request a free consultation

Can Social Media Be Used to Prove Crime/Accident/Injury?

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

People post everything on social media these days, including their illegal activities. These people really don’t think about the consequences of their actions. Recently, a woman in Florida streamed live footage of her drunk driving adventure on Periscope. Needless to say, someone alerted the police to her activities and she was arrested while driving through town.

While that scenario ended with a clean arrest without the need to use the video as evidence, other cases may not be as clear. Can officers use what they find on social media as evidence in court? It depends. Courts have upheld and rejected social media as evidence in civil and criminal cases.

Good Lawyers Should Use Social Media

According to the American Bar Association, attorneys are expected to use all forms of technology, including social media, to thoroughly investigate and represent a client. They have to be careful, though. If they access private data, they may not be allowed to use it in court.

Regardless of whether the court will admit it into evidence, an attorney can often learn much about a case from social media accounts, including Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and more. If the parties in a case heavily use social media, keeping an updated record of interactions and posts can help.

Good Lawyers Should Also Understand the Complexity of Using Social Media Content

In some cases, an attorney may use social media content to prove a point in a case. He or she must demonstrate that the content is relevant and was produced by the individual in question, discuss potential issues regarding its probative value, show that the piece entered into evidence is part of the original post, and address concerns regarding hearsay.

In past cases, courts have not admitted social media content like a repost of a meme, but they have admitted Twitter posts as “state of mind” evidence as well as social media videos and pictures that can help police before, during, or after the commission of a crime. Every court is different, however, and the use for the content and the argument for admitting it into evidence will largely affect what can and can’t be used in a given case.

What This Means for Social Media Users

Anything you post publicly on a social media account is in the public forum. As long as an attorney can authenticate it, it’s as viable as a surveillance recording of you in any other public place. You’ve often heard that you should not post information on social media you wouldn’t want your boss seeing. The same is true for law enforcement. If you don’t want to face an investigation or have to explain your reason for posting the content, leave it off.

Furthermore, you agree to the terms of use when you use a social media platform. If you haven’t read the terms, you may agree for a platform to hold and use your information as it sees fit, i.e. handing it over as evidence in a case. There haven’t been enough cases and precedents set to confirm for certain what is and is not allowed, and new social media platforms change the game every time they come into the marketplace. Most of it may constitute evidence in certain situations.

Be careful with what you post on social media, but if you see illegal activity, potential evidence in your own case, or a potential admission of guilt for a crime, don’t hesitate to reach out to law enforcement or an attorney. The potential for using it as evidence or to help further an investigation could make a difference in the outcome of your case.

Posted by admin at 11:41 pm

How People Fake Accidents: Common Schemes and Repercussions

Friday, December 18, 2015

Some people will do anything to get some extra cash in their pockets, even if they have to cheat to do it. Fake accidents aren’t just morally reprehensible and unethical; they’re illegal. When people fake accidents, they take time, money, and support from people who truly suffer due to legitimate accidents. From staged car accidents to slip and fall injuries, here are some of the most common schemes and the consequences perpetrators face if caught.

Staged Car Accidents

Some people purposefully brake erratically in front of a vehicle to encourage a rear end collision. Others plan more elaborate accidents to target unsuspecting and innocent victims. Many staged accidents feature injuries an x-ray or medical evaluation can’t confirm or deny, such as chronic or severe pain. They have lots of witnesses around to support their claims, and if no video surveillance caught the scene on camera, they may have a good shot at getting away with the “accident.”

Fake Work Incidents

Not every employer in Texas has to carry workers’ compensation insurance, but those who do may find themselves vulnerable to injury schemes. Workers who’ve suffered an injury elsewhere may hide the injury and then stage an incident at work to get the insurance money. Others may exaggerate the effects of an incident or make up injuries a medical practitioner can’t disprove. Some will start the scam after a legitimate accident, pretending to have a disability to earn more time off.

Provoked Dog Bite Accidents

While the media plays up the danger of certain breeds, any dog will bite and cause damage if provoked. Some people may torment a canine to the point of an attack and then try to hold the owner accountable. If an individual knows a pooch has bitten or shown documented aggressive behavior in the past, he or she can easily bypass the one bite rule and take the owner to court. The dog will likely be put down in the process.

Slip and Fall Accidents

Anytime you’re on someone else’s property as a guest or customer, the owner is reasonably obligated to provide a safe environment. Some individuals try to take advantage of noticeable shortcomings at an establishment or create unsafe conditions. If there aren’t any cameras and the perpetrators make it look like something the owner should have known about, insurance will likely have to cover the damages or alleged injuries.

Repercussions for Accident Fraud

Accident fraud, also known as insurance fraud, sometimes goes unpunished, and the people who pay for insurance are the ones who lose. However, if the insurance company or the alleged defendant (person who “caused” the accident) can prove the perpetrator lied or staged an accident, he or she may face fines, prison time, and a permanent criminal record. It also hurts people legitimately seeking reparation by forcing insurance companies to pursue extensive investigation in every claim that has suspicious characteristics, such as a vague incident description, symptoms like chronic pain, or exaggerated claims.

Furthermore, the people who were essentially framed for the accident may have to face lingering repercussions in their businesses or when paying for any damage done to their properties during the process. Some people targeted in fake accident schemes choose to take legal action against the perpetrators in the form of an injury claim to cover the costs of injuries and property damage they had to shoulder as a result of the scheme.

Contact

If one of these schemes has affected you, you can hold the perpetrator accountable. Contact our Dallas team today to learn more, and we can walk you through your legal options in light of a fake accident assertion.

Posted by admin at 11:22 pm

Vehicular Homicide Laws and Unborn Children: The Laws of Criminal Liability

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

When a person causes a car accident due to negligent behavior and someone dies, the act falls under the category of vehicular homicide. Under Texas law, there are criminal penalties for negligently causing death of another human being. The state defines human beings as any individual who’s alive, including unborn children from the point of conception. Therefore, if a drunk driver causes an accident that leads to a mother’s to miscarriage, but she survives, the state may take action against the individual to seek justice for the unborn child.

While driving intoxicated is one of the most commonly cited reasons for vehicular homicide, illegally racing, driving recklessly (including texting while driving), or driving negligently could also result in a criminal case against an individual. Vehicular homicide also includes murder cases in which the vehicle is the weapon. In many of these cases, victims will also pursue civil action against the individual who caused death.

Losing a child in utero or a child and mother can have devastating consequences on a family. It may struggle with medical expenses, funeral expenses, and emotional trauma from the incident. These individuals may file a wrongful death suit to obtain compensation to cover the costs associated with the incident and punish the person who carelessly threw someone’s life away.

Criminal and Civil Consequences for Vehicular Homicide

Depending on the circumstances of the case, an individual may face a range of legal consequences. The investigation and subsequent criminal case will explore if the defendant’s behavior was reckless or intentional. That one differentiating factor could change whether or not someone spends years in prison for causing the death of an unborn child.

Intentional and reckless actions that cause death are both considered felonies, with varying degrees. If more than one individual died as a result of the accident, the defendant may face multiple counts of homicide, including charges for the death of the unborn child, the mother, pedestrians, or other passengers involved in the accident.

Individuals convicted of negligent, reckless, or intentional vehicular homicide may face fines, time in prison, counseling, probation, and community service for their actions. In a civil filing, they could also owe the surviving family thousands of dollars in reparations. Defendants may face concurrent trials in criminal and civil court.

What to Do After an Accident

Unfortunately, many vehicular homicides occur because someone made a reckless or negligent mistake. He or she drank one too many beers at the bar that night or was texting and driving, not paying attention to the lines on the roadway. One careless, illegal activity will change the course of that person’s life forever.

If you or a loved one suffers the loss of an unborn child in a car accident, you can obtain justice. Whether someone just found out about a pregnancy or was at full term when the incident occurred, you have legal options to hold the responsible individual accountable outside of criminal proceedings.

For pregnant women involved in an accident, get medical attention as soon as possible. Keep detailed records of your condition and your child’s in the days and weeks after the accident. Sometimes, the effects of such an event on an unborn child don’t manifest until sometime after the incident. If you do lose the child as a result of the accident, you may want to consult an attorney.

Contact Us

Losing a child unnecessarily is devastating, but Texas is one of the states that recognizes life as a person early on. You can’t get your child back, but you can facilitate a criminal case and file a civil action against the person responsible. For more information, contact our team in Dallas for a free consultation.

Posted by admin at 11:38 pm

The Dangers of Shallow Water Blackouts and Dry Drowning

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Harmful or deadly water incidents aren’t exclusive to inexperienced swimmers. Shallow water blackouts can have devastating consequences for professional and experienced swimmers. Furthermore, getting a victim on dry land doesn’t always eliminate the risk of drowning. Some victims may suffer from dry drowning immediately after rescue or as many as 24 hours later. Education is one of the best ways to prevent injury and death from these very real water dangers. Here’s what you need to know before swimming season or your next trip to the YMCA.

Shallow Water Blackouts

Shallow water blackouts occur when a swimmer can’t take a breath quickly enough. It often happens when swimmers hyperventilate before going under, presumably to get as much oxygen as possible into their systems. This creates low levels of carbon dioxide in the body. Carbon dioxide is the body’s natural signal to rise to the surface to get more air. When the levels are extremely low, a swimmer may not get the signal in time, triggering the symptoms of oxygen deprivation: the blackout.

Shallow water blackouts can happen to experienced swimmers, who lifeguards and friends may not watch as carefully. As soon as an individual blacks out, the body’s natural response is to take a breath. Under water, this means drowning. Swimmers experiencing a shallow water blackout need immediate assistance to survive. It can happen in as little as 2-3 feet of water and can kill in a matter of minutes.

Dry Drowning

Incidents of dry drowning are extremely rare, only causing around 1-2% of all drownings, but they’re also deadly and highly preventable. This type of drowning typically affects small children who have accidentally breathed in water while swimming. An individual may breathe in water while roughhousing in the pool or getting pulled off of his or her feet when a wave hits in the ocean. The person may get out of the water and appear okay at first. Water doesn’t actually enter the lungs in these cases. Instead, it causes vocal chords to close off airways, making breathing difficult.

Secondary drowning, a closely related condition, may not be immediately recognizable, either. It occurs when water does reach the lungs, creating a pulmonary edema and making breathing difficult. Symptoms include coughing, difficulty breathing, lethargy, and chest pain. In many cases, the situation will resolve itself, but the occurrence can still be deadly. Have the symptoms checked out, particularly if an individual swam recently.

Preventing Shallow Water Blackouts and Dry Drowning

Safety advocacy groups stress the importance of swimming safety for a reason. While rare, these types of events do occur. They can be difficult to spot, but they are preventable. Anyone can suffer from the effects and even die by them. Prevent drowning incidents in the water and after leaving the water by:

  • Watching small children after they leave the water for signs of dry drowning
  • Using the buddy system while swimming, even as an adult, to reduce the risk of an unnoticed blackout
  • Taking a seminar or short class to learn how to breathe properly while swimming to reduce the risk of a blackout
  • Getting certified for CPR so you can help anyone in trouble if something happens at the pool or on the water
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and swimming, particularly if you plan to swim under water

Swimming offers excellent exercise, and many people look forward to getting back in the water after a long winter indoors. Understanding the full risks of swimming can help you keep yourself and your family safe. If you do experience a situation where someone could’ve been saved from a shallow water blackout or dry drowning but wasn’t because of a person’s negligence, give our Dallas office a call for a consultation today.

Posted by admin at 11:37 pm

How Do Automakers Detect Defectives and Initiate Recalls?

Thursday, December 3, 2015

When you get a notice from your car manufacturer or hear about another recall on the news, you probably just feel inconvenienced. Now you have to go to the shop and get a repair you didn’t even know you needed. Have you ever wondered how those recalls start? Did someone have a problem and complain or did the manufacturer find it?

When Do Manufacturers Issue Recalls?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the authority to develop and enforce standards for vehicle safety to help ensure manufacturers find and correct defects before an accident or injury occurs. Manufacturers are required to recall a vehicle when parts in a vehicle don’t meet the requirements set forth in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard and when they discover a defect that could threaten consumer safety. The federal standards ensure that parts, including brakes, airbags, and seatbelts, are created with quality and consumer protection in mind. It keeps companies from taking shortcuts and issuing vehicles with inconsistent, partial quality.

Safety defects, on the other hand, occur anytime a manufacturer realizes a vehicle component presents a real risk to consumer wellbeing. Anything that could cause harm, such as the Takata airbag recall, falls under the category of a safety defect.

How Manufacturers Find Out About Defects

Vehicles have a number of separate components, and manufacturers are responsible for adhering to industry standards. That does not always prevent the occurrence of defects, however. Finding defects and initiating recalls happens in a number of different ways, including thorough manufacturer quality assurance testing and consumer discovery:

  • Consumer reporting. Anyone who discovers a defect in a vehicle can contact the Vehicle Safety Hotline, which alerts the NHTSA to the problem via phone, at 1.888.327.4236 or online at safercar.gov. Consumer reports often launch investigations that uncover defects in parts. The NHTSA may not investigate an isolated defect occurrence, but they’ll look into problems that could affect multiple vehicles or parts installed in numerous vehicles.
  • Quality assurance testing. Each vehicle manufacturer has its own set of standards when it comes to maintaining compliance with federal standards and creating safe vehicles for sale. Manufacturers have an incentive to find and eradicate defects early on to prevent injury, lawsuits, and loss of consumer trust, so they often initiate recalls on their own.
  • Compliance testing. Federal regulators conduct routine testing to guarantee auto manufacturers maintain federal standards. In some cases, these tests uncover previously undetected defects that warrant a recall.

Discovered defects may only affect a small number of vehicles, causing a small recall. On the other hand, they could affect thousands of vehicles across many brands if the manufacturers use the same parts.

Consumer Responsibility

The automaker is required to send vehicle owners notice of any recalls that may affect their vehicles. Consumers can also go online to the automaker website or safercar.gov to input a VIN number and look up recalls. You can find your vehicle’s VIN number by looking into the windshield on the driver’s side of the vehicle from the outside. The vehicle may also have the number printed inside the driver’s side door where it latches.

Automakers should make every reasonable effort to get in touch with those a recall might affect. However, used vehicle sales and a lack of current customer information mean some vehicle owners may never discover the recall. Depending on the situation, a publicized recall isn’t enough to protect a vehicle manufacturer from a lawsuit.

If you can prove you didn’t know and couldn’t have reasonably known about the recall, any adverse effects you or a loved one suffered may offer grounds for a lawsuit. Contact the Law Firm of Aaron A. Herbert for more information about recall cases in and around Dallas.

Posted by admin at 11:37 pm