Where Are Most Of Austin’s Bicycle Wrecks?

The folks at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab have used all that MIT brainpower to put together an interactive map showing Austin’s bike wrecks.

Using data from the Texas Department of Transportation, they’ve mapped over 1,400 wrecks to come up with this map.  Not only does the map show the location for the wrecks, but it also provides statistics on what roads have the most wrecks, and it allows you to see the Google Street View shot for each wreck location.

So what streets are most dangerous for Austin cyclists:  Guadalupe Street, South Congress Avenue, IH 35, North Lamar, South First Street, and East Riverside Drive.

Insure.com’s Rating of Best Auto Insurance Companies

This week, Insure.com, the self-proclaimed independent consumer insurance website, released its list of Best Insurance Companies based on customer satisfaction rankings.  The company surveyed 3,835 customers of 15 large insurers in auto, home, and health insurance, and 14 in life insurance.

The survey asked about:

  1. customer service
  2. claims satisfaction
  3. value for price paid
  4. percent who plan to renew
  5. percent who would recommend the company

Based on their responses, the top auto insurance companies were:

  1. USAA
  2. State Farm
  3. Farmers
  4. GEICO
  5. Auto Club of Southern California
  6. Nationwide
  7. Liberty Mutual
  8. Allstate
  9. American Family
  10. The Hartford
  11. Erie Insurance Group
  12. Progressive
  13. MetLife
  14. Travelers
  15. Mercury General

It’s important to note, having sued drivers covered by most of these companies, I would have a different ranking.  My ranking would largely be focused on what company is most reasonable in willing to admit when their drivers caused a problem, and who are willing to protect their customers by making fair settlement offers when their customers do something wrong.

Using my criteria, I’d put USAA, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, and Hartford in a top group.  I’d put MetLife, Nationwide, Travelers and State Farm in a middle group.  I’d put Farmers, Allstate, Progressive, and Mercury in a bottom group.

My criteria is certainly different than that used in the survey, but I also think it’s an important perspective when you’re buying insurance.  Heaven forbid, if you do cause a wreck, you want to make sure your company protects you.  When the company doesn’t offer enough and forces a lawsuit to be filed against you, then that’s likely the insurance company not doing its job.

Another Dog Attack

Today, there was another horrific dog bite attack.  This time, the dog attack happened in League City, when Chelsi Camp and her two year old daughter were attacked by a pit bull owned by Ms. Camp’s boyfriend.

This is another reminder that these types of cases are terrible.  The injuries are often severe, and these types of attacks can traumatize someone, especially a child, for a lifetime.

These types of cases also have legal misconceptions.  Most people believe that there is a “one free bite” rule — that a dog must have made a prior attack before the owner can be held liable for injuries caused by the dog.  This is a misconception.  Instead, the owner of a dog may be liable for injuries caused by the dog if the owner knows the dog has dangerous propensities.  That knowledge can be proven by showing prior attacks by the dog, but that knowledge can also be proven through other means.  For example, you can argue dangerous propensities by showing the dog had a history of barking at kids, jumping on people, barking at the gate when people walk by, etc.  You can also prove dangerous propensities by simply showing the type of dog.  In the instance above, the dog involved was a pit bull.  A lawyer could argue that the owner knew the dog had dangerous propensities because pit bulls are known to be a dangerous breed of dogs.

That’s not to say these cases are easy.  There are a number of complicated factors.  First, you need to know whether insurance is available.  If the dog owner is a homeowner, then the owner will usually have homeowner’s insurance that will typically cover your claim.

If the dog owner rents his house or apartment, that’s more difficult.  If the dog owner has renter’s insurance, the liability component of the insurance will likely cover your claim.  But if the dog owner doesn’t have renter’s insurance, then the claim becomes more tricky.  At that point, you may be left with only making a claim against the owner of the home or apartment.  It’s possible to make these claims, but it is much more difficult to sue the owner directly.

You may also be able to sue the person in charge of the dog.  In this instance, Ms. Camp was petsitting for her boyfriend, and she failed to control the dog, leading to the attack.  This could be an unusual situation where an attorney ad litem appointed to represent Ms. Camp’s child could file suit against Ms. Camp for Ms. Camp’s negligent conduct in failing to properly handle the dog.

As you can see, these cases are complicated.  If you ever find yourself in need of an attorney in these types of cases, make sure you call us or another firm that has handled serious dog bite cases.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE NINE: Blindly Renewing Your Policy

Face it. Most people are lazy.  When it comes time to renew our auto insurance, most of us simply buy the same coverage we had last year.

That’s a mistake.

Situations change, and you need to take that into account when renewing your insurance each year.  Your finances may be in a little better shape so you need more protection.  Your car may be older so it may need less coverage.  You may have a new driver in the family.

Your circumstances are always changing, and many of those changes affect the type of coverage and the amount of coverage that you need.  Don’t just take the easy way out.  Spend a few minutes looking at your circumstances and needs and make an informed choice.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE EIGHT: Thinking That You Are “Fully Covered”

I often ask clients who have been victims of car wrecks what type of coverage they have.  Most respond that they are “fully covered.”

What does that mean?  Too often, people who tell me that they are “fully covered” aren’t fully covered.  They usually only have the minimum liability limits required by law.  But they think they’re “fully covered” because some agent told them that without explaining to them what it really means.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, when buying liability insurance to protect yourself from a claim made against you when you cause a wreck, you need to make sure you have adequate liability insurance.  For most people, that means more than the $30,000.00 required by law.

Additionally, you need to buy personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage to make sure that you’re protected when you or your family is injured in a wreck caused by someone else.

In my mind, you’re not “fully covered” until you have these types of insurance in sufficient amounts to cover a likely claim size given your circumstances.

Don’t just let the agent tell you you’re “fully covered.”  Make the agent explain what the mean and how you’re being protected.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE SIX: Not Looking For Discounts

If you’ve read the other mistakes, you know I think people spend too much time looking at price when deciding what insurance to buy.  But I don’t think people spend enough time looking for discounts.

Once you have narrowed your search of insurers down to two or three respectable companies, do your homework to consider what discounts the companies offer.  Most companies offer discounts for consolidating homeowners and auto insurance, but the discounts go far beyond that.  Insurers may offer discounts for things like:

  •     your car has daytime lights;
  •     you’ve completed driver’s ed;
  •     your driving age kids have good grades;
  •     your kids are away for school; and
  •     you or someone on your policy is deployed.

Make sure you ask your agent about potential discounts.  You can also check the Texas Department of Insurance website, which lists discounts for many auto insurers.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE FIVE: Picking The Wrong Insurance Company

If you pick the wrong insurance company, you increase the likelihood that you’ll end up fighting them if you ever need to make a claim.  Similarly, if you cause an accident and hurt someone, having the wrong insurance company could increase the likelihood that you end up being sued.

Too many people end up with these problems because they didn’t do their homework up front.  There are a number of things you can do to help you avoid these mistakes.

1.  Check out the Texas Department of Insurance website (www.tdi.texas.gov). The website contains reports showing the number of verified complaints and the number of policies written by each insurance company.

2.  Talk to friends who have had problems with insurance companies.  Most people haven’t made claims on their policies.  When talking around, you want to make sure and talk to friends who have actually been involved in claims — both those who have made claims against insurance companies and those who have been on the receiving end of claims.  Ask about their experiences, the types of trouble they might have had, the length of time before the issue was resolved, and whether they would buy that insurance company.

3.  Use the internet.  Internet research is your friend when investigating insurance companies.

Brett Favre’s Admissions Shed Light On Traumatic Brain Injuries

In an interview this week, retired NFL quarterback (and all around tough guy) Brett Favre discussed memory loss issues he’s been having since retirement.  Favre attributes these issues to potential brain injuries he suffered as a player.

Favre isn’t alone in these types of symptoms.  We’ve had the pleasure of representing a number of clients who have suffered from brain injuries.  Sadly, memory loss is a popular symptom.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the concussion issues arising in the NFL and in the military are terrible.  But they may be the best thing to happen to traumatic brain injury patients.  These stories have put a light on the issues of concussions and brain injuries, and they’re also sparking research that might help my clients and others as they seek to return to normal lives.

Another Austin Wrong-Way Driver Wreck

Last night, two people were killed in a collision when a driver was driving down Mopac the wrong way.

Just before 1:00 a.m., APD received calls of a driver driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Mopac.  The APD dispatched several police cars and even a police helicopter to try and intervene, but they couldn’t get there fast enough.  The driver of the wrong-way car, reportedly a 26 year old woman, collided head on with another vehicle near Duval Road.  The driver of the wrong-way car was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, Robert Murphy, was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, where he later passed away.

It seems like these types of wrecks — where someone is driving down a highway the wrong way — should never happen.

But they’re a lot more frequent than we’d like to think.  I’ve been writing about wrong way wrecks in Austin for at least the last four years.  And in 2010, Austin had two wrong way car wreck fatalities within a couple of weeks of one another.

Sergeant Darrell Burnham, one of the officers working the scene of this morning’s crash, said he can think of three incidents on Mopac that occurred fairly recently.

Most of these wrecks have several characteristics in common:

  • Most occur at night  (today’s occurred at 1:00 a.m.);
  • Most of the wrong way drivers are either impaired by alcohol or drugs or, to a lesser extent, are elderly drivers (alcohol is suspected in today’s wreck); and
  • Many occur on roadways with confusing entrance/exit designs.

These wrong way wrecks are particularly problematic for several reasons.  They often involve fatal or serious injuries.  Due to the nature of the wreck, most of these are head-on collisions, which bring a tremendous amount of force.

They are also hard to avoid.  When an innocent victim is traveling in the proper direction, they are usually at the mercy of the wrong way driver.  And since statistics show that wrong way drivers are often impaired, making it hard for a person traveling the proper direction to really anticipate the wrong way driver’s next move.

Finally, these wrecks are going to become an increasing problem.  They often occur on highways that have confusing entrance and exit ramps.  As Austin grows, we have more and more large highway intersections that are potentially confusing and offer opportunities for wrong way drivers to enter roads the wrong way.

For more information on wrong way drivers, you can read some of my prior posts on the problem:

You can also read the Texas Transportation Institute’s worksheet: Wrong Way Driving on Freeways in Texas:  Problems, Issues & Countermeasures.

 

 

Auto Accidents: Another Form Of Distracted Driving — Daydreaming

A Friday report in Popular Mechanics reported on the dangers of daydreaming while driving.  The report is based on the Erie Insurance Group’s study of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s database of traffic fatalities.  That study concludes that 62 percent of the traffic fatalities in the US over the last two years have been caused by daydreaming.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to completely minimize the risk that your mind wanders off, but the risk can be reduced.  The report makes the following recommendations to help reduce the risk of daydreaming while driving:

• Keep your eyes moving. Change your gaze every 2 seconds. Any longer and you tend to stare, which induces mind wandering and narrowing of peripheral vision. Tiring? No. The eyes were designed to keep in motion.

• To keep alert, interact with your environs by imagining “what-if” scenarios. What if that oncoming car crosses over? What if that truck ahead suddenly stops? All those what-ifs you’re visualizing feed your subconscious with some valuable data to reprogram your brain for your benefit. They may provide you with a better accident-evasion plan than the one you’ve imagined should a similar event actually happen.

• Chew something. Really. Crunchy foods will keep you alert. Even chewing gum works. One psychology professor advised drivers to chew peanut brittle, calories notwithstanding. Besides the noise made from crunching, he said that searching for the peanuts was oral therapy.

• Try different driving routes when possible. Driving the same long route is boring, and your mind is more prone to wander when it encounters the same repetitive conditions. It’s called habituation. Perry Buffington, a medical columnist, says, “simply put, we get used to things, and when we do, they’re no longer important to us.” Daydreaming results. And you notice fewer things when you’re bored, even if you’re not daydreaming.

 

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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