Articles Posted in Personal Injury

The latest automotive technology—driverless vehicles—promises a world where accidents caused by human error are a thing of the past. Several companies, most notably Tesla, have made great strides toward bring this future into reality, but, as of 2017, we are not quite there yet. Most vehicles equipped with self-driving technology sold today are what are known as semi-autonomous vehicles, in which a human driver is still the primary operator of the vehicle, but the vehicle can assist the driver with a variety of tasks, including automatic braking, self parking, and lane detection. While these technologies are a promising start toward completely autonomous vehicles, they still have their limitations, which were tragically illustrated last year when an inattentive driver’s over reliance on his Tesla Model S sedan’s semi-autonomous driving system caused a deadly crash.

Joshua Brown, 40, was traveling on a divided highway near Gainesville, Florida using the Tesla’s automated driving system known as Autopilot when a truck driver made a left-hand turn in front of him. The vehicle did not recognize the oncoming truck, which resulted in a fatal collision. Tesla stated that it told drivers of the Model S vehicle that the automated systems should only be used on limited-access highways where there are no vehicles suddenly turning into the car’s path. Despite this warning, however, the company did not incorporate protections against using using Autopilot on other types of roads.

The Model S is a level 2 on a self-driving scale of 0 to 5. Level 5 vehicles can operate autonomously in nearly all circumstances. Level 2 automation systems are generally limited to use on interstate highways, which don’t have intersections. Drivers are supposed to continuously monitor vehicle performance and be ready to take control if necessary. In its investigation of the Brown accident, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found that the car’s cameras and radar weren’t capable of detecting a vehicle turning into its path. Rather, the systems are designed to detect vehicles they are following to prevent rear-end collisions.Investigators also found that Brown had his hands on the car’s steering wheel for only 25 seconds out of the 37.5 minutes the vehicle’s cruise control and lane-keeping systems were in use prior to the crash. As a result, Brown’s attention wandered and he did not see the truck turning into his path.

Heat-related deaths among high school athletes is a serious and growing problem, although one that has only recently begun to receive widespread public attention. A study by the National Center for Catastrophic Sports Injury Research at the University of North Carolina reports that 18 high school athletes suffered from fatal exertional heat stroke between 2005 and 2009, with an additional 19 since 2010. A representative from the Kory Stringer Institute (KSI) a sports safety research and advocacy organization located at the University of Connecticut, stated that, since 2004, the yearly average of high school students suffering from fatal heat stroke is almost twice that of the preceding decades. Although there have been many efforts at the state and local level to combat these traffic deaths, a recent study by KSI and the National Football League (NFL) found that the implementation of policies to prevent heat-related deaths is far from uniform.

The study at issue shows that many individual states are not fully implementing key safety guidelines to protect athletes from potentially life-threatening conditions. The Youth Sports Safety Alliance, an organization representing more than 100 groups, issued the guidelines, which call for access to health care professionals, better-trained coaches, and up-to-date equipment. The state-by-state survey showed that North Carolina had the most comprehensive health and safety practices, adhering to 79% of the guidelines, followed by Kentucky at 71%. At the bottom were Colorado at 23% and California at 26%. Those scores are based on a state meeting the best practice guidelines addressing the four major causes of sudden death in high school athletes: cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke, and exertional sickling occurring in athletes with the sickle cell trait.

Dr. Douglas Casa, of KSI,  says that progress is slow because most states only make changes to their safety guidelines after a tragedy. In his field of expertise (exertional heat stroke), Casa notes that states that have adopted significant changes to their heat acclimatization practices have not suffered any deaths from exertional heat stroke. To prevent death from EHS, best practices come down to three things:

A state appeals court in Illinois has upheld a $21 million judgment for a railroad worker whose foot was crushed on the job. Michael Parsons had been working as a conductor for Norfolk Southern Railway Company in Chicago for a year when his foot was crushed between the rail car on which he was riding and a car he had recently left on an adjacent track on the 51st/55th Street railway in Chicago. He alleged that two months before the accident, the railroad had installed new, wider switches in the yard, which narrowed the space between the tracks from 12 feet and two inches to 10 feet and five inches, and that employees were not notified of this change.

At trial, expert witnesses for Parsons testified that Illinois state law required 13-foot six-inch spaces between the centers of each track. Because he was unaware that the spaces between the tracks had been narrowed, Parsons was struck unaware and struck by a passing train. After the accident, he was transported by ambulance to the emergency room. He sustained a traumatic amputation and degloving of his left heel, with tears to the Achilles and peroneal tendons and nerves and a calcaneus fracture. Parsons was hospitalized for five weeks, during which he underwent six surgical procedures, including multiple skin grafts and removal of his calcaneus. Parsons’ counsel claimed he was unable to use his foot for two years, and when he did, it resulted in an immediate tear to the skin graft, resulting in an infection. Parsons’ medical experts testified that for the rest of Parsons’ life he will experience cycles of skin breakdown on his heel, preventing him from using his foot for three months and requiring antibiotic treatment to prevent infection. Parsons’ orthopedic expert testified the only, permanent solution would be amputation of the leg below the knee. Parsons’ vocational assessment expert testified these issues will reduce his work life by 11.4 years.

As damages, he sought $36,000,000 for future medical expenses, lost income, past and future pain and suffering, loss of normal life and disfigurement. The jury subsequently found Norfolk Southern liable and awarded Parsons $22 million, from which Norfolk Southern appealed. Their primary argument on appeal was that the damages award should have been lower because Parsons was partially at fault for the accident. The appeals panel denied all of Norfolk Southern’s claims. Revisiting testimony from the jury trial, the panel determined that the jury could find Parsons’ conduct was reasonable owing to testimony supporting claims that his conduct leading up to the accident was customary for many rail yard workers. The court also found that reducing Parsons’s award was improper because, at the age of 34, he may need surgery every four or five years for the rest of his life and that his pain and suffering will only increase.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is reportedly looking into the oversight of a father-son team that was conducting the hazardous operation of moving a gas meter at a Minneapolis school earlier this month when a natural gas explosion caused part of the building to collapse, killing two people. The blast occurred at Minnehaha Academy, a private Christian school in Minneapolis, on August 3rd, just several weeks before school was due to start back. The two victims of the explosion are Ruth Berg, a receptionist who had worked at the school for 17 years, and John Carlson, a part-time custodian and alumnus of the school.

The explosion occurred at about 10:30 AM when contractors working on the building frantically warned of a gas leak. The subsequent explosion collapsed walls, buckled floors, ignited fires, and knocked people off their feet outside the building. Emergency responders and school employees fought fires and climbed through debris to bring people to safety. About eight people were rescued from the building in the immediate aftermath of the explosion, but two remained missing. Berg’s body was found early in the afternoon, and Carlson’s body was found six hours later, both in the rubble near an exterior door.

City records show that the father-son duo that the NTSB is investigating were working for contractor Master Mechanical, which was issued a permit on June 7th for “gas piping and hooking up meter” at the school’s address. The contractor was hired to move a gas meter from inside the school building to outside the school as part of gas company CenterPoint Energy’s plan to move meters outside for easier access. Master Mechanical has been cited twice for workplace violations in recent years, including a violation related to failing to protect an employee from falling in 2010 and a paperwork violation in 2014.

A Chipotle restaurant in Loudon County, Virginia temporarily closed its doors on July 17 due to multiple reports that several of its customers had become severely ill after eating there. The closure sent the company’s stock price down more than six percent. The reports stated that the customers experienced repeated symptoms of diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, and fever. Several of the afflicted customers claim that they were diagnosed with norovirus when they visited their doctors. This latest norovirus outbreak has renewed food safety concerns tied to Chipotle, as the company suffered a similar rash of food poisoning events nationwide in 2015.

Norovirus Symptoms and Prevalence

Norovirus is the leading cause of illness from contaminated food in the United States, with about 50% of all food-borne illness being caused by norovirus. Foods that are commonly involved in outbreaks of the illness are leafy greens, fresh fruits, and shellfish, but any food that is served raw or handled after being cooked can be contaminated. The virus can easily contaminate food because it is very tiny and infective. It only takes a very small amount of virus particles (as few as 18) to make someone sick. Food can get contaminated with norovirus several ways, including when:

This summer, a mother was alarmed when her infant child suffered from heatstroke while sitting on a plane that was stuck on the tarmac at Denver International Airport. Emily France and her four-month old son, Owen, sweated it out aboard what she described as an “oven with wings” for more than an hour in June of 2017 before the plane returned to the gate and passengers were briefly allowed off. When they returned to the plane, France said that the cabin felt even warmer than before, so she stripped off her child’s clothing and asked the flight attendants to bring her ice bags to try and cool him down. She then claims that her son turned a color she had never seen before and went limp in her arms. The child was taken away by an ambulance, but doctors determined that he suffered no long-term effects.

Ms. France’s ordeal is not uncommon, as airlines have struggled with overheated airplane cabins for quite some time. In the summer of 2013, several passengers on a delayed Allegiant Air flight became ill as the plane sat on the tarmac in the desert heat of Las Vegas. Also in 2013, more than 150 Allegiant Air passengers were forced to remain in an airplane on the runway for 2 1/2 hours in Phoenix after a maintenance problem knocked out air conditioning on the plane. After this incident, Allegiant spent more than $1 million on six, 60-ton cooling units for use at the Las Vegas airport, in hopes of avoiding a repeat of the Phoenix fiasco.

These problems arguably stem from the fact that each airline sets its own guidelines for internal cabin temperature, with no formal guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Some airlines allow internal temperatures of up to 90 degrees Fahrenheit, which, to the average person, is swelteringly hot. The issues also stem from the practice of pilots turning off the air conditioning to save fuel when a plane is at the gate or taxiing. Other times, the outside air temperature is so warm (for example, in places like Las Vegas and Phoenix), that the airplane’s air conditioning cannot keep up.

Last month, automakers Toyota, BMW, Subaru, and Mazda agreed to pay a total of $553 million to current and former owners and lessees of 15.8 million vehicles that were fitted with airbags manufactured by Takata, the Japanese automotive parts company. The plaintiffs’ class-action lawsuit alleged that Takata airbags are prone to rupture, and have been linked to at least 11 deaths and over 100 injuries in the United States.

The cause of the ruptured airbags is alleged to be their inflation mechanism, which uses a compound called ammonium nitrate that fills the bags in a powerful controlled explosion. When ammonium nitrate is exposed to air or moisture over long periods of time, however, it can become unstable and explode more violently than it is intended, making the airbags particularly dangerous to consumers living in the Southeastern United States and Hawaii.

The defect has prompted the United States’s largest automobile recall ever, affecting almost 70 million airbags in 42 million vehicles.

If you are involved in a car accident, you expect that, after the accident, the other driver will stop, get out of his car, and the two of you will call the police and exchange contact information. This is the normal way that most accidents proceed. However, sometimes the at-fault driver in a car accident does not stop after the accident, but keeps on driving. This is what is known as a “hit and run” accident. In this article, we will go over what to do if this happens to you.

Hit and Run Accidents in Georgia

Leaving the scene of an accident is a crime. In Georgia, this area of the law is codified at § 40-6-270 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) and reads, in pertinent part:

2017 has not been a great year for the airline industry when it comes to customer service problems and personal injury lawsuits. This year alone, there have been several high-profile incidents involving possible abuses of customers on major airlines, including:

  • The infamous United Airlines incident in April, in which a man was forcibly dragged from his seat when he refused to leave the airplane due to overbooking. As a result of his confrontation with airline security officers, the passenger suffered a concussion and the loss of several teeth.
  • An incident on American Airlines in which a mother of twins alleged that a flight attendant hit her with a stroller during boarding of an aircraft. When a fellow passenger called out the flight attendant in question, he responded by challenging the passenger to a physical fight.

Summer is fireworks season, and that can mean injuries and trips to the hospital for many people. In 2016, there were an estimated 11,000 fireworks-related injuries, 7,600 of which were treated in hospital emergency rooms between June 18, 2016 and July 18, 2016. Most fireworks-related injuries are burns, at 69%. Parts of the body that are most likely to be injured include:

  • Hands and fingers: 33% of injuries
  • Head, face, and ears: 28% of injuries

Esteemed Lawyers - ELOA
Georgia Trial Lawyers Association Badge
Georgia Trend
Best Lawyers
Super Lawyers Badge
AV Preeminent - Martindale-Hubbell
Top 100 Trial Lawyers
Litigator Awards
Atlanta Bar Association
American Bar Association
State Board of Workers' Compensation
Million Dollar Advocates Forum
State Bar of Georgia
Avvo Rating 10.0 Superb