Houston police officer injured by drunk driver hires VB Attorneys

A Houston police officer was injured in the early morning of December 28, 2018, by a drunk driver. The officer was in uniform and driving his police motorcycle to escort a wide load through the city overnight when a drunk driver hit him. The driver was unaware she had hit him the first time and nearly ran him over twice.

The police officer suffered multiple injuries. He has hired our firm to help him hold the drunk driver accountable for their actions. We are investigating this incident to determine several things:

  • Where the drunk driver purchased and consumed the alcohol
  • If the drunk driver has a history of driving under the influence
  • If, as a result of this incident, there was a violation of the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code by a store, bar, restaurant, or event space.

Houston is the deadliest region for drivers in the country

This is not the first drunk driving incident involving a Houston police officer this week. The epidemic of drunk driving in Houston has reached new heights. And the Harris County District Attorney’s office told the Houston Chronicle this morning that they are “dreading a long and bloody weekend.” This weekend will be a four-day holiday for many people, greatly increasing the chance that people will drive drunk or under the influence.

Houston is the deadliest region for drivers in the country. The Vehicular Crimes Division Chief for the Houston Police Department, Sean Teare, told reporters that, “This is an unbelievable crisis we are facing. We lead the nation, year-in, year-out in fatalities on our roadways, specifically attributable to DWI. We’re not anywhere near the size of Los Angeles or New York, and we’re not as big as Chicago – and we blow them away ever year. It’s inexplicable.”

Increased law enforcement presence in Harris County over New Year’s weekend increases police officers’ risk of injury

The long weekend means that every law enforcement agency in Harris County is upping the number of officers on the streets to help nab intoxicated drivers. Having more officers on the streets this weekend is in and of itself a deterrent. But it also increases the chances that the police officers will be harmed by drunk drivers.

When police officers are harmed by drunk drivers and unable to work, they can focus on getting better knowing they are not alone. Our firm has a history of helping police officers injured in wrecks caused by drunk drivers. We are currently representing Officer Chayne Brothers in his million dollar lawsuit against a drunk driver and the bar that overserved him, Bombshells.

We help police officers injured by drunk drivers

While police officers are generally covered by worker’s compensation when they get hurt on the job, the worker’s comp system can’t get justice or just compensation. That’s where we come in. We have filed injury lawsuits against drunk drivers, lawsuits against bars and restaurants if they overserved the drunk driver, and lawsuits against people responsible for allowing the drunk person to get behind the wheel.

Holding these people and places accountable for injuring you or your loved one can be an important psychological and physical step toward getting your life back to normal. If you have been injured by a drunk driver while on duty as a police officer or first responder, we can help. Call us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form for a free and confidential case review.

Why you shouldn’t sign anything if you were hurt at work

You’ve been hurt on the job. But now your employer or its insurance company is sending you all kinds of papers to sign. In this post, we will explain why you should not sign anything you’ve been given after a work injury.

There are some important things you need to understand about the documents and releases you’re likely to run into after you’re hurt at work. The biggest one is, are you signing away your legal rights without even realizing it?

Don’t sign anything until you know your rights as an injured employee

Company representatives often pester workers who have been hurt about signing various papers and forms. They want you to do this in order to help them. This is not to help you.

In fact, it’s set up to hurt you.

It may seem hard to believe, but employers and insurance companies will take steps to protect their own interests. Their responsibility is to their shareholders, not you. That means you become a liability to them when you get hurt. expense of the employee who has been hurt. By blindly signing any document you’re given, you could be accidentally giving them permission to take your rights away.

To help you make sense of all the documentation you’re receiving about the accident or your injury and what it really means, here is an overview several different types of “forms” adjusters or company representatives will want you to sign – and why you should refuse.

Release forms trick you into signing away your claim forever

A release form is a document that says you release, or “drop” your claims, in exchange for a certain amount of money. If you sign a release, you’ve just signed your claim away forever.

They put a lot of “legalese” and complicated language in the document to confuse you, hoping you will not truly understand what you are signing. Companies routinely include a “low ball” amount of money in these early release forms.

They count on the fact that you will not know the true value of your legal claim, so you won’t know that what they are offering you is patently unfair. If you sign one of these, you will likely be leaving a substantial sum of money on the table. Or worse, the company will include tricky legal language in the release, and you may be left with nothing at all.

Why you should always fill out an accident report and make sure it is accurate

Sometimes the company wants you to fill out an “accident report,” “accident form,” or “diagram.” This is similar to a “recorded statement,” which you know you should never agree to give.

These accident forms are set up in a way to confuse you. They are also designed to get you to document that your accident happened in a way that will suggest fault on anyone other than the actual responsible party.

Never sign an accident report that you don’t agree with.

While you should always report when you are hurt at work, some companies will pull a fast one. We’ve seen companies tell workers they would file the accident report for them, but then either didn’t do it or filed a totally fake one. We’ve also seen companies word accident reports to make it seem as if you are at fault when you weren’t, or pressure witnesses to change their stories.

We recommend that you review any official accident report with a personal injury lawyer before you sign them. If the report is fake, or has any false information in it, we can help you make sure the truth about your injuries is told.

Have an attorney review medical authorization forms

A medical authorization form may seem fairly innocent. But did you know that by signing it, you are giving strangers the right to go get a copy of every single one of your medical records for every doctor you have ever seen in your life? That’s right. The medical authorization form will give your employer and its insurance company access to the records from:

  • every doctor
  • every medical test
  • every medication
  • every hospitalization
  • every surgery

You’ll be giving them your entire medical history. If you sign the company’s medical authorization form, strangers can go get this medical information and do whatever they want with it, with no regard to your privacy rights. They will dig up information and materials that should never be a part of your claim. Then, they will try to use it against you.

The only medical information they need should be directly related to your work injury. That’s why we recommend not signing any medical authorization forms unless they are reviewed by your attorney. Your attorney will make sure you aren’t giving them the right to violate your privacy and dig through medical records that are none of their business.

Don’t sign an employment records authorization form

By signing this, you are giving strangers the right to dig up your records for every job you have had in your entire life.

This is a huge privacy intrusion, and it’s completely unnecessary in order to process your claim. To add insult to injury, they will find bits and pieces of information in your employment records to use against you when you try to make your injury claim.

We recommend our clients do not sign this authorization until we’ve reviewed it. In many cases, we can make sure the insurance company only gets the specific employment information they need for your case. We can prevent them from getting your entire work history.

What to do if you’re being pressured to sign papers about your work injury

There are also other forms they may try to get you to sign. The most common forms are the ones we’ve listed above. Although the company may tell you that you have to sign a document immediately, the company cannot force you to sign anything.

Instead, it is best to have an attorney review the release or form.  We’ll tell you exactly what rights you are giving up by signing the form. Like us, most attorneys will review these kinds of forms free of charge.

All too often, an injured worker will sign a release because the company tells them to. Companies often threaten to withhold treatment and compensation from injured workers if they don’t sign the release. There are two problems:

  1. The release will most likely prevent you from being able to file a claim. Preventing you from pursuing your legal rights and being compensated for your medical bills and lost wages. The releases are usually written with a bunch of legal words. That means most people won’t realize what rights are being given up because the language in the release is too confusing.
  2. You don’t legally have to sign anything to get the help you need after getting hurt. Legally, the company can’t bar you from getting the medical treatment you need or from filing a compensation claim. If the company does this, it is a sign that they are not acting in your best interests.

If an adjuster is trying to get you to complete any forms after an accident call us. We will review them for you for free and give you our recommendations.

No one should feel pressured to sign a release, especially without knowing exactly what it means. Get the help you need now. Contact us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a form on our website. We will review your case, any paperwork you’ve been given, and help you make the best decision about what you need to do next.

Personal injury lawyer explains Texas’ fatal work injury statistics

Texas leads the nation for fatal work incidents. Two reasons this is important:

  1. This is not the first year Texas has topped the list for work fatalities.
  2. Texas workers need to take extra care to prevent injuries on the job.

Each year, a large amount of federal and state data is released about work injuries and deaths. These statistics and numbers are an important source of information about dangerous industries and where the most attention is needed to prevent injuries and deaths in the future. To help you understand the scope of fatal work-related accidents in Texas, where they are happening, and why, we’ve put together this highlight of some of the most recent statistics available.

The statistics for fatal work accidents in Texas

In 2014, Texas remained at the top of the list of states for fatal work incidents. For work accidents that caused a death, the Texas Department of Insurance showed that:

  • Transportation accidents were the leading cause of fatal work injuries, accounting for 45 percent of reported work-related deaths. In fact, the highest number of work-related fatalities was reported in the transportation and material-moving industries. These industries include the drivers of heavy trucks and tractor-trailers.
  • Accidents involving “contact with objects” were the second leading cause of on-the-job deaths. Seventy-five percent of these deaths involved a worker being struck with an object, while 17 percent involved workers who were caught in or crushed by equipment, We have helped clients who have been injured by falling cranes, boom lifts, and heavy objects. In these types of cases, we have obtained a $44.37 million verdict for our clients in a case where a rigger was crushed by a heavy pipe at the Exxon refinery in Beaumont.
  • Falls at work declined by nine percent, making falls the third leading cause of work-related deaths in Texas.
  • Construction and extraction occupations reported the second highest number of deaths. Learn more about a $17.72 million verdict awarded to the family of an ironworker who was killed at work.
  • Other causes of workplace deaths included explosions, fires, exposure to harmful substances, and workplace violence.

Who is getting hurt at work?

Although the slightly-decreased number of reported injuries is good news, the bad news is that work injuries still happen every year. In private-sector industries, 52,970 Texas workers were hurt in 2014 and took time off work for their injuries. In 2014, 524 Texas workers were killed on the job. While these numbers include workers of all kinds in all kinds of industries, some potentially surprising statistics show that many of the workers hurt were:

  • Women. Although most workers who are killed on the job are male, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that fatal work accidents among women are on the rise. From 2013 to 2014, the number of women fatally hurt in work incidents rose 13 percent nationally.
  • Hispanic and Latino workers. The BLS shows that fatal work injuries among Hispanic and Latino workers fell slightly nationally. However, Hispanic and Latino workers make up a large portion of the workforce in a number of dangerous industries. Statistics compiled in a Workers Defense Project report on Texas construction work conditions showed that Latino workers made up a huge number of the state’s construction workforce. According to their data, about 60 percent of construction workers in Texas have not received health and safety training. And only about 20 percent have sought medical attention for a serious work-related injury.
  • Long-term employees. Maybe surprisingly, it isn’t always the newest workers who are hurt. According to data from the Texas Department of Insurance, the highest non-fatal accident numbers were reported among those who had worked with their employers for at least one year and up to five years. Numbers fell off slightly among those who have been with an employer for more than five years, but the total was still higher than for employees hurt in the first year of work.

Why are work accidents happening?

Work accidents happen for a number of reasons, and the “whys” of worker injuries and deaths can be very complex. Some potential reasons that preventable work injuries continue to happen every year include:

  • Increased growth in an industry. As certain industries come and go in Texas, so can the number of work injuries. For example, nationally, the “building boom” has brought in increase in construction accidents and deaths. This increase happened in areas where construction has been on the upswing, such as Austin, Odessa, Midland, Dallas, San Antonio, and Houston. In the oil and gas industry, similar upticks in accident numbers are seen when work is booming. Businesses that are experiencing rapid growth can be dangerous to work for. Safety regulations and training may be overlooked in the rush to take advantage of profit opportunities.
  • Non-compliant employers. Employers don’t always follow rules and regulations, even though most industries are held to a wide range of strict safety rules. Safety training, protective equipment, inspections, and maintenance can be expensive, and the penalties for breaking the rules aren’t always enough.
  • Lack of safety inspectors. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has a limited number of inspectors per state, and many thousands of worksites to monitor in each of those states. While OSHA makes an effort to investigate worksites, especially those in industries that show high injury and fatality numbers, the reality is that there just aren’t enough inspectors to check out every single potentially dangerous workplace.

Contact Our Texas Work Injury Attorneys for a Free Consultation

If you have been hurt at work, or if you are looking for information on behalf of a loved one, don’t wait any longer. Get the information you need about your rights in Texas. Some workers who have suffered because of an employer’s negligence have the right to pursue compensation for their:

  • medical bills
  • time away from work
  • pain and suffering
  • other costs related to their injuries

In many situations where you were hurt on the job, consulting a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible is the best way for you to protect your legal rights and to have things go back to normal as soon as possible.

You may be prevented from filing a lawsuit to be compensated for your injuries and losses if you wait for the company to do the right thing. To learn more, or to schedule a free case review, contact the experienced attorneys with VB Attorneys today at 877-724-7800.

Car carrier Sincerity Ace on fire and adrift in the Pacific Ocean

At about 1:04 a.m. Hawaii time on December 31, 2018, the captain of the Sincerity Ace reported they were dealing with a serious fire and said they were abandoning ship. The ship’s initial communication with the Coast Guard included a report that the crew was able to launch one of the life rafts and four of the 21 mariners abandoned ship with lifejackets. The Coast Guard could not confirm if they reached the life raft upon entering the water.

Watchstanders in Honolulu issued a SafetyNet broadcast requesting the assistance of vessels in the area and directed the launch of Hercules aircrews from Air Station Barbers Point. These Coast Guard aircrews and five merchant vessels came to their aid. Merchant vessels were able to rescue 16 of the 21 crewmembers. Lt. Duane Zitta from the Coast Guard Joint Rescue Coordination Center Honolulu thanked the merchant marine crews, saying:

“We are thankful for the assistance the crews of these merchant vessels have given us during this event, significantly reducing possible response time. Their quick actions provided for the rescue of 16 members of the crew who would otherwise still be in the water and are continuing to aid us.”

Two Sincerity Ace crewmembers missing, three presumed dead

Two crewmembers remain missing, three are presumed dead. These three crewmembers were located in the water but could not be recovered because they were non-responsive. Search efforts focus on the two remaining potential survivors. The search area covers 5,832 square nautical miles.

Rescuers include:

  • Merchant vessel crews from the New Century 1 and the Genco Augustus
  • Two Coast Guard Hercules helicopter aircrews from Station Barbers
  • Navy 7th Fleet P-8 Poseidon aircrew
  • The crews of the Green Lake, the SM Eagle, and the Venus Spirit also participated in search and rescue operations but have resumed normal operations as of January 2, 2019.

The commercial vessels are part of AMVER, or Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System. It is a global voluntary reporting system sponsored by the Coast Guard. AMVER is a worldwide system that search and rescue authorities use to help people at sea who are in distress.

650-foot ship on fire, adrift in Pacific Ocean

The ship is adrift in the Pacific Ocean and still on fire as of January 2, 2019. Owned by Shoei Kisen Co. Ltd., the ship carries 6,400 cars. It was built in 2009. The fire was reported when the 650-foot ship was 1,800 nautical miles northwest of Oahu. It was on its way to Honolulu from Japan.

The owners of the ship have been coordinating with the merchant vessels to transport the mariners safely home. In addition to getting the crew home, the Sincerity Ace’s owners are also formalizing their plan to salvage the ship. Commercial tugs are on their way to retrieve the ship.

The cause of the fire remains unknown.

Crew of Sincerity Ace deserves answers and help

The crew of the Sincerity Ace deserve answers and help. Some of the questions they and their loved ones are sure to ask include:

  • How did the fire start?
  • Was the ship seaworthy?
  • Could the fire have been prevented?
  • Why did four crewmembers abandon ship in lifejackets and not in a lifeboat?
  • Why was the crew only able to use one lifeboat?
  • Will the company take care of their medical bills?

Laws protecting mariners are different in each country, but if this crew was American or if the ship was American, the crew could get answers by filing a Jones Act claim. The families of the deceased crewmembers would be able to get answers by filing a Death on the High Seas claim.

These claims do more than protect their legal rights. They give survivors and families answers, justice, and vindication. They empower survivors and families to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence. They help people change companies’ behavior for the better and help prevent future disasters. To find out how we help survivors and families of mariners who have lost their lives at sea, call us at 877-724-7800.

My First Year as a Practicing Attorney

Wow! What a year 2018 was. I finally became an attorney and started doing “real lawyer things.” Here is a brief overview of what has happened (and why you probably haven’t seen much of me):

I work for VB Attorneys which is a personal injury firm that specializes in maritime law. However, the firm is expanding the range of practice areas which started with the Hurricane Harvey lawsuit and has now included two mass torts.

The year started with a firehose of learning trying to not only learn the basics of practice (which no amount of law school or internships can really prepare you for), but diving headfirst into maritime law. Maritime law and the Jones Act have many unique intricacies in personal injury claims that simply don’t exist in other areas of the law which makes it much more detailed than most personal injury claims. I spent a lot of time learning about “maintenance and cure,” “limitation of liability actions,” and much more that were simply never a part of anything I had touched before.

The Hurricane Harvey lawsuit was another brand new world of law for me. The case is a 5th Amendment takings claim because the government cannot take your property without just compensation. However, suing the federal government and working against the Department of Justice requires filing claims in a court that I didn’t even know existed before we got into this. The Court of Federal Claims is a separate federal circuit which specializes in suits against the federal government for money, which of course requires its own set of rules for procedure etc.

Our firm was made part of the leadership group for these cases which means that I’ve been able to work with some excellent attorneys from other firms and learn from them while we have pushed this case forward. We are at the final stages (of the initial litigation) now and there is a lot of exciting stuff happening. We are getting ready for trial on February 19, 2018.

Because things have gone well with the Harvey lawsuit the firm also decided to expand into mass torts. Mass torts are typically when either a drug or medical device hurts someone in a way that should have been prevented. Because the drug or medical device is sold on a mass scale there are lots of people who get injured by them anytime something goes wrong. Our work here is something that I think could have a really good societal impact for people all across the nation. If we can prevent companies from ignoring glaring problems with whatever they are producing then we can prevent people from being injured or dying which I think makes the legal profession pretty cool.

We are involved in two specific mass torts. First is the IVC filter cases where a small metal device is inserted into a person’s inferior vena cava (one of the main veins pushing blood into the heart to be reoxygenated). However, the filters break and cause other problems which can end up killing people.

The second mass tort we are involved in is based on a shingles vaccine (Zostavax) which ends up causing shingles and a long list of other neurological issues for people instead of preventing shingles. The Zostavax case is another case where we were appointed to the leadership committee and I’ve been able to work with top notch attorneys from all across the country.

Both of these mass torts require a ton of new law and even more growth for me. A big part of working on mass tort cases is that you have to handle a large number of clients and part of my job is implementing systems to make sure that that is done efficiently. This has been much more like an instant MBA than the practice of law, but I’ve learned a lot and am continuing to do so on a daily basis.

I’ve been less than perfect with all of this, but the other attorneys, paralegals, and support staff at the firm of helped me out tremendously and I’m excited to be able to keep learning and refining my craft. If you’re an attorney you’re probably tired of hearing it, but I now fully understand why they call it the “practice” of law because there is simply too much to master. I started out thinking that with the success I had in law school, the judges I had clerked for, and the number of internships I had I would be able to come in and start working flawlessly from the beginning. I can assure you that was not the case. There is simply no way to replicate living and breathing the law, your cases, and your clients like you do when it’s your (more than) full time job.

The amount of respect I have for people that continue to excel at this profession for many years continues to grow. Perhaps, what I respect most is the commitment that it takes to excel and seeing people who do the work “for love of the game.”

So, 2019 – you’ve got a pretty high bar to make it over. I hope I have the opportunity to continue to grow, excel at this profession, and maybe even make the world a better place.

Five tips to avoid drunk driving accidents and keep you safe on the road

In previous articles we mentioned that a study completed by the Houston Chronicle lists the Houston metro area as the worst in the nation for deadly car accidents. When you factor in the busy holiday season and the higher rate of alcohol use during it, you have a recipe for disaster. In fact, the Chronicle’s analysis shows that the Houston region had more fatal drunken-driving crashes during the last 16 years than any other major metropolitan area in the country.

While these numbers are very scary, there are also ways to plan ahead and avoid the temptation to drive drunk.  By following these tips, you can help keep yourself and everyone else safe on the roads.

  1. Have a plan.

Planning ahead is the best way to avoid drunk driving. Appoint a responsible friend to be your designated driver. If no one volunteers, you be the designated driver. It is better to spend a night without drinking than to injure or kill someone (or yourself) in a drunk driving accident. Keep an eye on your designated driver. If you find them drinking, have a back up plan and call a cab or an Uber.

  1. Download the Uber or Lyft app ahead of time.

If you are unable to find a reliable designated driver or if everyone plans to drink, take an Uber or Lyft.  Download the app ahead of time and set up your account. Taking a few minutes to do so will ensure you won’t have to set up an account when you are drunk and may decide it is too much trouble. Both companies usually offer coupon codes or discounts for most holidays and celebrations. If you don’t want to take an Uber, program the number to several taxi companies in your phone or pre-arrange public transportation before going out for the night.

  1. Charge your phone before heading out.

The worst thing you can do is be under the influence of alcohol with a dead cell phone. Make sure your battery is completely charged so you can arrange an Uber or contact your designated driver. Be sure you exchange phone numbers with members of your group so that all leave safely together.

  1. Call someone you trust.

After having a few too many drinks, you might feel ashamed to pick up the phone to call a friend or family member for help. Don’t be. Your friend or family member would much rather see you get home safe and sound than to drive drunk and risk injuring or killing yourself or someone else.

  1. Give someone your keys.

Find someone trustworthy who isn’t drinking, maybe the designated driver, and hand over your keys for the night. Have them put keys in a safe spot only they know about to help you avoid the temptation to drive home drunk.

No drink is worth ruining your life or someone else’s.

The last thing anyone wants to do is spend a night in jail for a D.U.I. or lose their license. But honestly, that is the very least of your worries if you get behind the wheel and drive drunk. Approximately every 20 minutes  an alcohol impaired driver injures or kills someone on a Texas road. Drunk driving is dangerous for you, your passengers, and everyone else on the road. You don’t want to be responsible for taking the life of someone else.

Contact an experienced car accident attorney if you are injured by a drunk driver.

If the worst does happen and you or a loved one injured or killed by a drunk driver please know that you are not alone. Our knowledgeable car accident attorneys have years of experience holding irresponsible drivers accountable for their actions. We will be glad to talk with you about how we can help you get your life back on track. Feel free to give us a call at 877.724.7800 or fill out a free, confidential case evaluation form   

 

Attorney Spotlight: Brian Beckcom

Brian Beckcom
fixed v growth mindset, coaching

Meet Attorney, Brian Beckcom!

An honors graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Brian Beckcom also has degrees in Computer Science and Philosophy from Texas A&M University. He is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and has gained national and international recognition for his work on complex, high profile legal cases. One in particular, the Captain Phillips case   made world headlines and influenced a Hollywood Blockbuster starring Tom Hanks. He has been featured on news segments on  Good Morning America and Nightline and has taken on some of the largest corporations to ensure justice was reached for his clients and their families.

Now let’s dig a bit deeper into the life of one of the founding partners of VB Attorneys.

1.What led you to a career in the legal field? 

My mom died when I was 10 after five years of suffering needlessly as the result of a reckless and negligent doctor. My dad raised my brother and I himself as a single father after my mom died. He hired a lawyer to represent us after the doctor killed my mom and I saw firsthand how the legal system can change people’s lives and make our community safer.

2. What has been your most memorable case and why? 

I’ve had too many memorable cases to pick just one. I’ve had some cases that resulted in millions and millions of dollars going into my client’s pockets from the insurance companies and reckless corporations, and also smaller cases, and everything in between. My favorite thing about my law practice is that I get to meet so many different kinds of people and learn so many new things. I have clients who have become lifelong friends.

3. How do you like to spend time outside of work (hobbies, etc.)? 

Outside of work I am almost always with my kids at sporting events (my kids are 15, 13, and 10). If I’m not at a youth sporting event, then I’m fly fishing, golfing, exercising, meditating, reading, playing with my dog Louie, or writing…

4. What advice do you have for those who are injured and are trying to find the right lawyer for their case?

Hire us! I’m joking (kind of). In all seriousness though, just like in any profession or job, there are a lot of bad lawyers out there, and there are some very good lawyers, and a small number of great lawyers. We seek to be great lawyers, and I think our track record shows we’ve achieved greatness for our clients. My main piece of advice for people seeking a lawyer is to understand that all lawyers and law firms aren’t created equal. Some are better than others. Some are waaaaaaaay better than others. So do your research and don’t hire some lawyer just because they have a fancy website or TV ad, or your Uncle recommended the lawyer. Do your own research, and in particular look at the track record and what clients say because that’s what matters the most.

Learn more about Brian Beckcom and the rest of VB Attorneys’ experienced trial lawyers.

Hurt working on a vessel or drilling rig? Don’t worry about getting blackballed

Whenever we talk to Jones Act workers who have been hurt working on a vessel or drilling rig, one of the most pressing questions they have is if their companies will retaliate against them for filing an injury claim. In the maritime industry, this retaliation is frequently called being “blackballed” or “blacklisted.” For every person who asks us about getting blackballed, there are multiple people who are too scared to come forward and get help.

Being blackballed is a valid fear. However, we have some good news for you. Not only is it against the law for your employer to blackball you for filing an injury claim and protecting yourself, we work to make sure our Jones Act clients are protected from any underhanded, sneaky, or illegal tactics. The fear of being blackballed prevents too many injured workers from even consulting an attorney about their legal rights. All this does is benefit the company.

Your rights under the Jones Act can be very valuable. When you get hurt on the job and qualify as a seaman under the Jones Act, your company is legally required to pay for your living expenses and medical bills until you’ve recovered or reached maximum medical improvement. It is in the company’s best interest to make you afraid to file an incident report, speak to an attorney about your legal rights, or file a claim. They save money if you believe you’ll be blackballed for protecting your rights.

Maritime industry “blacklists” are more mythical than real

Blacklists in the maritime industry are nothing more than an empty threat wielded by employers who don’t want to be on the hook for a cash payout. If the maritime industry really had a blacklist, all of the companies in maritime and maritime-related industries would have to:

  • Maintain a database of current and pending Jones Act litigation
  • Share the names of workers who have successfully obtained Jones Act settlements, as well as those whose cases have been dismissed.
  • Share (with the competition) the detailed circumstances of the accidents or incidents that resulted in a Jones Act claim, which no employer wants to do.
  • Check this master list against the name of each and every job applicant.
  • Decline to hire a uniquely qualified applicant, with in-demand job skills, because they had once sued their employer.

Filing a legal claim does not mean you will be blackballed

Because of how complex and huge this operation would have to be, the it would be nearly impossible for companies to maintain a true blacklist. The law is also very strict when it comes to blacklists. Simply put, your current employer cannot fire you for filing a Jones Act claim. Neither can a potential future employer. That doesn’t mean that being blackballed doesn’t exist entirely. If you file an unfounded or fake claim, if you exaggerate your injuries, or if you file claims over and over again, employers may have a valid reason to blackball you. Also, no attorney will represent you if they believe your claims is unfounded or if you are exaggerating your injuries. 

How we help you protect your legal rights after a maritime work injury

We will only represent you if you have a valid case. And most seamen do have valid cases. This is why we tell you up front that your conversations with us are 100% confidential. If, after reviewing your case with you and answering all your questions, the best course of action is to file an injury claim, your company will have to be notified.

But up until that point, everything is private. We will frequently work with injured seamen behind the scenes if you aren’t sure if you need to file an injury claim yet. Sometimes, all you need is a second set of eyes looking over everything to make sure the company is complying with the law. We do that confidentially, for free.

Getting hurt offshore can mean your maritime career is over. But you don’t have to give in to intimidation tactics that are designed to save the company money and leave you high and dry. Our job is to make sure you have the help you need to protect your future and get your life back to normal. Don’t let the company get away with avoiding compensating you for your injuries. Contact us today for a free and confidential case review. Call us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form.

Did a Truck Accident Cause a Brain Stem Head Injury in Your Family?

Brain stem injuries affect over one million Americans every year. Unfortunately, a semi accident creates the perfect environment for a head injury: heavy impact, high speeds, and the likelihood that a driver’s head will be thrown backward in the crash.

In addition to extreme trauma, your loved one will often suffer a brain stem injury due to the prolonged loss of oxygen to the brain. These types of injuries are particularly dangerous because they may feel fine immediately after the accident, suffering symptoms hours or days later due to intracranial bleeding and swelling of the brain.

Many of the body’s internal controls are regulated in the brain stem. If the trauma is severe enough, your loved one may be unable to control their own vital responses, including:

  • Breathing. They may require the use of a respirator for temporary or long-term use.
  • Consciousness. Brain stem injury patients in Texas may lose consciousness or go “in and out” of a conscious state for weeks or months after the accident occurs.
  • Heart rate. Patients may need pacemakers to help them control their pulse rates or make their heartbeat regular.
  • Attention and concentration. If they regain consciousness, they may have trouble concentrating or reacting to family members.
  • Sleep and wake cycles. A brain stem injury may cause a patient to sleep for long periods or suffer from insomnia, creating a broken sleep pattern.

Our truck crash attorneys know that brain injuries usually result in serious complications, including behavioral, cognitive, or physical impairments. Many people will cope with the effects of a brain stem injury for the rest of their lives, suffering partial or complete physical disability, coma, or even a minimally responsive, vegetative state.

If someone you love has suffered a head injury in a wreck involving an 18-wheeler, we can help you get compensation for your medical costs and more. Call us today at (877) 724-7800 to discuss your case with one of our experienced Texas injury attorneys.

Drunk driver leaves Houston police officers injured after fiery crash

In the early morning hours of December 24, 2018, a drunk driver turned in front of an SUV carrying two Houston police officers. The nearly head-on collision caused the police vehicle to flip over  multiple times then catch on fire.

Officer Alonzo Reid was able to pull himself to safety as the vehicle burst into flames. With the help of a passer-by, he was able to pull Officer John Daily to safety.

A helicopter transported Officer Daily to Memorial Hermann for emergency medical treatment. Officer Daily has suffered burns to roughly 50% of his body and remains sedated and in the hospital. He has already undergone at least one surgery and faces more operations in the next few days. Officer Reid, according to Police Chief Art Acevedo, is up and walking, recovering from the burns he suffered in the collision.

Drunk driving crash is just the latest in an epidemic

Houston’s drunk driving epidemic has reached Officers Reid and Daily. Police officers face tremendous risks every day. According to Chief Acevedo, Houston leads the nation in drunk driving crashes. The same night Officers Daily and Reid were hit by a drunk driver, two other police cars were hit by drunk drivers as well. These wrecks are all too common. Data compiled by the Houston Chronicle tells us that 640 people a year die on Houston-area roads, 2,850 more are seriously injured, and that the metro region leads the nation in fatal drunk driving crashes.

Our client, Officer Chayne Brothers, was thrown from his patrol car in May 2018 when a drunk driver smashed into the back of his car while he was conducting a traffic stop. He hired us to hold the responsible parties accountable. This includes Bombshells, a local bar that’s been called a crime factory by the district attorney. Officer Brothers’ million dollar lawsuit alleges that Bombshells and its parent company, RCI Hospitality, are responsible for Officer Brothers’ injuries because “they overserved the driver despite voluntarily submitting themselves to the duties and obligations imposed by the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.”

Police officers injured in crashes caused by drunk drivers have legal options beyond worker’s compensation

One way to prevent future drunk driving incidents is to hold the responsible parties accountable. If a private venue, business, or bar served the drunk driver, they may be held accountable. That means holding them accountable for either  overserving that person or violating their duties under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code. Also, the police officers can file an injury claim with the drunk driver’s insurance company.

Police officers are able to file lawsuits outside the worker’s compensation system in cases like these. As in the case of Officer Brothers and Officer Daily, these injuries can take an as-yet-unkown amount of time to heal. That means the officers are out of work, unable to pay their bills, and unable to provide for their families. In addition, their injuries may affect their ability to pursue their career goals to the fullest extent. This may impact the amount of money they can earn in the future. Drunk driving crashes have far-reaching, often permanent impacts.

Goal of lawsuit filed by injured police officer is to make community a safer place

Our goal in Officer Brothers’ case and in every case, is to make the community a safer place. That may mean:

  • holding a business like Bombshells accountable for serving too many drinks to an individual
  • holding a drunk driver directly accountable for their senseless actions
  • holding a private event space accountable for serving underage people.

In Officer Daily and Reid’s case, investigators believe a grocery store may be responsible for selling beer to the drunk driver multiple times that day. If it is determined the grocery store was negligent, the officers could file a lawsuit agains the grocery store

For help holding a drunk driver accountable or for help holding the establishment that sold or served them the alcohol accountable, consult our attorneys now. Call 877-724-7800 or fill out a contact form to find out your legal rights. We will answer all your questions and help you determine what your next steps should be.

Attorney Spotlight: Job Tennant

Job Tennant

 

Meet Job Tennant!

After receiving his bachelor’s degree from the University of Houston in broadcast communications, Job graduated Summa Cum Laude from South Texas College of Law located in downtown Houston. He graduated in the top 10 of his law school class and was Assistant Editor in Law Review at South Texas College of Law. Job has worked under judges in both the state and federal court and was a former briefing attorney for Judge Larry Weiman in Harris County’s 80th District Court.

1.What led you to a career in the legal field? 

I’ve always loved debate. The idea of two opposing sides forcing each other to recognize the truth of a situation is a really compelling idea to me. I started by working in sports radio because I wanted to see that idea play out in relation to one of my favorite hobbies (#3), but eventually I wanted to do something that could have a more substantial impact on the world. So, I decided to leave my dream job and go to law school. Read more about Job Tennant.

2. What three TV shows can you just not get enough of? 

I really enjoy watching The Office, How I Met Your Mother, and Rick and Morty.

3. How do you like to spend time outside of work (hobbies, etc.)? 

I enjoy Houston sports, yoga, philosophy, cooking/grilling with friends and family.

4. What has been one of your most memorable cases and why?

It is still ongoing, but I’d say the Harvey lawsuit just because of the scope of damage and what it can mean to the city to be able to help so many people rebuild their lives. Learn more if your home was flooded during Hurricane Harvey. 

Discover more about Job Tennant and the rest of VB Attorneys’ great attorneys.

Texans injured on the job with Tyson Foods face an unfriendly, fake “workers compensation” system set up by the company.

Tyson Foods is one of the most dangerous places to work in America, with extensive operations throughout our great State of Texas.  Because of this, you would think Tyson would cover its Texas employees with workers compensation. You would be wrong. Tyson chooses not to cover its Texas-based employees with normal workers compensation.  Instead, Tyson runs a fake “workers compensation” system in Texas designed to save Tyson money by taking advantage of injured employees when they are most vulnerable.

How Tyson’s fake workers compensation system works

Tyson will pay some medical and other benefits for a couple of weeks or so after an on-the-job injury.  After that, Tyson Foods forces its employee to sign a “WISP waiver” in which the employee promises to never sue Tyson for the work injury:

If the employee chooses not to sign this WISP waiver, Tyson cuts them off permanently from any and all benefits, no matter how severe their injury is or where they are in the course of medical treatment.

If the employee does sign the WISP waiver, they will face a rigged program Tyson calls its “Workplace Injury Settlement Program – Texas.”  Tyson’s program is full of red tape and terms that are extremely unfavorable to the injured employee. Tyson set this program up to save itself as much money as possible, to the detriment of its employees.  

Tyson Foods’ employees lack information to properly decide whether to sign Tyson’s WISP waiver

Most of the time, Tyson Foods employees do not have enough information to make a properly informed decision on whether to sign Tyson’s WISP waiver.  Tyson employees who face this situation should definitely consult a qualified work injury lawyer before deciding.  Learn more about  how employers attempt to discredit you from recovering compensation for your injuries and how our experienced work injury attorneys can help.

The Texas legislature encourages employers to provide workers compensation by offering a benefit to those who choose to do so:  Employers who have workers compensation cannot be sued by their injured employees, and those employees can collect certain benefits without having to sue their employer.  Employers who choose not to get workers compensation – like Tyson – can be sued by their injured employees and lose certain defenses in a lawsuit they could otherwise assert.

What does this mean?  Injured Tyson Foods employees should have a qualified lawyer compare their legal rights and possible benefits under Tyson’s fake workers compensation program to their legal rights and possible benefits in a lawsuit against the company.  At our firm, we have provided this service to Tyson employees many times.

Who Tyson’s rigged system hurts

Due to Tyson’s large size and significant employee injury history, its fake workers compensation system impacts a large number of injured workers.  

Tyson is one of the largest corporations in America, with a net worth over $20 Billion.  Tyson processes and markets chicken, beef and pork. Tyson employs over 100,000 people who work in over 300 Tyson facilities.  In Texas, Tyson owns and operates more than 300 facilities, over 100 of which are in the U.S.

Tyson’s employee injury history

Tyson’s employee injury history is troubling.  Starting in January 2015, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration required employers in 29 states, including Texas, to report severe work injuries.  For the period of January 2015 through September 2016, Tyson reported the fourth highest number of severe work injuries in America.  The only companies that reported more severe work injuries than Tyson are USPS, Walmart and UPS, companies that are even bigger than Tyson.

Moreover, Tyson is no stranger to OSHA citations.  OSHA has issued citations to Tyson and fined the company hundreds of millions of dollars for workplace safety violations.

If you were injured working at Tyson Foods you need an experienced work injury attorney on your side

Hopefully Tyson will do the right thing by providing its Texas-based workers with normal workers compensation, and doing away with its rigged system.  Until then, injured Tyson employees should consult with a qualified lawyer before deciding whether to sign Tyson’s WISP waiver. Learn more about Tyson Foods’ track record with non-subscriber claims and what you can do if you have been injured.