October 24, 2014

Arlington Mother Killed by Flying Road Debris

Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

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.  

Continue reading "Arlington Mother Killed by Flying Road Debris" »

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.

Continue reading "Injured By An Exploding Air Bag? 14 Million Cars Are At Risk" »

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.

Continue reading "Mega Verdict Rendered in Trinity Guardrail Trial In Marshall " »

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.

Continue reading "Texas Drivers With Underinsured Motorists Cases Win Key Appeal " »

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.

Continue reading "Dallas County Wreck Takes Life Of Woman Not Wearing Seat Belt" »

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

Thumbnail image for Walk Like MADD

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.

Continue reading "Did Cheaper Guardrails & Dallas Company's Fraud Cause Deaths?" »

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.

Continue reading "Fort Worth Hit-and-Run Accidents Are Shockingly Routine " »

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.

Continue reading "Voice-Activated Systems More Distracting Than Touch" »

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.

Continue reading "Tips for Getting Our DFW Kids to School Safely" »

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

Continue reading "DWI Crash Injures Child In Dallas But . . ." »

October 6, 2014

Berenson Law Sponsors Kids Run And Healthy Foods Cookoff


I cheered on the large crowd -- including our mayor Betsy Price -- at the C.A.L.F. 5K Run and Healthy Foods Competiton early Saturday morning at the Will Rogers Memorial Center. My firm was again presenting sponsor. I have also been on the C.A.L.F. Council since the program's inception in 2009 and I strongly believe in its mission of encouraging our children to be fitter and healthier.

LaDainian Tomlinson's Support

C..A.L.F. partnered this year with one of the NFL's and TCU's greatest football players (#5 in rushing yards in  NFL history), LaDainian Tomlinson, to make the 2014 run and healthy foods competition a huge success. It was an honor to get to meet "LT."  He was also honored during the afternoon's big TCU-OU game and must have inspired the team as it knocked off the #4 team in the country.

More than 80 schools and community centers were involved. FitWorth was also a sponsor and another great cause. The highlight was helping accept the whopping check in the amount of $200,000.00 that was presented to the C.A.L.F. program from donations raised by the Cowtown Marathon.

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October 3, 2014

Bad Weather Causes Numerous North Texas Traffic Accidents

Yesterday afternoon violent storms ravaged the Dallas Fort Worth region, causing power-outages, structural damage, and of course countless automobile and truck accidents. Strong winds actually ripped the roof off the Arlington Baptist College dorm, collapsed Stockyards walls, shattered windows and downed trees and streetlights. We certainly needed the rain, but that was ridiculous!

Numerous traffic crashes occurred during the storm, including a tractor-trailer that rolled over on Randol Mill in Arlington. Because of trees and debris on the road and damage to traffic signals, many streets remained unsafe for drivers throughout the night.

How Bad Weather Affects Traffic Safety

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) estimates that, of the 5,870,000 automobiles accidents that happen every year, almost one-fourth are weather-related. More than 480,000 people are injured and about 6,250 die every year in weather-related automobile crashes. Wet pavement and heavy rainfall are the two most dangerous weather conditions, contributing to approximately 28 percent of all automobile accidents. Snow, sleet, ice, slush, fog and wind also affect driving safety.

Weather conditions affect roadway conditions and traffic flow in many ways, including:

  • Wind speed: Airborne dust reduces your visibility distance. Dust and debris blown onto the roadway may obstruct your path.
  • Precipitation: Heavy rain reduces your visibility distance. Even light rain can affect roadway friction and cause your tires to lose traction.
  • Fog: Fog limits your visibility distance.
  • Pavement damage: Heat, rain and wind can damage pavement, resulting in dangerous driving conditions.
  • Flooding: When the lane becomes submerged in water, you could lose control of your car or get trapped in your vehicle.

Staying Safe While Driving in Bad Weather

Although you cannot control the weather, you can avoid accidents during inclement weather. Consumer Reports -- and common sense -- advises staying indoors or pulling over until the weather passes.

However, if you must drive during a downpour, you should take precautions, such as:

  • Lowering your speed to prevent hydroplaning on slick pavement
  • Leaving more space between your car and the one in front of you
  • Avoiding driving through puddles if possible
  • Never driving through water if you are unsure how deep it is
  • Not using cruise control

During high and gusty winds you should

  • Keep a tight grip on the steering wheel with both hands
  • Monitor your speed while driving into headwinds
  • Adjust your steering to accommodate sidelong winds
  • Remain especially alert when passing a tractor-trailer or driving through a tunnel

Were You Injured During Yesterday's Dallas and Tarrant County Storm?

Bad weather is a contributing factor in many Dallas Fort Worth car accidents each year, but it is rarely the sole cause. Many times, the drivers involved are acting reasonably, but we've seen that other driver errors, such as speeding, failing to yield the right of way, distracted driving, following to closely, or driving while intoxicated or impaired causes collisions on days like yesterday.

If you were injured in a weather-related traffic accident, Bill Berenson Injury Law may be able to help you. Call our our Dallas-Fort Worth law firm at 817-885-8000 or toll-free at 1-888-801-8585 to schedule your free consultation. If you are driving today, stay safely!

Related post

Teenage Passenger Dies In Tarrant County Hydroplane Accident

October 1, 2014

Dallas Family Seriously Injured By Hit-and-Run Driver

Driver Who Fled Scene Arrested Hours After Violent Dallas Crash

A toddler, a three year-old and their mother were seriously injured when a driver smashed into their car and then took off last Monday night. The family was driving a Ford sedan near Fair Park along Haskell Avenue around 10.40 p.m. when the driver of a white van ran a red light and broadsided their vehicle. Although both children were in car seats, the three year-old child was ejected because the seat was improperly installed. Instead of stopping to render aid, the driver of the van drove away.

The father, who avoided injury, flagged down a passing motorist for help. The good Samaritan and the father chased the driver for two miles until the van finally broke down on Reiger Avenue. The driver escaped on foot.

Fortunately, the police found and arrested the fleeing driver early Tuesday morning, only hours after the automobile crash. Jose Cruz Hernandez Martinez was charged with failure to render aid and intoxication assault for the hit-and-run accident.

Continue reading "Dallas Family Seriously Injured By Hit-and-Run Driver" »