The Personal Injury Lawsuit Process

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Contrary to what you may see on television or hear on the news, the vast majority of lawsuits do not end up in court. Instead, they are settled. Some disputes are even settled before a party files a lawsuit.

If you have been injured in Georgia and are considering initiating a lawsuit, it might be helpful to know the basics of how the process works. Understanding the steps can help provide you with a realistic idea of what to expect.

Before the Lawsuit

An insurance company will likely contact you shortly after the accident. It may attempt to get you to settle your claim even at this early point. Insurance companies are often successful because victims tend to be confused and overwhelmed after an accident. However, settling this early is rarely a good idea.

When an insurance company contacts you after your accident, you may not yet understand or appreciate the full extent of your injuries or how they will affect your future. Instead of jumping at the first sign of money, you should contact an Atlanta, Georgia, personal injury attorney. A lawyer will be able to evaluate your case and determine whether the insurance company is offering you a good deal or trying to take advantage of you. If a reasonable settlement cannot be achieved, the next step is to file a lawsuit.

The First Step in Filing a Personal Injury Claim

The first step in a lawsuit is filing a petition. This petition lays out the facts of the case and explains why you are entitled to compensation under Georgia law. The other side will reply to your petition via what is called an “answer.” This answer must respond to each of the factual and legal assertions your personal injury attorney made in your petition. From there, the parties will begin the discovery process.

The Discovery Phase

Discovery takes up a majority of the time and effort in a legal case. During this phase, you will work with your Georgia personal injury lawyer to gather information. You can do this through formal discovery by asking the other side questions in writing and demanding that they produce particular documents. You can also request to depose the other side. A deposition is a formal, in-person question-and-answer session that is held under oath.

Discovery may also involve extensive research or the use of experts. You can even subpoena other parties to gather more information. Discovery can be a long and complicated process, depending on the case. The discovery process is extremely important to building a good case for trial, however.

Trial

Most people are familiar with the trial process, but it is not like what you have seen on television. If the parties have prepared properly, there should be no surprises. Trial is your chance to present your case to the jury and explain why you deserve compensation for your losses after an accident.

Personal injury lawsuits rarely reach the end of a trial because parties can still settle a claim throughout the trial. And while some cases are better suited for trial, many others can be more efficiently resolved through settlement, alternative dispute resolution, or mediation.

Taking a case all the way to trial can take years, so parties often settle to save time and money.

Your personal injury attorney will be able to help you navigate the process. Call Williams Elleby at 833 – LEGALGA for more information or to request a free consultation.

Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers—Georgia Premises Liability Law

Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers Georgia Premises Liability Lawyer

Property owners can be liable for injuries that occur on their property, even if the owner does not actively do something that causes the injury. However, just sustaining an injury on another person’s property does not automatically make the property owner liable for the injury. The injured party must prove that the owner or occupier failed to use reasonable care to keep their property safe.  This is known as premises liability law and includes slip and falls, negligent security, swimming pool accidents, dog bites, and even falling deck cases.

The Georgia Law

Georgia law states that “where an owner or occupier of land, by express or implied invitation, induces or leads others to come upon his premises for any lawful purpose, he is liable in damages to such persons for injuries caused by his failure to exercise ordinary care in keeping the premises and approaches safe.”

In other words, a property owner is liable for injuries that occur on the property, but only if the injury was a result of the property owner failing to safely maintain the property. For example, if a bottle of water falls off the shelf in a grocery store and spills all over the floor, the property owner can be held liable if shoppers slip on the water and hurt themselves. This applies even if shoppers, rather than store employees, cause the water to spill. The standard is “ordinary care,” which requires the property owner to maintain the property as a safe place, even if the property owner or employees did not create the unsafe situation.

Invitees, Licensees, and Trespassers

In addition, the property owner must induce the other party to enter the property in order to be held liable. In tort law, there are three categories of victims when determining premises liability: invitees, licensees, and trespassers.

Invitee: a person who is invited to the property, by the owner, as a member of the public or for business purposes. People who go to an open store to shop are invitees.

Licensee: a person who is on the property of another because the owner of the property allowed the person to enter. He is there for his own purposes and not for the benefit of the owner. This category is applicable to property not open to the general public.  The most common example is a social guest.

Trespasser: a person who enters the property without permission of the owner.

The degree of care a property owner owes to another person depends on whether that person is an invitee, licensee, or trespasser. O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1 governs the property owner’s duty of care to invitees. A grocery shopper is an invitee, so the statute will apply in the example with the spilled water. If the water is not removed in a reasonable time and an injury occurs, the property owner will be liable for injury. However, if the person entering the property is a licensee or trespasser, a different more restrictive standard will apply.

If you have been injured in an accident, you need a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer. Contact the law firm of Joel Williams.

How Long Do I Have to File My Cobb County, Georgia, Personal Injury Case?

Wrongful Death Personal Injury Statue of Limitations Georgia Attorney

The law imposes time restrictions, so defendants do not have to live in fear of being sued forever. Time limits are also helpful because they force plaintiffs to file a case when memories and evidence are fresh. It is much easier to gather facts and evidence right after an accident occurred than years later. These time limits are often referred to as “statutes of limitations.”

Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Cases in Georgia

Georgia has a two-year statute of limitations for personal injury cases. That means you must file your claim within two years for it to be legally valid. If you do not file your claim within this time frame, your lawsuit will likely be dismissed.

Personal property damage has a four-year statute of limitations. Personal property damage claims are often asserted at the same time as a personal injury claim.

Keep in mind that personal injury claims can include:

  • Vehicle accidents
  • Slip-and-fall situations
  • Pedestrian accidents
  • Bicyclist accidents
  • Product liability (when a product causes harm)
  • Medical malpractice

For most situations, the statute of limitations will start to run as soon as you are injured. However, sometimes you may not realize you are injured until long after an accident. For example, if you are exposed to toxic chemicals, you may not show become ill until months or years later. Because of situations like these, the statute of limitations clock often does not start until the victim discovered the injury. That is, you have to actually know and understand that you were injured before the statute of limitations will start. This rule is commonly referred to as the “discovery rule.”

Statute of Limitations Tolling

The statute of limitations can be “tolled” under certain circumstances. Essentially, this means the time limit pauses due to unique facts of the case. For example, if a child is harmed in a car accident, that child may have a right to assert a personal injury case, but he or she cannot do so until age 18. In that situation, the statute of limitations pauses until the child becomes 18.

The statute of limitations may also be tolled when the individual is incompetent or mentally incapacitated.

Certain claims may have other restrictions. For example, medical malpractice claims have what is commonly called a statute of repose. Under this rule, there is not only a statute of limitations, there is a cutoff point from the date of the injury, regardless of the tolling of the statute of limitations or the discovery rule. In Georgia, the statute of repose for medical malpractice claims is five years, even though the statute of limitations is only two years. That means you cannot file a medical malpractice claim in Georgia once five years have passed since the incident, regardless of when you realized you were harmed.

As a rule, it is best to file a personal injury claim in Georgia as soon as practical after an accident to avoid problems with the various timeline restrictions. Call Williams Elleby at 833 – LEGALGA for more information or to schedule a free consultation.

Are Bars Liable when Alcohol Kills?

Wrongful Death Alcohol and Bars Liable Personal Injury Attorney Georgia

Alabama Hooters Faces Wrongful Death Lawsuit for Serving Alcohol to Teen

A Hooters restaurant in Pelham, Alabama is now facing a wrongful death lawsuit from the family of a teen who died in a car accident after visiting their establishment, according to ABC News 9. The teenager, 18-year-old Ryan Rohr, died in May after a car outside the Hooters struck him while he crossed the street. Lawyers for the family allege that Hooters served Rohr alcoholic drinks illegally, even after Rohr was intoxicated. They argue that his alcohol consumption led to the auto-pedestrian accident that killed him after he left the restaurant.

Hooters Kept Serving Rohr After He Was Drunk

Rohr was in Pelham while working on a construction project this past May. He visited the Hooters in Pelham with some of his coworkers. The family’s lawyers allege that no one at Hooters ever asked Rohr for any form of identification, even though they served him several drinks. They say that Rohr was in the Hooters restaurant for over two hours the evening of his death, Fox News 6 reports. They also allege that Hooters continued to serve Rohr alcohol even after he became visibly intoxicated, and that his blood alcohol content at the time of the accident was .24, several times the legal limit.

Georgia Law Holds Businesses Accountable for Keeping Customers Safe

The law in Georgia and in Alabama holds people responsible for taking reasonable care to prevent injuries to others. If someone fails to take reasonable care and it results in injuries to someone, they may be liable for negligence in a lawsuit. If the victim dies because of their injuries, their surviving family can sue the person at fault for wrongful death.

Usually, if the defendant violated the law, this is proof that they failed to take reasonable precautions to prevent injuries to others, especially if the law is in place to keep people safe.

In both Alabama and Georgia, the legal age for alcohol consumption is 21. The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) in both states is .08. Alabama has a law called the Dram Shop Act that makes it illegal for bartenders to keep serving customers after the customer is intoxicated. However, Georgia law specifically states that businesses that sell alcoholic beverages will generally not be liable for injuries that arise from their customers being intoxicated. There is an exception for when a bartender sells alcohol to a minor or intoxicated person who then drives a car and injuries a third party, who may then sue the bar. But even in this case, the person who consumed the alcohol cannot sue the bar that sold it to them.

No Negligence Recovery from Bars in Georgia

If a case like Rohr’s happens in Georgia, then the victim and his family do not have a right to sue the business. First of all, most bartenders in Georgia are not liable for accidents that happen because their customers get drunk. Second, the exception to this general rule doesn’t apply, because even though Rohr died in a car accident, he wasn’t driving when he died. Third, even if he had been driving a car when died, Georgia law would bar him or his family from suing the Hooters, because he was the one who drank the alcohol.

Get in Touch with A Wrongful Death Attorney

If someone close to you has died in an accident, you may be entitled to compensation from the person at fault. To find out more about your options, talk to an experienced Kennesaw Car Accident Death Attorney at Williams Elleby in Cobb County today.

Are Road Construction Contractors Liable in Accidents?

Georgia Law Construction Contractors Liable Personal Injury Wrongful Death Attorney

Ohio Authorities Charge Cobb County Man with Vehicular Manslaughter

Authorities in Cleveland, Ohio have charged a truck driver from Cobb County with aggravated vehicular manslaughter after an accident there Sunday, according to The Toledo Blade. The man, Chana Roosevelt Carter, age 40, of Powder Springs, was driving a tractor trailer when he collided with a slow-moving line of cars on the Ohio Turnpike. A 14-year-old girl, Madison Creagan, of West Shokan, New York, died in the accident. Local authorities have also charged Carter with failure to obey a traffic control device and vehicular assault.

Construction Caused Slow-down; Carter Failed to Brake

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that the tractor-trailer accident occurred at about 2 pm Sunday near the State Route 4 interchange in Erie County’s Groton Township. A construction zone covering part of the freeway caused traffic to slow down in that stretch. Law enforcement officials on the scene said that Carter didn’t slow down fast enough to avoid a collision with the slower traffic in front of him. Seven other people suffered injuries in the accident. Ohio state agencies are rebuilding the freeway where the crash occurred. Local authorities are holding Carter in the Erie County jail. There has been no positive or negative report of whether Carter was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the accident.

Under Georgia Law, Construction Contractors Can Be Liable for Accidents

The State of Georgia spends hundreds of millions of dollars every year on road construction. This money goes to private contractors to complete freeway construction and other jobs, as a report from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains. The state agency responsible for construction (for example, the Georgia Department of Transportation or GDOT) is usually immune from liability for accidents unless they fail to follow standard engineering practices in the construction of roads. However, private contractors can be held liable for negligence if they fail to take reasonable care during the construction work on a freeway, if that failure leads to injuries. For example, in a case called Comanche Construction Inc. of Georgia v. Department of Transportation, a construction contractor for the GDOT placed a detour sign so that it blocked a stop sign, which lead to an accident. The court found that although the state was immune from a negligence lawsuit for the injuries that resulted, Comanche Construction could still be liable.

Construction Contractor Could Be Liable in Carter Crash

If a case like the Carter crash were to occur in Georgia, would the construction company have any possible liability in a negligence lawsuit for the injuries to the seven passengers and the wrongful death of the 14-year-old girl? If the construction company failed to take reasonable care to provide warning of construction, and this prevented Carter from being able to slow down and avoid hitting the traffic in front of him, the construction company might be liable. Even if Carter also failed to follow the rules of the road (for example, if he was driving over the speed limit), the construction company might share some of the liability.

Get Legal Help

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, you need legal assistance. Get in touch with a car accident lawyer at Williams Elleby in Marietta to get the compensation you deserve.

Are Drivers Liable for Emergency Response Costs?

Car Accident Emergency Response Costs Personal Injury Attorney Georgia

Cobb County Accident Requires Emergency Personnel to Remove Passengers from Wreck

Five people are in the hospital after an auto collision in Cobb County last weekend, according to WSB-TV 2 Atlanta. Near Cobb Parkway and Barrett Parkway at about 3 am, a car and a pickup truck crashed into each other. The passengers were trapped in their vehicles, and emergency first responders closed lanes of traffic while they worked to remove the passengers. Emergency personnel transported five of the passengers to Kennestone Wellstar Hospital in Marietta, three of them in critical condition.

Accident Caused Serious Injuries but No Fatalities

ABC 9 Atlanta reports that the car accident did not result in any fatalities. Police reports indicate that the driver of one of the vehicles may have been under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. Video footage of the accident scene shows that the accident mangled both vehicles, caving in the sides of the bodies of the minivan and showering the roadway with shattered glass. There are currently no reports on the present status of the passengers who suffered injuries during the accident.

Georgia Law Bans Accident Response Fees

When a driver causes an accident and that accident requires emergency response personnel to respond to the scene, the municipality or local government who operates the emergency response agency may incur large expenses. It is more and more common for these municipalities and local governments nationwide to charge the person responsible for the accident a fee to cover the costs of their emergency first response, as The Insurance Journal explains. However, the Georgia Code specifically bans local governments from charging accident response fees to insurance companies for emergency response to a car accident. There are exceptions for services fee for which the driver has explicit coverage.

Driver Probably Won’t Have to Pay for Emergency Response

Could the driver responsible for the accident at Cobb Parkway and Barrett Parkway have to pay municipal accident response fees? It appears that the county probably incurred significant costs in responding to the accident, including firefighters and emergency medical personnel. Services by fire departments are the ones that municipalities are most likely to try and bill for.

If the driver was in fact under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident, it is likely that the driver is liable for negligence and that their insurance company is on the hook to cover the expenses of the accident. It’s possible then that the county will attempt to charge the driver’s insurance company for the costs of emergency response. However, they will probably not be able to hold the insurance company responsible for paying such a fee, since the Georgia Code bans this kind of billing. The only exception might be if the driver is already insured for the payment of municipal accident response fees, in which case the insurance company will have to pay out.

Get Legal Help

If you or someone you know has been involved in a car accident, you need legal assistance. Get in touch with a car accident lawyer at Williams Elleby in Marietta to get the compensation you deserve.

Employer Liability in Car Accidents

Employer Liability Car Accidents Personal Injury Attorney Georgia

Deadly Five-Car Pileup this Holiday Weekend

According to Fox News 5 Atlanta, there was a deadly five-car auto accident this holiday weekend in unincorporated Decatur. The accident involved a U.S. Postal Service delivery truck.

Reports indicate that a 23-year-old man named Jamon Freeman sideswiped another vehicle and then collided with three others, including the mail vehicle. One man was killed and several others injured. One of the surviving accident victims is in critical condition, NBC 11 Alive reports.

Imputable Negligence in Car Accidents

Although the facts so far are unclear, it’s conceivable that one of the victims in the accident might file a lawsuit alleging that the postal driver was at least partly at fault. If that were to happen, one important question would be whether the U.S. Postal Service would be liable for the injuries to the victims.

The legal doctrine of respondeat superior or imputable negligence in Georgia means that, in general, employers are responsible for the actions of their employees if those actions are within the scope of their employment. This law appears in Section 51-2-2 of the Georgia Code. There’s no definition in the statute for “scope of employment,” so the boundaries of this phrase are often disputed. Generally, if the employee’s activity is related to their work duties, it’s within the scope of their employment. This means that typically, if an employee is on-duty, then the court can find the employer liable for the employee’s negligence, but if the employee is off-duty, they usually cannot. For example, if an employee is driving a work vehicle during work hours and causes an accident, a court will usually find that their employer is liable for any negligence on the part of the employee. But if the employee is commuting to or from work and an accident occurs, the employer is generally not liable.

Negligent Hiring of Drivers

But even if the employer is not liable under imputable negligence, they may be liable under another rule: negligent hiring. In Georgia, negligent hiring requires the plaintiff to show that the employer knew or reasonably should have known of the employee’s tendency to engage in the type of behavior that caused the plaintiff’s injury. There is also a requirement of foreseeability. This means that the defendant must have been able to expect the injury caused by hiring the employee by exercising reasonable care. This is most often seen in cases involving tractor-trailer crashes.  Sometimes tractor-trailer companies will hire a driver despite knowing of his or her bad driving history.  If the truck driver has a history of speeding and causes a wreck due to excessive speeds, the employer may be liable for negligent hiring if the driver’s prior speeding violations were known to the company.

In order to show negligent hiring, there must also be a causal connection between the known incompetence and the injury in the case. In other words, It’s not enough that, just by hiring the employee, the employer puts the employee in a position where they could cause the harm. They have to know that the employee is in some way incompetent, and in a way that led to the injury to the plaintiff.

Need Help?

If you’ve been involved in a truck accident, you need legal help. Contact an Auto Accident Lawyer  Joel Williams today.

An Explanation of Wrongful Death Claims

explanation wrongful death claims

An Explanation of Wrongful Death Claims

Have you recently lost a loved one in a car accident where the other driver was at fault? Was your loved one taken from you early because of injuries caused by malfunctioning machinery or because they were prescribed the incorrect medication? Losing a loved one is devastating under normal circumstances, but when death is unexpected and the result of another person’s negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death claim.
In Georgia, filing a wrongful death claim comes with specific rules that can be challenging for survivors of the deceased to process. It is important to seek the help of an attorney who can get you the compensation and closure you deserve.

What Qualifies As A Wrongful Death

According to Georgia legal codes, a “wrongful death” is defined as the death of a person due to the “negligent, reckless, intentional, or criminal” acts of another entity (person, business, etc.). Examples of when a wrongful death might occur include instances of medical malpractice, motor vehicle collisions, defective products, premises liability, violence, and work injuries. In these instances, certain survivors of the deceased may be able to bring a successful wrongful death lawsuit.

Who Can File A Wrongful Death Claim

A wrongful death case may be initiated by survivors of the deceased. This typically is the surviving spouse or parent. However, if there is no surviving spouse, children may file a wrongful death claim. In addition, a personal representative of the deceased may file a wrongful death claim, in which case damages recovered are held by the estate for the benefit of the deceased’s next of kin.

Compensation Available For Wrongful Death

There are two different types of wrongful death claims in Georgia. The first type of wrongful death claim seeks to establish the “full value of the life of the deceased.” In such cases surviving family members can recover monetary damages for both the monetary and intangible value of the deceased person, including:
● Any lost wages and benefits the deceased may reasonably have earned if they had not passed; and
● Pain and suffering, loss of companionship, and other non-monetary damages felt by loved ones of the deceased.
The second type of wrongful death claim, the “estate claim”, seeks compensation for financial losses that occurred because of the deceased person’s death. Here it is the deceased person’s estate seeking damages such as:
● Medical expenses for injuries or illness that caused the death;
● Funeral and burial expenses for the deceased; and
● Any pain and suffering the deceased endured before death.

Statute Of Limitations

A wrongful death claim must be filed within the time specified by the Georgia statute of limitations. Under most circumstances, the survivors have two years from the date of death to file a wrongful death claim in court. Depending on your case, however, the time may be lengthened or shortened and it is extremely important you file a case before the clock runs out.
Exceptions, for example, exist if there are criminal proceedings in court for the same wrongful death. The two year statute freezes and begins running after the criminal case is completed. There may also be an additional five year toll for cases where the person’s estate is not probated.

Why You Need An Attorney

In Georgia, a wrongful death attorney will usually work on a contingency fee basis, meaning the attorney isn’t paid until the case is successfully settled. Call wrongful death lawyer Joel Williams to speak to an experienced wrongful death attorney about your options.

78,518 Vehicles Illegally Pass School Buses On Any Given Day

vehicles illegally pass buses

As a Georgia driver, do you know your duty as a driver of a vehicle that is meeting or overtaking a school bus?

Besides creating a dangerous situation and possibly injuring or killing innocent children, you could receive a citation, be fined up to $1,000.00, have 6 points placed on your driver’s license record, and risk having your license suspended if you are under 21 years of age.

Do you know the law for passing a school bus?

Follow this link to find out how Operation Stop Arm has been educating drivers to exercise caution when school buses are stopped and loading or unloading children. This pamphlet gives a great description of the law for passing a school bus based on the different types of roads being traveled. Under state law, drivers in all lanes must stop including drivers that are on multi-lane highways with a center turn lane. The only exception is if a driver is on the other side of a median that has a physical barrier such as grass or a concrete barricade.
At one time, school bus drivers were responsible for getting the violators tag number and information in order to report the violation. As of July 1, 2011, Georgia law allows the use of cameras mounted on school buses to keep record of violators. Approximately two dozen school systems in Georgia have added school bus cameras to their safety program.
Cobb County School System has equipped 122 of their school buses with digital video cameras that can capture tag information of drivers that fail to stop when school buses are loading or unloading children. This particular school system estimates that approximately 1,000 violations occur per day.
The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services produced a 2015 survey estimating that 78,518 vehicles pass school buses illegally on any given day in 26 states including Georgia, which was reported to have 8,790 incidents of illegal passing observed April 22. Click here to see the 2015 Survey on Illegal Passing of School Buses. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (“NHTSA”), 21 children under the age of 19 die every year as pedestrians getting on and off buses.

Georgia’s “Move Over” Law

Georgia's move over law

Georgia’s “Move Over” Law

Georgia wisely passed a “Move Over” law in an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities to police officers, paramedics, firefighters, tow truck operators and highway maintenance workers. The law was passed in response to an increased number of police officers and emergency personnel being killed or seriously injured by passing motorists.

In its most basic terms, the law requires drivers to move-over one lane, when possible, if an emergency vehicle with flashing lights is parked on the shoulder of the highway. If the driver is unable to move over, the law requires the driver to slow down below the speed limit and to be prepared to stop.

This entire statutory text of the law, codified as O.C.G.A. § 40-6-16 is as follows:

(a) This Code section shall be known and may be cited as the “Spencer Pass Law.”

(b) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary authorized emergency vehicle that is displaying flashing yellow, amber, white, red, or blue lights shall approach the authorized emergency vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a peace officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the authorized emergency vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

(c) The operator of a motor vehicle approaching a stationary towing or recovery vehicle or a stationary highway maintenance vehicle that is displaying flashing yellow, amber, or red lights shall approach the vehicle with due caution and shall, absent any other direction by a peace officer, proceed as follows:

(1) Make a lane change into a lane not adjacent to the towing, recovery, or highway maintenance vehicle if possible in the existing safety and traffic conditions; or

(2) If a lane change under paragraph (1) of this subsection would be impossible, prohibited by law, or unsafe, reduce the speed of the motor vehicle to a reasonable and proper speed for the existing road and traffic conditions, which speed shall be less than the posted speed limit, and be prepared to stop.

(d) Violation of subsection (b) or (c) of this Code section shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.00.

The Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, citing FBI statistics, noted that traffic crashes claim the lives of more police personnel than any other cause of death in the line of duty, including shootings. As you travel Georgia roads, please adhere to this law and protect the lives of those who keep us safe.