Back to School in the Age of COVID-19

Back to School Safety Covid-19

August usually brings the excitement of a new school year.  Aisles at local department stores overflow with reams of lined paper, packets of highlighters and pens, and brightly colored spiral notebooks.  Children fill their last days of summer with sleepovers, ice cream, and hours by the pool before they are back in the classroom for eight hours a day. 

This year, however, August brings much uncertainty as the spread of COVID-19 has led to a life-altering pandemic.  Many Georgia public school districts, including Cobb, Fulton, Clarke, and Dekalb, have decided to begin the semester all virtually in an attempt to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Other districts, like Paulding, are going forth with in-person learning, with enhanced safety measures reflecting CDC guidelines.  Private schools are also struggling with how to proceed during these uncertain times. In addition, childcare services for children five and under have drastically reduced their capacity with many centers closing due to concerns over the spread of the virus.  Most that remained open also diligently follow enhanced safety measures provided by the Georgia early education department, Bright from the Start. 

Considerations When Choosing a School/Daycare Facility

Prior to COVID-19, parents already had much to consider when determining which childcare or school program was best for their children.  For younger children, Bright from the Start, the Georgia pre-kindergarten program, provides parents with a checklist of considerations, but these considerations are also applicable to parents of K-12 students.  Considerations include the following:

  1. Will my child be safe, healthy, and thrive?
  2. What will my child do during the day?
  3. How are parents included?
  4. What will my child eat and when?
  5. How are staff supported?
  6. Do I agree with the discipline policy?
  7. What is the cost of care?

While these considerations are still important for parents, a few more have been added to the due to COVID-19.  Adherence to CDC guidelines is at the forefront of the checklist.  Parents must now make the choice between virtual learning and in-person learning.  Parents are looking at class sizes, mask requirements, and social distancing measures both public and private schools are taking to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

When determining where to send their child to school, it is important for parents to remember that sovereign immunity applies to the Georgia public education system.  Under Article I, section II, paragraph IX of Georgia’s state constitution, it states “sovereign immunity extends to the state and all of its departments and agencies.”  This constitutional provision provides immunity to the Georgia Department of Education (DOE) from negligence claims against faculty and staff members of the department.  This means that if a child were to contract COVID-19 at school, whether or not the school was negligent in following CDC guidelines, parents cannot file suit against the school system. 

Even though there is sovereign immunity, public elementary and secondary education schools are provided the right to purchase liability insurance pursuant to O.C.G.A. § 20-2-991.  It is not explicitly required; therefore, it is important to consider whether or not one’s school board has purchased liability insurance.  Some school districts are self-insured while others have purchased liability insurance. Regardless, contracting COVID-19 will not be covered by liability insurance as there is no direct way to prove that one’s child became sick while at school.  Still, it is important to research liability insurance as a general consideration for school selection because the presence or absence of liability insurance is a big deal for auto-accident claims involving a school bus.

Similarly, daycare facilities are strongly encouraged but not required to purchase liability insurance.  Under O.C.G.A. § 20-1a-4, facilities that have not purchased liability insurance to cover events of negligence are required to post this fact in a prominent location and notify all parents.  Parents are also required to sign a form acknowledging their understanding that the facility has not purchased liability insurance.  Once again, it is unlikely contracting COVID-19 would fall under the coverage of liability insurance, but it is still important to consider as accidents at school are bound to happen, no matter how diligent the providers.  

Additionally, many local private schools are opening to in-person learning while taking extra precautions to do so. One example is Casa Montessori in Cobb County. Private schools have more flexibility than public schools and some cases are better suited to implement CDC guidelines to ensure a safe environment for returning school children.

How Governor Brian Kemp’s Executive Order Impacts Schools/Daycare Facilities 

On June 29, 2020, Governor Kemp renewed the public health state of emergency, extending the emergency until August 11.  Additionally, Governor Kemp updated Executive Order 06.29.20.02 titled “Empowering a Healthy Georgia.”  This order provides guidance for how citizens and government alike should combat the public health crisis of COVID-19.  Section VII focuses on how to protect children while still providing educational opportunities throughout the pandemic.  

The order allows school boards to depart from the traditional definitions of school year, month, and day detailed under O.C.G.A. §20-2-160(c)(2), providing flexibility for schools to determine for themselves how best to handle preventing the spread of COVID-19.  As of now, some counties have opted for virtual learning, where “independent study” will take place in the morning hours and classroom study over Zoom will take place in the afternoon.  Shortened school days are permissible under this order.

Governor Kemp’s order also provides a list of suggestions for how schools proceeding with in-person learning can protect their students from the spread of COVID-19.  These suggestions include screening for COVID-19 among individuals exhibiting symptoms, disinfecting surfaces often, encouraging outside lunch, discouraging students from using other students’ items, and requiring individuals who exhibit symptoms to not report to school.  It is strongly recommended for schools to follow this protocol; however, the order does not specifically require schools to follow this guidance.

In addition to providing recommendations for elementary and secondary education facilities, the order also details the running of daycare facilities.  Daycare facilities must adhere to the worker-child rations set forth by Bright from the Start.  Under Bright from the Start’s COVID-19 regulations, only 50 children, faculty, and staff can be in a single room at one time.  Not only must ratios be followed, extraneous transportation to and from the facility must cease.  The only transportation permitted under the order is transportation to and from the child’s place of residence.  Additional requirements, not suggestions as for elementary and secondary education, include screening children prior to them entering the classroom, restricting parental access to the classroom, having meals in the classrooms, not using toys that cannot be sanitized, and sanitizing bedding.  Parents can also look to the Bright from the Start’s COVID-19 page for more information on specific regulations. 

Considering the continued increase in COVID-19 cases, it is likely the public health emergency will be extended after August 11 and require another update to the executive order on “Empowering a Healthy Georgia.”  Parents should continue to stay up to date on orders published as they have a direct impact on their child’s education. 

How to Protect Your Child from COVID-19

There is no perfect solution to protect children from possible exposure to COVID-19 once they return in in-person learning. The risks can be minimized, but not eliminated. This is especially true for younger children who have difficulty understanding the importance of wearing masks and social distancing.

With that in mind, it is important for parents to teach their children how to protect themselves against contracting the virus.  First, parents should encourage their child to wear a mask while at school.  Many schools are requiring masks, but even if they are not, masks are important in helping to slow the spread of the virus.  Parents might worry about if their child can comply with wearing a mask for long periods of time; however, there are ways for children to become comfortable with wearing one.  Parents, prior to school beginning, should practice wearing a mask with their children.  Increase the amount of time per day the child wears the mask until they are fully comfortable wearing it for eight hours at a time, as they would during school.  Additionally, you can teach children how to properly take on and off the mask without touching their faces.

A second way for parents to protect their children is to teach their children how to properly social distance.  Children will likely look forward to seeing their friends for the first time since in-person learning ended in mid-March, so it is important for parents to emphasize to their children to avoid, they best they can, any unnecessary contact or close interaction with other children and teachers. Anyone with children will understand the difficulty in this approach, but simply reminding the children of the importance of social distancing will have an impact. Parents can also teach their children different, non-contact, ways to greet classmates and practice playing games without touching one another.

Third, parents can pack their child’s lunch rather than relying on school-prepared lunches.  This will limit the amount of people involved in handling the child’s food and the amount of surfaces the child must touch prior to getting the food.  The surfaces include opening the fridge to get milk, grabbing the tray, and punching in their lunch number on the pad.  Parents should also practice opening lunch items with their child prior to the start of school and pack easy to open food packaging.  Once again, this will reduce the amount of hands that touch the child’s food.

Lastly, parents should pack portable hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes for their child.  In addition to encouraging frequent hand washing and sanitizing, parents should teach their child to wipe down surfaces.  Students should sanitize their desk each morning, the lunch table they are eating at, computer keyboards they are using, and any other surfaces that other individuals will be touching as well.  It is important, in an attempt to prevent further spread of COVID-19, for students take proactive measures to protect their own health.

These are just some suggestions for protecting children while attending in-person classes.  This is by no means an exhaustive list and parents should take into consideration risk factors, including asthma and autoimmune disorders, when deciding how to approach this school year.

School Buses

The return of in-person instruction brings more concerns than just those of the classroom and school building.  In-person instruction brings with it the use of school buses.  The Georgia statutory code (O.C.G.A.) details provisions concerning school buses and the liability associated with them.  O.C.G.A. § 20-2-1090 authorizes school districts to create insurance policies to insure students in the event of an accident. Additionally, O.C.G.A.  § 40-6-163 requires vehicles to stop when children are getting on or getting off school buses, and in turn penalizing drivers who do not.  The pieces of legislation do not waive the sovereign immunity detailed by the Georgia’s constitution, but, rather, find ways to provide compensation for potential injuries without the school board accepting liability for negligent actions.

As school buses are under the control of the school district, school bus drivers also enjoy the same sovereign immunity as other county employees.  With this said, it is up to the individual students to protect themselves from exposure to COVID-19, as there is no redress for negligent infection on the part of the bus driver.  Even under the best of circumstances, it is hard to control the spread of a simple cold or the flu when children are confined to such a small space.  Parents should encourage their children to space out as much as possible, wear a mask, and wipe down their seat before sitting down in order to ensure the least amount of contact with germs.

Parents’ Choice

The start of school will be a new experience for parents, students, and teachers alike.  Whether school is virtual or in-person, the risks of contracting COVID-19 impact the education-related decisions that parents make for their children.  In addition to the typical considerations of private versus public, liability insurance, and academic curriculum, parents must now consider how facilities are addressing CDC guidelines and how to best protect their child from contracting the virus.  Parents must look to executive orders, policies and regulations posted by school boards and Bright from the Start, as well as individual classroom functioning.  All of these considerations are understandably overwhelming for parents, but hopefully this post provides ample resources for making an informed decision.  The following resources are excellent sources of information on COVID-19 and requirements for in-person schooling:

Resources

Executive Order 06.26.20.02

https://gov.georgia.gov/executive-action/executive-orders/2020-executive-orders

Bright from the Start, COVID-19 Protocols

http://www.decal.ga.gov/BFTS/Covid19.aspx

Georgia Department of Education, COVID-19 Protocols

https://www.georgiainsights.com/coronavirus.html

Georgia Personal Injury Lawyers Offering Free Consultations

As Georgia citizens navigate through these uncertain times, the Williams Elleby legal team wants everyone to know that we are working hard to keep our offices clean and sanitary for our clients and visitors. If you or a loved one have been injured due to someone else’s negligence, we offer free consultations with our lawyers. The consultations can be in person, by phone, or virtually by Zoom. If you prefer in person meetings, please be aware that a face mask is required for the safety of our staff and guests. Simply call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to set up your consultation today.

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.

Don’t Let Social Media Ruin Your Chances of a Legal Settlement

Social Media Impact Personal Injury Settlement

Too much social media can have a negative impact on your mental health. It can also negatively affect your Georgia personal injury case if you are not careful. Attorneys and insurance adjusters routinely check the social media accounts of opposing parties to search for any information that could help their case.

How Social Media Impacts Your Personal Injury Case

It’s not just comments you make about your accident that can impact your Georgia personal injury case. Seemingly innocent and unrelated posts can jeopardize the success of your case. 

Let’s say for example, that after a car accident, you post a photograph of yourself enjoying a family reunion at a park. No big deal right?  Unfortunately, wrong. An opposing attorney could spin that photograph to try to show that you have not suffered damages or that you aren’t hurt as bad as you claim. They may use it as evidence that you have returned to fully enjoying your life and are no longer experiencing pain from the injuries, even if you were smiling through pain at the picnic.

Prevent Your Social Media from Ruining Your Personal Injury Case

The best practice is to refrain from posting anything on social media while your case is pending. You should also check your account settings and make sure than nobody else can tag you in a post.

However, we understand that may be difficult to do if you use social media to run a small business or keep in touch with family members.  If you decide that you will maintain your social media accounts, take these steps to minimize the likelihood that your social media accounts can be used against you:

  • Tighten Up Privacy Settings. Check to make sure your social media accounts are all set to private so only people that you accept as your friends or followers can see your account.
  • Remove Outdated or Unknown Connections. Go through the lists of who is your friend or follower on each of your social media accounts.  If you do not know someone or know them well enough to trust, remove them.  This can help prevent the opposing attorney from gaining access to your account through a third-party.
  • Do Not Talk About Your Lawsuit. Do not talk about or allude to your lawsuit or the underlying incident on social media.  For example, if you were in a car accident and are suing, you should not talk about the lawsuit or the car accident. 
  • Tell Your Friends and Family to Stay Silent.  If you have talked to close friends and family about your Georgia personal injury lawsuit, make sure they do not post anything about it on social media or talk to anyone about it in real life. Discourage them from posting photographs of you or tagging you in photographs.
  • Have Your Attorney Audit Your Accounts. If you keep your social media accounts, you should tell your attorney and ask the attorney to review your accounts and ensure they follow best practices.
  • Never Delete Content that is Already Posted. If you post something that could be considered evidence and later delete it, a court could sanction you for destroying evidence.

The experienced personal injury attorneys at Williams Elleby are committed to helping you obtain full compensation for your injuries. Ensuring that your social media accounts aren’t a hindrance is just one part of that. Check out this short video of other things you should not do after a car accident:

Even if your injuries are from something other than a car accident, the attorneys at Williams Elleby can help you understand what you should and should not do in order to preserve your injury claim.

To discuss your injuries from any type of accident and whether you may have a legal case, contact Williams Elleby today and schedule a free consultation by calling 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542).

How Long Do I Have to File a Lawsuit After a Car Accident in Georgia?

Personal Injury Lawsuit in Georgia

After a car accident in Georgia, adults have 2 years to file a lawsuit for physical injuries. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-33. A lawsuit for property damage must be filed within 4 years of the date of the accident. O.C.G.A. § 9-3-32. These time limitations are called the statute of limitations. If a lawsuit is filed after these deadlines, it will be dismissed by the trial court.

There are some exceptions to these deadlines such situations where the injured person is a minor. The time limit for personal injuries to minors is extended until two years after the minor becomes an adult. O.C.G.A. 9-3-90(b). However, the child’s parent(s) must bring a claim for medical expenses within 2 years. Mujkic v. Lam, 342 Ga. App. 693, 695 (2017).

Do Not Wait Until the Statute of Limitations Is Close

Two and four years may feel like a long time but don’t be lulled into waiting to decide whether to file suit. The statute of limitations is the absolute last day on which a lawsuit can be filed, but a lot of work must be done before the lawsuit is filed.  You should seriously consider hiring a well-respected car crash attorney as soon as possible after any car crash.

Your attorney needs to understand and investigate the facts of your case then prepare the lawsuit for filing. If you hire an attorney shortly after a car crash, he or she may even have enough time to get your case settled without filing a lawsuit. Additionally, if you are not represented by an experienced legal team who can guide and advise you, you could inadvertently harm your chances in a future lawsuit.

For example, saying the wrong thing to an insurance adjuster may devalue your claim. Also, evidence must be collected before it is destroyed. Markings on the roadway may need to be documented before they disappear. Property damage needs to be photographed and measured before vehicles are repaired or salvaged. Medical records and bills must be gathered and lost wages need to be properly documented. In some instances, evasive defendants must be located so they can be served with the lawsuit and summons.

For these reasons, you should be vigilant and consult with an attorney that can guide you through the claims process as soon as you are physically able. A consultation does not commit you to filing a lawsuit; rather, it will provide you with more information so you can make an informed decision on how you would like to proceed. Even if you are currently unable to leave your home due to injuries, a personal injury law firm that cares about its clients will have other options available such as phone calls or in home visits.

Experienced Georgia Law Firm for Serious Injuries

If you have been in a car accident and want to learn about whether you have a legal claim, the automobile accident attorneys at Williams Elleby are here to help. Simply call 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule a free consultation with one of our Georgia trial attorneys.

Understanding Elder Abuse and Keeping Your Loved Ones Safe

Personal Injury and Elder Abuse in Georgia

Georgia’s senior citizens deserve to live out their golden years without worrying about their safety. Unfortunately, many of these vulnerable citizens suffer from severe abuse and neglect. In many cases, this abuse occurs at the hands of those closest to them. It is estimated that 10 percent of all seniors have suffered abuse in their lifetime.

If your loved one has suffered abuse at the hands of a caretaker, acquaintance, or even a family member, they could have a claim for monetary damages. To maximize this claim, it can help to understand the nature of elder abuse as well as how to prevent it.

What is Elder Abuse?

Elder abuse is any negligent or intentional act that causes harm or the risk of harm to a vulnerable adult. Abuse can occur at the hands of caregivers or nursing home staff. In some cases, neighbors or family members could be responsible. There are five general categories of elder abuse. While not every act of abuse will slot neatly into one of these categories, for the most part, one of these categories will apply. The categories include:

  • Physical abuse. Physical abuse includes any act that causes pain or suffering. This form of abuse commonly involves striking, slapping of choking.
  • Sexual abuse. Any non-consensual sexual act is considered sexual abuse. This form of abuse is unfortunately common and underreported among seniors, as many have difficulty with communicating.
  • Emotional abuse. Abuse can occur even without physical injuries. Any words or gestures, including threats of violence, that inflict pain or distress on a senior are forms of emotional abuse.
  • Financial abuse. Financial abuse is the unlawful use of an elderly person’s assets. It can be as simple as stealing cash out of a purse, or as complex as fraudulently convincing a senior to rewrite their will.
  • Neglect. One of the most devastating types of abuse is neglect. Neglect involves withholding necessary care from a senior.

Steps to Prevent Elder Abuse

While elder abuse can be devastating, it is also preventable in many cases. By taking the appropriate steps, you could reduce the risk that one of your elderly family members will be abused. The three most important steps for preventing elder abuse include:

  1. Avoid Isolation. The more contact your loved one has with friends and family, the less likely abuse is to occur. What’s more, your loved one is more likely to report abuse.
  2. Keep Elderly Citizens Active. Remaining active will help elderly family members stay mentally sharp. This mental acuity will go a long way in helping a senior protect themselves or report wrongdoing.
  3. Help with Finances. While seniors have the right to manage their own finances, do not hesitate to offer assistance if they need it.

How an Elder Abuse Attorney Can Help

By taking steps to protect your loved one, you could greatly reduce the chances of abuse. However, when abuse occurs an attorney could help your loved one hold their abuser accountable through an injury lawsuit. To discuss your options, contact the attorneys at WILLIAMS | ELLEBY by calling 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542).

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Georgia Open Carry Laws Addressed by Supreme Court of Georgia

Openly Carry a Firearm in Georgia

For the second time, the Supreme Court of Georgia took up a case involving the right to openly carry a firearm at the Atlanta Botanical Garden (“The Garden”). Again, the case has been returned to the lower court.

This recent decision in Georgiacarry.org., Inc., et al. v. Atlanta Botanical Garden, Inc. results from a lawsuit first filed in 2014. The lawsuit, brought by gun rights advocates GeorgiaCarry.Org, alleges that The Garden’s ban on firearms is unconstitutional. While The Garden cites O.C.G.A. § 16-11-127, a law that gun bans are lawful on private property, the suit argues that the Botanical Garden is public property leased to a private entity.

The case went to the Supreme Court of Georgia the first time after the trial court initially dismissed the case. The plaintiff appealed, and the Supreme Court agreed that the case was improperly dismissed. Therefore, the Supreme Court of Georgia remanded the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

After the first remand, the trial court ruled against the plaintiff by deciding that The Garden has the right to prohibit firearms on its own premises. However, on appeal, Georgia’s highest court again sided with the gun group. According to a decision issued in October of 2019, the Court agreed the trial court should have heard the case instead of disposing of it through a summary judgment motion. The ruling was based in part on the fact that the lease between the City of Atlanta and The Garden was not in evidence. According to the opinion, the terms of the lease should be considered in determining whether The Garden may ban firearms. The Court specifically held,

“In this case, because the City is a public entity, if it is the holder of the present estate, then the leased premises is not private property within the meaning of the statute because property owned by a municipality is not “private property.” If the City thus owns the property, then the Garden has no right to exclude the carrying of firearms on the leased premises because it is not ‘in legal control of private property through a lease.’ If, on the other hand, by the terms of the 50-year lease with the City, the Garden holds the present estate in the property, then the property is ‘private property,’ the Garden is a ‘private owner,’ and it had the right to exclude Evans from carrying a firearm on the premises.”

The trial court will have a chance to determine the outcome of this case in the future. It is safe to assume the Georgia Supreme Court could have another say, as well.

Open Carry and Shooting Injuries

While the right to openly carry a firearm is a hot-button political topic, there is no debating the devastation that can occur from a gunshot wound. Firearms have the potential to lead to a large number of fatal injuries in a small amount of time. However, they also commonly result in serious but non-fatal injuries. While the amount of research around open carry and its impact on gun violence has only just begun, many anti-gun groups suggest loosening gun laws correlate to more shooting injuries. Other groups such as The Heritage Foundation dispute that higher rates of gun ownership are associated with higher rates of violent crime.

Shooting Injuries and Civil Lawsuits

If you have suffered injuries following a shooting, you could have a viable injury claim against several parties. First, the person responsible for shooting could face civil liability in addition to criminal charges. Whether the shooting was intentional or an act of negligence, you could have legal recourse against that person.

In addition to the shooter, Georgia law allows civil claims against property owners and occupiers when the shooting is the result of inadequate security measures. If you suffered shooting injuries on the property of another person, there is a chance you could have a negligent security claim against the property owner or manager. If the owner or occupier was aware of the increased risk of violent crime on the property and did not take steps to stop it, you could have a claim against them for failing to adequately protect you.

How a Gun Injury Lawyer Could Help a Shooting Victim

Williams Elleby attorneys have developed a reputation for defending the legal rights of shooting victims throughout Georgia. Regardless of whether the shooter or a careless property owner was at fault, our team can help you determine whether you have a viable case. To learn more, give us a call at 833-LEGALGA (833-534-2542) to schedule your free consultation.