Big rigs and medical marijuana are not a good mix

Driving a big rig and smoking marijuana is not only not smart, it can be deadly.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) recently issued a notice that stated emphatically that federal law prohibits the use of marijuana by truckers and that the prohibition also applies in states that allow people to use it for recreational purposes. The fact that they had to issue the notice in the first place is depressing. This should be a no-brainer. However, legally speaking, there appears to be wiggle room due to conflicting laws. In short, many states are beginning to contemplate the passage of laws allowing the use of medical marijuana. However, federal statutes against the drug’s use are still in place.

The very idea that a trucker would even contemplate smoking up and driving is distressing, but human nature being what it is, there is a likelihood of it happening, if it has not already, and chances are that it has. Contemplating an 80,000-pound semi barreling down the road being driven by an individual under the influence of marijuana is a frightening thought.

More frightening still is the need for the DOT to point blank spell out that such behavior is prohibited. In my law practice, I see the results of big rig crashes, and they are horrendous. Opening a Pandora’s Box by legally allowing smoking marijuana while driving a semi would defy all logic. Common sense may have just left the building should anyone attempt to mount such a defense.

As the DOT pointed out, state initiatives do not impact on their regulated drug testing program and they do not give permission to use Schedule I drugs, including marijuana, for any reason, which means medically recommended use will not cut the mustard as an excuse. How would this kind of a situation impact on a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death suit? Negligence is the main factor in most lawsuits and it would be absolutely beyond the pale of negligence, if a trucker smoked marijuana and then hit the road. Despite the conflicting laws, there has to be common sense at play here.

Driving while under the influence is still driving under the influence and it is an act of supreme negligence in that it may seriously maim or kill someone. If you have been in a situation like this, you need to discuss the circumstances of the case with an experience Austin injury lawyer. The buck stops in his office and if you want justice after being involved in a crash where the trucker may have been smoking up before driving, you need an Austin injury lawyer to take the case to court and obtain the proper compensation you deserve.

Posted on: May 27, 2013 | Tagged

Veterans At Higher Risk For Motor Vehicle Crashes

In an odd phenomenon, recent studies have shown that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are at a much higher risk for car wrecks than the general population.  The studies have found:

  • Veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have a 75 percent higher rate of fatal motor vehicle accidents than do civilians (with a large portion of these being from motorcycle wrecks).
  • Veterans are much more likely to be in a wreck in the six months after deployment than the six months before deployment.
  • The more combat tours the veterans had completed the higher risk that they become involved in an accident.

These numbers are startling, but there are some explanations.

Some theorize that troops come back with driving habits that help them while deployed (rushing through intersections, etc.) that help survive overseas but contribute to higher wrecks back at home.

Others theorize that post traumatic stress disorder, which is becoming all too common in returning troops, causes aggressive driving.

Personally, I wonder if there’s another explanation.  Suicide amongst veterans is the leading cause of non-battle deaths.  Social scientists have long understood that suicides dramatically increase after a highly publicized suicide.  This is known as the Werther effect.  However, not only do obvious suicides increase, but fatal car accidents and even plane accidents increase significantly after a publicized suicide.  The theory is that for many people, they do not want to have appeared to have killed themselves.  Instead, they may purposefully cause a wreck or accident so it seems that they died accidentally.

Regardless, these men and women have served us, and our military owes it to them to try and help protect them from these fatal accidents, whatever the cause.



Summer Safety Tips: Oregon Tennis Player Alex Rovello Drowns In A Cliff Jumping/Diving Accident

I was prompted to start my standard Summer Safety Tips series by hearing today’s tragic news of Alex Rovello.

Alex, a tennis player at the University of Oregon, tragically died this weekend after diving near the water fall of a popular Oregon swimming hole.

Sadly, Alex’s story is not unique.  Each year, thousands of people are injured from jumping off of cliffs or rock formations into popular swimming areas around the country.  People just don’t realize the forces involved in high jumping.

According to the US National Park Service, if you jump from 20 feet above the water, you’ll hit the water at 25 miles per hour.  The impact is severe enough to compress your spine, break bones or give you a concussion — and that’s if you enter the water properly.  If you slip or mistime your jump, it is almost like hitting concrete. If you jump from 10 feet, you can reach speeds of 17 miles per hour — fast enough to damage a car in a car wreck, and fast enough to hurt you.

But in most of our Texas lakes, rivers and creeks, there are additional risks.  With our drought and fluctuating water levels, it’s very difficult to know what hidden dangers lurk below the surface.  It’s difficult to know what rocks, stumps, or other dangerous items lurk just beneath the surface.

In many ways, I’m a bit hypocritical on this issue.  When I was a kid, my dad lived on a lake, and we were always happy to jump off small rock formations.  But doing this job, I’ve seen too many seriously injured, including a good friend of mine, trying to have a little fun.  None of that fun is worth a life-time of problems.

Employers must provide a safe workplace for employees

Safety in the workplace is a serious issue. Companies that violate the law face penalties and/or lawsuits.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is deadly serious about safety in the workplace. And despite what companies may think, they do inspect and keep track of whether or not there is compliance after an inspection. In this case, not only was there no compliance, the issues kept getting worse.

This is a Texas case involving Worldwide Oilfield Division, Inc. in Houston. It was slapped with a number of penalties for eight violations (new ones), four repeat violations and one safety violation after an October 2012 inspection. OSHA inspectors discovered workers were routinely exposed to unguarded machinery, electrical hazards and other issues at the Worldwide Oilfield Division location on Cunningham Road.

The inspection cited the facility for allowing workers to run dangerous, improperly protected equipment, putting them at high risk for amputations and other serious injuries. On re-inspection, the issues had not been fixed, resulting in a higher fine of $71,200.

Conditions noted at the facility included failing to provide the proper safety guards for a variety of machines that ran the gamut from vertical and horizontal turret lathes to band saws, and failing to ensure all panels, electrical cords and boxes were securely anchored to avoid the possibility of electrocution.

In penalizing the company, OSHA noted that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for all workers. Providing a safe workplace includes ensuring the equipment they work with is not dangerous and has the proper guard equipment in place to prevent serious accidents.

Aside from the fact this company is in direct violation of OSHA rules, they are potentially exposing themselves to a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. In the eyes of the law, if an individual is badly injured or killed while on the job, and the cause of the accident was negligence on the part of the employer, the workers have a right to worker’s compensation benefits or to sue for compensation to cover items such as medical expenses, lost wages, and medications. In this instance, the employer is negligent in not providing a secure workplace and in not addressing safety issues, even when told to do so.

If you have been in a situation like this, discuss your case with an Austin injury attorney. If you want to know what is involved in an injury case or wrongful death lawsuit, an Austin injury attorney can provide you with the answers, allowing you to make informed choices about your situation.

Brain Injury Basics: What Is Cognitive Rehab?

Cognitive problems are the most common lingering symptoms of those who have made a good recovery from a traumatic brain injury.  Fortunately, cognitive rehabilitation can at least help reduce some of these problems.

Cognitive rehabilitation is training for the brain and for the victim of a brain injury.  Depending on the extent of your brain injury, cognitive rehab can help repair your brain’s neurological connections so that you can function at a higher level, or it can train you how to function with your limitations.

Some cognitive rehabilitation processes focus on retraining your entire brain.  In these, you might undergo repeated exercises doing the same thing over and over.  While these are necessarily repetitive, they are designed to reorganize your brain’s “wiring” so that the brain is more functional across a number of different areas.

Some cognitive rehab processes focus only on certain skills that are giving you problems.  For example, if your brain injury causes you problems with drinking out of  cup, you will undergo specific training to help you re-learn how to use a cup.  Alternatively, if it is too difficult to re-learn how to use a cup, you might be trained in alternatives, such as easily using a straw.

Because attention deficit and memory issues are the two most common symptoms of brain injuries, there are a number of different cognitive therapy procedures that can be used to help you improve in these areas.  In a typical situation, you would undergo exercises designed to re-train your brain, as described earlier.  You might also receive training in how to use memory strategies, such as mnemonic training (mnemonic’s are learning/memory aids — such as the old Roy G Biv we all learned to remember that Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo and Violet were the colors of the rainbow). You would receive training to teach you how to create and use these type of memory aids in a number of different areas of your life.   Memory training might also include learning how to use external cues — things that are designed to remind you of other tasks — or learning how to use a “memory notebook” — to journal things you are supposed to remember in the future.

Fortunately, studies have shown that a holistic approach that incorporates a number of different types of cognitive rehab processes can help you improve on your brain function, though most studies show that even with the best cognitive rehabilitation, victims of traumatic brain injuries still show problems.

Unfortunately, cognitive rehabilitation is very expensive.  In a 2009 letter to the United States Congressional Budget Office officials, the president of the Brain Injury Association of America estimated that the average cost of cognitive rehabilitation was $27,000.00.

If you want to learn more about cognitive rehab, additional resources are available:



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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