Are warning signs on treacherous roads enough to prevent auto accidents?

Do warning signs constitute sufficient notice of dangerous conditions for drivers?

We all see warning signs on the road every day, but do not always pay attention to what they mean. In fact, some ignore them completely —- until there is a nasty accident.

Consider the case of four teens who slammed into a tree because they did not pay attention to a warning sign about a treacherous road. It was one of those wrecks that neighbors in the area clearly heard. The sound of the impact reverberated through the night. By the time first responders and police made it to the scene, one teen was dead and three others were seriously injured. People in the immediate area were certain the driver missed the posted warning sign that there was no exit for the road they were on. It was a dead end —- straight into a copse of trees.

According to the safety agency that looks after signage for various roads within their purview, the warning sign that indicated the road was a dead end was new and highly reflective. However, they would consider adding another sign that indicated how much further someone could drive on the road before it ran out. Whether or not the addition of another sign will reduce the number of accidents is questionable, as the real issue is not so much the signs, but the ability of a driver to see and react to those signs.

Another question worth asking at a wrongful death trial would be whether or not the existing signage was sufficient to act as a warning, and whether or not it was obstructed by trees or other foliage, particularly if the weather was bad or it was late at night. This is certainly an approach a good injury attorney would use to obtain compensation for the deceased, or funds for those with injuries facing medical bills as they heal.

While a case such as this one may end up with fault being apportioned, particularly if the driver were texting or drinking, or under the influence of a drug, it still might result in some form of compensation for the family of the deceased teen and other three injured occupants of the wrecked vehicle.

Posted on: July 26, 2013 | Tagged

Parking Lot Dangers — Van Backs Over Child And Mother

One of my least favorite places to have my kids is a parking lot.  Pedestrians in parking lots are vulnerable.  Cars are coming and going, and often approaching pedestrians from behind.  Parked vehicles are backing out of spots.  Drivers are racing to find that one free spot or racing to get out of the chaos of the parking lot.  And pedestrians are caught in the middle.

And it’s worse for kids.  I constantly remind my kids that they’re short enough so that drivers backing out of spots — especially drivers in an SUV, truck or mini-van, won’t see my kids through the rear-windows and mirrors.

On Friday’s Today Show, I saw a horrific story about a man who backed out of a spot, hit a mother and child, dragged the child behind the vehicle for a few feet, and then drove off.  While it was horrific, it was a good reminder of all of the dangers we face in parking lots.

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The timing of the story is ironic.  On Monday, July 22, I’m scheduled to start a trial involving a wreck in a parking lot — a driver either wasn’t paying attention or tried to go around the pedestrian (my client) and mis-judged the distance, and the driver hit my client.

I hope all of you will take the story or perhaps my upcoming trial as reminders of the immense dangers faced in parking lots and do what you can to help alleviate those dangers.

Parents do not understand risks children are exposed to playing contact sports

Playing contact sports carries the risk of long-term brain damage. It only takes a minor concussion to affect the brain.

Reading the sports section of the paper is depressingly dismal, as lately it contains stories about well-known and respected athletes who are suffering from traumatic brain injury or have taken their own lives as a result of those injuries. It is dismal for a number of reasons: to know that these athletes played and were allowed to keep playing, despite their concussions, that traumatic brain injury was apparently common knowledge, even years ago, but nothing was done about it, and that these individuals are suffering, or committed suicide, as the result of the negligence of others.

Consider the case of Tom McHale, who played in the National Football League (NFL) from 1987 to 1995. He died of an overdose in 2008. Addicted to painkillers, he also struggled with severe depression. His autopsy showed traumatic brain injury. His wife decided to share the news of his autopsy with others in order to help them understand that those with brain injuries are experiencing neurological issues that are not their fault. This a major reason thousands of former football players, 4,200, or close to a third of the 12,000 players in the league, are suing the NFL.

The NFL thinks the cases should be within the purview of an arbitrator. Legal counsel thinks the cases need to be heard in federal court. Most of the cases argue that the NFL made a huge profit from the violence of the sport and chose to ignore the damage to players sustaining numerous hits to the head. Other evidence suggests the league deliberately hid what they knew about the science of neurological problems being linked to concussions.

One wonders what the league was hoping to accomplish when they set up a group of people to take a look at the correlation between these two issues. Their committee, launched in 1994 and called the Mild Traumatic Brain Injury committee, was led by a rheumatologist. Two things stand out about the committee, and the first was calling it “mild” traumatic brain injury, as if that somehow diminished its impact or consequences. It does not. The issue is that frequent hits to the head add up over time causing dementia and other problems. The second point is that the committee was led by a doctor with no particular experience with head injuries.

The bottom line is that whatever the judge hearing the arguments decides, the case(s) will be worth billions to both sides. There is a lot at stake. Former players that are still alive and fighting depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia, suggest the league was negligent is hustling them back into play after they suffered concussions. The few that do not currently have issues, want their health closely monitored. The defining issue in the argument as to where the cases should be heard is whether or not the player’s contracts clearly spell out that head trauma/injuries are workplace safety issues.

All in all, this is an issue that will not go away anytime soon. If you have young children who want to play contact sports, you might wish to rethink that. As it stands, no one knows the true risks and consequences our children take when playing them.

Austin Pedestrian/Bicyclist Deaths Continue At A Rapid Pace

Yesterday’s Austin American Statesman reported that Austin is on a record pace for pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. So far, 16 pedestrians and 1 bicyclist have lost their life to wrecks.  In 2012, the current record year, 26 pedestrians and 3 bicyclists were killed.

The best quote of the story was from Lt. Troy Officer, who works in the Austin Police Department vehicular homicide unit.    Lt. Officer stated:

If we had people being killed in these numbers, if we had gun violence that was taking lives like we have the vehicle violence, people would be outraged.  People should be outraged by the loss of life from these vehicles because it’s preventable.

I couldn’t agree with the officer more.  We see the tragedy caused by careless drivers on a daily basis.   I think we understand it.  But most people don’t know how significant these problems are.

I also agree with the officer that these wrecks are preventable.  I often tell my kids that the one excuse I don’t want to hear from them when something happens was, “It’s an accident.”  In most instances, it’s not an accident.  Car wrecks, pedestrian injuries and bicycle wrecks usually result from a choice.  A driver chooses to text and drive.  A driver chooses to not pay attention.  A driver chooses to not check a cross-walk or to try and beat a pedestrian through a cross-walk.  A pedestrian chooses to not cross at a cross-walk or to try and beat a car.  A driver chooses to not look for bicyclists.  A bicyclist chooses to only slow-down at a red light.

These are not accidents.  These are preventable.  And right now, with record deaths, Austinites are doing a poor job of preventing these incidents.




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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