How does a wrong way crash even happen?

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Imagine that you were driving home late last night on an interstate in Fort Worth or Dallas. Maybe you worked the late shift or saw a movie. Suddenly, every driver’s worst nightmare occurred: a speeding car or truck was headed straight at you. You had little, if any, time to react and may have no unoccupied lane to swerve into. This is a recipe for a wrong way crash.

But this was not a horror movie. It happens here a lot, far too often. Texas leads the U.S. in the number of these wrong way crashes.

Yesterday morning, a man driving a Honda led Springtown police on a high speed chase across Tarrant County. It started when the driver fled a police officer near Lake Worth. He accelerated and drove east in the westbound lanes of Interstate 820. He wove in and out of traffic at a speed of up to 100 mph. Officers from Fort Worth and Reno joined the chase and used road spikes to prevent the driver from going further. The driver spun out of control as he exited Loop 820 and crashed his car. Miraculously, no other cars were hit during the chase or his wipe out.

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The Texas DWI rate in Texas is out of control. Consider these four episodes reported in the media over the past two weeks if you don’t think we have a problem with driving while intoxicated here.

1. Drunk former NFL quarterback busted for DWI — again

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Former University of Texas legend Vince Young was arrested for the third time in two years for driving while intoxicated outside of Houston. His black Cadillac was at a stop in the middle of an intersection with its hazard lights flashing very early in the morning. The arresting officer said that Young had slurred speech, smelled of alcohol, and failed field sobriety tests.

Tamme-MBerenson Injury Law resolved a broken nose and injured neck case for $205,000. The Fort Worth car accident happened in April of last year when a pickup truck rear ended a woman’s Mini Cooper.

She was rushed to the hospital and underwent nasal surgery several weeks later.

Some of her medical bills were paid by her health insurance, which creates a valuation problem when a personal injury lawyer is attempting to settle the claim or argue the case to a judge and jury. The total amount that can be awarded for medical bills is lessened by the “paid vs. incurred statute” and Escobedo decision from the Supreme Court.

me-at-Calf-truckYesterday I enjoyed going to the school I adopted many years ago to help my friends at the Cowtown Marathon give away running shoes and running socks to the children. They were excited to get them. It felt like Christmas in February.

The children’s only 5K race sponsored by the Cowtown Marathon is in two weeks. No one else has a special race just for kids. I am delighted that over 5,000 of our area’s school children will run/walk. It has been named one of the top children’s running events in the United States.

The children have been training in their after-school running club since August. They have already participated in the C.A.L. F. Run in October and will also do the Zoo Run in April.

C.A.L.F. (which stands for Children’s Activities for Life and Fitness) is the charity beneficiary of the Cowtown. It also gives over $50,000 in grants to pay for over 5,000 low-income children to enter the race.

In addition, the Cowtown Marathon’s staff and volunteers go to over 100 schools, four or five a day, distributing about 5,000 shoes and socks and fits each child individually. Bravo to them for their hard work!

That’s why I have been one of the primary sponsors of C.A.L.F. and have served on its governing council since it was formed 10 years ago.

I go to the Rufino Mendoza Elementary School on the North Side of Fort Worth to mentor the students, support them financially, and give tips to the runners that I learned as I ran a marathon in all 50 states.

These are just more reasons why Fort Worth is such a great city to live in. I moved here after going to SMU Law School in Dallas and this is my 40th year as a resident – with 38 of them overlooking the the course of the marathon (my first one, another reason Cowtown is special to me) on the Trinity River.

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Ticket for Texting and DrivingI call on Dallas, Fort Worth, and the other cities in North Texas to establish a car crash task force to reduce our high death and injury rate on our roads. I understand that no one wants to be stopped and given a traffic ticket. And sometimes the cop is overly aggressive and the driver hasn’t been speeding or isn’t over the blood alcohol limit. But we have a shocking 80,000 car wrecks in Dallas and Tarrant Counties every year — 220 a day — that injure and take the lives of innocent drivers.

An illuminating article last week in the Houston Chronicle followed up on its previous investigation into that city’s worst auto crash rate in the country ranking. And the newspaper found that there enforcement of traffic laws had been reduced although officials knew that fatalities and personal injuries were rising. Now, in only two days in Houston, the officers on a new task force made over 400 traffic stops, wrote almost 300 tickets, and arrested 38 people — including 23 for DWI.

You never think you will be injured in a car accident. But after work yesterday, I drove a settlement check to a client who had major surgery after a young driver ran a light. I was saddened that the poor woman is still hobbling around behind a walker six weeks later. I took her to her bank since she has no car and is not able to work.

And I met a client this morning to advance her money to help pay for the surgery she is having later today after a drunk driver crashed into her car.

It is obvious that we are not doing enough to protect the public from bad drivers.

My guess is that DFW area police would have the same results here as in Houston since we know we have a major problem.  Tarrant County has 10 “No refusal weekends” throughout the year where blood draws to curtail DWIs are mandatory. This past Super Bowl weekend was one of them and the Stock Show weekends going on down University Drive from my building are also on the list.

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When is owner at fault for letting unsafe driver drive his car?

Drinking and Driving

People usually cannot be found to be responsible when someone else is negligent. But what happens when someone loans his vehicle to another person who he knew — or should have known — was not a safe or qualified driver? A car accident could result due to the negligent entrustment of the vehicle and in some cases, the owner can also be at fault. Giving a dangerous driver access to a potentially deadly 6,000 pound vehicle can be just as deadly as handing a child a loaded gun.

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Texas needs to do more to stop elderly drivers.

Texas needs a law restricting the rights of its older citizens, if unqualified, from driving. Great Grandpa should not automatically be allowed to keep ambling around until he’s 100. The graying of the population and increased rate of dementia is inevitably adding to the carnage on our highways. In Texas, every 59 seconds a reported collision occurs and every two hours and 21 minutes, a Texan loses his life in a vehicle crash. Texas has the second highest number of drivers who are 65 or older dying in motor vehicle accidents. The age-old questions, if you’ll pardon the pun, is when should we make elderly drivers stop and how would we make this happen?

World-wide problem

This is a timely topic all over the globe. For example, it was just reported that Prince Philip, who is 97, wrote a letter apologizing to the two people he crashed into last week north of London. The husband of Queen Elizabeth II caused one woman to break her wrist and injured another. He obviously needs to stick to being driven in his horse and buggy.

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Texas needs a “Mr. Magoo law” to protect drivers

When I was young, I remember watching cartoons including one about Mr. Magoo, a bumbling old man with Coke bottle glasses who was always crashing his car. About 60 years ago, joke writers found humor in the declining physical and mental abilities of older people causing car wrecks. But being injured in a car accident isn’t a funny topic.

Magoo

Now that I’m going to be 65 this year, just got another invitation to join AARP, and my law firm continually gets cases where an old driver crashes into our clients,  I’m more interested in this topic that some people and wanted to share some ideas here. Continue reading

Wrecks and bad roads increasing at rapid pace.

Between all the drivers staring at their cell phones, our roads that are rated a D, and the thousands of new residents pouring into North Texas, you are probably lucky not to get into a car accident when you drive around Dallas-Fort Worth. Adding to the chances are the pavement problems caused by last year easily being the rainiest in our history with a whopping 53 inches falling, a lot of it last month. The latest reported example is a  10 foot wide pothole in Fort Worth that shut down an intersection for two weeks after a car sank into it and had to be towed out. You may be wondering if the state or local government is liable for your damages if you are injured in a car or truck wreck caused by bad roads, broken stop lights, missing stop signs, or poor highway design or maintenance. This post will explain how Texas law works.

Road Defects

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food-bank
Berenson Injury Law has assisted federal workers who are working without pay by donating 2,500 meals to the Tarrant Area Food Bank.

Yesterday, Mr. Berenson met with Stephen Raeside, the Senior Director of Development, to deliver a check and tour the facilities.

The Food Bank serves 50,000 individuals each week — and that was before the government shutdown.

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