Get Ready To File Your Chrysler Ignition Switch Claims

As you probably know, Chrysler admitted earlier this year that just over 2.5 million of its vehicles had defective ignition switches.  The switches were faulted in at least 165 deaths and countless more serious injuries.

In an effort to control litigation costs, Chrysler has set up a claim process that will serve as an alternative to litigation.  If injured as a result of a faulty ignition switch, you may submit a claim, and it will be reviewed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who will make awards that Chrysler has agreed to pay.  The hope is that the process will be expedited and reduce costs.  Under the proposal, your claim must be made between August 1 and December 31 of this year, and Mr. Feinberg has a goal of resolving each claim within 90 to 180 days of filing.

From a claimant’s perspective, the biggest potential advantage appears to be the speed of the filing and resolution.  A typical products liability lawsuit would usually take much longer than the time hoped for in this process.  Additionally, Mr. Feinberg has publicly stated that he doesn’t want to litigate issues relating to whether the claimant’s conduct contributed to the wreck — for example, was the claimant drunk, speeding, etc.  Those types of issues would obviously be huge concerns in a trial.

On the downside, Mr. Feinberg has a lot of experience in evaluating claims and making awards in situations such as this (he handled the Sept. 11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and he’s currently doing similar work in the BP oil spill arena), and he has received a fair amount of criticism about his awards in the BP case.

If you don’t want to enter the process, then you can still file a lawsuit.  However, which path to take is a decision that must be made on a case-by-case basis.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck caused by a faulty ignition switch, please call us and we’ll try to help you.

Posted on: July 1, 2014 | Tagged

Head Injuries: New Settlement In NFL Concussion Lawsuit

helmet smallYou may recall that the previous settlement agreement between the National Football League and a class of former players was scrapped by the judge, who was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough funds to fully compensate the injured players who sustained head injuries.

Yesterday, the parties entered into a new settlement agreement.  Unlike the last settlement, this settlement isn’t capped at any specific amount.  This ensures that any former player who develops a qualifying neurocognitive condition will be compensated for the injury.

This is an interesting way forward.  Obviously, we represent a number of clients who have sustained head injuries, so I know the ways that these types of injuries can affect someone.  But I’ve also done some work on class actions, and it’s highly unusual to craft a settlement that doesn’t have a cap on the damages.  It will be interesting to see how the case proceeds and whether the ultimate amount paid out will surpass the $765 million that was being set aside in the prior agreement.

Baseball, Hot Dogs and Injuries?

hotdogI love baseball, and I like hot dogs, and I was surprised to see them intersect in a personal injury case. But yesterday, I saw that they did.

Yesterday, the Missouri Supreme Court held that the “baseball rule”, which protects teams from being sued for fan injuries caused by events on the field, does not protect sports teams when their mascots cause injuries.

In this case, the Kansas City Royals mascot was throwing hot dogs into the stands.  One of the hot dogs hit John Coomer in the eye, resulting in him having two surgeries to repair his damaged eye.

Originally, the jury was instructed that being hit by the hot dog was an inherent risk of attending a sporting event.  But the Missouri Supreme Court noted that there is nothing inherent about wayward mascots at sporting events.  The Court noted that mascots aren’t a part of baseball; we’ve played baseball a long time without mascots throwing hot dogs, and we can continue baseball in the future without wayward hot dogs.

Legally, I have to think the court is correct.  Mascot shenanigans aren’t an inherent part of the game.  And while the hot dog incident almost prompts a chuckle, I’m sure no one would be laughing if a mascot did something more egregious, such as causing a golf cart to explode.  Those are not inherent risks of our national pastime, and mascots need to be careful, like everyone else at the game.

Sorry For The Lack Of Articles, But…..

EBCampershirtmockI had the pleasure of spending the last week at Camp Emerald Bay on Catalina Island with about 35 members of my son’s scout troop.  It has taken time away from the office and my family, and it’s certainly made things more hectic, but it was worth it.

Over the course of the week, our kids earned over 100 merit badges in activities ranging from oceanography, environmental sciences, and mammal studies, to more traditional badges, such as archery, lifesaving, and wilderness survival.

Our boys could earn these merit  badges here at home, but the long trip also offered our boys a more hands-on experience.  For example, most of the kids explored the marine life in the area through snorkeling or even scuba diving.  The boys also had the opportunity to go salt water fishing from a fishing boat, to watch sea lions frolic, and watch dolphins follow our ferry to and from the island.

The camp’s marine science center was also a top attraction.  There, our boys were able to touch and feed leopard sharks, horn sharks, bat rays and more.  And many of the boys were enamored with the mantis shrimp.  These shrimp can grow up to a foot in length, and they are often difficult to keep in aquariums because they are strong enough to break the glass.  Indeed, the boys were fascinated by the fact that if humans could accelerate their arms at one-tenth the speed at which a mantis shrimp attacks its prey, we’d be able to launch a baseball into orbit.

The Waterfront At Camp Emerald Bay

The Waterfront At Camp Emerald Bay

One of the favorite parts of the week was “war canoes”, where we made an hour-plus canoe trip to a secluded beach on the island.  Once there, the kids could go hiking, snorkeling or play on the beach.  The day was capped off with dutch oven dinners, and then we all spent the night on the beach.  Around 4:45 the next morning, we had our wake-up call, we loaded up, and we canoed back to the main camp.

Of course, no boy scout camp would be complete without the opportunity to serve others, and one of our opportunities was a bit unexpected.  As we returned to camp with our fishing charter, we encountered a small boat with three passengers waving feverishly.  As our captain approached the boat, the boaters let us know that they had run out of gas and were stranded.  We radioed to Harbor Patrol, and soon our stranded friends were being towed back in to safety.  The lesson was not lost on our boys as one unnamed scout (okay, it was my son), took the opportunity to suggest to the boaters that they should “Be Prepared” for those types of situations.

The Stranded Boaters Awaiting Help

The Stranded Boaters Awaiting Help

Needless to say, we were are all tired, but it was a great experience for all of the kids.

Posted on: June 23, 2014 | Tagged

Auto Insurance Isn’t All The Same

There’s an insurance company currently running television ads here in Austin (and I assume elsewhere) encouraging you to use them because “all insurance is the same” so use them and avoid the middle man.

That’s basically fraud.  All auto insurance isn’t the same.  There are different coverages to buy, different deductibles to consider, and a whole host of other traps that a consumer probably doesn’t even know exist.  And without an agent to help consumers navigate these issues, too many consumers unwittingly end up with low-coverage insurance that comes back to bite them.  That’s a problem.

To help address the problem, I’ve written a new booklet, Understanding Texas Auto Insurance: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance.  You can order a free, hard copy by requesting a book through the “Speak to an Attorney” box.  Alternatively, you can download an electronic version starting on this page.

But please take advantage of this opportunity for free information to help protect you.

The Vulnerably Housed and Homeless Suffer Increased Risk of TBI

Typically, traumatic brain injury (TBI) coverage focuses on those involved in contact sports and on military veterans. However, TBI also seriously affects vulnerably housed individuals and the homeless.

The Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation recently featured a study arguing that the homeless who suffer TBI have a strong, negative impact on public expenses. Homeless and unsafely housed individuals who have suffered damaging blows to the head are more likely to frequent ER departments for health care, to fall victim to assaults, to have done jail time and to have been arrested.

The Canadian article argued that traumatic brain injuries, such as concussions, are approximately seven times more common among the homeless. TBIs may manifest themselves in mental health issues, in alcohol or drug abuse and in physical symptoms, including seizures.

The study stretched over four years, and 61 percent of its participants reported having sustained a TBI in survey. The figures were roughly consistent across Canada. Homeless individuals with a history of TBI were 1.5 times more likely to attend an ER due to the long-term side effects of their brain injury.

These individuals were also almost twice as likely to have spent time in jail or to have been arrested by police within the previous year — usually as a result of personality disturbances or impaired mental abilities as a result of a TBI. The homeless with brain injuries were almost three times more likely to be assaulted than other, similarly situated individuals.

Increased screening and condition-management assistance could help control the higher level of health care required for homeless TBI victims. Unfortunately, prospects for this kind of action remain weak in the face of more dominant health care priorities.

Posted on: May 30, 2014 | Tagged

Brain Injuries: Invisible Injury

CBS Boston ran a story about one of the Boston Marathon survivors.  Titled “Marathon Bombing Survivor Struggles With ‘Invisible Injury’,” it describes what many of our brain injured clients have to deal with.  If you or a loved one has suffered from a concussion or other brain injury, it’s worth a watch:

 

National Safe Boating Week: Choosing The Right Life Jacket

It’s not enough to have the life jacket.  You need to make sure you have the right life jacket for your size, your activities, and the water conditions you might be encountering.

The Safe Boating Council has these guidelines:

Try It On

  • Check the manufacturer’s ratings for your size and weight.
  • Make sure the life jacket is properly zipped or buckled.
  • Raise your arms straight up over your head while wearing your life jacket and ask a friend to grasp the tops of the arm openings, gently pulling up.
  • If there is excess room above the openings and the life jacket rides up over your chin or face, it does NOT fit properly. A snug fit in these areas signals a properly fitting life jacket.

Fit Facts

  • It is extremely important that you choose a properly fitting life jacket.
  • Life jackets that are too big will cause the flotation device to push up around your face, which could be dangerous.
  • Life jackets that are too small will not be able to keep your body afloat.

Important Reminders

  • Make sure your life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard approved.
  • Double check that your life jacket is appropriate for your favorite water activities.
  • Take the time to ensure a proper fit. A life jacket that is too large or too small can cause different situational problems.
  • Life jackets meant for adults do not work for children. If you are boating with children, make sure they are wearing properly fitted, child-sized life jackets. Do not buy a life jacket for your child to “grow into.”

National Safe Boating Week: The Statistics

Why is Safe Boating Week important?  Here are the statistics from the Safe Boating Council.

All figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents. The full report is available online at: www.USCGBoating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.aspx.

  • Drowning was reported as the cause of death in almost three-fourths of all fatalities.
  • Approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • Approximately 14 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed are the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of the deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Forty-two percent of the children who died in 2012 did so from drowning.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%) and cabin motorboats (15%).

National Recreational Boating Statistics

  • Fatalities: 651
  • Drownings: 459
  • Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 3,000
  • Boating Accidents: 4,515
  • Property Damage: $38,011,601
  • Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 12,101,936

Unfortunately, Texas is the number 3 state for boating deaths and the number 4 state for boating accidents.

Remember to be safe.  Don’t let you or your family become another statistic.

 

 

Texas oil workers have a high accident and death rate

Although the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was horrific for platform workers, and those who lost loved ones, riggers on land are at an even greater risk, without much of a support system for them.

According to a recent drilling article in the Houston Chronicle, workers have no one to rely on for their safety or assistance in the event of an accident, not even the federal government. It’s a depressing commentary on the human condition when 60 oil rig workers die, one at a time, and it does not register as a warning flag. This observation came from no less that the former assistant regional administrator for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).

It’s not news that onshore oil fields are virtually the most dangerous places to work. This fact was revealed in 2007, at the beginning of the fracking boom, by the U.S. Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (CSHIB), who revealed that 40 percent of the 663 riggers killed while working on rigs, died in Texas. 2012 was a bad year, featuring a ten-year high, with 65 deaths, 79 workers who had a limb amputated, 92 who sustained burns, 675 with broken bones and 82 crush deaths. These are grim statistics. Unfortunately, with the increased activity, particularly in the Eagle Ford Shale patch, the problem will only get worse.

Furthermore, the CSHIB study showed the federal government has done nothing for 22-years with regard to putting safety procedures and standards in place for onshore gas and oil drilling. These findings did not let the OSHA off the hook for their lackluster rules and regulations pertaining to safety. They are only mandated to launch an investigation relating to accidents that kill a worker or that resulted in three or more employees being sent to hospital. There were 18,000 work-related injuries in the past 6-years, and only 150 were investigated.

Perhaps it goes without saying, but bears mentioning as a reminder of the lack of government involvement relating to safety in the oil industry in Texas, that when the OSHA conducted an investigation, safety infractions and violations were cited in 78 percent of them. It’s not too difficult to suspect that the accidents that were not investigated were also caused by safety violations.

Instead of getting better, it appears safety procedures and standards rank dead last with the government. Hundreds of Texas families would disagree with this approach. Hundreds more workplace accident lawyers also find fault with this hands off attitude.

Posted on: May 20, 2014 | Tagged

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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