Another Tragic Wreck on Highway 290

This afternoon, there was a terrible wreck on Highway 290 in McDade.  Details are still coming in, but it appears that four people have died, including two children.

Unfortunately, this is only the latest tragedy along Highway 290, which seems to be becoming more and more dangerous.  For example, three people were killed about a month ago about one mile from the site of today’s accident.

And we represent a client involved in a fatal collision on Highway 290 just down the road in Giddings.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the increasing number of serious accidents on Highway 290.  Both Houston and Austin are going in population, and Highway 290 remains one of the two major arteries going back and forth between the two cities.

Unfortunately, the roadways don’t seem to be keeping up with the population growth.  One result will be the increasing number of wrecks that we’ve been seeing.

For now, the best advice remains the same advice applicable everywhere:  (1) drive safe speeds; (2) avoid distractions in your car; and (3) lookout for others.

Lessons From A Self-Driving Car Wreck

Last week, Google reported on a new wreck involving one of its self-driving cars.  Google is trying to sell this as the first wreck involving its self-driving cars, but reports of other wrecks are out there.

Regardless, a new article from a computer/tech writer brings out one of the important issues with self-driving cars — you can’t program intuition.

And tuition is really important when driving.  My daughter is about to turn 16.  As we’re teaching her to drive, we spend a lot of time talking about anticipating what’s going on around us.

Intuition plays a big part of that.  You might not think that, but we all know it.

Some of it is obvious.  We can see a driver who might be drifting in his lane or driving aggressively, all indications that we need to watch them.  Or we can be driving downtown and see the pedestrians on the corner and ascertain whether they’re paying attention or whether they’re staring at their phones.

But it’s even beyond that.  In many instances, drivers develop intuition that helps the drive more safely even when we don’t know it.    We’re able to see a driver and, not really knowing why, know that we need to watch out for them.

Computers can never do that.  As the author writes in the article:

Yet, the dirty little secret here is that, while artificial intelligence has many advantages over a human driver (it can look in all directions at once, it can use multiple sensors, it never gets distracted), it could be another 20 years before robots can muster something that humans posses even from a very young age.

I’m talking about intuition, of course. It has a few other names — a “feeling” or a vibe, a sixth sense, or an awareness that’s incredibly difficult to program into a robot.

There are a lot of great advancements in technology that have made driving safer:  backup cameras, lane departure warnings, blind spot warnings, automatic braking when you might be close to a wreck.  And I appreciate them and am glad for them having seen the devastation that wrecks can cause, but I’m very skeptical about self-driving cars and the problems that they might bring.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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

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.

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.

 

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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