What Can You Learn About Brain Injuries And Concussions From The NFL?

Joe Smith, a client, was injured in a wreck.  He came to me much later, and we were talking about the changes in his life after his car wreck.  He mentioned several things, including the fact that he felt like he was upset with his wife and kids all the time.  I asked if he had seen a neurologist, and when he said, “no,” I suggested he see one.

A couple of weeks later, Joe called me back and told me that the neurologist had diagnosed him with a head injury. 

This isn’t unusual.  In my experience, a head injury is the most often over-looked injury resulting from car wreck cases.

And now we can learn something about it from the NFL.  With football season fast approaching  (this is game week, after all, for all of us Texas fans), the NFL is waging a campaign against head injuries, and their poster is one of the best aids I’ve seen to help players (and other people) protect themselves by making sure that brain injuries are diagnosed and treated. 

For those of us in the personal injury business, the key part of the poster may the portion that describes symptoms.  The poster says:

Different symptoms can occur and may not show up for several hours.  Common symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Headache
  • Amnesia/difficulty remembering
  • Balance problems
  • Irritability
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Feeling sluggish, foggy or groggy
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Double/fuzzy vision
  • Slowed reaction time
  • Feeling more emotional
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Loss of consciousness

It’s important that people injured in car wrecks also look for those symptoms.  And if you find those symptoms, even if they appear mild, tell your doctor.  You can never be too careful when it comes to your brain.

Car accidents have a habit of changing people’s lives

It only takes one quick second for a car accident to happen. That second may change your life forever.

In the moment of time it takes to drop a dime, just as it leaves your fingers and before it starts its fall, a car crash can happen. It may forever alter the life you once knew. Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may now need lifetime medical care and therapy. You may not be able to work again, or not be able to return to the work you once did. These are things you need to discuss with your Austin personal injury attorney.

If you’re lucky, you may retrain for another occupation. In the meantime, you will have enormous medical bills and no income. Worse, if the person that hit you isn’t insured or doesn’t have enough insurance, you may be stuck paying the expenses on your own. If you’ve sustained traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injuries or other catastrophic injuries, your medical bills are likely to cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Few people have that kind of money laying around. Even if you have health insurance, often the co-payments and deductibles are out of your reach.

Did you know that the Texas Department of Transportation released statistics on auto crashes that showed that one person is hurt in a car wreck every 1 minute and 58 seconds? That’s a pretty high ratio. Add to this that there are at least 4 million uninsured drivers in the state and your chances of getting hit by one of them just went up exponentially. We tend to see a fair number of car crashes in our office, and many have involved uninsured and underinsured drivers. There are ways to deal with this. That’s our job as your Austin personal injury attorney.

The unsettling reality of being hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver, or if you don’t have insurance yourself, is that you will have severe difficulty covering your medical expenses. This may mean resorting to your savings, if you have any, and possibly filing for bankruptcy. Unfortunately, nearly 50 percent of all the bankruptcies filed by Americans today are as the result of medical indebtedness.

What can you do to avoid a grim situation like this? Make sure you have car insurance, and enough of it, so that if you are ever in an accident that does result in debilitating injuries, you will be adequately covered. The law in Texas is that every driver must carry liability insurance. That means it only covers property damage and the medical bills you may cause to others. You need to discuss this with an insurance agent to learn how uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance and personal injury protection insurance are necessary to protect you. In today’s world, the higher your protection, the better it is if you are badly hurt.

Better you know what you can do to avoid medical bankruptcy now than find out later in discussions with an Austin personal injury attorney that it’s going to be a tough battle to get compensation.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

What Is My Car Worth?

Today is the second part of our video series related to car wreck property damage claims.

When negotiating with the insurance company, it’s important to know the value of your car. In today’s short video, I discuss how you can learn what your car is worth.

What Is My Car Worth? from brooks schuelke on Vimeo.

And just know that this information is based on Texas law.  If you want more specific information, talk to a lawyer in your state.  If you don’t know a lawyer in your state, feel free to call me, and I’ll try to help you find names of lawyers in your state.

Posted on: |

Why Won’t The Insurance Company Pay For My Car Damage?

We’re starting something new today because car wreck property damage claims seem to be an increasing problem and concern.  Generally, the property damage claims — the claims relating to your car damage — are easy to resolve.  But recently, I’ve had to file lawsuits in a couple of cases over property damage, and I’ve also received an increasing number of calls from potential clients worried about how they’re being treated in their property damage claims.

Because of this, I’m starting a new series of blog posts trying to answer basic questions about property damage claims.  I’m also going to be doing it a little differently because I’m going to do them as short videos.  I hope you find the series helpful.  (And please be forgiving.  I’m not Martin Scorsese; this is new to me.)  If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions for the series, please let me know.

So, here’s the first in the series:  Why Won’t The Insurance Company Pay My Property Damage  Claim?  (and depending on your set-up, you might need to give it a few seconds to buffer).

Why isn’t the insurance company paying for the damage to my car?

The short answer is, because they’re an insurance company.

That’s not to be flippant, but it’s the truth. If you were making a claim against another driver’s insurance company, that insurance company doesn’t owe any duties to you.

What it does want to do is maximize it’s profits, and a way it will do that is to try and minimize what they pay out in claims.

Now theoretically, if you’re making a claim on your own insurance company, your insurance company does owe duties to you. But it is all too common to find adjusters looking out, not for your interests, but for the interests of the company. So in the process, no matter how nice the adjuster seems to be keep in mind that you’re the one responsible for looking out for your own interests. And part of that is doing what you’re doing now:  becoming informed.  Keep checking around the internet, looking for advice, and talking to others.

The information in this series is based on generalities of Texas law.  If you need specific information or help finding a lawyer in your state, feel free to call me.

Can Facebook, Twitter or Other Social Media Sites Hurt Your Personal Injury Claim?

  Can Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites hurt your personal injury claim? 

You bet.

I’ve long posted on this site that I think it’s critical that injured persons hire lawyers that belong to the Texas Trial Lawyer’s Association, a group of plaintiff’s lawyers around the state that share work and ideas to help each other out.

But we’re not the only ones that do this.  Insurance defense lawyers have a similar organization called the Defense Research Institute, which publishes a newsletter called, “The Voice.”  An article in the June 9 issue was “Discovery of Social Networks: Getting It, Getting the Most Out of It, and Getting It Into Evidence.” 

I’m not going to talk about the substance of the article, but suffice it to say that the insurance companies and defense bar are well aware of the potential gold nuggets that they might find on claimants’ social media accounts.

So if you’re injured and engaging in social media, be smart.  Look at each post through the eyes of the jury, because eventually, they may be the ones judging you.

Posted on: August 25, 2010 |

The scene of a trucking accident must be preserved

The evidence at the scene of a trucking accident is vital. It speaks to who is liable when the case goes to court.

Within minutes after a trucking accident, police, investigators, company lawyers and medical personnel arrive to do their part in picking up the pieces; to figure out who was liable for the crash and therefore, liable to pay damages. While that may sound easy, it’s not. There may be criminal charges and/or a civil lawsuit that arises from the accident. Typically, the evidence that is most telling is the amount of property damage involved, what kinds of injuries the victims sustained and other information about the trucker and the company that hired him or her.

Think the evidence might not be enough to prove fault or to figure out what happened? Think again. There are usually police or independent accident reconstructionists whose sole expertise is piecing together the aftermath of a wreck. They can tell with amazing accuracy what happened, despite what the parties may recall – intentionally or unintentionally.

While the professionals do their job, it’s just as important for you to have someone record the details of the crash. This would include photos of the damage, the actual scene, tracking down witnesses and other details. This is what an Austin accident lawyer does; preserves the vital evidence that will be needed in court later, or in the alternative, used for settlement negotiations.

When building a case to take to verdict, part of that case will involve detailed photos of the scene, including truck signage, the surrounding area, location of traffic lights, if applicable, location of any other vehicles involved, skid marks and debris. Other items needed would be the weather conditions on the day the accident happened, any line-of-sight obstructions and the police report, videos and photos.

Attention to detail in a trucking accident case is the hallmark of a tenacious and well-seasoned Austin accident lawyer. They immediately line up an expert to inspect the truck involved in the crash, obtain the truck’s black box to get information on the speed the truck was going before the accident and the prevailing road conditions. Don’t wait too long to call an Austin accident lawyer, because in cases like this, they need to move fast.

Many people don’t realize that it’s not just evidence from the scene that is crucial to their case. Evidence collected from the trucking company is another important part of the whole picture. Your lawyer will need information on the driver’s qualifications, hours of service, results of drug and alcohol testing performed after the wreck, information on how the company handles hazardous materials, depositions from company personnel and the trucker involved in the accident and all records relating to truck maintenance, trip inspection reports, trucker log book, and more. Federal law allows trucking companies to discard some of this information as soon as six months after a wreck, so hiring a lawyer quickly is imperative. No stone is left unturned for evidence to help the plaintiff secure a fair and equitable settlement.

Brooks Schuelke is an <a href=”http://www.civtrial.com/Austin-personal-injury-lawyers/“>Austin personal injury attorney</a> with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an <a href=”http://www.civtrial.com“>Austin injury lawyer</a> at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Legal Malpractice Is Serious Business

When lawyers make mistakes, this is called legal malpractice. It’s their duty to serve their clients ethically.

Lawyers owe their clients a certain level expertise, a duty, to provide ethical, professional and competent legal services. From time to time, a lawyer may breach these duties and harm a client. Actions that breach the duties owed to clients may fall into a variety of areas that include violations of the professional standard of care or disciplinary rules, or a violation of civil or even criminal statutes. This kind of conduct, if indeed proven, may end up with the attorney paying damages, forfeiting fees and disqualification and/or a loss of their license to practice. Legal malpractice is serious business.

The fact that lawyers have many years of training to become experts in the law and that they have graduated with a degree and have set up a practice, means they are representing themselves to their clients that they have the skills, the know-how, learning and ability to competently practice law. In that representation it is implied that they will apply due care and diligence when using their knowledge to handle client’s legal matters.

“Generally speaking, the most common claim brought against lawyers is negligence. To file a negligence claim against an attorney there needs to be several elements present: that the lawyer owed a duty of care to the plaintiff; that the attorney breached that duty; that the breach of duty caused the plaintiff harm and that damages are owed for the injury,” outlined Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. “You should also be aware that lawyers don’t normally owe the duty of care to third parties, though that area of the law is changing rapidly,” he added.

In Texas, the Pattern Jury Charges says that professional negligence is the “failure to use ordinary care, that is, failing to do that which an attorney of ordinary prudence would have done under the same or similar circumstances or doing that which an attorney of ordinary prudence would not have done under the same or similar circumstances.” In order to try a case like this, the proof of the standard of care and the breach of it usually requires the expert testimony of an attorney.

Another common area of legal malpractice is called breach of fiduciary duty. Lawyers are classified as fiduciaries and that means they owe their clients supreme loyalty and must tell them everything that is going on with their case. This isn’t something they do to please their clients; it’s a “must do” duty that involves good faith and dealing fairly with integrity. Put another way, lawyers must place the interests of their clients above all others and if they don’t fully disclose what is going on, this amounts to concealment.

“Some of the fiduciary duties a lawyer has are the duties to avoid conflicts of interest, keep client communications in confidence, reveal all material information to the client, follow all instructions the client issues and not get mixed up in activities that would adversely affect the client. In breach of fiduciary duty cases, the burden of the proof is on the lawyer to prove that the lawyer complied with the duties,” remarked Schuelke.

“If you feel you have been a victim of legal malpractice, seek legal counsel immediately and discuss the case with an attorney who has experience in this area of the law. This is serious business and you deserve unimpeachable representation. If you have any questions, call me,” Schuelke suggested.

Contact Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC at http://www.civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

What State Is Succeeding In Reducing Trucking Accidents?

Kudos to public safety officials in Massachusetts for their hard work in reducing trucking accidents.

Three of the biggest safety hazards presented by the trucking industry are (1) too heavy of loads — which makes it more difficult to safely control the trucks; (2) improperly maintained vehicles; and (3) truckers driving beyond the allowed number of hours.

Police officers have long known that face inherent problems in trying to remedy these issues.

A story in yesterday’s Boston Globe talked about the problems and some of the measures that Massachusetts is taking to improve safety.

When talking about the problem, the story noted:

When a station is operating — we’ve all seen those illuminated open and closed signs — vehicles that meet the criteria must pull over or face a $500 fine. Theoretically, police just open shop and let violators come to them.

In reality, it doesn’t work that way. The moment a weigh station opens, truckers are on their CB radios spreading the news. Drivers with no alternative may pull over until the “closed’’ sign lights up. A company might even delay shipments to avoid inspections.

“It becomes a game of cat and mouse,’’ says Sergeant Peter Littlefield, head of truck enforcement at the State Police barracks in Concord. “A lot of the guys you get are the good guys. The bad guys go around you.’’

The story also pointed out:

Federal law prohibits truckers from driving more than 11 straight hours, but drivers frequently lie about shifts in order to make more money, police say.

But Massachusetts is fighting back.  Instead of the standard weigh stations, the state police have started using portable weigh stations that they can set up at known problem areas or at random points along the road.  And when they do it, they take the enforcement seriously.

The program seems to be working.  The number of fatal trucking accidents has decreased by 20 percent in recent years so that Massachusetts now has the lowest fatality rate in the country for accidents involving commercial vehicles.

Maybe we could use a little of that program in Texas?

Sioux City Sewer Workers — Another Example of The Dangers Of Working In Confined Spaces

What is the most dangerous part of most construction jobs?

Working in confined spaces.

Confined spaces present a number of dangers, including risks of fire, risks of suffocation, and risk of collapse (particularly in trenching situations).  These types of injuries become all too frequent when employers try to cut corners on safety rules.

Recently, a tragedy in Sioux City, Iowa really brought those dangers to light.  Several workers in North Sioux City were working to unclog a sewer line when the men were overcome by sewer gas, resulting in the death of two of the workers.  As is often the case in these types of tragedies, the early reports indicate that safety rules were being ignored, leading to the risks.  OSHA and IOSH (Iowa’s equivalent of OSHA) will be investigating  the confined space issues.

Most in the construction industry know the risks associated with working in confined spaces, and there are a number of regulations and safety rules designed to make these situations as safe as possible.  If these rules are followed, these types of deaths don’t have to happen. And yet, they do.  Instead of trying to figure out ways to cut corners, Texas construction companies would do well to take a minute and look at the Iowa situation to see what we can learn from that tragedy.

My friend Steve Lombardi, of the Lombardi Law Firm in Des Moines, is doing a good job of covering the story.  If you’re interested in learning more, check out his blog.  You can also check out the following:

Filing Personal Injury Accident Claims Requires Legal Assistance

A person filing a personal injury claim really needs the expertise of an attorney. This will ensure a fair settlement.

Those who have been hurt in an accident have a variety of options to seek recompense for their injuries. The most frequently pursued avenue is filing a personal injury lawsuit asking for damages for their pain and suffering and even loss of wages from being off work. Filing claims needs to be done just the right way, or there is a real risk that the settlement offer will not be fair.

“Personal injury accident claims really do need to be filed by an experienced attorney, even if you think hiring one may be too expensive. Those that try handling claims on their own have not been terribly successful in obtaining a fair settlement, simply because the insurance companies will aim to keep the settlement low and/or deny it. Insurance companies are not your friends, and don’t make the mistake of chatting to them like they were. Anything you say to them may come back later in a manner that will surprise you,” explained Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC.

One thing that people need to remember about personal injury litigation is that attorneys tend to work on a contingency fee basis, which in a nutshell means if they win the case, they take a percentage of the settlement. If they lose the case, the plaintiff usually pays nothing, although some attorneys do bill for paperwork, photocopying, etc.

“The biggest advantage a car wreck victim has in hiring an Austin personal injury lawyer to handle their case, is the fact that the attorneys deal with the insurance company. The attorney knows precisely what to do and what say to get them to do right by you and your claim. That is why their experience is so invaluable when it comes to netting you a fair settlement,” added Schuelke.

“For those who are contemplating doing a claim on their own, if your injuries only seem to be minor and you settle for a low amount because that is all you think you will need, don’t be surprised if that minor neck injury turns out to be serious whiplash and disables you from working for a few months. If you have already settled your claim, you can’t reopen it and do it over. That means having to pay for any further expenses out of your own pocket,” Schuelke advised.

If that kind of scenario does happen, there has been no money saved by not hiring an attorney. In fact, there may be “more” spent on paying for extra medical bills; bills that could have been paid for with a fair and equitable settlement. Most injured people have no idea how to assess an injury’s economic worth. If they underestimate it or ignore it, they have potentially cheated themselves out of a lot of money and opened the door to physical problems down the road.

“You really should know that insurance companies will often send out adjusters who will swoop in and try to get you to settle early and settle low. They do this before you know the true extent of your injuries and know what legal rights you have. Unfortunately, many adjusters don’t explain the nature of the settlement they’re advocating the victim sign, and they are known to make misrepresentations about the victim being able to bring future claims,” clarified Austin personal injury lawyer Schuelke.

Contact Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC at http://www.civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Schuelke Law maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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