October 30, 2014

Deputy Sheriff Killed By Meth Addict In Head-On Collision

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In a tragic scene Tuesday night, Harris County Deputy Jesse Valdez III was killed in a head-on collision while he was on his way to a welfare check. Kelly Jo Ivey crossed the center lane and rammed her SUV head-on into the officer's patrol car. Deputy Valdez's car spun off the road and landed in a ditch. The patrol car was so badly damaged that police had to use the jaws-of-life device to extricate Deputy Valdez. Sadly, he died that night at Memorial Hermann Trauma Center. 

Investigators believe that drug use caused this horrific crash. Officers found three grams of methamphetamines in Ms. Ivey's SUV and have charged her with possession of meth. Ivey was released from the same hospital into the custody of Harris County Jail.Prosecutors are waiting for toxicology results to determine whether she had meth in her system at the time of the auto accident. If so, she will likely be charged with drugged driving and vehicular manslaughter.

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October 28, 2014

Flower Mound Teacher And Coach Killed by Speeding Driver

Speed and Road Rage May Be to Blame for the Deadly Car Crash

26-year-old Kyle Tilley was tragically killed on just before midnight on Saturday when a Lexus ISF plowed into his Jeep on the Sam Rayburn Tollway in The Colony. His passenger, 25-year-old Nicholas Bass, remains hospitalized with serious injuries. Although the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is still investigating, evidence shows that speed and road rage contributed to the deadly accident.

Mr. Tilley was a popular swim coach at the Lakeside Aquatic Club and an admired substitute teacher at Flower Mound High School. He was described as having a "knack for kids" and loved helping children reach their potential. He took on challenging classroom roles, including teaching children with autism and rowdy kids. He was a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University in Arkansas and was earning his teaching certificate. He planned on teaching high school history and coaching a high school swim team. What a terrible loss.

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October 27, 2014

Huge Verdict in Marshall Stops Defective Guardrail Sales - For Now

Trinity Guardrails Remain on Highways Nationwide

A Texas jury found that Trinity Industries defrauded the government by selling an altered guardrail design without notifying the government agency as required by law. Whistleblower Joshua Harman and the federal government were awarded $525 million in the Marshall, Texas lawsuit. Trinity continues to deny responsibility and plans to appeal the decision.

Trinity announced on Friday that it will halt sales of the product until further testing is done. Fortunately, this means no additional guardrails will be installed. However, the guardrails that are currently on our nation's highways remain a danger to drivers. The government needs to conduct a product recall to replace the defective guardrails with the original safe design to rid our roadways of this peril.

The Minor Change that had a Major Impact

A decade ago, Trinity cut one inch from each end terminal to save the company $2 per unit. Although, one inch sounds minor, in fact, the difference substantially altered the manner in which the guardrails performed during a crash. The original design of the ET-Plus Railhead, approved by the federal government, allowed the end terminal to slide along the railing and push away the metal to absorb the impact of the vehicle collision. The shortened end terminal instead jams up and so the rail acts as a javelin that can pierce the body of the car and its occupants. Numerous auto accident victims have lost their lives or their limbs because of the design change.

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October 24, 2014

Arlington Mother Killed by Flying Road Debris


Two Garland drivers were seriously injured when projectile debris hit a 32 year old man from Texarkana and another man from Dallas. The first man was hit by the axle of another vehicle, the second by a canister of refrigerant. 


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Police Still Investigating Who is Responsible 

Denton police are still investigating a heartbreaking case in which road debris killed an Arlington woman earlier this month. Tina Reese was driving to her daughter Cami's volleyball game at the University of North Texas when a piece of metal shot through her windshield, hit her in the head, and exited through the back window. The passenger was fortunately able to steer the car off the road.

To add to this tragedy, three years ago Ms. Reese's car was struck by a drunk driver while she was driving her young son home from school. 10 year-old Tavian died in the horrific accident. The heartbroken mother, beloved by Cami's volleyball team at UNT and at the wonderful Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas where she served as the director of radiology, spoke publicly about the devastating consequences of drunk driving. 

I'll do that next Saturday at the Walk Like MADD that I'm sponsoring in Fort Worth to raise awareness of these catastrophes. 

Cami Reese and her family now mourn another unnecessary death caused by someone else's careless actions. My thoughts and prayers go out to the family.

Road Debris is Not a Freak Accident

The news media has portrayed the crash as a "freak accident." Sadly, road debris accidents are alarmingly common. I have handled cases where drivers were seriously injured when their vehicles crashed due to objects lying in the road or hurled through the air. 

According to the AAA Foundation, road debris causes 25,000 traffic crashes every year, resulting in an average of 85 deaths annually.  

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October 22, 2014

Injured By An Exploding Air Bag? 14 Million Cars Are At Risk

Takata Airbag Recall Photo.jpg

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) urges owners of vehicles with defective Takata air bags to take immediate action. Theair bags can explode, especially in humid climates like we have here in North Texas, resulting in severe injuries and fatalities.

At least three deaths and 30 injuries have so far been tied to the Takata air bag defect. 

If you or a loved one has unfortunately been victimized, you have the right to be compensated for your damages. Our law firm is handling these cases and can help you.

The recall list covers a whopping 14 million vehicles from 2000 through 2011. The major car manufacturer using Takata air bags was Honda, but ten others, including Nissan, Mazda, BMW, General Motors and Ford, also did. See if your vehicle is included here.

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October 21, 2014

Mega Verdict Rendered in Trinity Guardrail Trial In Marshall

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Trinity Defrauded the Federal Government, Texas Jury Finds

Another giant corporation has been found guilty of massive fraud that has endangered the lives of Americans. 

Trinity Industries had a government contract to make highway guardrails that were supposed to protect car crash victims from serious injuries. But in 2005 the company changed the design without notifying the Federal Highway Administration -- probably to cut expenses and increase profits. I wrote about the trial last week. 

As a result of the alteration, the guardrails sliced through automobiles, sometimes severely injurying or killing the occupants.

Yesterday a jury in federal court in Marshall found that Trinity Industries defrauded the federal government. The jury awarded $175 million, which will be tripled to $525 million under federal statutes. The whistleblower, Joshua Harman, and the federal government will split the damages award.

In addition, the judge must determine the number of false claims and can impose penalties of $5,000 to $12,000 per count in addition to reimbursing the plaintiff for his attorney's fees and expenses.

Trinity Industries Manufactured Dangerous Guardrails

The lawsuit was brought over Trinity's undisclosed changes to the ET-Plus railhead. The original design allowed the metal guardrail to collapse upon impact, sort of like an accordion, and pushed the metal pieces out of the way. The guardrail thus absorbed some of the force of a crashing vehicle.

Trinity cut one inch of steel from each railhead to save $2 per unit. The redesigned railhead jammed, causing the guardrail to pierce the body of the automobile like a spear and putting occupants at risk of catastrophic injuries. At least five deaths and numerous severe injuries have been linked to the defective guardrails. Injuries include foot and leg amputations and internal organ damage.

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October 20, 2014

Texas Drivers With Underinsured Motorists Cases Win Key Appeal

Auto Insurance PolicyMisrepresentation Claim Can Proceed Simultaneously with Underinsured Motorists Claim

On Friday the Houston Court of Appeals (1st District) gave the plaintiff's bar a major victory by ruling that an uninsured motorist claim is not severable from the accompanying misrepresentation claim.

The decision allows a court to hear these claims in one case, rather than forcing the plaintiff to first try the uninsured motorist claim before the extra-contractual misrepresentation claim is heard by a jury. Although the decision applies in limited circumstances, it diverges from Texas appellate courts' tendency to greatly favor insurance companies over Texas injury victims over the past 20 years in this age of "tort reform."

Family Seeks Compensation in Fatal Car Crash

The plaintiffs In re Allstate County Mutual Insurance Company are Raymond and Stacy Briers. The Briers' son Grant was tragically killed in an accident involving a single car owned and driven by his friend. The Briers filed a claim with Allstate under the underinsured motorist policy (UIM) issued to Mr. Briers' employer. Allstate alleged that Mr. Brier and Grant were not considered "insureds" according to the policy's language and so were not covered.

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October 17, 2014

Dallas County Wreck Takes Life Of Woman Not Wearing Seat Belt

Buckle Up America Police Say She Would Have Survived Had She Been Wearing Her Seat Belt

A 21 year-old woman was killed last night in a car crash on I-20 in Grand Prairie. The fatal car crash occurred around 11 p.m. last night. One driver side swiped the other, causing the woman's cars to veer off the roadway under Highway 161. She was not wearing a seat belt and was ejected from her car.

Law enforcement officers say that she would have lived had she been properly restrained. Further highlighting that seat belts save lives, the driver of the other vehicle was wearing a seat belt and sustained nonlife-threatening injuries.

It Only Take Two Seconds to Buckle-Up

I see this all the time in my practice -- people who are seriously injured or killed who were not wearing their seat belts -- and always wonder why.

NHTSA statistics show that most people killed in rollover accidents in 2010 were not wearing seat belts. Almost 85 percent of those fatally injured by partial ejection and close to 100 percent of those who were completely ejected were not belted.

Fastening a seat belt takes virtually no effort and literally two seconds. And of course it's required under Texas law. The seat belt is the single most effective traffic safety device for preventing death and injury, says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that wearing your seat belt cuts your risk of crash injuries by approximately half.

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October 16, 2014

Stripper Drops Her Wild Lawsuit Against Jerry Jones

Jerry Jones Stripper Lawsuit Dismissed Attorney.jpgIn a surprise development, Jana Weckerly dismissed her controversial lawsuit for sexual assault against the Cowboys owner this morning.

Judge Dale Tillery had scheduled a hearing this afternoon on Jones's motion to impose sanctions on the plaintiff and her attorney for filing a groundless lawsuit. If granted, the judge could have awarded substantial attorney's fees to be paid. Jones's attorneys had vigorously denied that the assault occured and argued that the five year statute of limitations had expired if it had.

Weckerly countered that the statute had been tolled because Jones had bought her silence for years with large payments and that Jones had been outside of Texas during part of those five years.

Incriminating photos of Jones groping another stripper taken by Weckerly have been widely disseminated. The plaintiff claimed that a memory card with photos of her with Jones had been taken by his lawyer and destroyed.

To add to the bizarre nature of this case, the parties were in an all night mediation that ended at 3:00 a.m. this morning.

The agreed judgment states that the statute of limitations had expired. Weckerly also agreed to redact the lurid allegations in her petition. Both parties and their attorneys agreed to be under a gag order.

So we will never know whether the episode actually occurred, let alone how the "exotic dancer" could have been injured if it had, whether she was paid "hush money" for years, or whether she now has been paid an undisclosed sum to go away.

I don't get any where near cases like this but it's been a crazy one, to say the least. No doubt John Grisham has alredy started writing his next novel.

Related post:

Jerry Jones, the Stripper, and the Statute

October 16, 2014

Berenson Injury Law Sponsoring Fort Worth's Walk Like MADD

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My law firm is proud to be the Presenting Sponsor of the Fort Worth Walk Like MADD on November 1. My firm sponsors the walks in Fort Worth and Dallas each year. Participating in the events is an indescribably moving experience. People of all ages, nationalities, races and backgrounds join together to pay tribute to those who have died in drunk driving wrecks and to those whose lives have been forever changed. 

What Drunk Driving Crashes Do To Our Community

During the past three decades representng victims and their families, I've seen first-hand the incredible devastation and heartbreak caused by drunk driving accidents

Most recently I saw the tragedy inflicted on four wonderful people who were killed, the paralysis meted out to a fine young man whom I represented in the lawsuit against the drunk driver and the company that owned the truck the teen was driving, and the physical and emotional pain suffered by several other teens injured in the nightmarish "affluenza" case. This devastation never should have happened. We must work vigilently to stop it from becoming almost routine on our streets and highways in Texas.

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October 14, 2014

Did Cheaper Guardrails & Dallas Company's Fraud Cause Deaths?

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The second trial started today in federal court in Marshall in a fascinating whistleblower suit against Trinity Industries. The first ended in a mistrial in July after the judge accused a top company official of witness tampering and perjury and admonished the plaintiffs for gamesmanship in a high stakes lawsuit.

Joshua Harman, a self-described safety advocate and certified guardrail installer from Virginia, filed suit under the False Claims Act. He alleged that the giant Dallas-based manufacturer dangerously altered the way in which highway guardrails function. As a result, they do not properly collapse after impact, but instead act as sharp spears that can easily pierce the body of a automobile -- and the bodies of the occupants inside. 

Two states have already banned these guardrails and others are considering doing so. Texas had not yet made a decision -- but should also do so. A woman named Lisa Antonicelli suffered a seizure when she was driving in Dallas, crashed into a guardrail, and is now a paraplegic. Others have been seriously injured after their vehicles crashed into these guardrails.

UPDATE ON 10-15-14  Virginia has announced that it will ban these guardrails and have them removed.

A university study has found that almost three times as many people are likely to be killed in collisions after their vehicles hit a Trinity guardrail. State highway departments -- and attorneys and companies across the country --  are closely monitoring this trial. The implications are enormous.

One Inch of Steel -- Saving $2.00 -- Has Changed Victims' Lives Forever

Before being installed on highways across the country in 1999, the guardrail design was vigorously tested and proven to work, even if it was hit head-on at high speed. Trinity followed the design formulated by Texas A&M engineers for the first few years. But in 2005, Trinity reduced the width of ET-Plus end terminal of the guardrail by one inch, a seemingly minor change that has had devastating consequences. 

The design change is apparently responsible for multiple deaths and multiple injuries from hundreds of wrecks, including amputated legs and internal organ damage, plaintiffs' lawyers claim. In February, a man's legs were sheered from him in a crash in North Carolina. At least ten plaintiffs and their surviving families have already sued Trinity.

ABC 20/20 uncovered Trinity's internal email that stated cutting one inch off the ET-Plus saved the company $2.00 per unit.  "That's $50,000 a year and $250,000 in 5 years by using the 4" channel," the memo reads.

This sounds like GM's refusal to pay 57 cents to fix the defective ignition switch in its vehicles, leading to thousands of injuries and several hundred deaths, when another major corporation chose to put profits over safety.

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October 13, 2014

Fort Worth Hit-and-Run Accidents Are Shockingly Routine

Man Seriously Injured by Fleeing Driver -- Latest in an Epidemic of Hit-and-Runs

Gerry York was leaning against a car in the Stockyards last weekend when a pickup slammed into him, throwing him 20 feet forward, and causing him severe injuries. Mr. York was rushed to the hospital. The driver didn't stop, as obviously required under state law.

Police continue to look for the early 1990s Chevy or GMC pickup truck that may have sustained front end damage during the crash. Police describe these hit-and-runs as difficult to solve because of the lack of evidence usually available. Mr. York is still hopeful that the driver will be brought to justice. I wish him the best of luck in his recovery. 

What if this had happened to you? Or maybe, God forbid, it has?

68 Hit-and-Runs During Past Three Weekends in Just Two Sections of Town 

Hit-and-run crashes are so comon in Fort Worth that our local news station WFAA8 just reported on this devastating problem. It noted that a staggering 68 hit-and-runs occurred just during the past three weekends from 6 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Sunday in the north and west divisions of Fort Worth.

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October 9, 2014

Voice-Activated Systems More Distracting Than Touch

Voice-activated infotainment systems are the newest trend in automobile features. These hands-free methods of communication are marketed as safer and more convenient than using handheld devices. After all, you don't have to take your eyes off the road or your hands off the wheel. However, these error prone products require you to take your mind off driving as you concentrate on articulating your commands and fixing the inevitable mistakes, according to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety and the University of Utah.

The voice-activated devices often misunderstand your commands, either "hearing" you wrong or responding only to an exact phrase. As a result, the device may dial a wrong number, send a garbled text or ask you time and again to repeat what you are saying. AAA Foundation-University of Utah researchers concluded that manufacturers could eventually fix these bugs to design a safer system for drivers, but for now the technology causes distractions while driving.

Which Hands-Free System Works Best?

Of the products tested in the AAA Foundation-University of Utah study, Chevrolet's MyLink caused the greatest distraction. Mercedes' COMMAND system, MyFord Touch and Chrysler's UConnect distracted drivers more than carrying on a mobile phone conversation. Hyundai's Blue Link was one of the least distracting, requiring less attention than talking with a fellow passenger. Toyota's Entune commanded just about the same low level of concentration as listening to a book on tape, making it the least distracting of the auto devices tested.

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October 8, 2014

Tips for Getting Our DFW Kids to School Safely

School is in full swing around the Metroplex -- and so are the hectic mornings. As you rush your children to school before racing to get to work, you may not even notice you are speeding. You may also be tempted to multitask, possibly texting your office or calling a friend. But obeying traffic laws is now more important than ever with so many children on buses, in cars, and on foot travelling to and from school.

Be Mindful of School Zones

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reports that 625 auto accidents occurred in Texas school zones last year that resulted in two fatalities and 112 severe injuries. Distracted driving, speeding and failing to stop at stop signs were the most common factors that contributed to school zone crashes.

The TxDOT offers these tips for avoiding causing a car crash in a school zone:

  • Never use a cellphone in a school zone.
  • Go the speed limit, especially near a school.
  • Comply with designated drop-off and pickup points prescribed by your child's school.
  • Expect kids to dart across the street or between cars.

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October 7, 2014

DWI Crash Injures Child In Dallas But . . .

Two young children and their mother were seriously hurt when a hit-and-run driver smashed into their vehicle near Fair Park in Dallas recently. The intoxicated driver,hit the family's car so violently that the three year-old child was ejected from the car. Both children were restrained in safety seats at the time of the accident. 

However, the three year-old child's car seat was incorrectly installed, leaving the child vulnerable when the collision occurred.

Correct Installation of Child Car Seat Crucial to its Effectiveness

Child car seats only work when installed correctly. Yet, according to seatcheck.org, seven out of 10 children are incorrectly restrained in their safety seats. 

The most common mistakes parents make include:

  • Using a safety seat that is inappropriate for the child's age and size
  • Placing the child's safety seat facing in the wrong direction
  • Installing the child safety system in a seat where a child risks injury when airbags deploy
  • Connecting the child restraint system incorrectly to the automobile's seat
  • Securing or tightening the harness or crotch strap incorrectly
  • Using locking clips improperly for certain types of auto seat belts
  • Failing to ensure the auto's seat belt fits the child who is sitting in a booster seat
  • Using a child safety seat that is defective or broken

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