No Pokemon (ing) While Driving

Fairly typical questions we ask and investigate in car wreck cases are whether the driver was distracted by talking on the phone or texting while driving.  Now, I might have to start another series of questions after the introduction of Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is an app game that was released a few days ago, and it’s already taking over the virtual worlds of kids and young adults.

But this morning, I was alerted by a reporter acquaintance that the new game is also quickly becoming a driving hazard.  A quick twitter search confirmed his fears.

I’m inserting a few of the concerning screen shots in the post.  Needless to say, don’t play PokemonGo or engage in other distracting conduct while driving.  Keep yourself focused while driving so your ultimate time for Pokemon isn’t cut short.

IMG_6907 IMG_6908 IMG_6909 IMG_6910 IMG_6911 IMG_6912 IMG_6913 IMG_6914 IMG_6915

Mediation/Settlement Lessons From An NBA Trade

basketballI’m not a huge NBA fan, but over the last few days, I have been listening to a variety of talk show hosts discuss the trade of former NBA MVP Derrick Rose from the Chicago Bulls to the New York Knicks in exchange for a few of the Knicks’ players.

Normally, that wouldn’t be all that news-worthy, especially in the lawsuit context.  But one of the commentators made a point that was familiar to me.

When this commentator was asked who got the better part of the trade, the Bulls or the Knicks, the commentator laughed and said, “You know, both of the fan bases are pretty unhappy with the trade, which tells me that it was probably a pretty fair trade.”

I laughed to myself when I heard that because that’s advice I find myself giving a lot of clients.  In most settlements, the plaintiff settled for less than they really wanted, and the defendant paid more than they really wanted.  And I usually tell clients that when that happens, it’s a pretty good indication that the settlement is a fair settlement.

Now, that’s not to say that we never have a negotiation or settlement where we feel like we’ve been overly-compensated, but it’s rare — insurance companies aren’t in the business of just handing out money.  And in NBA or NFL or MLB trades, there are some trades where you can look at the deal and know that one side was really coming out much better than the other.

But more often than not, in most trades and in most settlement negotiations, both sides usually end up walking away a little disappointed, and that’s usually a signal that it was probably a pretty fair result.

 

Posted on: June 24, 2016 | Tagged

Texas Farm Bureau & Texas Department Of Insurance Trying To Take Away Important Rights

Insurance claim forme

I’ve seen a lot of questionable conduct by insurance companies, but the latest proposal may take the cake.

Texas Farm Bureau is now petitioning the Texas Department of Insurance to allow it to offer a “discount” to its home insurance customers in exchange for customers giving up their rights to a fair trial of any dispute.

But the good folks at Texas Watch have been trying to find out the details on this backroom deal and have come up with some details about the proposal.

First, the proposal tries to take away customers’ rights by requiring mandatory arbitration clauses.  Under the provision,

all disputes would go to mandatory, binding arbitration;

  • the insurance company has already selected the arbitration company (in essence, the private judge hearing your case);
  • the insurance company pays for the judge; and
  • the results are secret.

Gee, if your dispute is decided by a judge hand-picked by the insurance company and paid by the insurance company, I wonder how the results will come out?  You already know the likely answer to that.  That’s why several states forbid these types of arbitration clauses in insurance policies.

But what do you get for giving up those rights?  According to the proposal, homeowners are supposed to get a discount on their premiums.

But lo and behold, what did Texas Watch undercover when they filed open records requests with the Texas Department of Insurance?  That the “discounts” appear to be conveniently equal to the amounts that Texas Farm Bureau has already raised rates.  These types of bogus discounts — raising the price and then saying you’re offering a discount — would likely be illegal in most other contexts.  But here, there’s a real risk that the Texas Department of Insurance will approve them.

And don’t think this is just about Texas Farm Bureau.  If this type of conduct is approved by the Department of Insurance, other insurance companies will likely follow suit. Yours could be next.

Posted on: June 20, 2016 | Tagged

Playground Concussions Are On The Rise

brainOne of the recent headlines on Yahoo News was a story that playground concussions are on the rise.

You might be surprised to find that I think this is great news.  Why?

I don’t think the actual number of concussions are rising.  Instead, I think parents and school nurses and such are getting much better at looking for and diagnosing concussions.

This diagnoses is important.  I not only see kids affected with brain injuries in my practice, but I’ve watched my own kid struggle with a concussion.

These are serious injuries that need to be treated seriously.  But they can’t be properly treated if they’re not diagnosed.

There are also potential legal aspects in these claims.  For example, depending on the circumstances, a playground injury may give rise to a claim or lawsuit against:

  • the party that owned the playground
  • the party who designed the playground
  • the party who built the playground
  • the party who was responsible for maintaining the playground
  • the party who made modifications to the playground

If your kid is hurt on a playground, the first order of business is to make sure they get the care they need.  After that, if the problems are serious, then talk to a lawyer to discuss your options.

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.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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


Law Firm Website by CLM Grow