georgia, (Gwinnett County) who handles car accident and pedestrian accident cases all around metropolitan Atlanta and the State of Georgia, I will analyze this news story for potential issues in a Georgia personal injury case. Fortunately, according to the story, though a witness feared for the life of child, he suffered two broken legs but no permanent damage.

Liability in a Georgia car accident or pedestrian accident case (duty and breach of duty)

According to the AJC report linked above the hit-and-run driver is alleged by police to have "improperly passed the stopped traffic and drove on the wrong side of the roadway and struck the victim in the crosswalk." These allegations, if proved, could form the basis for a claim of negligence on the part of the driver for violating Georgia's rules of the road. That one quote alleges multiple different obvious traffic violations.

  1. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-44 provides:  "No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the roadway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken. In every event, the overtaking vehicle shall return to an authorized lane of travel as soon as practicable and, in the event the passing movement involves the use of a lane authorized for vehicles approaching from the opposite direction, before coming within 200 feet of any approaching vehicle."
  2. O.C.G.A. § 40-6-40(a)(1) provides:  "(a) Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway, except as follows: (1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction under the rules governing such movement;"
  3. O.C.G.A. §§ 40-6-91(a) and (d) provide:  "(a) The driver of a vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian to cross the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling, or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the roadway on which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For the purposes of this subsection, "half of the roadway" means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel. . .(d) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle."

Additionally, the allegations against the driver, if provable in court, will likely result in additional criminal charges for Reckless Driving in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-390 (driving in reckless disregard for the safety of persons or property), felony Hit and Run in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-270 (a hit and run in which the accident is the proximate cause of serious injury or death), and felony Serious Injury by Vehicle in violation of O.C.G.A. § 40-6-394 (accident that temporarily rendered useless the legs of the child, which is one of three qualifying injuries to prove a violation of this code section--case law makes it very clear uselessness only has to be temporary).

These violations, if proven, would show that the driver had a duty under the law and that he breached that duty.

Causation

Causation should be very clear in a case like the one outlined in the AJC. The driver striking a child in a crosswalk with his car caused the two broken legs.

Damages

The six year-old child suffered significant injury. Two broken legs, weeks to months in casts, physical therapy, lost time playing with friends and doing the things a six-year old boy likes to do, the significant pain he suffered, the medical and rehabilitation bills--all of that adds up to damages in a case such as this. Fortunately, the child apparently did not suffer life-altering injuries as this Georgia traffic accident between a car and pedestrian could have been much worse. 

Sources of Recovery

The first source of recovery will be the insurance company who insured the alleged hit-and-run driver. Hopefully he had insurance on the vehicle. A major issue with the driver's insurance coverage will be how much his policy is worth. Did he have bare minimum coverage under Georgia law which would involve only $25,000 in liability insurance? A case such as this will likely involve damages well above the minimum.

A second potential source will be whether any person in the child's household has an automobile insurance policy with uninsured motorist coverage. If so, any such policies are a potential source of coverage in the event the driver (1) did not have insurance, or (2) damages exceed the policy limit on the driver's policy. Even if the driver had insurance, uninsured motorist coverage typically covers damages exceeding the policy limits of the other driver's policy in a case such as this. One note of caution:  uninsured motorist policies typically have strict time limitations and notice requirements which must be complied with to avoid a coverage denial. This is why in cases such as this it is smart to get a Georgia personal injury lawyer involved immediately.

Again, fortunately the child was not injured worse. Let's all hope and pray for a speedy recovery for him. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car or pedestrian accident in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based car and pedestrian accident 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.

 

Equipment Violations in Georgia Car Accidents

This post by trial attorney Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, a car accident and trucking accident lawyer in Gwinnett County who handles cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia, addresses the importance of equipment violations in car and truck accident cases.

Use of equipment violations in Georgia car accident and truck accident cases by trial attorneys

Title 40 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) deals with motor vehicle laws. The most common chapter of Title 40 that Georgia attorneys get questions about is Chapter 6 which addresses moving violations. Title 40, Chapter 6 of the Official Code of Georgia is extensive in length with all manner of rules of the road that keep motorists and pedestrians safe, but which also result in traffic citations (and questions for lawyers).

This post, however, briefly addresses another incredibly important chapter of Title 40, that being Chapter 8. Title 40, Chapter 8 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated is entitled "Equipment and Inspection of Motor Vehicles." Chapter 8 has the following parts:

  1. General Provisions
  2. Lighting Equipment
  3. Brakes
  4. Horns, Exhaust Systems, Mirrors, Windshields, Tires, Safety Belts, Energy Absorption Systems
  5. Equipment of Law Enforcement and Emergency Vehicles
  6. Equipment of School Buses

Why are motor vehicle equipment violations under O.C.G.A. Title 40, Chapter 8 important to Georgia car and truck accident cases?

Violations of the law involving equipment violations also result in traffic citations. However, in Georgia car accident, trucking accident, personal injury, and wrongful death cases, the code sections in Chapter 8 provide an additional means of proving negligence. 

Many Georgia car accidents and trucking accidents involve clear-cut negligence or fault on the part of one or more drivers who are responsible for injuring a victim in a wreck. However, plenty of times liability is disputed. Evidence regarding a lack of proper maintenance of a vehicle can contribute to proving negligence. Things like improperly maintained brakes, tire tread, and lighting equipment are potential evidence to show negligence. 

You will almost never have a Georgia fatality traffic accident in which the investigating law enforcement officer does not fully inspect all vehicles involved for faulty equipment. However, in other serious injury Georgia car and trucking accidents in which there is not a fatality it is not uncommon for the investigation to be conducted by regular patrol officers instead of specially trained accident investigation officers. 

Why is it important to have a Georgia car accident or trucking accident lawyer involved immediately in a personal injury case?

Evidence disappearance and/or spoliation. When someone is seriously injured in a traffic accident medical care should be priority number one. Attorneys should not give medical advice--an injured person should follow all advice of her treating physicians and other medical providers. However, it is a huge benefit to get a Georgia car accident or trucking accident attorney involved as soon as practicable. 

Georgia attorneys can serve a spoliation letter on the other driver or person having custody of the vehicle. A spoliation letter is basically a legal demand to maintain evidence for use and/or inspection at a later date. Failure to preserve evidence can be used against those who ignore a spoliation letter and can sometimes result in a finding of negligence by a court.

Many times after auto accidents cars are towed to body shops and work begins the next day. Crucial evidence regarding potential equipment violations can be lost if legal representation is not involved early after car or truck accidents in Georgia. 

If you or a loved one have been injured in a car or truck accident in Georgia, please contact Gwinnett County based car and truck accident 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.

DeKalb County, Georgia School Bus Pedestrian Fatality Accident

This blog post addresses an incredibly sad story in the Atlanta news today. It involves a wrongful death of a child in an auto accident/pedestrian accident case and personal injury to the child's mother. This incident happened in DeKalb County, next door to Gwinnett County where my practice is located. I handled personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout metro Atlanta and the State of Georgia. This post addresses some of the legal issues in a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death case such as the tragic one today.  

Today the AJC is reporting heartbreaking news from DeKalb County, Georgia, where an eight year-old girl and her mother were struck by a car. The girl has died and her mother has moderate injuries. Reportedly the girl and her mother were in a marked crosswalk and crossing the street for her school bus, which was stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign out. The driver of the car, whose name has not been released, has allegedly been arrested and charges are allegedly pending.

First and foremost thoughts and prayers should be with the mother of the child and her family.

Potential Liability in this Georgia Pedestrian Fatality and Injury Accident

I have written before about Georgia's rules of the road applicable to school buses (click here for that post). From a legal perspective this case would, after full investigation to determine if the driver was at fault, involve potential claims by child's parents for wrongful death and a personal injury action for the mother based on her injuries. 

In addition to evaluating negligence of the driver of the car, the early reports from the AJC seem to indicate the potential of violations involving O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163 for unlawfully meeting a school bus and O.C.G.A. § 40-6-91 for failing to yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. 

Investigation in a Georgia Pedestrian Fatality or Injury Case

Typically in fatality accidents such as this one the accident investigation unit of the DeKalb Police Department will complete a full investigation including an accident reconstruction report. They will typically download any data from the onboard computer of the offending vehicle to determine potential negligence based on speed or lack of braking. They will also typically do a full analysis of the vehicle to determine if there were any defects with the vehicle and to determine if it was properly maintained in areas such as the braking system and tire tread. Sometimes they will also look at cell phone records of the driver to see if phone usage at the time is an issue (distracted driving or texting and driving). 

Sources of Recovery in a Georgia Pedestrian Fatality or Injury Case

If it can be shown that the driver of the car in this Georgia pedestrian accident is liable through negligence and/or other violations of the rules of the road, the amount of automobile liability insurance she carried will be the first source of recovery of damages. Hopefully, this is more than the Georgia minimums of $25,000 per person and $50,000 total in any one incident. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for motorists in Georgia to have bare minimum coverage.

A second source of potential recovery, and a major reason why a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death lawyer should be retained promptly, is uninsured motorist coverage on any auto policy in the household of the mother or child. It is important to protect your household to have this coverage on all of your auto policies. The reason is because this coverage can be a source of recovery in any accident involving a motor vehicle, including when a member of your household is struck as a pedestrian. This coverage can cover any loss should the driver of the car not have insurance or any amount of loss that can be proven as greater than the other driver's policy limit. Uninsured motorist coverage typically has strict time limitations and requirements for how your insurance company must be notified in the event of an injury. Failure to comply with your policy can result in a denial of coverage and a personal injury lawyer can ensure this is done correctly. 

Again, car accidents and pedestrian accidents such as the one today are tragic and heartbreaking. One family will never be the same. Our thoughts in prayers are with the girl and her family. 

If a loved one of yours has been injured lost in a car accident, pedestrian accident, or any other type of personal injury or wrongful death incident in Georgia, 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 Legal Issues: Fatal Car Accident in Gwinnett County

Fatal Car Accident in Gwinnett County

This past Monday a construction worker was fatally injured when he was struck by a car in a tragic accident near Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road, according to a report from the AJC. This post will outline someone of the issues a Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney practicing in Gwinnett County or metro Atlanta would look at if a loved were to do a free consultation for a case such as this. Trial lawyer Richard Armond of The Armond Firm, LLC, offers free consultations on Georgia personal injury and wrongful death cases.

The essential facts of the AJC report are that a construction worker who was wearing a reflective jacket and helmet was struck by a car in the area of Lawrenceville-Suwanee Road (Ga. 317) and I-85 near I-985 in Gwinnett County, Georgia. The construction worker died later at the hospital. According to the Gwinnett County Police Department charges are forthcoming on the driver. 

"Modified comparative negligence" law in Georgia

One of the first things a Georgia injury attorney in a wrongful death case would look at in a case like the fatal car accident in Gwinnett County outlined in the AJC story is liability. In a consultation setting, this may not always be clear. Georgia law is a "modified comparative negligence" state, as per O.C.G.A. § 51-12-33. A plaintiff can recover if he, or in the case of wrongful death those who can recover on his behalf, is less than 50% at fault. If the deceased was negligent in some way (example: was he in the roadway where he should not have been or was he follow proper safety protocols), but 49.9% responsible or less, there can be an award. If a jury ultimately finds the plaintiff 50% or more at fault, there is no recovery. Also, the plaintiff's recovery is reduced by the percentage he is at fault. An attorney would not necessarily know enough details at a consultation to know who all the parties in a lawsuit would be, but the driver of the vehicle, the worker's employer, other construction companies working at the site, conditions of the site, etc., are all things an attorney will analyze.

A Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney in a fatality car accident case such as this one will try to determine:

1.  Was the driver of the vehicle at fault? The police seem to indicate charges are forthcoming. I stress that at this time full details are unknown as to whether the driver violated any laws or was negligent in his or her operation of the vehicle. However, if there is evidence of negligence and/or a violation of the rules of the road the driver and his insurance company will be a potential source of recovery. Later, we would be able to determine how much insurance coverage was in place.

2. Was the construction worker an employee at the time (and not an independent contractor)? Georgia law has some limited allowance for recovery for a death during the course of employment at O.C.G.A. § 34-9-265 (workers compensation). A Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney will certainly look to see if the workers compensation laws are applicable to any wrongful death in the course of employment.

3. Was the victim responsible in any way? Again, not knowing all the details of the investigation, this will be difficult to ascertain at a consultation, but it is something to analyze when investigating the case. 

4. Are there any other parties who were negligent or contributed to this death? You always have too look at all aspects of the case. Were other companies working on the road and may they be responsible?

5. Did the victim have uninsured motorist coverage on any auto insurance policy in his household? If so, the insurance company must be notified promptly as any such policy may likely cover him for this wreck, but there are typically strict time limitations in those insurance contracts which require notification in writing to the insurance company promptly. 

Who is the proper person to bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the deceased?

A Georgia personal injury and wrongful death attorney will need to determine who can bring a claim and lawsuit in a case such as this. I have posted before (click here) on who the proper party is in a lawsuit. The correct person must bring the action. Additionally, if workers compensation is applicable, Title 34, Chapter 9 will control who, if anyone, has a claim as a dependent of the deceased.

The initial AJC report seems to indicate this tragic car accident may have wrongfully took the life of a person. Our thoughts and prayers are with those he left behind. Georgia fatality traffic accidents occur too frequently and leave families without a loved one and often in financial distress.

If a loved one of yours has been lost in a car accident or any other wrongful death at the hands of another in Georgia, 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.

Tractor-trailer and train crash in Norcross, Gwinnett County, Georgia

An example of the dangers of semi-trucks in Georgia disobeying the law

This past Friday in Gwinnett County an accident in Norcross in which a train collided with a tractor-trailer fortunately resulted in no reported injuries despite the truck's trailer being split in half. The AJC reported that the incident was not the first near this location. In November 2016 there was another semi-truck collision nearby also involving a train. 

This area of Norcross is near the historic downtown and fortunately no pedestrians, shoppers, or restaurant patrons were injured. The AJC story linked above does, however, point out an interesting fact. The roads have signs prohibiting these semi-trucks from driving in the area. This accident never should have happened if the rules of the road were obeyed.

O.C.G.A. § 40-6-20(a) requires:

"[t]he driver of any vehicle shall obey the instructions of an official traffic-control device applicable thereto, placed in accordance with this chapter, unless otherwise directed by a police officer, subject to the exceptions granted the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle in this chapter. A violation of this subsection shall be a misdemeanor, except as otherwise provided by subsection (f) of this Code section."

In other words, when an official traffic sign is in place prohibiting the use of a roadway by a vehicle such as an 18-wheeler, it is a violation of Georgia law for the driver of such a truck to drive on that road. The incident demonstrates the dangers of semi-trucks when their drivers do not obey the law.

If you or a loved one have suffered an injury or loss in a Georgia trucking accident, please contact Gwinnett County based 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.