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Monday, May 22, 2017

Will Texas Finally Ban Texting While Driving?

Texting while driving may soon be against the law in Texas.  The Texas Tribune is reporting that legislation creating statewide texting while driving ban has been approved by the Texas Senate.  Since this latest effort to curb distracted driving has already been approved by the House of Representatives, the bill’s next stop is the Governor’s desk.

Other Bills Banning Texting and Driving have Failed in Texas

Before passing the bill in the Senate, some Republicans sought to amend the bill by creating exceptions to allow drivers to use their phones for directions, to answer emergency messages, and to play music.  Others argued these amendments would render the bill unenforceable.  Someone caught texting while driving could argue they were checking for directions or changing the song.  The amendment ultimately failed.

The bill’s author, Representative Tom Craddick, from Midland, has fought for ten years to make texting while driving illegal in Texas.

This is the fourth session in a row Craddick has attempted to pass a texting-while-driving ban. In 2015 and 2013, Craddick's proposal passed the House but died in the Senate. In 2011, it traveled through both chambers only to be vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry, who said it would “micromanage the behavior of adults.”

Texas Looks to Join the Majority of States Banning Texting While Driving

Texas is one of four states left in the country that does not have a statewide ban on texting and driving. A 2016 study of AT&T’s wireless customers estimated that the four states without full texting-while-driving bans have about a 17 percent higher rate of texting while driving than the other 46 states.

Although there will be amendments to the bill, reports are that these amendments will be approved by both the Senate and the House.  The Texas Tribune is reporting that Craddick said he worked with Senator Judith Zaffirini and other senators on the amendments that the Senate approved and is reported to be pleased with the current version.  Craddick says he has the votes needed in the House to accept the changes without having to call a conference committee of both chambers to hash out a compromise.

Craddick also expects Abbott to sign the bill. Although Craddick has not had a conversation with Governor Abbott or his office about whether the Governor would sign the bill, he has heard through acquaintances that it should happen.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has reported that all distracted driving resulted in about 470 fatalities and more than 18,000 injuries on Texas roads in 2015, with similar numbers of incidents in previous years. These are likely conservative estimates because many drivers involved in crashes are hesitant to admit they were distracted.

Contact a Houston Distracted Driving Accident Lawyer

If you’ve been hurt in an accident caused by unsafe driving or texting while driving, Mynor E. Rodriguez may be able to help.  He has fought for Texans injured by distracted driving.  Let him help you.  Contact him today.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Insomnia and Fatal Car Accidents

There have been studies about the lethal connection between insomnia and fatal car accidents.  Many Texans are behind the wheel when they are too sleep deprived to be safe and alert drivers.  There are drivers with undiagnosed and untreated sleep related issues. The experts strongly encourage everyone who may have a sleep issue, such as sleep apnea, to get tested and seek treatment to save lives.

Tired Drivers are Dangerous Drivers

A recent study published by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and The Sleep Research Society found that drivers with the following insomnia symptoms were considered high risk for their potential involvement in a serious car accident:
  •       Trouble going to sleep at night
  •       Inability to sleep soundly and wake refreshed
  •       Difficulty sleeping through the night
The researchers analyzed the responses from study participants and came to some startling conclusions. They found out that drivers who have a hard time falling asleep at night are at a much higher risk of a fatal car accident than people who fall asleep easily. Even more concerning is that participants who have all three signs of insomnia had fatal accidents nearly three times more often than individuals with no insomnia symptoms.

Drowsy Driving Causes Auto Accidents

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has identified Drowsy Driving as the cause of over 1,000 motor vehicle accidents each year. Exhaustion leads to drivers’ delayed reaction times.  They aren’t able to stay alert and focused on what is happening around them.

Drivers with insomnia have much more fatal car accidents than drivers who are well rested. According to research by the National Institutes of Health. In fact, 4.1 percent of the people surveyed admitted that exhaustion led to their car accident, and a scary 9 percent of the respondents admitted they have fallen asleep behind the wheel.

To save lives and keep the roads safe, experts encourage drivers to stop at the first sign of drowsiness.

Contact a Skilled Auto Accident Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been injured in an auto accident, contact an attorney today.  Mynor E. Rodriguez is here to help you get the compensation you deserve.  Contact him today.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Third Party Claims - An Explanation

To understand what third party claims are, it is important to understand what qualifies as a “third party.” It is terminology that is likely to be unfamiliar.  Here's a brief explanation of third party claims.

Third parties can be an individual or business.  In a legal matter, third parties are those involved in the case besides the two primary parties. If you slipped and fell at a grocery store, you and the store would likely be the primary parties.  If your injuries were caused by defective equipment not owned by the store, such as a water bottle filling machine, a third party might also be involved in the case.

Cases When a Third Party Claim Must Be Filed

If you were injured on the job, your workers’ compensation settlement would not pay for all the related claims. For example, your medical bills and lost wages might not be included so you may need file for compensation from a third party.   The third party could be the employer of the guy who hurt you at a construction site.  The third party could also be the owner of the facility where you were working.

A valid third party claim may compensate you for:
  • Medical bills and costs of medical care in the future
  • Lost wages and earning potential
  • Loss of enjoyment and life
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Pay you for property damage, for example if your car was totaled
Overall, workers’ compensation benefits are limited. To cover the remaining expenses as well as getting compensation for future related loss, a claim against a third party will aid in your recovery.  Third party claims may cover pain and suffering and the loss of future earnings.

Evaluating Third Party Liability

The key to a third party claim is to prove they were at fault. You will need to have evidence that shows your injury was caused by the third party.  You also need to show that the third party violated a duty of care owed to you.

Negligence, manufacturing defects, and reckless behavior are types of duty of care violations that may make the third party liable for the injury. Violating their duty of care to you or the injured party makes them liable for what happened.  In violations of duty of care, there must be proof of the direct cause of your injury.

Third Party Claims can be Complex, Contact a Lawyer Today

These issues are complex, and seeking advice from an experienced third party liability attorney is an important first step to getting the compensation that you deserve.  Call Mynor E. Rodriguez today for a free consultation.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

What are Bad Faith Insurance Practices?

When you need to file an insurance claim, you will not be dealing with the friendly agent who sold you the policy. You will be dealing with an adjuster.  It’s their job to pay as little on your claim as possible.  This is a summary of bad faith insurance practices that you may have to deal with when making a claim.

Unfortunately, going through the process of filing an insurance claim will likely be challenging. Remember that the insurance company wants to protect their best interests, not yours. They will try to use your inexperience to their advantage. Insurance companies are not all out to get their customers, but it is important to know the details of your policy and your benefits.  If you are not getting the results you expect, you may have a potential bad faith insurance claim.

Bad faith on the part of the insurance company can be any practice that goes against the policy benefits when dealing with legitimate claims.  Bad faith practices include denials, underpayment, or unnecessary delay in payment.

Examples of Bad Faith Practices Include:

  • Avoiding payment on a claim by misrepresentation of contract details.
  • The agent does not fully disclose the limitations and exclusions of the policy before you by the policy.
  • Being unreasonable in what they request to prove a covered loss.
  • Focusing on reasons to deny the claim rather than reviewing the supporting evidence.
  • Lying about applicable citations or laws as a reason to deny your claim.
  • Unwillingness to pay a fair amount to compensate you for a loss that is covered.
  • Delaying a proper investigation of the claim with no legitimate reason.
Unfortunately, insurance companies have become more likely to use these tactics.  They often rely on the fact that their customers often don’t understand their policies, rights or legal options.

How Bad Faith Insurance Laws Help to Protect Consumers

Fortunately, there are laws to protect policyholders and to regulate insurance companies.  These laws are designed to prevent bad faith practices. If insurance companies mistreat their customers, these bad faith laws make it possible to take legal action.

If you feel that your insurance company is engaging in bad faith practices, you have the right to file a complaint with your state’s insurance board. Your complaint will begin an investigation process to evaluate whether they were acting in bad faith or not. The state insurance board does not have the power to require the insurance company to pay the claim in full; they can just fine the company.  Therefore, to be compensated fairly, you will need to pursue a legal claim.

When Is It Not Bad Faith?

Dealing with insurance companies can be very time-consuming and frustrating, not all negative experiences involve bad faith practices.  As a policy holder, it is recommended that you read your policy and ask questions of the agent who sells you the policy rather than not reading it until you decide to file a claim. Understanding your rights and what your policy states will protect you and prevent the insurance company from taking advantage of you.

In the process of filing a claim, it is common to have issues working with an adjuster or have a disagreement about the fair value of the loss.  Mistakes happen and can often be resolved.  These are not typically bad faith related issues.  However, if the adjuster is unreasonable about the proof they require, or they don’t provide you with documentation, then bad faith practices may be an issue.

Contact us With Questions about Bad Faith Insurance Practices

If you think your insurance company is acting in bad faith while handling your claim, we can help.  Contact Mynor E. Rodriguez today to discuss your insurance claim.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Motorcycle Riding Safety Tips

Safety First: Riding Your Motorcycle on the Road

One of the first signs of warmer weather is revving up your motorcycle’s engine for your first cruise down the open road. Regardless of your ride, make sure to keep safety in mind when heading out for your next adventure.  The motorcycle riding safety tips may help.

Make Sure that Other Drivers Can See You and Your Motorcycle

Visibility to other drivers must be a primary concern when you get ready to ride.  All vehicles must share the road, so make sure other drivers can see you. Accidents involving motorcycles are mainly due to the other driver’s inability to see the riders while there is still time to prevent the collision.
Avoid accidents with the following tips to increase your visibility to other drivers:
  • Use available lighting and reflectors to be more visible.
  • Be aware of other driver’s blind spots and stay clear of them.
  • Stay away from large trucks.
  • Use all your lights, during the daytime too.
  • Dress to be seen, wear reflective, bright clothing, and always wear a helmet.

Check Weather Conditions Along Your Route

Even on stretches of open road, be aware of your surroundings.  Watch out for changing weather conditions. Check the weather at your destination before you set out on your adventure.

Motorcycle riders must stay alert.  Watch the road as well as the scenery, debris on the roadway can be far more dangerous for a motorcycle than a car. Practice safety first guidelines to stay safe.
Be on the lookout for:
  • Older roads with loose gravel can cause unexpected slips and slides especially on corners and when braking.
  • The tires on motorcycles cannot handle potholes and uneven roads as well as a car. Compensate accordingly, because a rough patch may be enough to cause your tire to blow out from friction between your tire and rim. Watch out for potholes and rough, cracked roads and steer clear of them if possible and reduce speed to preserve your wheels.
  • Be cautious of puddles and water on the road, your motorcycle can hydroplane, so steer clear.
  • As a smaller and faster vehicle on the road, wildlife might not be aware that you are headed their way. To avoid dangerous accidents, slow down and scan the road sides for approaching deer or other animals.

Don’t Take Chances or Let the Speed Thrill Go to Your Head

Safety first on a motorcycle means staying focused and alert always.  The thrill of the open road can encourage daredevil behavior, don’t take chances, or make split second decisions that put you and the other drivers at risk.  Here are some safety tips to help you stay safe:
  • Avoid the need to slam on the brakes; slow down and be more aware of your surroundings, to preserve your bike’s front end suspension and to prevent damage to your tires.
  • A steady speed is best for your motorcycle. Too much speed too fast can greatly reduce performance overall.
  • Log in hours on your bike as a solo driver before you consider taking on a passenger.
  • Avoid reckless driving, like weaving in and out of lanes.
  • Keep your eyes on the road, and check mirrors and behind you often.
  • Stop for a break if you are feeling drowsy, or you are not alert and focused.
  • Keep the vehicles around you at a safe distance.
  • Always keep your eyes on the road.

Stay Safe So You Can Keep Riding

Motorcyclists and other vehicle drivers all have the responsibility to share the road to ensure the safety of all travelers. While riding your motorcycle, make safety your priority by staying visible to other drivers, stay alert and focused on the road, and be aware of changing weather and the condition of the road. Mynor E. Rodriguez, P.C., and his team remind you to put safety first so you can enjoy many more adventures in the years ahead.  In the event you are in a motorcycle accident, contact Mynor Rodriguez today.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why Homeowners Must Have Insurance

When you buy a new home, make sure to also purchase homeowners insurance. Since you are investing a sizeable amount of money in your home, don’t delay in getting the coverage to protect your investment.  People may think that it is not necessary to spend money on insurance because disasters won’t happen to them.  But when serious issues do arise, paying for emergency repairs out of pocket could cause you to lose your home.  Here are some reasons why homeowners must have insurance.

What Type of Insurance Do you Need?

Protecting your home from unforeseen circumstances is a necessary part of being a homeowner and maintaining your property. Insurance is a wise investment to have peace of mind and to make sure you and your family are safe, and the money you put into your home and belongings is secure.

Comprehensive homeowners insurance is the gold standard, here are some of the reasons why it is recommended.  If you do need to file an insurance claim, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss it with our attorneys who specialize in Texas insurance claims.

Five Reasons to Buy Homeowner’s Insurance as Soon as You Purchase a New House:

  1. Homeowners insurance begins with minimum hazard coverage which includes damage caused by fire, wind, hail, and robbery damage depending on the situation. When you apply for your mortgage, your lender will require you to purchase this basic insurance.
  2. The next level of homeowner’s insurance protects your house as well as your furniture and belongings and provides protection in the case of injuries on your property.
  3. The next type of coverage that is important for homeowners is liability which covers damages that were accidentally caused by you or a family member.
  4. Personal property insurance is the protection of your valuables and personal items including antiques and potential water damage to your wood floors.
  5. Comprehensive insurance is reasonably priced for all the protection you get. Although the premium payments may go up over time, keeping the comprehensive home owner’s coverage is highly recommended, because it is very likely that you will need to file a claim during the years you own your home.

Do You Have Questions about Filing a Homeowner’s Insurance Claim?

If you do need to file a home owner’s insurance claim, our Texas insurance claim lawyers are ready to assist you.  Contact Mynor E. Rodriguez today for a free consultation to learn how we can assist you to understand your rights and the process, so you are properly compensated.

Monday, February 13, 2017

New Overtime Rules Delayed

Implementation of the Newly Approved Overtime Rule Has Been Delayed Due to an Injunction from a Federal Judge

Newly passed regulations to expand overtime eligibility to 4 million employees were not put into action on December 1, 2016, as planned. A federal judge delayed the implementation by the Department of Labor (DOL) only ten days before they were supposed to go into effect.  What does it mean with the new overtime pay rules delayed?

The new rules mean a dramatic increase in the number employees who would be eligible for overtime pay because the salary max has been raised from $24,000 to $47,476.  That means employees who were previously exempt from being paid overtime because they made more than $455 per week will now be able to earn time and a half when they work over 40 hours per week. However, now with the federal judge’s injunction, it is unknown when the law with take effect.

Important Details that Employees Need to Know about Overtime

Employees may not know their rights related to overtime pay. The rules are specific, and there are three different indicators that must be met to make an employee eligible for overtime.  This area of law is complicated, and employees may not know what is involved in the process.

Salaried employees may be eligible for overtime.  Many employees believe that if they are salaried, they are automatically ineligible for overtime pay.  That is not always the case; you may be considered exempt when you are eligible.  Many employees and employers are unclear about the overtime pay laws.

Misclassifications happen and can be corrected.  If you have been misclassified, or if you think you are eligible you may have a legal claim.

Even with the current laws, there may be employees not being paid overtime who have the right to the additional pay.

You may be eligible for back pay for overtime hours worked in the past

Even if the overtime hours worked were not in the current year, employees may be able to get the extra income they deserve.  Your attorney may be able to recoup overtime pay you should have received from as many as six years ago.

If an employer knowingly misclassifies an employee or doesn’t pay overtime to eligible employees, those are considered violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act and the employer may be required to pay back wages and the employee’s legal fees.

Contact a Wage and Hour Attorney for Help

If you believe that you are owed back overtime wages, contact Mynor E. Rodriguez for help.  He can help you understand if you are eligible for overtime and help you fight for your back wages.