Unprecedented Actions: HoverBoard Industry Is Deemed Unsafe

Last Thursday, the Consumer Product Safety Commission took the unprecented step of sending a letter to all hoverboard manufacturers, importers and retailing telling them that all hoverboards are potentially unsafe.  One major manufacturer, Swagway, has also told people who own its hoverboards to quit using them until they are deemed safe.

This is a shocking turn of events.  Two months ago, hoverboards were among the most popular Christmas gifts, and now the entire industry is in a bit of turmoil.

There were a couple of things that were very interesting about this to me.  First, in the letter, the CPSC declares that no manufacturer in the industry meets the CPSC’s safety standards.  This is amazing.  I can’t think of another instance off the top of my head where the government has declared an entire industry unsafe.

Second, the reason provided by the CPSC was also interesting.  The CPSC declared hoverboards unsafe because of their risk of fires caused by the batteries.  This is certainly a known risk, but in my mind, not the greatest risk.

For me, the most significant risk from hoverboards is the risk of falls and related injuries.  There have been hundreds of reports of people falling off of their hoverboards and incurring significant injuries, including numerous brain injuries and fractures of various bones.  Those types of injuries have the potential to be permanently life-altering.

I don’t know how this will turn out.  At some point, after more testing is done, perhaps the government will declare that some hoverboards are safe.  But we’re clearly not at that point yet.



Another Central Texas Wrong Way Driver Wreck

Early this morning, a driver driving the wrong way on IH 35 near Kyle (where I grew up) caused a wreck that killed four people and injured two others.

In this instance, the wrong way driver was driving southbound in the northbound lanes of IH 35 at the Kyle Parkway exit.  Unfortunately, the car hit a minivan, killing four occupants of the minivan and injuring two other children in the minivan.  A third vehicle was also involved in the wreck.  KXAN has a story on the wreck that I’m embedding below.

Wrong Way Driver Wrecks Happen More Often Than You Think

I feel like a broken record saying that it seems like these types of wrecks should never occur, but unfortunately, they’re all too frequent.  I’ve been writing about these types of wrecks in the Austin area for years. I’m linking prior posts below that talk about ten or so of these wrecks in the last few years.

What Causes Wrong Way Driver Wrecks?

These types of wrecks often share a few common characteristics: they almost always occur at night and they almost always involve the use of alcohol and/or drugs.

Another factor in daytime wrong way driver wrecks is the age of the driver.  Daytime wrecks are much more likely to be caused young drivers (those without much driving experience) and elderly drivers (who might be confused by complicated on-ramp designs).

What Can Be Done To Prevent Wrong Way Driver Wrecks?

One of the reasons that these wrecks are so tragic is that there is often very little that the victim driver can do.  Obviously, if you see someone driving the wrong way, the safest thing to do is pull all the way over.  But frequently, there isn’t enough warning to do that.

From a road design standpoint, road designers can help by better on-ramp design.  A common factor in these wrecks is that impaired drivers get on the highway at confusing on-ramps.

A second thing that road designers can do is to lower the “wrong way” signs on the ramps.  Studies have shown that lowering the signs to eye level for most drivers is an effective way to help reduce these wrecks.

Additional Information On Wrong Way Driver Wrecks

For more information, refer to some of my many other posts on wrong way driver wrecks.


Posted on: February 19, 2016 | Tagged

New Study Explains Why Rest Is Key Following A Brain Injury

brainWhen my son suffered a concussion two years ago, his doctor told him the key was rest.  For this then 11 year old, that meant laying down, with no reading, no television, and no video games.  Just rest.

Rest has long been thought to help following a brain injury, but recently, a new study came out explaining why that was the right advice.

The study, which examined trauma in the brains of mice, found that when there is single, mild incident, the mice lose 10-15 percent of their neuronal connections in the brain, but there was no accompanying cell death.  When the mice rested for three days, almost all of the connections came back, healing the brain.

However, the study found that without rest, when additional events occur, the neuronal connections don’t heal and can become permanent.  Thus, the prescribed rest is critical to offer the brain an opportunity for any mild injuries to heal.

One issue with the study is that it is only based on very mild injuries.  In more severe cases, a one-time incident can cause cell death and have long-term consequences even if the victim tries to take the rest needed or prescribed.

If you or a loved one has suffered a brain injury as a result the conduct of someone else, please call us at (512)476-4944 so we can help you.




“Independent” Medical Exams Going Rogue

A constant problem that we face in cases are doctors who perform “independent” medical exams.  In many cases, insurance companies hire doctors to review our clients’ medical records or to have a one-time exam of our clients and then write a report on how bad our clients are hurt and/or whether our clients’ injuries are related to the wreck or other event that is the basis of the lawsuit.

Oftentimes, these doctors make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year doing these exams.  It’s no surprise then when the reports always come back supporting whatever the insurance company or the insurance company lawyer wanted the report to say.

I’ve written about this problem before, including:

Now, I’ve been alerted to a disturbing blog post by a Michigan personal injury lawyer, Steven Gurstein, describing his experience with an “independent” medical exam.  In the post, entitled “Sticks and Stone and….attorney disbarment. Will the First Amendment lose out when IME doctor files grievance to conceal her testimony in injury cases from the public”, Mr. Gurstein outlines his issues with Dr. Rosalind Griffin, who performed an exam on one of his clients.

I can find a number of posts about abusive medical exams on lawyers’ blogs, but Mr. Gurstein’s stands out for a couple of reasons.

Mr. Gurstein had his client’s exam video-taped, and he went to great lengths to explain in his blog post many of the alleged inconsistencies between what happened in the exam and what the doctor reported.  It’s fascinating to read and is a good primer on the types of problems that you can see in these exams.  I would recommend it for anyone interested in the issue or anyone who might be undergoing an exam.

Dr. Rosalind Griffin was apparently upset with Mr. Gurstein, and Dr. Griffin reportedly filed a grievance against Mr. Gurstein.  That is shocking.  I don’t know the intricacies of Michigan ethics law, and I don’t even know the substance of any allegation (I didn’t read the complaint that Mr. Gurstein linked), but if that happened here in Texas, given what is reported, I would think it was a clear abuse of the process.  It’s the type of thing that I would expect to be summarily dismissed by the bar here.

Even more shocking is that Dr. Rosalind Griffin is apparently on the Attorney Discipline Board that might hear Mr. Gurstein’s case.  How does that happen?  In Texas, we do allow non-lawyers to serve on our grievance hearings, but I can’t imagine that anyone who is as intimately involved in the litigation process as Dr. Rosalind Griffin seems to be, should be on the committee.

I don’t know what will happen to Mr. Gurstein, but if what he’s reporting is truthful, it seems like this is the type of information that we want the public to see, and not something that should be hidden.

Warren Buffett On Car Wrecks: If cars are better, and they clearly are, drivers must be worse

Damaged Car Involved In Traffic Accident

Damaged Car Involved In Traffic Accident

Safety experts at the National Safety Council, and insurance companies such as Allstate and Geico, were surprised by the 14 percent increase in fatal auto accidents during the first half of 2015.Geico is part of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway group. Figures for the second half haven’t yet been compiled.

Insurers say drivers could be facing a period of rising premiums. Some companies are reacting to the statistics with rate increases and others are expected to follow.

What caused the accidents?

Buffett’s statement about drivers being worse is not quite on target, though driving longer hours on trips and on crowded roads can be stressful.

* Roadways were more dangerous in 2015 as travel increased to a record 1.54 trillion miles through June, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The average number of miles individual Americans drove remained at the same level as in 2007, but there were more people driving.

* Low gasoline prices, the lowest since 2010, encouraged more travel.

* The low unemployment rate of 5.1 percent meant people could afford to take more trips, according to the American Automobile Association. Allstate president Matt Winter told analysts that increased vehicle complexity could be a factor, but it’s typical for people to drive more and have more accidents as the economy rebounds from a recession.

What you can do?

Traditional cautions are even more important on crowded roads: Take it easy and don’t be aggressive. Allow more time to reach your destination. Drive defensively. Be ready for another driver to make a mistake.


Insurance Recorded Statement: Beware This Seemingly Innocent Question



“If we get some of your bills, do we have permission to pay your medical providers directly?”

That’s a question that I’ve started seeing when GEICO takes recorded statements of some of my clients (and I can only assume that other insurance companies will follow behind).  It seems innocuous.  The client says, “yes.”  Of course, that would be great.

It’s terrible.

Agreeing to this simple request can really hurt your accident claim.  Why?

Medical expenses are funny.  For most medical providers, there are at least two numbers for medical bills.  First, there is the “rack rate” — the full price rate that the medical providers try to charge those without insurance.  Second, there is the “insurance rate” — the contractual rate that the medical provider and health insurance companies agree is a proper charge for a particular service.  (And in reality, these insurance rates can be different for every different health insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid, and so on.)

Which rate is charged, has an impact on your case.

By offering to pay the bill directly, GEICO and other carriers are trying to get permission to go to your medical providers and try to cut your case out from under you.  They’ve paid something they’re going to have to pay anyway, often at a lower rate than you would be able to recover from them, and in the process, they’re decreasing the value of your claim while decreasing their risk.  It’s all good to them.

It’s also taking money out of your pocket.  If hospital A has a $10,000 bill but is willing to accept $7,500 (and I’m making these numbers up), then if GEICO pays the hospital directly, it saves itself $2,500.  However, if the lawsuit goes forward and GEICO has to pay you, the client, the $10,000 and then you pay the hospital the $7,500, then that $2,500 savings goes to you and not the hospital.

So agreeing to this seemingly innocent request is costing you money!

There are a number of ways that an insurance company can use a recorded statement to its advantage.  While this is a relatively new tactic, it’s not the only tactic.  We always tell our clients that they shouldn’t agree to a recorded statement without having a lawyer present to help protect the clients’ rights.

If you or a loved one has been in a car wreck and have been contacted about a recorded statement, please call us at (512)476-4944 and let us help you before that statement occurs.



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

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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