Archive for the ‘Personal Injury’ Category

HB 1927, Permitless Carry, and Accidental Shootings

Vertical of a belt mounted rigged holster holding a semi automatic pistol.

If House Bill 1927 is signed by Gov. Abbott (as he has said he will), then beginning September 1st, Texans will no longer need a permit or license to carry handguns in public.

Previously, Texans who wanted to carry a handgun (whether open or concealed) in public would have to obtain a state-issued License to Carry, which in turn required training, a proficiency exam, and a background check. This new law will allow anyone 21 and older to carry in public without a permit, so long as they are not barred from possessing a firearm in general by another federal or state law (convicted felons, for instance).

At Smith & Hassler, we strongly support the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. We are concerned, however, that the new law may lead to an uptick in unintentional shootings, and Texans need to know their rights if they’re injured.

Understanding the causes of “accidental” shootings

First, remember that there are no truly accidental shootings. Every firearm-related incident can be traced to a decision someone made to handle or store a gun carelessly. With the right to own a firearm comes the responsibility to handle that firearm in a safe manner, and unintentional shootings result when those responsibilities aren’t met. Some of the key principles of firearm safety include:

  • Assume every weapon is loaded, even if you “know” it isn’t.
  • Muzzle awareness: never point a gun at something you don’t intend to destroy.
  • Trigger discipline: keep your finger off and away from the trigger, outside the guard, until ready to fire.
  • Be sure of your target and don’t shoot until you know what you’re shooting at.
  • Alcohol and gunpowder should never mix.

These principles and more are part of the training required for state-issued permits under the previous law. The LTC training also includes the use of restraint holsters and methods specifically to carry a handgun securely. With the requirement to get a license lifted by HB 1927, there will likely be more people armed with pistols and revolvers in public places throughout Texas who lack this training in firearm safety, creating the potential for more unintentional shootings.

Your legal rights if you’re shot accidentally

In general, unintentional shootings are covered under the shooter’s homeowner’s insurance, if they have it. Firearm safety falls under the more general responsibility property owners have to ensure that their property is safe. Depending on the circumstances, a gun range or trainer may also be held liable for a shooting that occurs due to their negligence. Gun manufacturers are generally not liable for unintentional (or intentional) shootings with their products, since the gun itself did what it was supposed to do; however, if a gun misfires or explodes because of shoddy manufacturing or malfunctioning parts, the manufacturer may be responsible.

Under Texas law, people injured by negligence, including negligent discharge of a firearm, have recourse through the civil justice system. You can pursue compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other costs that resulted from the shooting. Pursuing accountability through the civil justice system also sends a strong message that we take firearm safety seriously here in Texas.

If you’ve been hurt in an unintentional shooting, we’d be honored to listen to your story and explore your legal options. The consultation is free and there’s no obligation to take any legal action, just candid answers about your legal rights. Contact Smith & Hassler today to speak with an experienced Houston accidental shooting attorney.

What’s the difference between pro bono and a contingency fee basis?

I’m hurt and I need a lawyer, but I can’t afford to pay one. What should I do?

We hear this question all the time, and two terms that get thrown around to answer it are “pro bono” and “contingency fee.” Here’s what you need to know.

What does “pro bono” mean?

Pro bono is a Latin phrase meaning “for the public good.” An attorney who does pro bono work does so for free, without any expectation of pay regardless of the outcome, typically for people who can’t afford an attorney any other way. Lawyers can work pro bono in more or less any area of law.

Pro bono work is an important part of the legal profession, but it’s not the way most personal injury victims get compensation for their losses. There are a lot of costs that go into moving a personal injury case forward—hours of research, hiring experts, court costs, depositions, and more—and law firms that represent injured people need to cover their expenses and keep enough resources on hand to handle the next case. Rather, the legal work that goes into successfully resolving a personal injury claim is usually done on a contingency fee basis.

Okay, so what’s a “contingency fee”?

A contingency fee is an arrangement where the lawyer’s fee depends on the outcome of the case. When you hire a lawyer on a contingency fee, you agree to pay a percentage of the recovery as the attorney’s fee, typically one-third. The lawyer takes on the case at their own expense, paying the costs required to move the case forward. If you don’t win, you don’t owe your lawyer anything. In other words, the attorney assumes the risk of not getting paid but does not expect to work for free.

Unlike pro bono work, contingency fees are only allowed in certain areas of law, most commonly personal injury, medical malpractice, wrongful death, workers’ compensation, disability, and similar. The vast majority of cases we handle at Smith & Hassler are on a contingency fee basis.

Why do personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis?

Nobody plans on getting hurt in a car accident, slip and fall, or other incident. In most cases, people who have a valid personal injury claim are also in a terrible position to afford to pay a lawyer. You’re injured, you have medical bills piling up, you’re not able to work, you need to repair your car… the last thing you need is a bill from an attorney. We don’t want to charge you anything upfront because we believe in equal protection under the law and equal access to the civil justice system. You have rights, and you should be able to exercise those rights regardless of your ability to pay.

Working on a contingency fee also means we’re laser-focused on results. We don’t get paid by the hour; we only get paid if we can get a positive outcome for our client. We get deeply invested in our clients’ cases, share in the victory if they win, and assume the risk if they lose.

In short, when you hire a contingency fee lawyer, you’re getting a strong ally and advocate for your interests from start to finish.

What should I keep in mind when hiring a lawyer on a contingency fee basis?

Not every contingency fee agreement is the same. Contingency fees vary from law firm to law firm in terms of the percentage of the recovery to be charged, as well as responsibility for other costs associated with the case (like court costs and filing fees). It’s important to understand all those details before you hire a lawyer. When we meet with a prospective client, we put in the time to review the contingency fee agreement in detail, answer any questions and make sure you know what you’re signing.

In short, you have nothing to lose by talking to a lawyer about your options, and potentially much to gain. We’d be happy to meet with you and discuss your legal options, as well as our contingency fee agreement, during a free consultation.

I was hurt by the Watson Grinding & Manufacturing explosion. What are my legal options?

Houston Watson Grinding & Manufacturing Explosion AttorneysAt approximately 4:24 a.m. on Friday, January 24, 2020, a huge explosion ripped through Watson Grinding and Manufacturing’s premises, located at 4524 Gessner Road in Houston, TX.

Channel 13 News reports that a propylene tank exploded at the facility and the debris field expands for a half-mile. It appears that the Westbranch neighborhood is most affected. Pictures and videos posted to social media by residents near the site of the explosion show considerable property damage to homes and vehicles, including windows that have been cracked, and glass completely blown out.

Who is most likely impacted by the explosion?

Residential homes most likely to be severely impacted by the explosion are on the following streets:

WEST OF GESSNER ROAD: Talina Way, Hollow Hook Road, Rockcrest Road, Lybert Drive, and Goodrum Road.

EAST OF GESSNER ROAD: Old Brickhouse Drive, Heatherford Court, Lybert Road, Ivy Oaks Lane, Juniper Glen Drive, Lone Brook Drive, Stanford Court, Bridgeland Lane, Valleywood Drive, Sunwood Drive, Rockcrest Road, Cottage Field Road, and Field Stone Drive.

What to do if you were injured by the explosion

Here’s what you can do if you were injured by the Watson Grinding and Manufacturing explosion in Houston:

  1. If you have visible injuries, for example from flying glass or structural damage to your home, it’s critical that you take good-quality photographs to document your injuries.
  2. The Mayo Clinic’s web site explains that a condition called tinnitus, which is noise or ringing in the ears, can result from injury to the ear. Short-term exposure to loud sounds can cause permanent hearing damage. If you were present near the explosion site, by virtue of being closer, you are more susceptible to this type of hearing damage. Tinnitus involves the sensation of hearing sound when no external sound is present. The symptoms include phantom noises in your ears, such as ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing and humming noises. If you believe you have suffered damage to your hearing due to the Watson Grinding explosion, see a doctor and report your symptoms as soon as possible.
  3. Seek medical attention for your injuries. You should use your own judgment whether it is necessary for you to go to the emergency room. If you do not think your injuries require emergency medical attention, consider making an appointment with your primary care physician. Your medical records will help document your injuries closest to when the injury occurred.
  4. Do not sign any documents that affect your legal rights. Consult with an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as possible to understand your rights and preserve your claim.

To speak to a personal injury attorney about injuries you suffered due to the Watson Grinding blast, call Smith & Hassler at (713) 739 1250, or 1-800-WIN-WIN1, or visit us online at www.smithandhassler.com.

Smith & Hassler, a Houston law firm, has represented injured people throughout the state of Texas since 1989. Our attorneys possess a wealth of legal knowledge and real courtroom experience. We have earned a reputation in Houston and across the state of Texas for helping victims seek justice and delivering results.

4 killed when Volkswagen struck by speeding car on US 290

Four people occupying a Volkswagen car were killed in a terrible automobile accident this morning on US 290 in Waller County. Channel 13 interviewed a DPS spokesman who explained that the Volkswagen was rear-ended by a speeding Chevy Impala sedan. That impact forced the Volkswagen off the roadway at which time the car caught fire. Firefighters did not discover the bodies of the victims inside the Volkswagen until they had extinguished the flames. The driver of the Impala was taken to a hospital in College Station in unknown condition. DPS is working on identifying the four folks who were killed.

car accident attorneys in Houston

Front end damage to the Impala

 

personal injury attorney Houston TX Smith and Hassler

The four victims were in this Volkswagen car

Hit-and-run driver sought after 21-year old critically injured

21-year old Joseph Pena was driving home from work after finishing his shift when he was involved in a hit-and-run collision with another vehicle that has left Joseph serious injured and his mother wondering how the other driver could callously leave the scene. Joseph was giving a friend a ride home at the time of the crash, which sent Joseph’s car into a light pole. Joseph’s mother says he is now in critical condition and his heart has stopped twice since the wreck. The hit-and-run vehicle is described as a gray Toyota Scion; Harris County Sheriffs are investigating the crash.

car accident personal injury attorneys

HPD officer pulls over drunk, hit by another drunk

Last night a Houston Police Department patrol officer had pulled over a suspected drunk driver and was conducting an investigation when the officer’s patrol car was smashed by a second suspected drunk driver. This is not a rare occurrence in Houston, and for some reason rather than emergency lights serving as a warning to drunk drivers, the lights seem to draw them in like moths to a flame. The crash happened on Houston’s North Loop (coincidentally Smith & Hassler’s office is on the North Loop). The officer and suspected drunk driver #1 were reported to be uninjured thankfully, and ABC Channel 13 has video of both drivers being sobriety tested.

If you’ve been hurt by a drunk driver, in Houston or anywhere else, give us a call and we’d be glad to explain what your legal options are.

drunk driving car accident attorneys

Daragh Carter named Personal Injury Super Lawyer for 2017

Congratulations to Smith & Hassler attorney Daragh Carter who was selected as a Super Lawyer in the Personal Injury practice area for 2017.

Daragh joined Smith & Hassler in April 2006 and has been representing injured clients ever since. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

personal injury attorney Houston TX

Daragh Carter

Box truck crushes cars on Blue Bell Road in Houston, TX

Two drivers are lucky to have survived a four vehicle accident the afternoon of Thursday March 23, 2017.

According to Channel 13 News, a flatbed hauling some pipe was traveling the 600 block of Blue Bell Road when it struck the rear of a large white box truck, causing the box truck to make an out-of-control turn and topple over onto two passenger cars. The box truck partially crushed a gold colored Honda and a dark-colored Cadillac behind it. Accident witness Mr. Cruz Hernandez told Channel 13 that a female existed the Honda bleeding from her head, and the Cadillac driver was up and moving after the crash.

car accident attorneys Houston TX 77008

Both were taken to the hospital to be checked out. The box truck driver wasn’t hurt in the crash, and the driver of the flatbed truck who cause the accident is going to be issued a citation for failure to control speed.

Fatal car accident on Almeda Road, vehicle pushed into Rodeo bus

One person is dead after a car accident on Almeda Road and Reed Road at 11:30 p.m. last night. A black-colored Chevrolet Avalanche pickup truck crashed into the rear of a silver colored sports car, possibly a Nissan 370ZX. Law enforcement told the media that the pickup was traveling at a very high rate of speed; the impact propelled the sports car forward into the front bumper of a Houston Rodeo bus that was parked and unoccupied at the time. The driver of the pickup appeared disoriented after the crash to bystanders who rendered aid, and there will be an investigation to determine if alcohol played a role. The driver of the Nissan died at the scene.

car accident attorneys personal injury Houston

The crash victim’s vehicle

Car accident victims want restitution after police chase crash

Channel 13 News recently published a story about a couple in Houston, Dr. David Perucca and his fiancee Sherri Witt, who were injured in a collision with a vehicle that was fleeing law enforcement. Apparently the fleeing suspect made a U-turn to avoid a spike strip and crashed into the couple’s BMW Z4, totaling it, and sending them to the emergency room where they’ve accumulated about $15,000 in medical bills (in our experience, that is far from an unusually high amount…it is actually pretty typical).

The main theme of the story though was that Mr. Perucca says he got a less than enthusiastic response from the Harris County District Attorney’s Office when he contacted them about getting restitution from 50-year old Douglas Pittman, the driver of the other vehicle. Sometimes victim restitution is made part of a plea agreement in a criminal case: the criminal is required to pay money compensation to the victim. Dr. Perucca told Channel 13 that the DA’s Office’s response to his request was, essentially, deal with it yourself.

Smith & Hassler has been handling motor vehicle collision cases since 1989 and has handled tens of thousands of auto cases. The best way to protect yourself, your vehicle and your family from injuries or damage caused by an uninsured person is to make sure you have uninsured motorist insurance on your auto policy. Many auto insurance policies contain a coverage exclusion when the vehicle is being used in the commission of a crime, and if a vehicle is stolen and in an accident, there is never coverage because the thief was not a permissive user of the vehicle.

Unfortunately we have to sometimes tells clients: “The other driver did not have valid insurance.” The question that follows is frequently: “Well can’t I go after the other driver to pay my damages?” The answer technically yes, you can sue the other driver, but as a practical matter there is usually no point. That’s because you can’t collect money that a person doesn’t have, and if the other driver doesn’t have the money to pay for car insurance they probably don’t have tens of thousands of dollars to pay your damages.

Certainly nobody would fault Dr. Perucca and his fiancee for wanting the guy who caused their damages to pay them. But the best protection any Houston-area driver can have is to be sure there is uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy.