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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. When Pranks Cause Serious Injuries

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    An “innocent” prank can quickly turn sour when someone sustains a serious injury. It can be easy for someone to take a practical joke a bit too far without recognizing the potential ramifications of the action until it’s too late. One example is the “popcorning” trend from a couple of years ago – a prank involving an unexploded airbag that led to serious injuries. One young man suffered a broken spine because of the seemingly harmless prank. If you or someone you know received an injury because of someone else’s prank, talk to an attorney. You may be eligible for compensation.

    Grounds for Prank-Related Lawsuits

    When a prank results in injuries, it can be difficult to determine who might be responsible for paying the victim’s damages. As in the popcorning case above, the victim sustained a permanent injury and had to pay hefty medical expenses. In this case, however, the victim knowingly assumed the risk of injury. For all intents and purposes, he performed the prank on himself. The victim in this situation likely could not sue. When victims are innocent, unknowing players in a prank, on the other hand, it may be possible to sue on a few different grounds.

    • Gross negligence. If the prankster’s actions were so wanton as to suggest that the person had no regard for the safety of others, the victim may be able to sue for gross negligence. Any prank that injured the victim could be negligence if the courts deem that another reasonable and prudent person would not have committed the act in the same circumstances. The courts might award punitive damages in addition to typical damages for cases involving someone’s gross negligence.
    • Fraud or breach of contract. Some pranks and jokes are malicious enough to be grounds for fraud or breach of contract lawsuits. There have been a few examples of this throughout history. In 2002, a Hooters waitress won the company sales contest – one listing the prize as a “Toyota.” When she won and received a “toy Yoda” doll instead, she sued the company for breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. She received a settlement that entitled her to pick out any Toyota she wanted.
    • Some pranks may make the victim feel frightened, threatened, or at risk of bodily injury. In these cases, the victim may be able to sue for harassment. The victim could sue for emotional injuries in these circumstances. An example could be if someone prank calls a victim several times every day with joke threats or heavy breathing. If the prank calls caused emotional or mental trauma to the victim, he or she could sue despite having no physical injuries.

    A prank can quickly go wrong and end in a lawsuit, especially if it involves a stranger. If someone else’s idea of a practical joke resulted in physical injury, emotional suffering, or property damage to you, consult with an attorney. The individual’s actions may constitute grounds for a personal injury lawsuit or civil action. You can sue for personal damages while a criminal case is pending against the prankster.

    Suing for a Prank

    There are many situations in which a prank victim could sue for damages – the prank might have occurred on someone’s property, opening the door to a premises liability lawsuit. An insurance policy might cover the event. The item used for the prank might have a defect, causing your injuries. If you believe you have grounds to file a lawsuit against someone who organized or carried out a prank, or a third party, speak to an attorney in Texas. An attorney can help you fight for damage recovery for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

  2. How Much Alcohol is “Too Much” According to the Law In Texas?

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    The maximum blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) level for drivers in Texas is 0.08%. Commercial drivers cannot operate vehicles with BAC levels above 0.04%. Drivers under the legal drinking age of 21 cannot test positive for any BAC level, and may receive a driving under the influence (DUI) charge for any percentage. Before you get behind the wheel in Texas, it’s important to know how much alcohol is “too much.” Knowing your limit can help you avoid driving drunk and causing an accident – or worse, someone else’s serious injuries.

    Legal Drinking and Driving Limits

    Different people absorb and metabolize alcohol at different rates. Several factors can affect an individual’s BAC. While there is no formula to calculate how many drinks equate to the legal limit of 0.08%, there is a chart that estimates the number of drinks it takes to reach the legal alcohol limit according to body weight. For reference, a person weighing 100 pounds reaches 0.065% at about two drinks, while someone weighing 240 pounds reaches 0.067% after six drinks. For the chart’s purposes, “one drink” equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. Note that the chart calls any BAC above 0.05 “impaired” for driving purposes.

    It’s important to note that just one alcoholic beverage can be enough to impair a person enough to make his/her driving unsafe. There is no set-in-stone limit a person can consume and still safely operate a motor vehicle. It depends on the individual’s weight, alcohol tolerance, and food intake. Never drink and drive. Even if you believe you’ll pass a Breathalyzer test, you could still receive a DUI charge in Texas if the officer thinks you’re too impaired to be driving. An officer could charge you with DUI if he/she smells alcohol on your breath and deems you too drunk to drive. The safest bet is always to find a designated driver or to take an Uber, Lyft, or taxi home.

    You May Not Be Fully Liable for Your DUI-Related Accident

    Even if a chemical test shows your BAC to be above the legal limit of 0.08% after an accident, you might not be entirely liable. The Texas Dram Shop Act states that injured parties (including the intoxicated individual) may be able to sue the provider of the alcohol in certain situations. This includes social hosts at private parties and events. If the vendor sold or served alcohol to a minor under the age of 18 or served to an “obviously” intoxicated person and the person’s intoxication was the proximate cause of the accident, the vendor may be at fault.

    It is a vendor, bartender, or social host’s responsibility not to serve alcohol to someone who poses a “clear danger” to him/herself or others. For example, if someone is clearly intoxicated and the bartender knows he plans on driving, yet continues to serve him alcohol, the bartender may end up with some or all the liability for a subsequent car accident. Parties injured in this accident could sue the intoxicated person and the dram shop for negligence. The intoxicated person cannot sue the dram shop, as the state of Texas does not allow these types of claims.

    Keep in mind that someone cannot sue a bar just for getting someone drunk. The bar must have broken the dram shop rules, and the intoxication must have caused the accident for the bar to be liable. Even if the party you injured because of drunk driving decides to sue the bar, you could still face liability for your actions. The state of Texas allows for comparative fault, or fault split between two or more parties. The main takeaway here is that there is no number of drinks that is “too many.” It may take just one drink for you to be too intoxicated to drive safely.

  3. What are the Differences Between Defamation, Slander, and Libel?

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    When one party says, writes, or publishes something negative about another party that harms their reputation, a lawsuit may ensue. While the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of speech and of the press, this freedom comes within limits. Making false accusations in the form of slander, libel, or defamation does not fall under the protection of freedom of speech. If an individual or business suffers because of these acts by another party, the injured party may have the right to sue the offender. Learn the differences between these three similar facets of law.

    Defamation

    Defamation is an umbrella term that encompasses both slander and libel. If a party is guilty of defamation, it has released a false statement in some form that has since damaged the other party’s reputation. The reputation could be personal, political, or business-related. The keyword here is “false.” It is not defamation to publish or make public a statement that hurts an entity’s reputation if the statement is an opinion or a fact. This is why systems such as Yelp can exist despite negative reviews that sometimes hurt businesses – the statements published there are the opinions of reviewers.

    There is a thin line between defamation and freedom of speech. This makes defamation claims complex and difficult to prove. A plaintiff must show that the defendant made a statement, someone published the statement, the statement caused injury, the statement was false, and the statement did not fall into a privileged category. A statement may be privileged if the person issuing it was under oath, a high government official, someone in a political debate, or a person talking about his or her spouse. In these specific situations, the courts may not deem the statement defamation. Showing that the statement is true or one of opinion are absolute defenses to defamation claims.

    Slander

    Slander is a form of defamation that exists when someone speaks the false statement. The spoken word can act as defamation even if no one writes the statement down or sends it to publication. This is only the case if a third party – someone other than the plaintiff and defendant – overheard the spoken statement. Otherwise, the defendant did not make the statement public and thus would likely not be guilty of defamation. The courts typically consider slander the least harmful form of defamation, since memory of the spoken word fades more quickly than printed or published material.

    Slander can be more difficult to prove than other forms of defamation since there is no hard evidence of the spoken untruth. Written, recorded, or published defamation, on the other hand, comes with evidence a plaintiff could potentially show in court. Often, the only evidence of slander is in the word of the person(s) who overheard the spoken untruth. Defamation spoken over the radio or television is technically libel and not slander, since broadcasting reaches as large an audience as written and printed publications.

    Libel

    Libel is defamation via the written word or a print publication. This can include an article in a newspaper or magazine, online content, photos, video content, or recorded audio. Any form of communication published to the masses may be libel if the statement is false and harms the person or business. Libel is a civil wrong that can lead to a lawsuit to sue for damages.

    Proving libel is often easier than proving slander, since the plaintiff has hard evidence of the defamation in the form of a recording or print publication. Victims of slander and libel may seek recovery for injured reputations, loss of business, and losses such as job termination that results from the public statement. Always enlist the help of an experienced legal team in a defamation case.

  4. How Common Are Skydiving Injuries?

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    Skydiving is a popular recreational activity for adrenaline seekers and adventure enthusiasts around the world. Skydive Spaceland in Houston offers tandem skydives with professionals for those wishing to “experience the thrill of a lifetime.” While skydiving accidents, injuries, and deaths are not common in Houston or elsewhere, they do occur. Get the facts and figures on skydiving injuries as well as potential recovery options after an accident.

    Skydiving Facts and Injury Statistics

    According to the United States Parachute Association (USPA), there were 21 recorded fatal skydiving accidents out of about 3.2 million total jumps in 2016. That equals just 0.0065 fatalities per 1,000 skydiving jumps. This is one of the lowest records in history, which points to improved safety in skydiving in recent years. The lowest record since the year 2000 was 0.0053 fatalities per 1,000 jumps (16 deaths total) in 2009, and the highest was 0.0135 fatalities (35 deaths total) in 2001. In the 1970s, there was an average of more than 42 skydiving fatalities every year.

    While safety has certainly improved, skydiving accidents unfortunately do still happen. These statistics only reflect skydiving deaths. In 2016, there were 2,600 skydiving injuries that required medical care. These injuries have stemmed from failed chutes, human error, and bad landings. Injured parties can suffer broken limbs, concussions, and neck and back injuries in skydiving incidents. While 2,600 injuries out of millions of skydives does not make injuries common, per se, it does show that dangers exist for participants of this recreational activity.

    In most cases, human error is to blame for skydiving accidents. The recreation company may not have properly trained its professionals, or the parachute manufacturing company may have made an error on the assembly line. Negligence is often at the heart of skydiving injuries and fatalities. If you suspect negligence in your case, learn your rights as a potential plaintiff.

    Liability and Assumptions of Risk

    Skydiving is a recreational activity that comes with well-known risks. Skydivers voluntarily accept these risks when they sign release waivers and agree to knowingly engage in the activity. Every skydiving facility makes patrons sign some kind of liability waiver before getting onto the plane. This waiver aims to protect the company from lawsuits in the event of an accident or injury. When engaging in an activity like skydiving, potential plaintiffs take the risk of injury onto themselves. This is a common defense the defendant might take. However, comparative negligence and other legal theories may circumvent a company’s liability waivers in certain situations.

    If the plaintiff’s injuries resulted from some act of negligence on the part of the skydiving company, an employee, the pilot of the plane, the parachute manufacturer, or another party, the victim or his/her family may have the right to bring a lawsuit despite a liability waiver. This is because the assumption of risk in skydiving does not include negligence. It is unreasonable to expect a patron to assume the risk of a party’s negligence, recklessness, or unlawful act. No waiver can protect a company from these actions, or else it could do whatever it wanted to patrons without fear of retaliation.

    To sue a party for your skydiving injury or the death of a loved one in Texas, you must base your case on the legal theory of negligence. You must prove that the defendant owed you or your loved one a duty of care, that it breached this duty in some way, and that this breach caused the injurious or fatal accident. You should prepare for a comparative negligence defense and issues regarding the waiver. Liability for inherently dangerous activities like skydiving is complex and deserves attention from experienced attorneys. Contact a lawyer in Houston for counsel regarding potential recovery after a skydiving accident.

  5. Pool Safety Tips for Summer

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    Summer is almost here, and that means hours of pool-time fun for many families in Houston. As the weather heats up, more families will hit public and private swimming pools for relief from high temperatures. While using the pool can be a fun family activity, it can also be dangerous. Drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). About one in five people in fatal drowning accidents are children ages 14 and younger. This summer, follow these tips to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the water.

    Take Swimming Classes

    Everyone can benefit from learning how to swim. Enroll your child in swimming lessons as soon as he or she is old enough to do so. The CDC reports that formal swimming lessons reduce the risk of drowning in children ages 1 to 4 years. However, even teens and adults can benefit from swimming lessons. Take classes as a family activity before summer gets into full swing. The more confident children feel in their swimming abilities, the less likely serious injury is to occur in a swimming pool accident.

    Get CPR Certified

    Parents should learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Most community centers and schools offer courses to get your CPR certification. Performing CPR as quickly as possible can reduce the victim’s odds of suffering serious outcomes such as coma, brain death, and death. Learning CPR can give you a lifesaving skill that might come in handy when you least expect it. CPR can save a life while waiting for emergency responders to arrive.

    Invest in Flotation Devices

    If you have any doubts about the safety of your children and family members while swimming, encourage them to wear personal flotation devices. These systems can save your child’s life if he or she accidentally goes into the deep end of the pool. Safety devices are especially important at a busy pool party with lots of people swimming. The lifeguard may miss a child’s head going under, but a life vest or other float system may prevent drowning. If swimming somewhere other than a pool, make sure you learn the laws regarding life jackets. Keep in mind that pool noodles, inner tubes, and air-filled toys like water wings are not safety devices.

    Use the Buddy System

    Parental supervision is key to preventing child drowning incidents. However, it only takes a moment of inattention for a child to go under and never resurface. The buddy system is one way to reduce this risk. Pair children up with a swimming buddy that he/she must stay with at all times. Swimming with a buddy in addition to adult supervision and lifeguards can reduce the risk of drowning, as well as bring attention to a potential problem as quickly as possible.

    Keep Your Pool Safe

    If you own a swimming pool, you are legally obligated to keep it safe from trespassing children. This involves taking some measure to ensure children can’t get into your pool unsupervised. You may need to invest in a swimming pool cover with a lock, a gate with a security code, high fencing, or a swimming pool motion sensor alarm.

    You must also keep your pool properly maintained for visitors at all times. This means using appropriate drain covers, repairing any broken elements, and keeping the pool deck clear from hazardous obstacles. You must also warn of any known risks, such as posting “No Diving” signs for shallow pools. These measures can protect children from accidental drowning and can save you from liability in the event of accidental injury or death.

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