When a family member is killed or seriously injured in a crash with a tractor trailer, a normal human instinct is to wait a decent interval before consulting an attorney. Then one may be inclined to take one’s time talking with a hometown lawyer who handles an occasional car wreck case along with divorces, criminal cases and real estate closings.  Meanwhile, trucking companies and their insurance companies are busy burying incriminating evidence.

A recent case in our office illustrates the importance of striking hard and fast to preserve evidence. While a truck crash victim was in ICU at the

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.

In catastrophic truck crashes that kill or catastrophically injury innocent people, the root cause of the tragedy is often not the momentary carelessness of a truck driver. Rather, the root cause is very often the systemic mismanagement by a company that puts behind the wheel of an 80,000 bomb a person who never should have been driving it. The driver may be a good guy who because inadequate training or experience, bad driving record, or physical incapacity was not well-fitted for the job. That can result in a claim for negligent entrustment.

In 2015, the Supreme Court of Georgia

When my father’s generation came home from World War II, many of them carried psychological scars about which they kept quiet. My parents married young, at 21 and 18, the week he returned from combat in 1945. My mother said that dad fought the air war over Europe every night in his sleep for at least a decade. The longer-term ramifications of that played out in many ways throughout his life. As he lay dying over six decades later, he began to tell me for the first time the war experiences that had haunted him most through his life.


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 AutoTrader.com employees and injured

While my "day job" involves representing individuals and families in serious injury and wrongful death cases across Georgia, part-time public service is also important.  This doesn’t hurt clients, as the time devoted to public service is counterbalanced over time by the exposure and insights gained. 

The following article appears in today’s Fulton County Daily Report:

Deal fills last empty seats on Criminal Justice Reform Council

All 13 members of the Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, a panel of legislators, judges and attorneys charged with studying the state’s courts and recommending ways to improve them, have now been named.

Gov. Nathan Deal’s office issued a statement Monday afternoon outlining his appointees, as well as those of the lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and state Supreme Court chief justice.

The members chosen by Deal are his executive counsel D. Todd Markle (to serve in place of the governor); Douglas County District Attorney J. David McDade; Judicial Qualifications Commission member Linda Evans—who is also the wife of former Georgia Republican Party general counsel J. Randolph Evans; and State Bar President-elect Kenneth L. Shigley.

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle tapped Senate Ethics Committee Chairman John Crosby, R-Tifton; Senate Judiciary Chairman Bill Hamrick, R-Carrollton; and Senate Urban Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Ramsey Sr., D-Decatur.

House Speaker David E. Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, appointed Rep. Mary Margaret Oliver, D-Decatur, an attorney; Rep. Jay Powell, R-Camilla, an attorney and former mayor; and House Special Rules Committee Chairman Willie Talton, R-Warner Robins.

On May 6, Chief Justice Carol Hunstein affirmed that she will sit on the panel and also named Atlanta Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Ural D. L. Glanville, a former Fulton County magistrate, and Waycross Judicial Circuit Superior Court Judge Michael P. Boggs, a former Democratic state representative.

Deal signed House Bill 265, which created the special council, last month in his son’s courtroom in Hall County. The council must report its findings and recommendations to next year’s General Assembly.

“With this council now in place, it is our hope to uncover new approaches to make Georgia communities safer while increasing offender accountability, improving rehabilitation efforts and lowering costs,” Deal said in a written statement. “While this effort should ultimately uncover strategies that will save taxpayer dollars, we are first and foremost attacking the human costs of a society with too much crime, too many people behind bars, too many children growing up without a much-needed parent and too many wasted lives.”

Deal, Hunstein and others already have suggested that the council should consider the effectiveness of accountability courts, such as DUI, drug and mental health court programs that offer alternative sentencing and rehabilitation programs for non-violent offenders, as well as giving judges more discretion at sentencing and thus eliminating some mandatory minimums.

Several of the council members attended a one-day conference on May 6 hosted by the American Bar Association in Washington where they heard strategies from other states that have recently embarked on reform initiatives.

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.