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Thomaston Legal Blog

Georgia police cannot enforce breath tests

Numerous traffic violations go out throughout Georgia every day. Many of these relate to driving under the influence of alcohol, and it has become much more difficult for Georgia law enforcement to arrest suspected drivers. 

Recently, state legislators attempted to fix a law that claims refusal to take a breath test cannot come up in court against the arrested driver. A bill came up in Georgia's Senate that would have corrected this problem, but it did not pass. It did not reinstate mandatory breath tests on the sides of roads. This makes it much easier for drivers to get out of DUI convictions if there is not substantial evidence to back up a police officer's claims. 

New research provided for Distracted Driving Awareness Month

The National Safety Council has designated April as Distracted Driving Awareness Month so that residents of Georgia and across the U.S. may recognize the dangers of that behavior. This year, the Risk Institute at The Ohio State University provided research on various factors behind the growing trend of being distracted behind the wheel.

For example, researchers studied driver behavior and how certain incentives, such as insurance discounts, can be effective in promoting good behaviors. They found that the more confident drivers are, the more likely they will engage in distracted or other risky activities on the road.

Most malpractice claims are diagnosis-related, studies find

Misdiagnosis is often to blame for hospital patient deaths in Georgia. The National Academy of Medicine concluded back in 2015 that diagnostic errors may be the third leading cause of death among hospitalized patients and may be behind the majority of paid medical malpractice claims. This has recently been backed up by the separate reports of two malpractice insurers.

The first is from Coverys, an insurer based in Boston, and covers 1,800 closed claims against physicians from 2013 to 2017. Of these, 46 percent were diagnosis-related. Forty-five percent of the patients in these cases died. Diagnosis-related claims accounted for 68 percent of the indemnity costs that were paid out.

Colon cancer misdiagnosed more frequently in younger patients

Georgia residents should know that clinical misdiagnoses may be behind the sharp increase in patients 50 or younger who have stage 3 or 4 colorectal cancer (colon cancer). A study from the Colorectal Cancer Alliance shows that 71 percent of patients under 50 have stage 3 or 4 colon cancer, whereas patients over 50 are more likely to be diagnosed with stage 1 or 2 colon cancer.

These conclusions are based on the testimony of 1,195 respondents. Of these, 63 percent said they had to wait between three and 12 months to be screened for the cancer. Many of these patients did not get an accurate diagnosis until they had seen two to four physicians.

Study finds association between opioid use, traffic fatalities

Georgia drivers who cause fatal two-car accidents might be more likely to be under the influence of alcohol or prescription opioids than drivers who are not at fault. Researchers looked at 18,321 fatal two-car accidents and found that more than 900 drivers who were at fault tested positive for prescription opioids compared to 549 who were not at fault. More than 5,200 motorists who were at fault tested positive for alcohol compared to 1,815 who were not at fault.

The study also found the incidence of drivers under the influence of opioids was on the rise. More than 7 percent of drivers at fault had opioids in their system in 2016 compared to 2 percent in 1993. However, experts say that some elements of the study may be somewhat misleading. Studies have found that people who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain over a long period of time build up a tolerance that makes driving safe for them. It tends to be abusers of the drug, who are unused to it, who may be dangers behind the wheel.

Understanding the ins and outs of Social Security Disability

You worked for most of your adult life, but an accident or severe illness has rendered you permanently disabled. Your condition has left you unable to work for the foreseeable future, if not the rest of your life, and you are worried. How can you support your family now? Will you lose everything? It is understandable for you and other Georgia residents in the same situation to have concerns.

It would be a good idea at this time to apply for Social Security Disability. “But I don’t know how Social Security works,” you may think, “and I’ve heard it’s difficult to get approved for benefits.” The following information can help shed some light on Social Security Disability Insurance.

Common causes of car accidents

Human error, equipment malfunction or even animals could be the cause of motor vehicle accidents in Georgia. Human error includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Distracted driving is another common cause of car accidents. Using a phone while driving, eating and even dealing with children while in the car may be distracting enough to cause an accident. Some accidents may occur because the driver has a stroke, a seizure or another medical incident. Even getting lost or being unfamiliar with traffic laws, particularly if the person is from another state, could lead to an accident.

An equipment malfunction may also cause an accident. Sometimes, the malfunction could be because of a mistake made by the manufacturer. An accident could also happen if a person fails to keep up maintenance on the vehicle. Faulty traffic lights could also cause an accident.

Drivers using phones raise fatal accident risk by 66 percent

Most people in Georgia have either used their smartphones behind the wheel or seen other drivers doing it. Because operating a phone takes people's eyes off of the road, the distraction places them at a greater risk of causing crashes. According to research, drivers increase their chances of experiencing a fatal traffic accident by 66 percent when they use their phones.

A new report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety concluded that shifts in the ways that drivers use their phones have heightened crash risks. Instead of making phone calls and talking, surveys indicate that people are engaging in riskier activities like texting, opening apps or browsing the internet. Two traffic surveys conducted in four cities in 2014 and 2018 measured drivers' increasing tendency to text, email or use the internet instead of talking during phone calls. From 2014 to 2018, drivers became 57 percent more likely to use their phones for purposes other than phone calls.

Many medical lawsuits involve antibiotics and painkillers

Patients in Georgia depend on healthcare professionals to make safe and effective choices about their medication. Two commonly prescribed classes of medication, painkillers and antibiotics, account for the most lawsuits involving medication errors.

Doctors must typically navigate conflicting priorities when giving prescriptions for these types of medication. Writing too many prescriptions for pain pills might expose a doctor to claims of enabling an addict. Denying appropriate relief to a person in pain, however, might result in accusations that a doctor failed to provide adequate care. Similarly, antibiotics sometimes place doctors in a quandary. A doctor might avoid giving someone a broad-based antibiotic for fear of contributing to antibiotic resistance. A prescription for an antibiotic that targets a specific type of infection, however, might later prove to be insufficient if it was the wrong choice.

Seatbelt use found to be effective at reducing liver injuries

Emergency room doctors in Georgia and around the country treat about 2 million car accident victims every year. This places a huge financial burden on the health care sector, but treatment costs could be reduced significantly if all road users fastened their seatbelts, according to a recent study. Researchers from the University of Kansas Medical Center and New York University studied medical records to find out how effective seatbelts are at preventing serious liver injuries. They found that being properly restrained reduced such injuries by 21 percent.

The study was based on information gathered by the National Trauma Data Bank. The researchers studied the cases of 51,202 road users who suffered abdominal injuries in automobile accidents that took place between 2010 and 2015. Reducing the severity of abdominal injuries is important because accident victims who suffer serious liver injuries are about twice as likely to die as those who suffer mild to moderate injuries.

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