January 1, 2014

Abraham Lincoln Tried Personal Injury Cases and Was Wiser than Me

Abraham Lincoln injury attorney

Abraham Lincoln was a trial lawyer and he tried personal injury cases, much the same as we do now, although I would wager he was a good bit more eloquent. Lincoln is more legend than fact for most people these days. His legacy is overshadowed by the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, and rightfully so. It is easy to forget that he was an active trial lawyer who handled personal injury cases in addition to his major practice areas of debt collection and real estate law.

The Project's research shows that Lincoln filed five cases involving injuries on stagecoaches and railroads, two dealing with trip and falls and two medical malpractice cases. The case of McCready v. City of Alton, Illinois is particularly interesting and the link is here. Lincoln sued on behalf of a woman injured when she fell in a pothole on a badly maintained sidewalk. He sought $20,000 in damages but only ended up with a verdict for $300 for the medical bills. Apparently the City was allowed to argue that they did not have enough money to fix the sidewalk. Thankfully times have changed for plaintiffs.
According to "The Lincoln Legal Papers Project" (supported by the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum), Lincoln filed at least nine personal injury cases during his career. Keep in mind that in the mid 1800's, injury cases were extremely rare, so the number is significant.

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November 1, 2013

When a Driver Flees the Scene of a Crash with Injuries, There is Liability for Punitive Damages in Georgia

When a client is injured in a crash where the other driver leaves the scene, the fleeing driver is liable for punitive damages when they can be identified. We see examples of egregious roadway behavior on a regular basis, and the incidence of Georgia drivers fleeing the scene is on the rise.

When a driver fails to stop for a collision to render assistance to a person that has been injured, the injured person's lawyer can explain how to recover punitive damages and get a jury charge on negligence per se for those actions. Cheevers v. Clark 214 Ga.App. 866 (1994).

“The conduct of a hit-and-run driver of an automobile in failing to stop and give his name, etc., and render assistance to the person injured by him in the operation of his automobile along a public highway, may, in that it is in violation of a statute (OCGA § 40-6-270] ), be regarded as negligence as a matter of law. Although when taken alone such conduct may have no causal connection with the act which caused the injuries, the conduct of the driver in hitting, running, and failing to stop, etc., is a circumstance which may be considered...as tending to establish his conduct in causing the injury as...negligence.” Battle v. Kilcrease, 54 Ga.App. 808(1), 189 S.E. 573 cited in Cheevers v. Clark 214 Ga.App. 866 (1994).

Here is another interesting appellate case that discusses what can be done when a Georgia driver flees the scene to conceal that fact that they are DUI, Langlois v. Wolford.

The bottom line is that hit and run collisions and DUI collisions are complex cases where a skillful and experienced injury attorney can make a huge difference.

August 28, 2013

People Calling Me after My Accident; Who Are They?

So you have a car accident in Georgia and three days later the police report comes out. It does not take 5 minutes for the runners to start calling the person who was not ticketed trying to hustle them into a chiropractic clinic or to a shady lawyer.

This practice has always existed but anecdotally it appears to to have exploded in the last few years. Three prospective clients called this week; all of them having been approached by runners.

So I am calling them out. Realize that these names may be fake and may be similar to legitimate businesses. How do you know if the people calling you are legit? If they are calling you within 30 days of the crash and you did not ask them to, they are dirt bags, plain and simple. Stay away because it won't end well.

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August 6, 2013

Is Your Car Insurance Company Spying on You? Is the Data Admissible in Court?

Car insurance tracking satellite Some of you noticed the Progressive Insurance ads that started in 2008 for their Snapshot program which tracks driver behavior and rewards safe driving practices with lower rates. Know as "telematics", the collection of objective driver behavior data is now spreading with State Farm and Allstate now rolling out a similar systems. Progressive claims that it is in licensing discussions with 24 other insurers. see Wall Street Journal Article: "State Farm is There as You Drive"

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July 31, 2013

Telling Client to Delete Facebook Photos Can Lead to Sanctions

facebook sanctions.JPGThe final chapter in the sad story of the wrongful death of Jessica Lester has been written and the family's lawyer has been suspended from the practice of law for 5 years and fined over $540,000 dollars for telling the widower to delete a Facebook page. Ridiculous. For a survey of the pleadings check out www.legaldocs.com

The story began in 2007 when a cement truck that was speeding on a curvy Piedmont road near Monticello outside of Charlottesville, Virginia took a curve too fast and tipped over killing the 23 year old Lester and injuring her husband as they drove to work. She lived for 8 days before dying of the skull fractures. The Allied driver was charged and plead guilty to Manslaughter. He was sentenced to two years and only served 30 days in jail.

Continue reading "Telling Client to Delete Facebook Photos Can Lead to Sanctions " »

July 5, 2013

Georgia Parents Sometimes Liable for Teenager's Car Accidents

parents responsible for children in georgia
A Norcross 17 year passenger died when his friend lost control of their car while allegedly speeding. See WSBTV coverage of the crash. Unfortunately teenage driving is all too common of an element in fatal crashes in the Atlanta area. What is unusual here is the fact that the police have charged the parents for allowing the unlicensed 16 year old to drive the car.

While most parents stay up at night as it is worrying that their children might hurt someone else, there is also the deep seated fear of the family getting sued into the poorhouse for the actions of the teenager. So the question arises; can the parents of a teenager driver be legally liable when their child causes a crash that kills someone?

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April 27, 2013

Who Is Legally at Fault for the Tire that Hit and Killed an Atlanta Mother While Driving?

atlanta wrongful death lawyer.jpgIn a rare and tragic instant Aila Masud was struck and killed by a flying tire while driving on I-85 in Atlanta. Eyewitness accounts agree that the wheel came from a passenger vehicle driving the opposite direction although there is mixed information about the driver trying to avoid something in the road.

My wife read the article and being married to a car accident lawyer, she naturally asked "who is legally responsible for the tire killing the woman?" The sad thing is that our law firm has been through this exact situation before. We recently settled a case in Maryland with co-counsel involving a man struck in the chest while driving by a runaway wheel from traffic going the other direction.

Continue reading "Who Is Legally at Fault for the Tire that Hit and Killed an Atlanta Mother While Driving?" »

December 26, 2012

How to Settle Your Soft Tissue Injury Car Accident Case for Top Dollar While Paying Reasonable Fees

We would all rather live in a world where lawyers were not necessary for car accidents, but the simple fact is that insurance carriers are so aggressive in their handling of legitimate cases that attorneys are a necessity in many situations. What is the best way to settle your Atlanta car accident injury claim for top dollar then?

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December 16, 2012

Trying a Car Accident Case to a Conservative Jury in Gwinnett County

I spent the past week trying a car accident case in Gwinnett County and am writing to give you an overview of some of the nuances in presenting an injury case to a conservative jury.

The word on the street is that Gwinnett has been growing more and more diverse over the last few years. As Gwinnett's Hispanic, Asian and African American population has grown, so have their numbers in jury pools. I tried a case in Gwinnett in April last year and had a 6 person white and 6 person other jury. That is not always going to be the case though as our trial this past week demonstrated.

Our client was a 22 year old black female from Southeast Atlanta. She is intelligent and well spoken but works in a case based hair styling business with no tax records. She was a passenger in a vehicle driven by her best friend when a HVAC van turned left across her path a 8:15 AM on the drive to work. The driver of the HVAC van was ticketed but plead Nolo so the outcome of the ticket did not come into evidence. The Defense hired an expert reconstructionist to tell the jury that the crash was caused by the driver of the Plaintiff's vehicle, claiming that she was not paying attention and that the crash could have been avoided. We did not hire a recon as liability seemed clear to us and their recon was a awful in our opinion.

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November 12, 2012

Geico Claims Handling: Dolphins in the Tuna Nets or When Policies Take the Adjuster Out of the Picture

Dolphins (real injury cases with legitimate claimants) are getting caught up in a net designed to catch Tuna( ham and eggs chiropractic, MD blended cases that run through TV firms at high volume, some real, some borderline fraud).

Continue reading "Geico Claims Handling: Dolphins in the Tuna Nets or When Policies Take the Adjuster Out of the Picture" »

November 5, 2012

Why Do Lawyers use their Middle Intials, Making Them Sound Like Bigger Tools than they already are?

We get a lot of web based requests for my guide to Georgia Car Insurance and Car Accidents and I always chuckle when I get a request from someone using their middle initial. Why? Because invariably, these are other car accident lawyers either looking for advice or looking to copy my marketing efforts.

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October 18, 2012

How is Getting Hit by a Work Van or Truck Different than a Car Accident

Are there significant differences in jury awards against work van and truck drivers as opposed to regular car accidents? Yes

Our blog has explored a number of the issues facing car accident victims in Georgia over the last five years. Likewise, I have written extensively about how tractor trailer crashes are worlds apart in complexity. One variety of accident defendant that we have not discussed are crashes caused by company vans and work trucks. How are they different?

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October 1, 2012

Low Ball Offers in Car Accident Claims Continue Even in Clear Cases

low offer car accident case.JPG Over the last six months I have noticed a continued trend towards offers coming in from front line insurance carriers like Geico and Progressive that are barely over the medical specials. For example:

The above car crash resulted in $7,400 in emergency room, orthopedic and physical therapy bills along with a small scar on the victims eyebrow from the glass in the crash. The carrier's offer? $8,382. Totally ridiculous. The justification. "That is just a soft tissue injury." Seriously people, by definition anything that is not a bone is a soft tissue, that tautology carries no weight with juries.

Continue reading "Low Ball Offers in Car Accident Claims Continue Even in Clear Cases" »

August 16, 2012

Progressive Insurance Gets a Black Eye for Playing Hardball in Matt Fisher Uninsured Motorist Case

By now you may have heard of the Twitter assault launched by comedian Matt Fisher about Progressive Insurance's behavior in his sister's wrongful death civil suit. It has now made the front page of CNN. So what is the real deal with the case? Is Progressive defending his sister's killer? The answer is "sort of."

Continue reading "Progressive Insurance Gets a Black Eye for Playing Hardball in Matt Fisher Uninsured Motorist Case" »

August 3, 2012

Atlanta Pedestrian Hit by a Car; Case is not What it Seems at First

We got a call from a Georgia State Student this week who was badly hurt when she was hit by a car while crossing Moreland Avenue. She sustained a broken pelvis, tore multiple knee ligaments and has been in a wheelchair for weeks. She apparently had called one of the TV law firms and was told that since she crossed at the intersection, but not in the crosswalk, she was at fault and could not recover from the driver who hit her. This is a typical shallow analysis from certain unnamed firms here in Atlanta. "Oh you got the ticket, well then there is no case."

Continue reading "Atlanta Pedestrian Hit by a Car; Case is not What it Seems at First" »

March 13, 2012

Motorcyle Rider Killed on I-285, the Driver is Charged with Vehicular Homicide and the Insurance Carrier Denies it All

Our firm is representing the family of Mary Miller, an Ohio native, who was riding on a motorcycle with her husband on I-285. Up ahead a driver insured by Geico got a flat tire. These are the moments where careless decisions have terrible consequences. Instead of pulling his car off to the side of the road, the driver decides to leave his car sitting in the second lane from the right in the middle of traffic and to stand in the roadway to flag down traffic.

Continue reading "Motorcyle Rider Killed on I-285, the Driver is Charged with Vehicular Homicide and the Insurance Carrier Denies it All" »

February 22, 2012

Do I Have to Sign a Release to Settle My Case?

What Does the Legal Language in an Insurance Company Release really Mean?

Once you have negotiated a settlement of your personal injury claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, you will be sent a Release document by the insurer, along with a letter asking you to sign the Release and return it before receiving your settlement check. Release documents are drafted by lawyers and for lawyers. They make little sense when read by anyone else. In an effort to demystify the language most often found in insurance company Releases, we have provided several typical Release paragraphs (bolded below) and explained their intended meaning.

Continue reading "Do I Have to Sign a Release to Settle My Case?" »

February 13, 2012

Will the Car Insurance Company Pay My Medical Bills After the Accident?

The answer to the question of whether the other driver's car insurance will pay your medical bills after an accident they cause, lies in the nature of the medical care, the timing and the character of the insurance company you are dealing with.

Part 1: Emergency Room Care:

When you have been involved in a serious car crash, paying for your emergency health care is probably not the first thing on your mind. This is understandable. Survival and recovery are the primary concerns, and the fact that emergency care is often rendered before any mention is made of payment pushes the issue even further from your mind. Unfortunately for those with health insurance, hospitals often take advantage of a trauma patient’s preoccupation with their injuries, and ignorance of the medical system, to burden them with significant bills that they should not have to pay.

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January 16, 2012

Lawsuits Against Bars for Overserving Customers Gain Victory in Georgia Appeals Courts

With the holidays recently coming to a close, many people are looking back on late-night gatherings they enjoyed with friends and family throughout the season. While most holiday parties go smoothly, however, from our experience practicing law we know that many of these events end in DUI charges and other alcohol-related legal problems. Historically, alcohol has had a complex relationship with the law, ranging from outright prohibition in the 1920s to modern-day task forces monitoring underage drinking near fraternity houses. Because of this, laws are refined and changed rather frequently, and one of the most important examples is the Georgia Supreme Court’s reinforcement of the Dram Shop Act last July.

Continue reading "Lawsuits Against Bars for Overserving Customers Gain Victory in Georgia Appeals Courts" »

October 26, 2011

Lawyers Barred from Seeking Punitive Damages for Cell Phone Use

In a groundbreaking Atlanta car accident case, lawyers have received an unfortunate decision on whether a driver who causes a crash and injury because of cell phone use can be sued for punitive damages. georgia car accident cell phone use punitive damages The Georgia Court of Appeals ruled in Lindsey v. Clinch County Glass Inc. No A11A1313 that where a driver caused a car accident while talking on a cell phone, the injured party cannot pursue a claim for punitive damages.

Georgia law allows a party to sue for punitive damages when there is a "pattern or police of dangerous driving, such as excessive speeding or driving under the influence." But the Court stopped short of finding that talking on a cell phone and causing a crash was anything more than a violation of the rules of the road. The decision did not bar a car accident victim from seeking punitive damages in cases where the at fault driver was texting and driving although no case has specifically said that texting enables a punitive damages claim either.

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August 15, 2011

How to Correct a Police Accident Report

As car accident lawyers in Atlanta, we get numerous callers telling us that the investigating police officer made out the report incorrectly. Everything from the color of the car being wrong, to vehicles going the opposite direction, to leaving out eyewitness information. Police officers who investigate car accidents in Atlanta are human and it happens.

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May 31, 2011

When the Car Insurance Adjuster Says You Have Soft Tissue Injuries Only, What Does that Mean

Many consumers call our firm asking a fundamental question; the insurance adjuster called and offered me x to settle my case, is that fair? We find that fairness really is the issue for most people. After a car accident in Georgia, they do not want to take advantage of the system, but they don't want to be taken advantage of either.

Continue reading "When the Car Insurance Adjuster Says You Have Soft Tissue Injuries Only, What Does that Mean" »

May 10, 2011

How Medical Testimony Controls What Claims You Can Make in Georgia

High impact car accidents can cause a variety of traumatic injuries from compound leg fractures to simple concussions. Our injury lawyers spend a great deal of time discussing symptoms with our clients but one of the frustrating issues is that in order for a particular injury or disorder to be presented to a jury, a doctor must be willing to testify that to within a reasonable degree of medical probability, the injury or disorder was caused by the crash. You can have a serious injury after a car accident in Georgia, but if the treating doctors will not testify that it is medically probable that the crash caused the injury, then your case can be worth substantially less.

Continue reading "How Medical Testimony Controls What Claims You Can Make in Georgia " »

March 21, 2011

Lawrenceville Attorneys Try Jury Trial to Succesful Verdict in Gwinnett County

Lawrenceville car accident attorneys.JPGThe firm tried the case of Hazel v. Shapoori to a jury in Gwinnett County State Court and the jury returned a verdict for twice what Allstate had offered. This was a smaller case that the firm took on to help out a nice lady who had $6,200 in medical bills, $1,300 in lost wages and an Allstate adjuster who refused to pay more than $4,000.00. Once our firm got involved, she was offered $6,000, which we politely declined.

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January 19, 2011

How Much is a Car Accident Case Worth in Georgia

One of the most frequently asked questions is "How much is my car accident case worth here in Georgia?" Although we have written extensively on this subject previously, we recently completed a series of videos to go into further detail. Enjoy the first one:

January 12, 2011

When the Other Driver Slides on Ice and Crashes Into Me are They Legally Responsible?

Georgia car accident on ice With all of the snow and ice in Atlanta, Georgia over the last few days, many consumers have called asking about who is responsible when they are involved in car accidents due to ice. The answer is rooted in common sense and codified in OCGA § 40-6-180.

Under the Law, a driver may not drive their "vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard for the actual and potential hazards then existing. Consistently with the foregoing, every person shall drive at a reasonable and prudent speed... when special hazards exist with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions."

Continue reading "When the Other Driver Slides on Ice and Crashes Into Me are They Legally Responsible?" »

January 1, 2011

Are Georgia Parents Liable for the Actions of their Adult Children?

Many Georgia parents think they are not responsible for the actions of their children once they are over 18 or 21, but that is not necessarily the case. Under the Georgia Family Purpose Doctrine, the test is whether the child “was using the car for a purpose for which the parent provided it with the permission of the parent either expressed or implied.”
Hicks v. Newman, 283 Ga. App. 352, 353 (2007).

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September 6, 2010

Who are the People That Call you After a Car Accident Talking About Referrals?

We have had a number of calls from people in Atlanta hurt in car accidents recently where they receive phone calls from runners after the crash. phone call after car accident.jpgAs we discussed previously "runners" are scumbags hired by some lawyers and chiropractors to drive business to their practices. They sometimes claim to be a referral service and sometimes they are calling on behalf of a specific chiropractic clinic. What they all share in common is a sleaze factor a mile wide. These people cannot get business in a legitimate fashion so they resort to taking advantage of confused consumers.

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June 28, 2010

Bracing for Impact May Help Prevent Concussions in Car Accidents

According to a new study in the journal, Pediatrics, if a person is able to tense up their neck muscles, they may be able to minimize the whipsaw effect on the head and thereby reduce the incidence of concussion. Although the study was conducted on hockey player impacts, it has obvious implications for people involved in car accidents.

The study conducted by Jason Mihalik with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill involved attaching accelerometers to ice hockey players' heads. The device would measure the degree of acceleration experienced by the player on impact. They then compared the video of the hit to the recorded data to determine whether the player was prepared for ht hit or not. The conclusion was that if the player is prepared and can brace their neck for impact, they lessen the acceleration of the head and the resulting movement of the brain.

Continue reading "Bracing for Impact May Help Prevent Concussions in Car Accidents" »

June 8, 2010

DUI Car Accident Case Illustrates that Geico Sometimes Refuses to Deal in Good Faith

Over the last two to three years it has become clear that Geico Insurance has changed course and in certain cases has adopted a policy of denying valid claims and delaying payment to deserving Georgia car accident victims. The latest case that the firm took in illustrates the untenable positions that some Geico adjusters are being asked to take.

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May 31, 2010

Whiplash Injuries in a Car Accident Can Be Lessened by Headrest Technology

One of the most frequent complaints we see from clients in the aftermath of serious car crashes are neck, head and shoulder pain. More often that not, the hospital has given the client a generic handout describing whiplash. Whiplash is not really a medical term and is used broadly to describe symptoms from the whipsaw effect of the head being moved backwards and then forwards and back again from a rear end collision.

Continue reading "Whiplash Injuries in a Car Accident Can Be Lessened by Headrest Technology" »

April 11, 2010

New Georgia Law Banning Texting and Driving

The Georgia Senate has passed a bill banning texting while driving and it calls for a stiff fine for adults and license suspensions for teenagers. The House version of the bill calls for license suspensions if you cause a crash while texting. Although we should all applaud the passage of the bill as it may save countless lives, the cynic in me complains that driving while distracted is already a ticketable offense.Georgia wrongful death.JPG I suppose though that literally telling people that driving while texting is illegal will have a more damming effect.

This legislation sadly grew out a of fatal crash involving Caleb Sorohan in December and the bill is called the "Caleb Sorohan Act for Saving Lives by Preventing Texting While Driving".

Now all we have to do is solve the enforcement problem. My solution? Use traffic cams to take high res shots of cars and their tags from the front and rear on I-8/I75 and send them tickets in the mail. It will make for a safer world for all of us.

Option 2 is for GPS enabled phones to know when the phone is moving at highway speed and disable the texting function unless the driver is able to handle an intricate input task proving they are a passenger.

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September 28, 2009

Georgia Statute of Limitations Extended for Car Accident Cases by Supreme Court

In a stunning decision, the Georgia Supreme Court in Beneke v. Parker held today that for injury cases stemming from the commission of a crime including traffic violations, the statute of limitations is tolled from the date of the accident until the traffic citation is resolved.

Typically, a victim only has two years from the date of the car accident to file suit. The Georgia statute of limitations on injury claims is extremely strict, with only rare exceptions. This ruling is a drastic deviation.

This case stemmed from a car accident where the lawyers filed the suit more than two years after the Georgia statute of limitations on injury cases. The trial judge threw the case out but now the Georgia Supreme Court has ruled that the two years is extended by the same amount of time as passed between the commission of the crime and the resolution of the ticket.

They reviewed OCGA 9-3-99, which provides in part that:
"[t]he running of the period of limitations with respect to any cause of action in tort t... shall be tolled from the date of the... crime... until (resolution)."

I am sure the legislature will try to take away this victory this coming year, but for now, this is a huge victory for the consumer. Click on Beneke v. Parker to read the text of the decision.

Keep in mind that this also means that the ante litem tolling provision for traffic tickets committed by state employees in the course and scope of employment may also be tolled because the Georgia Ante Litem Notice requirement is treated as a statute of limitations.

September 27, 2009

When You are Sued after a Car Accident , These are the Top 5 Things to Know.

When I worked for insurance companies, I was the lawyer that the insurance carrier would hire to defend the policy holder who had been sued and even though I practice exclusively on the plaintiff's side now, I still field phone calls from panicked consumers. If you have been contacted by a person claiming injury in a car accident in Georgia or if you have been sued, you should follow these five guidelines.

1) Always contact your car insurance company immediately if there was any damage at all. You do not want to give them an excuse not to defend and indemnify you.

2) All car insurance policies, even a minimum limits $25,000.00 policy, will provide you with a free lawyer in the event you are sued .

3) The insurance carrier will indemnify you up to the policy limits amount. Let's assume you caused a crash and the person broke their leg and you get sued over it. In the situation where you have minimum limits, the insurance company will provide a lawyer to you at no cost under the "duty to defend" and you will get indemnity up to the limits. If you have a $25,000.00 policy and the jury awards $35,000.00, then $10,000 of the judgment will be entered against you after your insurance company pays out. Not a good situation so.....

4) If there is a claim against you or you are sued, make sure you find out from your insurance company: a) what is the claimed injury, b) what are the gross medical bills and lost wages, c) what is the insurance company's assessment of the verdict d) how do they plan to protect you? If you do not have much coverage, then write your insurance company a letter making it clear that you expect them to pay the policy limits out if they have a chance to get you a release or a limited liability release.

5) Your homeowner's insurance does not play a role in debts you owe because of a car accident in Georgia.

If your insurance company refuses to pay the policy limits out to protect you after the injured person's lawyer demands the limits and there is a verdict for an amount over your limits (an excess verdict", in some instances you can sue your insurance company for failing to protect you.

August 13, 2009

How Long Will it Take to Settle My Car Accident Case?

I just completed posting a detailed timeline on the website answering the question "how long will it take for a lawyer to settle my Georgia case?" As I detailed in the article, not every case should be settled and more and more often, I am encouraging my client's to allow me to litigate their cases because Georgia insurance companies are low-balling significant injury cases. Remember that the timeline describes what you should expect for a straightforward Georgia car accident case. As any car accident lawyer will tell you, each case is different, as is each Judge.

August 2, 2009

Health Insurance Pays For Hospital Care After a Georgia Car Accident and Should Every Single Time

The hospital wants to bill the emergency room bill to the driver of the car that crashed into me; that sounds fair, right? WRONG. All injury lawyers know that If you have health insurance and do not have Georgia Medical Payments insurance coverage, then the medical care should be billed to your health insurance after a crash, every single time. "Why" you may ask. "After all it is only fair that the other driver's insurance company should pay the emergency room bill if they caused the crash."
Atlanta personal injury lawyer.jpg
1. Your health insurer has a contract fee schedule for services so that a $1400.00 MRI will only be billed to your health insurer at around $500.00. So when time comes to reimburse the health insurer out of your settlement you are repaying less than $500.00 instead of $1400 to the hospital.

2. You may not want to hire a lawyer and bother with trying to make a financial recovery from the other driver. If the hospital fails to bill the driver, they may try to take out a Georgia Medical Lien against you and you end up on the hook.

What should I do with the hospital bill after a car accident in Georgia?

Continue reading "Health Insurance Pays For Hospital Care After a Georgia Car Accident and Should Every Single Time" »

July 17, 2009

When Your Car is Totaled in a Car Accident, How do You Negotiate the Value?

I recently finished a new video explaining how to logically approach getting the full fair market value for your car when the insurance company totals it out after a car accident. I am asked these questions time and again, so I thought I would share this information with the web community so that folks can feel more comfortable when they deal with the insurance companies.

June 30, 2009

Atlanta City Traffic Court Saga Continues

In a recent post, we discussed Georgia pedestrian rights as they pertained to a case involving my clients who got run over by a car in Atlanta.Today was the second time this month I was lucky enough to end up on their behalf in the City of Atlanta Traffic Court on Garnett Street.

Let me start by saying they did a nice job remodeling the place and the airport style arrival/departure screens are helpful to tell you which courtroom you are in. Come to think of it, now that they make you take off your belt and shoes at security it feels just like an airport. When I asked why the belts come off, the security guard replied "razors." Ahh, so that is what it has come to. Keep in mind this is a misdemeanor level City of Atlanta Court. If there are Gangstas here, it is because they got a speeding ticket. What are they going to shank you as you plea nolo to a speeding ticket?

Continue reading "Atlanta City Traffic Court Saga Continues" »

May 30, 2009

Injury Lawyers Attorney's Fees Can Sometimes Be Negotiated

I spent the week in New Orleans with several other injury lawyers taking depositions in a trucking case and discussing legal issues and a topic came up that deserves mention; are Georgia attorney's fees negotiable? The answer is, sometimes.

Injury lawyers in Georgia all work on a contingency fee basis meaning that if they settle or win your case, they are entitled to a percentage portion of the gross recovery. The contingency fee structure works well for clients as they come to an injury lawyer because they have sustained a serious injury and that usually results in a financial hardship. The last thing the client needs is a humongous legal bill from their injury lawyer. I do some hourly work at $250.00 an hour and the bills can add up quickly for hourly clients.

The question arises; can I negotiate the percentage of the contingency fee with the lawyer. Some lawyer do, some don't and the fees vary. The low end TV advertising firms in Atlanta charge the client 40% pre-suit and 45% in litigation and that is astounding. They will negotiate the fee if the client objects.

Continue reading "Injury Lawyers Attorney's Fees Can Sometimes Be Negotiated" »

May 19, 2009

Clients Run Over in the Street Forced to Defend Themselves in Atlanta Municipal Court

Over the last few weeks,several clients have come to me after being hit by a car in Atlanta, Georgia. I realized that we have not written extensively on the legal duties owed by pedestrians and cars in Georgia and this post and the new section on the firm website will address those issues. I am heading to traffic court today to defend a client that was run over from behind and sustained a brain injury in Buckhead. The client was crossing from the Whole Foods on Paces Ferry to the St. Regis hotel in broad daylight. That road only has a traffic signal at one end and a stop sign at the next intersection, so the client is not required to use the crosswalk. Silvers v. Kimbell 219 Ga.App. 482, 465 S.E.2d 530 (1995)The client crossed the first two lanes of traffic and was waiting for traffic coming from the left to clear when he was struck from behind by a driver turning out of Whole Foods. The victim was transported to the hospital with a brain injury and the officer had the audacity to ticket him for jaywalking. I will post an update after we try the case today.

Generally speaking, pedestrians have the right of way when they are crossing in the crosswalk. OCGA 40-6-91(a) says that the driver of a vehicle shall stop to allow a pedestrian to cross the road within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is on the same half of the road as the car or when the pedestrian is approaching and is within one lane of the half of the road on which the care is traveling. This applies regardless of the color of the light,.

The duty shifts drastically when the pedestrian chooses to cross somewhere other than the crosswalk. Under OCGA 40-6-92, the pedestrian must use the crosswalk if they are on a street with traffic lights at the intersections on either side of where they are crossing.

Under OCGA 40-6-92(a), pedestrians crossing a road outside of the crosswalk shall yield the right of way to all cars unless he has already, and under safe conditions, entered the roadway. Basically, if you looked both ways and walked across a street that did not have trafic signals at each end, you have the right of way if a car comes speeding up.

Keep in mind the fact that legal duties are wonderful, but they apply in the courtroom. Many Atlanta drivers don't care who has the right of way and if you are lying on the hood of the car with a broken leg, it will be little comfort to know that you had the right of way. If you have other questions, ask an attorney who has represented people hit by a car in Atlanta and throughout the State of Georgia.

May 9, 2009

How to Read a Georgia Car Accident Report

On my website I have completed a new page that explains how to read a Georgia Car accident police report so that consumers can better understand the valuable information contained in them. Remember that it will take the police department approximately 3 days to prepare the report after the car accident. If you have a serious injury from a collision be sure to consult with an attorney.
Georgia Car accident repor

April 7, 2009

How to Get the Most for Your Car When it is Totaled in a Car Accident

As an injury lawyer, I get numerous calls from people that have been in severe car accidents. Although their main focus is their medical condition, they inevitably want to know how to prevent the insurance company from cheating them on the value of their cars when they are totaled out in the car accident.
Atlanta car accident lawyer.jpg
The approach I suggest is as follows:

1) Make contact soon after the crash to accelerate the process. Do not give a recorded statement to the other driver's company though.

2) Calculate the real market value of your car by pulling a value up on NADA's Black Book value guide. Kelly Blue Book is not used as much in the insurance industry and NADA will give you a realistic idea of what to expect. Aim for the private party sales price, retail is harder to get.

3) You can expect to recover sales tax on top of the sales price.

4) Above all be logical and business-like in your approach. Use email to communicate if you are a hot head. Ask them politely to explain how they calculated their values for your car. Do understand that currently the resale market is soft and used car prices are down.

5) Remember that the at fault driver is not responsible for the difference between the value of the car and the amount you owe on your loan. If you are upside down on the loan and the crash just makes the negative equity due and payable, that is unfortunately your problem, not theirs. You can finance the amount into a new loan or set up a payment plan. This is why I strongly urge everyone to buy Gap Insurance when the finance a car.

I do help my clients that were injured in a car accident with their property damage claims.

April 1, 2009

Do Not Hire Lawyers or Doctors that Call You after a Car Accident

A new client retained me today as their lawyer and we will be able to make a substantial and just recovery for them in their case against a tractor trailer company driver who turned across four lanes of traffic in Riverdale, Georgia, causing serious injuries. What shocked me was the recording on her cell phone from Georgia Medical and Legal services and two other lawyer services soliciting her business in the days after the crash. It is illegal for a lawyer to solicit your business with a cold call after a car wreck and only low end attorneys participate in this practice. Here is a good video that an acquaintance made documenting the background on these people.

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March 25, 2009

How Much Should Car Accident Lawyers Charge and is the Advice Valid?

A very nice potential client called today looking for a Lawyer as he was not getting return phone calls from his injury lawyer. He described a collision in which the car sustained over $9,000.00 in damage and he said he had called a TV advertising firm to help with the case. Atlanta Injury attorney.jpgThe first problem is that the law firm charged him a 40% contingency fee for pre-suit work. The standard fee is 33.3% in Atlanta. Even worse, the firm also told this man to go to an Atlanta chiropractic clinic that they worked with often rather than to go to his own family doctor and to have it paid for by his health insurance. The client has health insurance and would have had access to cheaper and better health care but the lawyer diverted him to "their chiropractor." To compound the problem, the chiropractor then sent the man to a local neurologist who is well known in the insurance defense community for having little credibility. Now the man has over $9,000.00 in flimsy medical bills that are unpaid and will have to come out of his settlement.

The client has wasted two months getting overpriced chiropractic care, he is on the hook for the bills because those kind of doctors do not take health insurance and the chiropractor and neurologist are looking to the settlement to get paid. The worst part is that the client has continuing low back pain and the low end medical care suggested by the lawyer is worthless. The client is now going to an orthopedist in his health care plan, but much of the damage is done.

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March 21, 2009

Lawyers Face Stubborn Hospital Billing Departments

As an attorney I see constant changes in the tactics used by hospitals and health insurers that are designed to put more money in the hospital and insurer's pocket from the injured victims settlement and I have written about some of them previously. Today we will be talking specifically about two new situations my clients have experienced.

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March 7, 2009

Injury Lawyers Should Not Wait Until the End of the Statute of Limitations to File Suit

In Georgia, there is a two year statute of limitations within which your injury lawyer must file your lawsuit for injuries, with a few exceptions. Over the past few weeks a number of clients have called with the two anniversary fast approaching. Waiting until the last minute to file an injury claim is a very risky proposition. If your injury attorney has not filed suit yet I cannot emphasize enough how dangerous this is.
Atlanta injury lawyer.jpg

Now it is true that there are many good reasons to be patient in the pursuit of your injury case. If your medical care is continuing for instance, it would be foolish to attempt to try or settle your case in the middle of the care. However, as the first anniversary of the car accident passes you should have a talk with your lawyer to decide what the strategy is. If your medical care is at an end, the only thing you should have to wait for is the medical records. Once they are in, your attorney should be able to draft the demand within one week and the insurance carrier will usually respond within 45 days. The negotiations will take another 2 weeks, but at that point, you will have a good idea of whether the carrier is going to make a fair offer or if you will need to litigate the case to obtain the fair value.

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February 12, 2009

Atlanta Hospitals Aggressive on Reimbursement when Patient Injured In Car Crash

Georgians injured in a car crash have to be on their toes when it comes to hospital billing departments. Most hospitals code the intake so they know if the patient came in with a broken leg from a car accident or a broken arm from a trucking crash. Even where the patient has health insurance (which they are obligated to bill unless there is medpay insurance) the hospitals are trying to opt out and hiring a collections law firm to send out immediate lien notices. Why are they doing this to injured people in Georgia?

The answer is simple; if United Health insurance only allows $4,000.00 under their fee schedule for a set of procedures but the procedures are billed at $24,000.00, the hospital would rather get $24,000 instead of $4,000.00. By placing a medical lien on the file, they hope that they can tap into the injury settlement that the injured patient may be pursuing.

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February 4, 2009

Georgia Lawyers Hoping for Changes in UM Law to Recover Properly for Disc Herniation Cases

I have handled over 1,000 cases through the years and one of the more frustrating scenarios involves having to explain to a client with a major injury like a cervical or lumbar disc herniation that the at fault driver only has minimum limits. As I have explained in my discussion on Georgia Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance, this is one of the major reasons why clients should carry $100,000 in UM insurance at a minimum. That said, many clients come to me after the crash and they only carried $25,000.00 in UM themselves. Herniated Disc cases in Georgia are worth more than $100,000.00 in most cases so the issue of available insurance coverages is a critical one for case evaluation.
Atlanta injury lawyer.jpg

For crashes that occurred prior to January 1, 2009 (when Georgia law changed) or for people that buy non-stacking UM coverage, the challenge became getting past the at fault driver's $25,000.00 limits.

One argument that is gaining traction is the argument that if the client has to reimburse an outside party such as Medicare, Federal Workers Compensation Liens, Medical Liens etc., then to the extent that a check has to be written to those entities out of the recovery from the at fault driver, because those liens are not subject to the Georgia "made whole doctrine", that dollar amount may be recovered against the Uninsured Motorist Coverage above and beyond the at fault driver's limits. Toomer v. Allstate 292 Ga.App. 60 (2008) Toomer makes it clear that the argument is viable for Medicare liens and Federal Workers Comp claims, but it is still unclear if the Court of Appeals will apply the same logic to Medical Liens and Health Insurance Reimbursement Claims.

It will be interesting to see if Medical Liens and ERISA Self Funded Health Insurance Reimbursement claims will also qualify to allow older claims to dip into the uninsured motorist coverage that would otherwise be in the shadow of the torfeasor under the Bohannon decision. I will post updates as the issues are ruled on.

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January 29, 2009

Compression Fractures More Common in Women in Georgia Car Accidents

Two clients recently came to me with compression fractures in the vertebrae of their spine as a result of car accidents, and they were both women. As a lawyer, this accident got me wondering whether compression fractures from car accidents are more common in women than men. Indeed, I have come to find that after experiencing car accidents, women are more vulnerable to compression fractures.

Since women are more likely to have osteoporosis, and as a result, their spinal vertebrae can be weaker and more vulnerable to the compression forces that can occur in car crashes in Georgia. It turns out that forty percent of women will suffer a vertebral compression fracture by the time they are eighty. (Source: University of Maryland Medical School www.umm.edu/spinecenter ) because compression fractures can result from trauma, and/or they can be a result of trauma that has affected an already weakened vertebrae (which may not be known by the individual at the time of the accident), it is essential to have an understanding of the possible effects of a car crashes on the spine.

As with all my cases, I delve deeply into the medicine behind the injuries to maximize the recovery. Therefore, I think it is important to explain what happens in a compression fracture injury here. The normal human spine resembles the diagram below with the vertebrae being separated by the intervertebral discs which act as shock absorbers and allow flexibility.
compression fracture in Georgia car accident

Compression fractures in car accidents occur when too much force is exerted on the spinal column while it is being flexed in an unnatural way. Vertebral compression fractures usually occur at T11 and T12, which is the bottom of the thoracic region and at L1, the first vertebra of the lumbar region. These vertebral compression fractures that occur are due to the natural curve of the spine. See the image below:

I had a client who was injured in an automobile accident in Conyers, Georgia and her car accident was a lateral crash with the at fault driver striking her at a 45 degree angle from the front. In the Alpharetta, Georgia crash, the client was struck from the rear in a high speed crash.

We have also had slip and fall cases where female clients over the age of 50 sustained lumbar and thoracic compression fractures.

Most compression fractures do not require aggressive treatment, and although these fractures are painful, with a brace and adequate rest, the client has a good chance of an almost full recovery. On a case by case basis and depending on the age of the client and the severity of the injury, some clients do experience post-traumatic arthritis though, and you should ask your doctor for a detailed prognosis before you decide to settle an injury case involving compression fractures. A compression fracture from a car crash is a serious injury, and the case can have a significant value. so be sure to speak with an experienced lawyer before you make any decisions on what to do.

For further reading, please see the University of Maryland's website for an excellent discussion of the function of the spine.

January 27, 2009

How Do I File My Own Georgia Injury Case?

Let's us assume that you have decided that your Atlanta injury case is small enough that it would not make sense for a lawyer to handle it. This assumes you have already read the article on should you hire an accident lawyer or not. We will also assume that you are either in a situation where the insurance company is making a low offer or they are fighting you on the issue of whose fault the crash is. Assuming you have the backbone for the fight...what is next?

First understand that you will be suing the other driver, not their insurance company. You will need to locate the other driver by looking at the crash report. Know that sometimes the address is wrong or the person has moved away so never ever wait until just before the statute of limitations (two years for Georgia injury cases and four years for property damage cases) because you may file the suit and then get a notice back from the sheriff saying that they were unable to serve the defendant ( a "non est")

In Georgia, you must sue the defendant in their home county unless you are dealing with a non-resident of the state or you have a trucking company as a defendant. You can do this by mail, but I suggest going to the clerk's office and picking up the summons and the return of service and sending your complaint. Click on this Georgia injury lawsuit that I recently filed. You will have to pay around $125.00 to file the suit.

If the case is small enough not to require a lawyer, then you will be filing suit in small claims court, which in Georgia is called the Magistrate's Court. It has a maximum jurisdiction of $15,000.00 (that is the most that can be awarded in this Court) When you go to the clerk's office for the County where the Defendant lives, you will receive a form to fill out that will become the "Complaint." In this document you will lay out what you are complaining about. For example:

"Mr. Smith crashed into me damaging my car in the amount of xxx dollars and I sustained injuries. I have medical bills totaling $xxxxxx. I am also seeking human damages." In Magistrate Court, it really does not need to be any more complicated than that. The hard part is proving the case at trial but that comes later.

The clerk will give the lawsuit to the Sheriff and then then the Sheriff will make two tries to serve the defendant with the lawsuit. There are some exceptions but generally a person must have the documents handed to them for service to be valid. You can also serve an adult that lives with the defendant.

You will get a copy of the "return of service" which is the sheet the sheriff writes the results of his service attempts on. Keep an eye out for this document when around 30 days have elapsed since you gave it to the clerk. You may need to call the clerk of court to follow up. If the document says service was perfected, then you wait.

Then the Defendant has 30 days from that day to file their answer with the Court. In car accident cases, the defendant will normally send the lawsuit to their insurance company and the insurance company will hire a lawyer or assign one of their in-house attorney's to defend the suit. It is very very difficult to outlawyer a lawyer so understand that if you cannot get your case resolved with the adjuster for the insurance company now that it is "in litigation" you need to decide if you can make it on your own or whether your need to hire a lawyer. Even if a Lawyer will not take the case on a contingency fee, some may agree to handle the case on an hourly basis. Assume that you will pay between $175.00 and $200.00 per hour for their services at trial and the time would include some prep time. That said, if you are fighting over repairing or replacing your car and you don't have collision coverage or if you have significant medical care, then it may be worth it.

January 16, 2009

Being Injured by a Drunk Driver in Georgia makes the Decision on Whether to Hire a Lawyer Easy

If you have been injured by a drunk driver, it almost always makes sense to hire an injury attorney because punitive damages are recoverable and they can multiply the value of an injury case ninefold. Although I have advised many prospective clients with minor injuries that you are capable of handling a Georgia injury claim on their own, when it comes to injuries from being hit by a drunk driver in Georgia, even modest injury cases can have significant value because punitive damages may be recovered.
hit by drunk driver Georgia

Prospective clients often want to know if it is worth their while to hire an attorney given that 1/3 of the recovery goes to the lawyer and the answer is, sometimes. However, when the collision was caused by a drunk driver, juries take this very seriously and regularly return significant punitive damages awards. If you try and handle an Atlanta DUI crash case on your own though, the adjuster will use your inexperience against you.

For example, in a case involving emergency room care and a few follow up visits to the family doctor, where the crash was serious and caused by a drunk driver, an Attorney can research the criminal background of the other driver and lock down the dash camera recording from the arresting officer. Armed with that information we are able to maximize the client's recovery in cases with modest medical bills. Even in cases with medical bills totaling less than $3,000.00, I have been able to recover the $25,000.00 policy limits because of the punitive damages aspect of the case. I have made significant recoveries in Georgia DUI cases against Farm Bureau, Liberty Mutual, Traveler's Insurance, Farmers Insurance and State Farm.

Continue reading "Being Injured by a Drunk Driver in Georgia makes the Decision on Whether to Hire a Lawyer Easy" »

January 4, 2009

Car Crashes Leave Many Upside Down on Their Loans Without Gap Insurance

As a car accident lawyer, I receive numerous calls from clients that have had their cars totaled out in a crash only to learn that their car has depreciated tremendously since the time they purchased it. Most people are aware that if you buy a new or used car from a dealership, you are paying a premium price. With most new cars, 50% of the value you paid for is gone after three years. It is less true with used cars, but many of my clients that bought SUVs in the last 3 years cannot believe how much value has been lost. For most people though, the drop in value is on paper only as they don't plan to sell the car; what happens when it is in a crash and totaled out though?

When your car is totaled out in a car crash in Georgia, the at fault party(and their insurer) owes the current market value of the vehicle and that is it. If you are upside down on the loan, there is no way to recover that from the other guy's insurance company. Why not? The truth is you were upside down on the car 5 minutes before the car crash too and the crash only brought the situation into reality. Georgia Courts will not hold the other driver liable for anything beyond loss of use (rental) and the total current market value of the car if it is totaled.

Due to plunging resale values, the smartest thing you can do is buy gap insurance coverage when you purchase the vehicle. This coverage fills in the gap between the market value of the car and what you owe on the loan. In these tough times I cannot recommend this strongly enough.

December 21, 2008

My Lawyer Wants Me to Go To a Chiropractor, Is that a Good Idea?

We get numerous calls from people who have already signed up with a lawyer and the other lawyer told them to start their medical care with a chiropractor suggested by the lawyer. Usually the potential client's phone call to me starts this way "I am not comfortable with the situation..." That feeling that you have is well founded. Is there anything wrong with chiropractic care? No, it can work wonders, but the fact that the lawyer sent you to the doctor begs the question, what is their relationship? Whose interests are they looking out for?
Atlanta car accident attorney

Use common sense to guide you in your decision as to whether you should stay with that law firm. Remember that you can fire a car accident attorney at any time;

1) Have you spoken with the actual lawyer, or just an assistant? If it's just the assistant, call back and insist on a discussion with the lawyer about whether it can hurt the case at trial that the lawyer made the referral.;

2) Does the medical care seem professional? Ask the chiropractor to see the bill and ask what they will be charging you, because it all comes out of your settlement money at the end of the case.

3) Are you comfortable with the chiropractor and is the medical care helping?

If you are not getting a good feeling after answering these questions, you should fire your attorney and find one that will tell you the real implications of lawyer directed health care. To fire a lawyer, just fax a letter to the firm stating that you no longer need their services. You will owe them for whatever actual time they put into your case, but in the first few weeks, that is usually nothing. If you are unsure of what to do, feel free to call me. As an Injury lawyer, I place the client's best interests before anything else and that is the way it should be.

December 14, 2008

Uninsured Motorist Insurance Coverage Questions In Car Collisions

In a recent car accident where my client was hit by a drunk driver, we are facing one of the more complex coverage scenarios that illustrates two points. First, it is essential that you carry no less than $100,000.00 in insurance coverage and make sure that your uninsured motorist limits match that amount. Second, this matter illustrates how complex and precarious coverage analysis can be. With any case that will involve uninsured motorist coverage hiring an injury lawyer is essential.
Atlanta car accident law firm

Here we have a drunk driver in Atlanta, Georgia that is carrying a low end Infinity insurance policy. He has what we call a 25/50 policy meaning there are two buckets of $25,000.00 in coverage available to protect all five claimants. However, several of them have Georgia Uninsured Motorist Coverage and there is the issue of the Uninsured Motorist Coverage on the Vehicle they are traveling in. The real question in the case is how to maximize the recoveries to bring the fairest result for all of the clients. Three of the injuries are very serious including skull fractures, a broken collarbone, cracked ribs and the other two injuries are more sprains and strains.

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November 16, 2008

Should I pay My Traffic Ticket in Georgia?

Many clients involved in car accidents in Atlanta have come to me explaining that even though the officer ticketed them, the crash was the other driver's fault and they wonder what they should do with the traffic ticket from the City of Atlanta. If the injury is serious, I will take a hard look at the evidence to determine if the officer just got it wrong, and sometimes they do.

For people that have been injured in a car crash and the probability of a subsequent lawsuit, the outcome of the traffic ticket can be critical. People that sustain serious injuries in Atlanta should be careful with how they handle the citation they are given.

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August 24, 2008

Collisions are Frequently on Video but Accessing the Video can Be Challenging

As an injury lawyer, I am constantly litigating car accident cases where the insurance company disputes liability and tries to scare off the injured party. This often leads to the litigation of "swearing contest" cases where there are no eyewitnesses and the jury is left to judge the credibility of the parties without further aid. What is odd about this predicament is that there are increasing numbers of cameras and yet it is very difficult to get the police and DOT to produce the records.

traffic cam video georgia

As any Atlanta motorist knows, there are a series of video cameras covering not only all major highways, but increasingly we are seeing video and still cameras at major intersections. Through the years, I have sent Open Records Requests and Subpoenas and the response has been "we don't record that information." The lack of access to those videos leads to needless litigation by both sides to the dispute. There are situations where the trucking company was clearly in the wrong but litigated the case because of the chance that a jury would see it their way and when I was defending insurance companies, I handled many a case where the passenger car driver was clearly at fault and the video would have exonerated the tractor trailer driver.

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