What Will It Take To Get A State-Wide Ban On Texting While Driving?

Earlier this week, families who have been destroyed by texting while driving wrecks came to Austin to urge state lawmakers to adopt a state-wide texting while driving ban.  Unfortunately, they’re not alone.  Stories like those shared by these families have been repeated over and over and over.

There is no dispute that texting while driving is dangerous.  Studies have even shown that it’s more dangerous than drinking while driving.  You would think that a state-wide ban would be a no-brainer.

But apparently it’s not.  Some legislators argue that a ban would be an unnecessary invasion into people’s rights.  Are you kidding me?  Is the speed limit an unnecessary invasion?  Are laws against DWI an unnecessary invasion?  Texting while driving is just as dangerous, if not more dangerous, and we need to be doing what we can to protect our kids and families.  Will a ban stop texting while driving?  No.  But it will help, and that’s better than nothing.

You should watch the stories of these families below.

 

Vanishing Lawsuits and Jury Trials

Warrior Award 2015The statistics from the Texas State Office of Court Administration are startling.  In the last ten years, the number of lawsuits having been filed has dropped 17%.  At the same time, the number of civil jury trials have dropped 34%.

What’s that mean for you?

It makes a difference when you’re hiring a lawyer.

The reality is that while the number of “litigation” lawyers or “trial lawyers” have been on the rise, the actual number of lawyers who have actually participated in a jury trial has been plummeting.  Lawyers calling themselves “litigators” may file lawsuits and do discovery and go through alternative dispute resolution and settle cases, but most rarely, if ever, see a jury.

A recent Texas Bar Journal reported on a survey of lawyers who called themselves litigators.  Of those with ten years of experience, 30 percent had NEVER tried a case to a jury.  And perhaps even more remarkable, only 36 had tried two or more cases to a jury.  That means that almost one third of the lawyers calling themselves litigators had never had a jury trial and another third had only had one trial.

Unfortunately, when you’re hiring a lawyer, you may never know whether the lawyer has ever tried a case or whether the lawyer has ultimate plans to just settle your claims.  This can often affect the ultimate recovery that you make.

Some of us are trying to do something about it.  I’m proud to be an active member of the Capital Area Trial Lawyers’ Association (I’m the immediate past president).  We have started giving out a “Warrior Award” to our members who take cases to jury trials.  This is a way of acknowledging those of us who have actually tried cases, and a way to encourage other lawyers to take their cases to trial.  We have also started a system where lawyers help one another with voir dire or other parts of the case to make trying cases a little easier.

I certainly don’t think our system will change the face of the state’s lawsuits, but I do hope it can help provide better representation for injured persons throughout Central Texas.

 

Brain Injury Symptoms: Speech and Language Problems

The human brainAs I repeatedly tell clients, brain injuries often go undiagnosed following car wrecks or other accidents because doctors don’t usually know you well enough to make a pre-injury and post-injury comparison of your intelligence, emotional well-being, and general personality.  As a result, it’s often up to you or your family members to notice the symptoms of a brain injury and convey those to medical providers so you get the best care possible.  But to do that, you need to know the symptoms of brain injuries.  This series is designed to help you do that.

Unfortunately,  brain injuries often affect a victim’s ability to communicate.  These are not only scary problems to encounter, but they can greatly affect the victim’s quality of life going forward.  Some of these issues are as follows:

Cognitive issues.  Many victims find their communication problems resulting from cognitive issues such as problems with word recall, inability to tell stories or other thoughts in sequence, or difficulty understanding more complex thoughts or expressions.  There are often some coping strategies that can be used to help with these problems.

Slurring or other speech problems. Another common problem is slurring of speech.  Technically, brain injury patients can develop a motor speech disorder called dysarthia.  The symptoms of dysarthia may be slurred or choppy speech, slow rate of speech, inability to fully move mouth, tongue and jaw, and other changes in voice quality.  These are obviously scary problems, but they can often be treated with speech therapy.

Swallowing problems.  Though not a true communication problem, a somewhat related symptom is swallowing problems.  Many victims of head injury develop issues with swallowing.  This is obviously not a symptom that you would normally associate with brain injuries, but it is one that you can easily recognize if you’re looking for it.

Brain Injury Symptoms: Pain Disorders

The human brainAs I repeatedly tell clients, brain injuries often go undiagnosed following car wrecks or other accidents because doctors don’t usually know you well enough to make a pre-injury and post-injury comparison of your intelligence, emotional well-being, and general personality.  As a result, it’s often up to you or your family members to notice the symptoms of a brain injury and convey those to medical providers so you get the best care possible.  But to do that, you need to know the symptoms of brain injuries.  This series is designed to help you do that.

Problems with pain are common following brain injuries.

Headache.  Perhaps the most common symptom of a brain injury is a headache.  Symptoms can range from routine post-traumatic headaches to post-traumatic migraines.  The severity of the headache and the duration of the symptoms depends on the severity of the injury and the type of head injury sustained.

Neuropathic pain.  Neuropathic pain is a condition caused by injuries to the nervous system.    This is hard to describe, but the nerves are excited so pain is prevalent.  This pain may be treated by medication.

Central pain syndrome.  Central pain syndrome is pain that follows lesions to the central nervous system.  If the brain develops lesions from the brain injury, then central pain syndrome may develop.

Leading Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

TBIStats_Causes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We represent a number of clients who have brain injuries, and I received this infographic the other day describing the causes of traumatic brain injuries.  I thought it was brilliant, and I wanted to share it here.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

National Safe Boating Week: The Statistics

Why is Safe Boating Week important?  Here are the statistics from the Safe Boating Council.

All figures are from the U.S. Coast Guard’s 2012 Recreational Boating Safety Statistics, the latest official record of reported recreational boating accidents. The full report is available online at: www.USCGBoating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.aspx.

  • Drowning was reported as the cause of death in almost three-fourths of all fatalities.
  • Approximately 85 percent of those who drowned were not wearing life jackets.
  • In 2012, the Coast Guard counted 4,515 accidents that involved 651 deaths, 3,000 injuries and approximately $38 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.
  • Approximately 14 percent of deaths occurred on boats where the operator had received boating safety instruction.
  • Operator inattention, operator inexperience, improper lookout, machinery failure and excessive speed are the top five primary contributing factors in accidents.
  • Alcohol use is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; it was listed as the leading factor in 17 percent of the deaths.
  • Twenty-four children under age thirteen lost their lives while boating in 2012. Forty-two percent of the children who died in 2012 did so from drowning.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in reported accidents were open motorboats (47%), personal watercraft (19%) and cabin motorboats (15%).

National Recreational Boating Statistics

  • Fatalities: 651
  • Drownings: 459
  • Injuries (requiring medical treatment beyond first aid): 3,000
  • Boating Accidents: 4,515
  • Property Damage: $38,011,601
  • Number of registered recreational boats in the U.S.: 12,101,936

Unfortunately, Texas is the number 3 state for boating deaths and the number 4 state for boating accidents.

Remember to be safe.  Don’t let you or your family become another statistic.

 

 

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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