Austin Bans Use of Hand-Held Cell Phones While Driving

Yesterday, the Austin City Council adopted a ban on drivers using hand held electronic devices, including cell phones.  The ban, to go into effect on January 1, 2015, doe contain exceptions for hands-free devices and for 911 or other emergency calls.  You can read more about the ban in this article by KXAN.

I have some mixed feelings about this.  On the one hand, I see these problems daily, and I preach about the dangers of distracted driving, including the curse of texting while driving, and, overall, I’m in favor of the ban.  On the other hand, I’m a bit concerned that this might be overreaching.  Talking on cell phones has become accepted, and it’s hard to legislate away such accepted conduct.

I hope the biggest effect of the ban is that we don’t have to see so many people texting while driving.  Police officers think the overall ban will make it easier to enforce existing texting while driving bans, and I certainly think that’s a good idea.

Be Aware In Crosswalks

Pedestrian sign 2I was really ticked off yesterday.

As I was driving home, I was approaching a crosswalk.  Normally, there isn’t anyone at the crosswalk, but yesterday someone was there waiting to cross (actually, one of my daughter’s dance teammates crossing to go to her dance studio).

I stopped so that she could cross the street, and no less than eight vehicles went around me on the right, driving in the bike lane,  before the person behind me also stopped, allowing the pedestrian to cross the street.

This follows an incident this weekend when I was stopped to make a left hand turn, waiting for a pedestrian to cross the street (while the pedestrian had a white “walk” signal no less), and the people behind me thought they would be cute and turn left behind me, coming within a foot of hitting the pedestrian.

Not only is this type of driving inconsiderate and dangerous, in Texas, it’s illegal.

Section 552.003 of the Texas Transportation Code requires drivers to yield the right of way to pedestrians who are crossing in a crosswalk when there’s no traffic signal in place.

As drivers, you need to know the law and yield to pedestrians.  That’s especially true as school is back in session and young kids are now using crosswalks to get to/from school or to/from their bus stops.    I just see too many cases where pedestrians suffer serious injuries because drivers don’t have the simple courtesy to follow the law.

Unfortunately, I don’t see this law enforced very often.  I hope APD or someone else do what they need to do to minimize the risks for these situations.

 

Back to School — Be Safe In School Zones

school busFor those of us in Austin, today is the first day of the new school  year.  As always, we need to mindful of school zones, especially the prohibition against cell phone use in school zones.

This year, the Austin Police Department is helping remind us, and perhaps not the easy way.  I heard a report this morning that for the next two weeks or so every Austin Police Department motorcycle officer would be deployed to school zones around the city.

Don’t have an unexpected meet-up with one of these officers.  Obey the speed limits, stay off your cell phone, don’t pass buses that are loading or unloading children, and stay safe.

Don’t Let Facebook (or Twitter, or Instagram, or other social media) Ruin Your Personal Injury Claim

facebookAn increasing trend in personal injury litigation is for insurance companies and their lawyers trying to gain access to your social networking sites.  Sometimes this includes the use of trickery to get access to your information.    Once there, they’ll take statements or photos entirely out of context to try and argue that you’re not as hurt as you claim.

I’ve never had a client harmed by social media, but I don’t want you to be the first.

Some attorneys suggest that their clients cease all use of social media while the client’s case is pending.  While that would be nice, I also think it’s unrealistic.  I know social media has become a part of culture and life.

So if you’re going to continue to use social media, here are a few guidelines that can help you not ruin your case.

1.  Don’t discuss your case in any fashion on a social networking site.

2. Don’t mention activities you’re involved in; no talking about hobbies, vacations, etc.

3. Don’t post photos of yourself.  Trust me, they’ll be taken out of context in ways you can never imagine.

4. Keep your privacy settings strong.

5. Don’t allow a new “friend” unless you absolutely know who they are and trust them.  There are repeated stories of insurance company representatives trying to “friend” injured persons to get access to the injured persons’ social media sites.

These are just general guidelines.  If you are injured and want more specific advice, feel free to call us or contact us.

How Do I Settle A Claim With An Insurance Company Amicably?

This is another question I recently received.

A person was injured in a car wreck, they submitted a demand letter, and tried to negotiate, but the insurance company was stonewalling them.  What are they supposed to do?

There isn’t a good answer for someone in this situation.  Insurance companies may engage in stonewalling tactics that are designed to get you to accept less than the full value of your claim.

When you hire us, and this happens, our response is to file suit.  That’s the alternative and the hammer you can use to get a new adjuster, get a new perspective to the insurance company from a lawyer and to prove that you can enforce the claim.

But if you’re trying to represent yourself, you don’t have that option.  As a result, the insurance company, knowing that you don’t have a real alternative, doesn’t have an incentive to pay the full value of your claim.

This type of conduct is one of the reasons that insurance company studies find that claimants who are represented by lawyers do substantially better overall than those who try to represent themselves.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news to people in this situation.

Will Austin Ban Use of Cell Phones While Driving?

A lot of momentum seems to be developing for the idea that Austin will ban drivers from using hand-held devices while driving.  In February, the Austin City Council appointed a Distracted Driving Study Group to look at the problem of distracted driving.  On Monday, the study group released a memo recommending that the city council outlaw the use of handheld devices while driving.  There seem to be two main reasons for this.  One, using a hand held cell phone while driving can be distracting and dangerous.  Two, making it illegal to use hand held devices would make it easier to enforce the ban on texting whiile driving (now it’s difficult to tell is someone is texting or dialing a phone number).

I’ll keep you posted on the story as details emerge.  In the meantime, KXAN has done a nice story on the issue.  You can watch it below.

 

I was hit by a drunk driver. Does that affect the value of my case?

This is a question that I’ve received a few times.  And the answer is, “Being hit by a drunk driver should increase the value of your case, but it doesn’t always.”

What do I mean?  Obviously, if the jury knows that you were hit by a drunk driver, they would get mad at the drunk driver and likely award you more money.  The trick is whether the jury gets to hear you were hit by a drunk driver.  Defense lawyers will go to great lengths to ask the judge to hide from the jury the fact that the driver who hit you was drunk or under the influence of drugs because knowing that might be prejudicial to the driver.   There are tricks the defense lawyer will use to try and make this happen.

Fortunately, there are a number of tactics for our side to help us increase the likelihood that the jury gets to hear that the other driver was drunk.  Unfortunately, there are too many plaintiff’s lawyers who don’t know these tactics.

If you’re hurt by a drunk driver, you need to do your homework and make sure your lawyer knows these tactics.  Ask your lawyer what he or she might do to help increase the odds that the facts regarding the other driver’s drinking are admissible.  Ask your lawyer what trial lawyer organizations he or she belongs to help stay educated on the evolution of these tactics.  Make sure the lawyer you want to hire is qualified to maximize the value of your claim.

Posted on: July 25, 2014 |

Is Your Insurance Company Paying Fairly?

Last week, local news station KXAN ran a great story on the problems that consumers encounter trying to get insurance companies to pay their claims.  Unfortunately, I see this on a daily basis.  When you’re hurt or injured, insurance companies seem to employ the old deny, defend and delay tactics to try and minimize what you’re paid.

The person in this story was lucky.  After a battle, he thinks he received a fair payout without having to hire an attorney.  But most people who try to handle their own claims aren’t that lucky.  As lawyers, we know the tactics the insurance companies are trying to use against you, and we know the ways you can mess up your claim.  That’s why it’s reported that even insurance companies studies prove that claimants who have lawyers who can help guide you through the process end up with much higher recoveries, on average.

I urge you to watch the story below:

 

Posted on: July 15, 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.

Great News! Number of High School Athletes With Concussions Doubles

Concussions are on the rise.  New research published in the Journal of Sports Medicine finds that the number of high school athletes who have suffered a concussion has doubled between 2005 to 2012.

This is great news!

Why?

Researchers think the reality is that the number of concussions is the same, but we’re becoming much more aware about the diagnoses.  That is good news.

We’re learning more and more about the potential short and long-term consequences of concussions.  For example, we know more now about second-impact syndrome — if a person has a second head impact (even one not very severe) while the brain still suffers from a head injury, it can lead to severe disability or death.

We’re also learning that for the brain to heal, it needs to rest.  As weird as it sounds, that means no electronics, no television, and limited thinking.  A kid can’t follow these instructions if the concussion isn’t diagnosed.

Unfortunately, I know first hand how important this is.  My son suffered a baseball related concussion in February.  While he’s fine now, it was difficult to see him suffer from the consequences — the headaches, the inability to focus, etc.  Fortunately, we had it diagnosed right away, we got instruction on how to rest his brain, and he healed (after five or so weeks).

Increased awareness can help increased the likelihood of a successful outcome for others as well.

 

If you or a loved one has suffered a concussion in a wreck or accident, please call us at 512-476-4944 to see if we can help.

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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