February 9, 2016

How To Keep Our Children Safe Going To School

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This New Device Protects Kids

You would think having a huge yellow vehicle with flashing lights and a bright red stop sign would be enough to alert drivers to stop for a school bus. Unfortunately, motorists often ignore these glaring warning signs and speed past school buses while children are getting on and off.

This is what happened to a new client of mine. As her young daughter was crossing the street to get on her bus in Fort Worth, a speeding truck ran her over. Fortunately, he missed several other kids next to the girl. 

The child had to be rushed to the hospital, where she had to stay for four days, and can only attend school being pushed in a wheelchair. The poor girl will need another major surgery in a few months to replace the plates and screws holding her tiny leg together.

This horrible tragedy could have been avoided had the driver just stopped for the brief time it took for the children to cross the road. What could be that important that he felt compelled to whip around the bus and seriously injure a young child? We'll find out in court.

Children at Risk Near School Buses

As this article in today's Dallas Morning News explains, a stopped school bus doesn't stop drivers from violating state law -- and common sense -- and risking children's lives and limbs.

After the McKinney Independent School District estimated that drivers blazed past stopped buses 3,500 times last year, it designed a new program to curb speeding past stopped buses.

Continue reading "How To Keep Our Children Safe Going To School" »

February 8, 2016

Denton Wreck Claims Lives Of Two Children

Auto accident -- red light runner

Four-Vehicle Pileup Collision at Dangerous Intersection 

Two children were killed and one was seriously injured when a speeding pickup truck hit the three vehicles stopped at a red light late Saturday afternoon. Our prayers go out to the families.

The auto accident took place in Denton at a traffic light at U.S. 380 and North Mayhill Road, an intersection that the Denton police referred to as a "problem intersection" because of the high number of traffic deaths there before a light was installed. 

Yet even installing the light could not slow down the careless driver of the Ford F-350 truck that came barreling down U.S. 380. A Nissan minivan had come to a stop behind a Dodge Dakota and a Kia. The Ford plowed into the Nissan, which slammed into the Dodge, which then in turn hit the Kia in a domino-like accident.

An 11 year-old girl and an 8 year-old boy who were riding in the Nissan died and a 4 year-old boy remains in critical condition. The pickup truck driver and minivan driver sustained minor injuries.

Continue reading "Denton Wreck Claims Lives Of Two Children" »

February 5, 2016

Prime Time For DWI's? Be Careful This Super Bowl Sunday

Helen Mirren Super Bowl PSA

Wonderful PSA From Legendary Actress

Screen and stage star Dame Helen Mirren delivered a drunk driving PSA message that is worthy of an Emmy award. 

The graceful British actress has a knack for putting drunk drivers in their place. After listening to the Super Bowl PSA, anyone considering driving drunk is likely to feel like a dunce for even thinking about it, as they should. 

The "notoriously frank and uncensored British lady" calls drunk drivers stupid. Delivered with poise in her lovely English accent, Mirren proclaims: 

"If you drive drunk, you, simply put, are a short-sighted, utterly useless, oxygen-wasting, human form of pollution. A Darwin-award deserving, selfish coward. If your brain was donated to science, science would return it. So stop it." 

Continue reading "Prime Time For DWI's? Be Careful This Super Bowl Sunday" »

February 4, 2016

Tired Texas Drivers -- A Dangerous Problem On Our Roads

Tired driver -- woman sleeping behind wheel

With job duties and family obligations, getting enough sleep can be an impossible dream. Unfortunately, you're not alone. Texas roads are filled with sleep-deprived drivers who put you at risk of an accident.

60 percent of drivers admit to having driven while feeling drowsy during the previous 12 months and a whopping 37 percent have actually fallen asleep at the wheel, with 4 percent crashing as a result. And 13 percent of drivers chronically drove tired, falling asleep at least once a month.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates sleep-deprivation causes 100,000 car crashes every year, resulting in 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. Look what happened to Tracy Morgan and his friend when they were crashed into by the Walmart driver who had been behind the wheel of a tractor trailer for over 24 hours.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep?

Sleep deprivation has immediate physical effects on your body. These symptoms can result in an automobile accident:

  • Decreased alertness
  • Distractibility
  • Memory loss
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Poor performance
  • Delayed reactions
  • And of course, nodding off
Driving drowsy has many of the same risks as driving drunk. Yet, there is not a Breathalyzer-like test to determine if a driver is too tired to be behind the wheel, making these dangerous drives almost impossible to identify.

Continue reading "Tired Texas Drivers -- A Dangerous Problem On Our Roads" »

February 2, 2016

Post-Wreck Concussions Often Undiagnosed

Woman behind wheel holding head

Traumatic Brain Injury Called the Silent Epidemic 

You might not realize that after your crash, when your forehead hit the steering wheel, then the back of your head slammed into the seat rest, you may have suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). 

The symptoms of a brain injury often do not show up immediately. They may take days or even weeks to appear. Family members may even be the first to notice symptoms resulting from an undiagnosed TBI. In the meantime, precious time for treatment has been lost.

If you suspect you may have hit your head during a truck or car crash, see a medical professional immediately, even if you initially feel okay. 

Look at the thousands of NFL players who have filed a lawsuit claiming they suffered concussions. OJ Simpson and Kenny Stabler, who just died, were the latest players said to be suffering from them.

Auto Accidents Second Leading Cause of Traumatic Brain Injuries 

1.7 million people in the United States sustain brain injury every year. 52,000 people die from their brain injuries, 275,000 people are hospitalized and 1.365 million people are treated in emergency rooms annually. 


Continue reading "Post-Wreck Concussions Often Undiagnosed" »

February 1, 2016

How To Choose The Best Personal Injury Attorney

Gavel and scales of justice and money

Selecting the top personal injury lawyer for your injury case is an important decision. How do you know who to hire if you have been hurt in an automobile or truck collision?

Qualities to Consider:

  • Specialization: Make sure he or she is Board Certified in Personal Injury. Specialized lawyers are the best ones in their areas of practice. Only 10% of Texas attorneys are. It doesn't cost any more to hire one of us. 
  • Experience: You want someone who has been practicing injury law for as long as possible - preferably at least 20 years. The fee is the same as someone who recently graduated from law school.
  • Reputation: Look up reviews on Google, Better Business Bureau, Avvo, lawyers.com, LinkedIn and other sites to see what past clients and other attorneys think about him. Word of mouth is perhaps the best indicator.
  • Practice:  Hire an attorney who only represents car and truck accident victims (not medical malpractice, toxic torts, and certainly not criminal defense or divorce).Read your attorney's web site to learn more about his practice, experience, history and experience with cases like yours. 
  • Rapport: Schedule a meeting with your lawyer -- not a legal assistant - and make sure he can do the best job and work with you. 



Continue reading "How To Choose The Best Personal Injury Attorney " »

January 29, 2016

Road Rage Rages On Across Texas

road rage man hanging out of car yelling

A Fort Worth woman was shockingly shot to death Wednesday night on Interstate 30 in Arlington. The killer, who had been swerving in and out of traffic, drove away.

UPDATED 2/3/16 - Police announced they have arrested a suspect in this shooting.

A Denton college student, a "designated driver" driving her sorority sisters home after a New Yeas Eve party, was shot dead after a Lexus LUV filled with five males opened fire. They have not been caught.

Recent videos of road rage incidents like this one from Dallas, Austin, and Houston have gone viral. 

This is truly frightening.

We have too many crazy drivers on our roads. People cut off other vehicles for sport. Drivers race down highways, weave in and out of traffic, tailgate, and even shoot their guns at other drivers. 

What to Do if You Encounter a Road Raging Driver 

If you see one of these dangerous and immature people, steer clear. Change lanes, slow down, and even pull off the road if necessary.  Never try to challenge or reprimand him (yes, they are usually male). 

Report the driver to the police, giving a description of the road, direction of travel, and make and model and license plate of the offender.

Continue reading "Road Rage Rages On Across Texas" »

January 26, 2016

Former Texas Star Vince Young Arrested For DWI

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Another Football Player Busted

The record-setting University of Texas quarterback was arrested in Austin after midnight on Monday - long after the last NFL league championship game had ended. He was was speeding and drifting across lanes on I-35. 

When he was pulled over, Young had trouble standing up and slurred his words. He refused to perform a breathalyzer test or agree to give a blood sample so his blood alcohol content is unknown. 

From Sports Hall of Fame to Jail

None of us UT alums can forget the thrilling end to the 2006 Rose Bowl when Vince Young scored the winning touchdown with seconds to go and won our last national championship. After his career with the Tennessee Titans went downhill, he returned to college after his NFL career and graduated from UT in 2013. Young raised money for the school and worked in the community. He was inducted into the Texas Sports Hall of Fame just last month. 

After accomplishing so much, Young made a bad decision Sunday night when he decided to drink too many beers and climb behind the wheel. 

Continue reading "Former Texas Star Vince Young Arrested For DWI" »

January 22, 2016

After 12 DWI Arrests, Weatherford Drunk Given Life Sentence

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But Why Did It Take So Long?

Ivy Ray Eberhardt had a whopping blood alcohol concentration of .303 percent when he climbed behind the wheel on April 13, 2014. Fortunately, an off-duty police noticed the erratic driver and called the Weatherford Police Department to stop Eberhardt before he killed someone. 

Eberhardt was swerving his car, going the wrong way, and driving with a BAC nearly four times the legal limit! 

When he stumbled out of his vehicle, officers noted he reeked of alcohol and urine and had an almost empty 750 ml bottle of whiskey in his vehicle.

This case would be horrific under any circumstances, but this was not Eberhardt's first time, or even second or third. He has already been arrested 12 times for DWI. 10 of those drunk driving arrests ended in a conviction. And undoubtedly he has driven drunk many more times than he was actually caught. Maybe every day.

What is going on out there?


Continue reading "After 12 DWI Arrests, Weatherford Drunk Given Life Sentence" »

January 20, 2016

Supreme Court Rules ERISA Plan Cannot Recover Spent Funds

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Car Wreck Victims Get Rare Victory

In a unusual ruling in favor of accident victims, the U.S. Supreme Court decided today that an ERISA plan cannot pursue funds that the plan participant has already spent on untraceable items. 

In Montanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, an decision also surprising by its 8-1 vote, the Court considered whether an ERISA fiduciary was entitled to money the plan claimed was overpaid to the injured party if the funds were no longer in the participant's possession and control. The Supreme Court said no.

The plan could only place a lien against identified funds that remained in the plan participant's possession and control or against traceable assets that he purchased with the funds. The plan is not permitted to place a lien against the participant's general assets.

Protection from Subrogation Rules

The case involved Robert Montanile, the victim of a serious 2008 drunk driving crash who was a participant in an employee benefits plan regulated by ERISA.

The plan paid him $120,000 in medical benefits (so his medical bills were at least twice that amount) and his personal injury trial attorney negotiated a $500,000 settlement. 

Montanile quickly spent most of the funds he received on various nondisclosed expenses. 

The ERISA plan was chided by the court for ignoring the plaintiff's attorney's request to object before he disbursed the money to his client. The justices also noted that the plan waited six months to file its lawsuit to demand repayment of the $120,000. It is not clear if the court would have affirmed the lower court's if these two events had not happened.

The district court ruled in the plan's favor, a decision upheld by the circuit court. The Berenson Injury Law blog covered the case when the U.S. Supreme Court heard the case in November. 

The court ruled that the district court should determine whether Montanile kept his settlement fund separate from his general assets and whether he spent all the money on non-traceable assets. If so, the lower court must decide in Montanile's favor.

This decision is important for injured vehicular accident victims to have closure after receiving their settlements and benefits. That money is often desperately needed to pay medical bills and costs of living, especially when injuries keep an crash victim from working. 

Injury victims may in certain cases not have to worry that their health insurance company or ERISA plan administrator will sue them to get the money back. This decision -- and others supporting the rights of injured victims -- is long overdue.

January 19, 2016

Latest on Ethan Couch Debacle and MADD's Fight To End DWI's

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Today's Hearing Postponed

Unfortunately the attempt to transfer Ethan Couch to the adult court system was postponed due to the failure to notify Couch's parents. The universally despised "affluenza teen" remains in Mexico fighting extradition. 

An attorney for Couch claimed today that Couch may have been taken to Mexico involuntarily. And just after the hearing was postponed, another attorney announced that Couch was dropping his attempt to stay in Mexico.

The insanity continues. The new hearing date is February 19th.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving posted a petition last week demanding that the Couch be transferred when he turns 19 in April. That will insure that he serves a jail sentence of up to 40 years if he violates his probation in the future (which is highly likely).

The petition says:

The nation has watched with anger and disdain as Couch continues to show blatant disregard for the law. The families impacted will never have their loved ones back. Couch must be treated like the adult he is.

Join us to fight affluenza. No more excuses. No more chances. No more victims.

Sign here if you want to join MADD in demanding Ethan Couch be treated as an adult.

Ethan Couch Case Tip of the DWI Iceberg 

The high-profile crash caused by Ethan Couch was horrific. Four people lost their lives and another teen will be paralyzed the rest of his life. 

A shocking 30 percent of all traffic deaths in Texas in 2014 involved drunk drivers.1,041 people died in Texas drunk driving accidents, including 677 intoxicated drivers, 163 passengers riding with drunk drivers, 163 occupants of other vehicles and 37 pedestrians and bicyclists. 

Continue reading "Latest on Ethan Couch Debacle and MADD's Fight To End DWI's" »

January 18, 2016

Distracted Driving - Business Practice That Must Be Ended

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Employers Must Eliminate this Dangerous Employee Activity

Mobile phones have been a positive boom to businesses, especially in sales, delivery, and taxi industries - a wide swath of American businesses. An employer can keep track of where its workers are and send them to the next location at the click of a button. Employees can update customers on arrival times or conduct business during the "downtime" of driving.

However, being accessible even while behind the wheel is never part of a healthy business plan. The practice is not only very dangerous but costly to the business. 

The National Safety Council estimates that Texas employers spend $3.52 billion every year as a result of traffic accident injuries. Employers are being held liable for six, seven and eight-figure verdicts and settlements, sometimes for employees who cause wrecks while off duty or conducting personal business.

Continue reading "Distracted Driving - Business Practice That Must Be Ended" »

January 15, 2016

The Police Report - The Key Document in a Texas Collision Case

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Why Is It So Important?

The law enforcement officer who investigates your collision is required to write a Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report within 10 days when there is a personal injury or property damage of $1000 or more -- in other words, virtually all the time. But we see a disturbing trend for officers not to write these.

This document is critical to your insurance settlement or trial of your case. It is usually the first thing the insurance company or jury wants to see. Why?

Crucial Information in the Report

Often a swearing match arises when both drivers (or several in a multi-vehicle collision) claim the other person is to blame. Who had the green light or who slowed down too fast? The investigating officer arrives at the scene, investigates what happened, and gives his opinion as to which driver caused the collision. The officer adds a brief narrative and diagram to complete the fault conclusion. Speed limits, weather, property damage, injuries, insurance companies, and eyewitnesses are included.


Continue reading "The Police Report - The Key Document in a Texas Collision Case" »

January 14, 2016

Texas Supreme Court Issues Surprising Loss of Use Ruling

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Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases

The Texas Supreme Court made a decision that restores logic and equity to property damages awards in auto accident claims. In its January 8, 2016 decision in J&D Towing, LLC v. American Alternative Insurance Corporation, the court ruled that Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases.

This loss of use ruling is a victory for auto accident victims who were previously subjected to an irrational interpretation of Texas law by insurance companies. 

Continue reading "Texas Supreme Court Issues Surprising Loss of Use Ruling" »

January 13, 2016

Affluenza Teen's Antics Discussed With Media

Ethan Couch mug shot

Interviews with AP, Dallas Morning News, NBCDFW, and Others

Ethan Couch and his mother remain as fixtures on front pages and news casts all over the world.

Tonya Couch was released from jail yesterday with onerous restrictions, including having to wear a GPS tracking device, after reducing her whopping $1 million bond. Her son remains locked up in a Mexican detention center fighting extradition. 

I am especially interested in this case as I represented the family of a catastrophically injured passenger in Couch's truck in the first lawsuit filed against the family and its business.. 

During the past few months, I have been asked to speak to the news media about this highly controversial case.

In an Associated Press interview published by newspapers world-wide, I expressed my disgust with the refusal of the "affluenza teen" to return to Fort Worth to be punished: "Couch continues to make a mockery of the system." 

The Dallas Morning News interviewed me for its front page article, headlined "Couch's mom had sold Tarrant home; Teen is expected to serve 4 months at most," where I proposed a fix to this farce: "Jail is a well-known cure for affluenza." 

I told 5NBCDFW: "(My former client's family) is furious. Couch paralyzed their son, got away with four murders. He must be caught and punished."

I was interviewed by D Magazine in for its cover story, "The Worst Parents Ever," where I explained the misery the affluenza teen caused my client:

Sergio was a soccer player before he met Ethan Couch ... now his mother and brother will have to take care of him for the rest of his life.

The events of the past month have proven D Magazine correct.