Serious Personal Injury May Happen While Texting And Walking

No doubt you have seen the video of the woman texting and falling into a fountain at a shopping mall. While the video was funny and no one was serioiusly hurt, the ramifications for texting and walking have the potential to be fatal.

It used to be that everyone got to where they were going by just walking there. If they had anything to say to the person when they arrived, that was when the conversation took place. Cell phones had not yet been invented, and no one seemed to miss being out of touch with others. It was just the way life was back then. Now, with the advent of cell phones that do just about everything, staying in touch is not only easy, it may also kill.

Many people do not see the harm in texting while walking. After all, they are safe on the sidewalk, mall or wherever they happen to be headed. But, are they? Consider the case of the young teen who was texting her boyfriend about their planned date, when she walked out between two parked cars, right into the path of an 18-wheeler. The cell phone survived the impact. The young girl did not. Was her life worth texting dangerously?

What about the case of the young man who was walking down the stairs at work and texting his buddy about their weekend plans? Because he was not paying attention to where he was walking, he missed the last two steps, fell hard and hit his head on a cement floor. His cell phone survived the impact. He sustained traumatic brain injury. Was his forever altered life worth texting dangerously?

If you do not think texting and walking is a big deal, because maybe, nothing has ever happened to you, consider the emergency room statistics across the U.S. that show over 1,000 pedestrians have needed emergency medical care because of texting and walking accidents. Each year, the numbers go up, not down. While texting and walking is not a smart thing to do, texting and driving is markedly worse, as you can kill someone else by negligently not paying attention to the road. Be smart and above all, be safe.

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

Gas station lies about selling booze and jury returns 15 million dollar verdict in wrongful death case

Sometimes it is the little things in life that, once discovered, change the outcome of a trial.

This particular case took seven years to finally offer the family some sense of closure over the death of their 13-year-old son. The young boy was killed in a car wreck, as the drunken driver of the vehicle lost control and slammed into a tree. The car was full of teens that had been partying and everyone was inebriated. In fact, the group of friends had been going back and forth to a local convenience store that fateful night, buying booze.
They didn’t buy booze just once. They ultimately came to the gas bar and convenience store three times that night, stocking up on more alcohol each time. In short, the gas bar was selling liquor to underage minors. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that they finally admitted they had sold the kids booze. For years they denied the sales had ever happened.

When the case got to trial, the jury was angry that the former owners of the store had blatantly lied about the role they played in the deadly accident. It appeared they did not want to admit they had illegally sold alcohol to minors and that in doing so had precipitated the death of a young boy and created the perfect storm of events that would seriously injure three other teens. The jury handed down a $15 million verdict.

Although the young boy’s family was relieved to have the case finally resolved, they didn’t care that much about the jury award. The main reason they went to court was to try and ensure that others would get the message that it is dangerous to sell alcohol to minors. Nothing would bring the young boy back, but perhaps the fact that the former owners were held responsible for his death would demonstrate that such actions are illegal, immoral and unethical, and that eventually, those who sell to minors or over-serve those already drunk will be held responsible for their negligence.

Wrongful death lawsuits are usually not about revenge. They are a vehicle to make a point and get a message heard. They are one way for a grieving family to achieve some form of closure. If you have been in a situation similar to this one, make contact with an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer. You need to know what your legal rights are and what to expect should your case go to trial.

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

Should Facebook be used during a wrongful death trial?

Is using Facebook during a wrongful death trial an ethics issue or a legal issue?

This is one of those cases that make waves — not so much for the case itself, but for the presence of and use of social media during a trial by the jury foreman.

The case itself related to the wrongful death of a woman at the hands of a medical practitioner. The statement of claim filed on behalf of the plaintiffs in 2009, alleged careless and negligent treatment of their mother in 2008. The sons were under the age of 18 at the time the lawsuit was filed, and therefore the father filed on their behalf. They also asked the court for damages in excess of $25,000.

The case did go to trial in Oct 2012, and the jury found in favor of the defendants, and further awarding court costs to the plaintiffs. Many thought that would be the end of the case. It wasn’t. About a month later, the plaintiff’s attorney filed a motion for a new trial. Evidently one member of the jury did not reveal, despite being questioned, that she and her deceased husband had arterial stents. There was also the matter of the court possibly erring by denying the plaintiffs five challenges to ineligible and unqualified jurors from the pool.

Those issues aside, the biggest objection, and leading reason to call for a new, fair trial, was the jury foreman’s use of social media during the course of the trial. He regularly posted on Facebook about being on the jury, made jokes about wanting booze and about how he was instrumental in getting a verdict delivered in under an hour.

On review by a judge, who commented the actions of the jury foreman were not pleasing to the court, the finding for the defendant was allowed to stand. It was allowed to stand because despite the man openly using social media to tell the whole world about his part in the trial, he did not reveal any case details, discuss any of the evidence presented in court and did not express an opinion on the case. This case may yet move forward to a higher court to determine the role of social media use in court cases and what is or is not acceptable for jurors while on duty during a trial.

While this might seem like a minor issue, because everyone uses social media these days and thinks nothing of it, it has ramifications beyond the obvious. Court cases are not to be discussed in public. Evidence is not to be openly talked about in social media settings. Opinions or thoughts relating to the trial, the facts, the deceased or the defendant are not public fodder. Talking about a trial in progress could prejudice the outcome and drastically affect the course of justice. Because those instructions, to not speak about the deliberations are so important, this case is contrary to a number of cases around the country that have resulted in new trials due to jurors’ use of social media.

Social media is far too prevalent in this day and age, and there are just some places it should not be allowed.

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

Texas employers must report workplace injuries and illness

If you work in Texas, it is the law that employers report all injuries and illnesses.

If you have been injured on the job in Texas, or become ill as a result of conditions in your workplace, your employer is obligated to file an OSHA 300 Log. The log must offer a complete picture of the accident and contain the identity of the worker involved, complete details of the incident, where it happened, what kind of injury was sustained and how many days the worker missed due to the injury.

This section, relating to how many days are missed, is where things get a bit complicated. Although the method of calculation is laid out in 29 Code of Federal Regulations, section 1904.7(b)(2), trying to decipher what it means usually requires the services of an experienced Austin injury lawyer. The guidelines basically cover how to take into account holidays, temporary plant closures, layoffs and weekends. There are often difficulties in assessing the number of days a worker misses, due to how the employer may interpret the regulations. If your injury keeps you off the job for over 180 days, your employer does not need to keep any further records.

Keep in mind that an injury or illness needs to meet certain criteria before it may be filed. For a log to be kept, the injury/illness must be related to work, must be new, not a re-injury, and it must be classified as significant, on the basis of a doctor’s diagnosis. Furthermore, the injury must result in loss of consciousness, medical intervention greater than just first aid, time off work, job restrictions, or a transfer to another job and/or death.

When it comes to significant workplace injuries, medical expenses can be staggering, and any injured worker would likely be looking for a way to obtain compensation. In Texas, there are a number of ways to get compensation, and discussing what those routes are is vital when you reach out to talk to an Austin injury lawyer.

Unfortunately, workers’ compensation does not always provide you with the amount that you deserve, according to the severity of your injury. Additionally, if your injury is the result of someone’s intentional negligence or the result of some form of misconduct by your employer, full financial recovery is possible through filing a personal injury lawsuit.

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

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.

Toddler run over by truck does not survive

When an emergency call goes out for help involving a child, the crews know it will be a tough call.

This story had one of the worst endings possible, the death of a toddler. A three-year-old boy was run over by a truck backing up through a parking lot. For some reason, like most small children do, the boy bolted away from his mother and ran off. A short time later, a truck ran him over. Although the boy was only pinned under the truck for a short period of time, it was enough for him to sustain life-threatening injuries. He died at the hospital later that day.

Stories like this bring home the very real safety issues that we all need to be concerned about. Small children simply do not understand why they can’t run free in places like parking lots, and drivers in those lots, and other locations need to be on constant alert to avoid accidents like this one. Drivers need to be even more cautious during holiday seasons, as there are far too many distractions for everyone.

Although many people condemn the use of child leashes as being inhumane and humiliating, a restraint such as that would have saved this boy’s life. Perhaps the most important thing to consider in keeping a child safe is not what looks odd or punitive, but what will keep them alive when they are out in dangerous situations, even if they are with a parent.

Being with his mother in the parking lot did not help this three-year-old, and once he had broken free from his mother, there was no way she could catch up to him before the accident. It’s a devastating blow to watch a child get run over, not only for the parents, but for the driver that struck the boy.

In this instance, there will be more questions to answer before the police get a clear picture of how this misfortune happened. For instance, was the driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Was the driver texting while driving? Or otherwise distracted and not paying attention? Not to mention the biggest question of why was the truck driving backwards through a crowded parking lot? It is not clear whether charges will be laid, but should law enforcement discover the truck driver could have avoided the accident, but for a negligent action, there may be charges pending.

In a wrongful death case such as this, parents may wish to speak with an Austin injury lawyer. They need to know what their rights are and how to move forward with a lawsuit seeking compensation for the sudden death of their loved one. Avoid dealing directly with insurance companies, as their main goal is to settle quickly and cheaply. They do not consider the agony of the parents. They are more interested in their fiscal bottom line. Take any questions about personal injury accidents to an Austin injury lawyer, particularly if you want justice.

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

Coaches are behind the times when it comes to traumatic brain injury

Even though traumatic brain injury is receiving more attention than every before, many coaches are lagging behind when it comes to doing something about it.

For many areas of the U.S., football is the social stitching that holds the fabric of a community together. Playoffs are a time of intensity, hard-hitting action, and a stand jammed pack with locals watching for those rough-and-tumble plays. More often than not, many in the stands are even secretly anticipating the sound of helmets crunching against each other, as one player takes another down. The crowd figures “seeing stars” is a normal part of the game. It is not.

This most recent off-season brought news of two National Football League (NFL) players taking their own lives. Along with that also came news that former NFL players were suing the League for keeping critical information from them relating to brain trauma and how it could affect them in the long-term. The time to do something about brain injuries is long past, and there is a lot of catching up to do, much of it by small-townfootball coaches.

Witness the case of a small rural high school, with a football team of go-getters, raring to make a name for themselves. During their practice scrimmages, several players get their “bells rung.” They keep on playing. One cannot recall what happened on the field of a most recent game. He was hit so hard, his memories only include being carried off the field, but he does not know why.

He did get hit. Hard. He is still trying to recover some semblance of normalcy in his daily life, but after four concussions in a short period of time, his doctor has banned him from sports for the foreseeable future. He may face up to two years down time before he can play again, if ever. He played through four concussions and his coach let him.

In small town America, football is a religion. Changing any of the rules about playing, or pulling players out because they got shaken up is frowned upon. However, even though many coaches are resistant to change, the awareness about concussions spreading to every corner of the nation. Small football venues with a coach for the local team are being forced into the mainstream of media awareness about traumatic brain injury.

The tide of media coverage is the harbinger of change. Between 2009 and 2011, the District of Columbia and 33 states passed laws, taking direct aim at preventing concussions in sports involving youth. Another 15 states have legislation on the table this year. Only Arkansas and Montana have done nothing. It’s time for change.

If your child has been involved in a sport that involves a high risk of brain injury, and the coaching staff did not advise them of the risks, or provide them with proper equipment, and they were injured you need to talk to an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer.

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

Traumatic brain injury is not a pillow fight

Many parents these days think their little football player will be fine with protective headgear. They will likely be wrong.

Over the last few years, a significant number of sports celebrities, and other not-so-famous players, have taken their own lives due to traumatic brain injury. Over time, repeated impacts can destroy the brain and create the idealenvironment for degenerative brain disease, or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Children in large football or hockey outfits are cute, but their head health is a serious concern. Traumatic brain injury is not a pillow fight. It kills.

In step with the public’s demands for more information about traumatic brain injury and how to prevent it, the movie “Head Games,” directed by Steve James, was filmed with Little People. The movie is starkly moving and uses graphic images to show what concussions really do. These pictures are interspersed with parents relating personal stories of how their young athlete is valiantly struggling with head injuries, and how devastating the long-term effects are for the whole family. For families facing this life changing event, they may obtain the 90-minute film, on demand, at Amazon and iTunes, and it may also be available from some cable and satellite providers. It is well worth watching if you think playing football is a piece of cake. In fact, the issue is more complex and goes far deeper than anyone can imagine. Football and other contact sports have the potential to lead to irreparable brain damage. Too many people think of how cute the players look and pay scant attention to the seriousness of a concussion. Clearly, kids are being exposed to needless risks, and no one seems to get it.

This is a huge public health issue that people try to sweep under the carpet, because they do not grasp the ramifications of repeated concussions, until their son or daughter becomes a victim. Media reports about this issue are not sensationalized. They are the truth, and it is time parents woke up and started dealing with it.

It’s been scientifically proven that multiple blows to the head lead to brain trauma. If you don’t think that is true, consider that the National Football League is dealing with 140 lawsuits from about 3,500 former players, alleging the League hid the truth about concussions from them.

Little football players grow into big ones, and likely continue their love of sports over a lifetime. How does that affect their brain health? This is something we need to be upset about. Something we need to deal with before it gets completely out of hand. Ignoring head trauma does not mean it will go away.

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

When the Government Doesn’t Respond to Assist Injured Veterans, Private Enterprise Steps in

Someone needs to take responsibility for the brave souls who fought for our country. If not government, then the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund.

The government has been saying for some time now that they do not have enough funds to treat the enormous number of psychologically and physically damaged troops returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq. To throw their hands up in the air and cry defeat would be inexcusable. Sourcing funds to help veterans, the government partnered with the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund (Fund), an entrepreneurial and dynamic group busy raising $100 million to erect clinics on military bases.

The purpose of the new buildings is to treat and research traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, the main and extremely devastating results of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The Fund is blessed with the ability to bypass government bureaucracy when dealing with construction projects, and is able and willing to fund medical advances to help returning vets.

A brainchild of 9/11, the Fund has been credited with building a burn-victim and amputee rehabilitation center in San Antonio, Texas and a stellar brain injury center in Bethesda, Md. Both facilities are considered to be among the nation’s top medical facilities that specialize in treating injured troops. They offer very targeted and specific treatment, and provide the opportunity for all doctors treating a patient to meet with them at once, so they are all on the same song sheet, treatment wise.

Vets treated in these facilities are not rushed from one doctor to the next. They do not bounce around to different physicians, and unlike other hospitals, there are a number of other alternative treatments for patients. For instance, the injured may be helped by service dogs or art therapy.

The plan is to build seven to ten more clinics at the largest military bases in the U.S., based on the unique hub and spoke model. Military officials hope to streamline treatments by sending patient information up to the research section and subsequently making use of treatment modalities suggested, based on the initial information.

Already underway is a clinic in Virginia at Fort Belvoir and in North Carolina at Camp Lejeune. More facilities are in the works for Fort Bliss, Texas; Fort Carson, Colorado; Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Fort Hood, Texas; and Joint Base Lewis McChord, Washington. Although the clinics are built and funded by private enterprise, once they have been completed, the base takes over control, operating the clinic, staffing it, and making sure their services are second to none. Things are looking a great deal brighter from veterans returning home from deployment overseas, and it’s about time.  With any luck, these models and research will lead to successes that can be extended to the private sector to help private individuals too.

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

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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