Posted On: July 29, 2009

One Death, Multiple Personal Injuries in I-20 Rollover Accident near Alabama State Line

Whether it’s here in Alabama or elsewhere, it’s a terrible shame when good people are killed or injured in seemingly haphazard accidents. Being a personal injury attorney, I read with sadness a news report about a Baptist church bus carrying several dozen adults and children that rolled over on I-20 near the Alabama Welcome Center north of Birmingham, AL. One 14-year-old boy died from serious injuries received when he was thrown from the bus during the tragic crash, while 23 other passengers escaped near death with lesser injuries such as broken bones, cuts and bruises.

According to reports, on July 12 the church bus was traveling eastbound on Interstate 20/59 near the Alabama Welcome Center at the Alabama/Mississippi state line, about 80 miles southwest of Tuscaloosa. Suddenly, a tire blew out causing the driver to lose control of the vehicle. The bus apparently veered quickly to one side, which caused the large vehicle to flip over and roll three times at highway speeds.

As a Birmingham personal injury lawyer, I can say without a doubt that a high-speed rollover accident is one of the more violent vehicle crashes. For a bus crash, where the passengers are typically not wearing seatbelts, injuries sustained by the occupants can be extremely severe to the point of being fatal. Not only broken bones, but head, neck and back injuries are very common, which includes brain and spinal column trauma.

The church’s youth minister, Jason Matlack, fractured his C7 vertebra and had artery injuries that caused serious internal blood loss. According to reports, it took doctors a while to figure out why the man was losing so much blood. He is doing better now, but his injuries were severe and could have resulted in death had doctors not been able to stabilize him early on.

Several teenage passengers also received serious injuries. One girl, who was released from the hospital a few days after the wreck, had fractures of the neck and upper back. Another youngster had surgeries to repair fractures to her femur, clavicle and face. Still another remained in critical condition a week following the accident due to severe head injuries.

In all, 17 youths and six adults were injured and one teenager was killed in the accident -- all because of one blown tire. Whether the final police accident report shows the tire was too old, poorly maintained or simply defective from the factory, the pain and suffering that these folks and their families have gone through is almost immeasurable.

If you or a loved one has been hurt as a result of a vehicle accident caused by defective equipment or another person’s negligence, my advice is for you to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to learn about your various options to recover medical costs and other damages for pain and suffering. Life is too precious.

Youth minister hurt in bus wreck released from hospital,, July 20, 2009

Tags: Alabama Personal Injury, brain truama, Brimingham Injury Lawyer, bus crash, death, defective equipment, fatal accident, head injuries, hospitalization, spinal column injury

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Posted On: July 15, 2009

Alabama Supreme Court Reverses Madison County Circuit Court Decision in Wrongful Death, Injury Case

I was pleased to read recently that the family of a young woman killed in a 2004 apartment fire will finally get their day in court. That family's Alabama civil suit stemmed from a south Huntsville arson fire that claimed the life of 24-year-old April Collins, a teacher who lived in the apartment block that was set afire.

Although Henry Rice, also a tenant of the Hunters’ Ridge Apartment complex, was found guilty of intentionally starting that deadly blaze and sentenced to life in prison, Collins’ family and other victims who were injured or whose property was destroyed as a result of the fire lost their opportunity to bring seven individual civil suits against the apartment’s owner and the builder back in 2007.

As a Birmingham personal injury lawyer, I’ll be the first to say that justice doesn’t always come in the first round. In this case, attorneys for the victims of that fire were told by a lower court that they did not have grounds for a civil suit, but on appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court they will now be able to move forward. I always fight hard for my clients and sometimes that includes taking things to the next level. This is an example where perseverance paid off, at least initially.

Following that fatal fire, which also caused injury to other residents of that apartment complex, numerous civil claims were filed against the builder, Scenic Homes, and the landlord, Enterprise Apartments. According to reports, the Collins' family attorney claimed that an architect was not used during construction of the complex and many fire and building safety codes were bypassed -- most critically that any apartment structure must have at least two exit stairwells.

In addition to having no sprinklers, the complex reportedly also did not have fire alarms. As a result, by the time Ms. Collins was alerted to the blaze, her only avenue of escape was blocked by the spreading fire. She had no choice but to run through the flames, which caused extensive burns that resulted in her death. According to court records, expert testimony indicated that if the building been code compliant, Collins might still be alive today.

Despite the weight of these and other statements by the claimants, the defendants’ lawyers argued that the landlord and the builder had no duty to make the building safe in the event the fire was set on purpose, such as part of a criminal act. Apparently, Madison County Circuit Judge Loyd Little ruled the arsonist's criminal act negated any duty by the defendants.

Thankfully, the Alabama Supreme Court overturned Little's decision 9-0, unanimously agreeing that the duty to build and maintain a structure in a safe condition is not dependant on how a fire will be set. This paves the way for the original civil suits to go to trial sometime around September, with the Collins family’s case planned to be the first.

AL Supreme Court overturns local judge's decision on fatal fire civil suit,, July 1, 2009

Tags: Arson, Building Safety Code, Burn Victim, Fire, Personal Injury, Premises Liability, Wrongful Death

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Posted On: July 1, 2009

Alabama Gun Owners: Avoid Injuries and Accidental Deaths by Locking Up Firearms

Looking around Alabama, I see many opportunities to reduce the number of injuries and even deaths that occur in the course of our daily activities. From Huntsville to Birmingham all the way down to Mobile, I’ve heard so many personal injury horror stories it’s amazing that more people aren’t hurt or killed simply by going about their life.

From cleaning gutters without taking the proper safety precautions to home electrocutions as a result of not installing ground fault circuit interrupter devices, many of these accidents can be prevented with a little forethought. And I won’t even go into industrial accidents and work-related injuries.

Even with all this, something got me thinking the other day when I heard a very grim statistic in the news. Did you know that Alabama is number two in the nation when it comes to gun-related deaths? We shouldn’t be surprised, since the number of gun accidents directly correlates to total gun ownership. Although most gun owners in our state are conscientious, we could still do a better job in regard to gun safety.

As a Birmingham personal injury lawyer, I must state that there are few events more devastating to a family and a community as a child hurt or killed by a family’s firearm. These are not toys, though kids don’t always know the difference, especially the young ones. Gun ownership is a right, but that right comes with a huge responsibility to your family, your neighborhood and society in general.

If you don’t believe me, take a look at the statistics. According to the National Education Association Health Information Network, the rate of firearm deaths among children under the age of 15 is nearly 12 times higher in the United States than in 25 other industrialized nations combined. And sadly, American children are 16 times more likely to be murdered with a gun than in all these other countries combined.

Some people may say they can’t prevent gun-related homicides involving kids, but there is an area that needs real attention. Deaths from family-owned firearms. Fact: American kids under 15 years old are 11 times more likely to commit suicide using a gun, and nine times more likely to die from a firearm accident than children in those other industrialized countries.

How do the numbers stack up? Louisiana has the highest rate of gun deaths -- almost 20 per 100,000 of the population -- with Alabama a close second at about 17 gun-related fatalities per 100,000 people. No surprise there, since 57.2 percent of Alabama households have guns, according to a spokesperson for the Violence Policy Center. Alaska, Mississippi and Nevada are the runners up in this gloomy assessment of firearm safety.

The bottom line, Alabama: Unload your guns and lock them up when not in use. Gun owners are the first line of defense against the senseless tragedies we read about in the news every day.

Alabama ranks second in gun deaths,, June 16, 2009

Tags: Accidental Shooting, Children, Death, Firearm Safety, Gun Deaths, Gunshot Wound, Personal Injury, Teen Suicide, Toy Gun

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