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.

How To Pick An Attorney

A hundred years ago, every doctor was the same. The same guy (and they were pretty much all guys) would see if you had a broken arm or a brain aneurysm. Today, doctors specialize in one area of medicine. Training is specialized and technology has advanced to the point where you wouldn’t want a brain surgeon to perform open heart surgery, or even set a broken arm. They might be able to muddle through, but I would much rather have a doctor that knows what he or she is doing care for me.

The legal world is similar. You shouldn’t expect the same attorney who helped you close on a home or handled your divorce to know what to do if you have suffered an injury and want to seek compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit. So how do you find an attorney that can help meet your individual needs?

Ask Around

The first thing you can do is talk to attorneys you know or people you know who may know an attorney. Attorneys frequently refer cases to one another, so talking to any attorney you trust is a good first step, even if that attorney is not a personal injury attorney.

Ask Jeeves, Or Google

Maybe you don’t know anyone who can give you a referral, or you have gotten a few names and you want to start checking them out — head online! Most attorneys have a website like this one where they advertise what sort of law they practice.

The State Bar of Texas also has an online lawyer referral service that you may find useful.

Free Consultations Really Are Free, So Take Advantage Of Them

Once you have a few firms to check out, call them and make an appointment for a free consultation. Free consultations really are free. In fact, most personal injury cases are litigated on a contingency fee basis, which means the lawyer will take a portion of whatever amount they are able to win for you as payment. If you don’t win your case, you will not owe your attorney a dime.

Make the most of your free consultations by treating them like what they are — a job interview where you are the boss.

Ask questions about what it will be like to work with the attorney you are considering hiring.

  • Are you the attorney that will be handling my case? Or will someone I never actually meet be working on my case?
  • How can I get in touch with you if I have a question?
  • Will we need to meet often? Or can I hand you the information I have and wait to hear back?

Ask questions about your case.

  • Have you handled a case like this before?
  • What would your strategy be?
  • Do you think it is win-able?
  • How much do you think my claim is worth?
  • How long do you estimate it will take to resolve my case?

There are no questions you should be afraid or ashamed to ask.

Trust Your Gut

Think about how you feel about the answers you receive, and about the questions that the attorney asks you. Are you feeling more at ease the longer you talk? If so, that’s a good sign. The attorney you choose to work with is going to end up knowing some very intimate details about your life. You must feel comfortable with them and be able to trust them completely.

If something feels off, trust your gut and walk away. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of attorneys in Houston.