Helping the injured since 1983

Contact us at (888) 220-0640 to schedule a free consultation today.

start your evaluation

Blog

2 Attorneys from Williams Hart Selected as Super Lawyers 2013 Rising Stars

Posted on Thursday, October 25th, 2012 at 8:10 am    

The legal team at Williams Hart is very proud to announce that two of our own lawyers, Sejal Brahmbhatt and Margret Lecocke, have been selected as Super Lawyers 2013 Rising Stars, a prestigious title awarded only to attorneys who have been recognized as outstanding in their field of practice.

Each year Super Lawyers, an attorney rating system that distinguishes preeminent lawyers in a variety of practice areas based on peer recommendations and a strict ratings system, chooses from a pool of nominated lawyers to select those lawyers who are considered to be the best in their fields. Of all those chosen each year, only about 2.5% of all lawyers in a state receive the title of “Rising Star”.

After being nominated by their peers, the attorneys are run through a rigorous evaluation process based on twelve areas of achievement and peer recognition, such as experience, representative clients, and honors or awards. Based on this, candidates are awarded points, and those with the highest points review and rate other nominees from their own practice area. Finally, those attorneys who have the highest number of points at the end of this process are selected as Super Lawyers’ Rising Stars.

Having not one, but two Super Lawyers 2013 Rising Stars on our team is a high honor, and the team at Williams Hart congratulates Brahmbhatt and Lecocke for their accomplishments.


Houston Charities Provide Opportunities for Locals to Get Involved

Posted on Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 at 2:01 pm    

At Williams Hart, we are proud to do our part in giving back to the local community in any way we can, from hosting community blood drives to donating time and resources to the Houston Police Department and Police Officers Union.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of participating in the second annual Houston Walk for Mental Health, which helped to raise money and awareness for Houston-area mental health services. This walk is an incredible event that over 300 people participated in this year, and benefits close to 20 valuable mental health agencies in the Houston area. In addition to taking part in this important event, I became a sustaining member of Houston Public Radio, providing monthly financial assistance to ensure that quality radio programming remains available for all Houston residents. Houston Public Radio relies on listener support to fund operations, providing an incredible opportunity for listeners to connect with and help support this valuable station.


Williams Hart Hosts First CLE

Posted on Tuesday, October 16th, 2012 at 3:00 pm    

On Wednesday, October 12, 2012, Williams Hart Law Firm hosted their first CLE. This three hour free Continuing Legal Education seminar included entertaining and educational information on a variety of legal topics. Presentations included Opening Statements: Show the Movie, Forget the Credits, Personal Injury (Jim Hart / Steve Kherkher), Pharmaceutical Update (Margret Lecocke / Sejal Brahmbhatt), Internet for Lawyers (Joe Devine), Ethics (Harry Potter), and Appellate Law (Richard Hogan). Speakers at the event included attorneys with Williams Hart Law Firm, other attorneys in the Houston area, and professionals from other related fields.


It’s Your Right-To-Know

Posted on Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 at 10:19 am    

You have the right-to-know of any dangerous or hazardous chemicals that you may be working with or around in your current occupation. Being a safe worker involves more than just doing the right thing, watching out for yourself, and being well trained in hazardous response measures. It includes ensuring that your co-workers work safely, watch out for each other, and understand your employer’s hazardous response policies. A great training program will assist in making your place of employment a safer place. A component of that training program may include the Hazard Communication Standard (HCS). Your understanding of hazardous communications could save your life and the lives of many of your co-workers. The Hazard Communication Standard was designed by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) to ensure that information about chemical hazards and the associated protective measures were properly disseminated by employers to employees. The standard provides you the right-to-know that hazards and identification of the chemicals that you are exposed to in your workplace. You want to have this information to be able to participate in your employer’s protective programs and to know what steps to take to protect yourself.

You should receive training. Employers must train employees at the time employees are assigned to work with a hazardous chemical. The training program must be a forum for explaining to employees the hazards of the chemicals in their work areas, as well as how to use the information generated in the hazard communication program. Training should be comprehensible and can be in categories of hazards (e.g., acutely toxic agents, carcinogens, sensitizers, etc.) that may be encountered by an employee during the course of their duties. Additional training may be required whenever a new physical or health hazard is introduced into the work, not necessarily a new chemical. The training provisions of the Hazard Communication Standard are not satisfied by an employer just giving an employee a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to read. You should be trained to be aware of work practices, measures used to protect your self and others, emergency procedures, and the personal protective equipment to be used. As an employee you should also know what a Material Safety Data Sheet is, know where they are located, have access to them, and be able to use the information provided to you in the Material Safety Data Sheet – which can save lives.

A Material Safety Data Sheet is a quick reference during hazardous response procedures. Hazard information must be transmitted on a Material Safety Data Sheet and must be distributed to the customer at the time of the first shipment of a potentially hazardous product. Although, Material Safety Data Sheet formats may vary, they are widely used to catalog information on chemicals, chemical compounds, and chemical mixtures. Pursuant to OSHA, a generic Material Safety Data Sheet must have minimum requirements, to include the name, address and telephone number of the responsible party preparing or distributing the Material Safety Data Sheet, who can provide additional information about the product or material. A Material Safety Data Sheet will include information such as physical data (e.g., flash point, boiling point, etc.), toxicity, health effects, first aid, reactivity, storage, disposal, protective equipment, and spill-handling procedures. It may even include information regarding the safe use of the specific product or material. The intended primary focus of a Material Safety Data Sheet is regarding the hazards of working with specific material in an occupational setting. As a convenience, Material Safety Data Sheets may be maintained on a computer by your employer. However, employees must have access to the computer in their work areas(s) for the employer to be in compliance with the standard.

You should ensure that your workplace has an effective Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) Program. There are four (4) minimum components that any Hazard Communication Program should have, to include:

  1. A Written Plan. All workplaces where employees are exposed to hazardous chemicals must have a written plan that describes how the standard will be implemented in that facility;
  2. Use of Labels. All containers of hazardous chemicals must be labeled, tagged, or marked with the identity of the material and appropriate hazard warnings;
  3. Use of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs). Chemical manufacturers and importers are required to obtain or develop an MSDS for each hazardous chemical they produce or import. Distributors are responsible for ensuring that their customers are provided a copy of theses MSDSs. Employers must have an MSDS for each hazardous chemical they use; and
  4. A Training Component. Each employee who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals when working must be provided information and trained prior to his or her initial assignment to work with a hazardous chemical, and whenever the hazard changes.

Hazard Communication is addressed in specific standards for general industry, shipyards, marine terminals, longshoring, and the construction industry.

If you and your co-workers have a good understanding of the Hazard Communications Standard (HCS), Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs), and your employers’ Hazard Communication (HAZCOM) Program – you will save lives.

REMEMBER: Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.” Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to “comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.”


The Wisdom of George Patton

Posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 at 11:24 pm    

“If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself.” – General George S. Patton

George S. PattonPatton’s quote always gave me hope. To me, the quote meant that if I just worked hard, played by the rules, and treated people well then everything would work out okay. To this day I want to believe that concept is true for everyone: that if we just work hard and play by the rules then everything will turn out okay. I suspect most people agree and wish that it were true.

The first time I heard that quote, I was a seventeen year old boy at the United States Air Force Academy. During Basic Cadet Training, all cadets are given a small book containing “knowledge” they must memorize. The book contained many thoughtful quotes on duty, honor, and country, but Patton’s quote on duty was the one I found most memorable. It was as if someone handed me the key to success in only thirteen words. In an artificial world like basic training that quote is entirely true—if you do your job everything runs smoothly. As long as you sound off, march correctly, maintain a sharp uniform, and push yourself physically everything works out well. The instructors don’t yell as much and you get to eat without being harassed.

Sometimes, however, real life is not so simple. Many people work a full day, pay taxes, serve the community, and strive to make their children’s life better than their own. Unfortunately, for reasons beyond their control, and despite their best efforts, not everything works out okay. Other people failed to honor their commitments. A business idea is stolen. An accident happened. A natural disaster occurred. Regardless of the specific situation, these people have been good, solid citizens and have suffered some misfortune. They deserve more than bad luck.

In many cases, the legal system is the only avenue for people like these to make sure “the rest will take care of itself.” For example, a computer programmer that devoted significant resources to design a computer program that is now being used without permission by a rival company can ask a court to order the rival business to fairly compensate the programmer. A woman that suffered a stroke because of a drug defect can use the legal system to compensate her for her injuries if the court or jury determines that the drug manufacturer knew of the risk but failed to properly warn the woman. Without the legal system, these two people would be left footing the bill for situations caused by others.

And that is the reason I left the Air Force to become a lawyer. I thought that I could do more to help people as a lawyer than an Air Force officer. The American legal system is not a perfect animal. The law and justice are not necessarily the same thing. But, sometimes it is the only way to make sure the right people pay for the bill. My goal is to be the part of the system that gives the people that work hard and play by the rules someone who will work as hard as possible for them to make sure “the rest will take care of itself.”


Playing Deposition Clips at Trial

Posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 at 10:59 pm    

Depositions are sworn testimony in lawsuit taken before trial. Deposition testimony “counts” just like trial testimony in front of a judge and jury, but often the only people present are the lawyers, the witness and a court reporter or videographer. If the person is sick, dead or otherwise unavailable to attend the trial, the videotape of their deposition may be played for the jury. Since the judge is not present some attorneys may object to certain questions if they are afraid of the answer and then later ask the judge to not allow the jury to hear the question and answer.

Some unskilled attorneys are very afraid of the questions and answers and object to virtually every question being asked. When this happens the judge will later review their objections and if he finds them to frivolous or unfounded, he will “over-rule” the objections which means the jury will be allowed to hear the question and answer. This can be problematic when the video tape is being edited for the jury to watch because the court often requires the parties to cut out the portion where the attorney says “objection.” When this happens, the video tape, unfortunately, looks choppy in between the question and the answer. The strategy may even be deliberate from some attorneys to try and create a “choppy” video for the jury by objecting to every question. Strong judges do not permit this type of gamesmanship and can punish the frivolously objecting attorney by allowing the jury to see and hear him or her making their unfounded objections. The jury will then know that the unskilled attorney is very afraid of the answer to the question and will pay close attention to it.


Back to the Future

Posted on Tuesday, September 4th, 2012 at 10:43 am    

Back to SchoolSchool is back in session! My reminder is when I see the line of cars waiting to exit Scott Street off I-45 to get to the University of Houston or Texas Southern University. I attended the University of Houston back when our mascot, Shasta, actually resided on campus. By the way, GO COOGS!!! And I grew up in the suburbs of Houston back when life was more simple than it is now.

My childhood friends and I often have conversations about how fun and carefree life was growing up. Remember when you just played outside until it got dark? Or were able to walk or ride your bike to school without much supervision? I have seen it within my own family and with my friends’ children that things are not how it was for me growing up.

With the Internet so easily accessible, cell phones on every hand, Twitter, and other social media outlets, children are so much more exposed to the negatives of the world. It is not enough to arm our youth with affirmations of a positive day. Stories of bullying, suicide, and harmful acts being committed within the student population are increasing at a rapid rate.

I remember when something would happen at school. The worst that would happen is that person would be teased and maybe mentioned in a note that was passed between one friend to another in the hallway. Then it was over. Now, the event can be videoed and uploaded to a site within minutes, someone can tweet about it, it becomes a status update, a text message is blasted to all contacts and that person is also teased or ridiculed. I empathize with what kids these days go through.

What can we do to help? One thing I have learned is communication is paramount. My parents talked to me about “life” often and I have in turn shared what I know with family members and my friends’ children. We can monitor the children’s activities. We can put parental controls on the television and internet sites. We can volunteer at school activities and get to know other parents and children. We have to pay attention for any personality changes or changes in attire or social group.

Basically we have to be present in children’s lives and make time for them. Sometimes we do not want to acknowledge something is going on and turn a blind eye. Or we get so busy in our own lives that we neglect the kids. Who has not been guilty of doing that a time or two? I know I have been. But it is up to us to lift those children up and support them. This does not apply just to parents, but also to anyone who has young family members, is a Godmother/father, has friends who have children, volunteers with kids, or even works with them.

I think when a child learns there is someone available to listen but not judge and to also love unconditionally, a safe haven is created that helps bolster self-confidence and awareness. We all have things going on in our lives, but if we do not help the kids with whom we interact, who will?

Remember that great Whitney Houston song “Greatest Love of All?” If not, look it up. Ms. Whitney sang beautifully about children and what we need to do to empower them. As this new school year gets moving, that song is worth listening to and keeping in the back of your mind.


Pay It Forward

Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012 at 2:18 pm    

John Eddie Williams Donating to the Goodfellows FundRecently it seems I’ve heard more stories of people “paying it forward” than usual, and this has inspired me in a way. I read a story sent by someone close to a former, and now deceased, client about giving school supplies to those who are less fortunate in the Houston area. I had not heard from this church pastor in quite a while, but I was so glad he thought to send such a great story to me. The next morning, I heard a story on the radio about a contest winner who had just won some incredible concert tickets, then turned around and gave them to someone temporarily in the area for treatment at MD Anderson who really wanted to go to the concert.

We should all be paying it forward when we are able. Whether its donating household items or clothes you could sell, or taking care of a small task for someone without asking for a return favor, or picking up breakfast, lunch or dinner for someone who is busy, there are many things that can be done to help someone in one way or another. And if you have kids, you are teaching them a very valuable lesson and setting an example that should make you beam with pride!

There’s no better time than now, as our Louisiana and Mississippi neighbors are dealing with relentless rain and flooding from Hurricane Isaac. Residents of both states are experiencing the devastation of losing their homes and everything inside. They will need new homes, but they will also need things that many of us keep around just in case we need it someday. But would you miss these extras if they were gone? I know there are people who will need them so much more than I would miss them. Find a way to pay it forward, whether it is for the victims of Hurricane Isaac or for a neighbor, friend, co-worker, family member or stranger in need!


Jury Information

Posted on Friday, August 3rd, 2012 at 11:57 am    

What Is My Duty As A Juror?

As a juror, you must be fair and impartial. Your actions and decisions must be free of any bias or prejudice. Your actions and decisions are the foundation of our judicial system.

How Was I Selected?

You were selected at random from a list of voter registrations and a list of driver registrations from the county in which you live.

Am I Eligible?

Jurors must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States and of this State.
  • Be at least 18 years of age.
  • Reside in the county of jury service.
  • Be able to read and write.
  • Be of sound mind.

You cannot serve on a jury if:

  • You have been convicted of a felony or of any type of theft (unless rights have been restored)
  • You are now on probation or deferred adjudication for a felony or for any type of theft; or
  • You are now under indictment for a felony or are now under criminal charges for any type of theft.

Who Can Be Excused From Jury Service?

You are entitled to be excused as a juror if you:

  • Are over 70 years of age;
  • Have legal custody of a child under 12 years of age and jury service would leave the child unsupervised;
  • Are a student in class;
  • Are the caretaker of a person who is unable to care for themselves (an invalid); or
  • Can show a physical or mental impairment or an inability to comprehend or to communicate in English.

Will I Be Paid For Being A Juror?

Yes. In Harris County, you will be paid a minimum of $6.00 for each day you actually serve on the jury.

Must My Employer Pay Me While I Am On Jury Duty?

Your employer is not required to pay you while on jury duty; however, employers are prohibited by law from firing an employee for serving as a juror.

Who Can Have A Jury Trial?

Any person charged with a criminal offense or any party to a civil case has a right to a jury trial. All parties are equal before the law and each is entitled to the same fair treatment.

Are There Rules About Jury Conduct?

Yes. The Texas Supreme Court has rules to assist you in your conduct as a juror, which will be given to you by the judge.

How Is A Juror Selected For A Particular Case?

Cases will usually be heard by juries of 6 or 12 jurors. A larger group, called a panel, will be sent to the trial court (courtroom) where the jurors will be questioned under the supervision of the judge.

A juror may be excused from the panel if it is shown that the juror cannot act impartially concerning the case to be heard. In addition, each side is allowed to remove a given number of jurors from the panel without having to show any reason. The trial jury will be the first 6 or 12 of the remaining jurors on the panel.

What Is Voir Dire Or Questioning Of The Jury Panel?

It is a way for the parties to select a fair and impartial jury. Under the justice system, you may be questioned by each of the lawyers before they decide to remove a certain number of jurors from the jury panel.

For example. the lawyer may ask you questions to see if you are connected to the trial or if you have any prejudice or bias toward anyone in the trial These questions are not intended to embarrass you, but rather to help the lawyers in the jury selection process. You may ask the judge to allow you to answer some questions away from the other jurors.

What If I Have A Special Need or Emergency?

After you have been selected as a juror on a trial panel, if you have a special need or an emergency, tell the bailiff.

When In Doubt, Ask The Judge

You have the right to communicate with the judge regarding any matters affecting your deliberations, including but not limited to:

  • physical comfort;
  • special needs;
  • any questions regarding evidence; or
  • the Charge of the Court.

During deliberation, if it becomes necessary to communicate with the judge, the bailiff or the officer of the court will deliver jurors’ notes to the judge. The information in this Handbook is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge in any case. In the event of conflict, the judge’s instructions will prevail.


Insurance and Lawsuits

Posted on Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 at 7:09 am    

Insurance exists in practically every negligence or gross negligence lawsuit filed in this country. A case almost never gets filed unless the wrongdoer has insurance to compensate a person for their wrecked car and body. For example, all drivers in Texas (and most states) are required to have liability insurance. If an automobile collision occurs and the liability for the wreck is disputed, one can guarantee that insurance is somehow involved.

The role of insurance is critical on three different fronts: for the injured family member to received the medical attention they need; for the alleged wrongdoer so their personal assets are protected and lastly for the taxpayers who through Medicare, Medicaid or hospital write-offs, would often have to bear the brunt of a wrongdoer’s negligence or gross negligence.

Under Texas law, juries are deliberately not informed about the role of insurance in the trial. Even though insurance companies will hire attorneys for the defendant or in some cases the defense attorneys are actual employees of the insurance company, the attorneys will have a separate law firm name so if a juror looks them up they will not know the lawyer’s true employer.

The mere mention of the word “insurance” in a courtroom is taboo and trial lawyers collectively panic when “insurance” is mentioned in fear of an automatic mistrial. Even during jury selection “insurance” is not used when asking potential jurors about their jobs or backgrounds. Instead, vague questions regarding “claims handling”, “subrogation” or “adjusting claims” are often asked that hint or tap dance around the real issue.

Most jurors are already aware that in a lawsuit an insurance company is paying for the defense and selecting the experts and deciding the strategy and witnesses for the defense. The perception that a jury will be more likely to find liability on the part of the defendant because they have insurance seems outdated and patronizing to modern jurors so the wisdom of the not being allowed to mention insurance at trial will continue to be debated.

Have you or a loved one been injured in an accident?

  Contact us today at (888) 220-0640 to get a free, confidential case evaluation.