Another Fatal Austin Wrong Way Driving Wreck

Yesterday, Austin saw yet another fatal wreck caused by a driver going the wrong way on one of our highways.  In this round, driver John McClintock was arrested for driving the wrong way on Mopac, where he is alleged to have hit and killed Domonick Turner.

Sadly, this type of thing happens way too frequently. It seems like this should be a scenario that never plays out.  But over the years, Austin has seen a number of wrecks where this happens.   While I’ve written on these types of wrecks for years, the frequency really hit home when my wife called me one morning telling me that she was shaken up and pulled off the road because a driver crossed the median of IH 35 and almost hit her head on.

But that was an unusual situation.  Yesterday’s wreck had the two main hallmarks of most wrong  way crashes:  (1) alcohol is involved; and (2) the wreck happened in the wee hours of the day.

Sadly, these wrecks are almost always serious because of the nature of head on collisions and the fact that there is almost nothing a victim can do to avoid the wrecks.

However, there are some actions that road designers can take to make these types of wrecks less likely to occur.  I’ve written extensively about these potential solutions, and you can find those articles by searching this site.

Posted on: November 12, 2015 | Tagged

Good Brain Injury Related News From The University of Texas

brainYesterday, Admiral William McRaven, the Chancellor of the University of Texas System, made several announcements about his future plans for the system.

Recognizing the increase in brain injuries and diseases, Admiral McRaven proposed an “unprecedented investment” to have the University of Texas academic and health campuses work together on research and initiatives to improve brain health.  Admiral McRaven compared his envisioned level cooperation to that of the Manhattan Project, when researchers all over the country came together to collaborate and create the atomic bomb during World War II.

While this initiative isn’t on the immediate horizon, it’s an exciting prospect to think about the University that I love playing a big part in helping so many of my clients.

Posted on: November 6, 2015 | Tagged

I Am Humbled

In the summer of 2012, I visited the West African countries of Liberia and Guinea to investigate a project involving a local school and health clinic.  I came back thinking that I felt more humbled than I would probably ever feel.

I was wrong.

For the past twelve days, my family has hosted one of the leaders from Liberia as he is in the US to work on those projects.  And never have I been more humbled or even embarrassed than this experience.

How do you comfortably take someone to HEB when they come from a country where food is scarce?  How do you comfortably explain to someone about watering the lawn when they come from a country where the lack of clean water kills kids daily?  I could go on and on.

Needless to say, it has been an eye-opening experience for my family.  While we hope to continue our relationship with our visitor, I also hope to look at things through a new eye so that I remember to be grateful for all that we have.

Posted on: October 29, 2015 | Tagged

Selfies Killing More People Than Sharks

Selfie stickSelfie danger is on the rise.

In mid-September, a Japanese tourist at the Taj Mahal was taking a picture of himself and fell down stairs, leading to a fatal brain injury.  In early September, a  Houston teenager was killed taking a selfie with a gun.  In August, a man was gored while trying to take a selfie during a Spanish bull run.

The website Mashable was so intrigued by the rise that they tried to compare selfie deaths to shark-related deaths.  To their surprise, so far in 2015, more people have died from selfie-related incidents (12) than from shark attacks (8).  This difference is actually likely to be bigger since selfie deaths aren’t easily tracked.

While the stories sound a little humorous, this is a serious problem.  Many places are banning selfie sticks (including the Texas State Fair, for those of you planning on venturing up there), Waterton Canyon park in Colorado has closed because people can’t stop taking selfies with bears, and the Russian interior ministry is even launching a campaign to encourage safer selfie practices.

Instead of taking a selfie, making the next time you need a picture, do it the old fashioned way — ask for help from someone around.



Posted on: September 25, 2015 | Tagged

Energy Drinks Linked To Brain Injuries

brainA new University of Toronto study found that teenagers who drink heavily caffeinated energy drinks are more prone to traumatic brain injuries.

In the firm, I see brain injuries in all sorts of situations — car wrecks, bicycle accidents, falls, etc.  But for teenagers, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries is sports.  The rate of brain injuries in teens has been on a rise (in part, I think, because of better diagnoses).

The new study sheds some additional light on the problem.  The researchers interviewed 10,000 people from ages 11-20 and asked a series of questions, including questions about usage of energy drinks and their incidents of brain injuries.  The results were startling.

Those kids who had consumed one energy drink in the last year were twice as likely to have suffered a brain injury and non-drinkers, and those kids who consumed five or more energy drinks in the last week were nearly seven times more likely to have sustained a brain injury.

These results don’t necessarily show that the use of energy drinks makes a person more likely to suffer a brain injury from an event.  But it’s possible.  The high caffeine levels affect the brain in ways that we don’t know, and the caffeine levels could make the brain more susceptible to injury.  More study is needed there.

Alternatively, there is some thought that there is a correlation between the use of energy drinks and high risk behavior.  Maybe people who drink energy drinks engage in activities that are more dangerous than what a typical kid experiences.

Finally, there is the possibility that the use of energy drinks is a coping mechanism to deal with the after-effects of brain injuries.  Many kids with brain injuries describe themselves as being tired or in a fog.  Perhaps the usage of energy drinks is a way to fight off those symptoms.

There is still a lot to learn on these topics, but there is enough concern that I think we should discourage the use of these energy drinks by kids until we know that they’re safe.

Another Wrong Way Crash In Austin

Early this morning (August 19th), Austin endured another wrong way crash, a wreck where a driver is driving the wrong way on a highway.  Details are not out yet, but one man was killed and two women were critically injured following a head-on collision on I35 southbound near Airport Boulevard.

When a wreck like this happens, you may ask how it’s possible to be driving the wrong way on a highway.  But the unfortunate reality is that these wrong-way wrecks happen far too frequently.

For example, earlier this month, teens headed to Austin were killed in a wrong way crash on I30 in Greenville, near Dallas.

In June, an Austin woman was killed in a wrong way wreck on Ben White Boulevard.

In May, two people were killed in a wrong way wreck on Parmer Lane.

In fact, this is a subject that I’ve studied and written about frequently.  Some of my posts on wrong way crashes include:

Most of these wrong way crashes share two characteristics.  First, most occur at night.  Second, most involve alcohol or drug use.

There are several things that can be done to try and minimize the risks of these wrecks, especially on highways.

Better entrance ramp designs.  A core issue in these wrecks are confusing on-ramps and off-ramps.  For example, here in Austin, Ben White Boulevard is a common site of wrong-way wrecks.  That is probably not surprising given that the on-ramps near Ben White and Lamar Boulevard are some of the most confusing in the city.  Making on-ramps and off-ramps simple help reduce these wrecks.

Lowering traffic signs.  The data shows that “wrong way” signs are more effective when they are at the driver’s line of sight.  These signs should be lowered more than typical street signs.

If you want to learn more about wrong-way wrecks, the Texas Transportation Institute has an interesting report on wrong way driving.

Austin Dog Bites Are Increasing

Beware of dog sign.Last week, the Austin American Statesman reported that dog attacks are increasing in Austin.  The number of dog attacks has increased every year since 2007.  This year is no exception.  Austin has experienced over 1,000 attacks so far, on pace to break last year’s record.

These are not good statistics.  I’ve represented a number of victims of dog attacks, ranging from the run-of-the-mill attacks to a horrific case where a dog attacked and killed a young child.

These are often terrible cases for those involved.  With aggressive dogs, there is usually significant pain and trauma relating to the original attack.  Many serious attacks have long-term physical consequences, including physical limitations and scarring.  And almost all involve permanent psychological scarring.

Legally, there are a number of different avenues of claims that may be made.  The obvious claim stemming from a dog attack is against the dog owner.  In Texas, dog owners have various responsibilities to help protect the public from unsafe dogs.

If the dog owner was a renter, there may be a claim against the home or apartment owner, depending on the specific facts of the attack.  Additionally, if the dog owner was a renter and a property management company was involved, the property management company also has duties and responsibilities that it must follow.

The more difficult situation in these cases is finding funds for a recovery.  Traditionally, homeowners’ insurance companies have provided coverage for these claims.  Now, as insurance companies are becoming more aware of how serious these claims are, many companies are starting to exclude coverage for dog attack claims.  This is important information to know not only for the victim of attack, but also for dog owners.  If you own a dog, talk to your insurance company and make sure that you’re covered should something go wrong.


If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, please call us for help at (512)476-4944.


Check Your Tires — Tragic Caldwell County Wreck Yesterday

Background of the tire tread Yesterday, there was a horrific car wreck on Texas 130 in Caldwell County that killed 4 adults and left 5 more children injured.

The wreck hits home as it occurred near the Texas 130/Schuelke Road intersection, and yes, Schuelke Road does refer to my family.

The investigation is just beginning, but one suggestion is that the driver lost control after the vehicle lost the tread on one of the tires.  The theory is that the tire became so hot from driving at the toll road speeds (the speed limit is 85 miles per hour) that the tread separated.

It wouldn’t be the first time such a wreck occurred on 130.  I travel it fairly frequently back and forth between Austin and Lockhart, and there are often the remnants of tire thrown across the highway.  There is also a report that a tire blow out led to a fatal crash along 130 near Manor back in April.

The lesson to learn is that you need to check your tires.  Speed limits are now higher than they’ve historically been, and you should take time to make sure the condition of your tires can handle the driving conditions you’ll be encountering.

I’m also intrigued by these types of wrecks because they bring novel legal theories.  For example, the injured or killed would obviously have a claim against the driver who lost control.  But they may also have a products liability claim against the tire manufacturer or a claim against the manufacturer of the vehicle that the vehicle wasn’t designed well enough to sustain the forces in the rollover collision (these are called crashworthiness cases).  These types of cases, with novel and not always obvious claims, are the ones where hiring the right lawyer can really make a difference in the type of recovery ultimately obtained.


Austin Police Chief: Too Many Austin Car Wrecks

Young man using smart phone in his car

Young man using smart phone in his car

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo took the unusual step this week of having a press conference to urge Austin drivers to be more safe.   Chief Acevedo was prompted to take the action because this year has already been record-setting in terms of number of traffic fatalities.

Acevedo noted that the top causes of wrecks are intoxication, speed, distraction and failure to stop.

I won’t argue with Chief Acevedo.  We see wrecks car caused by these four items every day.

Personally, we hope Austinites and others heed Chief Acevedo’s warnings so that our roadways are safer for all of us.

You can read more about his press conference here and here.

This Is A Terrifying Trucking Idea

truckingI’ve heard bad ideas, but this might be the worst — letting teenagers drive trucks across the country.

The trucking industry is currently pushing legislation that would allow drivers as young as 18 years old to drive trucks in interstate commerce — across state lines.

I don’t have anything against teenagers.  In fact, I have one.  But I’m also in the process of teaching her to drive, and I see her friends drive.  And I see the carnage of trucking wrecks even when the drivers are experienced.  Common sense tells you that this is a terrible idea from a safety standpoint.

Unfortunately, the statistics bear this out.  Right now, some states allow 18 year-olds to drive within their state borders.  In those states, the statistics show that younger truck drivers are four to six times more likely to be in wrecks than those drivers who are older than 21.

That’s a big difference.

Let’s hope sanity prevails and that only more experienced, safer drivers are allowed to drive across our country’s roads.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, PLLC 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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