Legal innovation over the years

I recently came across a very well-written article that highlights some of the many technological innovations that have occurred in the practice of law over the past 100 years.  I thought it was very interesting to see how things have changed.  While most of the changes have been for the better, some might argue that others have not been so positive for the practice of law.

From this…..

to this…..

“While fundamental change can take decades, in the past 100 years legal professionals have eagerly adopted technological innovations, streamlined the law and launched new practice areas that were unimaginable….”

Source: 100 innovations in law; Images from Shutterstock.com

 

Adam Ferrell Elected as Solicitor General of Pierce County

Attorney Adam Ferrell was recently elected and took the oath of office as the Solicitor General for the State Court of Pierce County, Georgia.  The Solicitor General of Pierce County is a part-time elected position.  The primary responsibility of the Solicitor General is to investigate, charge, and prosecute misdemeanor violations of Georgia law and county ordinances that occur within Pierce County, Georgia.  In that regard, the Solicitor General works closely with law enforcement and other court personnel to ensure that such cases are handled efficiently and in a fair and equitable manner.

Because the position is a part-time position, Mr. Ferrell will continue to represent clients in his private practice in personal injury cases and family law cases, as well as other legal matters.

The Pierce County Solicitor’s Office is located in the Pierce County Courthouse at 3550 Highway 84W, Blackshear, Georgia 31516 (912-449-2049).

Ferrell is sworn-in by Pierce County Probate Judge Moye Howard

Ferrell is sworn-in by Pierce County Probate Court Judge Moye Howard

3 Reasons You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

no_insurance

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mjtmail/2953736361/)

Effective January 1, 2009, Georgia law changed with respect to UM coverage in a way that I believe was beneficial to Georgia drivers.  Under the new law, Georgia drivers have three options for UM coverage:  (1) “added-on” or “stacking” UM coverage; (2) “reduced by” or “non-stacking” UM coverage; or (3) no UM coverage at all.  Under the first option, if you are the victim of a wreck involving a driver whose liability limits are not sufficient to cover your damages, then your UM limits should “add-on” or “stack” on top of the at-fault driver’s liability limits.  For example, if your damages (i.e. medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) are $75,000, and the at-fault driver only has $50,000, then if you had $25,000 in UM coverage, the total amount of coverage available to cover your damages would be $75,000 ($50,000 + $25,000 = $75,000).  Under the second option, if you had “reduced by” or “non-stacking” UM coverage, then under the same scenario above, your UM coverage would be reduced by the $50,000 of liability coverage, meaning that your UM carrier would probably not have to pay any money.  In other words, your UM policy would not provide benefits because the limits under your UM policy were not greater than the at-fault party’s liability limits. Finally, under the third option, you of course would be stuck with the $50,000 in liability limits because you rejected any UM coverage (not a good option!).  For more information about how the different UM insurance options operate, I recommend this article by the Georgia Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner.

So, now that you understand the basics of UM/UIM coverage in Georgia, here are 3 reasons why you need to make absolutely sure you have this coverage on your car insurance policy.

1.  A Tough Economy Means More Uninsured/Underinsured drivers – This is the harsh reality of tough economic conditions.  Although it is illegal to drive without liability insurance coverage, this does not prevent drivers from allowing insurance coverage to lapse because of failure to pay premiums.  An interesting article from the AJC discusses this growing problem.  A recent study by the Insurance Research Council suggests that roughly one in seven drivers in the United States is uninsured.

2.  Health Care Costs are Continually Rising – As health care costs continually rise, so does the amount of insurance required to cover those costs.  The minimum liability limit of $25,000 (in Georgia) is often insufficient to adequately cover medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering damages.  Therefore, it is important that you have “stacking” UM coverage to provide adequate coverage.

3.  Hit-and-Run Drivers Just Don’t Care – Sometimes people cause wrecks and they don’t care to hang around to deal with the damage that they have caused.  It can be difficult to locate these drivers after a wreck has occurred, leaving the victim of the wreck in an unfortunate situation.  However, UM coverage can provide insurance coverage in these situations to ensure that a bad situation is not made worse because of a hit-and-run driver.

The lesson to be learned?  Make sure you not only have adequate liability coverage under your car insurance policy, but also adequate UM coverage.  Also, if you have been injured in a wreck, you need to check your insurance policy to determine specifically what UM benefits may be available to you through your insurance company.  You should also consult a personal injury attorney to help you understand the steps you need to take to ensure your injuries are adequately covered.

Preventing Wrongful Convictions

prison_barsThe National Institute of Justice highlighted a recent study entitled, Predicting Erroneous Convictions:  A Social Science Approach to Miscarriages of Justice.  The study compared criminal cases in which innocent defendants were wrongfully convicted (but later exonerated) with criminal cases in which innocent defendants were acquitted or had their charges dismissed prior to trial.  The researchers attempted to determine what factors could lead to a wrongful conviction, rather than acquittal or dismissal of charges against an innocent defendant.  They discovered 10 significant factors that could lead to wrongful convictions:

  1. A younger defendant
  2. A defendant who has a prior criminal history
  3. A weak prosecution case
  4. Cases in which the prosecution withheld evidence from the defense
  5. Lying by a non-eyewitness (i.e. confidential informants)
  6. Unintentional witness misidentification
  7. Misinterpretation of forensic evidence at trial
  8. A weak defense/poor representation
  9. Defendant offered a family witness at trial
  10. A “punitive” state culture

In addition to the factors mentioned above, the researchers looked to determine whether “tunnel vision” might play a role.  “Tunnel vision” may occur when prosecutors, law enforcement, and other criminal justice professionals focus too much on building a case against a particular suspect while ignoring other evidence (whether intentionally or unintentionally) that support a different conclusion or outcome.

One thing that prosecutors, law enforcement, and criminal defense attorneys should be able to agree upon is that these factors should be closely examined in every case to avoid innocent defendants from having to face the possibility of a wrongful conviction.

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/moosharella/7659465944/)

5 Reasons You Should Have a Will

Now that we are well into the New Year, many of us may have already “forgotten” some of the resolutions we made back in January!  Many of us make resolutions to create, review, or update our wills during this time of year.  If you or your family members do not already have a last will and testament, or if you have one that has not been reviewed within the last few years, you might want to consider some of the more important reasons for having a will and reviewing it regularly.  As I explain to my clients, a will allows both you and your loved ones to have peace of mind knowing that you have taken legal steps to ensure that your estate will be handled properly.  Every client’s situation is different, so the following should not be considered as legal advice for your specific situation.  Because life-changing events such as the marriage of the testator or the birth or adoption of children may potentially revoke portions of previously executed will, it is recommended that clients review their wills at regular intervals to ensure that no changes need to be made.  If you have questions, please contact our office for an appointment to speak with a lawyer.


5 Reasons You Should Have a Will

  1. It clearly communicates (in writing) your instructions about distributing your property to designated beneficiaries upon your death – estate property may include real and personal property such as jewelry, collectibles, automobiles, real estate, timber, stocks and bonds, and ownership in a family/small business.  Georgia law allows a “testator” (i.e. the person who is making a will), through a properly executed last will and testament, to make any disposition of his or her property that is not inconsistent with the laws or contrary to the policies of the state of Georgia.  The testator can give his or her entire estate to strangers or charities, and he or she may also exclude his or her spouse and children or any other potential heirs.  O.C.G.A. § 53-4-1 (2012).
  2. You get to designate who will be in charge of handling your estate after you pass away (i.e. your executor/executrix) – this may prevent unfortunate disagreements among heirs and beneficiaries.  You can also grant your executor the power to dispose of assets without first obtaining court permission, as well as eliminating bonding requirements that can sometimes be costly.
  3. Parents may designate guardians and conservators for minor children.
  4. You may establish trusts for certain beneficiaries that will assist in protecting the assets you pass to them from the claims of the beneficiaries’ creditors, unwise choices made by the beneficiaries, and to provide for minors until they reach a certain age or stage in life (i.e. after they graduate college).
  5. You can make contributions to specific charities of your choice .

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/ell-r-brown/6911510022/)

Adam Ferrell Named to Better Hometown Blackshear, Inc. Board of Directors

Attorney Adam Ferrell was recently named as a Director for the Better Hometown Blackshear, Inc. organization.  Ferrell is pleased to be given this opportunity to serve as part of this organization in downtown Blackshear with the other recently-named directors.

The Better Hometown Blackshear organization is a non-profit corporation that is a self-help community development program designed to improve the community’s quality of life through sound planning and implementation by community stakeholders.

The official website can be found here.

Do You Need a Personal Injury Attorney?

Occasionally, someone who has been injured in a car wreck or in some other manner because of a third-party’s negligence will ask me whether they “need” an attorney to resolve their legal claims for personal injury.  My general response is that whether they decide to hire an attorney is eventually their decision, but that there are several risks and disadvantages they should be aware of if they decide not to hire a personal injury attorney.  In my opinion, the risks and disadvantages of not having a personal injury attorney represent you substantially outweigh whatever perceived benefit the individual has of “going it alone” with the insurance company.  I just recently reviewed an interesting article from Consumer Reports® magazine that also suggests a “do-it-yourself” approach to other legal matters is no substitute for having the benefit of a professional attorney.

It has often been repeated among lawyers and judges that “he who is his own lawyer has a fool for a client.”  This can be difficult advice for many people who are determined, independent, and self-motivated – I am precisely that kind of person.  Nevertheless, I know that there are certain areas of expertise in which my legal skills and knowledge will fall short of what is required to obtain the best results.  In many situations, proceeding ahead without the proper skills and knowledge can have serious negative consequences.  For example, I fully understand that when it comes to issues of health and medicine, I need to consult a competent and skilled doctor, and that if I fail to do so, there may be serious negative consequences. Likewise, when it comes to issues of personal injury law (or any other area of law for that matter), one should consult and hire a competent and skilled personal injury attorney; otherwise, there may be serious negative consequences.

There are several important reasons why you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after you have been injured to ensure that your legal rights are protected and that you do not inadvertently take a course of action that has serious negative consequences.  You can be sure that the negligent party’s insurance company will have both experienced claims representatives and experienced attorneys helping it make decisions throughout the claims-handling process – after all, handling a personal injury claim any other way would simply be “foolish.”

If you have been injured because of someone’s negligent conduct and would like to schedule a free consultation with a Waycross personal injury attorney to discuss your legal rights, please call us at (912) 449-3000 or contact us using the form on our website.

New Report: Georgia Trucking Companies May Evade Safety Oversight

A recently released report by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) addressing motor carrier safety, as well as a review by the Atlanta Journal Constitution, indicate that the barriers to starting a trucking company in Georgia (and in other states) is relatively low, and furthermore, that there are problems with adequate safety oversight of certain trucking companies.  These reports specifically address “chameleon carriers” – trucking companies that dodge safety reviews and regulatory sanctions by shutting down operations and reforming so they can operate under a new name.  The GAO report explains, “The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) mission is to ensure motor carriers operate safely in interstate commerce. FMCSA partners with state agencies to conduct a variety of motor carrier oversight activities, which are carried out by certified auditors, inspectors, and investigators. Some motor carriers have registered under a new identity and begun to operate in interstate commerce, violating federal law in an effort to disguise their former identity and evade detection by FMCSA. Such carriers are known as chameleon carriers.”  Because these “chameleon carriers” can often evade safety review or other sanctions for violating federal and state laws designed to ensure that trucking companies operate safely, such companies may pose an increased risk to other motorists on the highways.  It also may be more difficult for persons injured by the negligence of such trucking companies to pursue insurance proceeds that trucking companies must maintain by law to cover the injuries of wreck victims.  The entire GAO report can be found here.

If you have suffered injuries as a result of the negligence of a trucking company and you need to discuss your rights with a Waycross personal injury attorney, please contact us to consult with an experienced attorney regarding your legal rights.

(SourcesAtlanta Journal Constitution; U.S. GAO Report; Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregondot/3698869372/)

Adam Ferrell named to Waycross College Foundation Board of Trustees

Attorney Adam Ferrell was recently named as a Trustee for the Waycross College Foundation Board of Trustees.  Ferrell is pleased to be given this opportunity to serve and said he wants to assist the Foundation’s efforts in promoting Waycross College and supporting higher education in Waycross and the surrounding area.

The Waycross College Foundation was established in 1976 as a non-profit, tax-exempt organization whose primary mission is to provide financial support to Waycross College through student scholarships and grants, as well as campus events and programs that do not receive funding from the state of Georgia.

The official press release can be found here.

Mandatory Life Sentences for Juveniles Violates Eighth Amendment

In the recent case of Miller v. Alabama, No. 10-9646, the United States Supreme Court held that “mandatory life without parole for those under the age of 18 at the time of their crimes violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on ‘cruel and unusual punishments’” and that “a judge or jury must have the opportunity to consider mitigating circumstances before imposing the harshest possible penalty for juveniles.”  The Court reversed the decisions of the Arkansas Supreme Court and Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals and remanded the cases for further proceedings.  The recent opinion cites to several of the Court’s prior decisions involving Eighth Amendment issues that arose from criminal cases in Georgia.

The Supreme Court’s full opinion in the case can be read here.

(Image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nauright/5135165234/)