November 29, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 1:45:00 pm
A truck driver who failed to heed warning signs about a traffic jam on the road ahead of him is being blamed for setting off a fatal chain reaction of vehicle collisions on Interstate 80 in western Nebraska. The resulting truck accident killed an entire family, according to the most recent blog post by The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson.
The truck was driven by Josef Slezak of River Grove, Ill., who has been charged with four counts of manslaughter and four counts of vehicular homicide.
Mr. Slezak was travelling on I-80 when he approached an earlier truck accident that had killed another semi driver, Keith Johnson. According to news reports, area truckers had been warning one another about the accident for some time on their CB radios, but Mr. Slezak never reduced his speed.
His truck collided with a car being driven by Christopher Schmidt, who then collided with the car being driven by his wife, Diana, who was travelling with the couple’s two children, Connor, 2, and Samuel, 3. All four of the Schmidts died at the scene. An autopsy later revealed that Ms. Schmidt was 30 weeks pregnant, which resulted in Mr. Slezak being charged with an additional count of vehicular homicide of an unborn child.
Mr. Slezak drove for AKI Trucking, which, according to a news report, “has a Fatigued Driving (Hours of Service) BASIC score of 80.9 percent, which exceeds the threshold for intervention by 15.9 percent.”
November 26, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 12:00:00 am
The stress of divorce can cause as much, or more, damage than the divorce itself. But if recent divorcees cope with their stress in positive ways, they can be on a better footing than they were before the divorce, says the Dallas family law firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing in its most recent blog post.
In addition to sleep, exercise and good nutrition (which were covered in an earlier blog post), the firm offers seven tips for turning divorce anxiety into “an opportunity for improvement.”
1. Meditation, whether on its own or combined with a tai chi or yoga practice;
2. Journaling, which can help you process complex, often conflicting, emotions;
3. Friends, “the real kind, not the Facebook kind,” are key to staving off depression;
4. Nature has amazing restorative effects, both in adults and kids;
5. Laughter “distracts us, releases positive hormones, reduces anxiety, and just generally makes us happier”;
6. Prioritize your life by doing the “important but not urgent” things that would make your life better;
7. Organize your home, car and office. Even if you tackle it one drawer at a time, it’s energizing and liberating.
November 20, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 11:21:00 am
Even though the Texas Supreme Court has approved a set of pro se divorce forms for divorcing couples who have no minor children and no real property, the Dallas family law firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing says the forms should only be used with caution.
In its most recent blog posting, the firm writes that although there are times when divorcing couples can forego hiring a lawyer, “we remain concerned that some divorcing spouses, particularly those who have no access to information about the couple's assets or who are the victims of physical or emotional abuse, could be harmed if they take the pro se route when they should have sought counsel who might have protected their interests.”
As part of its commitment to providing legal services to those who can’t afford them, McCurley Orsinger attorneys frequently volunteer to represent indigent spouses in their divorce cases. But, according to the Supreme Court, there were 58,000 pro se family law cases filed in Texas in 2011. So even if every one of the 4,400 members of the State Bar of Texas’ Family Law section handles a pro bono divorce every year, it would leave tens of thousands of litigants unrepresented by counsel.
As the firm writes,
The pro se forms approved by the Court are definitely an imperfect solution, but we live in an imperfect world. We nevertheless counsel anybody considering a pro se divorce to do so with great trepidation. Hiring a lawyer who can protect your interests is always preferable to going it alone.
November 14, 2012 by Robert Tharp at 12:00:00 am
Two recent surveys put some real numbers to broad trends we’ve been seeing for some time: 1) Americans are continuing to get their information from digital sources at the expense of traditional media, increasingly from mobile devices and social media platforms and 2) law firm websites are playing an increasingly critical role in business development and as an essential vetting mechanism for prospective clients.
Pew Research Center for the People & the Press reports another chapter in the steady demise of traditional(hard copy) news. Back in 2000, Pew found that nearly 50 percent of survey respondents said they’d read a print newspaper the day before. Circa 2012, the readership rate is less than half of that. No huge surprise there, but what’s more interesting is that consumers of information are increasingly(and predictably) using mobile devices to get their news. According to Pew, mobile device users are three times more likely to get news from social media as those who use a desktop device. Among the under-30 crowd, a whopping 30 percent are getting their news from social networks via mobile devices
Meanwhile, Law 360 recently weighed in on the information-consumption habits and vetting processes of prospective law firm clients. Citing a Lexis/Nexis survey, Law360 writes:
With nearly 75 percent of people using online resources to help select legal services, it is more important than ever that firms and attorneys invest in their Web presence through easily accessible websites and social media use. Specifically, general counsel of large corporations are more likely to look at websites more for validations, as opposed to choosing a firm based directly from its website.
The Lexis/Nexis survey found that potential clients frequently used social media throughout the attorney search process, with 20 percent using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
The basic takeaway here is that not only do today’s websites need to be dynamic and professional, they need to be findable and, perhaps crucially, they need to look good on a mobile phone screen.
November 12, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 3:53:00 pm
Traffic fatalities caused by motor vehicle collisions jumped 9 percent the first half of this year, which is why a highway safety group is calling for an increased emphasis on preventing deadly truck accidents, says The Law Offices of Frank L. Branson in its most recent blog post.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that the number of fatalities caused by motor vehicle collisions increased 9 percent in the first half of 2012, as compared to the same period in 2011. That’s the largest jump in a single year since the agency began collecting traffic fatality statistics in 1975, the firm writes.
In response to the NHTSA report, The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health and safety groups and insurance companies and agents, issued a statement calling for an increased emphasis on highway safety in Congress and state legislatures. Among the recommended actions, the group says, are steps to address trucking safety[.]
Those recommendations include addressing hours of service limits and driver training.
November 12, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 3:39:00 pm
Divorce is stressful, but the way people deal with that stress can either help or hurt them in the long run, says the Dallas family law firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing in its most recent blog post.
“Regardless of the circumstances of a divorce,” the firm writes in the first of a two-parter on stress management for the newly divorced, “it's possible to deal with the anger, sadness and regret in positive ways. Almost all of these techniques will take some time and dedication, but if there's ever a time to make your mental and physical health a priority, it's during a divorce.”
If you find yourself saying ‘I can't do that because...,’ realize that you're the only person who can make your health a priority. Your reasons may be valid and difficult to overcome (job schedule, children's demands, etc.), but if you can make your well-being the priority around which other people's needs are met, you will find yourself far more alert, energetic and focused-all of which makes you a better employee, parent and friend.
Remember what the flight attendant says before every flight: ‘If you're travelling with a child, please put the oxygen mask on yourself before putting it on the child.’ That's because we can't help anybody if we've passed out.
The three most important tools in stress management, the firm writes, are sleep, exercise and nutrition. Sleep is “is the closest thing there is to a magic wellness pill,” closely followed by regular exercise. Those experiencing divorce-related stress also need to seek out fresh vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein and healthy fat—and not processed or fast foods that can give quick energy but can cause serious long-term health issues.
“Admittedly, keeping prepared, healthy foods in the house takes planning and organization,” the firm writes, “but it's a better investment than Apple stock.”
November 9, 2012 by Robert Tharp at 12:00:00 am
As the nation honors those who have served and sacrificed on Veterans Day, an estimated 1 million vets are expected to re-enter the workforce in the next five years as wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down. It’s a daunting challenge in this economy, underscored by the recent experience of young veterans. Unemployment rates indicate that young vets have unemployment rates far higher than their peers.
Today's returning warriors offer valuable professional and leadership skills, and the 2011 VOW to Hire Heroes Act offers incentives for employers who hire vets. The VOW to Hire Heroes Act allows employers to receive tax credits up to $2,400 for hiring veterans unemployed for more than a month (but less than six months). The incentives climb for hiring a veteran out of work for more than six months, and they reach as high as $9,600 for businesses that hire veterans with service-related disabilities.
Munck Wilson Mandala attorney Michael Rodriguez knows first-hand how the experience can build leadership skills and character that are valuable to employers. An intellectual property lawyer with a degree in engineering, Rodriguez has served two tours in combat zones in both Iraq and Afghanistan as an officer in the Navy SeaBees combat engineering brigade.
"Young vets in many ways have skill sets and practical experience far beyond their peers," he says.
November 7, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 10:26:00 am
Following a divorce, it can be a challenge for non-primary parents to maintain a meaningful relationship with their children since they may see them only a couple of times each week, according to a recent blog post from the family law firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing L.L.P. Non-primary parents may be tempted to make elaborate plans and find fun things to do during visits with their children, but that may be a recipe for failure, the firm writes.
Time alone with kids – without the other parents' intervention or the conflict that can be present in unhappy marriages – can provide the non-primary parent with a prime opportunity to occupy a unique and invaluable place in their children's lives.
That can only happen, though, if the non-primary parent takes off his or her "entertainer" hat. Visitation time isn't vacation time for the kids. It's not an excuse for late nights, all-pizza-and-ice-cream diets, unlimited television, and trips to the nearest amusement park. That's what grandparents are for.
The non-primary parent's home needs to be the kids' true second home, with a dedicated space for them to sleep and study, chores, responsibilities, limits, consequences, and routine. Those all provide a solid foundation for children in any situation, but children of divorce need them even more.
Ensuring that visits with non-primary parents are “an extension of, rather than a vacation from, their routine” can help kids build the strong parental relationship that they want and need, the firm writes.
November 5, 2012 by Amy Hunt at 2:04:00 pm
Jeff Anderson, a partner in the Dallas family law firm of McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing, said if the Collin County Judge in the Deion and Pilar Sanders divorce case had invalidated the couple’s premarital agreement, it would have been “a game changer.”
In an interview with Dallas’ Fox 4 News, Anderson (who is not involved in the case) said that, without a premarital agreement (also known as a prenuptial agreement), the couple’s assets would have been considered community property “unless proven otherwise.” That would have probably given Pilar Sanders a much larger share of the former Dallas Cowboys’ assets, according to the law firm’s most recent blog posting.
Despite Pilar Sanders’ contention that her initials were forged in several places in the premarital agreement, the judge ruled that the agreement was valid.
November 1, 2012 by Robert Tharp at 3:05:00 pm
A Houston Chronicle article published today detailing a federal Civil Rights lawsuit against Pasadena police paints a chilling picture of the last moments of 41-year-old Jose Sauceda Jr.’s life.
Reportedly beaten, shackled in a “hogtie” position face-down on a stretcher and left without medical care in a Pasadena, Texas, hospital room, 41-year-old Jose Sauceda Jr.’s death in custody raises serious questions about his treatment by police. The lawsuit filed by The Lanier Law Firm on behalf of Mr. Sauceda’s family seeks answers about how the married father of four died in police custody after his March 25, 2012, encounter with Pasadena officers.
According to the lawsuit, Mr. Sauceda was detained by Pasadena police on suspicion of driving while intoxicated. He was taken to Bayshore Medical Center for a blood test after being beaten by police and hogtied face-down on a stretcher, according to the suit filed Oct. 26 in the 127th State District Court.
Writes the Houston Chronicle: The defendants, who deterred attempts by hospital staff to assess and treat Sauceda, watched him struggle, turn purple and blue and die, the suit claims.
"That's the thing that is most mind-boggling here," said attorney Lawrence P. Wilson of The Lanier Law Firm in Houston. "Did they not realize he was in distress? Did they not at some point say, 'You know what? We ought to let the medical people check him out.' "
After Mr. Sauceda was transported to the hospital and placed in a private room, the lawsuit says, at least one Pasadena police detective and several officers looked on while he struggled for air and eventually died. According to the family’s claims, the same officers prevented hospital nurses from caring for Mr. Sauceda’s obvious injuries.
“Jose’s family wants answers, and they deserve to know why this happened and who should be held responsible,” says Mr. Wilson, lead counsel for the family. “How can a room full of police officers stand a few feet away while a healthy man is suffocating right in front of them?”
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