You are a great lawyer in your area of practice. You are also smart enough to know when a big case may require prompt action outside your comfort zone.

Just as a trial lawyer may not feel comfortable handling a complex real estate, divorce or estate planning matter, a great lawyer in those fields may not want to risk a client’s rights by trying to figure out how to handle a catastrophic truck crash case.

When you get a call from a friend or client that a family member has been killed or seriously injured in a crash with a

Rear underride crash test

Death by decapitation due to trailer underride  can  result when tractor trailers park on the roadside.

The kneejerk response of most people seeing pictures of these incidents is to simply blame the dead person. But it’s not that simple. When an innocent passenger is killed or maimed, some portion of fault is normally apportioned to the driver who departed from the traffic lane for whatever reason. But it is necessary to also examine a trucking company’s decision to violate safety standards by parking a big rig on the side of the road.

negligent hiring warning signOften in a catastrophic truck crash, the trucking company admits that the truck driver was negligent and was in the course and scope of employment. That is a smart tactic to attempt to focus all blame on two seconds of driver negligence rather than months or years of corporate conduct including negligent hiring of the driver. They may get by with it because of a Court of Appeals decision that bars claims for the company’s corporate negligence that are “merely duplicative” of respondeat superior agency liability for negligence of an employee. Hospital Authority of Valdosta/Lowndes County v. Fender, 342

An approaching driver’s view of a tractor trailer pulling from breakdown lane into traffic in the dark

A tractor-trailer pulled from the highway shoulder in front of an approaching SUV on I-95 in Jasper County, SC, just north of Savannah, about 9:30 PM Wednesday night, August 8, 2018. The impact killed Raymond Jackson, Jr., driver of the approaching vehicle, a 1999 Ford Expedition. This happened about 3 miles north of the Georgia-South Carolina line, between the Savannah River and Hardeeville.

Initial news reports  of this crash involving vehicles emerging from Georgia do not identify

A chain reaction crash involving four big rig tractor trailers on I-285 near Camp Creek Parkway in south Fulton County, GA, killed a woman in a passenger car on June 19, 2018.

According to the Georgia State Patrol, A tractor-trailer was traveling northbound when it struck three other big rigs and the rear of a car, pushing the car underneath another tractor-trailer.

News photos showed that at least one truck’s cab was badly crushed and the roof of the passenger car was caved in.

In addition to the one fatality, five others were taken to Grady Memorial Hospital. It

ABCO Transportation, Inc., a refrigerated freight haulder based in Dade City, Florida, has had for several years an unsatisfactory record of unsafe driving violations with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. When a trucking company has a record as bad as ABCO, often there are issues of management turning a blind eye to safety, in my experience as a trucking trial attorney.

ABCO’s poor safety record culminated July 2012 when an ABCO truck driver ran a red light on Thornton Road in Douglas County, Georgia, causing a tragic crash that took the lives of two employees and injured

In the past week I’ve run across an unexpected convergence between my roles as a trial lawyer handling brain injury cases and as president-elect of the State Bar of Georgia.

Last Friday, I attended a program on criminal justice reform at the American Bar Association office in Washington, along with state government representatives. Among the dizzying array of statistics cited in the program was data on the huge percentage of state prisoners who have alcohol and drug addictions and/or mental illness.

The program presenters did not drill down in the data to focus on the prevalence of traumatic brain injury among convicts.  However, in a study on "Traumatic Brain Injury Among Prisoners," the authors summarize a body of research finding that from 76% to 88% of prisoners have a history of traumatic brain injury, and that from 36% to 58% have had traumatic brain injury with loss of consciousness.

The article also reports that Individuals with a history of TBI are much more likely to have problems with alcohol and drug abuse than people without TBI, as well as irritability or aggressiveness, including explosive outbursts, which can be set off by minimal provocation.

In efforts to divert a portion of prison populations to less expensive, community based correction and rehabilitation options, the prevalence of TBI is an important factor to recognize. If individuals are too dangerous to set free, they must still be locked up notwithstanding TBI history. However, there are probably many who could with some treatment do well in a less restrictive (and less expensive) form of correctional supervision. For sake of public safety, an individualized risk assessment should be used.

Parents of kids who have traumatic brain injuries should be aware that it is important to recognize the risk factors affecting the child’s long-term quality of life, and build in to a life care plan funds for psychological and tutoring services to prevent them from falling into behaviors that may lead to prison.

For example, in one recent case involving a preschool child who suffered a head injury when a large truck overturned on the family vehicle, we built into the settlement funds to flexibly provide psychological, tutoring and other services that would address learning disabilities and behavioral problems that could get him on the wrong path in life.

One of our most inspirational spinal cord injury clients ever is Alyson Roth, who just completed her year as Ms. Wheelchair California. Click here to see her message on Youtube. Coincidentally, one of my wife’s younger relatives was recently selected as Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina.

As an Atlanta, Georgia, attorney focused on catastrophic injury cases, including spinal cord injury, brain injury, burn injury, and other serious injuries, I often find inspiration in the spirit and resilience of clients who refuse to be defeated by devastating injuries.

As a trial attorney handling catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases in Atlanta, I continue to see how jurors are able to separate the wheat from the chaff and do substantial justice in serious cases.  Frivolous and trivial cases, by contrast, don’t carry much weight with jurors.

This week in the State Court of Fulton County, a jury returned a wrongful death verdict against a drunk driver who killed a young mother, in the amount of $5,830,000 ($5,115,000 for the value of life and $715,000 for her  suffering before death).

Since the nineteenth century, under Georgia law the measure of damages for wrongful death has been the full value of the life of the deceased. This is consistent with our prevailing respect for the sanctity of human life. 

The economic component of the value of the life includes a projection of lifetime income and benefits, with no deduction for living expenses or income taxes, value of services, etc.).   This figure is be reduced to present value under Georgia wrongful death law, often based on the testimony of an economist or accountant.

The intangible aspect of value of the life includes factors such as the enjoyment of the experience of living and relationships with loved ones. In the case of the death of a young parent, the jury may consider the value to the mother of being around to raise and nurture her children and to grow old with her husband.

The full value of the life is determined only by the enlightened conscience of an impartial jury based on the evidence presented. Under Georgia law, there is no arbitrary formula or cap on the value of a human life. 

The decedent’s husband, parents, siblings, etc., testified about various aspects of the value of her wonderful life. My colleagues Charles McAleer and Nelson Tyrone did a fine job of putting it all together.

As an injury lawyer in Atlanta, I have dealt with probably thousands of cases of back injuries involving ruptured or bulging intervertebral discs pressing on nerves and causing pain in the back as well as pain, numbness and tingling radiating down arms and legs. This is probably the single most common injury we see resulting from motor vehicle collisions.

Now an Australian biotech company has announced successful preclinical trial results of its adult stem cells in the treatment of degenerative intervertebral disc disease, the leading cause of low back pain. Note that they are using adult stem cells, not the controversial embryonic stem cells.

It’s a long road from preclinical trials in Australia to FDA approval in the US.  But if this turns out to be a practical treatment for damaged discs, it could be a major breakthrough for treatment of millions of people with injured and/or degenerative disc problems.