Books On Trial Advocacy

The summer usually sets a slower pace for law practice as lawyers and judges take some time off to be with their families before school starts back up.  I have always found it to be a good time to catch up on my reading.  I’ve been reading more and more about decision science and persuasion lately and some of the books I’m getting into this summer include (1)  The Art of Thinking Clearly by Dobelli, (2) Persuasion by Cialdini, (3) Thinking Fast & Slow by Kahneman and (4) Show the Story by Bailey.  I also want to read at least one book by Dan Ariely on behavioral economics, which I understand to be economics based not on assumptions of rational decision-making but on the actual psychology of decision-making.

And of course I’ll be re-reading Confederacy of Dunces, one of my all-time favorite books.

One of the reasons I’m reading these books is that I like to read about how people make decisions, particularly in group settings.  I can only think that would help in jury trials.  The goal of jury trials is to get the truth out as fully and simply as possible, without being manipulative or cloying.

The other reason I’m reading them is because lawyers tend to take ideas they’ve read about in Psychology books or journals and apply them a bit too loosely to trial law, with little empirical support.  For example, I’ve heard lawyers in seminars take some of the ideas on attribution and apply them to jury trials with no real support in any studies of actual or mock trials.  I would prefer to see actual studies of how a real jury or even a well-controlled mock jury made decisions.  Juries are special groups, and their decisions may or may not mimic the way other groups make decisions.

Please feel free to comment about these books.  I’d like to get other folks’ thoughts on good books for trial lawyers.  Hope everyone is having a great summer.

Halloween Safety Shouldn’t be Scary

Halloween brings with it the fun of dressing-up in scary costumes, bobbing for apples and knocking door-to-door for a “trick-or-treat”.  While all of this can be fun, it’s important to stay safe as well.

On Halloween night there is usually lots of activity going on in neighborhoods.  It’s that one night of the year when people use golf carts that usually sit in their driveways, or pull tractors that are overflowing with trick-or-treaters.  All of this at the same time lots of children are running around from door-to-door, crossing the street and dodging the motorized vehicles.  While I love Halloween, the safety of the children is really what frightens me on this scary night.

Although Halloween safety tips are given year-after-year, they always bear repeating:

Light-up: Make sure each child trick-or-treating has some sort of light that allows them to see where they’re going and allows others to see them.  I like small flashlights, reflective tape, and those light-up necklaces or bracelets that illuminate when you break the seal.

Travel from door-to-door: Be sure to walk and not run from house-to-house and only go to houses that are well lit.  When possible, stay on sidewalks and not in the street.  Look both ways before crossing the street, and go to all the houses on one side of the road before crossing over to the other.

Costumes: Test make-up before wearing it to ensure that you don’t have an allergy.  Make sure you won’t trip on your costume and that it is flame-resistant.  Be careful not to walk next to lit candles so that a flowing costume doesn’t accidentally catch on fire.

Food:  So how worried should parents be about the candy their children eat? There’s always the worry that a razor blade, a needle, poison or drugs have been secretly hidden in the candy.  In fact, this year carries some added concern that, because of its legalization, marijuana-laced candy will be easily offered to children.  While this could happen, it’s very unlikely.  According to Snopes, which has thoroughly investigated decades worth of alleged halloween horrors, the only known cases (and they are very rare) of poisoning or drugs can be traced back to people who knew the victims, with only one case of marijuana-laced snickers being given to children accidentally.  With regards to razors or needles, this has occurred, but it is usually a prank played by someone who knows the recipient and there have been no known serious injuries as a result.

As always, parents should inspect candy before children eat it.  This means that kids need to understand they should not eat any of the candy while they are out trick-or-treating.  If the candy is not in commercial packaging, or the packaging is torn or looks old or tampered with then throw it out.  A bigger concern is probably to make sure that children do not eat candy they may be allergic to or could choke on.

I hope that everyone has a safe and happy Halloween.


Urgent News Release issued by the NHTSA regarding Defective Airbags

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is urging anyone who drives certain Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, BMW, General Motors, Ford, Mitsubishi, Chrysler and Subaru vehicles to see if your car has a defective airbag that needs to be replaced immediately.   You can go to the website to look up your car’s VIN and see if it has been recalled.  So far there have been 7.8 million recalls; however, it is estimated that up to 20 million vehicles are equipped with the faulty airbags.  Even if you have not received a recall notice your car might be affected.

The vehicles being recalled are due to defective airbags that were manufactured by the Takata Corporation.  The airbags, which reside in the steering wheel or dashboard of the car, have a pressurized canister in the middle of them.  Under normal circumstances, the chemicals in this canister cause the airbag to inflate upon impact, thereby protecting the occupants from serious injury.  In the defective products, the canister itself explodes, sending metal shrapnel into the occupants of the vehicle.   So far there have been four reported deaths and multiple injuries.

You can visit the NHTSA website for the most recent list of affected vehicles.  However, according to a Honda dealer in Macon, Georgia, giving your repair center the make & model of your vehicle isn’t going to be enough to determine if your car’s airbag(s) need to be replaced.  They actually need your car’s VIN so that they can look up your specific car.

Can You Sue When You Are Hurt On The Job In Georgia?

Many people assume they are limited to whatever workers compensation pays them when they are injured on the job.  As a result, injured employees may be missing out on significant sources of compensation for their injuries and lost income.  While it is generally true that the workers compensation system limits the amount that injured employees can recover, it is extremely important for employees to know that they may be able to recover from other people or companies who cause an employee’s on-the-job injuries.

The purpose of workers’ compensation is to pay the medical bills and partial lost wages of an injured employee, and to protect the employer from being sued as a result of an employee’s injuries, regardless of who’s at fault.  But often the amount paid by the workers compensation system is not adequate to fully compensate an employee for his injuries and lost income.  So it is very important to determine if another party can be held responsible for an employee’s injuries.

An employee may be able to recover from a third party or an employer in the following situations:

  1.  If the injury was caused by a third-party, such as an outside contractor or an individual, who has no link to the company where the injured employee works, the employee may be able to recover from the third-party, but not the employer.
  2. If the injury is the result of a defective product then the employee may be able to sue the third-party manufacturer of the product that caused the injury, but not the employer.
  3. If the injury is the result of a toxic substance, you may be able to sue the third-party manufacturer of the toxic substance that caused the injury.
  4. If your employer fails to carry workers’ compensation coverage or is exempt from coverage and does not have it then you may be able to sue your employer for injuries suffered on the job.
  5. Although rare, you may be able to recover for damages from your employer if you are able to prove that your injury was the result of your employer’s willful, wanton or reckless negligence.
  6. Finally, you may be able to sue if an employer assaults an employee and the employee did not initiate the assault.

For example, I represented a man who was hurt while working on a construction site when an item fell and struck him as he was working at ground level.  He was certainly on-the-job when he was hurt. Nonetheless, we were able to successfully bring a suit against the company whose employees were careless in allowing the item to fall and strike my client.  My client did not work for that company.  So, the moral of the story is – don’t assume that when you are hurt at work, you can’t recover from the careless person or company.  Every case is different, so please speak to an attorney about your specific situation.

Don’t be Fooled by the Sound of Drowning

Soon the temperatures in Georgia will climb well into the 90s and people will flock to the nearest pool for relief from the heat.  As an adult, it’s important to know when a child or other adult is in distress in the water or drowning and needs your help.

When we think of someone drowning, we imagine the person thrashing his or her arms about screaming for help.  While that behavior is an indication that someone might be in distress, it’s not the typical sound of drowning.  In reality, drowning is nearly silent.

So why would a drowning person be silent instead of calling for help and waving their arms?  Physiologically, they are unable to do either of those things.  We all need air to be able to speak.  When we are drowning, we are unable to get the air we need to call out for help, which is why someone won’t scream for help.  We all need the ability to voluntarily control our movements in order to wave for help.  When we are drowning, we cannot voluntarily control our arm movement and therefore can’t wave for help.

So what are the signs of drowning?  One important sign is that a drowning person doesn’t look like they’re drowning.  Instead, you might notice the following:

  • When their eyes are level with and their mouth dips below the water’s surface
  • When someone appears to be extending their arms to the side or forward as though trying to lift themselves up out of the water
  • A person is upright in the water with no signs of kicking (this is a short window as he or she can only struggle for about 20-60 seconds before going under the water)
  • Hair is over the eyes or forehead
  • A person’s eyes are glassy, unable to focus, or are closed
  • When someone’s head is tilted back with the mouth open or if a child’s head falls forward

An average of 280 children under the age of 5 drown each year.  It is the No. 2 cause of accidental death in children under the age of 16.  About half of the children who drown will do so within 25 yards of a parent or other adult.

So what are some swimming safety tips?

  • As a parent, never leave a child alone in a pool, not even to go to the bathroom or answer the phone.  Make sure you are within arms length if a child us under the age of 5.  Drowning can happen in 20 to 60 seconds.
  • Do not swim alone.  Always swim with a friend.
  • Wear a life vest if you don’t know how to swim.
  • Make sure home pools and inflatable pools are safely enclosed in a locked gate.
  • Take all toys out of the pool when not in use to prevent children from reaching to get them.
  • Check pool drains and suction covers to make sure they are not missing or broken, as they can cause entrapment, which can lead to drowning.
  • Know CPR and keep a first aid kit nearby.

Remember, when people are swimming, especially children, they make noise.  If things get quiet you need to know why.  If someone appears to be quiet, unfocused or just doesn’t seem right, then ask him or her if they’re okay.  If they can easily answer yes, then they’re probably okay.  If they’re silent or can’t respond then help them immediately.   Click here to read a firsthand account of a lifeguard who saved a 9-year-old child from drowning while she was only 10 feet away from her parents, who didn’t even realize she was in distress.