April 17, 2014

What Should You Do If You Are Injured Riding A Bicycle in DFW?

OMG!!!! In a story that has gone viral, a young woman who had sent 47 text messages while she was driving hit a cyclist and heartlessly wrote: "I don't care." The poor cyclist suffered a spinal fracture which required surgery and spent months recovering from his injuries.

Reading this reminded me of a case last year when I represented a Fort Worth man who was on a bicycle and broke his leg and shoulder when a driver hit him. After I filed a lawsuit, I was able to subpoena the phone records of the driver and prove that he was texting at the time of the crash. The defense attorney then offered the full insurance policy limits to settle the claim.

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There are so many people driving and texting and not paying attention to other vehicles on the road, let alone bicycles. It's a wonder more people aren't killed as they try to get exercise or pursue their hobby riding bikes.

Fortunately, collisions between cars and trucks are rare, but when they happen, injuries are often serious. What should you do if you have been involved in one?

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April 16, 2014

Bad Day For Some Dallas Judges

63007261.jpgDallas County has excellent judges and it is always a pleasure appearing before them. But today was not the best day for several in the press.

Criminal District Judge Etta Mullin told a Dallas lawyer that he could not appear in her court because he was wearing shorts. And a knee brace with tubing. The attorney had just undergone a reconstructive knee surgery and apologized profusely to the judge for his appearance. Maybe he should have had the case heard on Casual Friday?

And the Dallas Morning News reported that a Texas appeals court just authorized the release of inflammatory court records about Civil District Judge Carlos Cortez. The judge has no criminal convictions and has denied the claims. I am sure that he will be able to successfully resolve the situation.

if you are need to find out information about a pending Dallas County civil or other court case, here is a useful link.

April 15, 2014

Dallas Hit-And-Run Kills Teenager, Seriously Injures His Mother

sandy-n-ethan-vasquez-close-up-300x258.jpgHere's a hearbreaking story from the M Streets neighborhood: a Dallas hit-and-run this morning tragically took the life of a young man, Ethan Vasquez, who was 13 years old. His mother, Sandy, age 40, was critically injured.

My prayers go out to her and her family. Ethan was the son of Victor Vasquez, a sergeant with the Cedar Hill Police Department.

The collision occurred at Monticello Avenue and Homer Street, just off Central Expressway near Henderson. The Highland Park police could not stop a blue Chrysler van, which had ran a stop sign. When the van entered the residential area, the trooper turned off his siren but continued to pursue the vehicle, which was reported stolen two weeks ago.

The van continued driving recklessly. It was speeding north on Homer when it ran a stop sign and crashed into the mother and her son in their small Nissan Versa as they were driving westbound towards Central.

A Nissan Xterra was also hit, but fortunately its driver was not seriously injured.

The driver of the van and a passenger got out and ran from the scene. Dallas Police are combing the scene, looking in every house, garage, and garbage can. It reminds me of the chase for the younger Boston Marathon bomber almost a year ago.

I hate to read stories like this. I hate reckless drivers, let alone criminals who kill innocent people and then flee the scene. And my daughter lives very near to the scene. This senseless carnage has got to stop.

I have been representing the victims of hit-and-run accidents and their families to help them recover money for their often extensive medical bills and lost wages, in addition to pain and sufferering and other damages that the law allows, for 34 years.

These collisions can be devastating -- and common. There are over 700,000 hit and run car accidents in the U.S. each year.

I am about to file a lawsuit on behalf of a young man and his sister who were seriously injured when their Ford Fusion was hit by a Lexus. The driver of the Lexus fled on foot. Police were able to track down the driver of the Lexus and determined that he was heavily intoxicated. He was promptly arrested and charged with DWI and leaving the scene of a crash. Here is a photograph from the scene of the crash.
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April 11, 2014

Should Seat Belt Use Be Considered In A Personal Injury Trial?

Of course I'm in favor of wearing seat belts, but not that long ago here in Texas a lot of people weren't. The decision to wear one was a personal -- even emotional -- one. Many people considered them a nuisance and an unjustified intrusion into their lives. As a result, state legislators agreed when they finally required their use in 1985 that a plaintiff's damages would not be reduced if he refused to do so in collision cases.

This has been the law in Texas for the last almost 30 years. And the spirit certainly lives on. In 2011, for example, Governor Perry vetoed the legislature's ban against using cell phones while driving, arguing that government should not micromanage the lives of Texans.

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Now the Texas Supreme Court, which has surprisingly never ruled on the question of whether trial courts can consider the plaintiff's non-use of seat belts in personal injury trials, has granted a petition for review in a case that will be closely followed by both sides of the docket. The case is Nabors Wells Servs. v. Romero, 408 S.W.3d 39.

Martin Soto, 53, was driving with seven family members in a SUV in 2004. They were driving in the left lane on a state highway in far West Texas. A tractor-trailer driven by Lauro Garcia in the right lane suddenly moved to the left, hit the SUV, and caused it to roll over several times. The tractor trailer was 100% at fault. Injuries were catastrophic. Several passengers were ejected. One person was killed and two were severely injured. Most of the passengers were not wearing seat belts.

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April 9, 2014

Drunk Dallas Driver Crashes Into What?! Sure, We're #1!

Here's a wild one: Dallas police arrested a drunk driver who plowed into an apartment complex around midnight on Saturday night.

Jameel Moffett, 35, was arrested after careening across three lanes of traffic on R. L. Thornton Freeway, hitting a curb, destroying a fire hydrant, driving through a fence, and crashing into an apartment building. It's a miracle noone on the busy highway or in the apartments was hurt.

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Here's a photograph of a new client's car after a woman driving in the other direction on Interstate 20 in Mesquite crossed over two lanes and the grass median and hit him head on.
I'm guessing Moffett's truck looked like this after the multiple collisions.

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April 7, 2014

Defective GM Airbags Have Not Deployed, Causing 143 Deaths

Following last week's Congressional hearing investigating General Motors for hiding evidence of a faulty part that caused at least 13 people to die, today's report in the Dallas Morning News of another major airbag defect in GM cars is shocking. GM is in the middle of recalling 2.6 million of its cars whose airbags did not deploy after the engine suddenly turned off, leaving its occupants vulnerable when their vehicles crashed.

GM's problem of course raises the question of whether other companies' vehicles also have faulty sensors which have caused other people to die or be seriously injured.

Computer software misread weight of passengers

Donald Friedman has petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to investigate a software flaw in 2003-2010 Chevrolet Impalas that prevented frontal air bags from deploying if the passenger's weight was misread by computers.

Friedman said that there have been at least 143 fatalities in frontal crashes when an Impala's air bag didn't deploy, even when most of the people were wearing seat belts.

Other automobile manufacturers also at fault

Nissan Motor Company was just forced to recall almost one million vehicles last month, including the 2014 Altima, due to faulty airbags. Ford, Toyota, Honda, Volvo, and Chrysler have also had to recall vehicles because of defective airbags over the past two years.

The Texas case

Friedman was hired by lawyers investigating why Roberto Martinez died in South Texas in 2011 after the Chevrolet Impala he was riding in was involved in a head-on collision. The passenger-side air bag never went off, although the driver's air bag did, severely injurying Roberto's wife Aurora.

Friedman downloaded the Impala's data recorder which proved that the car had bounced and lifted for a moment before the collision, greatly reducing the sensor's reading of Roberto's weight.

Driver's rights in defective airbag cases

Automobile manufacturers have multiple safety devices and systems that are designed to protect the occupants of their vehicles from being injured in a collision. Airbags have been among the most effective safety measures in head-on collisions. The system has special built in sensors that detect a force greater than 10 miles per hour. In the event of an accident, the airbag can prevent the occupant from hitting the steering wheel, dashboard, or being ejected.

Airbag injury statistics

More than 444 people have died and thousands have been seriously injured due to airbag injuries since the 1990s. But here, people have died or been injured when airbags did not deploy as expected.

Personal Injuries and Airbag Nondeployment

A person who is injured from an airbag has three options for seeking compensation. He can file a lawsuit against the automobile manufactuer, the airbag manufacturer, the dealer, or the company performing required inspections.

What to do in Case of an Airbag Nondeployment

Anyone who is hurt in an airbag when an airbag did not deploy should contact a personal injury attorney immediately. The attorney can review the facts of your case and determine if you are entitled to be compensated for your injuries and who is responsible.

April 4, 2014

Forth Worth Teen Dies After Being Hit By Drunk Driver In Austin

A Forth Worth teenager tragically became the fourth person to die from injuries caused by a driving rampage during the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival in Austin last month.

De'Andre Tatum was just 18 years old when he died at University Medical Center, where he had been in a medically induced coma since the night 21-year old Rashad Owens ran his car into a crowd of festival goers. Tatum was on Red River Street with his girlfriend when Owens's car struck them both, along with several other people, two of whom were pronounced dead at the scene. Tatum suffered a broken leg, broken pelvis, and a severe brain injury, which doctors tried to minimize by keeping Tatum in a coma. He had just graduated from Forth Worth's Trimble Tech high school in 2013.

Tatum's pastor confirmed the news, and students from Trimble Tech gathered to remember Tatum for his warmth and spirit. They noted that Tatum always had a lot of friends, and that people "could not meet him and not love him." He was praised for being a source of strength to those around him -- so much so that many students believed that he would be able to overcome his injuries. A candlelight vigil will be held in his honor. While Tatum's girlfriend suffered critical injuries as well, she was eventually released and returned home to North Texas in mid-March. She is currently a senior at Trimble Tech.

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April 2, 2014

GM Latest Auto Maker To Cover Up Fatal Wrecks Caused By Defective Cars

gm_ignition_switch_recall_slide_safercar.jpgToday the chief executive of General Motors was grilled by U.S. senators demanding to know why her company took more than a decade to fix a simple spring that has caused any where from 13 deaths (according to GM) to 303 deaths (according to outside sources).

Senator Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.,accused GM of a massive cover-up. Senator Richard Blumenthal, D-Ct., said GM should be prosecuted in a criminal court.

It is obvious that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is not doing its job. It didn't uncover the defect, even though it began investigating the problem in 2005 after a woman was killed driving a Cobalt in Maryland and others died when their engine suddenly turned off.

No, the defect was discovered by an injury attorney and engineer representing the family of one of the victims. Brooke Melton's engine suddenly cut out in 2010 as she was driving her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt in Georgia and she died in the ensuing collision. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit and its attorney hired Mark Hood, an engineer, to investigate. He bought a $30.00 replacement ignition for the Cobalt and found that a defective ignition switch had caused the engine to fail. GM continued to fight the Melton family until quietly settling the case out of court for a confidential amount.

The New York Times concluded in this article that our consumer safety watchdog was ineffective and that Congress deliberately kept it toothless by only allotting $10 million a year to investigate defects. This is less money than what the GM CEO who just testified earns.

Faulty Ignition Switches

The problem is that these GM vehicles have faulty ignition switches that accidentally turned off the engine when the key was jarred by the driver's knee or even a bump or it was pulled down by a heavy key ring.The air bags then shut off, leaving the driver vulnerable in the inevitable crash.

How much would it have cost to add a stronger spring that would have prevented this from happening? 57 cents.

GM knew that its vehicles were defective as early as 2002 and in 2006 approved a new part that would have fixed the problem. However rather than report the parts change, which would have alerted safety regulators that there was a problem, GM chose to use the same parts number, then decided that the cost of fixing its problem was too great.

Other Lawsuits filed

Various lawsuits -- the only apparent way to gets the corporation's attention and make our vehicles safer -- were filed against GM by the families of

-- Benjamin Hair, a 20-year-old pharmacy student, who was killed in a crash in 2009 driving his Pontiac G5 after his car shut down suddenly;

-- Kelley Rayback, a 21-year-old nursing student, who died in a crash in a 2007 Chevrolet Cobalt. Her heavy key ring with student passes was blamed.

-- Hasaya Chansuthus, 25, who died in the same way

Kelley's mother said. "If people had known about the recall, known about the problems, they wouldn't have let their kids drive them."

These Years Vehicles Are Affected

Chevrolet Malibu: 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009
Chevrolet Malibu Maxx: 2004 2005, and some 2006
Chevrolet HHR: 2009 and 2010
Chevrolet Cobalt: 2010
Saturn Aura: 2008 and 2009
Saturn Ion: 2004 to 2007
Pontiac G6: 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009

Toyota's Cover-Up

NHTSA is the same "watchdog" group that totally missed the Toyota sudden acceleration problem that began in 2011. It was just announced this week that Toyota will voluntarily pay $1.2 billion -- the largest criminal fine ever imposed on a car maker. It has already recalled more than 10 million of its vehicles. Toyota originally tried to blame drivers, even after it had already issued recalls for poorly designed floor mats and gas pedals which the company knew caused acceleration problems.

The NHTSA gets more than 45,000 consumer complaints each year that vehicles are unsafe. Few are investigated.

How did these unsafe cars get built? Why weren't they recalled when people complain? Why doesn't the NHTSA force our auto makers to recall defective autos when drivers start dying? There has been a law on the books since 2000 since Firestone's defective tires on Ford Explorers were responsible for killing at least 250 people and seriously injurying at least 3,000 people.

Legal Rights of Those Who Have Been Injured by Defective Cars

Automakers like General Motors have a legal duty to produce cars that are safe. They must immediately fix any known safety defects. Obviously they often don't.

If you believe that a defecive vehicle has caused you to have a collision, you should consider asking an experienced personal injury attorney what to do. In your first meeting with the lawyer, you will want to bring in all documents, including the purchase transactions, repair records, and information about the crash such as the police report and medical bills and records.

Damages in personal injury lawsuits against auto manufacturers include

* Physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and physical impairment;

* Medical expenses;

* Loss of earnings and earning capacity; and

* Punitive damages in some cases if outrageous conduct can be proved

April 1, 2014

Backup Cameras Will Be Required In New Vehicles In 2018

9k=.jpgSix years ago President George Bush signed a law which would help prevent drivers from backing up and hitting pedestrians. Yesterday the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finally announced that mandatory backup cameras and screens will be phased in with 2016 models and required for all 2019 ones.

It took a lawsuit filed by safety groups led by Dr. Greg Gulbransen of New York and the General Motors ignition switch debacle to add this long needed safety equipment to our cars, trucks, SUVs and vans under 10,000 gross vehicle weight.

Dr. Gulbransen ran over his 2-year-old son in 2002 and has become one of the leaders in the backup camera movement. He praised the decision: "It's been a long fight and this rule took too long, but we're thrilled this day has finally come."

Back in 2006 the safety group Consumers Union urged Congress to enact a federal law to prevent needless deaths and injuries, especially to toddlers and small children. Considering all the people who have been killed or injured since that time, and how inexpensive the add-on will be, it is outrageous that it took so long to finally enact the rule.

All 2014 models were already supposed to have this safety equipment but heavy lobbying and multiple delays prevented the rule from being enacted.

These knock-down accidents are a serious problem. Approximatey 210 people are killed and 15,000 people are injured each year -- usually small children and senior citizens -- by these backover accidents according to the NTSA. I only handle vehicle collision cases and these can be especially horrible ones.

These cameras are standard features or optional equipment on almost all (85 percent) of 2014 vehicles.

The new expands the area behind a vehicle that must be visible to the driver when he shifts into reverse.

It only will cost about $140 to add the camera and screen and about $45 to add the camera if the vehicle already has a video screen - a small price to pay. Not many people would object to this cost when they are considering a major $20,000 and usually far higher purchase. My sports utility vehicle came with one and I enjoy using it, especially in parking lots.

Even if a vehicle has a backup camera, it is still a good idea to survey the immediate area before you get inside and start backing up, especially if there is even the slightest chance someone is in your blind spot. Trucks and SUV drivers must be especially vigilant since we are so high up.

Contact the Fort Worth Dallas Personal Injury Lawyers and Legal Professionals at the Law Offices of Bill Berenson online or toll free at 888-801-8585 if you or a family member are injured in a car, truck, 18 wheeler, or motorcycle accident for a free consultation to discuss your case in detail. Our experienced and dedicated attorneys will fight the insurance companies to get you the money you deserve.

March 31, 2014

DWI Disaster: Irving Mother Kills Two Children, Hurts 2 Others

In Irving on Saturday night, Crystal Suniga, 30, got extremely drunk and crashed her sports untility vehicle into parked cars on East Pioneer Drive, and flipped the SUV over. She had been driving at a speed up to 90 miles per hour in a residential neighborhood with her children screaming at her to slow down.

Tragically she killed her two sons, 14-year-old Angel Reyes and 10-year-old Ricardo Hernandez.0330_angel_ricardo.jpg

According to a news report on wfaa.com, Suniga also injured her other two children in the vehicle, 12-year-old daughter and 16-year-old son. Both children (and Suniga) were rushed by ambulance to hospitals for treatment.

The drivers' blood alcohol level tested at a whopping 0.18 -- more than twice the legal limit. She drank five or six mojitos at her mother's house "and got a little buzzed," according to news accounts.

Criminal charges; including two counts of intoxication manslaughter, two counts of injury to a child and one count of intoxication assault, have been filed.

Witnesses were horrified. Jose Osuna said that "our whole house shook. I thought it was an earthquake or something."

Even the driver's brother was furious: "It pisses me off... drunk driving with kids inside! They're innocent, they didn't do nothing."

Suniga had been convicted of driving with an expired driver's license and there was a warrant out for her arrest.

This story sickens me. Is she one of the worst mothers ever? Who would do this to her family? Why does she even have to admit that "I deserve to be punished?"

And more importantly, why is this treated as just another normal news story? Maybe it's because we here in Texas have more drunk driving accidents than any other state. Wrecks like this are starting to seem almost routine, aren't they?

Almost half of all people killed in traffic accidents in Texas are injured or killed in drunk driving accidents. This horrific problem is especially rampant in Dallas Fort Worth where just last year,121 people were killed and 1,261 others were seriously injured by DWI or DUI drivers in Tarrant and Dallas Counties.

Drunk driving crashes, like this one, are often the most serious auto accidents. Rarely is a drunk driving accident a slight rear-end collision caused by a driver's mere failure to brake in time. Instead, drunk driving accidents usually arehigh speed, out of control collisions.

Despite the dangers of drunk driving and the seriousness of the consequences, many drivers choose to disregard the law--and the safety of others, even their own children --and get behind the wheel after they have been drinking.

If you or a loved one have been injured because of a drunk driver, call my office at 817-885-8000 to discuss how I can help you recover money for your injuries.

March 27, 2014

Uninsured and Underinsured Benefits: How Do They Work?

IMG_1002.jpgI was hired to represent a man hit by a drunk driver today. Here's a photo of his car. It's lucky that he wasn't killed. However the criminal did not carry liability insurance and does not have collectible assets that we can levy on to satisfy a judgment from a court. Similarly, on Monday, a man driving on I-35 at 65 mph was hit by an uninsured woman who crossed across three lanes of traffic and I will be making a claim or filing suit against his insurance company.

Fortunately, both clients were smart enough to purchase uninsured/underinsured motorists

Continue reading "Uninsured and Underinsured Benefits: How Do They Work?" »

March 25, 2014

Texas Is #1 -- In Auto And Truck Collisions

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Now that's not a chant you'll hear any time soon here. Why do we have so many automobile and truck wrecks here? And why do we have more than other state?

I've been practicing personal injury law in Texas for almost 34 years and have handled hundreds of collision cases .There are unfortunately more and more people getting hurt and killed on our roads.

Take a look at this photo just taken by The Dallas Morning News on the LBJ Freeway. Traffic came to a standstill because of seven collisions before frustrated drivers tried to turn around. Just when you thought traffic in the Metroplex couldn't get any worse! There is a crash almost every minute of the day in Texas!

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March 24, 2014

Local College Student Killed By Drunk Driver In Alabama

Kasey-Waychoff.jpgAnother fatal DWI, this one tragically taking the life of Kasey Waychoff, age 19, from Flower Mound. Kasey died when she was hit by a car drive by Justin Lott, 29, early Friday. This beautiful young woman, who was a student at Oklahoma State University, was walking with her college girlfriends in Gulf Shores on the Alabama coast during spring break.

Handy Waychoff, Kasey's grandfather, said Kasey was loved dearly by her parents, Shelby and Tracy Waychoff, and her brother, Wesley, who is also a student at OSU. "It's a wonderful family, a good Christian family," he said. "And she just had such a big heart." Kasey was studying international finance at OSU and was going to study in Shanghai, China next year. My thoughts and prayers go out Kasey's family.

Continue reading "Local College Student Killed By Drunk Driver In Alabama" »

March 21, 2014

Dallas Police Arrest Hit-and-Run Driver Who Killed 7 Year Old Girl

in-reminder-of-571004-m.jpgDallas police arrested a man suspected of striking and killing a seven-year-old girl in a Northeast Dallas neighborhood earlier this week. Julius Sears, 29, has been charged with a second-degree felony of an accident involving injury or death. He is currently being held in jail on a bond of $250,000.

The tragedy occurred on Tuesday night, when Melany Valdez was walking with her mother, sisters, and grandmother back to their apartment, after going to another complex to offer prayers to a saint. They were on Hemlock Avenue crossing the street when a Chrysler 300 struck the little girl. The driver kept driving without ever bothering to stop and see whether the girl was all right, even though the girl's grandmother screamed at him to stop.

Witnesses described the girl as bleeding heavily from the head. A family friend tried unsuccessfully to get the girl to respond. Another driver stopped and aided the family, taking them and the girl to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. The girl was later pronounced dead. What a heartbreaking story.

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March 20, 2014

Texas Dram Shop Act - Lax Law Needs To Be Strengthened

Texas_State_Capitol.jpgAfter the tragic collision last weekend in Austin only a few blocks from where our state legislators and Supreme Court justices convene, we should examine the permissive law that abets drunk drivers.

Most states, including Texas, have enacted what are called dram shop laws which supposedly hold businesses liable for the harm their intoxicated customers cause to innocent motorists and others. A dram was akin to a shot glass in England in the 1800s. These laws were created to discourage restaurant and bar owners from overserving alcohol and serving any alcohol to minors. They are also a way for injured people to be compensated, since the drunk driver usually lacks significant insurance or assets, if he has them at all.

In Texas, the dram shop law is set forth in the Alcoholic Beverage Code, Section 2.02(b):

Providing, selling, or serving an alcoholic beverage may be made the basis of a statutory cause of action under this chapter ... upon proof that:

(1) at the time the provision occurred it was apparent to the provider that the individual being sold, served, or provided with an alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he presented a clear danger to himself and others; and

(2) the intoxication of the recipient of the alcoholic beverage was a proximate cause of the damages suffered.

But a far more liberal Texas Supreme Court than our present one noted back in 1987 that the plaintiff's burden of proof in these cases was "onerous" in the landmark decision of El Chico Corp. v. Poole, 732 S.W.2d 306, 314 (Tex.1987).

And that onerous burden was watered down by our Supreme Court in cases like the 2007 decision in FFP Operating Partners v. Duenez. In that case, after spending a day cutting firewood and drinking 1.5 cases of beer, Roberto Ruiz drove to a Mr. Cut Rate convenience store owned by FFP Operating Partners. The store's assistant sold Ruiz a 12-pack of beer, which he opened and placed between his legs. Ruiz later swerved across a center line and hit the Duenez family's car head on, causing all five to suffer serious injuries. The Duenez family sued FFP Operating Partners under the then-existing Texas Dram Shop Act. A divided Texas Supreme Court found that providers should not be automatically liable for a drunk driver's actions when it was not clear whether their alcohol contributed to the accident. Instead, proportion of liability should be based on how much their alcohol contributed to the impairment that caused the accident.

Continue reading "Texas Dram Shop Act - Lax Law Needs To Be Strengthened" »