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Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving is a deadly behavior and despite Georgia’s prohibition from texting while driving, it continues to be a serious problem. In every State, people are dying as a result of driver distraction. The next time you are sitting at a red light, look at the drivers around you. You may be surprised to see how many drivers are texting or reviewing emails or even web surfing as they sit at the same light. All of these activities are illegal in Georgia, even while sitting at a red light. **

In 2010, Georgia enacted laws making it illegal for any driver under the age of 18 to use a cell phone for any purpose while driving (HB 23) and illegal for a driver of any age to text while driving (SB 360). The texting ban isn’t limited to texting, it includes emails, internet “Surfing” and even use of your cell phone’s navigation system. Georgia law allows a driver’s use of a GPS-only device (i.e. Garmin) and not a communication device.

According to research by Virginia Tech transportation Institute, a driver takes his eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds to read or send a text message. At 55 mph, a driver will travel the length of a football field in that 4.6 seconds.

Today’s smartphones allow the user to send/receive texts, send/receive emails, access social media websites, and even surf the web. Obviously, the smartphone provides more opportunity for driver distraction than the earlier cell phones. The number of drivers reporting that they use their smartphones to access the internet while driving is rising and this is a deadly practice.

In 2009 State Farm began a survey of drivers, asking whether they went online while driving. The percentage of drivers who responded that they do so rose from 13% to 24% this year. Further, the percentage increased from 29% to 49% in drivers 18-29 years of age. State Farm’s Director of Technology, Chris Mullen, states that “It’s not just a youthful problem”. In the past three years, smartphone ownership has risen among older drivers. The percentage of drivers ages 40-49 that own smartphones rose from 47% in 2011 to 82% in 2013, drivers ages 50-64 the percentage rose from 44% in 2011 to 64% in 2013 and in drivers ages 65 and older the percentage rose from 23% in 2011 to 39% in 2013. Although the problem of driver’s texting while driving has continued to slowly rise from 31% to 35% in the past five years, the number has decreased from 71% to 69% in drivers 18-29 years of age.

Perhaps the dangers of distracted driving warrant our lawmakers pushing for a ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. Although no such bill has been passed to date, efforts of lawmakers continue while insurance companies and community organizations push to educate drivers on the dangers of distracted driving.

Should I Give The Insurance Company A Recorded Statement About My Car Accident?

Insurance Companies Move Fast in Auto Accident Cases

Unlike lawyers who represent persons who have been injured in an auto accident, insurance companies are able to begin their investigation and defense of a case immediately. It is commonplace for the insurance company for the Defendant to contact a person injured in a car accident within twenty-four hours of it occurring! Typically, their approach is to assert that they are there to “help”. They want to determine how the accident happened and what the injuries are.

Although I am certain some insurance companies have good motives, I truly believe that their real purpose is to try to lessen the value of your claim in combination with providing you significant guilt for pursuing it. It is rare, if ever, that I have heard an insurance company even let my client know that the recorded statement was optional, and sometimes, not even let them know they are being recorded.

Recorded Statements in Car Accident Cases are Your Option

It is important to know that recorded statements for the other parties’ insurance company are optional. If anything, you should certainly consult with an attorney before considering providing one. Most people know what happened in an accident and their injuries, but you need to remember that the adjuster for the insurance company knows all the “tricks” of putting words in your mouth, such as quickly having you agree that you are okay or that it was a “fender bender.”

Most of us are so polite and welcoming to speak to someone whom we think is going to help us, that we become more agreeable then the truth otherwise would allow.

A Recorded Statement Can Quickly Come Back to Haunt You

For example, most doctors will agree that it is not at all unusual for someone to begin experiencing pain for the first time two to three days after an accident. Imagine if the insurance company calls you within twenty-four hours and you are not having pain. A year or two later when you are in the middle of trial, it certainly is not a welcome sound to hear your voice telling the insurance company that you were not hurt or injured shortly after the car accident when you were in fact were. Keep these things in mind when you make a decision on whether or not to provide the insurance company with a statement.

Uninsured Motorist Auto Accident Claims may Require a Recorded Statement

Also, remember that there are some situations where you are required to provide a recorded statement. These are almost exclusively dealt with in situations where uninsured motorist coverage is involved. Your policy may require you to provide a statement.

Before agreeing to do so, I would always advise you to obtain a copy of your policy as well as speak with an experienced lawyer in this arena to discuss whether claims that you have to do so are accurate.

Why Is My DUI Case Worth More Than Others?

Many people ask this question but when the purpose behind punitive damages and jury anger and sympathy is explained, it seems much easier to understand. In Georgia, a person injured in an automobile accident can recover for their compensatory damages such as their medical bills and lost wages as well as punitive damages. Punitive damages are intended to punish the person to create a strong incentive for them not to do the same thing again. A financial incentive, as we all learned at a young age, is an extremely valuable tool to encourage people not to behave badly.

Insurance companies rightly fear punitive damages involving drunk driving accidents or drug related car wrecks. Juries certainly do not look fondly upon someone who, after consuming much too much liquor, beer or drugs decides to get behind the wheel while people are going to and from work, school, Church, etc.

The best thing you can do is to explore all of your options. We recently settled a case for the policy limits even though our client had $200.00 in medical bills. Our investigation, which was extremely thorough, revealed prior DUI’s, a high speed chase, etc. We were able to obtain the dash cam of the police officer which revealed the drunken stupor of the Defendant. We were able to send the settlement package, which included the video and information regarding the prior DUI’s, to the insurance company who promptly paid the policy limits without fight or delay. Otherwise, that case had a settlement value somewhere in the range of $250.00 – $300.00.

So what should you do if you are involved in a drunk driving accident?

First, if you have any belief the other driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, let the police office know. Often, it is our experience the Defendant involved in the collision “wakes up” pretty quickly and loses the drunken side effects you may have seen earlier. The police officer may not notice them and it would be prudent for you to let him/her know.

Second, if you see the other driver do anything such as place gum in their mouth, pour out beer, throw things away, etc., let the police officer know. You should not feel guilty about trying to get someone who decided to drive drunk off the road. We have had many cases where we have seen people literally place things in their trunk, go get chewing gum while waiting on the police, etc.

Third, let the police know of any statements made by the other driver. It is not unusual for a drunk driver to offer to pay money to avoid calling the police or urge you to contact their insurance company or otherwise play to your sympathies. Let the police know what is going on. If you do not, it will not make it into the report and will have less credibility when you mention it at your deposition or at the trial.

Punitive damages may hold an extreme value in these cases. However, if the investigating officer does not know what has occurred, it makes it very difficult for him to investigate it. Once he does that investigation, a talented lawyer can use that to best punish the Defendant through punitive damages and ensure that the Plaintiff receives just compensation as paid by the insurance company. Even if the physical injuries are not egregious, Georgia law is fair as it relates to the punitive damages.

If you have any questions, it is important to explore those with a lawyer.

Personal Injury From An Auto Accident

What is that numbness and tingling in my arms and legs?

This is one of the most common questions people have after an automobile accident. The most common response is that they think they have injured their hand, fingers, toes or feet. The truth is it may very well be related to an injury to your neck or back.

A herniated disk is a serious injury which may require ongoing and invasive treatment. A herniated disk may reveal itself through numbness or tingling in your arms if you have a herniation in your neck or in your legs if you have a herniated disk in your low back.

The numbness and tingling may begin at different areas of your arm or leg and affect a different number of fingers or toes. Sometimes it is accompanied by pain while other times it is simply annoying and constant. In addition to potentially herniated disks, it could also be a problem with your elbow such as the ulnar nerve or traumatic carpal tunnel.

So what do you do about a back or neck injury?

The best thing to do is to see an expert to help you find out the diagnosis. The best person to see is an orthopedist or a neurologist who can help you determine the exact cause of your injury.

Can it be cured?

Most of the time, yes. Sometimes the problems simply go away with time while others require physical therapy, injections, etc. On some occasions, moving forward with surgical intervention is necessary as well. The good news is that if you follow your doctor’s advice, you will have the best chance possible to make a great recovery.

The orthopedist will best know how to treat you as well as determining how to diagnose the injuries such as an MRI, physical exam, etc. Following that, the doctor will be in the best position to help you find out what to do which will assist in your recovery.

Motor Vehicle Accident Injury

Unfortunately, a herniated disk is not an unusual finding with persons being in a car accident. Certainly, this does not stop the insurance company from claiming that it was a pre-existing condition or arthritis. This may be one of the most common reasons that you may very well be benefited by a lawyer.

Keep in mind that from a legal standpoint, in addition to proving who is at fault for an accident, we must also prove the injuries. It is important to have an expert such as a medical doctor link the collision to the injury.