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Atlanta Car Accident Lawyers Raise Awareness of Distraction

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and as part of a collaborative effort, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, the Georgia Department of Highway Safety and retired NBA player Shaquille O’Neal have teamed up to educate young drivers of the potential dangers.atthewheel

Distracted driving car accident lawyers in Atlanta believe this is an excellent time of year to drive home the point, given that graduation and summer break are right around the corner.

The “Ghost Out” program features a series of reenactments, speakers and presentations designed to let teen drivers at Georgia high schools know that every second they are distracted behind the wheel creates the potential for a fatal crash.

Study finds 1 in every 4 accidents involves cell phone use

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, accidents involving distractions account for nearly half of all roadway fatalities, or about 5,000 annually. Distractions can also be blamed on approximately 450,000 injuries each year.

Another recent report from the National Safety Council indicates that 1 of every 4 wrecks can be attributed to cell phone use. Interestingly, only a small portion of those are blamed on text messaging, though teens are more prone to texting than other drivers.

What is especially scary about this revelation is the fact that most people don’t view talking on the phone as being especially dangerous. This kind of faulty thinking is perpetuated by the fact that while all states have some form of text messaging ban, none ban talking on a phone for all drivers. What’s more, none forbid hands-free cell phone devices, despite the fact that research has proven they are equally as dangerous as handheld devices.

In Georgia, all drivers are forbidden from text messaging, and it’s considered a primary offense, meaning officers can pull over a driver solely for violation of this statute. However, only school bus drivers and those drivers under the age of 18 are banned from talking on a phone while driving.

Perhaps it’s no wonder, then, that the latest NSC research found that 80 percent of drivers believe that hands-free cell phones are safer. This is despite the fact that more than 30 studies in recent years have proven that when it comes to the level of distraction, hands-free devices affect the brain the same way as handheld cell phones.

Research suggests driving distracted more dangerous than drunk driving

Here’s another reality of which many teens may not be aware: Researchers with the University of Utah recently found that drivers who were using their cell phones actually had slower reaction times than those who had a blood-alcohol content of 0.08 percent. While it may take a drunk person hours to sober up, a person on a cell phone can immediately eliminate the risk by simply hanging up.

Meanwhile, those who drive drunk are hit with heavy fines and penalties, while those who are caught driving while distracted are treated far more leniently.

New drivers especially need to be taught that just because the law hasn’t quite caught up with the research doesn’t mean that talking or texting on a phone is any safer or better than driving drunk.

Traffic crashes are the No. 1 killer of teens in Georgia, claiming some 175 young lives in this state annually and injuring countless other young motorists.

Largely, these incidents are preventable. To learn more about initiating a Distracted Driving Family Contract with your teen, visit the the NSC’s website here.

Call the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C. at 1-800-898-HAYS to schedule a free consultation

Prescription Medication, Sleeping Pills & Traffic Accident Risks

If you are among the 10 to 15 percent of people who suffer from chronic insomnia, sleeping pills may seem like the answer to your prayers. Unfortunately, these medications may significantly increase the risk of becoming involved in a motor vehicle collision. In fact, one recent study showed that a person who filled a prescription for a sleep aid at a pharmacy had double the risk of a traffic collision within the first week. untitled-1334367-m

The risk of a collision caused by sleeping pill use is not uniform among all drivers. People who are on multiple different types of medications and people who are over the age of 80 may be in the greatest danger of being involved in a collision. Innocent victims could also be harmed by an accident that is caused by a motorist impaired by sleeping pills. Those harmed in an accident should contact accident attorneys in Atlanta for information about their right to pursue a claim for damages.

Are Sleeping Pills Putting Your Life At Risk?

Sleeping pill use has increased dramatically. A decade ago, around two percent of the U.S. population took a prescription sleeping pill. Now, 3.5 percent of the population is on some type of sleep aid. This amounts to about six million people who use “z-drugs” including zopliclone, zolpidem, nitrazepam and flunitrazepam.

Sleeping pill use is especially common among people who have other physical or mental problems in addition to insomnia. For example, anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and other types of mental illnesses can also affect sleep patterns and can thus necessitate a prescription for a medical solution.  Physical ailments such as arthritis can also result in sleep trouble, especially for seniors. This helps to explain why around five percent of people over the age of 80 are on sleeping pills. Seniors have actually become the heaviest users of sleep medication.

This is bad news for road safety for many reasons. First, people who suffer from insomnia along with other physical problems are more likely to be on multiple sedating medications. Second, people over the age of 80 are already at greater risk of motor vehicle collisions due to age-related declines in vision and in cognitive function. The use of sleeping pills exacerbates these problems and makes elderly motorists even less safe at a time when 500 seniors per day are already injured in collisions.

The number of people on multiple sedating medications is very high. One recent study showed that 55 percent of people taking sleeping pills were also on other drugs that had a sedating effect, including opioid pain killers or Xanax, Ativan and other benzodiazepines.  As many as 10 percent of people were taking three or more sedating drugs.

Drivers need to ensure that they do not put themselves at risk of accidents with the drugs that they are taking. Roadwise RX can be used to enter your medications and obtain confidential information about how the drugs you take will impact your ability to safely drive.

Accident attorneys in Atlanta can help after a car accident. Call Gary Martin Hays at 1-800-898-HAYS to schedule a free consultation

Dealing with an Insurer After an Atlanta Traffic Collision

When Hurricane Katrina destroyed the beach house of U.S. Senator Trent Lott, he was dismayed that State Farm Insurance denied his claim. The Senator eventually settled with the insurance company, but his experience caused him to turn against the industry and he sponsored legislation requiring insurance companies to provide “plain English” summaries of what policies actually covered. untitled-1334367-m

Homeowners’ insurance companies aren’t the only ones that don’t pay as promised. Auto insurers, health insurance companies, and long-term care insurance providers are among the companies that treat claimants unfairly and that try to get away with paying out as little as they can.

Unfortunately, most people who have legitimate claims denied by an insurance company don’t have the power to go after the insurance industry with new laws. The only options you have to protect yourself when dealing with an insurer after an accident are to know your rights and to get a lawyer. An experienced Atlanta accident lawyer can stand up to the insurer on your behalf.

How Insurance Companies Avoid Paying After Your Accident 

A recent report from the American Association for Justice shows the lengths that insurance companies will go to in order to avoid paying out claims.

One insurance company denied coverage for a 60-year-old policyholder injured in a motor vehicle collision. The policy provided $2 million in damage coverage and the claimant had suffered serious injuries including a collapsed lung and broken bones. The injuries occurred when the driver of a pickup truck crossed into her lane. The insurance company, however, denied the claim and said it was not an accident. The collision was not covered because it was caused by “road rage.”

This is just one of many examples of a situation where insurance companies used tortured logic to avoid paying a claimant. Denying claims is standard practice for many major insurers, including Allstate which had a three part claims handling processes dubbed the “Three D’s” by employees.

Allstate’s “Three D’s” stood for delay, deny and defend. Delaying can be just as useful a tactic as denying claims. For example, for some long-term care policies, insurance companies deny claims and avoid paying until the covered policyholder has died. For auto insurance claims, delaying payment could leave a seriously injured person with no income if he cannot work and with mounting medical bills. Desperate to get at least some money coming in, the victim might be tempted to accept even really low settlement offers.

Defend, of course, stands for aggressively litigating cases. Allstate is not the only one that does this. AIG is known for fighting even really mundane claims in court and tying them up for years.

Employees at these insurance companies are encouraged to go along with this and to help the insurers deny legitimate claims. In fact, many insurance companies throw pizza parties and give gift certificates or other incentives for keeping payout rates low.

It is the injured victims of motor vehicle accidents and others who make insurance claims who suffer as a result.  An attorney can help to stand up to the insurer, and victims of collisions should not sign any paperwork or agree to a settlement until they talk to a lawyer.

An Atlanta accident attorney can help after a car accident. Call Gary Martin Hays at 1-800-898-HAYS to schedule a free consultation

Atlanta Traffic Accidents & Risk of Smartphone Apps

New Smartphone apps aim to make commutes easier for drivers by providing real-time traffic updates and information.  These apps go beyond turn-by-turn directions, giving you updates based on GPS data and first-person reports from other drivers on your route. Your phone can alert you to a red light camera, an accident or a traffic jam and can reroute you to get you around traffic. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This may all sound great, but you should think twice before you install these apps. Many smartphone programs, including those that are designed to be used while driving, can be very distracting and very dangerous.    Drivers who use their phones in any capacity while behind the wheel could be held liable for damages and injuries they cause. Victims of distracted driving crashes can speak to an Atlanta personal injury lawyer at the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C. to learn more about their right to compensation in the wake of a motor-vehicle collision.

Cell Phone Apps Behind the Wheel

Cell phone apps that try to make your commute easier typically include voice control features so you won’t be tempted to take your hands off the wheel. However, this does not guarantee that the apps won’t reduce your concentration. In fact, studies have shown that even when you are not using your hands, phone use is a cognitive distraction. Your brain pays attention to the phone or the software program and less energy is devoted to watching the road and avoiding collisions.

Not only that, but a review of a popular transportation app, Waze, contends that voice commands didn’t work that well.  This is a common criticism of all kinds of different voice-controlled programs, and a lot of people who start out talking to their phones will end up using their hands when oral commands fail.  This is true even for programs like Waze that disable touch operation for drivers. It is easy to get around this limitation by simply signifying you are the passenger, not the driver.

Waze actually encourages you to interact with the phone while driving, since you are awarded points for entering traffic information. A lot of features on your phone encourage this kind of interaction, from the ding of a text message to a popup telling you that you have a new email. Many people respond to these cues by habit, using the phone even when they are driving.

Fortunately, there actually are some apps that really will make driving safer. These are apps designed to stop you from using your phone. The Times Free Press reports on one of them, MyKey, has been implemented in six million cars already. MyKey has a “Do Not Disturb” mode that prevents a phone paired to the car from accepting either texts or calls when the vehicle is in motion.  Parents routinely use MyKey on equipped cars to ensure their kids don’t text or talk while driving.

To reduce the risk of a collision, you should be careful and install only those apps that will actually make your commute safer, rather than those that could backfire and force your attention off the road.

An Atlanta personal injury lawyer can help if you are in an accident. Call the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C. at 1-800-898-HAYS or visit www.garymartinhays.com to schedule  a free consultation. 

Will Truck Safety Rules Really Reduce Accidents?

The number of hours a trucker is allowed to drive was reduced recently.  The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) changed the rules on maximum hours of drive time to prevent drowsy driving collisions.   The Administration claims that this change is already having a positive effect and will prevent thousands of crashes. truck-delivery-1042539-m

However, not everyone agrees that FMCSA’s new rules will actually bring the promised benefits. Further, other problems within the trucking industry also spell trouble for road safety.  Victims of truck accidents need to understand their rights and should contact an Atlanta truck accident lawyer at the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C. for help after a collision.

FMCSA Promises Safety Rules Will Reduce Collisions

The FMCSA limits truckers to driving 60 hours over a seven-day period and 70 hours over an eight-day period. Once a trucker hits these limits, he is required to rest for 34 consecutive hours. His rest time must include two periods between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m.   Other new limits include a daily maximum drive time and a requirement that truckers take a break of at least a ½ hour after eight hours on the job.

The new limits went into effect on July 1, 2013, and FMCSA is now touting a study on drivers who start their work week with just one period of nighttime rest. instead of two. These drivers reportedly are more sleepy, are more likely to exhibit lapses in attention, and are more likely to deviate from their lanes at all times of the day. Because the two-night rest period has been made mandatory, the FMCSA asserts that 1,400 crashes, 560 injuries and 19 fatalities will be prevented every year due to drive-time limits.

Some trucking groups, however, question whether the promised benefits will actually materialize. By requiring drivers to sleep at night, truckers are more likely to drive during the day during higher traffic times. This could actually result in more collisions occurring.

Further, enforcement of the maximum number of hours on duty can be difficult.  Drivers have to keep log books of time spent on the job, and employers are supposed to monitor truckers to ensure they don’t exceed the legal allowable time.  Unfortunately, both truckers and employers have a lot of incentive to break these rules because there is a severe trucker shortage. There are not enough truckers to do the routes that need to be done, and the shortages of qualified drivers are only likely to grow worse.

If a trucker does violate the rules and drive when he is not supposed to, the FMCSA regulation could make it easier for crash victims to obtain compensation. A victim injured in a collision could point to the trucker’s rule violation to show the driver was negligent in a way that caused injury.  While this may help accident victims to recover traffic-accident losses, it would be far better to prevent the accident in the first place. The FMCSA’s rules may not be effective and may not be the answer to saving lives. Truckers and trucking companies making a commitment to safety is the only way to protect motorists on the roads.

An Atlanta truck accident lawyer can help if you are in a collision. Call the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates, P.C. at 1-800-898-HAYS or visit www.garymartinhays.com to schedule  a free consultation. 

Head Injuries in Georgia: An Important Study on Concussions

Head injuries are a common injury in the United States, with the Mayo Clinic indicating that most of the incidents of head trauma happen because of falls, motor vehicle accidents or as a result of violence. Unfortunately, as many as 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries occur annually, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control. Head and brain injury attorneys in Atlanta know that as many as 75 percent of these millions of brain injuries are concussions. nurseii-4-1158337-m

Concussions may seem like relatively minor injuries, but the reality is that the consequences of this disruption of normal brain function can be long lasting and can affect your health even months or years after the initial trauma occurred. A study published in the medical journal Neurology recently shed more light on the lingering changes to the brain that a concussion can cause.

Concussions Can Have Long-Term Effects

The Neurology study revealed that patients who had suffered a concussion still had changes to the brain four months after the incident. These changes were not generally visible on the most common medical tests, including traditional MRIs and CT-scans, so many medical experts and patients may be unaware that the prefrontal cortex is not yet fully returned to normal several months after head trauma.

The changes were detected in a special test called a diffusion MRI, which traces how molecules (especially water molecules) move throughout the subject’s brain. By tracing the movement of the molecules, the test provides a clearer picture of the underlying architecture and structure of the brain. Diffusion MRI tests were performed on 26 patients who had suffered a concussion. The researchers performed the tests 14 days after the original trauma caused the concussion and then performed the test four months after the original date of injury. Researchers also gave the study participants behavioral and memory tests to observe memory and cognitive function. The researchers also performed tests on healthy subjects who had not suffered a concussion to compare the results.

Both the diffusion MRI results and the results of the behavioral tests indicated that the concussed victims were still experiencing after-effects of their head injuries.  As was consistent with prior data, the patients who had experienced a concussion performed slightly worse than the healthy patients on both memory and cognitive function tests. The diffusion MRI performed four months after the concussion occurred also showed that the concussed patients still had 10 percent more fractional anisotropy in grey matter.

The reason for the higher levels of FA was not clear but possible explanations include the healing process; the lingering effects of fluid accumulation from the concussion or changes to the brain’s structural cells. More research is needed to determine the reason for the lingering change to the brain, but victims of head injuries should be aware that a simple concussion may not be as minor of an injury as some tend to believe.

Contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates in Atlanta at 1-800-898-HAYS to schedule your free consultation. Attorney is not the author of this blog. 

Rape Reported in Buford, Warrants Issued for Three Men

BUFORD, Ga – The Dacula Patch is reporting that an 18-year-old female was allegedly raped at a Buford apartment complex. The Gwinnett County police have obtained warrants for men connected with the incident. Three out of the five men involved have been arrested in connection to the alleged battery and rape.

The incident took place at The Preserve at Ivy Creek apartment complex near the Mall of Georgia:

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Police were dispatched to Gwinnett Medical Center when the young girl was brought in to the emergency room for treatment.

According to the girl, she had been celebrating her birthday with friends and ended up at the apartment complex. After a night of drinking and a subsequent morning of drinking, she blacked out.

“The victim advised that after drinking for an unknown period of time, she blacked out,” the police officer noted in their report.

She was later awoken by two females and told she needed to leave. She went home, fell asleep and later when she awoke she noticed bleeding and felt pain. She also found bruising on her thighs. The girl’s brother took her to the emergency room where she indicated she did not remember being raped, but a report was completed regardless.

Our Atlanta premises liability lawyers understand how hard it can be for rape victims to come forward and pursue legal charges against rape assailants. We fight for the rights of sexual assault victims by helping them stand up to their assailants as well those who failed to provide adequate security that could have prevented the assault from occurring in the first place.

If you have been sexually assaulted, contact the lawyers at Gary Martin Hays & Associates to fight for your rights. We have offices in Atlanta and Savannah – Contact us today or call 1-800-898-HAYS.

Deadly Accidents in Atlanta Highlight Dangerous Driving Behaviors

On one Atlanta weekend early in November, four motorists were killed in separate auto accidents that occurred throughout the greater Atlanta metro area. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the crashes occurred in Clayton, Cobb and Fulton counties.

200274141-001One of the deadly crashes occurred at an intersection at 1:30 a.m. on a Sunday in mid-November, resulting in the death of a passenger in one of the vehicles. Another occurred when a garbage truck rolled over while exiting I-75 Southbound. Finally, the last accident occurred on I-85 when a 20-year-old was killed after the driver of the vehicle he was in pulled over because one person in the car was trying to climb out of the vehicle. The young passenger got out and walked into traffic, where he was struck and killed.

An experienced car accident lawyer in Atlanta knows that deadly accidents happen far too often in the city. But this series of crashes over one weekend shows just how devastating bad driving decisions can be. It is important for every motorist to learn from these four deadly accidents and to make a commitment to practicing safe behavior as both a driver and a passenger in a vehicle.

Dangerous Driving Behaviors to Avoid

The four deadly accidents involved many different high-risk situations and risky behaviors. Crashes in the middle of the night, for example, often occur because of reduced visibility, because drivers are intoxicated or because drivers speed too quickly around curves and lose control of the vehicle. The cause of the 1:30 a.m. accident is not yet known, but investigators have indicated they will be returning to the scene to identify who is at fault for the death.

The Atlanta garbage truck accident caused by the garbage truck rolling over was a crash that likely occurred as a result of intoxicated driving. A bottle of vodka was found at the accident scene and a subsequent article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution indicated that the 56-year-old driver was charged with first-degree homicide for driving under the influence, failure to maintain his lane, and reckless driving. Driving while intoxicated is especially risky for commercial motorists who are in control of large vehicles that are prone to rolling over. This is why the legal limit for commercial drivers is just .04, half of what it is for other motorists. Still, every driver could potentially be injured or killed if he chooses to operate a vehicle when drunk.

Finally, the last accident shows the importance of being safe even as a passenger in a car. Doing risky things to distract the driver is likely to result in a crash. Drivers who are stopped at the side of a busy road also need to be extremely careful and avoid getting out of their vehicles if there is a chance they could be hit by oncoming traffic.

By taking the lessons from this deadly weekend to heart, hopefully future accidents can be prevented.

If you have been hurt in a car accident, contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates at 1-800-898-HAYS. Attorney is not the author of this blog.

Disability Insurance Often Overlooked — Most Dependent Upon SSD for Benefits

Social Security Disability lawyers in Atlanta know that the Social Security Disability system is intended to provide a safety net for people who become disabled and who are not able to work as a result of a severe injury or medical condition.  Social Security Disability benefits are available in two different programs – Social Security Disability insurance (SSDI) for people who have worked and paid into the system, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for disabled individuals with limited resources and low incomes regardless of their work history.

SSDI and SSI provide modest monthly compensation, with SSDI benefits based on how much you earned over your work life and SSI benefits capped at $710 per month for an eligible person as of 2013.  For many people, these benefits are the only source of income if they are unable to work, as most data indicates that few people purchase private disability insurance to protect themselves if they get hurt or sick and cannot hold a job.

Many Forego Private Disability Insurance Plans

US News recently reported that most experts believe disability coverage is an “essential way for people to protect themselves from unexpected illness, accidents or other problems that prevent them from working.” Yet, the Hartford Financial Services Group indicates that while 57 percent of workers aged 20-30 have life insurance, only 45 percent have short term disability coverage and just 39 percent have long-term disability coverage.

The vast majority of workers will not have an insurance policy to turn to if something happens to them over the course of their working careers. Since the Social Security Administration estimates that a 20 year-old-worker has a 30 percent chance of being disabled at some point before the worker reaches the age of 65, this means that many young workers today will find themselves unable to work and with few places to turn.

For those who suffer a long-term disability, SSD benefits at least are available, provided that the worker is able to qualify. With as many as 75 percent of initial applicants denied for benefits and 60 percent of people denied when they appeal the initial decision, however, counting on disability benefits alone is a big risk. For those who experience a short-term disability, there is no chance of getting monthly income through either SSI or SSDI, as both programs provide benefits only to people who have been disabled for at least 12 months, who will be disabled for that long or who have a terminal illness.

The risks that people take by not having disability insurance is a big one, but unfortunately it will be difficult to get more young people to invest in this type of policy. Only about a third of all young workers have access to disability insurance through workplace benefit programs and it can be costly to buy coverage on the private individual market.

Young workers who opt out of buying the costly coverage will need to hope that they are able to save enough financial resources to make it through periods of short-term illness and that they can make a successful application for SSD if they experience a more long-term medical problem.

If you are disabled, Social Security Disability lawyers in Atlanta can help you make a claim for benefits. Contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates at 1-800-898-HAYS. Attorney is not the author of this blog.

Atlanta Falls on Allstate List of Best Drivers in America

In late August, Allstate Insurance Company released its ninth annual “Allstate America’s Best Drivers Report.” The report takes a look at the 200 largest cities in America and ranks them in term of the frequency of auto accidents in order to identify which city has the safest – and the least safe – drivers.

Unfortunately, as car accident lawyers in Atlanta know, Atlanta is not an especially safe city for motorists. The most recent list proves this, as Atlanta fell further on the list of cities.

Atlanta Becoming Less Safe For Motorists

Allstate publishes its report on the best drivers by reviewing Allstate claims data from cities throughout the United States. Because approximately 10 percent of all car insurance policies in the United States are issued through Allstate, this report is believed to be a realistic snapshot of the safety of America’s roads in the 200 major cities included in the report.

Actuaries with the insurance company have developed an in-depth method of analyzing claim data to determine the likelihood that a driver in each of America’s 200 largest cities will become involved in a car accident. The likelihood of a crash is compared to the national average and the cities are compared to each other. A weighted average of two-years of claims is used to determine the percentage chance of a crash, which is defined as any collision that results in a damage claim.

Unfortunately, the data shows bad news for Atlanta residents. In the survey published in 2012, Atlanta was the 161st safest city in the United States out of 200 cities.This year, Atlanta fell to the 164th safest city.

The low ranking is based on the fact that drivers in Atlanta typically go an average of 7.7 years between car accidents. This is 30 percent shorter in duration than the national average. It also means that car accidents are much more frequent than in the safest city, Fort Collins Colorado, where the average years between collisions for drivers in the area is 13.9 years.

Drivers in Atlanta can clearly do better and Allstate provides some tips for motorists in big cities to try to reduce the risk of accidents and be safer on the roads. Allstate’s tips include:

  • Leaving plenty of time to reach your destination, even with the traffic that you are likely to encounter.
  • Planning ahead and finding out what is going on in the city, such as events that could add to traffic or accidents that could result in a closed road or slow passage.
  • Remaining alert while driving to ensure you can stop or slow down for pedestrians or other obstacles that you encounter as you travel.
  • Reviewing directions to your destination in advance and pulling over if you get lost, rather than getting stressed while driving or looking away from the road at a map or GPS.

Hopefully, if Atlanta drivers follow some of these tips, the city can move up in the rankings for next year and be a little safer for motorists on the road.

If you have been hurt in a car accident, contact Gary Martin Hays & Associates at 1-800-898-HAYS. Attorney is not the author of this blog.