Firm News

4 Things to Know About Toxic Contamination of Water Sources

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Toxic Contamination

We would like to believe that our water supplies are safe and reliable, but that’s not always the case.  In fact, water supplies can become contaminated with various types of chemicals and toxins due to being dumped or accidentally spilled into the groundwater or emptied into the sanitary sewer system where it cannot be effectively removed at treatment plants. The contamination often occurs through the negligence or criminal actions of others, especially those that run manufacturing plants, landfills, dry cleaning businesses and gas stations.

Determining Fault:

If you suspect that your drinking water has been contaminated, you should first contact your county or city health department, the environmental protection division of your State government and the Federal Environmental Protection Division (EPA). Next contact a law firm that practices environmental law to determine if there are other steps you need to take. The State and Federal environmental agencies will conduct at an investigation at some level to determine if contamination has occurred and the source.

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Determining Health Risks:

The governmental agencies and attorneys will provide you with any information on any health risk associated with the contamination and any steps you can take to safeguard you and your family’s health. Ultimately, it is medical professionals who can best weigh the risks. The law firm that you contact may be able to point you to various state and federal health resources that can assist you in finding the appropriate health providers to advise you.

Property Values:

In addition to potential health risks, contaminated soil and groundwater can severely depress your home’s fair market value. When you go to sell your home, you will most likely be required to reveal that such contamination exists, especially where the chemicals or toxic contaminants have caused noxious vapors to intrude into your home.

Just ask yourself if you would be willing to purchase a home where such contamination exists. Even if you would, don’t you believe a substantial discount would be warranted? In some severe situations, you may even be forced to move from your home by a governmental health agency and prohibited from selling your home.

Clean Water in the Home

Damages:

Obviously, the costs of medical care and the loss of your property’s fair market value can be substantial and devastating. Both Federal and State laws exist that allow you to seek recovery of those expenses.

You also entitled to seek compensation for the mental duress, and physical pain and suffering, caused by the contamination.  Finally, in a number of situations, you can even recover the contingency fees and litigation expenses incurred in having to retain a law firm.

Even if you feel that getting your case to trial and winning will be difficult, do not be discouraged. An experienced attorney can provide you with the knowledge and advice that can help you decide whether to pursue legal action.

The Dangers of Texting and Driving

 Why driving and smartphones don’t mix

Technology has revolutionized the way that we live our lives. We now have the world at our fingertips, thanks to technological advances that led us to the smartphone. It’s a cell phone, a camera, and a computer all at once. Smartphones allow us to stay connected to our friends and family at all times. And they aren’t rare. Almost everyone you know has a cell phone. Even elementary school kids have cell phones these days. While the smartphone has improved a lot of our everyday functions, they also endanger us on a daily basis.

Every day, almost one million people use their cell phones while driving. Why is this alarming? Well, we know that any mobile communication that happens while operating a motor vehicle is linked to a highly significant increase in distracting driving, which can result in not only injury but the loss of life. Checking your text messages, phone calls, emails or any other mobile applications puts not only yourself but everyone around you at a serious risk.

A driver can only glance away from the road for 2 seconds and still safely maintain the vehicle. However, the average text message consumes 5 seconds of a driver’s attention.  While that might not sound like much, that is all it takes for something to go seriously wrong. If your car is going 60 miles per hour, and you take your eyes off the road for 5 seconds, you will travel for 440 feet without seeing what is ahead of you. There are a ton of things that could happen in 440 feet that could cause serious damage.

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Initiatives to stop texting while driving

In 2013, there were 341,000 motor vehicle crashes that involved texting. It is suggested that there is a one in four chance that a motor vehicle crash will involve a cell phone. Even though using a cell phone increases the likelihood of a crash by four times, it is still a commonplace. 33% of drivers from the United States, ages 18-64, reported reading or writing text messages while driving. Why is that? Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk. Even though 9 Americans are killed every single day from motor vehicle accidents that involved a distracted driver, we still don’t do much to stop it.

Currently, there is no federal law in the United States that bans texting while driving. However, while there is no federal law, 46 states, plus Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, have banned texting for all drivers, regardless of their age. Georgia is one of those states to have established such laws. 14 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands have taken it a step further and prohibited drivers from using hand-held devices at all while they are behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

Because the popularity of smartphones and instant communication has risen to an unprecedented level, eradicating using cell phones while driving is going to be a hard fight, but just because it is a hard fight doesn’t mean that it isn’t a worthwhile fight. 18% of all fatal crashes are because the driver was distracted. That doesn’t have to continue. There are things that we can do to help save lives.

Teens and smartphones

Teens and young adults are the most likely age group to participate in texting while driving. According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, the easiest way to give teens instructions to not use their cell phone while driving is to say: “On the road, off the phone.” Even before your teen gets their driver’s license, discuss with them the dangers of texting while driving, and that it could cost someone their life.

In addition to talking with teens, it is important that you lead by example. People, especially children, learn from the behavior of others and their parents. Be an example. If you need to talk to someone, pull off the road to call them or text them.

Another way that we can help stop texting and driving is to get involved in the fight to stop it. There are several community outreach programs that aim to help stop the dangerous practice. AT&T’s It Can Wait Pledge is a great tool to help show others that texting and driving is dangerous. Since its creation, over 4 million people have pledged to never text and drive. One of the most effective ways to share this tool is word of mouth. Take the pledge, and then tell your friends, family, coworkers—anyone—about it.

Texting and driving doesn’t have to be a common killer among us. Make sure you do your part to make the roads a safer place for everyone. If you happen to be injured in a motor vehicle crash, seek assistance from a reputable law firm like Kopelman Sitton for advice and quality representation.

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Bicycles Accidents

Compared to other cities, Atlanta is still transitioning from an old-fashioned Southern town to an international city. As growth and density accelerate, more and more people are drawn to live/work communities and other residences within a short distance of their work, shopping areas, restaurants, movie theaters, parks and other places of entertainment. And with that trend there are more and more bicycles sharing the road as a means of alternative transportation. And, of course, there are the health conscious who use their bikes for exercise.

Despite its rush to cater to those big city desires, Atlanta has lagged woefully behind in creating safe bike lanes and those that do exist, are often marked with debris, potholes and uneven pavement. Bike riders are treated like second class citizens when it comes to transportation. But when it comes to the inevitable bike crashes, often with motorized vehicles, bike riders have legal rights equal to those of automobile occupants.

As with persons who are injured in automobile crashes, bicyclists are entitled to compensation for injuries they receive in a crash with a motorized vehicle and the bicyclist is not a fault. That is, of course, as long as the motorized vehicle has insurance.

While there have been strides in making Atlanta more bicycle-friendly, there are still some car drivers who are antagonistic about having to share the road with bicycles and who fail to heed the rules of the road. Again, bicyclists have equals rights to the road, as do operators of cars, trucks, 18-wheelers, tractor-trailers, and so forth.

If you or someone you know has been involved in a bicycle collision, don’t hesitate to call Kopelman Sitton at 404-351-5900. We can help you get the coverage you deserve!

What To Know About Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) can arise from even the most seemingly mild blows to the head or from the head being thrown violently back-and-forth in a rear end car crash. Depending on their severity, head injuries can resolve in a matter of days or result in disabling physical and psychological damage that last a lifetime.

Because of the complexity of brain injuries, legal claims involving those injuries are best handled by attorneys who understand the potential long-term consequences of TBI.

Medical Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury

Traumatic brain injuries are either classified as mild or severe. The most common type of injury resulting from an automobile accident is a concussion, which is a closed-brain injury that is generally considered to be a mild, or low-level, injury. The trouble with closed-brain injuries occurs when there is unconsciousness. Closed-brain injuries that cause unconsciousness for over 30 minutes are considered to be more severe, high-level injuries.

Similar to the more severe types of closed-brain injuries, open-brain injuries are very serious and often cause long-term damage. Regardless of whether a brain injury is considered mild or severe, any injury of this kind can have long-lasting effects. Some of these include:

  • Cognitive abilities
    • Concentration
    • Memory
    • Processing
  • Speech and language
    • Speaking and understanding speech
    • Reading and writing
  • Loss of primary senses
    • Vision
    • Hearing
    • Diminished sense of taste and smell
    • Interpretation of touch, temperature, movement, and limb position
  • Physical changes
    • Chronic pain
    • Loss of bowel and bladder control
    • Trouble sleeping
    • Excessive fatigue
    • Loss of appetite
    • Inability to regulate body temperature

Depending on the nature of the trauma, how much damage occurred, and which part of the brain was affected, the recovery time for head trauma can range anywhere from a couple of days to weeks, months, or even years. The simple fact is, most people who suffer a severe TBI never fully recover and are often left with problems for the rest of their lives. At their worst, traumatic brain injuries can cause permanent physical or cognitive disability and other equally serious problems.

Emotional Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury

Perhaps even more devastating than the physical toll is the emotional consequences of a brain injury. These problems are not health-related, in the physical sense, but are just as real. Some of the most common include:

  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Lack of motivation
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

While these emotional problems may have originated from the brain injury itself, they may also be based on the emotions experienced after the injury. Serious physical problems can leave someone feeling like less of a person than they once were, which can lead directly to emotional problems that are every bit as crippling.

Financial Consequences of Traumatic Brain Injury

All of the physical and emotional consequences that a traumatic brain injury can cause will often lead to financial struggles. Medical bills, rehabilitation costs, and missed work time are just a few of the financial consequences faced when a brain injury is involved. It’s important to note that if an injury requires long-term treatment, that treatment will have to be paid for out-of-pocket if it is not covered by insurance.

Unfortunately, some financial consequences are even worse. When an injury leads to temporary or permanent disability, long-term unemployment if a real risk. Obviously, this can leave the injured and their families in dire financial circumstances.

In Conclusion

The effects of a traumatic brain injury can last for years and may not be obvious right after an accident. These problems can be medical, emotional, psychological or even financial in nature. As the consequences of TBI are not always evident at first, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney who knows what a fair settlement is for this type of injury.

Tips for Tackling a Defective Product Lawsuit

Tackling a Defective Product Lawsuit

When we buy something, we expect it to work and we also expect it to be safe to use in the way it was intended to be used. Most of the time consumer products and work-related products are indeed safe when used appropriately, but that doesn’t mean that unexpected problems never arise when products are put to the use intended.

Defective products have caused damage to property and personal injuries, even death. When such damages and injuries occur, you do have recourse. The law allows you to seek recovery for those damages and injuries through what have been termed products liability lawsuits. Very few products are exempt from our laws, from gas cans that explode to over-the-counter weight loss products.

 

Who’s At Fault Here?

Just because a person is injured as the result of using a particular product doesn’t necessarily mean that they have a claim against the manufacturer. When such injuries occur, it is always best to start by consulting with the right kind of legal team. Their investigation will look into, one, whether a defect in the product exists and, two, how did the defect happen.

The product defect could have occurred during the design process, during manufacturing, during shipping, or during handling by the retailer selling the product to the public. The laws pertaining to each phase of the product’s journey into the hands of the ultimate uses vary and determining where in the process the defect arose requires not only a working knowledge of those laws, but a great deal of investigative work.

 

What Defect Are You Dealing With?

The most common form of product defect is that which occurs during manufacturing. In this situation, the company or person that makes the product – which may be different than the company or person that markets or sells the product – would be liable for the defect that may have occurred due to faulty design, faulty equipment, employee or employer negligence or a failure to follow safe manufacturing practices.

Another common form of product defect arises during the design phase. Obviously in the case, liability would rest with the company or person that designed the product, but if the manufacturer knew, or should have known of the existence of the defect and did nothing to correct it, they may be liable as well.

Defects can arise in the way a product is marketed. Products are sometimes mislabeled leading consumers to believe that certain uses of a product are safe when the complete opposite is true. Other marketing defects could include a failure to place the appropriate safety warnings on the product or placing labels or tags on products that are willfully misleading. Using labels to mislead consumers is fraud.

Strict Liability

In some select situations, a consumer does not even need to prove that an injury is the result of a defendant’s negligent or willful misconduct. The consumer must only show that the product was defective and that defect lead to the injury. This is known as “strict liability.” Removing the burden of proving negligence thus removes some very considerable obstacles, allowing the legal team to focus primarily on the defective nature of the product.

 

KSLG Lawyers Notch BIG Win for Georgia Homeowners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 25, 2016

Atlanta, Georgia

Attorneys Win Class Certification on Behalf of Tens of Thousands of Georgia Homeowners

A team of lawyers, including Richard Kopelman and Clint Sitton, of Kopelman Sitton Law Group, LLC (KSLG), were successful in convincing a Federal Judge that State Farm Fire & Casualty Company – the largest homeowners insurance company in the country – must pay its customers for an appraisal of their property to determine whether their homes lost market value after sustaining damage (e.g., water damage, fire damage, foundation damage, mold, etc.).  Asked if he was surprised by the Court’s ruling, Mr. Sitton responded, “not at all, because an insurance company’s obligation to assess for diminished value has long been recognized in Georgia in the context of auto insurance, and it only makes sense to extend that requirement to homeowners insurance.  Auto and home policies contain virtually identical language, and for most folks the purchase of a home is the single greatest investment they will ever make.”

The judge’s ruling could affect an estimated 70,000 State Farm policyholders, and may have even greater and more far-reaching implications according to KSLG’s Richard Kopelman.  “Undoubtedly, this is a big win for State Farm policyholders, but the judge’s decision could impact tens, if not hundreds of thousands of additional Georgians who have their homeowners coverage with other companies like Allstate or Nationwide.  By requiring insurers to assess for diminished value, Georgia homeowners now have the opportunity to receive the full benefit of the insurance policies they’ve paid for, even if their claims already have been paid and closed.”

KSLG has filed similar lawsuits against a number of other insurance companies, and continues to accept cases on behalf of Georgia homeowners who have suffered damage to their homes.  Mr. Kopelman and Mr. Sitton can be reached at (404) 351-5900, or through the firm’s Web site: www.KopelmanSitton.com

Read more here: http://topclassactions.com/lawsuit-settlements/lawsuit-news/330191-state-farm-home-insurance-class-action-lawsuit-wins-partial-cert/

Are You Protected? Workplace Injuries on the Rise

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Imagine slipping and falling at work, causing massive back pain and injury to your arm from breaking your fall. You can’t sit at your desk, you can’t type because of your arm, and you’re in constant pain. This can mean a significant hit in income if you aren’t aware of what medical services are covered and how to maintain your income while in recovery.

Workplace injuries have been steadily rising for the last 4 years. In 2014, overall injuries requiring time away from work were up almost a full percent according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). In addition, there were 1,157,410 days of work missed due to workplace injuries. That number is often a strong indicator of the severity of the injury, but more frightening are the millions of dollars in lost income and medical expenses accrued.

If you have been in the workforce for ten or more years, chances are you have had to miss work for an injury of some sort. It can be a painful and scary experience, mostly because of the unknown factors, like how long will it take to heal and how will you protect your income if you can’t work. Then add on the stress of dealing with your human resource department, insurance company, and many other phone calls you will have to make to ensure you get what you need to heal.

We want you to take it easy and not have to deal with the added stress and worry of who to call and who is going to pay the bills while you are suffering. At Kopelman and Sitton Law Group, we have a team of experts who can see that not only are your rights protected, but you can rest easy knowing there is someone here to help you through this challenging time. Having a lawyer on your side can mean the difference between getting better quickly and without worry, and financial ruin.

Many people who are injured in the workplace feel uncomfortable about hiring a lawyer, whether because they fear a negative reaction from their employer, or because they just don’t feel it is necessary. What many people fail to realize is that every company has a team of lawyers, ready to go at a moment’s notice to protect the assets of the business. Why wouldn’t you want the same thing?

There are many good reasons to seek out a lawyer, though often injured workers do it much later than they should. What usually prompts people to finally hire a litigator is one or a combination of things that include but are not limited to:

  1. Claim denial. It is often the policy of an insurance company to deny the first application of the claim. Having a lawyer handle it is often the best way to ensure a smooth claim processing.
  2. Delay in payment. Your bills are piling up, prescriptions are expensive and you have to shell out a co-pay for every doctor visit. If the insurance company is late with a check, you are the one suffering.
  3. No contact, or threats from employer. It can go either way with your human resource department. From the time of injury, weeks could go by before you hear anything from your employer. Conversely, they might tell you that you need to bring in a doctor’s note every week that you are out, or worse, if you aren’t back to work in a week, you may lose your job.
  4. Harassment/unfair treatment upon returning to work. This can happen when you have limited duty requirements, and your supervisor or boss becomes frustrated with your restrictions.
  5. Family and friends suggest it. Often when you are in pain, it is hard to focus and think clearly. Family and trusted friends may suggest that you contact a lawyer so none of the above will happen to you.

The statistics on workplace injuries are staggering. If you are injured at work, be smart and hire a lawyer. In your weakened state, you can easily fall victim to the tactics of a corporate lawyer who only has the company’s best interest at heart.  Contact us for more information on how a lawyer can benefit you and your family when dealing with workplace injury litigation.

Start your journey down the road to good health today.

Car Crashes: Everything You Need to Know When Misfortune Strikes

Car Crash

Imagine driving down the road on your daily commute to work, or heading to the grocery store, when all of a sudden … BOOM. Another driver has crashed into you. Once the shock subsides, you will find yourself asking “What do I do,” Who do I call?” Chances are, even if you’ve been in a wreck, you don’t know the right steps to take after a motor vehicle collision.

Although no driver wants to think about being in a car crash, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Highway Loss Data Institute, in 2013 (the last year for which statistics are available), there were 30,057 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States, resulting in 32,719 deaths. That

Car Crash

people are injured or disabled in car collisions. Knowing what to do if you’re in a wreck may not help prevent it, but it can make a big difference in terms of keeping you and your passengers safe, and preserving your claims.

Luckily, we know the right steps to take after an accident does occur. Below we have outlined the actions you should take to make sure everyone is safe and that claiming your insurance is simple, and what to do if you have long-term or serious injuries.

After Initial Scene

Before you do anything, always call for the police and/or medical attention. Georgia law (O.C.G.A. §40-6-273) requires the driver of a vehicle involved in a collision resulting in injury or death of any person, or property damage of $500.00 or more, to report the collision to local authorities (police) immediately.

Activate your hazard lights and place flares or warning signs.This will help give clarity to other drivers and will help avoid an even larger accident.

If there do not appear to be any serious injuries or death, you should move your car from the roadway to a safe place such as the shoulder of the road, emergency lane, or median

Take caution when exiting your vehicle. When out and around the accident scene, take note of environmental elements and other motorists, and be extremely cautious

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If medical assistance is needed, but does not arrive within 10 minutes of your initial call, make another call to 911 (obviously, the nature and extent of injury may dictate that you call sooner).

Obtain the names and phone numbers of any witnesses to the collision. If you can convince witnesses to remain on the scene until the police arrive, that would be best.

Obtain the name(s)and telephone number(s) of the other driver(s) drivers involved in the collision, as well as the name(s) of their insurance companies. Provide the other driver(s) involved in the crash with your name and insurance information as well. You should not provide anyone with your address, and NEVER provide anyone with your Social Security Number.

If you can safely do so, take photographs and/or videos of the scene of the collision, the damage to the vehicles – yours and others involved – and any visible injuries you or your passengers may have

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Even though you may want to help, or you think you can help, do not administer first aid unless you are qualified to do so.

If someone is in harm’s way, do try to move him/her to safety

Be careful about what you say and to whom you say it. Be polite – to the other driver(s) and the police/emergency personnel – but do NOT take blame for the collision.

Once you have returned home,or as soon as practicable, call and report the collision to your insurance company (you MUST do this even if the wreck was not your fault).

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Remember, while you are required to cooperate with your insurance company, you are not required to give a statement to the other driver(s) involved in the collision or their insurance companies.

Make notes about how the collision occurred and any injuries you or your passengers may have suffered

Make notes about the weather, the scene, and anything such as a malfunctioning traffic light, a misplaced sign, or a defect (e.g., non-working headlights or taillights of the other vehicle) which you believe played a role in the collision.

Remember to keep calm and not to argue with anyone.

Arrival of Law Enforcement

Remember to still remain calm when speaking with the police and medical assistance. Keeping a calm demeanor will help them collect all the facts. You also need to recall all of the information and details of the accident. When you are hysterical or angry, the details are more likely to slip your mind.

Only make a statement about the accident to police. Provide necessary details, but don’t ramble. If you are hurt, make sure the police officer knows it. Be sure to get the officer’s name, badge number, and department.

Before you leave the accident scene, make sure you have all your facts.

After the Crash

If you are injured and need immediate medical attention, you should be taken to an emergency room by ambulance.

Even if you don’t feel any pain at the scene, you may feel pain hours or days later. If that occurs, you should seek immediate medical attention, and you should be sure to explain to the doctor that you were injured in a motor vehicle collision.

Promptly call your insurance agent for claims. Understanding what your policy covers and receiving a prompt detailed report of the accident will ensure a quick reimbursement.

After the Crash

Even though referred to as “accidents,” motor vehicle crashes rarely happen by accident. Rather, collisions typically are the result of the negligence of a driver who did something he/she should not have done, or failed to do something he/she should have done. This can be something as simple as speeding, following too closely, failing to maintain lane, or failure to yield. In more egregious cases, using electronic devices/cell phones (talking and/or texting and driving) and DUI cause many serious collisions. If you believe you were injured in a collision caused by the negligence or recklessness of another driver, you should contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to assist you with your claim and get you the compensation you deserve. At Kopelman Sitton Law Group , we have decades of experience in handling such claims, and we are always here to help.

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An Overview of Flooding and Insurance Claims

While some parts of the world are known for high amounts of rainfall, in recent years, climates have become increasingly unpredictable.  Thus, even in areas where rainfall traditionally is low, there is a potential for flood damage to occur in your neighborhood, in your street, and in your own home.

In the U.S, flood zones differ, though floods are still more likely near the edges of the sea, flood risk areas are scattered across the U.S, even some in the center caused by groundwater flooding.  Recent flooding in Houston serves as an example of catastrophic flooding in a city which typically gets only a moderate amount of rain, measuring approximately 50 inches of rain annually, and 5 inches of rain in the month of May.  In less than 24 hours, some areas of Houston had received as much as 11 inches of rain, resulting in massive flooding which destroyed homes and stranded motorists, leaving seven people dead and several more missing.

As risks of flooding increases each year, it is important to understand the different kinds of flooding, and how vulnerable your area is to each type.

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The different kinds of floods:

There are three common types of flooding experienced in the United States, all of which occur in Georgia.

First, there are what commonly are referred to as fluvial floods which occur when rivers or streams  overflow their banks.

This type of flood occurs when the waters in a river fill beyond a river’s or stream’s capacity, typically due to heavy rainfall – or in some areas – melting snow – and overflow, spreading across the surface area around the river or stream.  While fluvial flooding can cause substantial damage, particularly to property near river or stream banks, such flooding is not typically associated with injuries or deaths because generally there is notice that fluvial flooding will occur.

Next, there are flash floods.

These floods, which are particularly dangerous, normally occur when a flood amasses very quickly in a short amount of time. This can happen when sewage draining systems are overwhelmed by sudden rainfall and allow the rain to build up swiftly. While this can be what some refer to as “an act of God,” in many instances, flash floods – which can cause substantial damage to property, to say nothing of loss of life – often is the result of local governments (cities and counties) failing to properly maintain their sewage systems.  From the standpoint of human safety, the most dangerous characteristic of flash floods is their rapidly moving water.  Carrying debris such as rocks and mud, a flash flood moving at about ten miles an hour is able to apply the equal pressure applied by 270 mph wind gusts.  As demonstrated by the recent flooding in Houston, flash floods can wash away cars and even entire houses, leaving in their path a trail of death and destruction.

Other common – depending upon where one lives – types of flooding include tidal flooding, and groundwater flooding.

A third type of flooding, tidal flooding occurs when the tide and sea spread on the land with the pressure of the winds and the rising tide.    Obviously, only those persons who live in or near coastal areas are susceptible to tidal flooding.

The fourth type of flooding commonly seen is groundwater flooding.  Such flooding  occurs when the earth becomes saturated and no longer has the capacity to contain additional more water.  Groundwater floods, like flash floods, can be the result of excessive amounts of rain, but also can occur where counties or municipalities fail to properly design and/or maintain their sewage systems.  In such instances, persons who suffer damage as a result of flooding may have recourse against the city or county, and be entitled to recover compensation for damage to their property.  Such damages include costs of repairs, loss of use and enjoyment, and diminution in value (diminished value) of their homes or other property.

Although not typically thought of as “flooding,” there is another source of water damage which affects tens of thousands of home and business owners annually.  Specifically, flooding inside a home or commercial building – whether an office building, a hotel, a restaurant, etc. – can be the result of broken pipes, sewage back-ups, exploding water heaters, broken icemaker lines, overflowing dishwashers or washing machines, or a slew of other sources, including neighbors changing the topography of their land causing run-off onto one’s property.

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So, why should I be worried about flood damage?

Floods damage everything and everyone they come into contact with. From loss of life to structural damage, floods have the capacity to destroy homes, property, and lives.

When it comes to homeowner’s or business owner’s insurance and flood damage, the difference between a good insurance policy and one which might be deemed sub-standard, could cost you more than just your home.  As will be discussed below, many policies don’t provide coverage for losses resulting from flooding.  Other policies, which may provide such coverage, may have exclusions or limitations which deem the coverage practically worthless.

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Well, I have homeowner’s insurance; I’m covered, right?

One should never assume that his/her home and its contents are covered for flooding damage.  Depending upon the cause of your flooding damage, your home or business may not be covered by your homeowner’s or business insurance policy.  Often times, flooding damage is covered only if one has a separate “flood insurance” policy.  Flood insurance, though written by many private companies, actually is provided by FEMA.  Without actual flood insurance, you may not have coverage for your losses, and you should read your policy closely to know whether or not you are covered.  Even where policies appear to offer coverage for water loss events, deductibles and exclusions – including limitations of coverage for post-flooding damage such as mold – present pitfalls for unsuspecting policyholders who mistakenly thought they had adequate coverage.  Making the presumption you are adequately covered while living in a high-risk flood area can leave you stripped of your wealth, home, and personal belongings.

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How can floods affect my premiums?

For those living in high-risk flood areas, it is likely, or at least more than a mere possibility, that your home will eventually experience a flood and flood damages. With the correct flood protections and appropriate homeowner’s insurance in place, one should be able to absorb the physical damage of a flood without incurring financial hardship.  But an often hidden, or overlooked cost of the flood is an increase in insurance premiums.  People need to keep in mind that insurance companies are in business to make money, not pay claims.  Thus, if your insurer has to pay a claim, especially a substantial claim, you should not be surprised to see your premiums increased.  Fortunately, there generally are many insurers from which to choose, so if your policy is cancelled, or just priced out of your range, you should have options.  Even so, fear of skyrocketing premiums often causes policyholders to carefully consider whether or not to file a claim.  Naturally, if the value of your claim is modest – perhaps not much more than your deductible – you might want to think twice before filing a claim with your insurance company.  Also, if a third party is responsible for your loss, you may want to consider asserting a claim against the responsible party – whether an individual, business, municipality or county – instead of filing a claim with your insurance company.  Or, perhaps a combination of claims would suit you best.

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So what is the difference between normal flood insurance and specialist flood insurance?

Quite simply, specialist home insurance policies tick more insurance check boxes than ‘standard’ housing insurance policies do.

With many houses not fitting the criteria for ‘standard’ housing insurance, such as homes in high risk flood districts, , properties with thatch roofs, listed buildings, and buildings with other non-standard features, specialist home insurance may provide a more viable option for more comprehensive coverage.

Another difference between standard and specialist home insurance is the financial costs. Because specialist home insurance policies provide further reaching coverage, thereby providing more extensive coverage, such coverage is more expensive than its standard home insurance counterpart.

Even so, many types of losses which people commonly think are covered, may not be covered, even by specialist home insurance policies. Such losses often include the following:

  • Any damages caused by storms to property such as gates, fences, and hedges.
  • The damages caused by wear, tear, and erosion.
  • Damages caused by persons lawfully in the home.
  • Loss/damage occurring while the property is leased or sublet, unless such damage is caused by violent or involuntary forcible entry/exit of the home.

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What happens if my insurance does not cover the flood damage?

If your home or business owners insurance policy, like many, does not cover many types of flooding/water damage, there may still a light at the end of the tunnel for you.

For example, the typical homeowners insurance policy does not cover flooding damage where water entered the house from outside, i.e., heavy rainfall.  For those living near streams, creeks, or rivers, heavy rainfalls can be nail-biting experiences.   There are, however, ways to protect yourself. If, for example, you live in one of the many communities that participate in the Federal Floor Insurance Program, you are able to purchase a federally subsidized flood insurance. This flood insurance was created in 1968 by the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to provide protection from flood damage while also issuing flood insurance to property owners.

A Standard Flood Insurance Policy (SFIP) typically covers the following:

  • The removal of debris.
  • Detached garages.
  • Some portable appliances.
  • Some valuable items.
  • Some major appliances.
  • The property’s foundation, plumbing, heating, electrical, and air conditioning systems.
  • Personal belonging such as furniture, clothing, and electronics.

If my insurance company refuses to pay for my damage, what can Kopelman Sitton do for me?

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There is a common misconception that insurance companies are in business to pay claims. In reality, insurance companies – like other corporations – are in business to make money, and insurance companies make money by denying claims whenever they can, and where they cannot deny claims outright, delaying as long as possible, having to pay out on claims. Not surprisingly, people who lack the expertise necessary to take on powerful insurance companies, often give up and walk away from their claims, even claims which were improperly denied. Others accept below market value settlement offers just to end the headache of dealing with an insurance adjuster. The lawyers at Kopelman Sitton have decades of experience representing consumers – individuals and owners of small businesses – whose homes or businesses have been damaged, and know how to present claims and, if necessary, litigate them for their clients.

As discussed above, while some flooding is truly “an act of God,” many instances of flooding occur as a result of the poorly designed, out-dated, or malfunctioning drainage structures and systems operated by local governments or private businesses. Other times, flooding may be the result of mismanagement of storm or sewage systems operated by local governments or their divisions of watershed management. Such flooding events – caused by overflowing sewage often associated with heavy rainfall – can lead to massive damage to homes and businesses, resulting in the loss of use and enjoyment of your home or business, costly repairs, and diminished value attributable to the stigma associated with water damage.

Should you suffer water damage to your home or business, Kopelman Sitton Law Group can help you recover the damages to which you are entitled.

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What can be done?

Depending upon the nature of your loss, State and/or Federal laws may offer a variety of protections which can be utilized to seek compensation for your loss. State laws, including laws involving nuisance and trespass, provide for recovery of damages, including attorney’s fees, and Federal laws, including the Resource Recovery and Reclamation Act and the Clean Water Act, provide additional avenues for recovery of damages you may have suffered.

Groundwater flooding, a common form of flooding, brings with it significant environmental pollution of rivers and streams which detrimentally affects wildlife and natural resources, and also results in severe economic damage attributable to a reduction in property values stemming from the stigma associated with such pollution. It is not uncommon for flood water, before reaching its final destination, to have flowed through:

  • Landfill sites containing hazardous wastes ranging from common garbage bags containing relatively innocuous objects to biohazardous materials, and radioactive waste.
  • Any diseases active prior to purging in slaughter houses, pig and chicken farms, and other animal stock containment areas.
  • Any leaking storage tanks found underground containing petroleum products or by-products, or other environmental contaminants.
  • Bleach plants, battery plants, and all other manufacturing-derived potential water contaminating products/items.

Even if flood water has not flowed through such places, flood water flowing through residential neighborhoods is neither clean nor harmless if it winds up in your home or business. Inevitably, flood water flowing through what might be deemed clean areas collects debris and chemicals from automobiles (oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, etc.), and animal waste from house pets and animals indigenous to the area. While these contaminants are not thought to be as dangerous as toxic contaminants found in landfills, farms, and subterranean storage tanks, they nevertheless can cause substantial damage when deposited in a home or business.

If your home or business has suffered water damage, from flooding or otherwise, Kopelman Sitton Law Group can provide the legal representation you need to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Call us today for a free consultation (404) 351-5900.

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What Are The Georgia State Motorcycle Laws?

It’s in Georgia Code, Title 40, Chapter 6, Article 13, Part 2 that you will find most motorcycle laws for the state of Georgia. From on-the-road laws and restrictions to off road requirements, below is a list of the current state laws for Georgia motorcyclists.