Bigger Is Not Always Better: Too Many Texas Workers Are Injured On The Job

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but there are some things we all wish were smaller. The number of people that are injured or killed in workplace accidents is one of them. 

According to the Texas Observer, which gathered data from various government sources on workplace injuries or illnesses in Texas, “Every year since 2009, Texas has registered more deaths on the job than any other state… In 2017, a worker in Texas died on the job every 16 hours. They died from electrocution, asphyxiation, falls from roofs, exposure to toxins, equipment malfunctions, heatstroke, and automobile collisions. The death toll exceeded the number of murders in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin combined.”

Shocking, But Not Surprising 

These statistics are shocking, but not surprising to those of us at the Sherman Law Firm. Our firm has helped countless Houston area workers seek compensation for workplace injuries and illnesses

We help injured workers get money to pay their medical bills, and help them recover lost wages. Our goal is to put our clients back in the financial position they would have been in if they had never been injured at all. 

If our clients are unable to work going forward, we try to get them compensation for the future income they will miss out on. If they need to transition to a new type of job, we can help them seek money to pay for job training or college. 

When The Worst Happens

When the worst happens, and a loved one is killed in a workplace accident, our firm can help the worker’s family file a wrongful death lawsuit. Although no amount of money can bring back a loved one, or ease the pain caused by their death, it can bring a family relief to know that the person or organization who caused their loved one’s death is being held responsible. 

Under Texas law, a lawsuit for wrongful death can be filed if the “wrongful act, neglect, carelessness, unskillfulness, or default” of one party causes the death of another. To have a valid claim, it is necessary to show that the defendant’s negligence caused or contributed to the death.

The leading causes of workplace injuries include:

  • Unsafe work conditions
  • Lack of safety equipment
  • Improper training/supervision
  • Lack of appropriate warnings

These are all forms of negligence that can trigger a wrongful death lawsuit. 

On-The-Job Injuries Should Not Go Untreated Or Unnoticed 

Nobody expects to be injured after punching the clock, but far too many Texas workers are put at risk by bosses and companies that value big profits more than their workers’ lives. Our firm works tirelessly to bring these ruthless taskmasters to justice. We hold them accountable for the harm they cause and hope that our work makes them stop and think so that fewer people are injured in the future. 

If you or a loved one has suffered a workplace injury or illness, we are here to help. Contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation. 

Take Me Out To The Ballpark… And Hope We Don’t Get Hurt

When is the last time you attended a Houston Astros game? Did you feel safe sitting in the stands when your favorite player stepped up to the plate? Would you still want to attend if you knew an estimated 1,750 Major League Baseball fans are injured by foul balls and broken bats each season?  

Baseball is America’s national pastime, but it can also be quite dangerous. It is more common for a spectator to be injured than for a batter to be hit by a pitch. And thanks to a 1913 court ruling that has come to be known as the “Baseball Rule,” neither the teams or the players are held responsible if a fan is injured while root-root-rooting for the home team.

The Baseball Rule

The “Baseball Rule” shields players and teams from liability if a spectator is injured while watching a game unless the fan is watching the game from a particularly dangerous place and the team should have known they needed to provide some protection from injury. 

Over the years, ball clubs have acted to protect fans seated in the “zone of danger” by putting up netting behind home plate from one dugout to the other. 

The teams assume people seated in other areas have assumed the risk of sitting in an area that has no netting. Teams also like to claim that the fine print on the back of each ticket warning fans of the danger of flying bats and foul balls releases them from liability.

Time For A Change?

Despite its age, the “Baseball Rule” is being called into question after a series of serious injuries to fans both in and outside the “zone of danger” 

In May, a 2-year-old girl enjoying a game at Minute Maid Park was hit by a foul ball off the bat of Chicago Cubs center fielder Albert Almora Jr. The ball fractured her skull, and she suffered internal bleeding and seizures. 

Last year, a 79-year-old Dodger fan died after getting hit by a foul ball that flew over the netting behind home plate at Dodger Stadium.

Numerous other people have suffered less serious injuries at ballparks across the country. 

The Major League Baseball Players Association is calling for netting from foul pole to foul pole to provide additional protection to fans, but some owners and fans worry that it will ruin the view and make it less enjoyable to watch the game. So, perhaps a better change would be to abolish the “Baseball Rule.”

If the teams were held responsible for accidents that occurred inside their stadiums they would be more willing to offer fans greater protection from injury. The current system incentivizes risky behavior and is just a bad policy. 

Contact a Houston personal injury attorney for compensation

If you or a loved one has been injured at a baseball game or other sporting event, you should not let the text on the back of your ticket or anything the team’s employees tell you to discourage you from consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney and seeking compensation for your injuries. Some teams are quietly beginning to accept responsibility for what happens in their stadiums and settling disputes with fans who have been hurt. And with the way things are going, it is only a matter of time before a court somewhere questions the validity of the outdated Baseball Rule. 

Would In-Room Cameras Stop Nursing Home Abuse?

Last December, a 29-year-old woman in a vegative state gave birth. The staff at the assisted living facility she had been living in since she was three years old didn’t even notice she was pregnant until they realized she was in labor. 

A nurse at the facility has was arrested and charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse, but many people with loved ones in assisted living facilities are not satisfied that this is a strong enough response. 

Patients rights advocates and families with loved ones in long-term care facilities are calling on states to adopt laws allowing patients and their families to install hidden cameras in their rooms so staff behavior can be monitored. The nursing home industry strongly objects to such schemes. 

Right now, Texas is one of ten states that has a law allowing video monitoring in some long-term care facilities. A 2013 law allows the state’s 13 intermediate care facilities, which serve nearly 3,000 patients with intellectual disabilities, to install and operate video surveillance equipment in common areas. Government officials say the cameras have both confirmed and cleared staff in allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

Whether this law should be expanded is up for debate. 

In some ways, in-room cameras would be like the dashboard cams that many Houston area drivers have installed in order to gather evidence in case of an auto accident. The footage often provides crucial evidence of fault, and can be used to identify hit and run drivers. It is there if you need it, but most of it goes unwatched. In-room cameras could work the same way. The patient or their family members could call up footage if they suspect something bad has happened. 

But having a camera in your car and being recorded in your home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is pretty different. There are obviously privacy concerns, which are amplified by the fact that some patients are not be able to communicate their preferences on the topic. 

As a personal injury firm that handles a fair number of nursing home abuse cases, this is an issue we will continue to monitor. We are zealous advocates for our clients, and we always want to present the best evidence possible to hold the people who harm them accountable, but the right to privacy is also something we value. 

Over-Medicating Is Abuse

Human Rights Watch estimates that each week around 179,000 older people in nursing homes are given antipsychotic drugs without an appropriate diagnosis. This is a disturbing form of elder abuse that anyone with a loved one in a nursing home should be on the lookout for. As personal injury attorneys we are raising awareness of this type of elder abuse and the harm it causes. 

When we think of elder abuse, we often think of financial abuse or the type of physical abuse that leaves bruises and scars. But there are other forms of abuse out there, and over-medicating is one of them. In nursing homes across Texas, powerful medications developed to treat schizophrenia are being handed out like candy by staff members who value their sedative powers. 

These drugs are often given to dementia patients who the staff label “difficult.” This is unsurprising considering dementia is associated with agitation, irritability, aggressing, delusions, wandering, disinhibition, and anxiety. However, these powerful drugs have not been found effective at managing these symptoms. What they are good at is putting you into a stupor. 

One of the Human Rights Watch investigators who wrote the report referenced above spoke with the family of a woman with dementia who was given an antipsychotic drug every time she was scheduled for a bath (Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Her sister complained that the drug didn’t just calm her down, it put her to sleep and caused her to miss lunch and dinner on those days. 

The sister had given her consent for staff to use the drug because she feared that her sister would not be bathed at all if the staff did not sedate her. However, once she saw how the drug impacted her sister, she asked the staff to stop giving it to her, fearing that she would starve to death. They only stopped when the woman was placed in hospice care. She died shortly thereafter. 

This is abuse. If someone you love is being given medication to calm them down, you need to investigate exactly what is going on and what alternatives are available. If you don’t know where to start, or the nursing home is at all resistant, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced personal injury attorney for assistance

If you live in the Houston area, the Sherman Law Firm team may be able to assist you. Our firm can help you get your hands on medical records, we can make sure your voice is heard by the nursing home administrators and staff, and if necessary we can file a lawsuit on your behalf or report the facility’s behavior to the appropriate authorities. 

Just because your loved one has dementia doesn’t mean his or her life is over. He or she should be treated with dignity and respect, not medicated until all he or she can do is sleep and drool. 

Crane Collapse Highlights the Dark Side of the Construction Industry

The tragic crane collapse in Seattle that killed two workers and two pedestrians, is raising awareness of deadly construction accidents. It is a topic we all must pay more attention to as the construction season reaches its peak and the Houston real estate market remains hot. Construction accidents are incredibly common and incredibly dangerous.

Don’t Settle for Workers Comp

Many workers who are injured in a construction accident do not bother filing a personal injury lawsuit or even speaking with an attorney. They assume that the generous workers’ comp payments they are being offered are sufficient to compensate them for their injuries. This is a mistake.

Workers compensation benefits are great, but they are no substitute for full compensatory damages. There are many costs that workers comp simply won’t cover.

Speaking with an experienced personal injury attorney before you agree to any payout from workers comp — or any other settlement offer —  is a good idea. At our firm, we give injured workers a full explanation of all of their options. This allows potential clients to make an informed decision about what path forward they want to take.

When we have these conversations, we emphasize that there is no stupid question. It is not your job to understand the intricacies of the law. But it is our job to explain them to our clients so they can make informed decisions about their future.

Innocent Bystanders at Risk

Innocent bystanders who are injured in a construction accident should also speak with an experienced personal injury attorney once they are well enough to do so.

No matter who was at fault, there are going to be multiple insurance companies fighting about who is responsible for the accident, and arguing that it is not their job to pay. We step into these disputes on behalf of clients who simply want fair compensation for their injuries and assurances that steps will be taken so that no one else is injured in the future.

Thanks to the funny and heartfelt tv ads that so many insurance companies run, many of our clients believe that their insurance company is going to step up and take care of them when they are injured. The truth is insurance companies make money by denying claims and paying out as little as possible. We help our clients make sure their insurance company — and the companies that are covering the site, the workers, and the equipment — pay up.

Building a Case When an Accident Occurs

If you or a loved one has been injured in a construction accident in the Houston area, we are here to help. Whether you were a worker or an innocent bystander, we can help you figure out what your options are going forward. You should be compensated for your injuries so you can move on with your life.

Know The Signs Of Nursing Home Abuse

If you have a loved one living in a nursing home or other assisted living facility in the Houston area, it is important to know the signs of elder abuse and neglect. While most elder abuse is perpetrated by loved ones, the abuse that occurs in a facility that is supposed to be taking care of your loved one can be particularly bad.

What counts as abuse?

While some abuse is obvious — like physical abuse that causes bodily injury — other abuse is not as easy to spot. Some victims don’t even realize they are being abused. According to the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the following are the most common forms of elder abuse:

Physical Abuse: the intentional use of physical force that results in acute or chronic illness, bodily injury, physical pain, functional impairment, distress, or death. Physical abuse may include, but is not limited to, violent acts such as striking (with or without an object or weapon), hitting, beating, scratching, biting, choking, suffocation, pushing, shoving, shaking, slapping, kicking, stomping, pinching, and burning.

Sexual Abuse or Abusive Sexual Contact: forced or unwanted sexual interaction (touching and non-touching acts) of any kind with an older adult. This may include forced or unwanted:

  • Completed or attempted contact between the penis and the vulva or the penis and the anus involving penetration
  • Contact between the mouth and the penis, vulva, or anus
  • Penetration of the anal or genital opening of another person by a hand, finger, or other objects
  • Intentional touching, either directly or through the clothing, of the genitalia, anus, groin, breast, inner thigh, or buttocks

These acts also qualify as sexual abuse if they are committed against a person who is not competent to give informed approval.

Emotional or Psychological Abuse: verbal or nonverbal behavior that results in the infliction of anguish, mental pain, fear, or distress. Examples include behaviors intended to humiliate (e.g., calling names or insults), threaten (e.g., expressing an intent to initiate nursing home placement), isolate (e.g., seclusion from family or friends), or control (e.g., prohibiting or limiting access to transportation, telephone, money or other resources).

Neglect: failure by a caregiver or other responsible person to protect an elder from harm, or the failure to meet needs for essential medical care, nutrition, hydration, hygiene, clothing, basic activities of daily living or shelter, which results in serious risk of compromised health and safety. Examples include not providing adequate nutrition, hygiene, clothing, shelter, or access to necessary health care; or failure to prevent exposure to unsafe activities and environments.

Financial Abuse or Exploitation: the illegal, unauthorized, or improper use of an older individual’s resources by a caregiver or other person in a trusting relationship, for the benefit of someone other than the older individual. This includes depriving an older person of rightful access to, information about, or use of, personal benefits, resources, belongings, or assets. Examples include forgery, misuse or theft of money or possessions; use of coercion or deception to surrender finances or property; or improper use of guardianship or power of attorney.

Signs of Abuse

If you don’t catch an abuser in the act, how can you tell your loved one has been abused? You can obviously ask your loved one if something is wrong, but as we mentioned above, some victims don’t realize they are being abused. Others are embarrassed or afraid to speak up. So, the best thing to do is look for signs of abuse, and then investigate your suspicions.

Physical Signs of Abuse: Perhaps the easiest signs of abuse to spot are signs of physical abuse. Look for bruises and scrapes, torn or bloody clothes, and fear of normal physical contact.

Signs of Neglect: Uncleanliness, weight loss, and bed sores are the top indicators of neglect. These can also be signs of physical abuse.

Behavioral Changes: If your loved one suddenly starts acting differently, you should talk to them, the staff at the facility they are in, and their primary care provider. Since behavioral changes can also be a sign of a medical issue, it is an important indicator to act upon.

Financial Trouble: If your loved one is suddenly spending a lot of money, they may have been coerced or encouraged to do so by someone else. If cash, credit cards, or checkbooks go missing, don’t assume your loved one has simply forgotten where they are. If your loved one is being secretive or is suspicious of your meddling, you may also want to take a closer look at what is driving that behavior.

Trust Your Gut: If you feel like something is wrong, don’t dismiss your concerns. You know your loved ones better than anyone else. You should trust yourself to know when something bad is happening to them.

Reporting Abuse

If you believe your loved one is being abused or neglected by the facility they are living in, or by one of the people who work there, don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Department of Health and Human Services’ abuse hotline at 800-458-9858.

You may also want to reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney. Our firm has helped many families bring lawsuits against facilities and individuals that were abusing their loved ones.

The Deadly Task We Do Every Day

A Houston Chronicle analysis of 16 years of federal highway data reveals our fair city is the most deadly major metro area in the nation for drivers, passengers and people in their path. An in-depth series titled “Out of Control” reveals some startling facts about the risks we take each time we get into a car — or walk or bike — near a roadway in the Houston area.

Startling Statistics

According to the report, which compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Houston metro area, which includes Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery and Waller counties, “leads the nation for fatal crashes involving drugs and alcohol… It’s No. 2 for fatal crashes, per capita, on federal highways… [It] ranks second for fatal wrecks that involve speeding and also trails only Dallas in crashes blamed on someone slamming into stopped congestion on the freeway.”

On average, 640 people a year die on Houston-area roads, and 2,850 more are seriously injured. Most of these people are injured while traveling in a vehicle, but a unsettling number of these victims are pedestrians or cyclists.

The Chronicle points out that, “the death toll is the equivalent of three fully-loaded 737s crashing each year at Houston’s airports, killing all aboard. Losing that many planes and passengers would lead to federal hearings, but the Houston roadway deaths are met largely with silence, other than the occasional warning from public safety officials to drive safely and be careful crossing the street.”

Shocking But Not Surprising

Seeing these statistics, and thinking about car crashes compared to airplane crashes is shocking. It really makes you wonder what sort of risks we are all taking as we travel home from work, make a quick trip to the store, or run our kids to their various after-school activities.

Unfortunately, for those of us in the legal profession, the data may be shocking, but it is not surprising. Although we are not out there on the front lines like our city’s brave police officers and EMT’s, we deal with the carnage and the horror every day.

As a firm that focuses on personal injury lawsuits, we represent people who have been involved with car accidents all the time. We know Houston roads are dangerous. You don’t have to tell us that people drive too fast and traffic is bad. We see first hand what happens when someone gets behind the wheel after taking drugs or having a few too many drinks. And don’t get us started on lax enforcement, particularly of distracted driving laws.

It is time to make some changes and make our city’s roads safer. We hope this series of articles in the Chronicle opens people’s eyes to the horrors on our highways. In the meantime, we will keep fighting on behalf of the victims of the accidents. They deserve justice, and we all deserve saver roadways.

Traumatic Brain Injuries Must Be Taken Seriously

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that traumatic brain injuries (TBI) cause 2.8 million ER visits, deaths, and hospitalizations each year. This is a staggering statistic when you consider how serious TBIs are.

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Mild traumatic brain injury may affect your brain cells temporarily. More-serious traumatic brain injury can result in bruising, torn tissues, bleeding and other physical damage to the brain. These injuries can result in long-term complications or death.”

At the Sherman Law Firm, we encourage all of our personal injury clients to learn to recognize the symptoms of TBI because they are so common and so serious, and do not always occur immediately after an accident. To once again quote the Mayo Clinic, “traumatic brain injury can have wide-ranging physical and psychological effects. Some signs or symptoms may appear immediately after the traumatic event, while others may appear days or weeks later.”

The signs and symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury may include:

  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Feeling dazed, confused or disoriented
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue or drowsiness
  • Problems with speech
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Sleeping more than usual
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Sensory problems, such as blurred vision, ringing in the ears, a bad taste in the mouth or changes in the ability to smell
  • Sensitivity to light or sound
  • Memory or concentration problems
  • Mood changes or mood swings
  • Feeling depressed or anxious

Moderate to severe TBIs may also cause:

  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes
  • Clear fluids draining from the nose or ears
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Loss of coordination
  • Profound confusion
  • Agitation, combativeness or other unusual behavior
  • Slurred speech
  • Coma and other disorders of consciousness

Infants and young children who are not able to tell you how they are feeling may show their illness in other ways:

  • Change in eating or nursing habits
  • Unusual or easy irritability
  • Persistent crying and inability to be consoled
  • Change in ability to pay attention
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Seizures
  • Sad or depressed mood
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of interest in favorite toys or activities

It is critical to recognize these symptoms because an undiagnosed TBI will only cause more problems over time. Even “mild” TBIs should be taken very seriously and treated with care by an experienced physician. While people who got concussions used to just “walk it off” we now know that is a very dangerous attitude, and could result in serious long-term damage to the brain.

Unfortunately, many of our firm’s personal injury clients have suffered a TBI. Slip and fall accidents and car accidents are common causes of TBIs because they result in a violent blow or jolt to the head or neck. Anyone who is injured in a slip and fall accident or a car accident should be screened for TBIs.

If you or someone you love has suffered a TBI, and you are struggling to get treatment, or even have your injury be taken seriously, the Sherman Law Firm is here to help. Please contact our office in Houston to schedule a free initial consultation.  

5 Things To Bring With You The First Time You Meet With An Attorney

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury, and you are interested in meeting with an attorney, you are probably seeing a lot of firms in the Houston area offering a “free initial consultation.” But what does this really mean?

It’s not a trick or gimmick. Almost all attorneys will meet with you and evaluate your case free of charge. You should view this meeting like a job interview. You a trying to decide if the attorney you are meeting with is someone you want to work with, and they are trying to figure out if they want to take on your case and have you as a client. In order to make this meeting as productive as possible, you should prepare for it.

Below are five things you should bring to a free initial consultation in order to maximize the value you get from the meeting.

  1. Your contact information.

Any attorney you meet with is going to want to follow up with you if they agree to take your case. Be prepared to share the following information with each attorney you meet with.

  • Full legal name and any nicknames or aliases
  • Home address
  • Home phone number
  • Mobile phone number
  • Email address
  • Employer’s name and address
  • Work phone number
  1. A summary of the key facts of your case.

The first thing most attorneys want to know is why the person sitting in front of them reached out. What happened? Why do they want to hire an attorney? What do they need help with?

This is your chance to tell your story, so think about what you are going to say ahead of time. Jot down some notes that will help you remember who the people involved are, and in what order things happened.

It can be helpful to pretend like you are an old timey newspaper journalist and sketch out the “Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How” of the accident or situation that inspired you to contact an attorney.

  1. Some idea of what winning looks like to you.

If you have no done so already, start to think about what you hope to get out of filing a lawsuit. Are you looking for financial compensation? Revenge? Validation?

If you don’t know what you are looking for, you are not going to find it. So, figure out what your goals are and what winning the case would look like to you.

  1. Evidence.

A legal case is only as strong as the evidence it is built upon. So, bring a summary of the evidence you have, or the actual evidence itself to your meeting. This could include medical, financial and insurance records, photos and video of the incident, correspondence between you and the other parties involved in the case, police reports, etc. Anything that helps you tell the story of what happened is useful.

  1. A list of questions you have for the attorney.

Finally, you should prepare a list of questions you have for the attorney you are meeting with. Remember, you are interviewing them for a job at the same time they are evaluating your case to see if they want to take it, so don’t hesitate to ask any question that will help you decide if they are the right attorney for you.

You may want to ask about the attorney’s prior experience, rates, or opinion of the case. You will not offend your attorney by asking them questions that anyone else might consider rude.

Be Prepared

If you keep these tips in mind, you will be able to take full advantage of the free initial consultation most personal injury attorneys offer. If you would like to schedule one of these meetings with the Sherman Law Firm team, please contact us today.

How Much Is My Case Worth?

Have you ever watched Pawn Stars, American Pickers, Antiques Roadshow, Storage Wars, or something similar? You learn a little bit of history, and then you learn how much the piece of junk the person is holding is worth. The history and the appraisals are often equally surprising, so it’s very entertaining.

One of the reasons we find it so hard to look away when these shows are on is because we all have some stuff sitting in our attics or out in the garage that we dream may be worth millions. If we didn’t have these shows, we wouldn’t care that the closet in the spare bedroom is getting too full to close the door — it would just be clutter. But with the knowledge we gain from these shows, we realize we could be sitting on a pile of “rusty gold.”

We see a similar mindset among our personal injury clients. Until someone tfold them otherwise, they thought the pain they were dealing with was simply bad luck, or just something they had to learn to live with.

Realizing you might be able to seek compensation for an injury you have suffered is an eye-opening experience. You immediately have a million questions on your mind. One of which is “how much is my case worth?” And that’s a tricky question. How much a case is worth depends on a number of factors.

First and foremost, is the seriousness of the injury. Personal injury lawsuits are designed to compensate people who have been injured and put them back in the position they would have been if they had never been injured — or at least as close as possible since none of us have access to a time machine. The system is not set up to punish the person or organization that caused the injury. Rather, it holds them accountable. So, the worse the injury, the more it is worth.

To complicate matters, similar injuries are often not worth similar amounts of money. One person’s broken arm may be worth much more than another person’s. The healthcare costs may be similar for similar injuries, but that is about it. The other factors that are taken into consideration vary wildly. For example, if I slip and fall in the grocery store and break my arm I will miss some work while I recover, and I can try to recover the income I lost from the store. If the same thing happens to Justin Verlander, the Houston Astros’ ace pitcher, the store may have to pay out a lot more. Justin Verlander’s arm is worth way more money than mine.

A case may also be worth more or less based on the evidence available to prove the case. Taking pictures of the scene of the accident and visiting the doctor as soon as possible after an injury occurs are the best way to preserve important evidence.

There are so many factors that go into determining how much you may get by filing a personal injury case that the only way to get a good estimate is to speak with an experienced attorney. If you would like to make an appointment to speak with one of the attorneys in our office, please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation.