Articles Posted in Wrongful Death

Cities throughout the United States are taking innovative steps to try to eliminate traffic fatalities. Varying techniques are being employed, ranging from lowering speed limits to pushing non-vehicle transportation, in an effort to achieve “Vision Zero.” Some of these plans are modeled after systems used in other countries that have been successful at achieving dramatically lower death rates than the United States. crashed-car-1148745-m

While no fatalities of any motorist may be an unrealistic goal, it is still a good goal to set if it can focus lawmakers’ attentions on the problem of motor vehicle deaths and if it leads to policies being put into place that make the roads safer. Anything that reduces the number of people killed in traffic accidents is a step in the right direction because fewer deaths means fewer families suffering tremendous financial and emotional loss. Continue Reading

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) can initiate rules and, if those rules are passed, can impose requirements on vehicle manufacturers. This includes manufacturers of large trucks. The NHTSA will start the rule making process if it is believed there is a legitimate safety need that could be served. i-haul-299523-m

Trucking Info reports that four different highway safety lobbies have petitioned the NHTSA to begin the rule making process to create a rule requiring forward collision avoidance and mitigation braking systems on all new trucks and buses that have a gross vehicle weight of 10,000 or more. The hope is that these systems would reduce the risk that truck driver error could cause the trucks to hit obstacles in their path. Continue Reading

Another deadly, and unnecessary, car accident has occurred in Georgia. Our Atlanta car accident attorneys read an article recently about an accident that killed 26-year-old Shavonna Johnson from Willow Bend Run.

Speeding

In the early morning of December 28, around 3:44 AM, Ms. Johnson was in a Kia Optima with two other people travelling west on Buena Vista Road, all on their way to get something to eat. The police report stated Ms. Johnson was a passenger in the vehicle. Chris Turner II, who is 24-years-old, was driving another car when he T-boned Ms. Johnson’s car. During the accident, Ms. Johnson was ejected from her vehicle, as she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt at the time. She suffered blunt force trauma to her abdomen, and was taken to Midtown Medical Center, though she died of her injuries after doctors performed emergency surgery to try to save her. The accident continues to be under investigation by the Columbus Police Department.

Mr. Turner now faces multiple charges, including vehicular homicide, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, driving while his license was suspended or revoked, giving false information to an officer, obstruction of a law enforcement officer, reckless driving, and driving without a seat belt. He is being held without bond at Muscogee County jail. When the police arrived at the scene of the accident, he gave his name as “Trey”. When confronted, he apparently acted disorderly, and pushed an officer after he was arrested. He had a blood alcohol level of .105, which is well above the legal limit, and he was also not wearing a seatbelt. Additionally, police assert that he was driving at almost 100 miles per hour at the time of the crash. Midtown Medical Center staff actually refused to treat him because he was being so disruptive.

This time of year, watching football games is a tradition for many families. Around the beginning of the New Year is Bowl Game season for college football fans. But this year one family’s trip to the New Years Day Outback Bowl turned into tragedy.  Our Atlanta car accident attorneys read a story about a couple, Kenneth Eugene Behrens, 64 years old, and Margaret Elaine Brehrens, his 65 year old wife, who were on their way to the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Florida in a sport-utility vehicle, with more relatives in a minivan ahead of them. The Behrens, residents of eastern Iowa, were lifelong University of Iowa fans and were going to see their team play against Louisiana State University.  They never made it to the game, though, due to a terrible car crash.

Football

The car crash happened on I-75 ten miles south of Perry in south-central Georgia on Sunday afternoon. The Georgia State Patrol said that the Behrens’ were slowing down due to traffic on the road when another car hit them from behind, forcing both cars into a guardrail, causing the Behrens’ vehicle overturn.  Kenneth Behrens was thrown from the driver’s seat into the passenger seat by the impact.  The following car, driven by 19 year old Benjamin Blake from Ohio, was travelling at high speed when it hit the Behrens. Both Behrens died in the accident. A 13 year old passenger in the backseat survived and was uninjured.  Mr. Blake was also uninjured. The accident is still under investigation to determine exactly what happened, but charges are pending against Mr. Blake.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that 29 percent of accidents are rear end collisions, which result in significant injuries and fatalities each year. Of these crashes, what happened to the Behrens is the most common – the lead vehicle slows down or stops prior to the accident.  A 2012 NHTSA study found that 87 percent of rear end crashes involved some degree of distraction by the following car.  Only 40 percent of following drivers were looking forward when the lead car started breaking in these rear end crash scenarios.  These numbers show that distracted driving, especially in areas of stopped or slowing traffic, is a real hazard for rear end car accidents.  More needs to be done to encourage safe driving and crack down on distracted driving and speeding to prevent tragedies like the Behrens accident from occurring.

Our Atlanta car accident attorneys read about the tragic story of the death of 12 year old Symia Knight last week from a car crash.

Last Friday, a crash happened at the corner of Donald Lee Holloway Parkway and Fulton Industrial Boulevard at about 7 a.m.  It involved a white pickup truck, driven by Robert Culver, which tried to turn left and hit the rear side of a Chevrolet car.  The impact caused the car to spin into a vacant parking lot and came to rest in the grass near the intersection.  Young Symia Knight was a passenger sitting in the back seat of that car, and she was taken to Grady Memorial Hospital but she later died of her injuries.  She was with her mother, sister and brother on their way to McDonalds before being dropped off at school, since they were ahead of schedule that morning.  Her brother Calvin Knight said Symia was right next to him when she was fatally wounded.

Purple Balloons

Police say that Mr. Culver saw that the intersection light was green, but he was still at fault for the accident.  Atlanta police spokeswoman Kim Jones said, “He did not allow her to clear the intersection before he made the turn.”  Jones also said police have a particularly hard time with crashes involving children, saying, “It is difficult.  I mean, I worked in that unit for 17 years, and it is difficult. I mean, I’m getting emotional right now. It is difficult to have a child of any age.”  Robert Culver was charged with misdemeanor second-degree vehicular homicide and failure to yield.

Our Atlanta product liability attorneys saw a news story this week about a defective product case and the family of an immigrant from Bhutan who won their civil suit against tire company Michelin.

In 2011, a large van was carrying 14 people to work at a chicken processing plant, Perdue Farms in Perry, on I-75 near Macon, Georgia.  All the passengers and the driver were part of an immigrant community from Bhutan and lived in Clarkson.  On their way to work, the rear tire of the van blew out suddenly, causing the van to smash into a median guardrail and flip over.  Because of that accident, two people were killed and 12 were injured.  One of those killed was Kharka Chhetri, a 50 year old immigrant.  Chhetri’s family sued Michelin North America, the maker of the blown out tire, as well as the van’s driver, Bhim Bhista.  Against Michelin, the lawsuit claimed that the company knew about a design defect in the tires and that the company did nothing about the defect.  The family said they included Bhista in the lawsuit because in lawsuits like this the company often tries to blame the driver, or the driver might be partly at fault.

White Van Credit

This week, a jury in DeKalb County found in favor of Chhetri’s family.  It was determined that Michelin was 80 percent at fault and the driver, Bhista, was 20 percent at fault.  Chhetri’s widow was awarded $5 million for her husband’s wrongful death, and the family also got $20,000 to pay for his funeral expenses.  In addition, the jury awarded $11.5 million in punitive damages against Michelin.

Our Atlanta car accident attorneys know that car accidents take too many lives unnecessarily each year.  Last weekend was a particularly deadly one in the Atlanta area according to news reports. There were car crashes in Clayton, Cobb, and Fulton counties last weekend, which in total caused the death of four people.

On Saturday, a garbage truck rolled over while exiting I-75 at the Cleveland Avenue ramp, killing 54 year old Derryl Simmons, an Atlanta public works employee.  Another employee was injured and taken to Grady Memorial Hospital.  A city spokesperson told reporters that alcohol was involved in this crash.  Apparently a colleague warned the city months before Mr. Simmons’s death that there were alcohol issues with some employees, saying, “I tried to speak up when I worked down there”.  The former employee wanted to remain anonymous but said he knew Mr. Simmons and hoped it would show the city they need to do something and take actual action.  The city responded with Interim Director of Communications Carlos Campos writing, “The City of Atlanta has a zero-tolerance policy for drug and alcohol use and routinely conducts random screenings.  An internal investigation is being conducted and we will take appropriate action based on the outcome of that investigation.”  The spokesperson said police were seeking arrest warrants against the driver on charges of first degree vehicular homicide, driving under the influence, and failure to maintain lane.

Speeding Car Credit

In another accident on Saturday, 20 year old Peter James Judson was hit and killed when hit by a truck on I-85 near the Ga. 400 interchange.  In that accident a passenger tried to climb out a window in the moving car, which then pulled over.  Then Judson walked into traffic where he was hit, and he died at the scene.  The driver that hit him was injured and taken to the hospital.  Rodrigo Solorio, 17 years old, also died on Saturday in a Cobb County wreck.  Solorio was driving a blue 1989 Nissan 240SX southbound on Austell Road.  He attempted to turn left in front of a black 2002 Range Rover driven by 45 year old Wilson Marcellus, and the Range Rover smashed into Solorio’s driver’s side.  Solorio died of his injures and Marcellus and a passenger in his car were taken to the hospital with minor injuries.  Late on Sunday night there was a crash in Clayton County near the intersection of Ga. 85 and Ga. 138 and one person was killed.  The driver of the other car was taken to the hospital.  Investigations into that crash continued on Monday.

Motorcycles and other smaller vehicles are always more vulnerable on the road than bigger, tougher vehicles.  Extra caution needs to be taken around these more vulnerable vehicles, but often that caution is not taken by drivers.  That was shown all too clearly when last month our Atlanta motorcycle accident attorneys saw a sad story of a local fire inspector’s death in a motorcycle crash.

Dan Harden was a 56 year old fire inspector with the Albany Fire Department when he was involved in a tragic crash in September.  He was riding his Harley Davidson motorcycle to work on Pinewood Road in Lee County.  It was about seven in the morning.  A Chevrolet Tahoe, driven by Karis Stubbs, turned in front of him and into his path.  The Harley hit the back of the Tahoe and Harden ended up being thrown into the road.  He was then in the path of another SUV, driven by Kimberly Sebastian, although it was unclear if this other SUV hit him.  Mr. Harden died of his injuries at the scene of the accident.

Motorcycle

No charges were filed in Mr. Harden’s death, but the Georgia State Patrol is still investigating the crash.

Our Personal Injury Attorneys feel for the family of a teenage mother and her little daughter who died tragically in a car accident last week.  The mother and grandmother of the pair also went through the unimaginable horror of watching and not being able to do anything to save her family.

Gabriella Faiz, a 17 year old high school student and mother of almost two year old Jada, was driving her car, a Honda, which had just been repaired earlier that day, to do some errands last Thursday at around 9:30pm.  Gabriella was a senior at Lithia Springs High School and Jada would have turned two years old this week.  The car stalled in the right lane of I-285 near Ga. 400 in Sandy Springs, according to news reports.   Gabriella’s mother, Al-Quiyamah Faiz, was in the car behind her and Gabriella called to tell her mother the car was having problems and to go around her.  Her mom passed, called back, was told their car had stopped and turned around.  Just minutes after Gabriella told her mother to go around, two cars slammed into her stalled car.  Some news sources state that a tractor trailer was involved in this crash, as well. By the time Ms. Faiz got off the highway and came back, looking for their car, she saw orange flames, which had engulfed the Honda just minutes after being hit.  Police officers called to the scene tried to rescue the two girls but could not. Ms. Faiz said, “A fireman had to tell me that was my child’s car and that they were no longer with me.”  A grieving Ms. Faiz told reporters by phone, “I watched my daughter and granddaughter burn in the middle of the night.”

Car Crash

One other person in one of the cars that hit Gabriella’s was also injured, but not severely.  Police are investigating the crash and deciding whether to press charges against the drivers that smashed into Gabriella’s car. Sandy Springs Police Captain Keith Zgonc said the decision would be made sometime this week.  The accident was so horrific that Sandy Springs police shut down I-285 again on Sunday morning in the same location to try to reconstruct this fatal crash.  The reconstruction lasted several hours and was to help police and investigators better understand what happened.  They believe when the car stalled, it was first struck from behind by another vehicle.

This blog has talked about Good Samaritans before (see a previous blog about Georgia’s Good Samaritan laws here), so our Atlanta car accident attorneys noticed a recent story about good citizens helping someone in a car accident earlier this week.

On Monday in Forsyth County, 60 year old Maria Josefa Martinez, a custodian with Forsyth County Schools, was driving southbound on Ga. 400 near Pilgrim Mill Road in a small red passenger car.  She hit the back of a tractor trailer, spun out of control and smashed into the side of a van also travelling southbound.  The van was driven by a paraplegic man who was also injured in the crash and was trapped in his van, which was specially built to be driven by the driver who required a wheelchair.  Fortunately, three random drivers passing by who saw the accident stopped and rushed in to help out at the scene.  One man, a paramedic off duty, Todd Holloway, tried to revive Ms. Martinez with CPR. He told reporters, “The other guy, who pulled in behind me went over to the van to help with that guy and he said ‘I need help the van’s on fire.’ He’s handicapped, he can’t get out.” Mr. Holloway went to assist in pulling him out before returning to try to help Ms. Martinez.  Unfortunately, Ms. Martinez later died of injuries she sustained in the crash.  Mr. Holloway and two other men, Gary McBryer and Terry Johnson, managed to save the injured van driver, though.  The passenger side door was jammed from the accident, so they went to the driver’s side door, bear-hugged the injured driver, and pulled him out of the van through the driver’s door.  Only minutes after pulling the driver to safety, the van burst into flames.  The man is now in stable condition at Northside Forsyth Hospital.

Man in Wheelchair

The men risked their own lives to save this man.  Mr. McBryer, a construction worker, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “I just reacted, I didn’t even think.”  Mr. Holloway said, “We didn’t take all of the precautions but in that sort of situation, we just wanted to get him out.  I’ve been in emergency for 10 years. That’s what I do for a living. It was just natural. I enjoy helping others.”  Neither man described himself as a hero for stepping in and saving a life.  Mr. McBryer said he was taught to help his neighbors and he believes 90 percent of good people would have done the same in that situation.