Archive for February, 2011

Toddler hit and killed by pickup truck in apartment complex parking lot

News Channel 2 is reporting that an 18-month old little boy was fatally struck by a pickup truck in an apartment complex parking lot on Sunday February 27, 2011.  According to Houston police, the boy wandered outside an apartment in the 12200 block of Sapling Way at around 1:30PM. Somehow the child found his way to the parking lot and the driver of a pickup truck traveling through the complex hit him. The boy was transported to Memorial Hermann Southwest Hospital where he died.  The boy has not been identified and no charges have been filed against the driver of the pickup truck.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2009 4,092 pedestrians died in traffic crashes. And estimated 59,000 were injured in 2009, 13,00 of those injured were age 14 and younger.  If you or your child have been injured in a pedestrian accident, contact the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler for a free review of your case.  The insurance company for the driver that injured you will be working hard to protect their interests: wouldn’t you like the reassurance of a personal injury law firm working hard to protect you?

3-car crash in Harris County kills UTD student and injures six others

Sunday February 27, 2011: a 3-car crash in northwest Harris County early Sunday has killed a 20-year old college student and injured six other people. According to investigators, the driver of a 1996 Chrysler Sebring was traveling east in the 7900 block of Spring Cypress when he changed lanes to pass another vehicle but lost control of his car which caused him to cross over into the westbound lanes. The Sebring was then hit by a 2007 GMC Yukon traveling westbound on Spring Cypress. The Sebring was then struck by a third vehicle, a 2007 Lexus RX350 also traveling west. The driver of the Sebring died at the accident scene and four passenger from the Yukon as well as a passenger from the Lexus were taken to Houston Northwest Medical Center. Today Martina Morgan identified the driver of the Sebring as her 20-year old son David James Morgan, a neuroscience major at the University of Texas at Dallas: David had just left his family’s home and was returning to Dallas when the collision happened.

Smith & Hassler has 20+ years experience handling claims and lawsuits associated with automobile accidents.  If you have been injured in a car accident, contact the Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler for a free consultation.

Fourth baby dies due to day care fire: day care owner hires attorney

One-year old Elias Castillo died Friday evening, the fourth young child to die due to injuries from the Jackie’s Child Care fire in Houston earlier this week. Two other children remain in critical condition in Shriners Hospital for Children in Galveston where they are being treated for smoke inhalation and burns. One child has been released from Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital. Jessica Rene Tata, the 22-year old operator of the day care, has been accused of leaving the children home alone at the time of the fire, but has not yet been charged with any criminal wrongdoing. Ron Tata, Rene’s brother, says that she has hired a lawyer.

19-year old John Chestnut, who watched the tragic scene unfold Thursday afternoon, says he thinks Tata may have left something cooking on the stove when she went out to the grocery store. He said he watched Tata pull into the driveway of the home day care and calmly carry groceries to the front door. Chestnut said when she opened the door smoke came pouring out and Tata ran toward himself and others screaming for help and saying the children were inside.

Chestnut’s friend Geoffrey Deshano saw a little boy through a window on the daycare. Chestnut said Deshano then broke a window to try to get to the boy but was forced back by heavy smoke. Chestnut went in to the daycare through the back door, crawling and squinting as he went. He said he saw flames coming from the stove and could hear the children screaming. Chestnut quickly was overcome by the smoke and said he had to retreat. “I keep hearing kids screaming in my head when I’m sleeping” Chestnut told the Houston Chronicle.

God bless these poor little children and their families.

Houston day care fire tragedy: investigators believe kids left alone

Local News Channel 2 is reporting that fire investigators suspect the 22-year old owner/operator of a West Houston day care left the kids along before a deadly fire broke out, ultimately killing 3 of the children and seriously injuring 4 other children. Jessica Tata, owner of Jackie’s Child Care, has not yet been charged with a crime, but police and fire investigators said a criminal case was building as evidence of what lead to the deadly fire is gathered.

Sources within Houston Fire Department told Local 2 Investigates that a neighbor states they saw Jessica Tata returning from a shopping trip to the grocery store, during which she left the kids alone at the home. That neighbor, Geoffrey Deshano, told Local 2 he saw Tata pulling up, frantically calling for help as she repeatedly stated she left the kids alone. Deshano told HFD investigators that he watched Tata fumble for keys, unable to get into the day care center. HFD spokeswoman Assistant Fire Chief Lisa Campbell said HFD is waiting to speak to Tata and they have not yet had an opportunity to do that.

Ron Tata, Jessica Tata’s brother, said the claim that Tata left the children alone is not accurate. The Houston Chronicle quoted him as saying that those claims were “crap” and he appeared to fault neighbors who, he said, stood by watching and doing nothing as Jessica Tata attempted to remove kids from the burning house. Speaking on the condition of anonymity, an investigator said that even the very cheapest of smoke detectors will sound an alarm before smoke is visible. In this fire smoke filled the entire home, so any adult would have had enough time to save all seven of the children had someone been in the house at the time of the fire.

Deshano said that once he and Tata were finally able to open the back door, smoke poured out and a crying and choking child emerged. He said they couldn’t reach the other children because the smoke was so thick and choking. The Houston Chronicle reported that as the tragic scene unfolded Jessica Tata, who had burns to her hands, turned to her mother and told her to call a lawyer, a Houston Chronicle photographer said.

If the Houston Fire Department investigation ultimately reveals that Jessica Tata did leave the seven children alone in the house before or at the time of the deadly fire, her doing so almost certainly goes beyond ordinary negligence and rises to the level of gross negligence. These vulnerable children, none of whom could probably even reach to open a door knob to escape the deadly smoke and fire, depended on the protection and good judgment of those charged with caring for them. If they were left alone in the house, even for a short amount of time, that is totally unacceptable and has resulted in a terrible, preventable tragedy.

The tragic scene at Jackie's Child Care in West Houston where 3 children died and 4 were seriously hurt

20-month old Kendyll Stradford who died in the fire at Jackie's Child Care in Houston

If you or a loved one have been injured in a house fire, call the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler who have aggressively represented injured Texans for more than 20-years.

13-year old bicyclist killed by pickup truck on Clay Road, Houston

13-year old Giovanni Moreno died yesterday evening in a pickup truck versus bicycle collision on Clay Road in Houston at around 7:20PM according to Harris County Sheriff’s Department. The accident occurred in the 16700 block of Clay Road near Glennale: deputies said the teenager died at the scene. Deputies said Moreno was riding a bicycle when he rode through a ditch and into a traffic lane on Clay Road when he was struck by the eastbound pickup truck. The driver of the truck told investigators that when he saw the bicycle in the travel lane ahead of him he slammed on his brakes and attempts to swerve but was unable to avoid striking Moreno.

Smith & Hassler currently represents a young girl from the Houston area who suffered a compound fracture of her leg when the driver of a car speeding through an apartment complex parking lot lost control of his vehicle and collided with her as she sat on her bike on a sidewalk. If you or your child has been injured in a bicycle accident, call the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler for a free consultation.

Scene of a car versus bicycle collision in which Smith & Hassler's client, an 8-year old girl, sustained a compound fracture of her leg.

Tragic fire at Jackie’s Day Care in Houston kills 3 children, injures 4

Thursday Feb 24, 2011: Despite Houston firefighters‘ heroic efforts yesterday, a fire at a home based day care left 3 young children dead and four hospitalized: all of the children were aged between 18 months and 3-years. Houston Fire Department Assistant Chief Bill Barry said that some of the children suffered burns, others suffered smoke inhalation. Firefighters carried 5 of 7 seven children from inside the burning house, which is known as Jackie’s Child Care and located at 2810 Crest Park Lane near Richmond and South Eldridge Parkway in far west Houston.

Per state child care rules, the owner/operator of the day care Jessica Rene Tata should not have been caring for more than six children over the age of 18 months. Texas Department of Family and Protective Services will most likely investigate that and other issues. Fire crews were alerted to the fire at 1:35PM and when they arrived found flames and smoke billowing from the house: 2 of the children were outside and 5 were still trapped inside.

Michael McAnders, a witness to the tragedy who lives nearby, said 22-year old Tata was standing outside the structure during the fire and screaming for the children. McAndrews said Tata had stated she went to the bathroom and came out to find the kitchen on fire. He said he overheard Tata saying she carried 2 of the kids out and told the remaining 5 young kids to crawl out. Tata tried going back in to reach a third child but was driven back by the smoke and flames before passing out prior to firefighters arriving.

The 7 children involved have not been identified. One child was taken to Memorial Hermann Southwest and another to Memorial Hermann Memorial City. Those children died. Three other children were taken to Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital. Of those three, one child was transported to Shriner’s Hospital burn center in Galveston in critical condition. The other two children were taken to West Houston Medical Center and one was later transferred to Texas Children’s Hospital. Tata was placed on a gurney and taken to Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital.

The Houston Chronicle has reported that exactly one year before the fire Tata’s day care operation, which is registered with the State as a “child care home” was cited by the Dept of Family and Protective Services Child Care Licensing division for not having a fire extinguisher or carbon monoxide sensor on site. Tata has told of these defects on February 24, 2010 which was about 3-days before she opened the facility for business. These problems were later corrected according to Gwen Carter, a DFPS spokeswoman.

The Houston Fire Department confirmed the fire started in the kitchen, but the cause of the fire is not yet known. God bless those little children and their families as they attempt to cope with this tragedy.

A tragic fire at Jackie's Child Care in Houston claimed the lives of 3 small children and injured 4 more.

Tahoe driver sought in fatal hit-and-run of cyclist Harold Williams

Police are looking for the driver of a champagne-colored Chevrolet Tahoe involved in a collision with 67-year old Harold Williams, who died in hospital of his injuries this past Sunday. The collision between the Tahoe and a bicycle happened just south of downtown two weeks ago when Mr. Williams, who liked to ride his bike and even ran in marathons, left his home to ride to a nearby Walgreens. It was on the way home while crossing the busy intersection of Southmore and Highway 288 that the champagne-colored Chevy Tahoe hit Mr. Williams.

Eyewitness Tina Betts was driving behind the Tahoe that hit Mr. Williams. Realizing the accident was serious, Ms. Betts called 911 and remained on the scene to render aid. The woman driving the Tahoe stayed on the scene also, along with her young daughter who was riding with her. With all the attention focused on the injured Mr. Williams nobody thought to get the license plate of the Tahoe. The driver then told the witness and some bystanders that she had to leave to follow the ambulance to whatever hospital Mr. Williams was being taken to. Unfortunately that didn’t happen: the Tahoe driver just drove away and has not been heard from since.  13-days after the accident Mr. Williams died in hospital from his injuries. The Tahoe driver is facing serious criminal charges, including failure to stop and render aid.

If you have been injured in a bicycle accident, Smith & Hassler’s experienced Houston personal injury attorneys are available to provide a free consultation and explain your legal rights. Bicycle versus car accidents often leave the bicyclist with painful road rash that may turn into permanent scars: take good quality, well-lit photographs that document your injuries. A Smith & Hassler personal injury attorney can use those pictures when negotiating a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

Fortunately terrible bicycle accidents like this one are not common, but when they happen usually result is very serious injury to the bicyclist.

One person hurt in Houston 18-wheeler accident

ABC Local News 13 is reporting that one person was injured last night when an 18-wheeler crashed into a car. The collision happened at the intersection of Westgreen and Park Row in West Harris County. Deputies say a car pulled out in front of the 18-wheeler at the intersection, and the 18-wheeler veered off the road and hit a chain link fence. Because the fuel tank ruptured on the big rig, a hazmat crew was called on to clean up the accident scene.

Fortunately it sounds like this incident did not result in serious injuries. Sadly serious injury, and sometimes death, are the result of 18-wheeler versus car accidents largely due to the size and weight difference between the vehicles. Being hit from behind at 50MPH by a vehicle similar in size and weight to the stopped vehicle is bad enough, so when the rear vehicle outweighs the stopped vehicle more than 10-to-1, the potential for injury is very high. The U.S. Department of Transportation establishes size and weight limits for trucks and trailers assembled in the U.S., the current weight limit is 80,000lbs but individual states have the right to issue temporary oversize or overweight permits. If you have been seriously injured in an 18-wheeler accident, contact the Houston personal injury lawyers at Smith & Hassler for a free consultation.

Ford F-150 pickup trucks recalled due to air bag accidental deployment defect – lawsuits to follow?

Wednesday February 23, 2011: Ford Motor Company announced today that, in the face of government pressure to do so, it will recall nearly 150,000 Ford F150 pickup trucks to address a potential problem with air bags that could deploy without warning. The Detroit News first announced the recall: the Detroit News story is available here.

Ford describes the defect as carrying a “relatively low risk.” The effected vehicles are 2005-06 Ford F150 pickup trucks sold in the U.S.A. and Canada. Ford‘s recall however is being done on a smaller scale than the government had requested. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), pointing to 77 cases of injury, told Ford in a November 2010 memo that the recall should cover 1.3 million F-150 trucks, model years 2004-2006.

Ford‘s F150 pickup truck is the best selling vehicle in the United States. The government expanded its investigation into air bag problems in January 2010. A spokeswoman for the transportation department said Ford‘s response is under review to see if Ford‘s recall was adequate to address the potential danger the air bag deployment defect can pose. If the government decides Ford‘s recall was too limited in scope, a rare public hearing may be ordered to decide if Ford should be required to do more.

The NHTSA stated in a November 24th memo that it was aware of 238 cases of improper air bag deployment: the memo also noted that Ford made production changes to the 2006 and 2007 models to fix air bag wiring and other issues. In the memo government regulators said Ford did not believe the defect merited stronger action because there was a low number of incidents and reports, owners of F150‘s would get “adequate warning” from the air bag warning light and the reported injuries were not serious in nature.

Wes Sherwood, a spokesman for Ford Motor Company, said the effected F-150 pickups were manufactured between November 2004 and June 2005 at the Norfolk, Virginia Ford plant. Sherwood said that the rates of air bag deployment was much higher for vehicles made at the Virginia plant than the Ford plants in Michigan and Missouri. Ford said that an air bag wire located in the steering wheel was improperly placed so that it could chafe, the bare copper wire would be exposed, and a short circuit might occur that would cause the air bag warning lamp to come on.  Ford said that most of the air bag issues happened within the first few seconds of the vehicle’s ignition being started.  The recall is expected to begin in early March: F150 owners will be instructed to bring their pickup trucks to a Ford dealership for repair.

2004 Ford F150 pickup truck, some of which are subject to a recall for an air bag deployment defect

The apparent design and/or manufacturing defect in the 2004-2005 Ford F-150 pickup included in the recall has the potential to cause serious injury or death, either from injury to a driver due to the unexpected deployment of the air bag itself or because the air bag deploys while the vehicle is traveling at highway speed, causing the driver to lose control of the truck and crash. Injury or death resulting from a defectively designed or defectively manufactured products, or from a product that does not carry adequate warnings, can be addressed through a products liability lawsuit that seeks to hold the product manufacturer responsible for damages the defect has caused. If you have been seriously injured due to a defective product, contact the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler for a free consultation.

Deputy injured in rollover accident on Beltway 8 in Houston

Tuesday February 22, 2011: A Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy was injured in a rollover two car accident on Beltway near C. E. King around 10:15PM last night. The deputy, whose name has not yet been released, was briefly pinned inside his patrol car. His injuries are not thought to be life-threatening. Another car was involved in the wreck, and the cause of the accident is still under investigation.

Also in recent local news for the Houston area: Richmond police investigated a disturbance in a restaurant parking lot around 10:15PM on Monday. Officers were told that several men had been fighting and were trying to leave the area. Officers stopped the driver of a Lincoln Continental who they believe was involved and was trying to flee the area. Police chased the driver into Rosenberg, Texas where he lost control of the Lincoln on Avenue H near Herndon Drive. The driver then crashed the Lincoln into the Pappa-Mex restaurant on Herndon Drive, got out of the car and ran away. Police tracked him down where he was hiding nearby.

The driver and one of his passengers were taken to nearby Oak Bend Medical Center for treatment. Jose Manuel Diaz, the driver of the Lincoln was charged with evading in a motor vehicle causing serious bodily injury, in addition to traffic citations for no driver’s license and failure to control speed. The passenger was not charged with anything: the passenger sustained serious injuries that included broken ribs and potentially a broken back.

Lincoln crashes into restaurant in Rosenberg, TX seriously injuring passenger

No matter what the facts of your particular car accident injury case, the experienced Houston personal injury attorneys at Smith & Hassler can help you navigate the insurance claim process and advise you of your legal rights. Generally speaking the earlier you speak to an experienced personal injury attorney, the better. Unfortunately clients sometimes hurt their cases by delaying contacting us because they think they’re “doing something wrong” by contacting an attorney or because the insurance adjuster they are dealing with discourages them from seeking the advice of an attorney. Don’t make that mistake! You’re not doing anything wrong by getting a free consultation and informing yourself of your rights under Texas law, and besides, the insurance company is working hard to protect their interests: doesn’t it just make sense that you’d want someone protecting you?