July 2, 2015

Texas Steps Up DWI Enforcement for Fourth of July Weekend

Don't Drink and Drive on 4th of July

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) announced plans to put more law enforcement officers on duty during this July 4th weekend. You may already have noticed more officers patrolling high-risk locations, such as the Fort Worth Stockyards and the Dallas Deep Ellum. The increased DWI patrol began on June 26 and runs through July 7. 

On the day we celebrate our freedom, hundreds of drunk drivers will be in jail, which is better than them being out on the road. 

Increased Enforcement Results in High Rate of DWI Arrests

In 2014, DPS troopers arrested more than 1,050 drunk drivers during the stepped-up Fourth of July holiday enforcement period. In addition to DWI arrests, DPS troopers also issued more than 15,000 speeding tickets and more than 2,500 citations for failure to use a seat belt or child car seat. 

Although DWI fatalities increase during the holiday weekend, alcohol and driving is always a deadly combination. In 2014, more than 1,000 people died on Texas roadways in accidents involving a drunk driver, accounting for 29 percent of the year's traffic accident deaths.

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July 1, 2015

Federal Discovery Rules About To Change

Rules of Civil Procedure

Effect on Injured Clients' Claims in Texas Courts 

The U.S. Supreme Court has made several landmark decisions during this session that have been widely analyzed. The high court has also approved several significant changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that of course got little, if any, attention in the press. 

Although most personal injury claims are brought in Texas state courts, Texas typically adopt the federal rules. So expect the changes to FRCP to also influence changes to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedures (TRCP), possibly as early as next year.

New Discovery Rules 

Discovery rule changes that have been approved by the U.S. Supreme Court include:

  • Eliminating the discovery of information that could lead to admissible evidence
  • Relying more heavily on a proportionality test that weighs costs with benefits and what's at stake
  • Putting burden on party that objects to production of evidence to state whether documents are being withheld
  • Changing rules governing preservation and destruction of electronically stored information
  • Reducing time for serving summons and enter scheduling orders

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June 26, 2015

Too Many Children Not Restrained, Hurt in Car and Truck Collisions

Police officer and toddler at CO car wreck

Toddler Spared in Car Wreck Despite Not Being Properly Restrained

Yesterday a passerby witnessed a horrific crash in Colorado where the car blew a tire and rolled over. Four children and their parents were not restrained and were ejected from the vehicle. Sadly, the father died in the wreck. After calling 911, the witness snapped the above photo of a police officer distracting a toddler, who miraculously was spared from serious injuries, despite not being correctly restrained in a child's car seat. As a personal injury lawyer, not to mention father, I find her parents failing to put her in her car seat shocking.  Sadly, this story ended tragically, but of course it is wonderful that this little girl is lucky to be alive and uninjured. 

Almost All Cars Make Fastening Seat Belts Difficult; New Rating System for Ease-of-Use of Restraint Seat Hardware

All states require that children be restrained in a child's car seat appropriate to their age and size. Yet, a new study shows that some vehicles' hardware makes this difficult, putting countless children at risk during accidents. 

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has just launched an ease-of-use rating system of vehicular latches for child restraint seats. What the agency found is astounding. Only three out of 100 cars had child restraint hardware that was considered easy to use. More than half of all cars had hardware rated as poor or marginal. How can we allow this to happen?

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June 24, 2015

Recovering Money If Driver is Uninsured or Underinsured

car crash -- two car collision

Chances are high that you will at some point be involved in a collision with an uninsured motorist in Texas. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 20 percent of all vehicles in the state are uninsured -- but in my experience as a personal injury lawyer, it seems like way more. There are far too many people who only make their first payment on their liability policies and let them lapse. 

Texas Laws Governing Auto Insurance 

Every driver in Texas must carry the mandatory minimum of auto insurance. Driving without insurance could result in up to $350.00 in traffic fines, and up to $1,000.00 in fines and a two years driver's license suspension for repeat offenders. An uninsured driver who is also unlicensed faces up to $2,000.00 in fines and 180 days in jail. In addition, an uninsured motorist who causes a car accident that results in serious injuries or deaths could be sentenced to incarceration and steep fines. 

To comply with the law, a driver's vehicle must be covered by 30/60/25, which is:

  • $30,000 for each injured person in a single accident
  • $60,000 for all occupants injured in a single accident
  • $25,000 for property damage per accident

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June 23, 2015

Takata Saved Money, Killing Eight And Injuring Over 100 Drivers

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Congress Castigates Corporation - Again

The U. S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation released a scathing report yesterday detailing Takata's deplorable safety practices. It cites internal emails in which executives decided to halt safety audits of its plants to save money. The committee held another hearing on Takata's devastating corporate conduct today - the fourth time Congress has met over the air bag fiasco in the last eight months.

Takata Altered Airbag Design To Save $2.00 Per Unit

Takata began recalling millions of vehicles that contained defective airbags last year. By May that number had reached 34 million automobiles, making it the largest auto recall in history. One out of every seven vehicles in the United States is affected. 

The problem arose when the company made the fateful decision to use a cheaper propellant in its airbag canisters. The new propellant was highly volatile and often exploded, sending metal shrapnel flying into the cabin of the vehicle. The flying fragments killed at least eight people and injured hundreds of others. The new propellant cost the company $2.00 less per unit. 

Continue reading "Takata Saved Money, Killing Eight And Injuring Over 100 Drivers" »

June 22, 2015

Audit Finds NHTSA Inept At Making Our Roads and Vehicles Safe

mark-rosekind2.jpg Agency Missed Obvious Clues of Safety Violations

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is responsible for regulating safety in the car industry and on our roadways. But the federal government agency has repeatedly failed to do its job, according to a scathing internal audit released by the U. S. Transportation Department. The report found that the agency's shortcomings "deter[ed] N.H.T.S.A. from successfully meeting the mandate to help prevent crashes and their attendant costs, both human and financial."

Systemic Failings at NHTSA

The 42-page audit criticized NHTSA for not adequately screening consumer complaints and verifying automakers' safety claims. The audit also highlights the failings in NHTSA's processes, including not following statistical practices in its assessments of consumer complaints and auto manufacturer reports. In addition, NHTSA's staff was undertrained and it's management weak. When NHTSA suspected an auto manufacturer of violating the law, the agency still took no enforcement action. 

The report said NHTSA conducted its safety duties on an "honor system." In a classic fox minding the henhouse scenario, the automakers underreported deaths and injuries and mischaracterized safety incidents in the light most favorable to the corporations. NHTSA took the corporations at their word.

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June 19, 2015

Texting Not Only Way iPhones Are Making Our Roads Unsafe

Texting while driving campaign AT&T It Can Wait 1

Study Finds Drivers Surf the Web, Take Selfies, Video Chat and More

We just got a call from a woman who was crashed into during the big rain storm on Wednesday. How did the wreck happen? A man in a pickup truck rear ended her car as he was taking pictures of an overflowing river. We see risky driving behavior like this all the time. In a deposition last week, the at-fault driver admitted that he never saw my client's huge SUV before he hit her and caused her to have back surgery.

OK, I'm so old that I remember when noone had a  cell phone (I got my driver's license in 1970). Now everyone has one and a frightening 70 percent of drivers say they are watching cat videos, or Facebooking friends, or sending photos of that hilarious street sign while also operating the vehicle. During the periods of smartphone activity, there is essentially noone behind the wheel.

The Dangerous Smartphone Phenomenon

A new study from by AT&T reveals that people do these smartphone activities while driving:

  • 61 percent text
  • 33 percent email
  • 28 percent surf the Internet
  • 27 percent Facebook
  • 17 percent snap selfies or photos 
  • 14 percent Twitter
  • 14 percent Instagram
  • 12 percent shoot videos 
  • 11 percent Snapchat
  • 10 percent video chat

Continue reading "Texting Not Only Way iPhones Are Making Our Roads Unsafe" »

June 18, 2015

Texas Hospitals Often Gouge Injured Patients

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Why Is Dallas - Fort Worth Health Care Among Most Expensive in the Country?

The Texas price gouging law prohibits a business from "demanding an exorbitant or excessive price in connection with the sale or lease of fuel, food, medicine or another necessity" after the governor has declared a disaster. However some Texas hospitals -- three here in the DFW area -- apparently engage in price gouging.

Exorbitant healthcare costs are a well-known nationwide problem. However, Dallas ranks among the most expensive, according to a January U.S. Government Accountability Office report. As an example of how much more Dallas hospitals charge, today's Dallas Morning News reported that the average costs for a hip replacement in Youngstown, Ohio is $19,164.00 -- less than one-half of the average $41,129.00 in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 

Recently, a client told me that she was surprised that her ER visit cost her $1,600.00 and was angry to learn that she had actually been charged $16,000.00. Fortunately I was able to get the bill paid by her health insurance company, which is often difficult in these cases, and get the balance reduced to zero. I was then able to negotiate a substantial recovery for her.

The National Institute of Medicine attributed the extraordinarily high prices to strong market power of certain medical chains, which has occured in the DFW area as major health care systems have merged in recent years.

A study published in the June edition of Health Affairs found that Texas General Hospital in Grand Prairie had the highest charge to costs ratio in Texas and the 11th highest in the country. The for-profit facility bills an average of $1,080.00 for every $100.00 of costs associated with a patient's care.

Four other Texas hospitals were also named to this most expensive list including two other DFW area hospitals, Dallas Regional Medical Center (in Mesquite) and Lake Granbury Medical Center.Two Rio Grande Valley hospitals, Laredo Medical Center and South Texas Health System were also on the list.

Continue reading "Texas Hospitals Often Gouge Injured Patients" »

June 17, 2015

Another I-35 Crash Claims Life, This Time A Famous Texas Artist

Art World Mourns Loss of a Great Sculptor

I'm sad to report that Jesús Moroles was killed Monday in a car collision on Interstate 35 north of Georgetown. He was travelling from his hometown of Rockport to Chickasaw, Oklahoma, where he was commissioned to create a sculpture. The cause of the collision is not known.

From Humble Beginnings to Museums Throughout the Country

Jesús Moroles was born in Corpus Christi, where both his parents were cotton farmers and he also grew up working in the fields. He attended El Centro College in Dallas and graduated from the University of North Texas. The 64 year-old artist earned wide recognition during his life, including the 2008 National Medal of Arts and the 2011 Texas State Artist award. His sculptures are displayed all over the United States, including two in Dallas.

Summertime Is When We Americans Hit the Roads

Unfortunately, summer is also called "the 100 deadliest days" of the years for drivers, according to Road Safe America. This year, an estimated 13,000 of us will tragically be killed in June, July and August in automobile or truck collisions. And some roads are more deadly than others.

Interstate 35 Is Incredibly Dangerous

Any one who has driven south from Dallas-Fort Worth to Austin knows just how harrowing road conditions can be. In fact, this stretch of interstate was rated the 13th most deadly highway in the United States, with a shocking 1.15 fatal accidents per mile and 659 fatalities from 2004-2008.

Continue reading "Another I-35 Crash Claims Life, This Time A Famous Texas Artist " »

June 16, 2015

Boy Hit By Truck, Dies in Parking Lot Collision

Orlando Hernandez

Mother of Victim Said Pickup Truck Driver Was Driving Too Fast

A fatal accident involving a 9 year-old boy has been declared an accident by Fort Worth police investigators. The accident occurred in the parking lot of the CVS located on West Seminary Drive. Orlando Hernandez was running through the parking lot to return a shopping cart to the store when a pickup truck struck him at 7:30 p.m. last week. 

Orlando's mother, Daniela Hernandez, refutes th0se findings. She believes the driver was going too fast and should be charged with her son's death. Regardless of whether criminal charges are filed or a civil lawsuit is brought and damages are recovered, this is a real tragedy and my heart goes out to his family for its unimaginable loss.

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June 15, 2015

Drunk Firefighter Tries to Run Over Bar's Staff, Is Suspended

Fort Worth Firefighter Jason Langford

He Got Angry After Being Denied More Alcohol

A nine-year veteran of the Fort Worth Fire Department has been "indefinitely suspended" because of a January DWI and assault incident. According to the Fort Worth Star Telegram, the decision was just announced in a disciplinary letter issued upon conclusion of an extensive investigation. The firefighter, Jason Langford, plans to appeal. 

The 37 year-old has possibly thrown away his career over a single night of overindulgence. We applaud two different bar's staffs for doing all they could to keep a drunk patron from getting behind the wheel. Their proactive, insistent response may have saved Mr. Langford's and other motorists' lives. There are far too many intoxicated drivers on our Fort Worth and Dallas roads - many there because they were overserved by drinking establishments.

Continue reading "Drunk Firefighter Tries to Run Over Bar's Staff, Is Suspended" »

June 12, 2015

Former Head of Aledo Schools Dies in Collision; Cable Barrier Fails

Don Daniel

14 Year-Old Passenger Also Killed in Multi-Vehicle Accident

The city of Aledo is mourning the loss of its former District Superintendent and a teen who were tragically killed on Wednesday in a multi-vehicle wreck. The crash occurred on Interstate 20 near the exit for Farm-to-Market Road 1187. 68 year-old Don Daniel and his 14-year-old passenger, Hunter Corzine, were travelling westbound in a black Nissan pickup truck when the truck suddenly veered into the oncoming eastbound lane and hit a Chevrolet Suburban head-on. The Nissan then struck an 18-wheeler and the Suburban was rear-ended by a Buick. Police are still investigating what caused the cause of the collision.

The male driver of the Suburban and the female driver of the Buick were rushed to the hospital. Fortunately, a four year-old who was a passenger in the Buick and the driver of the tractor-trailer were not injured.

Cable Barrier Did Not Prevent Head-On Crash

A shoulder and a cable barrier divided the east and west flowing traffic lanes. Mr. Daniel's pickup truck had to cross over the steel cables to enter the oncoming traffic lane.

Installing cable barriers was an important component of the Texas Department of Transportation's $1.2 billion safety initiatives program. Cable barriers are designed to prevent accidents and lesson severity when an accident occurs. Typically, when a vehicle hits the steel cables, they flex to absorb the kinetic energy of the crash and to deflect the vehicle toward the median. In theory, the cable barriers should have prevented the pickup truck from crossing into head-on traffic and softened the impact to the occupants of the wrecked car. 

Continue reading "Former Head of Aledo Schools Dies in Collision; Cable Barrier Fails " »

June 11, 2015

Enormous Damages Awarded in Guardrail Fraud Case

Dallas-Based Company Plans to Appeal

A federal judge ordered Trinity Industries to pay $664.4 million in damages and fines and an additional $20 million in attorneys' fees in a whistleblower lawsuit brought by the company's competitor. The judgment amount includes $525 million in damages and another $138.4 million in fines. 

The Dallas-based corporation continues to deny it defrauded the government and the American public when it altered its guardrail design to save money and then covered up their actions. As a result, numerous people died and were injured. Trinity Industries plans to appeal the judgment.

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June 10, 2015

18 Wheeler Driver Logs Will Finally Be Reliable - In October 2017

Electronic Logging Devices To Improve Compliance with Hours of Service Violations Streetview Scene Picture.jpg

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) announced last year a proposed rule that mandates electronic logging devices (ELD's) in commercial trucks. The new rule is not scheduled to take effect until two years after the new rule is published in the Federal Register on September 30, 2015.

This change is long overdue. Why?

Tractor-trailer drivers are required to maintain written logs of their miles travelled, work and drive hours and rest periods to comply with the hours of service (HOS) regulations. These handwritten logs can easily be tampered with if a driver has violated the HOS rules. In some cases, drivers maintain two sets of records -- one that reflects the real data and a second that is manipulated to demonstrate compliance. The driver sometimes produces the fraudulent set of data after an accident or in connection to an investigation. Proving that the logs have been doctored is one of the most frustrating aspects of handling a case against a commercial carrier and its negligent driver.

Continue reading "18 Wheeler Driver Logs Will Finally Be Reliable - In October 2017" »

June 9, 2015

Jail for 21 Year-Old Convicted of Intoxication Manslaughter

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Excessive Speeding and Alcohol Use Contributed to Princeton Crash

21-year-old Joshua Bartlett was sentenced on Monday to five years in prison for a horrific DWI crash that killed two of his friends and injured four others. Last week, he was convicted of two counts of intoxication manslaughter and four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Joshua faced up to 20 years of incarceration, but was also eligible for the very lenient sentence of community supervision.

Lives Destroyed by DWI Crash

The harrowing details about the fatal DUI crash came out at trial. After drinking heavily, Joshua and six other friends piled into his Mazda hatchback. Only the front seat passengers were wearing seat belts. Joshua was driving 117 mph in a 45 mph zone. According to one teen in the car that night, his friends begged him to slow down. But, ignoring their pleas, he took a curve at 90 mph without hitting his brakes and spun out of control and plowed into a fire hydrant. Joshua's blood alcohol content was .168 percent, more than twice the legal limit. 17 years-old Cody Hensley and Stephan Chaney were killed and the other teens were injured. 

The November 2013 DWI crash shocked the small town north of Dallas. With its population of only 7,400, most residents knew the teens who were killed and injured and the teen who was responsible for the tragedy. 

Cody was a senior at McKinney North High School and a member of the Cowboy Church of Collin County. He loved being outdoors and was looking forward to serving his country as a Marine. He was described as polite, respectful and laid-back and as somebody who made friends easily and was his own person.

Stephan was a senior at Princeton High School and also a member of the Cowboy Church, where he become best friends with Cody. Stephan was described as being spirited and thoughtful. Even in his last moments, Stephan was thinking about his friends. A teen who survived the crash said that Stephan told her to go check on the others despite his severe injuries. 

Joshua will have to live the rest of his life with his friends' death on his conscience. He will also spend a large period of his young adult years behind prison walls. 

Recklessness has Consequences 

Joshua had a history of reckless conduct. He was arrested for speeding in 2011. Then in April 2012, he was arrested speeding again when he was clocked at 89 mph in a 45 mph zone on the very road where the fatal accident occurred one month later. He was arrested for DWI when he was 17 years old. Sadly, this young man didn't learn his lesson until he destroyed his own life and the lives of his friends and their families.

Berenson Injury Law Advocates for Drunk Driving Accident Victims

Drunk driving has tragic consequences for the injured victims and the driver who causes so much pain. It just isn't worth it. 

If you were injured by a drunk driver, call our our Dallas-Fort Worth law firm at 817-885-0000 or 1-800-801-8585 for a free case evaluation.