August 1, 2014

Ethan Couch-Like Teen Causes Death of 16 Year Old

It has barely been a year since the horrific "affluenza" crash in Burleson caused by a drunk teen. The outrageously intoxicated 16 year old Ethan Couch drove his father's company's Ford 350 into a group of innocent bystanders, killing four people, and critically injured a fine young man whom I represented.

Couch's blood alcohol content was .24% -- three times the legal limit if he were 21 years old.

Now another drunk teenager has just crashed his truck west of Fort Worth and killed his passenger. Sadly, it was just announced that a 16 year old from Weatherford died this week at John Peter Smith Hospital. My prayers go out to his family.

The 19 year old man from Alvarado, Buddy Barnes, was driving his 1994 Ford Taurus while intoxicated at 1:00 a.m. Saturday night. Seven of his friends were packed inside. Barnes missed a curve, drove off the road, and crashed into two trees. He and a young passenger were ejected from the car.

This happened on Dennis Road outside of Weatherford, not far from the Sugartree course where I've played golf, so I am familiar with the location.

The medical condition of Barnes and the other five teens is not known at this time.

Barnes was charged with DWI and now faces a charge of intoxication manslaughter. What an absolute tragedy, all the way around.

Affluenza Teen Case Similarities

It is impossible not to draw a connection between this crash and the now infamous "affluenza" one. As you may know from previous posts or the news coverage, my client was a fine young man who is now tragically paralyzed after he was also thrown out of his vehicle. Fortunately, we were able to successfully resolve the case in court, but I think about him frequently and pray that doctors can help him recover from his injuries.

We have to crack down on drunk drivers in Texas. We have more of them here than in any other state, even California, which has 12 million more people. A shocking 1,296 people died from these crashes in 2012. This figure increased 7% from the year before. The problem is out of control.

In my practice, I've seen that drunk driving crashes are often the most serious auto accidents, because they are often high speed, head-on crashes. Here's a photo of my poor clients' car in a case that I'm working on now.
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I hate drunk drivers, and go after them with a vengeance. I settled another case for the drunk driver's full insurance limits yesterday. I'm also a proud supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and am pleased to be one of its only approved attorneys in Tarrant County.

Here are more frightening statistics about drunk driving collisions:

Alcohol-fueled injuries hurt almost 17,000 people in 2012;

There were over 25,000 alcohol-related crashes were over 25,000 that year;

Last year in Tarrant and Dallas Counties, 121 people were killed and 1,261 others were seriously injured by DWI drivers;

Continue reading "Ethan Couch-Like Teen Causes Death of 16 Year Old " »

July 30, 2014

How Do You Pay For Medical Bills From Your Auto Accident?

An article in today's paper sadly reports that 44% of people in the Dallas area are "drowning in debt" -- most often due to hospital and doctor charges from motor vehicle collisions. How does this happen? And how can it be prevented?

People hurt in car and truck crashes can have piles of medical bills and not know how or when they will get paid. Unfortunately, until a final settlement is negotiated or a jury verdict is obtained, the injured person must try to figure out the best way to pay for his medical expenses. This can be a complicated, frustrating, credit ruining process if it is not handled properly.

Let me explain what your best options are if you have been in an automobile or truck accident in the Dallas Fort Worth area:

1. Hire an experienced and aggressive attorney who will fight for you. Richard Spence.jpg

A good lawyer can save you a ton of money. My office works with all of the health insurance companies to make sure that your bills are being processed for payment. Some companies refuse to pay, delay payment, or only pay for some of the bills unless pressured to do so. Sometimes the health insurance company pays, but then files a lien under the ERISA subrogation (reimbursement) rules and may not be legally entitled to do so..

Some hospitals or doctors will refuse to file on your BlueCross or Cigna policy and demand payment in full. Some hospitals file liens and demand full payment, but liens do not attach to all cases, notably those involving wrongful deaths. In certain circumstances, an emergency medical provider can file a lien. Sometimes non qualified providers, like chiropractors, wrongfully file liens.

Then there can be problems if Medicare, Medicaid, workers compensation, quasi-workers compensation plans, or other funding is involved. Tax and child support liens cloud the issue.

There can be many medical offices and many people involved. This gets complicated quickly. There is a lot of money at stake -- thousands and often tens of thousands of dollars. Everyone wants to be paid now.

Continue reading "How Do You Pay For Medical Bills From Your Auto Accident?" »

July 29, 2014

GM Recalls: Claims And Suits

Bill Berenson Injury Law is investigating claims for people who were injured or for the familes of those who were tragically killed in collisions involving GM vehicles that have been recalled due to defective ignition switches or other mechanical problems.

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash involving one of these vehicles listed below, please contact us today for a free consultation at 1-888-801-8585.

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Damage Claim Filings Begin This Friday For Defective Ignition Switches

Beginning on August 1st, damage claims can be submitted for drivers who were injured or who died due to defective GM ignition switches. This office stands ready to assist you.

Over 2.6 small, often basic General Motors cars had defective ignition switches. This caused the key to suddenly turn off, shutting down the engine, brakes, steering, and air bags. Even something as minor as the driver's knee brushing against the key ring or the vehicle hitting a pot hole could suddenly move the switch to "off" and cause a crash. It only would have cost GM 57 cents per switch to fix the problem. GM chose not to spend this paltry sum, fully aware that fatal wrecks would occur.

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Continue reading "GM Recalls: Claims And Suits" »

July 25, 2014

Three Fort Worth Motorcycle Riders Injured During Charity Ride

kuwait-3rd-motorbike-show-512402-m.jpgNo sooner does this blog issue warnings about drivers being alert for motorcycle riders than another horrifying collision takes place in the Metroplex. A van plowed into a group of 60 motorcycle riders this weekend while they were raising money for charity and injured three people. It's truly lucky many people weren't killed.

The members of the Fort Worth Harley Owners Group were traveling in formation in the center lanes of Interstate 30 when a van somehow crashed into the exit barrier wall near the Interstate 30/35 West interchange. The van's airbags deployed, preventing the driver from seeing other vehicles around her, and her large vehicle collided into the motorcycles.

While it is not known at this time what caused the driver to hit the wall in the first place, several riders believe that she was driving while texting (DWT). Fort Worth police merely confirmed the obvious: the driver was inattentive.

Continue reading "Three Fort Worth Motorcycle Riders Injured During Charity Ride" »

July 22, 2014

My 50 State Marathon Quest Was Featured In Dallas News Today

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It was an honor to be interviewed by the Dallas Morning News about my crazy dream of trying to run a marathon in every state.

I've completed races in 47 of them. And I'll finish this fall by running the last three in eight weeks in North Dakota, New Jersey, and Maryland. It's a perfect finish - a small race along a beautiful river canal outside of Washington, not far from where I got married and where my dear mother was from. And it comes at a perfect time -- one week before I turn 60.

The funny thing is that I hadn't run any of these 26.2 mile races until I was turning 50. Before that, I barely ran. Between the weather and the injuries, I didn't really like it.

But a week after my first one, the San Diego Rock 'n Roll Marathon, I was accepted by the New York City Marathon on my first try, and then qualified to run in the prestigious Boston Marathon, so these were good omens. I ran one or two marathons a year, and then decided to ramp it up when I turned 55.

Continue reading "My 50 State Marathon Quest Was Featured In Dallas News Today" »

July 21, 2014

Dallas DWI Accident Flips Truck And Kills One, Injures Five

UPDATED.
Last night one woman, age 30, was tragically killed and five people suffered injuries after a crash caused by a drunk driver. The collision happened just before midnight on LBJ Freeway northbound near Highway 175. Police found a pickup that had flipped upside down and was lying on its roof and a car that had crashed into the center-lane guardrail. Six people were still inside the truck, including a man, two women, and three children. The white car was occupied only by the driver.

According to KDFW-Channel 4, witnesses said the woman driving the car was speeding on LBJ when she suddenly changed lanes and crashed into the truck, sending it spinning out of control. The car careened into the guardrail. Of course, the woman didn't get hurt.

But one of the women in the truck was unconscious when police arrived and was flown by Care Flite to Parkland Hospital in critical condition. She is the mother of at least one of the children in the truck. The other occupants, including the children, were taken to the hospital with less severe injuries. My prayers go out to the families of those involved in this horrible crash.

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July 18, 2014

Fatal Dallas Motorcycle Crash Caused By Unlicensed Teenager

Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Here's an outrageous story that is far too common: a motorcycle rider lost his life in Dallas Wednesday in a hit-and-run accident.

An 27-year-old male motorcycle rider, Kris Stroman, was driving eastbound on Walnut Hill Lane when a 2001 Chevy van heading westbound suddenly turned left in front of him. Mr. Stroman, who was wearing a helmet, was driving home from his job in Irving and had taken side roads like this to stay off more dangerous highways. He unfortunately could not avoid being hit head on, was thrown from the motorcycle, and was pronounced dead at Parkland Hospital.

As if that were not horrible enough, the van driver drove away to an apartment complex on Brockbank, where Dallas police quickly arrested a teenage girl. Worse still, she did not have a driver's license.

Mr. Stroman was incredibly safe and had a heart of gold, his girlfriend said. The two were about to be married. My prayers go out to his family and friends.

Continue reading "Fatal Dallas Motorcycle Crash Caused By Unlicensed Teenager" »

July 17, 2014

Latest On GM Ignition Switch Deaths And Recall

gm_ignition_switch_recall_slide_safercar-thumb-500x250-82735.jpgThe United States Senate, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Department of Justice are investigating the nightmare caused to drivers when their small General Motors cars suddenly became disabled at highway speeds.

This turned off the power steering, power brakes and air bags in various Chevrolets, Pontiacs, Saturns, and other GM vehicles, making a car crash -- and possibly death -- inevitable. Due to a 13 year delay in issuing recalls, over 300 people have died and thousands of people have been injured. GM has finally gotten around to recalling 9.4 million vehicles under intense pressure.

Senate Hearings Today

Today, GM's chief executive officer and chief counsel are being grilled by U. S. senators at a consumer protection committee hearing. The CEO Mary T. Barra, was lambasted by this committee in April.

The high ranking chairwoman, Senator Claire McCaskill, also ripped into GM's legal department, which fought the lawsuits brought by the victims of the collisions even after the company kinew that its defective switch was to blame. Senator McCaskill wondered why its chief counsel had not been fired and described the company as having a "culture of lawyering up" which "killed innocent customers." She noted that GM's long-delayed recall showed "indifference, incompetence and deceit."

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July 14, 2014

Two Dead As a Result of Two Fort Worth Accidents On Sunday

Car Crash 820.jpgSunday was a deadly day for driving in the Fort Worth area, as two separate accidents both resulted in fatalities.

One car accident occurred on Sunday afternoon in the 2200 block of East Look 820. The driver of a Dodge pickup truck headed north attempted to change lanes, and in the process struck a Chevy Impala. The impact caused the Dodge driver to lose control, which caused the pickup to veer over a guardrail. The pickup truck ended up in the lanes headed south, where it got in a collision with a 18-wheeler tractor trailer. The driver was then taken to a local Fort Worth hospital in critical condition, where he died of his injuries. A four-year-old passenger in the pickup truck was taken to Cook Children's Hospital by ambulance in serious condition. The drivers of the Impala and the tractor trailer also went to a local hospital by way of ground ambulance. Some time after, the southbound side of Loop 820 remained closed, while the northbound side was open.

In another accident that afternoon, Fort Worth police responded to a report that two vehicles had collided in the 1200 block of Northeast 28th Street between North Main Street and Interstate 35 West. The details of the collision are not known at this time, but one of the individuals involved died as a result of injuries. The other individuals, though injured, were expected to survive.

Continue reading "Two Dead As a Result of Two Fort Worth Accidents On Sunday" »

July 11, 2014

Fort Worth Injury Lawyer Reminds Parents Not To Leave Children In Their Cars

child in seat.jpgNow that we've reached 100 degree days, you wouldn't think it would be necessary to remind people of the danger of allowing their children to remain in their vehicle while they run errands. But the bizarre trial of the Georgia father who is accused of leaving his small son inside his car has drawn interest to this horrible "accident."

And I'm not even talking about idiots like the Crowley woman who recently told six children to ride on the roof and trunk of her car to dry out their bathing suits. All were thrown off when she took a curve, and one has sustained a brain injury.

Heat stroke is a serious problem

Nationally 15 children have already died from heat stroke death this year and over 500 children have lost their lives over the last 14 years in this entirely preventable way. This is shocking, not only as a personal injury attorney but also as a father.

In the Georgia case, it was 92 degrees outside, but 140 inside the vehicle with the windows rolled up.

Heat stroke can cause brain, liver, and kidney damage, in addition to shock, seizures, and irregular heartbeat. It can be fatal if the body temperature exceeds 107 degrees. Children's bodies heat up far more quickly than adults do.

Heatstroke is the leading cause of deaths for small children in non-crash motor vehicle cases. And far too many parents -- 23% in one study -- admit that they have left a child alone in their vehicle.

Warning signs for heatstroke

The symptoms of heatstroke include:

• Headache, nausea, shallow breathing, dizziness, and confusion

• Rapid pulse

• Altered mental state

• Unconsciousness

If you suspect that someone is sufferering from heat stroke, it is imperative that you call 911 immediately. Get them cold quickly with air conditioning and cold wet towels.

Solutions to this deadly problem

Should the state and federal governments impose restrictions, as they do for seatbelt usage? Should auto makers install warning devices, which they do now when drivers don't buckle up, headlights are left on, or the key is left in the ignition?

Should state and local law enforcement agencies more vigorously enforce our laws which make this a crime, comparable to their intense interest in catching speeders?

Furthermore, starting in 2018, all new cars will be required to have rear-visibility technology. This new rule is designed to prevent more than 200 people, one third of them small children, from accidentally being run over each year.

The head of the National Transportation Safety Administration, David Friedman, believes that people should not rely on technology. Instead, he suggest that people use common sense and not look their vehicles before they check the back seat. He recommends that drivers leave a valuable object like a cell phone there to remind them to check.

Texas and 18 other states outlaw the cruel practice of leaving a child unattended. Our law is found in the Penal Code, § 22.10:

LEAVING A CHILD IN A VEHICLE.

(a) A person commits an offense if he intentionally or knowingly leaves a child
in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the
child is:

(1) younger than seven years of age; and
(2) not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years or older.

Texas only makes this crime a Class C misdemeanor. This is the least serious possible criminal offense. Our state legislators should increase the punishment level to discourage people from breaking this serious -- but easily forgotten -- law.

Berenson Law will fight to make sure you recover the money you deserve if you or someone you love has been injured in a motor vehicle accident.

July 7, 2014

Car Plunges Off Fort Worth Bridge, Seriously Injuring Two Women

Unfortunately for several Fort Worth residents, the 4th of July proved to be a nightmare, not a celebration. Early Friday morning two women were seriously injured after their four-door sedan plunged off of the bridge in the 900 block of Northeast 28th Street near the Fort Worth Stockyards and hit the creek bed 30 feet below. The women were trapped inside their vehicle until emergency crews rescued them. One woman is in critical condition and the other is in serious condition at John Peter Smith Hospital. My prayers go out to them and their families.

The road on which the accident occurred is presently under constructioncar.jpg with cones and barriers lined up throughout. Investigators are trying to determine whether the construction caused confusion during the dark early morning hours. The bridge remained closed for hours on Friday morning after the mishap.

The details of the accident are still being investigated, but there is no indication that alcohol or drugs were involved.

As noted in a previous post, the 4th of July holiday is one of the most dangerous times to be driving in both Texas and across the country. In Texas, the 4th of July death rate is greater than that of New Year's Eve and Day combined. Last year, 54 Texans were killed and 1,124 were arrested for driving while intoxicated.

Continue reading "Car Plunges Off Fort Worth Bridge, Seriously Injuring Two Women" »

July 3, 2014

Have A Happy -- And Safe -- Fourth of July Celebration!

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July 1, 2014

GM Ignition Switch Nightmare Deepens; Settlement Proposed

cobalt_3-2__medium.jpgLatest Recall Announced Today In Connection With Defective Switches

General Motors yesterday recalled another 8.4 million vehicles for faulty ignition switches that disabled their cars while people were driving. This brings the total number of its recalled vehicles in the U. S. for the first half of this year to an astonishing 25 million.

According to the Center for Auto Safety, 303 people were killed after their steering, brakes and airbags suddenly became disabled and they crashed. GM claims that it only knew about 13 deaths, which it only acknowledged many years after the design defect was first noticed -- and only after attorneys proved this in lawsuits. If General Motors had not delayed its recalls for 13 years after it first learned of the defect back in 2001, hundreds of lives would have been spared.

The latest recall announcement was so shocking on Wall Street that the sale of GM's stock was halted briefly. And a California District Attorney became the first to file suit against the auto giant for its fraudulent practices.

Which models are unsafe at any speed, to quote Ralph Nader's groundbreaking expose into the Chevrolet Corvair 50 years ago, which accused the auto industry of ignoring safety features?

Background:

GM's president admitted to a Congressional committee investigating this debacle that the enormous corporation did not want to spend a measly 57 cents per car to fix the defect. GM has a stockpile of $27 billion in cash.

Several senators suggested that GM be tried in a criminal court and a federal criminal probe is pending. Multiple civil lawsuits have been filed by victims and their families.

Settlement Formula Proposed

GM also announced yesterday that Kenneth Feinberg, the compensation expert in charge of distributing the September 11 and Boston Marathon victim funds, has devised a formula to pay accident victims out of court.

The families of those who died will receive one million dollars plus $300,000 for the surviving spouse and each dependent as well as an additional amount for lifetime earnings lost. For example, the family of a 25-year-old married woman who left two children and was earning $46,400 a year would receive $4 million, Feinberg said.

Those people who suffered bodily injuries will receive from $20,000 (if one night was spent in a hospital) to $500,000 (if 32 or more nights were spent). People who were catastrophically injured could receive substantially more depending on the extent of their injuries, cost of medical care, lost earnings, and other factors. Injured persons with lesser injuries will not receive more than $20,000. In addition, persons who were crashed into or hit while they were walking near these out-of-control cars can also file claims.

The payments could go to people who haven't even crashed their GM vehicles yet. Wrecks caused by the defective switch through Dec. 31st of this year will be considered for payment.

GM will not invoke the 2009 bankruptcy agreement that might have shielded it from payments for those who accept the proposal. Its president said that it was her company's "civic duty" to compensate the victims. No doubt the threat of criminal prosecution, civil litigation, and decreased profits was the real reason. It is not known whether victims will accept the settlements or sue.

The models of cars that the company has recalled for the defective switch and other information can be found here: www.gmignitioncompensation.com.

Problem With Proof Solved?

There is also evidence that the air bags did not deploy. How could a victim or his or her family prove thiese malfunctions years later? The car or SUV has been demolished and its "black box" is gone. Mr. Feinberg said he would also look at evidence like police reports, photos, witness statements, medical reports, insurance claims, and warranty and maintenance records.

Other Lawsuits Filed Against GM

Furthermore, GM faces additional lawsuits due to the failure of airbags to deploy, leading to the death of a Texas man and injuring countless other people.

Four of the recalls announced yesterday involve the Chevrolet Trailblazer, which for years have suffered from fires and door or window failures and which GM also knew about.

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 and must immediately fix any known safety defects. When I was growing up in the Sixties and Seventies, it was said that "What's good for GM is good for the country." Now it appears that nothing could be futher from the truth. GM knew that its ignition switches were defective, covered that up, and kept selling its vehicles until the civil lawsuits uncovered its massive corporate fraud.

If you believe that a defecive vehicle has caused you to have a collision, you should consider consulting with a personal injury attorney. Bring in all documents in your possession, including the purchase transactions, repair records, 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

June 27, 2014

Watch Out For This While Driving In The Next Week

DWI blog  woman drinking 6 27.jpgIn order to combat the wave of fatalities and injuries on our Texas roads from drunk driving collisions, North Texas police departments have issued a joint announcement that they are increasing their patrols today. And they are again adopting a "no refusal policy" and will arrest any one suspected of drunken driving who won't take a breath test or give a blood sample and obtain a search warrant to determine their blood alcohol level. The ramped up law enforcement continues through July 7th.

The July 4th Period Is A DangerousTime To Be Driving In Texas

A shocking number of Texans (54) were killed and hundreds were seriously injured last year during this period due to drunk driving collisions. This is by far the deadliest holiday period -- worse than New Year's Eve and New Year's Day combined. And police made 1,124 driving while intoxicated arrests during this short 10 day period or these drunks would have caused more injuries.

Drunk Driving Accidents in the DFW Area Are A Serious Problem

I am constantly ranting about how rampant DWIs are in our Dallas Fort Worth area. Last year 121 people were killed and 1,261 others were seriously injured by DWI drivers in Tarrant and Dallas Counties.

How Much Alcohol Can You Drink Legally in Texas?

The legal limit for an adult's blood alcohol (BAC) content is .08%. Commercial drivers are restricted to a BAC of 4%. And someone under 21 is not allowed to have any alcohol in his system. I represented the critically injured young man in the "Affluenza" case. There, my client's 16 year old driver had a BAC of .24% -- a whopping three times the legal limit if he were 21 years old, and the brand new driver already had a minor in possession citation from when he was only 15 years old. Four people were tragically killed and others were injured. What the driver did infuriates me.


Continue reading "Watch Out For This While Driving In The Next Week" »

June 25, 2014

Fort Worth Police Officer Indicted After Killing Man In DWI Chase

Here's a horrible twist on the carnage of DWI wrecks: a Fort Worth police officer has been indicted on charges of manslaughter for crashing into a car while speeding to help another officer with a DWI suspect.

How did this tragedy happen?

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Officer Christopher Bolling was allegedly traveling at a speed of 86 milies an hour -- almost twice the 45 miles per hour limit -- without using his sirens or emergency lights when he collided with a Toyota Camry in 2012. A 77-year-old retired Baptist minister named Billie Addington was turning into his apartment complex on Azle Avenue that night when he was hit. Mr. Addington suffered multiple fractures to the pelvis, leaving him unable to bear any weight for 12 weeks. He died a year later from kidney failure that his family says was caused by his injuries.

The high speed crash was caused after Officer Bolling received a dispatch that a suspected drunk driver had almost struck another car head on. He sped up in order to intercept the driver to prevent more collisions before ironically causing one of his own. The layout of the roadway was such that neither driver saw the other before it was too late.

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