On behalf of Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP

How wrongful death proceeds are divided in Texas

Wrongful death is when one party causes the demise of another due to carelessness, unlawful acts, neglect, or unskillfulness. The surviving family members of the deceased make a wrongful death claim. It may be anyone from the parents, children as well as the surviving spouse, according to the legal website Nolo.

The claimants may file the wrongful death claim together or singly. Despite this, it is within reason that they do not all receive an equal share of the compensation. So, who gets to decide what share each claiming party will receive?

In Texas, a jury is responsible for deciding what to award the claimants and the proportions of the award. They also determine if there is any need for compensation. However, some cases are not presided over by a jury since they do not get to trial. In such scenarios, your lawyers use the knowledge of past cases that juries have presided over to provide legal advice.

As noted on FindLaw, an online legal website, when all the claiming parties are adults, they may reasonably determine how to divide the settlement. But when there are minor children in the list of beneficiaries, the court appoints a guardian ad litem to represent their rights. The guardian ad litem ensures that the adults do not take advantage of the kids.

When children are involved in a wrongful death claim, the court recognizes that they may require help as no one else may protect their rights. Most of the time, the benefit will gear towards the children. However, it does not mean that the court influences the decision. Instead, they ensure that the process is fair for everyone.

Understanding the attractive nuisance doctrine

As a parent in Austin, you no doubt not only worry about the safety of your own kids but for those of others as well. Thus, you likely do all that you can to ensure that kids are protected from any dangers that may be present on the properties that you own. Your hope is that others will repay that same courtesy. Yet like many of those that we here at Byrd Davis Alden & Henrichson, LLP can attest to, that is not always the case. The question then becomes whether or not the property owners of the areas where your children are injured can be held liable for their injuries.

The answer to that question depends on the circumstances that produced the injury. According to the Cornell Law School, the attractive nuisance doctrine holds property owners responsible for any injuries caused by artificial conditions on their lands that may be enticing to young children. The reasoning behind this principle is that children are often not able to appreciate the dangers that an attractive nuisance may present. Thus, it falls to the owners of the properties in which those attractive nuisances are found to protect kids from them.

Say that your child and their friends gain access to a construction site and choose to play there, and your child is subsequently injured. The owner of the site could indeed be held liable for the injury if they did little to keep kids from accessing it. If, however, they attempted to restrict access (either by erecting a fence around the site or posting a security guard), then they may be absolved of liability.

Injured Texas resident sues casino ship over slippery deck

When a slip-and-fall accident occurs, an injured customer has the right to file a legal action for relief even if it happened while a cruise ship was sailing on international waters. After a Texas woman fell on the slippery deck of a gaming vessel, she suffered injuries described as “severe and lasting.” She requested damages between $200,000 and $1 million to recover.

According to the complaint, the ship’s employees announced it was legal to enjoy the gaming at the boat’s gambling hall as the vessel had left U.S. waters. As reported by Newsweek magazine, while walking on the ship’s deck to the gaming room, she purportedly fell because it was slippery from moisture. Since the deck allegedly lacked a non-slip coating, the ship had a hazardous condition that was the cause of her falling and suffering severe harm.

Duty of care to warn

When an unsafe condition exists or is likely to exist, owners, management and employees of the premises owe a duty of care to warn customers. Placing a yellow safety sign that a reasonable individual would interpret as a “caution” symbol where a customer may slip often serves as an adequate warning. If a clear and noticeable forewarning is not present, however, customers may hold companies strictly liable for their injuries.

To succeed with a lawsuit, proving that the premise’s owner knew of a dangerous condition may be a significant factor, as noted on the Texas A&M University’s AgriLife Extension Service site. A plaintiff must show an existing hazardous condition caused the accident and the owner failed to correct the hazard or warn customers. Legal action may aid in recovering medical expenses and compensate for the loss of wages while recuperating.

Traffic accidents on backroads

Many people realize the risks associated with driving in urban areas, on freeways and in other places that see a lot of traffic. However, we know that traffic accident risks are present in rural areas, including backroads that see very little traffic. In some cases, these roads are not even paved, but that does not mean that the possibility of a crash is not present. Moreover, while many of the accidents that do occur in these areas are relatively minor, some are very serious and result in debilitating injuries or the loss of life.

First of all, it is important to realize some of the reasons why backroads are especially dangerous in certain instances. For one, drivers do not always expect to encounter other vehicles while driving in a secluded area, so they drive too fast around turns or fail to pay attention to the road. Also, backroads often see large amounts of debris and road hazards, such as potholes, fallen trees, tree limbs and so on. During certain times of the year, such as the winter, driving on a backroad is very dangerous. Moreover, roads that are not paved often create concerns regarding visibility when a lot of dust is kicked up.

In addition, those hurt on backroads often face serious challenges. For example, when cell phone reception is poor and a backroad is located in a very isolated area, some victims have difficulty getting the urgent help they need. These are just a few of the concerns associated with motor vehicle collisions that occur on backroads and we cover other topics related to recovering from a crash on our site.

How to stay safe at work during the winter

When the weather is mild, working outdoors is a dream come true. In the winter, freezing temperatures and the accompanying ice and snow can quickly turn that dream into a nine-to-five nightmare. Snow and ice are not common problems in most of Texas, but this is precisely why so many people are unprepared when it strikes. 

Forbes identifies winter weather as one of the most dangerous hazards for people while commuting to work and from work, as well as while on the job. In January 2019, winter claimed the lives of 21 people. In 2017 alone, accidents involving snow, sleet and ice led to 20,000 injuries. While employers certainly cannot prevent these conditions, they should do all they can to reduce the risks associated with them. Employees too should take extra caution as employers do not always have their best interests at heart. 

The United States Department of Labor makes the following recommendations for surviving winter as a  worker: 

  • Commercial drivers should ensure they complete checks of their vehicles for the winter season. 
  • Pack an emergency kit and keep it in the trunk of the vehicle, especially the work vehicle. 
  • When stranded in a vehicle because of bad winter weather involving snow and ice, it is best to remain in the vehicle and call for help. 
  • Temperatures can drop at any time, so wearing property footwear and watching out for ice is key. 

Winter can present a work hazard even when people work inside an office. This is because commuting to work comes with hazards too. Unfortunately, in most instances, accidents on the way to work are not covered under workers’ compensation so be extra careful.