Articles Posted in Uncategorized

TexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_June2016It’s exciting — and scary — that we will be “driving” self-driving cars soon. How quickly and safely depends upon the actions of lawmakers in the next few weeks.

Today much less restrictive Department of Transportation guidelines are being announced. Last week the U.S. House passed the SELF DRIVE Act. This past Friday a similar bill was proposed in the U.S. Senate which has bi-partisan support.

While these news laws and regulations will expedite the development of self-driving technology, they unfortunately relax standards for vehicle safety. While the auto industry cheered the new rules and plan to rush new models to market

dreamstime_s_91011700

Many safety advocates have voiced objections. Why? These laws exempts manufacturers from crucial safety regulations controlling braking, airbag and steering systems.

We know that with millions of Takata airbags that had to be recalled after some exploded and shot shrapnel into drivers and passengers, killing at least 11 people, the GM ignition switches that suddenly shut engines off, and the other auto safety debacles in the past 10 years, our vehicles are already more dangerous than ever.

 

Thorny new legal questions

And how will personal injury litigation be affected? Here are just some of the questions lawyers and judges will have to confront:

  • Who will be held responsible if there is a collision — the manufacturer, say Tesla? The software developer, say Google? The driver, say you?
  • How much control will the driver have to maintain?
  • Can the driver take over the self-driving mode to prevent a collision, and if he doesn’t, will he or she be at fault?
  • Can these vehicles be hacked into and disabled, causing crashes?

Just yesterday Google accepted some of the liability for the crash that killed its driver last year as he was test driving a Tesla.

How will courts be able to determine liability without complicated and expensive scientific and engineering experts? What if the driver claims the software suddenly stopped working? What if it does? What if the driver fails to download needed updates? It’s a potential legal nightmare.

Continue reading

downloadDuring this devastating week, hopeful stories about heroic actions and kind gestures have eased this tragedy, at least somewhat. Bakers trapped at work spent the night baking thousands of loaves of bread to donate to shelters. The owner of a furniture store opened his doors so hundreds of displaced people could stay. Residents have ventured out of their own safe homes to make daring rescues of trapped residents, even risking their lives to save animals caught in the floods. Texans outside of Houston have donated their money and supplies. And these are just the ones we’ve heard about, and in addition to the hundreds of medical, rescue and relief workers whose jobs it is to be heroes.

But, Harvey has not brought out the best in everyone. While some people have viewed Harvey as an opportunity to help our neighbors, others have looked for ways to cash in.

Unscrupulous gas stations are charging up to $20 per gallon. Ruthless hotels have increased room rates by more than 200 percent. Greedy stores are peddling cases of bottled water for $99. Even Best Buy got in on the action, selling a case of water for $42.96.

Price gouging is not just despicable. It’s illegal.

The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA) prohibits businesses from taking advantage of a disaster by demanding exorbitant prices for fuel, food, medicine and other necessities.

If a clean conscience can’t get gougers to stop, maybe the threat of fines and lawsuits will.

What Should You Do if You Are Price Gouged?

Continue reading

rtx3dkue-1Hurricane Harvey has caused catastrophic flooding in Houston and surrounding communities. Already the scene looks eerily similar to Hurricane Katrina, with the streets completely impassible because of rising waters and people desperately trying to escape their homes by boat or being rescued by helicopter.

Many hospitals have been inundated with water and high winds have grounded their medevac helicopters, while ambulances have been unable to maneuver through the flooded streets.

And it’s not over yet.

Unbelievably, rain is expected to continue for five or six more days, dumping 15 to 30 inches, and in some places, an insane 40 inches.

The National Weather Service called it “unprecedented rain” that is “beyond anything experienced.” The National Hurricane Center called the catastrophe a “multiday rainfall disaster.”

It is truly heartbreaking. I hope for the safety of everyone affected by this incredible tragedy. Continue reading

TexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_June2016Yesterday the amazing Venus Williams blew away her opponent at the world famous Wimbledon tennis tournament. She’ll play for her sixth title on venusSaturday.

Venus, who at 37 is very old for an athlete, may make history by becoming the oldest woman ever to win Wimbledon. The previous record holder was our former Fort Worth resident Martina Navratilova who was also 37 when she reached the finals in 1994.

And the first American man to play in the semifinals since 2009, Sam Querrey, is playing now, so we have our strongest American showing in London in many years.

Venus’s Crash 

Venus has excelled despite just being sued when she was involved in a car wreck last month in Florida.

The tennis star was driving slowly through a light when her SUV was T-boned by a car driven by a 68-year-old woman who was seriously injured. Her 78-year-old husband tragically died several weeks later.

The family has filed a lawsuit against Venus for wrongful death and personal injury damages.

The accident report initially blamed Venus for running the light. But the police department now says it doesn’t know which driver was at fault. What made it reverse its position?

Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_33822870

Driving while texting or looking for Pokémon is not very smart.

But some smart phone apps actually increase drivers’ safety.

That’s right, I’m encouraging drivers to use an app while driving — but only safe driving ones, of course.

OK, which ones? Let’s start with ones helping our youngest drivers be more safe on the roads.

The best ones will help your teenager have fun while learning to drive safely. Let’s face it, having his or her beloved cell phone tell your teen to slow down is a lot more fun than you repeatedly pointing out she’s speeding.

I’ve lived through this experience and lots of you have too and will agree that you’re glad there’s a better way to do it now.
Continue reading

980x400-july4thDescribed as “the most dangerous holiday of the year,” a whopping 164 people died last year in alcohol-related crashes on the Fourth of July. That’s insane.

Let’s hope this holiday isn’t as deadly.

Texas police out in force this weekend

A driver with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher is presumed impaired. By refusing to blow, the driver eliminates this valuable evidence. Although prosecutors can still prove the driver was drunk without a breath sample, the task is much more difficult.

This is a “no refusal” weekend. Drivers have no choice and judges are standing by to issue quick warrants for any driver who refuses to submit to the breathalyzer test.

U.S. Supreme Court decision last week uphold this process just in time for the holiday. The Court ruled that officers don’t need a warrant to collect a breath sample and can collect a blood sample upon obtaining a warrant.

Prepare to see DWI checkpoints throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Coupled with the no-refusal enforcement, Texas police have powerful tools to keep drunk drivers off the road. That’s good news.

Continue reading

Depositphotos_56211061_original-1-300x200What can be done to stop this?

Almost every new car now comes equipped with sensors, cameras, video screens and/or audio warning systems that make backing up easier — and hopefully safer. But many drivers rely on the technology — not on their eyes and ears — and continue to hit people and vehicles behind them.

Back-over accidents kill 210 people and injure 15,000 people every year.

According to a national advocacy group, kidsandcars.org, at least 50 children are backed over every week by vehicles, usually trucks or SUV’s. The average age of victims is from one to two years old. And in most cases, the driver is a parent or close relative. More information is here: Fact Sheet for Backovers

Continue reading

Wednesday, with the State Bar of Texas convention here in Fort Worth, the Texas Board of Trial Advocates conducted an excellent full day trial so injury attorneys could sharpen their skills.IMG_9018

Some of the top trial attorneys in the state played the roles of attorneys for the plaintiff and defendants and Judge R.H. Wallace from Fort Worth presided over the trial.

The DWI case, which was tried in South Carolina several years ago, involved personal injuries to a man who was broad sided on a Sunday morning as he drove to church. The property damage to his van was devastating. He claimed he had sustained a traumatic brain injury which had ruined his life.

The defendant driver was a habitual drunk whose blood alcohol content was about four times the legal limit.  He was convicted of vehicular assault and was serving a jail sentence.

One of the many problems the plaintiff’s team tried to overcome was the scarcity of credible evidence regarding which of the three bars the driver had been to that night was responsible for the crash. Another was that at least four hours passed from the time the drunkard left the defendant’s bar and the time of the crash. Other problems included the lack of credibility of the drunk driver, the lack of proof as to whether he had drunk any alcohol at the defendant’s bar (it claimed it only served him water), his blood alcohol content, the plaintiff’s medical and lost wages damages, and other critical issues.

Continue reading

Easy — stop distracted driving. More specifically, stop texting while driving.

I know, good luck with that, right? It seems like every other person around you as you drive is looking down at his or her seat texting away.

This alarming epidemic is out of control.

Maybe you’re the victim of a crash caused by a driver who was texting while driving.  Statistics are on your side.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that distraction was a primary factor in 3,129 traffic fatalities in 2014, the most recent year in which statistics have been analyzed. And a recent study showed that people were distracted more than 50% of the time — and texting, reaching for a cell phone, browsing the Internet and reading email, and dialing numbers caused 70% of serious crashes.

We personal injury lawyers are far too busy representing injured people who were the victims of these careless drivers.

The next time someone is driving while sending a text message, he should remember  “the last emoji,” a poignansearcht reminder of the dangers of texting and driving. It’s a huge sculpture in Miami made out of car parts the artist found in a junk yard twisted into a winking, demented face.  OMG. Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_59940340How Do We Know Exactly When A Driver Is Impaired?

We had a big march to legalize marijuana here in Fort Worth last weekend. Lots of people smoke it — and any personal injury lawyer in Texas has seen his share of crashes caused by those driving under its influence.

But at what point is someone so high that they are too impaired to be driving? If a blood test is taken later, can its findings be admitted? Can they be automatically found to be negligent in a civil trial for damages?

Police who suspect a driver has had too much to drink perform a Breathalyzer or blood test to measure the amount of alcohol in his or her system. Several studies have set .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the legal limit when a person is too impaired to drive and Texas uses this standard. OK, easy enough.

But marijuana also interferes with a person’s judgment, perception, vision and reaction time and  Texas law does not define a comparable legal limit for how much marijuana results in impairment.

Anything that distracts the driver, lowers response time or interferes with judgment and cognition is dangerous. This includes legal amounts of alcohol, marijuana and prescription drugs.

This doesn’t mean a person is permitted to drive under the influence of marijuana, just that the amount considered “safe” is vague. Of course, unless a driver has a legal prescription for marijuana, possession remains illegal in Texas, so any use is unlawful regardless of whether a person also drives.

Continue reading

Contact Information