AUTO ACCIDENTS: Understanding Texas Auto Insurance: PERSONAL INJURY PROTECTION

Personal injury protection coverage (PIP) provides benefits to you, your family members, or others riding in your car when you’re in a wreck.  The coverage will pay for your medical expenses and 80% of your lost wages caused by injuries sustained in the wreck up to the limits of your policy.

Unless you specifically reject PIP coverage in writing, you will have $2,500.00 of coverage.  However, you can purchase much higher limits.

One significant benefit of personal injury protection coverage is that there is no subrogation interest.   Most insurance, such as health insurance or Medicare, has a subrogation interest.  That means that they might pay for your medical bills, but if you recover for those amounts from a third party who caused the injuries, then they will claim that you  must reimburse the health insurance company for the amounts they paid on your behalf.  However, PIP does not have a subrogation interest.  If they pay you benefits, you do not have to reimburse them if you make a recovery.

Employers must provide a safe workplace for employees

Safety in the workplace is a serious issue. Companies that violate the law face penalties and/or lawsuits.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is deadly serious about safety in the workplace. And despite what companies may think, they do inspect and keep track of whether or not there is compliance after an inspection. In this case, not only was there no compliance, the issues kept getting worse.

This is a Texas case involving Worldwide Oilfield Division, Inc. in Houston. It was slapped with a number of penalties for eight violations (new ones), four repeat violations and one safety violation after an October 2012 inspection. OSHA inspectors discovered workers were routinely exposed to unguarded machinery, electrical hazards and other issues at the Worldwide Oilfield Division location on Cunningham Road.

The inspection cited the facility for allowing workers to run dangerous, improperly protected equipment, putting them at high risk for amputations and other serious injuries. On re-inspection, the issues had not been fixed, resulting in a higher fine of $71,200.

Conditions noted at the facility included failing to provide the proper safety guards for a variety of machines that ran the gamut from vertical and horizontal turret lathes to band saws, and failing to ensure all panels, electrical cords and boxes were securely anchored to avoid the possibility of electrocution.

In penalizing the company, OSHA noted that it is the employer’s responsibility to provide a safe workplace for all workers. Providing a safe workplace includes ensuring the equipment they work with is not dangerous and has the proper guard equipment in place to prevent serious accidents.

Aside from the fact this company is in direct violation of OSHA rules, they are potentially exposing themselves to a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit. In the eyes of the law, if an individual is badly injured or killed while on the job, and the cause of the accident was negligence on the part of the employer, the workers have a right to worker’s compensation benefits or to sue for compensation to cover items such as medical expenses, lost wages, and medications. In this instance, the employer is negligent in not providing a secure workplace and in not addressing safety issues, even when told to do so.

If you have been in a situation like this, discuss your case with an Austin injury attorney. If you want to know what is involved in an injury case or wrongful death lawsuit, an Austin injury attorney can provide you with the answers, allowing you to make informed choices about your situation.

Van versus bicycle accident results in $2.3 million wrongful death lawsuit verdict

A 52-year-old man was hit by a van belonging to a hotel corporation, driven by a hotel employee.

This case was about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A 52-year-old man was out riding his bicycle early in the evening in September 2008, when he was struck by a van being driven by an employee of one of the local hotels. At trial, the van driver and the hotel corporation were found equally liable in a civil suit filed by the family of the deceased bike rider.

The bike rider was not wearing a helmet at the time of impact, and he was ejected from his bike, slamming into the pavement, sustaining serious traumatic brain injuries. Although he made it to the hospital alive, and survived emergency surgery, he died three days later. He left behind a wife and three sons.

The jury ruled that the bike rider and the van driver were both at fault for the accident. However, the van driver and therefore the driver’s hotel employer were responsible for 58 percent of the negligence in the accident. The cyclist was deemed to be 42 percent responsible, as no one could ascertain for sure if he had obeyed a stop sign prior to the collision. It was determined that the van driver did not have a stop sign, but also revealed that he was traveling 40 mph in a 25 mph zone.

Other evidence that came to light during the trial determined that the van driver may also have been using a cell phone just prior to the impact; a violation of state law. The driver denied that he was on his phone. In assessing the case, the jury awarded $1,709,840 in damages to the estate of the deceased cyclist and $580,000 in damages to the widow, who had asked the court to award expenses for medical bills, funeral and burial costs, lost wages and the permanent loss of her husband’s earning ability, companionship and moral support. The deceased had been a doctor in his native homeland.

Most wrongful death lawsuits are not about exacting revenge. They are about making sure something horrible does not happen to someone else’s family. They are about seeking compensation in order to be able to move forward with their lives. They are about trying to heal and deal with the sudden loss of income provided by the deceased who died a wrongful death.

None of these cases are easy, and many of them take a number of months, if not years to get through court. This is why a family who has lost someone in such a manner needs to seek compassionate and experienced legal counsel from an Austin personal injury lawyer. Assessing damages in cases like this is part of the experience counsel needs to help a family get the compensation they deserve. A seasoned personal Austin injury lawyer will get the family through their ordeal with as little anxiety and grief as possible.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

This case is an example of a personal injury case and not one of our firm’s cases.

Increased big rig speed on highways may account for more accidents

The good news is that the number of car accidents has gone down. The bad news is that the number of big rig wrecks is on the rise.

There are a number of factors at play during a car accident — anything from texting while driving to mechanical failure. And yet, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is indicating that fatal accidents are down 1.9 percent since 2010. This is good news. The bad news is that on the other side of the statistics column is an increase in truck accident deaths.

A closer look at the car collision numbers indicates that for the first time since 1949, when these types of figures were first recorded, U.S. car accidents are at an all-time low. In 2011, there were 32,367 deaths, and while this sounds on the high side, it is much lower that previous years, sparking hope that drivers are getting the message to drive with due care and attention.

As for tractor trailer units, or big rigs, between 2010 and 2011, the number of fatal accidents jumped by 20 percent— from 530 in 2010 to 635 in 2011. Anytime figures like this take a jump, it is not a good sign. Although these numbers relate to fatal accidents, the number of injury accidents involving trucks also shot up by 15 percent. The cause is a mystery. However there are many industry pundits, and those in law enforcement, that speculate when speed limits for trucks were raised, more accidents followed. Add in the fact that there are now more trucks on the road than ever, and the results may be self-explanatory.

It’s not just speed that kills.  Drivers on the highways need to be aware that truckersare human. This opens the door for things like speeding, texting while driving, falling asleep while behind the wheel, distracted driving, improperly lashed down loads, or the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The causes are many. The results, should something go wrong, are a disaster.

It’s a fact that when a passenger vehicle gets into an accident with a large transport truck, that the truck wins. There are very few survivors in an accident such as this, and those who do make it out alive, are seriously injured to the extent that their lives may never be the same again – ever. They face years of medical care, pain, suffering, depression and rehabilitation— an expensive proposition to say the least.

If you have been involved in an accident with a big rig, reach out and contact an experienced Austin injury lawyer. If you want compensation for your injuries, medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages and so on, an Austin injury lawyer is the one to take your case to court— your voice seeking justice when you need it the most.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Head Trauma Causes Railroad Foreman to Sue Employer

Traumatic brain injury can be deadly. It certainly alters a person’s life.

This on-the-job injury case involved a railroad worker. John Doe (whose name has been changed to protect the victim) had worked for the Kansas City Southern Railway Company for a number of years when he was involved in an accident.
The fateful event happened in 2009 when Doe, a section foreman, and his crew were removing broken rail of a section of track. Suddenly, the boom of the crane struck the ball of the rail still loaded in the rack of a railway section truck. The impact rolled it over the forks on the rack and the rail dropped like a stone to the ground. On its way down, Doe was hit and sustained severe back, neck and head injuries.

From that day forward, Doe suffered unbelievable physical pain and suffering, lost wages, mental anguish, loss of current and future earnings, diminished earning capacity and enormous medical bills that he was unable to pay. Doe hopes that his case will be successful, and that he will be able to recover enough money to take care of himself for the future.
Cases like this are tricky and may also involve worker’s compensation. In some states, a worker is not able to sue his employer because he is being paid workers’ compensation. Since this varies state by state, it is something that needs to be checked with an Austin personal injury lawyer if an accident like this takes place in Texas.

Workers’ compensation is always an issue when workers are injured on the job, but each case is different, so never assume you do not have a case or that you cannot get compensation. The details of the case need to be discussed in depth with an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer. As things currently stand, Texas private employers may choose whether or not they will offer workers’ compensation insurance to their employees. Typically, the employer is mandated to tell the worker if they have coverage or not.

Workers’ compensation pays the medical bills and covers a portion of a worker’s lost wages if they are injured on the job or are affected by a work-related illness and the employer has coverage under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, Title 5, Subtitle A, Labor Code. It can also cover for vocational rehabilitation and retraining when an injury prevents a worker from going back to their normal job, and they need to learn a new position to be able to work with a longer-term injury or disability.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Slip and Fall Accidents Do Not Net Plaintiffs an Economic Windfall

While some think a slip and fall case is an accident that will create an economic windfall for the plaintiff, this could not be further from the truth.

Slip and fall cases, also referred to as premises liability, happen when you or someone else slips and falls on the land, business or premises of a person or company. The idea is that the owner is liable for accidents that happen to you when you are on their property if the owner knew or should have known about the problem that caused the accident and failed to do anything about it.

For a clear example, the type of accident that usually merits legal assistance in the form of an Austin personal injury lawyer and a court case could involve a slip and fall after taking a skid on a wet floor that no one put up a warning sign about, if there are significant injuries to the victim.

The one thing about slip and fall or premises liability cases is the ability to distinguish between what you should really be aware of and on the lookout for and what would come as a nasty surprise. Put another way, if you ask guests to your home and your floor is uneven, rough, full of holes and a definite hazard, you must take the responsibility to warn people about the chance they may be hurt and/or fix the problems. It is that, or finding out later, when you are contacted by an Austin personal injury lawyer and told that you are being sued.

On the other hand, say you walk onto a construction job site. What would you expect to find there? You would probably see signs warning people on the property to wear proper headgear and to watch for falling objects, etc. It would come as no surprise to find nails and broken glass on the job site, as well as piles of debris. Trip over some of that stuff and really, you should have been watching were you were going. In other words, slip and fall accidents are usually about expectations. You do not expect to find nails, loose boards and falling objects in a grocery store or at a coffee shop.

These kinds of cases are really common for the simple reason that walking itself can be a major task some days. Add in the fact that humans are human and when washing the floor in a business washroom, they sometimes just plain forget to leave “Wet Floor – Danger!” signs out. Or if you were heading into your favourite coffee shop for a latte and tripped over a brick flagstone the owner had been meaning to fix, but had not gotten around to it yet, then you may be eligible to file for damages for your injuries.

While you may think that a fall couldn’t hurt that much, consider the case of a dance instructor on board a cruise ship who slipped in the galley on an unmarked wet floor. His injuries were so severe that he ended up being impotent and incontinent. Never assume that because it was just a fall, that you don’t have damages that will turn out to be something worse later. This is the prime time to speak to an Austin personal injury lawyer about holding the negligent party or parties responsible and to obtain funds to pay your medical expenses and time off work, etc.

Keep in mind that this area of the law is designed to help those who were unintended victims of a negligent property or business owner. News reports making cases like this out to be cash windfalls for victims are wrong. At best, they underplay the true significant of injuries sustained in a slip and fall. At worst, they portray the person as getting megabucks for a scraped knee, when in reality, the knee may have been dislocated and required pinning for the person to walk again.

While you may have fallen and hurt yourself, you need to know that filing a personal injury claim is definitely not going to make you rich. It might get you financial compensation for bills, lost wages and pain and suffering, but that’s it. Getting compensation to pay medical bills is a big win these days, given the price of medical care.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke PLLC. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

If You Can’t Work Following A Car Wreck, Who Will Pay Your Lost Wages?

Today’s video answers the question, “If you can’t work following a car wreck, who will pay your lost wages?”

Who Will Pay My Lost Wages If I Can’t Work After A Car Wreck? from brooks schuelke on Vimeo.

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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