Category Archives: Uncategorized

Office to Remain Open, But With Staff Working From Home

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The health and safety of our clients and employees is our top priority. As The Hamilton Firm continues monitoring the coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis we want to provide an update on the steps we are taking to ensure everyone’s safety and well-being.

After careful consideration, and out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust the office schedule as follows.  We have implemented a rotation of employees that allows for one support staff to be in the office each business day, Monday through Friday, while the others are working from home. The office door will be locked, but we can be available to clients who call ahead to schedule an appointment.

Please call ahead, 423-634-0871, if you need to come into the office. 

We want to assure you that we are still focused on helping our clients while continuing to keep our community safe.

For more information about how to reduce the spread of the virus, please visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/downloads/community-mitigation-strategy.pdf

Just Published: Should a Truck Wreck Case Be Handled Like a Car Wreck?

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” . . . it costs a lot to win, and even more to lose” (Jerry Garcia)

Cases involving a tractor trailer (18-wheeler, semi, big rig) or other commercial motor vehicle(s) should not be handled like the typical car wreck case!

In an article just published in the The Tennessee Trial Lawyer, the journal of the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association (Click here and scroll to pp. 10-13), Patrick Cruise and Hubert Hamilton point out just some of the considerations that make truck wreck cases very different from the typical car wreck case:

  • Commercial drivers are required to have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and are supposed to be screened, qualified and professionally trained, 49 CFR 383 and 391. They must also be medically certified as fit to drive.
  • Different standards apply to commercial drivers. Most important are the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR), which apply to “all employers, employees, and commercial motor vehicles that transport property or passengers in interstate commerce” (49 CFR 3T).
  • Trucking cases are aggressively investigated and defended by trucking companies, their insurers and their lawyers. Trucking companies often have rapid response teams at the scene of a bad wreck while the injury victims are being evaluated in the emergency room. While your client is still in the hospital recovering from his or her injuries, the trucking company’s team (experts, lawyers, and investigators) are likely interviewing the parties and witnesses, and securing evidence.
  • 49 CFR 387.9 requires a minimum of $750,000 liability coverage for any motor carrier operating in interstate commerce carrying non-hazardous cargo for hire. In addition, there may be complicated layers of excess coverage over and above the required minimum.
  • A commercial truck driver is a professional and should be held to a higher standard of care than the driver of an ordinary passenger vehicle. See Dakter v. Cavallino, 866 N.W.2d 656 (Wis. 2015). For instance, 49 CFR 392.14 requires a commercial driver to exercise extreme caution and to reduce speed when hazardous conditions, such as those caused by snow, ice, sleet, fog, mist, rain, dust, or smoke, adversely affect visibility or traction.  And, 49 CFR 392.3 prohibits the operation of a commercial motor vehicle while the driver’s ability or alertness is impaired, or so likely to become impaired, due to fatigue, illness, or any other cause, so as to make it unsafe for him/her to operate the tractor trailer.
  • Much more is at stake than in the typical car wreck case, as a wreck involving a tractor trailer often results in fatalities or severe injuries. And, several vehicles may be involved with multiple plaintiffs.

In the typical car wreck case, lawyers are usually focused on the actions of each driver in the few seconds leading up to the crash. Did the defendant stop at the stop sign? Who ran the red light? Was the defendant speeding? Was the defendant following too closely? Was the plaintiff speeding?  Was the plaintiff or defendant distracted, on the phone or texting? The actions or omissions of each driver just before the crash are examined and the jury is asked to determine who was at fault based on those few seconds.

In a truck wreck case, however, the focus should be on the trucking company, and not necessarily on the truck driver. What the driver could have done to prevent the wreck is certainly important, but what the trucking company could and should have done to prevent the crash may be far more important.  The trucking company, which is supposed to train and supervise its drivers, plan safe routes, and actively work to prevent wrecks, will have had numerous opportunities to understand, plan, train and prevent most crashes. Focusing on system failure by the trucking company is often the key to success in truck wreck cases.

Lawyers who try to handle a serious injury or death case involving a tractor trailer or other commercial motor vehicle just like a typical car wreck case are not likely to obtain a full and fair recovery the client. When our firm accepts representation in a truck wreck case, we start preparing for trial immediately. There are no short cuts, and there is no substitute for meticulous, thorough preparation.

Patrick Cruise & Hu Hamilton Again Named to Mid-South Super Lawyers

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The Hamilton Firm is pleased to announce that two of its four trial lawyers have again been recognized by Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers Magazine as among the Top Rated Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Attorneys in Tennessee for 2019. Both Hubert Hamilton and Patrick Cruise have achieved Super Lawyer status for the current year as Plaintiff’s Personal Injury attorneys.  Mid-South Super Lawyers recognizes attorneys in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Hubert “Hu” Hamilton also has the unique distinction of also being recognized as a Top Rated Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Attorney by Georgia Super Lawyers. He is the founding member of the The Hamilton Firm. Mr. Hamilton is a Board Certified Civil Trial Specialist (National Board of Trial Advocacy), licensed in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Patrick A. Cruise, who has achieved outstanding success for victims of trucking accidents, is a member of the Academy of Truck Accident Attorneys and the American Association for Justice Trucking Litigation Group. Mr. Cruise is licensed in Tennessee, Georgia and Louisiana.

The Hamilton Firm handles catastrophic injury and death cases, throughout the southeast, focusing on wrecks involving tractor trailers, buses and other commercial vehicles, as well as severe workplace accidents.

The selections by Thomson Reuters are made by the research team at Super Lawyers. Each year, the team undertakes a multiphase selection process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent evaluation of candidates by the attorney-led research staff, a peer review of candidates by practice area and a good-standing and disciplinary check. Only five percent of attorneys are selected to the Super Lawyers list.

Significant Changes to Georgia’s Workers Compensation Law Taking Effect July 1, 2019

By | Georgia Workers' Compensation, Uncategorized | No Comments

For injuries occurring on the job on or after July 1, 2019, the maximum compensation rate in Georgia is now $675.00 per week for temporary total disability (TTD), an increase of $100.oo per week from the old rate.  For injuries causing temporary partial disability (TPD) the maximum rate is now $450.00 per week.

The increase in the TTD rate is significant, and long overdue.  Keep in mind, however, that the injured worker only receives 2/3’s of his or her average weekly wage, even for temporary total disability.  So, an employee would have to be earning $1,012.50 or more per week to qualify for the maximum compensation rate.

The other major change in Georgia workers compensation law, also taking effect July 1, 2019, involves payment for certain medical services and equipment beyond the 400 week limit provided by current law for non-catastrophic cases.  For injuries occurring after July 1, 2013, even after 400 weeks, the employer/insurer will have to pay for “maintenance, repair, revision, replacement, or removal of any prosthetic device, provided that the prosthetic device was originally furnished within 400 weeks of the date of injury,” and will have also have to pay for similar services for any spinal cord stimulator or for “durable medical equipment, orthotics, corrective eyeglasses, or hearing aids” that “were originally furnished within 400 weeks of the date of injury.”

Before July 1, 2013, an injured employee was entitled to lifetime medical care, but then the legislature decided to limit coverage in non-catastrophic cases to a maximum of 400 weeks, regardless of the employee’s long term medical needs.  Since 2013, the law had failed to cover prosthetic devices in non-catastrophic cases (amputation of an arm, hand, foot or leg is catastrophic), or to provide for removal or maintenance of an implanted device, such as a spinal cord stimulator.  It also failed to provide payment for devices, such as hearing aids for permanent hearing loss, which are needed for a lifetime, not just 400 weeks.  The amendment to O.C.G.A. § 34-9-200 adding coverage those situations is certainly a welcome change but it does not go nearly far enough.

For the complete text of SB135, effective July 1, 2019, click here.

Tennessee Bans Handheld Use of Cell Phones While Driving

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Tennessee has joined Georgia and many other states in prohibiting handheld use of cell phones while driving.  T.C.A. § 55-8-199, amended effective July 1, 2019, prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle on any road or highway in Tennessee, while physically holding or supporting a cell phone, with any part of the driver’s body, except for using one button to initiate or terminate a call.  Drivers under the age of 18 are prohibited from handling cell phones for any purpose, and no one is permitted to “write, send or read any text-based communication”.  Exceptions are made for persons 18 or older to convert a voice-based communication to a written message or for navigation of the motor vehicle though use of a GPS device.

The full text of the new law can be accessed at https://legiscan.com/TN/text/HB0164/2019

Hu Hamilton Named Georgia Super Lawyer for the Eighth Year in a Row

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Hubert E. “Hu” Hamilton has again been named as a Super Lawyer in Georgia for his work as a Plaintiff’s Personal Injury lawyer, for the 8th year in a row.

Super Lawyers is a rating service by Thomson Reuters of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Their selection process includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations.

Super Lawyers Magazine features the list and profiles of selected attorneys and is distributed to attorneys in the state or region and the ABA-accredited law school libraries.  Thomson Reuters describes the selection process as follows:  “Super Lawyers selects attorneys using a patented multiphase selection process. Peer nominations and evaluations are combined with independent research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made on an annual, state-by-state basis. The objective is to create a credible, comprehensive and diverse listing of outstanding attorneys that can be used as a resource for attorneys and consumers searching for legal counsel. Since Super Lawyers is intended to be used as an aid in selecting a lawyer, we limit the lawyer ratings to those who can be hired and retained by the public.”

Mr. Hamilton has the unique distinction of also being recognized as a Mid-South Super Lawyer for Tennessee.

Click here for a link to Mr. Hamilton’s profile on the Super Lawyers website.

It’s Hard to Live Your Life in Color and Tell the Truth in Black and White!

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How to Properly Prepare Your Personal Injury Client to Testify, by Hubert E. Hamilton and Patrick A. Cruise, has been published by the Tennessee Trial Lawyers Association in the Winter 2018/2019 edition of The Tennessee Trial Lawyer. 

(To read the article, click here, and then go to the Legislative/Press tab, and select TTLA Magazine, and then TTLA Winter 2018/19 Issue Part 2)

In the article, Hamilton and Cruise highlight a quote from musician Gregg Allman:  “It’s hard to live your life in color and tell the truth in black and white.”  The article provides insight into preparing real people to testify in deposition under the intense scrutiny of insurance defense lawyers, with checklists for plaintiff’s counsel to use in making sure nothing is overlooked.

The Hamilton Firm is honored to have its two Super Lawyers published again in a professional journal, sharing their knowledge and experience, gained through years of trial work on behalf of personal injury clients and their families.

 

No Lien for the County on Personal Injury Case

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Mr. Slaughter, an EMT for Hamilton County, Tennessee, was injured as the result of a car wreck on April 5, 2010. The injury took place while Mr. Slaughter was working for the County. Hamilton County opted out of the Tennessee workers’ compensation program. Instead, the County operated a self funded on-the-job injury program. As part of the on-the-job injury program, the County paid Mr. Slaughter $7,512.29 in benefits related to his injury. Mr. Slaughter also had a tort claim against the at-fault driver. The County filed a lien on the tort case, seeking to recover the amount of money paid to Mr. Slaughter per the on-the-job injury program.
Mr. Slaughter’s claim was settled for $24,600.00. For whatever reason, Mr. Slaughter’s case went to trial after settlement, and he was awarded $58,000.00 in damages by a jury. Thereafter, the trial court held a hearing on the issue of whether the County could recover from Mr. Slaughter’s settlement. The trial court denied the County’s claim, and the matter was appealed.
The reviewing court upheld the trial court’s decision, holding: (a) there was no statutory or contractual lien; and, (b) Mr. Slaughter was not made-whole by the settlement, and as a result, the County was not entitled to subrogation. (Slaughter v. Mills, (Tenn.Ct.App. 12/19/2019).
A few additional notes: As indicated above, the case was settled before trial, and then proceeded to a jury trial. Typically, settlement make a trial unnecessary. One can only guess that there was an additional defendant involved, who was found by the jury at trial to have not been at-fault. Second, the wreck at issue in this case took place in 2010, and yet the issue of a relatively small subrogation/lien claim was not resolved until 8 years later. For a case that was ultimately worth less than $25,000.00 to not be resolved (assuming no further appeals) for more than eight years is troubling.
Regardless, the Slaughter case is important for personal injury lawyers representing individuals who were injured on the job while working for an governmental entity that may not be subject to the workers’ compensation act, and thus, may not have a right of recovery.

Hubert Hamilton & Patrick Cruise Recognized as Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Super Lawyers

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The Hamilton Firm is pleased to announce that two of its four trial lawyers have again been recognized by Thomson Reuters Super Lawyers Magazine as among the state’s Top Rated Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Attorneys. Both Hubert Hamilton and Patrick Cruise have achieved Super Lawyer status for the current year, as published in Mid-South Super Lawyers, which recognizes top ranked attorneys in Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement.

Hu Hamilton also has the unique distinction of again being recognized as a Top Rated Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Attorney in Georgia, as just announced by Georgia Super Lawyers.  Mr. Hamilton is licensed in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

The selections by Thomson Reuters are made by the research team at Super Lawyers. Each year, the team undertakes a multiphase selection process that includes a statewide survey of lawyers, an independent evaluation of candidates by the attorney-led research staff, a peer review of candidates by practice area and a good-standing and disciplinary check. Only five percent of attorneys are selected to the Super Lawyers list.

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