Energy Drinks Linked To Brain Injuries

brainA new University of Toronto study found that teenagers who drink heavily caffeinated energy drinks are more prone to traumatic brain injuries.

In the firm, I see brain injuries in all sorts of situations — car wrecks, bicycle accidents, falls, etc.  But for teenagers, the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries is sports.  The rate of brain injuries in teens has been on a rise (in part, I think, because of better diagnoses).

The new study sheds some additional light on the problem.  The researchers interviewed 10,000 people from ages 11-20 and asked a series of questions, including questions about usage of energy drinks and their incidents of brain injuries.  The results were startling.

Those kids who had consumed one energy drink in the last year were twice as likely to have suffered a brain injury and non-drinkers, and those kids who consumed five or more energy drinks in the last week were nearly seven times more likely to have sustained a brain injury.

These results don’t necessarily show that the use of energy drinks makes a person more likely to suffer a brain injury from an event.  But it’s possible.  The high caffeine levels affect the brain in ways that we don’t know, and the caffeine levels could make the brain more susceptible to injury.  More study is needed there.

Alternatively, there is some thought that there is a correlation between the use of energy drinks and high risk behavior.  Maybe people who drink energy drinks engage in activities that are more dangerous than what a typical kid experiences.

Finally, there is the possibility that the use of energy drinks is a coping mechanism to deal with the after-effects of brain injuries.  Many kids with brain injuries describe themselves as being tired or in a fog.  Perhaps the usage of energy drinks is a way to fight off those symptoms.

There is still a lot to learn on these topics, but there is enough concern that I think we should discourage the use of these energy drinks by kids until we know that they’re safe.

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.

Austin Dog Bites Are Increasing

Beware of dog sign.Last week, the Austin American Statesman reported that dog attacks are increasing in Austin.  The number of dog attacks has increased every year since 2007.  This year is no exception.  Austin has experienced over 1,000 attacks so far, on pace to break last year’s record.

These are not good statistics.  I’ve represented a number of victims of dog attacks, ranging from the run-of-the-mill attacks to a horrific case where a dog attacked and killed a young child.

These are often terrible cases for those involved.  With aggressive dogs, there is usually significant pain and trauma relating to the original attack.  Many serious attacks have long-term physical consequences, including physical limitations and scarring.  And almost all involve permanent psychological scarring.

Legally, there are a number of different avenues of claims that may be made.  The obvious claim stemming from a dog attack is against the dog owner.  In Texas, dog owners have various responsibilities to help protect the public from unsafe dogs.

If the dog owner was a renter, there may be a claim against the home or apartment owner, depending on the specific facts of the attack.  Additionally, if the dog owner was a renter and a property management company was involved, the property management company also has duties and responsibilities that it must follow.

The more difficult situation in these cases is finding funds for a recovery.  Traditionally, homeowners’ insurance companies have provided coverage for these claims.  Now, as insurance companies are becoming more aware of how serious these claims are, many companies are starting to exclude coverage for dog attack claims.  This is important information to know not only for the victim of attack, but also for dog owners.  If you own a dog, talk to your insurance company and make sure that you’re covered should something go wrong.


If you or a loved one has been injured in a dog attack, please call us for help at (512)476-4944.


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.


Austin Police Chief: Too Many Austin Car Wrecks

Young man using smart phone in his car

Young man using smart phone in his car

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo took the unusual step this week of having a press conference to urge Austin drivers to be more safe.   Chief Acevedo was prompted to take the action because this year has already been record-setting in terms of number of traffic fatalities.

Acevedo noted that the top causes of wrecks are intoxication, speed, distraction and failure to stop.

I won’t argue with Chief Acevedo.  We see wrecks car caused by these four items every day.

Personally, we hope Austinites and others heed Chief Acevedo’s warnings so that our roadways are safer for all of us.

You can read more about his press conference here and here.

What Is A Life Care Planner?

Many of our more serious cases require a life care planner.

A life care planner is an expert witness, usually a doctor or nurse or combination of the two, who sets out the likely care that you’ll need for the rest of your life.  It can include things such as surgeries, physical therapy, follow up doctor care, and accommodations (walkers, shower stools, etc as applicable) that you will need.

The life care planner then estimates the costs of this care throughout your life.

Life care planners are very useful because they can give you a holistic view of your injuries and prognosis that covers a number of different disciplines.  In the non-litigation world, these experts are often seen as case managers — coordinating your care among the different types of doctors that you have to see.

The downside of life care planners is that, like other experts, they can be extremely expensive.  Before hiring one, we’ll have to make a decision about whether the expense can be justified.

The Failure of Tort Reform

Steve Cohen has an interesting article, On Tort Reform, It’s Time To Declare Victory and Withdraw, detailing the failings of tort reform in the medical malpractice context.  In his article, Steve outlines some of the things we’ve learned since tort reform started passing in waves, including in Texas:

1) Tort reform hasn’t decreased healthcare costs.  The theory was that doctors afraid of getting sued were prescribing all kinds of unnecessary tests.  In fact, studies have shown that doctors in states that have enacted tort reform measures prescribe tests at the same rate as those that haven’t had tort reform measures.

2) Runaway juries aren’t a real problem.  Indeed, the data suggests that the average jury awards in medical malpractice cases are significantly lower than the average awards handed down by judges.  If anything, juries are conservative on these cases.

3) Tort reform hasn’t significantly decreased the cost of insurance for doctors, though in states with tort reform measures the increases in rates have been slightly lower than the increases in states without tort reform.

What has happened since tort reform?  Insurance company profits have skyrocketed.  That’s who has really benefited from tort reform.

Unfortunately, in Texas and other states, while trying to craft tort reform for medical malpractice cases, the reforms have bled into other areas of claims, and have hurt the rights of most injured persons and businesses.

With tort reform proven to be a failure, it’s time to make sure it stops.

I’ve Been Injured In A Water Park Or An Amusement Park? Can I Sue Or Make A Claim?

Roller Coaster2 It’s that time a year again.  Almost like clockwork, as soon as school is out, I get inquiries from people like you asking whether you can make a claim against a water park or an amusement park after you get injured.

And the answer is generally yes.  If you’re injured at a water park or an amusement park there are typically several times of claims that you can make.  First, you can make a regular negligence claim arguing that the park’s conduct fell below the standard of care.  In other words, you’re arguing that you were hurt because the park did something it wasn’t supposed to do or that it didn’t do something that it should have done.  There are literally thousands of different variations on this that could lead to claims.

You may also have a products liability claim against the park.  These claims occur when you’re hurt because something with the ride itself goes wrong.  Again, there could be thousands of different possibilities here.  A safety device might not work, the ride might not run as it was designed to do, etc.

There are other claims that might arise based on your particular situation.

And even if you don’t have a claim, many parks have medical payments insurance.  This medical payments coverage pays for medical bills incurred as a result of an incident at the park even if the incident wasn’t the park’s fault.  The limits on these claims are smaller — often around $2,500.00 — but those funds can be helpful when you’re paying out of pocket for medical care.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a water park or amusement park incident, feel free to call us at (512)476-4944.

Drivers Aren’t Being Smart With Their Smart Phones

Avoid-texting-while-drivingAT&T released the results of a scary study this week finding that smart phones are allowing people to drive while distracted in new and “creative” ways.

According to the study:

  • 61% of drivers surveyed admitted that they text and drive
  • 33% admitted emailing while driving
  • 28% admitted surfing the internet while driving
  • 27% admitted using Facebook while driving
  • 17% admitted snapping a photo or selfie while driving
  • 14% admitted using Twitter while driving
  • 14% admitted using Instagram while driving
  • 12% admitted shooting video while driving
  • 11% admitted using Snapchat while driving
  • 10% admitted using video chat while driving

This is obviously a concerning trend.  As we find more and more uses for smartphones, it appears that we’re also creating more and more ways to drive in a distracted manner.

That’s bad news for all of us.



Teaching Teen Drivers

Articles about teen drivers seem to be in the news (or maybe because I’m teaching my own teen to drive, I’m just noticing the articles more).  Regardless, there were two recent articles I saw that probably interest you if you have a teen driver.

The first reports on a study that finds that 60% of teen driver wrecks result from distractions.  This is probably not a surprise to any of us.  But the study was noteworthy for me because of the way it was conducted — the AAA Foundation watched nearly 1,700 in-car videos of teen drivers who were involved in wrecks to diagnose what the teens were doing immediately prior to the wreck.  The two biggest factors were talking to others in the car and using a cell phone, either for talking or for texting.  If you click the link, there is a video story that shows some of the video excerpts from the wrecks.  This is certainly something I’m going to make my teen driver watch.  Passing on this type of information should be of what we teach our kids.

The second article is a Wall Street Journal article entitled Better Ways To Teach Teen Drivers.  The story is based on a 2014 study that placed video cameras in parents’ cars to review what they were teaching their kids.  The analysis found that, by and large, teens are being properly taught the mechanics of driving — how to turn, how to control speed, etc.   Unfortunately, the study found that parents did not do a good job of teaching teens accident avoidance — how to recognize hazards, how to avoid those hazards, etc.

The best line in the article was discussing the fact that parents spend a lot of time on things they had trouble with, such as parallel parking.  But as the story noted, “Most people don’t get killed parallel parking.”  Instead, the article encourages parents to spend more time working on hazard recognition and judgment — making left turns into oncoming traffic, how to merge on and off highways at high speed, etc.  The article also encourages you to work with your kid in bad weather conditions, in crowded roads, and the like so that the teens’ first time experiencing these things are not while they are alone.

It pains me to give credit to an insurance company, but State Farm has a teen driving program called Road Trips on its teen driving website,, that can help you with the process.  The website also has a 3-d video tool that helps kids learn to scan for hazards as they’re driving.



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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