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Texas Personal Injury News

Friday, February 12, 2016

The Basics of Personal Injury Lawsuits


Under what circumstances, and how, do personal injury cases proceed?

Personal Injury cases are legal disputes arising from a circumstance in which one person suffers harm from an accident or injury and believes that someone else or some other entity (such as a corporation) is legally responsible for the resulting physical and emotional harm.

The vast majority of personal injury cases are settled out of court, either before a lawsuit is filed, once one has been filed, or even after the case goes to the judge or jury.

The Stages of a Personal Injury Case

The stages of a personal injury case may include some, or all, of the following: 

  • Attorney consultation to discuss details of case and to see if you two are a good fit
  • Filing initial court papers
  • Fact-finding and discovery, including getting information from the opposing team regarding physical evidence, witnesses, and medical data
  • Resolution before trial -- frequently there are Motions to Dismiss before trial
  • Settlement -- in most cases lawyers on both sides negotiate a settlement, sometimes a structured settlement
  • Trial -- if the case is not settled, it goes to trial
  • Collecting money after judgment
  • Appealing a decision or judgment

There may be a limited time frame after the injury occurs during which a personal claim may be filed.
Read more . . .


Saturday, January 30, 2016

How does the law define personal injury in terms of damage to prosthetic limbs?

Modern technology continues to force society to redefine its concepts. This is now becoming evident in the arena of personal injury. Traditionally, "personal injury" has referred to injury to the body, clearly understood to mean human tissue. All other damages were considered to affect "property." Today, however, as more and more prosthetics are coming into use, the distinction between the biological and the mechanical is becoming less and less clear.

 

A recent conference at the University of Oxford entitled "Human Enhancement and the Law: Regulating for the Future," focused on the legal ramifications of technological developments. At this conference it was postulated that "Legal responses to damage [of a prosthetic] that treat it simply as property damage may be inadequate." Many concerned professionals are working to expand the concepts of personal injury to include damage to prosthetics and other technological devices that are integrated into the human body.

Increasingly, prosthetic devices not only interface with body parts, but are fused to them, as in the case of osseointegration, a process in which a prosthetic is fused permanently to the bone marrow of an amputee. More and more, prostheses are being activated by electrical signals originating in the patient's own muscles, responsive in ways biological body parts would be. Neurotechnology is now capable of enabling users of prosthetic devices to control their bionic limbs mentally, as well as to receive sensory feedback from them.

In terms of the law, it is clear that changes will have to be made in how personal injury is defined in order to keep up with our changing world. When a prosthetic limb functions in the same way a biological limb does, it is difficult to maintain that an injury to the device is "property damage." In cases involving vehicular or workplace accident, medical malpractice or assault, it may soon become insufficient to charge those responsible with damaging property. Once damage to prosthetic devices is put into the category of personal injury, responsible parties will be subject to much harsher penalties and victims will be entitled to much greater compensation.

Though it may seem logical to include prosthetic devices under the umbrella of "body parts," there are several specific issues to be considered where law is concerned, such as:

  • Prostheses are not part of a person at birth
  • Prostheses are constructed of metal and plastic, not human tissue
  • Prostheses do not contain DNA
  • Prostheses are replaceable

Nonetheless, advocates of making changes to the definition of personal injury argue that prostheses become part of the human body, not only physically, technologically, and neurologically, but psychologically. As an adopted child becomes fully the "real" child of its adoptive parents, the prosthetic limb becomes a "real" part of the body. Its injury is nothing if not personal.

If you suffer a serious personal injury, whether to a natural or prosthetic part of your body, it is essential that you contact a skilled personal injury attorney to ensure that you receive the compensation to which you are entitled.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Problem With Teflon

Did DuPont cover-up the health risks associated with the manufacture of Teflon?

 

Teflon, a chemical commonly used in kitchen items, such as non-stick cookware, has been linked to some serious health issues. DuPont, the company that produces millions of pounds of Teflon every year, has been accused of hiding the health risks associated with the manufacturing of the chemical Perfluorooctanoic (PFOA), or C8, which is used to smooth the texture of Teflon.

 

At this time, there have been more than 3,500 private lawsuits brought against DuPont alleging that the company was negligent in it’s production of Teflon. C8 is a white powdery substance that easily mixes with the air. It has been found that most American’s have this chemical in their bloodstreams as a result of its common use in everyday items. But, residents of Ohio and West Virginia, where Teflon is manufactured, have been exposed to so much of the chemical that it has made them sick. Apparently, DuPont disposed of the product by burying it along the Ohio River, dumping it into the ocean and leaving it in so-called “non-hazardous” landfills in these states. 

 

The real problem is that it has been confirmed that the company knew of the dangers of C8 but allowed people to be exposed to it anyway. Testing in DuPont’s own labs showed evidence of the toxicity of C8 all the way back to the 1960s, but the company allowed the chemical to seep into the water and escape into the air anyway. Individuals started becoming ill and the ailments were eventually linked to exposure to this chemical.

 

So far, C8 been linked to testicular and kidney cancers, pregnancy-induced hypertension, ulcerative colitis, high cholesterol and thyroid disease. People began to sue in 2001 and a major class action lawsuit followed. The first of these cases has recently been decided after years of litigation and a jury found that DuPont was negligent in allowing the chemical to seep into a woman’s drinking water causing her to suffer from cancer. The EPA also sued DuPont after evidence of the widespread contamination surfaced.

 

Exposure to certain chemicals can cause serious health problems to occur. If you think that you may have been harmed due to a toxic substance, you should consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to determine if you are entitled to compensation.

 

 


Monday, January 25, 2016

Texas Personal Injury Laws

What are the laws specific to Texas concerning personal injury?

If you are considering a personal injury lawsuit in Texas, you should be aware of some of the Lone Star State's personal injury statutes that may affect your case. While there are relatively similar laws throughout the United States concerning personal injury, there are some differences from state to state and it is important to be aware of them.

Time Limits on Personal Injury Lawsuits

All states have statutory limits on personal injury claims, meaning that the time you have to go to court and file a lawsuit after you have suffered an injury is limited. This deadline is referred to as statute of limitations.

The statute of limitations for personal injury cases in Texas is 2 years from the date of the injury. You must file a lawsuit in the state's civil court system within these 2 years or the Texas civil court will almost certainly refuse to hear your case and you will have forfeited your right to compensation.

Shared Fault Rules

In certain personal injury cases, the individual or business you are suing argues that you are fully or partially responsible for the incident that resulted in your injuries. If your opponent can prove that you share some degree of liability, the amount of your compensation will be negatively affected.

If the court rules that fault is shared, Texas applies a "modified comparative negligence rule," meaning that the amount of your compensation will be decreased by the amount equal to the percentage of your fault in the incident. If you are found to be more than 50 percent responsible, you won't be able to collect anything from the other party.

Not only will all Texas courts follow this rule, but the rule of modified comparative negligence rule also comes into play during settlement negotiations.

Owner Liability for Animal Injuries

Texas has no specific laws governing liability for dog bites or other animal-inflicted injuries

In Texas, owners are held liable for injuries caused by an animal they own only if the injured individual can demonstrate that the owner knew, or should have known, that the animal was dangerous. Known as the “one bite” rule, this law means that, if the owner has had a dog (or other animal) for 10 years and the dog has never shown aggressive tendencies during that time, the first time the dog bites someone, the owner is off the hook. Once the dog has bitten someone, however, the owner has been forewarned and will be held responsible for the second offense.

Caps on Malpractice Injury Damages

 

In Texas, caps on damages only apply to medical malpractice cases. In most medical malpractice cases, for example, damage amounts meant to compensate for pain and suffering, as opposed to financial reimbursement for medical or rehabilitation costs, are limited to $250,000 for each plaintiff and $500,000 overall. Where such cases involve a wrongful death, however, the cap is adjusted for inflation so that, although it began at $500,000 in 1977, it has now reached $1.9 million.

Claims against the Government of Texas

In Texas, as in many other states, if your injury case involves government liability, there are further complexities involved. For one thing, in such cases, you must file a formal claim of intention to sue with the government unit you believe to be responsible for causing your injury before you can file the actual lawsuit. For another, you have only 6 months to file such a claim. The claim of injury must include a description of the damage or injury, the specific time and place of the incident, and a review of the circumstances that occurred.

Though it is certainly helpful to understand the legal underpinning of personal injury law in Texas, there is no substitute for hiring a skilled personal injury attorney. If you have suffered a personal injury, seek a law firm with the experience and know-how to handle your case while you concentrate on healing.


Monday, January 25, 2016

Pelvic Mesh Case Heads to TX Supreme Court

In November 2015, a Dallas appellate court reversed a $1.2 million jury verdict against Johnson & Johnson for allegedly designing a defective pelvic mesh product. The plaintiff subsequently filed a petition for review with the Texas Supreme Court. The overarching issue the Court will consider is what evidence is necessary to satisfy the "causation standard" in a product liability lawsuit related to an implanted medical device.

What are the facts in the pelvic mesh case in Texas?


It has been reported that the plaintiff has a "complex" medical history. She had claimed that the defendant, along with its subsidiary, Dallas-based Ethicon, manufactured a polypropylene mesh which caused her to be injured. The trial jury agreed and found that the medical product was defectively designed and awarded the plaintiff $1.2 million.

Johnson & Johnson appealed the judgment, arguing, among other things, that the trial court erroneously excluded all FDA evidence as well as evidence from independent physician organizations that contradicted the plaintiff’s theories of injury. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals agreed and ruled that the plaintiff must show that a specific defect in the product caused her injuries.

What is the history of pelvic mesh medical devices?


Pelvic mesh products were initially viewed as a significant technological improvement over traditional surgical methods. Those methods involved the use of stitches and a patient's own body tissue and had the potential for postsurgical complications. Mesh devices had already been widely used in other types of surgery for decades, particularly for repairing hernias.

Based on the successful history of other mesh devices, The Food and Drug Administration "fast-tracked" approval of pelvic mesh devices -- without conducting tests the agency normally requires for new devices. In 2002, the FDA cleared these soft, lightweight porous plastic devices for pelvic organ prolapse. The agency subsequently said in a 2008 public notice that problems were rare. In 2011 the agency reversed itself and said that most common problems occurred in 10 percent of women within one year of surgery.

In light of this finding, about a year ago, the FDA finally ordered a number of medical device manufacturers to conduct "rigorous" studies to determine the complication rates, over time, of surgical mesh.

What impact will the pelvic mesh case in Texas have on product liability?
In her petition, the plaintiff is asking the Supreme Court to clarify whether the appeals court accurately interpreted state common law to hold that a product liability plaintiff must isolate the cause of her injuries to a “specific defect” in a medical device case. The Supreme Court's decision will have a far- reaching impact on pelvic mesh product liability cases.

If you have been injured by a medical device, you should consult with a qualified attorney who can determine if you have grounds for a lawsuit.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

5 Ways to Know Whether You Will Need a Personal Injury Lawyer After a Refinery Accident

Workers in the oil field industry, refineries and chemical plants never know when they kiss their spouses and kids goodbye before leaving for their shift if that will be the last memory of them their family will ever have. It is a well-known fact that jobs in the oil field, refineries and chemical plants pay higher than average wages (even for unskilled workers!) because of the inherent dangers of the jobs.

The Numbers Don't Lie

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Texas led the nation from 2007 to 20011 in the number of on-the-job fatalities in the gas and oil field industries. During that five year period, 199 workers lost their lives trying to earn a living. Rounding out the top three were the neighboring states of Oklahoma in second place with 64 deaths, and Louisiana, with 62 fatalities, a close third.

Of course, there is a logical reason why the Texas death rate is so much higher than even its neighbors to the north and east that also have a heavy presence in the same industries. The sheer size of Texas means that, of necessity, there will be more jobs and more workers eager to fill them. These factors combine to produce a higher number of deaths than those in smaller states with fewer employees working in these same high risk industries.

The BLS report profiled the nationwide deaths of gas and oil field workers in 2011. Below are their findings.

  • 70 percent of the fatalities occurred to non-Hispanic white workers.
  • 100 percent of those who died on the job that year were male.
  • Nearly half of all deaths were attributable to some type of transportation accidents.
  • In 26 of the deaths, workers died after contact was made with equipment or objects, usually when the workers were hit by the objects or equipment.
  • Explosions and fires on the job killed a dozen workers in 2011.
  • Of the total of 112 fatalities in that calendar year, 19.4 percent were multiple fatalities where two or more employees died in the same industrial accident.

It doesn't have to be a fatal accident to derail a life

Certainly, fatal accidents take a terrible toll on the survivors, but plenty of workers suffer serious injuries that cause a greatly reduced quality of life. In addition, many are left unable to work again, or to work in the capacity at which they formerly did, thus significantly reducing their take-home pay and family's lifestyle.

There are typically more injuries than deaths when an accident or explosion occurs in the gas extraction and oil field industries. Citing statistics from 2011, the BLS estimates that there were 1,400 illnesses and injuries that occurred from accidents or on-the-job hazardous exposures. If those supportive industries that feed the petrochemical industry are included in the statistics, there were approximately 8,500 more illness and injuries. The drilling industry contributed another 2,600 more non-fatal illnesses and industries.

As you can see by the statistics, any given workday for those in the petrochemical and oil and gas industries can be fraught with danger. Just recently in the state of Louisiana, three died and two more suffered serious injuries after an explosion rocked an out of service natural gas plant located about an hour's drive from New Orleans in Gibson. One contractor had to be treated in the burn unit of a hospital in Baton Rouge.

In the immediate aftermath of a horrific injury, it can be difficult to ascertain whether it will be necessary for the injured parties to retain a personal injury attorney to represent their interests. Below are some criteria that can help you determine whether this will be in your best interests.

5 ways to know whether to hire a personal injury attorney after your at-work accident or injury

  • Was this a major explosion or accident where many were killed or injured? 

It is a journalistic cliche that "if it bleeds, it leads," but is a truism all the same. The media races to scenes of accidents at refineries and plants when there are mass casualties, broadcasting these human tragedies far and wide in the days and weeks that follow. In these type of cases, the companies that bear the brunt of the responsibility for the incident are thrust into the spotlight, making it harder for them to deny responsibility. In some cases, this is an incentive for them to tender fair settlement offers. But a personal injury lawyer can be helpful in high profile cases as well, as they tend to be complex, often with multiple defendants with differing degrees of liability.

  • Is there class action litigation filed regarding the injured workers? 

?You may qualify to join an already-filed class action lawsuit, or you may find that your interests are best represented separately by retaining your own attorney.

  • Are your injuries serious enough that you will be convalescing for an extended period of time in which you are unable to work and earn money? 

If so, Worker's Compensation payments may be woefully inadequate to meet your living expenses.

  • What is your own physician's (not the company doctor's) prognosis of your recovery, and will you need long-term or ongoing rehabilitative services? 

?If such is the case, any settlement offer must be enough to compensate you for future medical expenses you will otherwise have to pay out of pocket.

  • Are you getting the runaround from insurance adjusters, or are the at-fault parties attempting to deny responsibility? 

This is perhaps the biggest red flag of all. Any signs of corporate "passing the buck" is a sign that companies are trying to downplay their role in the accident that left you with serious and potentially disabling injuries. While all of these factors can point toward a need for you to obtain qualified representation from an experienced personal injury attorney, if you sense that company execs or insurance adjusters are shirking their responsibility to compensate you fairly for your injuries, don't delay.

At Chandler, Mathis & Zivley, our attorneys have been representing injured Texans for more than 40 years. We use our skills and expertise to hold corporations accountable for their injured workers. Call today for a free, confidential case assessment.

 

---

Sources:

http://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/osar0018.htm

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/three-killed-two-seriously-injured-louisiana-gas-plant-explosion-n441351


Monday, November 2, 2015

A Personal Injury Lawyer Can Pursue Reckless Teen Drivers for Damages


In the halls of high schools all over Texas, posters are going up advertising the schools' annual homecoming football games and dances. There is high drama over who is taking whom to the big dance, who will be crowned homecoming king and queen, and where all the best after-parties will be held. The yearly ritual is perhaps second in importance only to prom for the millions of high school teens who will be taking part in the fall festivities.

The dangers of the exuberance of youth

All this frantic activity means that there will be many high-spirited — but very inexperienced — young drivers out on the highways late at night. Inevitably, some of them will be imbibing illegally-obtained alcoholic drinks, but even for those who remain sober, their excitement and effervescence can bubble over into dangerous driving situations.


Read more . . .


Monday, October 26, 2015

Talk to a Car Accident Lawyer After a Wreck with a Texting Driver


Many of us have been guilty of it. We're heading down the highway at 70 mph, and our phone dings — a text. We know that we shouldn't, but what if it's work (or the kids, our significant other or the babysitter)? So we grab the phone, glance down at it quickly, then back up at the road. Maybe we shoot off a quick answer; even a short "yes," "no" or "LOL." If we are lucky, nothing terrible results.
Read more . . .


Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Do You Need a Wrongful Death Attorney After Losing a Loved One to a Chemical Plant Accident?

Texas is home to an incredible number of refineries and chemical plants. They dot the landscape in clusters all over the state, providing the jobs the workers need to support their families. In some communities, they are literally almost in the backyards of the residents.

We don't have to look too far back into Texas history to find a catastrophic occurrence at one of these plants. It was only a little over two years ago that a powerful explosion occurred in West, Texas, at a fertilizer plant. The blast injured hundreds, killed 15 individuals and leveled scores of schools, homes and one nursing home.

Federal and corporate response to the disaster

After the fire and subsequent explosion at West Fertilizer Company, the president issued an Executive Order for the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency and Homeland Security to devise more effective safety measures to implement at these types of plants. But the responsibility does not end with the federal government to safeguard the workers and those living among and in close proximity to the plants that are the lifeblood of the Texas economy.

The corporate owners of these plants bear the brunt of the responsibility to make sure that these facilities are run as safely as possible. In turn, they must task the operations managers, safety men and supervisors to galvanize their crews to keep safety first and foremost to avert future disasters.

After the explosion at the fertilizer plant, researchers from Greenpeace located 473 plants around the country that could potentially jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of not only their workers, but others living and working in the vicinity. Even scarier, of that total, 89 facilities posed a risk for more than a million residents who lived as far as 25 miles away, but were downwind of the plants. Most frightening of all, Greenpeace estimated that one of every third person in the United States had a risk of harm from toxic chemical releases from plants.

Where the risk arises

Disasters can begin in myriad ways. Fires are sparked by something as fearsome as a lightning strike or as mundane as a worker's forbidden cigarette. Improperly stored, mixed or maintained dangerous chemicals can result in explosions of toxic gases that can travel miles, sickening all who breathe in the airborne poisons. A poorly trained employee handling highly volatile substances can pose an enormous safety hazard and liability for a company.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has standards for the way these toxic materials must be handled in the plants. They include:

  • Storing hazardous chemicals in a designated area a minimum of 100 feet from surface waters.
  • Storing chemicals downwind of any homes in the vicinity and on a planed area that does not flood.
  • Never stacking chemical containers or storing them above eye level.
  • Keeping chemicals out of direct sunlight.
  • Elevating chemical storage containers off of the ground. 

Workers, residents all share considerable risk

If you or a loved one work in one of these plants, you already know there are many dangers that can erupt in a moment's notice if the proper safety procedures are not followed. Workers injured on the job have the Worker's Compensation system to fall back on after a mishap occurs. Depending on the severity of the injuries and the treatment that is rendered, the settlement from Worker's Comp may be sufficient. In many cases, however, injured workers and the family members who rely on them may be forced to seek additional compensation through the Texas civil courts.

But those who are in harm's way during a fire, explosion or toxic gas release due to the close proximity of their homes, schools and communities don't have the Worker's Compensation to turn to. Instead, they are dependent on the corporate owners of the hazardous plant to make it right for them with a settlement offer.

As was observed following the Deepwater Horizon Macondo blowout and massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, parent company BP and their co-defendants faced criticism for denying damage claims and underpaying claimants even when lives and livelihoods were at risk and, in many cases, still disrupted.

Wrongful death suits force accountability

There is no question that there can be no dollar sum sufficient to replace the loss of a spouse, sibling or child to grieving families after an industrial accident occurs. There will still be that empty side of the bed, missing chair at family dinners, a little less laughter and joy in the room. When a senseless death occurs as a result of negligent acts or a series of safety protocols left undone, there is no way to undo what was done.

What we at Chandler, Mathis & Zivley can do is hold these corporate entities liable for the economic damages, pain, suffering and losses by taking civil action against them in the Texas courts. By filing a wrongful death lawsuit against the negligent parties, we fight for settlements and judgments for our bereft clients. It won't bring their loved ones back, but it can give them a financial cushion that can make life a little easier, especially if it was the breadwinner who was killed.

But there is actually another reason to hire a wrongful death attorney to go after chemical plants and refineries who bear responsibility for these deaths. By making defendants ante up a financial settlement when their lack of oversight causes an explosion or toxic release, it incentivizes these plants to keep a tight rein on safety procedures and policies. Forcing them to accept economic responsibility for their actions encourages a climate of safety to prevail in these plants. This, in turn, increases workers' safety and the safety of those who live and work around the plants.

Reaching out for help can be hard

Grief can be paralyzing, making it difficult to take the necessary actions to initiate a wrongful death suit after a catastrophic accident occurs. However, due to statutory limitations for filing wrongful death claims, inaction can be a costly mistake to make. 

When you reach out to our wrongful death attorneys, we know exactly what to do and the time frame in which we need to do it. You can put your trust in our experienced and capable legal team. We will take it from here. We will file your claim, launch our own fact-finding mission, retain experts that can demonstrate exactly the way the safety protocols failed and cost your loved one his or her life. We will always treat you and the memory of your beloved family member with the utmost compassion and respect.

Don't wait until it is too late to seek a legal remedy against a chemical plant or refinery for its safety breaches. Call us today for a confidential case evaluation. We are here for you.

 

Sources:

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2014/04/west-texas-hazardous-chemical-map

http://smallbusiness.chron.com/osha-standards-chemical-plants-45732.html


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

10 Things a Wrongful Death Attorney Wishes You Knew


If a family member has suffered as a result of personal injury or wrongful death, bringing a cause of action is not necessarily about personal gain. The individuals or businesses deemed responsible for the wrongful death are often forced into action to prevent the deaths of others, even if they’ve settled out of court. 

Here are some things you should know about personal injury and wrongful death cases.
Read more . . .


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Ask a Car Accident Lawyer: Are Senior Drivers More Likely to Cause a Collision?

Being able to drive gives senior citizens autonomy and allows them to remain active longer in their communities. Retaining a valid Texas driver's license lets elderly citizens get to and from medical appointments, the grocery store, worship services and other activities. Driving not only keeps them from burdening friends or family members in order to get where they need to go, but it is an integral part of their identity — a competent, licensed driver.

But are older drivers more of a safety risk behind the wheel? The answer might surprise you.

What the numbers say

According to statistics supplied by the United States Census Bureau, there were approximately 30 million senior citizens 70 or older living in America in 2013. This group comprises about a tenth of the nation's total population. Federal Highway Administration reports from the same year indicate that there were more than 23 million senior citizens over 69 who were licensed drivers. Of that age range, seniors who still legally drive made up 78 percent of that group. One factor that is likely to increase the propensity for driving among senior citizens is the death of a spouse or a late-in-life divorce. Conversely, retiring has the opposite effect; seniors tend to drive fewer miles when they no longer work.

Overall, today's senior citizens are electing to drive longer than they have in past decades. This could be because of several factors. As a group, they are living longer and enjoying better health farther into their golden years due to medical advances. Also, more men and women in the 70-and-older group have been in possession of drivers' licenses for the majority of their lives, unlike many of the same age only a few decades ago.

In the years between 1997-2012, there was a 30 percent uptick in licensed drivers over 69. Yet the rate of drivers aged 70 and up who were involved in a fatal collision between those same years actually decreased more than the rates for drivers between 35 and 54. Some possible reasons for this include:

  • Data suggests that those 70 and older drive less than their younger counterparts. Senior drivers travel 45 percent fewer miles than those licensed drivers 35 to 54 years old. Shorter trips and less time spent behind the wheel results in fewer opportunities to be involved in an auto accident.
  • Some studies indicate that those older than 64 impose their own restrictions on driving due to declining health, vision, memory and mobility. Senior citizens may choose to only drive during daylight hours, drive solely on the surface streets and avoid driving at all in inclement weather.

Where the problem lies

One of the ironic characteristics of cognitive impairment is that often those with a significant degree of memory loss, or indications of the onset of dementia, fail to recognize these signs and symptoms in themselves. Some cognitively-impaired senior citizens continue to drive long after it is no longer safe for them or others on the road. Those who live alone and have no family members around to monitor their driving are at the highest risk for unsafe driving behaviors.

It is important to understand that age alone does not determine a senior citizen's ability to drive. There are some healthy seniors in full possession of their mental faculties who continue to drive without incident well into their 80s. Alternatively, there are drivers in their early 60s whose mental and physical conditions make them true hazards on the road. 

Because there is no specific criterion to determine who should no longer be driving, it's important to understand how the aging process impacts one's driving abilities.

As people age, they become less flexible. Body parts don't move as smoothly or as quickly as they do in younger folks. Aging diminishes both coordination and strength, which can have serious repercussions behind the wheel.

5 consequences of aging

  • Leg pain or stiff knees can make it harder to switch the foot quickly from the gas pedal to the brake when seconds count.
  • Reduced mobility in the neck can make it impossible to glance over the shoulder to check for clearance when changing lanes. Even looking right and left at intersections to check for oncoming cars, pedestrians and cyclists can be challenging.
  • When reaction times are slowed by even tenths of a second, failing to note that vehicular traffic ahead has slowed, another car is merging or a child has darted out into the street can have tragic consequences.
  • Weakness in the arms and wrists can make it difficult to quickly turn the steering wheel to avert disaster. 
  • Multitasking becomes harder with age. Monitoring the road, weather conditions and the movements of pedestrians and other vehicles may become overwhelming to some older drivers.

Texas license renewal policies

The state of Texas acknowledges that, over a relatively short period of time, there can be substantial changes in an older driver's abilities to safely operate a motor vehicle. As such, there are some licensing restrictions in place for older drivers to prevent those who are no longer mentally or physically able to drive from renewing their licenses. Additionally, during the driver's license renewal process, drivers of any age whose demeanor, behavior or appearance raises red flags to agency personnel may be required to provide additional evidence to substantiate their fitness to drive.

This may include retaking all or some of the licensing examinations. Drivers who have a sketchy history of accidents or past driving violations, and those whose dangerous driving behaviors may have been red-flagged to the agency, might face closer scrutiny before a renewal is granted. Even when a license is renewed, certain restrictions may be put in place. They may include:

  • Daylight driving only
  • Driving only to specific locations
  • Driving only within stated boundaries

The liability is clear

Nobody wants to deprive senior citizens of their independence, but when older drivers demonstrate that they are no longer competent to drive, they become both a deadly hazard and a legal liability on Texas roads. Accident victims who sustain injuries and property damages in collisions with at-fault senior drivers have a legal right to pursue a claim for damages through the Texas civil courts.

After an auto accident, medical bills mount quickly. Traumatic brain injuries and multiple fractures can require months of rehabilitation from physical and occupational therapists, and many accident victims will never fully recover from the injuries they suffered. To return to at least a semblance of your pre-collision life, you will likely need to retain a Texas car accident lawyer to best represent your interests.

The dedicated attorneys at Chandler, Mathis & Zivley stand ready to assist our clients in pursuing justice. For over 40 years, we have maintained a strong and unblemished legal record in East Texas and Houston. If you have being injured in an at-fault wreck with another driver, we can help. Contact us to schedule your free consultation.


Sources:

http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/older-drivers/qanda#cite-text-0-3

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/aging-well/age-and-driving-safety-tips.htm



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