You Mean I Didn’t Have the Right of Way?

Pedestrian and bicyclist rights and how the law strolls and pedals along with them.

The kids are back in school, so the crosswalks are “little-one chaos.” The weather in Texas is getting cooler, so cyclists are hitting the asphalt without fear of heatstroke. All in all, it’s a great time to be outdoors. Save one reason.

There’s your best friend Joe (and lots of other Joes) cruising the roadway (while texting, eating and more) like his own private autobahn. In other words…

Reckless and distracted drivers.

So what’s the law in Texas? Do automobiles always have the right-of-way? What are pedestrian rights at intersections? Do bicyclists have the same rights as motorists?

For guidance, we can turn to our dear friends in the Texas Legislature (Wouldn’t you like to catch a few of them alone in a crosswalk?!) and specifically the Texas Transportation Code (TTC), Chapter 552 (pedestrian rights and responsibilities) and Chapter 551 (bicyclists’ rights and responsibilities).

So yes, there are “responsibilities.” I think we all pretty much know how it works, but here’s a quick and general refresher course:

  • Traffic control signals displaying green, red, yellow lights or lighted arrows apply to pedestrians.

  • Pedestrians facing a red signal alone or steady yellow signal may not enter a roadway.

  • Pedestrians facing a green signal may proceed across a roadway within a marked or unmarked crosswalk unless the sole green signal is a turn arrow.  (Did you know about the “unmarked” crosswalk? And the “sole green arrow” restriction?)

  • Pedestrians facing a “walk” signal may proceed across the roadway and the motorist must yield the right of way.

  • Bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as those of motorists, with limited exceptions. That means they must observe all traffic control devices, including yield signs and stop signs.

  • Bicyclists on a roadway who are moving slower than other traffic must ride “as near as practicable” to the right curb or edge, unless preparing to turn left at an intersection or a private driveway.

  • Bicyclists may ride two abreast unless it’s a laned roadway and as long as they don’t impede the flow of traffic. Otherwise, they must ride single file.

That’s your refresher course. There will be a test later. Out on the roadways…

If you want to know more about these laws, just click on the links below.  And slow down, Joe! Drive friendly!

TTC Chapter 552…Pedestrian Rights and Duties

TTC Chapter 551…Bicyclists Rights and Duties

Stay safe out there!

-CW

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Representing the Seriously Injured & Victims of Wrongful Death Since 1981. 

Charlie Waters Footer

Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. Information contained in Legal Waters is intended to be informative only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you feel you need legal counsel or guidance.
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Are My Parents and Grandparents Safe?

Nursing home liability in Texas and what you need to know.

parents_grandparentsThis is a tough topic.

You love your parents and grandparents. They’ve spent their lives loving and doing for you, and you’ve watched them slowly grow older with grace and courage. But now it’s time. They need help on a daily basis and finding the right assisted living facility is a critical decision. You want their needs met, and most of all you want them safe and secure.

The reality in Texas today is that we have many great facilities, but not all are up to standards. And some are simply inadequate or even dangerous.

Nursing homes are licensed facilities and subject to oversight and regulation by state and federal agencies. Nursing home liability is governed substantially by Chapter 242 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, mandating specific standards (will link words).

The Texas agency responsible for nursing home oversight is the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (“DADS”).

DADS has a terrific website full of information on available senior services and on licensed facilities throughout the state. If you want to research a specific facility and learn of any regulatory violations, fines, license suspensions, etc., there’s a place on this website that directs you on how to submit an Open Records Act request and obtain the information you need.

Actionable cases against nursing homes/assisted living facilities fall under two broad categories: Abuse and Neglect.

Abuse includes battery, force-feeding, over-medication, excessive use of chemical or physical restraints, verbal degradation or threats, isolation, emotional manipulation and forced or unwanted sexual contact. Such abuse/assault can occur through the actions of a staff member, another resident, visitor or stranger. Such things should be immediately reported, of course, but often the elder victim is too ashamed or afraid to say something.

Neglect can include failure to assist with personal hygiene, failure to provide ample food, clothing and shelter, failure to provide appropriate medical treatment, failure to remedy unsanitary conditions and failure to address and remedy safety hazards.

Signs of abuse and neglect include unexplained bruises, welts or scars, broken bones, sprains or dislocations, caregivers’ refusal to allow you to see the elder alone, torn, stained or bloody underclothing and behavior in the elder that looks like dementia, such as rocking, thumb-sucking or self-mumbling.

It’s unimaginable to think of such things happening to your loved ones, but sadly it occurs far more often than you realize. Be diligent in your facility selection and then closely monitor things after that.

This is your love gift to those who have loved you all your life.

Stay safe out there!

-CW

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Representing the Seriously Injured & Victims of Wrongful Death Since 1981. 

Charlie Waters Footer

Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. Information contained in Legal Waters is intended to be informative only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you feel you need legal counsel or guidance.
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Can I Borrow Your Car?

How Texas law can impose liability on you for accidents caused by someone driving your car…and how you steer clear of it. (Pun intended.)

car_keys“I just need to run a quick errand, and I won’t be gone long. Can I borrow your car?”

Sounds harmless. No big deal, right?

You want to be a good neighbor, friend, relative…whatever the case may be. But before you hand over your keys to your best friend (or to your mother-in-law, for that matter), you need to ask some “wellness” questions. The first one being, “How WELL do I really know this person?”

Why?

Because negligent entrustment of a motor vehicle by an owner (you and your related owner liability) occurs in Texas when:

#1 – The vehicle owner entrusts a vehicle to a person who is an unlicensed, incompetent or reckless driver,

#2 – The owner knows this or should know this about the driver, and

#3 – The driver is then in an accident that was the driver’s fault.

So there you have it.

You tried doing someone a favor (the wrong someone, as it turns out), and BOOM! Now you may get sued! The driver of your car can get sued for the accident…and so can you if you negligently provided the vehicle. Basically, Texas law says vehicle owners need to act reasonably when letting others drive their cars.

So what’s reasonably?

If your best friend Joe has had a few beers watching the ball game with you, he’s probably not the guy to send in your car (or his, for that matter) to 7-Eleven to get more chips. Legally impaired drivers are always considered “incompetent drivers” when it comes to negligent entrustment. In other words, you did not act reasonably by letting him drive your car.

But what if Joe is not impaired when you hand over your keys, but he later gets that way (accidentally fills up on margaritas not gas) and an accident follows? Do you, as the vehicle owner, have a liability problem? PERHAPS. It depends on Joe’s history of such behavior and if you knew or should have known about it.

Finally, what if Joe is not impaired and has no history of impaired driving, but he does have a rather rugged driving record? Say, several speeding tickets and perhaps a prior accident or two? Under this scenario is Joe a “reckless driver?” The answer is…POSSIBLY. It will depend on just how bad his driving record is, what you knew about his driving habits and, to some degree, how the accident occurred.

For example, if you KNOW Joe always drives fast, has had several speeding tickets and his speeding then caused an accident, the vehicle owner (you) may well have a legal problem. In other words, it was not a reasonable decision for you to let Joe drive your car.

Bottom line:  

Take a reasonably cautious approach before you let someone cruise off in your car.

Assess the driver. Ask some basic questions. Make sure there’s a valid drivers license. If you know the person has bad driving habits, think twice. If they’re young and inexperienced or older with slowed reflexes, factor that into your decision. If the person is impaired (alcohol, medication, exhaustion, bad vision, etc.), just say no.

Holding on to your car keys may make for an awkward moment and a strained relationship, but it’s far better than an accident through negligent entrustment and all that goes with it. Best friend Joe will get over it!

Stay safe out there!

-CW

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Representing the Seriously Injured & Victims of Wrongful Death Since 1981. 

Charlie Waters Footer

Copyright © 2016. All rights reserved. Information contained in Legal Waters is intended to be informative only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult an attorney if you feel you need legal counsel or guidance.
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