We’re Moving

Sorry for sparse posting the last two weeks, but we’ve been swamped with trial prep  (my trial set for next Monday settled earlier this week) and an office move.

As of Monday, our new address will be:

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC

206 E 9th St., Ste. 1511

Austin, Texas 78701

We hope to get back to posting regular personal injury news once we get settled back in.

Posted on: April 29, 2011 |

Workplace Fatality May Be a Wrongful Death Stated Austin Personal Injury Lawyer

On the job accidents are virtually an everyday occurrence across the nation. This case demonstrates that personal injury accidents may happen when least expected.

The 52-year-old man involved in this accident was working on a ride at a theme park, when he fell and sustained a severe head injury. The ride in question was closed for maintenance and no one is sure what happened to cause the man to fall. First responders called for a medi-vac airlift to the nearest hospital. While the man made it to the hospital alive; he died as a result of his injuries the day after he fell.

“In any situation where someone dies while they are at work, the U.S. OSHA conducts their own investigation in tag team with the police and the employer. The major questions to be answered here are whether or not the ride the man was working on was defective, poorly maintained, whether something or someone caused the man to fall, whether he was following safe practices while working on the ride and whether or not he was issued any type of safety equipment in the first place,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.

While the answers to those and other questions will determine whether there was negligence involved, there is a family that no longer has their husband, dad, brother, son and uncle. The family may wish to file a wrongful death lawsuit to seek compensation for the loss of their loved one. Typically, when a family files a lawsuit for wrongful death, they are not doing it because they want to get even with those who caused the death. Instead, they are filing because they have economic concerns about how the family will move forward without the income the deceased provided.

“It is not an easy decision to file a wrongful death lawsuit,” Schuelke said. “In most cases, there is a tremendous sense of guilt on the part of the family. They do not want to be seen as trying to make a profit from the death of their loved one. In reality, the family may face losing their house if they do not file for compensation as a result of the death.” Economically speaking, in many cases, a wrongful death lawsuit is the only thing between a family having nothing to pay the bills and being able to move on with their lives.

“If you are in a situation like this or need advice about a recent wrongful death, I encourage you to call my office and we can discuss your case. Every state has their own rules and regulations pertaining to wrongful death, and I can outline what those are in Texas,” Schuelke said.

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

Pedestrian Killed While Crossing in a Crosswalk And Driver Fled Scene Indicated Austin Personal Injury Lawyer

You would think if you were crossing the street in a designated crosswalk area that you would be safe. Think again.

It seems no matter where one goes or what one does these days, there is a need to be alert and aware at all times, whether driving or crossing the street. Without that cautious awareness, the ultimate price may be death. That is what happened in this disturbing hit and run case.

Hit and runs are perhaps the most reprehensible of all pedestrian versus car accidents. If the victim dies, the family will have trouble filing a wrongful death lawsuit if the police are not able to track down the guilty driver. Unfortunately, that happens far more often than we would like to think. We would like to think that justice would be done in all cases of a wrong being perpetrated. That does not always happen.

In this case, a 19-year-old woman was crossing the street in a designated crosswalk area when she was hit by a new white or gray SUV. There were two witnesses at the scene who were able to tell the police that the van appeared to be new and either white or gray. They were not 100 percent certain as to the color, as the accident happened at 10:30 p.m.

The van’s driver did not stop and sped away from the area, leaving the young woman to die in the middle of the street. She was dead when the EMS crews arrived. No doubt her family will want to pursue this case with a personal injury lawyer. This wrongful death should never have happened. But for the negligence of the van driver, this young woman would still be alive today.

In wrongful death cases like this, the family will want to know what they need to do to bring their case to justice. They will want to hold someone responsible for the death of their family member so that it will not happen to someone else. Wrongful death lawsuits are rarely about getting even with the defendant. Instead, they are about the family seeking emotional, mental and financial relief to be able to move on with their lives.

Often, insurance money is an issue. Without the help of a skilled Austin personal injury lawyer, a plaintiff may not get the financial award they deserve. Do not wait too long to speak to an Austin personal injury lawyer if you have been in a similar situation. There is a statute of limitations running from the time of the accident. Ask your lawyer what that is during your first free consultation. You will leave knowing exactly what needs to be done to move forward with your life.

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

Personal Injury Cases May Also Involve Wrongful Death Says Austin Personal Injury Lawyer

Wrongful death cases may involve serious personal injuries to other victims. This case is a prime example.

“Serious personal injury cases may involve a wrongful death and vice versa,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P. “Either victim may come to you seeking help in filing a lawsuit, it is just that in one instance the claim would be for damages for personal injuries to pay medical bills, etc., and in the other, it would a claim for economic compensation for the loss or injury of a person.”

Take the example of a recent case that involved two vehicles meeting head on; one a fire truck, heading to an emergency, and the other a van, carrying disabled adults. Evidently, the fire engine was heading northeast on a local road when the van turned onto the road from a connecting avenue.

“The van apparently had a green light, but the fire engine, in full emergency response mode, had all its lights flashing and sirens blaring. It wasn’t something someone could miss. There is a full blown dispute over whether the engine stopped fully at the red light, as required by law, and then proceeded. In any event, the force of the impact critically injured two and killed one,” Schuelke said. It remains to be seen if the engine did stop and then moved forward because at the time, the intersection was clear and that the van turned in front of the engine.

Negligence is a required component of a wrongful death action and a personal injury accident. The outcome of the investigation into this accident will be of great interest to those families who have sustained the loss of a loved one and to those who have been critically injured as a result of the crash.

“Rarely, if ever, are accidents cut and dried and clear on the face of the evidence as to what happened. It generally requires a lot of investigation to sort out what happened and then put together a case that will secure the victim or their family an equitable award. This is why I strongly recommend that if you have been in an accident and sustained serious injuries or someone died, call my office for help. That is what I am here for; to make sure you get help when you need it,” Schuelke said.

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

Violent Big Rig Crash Kills Three and Injuries 17 Others

In terms of spectacular accidents, this one would be right up there. It involved two school buses and a big rig.

It was a relatively ordinary day, and the school kids on the two buses were coming back from a function they had attended at a local university. The 60 students and their two teachers did not see the accident coming, as it happened without warning.

An 18-wheeler seemingly appeared out of nowhere and sideswiped the first bus, then rammed head-on into the second bus. The debris was all over the highway and EMS crews struggled to get at least 17 students to area hospitals any way they could. Fortunately, at first blush, the students’ injuries didn’t seem to be too serious, but time would tell. Unfortunately, the two teachers and the trucker were killed on impact.

The police reports indicated that they did not know what happened to cause the semi to crash into the two school buses, but they are investigating more to find answers. They want to check the driver’s log books, the on-board computer, whether or not his cell phone was in use at the time of the accident and whether or not he was driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

While this particular accident is unique to its locale and in its circumstances, all across the nation, similar accidents happen nearly every day. When a big rig goes out of control, the results are never pretty. Often they are fatal and if by some miracle they are not, the injuries sustained by the victims are so catastrophic that they will never again been the same people they were prior to the accident.

Anyone who has survived a big rig collision and walked away to tell the tale is uncommonly lucky from the standpoint of being alive. Others feel they would rather have died in the crash than to live they way the have to live now because of their debilitating injuries. This is where a skilled and compassionate Austin personal injury lawyer is needed to pick up the pieces and move forward to court and to justice.

Severely injured victims need the skills an Austin personal injury lawyer brings to the table to help them secure a high enough damage award to be able to pay for their ongoing medical care for the rest of their lives. By the time they get to court, they will have also racked up hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills, therapy, medications, etc. Very simply, they need the jury verdict to help pay for the financial carnage their lives are in, as a result of their accident.

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

Auto Accidents: You Too Can Earn A New Job By Texting While Driving

Kudos to the Austin Police Department for a new initiative that they’re launching this week.

Between now and the end of school, the police department will place plain clothes officers around schools throughout the city to look out for drivers texting in school zones (which I hope you all know by now is illegal) and for those speeding in school zones. The plain clothes officer will then radio other officers to make the stops.

But the more innovative approach to the new initiative is that the police department will start offering alternatives to paying the fine. For example, an offender may choose to serve as a crossing guard (the new job, I referenced in the title) or make a presentation to a parent teacher organization about the dangers of distracted driving.

I don’t know what effect the initiative will have, but I’m all for the Austin Police Department doing whatever they can to protect all of our children.

Auto Accidents: A Spoof Conversation With An Adjuster

This short video has a parody of a conversation between an injured person and an Allstate insured.  While it’s a parody, there is a lot of truth to the issues raised in the video, including the attempts to blame the victim, the ridiculous mischaracterization of what the victim said, and the Allstate adjuster’s hands being tied by the Colossus computer program.

Car Wrecks: Good News And Bad News From The Legislature

Surprisingly, in the midst of the ever-looming budget battle, auto accident-related legislation has been front and center thise week.

On the safety front, Texas is one-step closer to banning texting while driving.  A proposed texting while driving ban received preliminary approval from  the house yesterday.   The ban isn’t a full ban — it would prohibit drivers from texting while driving, but it wouldn’t ban the receipt of text messages.

If you’ve read this blog at all, you know that I’m all in favor of this proposal (or a stronger one).  We have to see clients all the time that are victims of texting drivers, and I’m firm about where I stand on the issue.  To read more of my posts on texting while driving, you can click here.

On the other end of the spectrum, the House also approved a bill that would potentially allow some roads to have an 85 mile per hour speed limit.    You know, I don’t always agree with the insurance industry, but we do agree on the potential safety problems here.  From the article:

“Obviously, the two things that kill most people on our highways are speed and alcohol. Increasing it to 85, or even 75, will have a dramatic impact on the death and injury rate on those highways where it’s implemented,” said Jerry Johns, a spokesman for the Southwestern Insurance Information Service.

He said drivers already exceed 70 mph highway speed limits.

“But 85 mph is simply too fast to drive even on a flat road. Any little hitch can cause an accident at that speed. There is still traffic on those roads, and to drive 85 mph is simply ludicrous,” he said.

I don’t know what will happen with either of these bills, but I’ll try to use this blog to keep you updated on their progress.

Investigating Roll-Over Accidents

We’ve represented people in a number of roll-over accidents, and I have made several posts, many of which emphasize the undiscovered potential claims that arise in roll-over cases.

Today, my friend Steve Lombardi, a Des Moines, Iowa personal injury lawyer, has a good blog post that talks about investigating roll-over accidents

Steve’s post walks you through a number of the things that are important to many investigations (such as measurements of skid marks, speed, road condition, etc). 

The only part of Steve’s post that really isn’t applicable to Texas law is his commentary on complicity as it relates to passengers who may have been drinking with a drunk driver.  In Texas, we don’t have a complicity defense — where the passenger’s claim might be completely barred.  Instead, we have a comparative responsibility defense — where the jury is asked to give a percentage of fault to all involved (driver, passenger claimant, etc.) and then the claimant’s damages are reduced by his own percentage of fault.

Other than that, he’s spot on.

If you’ve been involved in a roll-over collision and would like some help, please call us at (512)476-4944 or submit the case using the case inquiry form on this website.

Car Wrecks: What Do You Do If The Insurance Company Won’t Tell You The Other Driver’s Policy Limits?

Every auto insurance policy has a “policy limit” — the maximum amount that the insurance company is obligated to pay regardless of the injuries you sustain in a wreck.  Currently, Texas law requires that motorists have insurance with a policy limit of at least $30,000  (this new limit applies to policies purchased after January 1, 2011; there are still some active policies out there that were purchased before then with a limit of $25,000).

When you’re involved in an auto accident, it’s important to know the other driver’s policy limit.  It affects the value of the case, whether there is enough insurance to cover your injuries, whether you need to get your own underinsured motorist insurance company involved, and much more.

Unfortunately, a number of insurance companies have made the ridiculous decision that they won’t tell victims of car wrecks the limits of the policy. 

So how do you find that out?

We have several options that we use.  Now, keep in mind that you shouldn’t take this as legal advice (and we’re not creating an attorney-client relationship here).  Because every case is different, we’ve used a number of different tactics depending on the situation.  Here are some of those:

1.  SUE THE OTHER DRIVER.  Once the lawsuit is filed, your attorney will send a request for disclosure, and when the other side responds to that request, they will have to disclose the policy limits and give your lawyer a copy of the policy.  Now you might be asking, “Isn’t that drastic just to get the policy limits?”  I don’t think so.  It’s my experience that if the insurance adjuster is already giving you a hard time about just telling you the policy limits, they’ll give you a hard time when it comes to valuing the claim.  In those cases, negotiating with the adjuster is a waste of time.  Save yourself the time and the effort, and get the lawsuit going.  This is probably the route we use 90% of the time in this situation.  (As an aside, the ability to get the limits in a lawsuit is one of the reasons this insurance company tactic drives me crazy.  They all know that the information isn’t a secret and that we can get it once a suit is filed.  Why the need to play games about it?)

2.  SEND A DEMAND FOR THE POLICY LIMITS INCLUDING A REQUEST FOR PROOF OF THE LIMITS.  For legal reasons beyond the scope of this post, when you make an offer to settle a claim for an amount within the other driver’s policy limits, it puts pressure on the insurance company to try and resolve the claim.  One way to try to smoke out the policy limits is to prepare a demand package and offer to settle for the limits if they provide proof of the limits and that the other driver is “judgment proof” — meaning they don’t have any assets that they’d be able to use to pay any judgments against them. 

3.   CONTACT THE OTHER DRIVER.  As long as the other driver isn’t represented by an attorney, you can contact the other driver.  Write them or call them and tell them that you need to know their policy limits.  You can tell them that they don’t have to disclose it to you, but that the alternative is to sue them and that once that happens their insurance company will be obgligated to disclose that information.  You can tell them you want to avoid that, but them not telling you doesn’t leave you many other alternatives.    Once they learn that, they are often willing to disclose their limits.  This is often a last resort.  You have no way to verify that the person is telling you the truth, and you don’t want to be accused of harassing the other side.  But in some instances, this is a good alternative.

4.   ASK YOUR UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED MOTORIST CARRIER IF THEY CAN REQUEST THE LIMITS.  Some insurance companies won’t tell you the limits, but they’re willing to give the same information to your insurance company.

5.  HIRE AN INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE.  There are services out there that purport to be able to find insurance policies and their limits.  In my experience, these companies have been moderately successful in finding insurance policies.  But my theory is, why pay them their fee when you can file the lawsuit for a similar amount of money and get the lawsuit process started at the same time?  But it is an option for those that don’t want to file suit.

These aren’t the only options to find the other driver’s policy limits, but they are the ones we’ve found to be most successful over the years.

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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