Pedestrian Deaths Reach Highest Number in 41 Years

A pedestrian crossing sign behind a blue sky background

A sobering look at a troubling trend

The U.S. has witnessed an alarming increase in pedestrian fatalities in recent years. And according to a new report by the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA), the number of pedestrian deaths has now soared to levels unseen in the past 41 years.

In 2022 alone, at least 7,508 pedestrians died, marking the highest death toll in four decades. And since 2010, pedestrian fatalities have increased by 77%, well ahead of the 25% increase in other traffic-related deaths.

“Every day, 20 people go for a walk and do not return home,” Jonathan Adkins, chief executive officer of the safety group, said in a statement published by Forbes. “These are people living their daily lives – commuting to and from school and work, picking up groceries, walking the dog, getting some exercise – who died suddenly and violently.”

This rise in serious and fatal pedestrian accidents is primarily attributed to dangerous driving habits, insufficient infrastructure, and the popularity of larger, heavier vehicles like SUVs. The report underscores the urgent need to address the ongoing crisis of pedestrian safety on our roads and highlights the need for injured pedestrians to hold negligent drivers accountable.

Pedestrian accident statistics

The GHSA report, titled “Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State,” presents preliminary data from 2022 and highlights the ongoing increase in pedestrian deaths over the past decade.

It also emphasizes that dangerous driving behaviors that emerged during the pandemic in 2020 have not subsided.

The report provides several insights into pedestrian safety trends from 2010 to 2021, including:

  • Most pedestrian fatalities occur at night, and nighttime deaths have increased in recent years.
  • Due to their taller profile and bigger blind spots, SUVs and light trucks pose a greater risk to pedestrians on a per-vehicle basis. While fatal pedestrian crashes involving passenger cars remain the highest in number due to the sheer quantity of cars, deaths involving SUVs have increased at a much faster rate (120% compared to 26% for passenger cars) in the past decade.
  • The absence of sidewalks continues to be a significant factor in pedestrian fatalities, with 69% of deaths occurring in areas without sidewalks in 2021, showing a steady increase from 59% in 2017.
  • The risk of pedestrian death exponentially increases with higher vehicle speeds, ranging from 10% at 23 mph to 90% at 58 mph. In 2021, 8.1% of pedestrian fatalities involved speeding drivers, slightly lower than the previous year but higher than pre-pandemic levels.
  • Drunk driving is the main contributing factor in 19 percent of pedestrian accident deaths.
  • Non-freeway arterial roads pose the highest risk to pedestrians, accounting for 60% of all fatalities. These roads typically have high traffic volumes, high speeds, and eventually connect to freeways. About 18% of pedestrian deaths occur on freeways, often involving stranded motorists, first responders, and tow truck drivers. The report recommends strengthening and promoting Move Over laws that require drivers to slow down and change lanes when approaching stopped vehicles.

The GHSA report also listed the number of pedestrian fatalities by state from 2019 to 2022. In 2019, there were 661 pedestrian deaths in Texas, which increased to 714 in 2020. In 2021, the number rose further to 826 fatalities. In the most recent data available, the preliminary figures for 2022 show a slight increase to 834 deaths.

Addressing the problem

The report emphasized the importance of addressing dangerous driving behaviors such as speeding, impaired driving, and distracted driving through targeted traffic enforcement.

It also highlighted the need to educate new drivers about their responsibility to be aware of and yield to pedestrians and other road users.

Additionally, the GHSA advocated for adopting the Safe System approach to road safety, which originated in Sweden in the 1990s. This approach aims to eliminate all road deaths and serious injuries by implementing various layers of protection, including safer road design, safer vehicles, safer speeds, and improved post-crash care.

Claims involving pedestrian accidents can be complicated

Insurance companies often employ various tactics to downplay or deny pedestrian accident claims to minimize their financial liability. Common strategies include:

  • Challenging fault: The insurance company for the at-fault driver may try to shift blame onto the pedestrian by arguing that the pedestrian was distracted, jaywalking, or acting negligently at the time of the accident, thereby reducing or eliminating the insurance company’s responsibility to provide compensation for the victim’s losses.
  • Disputing injury severity: Insurers may claim that the pedestrian’s injuries are less severe than stated or attribute damages to pre-existing conditions.
  • Questioning medical treatment: Insurance companies may raise doubts about the necessity or extent of medical treatments, aiming to reduce the claim amount.
  • Delay tactics: Prolonged investigations and excessive documentation requests can be used to frustrate a claimant and discourage them to the point of accepting a lowball settlement offer or giving up on the claim altogether.

To navigate these complexities and ensure their rights are protected, it is crucial for victims to seek the guidance and representation of a lawyer experienced in pedestrian accident claims. An attorney can help gather evidence, negotiate with the insurance company, advocate for the pedestrian’s best interests, and pursue the maximum compensation they are entitled to under the law.

Contact Smith & Hassler for a free case evaluation

Our Houston-based law firm is committed to fighting for the compensation injured pedestrians deserve. With decades of experience, we understand what it takes to get meaningful results for accident victims and their families.

If you were hit by a car or a loved one died in a pedestrian accident, we can guide you through the legal process and help you hold the at-fault driver accountable for your losses.

To learn more about how we can help with your potential legal case, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Texas Ranked in Top 10 States With Highest Teen Driver Fatality Rate

Driving and texting in car with blue tone

Prioritizing safety is crucial for young motorists.

As we approach the summer season and the subsequent surge of young drivers on the road, it’s crucial to address an alarming issue — the high rate of teen driver fatalities in Texas. In a recent ranking by Bumper.com, Texas emerged as one of the top 10 states in the U.S. with the highest teen driver fatality rates.

Particularly concerning is the period between Memorial Day and Labor Day, a timeframe safety advocates call the “100 Deadliest Days.” In these summer months, when schools are out and teens are behind the wheel more frequently, the risk of serious and fatal car accidents escalates. However, there are other factors driving this deadly surge in teen fatalities.

Teen car accidents in Texas

According to the Bumper.com study, Texas has a rate of 6.17 fatal accidents per 10,000 licensed teen drivers, the 10th most in the nation (New Mexico has the highest teen driver fatality rate at 9.66 while Rhode Island has the lowest at 1.58). The summer months further exacerbate this issue, as 35.2% of the fatalities involving teen drivers in the Lone Star State occur during this period (June to September).

While it’s natural to attribute the rise in teenage accidents to increased summer driving due to school breaks and more leisure time, the true catalyst lies in their driving behavior. Diana Gugliotta, Senior Manager of Public Affairs for AAA Northeast, emphasizes the heightened danger when teens engage in aimless joyriding rather than driving with a specific destination and timeframe in mind.

Another critical risk factor is the number and ages of passengers accompanying the teenage driver. Gugliotta cites research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, revealing a staggering 51% increase in the fatality rate for all individuals when a teen driver has exclusively teen passengers in the vehicle. Conversely, when passengers aged 35 or above ride with a teenage driver, the overall fatality rates in crashes decrease by 8%.

Factors contributing to teen driver fatalities

Speed emerges is the most crucial factor behind fatal car accidents involving teenage drivers. According to the Bumper.com study, speed contributes to 39.3% of fatal accidents involving teen drivers, surpassing the rate of 28.7% for other age groups. Speeding is dangerous for a driver of any age, but when you combine a teen driver’s lack of experience with a smaller margin for error, it can be a recipe for disaster.

The second leading cause is driving under the influence of alcohol, accounting for 31.8% of teen driver fatalities. While this rate is comparatively lower than that of other age groups, it aligns with the limited accessibility to alcohol for drivers under 21. Nevertheless, when teenagers do choose to drive while impaired, they pose a significant danger to themselves and others on the road.

Distracted driving, which includes texting and cell phone use, stands as a distant third, contributing to 9.2% of fatal accidents involving teenage drivers. The desire to stay connected and the temptation to quickly respond to messages or notifications can be incredibly enticing for young drivers. For inexperienced teen drivers who are still developing their skills and judgment on the road, the consequences of distracted driving can be especially severe.

Safe driving tips for teens

To mitigate the risk of fatal accidents involving young drivers, teens should:

  • Obey the speed limit: Speeding remains the leading cause of teen driving fatalities, making it crucial to respect and obey speed limits.
  • Minimize distractions and put the phone away: Teen drivers should avoid distractions such as using cell phones or engaging in conversations that divert their attention from the road.
  • Never drive under the influence: Parents can play a crucial role by offering to drive their teens home at any time if they are intoxicated or otherwise impaired.

Car accident lawyers serving Houston, TX

With summer nearly here, prioritizing accident prevention becomes crucial for both young drivers and motorists of all ages. Equally important is ensuring that drivers and passengers injured in car accidents know their legal rights. If you were injured or a loved one died due to a car accident caused by a young driver — or if you’re the parent of a teen driver injured in an accident that wasn’t their fault — seeking assistance from an experienced car accident attorney can make a meaningful difference in the outcome of your case. To see how our law firm can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.

Texas Drivers Reminded to ‘Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles’

POV of a motorcyclist riding down a highway next to a minivan.

Safety campaign aims to reduce Texas motorcycle accidents

Motorcyclists are a common sight on Texas roads, but riding a motorcycle can be dangerous, with riders exposed to a greater risk of injury or death than those traveling in enclosed vehicles. This is one reason the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has launched a statewide motorcycle safety campaign called “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles.”

The campaign aims to raise public awareness about the dangers faced by motorcycle riders and to encourage drivers to be more cautious and attentive when sharing the road with them. With an average of one rider dying in a motorcycle accident on Texas roads every day, the importance of this campaign cannot be overstated.

Motorcycle accidents in Texas

With a high number of motorcycle collisions resulting in fatalities and serious injuries every year, Texas remains a dangerous place for motorcyclists. TxDOT statistics reveal that in 2021, 519 motorcycle riders lost their lives on Texas roads, with another 2,318 suffering severe injuries.

One of the most common causes of motorcycle accidents is drivers failing to see the motorcycle or misjudging its distance and speed. This is particularly likely to happen at intersections, which are a hotspot for motorcycle collisions.

Distracted driving is another major contributing factor to motorcycle accidents in Texas. Drivers who are texting, talking on the phone, or simply not paying attention to the road are more likely to miss a motorcycle rider sharing the road with them. When they do see the rider, they may not give them enough space or time to maneuver out of danger.

A motorcycle’s small size also means it’s easier for a biker to end up in a driver’s blind spot or be overlooked when a motorist makes a turn or changes lanes. Too many motorists don’t check twice for motorcycles, and the consequences can be deadly. The combination of these factors has made motorcycle safety an ongoing concern for safety advocates in Texas.

TxDOT’s awareness campaign

TxDOT’s “Share the Road: Look Twice for Motorcycles” campaign has been running across the state for several years. At its core, the campaign seeks to reduce the number of motorcycle crashes and fatalities on Texas roads. Efforts to achieve this include social media campaigns, public service announcements, and educational materials distributed through TxDOT’s website and at local events.

One of the most visible aspects of the campaign is its “Look Twice for Motorcycles” messaging. This slogan is designed to encourage drivers to take an extra moment to check for motorcycles before turning or changing lanes. The campaign also encourages drivers to give motorcycles plenty of room on the road and to avoid distractions that could interfere with their ability to drive safely.

Tips for drivers to share the road with motorcycles

When it comes to sharing the road with motorcyclists, drivers must exercise caution and attentiveness at all times. Intersections, as mentioned above, are a hotbed of activity for motorcycle collisions, with nearly one in three motorcycle fatalities occurring at these locations. To help reduce the risk of a collision, safety experts recommend taking extra care when turning left and allowing motorcycles to pass through the intersection before proceeding.

Other tips for safely sharing the road with motorcycles include:

  • Looking twice when changing lanes
  • Giving motorcyclists plenty of room when passing
  • Maintaining a safe following distance
  • Being aware of the motorcycle’s size and taking care to avoid crowding them, as they are entitled to the full width of their lane

At times, motorcyclists may downshift instead of using their brakes to slow down. A bike also has a much shorter stopping distance than a car. That’s why it’s crucial for drivers to maintain a safe following distance, giving themselves ample time to react and prevent a crash.

Drivers need to avoid distractions, keep their full attention on the road, and always signal their intentions when changing lanes or merging with traffic. Moreover, they need to yield the right of way to motorcycles just as they would to any other vehicle and recognize that bikers have just as much right to use the road as any other operator.

Motorcycle accident lawyers serving Houston, TX

If you or a loved one was injured in a motorcycle accident due to another driver’s negligence, it’s important to protect your rights. Don’t let the insurance company or other parties push you around and deny you the justice and financial compensation you deserve.

At Smith & Hassler, our Houston, TX motorcycle accident attorneys understand the unique challenges injured motorcycle riders face and can aggressively advocate for your best interests. With decades of experience representing clients in motorcycle accident cases, we have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the legal system and recover the compensation you’re entitled to under Texas law.

To learn more about how we can help you, contact us today for a free consultation.

TxDOT to Move Forward with I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project

Houston Texas Skyline

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) have signed a Voluntary Resolution Agreement (VRA) to address the FHWA Title VI investigation of the I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), which in turn lifted FHWA’s pause on the project.

According to a March press release by the FHWA, the actions in the VRA will be performed in addition to and/or in compliance with the mitigation actions already committed to by TxDOT, as contained within the Record of Decision (ROD), including:

  • Twice Annual Public Meetings through Design and Construction;
  • Mitigating Displacements, Relocations, Housing, and Other Community Impacts;
  • Drainage Improvements to Reduce Flooding;
  • Parks, Open Space, Trails, Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities;
  • Community Access During Construction;
  • Highway “Footprint” Reduction;
  • Structural Highway Caps;
  • Air Quality Mitigation; and
  • Meaningful Access for Persons with Limited English Proficiency (LEP).

“This agreement moves forward an important project, responds to community concerns, and improves the North Houston Highway Improvement Project in ways that will make a real difference in people’s lives,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in the press release. “Through this agreement the community will have a greater voice in the design and throughout the project’s life cycle. We have lifted the pause, and with FHWA oversight, TXDOT may proceed with design and construction.”

What is the 1-45 project in Houston?

The I-45 North Houston Highway Improvement Project (NHHIP), with a price tag of $9 billion, aims to completely reconstruct the interstate between downtown Houston and the North Sam Houston Tollway to meet federal safety standards and enhance mobility. The project will not only improve safety but also increase transportation options through the addition of four non-tolled managed lanes.

Furthermore, bicycle and pedestrian features along frontage roads, cross streets, and trails parallel to bayous within the right of way will provide increased mobility for non-motorized forms of transportation. The project will also incorporate detention ponds, pump stations, and other flood mitigation tools to combat Houston’s notorious flooding issues.

The project will also have a positive environmental impact through less congested traffic and reduced idling cars, among other mitigation measures. Overall, the NHHIP is a comprehensive infrastructure project that will modernize one of Houston’s major thoroughfares and improve both safety and mobility.

“This portion of I-45 was built in stages in the 1950s and 1960s and the design remained essentially the same while the area population has doubled,” TxDOT executive director Marc Williams said in the press release. “The reconstruction of I-45 will address mobility needs for people and freight, while also improving safety and a number of environmental mitigations that include critical measures to improve storm water drainage. Considering the recently executed agreements with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Harris County, and now the FHWA, we are excited to get this critical infrastructure project moving with our partnering agencies.”

Car accident attorneys fighting for Houston’s injured

I-45 is among the deadliest highways in Texas, so any improvements are crucial for public safety. However, the proposed improvements under the NHHIP have been hotly debated, with concerns raised about their potential negative impact on the surrounding community. Despite the controversy, the need for increased safety and mobility on I-45 cannot be overstated.

Unfortunately, only so much can be done to prevent serious and fatal car accidents on I-45. Remember, it only takes one careless driver to cause a crash with devastating consequences for those involved.

If you were injured or a loved one died in a serious crash on I-45 or any other highway in Texas, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced car accident lawyer. An attorney can help you understand your legal options and guide you through the process of seeking justice and financial compensation for any injuries or damages you may have suffered.

At Smith & Hassler, our Houston car accident attorneys can help you navigate the complex legal system and work to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve under Texas law. To learn more about how our law firm can help you, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

March is Dedicated to Raising Awareness About Brain Injuries

"March is Brain Injury Awareness Month" graphic featuring a green ribbon and small grayscale illustration of a human head with a red lightning bolt poking it.

Suffering a TBI in an accident can have devastating consequences

Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is a serious and often life-altering medical condition that affects millions of people each year. A TBI can be caused by a blow or jolt to the head or by an object penetrating the brain. It can range in severity from mild, causing temporary headaches or confusion, to severe, resulting in long-term disability or even death.

Understanding TBI is of utmost importance, as a severe brain injury can profoundly impact a person’s life and well-being. TBI can affect a person’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning as well as their relationships and overall quality of life. In short, brain injuries are complex conditions that require specialized care and attention.

Unfortunately, brain injuries are often misunderstood or misdiagnosed, which can lead to inadequate treatment and poor outcomes. In addition, insurance companies frequently seek to reduce compensation for brain injury claims by questioning the severity of the injury, contesting its cause, or assigning blame to the victim. That’s when having experienced legal representation on your side can make a meaningful difference in the outcome of your case. If you or someone you love suffered a traumatic brain injury involving negligence, contact Smith & Hassler today to review your potential legal options.

Causes of Traumatic Brain Injury

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month, and to increase awareness of TBI, it is important to understand the causes, symptoms, and risk factors associated with this condition.

There are two main types of TBI: closed-head injuries and penetrating head injuries. Closed head injuries occur when a blow or jolt to the head causes the brain to move within the skull, resulting in injury. Penetrating head injuries occur when an object penetrates the skull and damages brain tissue.

Common causes of TBI include falls, motor vehicle accidents, sports injuries, and violent assaults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the leading cause of TBI, particularly among older adults and young children. Motor vehicle accidents are another common cause of TBI, even at low speeds. Violent assaults, including domestic violence, physical assaults, and gunshot wounds to the head, may also result in a TBI.

Several risk factors are associated with TBI, including age, gender, and certain medical conditions. For example, men are more likely to experience TBI than women, and individuals over 65 are at higher risk for falls and other accidents that can result in TBI. In addition, individuals with certain medical conditions, such as a history of prior TBI, may also be at increased risk for future brain injuries.

Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injury

Understanding the symptoms of TBI is crucial in ensuring timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment for those affected. That said, it’s always in your best interest to get checked out by a doctor as soon as possible after an accident, whether you fell and hit your head or were involved in a car accident:

  • Physical symptoms of TBI can include headaches, dizziness, fatigue, sensitivity to light or sound, seizures, and loss of consciousness. These symptoms may occur immediately after the injury or develop gradually over time. In severe cases of TBI, physical symptoms can include paralysis or weakness in the limbs, difficulty speaking or understanding language, and loss of vision or hearing.
  • Cognitive symptoms of TBI can include difficulty with memory, attention, and concentration. Individuals with TBI may have trouble processing information, solving problems, or making decisions. They may also experience confusion, disorientation, and difficulty with spatial awareness.
  • Emotional symptoms of TBI can include changes in mood, such as anxiety, depression, irritability, and anger. Individuals with TBI may also experience emotional outbursts or mood swings that are out of character.
  • Behavioral symptoms of TBI can include changes in personality, such as increased impulsivity, risk-taking behavior, or apathy. Individuals with TBI may also struggle with social interactions or withdraw from social situations altogether.

Keep in mind that symptoms of TBI can vary depending on the severity and location of the injury, as well as the individual’s age and overall health. Additionally, some signs of TBI may not be immediately apparent and may develop over time.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Traumatic Brain Injury

Early diagnosis is crucial to ensure that individuals with TBI receive timely and appropriate treatment to minimize the long-term impact of the injury.

CT scans, MRIs, neurological examinations, and cognitive assessments can help a doctor identify the extent and location of the injury, as well as any associated complications, such as bleeding or swelling in the brain.

Once the injury is diagnosed, treatment options may include surgical intervention to address bleeding or swelling in the brain and medication to manage symptoms such as pain, anxiety, or seizures. In severe cases of TBI, individuals may require intensive care and life support measures to stabilize their condition.

Once stabilized, individuals with TBI may benefit from rehabilitation and recovery options such as physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and cognitive therapy. These therapies can help individuals regain their physical and cognitive functioning and improve their overall quality of life.

Medications and other therapies may also be used to manage specific symptoms of TBI, such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety medications to manage emotional symptoms or assistive technology to aid with communication or mobility.

A Houston brain injury attorney can protect your rights

Since 1989, Smith & Hassler has been dedicated to fighting for those who have been injured due to negligence. We understand the tactics that insurance companies use to limit compensation, and we don’t stand for them. Our lawyers are here to help you fight back and recover the maximum financial compensation you deserve.

If you or a loved one suffered a concussion or some other type of TBI in an accident in Houston, TX, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible. In Texas, you typically have a two-year window from the date of the accident to take legal action against the negligent party that caused your injury. However, as time goes on, evidence can be lost, and the memories of witnesses can fade.

Contact us today for a free case evaluation to learn more about how we can help. Don’t wait – let us fight for your rights and help you find your way forward after a brain injury.

Houston’s Most Dangerous Road to Receive $28 Million Upgrade

Car speeding at night in city

The federal grant is the largest grant any city received in Texas.

The City of Houston has announced a major overhaul to one of its most dangerous roadways, as the federal government has pledged $28.7 million to enhance safety measures on a seven-mile stretch of Bissonnet Street, according to Chron.com.

The project, which will focus on the stretch of Bissonnet between S. Dairy Ashford Road and Hillcroft Avenue, aims to reduce the number of fatal accidents on the roadway, which city data shows has a higher death toll than any other street in Houston.

Houston is among 510 communities nationwide to receive funding for safety improvements through “Safe Streets and Roads for All,” a federal grant program announced by the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) that awarded a total of $800 million in grants.

“The project will help reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries along the corridor, which travels directly through the underserved communities of Alief-Westwood, Gulfton, and Braeburn,” DOT officials wrote in the project’s description.

Upgrades are a welcome change.

The advocacy group LINK Houston, which advocates for equitable transportation access, has welcomed the much-anticipated safety improvements. LINK Houston has long been pushing for a robust and equitable transportation network and has named the intersection one of the city’s most dangerous (No. 8 on the organization’s priority list).

“It’s about time,” LINK Houston’s Gabe Cazares said. “It’s about time that every level of government use every resource available to them to make sure people stop dying on Texas roads.”

The initiative aligns with the city’s “Vision Zero” mission and aims to reduce traffic accidents and improve safety for motorists and pedestrians along Bissonnet Street. This particular stretch of road, which is part of Houston’s High Injury Network, has seen a disproportionate number of fatal crashes and serious injury incidents compared to other city-owned streets.

According to ABC 13, upgrades to the stretch of road are scheduled to begin in 2025 and are set to be completed by 2028. The revamp will feature wider sidewalks, multi-use paths, new traffic signals, and pedestrian crossings designed to lower dangerous speeds. The new design will aim to create a safer and more accessible environment for all street users.

Bissonnet Corridor Fatal and Serious Injury Crash Statistics (2014-2021)

According to data published in the Bissonnet Corridor Safe Streets Project application, from 2014 to 2021, there were 19 fatalities and 149 severe injuries due to crashes on the Bissonnet Corridor. Of those 19 deaths, 11 were pedestrians, and 8 were classified as motorists (drivers, passengers, motorcyclists).

For serious injuries, there were 111 suffered by motorists, 35 by pedestrians, and 3 by bicyclists.

With a fatality and serious injury crash rate of more than 18 per mile over the eight years of analyzed data, this stretch of road affects a significant portion of the city’s population. Over 135,286 residents, or 6% of Houston’s total population, live along Bissonnet Street. In addition to these residents, the area is home to 19 schools and over 25,000 workers.

The grant application states that commuting along Bissonnet Street is especially challenging for those who rely on walking, biking, or public transit, with 8% of commuters using these modes of transportation. The #65-Bissonnet bus route, which carries an average daily ridership of 4,055 people, is one of METRO’s busiest and most important routes, and it is slated to be upgraded as part of the Safe Streets Project.

The project’s overall goal is to make Bissonnet Street safer for all who live, work, and travel along it.

Contact a Houston car accident lawyer if you’ve been injured.

In the aftermath of a crash, your focus should be on your recovery, not navigating the often-complex claims process. With this in mind, it is crucial to have an advocate who understands the ins and outs of securing full compensation for damages sustained.

At Smith & Hassler, Attorneys At Law, our car accident attorneys possess the knowledge and experience to manage all the details of your claim, allowing you to focus solely on your recovery. Whether a resolution is reached through a settlement or a jury verdict, our team is committed to pursuing the maximum possible recovery on your behalf.

To learn how an experienced Houston car accident lawyer can help you, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

Tragedy Unfolds at Astroworld Music Festival in Houston During Travis Scott Concert

A crowd surge at the Astroworld Music Festival during Travis Scott’s headline performance in Houston on Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, resulted in at least 8 fatalities and hundreds of injuries, according to multiple news reports.

The fatal crowd surge took place shortly after 9 p.m., leaving hundreds of audience members who were near the stage with nowhere to escape.

The tragic scene included screams, blood, and people falling to the ground after losing consciousness because they couldn’t breathe.

Dozens of victims were transported to area hospitals to treat crush injuries, and some suffered cardiac arrest.

A field hospital that was set up near the festival also treated hundreds of the victims.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time a fatal crowd surge accident has occurred at a sold-out concert or event. In this case, more than 50,000 people were at the festival, all standing within close proximity of one another. When a group within the crowd pushes forward from the back, other audience members get pressed at the front. With nowhere to go except into each other, the stage, or a barricade, severe and fatal injuries can occur.

The cause of the incident is still being investigated, but someone will need to answer for what happened. The attorneys and staff at Smith & Hassler send our thoughts and prayers to the victims of this tragedy, and we are ready to help anyone who was affected.

If you were injured or a loved one died at the Travis Scott concert during the Astroworld Music Festival, we are here to listen to what happened, answer your questions, and give you a clear understanding of your legal rights and options during a free, confidential consultation.

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.

The legal implications when a ship capsizes


On April 14, we were rocked by the news that the lift boat Seacor Power had capsized in the Gulf of Mexico, south of Port Fourchon, Louisiana, with 19 crew members aboard. On April 19, we were saddened to hear that the Coast Guard would halt the search and rescue process, with six of the crew rescued, five confirmed dead, and eight still missing.

Unfortunately, some risk is inherent in maritime work, but maritime companies also have a legal responsibility to keep their employees safe. While the reasons the Seacor Power capsized are still under investigation, the incident underscores the importance of seamen’s rights under maritime law – and the need for those rights to be protected.

Ships capsize for many reasons, but most are linked to negligence

Even a large and well-engineered vessel can capsize under some circumstances, and most such accidents are preventable. The main reasons ships capsize include:

  • This was a major factor in the Seacor Power’s capsizing, with 80 to 90 mph winds and seven- to nine-foot seas at the time the vessel overturned. While no one can control the weather, weather-related incidents are often preventable. Storm tracking and navigation allow ships to avoid hazardous situations, and ships themselves can be engineered to cope with storms and rough waters. It’s also important to rapidly react to changing circumstances at sea.
  • When a ship collides with a dock, bridge, rock, reef, or another vessel, a hole can be ripped in the hull. A ship that starts taking on water is at immediate risk of capsizing.
  • Taking on water starts a chain reaction that can result in sinking or capsizing. The more water a ship takes on, the less buoyant it becomes, which causes it to sink deeper and potentially take on more water. Flooding can occur due to weather, collisions, or leaks in the hull.
  • Shifting cargo. When cargo isn’t properly secured, it can move around below decks. When enough weight moves to one side or the other, the entire ship can become unstable and overturn.
  • Human error. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of both the maritime company and the captain of the ship to make decisions that minimize the risk of capsizing.

Victims and their families have legal rights

When a ship capsizes and seamen are injured, they have recourse under the Jones Act, as well as general maritime law. The Jones Act allows injured seamen to take legal action against their employers to recover damages (financial compensation) for lost earnings and lost earning capacity; past, present, and future medical expenses; and pain and suffering. These damages can be substantial, particularly if an injured seaman is left permanently disabled or develops a medical condition, such as chronic pain.

In addition, the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA) allows families who have lost a loved one to recover “pecuniary damages,” meaning losses the family members have sustained due to the death that can be calculated with a degree of precision. For instance, it’s possible under the DOHSA to recover damages for lost financial support provided by the person who died, but not for loss of intangibles, such as care and companionship. However, the Jones Act provides significantly more expansive death benefits when the deceased seaman’s employer is responsible for the death. For instance, if a seaman dies in a collision between two vessels, the deceased seaman’s family could take legal action against the seaman’s employer under the Jones Act and the other ship’s owner under the DOHSA.

On the other side of a personal injury or wrongful death claim is the Shipowner’s Limitation of Liability Act, which the owner of the ship can invoke to limit their liability to the post-accident value of the vessel. When a ship capsizes or sinks and becomes worthless, this is potentially devastating. However, the Limitation of Liability Act has its limitations, and an experienced maritime injury lawyer can take legal action to defend against petitions to limit liability.

In short, if you were hurt or lost a loved one when a ship capsized, you need to seek legal advice right away. Our attorneys will listen to your story and work with you to determine your best path forward under maritime law. We would be honored to discuss your legal options in a free consultation.

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.