Halloween Safety Tips

Halloween is a big celebration for my family.  The kids get dressed up, the cousins and aunts and uncles come over, and we all head out to go trick-or-treating.  But the fun of Halloween also brings increased risks. This year, follow these Halloween safety tips to protect your kids.

  • Go with your kids.  I know, we used to roam the neighborhoods, play in the middle of the street, etc.  But things aren’t as safe as they used to be.  Accompany your kids to keep them safe.  At a minimum, if you don’t go with them, make sure you know the route they’ll take.
  • I don’t want to be an alarmist, but go on the internet and check your local area for registered sex offenders.  Make sure your kids avoid these houses.
  • If your kids are going out with others, know what activities they’ll be attending, such as parties or school functions.  If they’re going to a friend’s home, make sure you have met their parents and have their phone numbers.
  • Make sure that your kids have safe costumes.  All costumes should be fire proof or treated with fire retardant.  If your kids are wearing a mask, make sure the eye holes fit and are large enough for good peripheral vision.
  • If you’re driving around a neighborhood, remain extra vigilant looking for kids.  Similarly, if you’re walking around a neighborhood, make sure you keep the flashlight out and that you can be seen.
  • For your own house, make sure your front porch and steps are well-lit so kids don’t get hurt coming to or going from your home.

Happy Halloween & Have Fun!


Posted on: October 31, 2013 |

ADHD adversely affects driver’s reactions

Many know that texting while driving affects a driver’s reaction time. Few think about how attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) affects drivers.

People are generally aware of the developmental disorder ADHD. They know it can make some individuals restless or hyperactive and typically includes a short attention span. In many situations, this can run from just aggravating to downright frustrating. However, when it comes to driving, the short attention span is a potential danger, since the driver is not able stay focused on driving.

Medications for those with ADHD are a blessing and may control symptoms, but perhaps not enough to ensure an ADHD driver can handle the normal distractions of driving. In fact, a recent study has revealed that with the usual distractions that come with driving, ADHD drivers demonstrated a higher degree of variable speeds and changed lanes more often than those without this condition.

The study utilized 61 adolescents between the ages of 16 and 17. Thirty-three of the participants did not have ADHD. There were three tests used to determine distraction levels: test one had zero distractions in place; test two involved having a chat on a cell phone; and test three required participants to text and drive. The findings of the study showed ADHD adolescents fared worse in their efforts to maintain a steady lane position and speed.

On the same note, those with traumatic brain injury may face a similar problem when it comes to driving as well. There is more going on, on the road, than we might think. Even if we take to heart the “Drive Safe” admonition many are sent off with when we go somewhere, we can never know what other drivers are contending with as they drive.

If you have been involved in an accident with a distracted driver, contact an experienced injury attorney for information on obtaining possible compensation for injuries you may have.

Posted on: October 28, 2013 | Tagged

Brett Favre’s Admissions Shed Light On Traumatic Brain Injuries

In an interview this week, retired NFL quarterback (and all around tough guy) Brett Favre discussed memory loss issues he’s been having since retirement.  Favre attributes these issues to potential brain injuries he suffered as a player.

Favre isn’t alone in these types of symptoms.  We’ve had the pleasure of representing a number of clients who have suffered from brain injuries.  Sadly, memory loss is a popular symptom.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the concussion issues arising in the NFL and in the military are terrible.  But they may be the best thing to happen to traumatic brain injury patients.  These stories have put a light on the issues of concussions and brain injuries, and they’re also sparking research that might help my clients and others as they seek to return to normal lives.

Another Austin Wrong-Way Driver Wreck

Last night, two people were killed in a collision when a driver was driving down Mopac the wrong way.

Just before 1:00 a.m., APD received calls of a driver driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Mopac.  The APD dispatched several police cars and even a police helicopter to try and intervene, but they couldn’t get there fast enough.  The driver of the wrong-way car, reportedly a 26 year old woman, collided head on with another vehicle near Duval Road.  The driver of the wrong-way car was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, Robert Murphy, was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, where he later passed away.

It seems like these types of wrecks — where someone is driving down a highway the wrong way — should never happen.

But they’re a lot more frequent than we’d like to think.  I’ve been writing about wrong way wrecks in Austin for at least the last four years.  And in 2010, Austin had two wrong way car wreck fatalities within a couple of weeks of one another.

Sergeant Darrell Burnham, one of the officers working the scene of this morning’s crash, said he can think of three incidents on Mopac that occurred fairly recently.

Most of these wrecks have several characteristics in common:

  • Most occur at night  (today’s occurred at 1:00 a.m.);
  • Most of the wrong way drivers are either impaired by alcohol or drugs or, to a lesser extent, are elderly drivers (alcohol is suspected in today’s wreck); and
  • Many occur on roadways with confusing entrance/exit designs.

These wrong way wrecks are particularly problematic for several reasons.  They often involve fatal or serious injuries.  Due to the nature of the wreck, most of these are head-on collisions, which bring a tremendous amount of force.

They are also hard to avoid.  When an innocent victim is traveling in the proper direction, they are usually at the mercy of the wrong way driver.  And since statistics show that wrong way drivers are often impaired, making it hard for a person traveling the proper direction to really anticipate the wrong way driver’s next move.

Finally, these wrecks are going to become an increasing problem.  They often occur on highways that have confusing entrance and exit ramps.  As Austin grows, we have more and more large highway intersections that are potentially confusing and offer opportunities for wrong way drivers to enter roads the wrong way.

For more information on wrong way drivers, you can read some of my prior posts on the problem:

You can also read the Texas Transportation Institute’s worksheet: Wrong Way Driving on Freeways in Texas:  Problems, Issues & Countermeasures.



NY Times Addresses The McDonald’s Hot Coffee Case

One of the biggest issues facing injured victims is the public perception of claimants left over from the McDonald’s Hot Coffee case.  The case has been the poster-case for lawsuit abuse, etc.

Those of us involved in the system have always known the truth:

— that Ms. Liebeck had third degree burns on her legs and groin area

–that the McDonald’s served the coffee at a temperature significantly higher than industry standard (about 30 degrees hotter than any home coffee machine can reach)

— that McDonald’s knew they served it hot and had received warnings about the danger from the temperature, to the tune of complaints from over 700 people prior to her incident

–that Stella Liebeck, the plaintiff, offered to settle the case for the cost of her medical bills, approximately $2,000

–that the actual damages awarded were under $200,o00

–that the punitive damage award, which received the bulk of the attention, was a number the jury picked because it was 2 days of coffee sales for McDonald’s, and the judge significantly reduced that amount

None of those facts were put forth in the public media — until now.

The New York Times did a wonderful video story this week that really looked into the facts.

If you have any interest in civil justice issues, I urge you to take the few minutes to watch the video here.



Posted on: October 22, 2013 | Tagged

Checking a player for concussion may not be enough

A 30-year-old football player died as a result of complications associated with degenerative brain disease.

When the nation first became aware of the issues surrounding traumatic brain injury, it was noted that is seemed to be confined to older players who had seen their fair share of bone crunching scrimmages during their career.

Then, younger players began taking their lives and a whole new can of worms opened up —- traumatic brain injury did not just affect older players, it seemed. It stalked everyone who played a contact sport, regardless of age or sex.

Recently, a 30-year-old former quarterback went missing in the woods while on a fishing trip. He was found dead, with no signs that suggested he took his own life. He had been drinking and was found lying in his own vomit. His official cause of death was pneumonia due to inhaling his body fluids.

However, the pathologist also found that chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) was a contributing cause in the former player’s death. Due to the CTE, the young man was disoriented and suffering from paranoia. The amount of alcohol found in his body was rated as negligible.

In examining the deceased’s playing history, it was discovered that during his career on the field, he had only suffered one concussion. Despite sustaining a recognizable concussion, which coaching staff felt was mild, he was put back in the game and only told to come out at halftime. Further reports showed he was also vetted by a bevy of doctors who cleared him to play in further games.

The lesson is that even “mild” concussions have the capacity to seriously affect a player. When the young man was put back into game play, with a concussion, and cleared to play more games, his fate was sealed. It is time the name of the game is safety for the player and not winning at all costs – a cost that includes the destruction of a person’s normal life due to brain injury and/or their subsequent death.

For those who participate in contact sports, you need to know that if you are not thoroughly briefed on the risks of playing and sustaining traumatic brain injury (TBI), and there was negligence present, such as being put back into the game without being pulled out immediately, you have a right to sue for compensation.

Posted on: October 15, 2013 | Tagged

Kids Safety: Kids and Sports – How much is too much?

This morning’s Austin American Statesman ran a great story entitled Kids and Sports: How much is too much?

The premise of the article, which was written by a Dallas doctor,  is that kids and parents’ increasing focus on some sports is dangerous for our kids.

There are a number of issues.  Kids now are much more likely to play one sport year-round, leading to over-use injuries.  Kids now engage in weight-training that is far superior to anything a few years ago, which leads to kids being bigger, stronger and faster, but also over-taxing their bodies, particularly their weaker growth plates.  And, the doctor argues, more and more parents and kids are trying to force themselves back into action before the kids are fully healed.

The doctor also focuses on two things that have been an emphasis for us.  One is the rise of competitive cheerleading.  The United States Sports Academy finds that cheerleading is responsible for the most catastrophic female sports injuries in the US (second only to football overall).  The USAA reports that many cheerleading injuries and falls do more damage than being tackled by a professional football player.

The second issue is the rise in head injuries.  According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half a million kids visit emergency rooms each year for traumatic brain injuries — many from sports.  The doctor said that in the week before writing the article, she had treated a volleyball player with a head injury and two dancers who sustained head injuries as a result of a head-to-head collision.

We are unwittingly hurting our kids, and that shouldn’t be acceptable.

Even worse, we may be destroying their love of the various games.  The doctor cites a study that finds that by age 13, 70 percent of kids drop out of youth sports.  As the doctor says, “What could have been a lifelong source of exercise or fun competition is discarded due to injuries, stress and burnout.”

The article hits home with me.  I have a 13 year old daughter who is passionate about her dance team, and I have a 10 year old son who loves to play baseball.  I hope to take the article to heart and make sure that we’re not making the same mistakes as others.


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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