Family of Deceased Files Wrongful Death Lawsuit after Vicodin Kills Husband

The parents of a dead man were suspicious of their daughter-in-law’s role in the sudden death of their son, so they filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

“This is an unusual case, one that captured the attention of the media for many months as the twists and turns of the story unfolded. In this reported case, the woman in question found her husband in the bedroom, and he was not breathing. EMS crews rushed him to hospital, but he was pronounced dead. The medical examiner said he’d died of a mixed drug intoxication, ruling the tragic death accidental,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.

The verdict did not sit well with the dead man’s family, and his father was immediately suspicious. He felt there was something wrong. The dead man’s family watched the widow move into a new house just after she stated she was selling because the home was too big for her. It turned out the new home was even bigger and more expensive. The family had trouble understanding how she could find the funding for a near-million dollar home.

The family spoke to a Sheriff’s Deputy about her unusual new found wealth, prompting some inquiries to the former neighbours of the deceased and his wife. What they uncovered was a shocking story in which the woman told the neighbours that she had mixed Vicodin into her husband’s drinks the evening he died, because she did not want to have intercourse with him. The sordid details did not stop there. The police report also contained information that the woman had been having an affair with a 15-year-old student.

As a result of this investigation, the dead man’s death certificate was changed from accidental to undetermined – a move that confirmed the feelings of the family that their son had been murdered. With death certificate in hand, and the rest of the details about their son’s death, the parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

“This is an interesting case from several points of view, but the most important element is the presence of negligence on the part of the wife in slipping her husband Vicodin. While it may have been done to incapacitate him for the evening, she obviously went too far. Without getting into the criminal charges here, the woman can be sued in civil court by the man’s family for the death of her husband. I’d strongly suspect they may ask for punitive damages, given the circumstances of the death and her other behaviour,” Schuelke said.

While this is a different case, the family will still need the valuable experience of a personal injury lawyer to help guide them through the justice system. They will, in all likelihood, receive a jury award for their son’s death, and while that will not bring him back, a finding for the plaintiff will hopefully prevent something similar happening to someone else.

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

Head Injuries/Brain Injuries May Lead To Dementia & Alzheimers

Several new studies being released this week find a relationship between head injuries or brain injuries and dementia or Alzheimers.  Two of the studies, release Monday, establish that brain injuries suffered by football players and by soldiers in battle likely boost the risk of dementia later in life. 

I think the use of the term “traumatic brain injury” is misleading to the public (and to many attorneys who don’t routinely handle brain injury claims).  Calling it a “traumatic brain injury” makes people think that the risk would only exist in the most serious brain injuries.   In reality, a diagnosis of concussion, post-concussion syndrome, a skull fracture, or some non-specific head injury are all considered traumatic brain injuries.  Thus, attorneys need to be looking out for these potential risks in most of our cases. 

The issue is important to our clients.  As Dr. Kristine Yaffe, head of the Memory Disorders Program at the San Francisco Veterans Association medical center (and an author of one of the recent studies) said,

This issue is very important because TBI (traumatic brain injury) is very coommon.  About 1.7 million people experience a TBI each year in the United States, primarily due to falls and car crashes.

Sadly, we’ve represented a number of people with brain injuries.  The injuries not only affect the victims, but also their spouses, children, and other loved ones  (in fact, I believe loved ones are often in a better position to help diagnose brain injuries than those actually injured).  This is just another factor that we’ll have to take into account when valuing and trying to resolve head injury claims.

If you or a loved one has suffered a head injury in a wreck or other incident, please feel free to call us at (512)476-4944.

For additional information from us on head injuries, click on the links below:

For additional information on the studies released this week, feel free to click on the links below:

State Tells Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Companies To Change Their Practices

I’ve been meaning to post on this, but haven’t had the time.

Last week, the Texas Department of Insurance issued a new bulletin telling insurance companies that many of them needed to change the way they sold uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

You can buy UM/UIM insurance that covers both bodily injury (personal injury claims) and property damage (damage to your car).  Many insurance companies were selling these coverages together — to buy one, you had to buy both.  This was a good deal for the insurance companies.  People with older cars may not need uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage for their cars, but they were being forced to buy it if they wanted to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to cover injuries. 

The new bulletin changed that.  The Department of Insurance instructed insurance companies to separate the coverages.  They are now required to allow consumers to purchase one coverage without purchasing both coverages. 

This should help a number of consumers purchase uninsured/underinsured coverage for bodily injury claims so that they’re protected in automobile collisions.

If you have questions about a potential uninsured/underinsured motorist claim, please call us at (512)476-4944.

Laws To Protect Drivers From Faulty Rental Vehicles Should Not Be Political Issue Says Austin Personal Injury Lawyer

Loopholes that kill are often found the hard way, when someone dies. That is what happened in this case.

“Two young women died in a fiery wreck in 2004. Their mother spent every day during the next five-year period in shock and grief and then, finally anger. She resolved to do something about the loophole that ended up causing her daughters to die needlessly,” said Brooks Schuelke, an Austin personal injury lawyer with Perlmutter & Schuelke, L.L.P.

Daughters Raechel, 24, and Jacqueline, 20, met their death when the car they had rented, a Chrysler PT Cruiser, crashed and burst into flames. The girls were going back home after visiting their parents. They had rented the car from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, a fact that plaintiff’s counsel pointed out was egregious, as they knew the vehicle had been recalled due to a faulty power steering hose that had the potential to start fires under the hood.

At trial, an employee of the car rental company said they routinely rented out recalled vehicles. The jury was not impressed, and found for the plaintiff in the amount of $15 million, even though defense counsel suggested the driver, Raechel, caused the accident.

Since the recent verdict, the girl’s mother teamed up with another group to lobby for a bill that would ban rental car companies from providing cars recalled for safety issues, unless they had been fixed. “This should not be a political issue, but it has all the earmarks of becoming one. The wrongful death lawsuit the mother filed was about honoring her daughters. She did not want something like this to happen to another family. The sad thing is that loopholes in the law allowed a rental car company to rent out recalled cars, knowing full well they were dangerous. Negligence? Yes,” Schuelke said.

The loophole the bill aims to close is the one that states car dealers are prohibited from selling recalled vehicles before they are fixed, but the law has no such provision that applies to rental car agencies.

“If you have any questions about a situation similar to this that you may have been in, please, give my office a call. You will most likely want to know your legal rights and how to file a lawsuit if you have a case. That’s what I am here for, and I would be pleased to talk to you,” said Schuelke, the Austin personal injury lawyer.

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

San Marcos DWI Wreck Shows The Need For Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

There was a horrific DWI accident in San Marcos Friday night.   Luis Besa, driving a Chevy pickup, rear-ended a Cadillac that was waiting to turn into a grocery store.  The Cadillac was pushed into the other lanes of traffic where it was hit by a GMC pickup and a Hummer.  The injuries were significant.  Alejandro Perez, a passenger in the Cadillac, was killed.  Alfredo Aquino, the driver of the Cadillac, was hospitalized with serious injuries.  The drivers of the GMC and the Hummer were also taken to the hospital with injuries.

These types of accidents are scary reminders about the need for uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, a type of insurance you buy on your own automobile policy to protect you and your passengers from situations where there isn’t enough available insurance to cover your injuries. 

Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage comes into play in many of our cases, but it’s especially important in cases like this one — where there are multiple vehicles involved.

When a person buys insurance, it comes with a limit — the maximum amount that the insurance company will ever have to pay.  Starting January 1, 2011, the minimum limits for policies is $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident.  The “per person” limit is the maximum amount that the insurance company can be required to pay to any one person in a collision.  The “per accident” limit is the maximum total amount that the insurance company can be required to pay to all parties involved in the wreck.

Assuming Luis Besa had a minimum limits policy, then the two people in the Cadillac and the people in the GMC and the Hummer would be limited to a total recovery of $60,000.00.  Given the injuries involved, this would clearly not be enough insurance to cover the injuries sustained in this wreck.

Hopefully, the victims had purchased uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to help cover their losses.

If you have a question about an uninsured/underinsured motorist caim, please feel free to call us at (512)476-4944.

Texting While Driving Videos

Many of us who are personal injury lawyers are on small crusades against texting while driving and distracted driving.

Earlier this month, Jon Lewis, a Birmingham, Alabama personal injury lawyer, had a good blog post on his Injuryboard blog with videos about texting while driving. If you have a few minutes, you should check out some of the videos he uncovered.

Austin Car Wrecks: APD Names 5 Most Dangerous Intersections

Yesterday, the Austin Police Department released its annual list of the 5 Most Dangerous Intersections in Austin. 

The Top (or Bottom) Five are:

  1. Koenig Lane and Airport Blvd.
  2. MoPac and Scofield Ridge
  3. Congress Avenue and Cesear Chavez
  4. Riverside and Pleasant Valley
  5. Riverside and Willow Creek

The list is a little misleading since it calculates the number of accidents at each intersection and doesn’t take into account the number of serious accidents at various intersections.  Regardless, when you’re driving in these areas, you might be well-served to pay a little more attention and watch out for others.

Here’s a story from Fox 7 News about the list:

APD Names 5 Most Dangerous Intersections: MyFoxAUSTIN.com

More on the San Marcos-New Braunfels Mares Bus Crash

Additional information is slowly being released about last week’s tragic bus crash near the San Marcos outlet malls.

As I originally predicted, it appears that the crash was caused by driver fatigue.  Police are now alleging that the driver, Jesus Basio-Ramirez, fell asleep while driving the bus. 

I am not surprised at all.  As I orginally wrote about the wreck, a majority of bus and trucking accidents are caused in part by driver fatigue.  Given the time of the wreck, there was little doubt in my mind that fatigue played a major part in the wreck. 

This is not the first problem for Mares, the company operating the charter.  The company has received a number of safety citations, including citations relating to driver fatigue issues.

The federal government places a number of limits on drivers designed to minimize fatigue risks, including requiring drivers to keep logs of their driving to show that their companies aren’t forcing them to drive excessive amounts.  Some of Mares’ previous violations are for having drivers drive longer than allowed by law and for not keeping accurate logs. 

These types of issues are not uncommon.  In investigations of bus and trucking accidents, it’s not unusual to find falsified logs or even drivers having two sets of logs so that they can drive more than allowed by law.

As I mentioned in my first post, all trucking and bus accident cases need to be properly investigated to determine if the company did anything to contribute to any fatigue issues.  This type of conduct alleged against Mares  — forcing drivers to drive excessive hours and not requiring drivers to keep accurate logs — is the type of conduct that is important to know and is typically the type of conduct that attorneys will miss if they treat these wrecks as big car accidents.

If you or a loved one is involved in a bus or trucking accident, please feel free to call us at (512)476-4944.

San Marcos – New Braunfels Bus Crash

This morning, a Mares Tours charter bus bound for Dallas rolled over on Interstate 35 between New Braunfels and San Marcos near the San Marcos outlet malls.  Early indications are that all twenty-one people are injured, with three individuals suffering life-threatening head injuries. 

While the investigation is just beginning, reports suggest the bus left the roadway and overcorrected, causing it to roll and end up on its side.

Investigation of these types of wrecks and potential claims can be complicated.  Obviously, the injured passengers have a claim against the bus company for the driver’s negligence in over-correcting. 

But the biggest mistake I see lawyers make in commercial cases, such as bus accidents or trucking cases, is treating the case like a large car wreck case.  Simply doing that fails to maximize the value of the claim and is a disservice to the injured clients.

For example, in this case, it appears that the driver left the road and over-corrected.  But it’s important to delve into the questions about why he did that.  One likely factor is fatigue.  This wreck occurred around 4:00 a.m.  It is well known (as I’ve previously written) that one of the biggest factors in trucking accidents and bus wrecks is driver fatigue.   It will be important to determine whether driver fatigue was a factor and what, if anything, the bus company did to contribute to that problem.  Did it overschedule the driver?  Did it deny the driver necessary brakes?  Did it schedule a driver that it knew might have a propensity for fatigue? 

If the driver wasn’t fatigued, was he distracted in some other manner?  Truck drivers and bus drivers, like other drivers, have a history of being distracted by texting while driving.   Additionally, many buses and trucks today are equipped with so many “gadgets” that the gadgets are themselves a distraction.   A proper investigation will look at what distractions might have contributed to the driver going off the road.

Another question will be asked about why the driver over-corrected.  Was the driver inexperienced?  Did the company fail to provide enough training for the driver?  Did the driver have a history of driving issues?

These are the types of questions that need to be answered about the company’s conduct.

Additionally, there may be a potential claim against the trucking company and perhaps even the manufacturer of the bus for not having adequate safety equipment.  For example, electronic stability control is an important feature that is used in many buses in foreign countries, but is not as prevalent here in the United States.  Electronic Stability Control (ESC)  is an electronic system that is designed to minimize the risk of roll-over accidents exactly like the one here.  Did this bus have electronic stability control?  If not, the injured victims may have additional claims against the bus company and the manufacturer for not including ESC on this particular bus.

Whatever the root causes, a key in this case will be for the victims to retain a lawyer as soon as possible to start this investigation.   You can rest assured that the bus company and its insurance company are already on the scene documenting evidence.  The longer the injured persons delay in investigating the claim, the bigger advantage the bus company will get. 

Stories about the wreck are below.  I will try and update them as time goes by.

21 injured in San Marcos bus wreck: kxan.com

 

You can contact us about bus accidents and trucking accidents  by calling us at (512)476-4944.

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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