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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. How to Avoid Drowsy Driving

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    Drowsy driving has become an epidemic around the U.S. About one in 25 drivers report having fallen asleep behind the wheel in the last month. An even higher number report driving tired or drowsy. Drowsy drivers may cause up to 6,000 fatal car accidents per year. Anyone can succumb to drowsy driving, but those with sleep disorders, lack of sleep, commercial driving jobs, or night shift workers are most at risk. Use these tips to avoid driving while tired and to prevent yourself from being involved in a related car accident in Houston.

    Learn the Signs of Drowsy Driving

    Often, drowsy driving creeps up on drivers without them realizing they should pull over. A driver can feel fine one moment and fall asleep the next. There are signs that can indicate to a driver that it is time to pull over and sleep. If you notice any of the following while driving, you are too sleepy to safely continue:

    • Frequent blinking, slow blinking, or heavy eyelids
    • Difficulty focusing on the road
    • Mind wandering off
    • Trouble remembering the last few miles
    • Repeated yawning
    • Nodding head
    • Drifting from your lane
    • Feeling irritable

    Even small lapses in attention due to drowsiness can be enough to cause an accident. As soon as you detect signs of drowsiness, pull over and rest. Every minute you spend on the road while too tired to drive is another minute you put your life and the lives of others in danger.

    Don’t Drive While Medicated

    It’s not only illegal drugs that can be dangerous for drivers. Many legal and prescription drugs also have harmful side effects that make a driver incapable of safely operating a vehicle. Always check with your doctor and read the label on over-the-counter drugs to find out if you should wait before driving. Medications such as pain relievers with morphine or codeine are unsafe for use before driving, as are many anti-anxiety and antidepressant medications. If the drug may cause drowsiness, don’t take it before driving.

    Deal with Sleep Disorders

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 70 million Americans suffer from sleep disorders. Many have undiagnosed sleep disorders, and they may not realize why they feel drowsy during the day. If you suspect you have a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, or restless leg syndrome, see a doctor for help. There are treatments for sleep disorders that can help you get a good night’s rest, and prevent drowsy driving.

    Pull Over and Sleep

    If you feel too tired to drive, pull over someplace safe, such as a secure rest area, and sleep. There is no substitute for sleep. Coffee, energy drinks, and other methods are not enough to make you alert enough to drive, and they can lead to an energy crash later. Sleep for at least 20 minutes, then continue to drive until you feel too tired again. Avoid driving at night or driving for long hours if possible. Drive with a passenger who can stay away with you, or take shifts driving. When in doubt, pull over and rest.

  2. What Is Qualified Immunity?

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    Public officials such as government employees and law enforcement officers have specific protections when it comes to liability for personal injury accidents. They enjoy “qualified immunity” from lawsuits, which shields them from civil liability unless they violate an individual’s statutory or constitutional rights. Qualified immunity in Texas makes it more difficult to hold a public official liable for an accident, but it is not impossible. With an attorney’s help, a public official may still have to pay for a victim’s damages.

    Who Has Qualified Immunity?

    In Texas, qualified immunity protects state or federal employees who were performing job-related tasks at the time of the incident. Civil servants such as police officers, firefighters, politicians, members of the armed forces, security agents, and government officials all fall under the blanket of qualified immunity. However, judges, prosecutors, legislators, and some others do not receive qualified immunity. The goal of qualified immunity is to allow officials to perform their jobs without fear of individuals suing them.

    If a party works for the state or federal government, odds are qualified immunity will come into play. Note that the defendant must also have been on the job at the time of the incident. An individual may only receive qualified immunity of he or she was within the job capacity at the time. An off-duty police officer who causes a car accident, for example, may not have immunity under this doctrine. The officer must have been performing his/her job to receive qualified immunity. Talk to an attorney to find out if the individual or entity you plan to sue falls under the protection of qualified immunity.

    Were the Defendant’s Actions Reasonable?

    Qualified immunity does not always protect public officials from lawsuits. There are circumstances that act as exceptions to the qualified immunity rule. If the employee violated an individual’s clearly established federal constitutional or statutory rights in the incident in question, he or she will not receive qualified immunity. A clearly established law must outline the plaintiff’s rights, and the defendant must have violated this right. In these cases, qualified immunity will not bar the victim from recovery.

    Using the qualified immunity defense relies on the reasonableness of the defendant’s actions in relation to the plaintiff’s injuries. The courts will ask if a reasonable and prudent party in the defendant’s position would have known that his/her actions or inactions violated a clearly established right. If the answer is no, the defendant will receive qualified immunity. The defendant must have knowingly (or negligently) violated the victim’s rights to face liability for damages.

    Will Qualified Immunity Affect Your Case?

    Speak to a lawyer to find out if your personal injury claim will invoke qualified immunity. If so, the party that allegedly caused your harms may avoid going through a trial and paying for your damages. It can be difficult to prove that a government official should not receive qualified immunity in a specific case scenario. An attorney can help you understand whether this element will affect your claim and your options for recovery with or without immunity. The courts must solve qualified immunity issues as early as possible in a case to prevent unnecessary fees and delays.

  3. What Are Some Things You SHOULDN’T Do After a Car Accident?

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    Knowing what not to do after a car accident is as important as knowing what to do. There are things you could do or say that harm your chances for recovery or make the process more difficult. Protecting your rights requires an understanding of the actions that could work for you and against you in the future. Keep this checklist available in case you get into a crash in Houston.

    Do Not Flee the Scene

    Texas law requires all parties involved in a motor vehicle crash to stop and remain on the scene until they can verify that no one suffered personal injuries or property damage or until police tell the party it is okay to leave. No matter how scared or overwhelmed you might feel, stay on the scene and check yourself and others for injuries. Fleeing the scene can result in criminal hit-and-run charges against you. If no one is present at the time of the accident, leave your contact information with the damaged vehicle or property.

    Do Not Admit Fault

    Once you stop and speak to the other driver, do not apologize for the crash or say that it was your fault. Admitting fault can make it difficult or even impossible to recover damages after a crash. Wait for a police or insurance investigation to assign fault. Even if you believe you caused the accident, the other driver or a third party may have also contributed. Wait for authorities to arrive and record your side of the story.

    Do Not Leave Authorities Out of the Loop

    You must call 911 and report your crash in Texas if it resulted in personal injuries, death, or more than $1,000 worth of property damage. You must also call your vehicle insurance company as soon as possible after a collision to qualify for coverage. Never leave authorities out of the loop after a car accident. You could get into legal trouble for failing to call 911.

    Do not trust an “under the table” exchange with the other driver, wherein he or she promises to pay for your damages out of pocket instead of you calling the insurance company. Odds are the driver will give you false information and disappear. Don’t take this risk – call the police when necessary and always report the crash to your insurer.

    Do Not Ignore Your Injuries

    Request an ambulance if you believe you’ve been injured in a car accident. If you don’t feel injured, seek medical attention anyway. Explain what happened to the doctor, and he or she will perform the appropriate tests to check for injuries. It is possible that you have an injury with delayed symptoms, such as a minor concussion. Visiting the doctor right away can improve your chances of financial recovery; it proves that your accident-related injuries were intense enough to require immediate medical attention.

    Do Not Self-Represent

    In the aftermath of a car accident, a major priority may be to receive compensation for your personal injuries, medical bills, lost wages, and property damage. You may need to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company, and/or consider filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, a company, and other parties for your crash. Don’t attempt these tasks alone. Partner with a Houston car accident attorney for professional representation and assistance during the filing process. A lawyer can help maximize your recovery.

  4. Tips to Prepare for Injury Lawsuits

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    Taking on a personal injury lawsuit in Texas can feel daunting. It is likely your first encounter with the civil justice system, and you may already feel rattled after sustaining an injury in a car accident, slip and fall, animal attack, or another incident. Retaining an attorney can ease your mind during the legal processes necessary for filing a suit. There are also steps you can take as an accident victim to prepare for a suit and to make the entire process feel much more manageable.

    Record Everything

    The more information you put on paper, the better. Record your version of what happened as soon as possible, while the accident is still fresh in your mind. Write down everything you remember, including whom the accident involved and what you believe caused your injuries. Writing down a detailed account of events can help you keep the incident straight later.

    Keep track of all documents that relate to your incident, including medical records, police reports, documents from your employer, hospital bills, insurance claims, emails, and anything else that could affect your claim. Keep all documents in a file to stay organized for your claim. If you need help obtaining documents, an attorney can assist you with this process.

    Take Photos

    Photographic evidence is valuable in personal injury claims. A photograph of a pothole that caused a tire blowout, for example, can serve as proof that the pothole existed, even if the city fills it hours after the accident. Take photographs of the setting of the accident, focusing on elements that may have caused or contributed to your injuries. Photograph property damage, personal injuries, and anything else that seems relevant.

    Speak to Witnesses

    Witnesses can help support your claim with stories that corroborate with your own. Seek out anyone who witnessed your accident, and record names and contact information. If witnesses are willing, ask them to record or sign a statement. Ask witnesses if they are willing to testify at a hearing. If they do not want to testify, they may at least be available to give a statement to police or an attorney.

    Go to the Doctor

    To receive an award for your recent accident, you will need proof of compensable damages. This can be personal injuries, emotional distress, or property damage. Proof of physical injuries can come in the form of photographs, medical records, and testimony or statements from your doctors.

    The sooner you visit the hospital after your accident, the better. Prompt medical care can improve your prognosis for physical recovery, as well as signal to a judge or jury that your injuries were severe enough to require immediate medical attention. Get a professional opinion about your health, as you can use your doctor’s comments to support your claim.

    Retain an Attorney

    It is possible to self-represent in Texas, but, in most cases, this will decrease your odds of success. Personal injury attorneys spend years honing their practice, gathering experience and education that can significantly help your case. The best way to prepare for your lawsuit is to receive personalized advice from an attorney. Most offer complimentary initial consultations to get started.

  5. What Are Dram Shop Laws?

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    “Dram shop laws” refer to the civil liabilities of individuals and establishments that serve alcoholic beverages. Every state has its own version of dram shop laws, with different provisions and rules for servers. Dram shop laws may come into play in cases involving an intoxicated individual, such as a drunk driver. In some circumstances, accident victims may be able to name the “dram shop” (or social host) as a defendant in a personal injury claim. Understanding the dram shop laws in Texas can help you if your case involves an intoxicated party.

    Dram Shop Liability in Texas

    “Dram shop laws” came about to hold servers of alcoholic beverages liable for injuries their patrons cause. It is an establishment’s responsibility not to over serve patrons or to contribute to a subsequent alcohol-related accident as much as reasonably possible. The Alcoholic Beverage Code, Title 1, Chapter 2, contains the content of Texas’ dram shop laws. According to this law, the “providing, selling, or serving” of an alcoholic beverage may become the basis of a statutory cause of action if certain elements surround the incident. These elements are as follows:

    1. The provider reasonably should have known the individual receiving the alcoholic beverage was obviously intoxicated to the extent that he or she presented a danger to him/herself and others. The individual’s intoxication must have been apparent.
    2. The intoxication of the individual receiving the beverage was the proximate cause of the damages suffered.

    Texas may also hold social hosts liable for injuries an intoxicated person causes, not just bars or dram shops. If the intoxication of a minor under the age of 21 caused the damages, an adult 21 years or older may be liable if the adult is not a parent, guardian or spouse, and if the server knowingly provided the beverage to the minor or allowed someone else to serve the minor. In other words, a social host may be liable for damages a drunken minor causes if the host knew or should have known that the person was underage.

    Third Party Responsibility for Drunken Parties

    Dram shop laws came about from the need to hold someone responsible for the intoxication of an individual who goes on to injure others. While dram shops and social hosts do not bear the responsibility of making sure no one gets drunk, they must not serve someone who is visibly intoxicated and presents a danger. Serving this person is an act of negligence that could lead to liability if the person then drives drunk, assaults someone, or causes other harms because of his or her drunkenness.

    Accident victims may be able to recover damages against an establishment or social host in a personal injury lawsuit if the defendant’s actions qualify under Texas’ dram shop laws. Victims may name the dram shop as a defendant in addition to the drunken individual and/or other parties. Dram shop laws are particularly helpful when the drunken party does not have the means to pay a compensation award. An establishment such as a bar or restaurant will have insurance that can pay the award. For more information about Texas’ dram shop laws and how to prove your case, talk to an attorney.

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