Houston-area cops are cracking down on speeders

Houston auto accident attorney

Everyone knows that speeding is dangerous, even those who speed, but some drivers are willing to take that risk in order to reach their destination “faster.” Other drivers are under the impression that their speeding will never cause a crash, but national figures speak for themselves.

In 2018, almost 10,000 people were killed in speed-related crashes across the United States, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In addition, speeding was a factor in one-third of all traffic fatalities over the past two decades.

In Texas, speeding was a factor in:

  • 670 rural crashes — 88 of which were fatal
  • 2,275 urban crashes — 219 of which were fatal

Where most speeders got tickets

In response, the Texas Department of Public Safety has begun cracking down on speeders in the Houston area, according to the Houston Chronicle. In July alone, nearly 2,000 speeding tickets were issued by law enforcement officers throughout Harris, Chambers, Brazoria, and Galveston counties. The majority of speeding citations were issued on:

  • Highway 288 in Brazoria County — 316 tickets
  • Interstate 10 in Chambers and Harris counties — 241 tickets
  • Interstate 45 in Galveston and Harris counties — 137 tickets
  • Farm-to-market Road 1960 in Harris and Brazoria counties — 129 tickets
  • U.S. 290 in Harris County — 103 tickets

Risk factors in speed-related crashes

Speeding increases the likelihood of a fatal crash due to:

  • Increased risk of losing control of your car
  • Reduced effectiveness of airbags and seatbelts in a collision
  • Reduced time and increased distance to stop when a collision is imminent
  • Increased crash severity

Despite knowing the risks, why do drivers speed? According to the NHTSA, speeding is often driven by:

  • Aggressive driving caused by traffic congestion
  • A driver running late
  • Anonymity or detachment from surroundings
  • Habitual aggressive driving and disregard for the law or other road users
  • Drowsy driving
  • Being under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol

When these drivers fail to acknowledge the potential consequences of the risks they take, their actions can result in someone’s injury or death. Luckily, those who are impacted by speed-related crashes have legal options available to them. So, if you or a loved one was hurt in a crash caused by a speeding driver, it is critical that you take immediate action.

Consulting with an experienced Houston car accident attorney is a crucial step in pursuing a strong legal claim against the at-fault driver and his or her insurance company. The legal team at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law knows how to get results. We can help you maximize your compensation, so you can focus on recovery. To learn more, contact us online today and schedule your free case evaluation.

Houston car accident lawyers weigh in on the lack of commercial truck law enforcement

Houston truck accident attorneyLarge commercial trucks are an absolute necessity to the economy in Texas, but they can be dangerous when sharing the road with drivers of smaller cars or other road users. With a fully-loaded trailer, a commercial truck can weigh as much as 80,000 pounds and can take up to the length of two football fields to stop when traveling at 65 mph.

Dangers of limited enforcement

A booming economy in Houston and other Texas communities, while good for business and residents, brings in more heavy commercial vehicles, which means more potential accidents.

Commercial trucks are causing damage to Houston’s roads, crashing on highways and injuring motorists, and creating traffic problems and noise concerns for Texas residents.

Some roadways lack the infrastructural capacity to handle large commercial trucks. When these massive vehicles use these roads, they often leave behind large potholes, cracked concrete, and damaged shoulders – all of which put every day road users at risk of being injured in a crash.

Compliance is the answer, according to experts and lawmakers who are working to bring change when it comes to heavy-truck inspections and enforcement.

In Austin, legislators filed eight bills related to commercial vehicle inspections granting specific police or sheriff’s departments the authority to enforce trucking rules.

The Houston Police Department’s Truck Enforcement Unit offers a free program to commercial businesses that employ commercial vehicle drivers. Police also perform safety inspections throughout Houston but not every community can enforce these laws yet.

According to the Houston Chronicle, a bill filed last week by State Rep. Gina Calanni would allow local law enforcement to apply for a “certification to enforce commercial vehicle standards for overweight trucks” that pass through their city limits. Similar legislation has passed in previous sessions.

The Texas Department of Public Safety is currently the only law enforcement agency authorized to enforce overweight commercial vehicle safety standards. Calanni’s bill includes several conditions for communities that apply.

Fewer state troopers on the streets have contributed to truck accidents as well, said State Rep. Terry Canales, chairman of the State House Transportation Committee.

According to the Chronicle, lawmakers are lined up to approve the requests but remain skittish. Granting cities commercial truck oversight could, some fear, make some municipalities speed traps for trucks. So, they are taking enforcement requests on a case-by-case basis.

What you can do in the event of a crash

Victims of Houston truck accidents caused by commercial vehicles have recourse. If you’ve been injured in a crash, you need an experienced attorney on your side fighting for you every step of the way. Truck accidents can be complex and overwhelming but the legal team at Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law, have a wealth of legal knowledge and the competitive edge to take on trucking companies and their insurers. Don’t wait. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

5 Things to Expect in the Days Following a Crash

Houston auto accident attorneyIf you have a driver’s license, you likely know the standard procedures to follow after a crash: exchange insurance information, call the police, get medical attention and report the crash to your insurance company. What about the aftermath of a crash? Even after following the standard procedures, pursuing a car accident claim can be complicated and overwhelming.

That’s why it’s important to know what to expect in the days that follow. Here’s what you should know.

1. You may be in shock

You may feel absolutely nothing after a crash. If your crash was serious, the feeling as if nothing happened may be unsettling. This is actually quite normal and often a result of being in shock. A crash can traumatic. You may have adrenaline running through your body, making it difficult to process what just happened.

2. Physical and emotional stress after the shock wears off

Once the shock begins to wear off, you may experience a wave of physical and emotional stress. In addition, emotions such as anger, pain, guilt, and even fear of driving may begin to surface. In time, this can turn into physical pain, especially if you sustained an injury that didn’t produce any immediate symptoms. Delayed reactions such as this is why you should always seek immediate medical attention after a crash.

3. A long list of things to do

The days after a crash can be messy. You have paperwork to handle, medical appoints to schedule, and insurance red tape to deal with. In addition, your car may need to be towed to an automotive shop for repair. While some shops may provide you with a loaner car, not all do. You may have to be issued a rental car from your insurance company, which could cost you upfront money out of pocket until you are reimbursed.

4. The other driver’s insurance company will contact you

It’s inevitable. You will receive a call from the other driver’s insurance company. They may either be pushy and try to pin the blame on you, or they may be friendly and try to offer to a small settlement. They are not your friend and are only looking to protect their own bottom line. They know that they can save more money in the long run if you take a lowball settlement. They’ll ask you trick questions in hopes that you’ll provide answers that can later be used against you.

It’s important that you refrain from speaking to them. The only insurance company you should speak to is your own, and even then, the details you provide should be minimal. If the insurance companies have any further questions, an experienced car accident attorney can answer on your behalf.

5. You will need legal representation

Car accident claims are highly complex and often create further stress for crash victims. Having a highly-skilled attorney in your corner can help ease some of that stress.

The only thing you have to do is set up your free case evaluation with Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law. Contact us to schedule one today.

6 Pieces of Evidence to Collect After a Car Wreck

Houston auto accident attorneyToo many people attempt to pursue a car accident claim without first gathering important evidence after a car wreck – especially when it’s not a catastrophe. Even a minor fender bender can result in whiplash or some other injury that may not produce any immediate symptoms. That’s why it’s critical that you always collect these six recommended pieces of evidence after a crash. They can be helpful when it comes time to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party and his or her insurance company.

Information from the other parties involved in a crash

Taking down the names and phone numbers of all parties involved in a crash is essential but there is more information you should get, including the other person’s address, license number and car registration. You should always exchange insurance information, including policy numbers.

Details of other vehicles involved in a crash

Always gather information on the other car. Document the year, make and model; license plate number; and VIN number. The VIN can be found where dashboard and windshield meet.

Information regarding the responding law enforcement officer

Always call the police after a crash, even if it’s just a fender bender. Document the officer’s name and badge number and ask him how you can obtain the crash report. This document highly sought after in car accident claims and can help you in the long run.

Crash scene photos

If it’s safe to do so, you should always take photos of the crash scene from different angles. Be sure to snap pictures of car locations, skid marks in the road, and any damage to nearby buildings or structures.

Statements from witnesses

Witness statements are very helpful in car accident claims. If there are any witnesses available at the scene of a crash, take down their names and phone numbers.

Details of the crash scene

While at the crash scene, it’s important to document specific information regarding the location, directions in which cars were traveling and situated, the road and weather conditions, and other factors that may have lead to the crash. You may take note of these details or take photos and videos. If a police officer arrives at the crash scene, he or she will also document these details in the crash report.

You’ve followed all the recommended steps. Now what?

So you were involved in a crash and followed all the recommended steps. Now there are only two people you should share the evidence with: your insurance company and an experienced Houston car accident attorney. You are required to report your crash to your insurance company within a certain time frame but only provide the required details. Everything else should be discussed with your attorney.

Let the legal team at Smith and Hassler Attorneys at Law handle your claim. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation and operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay if you win. Contact us today to learn more.

3 People to Talk to After a Car Wreck — and the 2 People to Avoid

Houston auto accident attorney

Following a car wreck, figuring out the people you may have to talk to can be confusing and overwhelming. The people you discuss your crash with seem friendly and trustworthy, but how do you know who is really looking out for your best interests? More importantly, how do you know who to trust — and who to avoid?

Our Texas car accident lawyers recommend the three people you should talk to after a crash, as well as the people you should not speak to.

Who you MUST talk to

Your insurance company

Under the terms of your auto insurance policy, you must promptly notify your insurance company of a collision, even if you are not planning on making a claim with your own insurance company. Stick to the facts, but be cautious not to provide too many details, because anything you say could be used against you to reduce compensation or deny your claim. If possible, speak with an attorney before contacting your insurance company.

The police

Even if you were involved in a minor crash, it’s always a good idea to call the police. An officer will examine the scene and provide a non-biased police report, which is absolutely key to pursuing a successful car accident claim. A police officer will make sure any on-scene disputes are settled and all parties are treated fairly.

Your doctor

When pursuing a personal injury claim after a car wreck, a consultation with your doctor can make a big difference. Even if you feel OK after a crash, you should always seek medical attention. Conditions that don’t produce any immediate symptoms can still be serious. Most commonly, the symptoms of whiplash and concussions may take time to materialize. One of the biggest mistakes people make is believing they can just walk it off. Not only can immediately consulting with a doctor prevent a lot of future complications, it can connect your injuries to the crash, which is key to being compensated for medical bills.

Who you should NOT to talk to

DON’T talk to the other driver

We’re not suggesting that you ignore the other driver after a crash. You must trade your insurance information, name, and phone number with the other driver. It is important, however, not to discuss details as to why the crash occurred. You could slip up and say the wrong thing, which can later be used against you.

Even if a crash appears to be your fault, or involved some contributory negligence, only a thorough investigation can determine the cause.

DON’T talk to the other insurance company!

One of the biggest mistakes people make after a crash is talking to the other driver’s insurance company. They will likely contact you and may pretend to be on your side. These tactics are meant to convince you to say the wrong thing, which can later be used to hurt your claim. They may also try to get you to accept a settlement offer, which only covers a small portion of your medical expenses and lost wages. Don’t fall for it.

It’s best to not talk to the other driver’s insurance company at all. If they try to contact you or ask you any questions, it’s important that you first consult with an attorney.

The person you should ALWAYS talk to!

The experienced Texas car accident lawyers at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law can make sure you meet all your insurance form deadlines and help you find the right doctor. They’re also the best line of defense against harassment and unfair accusations of negligence from the other driver’s insurance company. Just refer them to your car accident attorney from Smith and Hassler, and we’ll handle the rest.

Legal services at Smith and Hassler are free unless we win your case. Our payment comes out of your settlement – there are no out-of-pocket costs.

Don’t hesitate. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Attorneys on How a Change in Driving Culture Can Prevent Accidents

Houston auto accident attorneyAs part of its Out of Control series, the Houston Chronicle cites 640 deaths and 2,850 injuries on Houston-area roads in 2017. The staggering number of devastating crashes is attributed to a culture of “speed and convenience” that sees traffic accidents as an acceptable norm.

Dangerous driving behavior doesn’t always involve driving under the influence of alcohol or taking outrageous risks on the road. In most cases, it involves cumulative habits of inattentiveness and failing to comply with traffic laws often deemed trivial.

Most drivers who have developed poor habits behind the wheel are under the impression that a serious crash will never happen to them. Many of them have been driving distracted or ignoring traffic laws for years without any issues.

According to a “Traffic Safety Culture” survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 2017, nearly 45 percent of respondents admitted to reading text messages or emails while driving within the past 30 days. Moreover, nearly 35 percent admitted to sending text messages or emails while driving during the same time period.

It should be of no surprise that the survey also found that more than more than 21 percent of participants reported having been in a traffic accident in which at least one party had to go to the hospital. More than 11 percent were seriously injured themselves.

In 2018, the greater Houston area saw a 20 percent reduction in traffic fatalities, most notably due to programs that addressed driver awareness, quicker responses to highway accidents, and a decline in impaired driving.

In order to continue this upward trend, the Chronicle article suggests the following driving practices:

  • Paying attention to driving only
  • Reducing speed around potential hazards and blind corners
  • Maintaining a safe following distance from other vehicles
  • Looking out for pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Pulling over and taking a rest if drowsy
  • Wearing seat belts
  • Driving sober

In addition to practicing these safety habits, motorists should develop a new mindset towards driving. Rather than accept that accidents will simply happen, drivers can focus on what they can do to keep our roads safer.

Unfortunately, the message won’t reach everyone. There will always be some drivers who will continue to engage in distracted behavior, drug and alcohol impairment, and overall recklessness. That doesn’t mean you should have to pay for the negligent actions of others.

If you or a loved one sustained injures in a crash, don’t wait to act. An experienced Houston auto accident attorney at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law would be glad to sit down with you and discuss your legal options. To learn how we can help, contact us today.

Houston DUI Crash Kills Lyft Passenger in Clear Lake

Our attorneys break down the legal implications

Houston auto accident attorneyAt around 1 a.m. on Friday, March 1, a passenger in a Lyft vehicle was killed in a car crash that also left the Lyft driver in a coma, according to ABC 13.

The crash occurred when a motorist driving a gray Dodge truck hit the rear of another, smaller, pickup truck, kept going through an intersection and slammed into the Lyft vehicle. The passenger in the rear of the Lyft car was killed instantly – less than five miles from his home – and the driver was severely injured.

The driver of the Dodge truck was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. According to investigators, he failed a field sobriety test.

While this tragic wreck is still being investigated, it raises important questions about legal liability in complex car crashes.

In situations such as this one, the bar can be held liable

According to ABC 13, the driver who caused the accident told officers that “he was pounding tequila shots” at a bar within seven miles of the crash scene. This type of wreck is exactly why bars and restaurants are legally required to “cut off” or refuse to serve patrons who are obviously intoxicated.

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code includes a “dram shop” statute; that is, a provision to hold establishments legally responsible for injuries caused by over-consumption of alcohol among their patrons. Under the dram shop statute, it must be proven that the drunk driver was obviously intoxicated to the extent they were a danger to themselves or others and were still sold alcohol. These claims are subject to comparative negligence – for example, if a jury finds that the bar was 60 percent responsible for the accident, then the bar will be held responsible for 60 percent of the damages (financial compensation) awarded in a personal injury or wrongful death claim.

Proving that an establishment failed to follow proper safety protocols in a “dram shop” case is a fairly high bar to clear. In this case, it is apparent that the bar in question has a recent history of negligence – in June 2018, its license was temporarily suspended after a Houston police officer was hit by a driver who had allegedly been over-served alcohol at the bar. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon in dram shop cases. Many bars have a known history of overserving patrons but fail to make a change until it’s too late – and someone is seriously injured or killed.

The ride-share situation complicates matters in this accident

In this example, both victims were in a ride-share vehicle – the man killed was a Lyft passenger, and the Lyft driver was left in a coma. Ride-share services, because they use drivers’ personal vehicles, can become complex from an insurance perspective. Specifically, most personal auto insurance policies do not cover drivers who are “driving for profit,” which generally includes ride-share drivers.

Ride-share services, such as Lyft, carry supplemental insurance that covers drivers when they are involved in accidents not covered by their personal insurance. There is sometimes confusion over which coverage applies – for example, if an accident occurs when a driver is using the Lyft app but is not actively picking up or transporting a passenger. In this case, because a Lyft passenger was physically in the driver’s vehicle when the wreck occurred, it is likely that any applicable coverage that Lyft carries should be available to the victims.

The best course of action is to call an experienced attorney

Our hearts break for the families of the victims of this wreck. No one should have to suffer a serious injury or lose a loved one due to negligence or recklessness.

These kinds of wrecks are exactly why it’s so important to hold negligent drivers and businesses accountable. Establishments that serve alcohol have a responsibility to their patrons and the public to monitor their patrons’ level of intoxication and follow safety protocols. Texans who choose to drink alcohol have a responsibility to make safe decisions, including calling a cab or asking for a ride instead of getting behind the wheel.

Victims of wrecks caused by negligence have recourse through the civil justice system. No lawsuit can bring back a lost loved one, nor truly bring back what was lost after a severe or permanent injury. That said, recovering compensation for a deadly accident can make it easier for families to rebuild. It also sends a strong message that negligence has consequences here in Texas and helps to prevent other families from being similarly harmed.

If you or a loved one was injured in an accident caused by a drunk driver, Smith & Hassler, Attorneys at Law can help. We would be honored to meet with you for a free consultation.

Attorneys Offer Best Ways to Avoid Crashes Caused by Road Debris

Houston auto accident attorneyYou don’t always see it coming. Objects, small and large, laying in Houston’s roadways that simply don’t belong there. Road debris can include small metal objects that cause tire blowouts. They can also be larger objects that obstruct traffic – causing drivers to stop abruptly or swerve.

Road debris, a growing danger

ABC 113 Eyewitness News reports that road debris is a growing problem in Houston. Robert Henry, a member of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) road debris cleanup crew, says, “Daily, we pick up anywhere between 2 to 5 cubic yards of material.”

Cleanup crews have found furniture, kids’ items, household appliances, tires and tire treads. Within the last six months, several traffic accidents or near accidents were attributed to road debris.

AAA reports that from 2011-2014, road debris was a contributing factor in over 200,000 traffic accidents, with 39,000 injuries, and 500 fatalities.

In order to stay clear of road debris, TxDOT and AAA suggest that drivers:

  • Remain alert, avoid distracted driving, and keep both hands on the wheel
  • Maintain a safe following distance of at least 2-3 cars, in case debris falls off a vehicle
  • Don’t swerve or over-correct – this is the cause of almost 37% of road-debris related fatal crashes

Who can be held accountable in crashes related to road debris?

In many cases when debris is dropped on Houston roadways, the owner of the vehicle is unaware of it and continues driving. When an item falls out of the back of another vehicle, it can strike the vehicles that follow. Some objects can even pierce through the windshield and injure vehicle occupants. In this case, the vehicle and driver can be identified and held accountable for improperly loading cargo.

If debris is left on the road for a long period of time without a known source, the local or state municipality in charge of clearing debris from the road may be responsible. Municipal negligence only applies if the debris was already identified but nothing was done to clear it.

If you have been involved in an auto accident due to road debris, it’s important to speak to an experienced Houston attorney who knows how to handle complex cases such as yours. Identifying where negligence occurred may take some digging. This includes extracting evidence from a detailed police report, witness statements, and possibly surveillance camera footage.

Let the legal team at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law work for you. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Our Attorneys Discuss Rear-End Accidents & Whiplash

Houston auto accident attorneyAmong the most common types of car accidents are rear-end collisions. Often, these crashes are caused by distracted driving and speeding. The resulting collision can leave victims injured. The most common injuries are whiplash, pinched nerves, and fractured vertebrae. 

The symptoms of whiplash may not appear until days after a collision. This makes it crucial to document a rear-end accident thoroughly and seek immediate medical attention, even if it appears minor. This will provide you with a record of how your crash occurred and the injuries you sustained, which can later be used to support your claim.   

What is whiplash?

Whiplash happens when the spinal cord’s normal curvature experiences a sudden change, such as the rapid backward and forward movement seen in a rear-end accident. Even in low speed collisions, this movement can damage joints, muscle tissue, and tendons. In severe accidents, whiplash can fracture bones and tear muscle tissue. Nerves are likely to get pinched between bones, causing pain to spread to other parts of the body. 

What are the symptoms?

Whiplash is experienced differently by everyone, even people in similar accidents. Multiple factors are at play, including the position the victim was sitting in, their physique, and the angle of the collision. You should visit a doctor soon after being involved in any auto accident, even if you feel fine. Signs of whiplash can potentially be delayed by weeks. Symptoms include:  

  • Tightness and spasms in the neck, back, and shoulders 
  • Dizziness (also a symptom of a concussion) 
  • Pain when moving neck and/or head 
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, and hoarseness when speaking can be symptoms of damage to the throat  
  • Burning, tingling, and other abnormal sensations 
  • Upper back pain  

Treatment options 

When visiting a doctor following a rear-end accident, there are multiple tools at their disposal to diagnose injuries. X-rays can locate bone fractures and a herniated disc or other significant ligament injuries can be found using a CT scan or MRI. With proper treatment, most cases of whiplash result in a full recovery.  

Your doctor will likely recommend one or more of the following treatments:  

  • Remaining active 
  • Temporary use of a soft cervical collar (brace)  
  • Medications to reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.   
  • Physical therapy  

Not all cases of whiplash are preventable. However, wearing your seatbelt, proper headrest positioning, and correct posture can reduce your chances in the event of an accident.  

If you were involved in a rear-end accident and are suffering from whiplash, you deserve justice. Contact Smith & Hassler to fight for the compensation you deserve after your accident.

Head-On Collisions On Houston Roads: Our Attorneys Discuss

Houston auto accident attorney

When two vehicles traveling in opposite directions crash into each other, you have a head-on collision. They don’t happen often on Houston roads, but when they do, they can result in life-threatening or fatal injuries.  

Head-on collisions can often be difficult to predict and thus difficult to evade. They usually happen on undivided roadways with frequent curves, especially in rural areas. However, they can happen on busy city streets as well. 

Head-on collisions are most commonly caused by:  

  • Distracted drivers 
  • Drunk or drug-impaired drivers 
  • Drowsy drivers 
  • Tire blowouts 
  • Brake failure 
  • Loose wheels 
  • Inclement weather 
  • Negligent passing 

The higher the impact, the more severe the injuries  

According to The Car Crash Detective, severe or fatal injuries are highly likely in a head-on collision on roads with a speed limit higher than 43 mph. While your vehicle’s front end, seatbelt, and airbag may absorb much of the impact in a head-on collision, they can only do so much to protect you.  

Additionally, the damage in a head-on collision at an impact of 80 mph can be four times more devastating than one that occurs at 40 mph. That’s because your vehicle’s front-end frame and interior safety features will no longer be effective at that speed.  

Your vehicle could be crushed and you could be trapped inside. Even worse, a high-impact head-on collision could cause you to be ejected from your vehicle. If you survive, you’re likely to sustain:  

  • Broken bones 
  • Severe head injuries 
  • Cuts, bruises and lacerations 
  • Severe internal organ damage 
  • Permanent nerve damage 
  • Severe spinal injuries 
  • Damage to limbs 
  • Paralysis 
  • Mental and emotional trauma 

The aftermath of a head-on collision 

Recovering from a head-on collision can be a lengthy, costly and emotionally exhausting process. You will most likely endure months of physical therapy, pain medication and surgery. The damage can be so severe that you may never be the same again.  

When filing a crash claim, you will need the help of an experienced Houston auto accident attorney. That’s because determining which party was at fault in a head-on collision can be very difficult.  

The driver who struck you may have been distracted, driving recklessly, or driving impaired. Perhaps the other driver was side-swiped by another vehicle in a multi-lane road. Or a vehicle defect caused your head-on collision.  

The attorneys at Smith & Hassler will work tirelessly to investigate your crash and use crucial evidence to support your claim. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.