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charmin An 18-wheeler carrying boxes of now valuable toilet paper crashed outside of Dallas last week and caught on fire. Much of the precious cargo burned up.

We are surprised that drivers didn’t stop to try to grab rolls of it, the way you see after an armored truck crashes and money is flying everywhere.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

Bill-Berenson-TTLA
I attended the board of directors meeting of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association yesterday and am proud that TTLA’s annual convention is here in Fort Worth. This is in honor of the organization being founded here 70 years ago. It is always good to go to these state lawyers meetings and the national meeting of the American Association for Justice every few years to stay abreast of legal changes and catch up with trial attorneys.

In a fascinating historical aside, the convention headquarters are in the landmark Hilton Hotel, where TTLA was organized and where President Kennedy spent his last night before his tragic visit to Dallas in November 1963. Here is a photo of him giving an impromptu speech that morning to a crowd of thousands of people who had waited in the rain. I was in the fourth grade in Nashville and remember my teacher crying when she told us the sad news. JFK-Fort-Worth-day-before-assassination

I am at the educational seminar today and tomorrow to learn the latest developments in personal injury law and trial procedures.

Honoring my father-in-law and all veterans

Memorial Day ushers in our summer with BBQ’s, the Colonial golf tournament down the street from my office, and a relaxing 3-day weekend. Most of us may not stop to think about what it cost to obtain our care-free summer days. But we should never take them for granted.

Millions of soldiers fought and hundreds of thousands died so that we could live in the greatest country in the history of the world. You may forget this until you watch gut-wrenching movies like “Saving Private Ryan,” “Dunkirk,” or others that show you the incredible sacrifices they made.

I am proud that my father-in-law, Samuel Rubinton, served four years in World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel. And incredibly, he worked his way up from a private! He was awarded several military honors for valor for his work behind enemy lines and is buried in the Arlington National Cemetery. I never had the privilege to meet this fine man, as he died many years before I married my wonderful wife 30 years ago this August, but wish that I had.

Despite our differing beliefs and opinions, we can still rally together as families, friends, and as a single nation on Memorial Day in remembrance and gratitude.

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One of the reasons I love living in Texas is how nice people are. And I grew up in Nashville where folks were just as friendly.

Most of us drive responsibly and even go out of our way to help others get around.

But should there be a limit to our Southern hospitality if it endangers others?

What if a driver is slowing down for a red light and another driver signals to turn left. After Driver 1 waves Driver 2 across and he darts across, Driver 3 crashes into 2’s car. Which of the three people caused the collision to happen?

Multi-vehicle cases can be difficult. I just settled a lawsuit when my client was driving on a busy road at night in the rain. A young woman claimed that she was waved through and was therefore not responsible for causing the collision. I took her deposition, made her admit that she was in fact responsible, and successfully resolved the lawsuit.

This tactic of blaming other drivers is often raised in-car accident cases.

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I was very happy with the Berenson Group, they were very helpful in advising us our rights and options. Got me and my wife a fast and great settlement.

Hopefully you won’t need their service, but if you’re in an accident don’t hesitate to call these folks!!”  

Thank you for that wonderful review, Nestor. I’m glad you were so pleased. It was a pleasure representing you.

It’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 marketMany 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.

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During 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?

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