Archive for the ‘Car Accidents’ Category

San Antonio Drunk Driving Crashes: Lives Forever Changed

Two friends headed out one night recently in San Antonio. One never made it home. The other now faces more than a decade behind bars on charges of intoxication manslaughter in the death of her friend.

Drunk driving accident lawyers in San Antonio understand that speed and alcohol allegedly played a part in the crash. The passenger was declared dead at the scene. The women, both in their 20s, were cousins as well as best friends, authorities say.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The lives of these two women are forever changed, but it may not be too late to reach others. It’s a relevant time to point out that Texas leads the nation in drunk driving deaths.

Drunk driving a top killer of Texas drivers

According to figures from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), in 2012, there were nearly 1,300 people killed in drunk driving crashes in Texas. That accounted for nearly 40 percent of all traffic deaths in the state, and was a 7 percent increase from 2011.

The organization further estimated that the total number of alcohol-related crashes in the state in 2012 was somewhere around 26,000, costing taxpayers an estimated $6 billion in losses. The average alcohol-related fatality costs the state of Texas about $4.7 million.

One increasing area of concern is the use of alcohol by those under the age of 21. A recent survey submitted to Congress by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration indicated that 26 percent of those aged 12 to 20 in Texas reported using alcohol within the last 30 days. That amounts to about 821,000 youth. Binge alcohol use by this same cohort in the last month was about 17.5 percent, or roughly 550,000 youth.

Risk of this kind of behavior spikes right around now, as we approach graduation season. Far too frequently, celebrations involve alcohol, and with that comes the greater risk of a drunk driving crash.

Alcohol use among teens a growing concern in Texas

The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility reports that in 2012, there were 170 Texas teens killed in impaired driving crashes. That’s roughly 13 percent of the total, which is especially concerning when you consider that it’s illegal for anyone under 21 to drink in the first place.

Of those drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes, 72 percent had a blood-alcohol of 0.15 percent or higher, which is nearly double the legal limit.

For teens, alcohol is by far the deadliest drug. The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University reports that a 16-year-old is more likely to die of an alcohol-related issue (including drunk driving) than anything else.

Some parents mistakenly believe that teens may be safer if they drink supervised in their own home. This isn’t so, and Texas dram shop laws (specifically Texas §2.01 et seq) holds that adults who serve alcohol to minors can be held civilly liable if anything happens to that teen or if that teen subsequently causes someone else to be hurt.

It’s simply not worth it.

Teens aren’t the only ones harmed by drunk driving, of course, but they are disproportionately affected, and parents should take note. This is an opportunity to open a discussion and underscore your beliefs and expectations.

Meanwhile, MADD is gearing up for the 2015 legislative session in an effort to bolster anti-drunk driving laws, to allow for legalization of sobriety checkpoints (which state law currently forbids) and the requirement of ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders, not just those who have been arrested more than once.

Contact a San Antonio drunk driving attorney at the Herrera Law Firm. Call 800-455-1054 for a free case consultation.

San Antonio Traffic Accidents & Hidden Risks of Exhaustion

A San Antonio woman is sharing the story of her tragic motor vehicle collision in an effort to draw attention to the problem of drowsy driving.  Her husband was killed in the collision in 2009, and she had her legs, pelvis, ribs, elbow and facial bones broken. The accident happened when a drowsy driver hit the couple’s vehicle, causing it to roll over multiple times. She wants motorists to know that fatigued driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving and hopes that going public will make motorists think twice about driving while they are too tired. 

In some ways, drowsy driving is actually more dangerous than drunk driving because it is harder to prevent. There’s no current test for drowsy driving, although this may change in the future. Until a test is developed, victims will need to rely on witness statements and expert testimony to prove fatigue caused their crash injuries.

A personal injury lawyer in San Antonio can help victims to pursue claims for compensation against fatigued drivers. Call the Herrera Law Firm for a confidential legal consultation.

Research Underway to Tackle Drowsy Driving Issues

A Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) was recently launched at Monash University in Australia, and it is the first ever consortium dedicated to studying sleep disruption.  The CRC is an allegiance of academics, regulators, technology companies and employers who are all joining together to develop new technologies to reduce drowsy driving risks.

The Centre will be focused on multiple goals, including finding ways to better identify people at risk of insomnia, sleep apnea and other disorders that make rest difficult. Current diagnostic tools for sleep disorders are limited, and it can be difficult for people to get treatment to avoid excess fatigue.  If people are properly diagnosed and their conditions managed, they are less likely to doze off while driving.

CRC hopes to save the healthcare system $2 billion in costs associated with fatigue-related injuries and to deliver $196.4 million in public health benefits over the course of 15 years. Helping people get enough sleep could reduce the rate of drowsy driving crashes and be an important step in this effort.

However, one of the most important projects that CRC is undertaking involves developing a test for drowsy driving.  Researchers believe a device could be created that will test a person’s sweat or saliva for newly-discovered biomarkers of alertness. The test will serve as a real-time, accurate assessment of whether the person is alert.

The test is being proposed as a means of helping employers, who can test workers for alertness before the employees are allowed to operate machinery. However, it also has an important application in car accident cases. A driver who causes a crash could be tested to see if he was sufficiently alert. If the alertness biomarkers show he wasn’t, this could be used as evidence in holding him legally liable for the collision.

A personal injury lawyer in San Antonio can help collision victims. Call the Herrera Law Firm at 1-800-455-1054 or visit www.herreralaw.com to schedule a free consultation.

Holidays a Dangerous Time on the Roads

Many drivers in the United States are angry, with the Washington Post reporting that 12 percent of drivers responding said that they frequently felt road rage and 21 percent of responding drivers saying that they felt occasional hostility to their fellow drivers at least sometimes.

The large percentage of drivers that are prone to anger behind the wheel results in dangerous choices that cause accidents. This is especially true when motorist are feeling stressed, since around a third of all drivers say that they are more likely to become aggressive on the roads as a result of feelings of pressure or anxiety.   Unfortunately, stress happens a lot around the holidays, so it should come as no surprise that car accident claims increase by as much as 20 percent through the month of December.

The Holiday Season is a Time for Road Rage

Car accident lawyers in San Antonio know that the month of December is a time when there are many drivers on the roads and when traffic is usually bad. Drivers may be on the roads more because they are getting holiday shopping done or because they are traveling to visit family over the festive season.

Far too many drivers on the roads in December are intoxicated, especially if they are coming from holiday parties or special events. Others may simply be frustrated and may be taking this anger out on other motorists. A State Farm Insurance report, for example, found that 32 percent of drivers were likely to become more aggressive during the holiday season. Drivers may also be more distracted in the month of December, as pointed out by a University of Alabama Professor who studies holiday traffic and who warns that a  person whose “mind is on other things” is more likely to pull out in front of you or otherwise make  careless driving choice.

Distraction, intoxication and road rage are three of the biggest risk factors for car accidents, along with speeding, which is also a problem during the holidays according to the deputy executive director of the Governors’ Highway Safety Association. Motorists who are on the roads in December need to do everything they can to try to avoid these risks by making sure they pay attention to the road, never drive drunk, and avoid giving into anger or anxiety while behind the wheel.

Practicing these safe driving tips is important throughout the month, but there are certain days that are more dangerous than others. The six days surrounding the 25th of December have been described as the most dangerous of the month. During these six days, 18 percent more crashes happen than over Thanksgiving weekend and 27 percent more accidents happen than occur on New Years Eve.  Drivers should stay off the roads during this time if they can, especially on the Friday before Christmas when there is commuting traffic, traffic from last-minute shoppers and traffic from people traveling home. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are much safer days on the road for drivers to travel since there tend to be few people out on those days.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a free case evaluation.

Texas Traffic Safety Watch: NHTSA Under Fire

Over the past four decades, the numbers of auto accident deaths and serious injuries have declined, in large part because of new safety features and advances in driver safety technology. Advancements and changes ranging from required seat belts in every car to the standard use of anti-lock brakes have all contributed to helping drivers and passengers to be safer behind the wheel.

Any car accident lawyer in San Antonio knows that many of the positive changes that have occurred to reduce car accident deaths have happened because of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The NHTSA was created in 1966 and in its first decade in existence, the agency passed more than 50 regulations and requirements imposing mandates on automakers. Much of the safety framework the NHTSA put into place is still in effect today and still shapes the way cars are made.

The NHTSA, however, is not making rules the way it used to. In fact, there are serious concerns about whether the NHTSA is doing enough to protect the safety of passengers.  In light of these concerns, a lawsuit was filed in September and a Senate Hearing was convened to take a closer look at the role of the NHTSA and whether the agency was fulfilling its role.

NHTSA Is Focused on Recalls, Not Rule Making

Many experts indicate that the focus of the NHTSA has changed in recent years and that the agency is now primarily concerned with recalling vehicles after the cars have proven to be unsafe for drivers. In other words, instead of being proactive and working to stop accidents, the NHTSA is instead being reactive and only recalling cars when forced to do so because of serious problems.

According to Auto Blog, the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Panel is concerned that not only is the NHTSA declining to use its initiative to make new rules that could improve safety, but also that the NHTSA is actually defying congress by not passing regulations that it was expressly ordered to put in place.

The concern of the Senate Judiciary panel centers in part around a new mandate to require rear view cameras in all cars. The mandate was passed as far back in 2008 as part of a transportation safety act designed to make kids safer on the roads. The rearview camera requirement was promoted by lawmakers because more than 100 children under the age of five die each year in a backover accident when someone is backing out of a parking space, driveway or other location. With a rearview camera, these lives could be saved.  Unfortunately, the NHTSA has delayed five separate time to actually put the rear-view camera regulation in place. This delay also prompted a lawsuit to be filed in September.

Hopefully, the concerns of the senate coupled with the threat of legal action will lead the NHTSA to take the actions it is supposed to take to protect the public from auto accident risks.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a free case evaluation.

San Antonio Rollover Accident Important Reminder of the Dangers of Speeding in Trucks

Early this July, a San Antonio driver was reportedly speeding in his pickup truck when he took a curve on Terron Road and lost control of his truck near Roland, causing the vehicle to roll over. The truck was wrecked in the rollover accident, although fortunately there are no reports that anyone was seriously injured. The truck was the only vehicle involved in the crash.

The driver was arrested following the crash, with Fox San Antonio indicating that he may have been intoxicated. While his intoxication likely played a role in the accident, our San Antonio truck accident lawyers know that even sober drivers are prone to rolling over when they take curves too fast. This is especially true if the driver is operating a truck or SUV at the time of an accident.

Trucks Prone to Rollover Accidents

Rollover accidents occur when a vehicle starts to skid sideways and the car tips over.  These types of crashes are most likely to occur:

  • When a vehicle has a narrow track width, which refers to the distance between the left wheel and the right wheel of the vehicle.
  • When a vehicle has a high center of gravity.
  • When a vehicle is traveling at high speeds.
  • When a vehicle is traveling around curves.
  • When the roads are wet or slippery, affecting traction and increasing the chances of a vehicle skidding sideways.

Unfortunately, trucks, SUVS and minivans are the three types of vehicles most likely to be involved in rollover crashes. These types of vehicles are prone to rolling over as a result of the fact that the center of gravity is normally higher.

Those who carry heavy loads in their trucks may also exacerbate the risks associated with rollover crashes if they fail to balance their loads properly. While professional truck drivers are expected to ensure that their loads are balanced as part of the work they perform in delivering goods and materials, individuals with pickup trucks may be unaware of how to ensure that their vehicle loads are properly balanced.

The Dangers of Rollover Crashes

The San Antonio driver who was recently involved in the rollover crash was very lucky that he did not seriously injure himself or others. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has indicated that more than 10,000 people die each year as a direct result of rollover accidents, with many of the fatal crashes involving the driver of the vehicle being thrown or ejected. There are around 280,000 total rollover crashes each year, many of which are single car accidents that happen at night and that often involve males under the age of 25.  These rollover accidents often involve alcohol, as this recent crash likely did.

If the driver is found to have been intoxicated at the time of the rollover crash, he faces charges for driving under the influence. If he had injured any others in his rollover accident, he also would have been liable to the accident victims for injuries they sustained.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a free case evaluation.

Seat Belts Still Summer’s Best Bet for Avoiding Collision Injury

According to Time Business & Money, peak traffic ticket season is here and law enforcement is cracking down on violators who do not buckle their seat belts while in the car.  The two weeks surrounding Memorial Day are always a prime time for tickets to be issued as police step up enforcement of seat belt laws as part of the NHTSA’s National Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization Campaign. It likely signals what we know will be a long summer of traffic enforcement efforts.

Our San Antonio accident lawyers know that wearing a seat belt can help to prevent catastrophic injury or death in the event that an auto accident does happen. Since police are cracking down on seat belt violators, drivers and passengers now have even more reasons to buckle up: to avoid a ticket and to save a life. However, whether an accident victim was wearing a seat belt at time of collision has no bearing on whether a suit for damages should be pursued against the at-fault driver.

Police Focus on Enforcing Seat Belt Laws

According to Time Business, law enforcement will be focusing on enforcing seat belt laws at multiple times during the day and evening. However, drivers and passengers in cars at night tend to buckle up less often than during the day, so it is likely that more citations will be issued in the evening. Further, men between the ages of 18 and 34 are also the least likely to wear seat belts reliably every time they are in the car, so there may be more citations issued to people within this age group.

The idea behind the added enforcement and behind the National Seat Belt Enforcement Mobilization Campaign is to encourage drivers to get into the habit of buckling up. While some argue that the extra enforcement creates a police state or is simply an effort to generate revenue, the fact is that the focus of seat belt enforcement is safety. This is why there is also a public education program called Click It or Ticket, which goes along with the stepped-up citations.

Hopefully, when people either get a ticket or see that there is an increased chance of being cited, they will make an extra effort to be conscious about buckling their seat belts even for short trips or even when they are passengers in cars. Once drivers and passengers get more used to buckling their seat belts whenever they are in the car, they will ideally continue to do so even after the extra enforcement period has ended.

Making the choice to buckle up every time is a smart decision for everyone.

Of course, it is also important to be aware that your decision to wear a seat belt or not wear a seat belt should not have an impact on your ability to recover compensation if you are involved in a car accident that was caused by someone else. In fact, in a case called Nabors Wells Services LTD. v. Romero, Texas recently reaffirmed the long-standing rule that someone who caused a car accident could not reduce his liability by using the “seat-belt defense” against the injured victim.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a free case evaluation.

San Antonio Traffic Safety Watch: Teens Face High Risk for Summer Accidents

With car accidents the leading cause of death for young people, it is imperative that all parents read the new GHSA publication: “Promoting Parent Involvement in Teen Driving: An In-Depth Look at the Importance and the Initiatives.”

The GHSA report indicates that kids who see their parents as authoritative are as much as 70 percent less likely to drive while under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Teens with authoritative parents are also 50 percent more likely to wear seat belts while driving and 30 percent less likely to use a cell phone while behind the wheel. Our San Antonio, TX accident attorneys know that this makes a big difference in how safe teens are, especially as data shows that teens who see their parents as uninvolved are twice as likely to get into a car crash.

How Can Parents Help Teens to Avoid Accidents?

The best way for parents to help kids avoid car crashes is to understand the risks that young people face and to actively take steps to help your kids deal with those risks. According to the GHSA, some of the biggest factors that can affect whether a teen is safe while driving or not include:

  • Driving restrictions on teen drivers. In states with graduated licensing laws that impose practice requirements, limits on nighttime driving or limits on driving with passengers in the car, the risk of teen car accidents is reduced by as much as 20-40 percent. Parents should enforce not just legal restrictions imposed by the states but should also make their own rules about issues such as passengers in the car and drive time.
  • Teen seat belt use. Teens are less likely than other age groups to wear a seat belt every time they are in the car. Unfortunately, 58 percent of young drivers and 50 percent of young passengers killed in 2011 had no seat belts on at the time of the fatal car wreck. Parents should always require seat belt use. Parents should also buckle up themselves to set a good example.
  • Dangerous driving behaviors. There are three behaviors that account for around half of all accidents involving teen drivers. These behaviors are speeding, distracted driving and inadequate surveillance. Parents need to understand these dangers and make sure that teen drivers are aware of the risks.
  • Whether the teen is getting enough sleep. Drowsy driving is a major problem among teen drivers, with as many as one in seven drivers ages 16-24 admitting to falling asleep in the 30 days before taking a distracted driving survey.  Parents should talk to kids about drowsy driving and make sure that teens get plenty of sleep.

If parents are aware of these issues, if they set and enforce rules and guidelines and if they model good driving behavior, teens will be less at risk of dying from the leading cause of youth death. Not only that, but everyone else on the roads who could be hit by a teen driver will also be safer as a result.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.

Auto Accidents Increase Sharply In Eagle Ford Shale Region Of South Texas

Auto accidents in the Eagle Ford Shale region of Texas increased by 98 percent during a recent two-year period, raising concerns about road safety and the increased risk of serious Texas car accidents due to oil and natural gas development in the region.

Our San Antonio car accident lawyers were alarmed by the statistics released by Texas Department of Public Safety. According to the report published by MySanAntonio.com, the total number of motor vehicle crashes in Karnes, LaSalle and Dimmit counties increased by 98 percent between 2009 and 2011. And during that same time period in the same three Texas counties, the number of crashes involving commercial vehicles increased by 470 percent.

The report also cautions that other counties could be at risk of more auto accidents due to additional pending drilling permits. The other Texas counties at risk of more motor vehicle accidents include Dewitt, McMullen, Webb and Zavala.

The Eagle Ford Shale play in South Texas contains one of the world’s largest oil and natural gas reserves. The oil and gas industry there has produced numerous jobs. But our Eagle Ford Shale accident lawyers know that work-related injuries have been common, often due to exploratory drilling rig accidents and hydraulic fracking accidents.

Reports about disputes over wages and hours involving oil and gas workers are also common in the Eagle Ford Shale region.

But it’s the sharp rise in motor vehicle accidents in the region that has people extremely concerned. One recent accident in Karnes County involved a pickup driver who fell asleep and hit both an 18-wheeler and a school bus, according to MySanAntonio.com.

And the number of safety violations for commercial vehicles operating in the Eagle Ford Shale region has also skyrocketed in recent years. MySanAntonio.com reported:

…During a safety check last summer, many commercial trucks driving in the Eagle Ford region didn’t meet safety standards.

Last June during a 72-hour commercial-trucking safety event called “Roadcheck,” state troopers pulled over thousands of commercial vehicles across the state to look for driver and truck violations.

Counties in the Eagle Ford Shale region had particularly high rates of violations that took either the driver or the vehicle out of service, according to data requested by the San Antonio Express-News under the Texas Public Information Act.

If you or a loved one was injured in an Eagle Ford Shale accident or you are coping with a wage and hour case or other Eagle Ford Shale legal dispute, call The Herrera Law Firm, Inc. at 800-455-1054 to schedule a free case evaluation.

5 Teens Killed in Texas Car Wreck with Fuel Tanker

On March 13, USA Today reported the tragic story of five teenagers killed in a fiery car wreck on Sunday in a town 45 miles north of Amarillo Texas. The teens were in a Chevy pickup truck, which ran a stop sign. Their truck was then hit on the passenger side by a fuel tanker, leading to a fiery crash.

The five teenagers were killed at the accident scene. The driver of the fuel tank suffered burns over 90 percent of his body and was listed in critical condition. The accident, which caused so much loss, is a sad reminder of the dangers that teen drivers face. Unfortunately, as our San Antonio, TX auto accident lawyers know, there are thousands of deaths of young drivers each year. In fact, auto accidents are the top cause of death for 15-19 year olds.

Tankers, tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles continue to increase the risk of traffic collisions in San Antonio and the surrounding area.

The Collision with the Fuel Tanker

According to the USA Today, the teens’ vehicle ran the stop sign and collided with the fuel tanker. A Public Safety spokesman indicated that he did not yet know where the young people were going when the accident happened. He also indicated that the investigation was still underway into the accident and how the events unfolded.

Unfortunately, this accident was likely made so much worse because it involved a fuel tank. Fires as a result of auto accidents are very common, with a 2008 report by the  U.S. Fire Administration indicating that as many as 258,500 car fires occurred on highways between 2004 and 2006. The tanker truck gave fuel to the fire, resulting in a dramatic fiery blaze that killed the teens and seriously injured the tanker driver who now has burns on 90 percent of his body.

Burn injuries can be classified into degrees, with first degree burns the most mild and fourth degree burns often fatal. In any accident where serious burn injuries occur, permanent disfigurement is possible and expensive and difficult medical treatment may be necessary.

Tragically, the driver of the tanker will now be coping with the consequences of those burn injuries, including disfigurement. His losses and pain were a direct result of the collision.

Urging Kids to be Safer Drivers

As this Texas accident shows, the consequences of a teen making a bad driving choice can be far reaching and many lives can be shattered. All possible steps should be taken to avoid teen car accidents, including parents talking to their children regularly about safe driving behavior.

One major issue that increases the chances of teen accidents is when there are multiple passengers in the car with the teen driver. In this case, the driver had four friends in the vehicle.

It is too easy for young and inexperienced drivers to pay attention to their friends, or to be encouraged in dangerous behavior by their friends in the car. This significantly increases the risk of an accident occurring. As such, to help keep their kids safe, parents may wish to impose restrictions on the number of friends in the car with an unsupervised young driver.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.

Texas Driver Responsibility Program Causing Big Problems

In 2003, Texas passed a Driver Responsibility program in an effort to deter Texas residents from driving drunk, driving without insurance, driving with no license or committing certain other violations. The aim of the program was to impose large surcharges on drivers convicted of various offenses in order to act as a deterrent from engaging in dangerous driving behaviors. The surcharges were on top of standard fines, penalties and punishments.

Unfortunately, the Driver Responsibility Program has had some unintended consequences which may have actually made the roads of Texas less safe. Lawmakers are currently looking at what to do about the Program and about the problems created. Our San Antonio, TX accident attorneys hope that they are able to make a decision that makes Texas a safer place to drive.

The Driver Responsibility Program Problem

When the driver responsibility program was signed into law, it created a system whereby drivers convicted of designated traffic offenses would pay thousands of dollars in fines over a three-year period of time. The revenue generated was intended to support highway projects and to be paid to hospital trauma centers.

Unfortunately, according to Dallas News, more than 1.3 million drivers in Texas who were supposed to pay their surcharges are either unable to do so or are unwilling to do so. The problem that this creates is much larger than the fact that the state is simply not getting the revenue expected. The issue is that drivers who have not paid their fines have their driver’s licenses automatically suspended.

The result is that many of the more than one million residents who haven’t paid their fines may be driving without a driver’s license. In fact, the Dallas News article suggests that as many as 60 percent of all of the drivers who have been assessed a surcharge have lost their driver’s licenses as a result of nonpayment of the large fines.

Other data also indicates that the law isn’t working very well. For example, thousands of defendants who were accused of driving while intoxicated requested a trial in order to avoid the huge DWI surcharge. This led to prosecutors being forced to accept plea bargains for lesser offenses, such as reckless driving or public intoxication, instead of plea bargains for DWI convictions. The DWI conviction rate went down for drunk driving offenses and the dismissal rate for these offenses went up as a result.

Texas Streets May Be Less Safe

It seems clear from the data that the Driver Responsibility Program has not been a success and has had many negative unintended consequences.

More driver’s without licenses, for example, means that there are more drivers who cannot get auto insurance (you need a license to get insurance to drive). Uninsured drivers typically cannot pay for damages they cause if they are responsible for a crash. This leaves victims uncompensated. Further, a driver who gets into an accident with no license may be more likely to hit and run.

For all of these reasons, lawmakers are reconsidering the Driver Responsibility Program. Ten years after it passed, it is about time to take another look.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact the Herrera Law Firm at 800-455-1054 for a confidential consultation.