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.

Another Dog Attack

Today, there was another horrific dog bite attack.  This time, the dog attack happened in League City, when Chelsi Camp and her two year old daughter were attacked by a pit bull owned by Ms. Camp’s boyfriend.

This is another reminder that these types of cases are terrible.  The injuries are often severe, and these types of attacks can traumatize someone, especially a child, for a lifetime.

These types of cases also have legal misconceptions.  Most people believe that there is a “one free bite” rule — that a dog must have made a prior attack before the owner can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog.  This is a misconception.  Instead, the owner of a dog may be liable for injuries caused by the dog if the owner knows the dog has dangerous propensities.  That knowledge can be proven by showing prior attacks by the dog, but that knowledge can also be proven through other means.  For example, you can argue dangerous propensities by showing the dog had a history of barking at kids, jumping on people, barking at the gate when people walk by, etc.  You can also prove dangerous propensities by simply showing the type of dog.  In the instance above, the dog involved was a pit bull.  A lawyer could argue that the owner knew the dog had dangerous propensities because pit bulls are known to be a dangerous breed of dogs.

That’s not to say these cases are easy.  There are a number of complicated factors.  First, you need to know whether insurance is available.  If the dog owner is a homeowner, then the owner will usually have homeowner’s insurance that will typically cover your claim.

If the dog owner rents his house or apartment, that’s more difficult.  If the dog owner has renter’s insurance, the liability component of the insurance will likely cover your claim.  But if the dog owner doesn’t have renter’s insurance, then the claim becomes more tricky.  At that point, you may be left with only making a claim against the owner of the home or apartment.  It’s possible to make these claims, but it is much more difficult to sue the owner directly.

You may also be able to sue the person in charge of the dog.  In this instance, Ms. Camp was petsitting for her boyfriend, and she failed to control the dog, leading to the attack.  This could be an unusual situation where an attorney ad litem appointed to represent Ms. Camp’s child could file suit against Ms. Camp for Ms. Camp’s negligent conduct in failing to properly handle the dog.

As you can see, these cases are complicated.  If you ever find yourself in need of an attorney in these types of cases, make sure you call us or another firm that has handled serious dog bite cases.

New Research Combats Linear and Rotational Forces with Contact Athletic Helmets

Hits to the head can cause traumatic brain injuries (TBI). Such hits are extremely common in many contact sports, including football, placing the risks involved in play under close scrutiny in recent years.

Not many think about the consequences of head injuries on the field. Many are more interested in who was tackled and what the score is, even if there was headbutting along the way. Unfortunately, this lack of concern extends to current equipment design: football helmets are not sufficiently constructed to prevent traumatic brain injuries.

Currently, TBI occurs 1.7 million times per year in the U.S., and roughly 20 percent of cases are the direct result of athletic activity. Many of these head injuries also include concussions, a precursor to long-term brain damage. Thankfully, researchers are now examining standards for a better, safer helmet — one that can withstand both linear and rotational force, the two types of dynamic forces players experience during a football game.

Existing football helmets are designed to withstand linear force, but they neglect the impact rotational force can have. Linear hits are direct, centered, frontal hits that push the head straight backwards. Helmets can blunt linear force effects to a certain extent, but they do not accommodate for rotational hits, known to cause about 40 percent of today’s sporting head injuries.

Rotational hits happen because of the round shape of a helmet. Some frontal hits bounce off the helmet’s crown. Typically, those hits slide to the side with a shearing motion, shaking the brain in the process. This phenomenon may even occur after low-impact hits. A combination of these two types of hits can cause serious head injuries and long-term cognitive problems.

Researchers in Florida are hoping to create a helmet that offers two kinds of protective chambers to cushion the skull and help the brain remain stable when hit. The proposed design layers non-Newtonian and Newtonian fluids. Non-Newtonian fluids are typically gels. Newtonian fluids include air and water. Ideally, the two layers would work together to offer protective padding and to reduce impacts to the head by absorbing the energy of a hit and distributing it evenly across the helmet’s surface.

It’s a unique concept. One layer receives the force of a hit, which compresses the fluid in that layer. Because of that layer’s compression, the fluid expands through a tube to the next layer, which acts to neutralize the force. Once pressure is removed, the protective chambers rebound to their original states (meaning, among other things, that the helmets could be used repeatedly). The new design is effective in the lab, but wider testing needs to be performed in partnership with companies interested in producing the helmets.

These helmets may also have applications for athletes in other sports, firefighters, construction workers, motorcyclists, cyclists, skateboarders and soldiers. They should be as effective for children as for adults. The protective layers are designed to be inexpensive, and they may be produced to retrofit existing helmets.

These safety developments are exciting, especially when one considers that in 2013, NFL penalty statistics reveal that each football player sustained at least one illegal hit to the neck or head in virtually every game.

Wrongful Death Lawsuit Alleges That Police Shot Handcuffed Suspect in Chest

Allegedly, Brooklyn police shot and killed a handcuffed man in August 2013. A grand jury has declined to file charges against the police officer who allegedly shot the man, but his mother has now filed a wrongful death lawsuit.
At the time the 24-year-old man was shot, he was wanted by police for kidnapping. The suspect was halted at a traffic stop and placed under arrest before he was shot in the chest. The details of this case are hotly disputed, and the wrongful death lawsuit will be heading to court within the year.

The defendant’s attorney has suggested that the man tried to fight off two officers during arrest. During the course of that struggle, he allegedly took possession of one of their Tasers and attempted to take a firearm. The man was facing more than six possible years in prison for kidnapping and was actively resisting arrest; according to the defense, police acted within their scope of authority to protect themselves from a perceived life-threatening attack.

The plaintiff, the man’s mother, does not believe that her son resisted arrest inappropriately. The plaintiff’s case rests on that the alleged fact that the man was handcuffed when he was shot in the chest (a fact which would belie the police’s statement that he was attacking both officers). The plaintiff’s lawyer further claims that defense’s argument is not credible. According to the plaintiff, four other individuals were in the man’s car when he was asked to pull over for the traffic stop and witnessed the ensuing events, but oddly, none of them were called to give testimony before the grand jury that dismissed the criminal charges.

The defense has indicated that a dash cam video of the incident is available, but the dead man’s family has not seen it. It is logged in as evidence to be presented at the wrongful death trial.

This is a very complex wrongful death lawsuit, and it will take time to be resolved. With or without criminal charges, questions about the incident that took a man’s life remain. If you have been in a situation like this, reach out and consult with an experienced wrongful death lawyer. You need to know what options are open to you, what the evidence reveals, how it may be interpreted and how a court may view it.

Posted on: March 14, 2014 | Tagged

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE NINE: Blindly Renewing Your Policy

Face it. Most people are lazy.  When it comes time to renew our auto insurance, most of us simply buy the same coverage we had last year.

That’s a mistake.

Situations change, and you need to take that into account when renewing your insurance each year.  Your finances may be in a little better shape so you need more protection.  Your car may be older so it may need less coverage.  You may have a new driver in the family.

Your circumstances are always changing, and many of those changes affect the type of coverage and the amount of coverage that you need.  Don’t just take the easy way out.  Spend a few minutes looking at your circumstances and needs and make an informed choice.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE EIGHT: Thinking That You Are “Fully Covered”

I often ask clients who have been victims of car wrecks what type of coverage they have.  Most respond that they are “fully covered.”

What does that mean?  Too often, people who tell me that they are “fully covered” aren’t fully covered.  They usually only have the minimum liability limits required by law.  But they think they’re “fully covered” because some agent told them that without explaining to them what it really means.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, when buying liability insurance to protect yourself from a claim made against you when you cause a wreck, you need to make sure you have adequate liability insurance.  For most people, that means more than the $30,000.00 required by law.

Additionally, you need to buy personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to make sure that you’re protected when you or your family is injured in a wreck caused by someone else.

In my mind, you’re not “fully covered” until you have these types of insurance in sufficient amounts to cover a likely claim size given your circumstances.

Don’t just let the agent tell you you’re “fully covered.”  Make the agent explain what the mean and how you’re being protected.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE SEVEN: Lying To Your Insurance Company

When you fill out your insurance application, you’re asked to provide a lot of information to your company.  You may be asked about your driving history, how many miles you drive per month or year, your home address, where you park your car overnight, and more.  Studies show that a significant number of people provide wrong information on their applications, usually in an effort to try and save a little money.

But these “mistakes” can often come back and bite those not being truthful.  These mistakes could lead to insurers partially or completely invalidating the policy or completely cancel the policy, making it much more difficult and expensive to obtain insurance in the future.

The better plan is to be truthful on the application.  In this case, honesty is the best policy.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE SIX: Not Looking For Discounts

If you’ve read the other mistakes, you know I think people spend too much time looking at price when deciding what insurance to buy.  But I don’t think people spend enough time looking for discounts.

Once you have narrowed your search of insurers down to two or three respectable companies, do your homework to consider what discounts the companies offer.  Most companies offer discounts for consolidating homeowners and auto insurance, but the discounts go far beyond that.  Insurers may offer discounts for things like:

  •     your car has daytime lights;
  •     you’ve completed driver’s ed;
  •     your driving age kids have good grades;
  •     your kids are away for school; and
  •     you or someone on your policy is deployed.

Make sure you ask your agent about potential discounts.  You can also check the Texas Department of Insurance website, which lists discounts for many auto insurers.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE FIVE: Picking The Wrong Insurance Company

If you pick the wrong insurance company, you increase the likelihood that you’ll end up fighting them if you ever need to make a claim.  Similarly, if you cause an accident and hurt someone, having the wrong insurance company could increase the likelihood that you end up being sued.

Too many people end up with these problems because they didn’t do their homework up front.  There are a number of things you can do to help you avoid these mistakes.

1.  Check out the Texas Department of Insurance website (www.tdi.texas.gov). The website contains reports showing the number of verified complaints and the number of policies written by each insurance company.

2.  Talk to friends who have had problems with insurance companies.  Most people haven’t made claims on their policies.  When talking around, you want to make sure and talk to friends who have actually been involved in claims — both those who have made claims against insurance companies and those who have been on the receiving end of claims.  Ask about their experiences, the types of trouble they might have had, the length of time before the issue was resolved, and whether they would buy that insurance company.

3.  Use the internet.  Internet research is your friend when investigating insurance companies.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP 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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