Wrongful Death Lawsuit Results in Large Settlement out of Court, Due to Employer Negligence

Although this workplace lawsuit happened in Philadelphia, it could just as easily happen in Austin, Texas, the state with the highest number of on-the-job injuries and deaths.

This was a wrongful-death lawsuit that arose after the death of a Philadelphia man while on a jobsite. The $17 million settlement involved the wife of the deceased worker, a father of five, killed in 2011 when a 300-pound iron hook fell on him, instantly crushing his body.

Adam Nowak had gone to work in the morning, figuring he would be home later. His family never saw him alive again. Nowak’s death was ostensibly caused by the negligent maintenance of an industrial crane that held the large hook that fell on him.

Evidence relating to the case demonstrated that the accident was not the result of a moment of inattention by the crane operator. Instead, safety records showed a history of the company not inspecting its cranes. This meant the accident was not an unforeseeable event, but instead, one that was predictable—even more so when it was also revealed the company had a similar accident in 2004 when they were told to upgrade safety limit switches. The company did not upgrade the switches.
This is consistent with many construction accident cases. Tragedies rarely happen because of one sudden event. They usually happen because the contractors involved ignore safety rules and regulations, including their own policies and procedures, and knowingly make workers take shortcuts. Construction accidents aren’t usually sudden events; they’re usually the result of long-term problems.

This case did not make it to court, as the company, Veolia Energy’s Schuylkill Steam Plant, opted to settle out of court, a step usually taken if the defendant feels their case is not strong enough to withstand the scrutiny of a jury at trial. The company and crane operator paid $15 million, and the firm contracted to repair and inspect the crane paid $1.5 million, while the general contractor for the jobsite paid $550,000.

But for the negligence of the worker’s employer, he would still be alive today.

If you have been injured on the job, make contact with a knowledgeable Austin workplace injury lawyer. Each state has its own set of rules relating to injuries on the job, and you need to know how your situation may be addressed in terms of legal compensation for any injuries sustained.

Austin Police Chief Recognizes Austin’s Drunk Driving Problem

Austin has had a rash of drunk driving injuries in the last several months, including the huge SXSW wreck.

After Kelly Noel, a local popular blogger, was killed by a drunk driver this weekend, Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo is calling for a summit on drunk driving issues.  The article noted that fifty-five percent of Austin’s traffic fatalities this year involved drivers who were impaired by alcohol or drugs.

I don’t know whether a summit is the answer.  But I am encouraged by the discussion. Like alcoholism, recognizing you have a problem might be the first step in treating it.

Unfortunately, this larger problem only reflects what we’re seeing in our firm.  Over the last couple of years, we have been helping more and more clients who are being seriously injured by drunk drivers.  And while most of these cases have been late night wrecks, it seems there are more and more happening during the day.

This might be better for another article, but if you or a loved one has been injured by a drunk driver, and you’re looking for a lawyer to help, make sure the lawyer has ample experience in representing victims of DWI or DUI.  Most lawyers treat these as run of the mill car wreck cases.  But they aren’t.  There are a number of important steps and tactics that good attorneys utilize to help increase the value of your case.  Make sure you have a lawyer who can adequately represent you and your interests.

Head Injuries, Concussions and ImPACT

The human brainI’ve had the pleasure of helping those who have suffered from head injuries for almost twenty years now.

But my perspective on these things changed about six weeks ago.  At that time, my son was playing baseball, fell and hit his head, and he sustained a concussion.

Naturally, because of my experience in head injury cases, I panicked and feared the worst.

Once we took him to the hospital and had him undergo a CT scan to rule out a hidden brain bleed, my fears were reduced.  At that time, he had some headaches, a little bit of dizziness when standing up, and a little bit of nausea.  I knew from my experience that, once the brain bleed was ruled out, he’d likely be fine with a little (or a lot) of rest and time as long as he didn’t sustain a second concussion before his brain healed (second-impact syndrome – problems caused when a person has a second concussion before being healed from an initial concussion – can be catastrophic).

But then, we were faced with the harder question, “How do we know when he’s better?  When is it okay to let him start participating in activities again?  He looks fine, he isn’t having symptoms, but how do we know his brain is actually healed?”

Going through his treatment, we learned about ImPACT testing.  ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) is a widely-used and scientifically validated computerized concussion evaluation system.  This test measures cognitive abilities and  cognitive processing of participants.  When people take the test after a concussion, it can help medical providers make a determination of when the injured brain is healed.

But the key is having a baseline —- knowing what your cognitive abilities and processing are BEFORE you sustain a concussion.  That way, doctors know whether you’re scoring as well as you did before you had the brain injury.

In our case, we didn’t know about the test before my son’s accident, and we didn’t have a baseline.  My son’s medical providers were able to take his test scores and compare them to averages, but they weren’t able to definitively tell us if his brain was able to think and process as well as it did before the concussion.

But that’s a problem.  And it’s why the NFL, MLB, NHL, NASCAR and many universities and school districts require their athletes to have a baseline ImPACT test and score before the athletes are allowed to participate in those sports.

Having gone through this, I think more parents need to know about it.  If you or your child participate in sports, dance, cheer or other athletic activities, I urge you to have your child take the baseline test sooner rather than later.  The baseline test is relatively inexpensive.  I know that the specialist who treated my son offer the pre-concussion testing for $20.  This testing cane be done online, at home.  This is a small price to pay to help protect your kids.

If you want to learn more or find someone in your area who can administer a baseline test,  visit the ImPACT website at  www.impacttest.com.

Austin Accidents on the Rise Due to Construction and Inattention to Speed Limits

Austin is a busy city, rapidly expanding to greet new people. As the population grows, the number of traffic accidents increases.

The increasing number of accidents in Austin is related to the number of construction sites now actively expanding various highways, such as the project to add an express lane on MoPac. Ever since construction began, car crashes started to happen with alarming regularity.

The Austin Police Department (APD) is warning people that travel in a construction zone is at 55 mph, and not the usually posted speed, 65 mph. Be aware of any construction zones before leaving for work and watch the traffic ahead on the road. If it is moving slowly, there is usually a good reason.

MoPac is generally the one highway where people tend to put on an extra burst of cruise speed, over and above the posted limit. This tendency has resulted in a number of relatively serious crashes. Any interstate traffic is slowed down by construction reasons: There is no shoulder in a construction zone, and the speed limit is substantially lower. No shoulder means drivers have no place to go when they find themselves needing to slam on the brakes at the last minute to attempt to avoid a collision.

The $200 million expansion project, while a welcome change for harried drivers, has resulted in more people not paying attention to posted warnings relating to the construction. Drivers who do not pay attention to what they are doing while driving, whether that relates to texting while driving, or driving while distracted in other ways, are negligent. It is their duty to drive with due care and attention to everything going on around them. The minute their attention lapses, the chances of a serious or fatal accident goes up exponentially.

Even though police are stationed on MoPac, speeding is still an issue. At some point, the department plans to stop giving out warnings and start handing out tickets.

If you have been involved in a traffic accident as the result of another driver’s negligence, you may be able to obtain compensation for your injuries and losses. To initiate a personal injury lawsuit, you need to consult with an experienced Austin injury lawyer.

Posted on: April 23, 2014 | Tagged

Where Are Most Of Austin’s Bicycle Wrecks?

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab have used all that MIT brainpower to put together an interactive map showing Austin’s bike wrecks.

Using data from the Texas Department of Transportation, they’ve mapped over 1,400 wrecks to come up with this map.  Not only does the map show the location for the wrecks, but it also provides statistics on what roads have the most wrecks, and it allows you to see the Google Street View shot for each wreck location.

So what streets are most dangerous for Austin cyclists:  Guadalupe Street, South Congress Avenue, IH 35, North Lamar, South First Street, and East Riverside Drive.

Insure.com’s Rating of Best Auto Insurance Companies

This week, Insure.com, the self-proclaimed independent consumer insurance website, released its list of Best Insurance Companies based on customer satisfaction rankings.  The company surveyed 3,835 customers of 15 large insurers in auto, home, and health insurance, and 14 in life insurance.

The survey asked about:

  1. customer service
  2. claims satisfaction
  3. value for price paid
  4. percent who plan to renew
  5. percent who would recommend the company

Based on their responses, the top auto insurance companies were:

  1. USAA
  2. State Farm
  3. Farmers
  4. GEICO
  5. Auto Club of Southern California
  6. Nationwide
  7. Liberty Mutual
  8. Allstate
  9. American Family
  10. The Hartford
  11. Erie Insurance Group
  12. Progressive
  13. MetLife
  14. Travelers
  15. Mercury General

It’s important to note, having sued drivers covered by most of these companies, I would have a different ranking.  My ranking would largely be focused on what company is most reasonable in willing to admit when their drivers caused a problem, and who are willing to protect their customers by making fair settlement offers when their customers do something wrong.

Using my criteria, I’d put USAA, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, and Hartford in a top group.  I’d put MetLife, Nationwide, Travelers and State Farm in a middle group.  I’d put Farmers, Allstate, Progressive, and Mercury in a bottom group.

My criteria is certainly different than that used in the survey, but I also think it’s an important perspective when you’re buying insurance.  Heaven forbid, if you do cause a wreck, you want to make sure your company protects you.  When the company doesn’t offer enough and forces a lawsuit to be filed against you, then that’s likely the insurance company not doing its job.

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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