Smithville Legal Blog

Distraction is a danger to first responders

Texas drivers are aware of laws that require them to yield to emergency vehicles. However, recent research indicates that despite these laws, many drivers become more distracted in the presence of emergency vehicles. This can put first responders, and others, at risk.

While it is understandable that a driver might become nervous around the scene of an accident or when confronted with sirens and flashing lights, there are other factors that often contribute to distraction. In many cases, drivers are using their phones to take photographs or videos of an accident scene. Others share responses to the emergency to social media accounts.

Distracted driving the subject of 2019 Travelers Risk Index

The Travelers Companies has released its 2019 Travelers Risk Index, which gathers some eye-opening data on the factors behind distracted driving. It is the result of a survey involving more than 2,000 consumers and executives. Texas residents should know that texting and sending emails was the most common distraction among drivers. In fact, 44 percent admitted to it. Twenty-three percent said social media use.

Moreover, 13 percent said they would find it hard to break the habit of reading texts and emails while 11 percent expressed a similar sentiment about sending them. Furthermore, 5 percent said it would be hard to break the habit of online shopping behind the wheel.

45 percent of adults found to have incarcerated family member

Almost half of adults in Texas and across the United States have an immediate family member who has been incarcerated. The new study, which is believed to be the most accurate of its kind, was done by researchers at Cornell University. The findings were double what researchers had believed prior to the study. Researchers used a nationally represented study to gather the statistics. More than 4,000 people were included in the study.

Of all adults surveyed, 45 percent had a parent, sibling, grandparent, child or spouse imprisoned for a criminal conviction at some point in their lives. Siblings were found to be the most common family member to be incarcerated. Though approximately 60 percent of those incarcerated were African-American, and 60 percent were lower-income, all segments had significant statistics. An estimated 15 percent of college-educated, white adults had family members who had been in prison at some point, which surprised researchers.

Determining the extent of a car accident

Residents of Texas who are involved in a car accident will want to remain as calm as possible. This is the first step in the process of physically documenting and determining the extent of damages and injuries: an essential process that can help the police with their incident report and victims with their insurance claims.

Before victims begin the documentation, they must tend to any emergencies. If anyone is injured, call 911. If the vehicles are blocking traffic, move them. Ideally, though, the crash scene should be kept as is. That is when victims can start taking photographs of the vehicle damage and physical injuries. Skid marks and damage to objects like light poles and trees should also be photographed.

What to do when you get a low offer after a car accident

Auto accidents happen every day in Texas. Many of these result in substantial injuries. In 2017 alone, 254,853 people sustained injuries due to these collisions. 

All those people likely went to their insurance agencies to get coverage for medical expenses. With so many claims coming in, insurance companies try to pay out as little as possible. They will also use every trick in the book to get out of paying anything. It is vital for anyone involved in a car accident to know when they have a low offer and fight to get more. 

The importance of an estate plan for people without children

Some people in Texas might think they do not need an estate plan because they do not have children. They may have no close relatives or might only have a spouse. However, there are a number of reasons to have an estate plan even if a person plans for all assets to go to a spouse.

One part of an estate plan involves planning in case a person cannot make medical or financial decisions. Powers of attorney can be used to appoint people to take on these duties if necessary. Without these, the family could go through a lengthy legal process for someone to obtain a guardianship.

Misinterpreting speech could result in convictions

When audio recordings of black suspects are transcribed into text, mistakes are often made about the meaning of language. In cases in Texas and many other states, transcribers have written down statements that don't actually coincide with the language of the original recording. This is particularly common with white transcribers who are responsible for converting speech from black suspects to text. These mistakes can result in criminal convictions and extensive prison sentences for innocent people.

The language used by many black people in America, sometimes referred to as Black English, uses many idioms and codes that are not well understood by the rest of the population. When law enforcement officials bring this issue up in order to improve criminal justice equality, they are often met with confusion and derision. This is because some believe Black English is deficient when the reality is that it's alternative.

Making an estate plan after divorce

When Texas couples decide to end their marriage, it can have a significant effect on their estate planning decisions. Many people across the country hurried to finalize their divorces in 2018, due to new tax law changes going into effect in 2019. Now that the marriage is over, however, there are a number of other procedures for people to look into to ensure that loose ends have been tied. When people marry, they often include their spouses as the primary beneficiary of wills, trusts and other estate planning documents. Divorce can inspire thorough changes in these documents, and the divorce decree can be a good place to start.

An estate planning attorney can refer back to the divorce agreement in order to look for ongoing obligations as well as agreements to make changes in the plan. Some of the most obvious changes may involve revising bequests in a will or trust and removing a former spouse as an executor. However, other documents are just as critical to update. Most people will want to remove their former spouse as a power of attorney or health care proxy in case they are incapacitated and name another trusted person instead.

Infotainment systems found to distract drivers

Researchers at the University of Utah have analyzed 30 infotainment systems on new 2017 vehicles, finding that all of them were distracting to drivers at one level or another. This study was made for AAA and should be of interest to anyone in Texas who's interested in the new tech but worried about its implications.

The results were clearly seen when participants of the study, who were told to use the infotainment systems while driving, engaged in various unsafe behaviors. For example, they would ignore stop signs, swerve out of their lanes and drive at a speed considerably below what was posted. Of the 30 systems, none were found to demand only a low level of attention. Eleven demanded a high level and 12 a very high amount.

Possible defenses against a DWI in Texas

If you face charges of driving while intoxicated, you may feel your case is a lost cause. Perhaps you review your options to find the easiest way to get the proceedings over with.

However, a DWI conviction can have serious, lifelong consequences. Take confidence in knowing you have defense options available to help you.

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