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Gainesville Georgia Legal Blog

Distraction significantly raises highway work zone crash

Georgia residents should be aware of the danger of distracted driving. Reading the average text message takes about five seconds; in that same time, a vehicle going 55 mph can travel the length of a football field. Distractions, which can consist of anything from using the phone to talking with passengers, can especially raise the risk for crashes in highway construction zones.

Researchers at the University of Missouri focused on the link between these two in a recent study. For their data, they analyzed first-hand accounts of driver interactions with their vehicles, the roadway and the environment. This naturalistic driving data was gathered by the Transportation Research Board for its second Strategic Highway Research Program. It involves more than 3,000 drivers who traveled over 50 million miles between the years 2006 and 2015.

GHSA estimates a surge in pedestrian deaths in 2018

The Governors Highway Safety Association has analyzed data collected by state highway safety offices in the first half of 2018. Based on this information, it estimates that 6,227 pedestrians were killed last year. If the estimate is accurate, 2018 marked an increase of 250 deaths from 2017 and was the most deadly year for pedestrians since 1990. Georgia residents may be interested to know what else the GHSA report says.

Pedestrians made up 16 percent of all road fatalities in 2018, compared to 12 percent in 2009. SUV-related pedestrian fatalities have increased 50 percent from 2013 to 2018, compared to a 30 percent increase in passenger car-related pedestrian deaths during that same period. SUVs account for 60 percent of all new vehicle sales. At the same time, the higher front-end profiles make SUVs more deadly when they collide with pedestrians.

Preparing for divorce

Married couples in Georgia may not believe that they might become one of the 2 million divorces that occur each year. However, it is important that they understand the divorce process and the importance of planning before, during and after a divorce.

There are three stages of divorce. They include filing the required paperwork; discovery, in which research is conducted into the financial backgrounds of both spouses; and disposition. For couples who do not want to go through a trial to end their marriage, they have multiple options. Depending on the circumstances of their divorce, a collaborative divorce or mediation may be viable options.

Why estate plans need to be updated

In the modern world, more and more assets are becoming digitized. From photo albums and record collections to stocks and cryptocurrencies, estate plans need to account for the digital sphere if they are going to meet the goals of families in Georgia. Managing digital assets in an estate plan can be challenging for a few reasons. Not only can they be hard to find, but they may require a password or some type of digital signature to access. Ownership rights are also not always clearly defined.

Digital assets, which are the information on devices and not the devices themselves, are important in estate planning because they can have real monetary and sentimental value. When a spouse with access to these assets unexpectedly passes away, the other spouse may not know what to do. Everything from bank accounts to online media collections may remain inaccessible.

How is fault proven when a driver dies in a crash?

Deadly car accidents are devastating for those who are left behind. In many cases, the loss of life was preventable. Negligence such as speeding, drinking or distracted driving can end the lives of innocent victims. People who have lost loved ones in accidents can gain a small sense of justice through the claims process. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine fault in these situations. 

Deadly accident investigations go through the same steps as other accident investigations to show who is at fault and to file a claim with the appropriate insurance agency. The same process must take place if you want to sue the other party for losses in a wrongful death claim.

Prenuptial agreements for student couples

Because college students in Georgia and elsewhere in the country tend to have busy summer schedules that involve things like internships, summer jobs and trips, January is a popular month for couples jointly pursuing higher education to exchange "I dos." Younger couples may have visions of a lifetime of wedded bliss together. However, prenuptial agreements may provide some added peace of mind for student couples.

Some college couples in the Peach State may not see the point of going to a family law attorney for an prenup. After all, most college couples don't have significant assets to protect, and many of them haven't even started their careers yet. What they do tend to have is substantial education-related debt. If financing is involved, a prenup can predetermine the responsibility each party would have for any lingering debt obligations should a split occur.

Estate and financial planning

Some Georgia residents may not realize that estate and financial planning go hand in hand. For example, many may believe that estate planning only makes sense if someone has financial assets to leave behind. These individuals may opt to engage in personal financial planning long before outlining their estates or making end-of-life decisions.

However, the reality is that the best estate and financial plans are created in tandem. For example, while an individual might not have a lot of money to leave behind, he or she may still have a mortgage, a lease, life insurance policies or retirement accounts that will have to be managed after death. In addition, some of these assets and accounts, such as 401(k) plans, are not managed via conventional wills but through a separate set of documents that must be completed through a retirement plan administrator's office.

Handling the family home in divorce property division

People in Georgia who decide to divorce may face difficult questions about how to handle the marital home as part of the settlement. Unlike traditional financial assets, the home cannot simply be split like a bank account or retirement fund. However, unlike other sentimental items, the home has a great deal of material value and is often the largest single asset held by the divorcing couple. Due to the difficulties involved, many couples address this issue by selling the home as part of the divorce. The sale of the home allows the proceeds to be used to pay off a mortgage balance and distribute the remaining funds as part of the overall settlement.

However, in many cases, one spouse wants to remain in the family home after the divorce is concluded. This is especially common if there are children involved and the remaining spouse is the primary caregiver or custodial parent. While this can be a positive solution for some couples, it requires thinking about the financial consequences of keeping the home. In most cases, the remaining spouse will need to buy out the interest of the other spouse in the home, often requiring a significant sum.

External airbags and occupancy safety

Georgia residents who purchase new vehicles in the future may find that they are equipped with external airbags. A manufacturer of external airbags states that its external airbag can reduce the degree of injury suffered by occupants of a vehicle by as much as 40 percent. This data can be a significant factor in having external airbag technology installed in vehicles in production.

The external airbags designed by the manufacturer are meant to be deployed from the sides of the vehicle in the event of an impact. The airbags are intended to serve as supplemental crumble zones when a vehicle is struck. The airbags will essentially resemble and function like enormous pillows capable of enduring some of the force from a side-impact crash.

6 reasons to update your estate plan

Making your estate plan was a terrific first step, but don't assume that's the only step you need to take. Those documents may not work forever. Depending on how life moves forward, you may need to update them. Below are six reasons to look over your estate plan and consider changes.

1. Children become adults


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