Is It Against the Law to Not Wear Face Masks in Georgia During the COVID-19 Pandemic?

COVID 19 Wear Face Masks in Georgia

What Does the Georgia Government and CDC Recommend?

As the number of positive COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths rise in Georgia, many of us are reaching for our face masks as we enter the workplace, run our errands, and enjoy our favorite activities. While many Georgians are willing to wear their face masks to protect themselves and others from the spread of infection, some residents choose not to. This has left many Georgians wondering what the laws and recommendations are for wearing face masks.

Local and State Enforcement

Recently, several cities and counties in Georgia created their own face mask mandates. For example, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms signed an executive order on July 8th requiring residents and travelers passing through Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and within Atlanta’s city limits to wear face masks inside commercial buildings and when social distancing is impossible. Exceptions to the order include children under 10, people with medical conditions, and when people are in their own vehicles. Residents and visitors in violation of the order can receive a citation or even be arrested. If arrested and convicted, the offender may have to serve 6 months in jail or pay a fine of $1,000.00.

Other cities and counties around Georgia that passed their own face mask mandates include Athens Clark County, Avondale Estates, Brookhaven, College Park, Decatur, Dekalb County, Doraville, Dunwoody, East Point, Fairburn, Savannah, South Fulton, and Union City.

The individual city and county mask mandates came to a grinding halt on July 15th when Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed an executive order blocking local governments from issuing face mask mandates that are more restrictive than his executive order. Governor Kemp is encouraging the wearing of face masks outside the home but not requiring them, which is in direct conflict with many local mandates. His executive order makes the local mandates unenforceable, but some cities remain defiant. The governor is currently suing Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms for continuing to impose the city’s more restrictive face mask mandate.

CDC Recommendations

Face Coverings

Currently, the CDC is recommending that anyone over the age of 2 wear a cloth face covering when out in public, when around others who do not reside in the same household, and when a social distance of 6 feet cannot be maintained. The CDC specifically mentions “cloth” face coverings in an effort to reserve surgical masks and N95 masks for first responders.

Unless seeking medical treatment, those who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or are suspected to have the virus should remain at home. Sick family members should isolate themselves in one area of the home to avoid contact with other members of the family and pets. The infected person should wear a mask when interacting with others, including at home. Care givers should also wear a mask while caring for a sick family member in addition to frequently washing their hands, sanitizing surfaces, and avoiding touching their face.

Going Out in Public

The CDC informs us that there are potential risks involved with going out in public right now. The more people we are around and the longer we are around them, the higher our chances are of contracting COVID-19. In an attempt to make our public outings safer, we should make sure we are wearing cloth face coverings, socially distancing at a distance of 6 feet apart, choosing activities in outdoor spaces, and practicing good hand hygiene. The CDC also put forth guidelines and operating procedures for restaurants, pools and beaches, and amusement parks to help us stay safe during outings.

When accessing a restaurant, to decrease the risk of infection, the CDC recommends that patrons continue to wear face coverings when not eating and drinking and continue to maintain a safe social distance. If possible, dining outside is preferable. Staff members should be required to wear face coverings. The restaurant’s bathrooms should be adequately supplied with soap to enable patrons to wash their hands when entering and leaving the restaurant. The CDC rates restaurants that are only using the drive-thru, curbside pick-up, and delivery options as having the lowest risk for transmission of the virus. Restaurants that pose the highest risk are those that are not practicing social distancing and allowing for both inside and outside dining.

If you decide to access pools and beaches, the CDC recommends face coverings when not swimming in the water. Although there is currently no evidence showing the transmission of COVID-19 through water at pools and beaches, these venues should also be taking extra safety measures. Some of these measures include cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces, such as railings and lounge chairs, and properly washing and sanitizing towels, if provided to patrons. Pools and beaches should be posting signs as to how to stop the spread of the virus and promoting social distancing in and out of the water.

When accessing amusement parks, make sure to following the CDC’s guidelines for wearing face coverings, social distancing, and practicing good hand hygiene. One can also make sure that the CDC’s recommendations for the safe operation of traveling amusement parks and carnivals are being followed. Some guidelines include the staff wearing face coverings, frequently washing their hands, and staying home when sick. Signs should be posted as to how to reduce the transmission of the virus in addition to PA system announcements and messages on social media. Surfaces should be frequently cleaned and disinfected, including those used by patrons during games, such as balls, hammers, and toy guns. Lines should be eliminated whenever possible, or there should be signs or tape on the ground to keep patrons 6 feet apart. Rides and attractions should have reduced seating capacity to further promote social distancing.

Can Georgia Businesses Be Held Liable if Customers Contract Covid-19?

As businesses reopen and try to get back to a new normal, there are some concerns about whether customers can sue if they contract the virus at a business. To avoid this issue, some business owners have begun asking customers to sign waivers of liability or releases to protect their businesses from lawsuits. It would be difficult to prove that someone was infected with the virus at a particular business location when there is up to a 2 week incubation period. Proving that a business did not follow operating guidelines set forth by the CDC would be less of an uphill battle.

However, on June 26, 2020, the Georgia General Assembly passed Senate Bill 359 which will protect businesses, health care providers, and others from civil lawsuits results from COVID-19 infections. There are exceptions based on gross negligence, wantonness, and intentional acts. Businesses also need to post a warning sign at the entry point that includes specific statutory language in the size and font specified in Senate Bill 359.

Some businesses are taking matters into their own hands and requiring patrons to wear face masks if they want to enter the property and posting their policies on their website letting visitors know they are responsible for assuming the risk of contracting the virus. Six Flags Over Georgia, for example, developed and posted its own health and safety plan that follows the CDC guidelines. Some of their policies include the wearing of face masks, except when riding water attractions, and temperature checks as guests and employees enter the park. Their health and safety policy clearly states that they cannot promise guests will not be exposed to the virus during their visit. If guests decide to visit the park, they are agreeing to take on that risk, which is a way for the park to protect itself during the pandemic.

What Should I Do if I Am Not Legally Required to Wear a Mask?

During these unprecedented times, try to keep yourself and your family safe by following Governor Kemp’s executive orders and the guidelines set forth by the CDC. Wearing a face covering when leaving your home, although not legally required in Georgia, is an easy and effective way to slow the spread of COVID-19 and is highly recommended. If you are visiting restaurants, pools, or amusement parks, make sure these businesses are following the CDC’s recommended operating guidelines.

If you feel that you sustained an injury that was a result of someone else’s negligence during this difficult time and to see if you may have a legal case, please contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you.

How to Evaluate a Personal Injury Attorney and Their Rates

Evaluate Personal Injury Attorney Williams Elleby

If you’ve been injured in an accident, slip-and fall, or medical procedure and are considering a personal injury lawsuit, your first step is to pick an attorney. This is an important and often daunting decision since your attorney will have a huge impact on the outcome of the case. The following are some tips to help you evaluate a Georgia personal injury attorney and their rates.

Evaluating Personal Injury Attorneys

The first step to evaluating a possible Georgia personal injury attorney is to learn about them. Review their website, Google search results, and online reviews. Look for an attorney who has solid ties to Georgia, has a strong legal education, is experienced in personal injury cases, cares about his or her clients, and has a good reputation. To make this evaluation, look for information about:

  • The attorney’s location and willingness to meet with you at a convenient location.
  • The attorney’s ties to the community.
  • Where the attorney went to law school.
  • The attorney and law firm’s experience working on personal injury cases in Georgia.
  • Awards and recognitionthe attorney has received.
  • News articles about the attorney or law firm.
  • The resultsof the attorney and law firm’s cases.
  • How the attorney’s law firm views its clients; for example, does the tone of the website sound like the firm cares about its clients or just treats them as a way to make money?
  • Reviews of the attorney and law firm’s work.

When reading reviews, pay most attention to the majority opinion. What do most reviewers think about the attorney? As with all types of online reviews, there are sometimes people who write reviews that do not accurately reflect the situation, and sometimes, unethical competitors even write bad reviews.

In addition to reading about the attorney, if possible, talk to anyone you know who has used the same attorney. Ask them about their experience working with the attorney. This type of first-hand information will help you learn what the attorney is really like.

Interview the Attorney

Don’t hire an attorney without talking to them first. You will get a much better sense of them during a conversation than you can based on just reading about them online.

Ask the attorney about their experience handling personal injury cases like yours, experience going to trial, the outcomes of their past personal injury cases, how much support they have from their law firm, their relationships with local experts, how often they will be in touch with you, and anything else you want to know about their abilities. A good Georgia personal injury attorney will be happy to answer these questions.

In addition to evaluating their experience, pay attention to how the attorney treats you, their tone of voice when answering your questions, and if you feel like they are someone you can trust. Trust is a cornerstone of the attorney-client relationship. You will be sharing confidential information with your personal injury attorney and trusting them to take action in your best interests.

Evaluating Personal Injury Attorney Rates

Determine whether the attorney’s fee is an hourly rate or contingency fee. Most personal injury attorneys take cases on a contingency-fee basis which means you only pay the attorney’s fees if you win the case, or obtain a settlement in your favor. The fees come out of your recovery so you do not have to pay out of pocket. Contingency fee agreements must be in writing, so read the agreement carefully before you sign.

Consider Costs

In addition to the contingency fee, some law firms charge their personal injury clients for the legal costs associated with the lawsuit. Costs can include things like filing fees, expert evaluation fees, medical record fees, copying costs, mailing costs, and other expenses incurred in litigation of a lawsuit.

Ask prospective attorneys whether they charge for legal costs and if so, what costs they charge for. Also ask whether you are responsible for the costs if you do not recover money from the case. Consider costs and the risk of having to pay out of pocket when evaluating a law firm’s rates.

Take Experience Into Account

Experience should be considered in determining whether a law firm or attorneys’ rates are reasonable. For example, it is typically better to hire an experienced Georgia personal injury attorney with a higher rate than to pay a Georgia business law attorney with no experience at a lower rate.

Experience affects the outcome of the case, which affects how much you recover. It is possible to take home more money paying an attorney a higher percentage than paying a less-experienced attorney a lower percentage because the experienced attorney gets you a higher recovery from the lawsuit.

At Williams Elleby, we understand that if you are considering a personal injury lawsuit in Georgia, you likely have questions about what it will cost you. We would be happy to talk to you about your potential case and our legal costs. Call us at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) or sign-up here to set up a free consultation.

DUI Suspect Causes Three-Vehicle Crash in Cobb County

DUI Crash Cobb County Personal Injuries

On May 18, 2020, a high-speed vehicle accident in Cobb County resulted in serious injuries as well as an arrest for DUI. While the accident did not result in fatal injuries, these types of crashes claim far too many lives on Georgia highways.

According to the police report, 25-year-old Nicholas Demonthenes Braggs was arrested at approximately 8:30 p.m. following a two-vehicle collision. Braggs, who was driving a Hyundai Elantra, was traveling northbound on I-75 near South Marietta Parkway. The police allege Braggs was driving aggressively when he lost control during a lane change. While attempting to pass a Lexus ES350, Braggs struck the Lexus and lost control of his vehicle.

After striking the Lexus, the Elantra careened off a median and collided with a tractor-trailer. The drivers of the tractor-trailer and the Lexus reported only minor injuries, while Braggs and his passenger were taken to Wellstar Kennestone Hospital for the treatment of serious injuries.

After their release from the hospital the following day, both Braggs and his passenger were arrested. Braggs faced a range of charges including DUI, driving without a license, possession of marijuana, and an open container violation. Bragg’s passenger also faced open container and marijuana charges.

Negligence and DUI

When you suffer injuries in a car accident, you are only entitled to monetary compensation if you can establish the other driver acted negligently in causing the crash. This is true for accidents when the other driver is arrested for DUI. However, the law can work in your favor when you sustain injuries in a crash with an intoxicated driver.

Under the law, a plaintiff in a personal injury lawsuit must prove four elements to establish negligence. These include establishing a legal duty to conform to a standard of care, a breach of that duty, a causal link between the breach and the resulting injury, and measurable damages to the plaintiff. However, another legal theory known as negligence per se applies in accident claims involving drunken drivers.

Negligence per se is the theory that a defendant’s violation of the law results in a presumption that they acted negligently. This presumption effectively tips the scales in favor of the plaintiff in DUI-related injury claims.

That does not mean, however, that a successful claim is guaranteed. While the plaintiff may hold a presumption that the defendant was negligent, the defendant has the chance to rebut that presumption. While possible, it is a difficult task for intoxicated drivers to rebut the presumption of negligence.

Let Williams Elleby Help

Although the presumption of negligence can go a long way in your personal injury case, it is vital that you have the right legal counsel to maximize your chances of financial recovery. At Williams Elleby, we have experience holding drunken drivers accountable. We are prepared to aggressively pursue compensation from the driver that struck you.

If you have questions about your legal options following a collision with a drunk driver, do not hesitate to contact Williams Elleby. We are ready to put our extensive experience to work obtaining compensation on your behalf. Contact us online or call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule a free consultation.

I was Injured During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Is It Too Late for a Lawsuit?

Personal Injury COVID-19 Williams Elleby Attorneys

No part of American life was left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic remains a serious threat to our country but governments, businesses, and individuals are slowly starting to get back to a “new normal.” As this transition occurs, those who were injured immediately before or during the COVID-19 crisis are wondering what to do and whether there is still time to file a lawsuit to pursue compensation for a wrongful injury. To help you better understand this issue, this article addresses the types of injuries that occurred, the usual deadlines, and the change to deadlines as a result of COVID-19.

Types of Injuries That Occurred During COVID-19

As a result of COVID-19, there was some decrease in certain types of injuries due to the changes in lifestyles that occurred. For example, with less driving, there were fewer accidents. Similarly, with fewer elective procedures, there were fewer elective procedure medical malpractice suits.

However, injuries still happened during the height of the COVID-19 crisis, and the types of injuries that occurred during the COVID-19 crisis are largely the same as those that occur in more normal times. Slip-and-fallsautomobile accidents, injuries from negligent security, and medical malpractice all still occurred during the COVID-19 crisis.

Treatment and Lawsuit Delays Due to COVID-19

While the types of injuries did not change, what people could do about those injuries that occurred prior to or during the height COVID-19 crisis changed drastically.

Many non-emergency medical offices were completely closed during the height of the COVID-19 crisis. This forced many people to put off treatment such as physical therapy for non-critical injuries. Additionally, many law firms and courts were at least partially closed or less available, preventing injured persons from immediately seeking legal counsel and pursuing lawsuits related to their personal injuries.

General Time Limit for Lawsuits for Injuries in Georgia

In civil (non-criminal) legal cases, there is always a time limit for bringing a lawsuit. The time limit is called the statute of limitations. The statute of limitations varies depending on the type of lawsuit being brought but generally range from one to a few years. Statutes of limitation vary between states, so do not rely on information from California if you were injured in Georgia.

In Georgia, the statute of limitations for personal injuries is generally two years. The Georgia statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases is two years as well. In normal times, exceptions to the statute of limitations are very narrow; a lawsuit can rarely be brought after the statute of limitations.

Time Limit for Lawsuits for Injuries Immediately Before and During COVID-19

Fortunately, on the legal side, the Georgia Supreme Court declared a statewide judicial emergency on March 14, 2020. The order, among other things, extended deadlines for filings in new and existing lawsuits. The order has been extended twice since March 14. The orders suspended, tolled, and extended deadlines, specifically, including statutes of limitations.

The most recent order, which was issued on June 12, 2020, sets forth a plan for re-imposing court deadlines. Under it, normal deadlines begin again on July 14, 2020. However, the 122 days between March 14 and July 14 are not included when calculating the statute of limitations for a given case. In short, most litigants get more time than they normally would to file their case.

If you suffered a personal injury during the COVID-19 pandemic and want to know if you have a case and if you still have time to bring your case, contact Williams Elleby at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to set up a free consultation. We’d love to help you better understand your situation and options.

Wrong-Way Accident Kills Two in Atlanta

Wrong Way Accident Kills Two in Atlanta Georgia Personal Injury Attorneys

On May 31, 2020, a vehicle collision involving a driver traveling the wrong way down a heavily used Atlanta highway resulted in multiple fatalities. According to law enforcement, the crash occurred when a red Dodge Charger began traveling south on the northbound lanes of I-75 in Atlanta.

The accident occurred at approximately 2 a.m. on May 31, 2020. According to the police report, the Dodge Charger illegally entered an off-ramp for the northbound highway. As the driver of the Dodge approached University Avenue, the vehicle collided head-on with a gray Ford F-150 pickup truck traveling northbound.

The drivers of both vehicles died at the scene of the crash. The third person involved in the accident — a passenger of the Ford F-150 — was rushed to Grady Memorial Hospital in critical condition. The wreck had a dramatic impact on traffic in the area, as the highway was closed until roughly 11 a.m. the same day.

The Hazards of Wrong-Way Accidents

According to the Federal Highway Administration, wrong-way accidents occur when a driver traveling opposite from the legal flow of traffic collides with another vehicle traveling the right way on the same divided road or highway. Wrong-way collisions often have devastating consequences. For a variety of reasons, head-on crashes can turn deadly. First and foremost, two vehicles traveling in opposite directions are far more likely to cause a tremendous impact compared to other circumstances. In cases like the one described above that occur on a highway, these collisions frequently happen at high speed. Although modern vehicle design focuses on providing more cushion for front-end collisions, it is impossible to dissipate the full force of these crashes. Additionally, the innocent driver in a wrong-way accident is often unprepared for oncoming traffic, which decreases the likelihood that they could avoid the other car. Given these factors, these accidents often result in severe or even fatal injuries.

Compared to other types of crashes, wrong-way collisions are uncommon. A study presented at the 2016 Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting shows that roughly 350 people are killed in wrong-way collisions nationwide each year. However, the number of individuals suffering from serious injuries in these crashes is higher. While less common than other types of accidents, these crashes are far more likely to result in fatal consequences. According to the study, each fatal wrong-way driver accident results in an average of 1.34 fatalities. This is higher than the national average of 1.1 for all types of fatal accidents. In other words, fatal wrong-way accidents result in a higher rate of death for those involved in a crash compared to other types of accidents.

How Williams Elleby Can Help After Your Accident

If you were injured in a wrong-way crash, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While the party responsible for your accident might be immediately clear, some wrong-way crashes occur due to the negligence of multiple parties. At Williams Elleby, we can carefully evaluate your claim and advise you on how to move forward. We are prepared to pursue legal action against every person or individual responsible for your injuries.

We understand if you have questions about your rights after a crash. To discuss your situation in detail, contact Williams Elleby online or call us at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule your initial consultation.