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.

Off Topic: Lessons From Boy Scout Camp

450I was lucky enough to accompany my son and 26 other scouts to scout camp this year. We started in Boston on July 4, and then we bussed up to Eddington, Maine to spend a week at Camp Roosevelt, a local boy scout camp.

I hesitate to call it a vacation, there were 200+ kids there after all, but it was a great experience that brought several lessons.

 

 

1. Know Your First Aid

In their advancement and merit badge work, these scouts spend a lot of time learning about various first aid topics. Fortunately, most of it is hypothetical.

But we had an incident that was a good reminder of why it’s important. As part of our day in Boston, our troop headed to Fenway Park and attended a Red Sox/Astros baseball game.

All was going well until a fan a few rows below us started screaming for help. One of our dads is a doctor, and he made his way down and discovered that the fan’s father didn’t have a pulse, likely having suffered a heart attack. The doctor/father and an EMT performed CPR, eventually saving the guy’s life.

This was a good reminder that the first aid these boys study is important. All of us should learn basic CPR, the Heimlich maneuver and other basic lifesaving skills.

2. Sharing/Working Together

This isn’t really a lesson, but a reminder. All week long, I watched kids help one another earn merit badges or learn new skills.

I’m biased, but perhaps my favorite story involved my son. He and three of our other boys took a merit badge class called Wilderness Survival.

The culmination of the Wilderness Survival merit badges required the boys to spend the night in the wilderness without tents, sleeping bags, or much other gear. All they were allowed to use was what they could fit in their pockets.

This experience was a great example of teamwork and sharing by my son. Working together, he and another boy in our troop built a pretty good shelter to protect them through the night. But my son was also more prepared than the other scout, having stuffed his pockets with an extra towel and his rain gear. As night fell and temperatures dropped, my son sacrificed his towel (used as a blanket) and his rain jacket to his friend so that the friend might stay a bit warmer during the cold night. As is often the case, I continue to be reminded by my kids about how we ought to sacrifice for one another.

3. Patience

I’ll admit that I’m a terrible fisherman. I don’t have a lot of experience fishing; I’m not good at fishing; I don’t really know what to do when I actually catch a fish; and I haven’t always been patient when I’m doing more fishing than catching. But my son took a fly fishing merit badge, and he loved it. We spent most afternoons on the “pond” (which was over 100 acres big) fly fishing — rather my son fished; I watched.   It was a lesson in patience, as I watched him struggle learning to cast that first afternoon. But by the end of the week, both he and I were getting the hang of it — him fishing, and me being patient.

4. Get Away From Electronics

I stressed out a lot before the trip about the prospect of not being connected to things back home — especially the office. And when we arrived, we did find that being out in the middle of nowhere really limited our connectivity. If you were standing on the right rock or around the right hill, you could get some service. But for most places, you were out of luck. And you know what? I survived. Not only that, but it was nice to not feel the pressure to check emails or texts. While I’m not going to go to the middle of nowhere back home, I am going to make an effort to put down the phone and not worry about being connected all the time.

What Is A Life Care Planner?

Many of our more serious cases require a life care planner.

A life care planner is an expert witness, usually a doctor or nurse or combination of the two, who sets out the likely care that you’ll need for the rest of your life.  It can include things such as surgeries, physical therapy, follow up doctor care, and accommodations (walkers, shower stools, etc as applicable) that you will need.

The life care planner then estimates the costs of this care throughout your life.

Life care planners are very useful because they can give you a holistic view of your injuries and prognosis that covers a number of different disciplines.  In the non-litigation world, these experts are often seen as case managers — coordinating your care among the different types of doctors that you have to see.

The downside of life care planners is that, like other experts, they can be extremely expensive.  Before hiring one, we’ll have to make a decision about whether the expense can be justified.

The Failure of Tort Reform

Steve Cohen has an interesting article, On Tort Reform, It’s Time To Declare Victory and Withdraw, detailing the failings of tort reform in the medical malpractice context.  In his article, Steve outlines some of the things we’ve learned since tort reform started passing in waves, including in Texas:

1) Tort reform hasn’t decreased healthcare costs.  The theory was that doctors afraid of getting sued were prescribing all kinds of unnecessary tests.  In fact, studies have shown that doctors in states that have enacted tort reform measures prescribe tests at the same rate as those that haven’t had tort reform measures.

2) Runaway juries aren’t a real problem.  Indeed, the data suggests that the average jury awards in medical malpractice cases are significantly lower than the average awards handed down by judges.  If anything, juries are conservative on these cases.

3) Tort reform hasn’t significantly decreased the cost of insurance for doctors, though in states with tort reform measures the increases in rates have been slightly lower than the increases in states without tort reform.

What has happened since tort reform?  Insurance company profits have skyrocketed.  That’s who has really benefited from tort reform.

Unfortunately, in Texas and other states, while trying to craft tort reform for medical malpractice cases, the reforms have bled into other areas of claims, and have hurt the rights of most injured persons and businesses.

With tort reform proven to be a failure, it’s time to make sure it stops.

I’ve Been Injured In A Water Park Or An Amusement Park? Can I Sue Or Make A Claim?

Roller Coaster2 It’s that time a year again.  Almost like clockwork, as soon as school is out, I get inquiries from people like you asking whether you can make a claim against a water park or an amusement park after you get injured.

And the answer is generally yes.  If you’re injured at a water park or an amusement park there are typically several times of claims that you can make.  First, you can make a regular negligence claim arguing that the park’s conduct fell below the standard of care.  In other words, you’re arguing that you were hurt because the park did something it wasn’t supposed to do or that it didn’t do something that it should have done.  There are literally thousands of different variations on this that could lead to claims.

You may also have a products liability claim against the park.  These claims occur when you’re hurt because something with the ride itself goes wrong.  Again, there could be thousands of different possibilities here.  A safety device might not work, the ride might not run as it was designed to do, etc.

There are other claims that might arise based on your particular situation.

And even if you don’t have a claim, many parks have medical payments insurance.  This medical payments coverage pays for medical bills incurred as a result of an incident at the park even if the incident wasn’t the park’s fault.  The limits on these claims are smaller — often around $2,500.00 — but those funds can be helpful when you’re paying out of pocket for medical care.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a water park or amusement park incident, feel free to call us at (512)476-4944.

Drivers Aren’t Being Smart With Their Smart Phones

Avoid-texting-while-drivingAT&T released the results of a scary study this week finding that smart phones are allowing people to drive while distracted in new and “creative” ways.

According to the study:

  • 61% of drivers surveyed admitted that they text and drive
  • 33% admitted emailing while driving
  • 28% admitted surfing the internet while driving
  • 27% admitted using Facebook while driving
  • 17% admitted snapping a photo or selfie while driving
  • 14% admitted using Twitter while driving
  • 14% admitted using Instagram while driving
  • 12% admitted shooting video while driving
  • 11% admitted using Snapchat while driving
  • 10% admitted using video chat while driving

This is obviously a concerning trend.  As we find more and more uses for smartphones, it appears that we’re also creating more and more ways to drive in a distracted manner.

That’s bad news for all of us.

 

 

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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