San Antonio Legal Blog

Fracking poses danger of benzene exposure

Fracking in Texas may be at the heart of an increased number of earthquakes over the past decade, but that’s not the only danger of this relatively new form of oil extraction. For workers in the oil and gas industry, benzene exposure poses a health risk whose long-term effects are serious and may even be deadly.

In reporting on a study by the Centers for Disease Control, the Los Angeles Times explains that some workers at fracking sites are routinely exposed to benzene, a colorless gas that occurs naturally in gasoline and crude oil. The CDC recommends a limited exposure to benzene of 0.1 parts per million during a single, 12-hour shift. Researchers found that 15 of 17 samples were above that amount.

What Should I Do If Involved in a Car Accident?

If you frequently travel Texas roads and highways, you know that accidents can happen. Even the safest drivers run the risk of being involved in an accident, which can entail loss of property and bodily injury. While you can’t control the actions of other drivers you can make sure you know what to do if an accident occurs, as illustrated by these tips from Nerdwallet.com.

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Freeway collision in Fort Worth results in couple's death

One of the more difficult aspects of dealing with car accidents in San Antonio is trying to determine who is at fault. In some cases, liability is quite obvious; in others, the issue may be much murkier. In those instances where there is difficulty assigning fault, authorities may choose to assign a certain percentage of blame to all parties involved. They may also choose to assign liability to the party whose error or infraction was the most egregious. 

Determining that may be difficult in an accident that recently occurred in Fort Worth. A driver is being questioned by law enforcement officials to understand what might have led to the collision that killed resulted in a couple's death. The accident happened on the East Loop 820 freeway, where the aforementioned couple has stopped and exited their vehicle on the side of the road (authorities believe that the pair was involved in some type of disturbance, though it was not made clear whether the two were arguing with each other). While this was happening, the other driver struck their stopped vehicle (investigators have yet to determine whether the couple was also struck directly or were killed by being hit by the own vehicle in the collision). The collision occurred just after midnight. 

Workplace accidents and traumatic brain damage

Work injuries are common in many different industries in Texas and throughout the U.S. One of the most prevalent workplace injuries involves traumatic brain damage, which can cause permanent damage in some cases. Traumatic brain injuries occur when workers are hit by falling objects, fall from a height or are smashed by a piece of equipment. Any type of sharp blow to the head may cause the soft tissue of the brain to hit against the hard bone of the skull, causing bleeding, bruising and inflammation. While some people show instant symptoms of brain damage, other cases may take days or even weeks to present themselves.

The symptoms themselves may be difficult to identify, as some could be masked by other illnesses or conditions. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, signs of mild brain trauma include dizziness, blurred vision, confusion, fatigue, headache, trouble concentrating and memory lapses. Moderate to severe brain trauma may involve seizures, nausea, convulsions, muscle weakness, shaking, slurred speech, increased confusion and numbness in the extremities.

What threatens your health in the oil and gas industry?

A primary industry here in Texas that employs numerous residents is the oil and gas industry. If you work in the industry, you know that it has its rewards and its risks. Even if you and your employer take all of the necessary safety precautions for the obvious hazards you face each day, you may not be aware of other, less obvious dangers.

You may actively protect yourself from things such as equipment injuries, vehicles moving around the site and other potential hazards that cause physical injuries such as broken bones, spinal cord injuries and traumatic brain injuries to name a few. However, it's often the dangers you can't see that present the biggest risks to your health.

Teen driver strikes, kills two sisters in Brownsville

Drivers in San Antonio are of course required to try and avoid accidents to whatever extent safety allows. Yet that does not necessarily mean that all incidents involving vehicles and others on the road (such as motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians) are the fault of drivers. The aforementioned parties are also required to adhere to the laws regulating their use of the road. If and when an accident between such parties does occur, liability may be assigned to whichever was in violation of said laws. 

This fact was on full display in a recent auto-pedestrian accident that occurred in Brownsville. A pair of sister were killed when they were struck by a car as they were crossing the street. The driver who hit them was not cited or charged in the accident, however. The fact that the sisters were said to have been jaywalking may have had something to do with this. 

Understanding maintenance and cure

With all of the oil derricks that can be seen throughout the state of Texas, it is easy to forget that a large portion of the state's drilling work (and the country's, for that matter) happens offshore. Working out on the open water on a drilling platform can present a number of risks, which is why such work routinely ranks amongst the most dangerous professions. If and when an accident happens on a rig (or during the course of traveling to or from one), workers are protected under maritime laws rather than those regulating traditional workers' compensation benefits. These laws entitle injured workers to maintenance and cure. 

The Legal Information Institute offers two definitions for maintenance and cure: The first addresses maintenance, which refers to a worker's daily living expenses. These are all of the costs incurred during one's time away from work. The only living expenses not covered by maintenance are those from the time one was in the hospital recovering from an injury sustained on an oil platform. These are considered to be medical expenses, which (along with doctor, hospital and therapy bills) are covered under cure. 

Assigning liability in accidents caused by teen drivers

For teens, earning a driver's license can be a watershed moment in their lives. Yet for the drivers that they now share the road with in San Antonio, the risk of being involved in an accident with these new motorists goes up. Some may simply dismiss this assertion as an assumption, yet statistics seem to verify it. According to information shared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers are more likely to engage in reckless driving practices such as speeding, following other vehicles too closely or driving while intoxicated or impaired. 

Those involved in car accidents caused by teen drivers may face expenses so inordinate that they are left with little choice but to pursue legal action. However, such parties may be able to recover little from a teen. Thus, the law allows for vicarious liability to be placed on those who enabled reckless motorists to drive their vehicles (albeit only in certain situations). Those in the legal community refer to this particular example of liability as negligent entrustment

What can you do to reduce your chances of getting hurt at work?

Whether your job is working construction or answering phones at a doctor's office, you are subject to risks each day when you leave for your job in Texas. While certain jobs put you in a much more vulnerable position than others, every occupation has its own unique list of potential hazards to your health. Fortunately, there are proactive steps that you can be taking each day in an effort to keep yourself safe and productive while at work. 

According to heathfinder.gov, keeping yourself safe at work begins with the way you take care of yourself when you are not at work. You are able to function more effectively and efficiently when you are eating healthy food, getting plenty of rest and staying active by exercising. Additionally, finding healthy ways to manage and deal with stress is important so you can stay focused and alert while at work. 

What is the answer to fighting the problem of distracted driving?

Texas readers know that distracted driving is a serious problem and threat to individuals in the state and beyond. The issue does not seem to be diminishing, but getting worse as there are more things to distract drivers than ever before. Some experts studying this problem believe that technological advances could be the key to reducing the number of distraction-related deaths.

Many things could distract drivers, and cell phones are no longer the only problem. In-car technology and other factors can divide a driver's attention and make it difficult to focus. A driver who experiences distraction for just a few seconds can cause a serious accident and harm to innocent motorists.

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