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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. Texas Motorcycle Helmet Laws Everyone Should Know

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    Some motorcyclists want to feel the wind in their hair and the slightly rebellious feeling that comes from living on the edge, so they leave home without a helmet. Texas laws require most drivers to wear helmets on motorcycles with some exceptions. Regardless of the laws, wearing a helmet is always a good idea.

    Texas Motorcycle Helmet Laws

    In general, every driver operating a motorcycle, moped, or scooter must wear a helmet in Texas. Unlike other states, however, Texas offers an exception to the rule. If a motorcyclist is 21 years old or older and has finished a state-approved motorcycle operator training course or can demonstrate a minimum of $10,000 in medical insurance coverage, then that rider can opt out of wearing a helmet.

    The laws go one step forward to protect helmet-less riders. A law enforcement officer cannot stop a motorcyclist without a helmet to confirm safety course completion or insurance coverage. An officer may only detain a motorcyclist if he or she can demonstrate probable cause that the motorcyclist has committed an offense.

    Why You Should Wear a Motorcycle Helmet Anyway

    Texas may not require a helmet for certain motorcyclists, but every motorcyclist should consider the consequences of failing to use a helmet on Texas roadways. In 2015, the most recent data available, 459 motorcyclists and passengers lost their lives in Texas. Fifty-two percent chose not to wear helmets on the day they died.

    Motorcycles do not provide any basic protection from blunt force trauma. Head trauma is a real and serious risk in all types of motorcycle accidents. Unlike broken bones and road rash, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries may never heal with time.

    A helmet is not comfortable to wear on hot days, but it could mean enjoying those days longer. In Texas, the number of distracted, drunk, and reckless drivers on the roadways is just too high to justify riding without a helmet. You might drive safely, but you cannot ensure others will do the same.

    What to Look for in a Motorcycle Helmet

    You’ll find six basic types of safety standard approved helmets on the market today ranging from half helmets to full-face and modular varieties. Full face, modular, off-road, and hybrid helmets offer protection elements to cover the entire head and face, whereas open face and half helmets leave the face and parts of the head exposed to the elements.

    In each helmet type, look for a DOT sticker on the back and then evaluate the individual components of the helmet. High-quality helmets will feature a reinforced shell, a Styrofoam-like liner designed to absorb impact, soft padding for fit and comfort, and a chin strap that fits snugly but not uncomfortably under the chin.

    A helmet should not easily slide off your head, but it should not cause an uncomfortable level of compression when worn either. Try on different styles and move around with the helmet on to check for movement, visibility, and comfort.

    Quality motorcycle helmets aren’t the most inexpensive accessories, but they provide the most important piece of protection you can wear. Manufacturers designed most helmets to last through one crash. Purchase a replacement if your helmet suffers damage or is involved in any accident involving head impact.

    Helmet Use and Personal Injury Claim

    Consider wearing a helmet to protect your rights in personal injury claims. If you choose not to wear a helmet and to pursue an injury claim against a negligent driver, the defense may try to assume of risk argument against your claim.

    In not wearing a helmet, motorcyclists should reasonably know the risk of head injuries in any incident will increase. This argument will not work for claims involving bodily road rash or a broken femur but could bar a plaintiff from recovering damages for resulting head injuries. When it comes to wearing a helmet, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

  2. Common Defenses Used in Negligence Claims

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    In civil claims, plaintiffs bear the burden of proving negligence. When one party accuses another of negligence, he or she can use several strategies to diminish or disqualify the evidence a plaintiff presents. Those wrongly accused of causing or contributing to an injurious accident must often fight against aggressive personal injury attorneys to protect their own rights under the law.

    Proving a Negligence Claim

    In every basic negligence claim, a plaintiff must prove:

    • The defendant owed the plaintiff a reasonable duty of care.
    • The defendant violated that duty.
    • The defendant’s violation caused the incident.
    • The plaintiff suffered injuries in the incident.

    For example, a driver owes a duty of care to use reasonable caution and follow the rules of the road. If the driver speeds, texts, or drives recklessly, he or she is in violation of the basic duty of care. If that momentary distraction or 10 extra mph contribute to a wreck and a plaintiff’s injuries, the defendant is liable for the resulting injuries.

    Any number of factors in the example could change the merit of the negligence claim. The defendant could prove he or she used a reasonable level of care, that the plaintiff also violated the driver’s duty of care, that the plaintiff did not suffer harm in the incident, or that the defendant’s actions did not proximally cause the injurious incident.

    Identifying Defenses in Negligence Claims

    Regardless of the case matter, a defendant could choose to invalidate any of the four elements of proof a plaintiff presents, to focus on the plaintiff’s own negligence or assumption of risk, and/or focus on the technical elements required for the courts to uphold the claim. Depending on the case, a defendant may not have owed the plaintiff any duty of care, violated the accepted duty, caused the accident, or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries. Medical expert reports, witness accounts, accident reconstruction, and other evidence may uphold the defense’s arguments to nullify the elements of negligence.

    Texas operates under a modified comparative negligence rule in negligence claims. The concept allows the courts to diminish a plaintiff’s compensation based on his or her own percentage of negligence. Any plaintiff found 51% or more at fault for an incident cannot recover any damages in a claim. Furthermore, any defendant found less at fault may use that determination as a basis for his or her own personal injury claim.

    In some cases, a plaintiff may engage in well-known risky activities and suffer an injury. If the plaintiff had prior knowledge of the risks involved in an activity and acted anyway, the defendant may not bear liability for the accident or resulting injuries. If, for example, someone goes ice skating, falls, and suffers an injury, the ice rink would not face liability unless it offered the customer defective rental skates or improperly maintained the rink. Ice skating holds a reasonable assumption of risk.

    In addition to case-based defense strategies, a defense attorney may also point out technical flaws in the plaintiff’s claim. For a plaintiff to successfully file a claim, it must adhere to the relevant statute of limitations, file appropriate claim documentation, and follow all legally recognized avenues for compensation. Failure to follow the prescribed civil processes can result in an invalidated claim.

    Building a Defense in a Negligence Claim

    To protect your rights in a legal claim, reach out to an attorney for a consultation as soon as possible after any injurious accident. You may not see the legitimacy of a claim, but a plaintiff’s attorney will search for every possible argument against the defense. Contentious claims often come down to the legal capabilities of the attorneys representing each side.

  3. What to Do If You Are Exposed to Benzene

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    Benzene is one of the most common dangerous substances humans encounter on a regular basis. The colorless and highly evaporative chemical comes from petroleum and poses serious health risks. While some exposure to the chemical is unavoidable in daily life, concentrated or prolonged exposure will lead to adverse health conditions.

    What is Benzene?

    This sweet-smelling hydrocarbon exists in both liquid and gaseous states. It’s highly flammable and evaporative. Trace amounts are in the natural environment and some foods. You will find the chemical in cigarette smoke, gasoline, exhaust, and in forest fires. In industrial environments, companies also use the chemical to manufacture everything from plastic products to insecticides.

    When a human encounters the gaseous form of benzene, half of it goes back into the environment upon exhalation. The body stores the other half in fat and bone marrow until the body can break it down. During metabolism of the chemical, the body creates byproducts that are more dangerous than benzene itself.

    Exposure to Benzene

    In daily life, you are not likely to come into dangerous concentrations of benzene. Those who work in petroleum product rich manufacturing environments, who smoke heavily, and who are exposed to gas leaks may suffer the most from the chemical’s ill effects. Benzene can enter the body through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion. The amount of benzene absorbed into the body will affect the severity of symptoms a person experiences.

    Long-term benzene exposure can cause cancer, immune system damage, and neurological damage. It poses a heightened risk to children and expectant women. Concentrated benzene exposure can cause blurred vision, nausea, heartbeat irregularities, dizziness, drowsiness, headache, breathing difficulties, confusion, sleepiness, unconsciousness, and death within minutes or hours.

    What to Do After Exposure

    If you have reason to believe you encountered benzene in any form, take the following steps immediately:

    • Access fresh air. Limit the amount of benzene you breathe in the surrounding air. Although you cannot see the chemical in its gaseous form, move outdoors or into a well-ventilated area. If you can still smell a sweet odor, you may want to move farther away from the source of the gas.
    • Remove contaminated clothing. Wear gloves and quickly remove clothing while trying to minimize skin exposure during the process. Place contaminated clothing in a sealable plastic bag and seal anything that encountered benzene in additional bags. Since the liquid can evaporate very quickly, anyone exposed should take steps to completely remove all affected materials.
    • Shower well. Remove any contact lenses and secure in a plastic bag. Bathe every inch of skin using ample amounts of soap. Rinse well. If the chemical entered the eyes, rinse with water for 10-15 minutes.
    • Contact the authorities. Contact emergency services, poison control, or your local health department to ask for further instructions and discuss the benzene exposure situation. If someone ingested any benzene, do not wait to go through the previous steps. Call emergency services immediately and listen closely for further instructions. Never induce vomiting after benzene exposure – the resulting coughing could increase the amount of chemical exposure in the lungs.

    Report the incident and seek medical attention even if you believe you removed all the contaminated clothing and successfully rinsed the chemical from your body. The colorless chemical could affect you more than you know.

    There is no targeted antidote for benzene poisoning. Medical treatments vary depending on the nature of the exposure and the symptoms a patient experiences.

    After Benzene Exposure

    Concentrated benzene exposure rarely happens without some form of human negligence. Gas leaks, industrial chemical exposure, and water contamination almost always occur because someone failed to use an appropriate level of care while handling this highly toxic substance.

    If you or someone you know suffered acute or long-term effects from benzene toxicity, you may want to discuss legal options with a personal injury attorney. The World Health Organization considers benzene a significant public health concern, and nobody should have to suffer from the chemical’s after-effects.

  4. Tips for Avoiding Injuries on Treadmills

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    Treadmills deliver cardio training in a convenient indoor machine. Whether you’re training for a race, walking for health, or building your strength for a multi-day backpacking trip, a treadmill can help you move forward in your exercise plans, but they pose risks. One accident on a treadmill can leave you unable to work out for weeks or cause permanent injury.

    Avoiding Treadmill Injuries

    In 2015, a high-profile treadmill death brought home the serious risks of treadmill exercise. Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey, was 47 when he fell from a treadmill and hit his head. The subsequent blood loss he suffered caused his death. Treadmills can easily cause injuries from falls if users fail to use caution. They can also contribute to repetitive use injuries from improper form. Before you pop on your headphones and space out on the machine, run through this checklist to keep yourself safe:

    1. Wear appropriate attire. Wear supportive athletic shoes and avoid wearing baggy clothing. Improper footwear can lead to soreness and injury throughout the body, while loose clothing increases the risk of material catching on the machine and causing an accident.
    1. Double tie your shoelaces. When you’re running at 6-7 mph on the roadway, you can easily adjust your speed to avoid tripping and falling. On a treadmill, any speed adjustment will happen gradually. An untied shoelace could easily turn into a trip-related accident.
    1. Wear the safety clip! Many people forget to attach the safety clip that will cut off the machine if the magnetic strip loses contact with the console. If you do not wear it and fall, the treadmill’s belt will continue to rotate. In addition to injuries from the fall, the moving belt can cause serious friction burns on any exposed areas of skin.
    1. Warm up. Anytime you plan a rigorous cardio workout, take some time to warm up. If possible, walk or lightly jog for a few minutes and then hop off to do a few quick stretches. When you get back on, your muscles will be warm, flexible, and ready for action. Similarly, a cool down period will bring your heart rate down naturally and keep your muscles limber. Walk and stretch again to prevent soreness later.
    1. Practice technique. As with any exercise, technique matters more than raw drive. Improper technique when you run, lift weights, dance, or kick box will increase the risk of injury and can diminish the effectiveness of the workout. Focus on keeping your shoulders back, chest up, and your head looking forward. Aim to strike the treadmill softly with the middle of your foot (not the heel), and allow your arms to move naturally with a 90-degree bend at the elbow.
    2. Stand on the platform to adjust mobile devices. If you can’t use simple buttons on a headset to change songs or channels, stand on the platform to the outside of the belt before you look down at media controls.
    3. Make sure small children stay away from the machine. Small children can suffer injuries if a treadmill’s belt fails, if they trip on the device, or if they play around the machine while it’s in use. Hands caught in the belt can produce devastating burn injuries and serious harm. Teach older children to stay away from the machine while in use, and never allow small children near the machine without careful supervision.

      Every treadmill has its quirks and operational guidelines. Start slowly on an unfamiliar machine and increase the speed and incline when you feel comfortable with the equipment. If you ever feel unsteady or unsafe on a treadmill, stop using it and contact the equipment manufacturer for troubleshooting, maintenance, or repairs. Treadmill injuries are preventable with caution and safe exercise habits.

  5. Top Causes of Teen Driving Accidents

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    Teens often drive with the confidence of professional race car drivers. Unfortunately, they do not receive the same training or use the same degree of care as adults when behind the wheel. Teens aged 15-19 were involved in 81,986 crashes in Texas during 2015. If your teen is driving this year, warn him or her of the top causes of teen driving incidents.

    According to the CDC, vehicle crashes take the number one spot among the top causes of death for American teens. The most common causes of teen driving accidents include:

    1. Distracted driving. Teens in 2017 seem to live on their mobile devices. While many jurisdictions in Texas ban texting while driving, and the state bans handheld device use for drivers under age 18, many teens and adults alike struggle to remain hands-free while behind the wheel.Mobile device use represents only part of the distracted driving problem teens face. When teens get into vehicles with other teenage drivers, they tend to focus more on the conversation at hand than the rules of the road. A fun song, a quick snack, and planning where to drive next can all interfere with a driver’s focus and contribute to an accident.

      To remain a successful driver into adulthood, teenagers must practice keeping their attention on the road first at all times. The conversation, the song selection, and the incoming tweet can wait a few more minutes.

    1. Driver inexperience. Some driving schools are better than others, but nothing can take the place of hours of experience behind the wheel. Like flying and commercial vehicle driving, experience builds the reaction times and judgment skills teens need to make smart decisions.Unanticipated conditions including a roadway hazard, a deer darting across the street, a rainstorm deluge, or those dark winter mornings with black ice can all put inexperienced drivers to the test. To reduce the risks of driver inexperience, try to ride with your new teen driver in a variety of conditions before allowing him or her out alone.
    1. Drunk driving. Some teens will push the limits and decide to drink and drive despite the laws and despite adult warnings. A drunk and inexperienced driver on the roadways represents a serious risk to everyone on the road. Teens can ruin lives if they choose to get behind the wheel. Strongly encourage your child to call you, a sober friend, or call for an Uber ride instead of driving. Experimenting with alcohol is not a desirable teenage behavior, but drinking and driving is infinitely more serious.
    2. Reckless driving. When teens gain confidence behind the wheel, they may take more risks while driving. As young people, they want to go fast, live out their movie fantasies, and look cool doing it. Many adults may recall the same driving behaviors from their own youths. Speeding, following too closely, and zipping in and out of lanes doesn’t always seem like a big deal to young drivers. Males are more likely than females to drive recklessly and get involved in fatal crashes according to the CDC.

    Look for new ways to tell teens about the risks of reckless driving. If the increase in insurance rates doesn’t serve as a warning, ask them to think about how they would feel after causing a deadly crash. Designers created simulators and legal racing tracks for speed. Highways filled with mothers, fathers, grandparents, siblings, and children are the wrong places to play with speeding.

    Addressing Teenage Car Accidents

    Make sure your teen understands what to do in the event of an accident. In accident claims, insurance adjusters and/or juries may hold a bias against teenage drivers who engage in unsafe driving behaviors. Help your child understand the importance of accident scene documentation and who to call immediately after an accident. Reacting to an accident is often just as important as prevention practices.