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.

Can I Sue A Day Care For Neglect?

Yes.  Texas law allows parents to sue a day care for neglect of a child.

Unfortunately, many kids suffer injuries while they are entrusted to care workers at day care.  These injuries can occur from neglect, abuse or improper supervision of the children.  Your rights and remedies often depend on the exact facts of your case.

Fortunately for those required to make claims, Texas law requires most day care operators to carry liability insurance that pays at least $300,000 per occurrence.  However, there are some broad exceptions, including exceptions when a day care operator can’t purchase insurance for financial reasons or when the day care can’t find a company to underwrite its coverage.  If you’re looking around at day cares, make sure to ask whether the day cares you are considering have insurance coverage.

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 Waited Two Months To Go To The Doctor. Do I Still Have A Case?

I received this question the other day, and I thought others might be interested in the answer as well.

The short answer is “yes.”  Just because you didn’t immediately go to the doctor does not mean that you were not hurt and that you don’t have a case.

But those types of delay do make presenting your personal injury claim much more difficult.  Insurance companies are looking for any small excuse they can find to not pay your claim.  And a “gap in treatment” (as described in the question) is one of the key factors they rely on to defeat claims.

That’s not to say that I agree with insurance companies or that a gap kills your case.  I know a number of people who just don’t like to go to the doctor.  They’ll suffer an injury and try to wait on the problem to resolve to see if they can avoid going to the doctor.  Others simply can’t go to the doctor as soon as they would like.  Perhaps they can’t afford a doctor’s visit, don’t have time to go to the doctor, etc.

So while this type of gap doesn’t mean you no longer have a claim, it can make your claim much more difficult.

Head Injuries: New Settlement In NFL Concussion Lawsuit

helmet smallYou may recall that the previous settlement agreement between the National Football League and a class of former players was scrapped by the judge, who was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough funds to fully compensate the injured players who sustained head injuries.

Yesterday, the parties entered into a new settlement agreement.  Unlike the last settlement, this settlement isn’t capped at any specific amount.  This ensures that any former player who develops a qualifying neurocognitive condition will be compensated for the injury.

This is an interesting way forward.  Obviously, we represent a number of clients who have sustained head injuries, so I know the ways that these types of injuries can affect someone.  But I’ve also done some work on class actions, and it’s highly unusual to craft a settlement that doesn’t have a cap on the damages.  It will be interesting to see how the case proceeds and whether the ultimate amount paid out will surpass the $765 million that was being set aside in the prior agreement.

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.

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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