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Category Archive: Law Blog

Category Archive: Law Blog

  1. Can a Bicyclist Be at Fault for an Accident?

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    Most people assume that because a bicyclist can suffer more serious injuries in a collision than a motorist, he or she will not be at fault for a crash. Yet the laws in most states, including Texas, give bicyclists the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers – meaning the law can find them at fault for causing car accidents.

    Texas’ Bicycle Laws

    Under Texas Transportation Code section 551.101, a bicyclist has all the same operational rights and duties applicable to drivers, with a few exceptions. Bicyclists in Texas must obey all standard traffic laws, including stop signs, traffic lights, speed limits and rights-of-way. They must ride traveling in the same direction as motor vehicles, as far to the right-hand side of the road as they can. Cyclists must stay off of sidewalks in downtown areas and yield to pedestrians. They cannot make unsafe lane changes, run red lights or engage in other dangerous practices.

    Bicyclists also have rights. Motorists and other roadway users must respect a biker’s rights to the road. Motorists should not tailgate a bicyclist. Drivers must yield to bicyclists as they would other drivers. They may only pass bicyclists if they do not come close enough to constitute a hazard. Motorists must also watch for passing cyclists before opening their car doors to avoid a serious accident known as dooring. If a motorist breaches any of his or her duties to a bicyclist and causes an accident, the motorist could be liable.

    Determining Fault for a Bicycle Accident

    In any motor vehicle accident, whether it involves two cars, a car and a bicycle, or another combination of road users, the method for determining fault remains the same. The party legally at fault for the crash will be the one behind the proximate (main) cause of the accident. This could be the bicyclist in certain situations. If the bicyclist rolled through a stop sign, for example, and a driver crossing through the intersection struck the cyclist, the cyclist could be at fault for his or her own injuries for breaking the rules of the road.

    Proving fault during a motor vehicle accident claim takes four main elements: duty, breach, causation and damages. The party financially responsible for the collision must be guilty of breaching a duty of care he or she owed the other party, such as the duty to reasonably prevent an accident. This breach of duty of care must be a main contributing factor to the collision, and the victim must have suffered specific losses as a result. If either the motor vehicle driver or the bicyclist can prove these four main elements, the other party will owe him or her compensation for damages.

    Comparative Negligence in Texas

    Texas law allows for the division of personal injury liability between two or more parties. Both parties can share a portion of fault for the same accident. The victim can still recover partial compensation, however, up to a threshold. Texas’ modified comparative negligence law states that an injured claimant can still obtain compensation despite contributing to the accident as long as he or she is less than 51% at fault. If the motor vehicle driver can prove the cyclist was more than half responsible for the collision, the bicyclist may lose all right to compensation – even if he or she suffered more serious injuries than the driver.

    Using a comparative negligence defense during a bicycle accident claim takes establishing the injured party’s fault through clear and convincing evidence. This evidence could include police reports, eyewitness interviews, photographs of the crash, crash reconstruction or opinions from crash experts. The courts will examine the evidence and rule on whether or not the plaintiff contributed to the crash, and if so, by how much. The courts will then reduce the plaintiff’s compensatory award by his or her percentage of fault. If fault falls over 50%, the plaintiff will receive nothing. Help from an attorney could enable an injured party to maximize his or her compensation after a bicycle accident in Houston.

  2. Types of Paralysis

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    Paralysis refers to the loss of muscle function and/or sensation in part of the body. While most people associate paralysis with spinal cord injuries, many different injuries, illnesses and natural-born conditions can lead to paralysis. The common causes of paralysis include traumatic accidents, infections, cancers, strokes, brain injuries, surgical errors and cerebral palsy. Learning the types of paralysis can help you understand what to expect if you or a loved one receives a paralysis diagnosis.

    Temporary vs. Permanent

    Not all types of paralysis are permanent conditions. Temporary paralysis may arise from conditions such as Bell’s palsy or birth injuries. A patient will eventually recover from temporary paralysis. Permanent paralysis, however, is incurable and will cause loss of muscle function in the affected areas into the foreseeable future, with possible improvements through treatments.

    Partial vs. Complete

    A patient with partial paralysis may retain some feeling, sensation or ability to move in the affected areas. Complete paralysis means the total inability to move or feel the muscles. A patient will retain some muscle control with partial paralysis but lose all muscle control with complete. Localized paralysis refers to the inability to move only one part of the body, such as the face, while generalized paralysis affects multiple parts of the body.

    Flaccid vs. Spastic

    Flaccid paralysis occurs when the muscles become weak due to an injury or condition that makes the muscles shrink and become flabby. Flaccid muscles will appear relaxed and typically do not move on their own. Spastic paralysis, on the other hand, describes muscles that become hard and tight. Spastic muscles might experience periodic spasms, or involuntary jerking movements. The patient will not be able to voluntarily move the affected limbs with flaccid or spastic paralysis.

    Monoplegia

    When a doctor diagnoses a patient with paralysis, he or she will categorize the condition based on how many body parts it affects. Monoplegia – as implied by its prefix, mono – refers to the paralysis of a single part of the body. A person may suffer from monoplegia if he or she loses muscle function and feeling in just one arm or leg, for example. Patients with monoplegia can typically move the rest of his or her body other than the damaged or injured limb. Strokes, brain injuries and cerebral palsy often cause temporary or permanent monoplegia.

    Hemiplegia

    Hemiplegia affects the limbs on only one side of the body, such as the left arm and left leg only. The other side of the body retains its feeling and function. The severity of hemiplegia can vary significantly from patient to patient, but it often starts as tingling in the body before escalating into full paralysis.

    Paraplegia

    Paraplegia is the paralysis of the lower half of the body. Paraplegia can refer to paralysis in both legs only, both legs and the pelvis, or both legs and the trunk of the body. A patient may or may not retain the function of his or her bowels, urinary tract, and sexual organs with paraplegia. Brain injuries, tumors, infections and spine injuries can cause paraplegia.

    Triplegia

    Triplegia affects three limbs, but not the fourth. For example, the patient may experience paralysis in both legs and only one arm, or (less commonly) both arms and one leg. Cerebral palsy is a common cause of triplegia, as are traumatic brain injuries. Triplegia may or may not involve paralysis of the trunk of the body.

    Quadriplegia (Tetraplegia)

    The most significantly disabling category of paralysis is quadriplegia. Quadriplegia (also called tetraplegia) is the paralysis of all four limbs and the trunk of the body. The patient may or may not have paralysis in the neck and respiratory system as well. Some patients with quadriplegia require breathing machines, while others do not.

    With physical therapy, surgeries and other treatment methods, it may be possible for a patient with paralysis to regain function in the affected body parts. If a patient has paralysis due to the negligence of others, he or she may be eligible for financial compensation through a personal injury lawsuit in Houston.

  3. Best Ways to Reduce Distracted Driving

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    Distracted driving is one of the deadliest risks on the road. A distracted driver may be unable to swerve, hit the brakes or otherwise react to a changing roadway situation in time to prevent a vehicle collision. Unfortunately, driving distracted is also one of the most common mistakes drivers make. As a motorist in Houston, take your responsibility to drive safely seriously. Before you get behind the wheel, reduce the likelihood of distracted driving with a few proven tips.

    Learn the Risks

    Education on the subject of distracted driving can be a powerful motivator behind changing your driving habits. Start with an understanding of how many accidents, deaths and serious injuries distracted drivers cause each year. In 2017 alone, 3,166 people died in distracted driving collisions in the U.S. Thousands of others suffered serious injuries that will change their lives forever. Many distracted driving accidents stem from cellphone use behind the wheel.

    It does not take much to distract you enough to cause an accident. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says reading one text at 55 miles per hour can be the equivalent of driving across a football field with your eyes closed. Place your phone in the glovebox or in a hands-free holder to reduce your risk of using it while you drive. While it is legal to use a hands-free device, you cannot use a handheld device to text under Texas law. Many cities have passed additional ordinances banning all cellphone use. Texting and driving is one of the deadliest forms of driver distraction. Always put your phone away while driving.

    Do Not Multitask

    The rate of distracted driving has grown in recent years due to the rise of a do-it-all culture. Many drivers feel pressure from their employers, teachers or families to get more done, faster. This could lead to trying to multitask behind the wheel, such as making business calls on a commute or trying to finish a chapter of required reading while driving to class. Eating, drinking, personal grooming, emailing, making phone calls, reading and performing other tasks behind the wheel is distracted driving. Dedicate your driving time to driving alone. Do not try to multitask while operating a motor vehicle.

    Install Prevention Apps

    If you have a hard time putting your cellphone away while driving, install apps that will automatically restrict your use while driving. Many app makers have created programs to solve the problem of distracted driving. You can install an app that will block your texts and phone calls until you have parked the car or one that rewards you for safe driving behaviors, such as not picking up your phone while the car is in motion. Most apps are free or require a nominal fee to help improve your safety.

    Control Teen Phone Activity

    Teenagers are the main demographic of drivers who text and drive. Set a positive example for your teens by paying attention to the road when you drive. Teach them about the serious risks of driving distracted and have them pledge to never text or talk on the phone while driving. Make a rule that your teen driver cannot have more than one or two passengers in the car at a time. Then, go the extra mile toward teen driver safety using an app that can track driving skills and phone use. Download a family-friendly app that allows you to control if and when your child uses his or her cellphone while driving. You can restrict it to only being able to dial 911, for example, using an app that knows when your teen is driving.

    Invest in Autonomous Technology

    Autonomous cars can help prevent distracted driving through technologies such as lane-keeping assist. A modern vehicle will have sensors that know when you are drifting out of your lane. The sensors can then send a warning sound through the cab to let you know you need to pay better attention to the road. If you worry about distracted driving for you or your kids, invest in a newer car that has anti-distracted driving technologies. In conjunction with your own commitment to driving safely, vehicle technologies can work to reduce your risk of a car accident.

    If you’ve been injured by a distracted driver, speak with our Houston car accident lawyers today.

  4. The Dangers of Indoor Play Areas

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    Many parents assume indoor play areas, such as those at many fast-food chains, are reasonably safe for kids. After all, manufacturers design indoor play areas specifically for young children. They should not contain hazards or defects that put kids’ lives in danger. Unfortunately, defective products, failure to adhere to safety standards, negligent maintenance and many other problems lead to unsafe play structures around the country. Parents should be aware of the dangers indoor play areas can pose. If an accident happens, the establishment and/or play structure manufacturer could be liable.

    Fall Risks

    Falls and impacts with moving equipment account for 74% of child playground injuries, according to one Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) study. Falls and impacts can occur due to defectively designed playground equipment, lack of parental supervision and maintenance negligence. Falls are a major cause of serious and fatal child injuries in indoor play areas.

    • Skull fractures
    • Broken bones
    • Traumatic brain injuries
    • Back and spine injuries
    • Face and mouth injuries
    • Muscle sprains
    • Dislocations
    • Wrongful death

    Although no manufacturer has the power to prevent all falls, they should reasonably reduce the risk through safe equipment designs. Establishments should also decrease the risk of serious injuries by installing safe floors. The floor material should be padded enough to reduce the risk of a traumatic brain injury if a child falls and hits his or her head. Dangerous wood or tile floors could unreasonably increase the odds of slip & fall injuries.

    Defective Playground Structures

    Many indoor play areas have equipment with inherently unsafe designs or manufacturing flaws. The CPSC is always announcing new playground equipment recalls due to potential hazards to young children. In December 2019, for example, BCI Burke recalled its Merge Playground Climber due to a potential entrapment hazard. The company recalled 440 units after realizing the open welded rungs on the sides of the climber could potentially entrap and injure children. This is just one of thousands of examples of defective playground equipment over the years.

    Manufacturers owe a duty of care not to design, produce or market defective or dangerous products. If a defective piece of indoor play area equipment causes an injury, the manufacturer or distributor could be liable for damages. Texas’ strict product liability laws may hold the manufacturer responsible for any injuries or deaths a product defect causes whether or not the manufacturer was negligent.

    Sharp Edges

    Some indoor play areas contain preventable hazards for young children, such as sharp corners or edges. A child could trip and fall into the sharp edge, striking his or her face, head, neck or other body parts. A sharp edge could cause injuries such as lacerations, bruises, head injuries, concussions, muscle damage and broken bones. It is up to the establishment that has the indoor play area to inspect for sharp edges or other common child safety risks and to remedy them before inviting children to play. Otherwise, the restaurant could be liable for injuries under Texas’ premises liability laws.

    Unhygienic Conditions

    It is also up to establishments to keep indoor play areas clean, hygienic and sanitary. A restaurant staff member should inspect the play area regularly to check for hazards such as dirty diapers, defecation, urine, vomit, blood or other biohazards from children using the play equipment. They should also check for rotten food or spilled drinks. Unclean indoor play areas could lead to bacteria, fungus, mold and other health hazards that could cause illnesses or infections in children.

    If an indoor play area injury stemmed from a defective product, the manufacturer could be liable. If it arose from a negligent restaurant or fast-food chain, the establishment could be liable instead. Parents should work with personal injury attorneys to understand who might be responsible for indoor play area injuries in Houston.

  5. Safety Tips for Driving Around Work Zones

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    Work zones can be dangerous settings for drivers. They often have bright floodlights, heavy machinery, workers present, confusing detours, and other hazards and distractions that can lead to car accidents. In the past five years, work zone accidents caused over 200,000 injuries and 4,400 deaths, according to the Federal Highway Administration. Avoid driving through work zones whenever possible. If you must pass through a work zone in Houston, follow a few tips to improve your safety.

    Slow Down

    Speeding is one of the main causes of fatal work zone accidents. Driving too fast through a work zone can make it impossible to stop on time to avoid a collision with a slow-moving vehicle, barricade or construction worker. Most work zones temporarily reduce speed limits to below what they normally are in the area for greater worker safety. You must follow the posted work zone speed limits until the end of the construction zone. The city often doubles fines for speeding in work zones.

    Be Patient

    If the city needs to close down one or more lanes to accommodate a work zone, it will generally warn drivers ahead of time with roadside signs. Give yourself extra time if you know you will need to pass through a work zone. Reduce your speed, be patient and let others merge if necessary. Growing impatient, frustrated or angry in slow work zone traffic could lead to road rage or reckless driving. Leaving early can help you prevent getting upset while driving through a work zone.

    Increase Following Distance

    Most work zone car accidents are rear-end collisions. A work zone can lead to sudden drops in the speeds of surrounding vehicles. If you do not pay attention to changing roadway conditions, you may collide with the back of a vehicle that has reduced its speed in front of you. Keep your eyes on the road and increase your following distance to avoid a rear-end collision. Minimize distractions while passing through a work zone. Avoid looking at your phone, GPS, radio, children in the back seat or things outside.

    Read the Signs

    Work zones may have signs warning drivers of potential risks. These may include “Road Work Ahead,” “Uneven Shoulder,” “Loose Gravel,” “Merge,” “Flagger Ahead” and “Detour.” Read work zone signs as you drive to know what to expect. Follow any directions a flagger or traffic controller gives you. Be extra careful in unfamiliar or confusing detours. Slow down, take your time and obey work zone area signs to avoid an accident.

    Watch for Workers

    Although the greatest number of work zone deaths are passenger vehicle drivers, thousands of workers have also lost their lives. Work zones can be dangerous areas for workers, especially when drivers are reckless or negligent. Avoid putting yourself or workers in danger by watching for roadside workers in construction zones. Keep your eyes on the road, not on construction vehicles or bright work zone lights. Assume the work zone is active. Take your foot off the gas pedal and prepare to stop at a moment’s notice to avoid striking a roadside worker.

    Expect the Unexpected

    Work zones are unpredictable. They can involve potholes, loose rubble, dips in the road, dangerous equipment, detours and other elements drivers usually do not have to deal with. The best way to avoid a work zone crash is to expect the unexpected. Prepare for anything – a worker walking into the road, an abrupt turn, a dead-end or reduced speed limits. Being ready for anything can allow you to react safely and confidently to changes. If you get into a work zone car accident, speak to an attorney about your potential right to file a claim. The city or construction company may owe you compensation for your damages.

    Call us today to speak with our Houston construction accident attorneys.

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