COVID-19 UPDATE: What We Are Doing to Protect Our Clients

Saturday was another disastrous day on our area roads. Five people died and many others were injured in five deadly collisions.
  • North Fort Worth: an off-duty police officer was tragically killed when a man ran a red light on Boat Club Road and crashed into Euless Police Department Detective Alejandro Cervantes's car. The extremely intoxicated man also seriously injured the officer's wife and two sons, to make this story even more heart-breaking. The drunk driver had already crashed into another vehicle and was fleeing from that collision. He again tried to hit-and-run but was chased down by witnesses. His blood alcohol content was .144%, which is almost two times the legal limit. The bar that sold him the alcohol, Fuzzy's Tacos, is being investigated by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission for violating the Dramshop Act that forbids overserving customers. The drunk remains in jail with a $300,000 bond and has been charged with five counts including intoxication manslaughter. It is hard to believe that it was only 1:30 in the afternoon when this exemplary police officer lost his life at the hands of a criminal he would normally have been putting behind bars. Berenson Injury Law made a donation to the family's expenses fund.

Hit and Run

Texas pedestrian injuries and deaths have reached all-time highs. Sunday morning’s tragedy on Interstate 20 in Fort Worth was just the latest. Two young women tragically lost their lives and a man was injured after they were in a collision at 2:30 a.m. near McCart Avenue. The three had started to walk on the right shoulder to get assistance when they were crashed into. The police identified the victims as Isabel Vasquez, 20, and Allison Zarate, 12. We extend our sincere condolences to the families and have made a donation to their GoFundMe account.

Some people ride motorcycles for the freedom and excitement they provide. But that unfortunately comes with an increased risk of death or serious injury since they offer no protection after a collision. Tragically, there were another three fatal motorcycle accidents in the past few days in Tarrant County. That made us want to get the word out about motorcycle safety.

The most maddening thing about being in a car accident in Fort Worth -- or anywhere in Texas -- is that it was easily avoidable. It would not have happened if the other driver had followed basic traffic laws. But sadly our number of motor vehicle crashes is soaring along with our sky-rocketing population. What used to be a sleepy Cowtown when Mr. Berenson moved here back in 1979 after graduating from SMU Law School in Dallas is suddenly the 12th largest city in the country. Almost one million people live in Fort Worth and there are 7,500,000 in the Metroplex -- and more every day. Cattle ranches are now bustling suburbs.  A sprawling new subdivision in North Fort Worth with 10,000 houses was just announced. But more people = more vehicles = more roads = more collisions. And to make the chances of being injured even higher, it seems that almost every one has an oversized truck or SUV and and is texting as they race around town.

9 people lost in 3 days in 3 deadly crashes

Tuesday's collision north of Fort Worth

In the first of the three deadly crashes, a high-speed wreck happened between two pickup trucks. They collided outside of Springtown on FM 51 (Main Street) two miles north of the intersection with State Highway 199. Tragically, there were no survivors. It is not known at this time what caused this wreck. The police report has not been released yet. If this happened at an intersection, either the silver truck failed to yield the right of way or the other truck failed to slow down and it turned. We see that young men driving oversized trucks and speeding, wrongfully passing or turning, and driving while looking down at their cell phones - or all of the above - often cause deadly crashes like this one.

Street racing has been deadly in North Texas

EDITED: Last night after street racing had closed a Duncanville intersection, a 54-year-old woman who was walking was fatally struck by a bullet.

Last month, a Frisco couple tragically lost their lives after two 19-year-olds who were street racing crashed into their vehicle. They were shockingly driving over 100 mph on a a road with a 40 mph limit just after lunch. This doesn't seem possible but the horrific crash was not an isolated example. Other street races have resulted in the deaths of innocent drivers, notably a wonderful couple named Ben and Meg Arbour who tragically lost their lives in November in Fort Worth. In Dallas over one weekend in February, 181 traffic citations were issued and 33 people were arrested for street racing. And in the last one and a half years, DFW police have received over 2,500 reports of street racing.

Speeding drivers are common on our roads

Routine speeding causes two-thirds of collisions in Texas. We all think nothing about it when someone blows by us on the interstate going 80 or 90 mph. And we are pushed out of the left lane if we are not doing at least 15 to 20 miles over the limit. And we sure don't ever expect to get crashed into in a high-speed collision with a wannabe street racer. There is probably a 100% chance that another driver is going to be speeding by or towards us when you set out in your vehicle.  We need to be hyper alert and ready. And we have to crack down on street racing and speeding before they kill or injure other people.

Less Street Racing Due to New Fort Worth Law?

Here's a good start: due to the public pressure after the Arbours' tragedy, the Fort Worth City Council passed a law this week that makes it illegal to watch street races. People will be fined up to $500 when they do. Street racing is against state law. Charges range from a Class B misdemeanor to a second degree felony under the Texas Transportation Code. Incarceration up to 20 years is a possibility. But it is perfectly legal in Texas to gather to watch these reckless drivers. So large crowds gather to cheer for and place bets on these miscreants who turn our streets into drag strips and shut down intersections to do donuts. The state should have outlawed these street parties many years ago. Police officials say they will use video and social media posts to track down the spectators. Fort Worth's crackdown will help curtail the glamour of street racing. Hopefully all other Texas cities -- and our Texas Legislature meeting in Austin -- will follow.

Speeding has increased across the U.S.

Exceeding the speed limit is such a national problem that even the business publication The Wall Street Journal just wrote a long article about it. The publication quotes safety officials from across the country who decry the number of injuries and deaths caused by speeding. According to the National Safety Council, 42,000 Americans died last year in vehicle wrecks, a substantial 8% rise over the year before, especially considering the lock-down. And the busy summer driving season when families can be packed into their vehicles is around the corner. What's the big rush? Drivers who mash the gas pedal down risk their lives and of course, those of their passengers and other drivers. Often they are driving while intoxicated, driving huge pickup trucks, young, male, texting, or all of the above.

How to prove speeding

In a civil lawsuit for damages, which is the area of law that Berenson Injury Law specializes in, proof that a driver has violated the statute constitutes negligence per se or automatic liability. Reckless driving is a serious civil offense. This leads to a prima facie case that the speeding driver must pay for your damages. The first thing that a personal injury lawyer will do is prove that the other driver was speeding. He or she will go to the Texas Transportation Code, Section 545.351, that contains the law about exceeding the maximum speed requirement. They will obtain the police report, speak to the officer and eyewitnesses, take photographs and measurements of skid marks, yaw marks, gouges in the pavement, and crush damages. They will try to locate video cameras which may have recorded the collision. They will possibly download the black box and use accident reconstruction experts, depending on the case. The other driver and their insurance company often denies they were speeding, so immediate investigation and proof is critical. The car accident lawyer will prove facts that entitle their client to win on liability. That happens when they show the other driver breached their duty to drive safely, here driving under the speed limit, and possibly other duties including the failure to yield the right of way, pass safely, keep a proper lookout, not text while driving, etc. The attorney will also help his client obtain compensation for their medical bills, lost wages, pain, and other damages.

Contact Berenson Injury Law if you have any questions

Speeding causes way too many car wrecks in North Texas, and street racing causes even more. The higher the speed, the more likely injuries and even deaths will occur. Berenson Injury Law has specialized in car and truck crashes for nearly 40 years. Our goal is to help every client get the maximum compensation, then cut down their outstanding medical bills and claims for reimbursements from hospitals, health insurance companies and government agencies which may have liens on the proceeds.
If you have been injured in a speeding or any other vehicle crash, please contact us at 888-801-8585 or chat with us.
The first consultation is free and we only get paid when you do so there is no risk.

Three fatal crashes in one day is insane

Texas may be fully open for business but there are less vehicles on the roads thanks to remote working, shopping, and schooling. So you would hope that at least the number of car accidents would have decreased. But looking at how many fatal crashes happened in the Fort Worth area just on Friday, it is apparent that our local highways are as dangerous as ever. This is what happened in those eight hours:

1.  In Far North Fort Worth

A tractor-trailer, flatbed truck and pickup were involved in a crash about 10:00 a.m. on Highway 114 at an intersection near the Texas Motor Speedway in Justin. Apparently a woman driving the flatbed truck died. Other people were injured, two of them seriously.

2. In Arlington

A man who was driving while intoxicated took the life of a 21-year-old woman around 2:30 a.m on Interstate 20. Her car collided into an 18-wheeler that had jack-knifed and blocked all lanes of traffic after it was crashed into by the drunk man. The young woman was a college student, worked, and was loved by many. And shockingly, this was the third child that her parents had lost in a DWI collision, adding to the heart break.

3. Near Decatur

Also about 2:30 a.m., the 47-year-old assistant basketball coach at the University of North Texas died after his car hit a culvert in on U.S. 380. His vehicle flipped over and traveled through a fence. Other details were not reported. His team had finished its first NCAA tournament in the history of the school just several weeks before. These stories are devastating. Any one wrongful death from a car crash or due to any other reason is heart-breaking. There are so many ways someone can get hurt out on the roads. We send our condolences and prayers to their families and everyone impacted by these tragedies.

The pandemic caused people to drive less last year. Roads were almost empty for months due to lockdowns, virtual work and school, and home deliveries. So a new report showing that 2020 was one of the worst years for fatal car accidents came as a shock to safety officials.

All time high for fatal car accidents

According to the National Safety Council
  • Over 42,000 Americans lost their lives in car accidents in 2020 -- a huge increase over the year before and the highest total in 13 years;
  • A shocking 5,000,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes last year;
  • For the first half of 2020, while the number of miles dropped by 17%, the number of fatal car accidents increased by 20%;
  • Collisions are now the leading cause of death for our children and young people from ages 1-25; and
  • The cost to our country is an astonishing one-half trillion dollars a year.
  • Almost 4,000 Texans perished in a vehicle crash, the highest total in years. Year after year, Texas has the highest number of fatal car accidents in the United States.
This is crazy. How could this possibly have happened?

After the horrific February 11th chain reaction that took the lives of six people and injured scores of others, it was announced that a federal agency would investigate. Well, that was the least that could happen. We need to find out what caused Fort Worth's deadly crash and how another tragedy like this can be avoided. However, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that the National Transportation Safety Board will only look into whether the toll lanes had been deiced before the historic storm shut down Texas for a week - if it makes a report at all. Critics say a complete investigation and remedial action is needed. We wholeheartedly agree. This was the worst massive collision in our city's history. It could have and should have been prevented.

How Fort Worth's deadly crash scene unfolded

Early that morning, freezing rain began falling. This added to the already iced over roads. It was dark outside. Motorists driving down a hill on Interstate 35 between 28th Street and Northside Drive had no time to react to cars and trucks that had wrecked ahead of them. They slammed on their brakes but were unable to stop, causing a whopping 133 vehicles to collide into each other. There are no shoulders on the toll lanes on the toll lanes. But they would not have been of much use with cars and trucks driving 75+ miles an hour on treacherous roads. This bad weather was predicted. We warned drivers days before to stay off the roads and gave winter driving tests since we rarely, if ever, see them. But the toll lanes remained open for business as usual, as if nothing bad could happen. There were no warning signs, barriers, lane closures, or police to reduce or slow down traffic. After the tragedy, we asked
  • why the toll roads with the 75-mile-per-hour speed limits were open in the first place, and
  • whether the poor design of the toll roads made this pile-up inevitable.

What will happen next

It is not clear what will come out of the federal investigation, if anything. Usually, NTSB defers to state and other agencies and does not get involved in vehicle crashes. Further, it did not send out its own crash team as it should have done. Who will investigate and who (if anyone) will be blamed? The Texas Department of Transportation is not going to fault the North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners which owns and operates the toll lanes. That private company gets to keep all of the tolls collected for 52 years in exchange for funding and building them. It allows as many drivers as possible to make more money -- even during a crippling ice storm. TxDOT is obviously not going to held liable since it was not in charge of the toll lanes and enjoys sovereign immunity from prosecution in most cases. We may have to wait until the verdicts in the lawsuits that have and will be filed to learn what really happened. The first one was filed in South Texas against six of the 18-wheeler drivers and their companies, not against Mobility Partners. That business has denied that it is at fault for causing Fort Worth's deadly crash because it applied deicing brine on Tuesday night. This disaster happened Thursday morning. Any report that blames road crews sweeps the real blame under the rug.

Is 75 mph a safe speed?

Further, the state legislature passed a law that set 75 miles per hour as the default speed limit unless a slower (or faster) limit was prescribed. However the test that determined that 75 mph was safe was conducted in perfect conditions when the weather was good and traffic was light. And we know that many drivers speed, so they may have been exceeding that limit that morning. NTSB has the power to recommend that Congress or a federal agency make or revise laws based on what its investigation reveals.

The lethal combination of higher speed limits and poor road design

To hold down the cost of the $1.4 billion reconstruction of I-35 West, shoulders and break-down lanes were eliminated. Speeds limits were increased to encourage drivers to pay large tolls to use them. The vice president of government affairs at the National Safety Council, Jane Terry, was furious about what happened here. "We need people to become outraged over this because we need to do better," she said. You have to wonder if speed limits are safe to begin with. A national group called the Governors Highway Safety Association has urged the federal government to reduce speed limits to save lives. Its director called on Congress to curtail drivers who go to fast: "Let's treat speeding the same way we treat seat belt use and drunk driving." The Biden administration is proposing that billions of dollars be added to the federal highway construction program. This is the perfect time to look into how our roads can be safer. You can bet that the speed limits on the toll lanes are not going to decrease or that the expressway will be closed down the next time we have deadly weather like we did last month. And it is a given that the roads will not be redesigned to allow more room to avoid crashes. But they should. Berenson Injury Law has successfully represented thousands of motorists over the past 40 years. We only handle car, truck, 18-wheeler, motorcycle, and pedestrian injury and death claims. We also advocate to make our roads safer so that crashes don't happen in the first place. Please contact us if you need any help with a crash that you have been involved with. Star Telegram article: Will NTSB expand its probe into deadly I35W pileup? 

Texas wrongful death lawsuits will provide answers; Griddy also sued for price gouging

A lawsuit was filed by three people injured in the massive 133-vehicle pile-up on the express lanes of I-35 on February 11. Six people tragically lost their lives and at least 60 people were injured. Many other Texas wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury suits will be filed to establish liability and collect damages. The plaintiffs accuse five companies of failing to hire, train and supervise capable drivers. The drivers are accused of driving too fast for the icy road conditions. The lawsuit was filed in the 93rd District Court in Hidalgo County where one of the companies is headquartered. The 18-wheeler companies sued were Federal Express Package System Inc., JB Hunt Transport, Inc., Rich Transport, LLC, GG's Produce Transport, LLC, and Go To Logistics, Inc. The chain reaction was caused by
  • a thin layer of black ice;
  • freezing rain;
  • darkness;
  • 75 miles per hour speed limit;
  • lack of shoulders; and
  • no warning signs.
This was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Drivers reported that when they hit their brakes, there was no way to stop their vehicles. NTE Mobility Partners, which operates and maintains the toll lanes, said that it had applied brine on Tuesday evening. It is not clear at this point whether (1) more or a different de-icing agent should have been applied closer to the time of the crashes; and (2) if the toll lanes should have even been open. That photograph is crazy, especially since today's temperature will get to 81 a week or so later. But it is troubling that our city and state were so unprepared for bad weather. Several state representatives have demanded answers to how these disasters could have happened. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation. Trials in the Texas wrongful death lawsuits will provide answers and accountability.

Deadly winter storm caused by energy grid and local power companies according to new suits

In related litigation news arising out of the historic freeze, several lawsuits have been filed against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on behalf of those who died in last week's paralyzing storm. ERCOT was widely condemned for its management of the electrical grid, turning off power to four million Texans when the wind chill was below zero. It then left power off for days instead of providing rolling blackouts as it first promised. ERCOT provides almost all of Texas's energy and we cannot borrow energy from the other two national sectors. Several local Houston-based energy company have been also sued. Several people froze to death, including an 11-year-old boy. It is tragic that at least 29 Texans were killed during the storm, including the six in the tragic Fort Worth collisions. That number is more than one-half of the 56 people who died in the United States. And we were 4 1/2 minutes away from having no power for months. Investigations are needed to make sure we understand how these deaths occurred and how they can be prevented in the future. The legal process will provide relief to the surviving families and victims.

Natural gas supplier Griddy also sued

In further related storm news, the power supplier was named in a $1 billion class action lawsuit yesterday. It was accused of price gouging by a Houston-area woman whose usual bill of $200 to $250 per month shot up to $9,340.

Due to the deregulated Texas energy market, Griddy and other electrical providers can increase their prices, depending on market conditions.

Natural gas bills increased by 10,000% for many customers. That is outrageous.

People need to be protected

Federal and state officials need to prevent deadly but preventable highway crashes, power outages, and energy price gouging from happening so innocent Texans are not hurt and killed next winter if the temperatures plummet.
Please contact Berenson Injury Law if we can assist you with a car, truck, or 18-wheeler collision causing you injuries.
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