Archive for the ‘Personal Injury’ Category

ATC’s Melody Glouton recognized in one of Dailyreportonline.com’s “Top Georgia Verdicts of 2013”   Leave a comment

Melody GloutonView Article

ATC’s Melody Glouton was recently recognized as a part of the legal team of what is rated as #14 Top Georgia Verdict of 2013 by the Daily Report.  The case, a Product liability case, revolved around the defective operation of a seatbelt during a car accident. For additional details, please click the attached link.

Render Freeman elected to faculty of the American Association for Justice!   Leave a comment

Render

Our very own Render Freeman has been elected to the faculty of the American Association for Justice, an association he has been a member of since 2006. Congratulations Render!

http://www.northfulton.com/Articles-BUSINESS-c-2013-05-20-198830.114126-sub-Freeman-elected-to-AAJ-faculty.html

Texting and Driving and the Myth of Multitasking   Leave a comment

When I watch TV shows with my teenage boys, it drives me crazy that they are on their mobile phones, texting, Tweeting and Facebooking. We frequently have to back up the show when something funny or significant happens. Of course, when my wife and I suggest that they pay attention to the show, they strenuously argue, “I’m multitasking!”

Multitasking is the modern American way.  Friends and colleagues frequently claim to be multitasking, as if bragging about their high efficiency. But decades of research by neuroscientists has definitively established that multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains are not designed to pursue two or three tasks at the same time.  Our brains function best when doing a singular task.

driving cell phone

The best example of this is texting and driving.  You cannot give your full attention to the road in front of you and draft or read a text message.  Surprisingly, the same is true of merely talking on your cell phone while driving, even if you’re using a hands-free device or Bluetooth through your stereo system. In fact, research has shown that driving a car while on your cell phone is the equivalent of being intoxicated.   Sleights of Mind, What the Neuroscience of Magic Reveals about our Everyday Deceptions, Macknik, Stephen L.; Martinez-Conde, Susana; Picador ISBN  978-0-312-61167-5, 2011, p.87. www.sleightsofmind.com.

Neuroscientists refer to this principle as inattentive blindness. “We have to be aware that there is a cost to the way that our society is changing, that humans are not built to work this way,” says Russ Poldrack, a brain scientists at UCLA.  “We’re really built to focus. And when we force ourselves to multitask, we’re driving ourselves to perhaps be less efficient in the long run even though it sometimes feels like we’re being more efficient.”  Id, pp. 87-88.

Psychologists at Western Washington University conducted a fascinating experiment regarding inattentive blindness.  They observed four categories of college students walking across the main campus square. One group was minding their own business and told to simply walk across the quad. A second group was walking in pairs and talking. A third group was listening to music on mobile devices. The fourth group was talking on cell phones. In each instance, a ridiculously costumed clown on a unicycle pedals in circles around the participants.

Which participants noticed the unicycling clown?  The students walking in pairs were most likely to notice the clown. The students listening to music on their mobile devices were only slightly less attentive. Half of the students talking on cell phones entirely miss the unicycling class. Half! The cellphone users also walked more slowly, weaving as they crossed the square.  Id., p. 86.

So if we are not going to notice a unicycling clown, we certainly are not going to notice the subtleties of the traffic patterns unfolding in front of us:  the driver slowly decelerating, the car in front of us drifting into our lane or the commercial vehicle unexpectedly making a left turn into our lane.

Inattentive blindness is probably a factor in the vast majority of car accidents in metropolitan Atlanta, Gwinnett County and in counties all across Georgia. Multi-tasking drivers must be held responsible for the injuries they cause with their carelessness.

It is vitally important to retain a competent attorney to represent you in collision cases whether they involved 18 wheelers, other commercial vehicles or Passenger vehicles.  Preserving and collecting the proof of cell phone usage in connection with car accidents is highly time sensitive.  Cell phone providers only maintain data for a limited period of time. This data must be preserved, and in order to do so, you must put the at-fault driver and their insurance company on notice.

Twitter Backfires on Injury Victim   1 comment

A young woman sustained serious injuries in a car wreck, including a broken arm and a permanent facial scar.  At trial, she asked a Gwinnett County Jury for $1.1 million, but a skilled defense lawyers turned her Twitter feed against her. Since the day of the wreck, she had posted a few upbeat messages about her facial scar. She had taken a trip to New Orleans and had some fun with friends and posted that the weekend was fun.

The jury interpreted her social media posts as evidence that her injuries were insignificant. Consequently, the jury valued her injuries at only $237,000, less than 25% of what she had requested.

This is all too common a tale in personal injury suits in the social media era.  Facebook, Twitter, text messages, etc. are often a treasure trove of evidence for the defense team. They are a painful reminder that there is no privacy in social media. Your posts are publicly available to insurance companies and their lawyers. They will get them, and they will turn them against you.

Equally dangerous is the destruction of information that you have posted. “Cleaning up your Facebook page” has been deemed by Courts to constitute the destruction of evidence, and injury victims and their lawyers have been severely sanctioned by Judges for removing information from Facebook.

The moral of the story is stay out of social media when it comes to your injuries. Keep your friends and family up to date on your recovery the old fashion way: call them.

Consider changing your privacy settings on Facebook to prevent other people from “tagging” you in photos.  Photo tagging is particularly dangerous because the photos have no date.   A friend could tag you in a photo from a fraternity party that took place 5 years before the injury, and the defense lawyers could present that as evidence of post-injury conduct.

If you can’t break the addiction to social media, then, at the very least, consider posting the whole picture of your post-injury life.  Include embarrassing photos from the hospital. Share the bad days as well as the good. Otherwise, you are handing the insurance companies false evidence that the injuries have had no significant impact on your life.

Georgia Supreme Court Holds Insurers Feet to the Fire for Trying to Avoid Coverage   Leave a comment

Have you notified all potential insurance carriers of your claim? If you’re unsure, then watch out! They may use that as a basis for denying your claim. A competent attorney can assist you in not only promptly notifying an insurance carrier of your claim but also of identifying all of the insurers that may be responsible for the injuries and losses you sustained. The following case serves as an example of how far an insurance company may go to try to avoid paying a claim:

In October 2004, a work supervisor asked Mr. Hoover, to deliver a ladder to a job site where a contractor was making roof repairs. Once there, Mr. Hoover courteously agreed to climb onto the roof and assist the contractor with his work. Tragically, after Mr. Hooper helped finish the work and was climbing off the roof, he fell to the ground and sustained a serious brain injury. Mr. Hoover’s brain injury led to a long hospitalization and expensive medical bills. As a result, Mr. Hoover obtained an attorney and filled suit against his employer and his employer’s insurance company in an effort to recover for his medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

The insurance company that was supposed to cover Mr. Hoover’s employer denied coverage and refused to defend the employer. The insurance company claimed that a certain exclusion listed in the policy allowed it to avoid paying the claim. At the same time, the insurance company tried to argue that there might also be additional exclusions that would allow it to avoid paying the claim if a court were to find that it’s first exclusion wasn’t legitimate.

Not to be discouraged, Mr. Hoover and his attorney proceeded to trial on their claim and were awarded $16.5 million in damages! To collect Mr. Hoover’s verdict, Mr. Hoover and his attorney appealed the decision of the trial court and Georgia Court of Appeals, which both held that the insurance company wasn’t liable. However, thankfully for Mr. Hoover, and injured victims across the state, the Georgia Supreme Court held that the insurance company was liable. Specifically, the Court held that the insurance company could not both (1) deny the claim and (2) try to reserve the right to argue other defenses later if its first reason for denying the claim was proven to be untrue. In other words, the insurance company had to take one position from the very start and then stick to it. Mr. Hoover’s case certainly goes a great way in illustrating an insurance company’s efforts to avoid paying a claim. Fortunately, in this case, the Court required the insurance company to actually provide insurance and pay for Mr. Hoover’s injuries.

Is your lawyer ready for trial?   1 comment

Recently, an article published on a blog for attorneys suggested that the odds are against the injured plaintiff when going to trial – 61% to 39%.  However, what the author fails to take into account is the experience level of the Trial Lawyer.

If these trial results were grouped based upon the experience level and training of the plaintiffs’ lawyers, I suspect that the results would be profoundly different.

In conducting this survey, the author should have asked the plaintiffs’ lawyers the following questions:

  • “How many jury trials have you conducted on behalf of injured individuals?”
  • “What is your Martindale-Hubbell Rating?”
  • “What national seminars on jury psychology or jury selection have you attended?”
  • “What memberships do you hold in local and national trial lawyers’ societies?
  • “What’s your participation level in these local and national societies?”
  • “What’s the last book you read on trial strategy?”
  • “To what extent do you use jury verdict data in your case evaluations?”

And guess what?  Clients should ask these same questions when considering which lawyer they should hire!

The skill level and experience required to obtain a personal injury verdict is grossly underestimated in our society.  Perhaps this impression is due to the high visibility of lawyers that advertise on the back of the phonebook and TV.  These hokey depictions of trial lawyers are far from the honorable and sophisticated Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird.  Or, perhaps this impression is related to the relentless propaganda from the insurance industry about how juries are out of control.  I’ve heard one defense lawyer describe representing an injury victim to be like picking up found money.  Maybe that’s why so many profoundly inexperienced lawyers take these cases to trial and lose them.

An effective trial lawyer must be intelligent, articulate, presentable, organized, hard-working, compassionate and empathetic.  But, above all else, a trial lawyer must believe in the cause; must believe in the societal importance of holding careless individuals and corporations responsible for the injuries and suffering that they inflict; and must understand that the ultimate goal is making our society a safer place to live, play and raise our children.

Are Corporations People Too?   Leave a comment

In many civil cases such as a trucking case, hospital malpractice or products liability, Georgia law requires that the Judge tell the jury that corporations are people too.  Here is the precise language from the Pattern Jury Charges:

 “You must consider this case as a lawsuit between persons of equal worth and equal standing in the community and between persons holding the same or similar positions in life. All persons stand equal before the law. In a court of justice, all persons are to be dealt with as equals. A business entity such as a corporation is regarded as a person in this instance.

What do you think?  Are corporations people too?  How would this language affect your deliberations if you were a juror in Georgia and corporate wrong doing had severely injured or killed someone?

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