Sean Kingston Jet Ski Accident Shows Need For Watercraft Safety

Hip hop singer Sean Kingston was seriously injured in a jet ski accident over the weekend. 

Sadly, Mr. Kingston is not alone.  Jet skis and personal watercraft are some of the most dangerous vehicles on the water. 

In Texas, the use of personal watercraft is fairly well regulated, though most users don’t seem to know about the rules in the Texas Water Safety Act. 

Some of the rules that have been highlighted by the LCRA, which controls most lakes and rivers in the Austin and Central Texas area are:

  • Children under 13 are prohibited from operating a personal watercraft unless accompanied by an adult.
  • A Texas Parks & Wildlife boater education certificate is required for boaters between 13 and 17.
  • Each person riding or being towed by a personal watercraft must be wearing a life jacket.
  • It is illegal to operate a personal watercraft between sunset and sunrise.
  • It is illegal to operate a personal watercraft within 50 feet of shoreline, structures, swimmers, or other water craft unless going at no-wake speed  (just enough to power the boat).
  • The ignition safety switch must be attached to the driver.

And perhaps the most important thing to know about personal watercraft safety is that many designs require power to steer the boat.  Typically, when you experience a potential problem (another boater, obstacle, etc), the first reaction is to let off the power and then steer.  But in poorly designed personal watercraft, letting off the power results in a loss of steering, guaranteeing a wreck.  There are a number of product defect lawsuits arising over this poor design.

So the lesson to be learned is that as you’re headed out to the lake this summer, be careful.

Posted on: May 31, 2011 |

Two Teens Dead In Mysterious Scuba Diving Accident

Tragedy randomly struck two families whose teenaged sons died at the bottom of the ocean. It is unclear what caused their deaths.

“This reported case was a great shock to the two families involved,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P. “Two young men, ages 16 and 17, went missing from their charter boat on a diving expedition. They were subsequently found at the bottom of the ocean in full cardiac arrest.”

The two were out for the day on an expedition to dive in Monterey Bay. The day started out normally enough when the two suited up to dive. It was not until the two did not return to their charter boat at the appointed time that the crew mounted an all out search for them. “Forty-five minutes later, they were located on the sand at the bottom of the ocean, brought up and taken to hospital with paramedics performing CPR all the way. Neither of them made it and were pronounced dead at the hospital shortly after arrival,” Schuelke said.

The police report was not clear on when the two young men got into trouble or what happened that caused them to lose their lives. The best estimates they could approximate indicated the two may have experienced trouble at a depth of 40 to 80 feet. Why that happened remains a mystery and there are many unanswered questions that need answers.

“For instance, did the two have defective diving gear? Non-functional hoses? Contaminated air? Or had they both descended too far too fast, and realizing they may be in trouble, started to rocket back to the surface, and experienced the bends? Only the coroner will be able to answer those questions now. Once the families know the results, they may wish to call an experienced injury lawyer and discuss their options,” Schuelke said.

Every personal injury case, such as these wrongful deaths, is different. No two cases are alike, but they may be similar similar enough to allow a lawyer to outline what may happen when a lawsuit is filed. If it is a wrongful death lawsuit, there is a different approach taken to put together a case, as opposed to a product liability or defective product lawsuit.

The circumstances of a case largely dictate what type of lawsuit may be filed, which means a case could involve two facets of law at the same time. For example, a wrongful death as the result of a defective product. “If you have experienced the loss of someone you loved as a result of an accident, make a call to an experienced Austin injury lawyer. It’s my job to explain how wrongful death cases are filed, what you may expect if we go to settlement or to court, and how long your case may take,” Schuelke said.

Wrongful death cases are filed under a specific statute, and are not the same as personal injury cases; a distinction many people do not quite understand. Hiring a skilled Austin injury lawyer will help you pursue your goal that justice is done and the award is one the plaintiff deserves.

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

Brain Injuries From Sports Are More Common Than People Think

Not only are brain injuries very common in sports, they affect nearly 765,000 young children and adults every year.

Who does not have their kids in sporting activities? It is almost an entrenched right of passage for American children and young adults. Unfortunately, playing the sports they love may also result in traumatic brain injury, typically referred to as pediatric acquired brain injury. In fact, over 80,000 young adults and children land in hospital with brain trauma every year. Sadly, more than 11,000 die each year, as well.

What will make a dent in these numbers? As simple as it may sound, one of the things, aside from education about playing safely, is only the best in head protection for all young athletes. It matters that young kids are out there playing their hearts out without the proper headgear they need to protect their skulls and brains. It matters that young adults get top-notch headgear to protect them too, because their futures may depend on it.

Acquired brain injury is the result of traumatic brain injury, and that may be caused by any trauma to the head, and that includes concussions while playing sports. Who hasn’t watched young kids get slammed into the boards playing hockey or taken down hard on the football or soccer field?

Is better headgear something on the horizon for today’s sports minded kids and young adults? Evidently it is; something that is a great relief to parents nationwide. One national sports company is making it their mission to design, develop and market high quality protective gear that actually does what it says it will.

While there are helmets and other styles of protective headgear on the market right now, there is some question as to whether or not it actually works as well as it should. With a sports company hot on the trail of making a difference to kids and young adults while they are playing sports, the playing field just may get leveled out, giving an affirmative nod to safety first and foremost.

If your child has sustained a traumatic brain injury as a result of a poorly constructed safety helmet, or was not issued protective head gear to play, make your first point of contact for legal help an Austin injury lawyer. Not only is the first meeting free, the advice you receive is priceless and may result in you winning decent compensation for your child’s traumatic brain injury.

Cases like this need the experienced guidance of an Austin injury lawyer, because they know how to present the case to the best advantage, whether in negotiations with the insurance company or in court. Think about hiring an Austin injury lawyer if your child’s life has changed dramatically as a result of a head injury.

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

Austin Police Department Is Trying To Reduce Injuries From Auto Accidents

The Austin Police Department is trying something a little new to reduce the number of injuries that Austinites suffer in car wrecks.

The police department initiated their usual Click It or  Ticket campaign to encourage motorists to use their seat belts.  But this year, they’re adding a twist:  undercover police officers are dressing as panhandlers to stand on the corner of busy intersections and look for motorists not using their seat belts.  The officer will then radio the offenders in to an officer who will catch the offender and write a ticket.

While it’s sneaky, I applaud the APD on the new plan.  Whether a person is using a seat belt can be a huge factor in determining whether the person sustains severe, life-threatening injuries in a wreck.  Frankly, we’ve all been able to watch videos of crash test dummies, and by now, we’ve been raised to wear seat  belts and there’s not much excuse for not using them.  So I’m okay with a little sneakiness to help encourage safety.

Medicare: A Personal Injury Problem Gets Worse

I’ve written before about my frustrations in dealing with Medicare.

When our clients have Medicare, we have to contact Medicare, find out the amounts they paid, and then negotiate reimbursements with them.  This is a painstaking process that involves several steps.

First, we notify Medicare that our clients are asserting personal injury claims.

Second, the MSPRC (a division of Medicare) issues a Rights and Responsibilities letter. 

Third, MSPRC starts searching Medicare claims to find claims it filed relating to our clients’ personal injury suits.

Fourth, Medicare sends a Conditional Payment Letter that identifies the claims it believes that it paid that relate to our clients’ injury claims  (in other words, it excludes payments for any care that isn’t related to the clients’ injury claims).  This letter is supposed to come within 65 days of the issuance of the Rights and Responsibilities letter.  Often, it takes longer. 

Fifth, we may have to go back and forth with Medicare asking them to remove any charges that we think are unrelated to our clients’ claims.

Sixth, we settle the case and send Medicare information regarding the settlement.

Seventy, Medicare takes that information and uses a formula to come up with a final number it believes it is due, and it issues a Demand Letter for that amount. 

 At best, it takes 6 weeks to a couple of months.  In some cases, it can take much longer. 

Today, I was looking at the MSPRC website for a form, and I come across this news:

Alert: Issuance of the Rights and Responsibilities (RAR) and Demand letters has been temporarily suspended

Issuance of the Rights and Responsibilities (“RAR”) and Demand letters has been temporarily suspended while these letters are under review. The MSPRC is still working cases, and the RAR and Demand letters will be mailed out once appropriate revisions have been made.

So as of now, Medicare has stopped the process, and it doesn’t appear that there is a way to resolve future cases.  I’m not sure how long this has been posted on their website, and I’m not sure how long it will last.  But rest assured, it will only make an already time-consuming process worse.

Traumatic Brain Injury is a Common Result in Car Crashes Says Austin Personal Injury Lawyer

Any head trauma sustained in a car accident has the potential to be devastating. Often the damage may cause life-long problems.
“One of the most common injuries sustained in car accidents is traumatic brain injury. The skull is a tough nut to crack, but the brain inside is another story. If the force applied to the head is sufficient enough, the brain inside is knocked about like peas in a tin can. The brain then slams from one side to the other, hitting the skull and bruising. This, as you may well imagine, may cause severe and permanent brain injuries,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.
In examining police reports, there is one thing that stands out, and that is that there are certain kinds of car accidents that are noted to cause brain injuries – more so than other accidents. “Accidents where the occupants of a car have been broadsided, T-boned, or hit head-on usually result in head trauma just because of the way the bodies are slammed around inside the vehicle on impact. In rear-enders, you will usually get neck and back injuries,” Schuelke said.
The first signs of brain injury generally manifest themselves in the form of dizziness and headaches. Even a mild knock on the head has been known to make someone lose their ability to concentrate. Some people will not be able to do their usual routine things and may also be plagued by memory loss and depression.
The more severe the head trauma, the more severe the condition the victim is in. “For example, brain bruising, skull fractures and nerve damage may really cause havoc for the person. They may have seizures or slip into a coma. In other words, the force of the trauma has an impact on the victim’s prognosis,” Schuelke said. “Those with severe bruising may be unable to speak or be paralyzed and will certainly be affected by their condition for the rest of their lives.”
For people who have been in accidents that have rendered them unable to cope with their lives because of traumatic brain injury, make the first call for help to a competent and experienced Austin personal injury lawyer. Cases like this need skilled legal representation, as a victim’s whole future rides on the outcome of the court case. With the aggressive representation offered by an Austin personal injury lawyer, victims may be assured that they will get the justice and compensation they deserve to be able to get on with their lives.

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

Could Legislation Help Prevent Illegal Solicitation of Personal Injury Victims?

We’re ambulance chasers — at least that’s what the public thinks.  Personal injury lawyers have a reputation for sitting around and trying to chase down injured people so we can represent them in cases.

And sadly, there’s some truth to that. 

There are a number of personal injury attorneys around the state that improperly obtain clients — either by acting themselves, using chiropractors, or using other “case runners” that contact the injured and direct them to attorneys.

But in reality, most of us oppose it and find it despicable.

In truth, Texas law and the disciplinary rules governing lawyers limit how attorneys can contact potential clients.  These are called barratry laws. But they lacked some teeth in their enforcement.  That may have changed.

Yesterday, the governor signed in a new law that adds additional penalties to the statutes limiting barratry.  Under the new statute, a lawyer who improperly solicits clients can be subject to fee forfeiture — that means that they could have to give back any fees they obtain from an improperly obtained case.  Additionally, any person that engages in barratry could be fined up to $10,000.00.  This is important because it might provide some deterrence to case runners.  Fee forfeiture is a good incentive against a lawyer, but it doesn’t do anything to dissuade case runners or chiropractors from acting improperly.  This new penalty might provide some deterrence.

There are a couple interesting things to watch with this law.  Obviously, the important thing to watch is whether it limits case running and barratry in the personal injury arena.  But a second, and perhaps more interesting question, is whether its enforcement will only be limited to the personal injury context.  While most of the anecdotal stories involve the personal injury arena, many big firms around the state use fancy monitoring software to watch and determine when potential clients are being sued.  In fact, there’s a fairly famous video where a plaintiff’s lawyer confronts Joe Nixon, a lawyer and former state legislator who was instrumental in passing tort reform litigation, for calling a potential client about hiring him  (unfortunately, the video doesn’t start until just after the alleged admission of barratry).

Texas Oil Field Accident Kills One Indicates Austin Personal Injury Lawyer

When fatal accidents happen at work, the family may want to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

The day started out like any other workday for the 44-year-old Texas oil field worker. He got to work and started getting ready to get on with his day. The man and his co-worker were working on a pipe rack late in the morning, moving drilling collars, when the pipes gave way and shifted and slipped. The 44-year-old man was trapped between the pipes and suffered injuries so severe that he died when he arrived at hospital a short time later.

The co-worker was fortunate enough to still be alive, sustaining only a leg injury. The U.S. OSHA will be investigating the scene and will likely have a list of questions they want answered about why and how the accident happened.

“They will want to know how well the pipes were secured and if they were secured properly. They will also want to know if both men were working according to safety rules and regulations and had the proper equipment with them that day. If there was negligence involved, this will also be something the investigators will want to pinpoint,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.

In Texas, even though an injured worker may sue, he may not be able to sue his employer. Under Texas law, an employee generally cannot sue his employer if the employer carries worker’s compensation insurance.

“It’s not clear in this particular case if the employer did provide workers’ compensation, but that is an issue that would need to be checked. If there was workers’ comp, this may leave a worker high and dry in terms of his or her ability to recover financial compensation for their injuries,” Schuelke said.

“If you have been in a situation like this, you will want to talk to an Austin personal injury lawyer about how to proceed. This case could be filed as a wrongful death lawsuit as opposed to a personal injury lawsuit, but you would need to know what would be involved. The law changes in this area fairly rapidly and in speaking to a competent Austin personal injury lawyer, you stand a better chance to get justice for your loss,” Schuelke said.

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

Student Suicide Results in Wrongful Death Lawsuit

This case was torture for the family, and ultimately ended in a wrongful death lawsuit.

This case involved the worst nightmare of any parent; a child committing suicide. However, this case had a further twist. The young man who took his own life was showing clear signs that he needed help, and no one at the university did anything about it. The man’s body was found on top of a campus building.

The parents in this case, shocked beyond belief and wanting to prevent what happened to their son from happening to anyone else’s child, filed a wrongful death lawsuit. The suit names the former dean of the university, the current dean and three school psychologists. It suggests they failed to help their son, when he plainly stated he wanted to die after a prior suicide attempt, just two weeks before his body was found. The suit was seeking $20 million in compensation.

The evidence included the assessments of three psychologists, who evidently had diverse opinions about the young man’s state of mind. One commented the young man displayed a normal non-depressed, reasonably positive mood. Another said he was showing signs of chronic depression, but it was not as bad as major depression. Both these assessments were made in the two weeks leading up to the young man’s death. Unfortunately, the university did not tell his parents, or have him evaluated any further. The man had told friends he was having trouble moving forward with his life after a breakup with his girlfriend.

Since the man’s death two years ago, and his family filing a wrongful death lawsuit, they have been working towards a settlement of some sort with the university rather than go to court. Many suits of this nature may be settled out of court, with the decision to move forward to litigation being held in reserve, until all other avenues have been explored. This is certainly an option a good Austin personal injury lawyer would discuss with a client in a similar situation.

It is not an easy decision to file a wrongful death lawsuit, and it often takes a long time before a case does go to court. This has to do with the complexities of filing such a suit. For instance, trying to determine the amount of compensation to seek in court is very difficult. Families may recover payment for the deceased’s medical bills and funeral and burial expenses. However, the survivors have been injured by the death of someone they loved, and this means, what would have happened in the future, needs to be taken into consideration. For this, and other reasons, hiring a skilled Austin personal injury lawyer will make this process a lot easier to handle.

In other words, damages may include, but are not limited to, an estimated sum dealing with wages the person who died would have earned, had they lived, and the pain and suffering the survivors are dealing with due to the death. Projections on the amount of money earned in the future by the deceased are usually done through expert testimony.

Waiting to file a wrongful death lawsuit is not advisable because in these kinds of lawsuits, there is a set timeframe for filing, which, if not met, means the claim is barred permanently. This time frame is set by state law and the clock starts ticking from the time of the death, in most cases. There are some states that stipulate the clock begins to run from the time the party was aware of or found out about the death. It’s important to know what the Statute of Limitations is in your state; a question you would need to ask your Austin personal injury lawyer.

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

Action Alert — Tort Reform: Stop The “Families Pay” Bill

You always have to feed the beast. 

Every legislative session the insurance industry and its lobbyists succeed in winning legislative victories that take away your rights.  And depsite these wins, they keep coming back for more.  It’s time to tell them enough — quit coming back for more.

This year, the insurance industry and its lobbyists have introduced another bill that would seek to limit your rights.  Yesterday, that bill was sent back to committee.  But today, Rick Perry acted as the insurance industry’s white knight and declared tort reform an emergency issue so the bill would get a vote tomorrow  (going ahead of much more important issues — like the budget or education). 

You won’t trust me about what I say about the bill so I’m posting a blurb from Texas Watch, one of the only advocacy groups in the state that works to make sure insurance companies don’t take advantage of their customers.  Texas Watch says:

Dangerous legislation pushed by lobbyists for polluters, insurance companies and other corporate wrongdoers is on its way to the floor of the Texas House tomorrow. The bill (HB 274) is designed to intimidate Texas families and small businesses into foregoing the legal accountability process, thus immunizing dangerous corporations when they cause needless death, injury, or financial devastation.

This legislation threatens Texans with the possibility of having to pay the bloated legal costs of big insurance companies or multinational corporations like BP or Wal-Mart. The lobbyists call this “loser pays,” but really it is “families pay” because only individuals – not corporate defendants – would be forced to pay. What’s worse is that you could see your life savings wiped out not only if you lose a valid lawsuit, but even if you just don’t win big enough. In other words, you can win… and still lose.

Florida’s experience with a similar legislation was so bad that lawmakers there repealed it just five years later. In fact, commonly known as “British Rule,” this sort of legislation was rejected by our founders more than two centuries ago because it guts individual liberties. Now, even the British themselves are considering abandoning it in favor of our American system.

If we don’t act now, this dangerous bill aimed at protecting big insurance companies and polluters at the expense of families and small businesses will become law. Tell your state representative that Texas families can’t afford HB 274.

Texas Watch has also written other articles about the bill.  They include:

Please take two minutes to contact your state representative and senator and let them know that you oppose this type of legislation.  You can find your legislators’ names and contact information here. 

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC 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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