Texas Joins 46 Other States in Banning Texting While Driving

Posted on Friday, September 22nd, 2017 at 12:49 pm    

Only three other states in the country apart from Texas have not yet made it illegal to text and drive at the same time. From 1st September this year (2017), that leaves just Arizona, Missouri and Montana that seem to consider the freedom of the individual driver more important than the safety of other road users, as Texas will have made texting while driving illegal.

The flip side to the coin is that more restrictive city wide bans on driving and using hands free devices will be rolled away as the state government intends making legislation uniform across the whole state.

This means that in McAllen at the moment, it is already illegal to text and drive, as well as phone and drive using a hands free device, but after September 1st it will be o.k. to use a hands free device! The same will apply to many other Texas cities (45 to date) that have brought in more progressive laws that help to prevent accidents caused by distracted driving.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed House Bill 62 into state law on June 6th this year even though the law doesn’t come into effect until 1st September. It’s not the first time that Texas has tried to make it illegal to text and drive. It’s the fourth attempt so far. Previous bills have been either vetoed or never got to be heard. The main justification used in the past is that individual rights would be trampled on. The new law means a 25 to 99 dollar fine for any first offense and a 100 to 200 dollar fine for a second offense. If texting while driving is shown to be the cause of a fatal accident or a serious injury, then the driver may face being charged with a Class A misdemeanor. That could mean a fine of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to a year.

Distracted driving causes more fatalities in Texas than alcohol

It doesn’t take too much imagination to understand just how dangerous using a cell phone can be if you are driving. Distracted driving kills more Texans than alcohol or drugs. It would be hard to put an exact figure on just how many distracted driving accidents are caused by drivers who choose to use their mobile phones while driving, but it’s a reasonable surmise that it is high on the list of why a driver is “distracted”. Using a GPS, talking to someone else in the vehicle, eating and drinking, swatting a fly and staring at something interesting out of the window are also reasons for being distracted, but they are not particularly new. The plethora of “wireless only” devices that everyone owns these days and the emphasis on social media communication and texting have done their bit to boosting the distracted driving road toll.

In 2016, there were 455 fatalities caused by distracted driving in Texas alone and 3,000 serious injuries. Nearly 110,000 crashes on Texas roads were attributed to distracted driving.

Whether the law will be easy to enforce is another matter, but as supporters of House Bill62 have pointed out, it wasn’t easy to enforce the mandatory use of seat belts in the 1960s when legislation was first introduced, but that didn’t stop the legislation from being passed in the interests of safety.

The research into reaction time recorded by cell phone users is convincing. One statistic revealed during the lead up to House Bill 62 being introduced was the fact that 40 percent of drivers between the ages of 19 and 39 admit that they text and drive. Crash figures do back that up as they reveal that it is predominantly young people who are most likely to use a device while driving.

The reaction time of a driver when distracted by a text message being sent or received is around twice that of a driver who isn’t distracted. In a six second period, it has been estimated that a texting driver takes their eyes off the road for a full two thirds of that time. In that time, a driver driving at 55 mph could travel the length of a football field.

Contact a car accident attorney if you have been injured by a texting driver

Although it’s good to know that if you are hit and injured by a texting driver that they could be charged, it doesn’t compensate you for any injuries you receive. That’s why it is important to contact a car accident attorney to discuss filing a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, regardless of any criminal charges laid against them. A successful personal injury claim can help to pay for medical expenses and lost earnings as well as any pain and suffering you have endured as a result of negligent driving by a texting driver. Call the Patino Law Office in McAllen, Texas on 956 631 3535.

 

Not Yielding the Right of Way Most Common Cause of Motorcycle Accidents in Texas

Posted on Thursday, July 27th, 2017 at 12:39 pm    

Texans love to ride motorcycles and there are more riders out doing their thing today than at any time in the past. Who knows whether the doubling of motorcycle usage over the last ten years is due to affection with motorcycles per se or recognition of their economic benefits. What we do know is that the greater the number of motorcyclists using highways across Texas, the greater the number of riders who are seriously injured or are killed as a result of avoidable collisions with other vehicles.

Motorcyclists Almost Always Come off Worse in an Accident

The fact is that whoever is ultimately to blame for a cycle / auto / truck collision, the motorcycle rider is almost always the most likely to suffer serious injuries, especially to the feet, legs, head, neck and back. Wearing a helmet and protective clothing provides a certain amount of safety but no guarantee, even at relatively low collision speeds. When a collision is due to an error of judgment by a vehicle driver rather than the rider, it is usually because the driver was inattentive, did not see the motorcyclist, was distracted, drunk, affected by drugs, driving too fast or did not allow sufficient room between themselves and the rider.

Failure to yield the right of way at a left turn a common accident cause

Statistics held by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reveal that one of the most common causes of a rider/ driver collision is when a motorcyclist and vehicle driver are approaching a four way intersection at the same time from opposing directions. The driver makes a left turn oblivious to the movement of the motorcyclist who is hit as the turn is made. Another common accident scenario is when both a vehicle and a motorcycle intend turning right at an intersection and the rider is on the near side. The vehicle driver neglects to give appropriate distance between him or herself and the rider and knocks the rider off the machine.

A typical example of such an accident happened in College Station last week. The driver of a Buick was proceeding along Texas 30 and intended turning off the highway left into a private driveway. He did not see a motorcyclist riding on the opposite side of the highway and the result was that the rider crashed into the passenger side of the Buick. The Buick then swerved out of control into another vehicle, a pick-up truck, which was exiting the driveway at the same time. Both the Buick driver and the motorcyclist were hospitalized, but typically it was the rider who died as the result of injuries sustained in the collision.

NHTSA data shows that 25% of fatal motorcycle accidents are due to failure to yield the right of way when executing a left turn. In fact, slightly more (30%) are due to speeding, but this is a combination of error on the part of either a rider or another driver.

Few easy solutions to motorcycle accidents other than vigilance

There is no easy answer to preventing motorcyclist injuries. Motorcyclists can do their best to make sure they are as visible as possible and that they protect themselves by riding defensively and with protective headgear and clothing, but this is not foolproof.

Drivers do need to acknowledge that there are other road users who share the road and are particularly vulnerable to even low speed collisions. That includes anyone on two wheels, whether it is on a bicycle or a motorcycle. Bicyclists, at least, can use cycle lanes and even sidewalks if they are available and are much rarer on the open highways, but motor cyclist are forced to use the same shared space as other road users.

Contact a local personal injury attorney in McAllen after a motorcycle accident

If you, or a family member, are injured while out riding a motorcycle anywhere around McAllen, Texas, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Contact one of our personal injury attorneys at the Patino Law Office in McAllen at 956-631-3535 for a free consultation.

Liability When Injured at a Baseball Game

Posted on Friday, July 7th, 2017 at 12:26 am    

Some sports have inherent dangers, but is that sufficient to make a serious injury when playing a sport like baseball entirely the fault of the player? How about spectators? It’s not unknown for people to be badly injured or even killed when a ball or another item which is normally part of the game hits a spectator. There are also occasions when a player, a spectator, or another person who has a job at a sports stadium is injured for some other reason entirely and the injury is not directly linked to the game being played.

Injuries while playing sport are hardly very newsworthy. They happen all the time and most players would assume that it is part and parcel of the risks associated with a contact sport or a game in which there is a risk of being hit by a hard object.

Baseball injury statistics

It seems that children playing baseball are injured more than any other age group, more so than professional players. There are around 627,000 baseball injuries every year with 117,000 injuries affecting children between the ages of 5 and 14. The figures were supplied by the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons. According to a study made by the University of North Carolina, there were three times as many deaths caused by a direct hit by a baseball as there were other deaths caused by things like overexertion or heat stroke. The same University has reported that more children die of a direct baseball hit than in any other sport.

Spectator Injuries at a baseball game

Around 4,000 baseball spectators are injured because of a misdirected ball hitting them every year. Deaths are not common, but are certainly not unknown. One girl who survived a foul ball strike in 2010 escaped with a broken nose after a ball traveling at 90 mph hit her while she was watching the game.

Assumption of risk

Most injuries that happen as a direct result of a baseball game are unlikely to lead to a personal injury claim made against either a player or the stadium owners. There is a law in most states based on what is called the “assumption of risk,” which provides protection from litigation. Basically, the law assumes that if you play a game like baseball or watch it as a spectator you have taken a deliberate known risk. In fact, most tickets to games like baseball or hockey will carry a disclaimer on them which specifically exempts the team or stadium owner from liability if a fan is injured during the game.

Assumption of risk does not apply when the accident is not directly related to the game and therefore could not be anticipated as a risk. For instance, if a spectator is hit by a puck which is thrown into the crowd after the game is over for whatever reason, then this is not part of the game and it is possible that the injured person could then claim compensation.

More commonly, both players and spectators are injured as a result of faulty infrastructure, building collapses and other reasons which may be due to lack of proper maintenance. If a fan slips and falls, a common injury, possibly due to negligence on the part of the stadium owner, then the personal injury implications are the same as anywhere else.

More difficult to make a decision about are accidents due to fighting, or when a spectator drinks too much and falls down a floor in the stadium. Many baseball events are marred by fighting between fans and alcohol is often a contributory factor. It is possible that the event organizers or stadium owner may be at least be partly to blame for these sorts of injuries which are indirect results of the game, rather than direct ones.

Call an attorney to discuss a baseball game injury which you think is not your fault

Call a personal injury attorney if you have been injured during a game of baseball in McAllen and think that you were not to blame. Our attorneys at the Patino Law Office will assess your circumstances and provide you with a professional opinion about your chances of making a successful claim for compensation. You can call the Patino Law Office in McAllen Texas on 956-631-3535 for a free consultation.

How Can I Get Video Evidence of My Accident?

Posted on Monday, May 15th, 2017 at 11:47 am    

If you have had a bad accident and were injured, you may be considering the possibility of filing a lawsuit against the person who you think was to blame for the accident. It may not be an individual person. It may be a group of people, a store owner, a business, a government agency or even a combination of several parties who you believe were to blame for your accident and injuries.

One of the big stumbling blocks in successfully suing those at fault for your injuries is the lack of supporting evidence. Let’s face it, if you were seriously injured, the chances are that you were in no shape to run around taking pictures and interviewing witnesses after the accident, even though that would make it easier to claim compensation further down the track.

Maybe a video camera captured what happened when you had your accident

But what if you knew or suspected that there was a surveillance camera nearby and perhaps, just perhaps, that camera was taking video footage at the time you had your accident? It may have been a traffic camera at an intersection, a security camera at a parking lot, a gas station or outside a restaurant. It may have been a personal video cam that a driver had mounted on their car or a police officer’s dash cam. It may be a long shot, but isn’t it worth finding out whether you could get really useful evidence from one of these sources?

An attorney’s help makes sourcing video footage easier

The answer is yes! The reality may be a lot harder for a number of reasons which will be explained below. The best suggestion is never to try and seek video camera evidence all by yourself. You will almost certainly have a much better chance of securing valuable evidence if you contact a personal injury attorney such as one at the Patino Law Office in McAllen. Personal injury lawyers can sub-poena the agency or organization that controls the video camera if it is thought that past footage might have evidence which supports your claim.

Usually, the easiest video footage can be obtained from the owner of a private security camera, such as one in a supermarket, shopping mall, gas station etc. The owners may not have any obligation to release video records, but if the request is made respectfully enough, it is most likely to be granted. You may be allowed to look back through the video records by yourself or this privilege may be granted to your attorney.

Check the Texas database for traffic cameras

It’s not so easy to get permission if the camera was a traffic camera such as one that might be used at a McAllen intersection or red light. However, your attorney may be able to secure the footage with a sub-poena. Most states, including Texas, have a database which is available to the public which you can use to determine whether there was a traffic camera in the vicinity of your accident. This is potentially much more relevant to a traffic accident.

Similarly, a police officer’s dash cam may have useful evidence if you know the officer’s name, number and police station.

The least likely is a personal video camera which just happened to be rolling at the time of the accident. This is an outside chance but is more likely with a vehicle accident. You are unlikely to be able to secure a chance of obtaining evidence unless you know of any potential witnesses who were present at the time of your accident.

Make sure you act as soon as you can

Whatever the source of potentially useful video footage, the important thing to bear in mind is that you must act as soon as you possibly can. It will be much harder to find evidence n any kind of video camera the further it was recorded back in time. Old records may even be erased or recorded over. Again, an attorney can handle this line of inquiry even if your injuries prevent you from doing much yourself.

Texas Truck Speed Limiters Decision Hangs in the Balance

Posted on Friday, April 14th, 2017 at 6:28 am    

A proposal to install speed limiters on the nation’s trucks in order to save lives and reduce the number of serious injuries due to truck crashes hangs in the balance. It awaits a decision by the incoming Trump administration, which has vowed to limit federal regulation.

The proposal follows on from the results of a study into the link between the speed of large trucks and the number of serious accidents. It might seem obvious that the faster trucks travel on our highways, the more accidents there are going to be, but the study went further than that. The study took place in 2012 by the American Transportation Research Institute and the Virginia Tech University Transportation Institute. It focused on data from 15,000 truck accidents, 20 different trucking companies and nearly 140,000 individual tractor-trailers. The research definitively suggested that lower speeds meant fewer serious accidents, fewer fatalities and overall better safety conditions.

The research findings seem hardly surprising, but trucking fleets and individual drivers are under pressure to get their loads delivered as fast and as efficiently as possible, so may question at what speeds do the safety advantages really kick in. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) analyzed the data and proposed that limiters were installed on the nation’s truck fleet, limiting the speeds of tractor-trailers and other trucks over 26,001 pounds to 68 mph. Other speed limits proposed were 60 mph and 65 mph. A speed limiter does what the name suggests. It means that trucks would not be able to drive their vehicles beyond the cut off speed.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has suggested that the speed limit proposal would have another advantage, unrelated to safety. It has been estimated that speed limiters would save $1.1 billion in annual fuel costs.

2012 was five years ago, but the NHTSA proposal has had to go through a period of open public comment. That closed at the end of 2016 with no decision made yet. Of course, it may be that the new Trump administration has other things on its mind, so it may still be some time before any decision is made one way or another.

Truck accident statistics

There are around 15.5 million trucks on U.S. roads at any one time. These trucks are a vital part of the U.S. economy and without them life as we know it would come to a grinding halt. 13% of these trucks are 18 wheelers, also known as big rigs or tractor-trailers. Big trucks in particular are also the cause of many of the worst accidents and the highest number of serious injuries and fatalities. The sheer difference in size and weight between an 18 wheeler and the average car or small vehicle means that a collision between one and the other results in the occupants of the smaller vehicle coming off worse.

Truck accidents result in costly medical bills, pain and suffering, as well as emotional trauma for the crash victims, their family and friends.

Every year in the U.S. there are 500,000 accidents involving large trucks. 130,000 injuries are caused as a result of these accidents and 5,000 fatalities.

In Texas, the accident rate from truck crashes is in line with the rest of the country in terms of millions of miles driven. The Texas Department of Transportation reports that there were 284 fatalities in 2010 and 2,339 serious injuries as a result of truck accidents. The Texas truck fatality rate is estimated to be about 1.3 fatalities for every 100 million miles of travel. There were 15,676 big rig accidents in the year quoted above alone.

Whatever the decision made about speed limiters, it doesn’t affect the fact that truck accidents are a fact of life on Texas roads. It doesn’t matter how safe you are as a driver, it’s possible to be hit by a large truck at any time. If this is what has happened to you or a member of your family and you have been injured, you should contact one of our experienced truck accident attorneys at the Patino Law Firm in McAllen, Texas.

The sooner you instigate a personal injury claim against the driver at fault or the trucking firm the easier it will be to negotiate a fair and sensible compensation payment to help you pay for medical bills and lost earnings. You can contact the Patino Law Firm at 1-956-631-3535. There are no legal fees involved unless we win your claim on your behalf!

Texas Nursing Home Abuse No Better Than Any Other State

Posted on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017 at 4:40 am    

A detailed investigation into nursing home abuse by CNN has revealed as many cases of abuse in Texas as any other state. The investigation specifically targeted sexual abuse of elderly or disabled residents of nursing homes in several U.S. states and has revealed a horrifying state of affairs. In many cases, the accounts of abuse are thought to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the underlying real story of abuse that exists right across the country.

Many cases of abuse labeled as “unsubstantiated”, then ignored

CNN’s investigators found time and time again that when residents or their families brought an incident to the notice of the residential care managers that their concerns were in many cases labeled as “unsubstantiated.”

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or residential home anywhere within the McAllen region, and suspect that she or he has been a victim of any type of abuse, physical, psychological, emotional or sexual you should first bring the matter to the management or supervisors at the home or center. If you don’t think you are getting full cooperation or satisfactory action from them, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced nursing home negligence attorney in McAllen.

The attorney will make sure that a full and thorough independent investigation is carried out and that action is taken where necessary. This may involve;

  • Filing a personal injury lawsuit against any care worker, or the institution itself who is found to be responsible for harm against your elderly loved one;
  • Removing your elder from the institution if necessary and placing him or her with a better provider.

Testimony of victims usually judged too unreliable to be investigated properly

Most of the cases that the CNN investigation looked at showed just how hard it can be to bring systematic offenders of nursing home abuse – and the places that they worked at- to justice. One of the reasons for this was that the victims were often Alzheimer’s sufferers, in wheelchairs and could not fight back against their abusers or were known to be suffering from mental problems and their testimony was usually rejected as being “unreliable.”

Example of sexual abuse in a Texas nursing home

One harrowing case from Texas serves to illustrate exactly what is happening all over the U.S. A Texas nursing home resident was raped by a male nurse working at the home three times. In the third incident, the victim managed to spit semen that had been ejaculated by force into her mouth, into her bra. She kept the evidence there for three weeks before revealing it when she gave an account of the attacks to investigators.

The nurse in this case was arrested initially after an investigation by state authorities. The DNA of the semen was identified as belonging to the nurse, but the case was eventually dismissed because prosecutors could not obtain a testimony from the victim. The forensic lab had reported that there was only a 1 in 1000 trillion percent chance that the semen belonged to anyone else!

In many cases, victims of abuse in nursing homes are terrified of their assailants and are afraid to speak out about the attacks in case they are not believed and they are then attacked even more ferociously in revenge.

The companies, corporations or in many cases mom and pop businesses that are responsible for providing residential care facilities for over a million elderly Americans rarely attract quality staff as they do not generally pay any more than $11 to $12 an hour. There are also usually very few supervisors on duty during night shifts when many of the abuse cases take place.

In some cases, even when a home has been found to be responsible for nursing home abuse and fined or punished by canceling federal reimbursements, the fines are soon canceled or reduced and the reimbursements reinstated because of a facility’s perceived financial status.

Nursing home abuse attorney ready to provide legal assistance in McAllen

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or residential care home in the McAllen area and suspect that all is not right at the home the sooner this is brought to notice, the better. Call the Patino Law Firm in McAllen at (956) 631-3535 to arrange a free consultation with an experienced nursing home abuse attorney as soon as possible.

Champion Buses Under the Spotlight After New Twist in NCTC Softball Disaster Saga

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2017 at 4:01 am    

Few people in Texas, especially those with college age kids, will forget the tragedy that unfolded on the I-35 in Oklahoma in September 2014. That’s when the Champion bus carrying the North Central Texas College lady’s softball team was sideswiped by a truck, killing 4 of the 15 young women in the team.

The convoluted story that has unfolded after the crash has taken a new twist. The attorney for the families that have filed a personal injury lawsuit against the bus company citing defects in the bus has now called for the entire fleet of buses to be recalled. The attorney, Todd Tracy, has used an independent expert to assess the safety record of the buses and has stated that the review findings are so disturbing that the National Highway Transport Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the National Transport Safety Board (NTSB) should urgently address the matter.

The story so far

The crash happened on the I-35 in Oklahoma as the bus was bringing the team home to Gainesville back from a match at Bethany, Oklahoma. The bus was sideswiped by a 2013 Peterbilt semitrailer that had been traveling in the opposite direction on the other side of the median. The truck kept moving after the impact then disappeared in woodland on the side of the highway. The bus rolled right over and was badly damaged on the driver side of the vehicle. The driver himself, the team coach escaped more or less uninjured.

The investigation into the crash found that the driver, 53 year old Russel Staley, was initially to blame. He was found to be driving while impaired with synthetic cannabis and was also alleged to have had a history of drug abuse. He was eventually charged with four counts of manslaughter.

Staley commits suicide

The driver of the 18 wheeler that hit the bus carrying the NCTC softball team was found dead in March this year and it was assumed that he had committed suicide after a shotgun wound was found to his head at his home in Saginaw, Texas.

Families File Product Liability Lawsuit Against Champion Buses

Three of the four families involved in the tragedy have filed a lawsuit against Champion Bus Inc. The lawsuit was filed on Feb.1st this year. The lawsuit states that the bus involved was not “crashworthy.” Its construction meant all the difference between probable survival of the four girls killed in the crash and their death.

The attorney representing the families said that an examination of the bus’s construction showed that it was a mixture of “cardboard, foam and one and a half inch quarter tubing”. Mr. Tracy said that the side of the bus “peeled away because of its poorly made construction” and the passengers on that side of the bus were ejected as the bus rolled.

The families involved in the lawsuit had a chance to see the bus involved, a mid-sized bus and made several comments after the viewing. One mother, Misty Woodlee, said that it seemed “unbelievable” that anyone could be safe in such a poorly constructed bus. The father of another of the four girls, Keith Pelton, said that his daughter would never have been in the bus if he had known how it had been constructed.

Champion released a statement following the filing of the lawsuit reiterating what they had said earlier. The statement said that the NTSB had “fully investigated” the crash and had found no safety defects whatsoever and that the bus complied with all regulations.

Attorney issues call for inspection of Champion bus fleet following independent review

Following a 200 page report released by an independent safety expert, Todd Tracy, representing the families in the Feb 1st lawsuit, has called for the recall of all Champion buses built after 1998. The report states that 80% of all welds on the bus involved in the crash were not up to American Standard Welding Specifications. According to Tracy that meant that the welds on the bus were “defective”.

The report will be used as an important part of the evidence that will be available to back up the authenticity of the lawsuit.

Product liability lawsuits in McAllen Texas

If you live in the McAllen and believe that a product that you have bought was defective and has caused an injury of some sort to you or a member of your family you may have the right to sue the manufacturer or the distributor of the product. It is best to contact a product liability attorney as soon as you can to discuss your legal options.

Call a McAllen personal injury attorney at the Patino Law Firm as soon as you can on 956-631-3535 to discuss your situation and work out a legal solution that compensates you fairly for your loss.