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What To Do If You Witness A Motorcycle Accident

Kirkfield Motorcycle CrashAt Shefman Law, Austin’s finest motorcycle accident attorneys, we’re not just great personal injury lawyers; we’re riders as well. Because we enjoy taking our bike out just as much as the next Austin motorcyclist, we take a personal interest in safety on the roads, and we’ve made it our calling to counsel members of our community that have sustained injury in a motorcycle accident. Often, we’re asked not only what you should do if you’re involved in a motorcycle accident, but also what steps you should take if you’ve witnessed another rider being injured. In the spirit of this, we’ve put together a general list of what you may do if you’re the first on the scene of a bike accident. Remember, we’re not just Austin personal injury attorneys; we’re bikers, just like you.

Stop, Take a Deep Breath, and Reassure the Victim While You Wait For Assistance

The first thing you’ll want to do in the event that you’ve witnessed a motorcycle accident is to take a deep breath and center yourself. Calm tends to go a long way in these types of situations, and a centered demeanor will be comforting for other people involved in the crash. As Austin motorcycle injury lawyers, we can’t speak enough to how positive it can be to spend some time reassuring the victim while you wait for trained medical assistance. Often times in any major accident, a strong, reassuring presence is just what the situation needs.

Make a Detailed Assessment of Injuries and Call for Help

If no one has called for an ambulance yet, get a good look at the victim’s state and make the call. If breathing is taking place normally, do not remove the victim’s helmet. Similarly, make sure that the victim does not try to move or reach for her or his bike, as certain injuries can potentially be aggravated. As Austin motorcycle accident lawyers, we recommend that you also take down a detailed account of the scenario surrounding the crash. What other vehicles were involved? What direction was the driver coming from? Did you notice any drivers making illegal or specious lane changes or turns? If the victim does end up requiring a personal injury attorney or specialized motorcycle accident attorney, your observations may prove invaluable.

Check the Victim for Shock and Manage the Scene

Depending on the scenario, helping to organize traffic surrounding the accident can be incredibly helpful. If there are other witnesses around, ask them to direct cars around or away from the victims and their vehicles, and attempt to keep space accessible for emergency vehicles. One thing we’ve learned from years of experience as motorcycle injury lawyers is that shock is very typical in these situations, which is why you should do your best to keep speaking with the victim while you wait for assistance. Watch for pale, cool, clammy skin as a sign that a victim is in shock. Also, if a victim is having trouble answering simple questions (“What’s your name,” etc.), this may also be a sign of shock, which you’ll want to notify responding medics of.

When the Ambulance or Officers Arrive, Give Them Full Details

The final step in assisting in a motorcycle accident is to comply with the responding professionals as best you can. If you have noticed difficulty in breathing or other visible signs in the victim, make sure the medics know this. If you were able to get down a license plate number from a car that has left the scene, pass it on to the police officers when they arrive. As Austin motorcycle accident attorneys, we can’t say enough how your ability to take in details can help with treating the victim and assessing blame in the crash. This is where a calm demeanor can really pay off.

At Shefman Law, we pride ourselves on being not only exceptional motorcycle accident injury attorneys and personal injury lawyers, but also on being members of Austin’s wonderful biker community. If you’ve been involved in an accident or have sustained injury through a motorcycle crash, contact the personal injury lawyers at Shefman Law today to begin your journey towards justice.

20th Anniversary Rosedale Ride – March 22, 2014

Cyclists prepare to rideOn Saturday, March 22, cyclists of all kinds will descend upon the Samsung Semiconductor in Austin for an event every Austin bike rider looks forward to: the 20th Annual Rosedale Ride. An event organized as a fundraiser for the Rosedale School, the Rosedale Ride is an opportunity to get out on the road with hundreds of other riders and tour the gorgeous streets of our wonderful town. As Austin’s bicycle accident attorneys, Shefman Law is thrilled to be entering the time of year when major rides and events start happening, and the Rosedale Ride is one of our favorite, both for its sense of community and the great cause it supports.

The Rosedale School is Austin’s only school for children with multiple disabilities, and the Rosedale Ride is an essential event for the financial health of the school. Starting at the Samsung Semiconductor, cyclists are encouraged to enjoy rides of 20+, 40+, and 60+ routes. Even better, the event hosts a small loop of 12 miles for children to enjoy! This year marks the 20th anniversary of the event, so there will be many special perks for riders. The Ride coordinators have even put together a 20th anniversary jersey for the occasion, giving each and every Austin bicyclist the chance to commemerate the historic day. After the days ride, there’s plenty of food and drink for the whole family, not to mention live entertainment. The Rosedale Ride is the perfect event for connecting with Austin’s wonderful cyclist community, all while providing support for an incredibly worthy cause.

Here in Austin, we’re proud of the fact that we do things a bit differently, and the Rosedale School is an excellent example of that. In the same way that Shefman Law looks out for the interests of people that have been involved in bicycle accidents and have sustained bicycle injuries, the Rosedale School looks out for members of our community with disabilities that can often be forgotten by the rest of society. Their work is a testament to all the great work being done in Austin, and the Rosedale Ride offers the ability to give support to a wonderful organization while enjoying everything we love about riding in Austin. As Austin bicycle accident attorneys, we’re incredibly lucky to share a city with such a noble and worthy cause

As experienced Austin bicycle accident attorneys, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that safety, even during large cycling events, should always be on your mind. The roads can be a dangerous place for a cyclist, and making sure to stay diligent and wear your helmet at all times can go a long way towards keeping the day a fun as well as safe. If you or anyone you know should experience a bicycle crash you believe warrants compensation, get in touch with the bicycle accident injury attorneys at Shefman Law. We fight for you, and we win.

Justice to Some, Austin’s DWI Is All Relative

Austin has reached critical mass. Our highways are overcrowded. Our streets are filled to the brim with cars, trucks, motorcycles, bicycles, pedicabs, taxicabs, horses, scooters, and pedestrians all competing for space. Space is further limited by construction of buildings, new roads, repair of old roads, detours, event lane closures, street closures, and weather conditions. Sometimes that space has to be navigated among all of these competing interests AND an out-of-control drunk driver. As Austin DWI accident attorneys and car accident injury lawyers, we’re very familiar with the difficulty these overlapping forces can cause. Sound like chaos? It is. Yet, there seems to be some sort of theory of relativity in relation to drunk driving and the penalties exacted.

Each year we host events that draw crowds pushing a population already at its maximum capacity to seam splitting limits. South-by-Southwest, Austin City Limits, Austin Marathon (and a run or ride every weekend day of the calendar year), Kite Festival, Carnaval, Fun Fun Fun Fest, Formula 1, Moto GP, and ROT Rally, just to name a few. With each event brings in new folks, out-of-towners, out-of-staters, people …more people. We love it, and we hate it. Whether you’re a festival goer or a car accident injury lawyer familiar with the stresses these events can cause, you can certainly see the issues that arise due to the crowds associated with these events.

Transportation is clearly an area where we miss. We have a very lite light rail system that has very limited routes, and limited capacity. We have Cap Metro and there is no shortage of complaints about areas of town it does not cover. The UT system has a bus system, so there is that added bonus for UT employees and students. There are no pedestrian/cycle overpasses for over International Highway 35. There are a few pedestrian/cycle overpasses for MOPAC. We have all sorts of toll roads that well, nobody is on. At least, the toll roads do not seem congested or even busy. …and we are building another one.

While some events are focused on sports and family, most of these events are focused on music/alcohol. This has become our city’s trademark, music/alcohol. With alcohol comes the question of how to safely transport the drunk or drinking crowd from one event location to the next. It has long been established that there is no safe way for a drunk person to operate any sort of vehicle to safely transport themselves. Thus, what are the options:

Lite MetroRail- http://www.capmetro.org/metrorail.aspx?id=312

CapMetro-(Downtown Only Shown Here) http://www.capmetro.org/uploadedFiles/Capmetroorg/Schedules_and_Maps/systemmap_downtown.pdf

Taxis- This tidbit on taxi use in Austin is interesting http://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Transportation/Parking/Comparison%20Data.pdf

Short of private limousine’s this is what our city has to offer.

So what happens when you drive drunk and get caught?

Here is what could happen: Standard first offense (Class B Misdemeanor) could be 72 hours in jail; $3,000 DPS surcharge; 180 days in jail; $2,000 fine but…..and this is where it gets me, IT DEPENDS. It depends on who your attorney is, who your prosecutor is, and who your judge is. It depends because there are variables that slip through the all too slippery cracks of our justice system.

So, what happens if you are over .08 BAC and you kill someone? This is really what gets me, IT DEPENDS.

Case Study:

People v. Owens (3/2014) Kills three, capital murder charges http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-03-14/news/chi-sxsw-austin-car-hits-crowd-20140313_1_two-people-police-custody-police-car

People v. Marshall (2/2014) Killed two, no capital charges http://kxan.com/2014/02/05/woman-charged-with-dwi-in-deadly-northwest-austin-crash/

People v. Wyzykowski (2013) Killed two, 19 felonies charged, http://www.myfoxaustin.com/story/24331820/police-dui-driver-in-fatal-crash-was-over-3-times-legal-limit

People v. Nestande (2011) Killed Courtney Griffin leaving Clive Bar, not charged with capital murder but at least criminally negligent homicide will get you six months in jail (maybe). http://www.kvue.com/news/local/Nestande-to-be-released-from-jail-Friday-224560321.html

People v. Johnson (2012) Cody Johnson killed when hit from behind, MISDEMEANOR charges pending.  http://www.kvue.com/news/Austin-cyclists-take-to-the-streets-to-remember-one-of-their-own-killed-by-suspected-drunk-driver-177793971.html

Robert “Chops” Ramierez, 30, (2012) biking on the Ann Richards Congress Avenue bridge when struck and killed by a car whose driver was charged with intoxication manslaughter and failure to stop and render aid.

Also, Dik Van Meerten, 61, struck by a car that jumped the curb outside Wheatsville Co-op on Guadalupe Street. The driver faced charges of manslaughter and intoxication assault.

Each of these crashes were in densely populated areas, lots of foot traffic nearby, all involving alcohol and all have different charges brought. The charges span from misdemeanor all the way to capital murder. So what gives?

A study of the outcomes in all these cases, nearly too many to mention, is timely and would be welcome.  Austin’s 2012 fatalities are compiled here: http://cycling.frenzied.us/unsorted/2012-austin-traffic-fatalities.html  The fact is there are different charges levied for nearly the same crime over and over again. The variations may sometimes be slight  and sometimes they are of such severe magnitude that you have to wonder, whether you’re a DWI accident and injury lawyer or not.

This is not an isolated problem with a quick fix solution. There are systemic issues that include a city with a long tradition of celebrating music and alcohol as its primary form of entertainment and its loudest trumpet to hail tourists. The issues include a shortage of transportation alternatives, police, district attorneys, and our attitudes, yes-us! as a society and a community. What are our limits? What is our tipping point? Do we have one? When do we demand what other cities have, transportation options, consistent enforcement and prosecution of these crimes?  When do we take to the jury box and convict for maximum penalties? Do penalties help? Wouldn’t up front solutions be the smartest alternative? Harsh consistent penalties could be a solution. As Austin car accident injury attorneys and DWI injury lawyers, we advocate for solutions that will bring a higher level of safety for all of the residents of Austin.

For instance, any driver that has a first time DWI with no injury mandatory  intoxilyzer installed as part of a probation and sentencing. It is expensive, and it is a partial preventative for drunk drivers. There are ways around the device but no harm in causing an offender to get one. Mandatory minimums without negotiation for fines, $5,000 minimum with heightened fines for elevated BAC levels or other infractions. Mandatory court suspension of driver’s license privilege for one year, you will now learn to ride a bike or take the bus. Mandatory drug and alcohol classes, money benefitting victims fund.  Mandatory 120 days of actual jail time. Mandatory 80 work release as part of the probationary terms (little orange jacket working to clean sidewalks and pick up trash). And three year court supervised probation and no matter who you are this is what you get for a first offense.

The point is this, no matter who you are, no matter how much money you have, no matter who your employer, no matter which prosecutor you get or what court room you are assigned, you walk in for your arraignment and it is written on the wall what your penalties are for your DWI whether it is a first, second, and especially when harm is caused to another. What we have now is so unpredictable, the variables scream justice to SOME.  Driving under the influence of alcohol is serious, the outcomes are outrageous, and the law and its delivery is specious.

Four Major Causes Of Motorcycle Accidents, And How to Avoid Them

Riders can take steps to avoid motorcycle accidentsAt Shefman Law, we’re not just motorcycle accident attorneys: we’re the premiere Austin motorcycle injury lawyers. We’ve worked with victims of motorcycle crashes for years, and it’s this experience that makes us effective at what we do. Furthermore, not only are we experienced motorcycle accident trial attorneys, we’re also riders ourselves.

Our history dealing with motorcycle accidents has led us to a deep understanding of the common types of crashes and the causes behind them. We’ve put together a list of four of the most frequent reasons why an accident occurs on the road, as well as a few general tips on how to avoid some of these occurrences. Read on to know what you should try to avoid each and every time you take your bike out on the road.

1. Car Makes A Left Turn

As Austin motorcycle accident attorneys, this is easily the most common incident we see motorcyclists finding themselves in. The scene typically unfolds like this: a car fails to notice a rider, or misjudges her or his speed, and makes a left in front of the rider at an intersection. This type of collision constitutes nearly 42% of all accidents involving a motorcycle and a car, making it a high priority on the list of situations to avoid for all riders. Most of the time a vehicle that strikes another motorist while making a left-hand turn will be found responsible for the accident, though this doesn’t mean diligence is not required from a biker’s perspective. Always be aware of the dangers at hand when approaching a four way stop, and keep an eye on whether drivers are noticing your presence. If all else fails, make sure to contact a motorcycle accident lawyer immediately following a crash.

2. Road Hazards

Due to the relative instability and thin tires of most motorcycles, road hazards present a greater danger to bikers than they do for most other motor vehicles. Whether it’s potholes, sewer grates, or poorly laid gravel, Austin motorcyclists can be faced with treacherous conditions when out on the road. When a motorcycle accident or injury is caused by a road hazard, there can often be responsible parties, be it the state, county, city, or other agency that maintains the road. Depending on the situation, you may be entitled to compensation, so you should always contact a motorcycle injury lawyer after an incident. Like many situations on the road, your best bet is to take unknown roads slowly and safely, while attempting to steer clear of any blocked off street or known hazard areas.

3. Car Changes Lanes Into You

Sadly, most motorcyclists will be familiar with this scenario: you’re out, enjoying a weekend ride, when suddenly a car begins to change lanes into the space you’re occupying without checking for your presence. One thing we’ve noticed in our years of experience as Austin motorcycle accident attorneys is that many drivers simply fail to take the time to look out for the bikers sharing the lanes with them. Although cars are required to check their blind spots when changing lanes, it’s still essential to spend as little time as possible outside of the view of other motorists. Also, taking extra caution when riding in situations where lane changes are more likely to occur (i.e. when highway traffic is slowing, or lanes are coming to an end) in order to avoid a dangerous situation. Even though cars are required to safely share the lanes with motorcyclists, riders have to remain ever vigilant to the dangers of careless drivers.

4. Lane Splitting

Lane Splitting occurs when a motorcycle drives between two lanes of stopped or slowly moving cars. Even in a state like California, which permits “safe and prudent” lane splitting, it’s always a practice to avoid. The legality of lane splitting in many states is quite often debatable, and as experienced Austin motorcycle accident and injury attorneys, we encourage every rider to stay away from the often disastrous practice. Safely sharing the road is tough enough for bikers without the added burden of a legally dubious and highly dangerous act such as lane splitting. As a motorcyclist, do your part to remain safe, and avoid lane splitting.

At Shefman Law, we not only represent motorcycle riders, we are motorcycle riders. If you’re in need of a tough and effective motorcycle accident attorney, call today for a consultation. Remember, we only take a fee if you receive compensation.


SXSW Car Crash

SXSW crash

SXSW crash

Austin it is a sad day, as this crash happened during an internationally recognized event that our City is famous for and embraces as a robust boost to our economy. This is horrible for the families, the survivors, their friends, loved ones, those injured, those who will suffer and struggle to rehabilitate.

There is a subtext, one that needs and deserves discussion. As Austinites we know that there is an inconsistency about enforcement of drug and alcohol driving violations, especially those involving serious bodily injury and death. As an Austin DWI accident attorney and car accident injury attorney, it pains me to see these inconsistencies play out.

Our city wholeheartedly embraces a drinking atmosphere and culture. We have virtually no public transportation to speak of after midnight and very little for those after “Happy Hours”. There is almost no municipally supported program that would assist a drunk driver. Okay, well that is another topic because this perpetrator was driving a stolen car and probably would not have ended up on our burgeoning light rail had we an effective one. Yet, what did happen? What was said? Why is it important?

When Chief Acevedo spoke at today’s conference about the #SXSWcrash about the officer that gave chase to the suspected drunk driver, Chief Acevedo mentioned the officer was part of the “STEP” program.

In this article from 2006 in policechiefmagazine.org, we found this explanation of what a “step” officer is….

“The DWI Task Force focused on areas where offenses were likely to occur and during peak hours when impaired driving was most prevalent. Task force officers worked as two-person units. Two teams patrolled Sunday through Wednesday nights, and four teams worked Thursday through Saturday. On Saturday night, officers hired through the DWI Traffic Selective Enforcement Pro-gram (STEP) supplemented the teams.” http://www.policechiefmagazine.org/magazine/index.cfm?fuseaction=display_arch&article_id=974&issue_id=82006

The Step program seems to be a program that brings in additional coverage officers for DWI enforcement. Let’s hear more about this program. Let’s hear more about official policies of APD. Yes, there is definitively one person who did very bad acts and those bad acts were the proximate cause of great bodily injury and death. That man has been apprehended.

Interestingly, the community is hearing Chief Acevedo, not the District Attorney, make claims that this person will be prosecuted for capital murder? Really? Manslaughter, no, that is not what he said. He said, Capital Murder. That would be novel at best and probably the wrong charge but we will leave that to the District Attorney, since that is their province. Yet, we know similar egregious acts are still listed as misdemeanors, such as when Stephen Gilbert ran over Cody Johnson from behind, killing him, registering a BAC over .08% and over 18 months have passed and there is not even an indictment. In Austin, our DWI injury attorneys and car accident injury lawyers are sadly familiar with these kinds of cases. Indictments can be made on ham sandwiches, an often quoted line from every first year criminal law class throughout the land.

What raises some additional pause of course is the circumstances involving this crash. The chase, the actual decision to chase a drunk driver past a barricaded street, into a crowd of people. Is this against APD policy?

Was this a trained officer? Do the STEP officers know APD policy on when to give chase? When not to give chase?  Was the crash, the two killed, the 23 injured a forseeable event in light of the circumstances? And moreover, was it preventable?

As personal injury attorneys practicing DWI accident law and car accident injury cases in Austin, we’re tired of seeing these tragedies occur. Let’s push for a transparent government. Let’s push for consistent charges, sentencing, and let’s let the public know what happens when you break the law, drive drunk, choose to put others lives in peril.

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