Slack & Davis Featured in Class Action Reporter: Farmers Insurance Suit Over Smart Plan Auto Program

As featured in two separate articles for Class Action Reporter, Partners Mike Slack and John Davis, together with the Law Offices of Joe K. Longley and Lieff, Cabraser, Heimann & Bernstein, LLP filed a class action lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division against Farmers Insurance Group over its Smart Auto Program. The lawsuit alleges that the insurance company offered sizable discounts for new subscribers, unfairly and illegally discriminated against current policyholders and violated the Texas Insurance Code.

The article explains that Farmers Group, Inc. selectively lowered insurance policies in favor of new policyholders while existing policyholders continued to pay higher rates, despite policy changes that mandate lower rates. The class action seeks all damages and/or restitution associated with unfair discrimination; award of attorneys’ fees; expert witness fees and costs; recovery of monies recovered for or benefits; statutory penalties and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest for violation of the Texas Insurance Code.

To read a more detailed summary of the case, please visit our Farmers Insurance blog post and FAQ page.

Injuries Obtained on International Flights: How the Montreal Convention Protects Passengers

From lost baggage to injury or even death on a plane, the Montreal Convention helps protect international passengers. Unfortunately, many passengers and their families have never heard of it nor do they have any idea how to navigate fair compensation from airlines.

The Montreal Convention, adopted in 1999, sets forth clear compensation provisions for passengers injured on international flights. Today, more than 120 countries have agreed to the Montreal Convention, meaning it covers most international flights. The current list of signatory countries is available here. Countries continue to adopt the Montreal Convention, including Indonesia in 2017. Some countries like Thailand and Venezuela have not yet adopted it.

What types of flights qualify?
In general the Convention applies to the entire itinerary where there is travel between signatory countries. Notably the Montreal Convention applies even if the injury occurs on the domestic leg of the trip. For example, a passenger is flying from Chicago to Paris with a layover in New York. The passenger is injured during the flight from Chicago to New York. Even though the injury did not occur during the international leg of the trip, the Montreal Convention still applies.

Do I have to prove it was the airline’s fault?
The passenger only needs to prove there was an “accident” between the time they embarked or disembarked on the international flight. An “accident” is an unusual or unexpected event external to the passenger. There are hundreds of cases that discuss the specifics of exactly what constitutes an accident. Once an “accident” is established, the airline is automatically liable for damages up to 113,100 Special Drawing Rights (approximately $153,000 USD). The airline can attempt to reduce its liability by showing the passenger caused his or her own injuries. For damages exceeding 113,100 SDRs the airline can avoid liability by proving the “accident” was not caused by its negligence or that the “accident” was solely caused by a third party not under the airlines control.

What qualifies as an injury?
Aside from psychological injuries that do not stem from a physical injury, virtually all injuries that can happen on an international flight are covered by the Montreal Convention – lost or falling baggage, malfunctioning seats, severe turbulence, bodily injury, financial loss, and even death. The accident can occur on the tarmac, in the air or even on a shuttle bus transporting passengers to the aircraft.

Can I file a claim where I live?
Yes! Under previous treaties, there were cases where passengers could not file a claim in their home country. The Montreal Convention remedied this issue by creating a “fifth jurisdiction,” which allows passengers to bring a suit in their country of primary residence so long as the airline operates passenger service in that country.

The Montreal Convention affords broad protections to international travelers, so it’s wise for every traveler to familiarize themselves with the treaty to ensure that their rights are protected.

If you think the Montreal Convention may apply to your legal case, contact Ladd Sanger with Slack & Davis at 512.795.8686.

The Slack & Davis Insider’s Guide to Austin

This year, the American Association for Justice’s (AAJ) Winter Convention is hosted in our home turf – Austin, TX. As active members of AAJ, we’re proud to sponsor the opening reception and welcome hundreds of accomplished trial lawyers and experts to discuss the latest developments in trial advocacy designed to help you better represent your clients.

For more than 25 years, we’ve seen this town grow into something extraordinary and as a thank you to all AAJ members who are attending the conference, we’ve compiled an exclusive Insider’s Guide to Austin, featuring all of our favorite locales.

So sit back and relax because our Insider’s Guide to Austin has everything you need to know about the sights to see, the local fare and where you can go to kick off your heels and grab a drink (we’ve even provided a handy map).

See below for a detailed look at Slack & Davis’ guide to Austin, or click here.

Download (PDF, 3.58MB)

Eye-Opening Facts About Motor Vehicle Accidents in Texas

As the second most populous state in the country, Texas unfortunately sees its share of fatalities and injuries from motor vehicle accidents. According to data gathered by the Texas Department of Transportation, 3,531 people died from motor vehicle-related accidents in the state in 2015. This number is nearly 10% of the total number of motor vehicle deaths in the country (38,300 people were killed on U.S. roads in 2015).

In fact, there were no deathless days on Texas roadways—at least one person was killed every two hours and 29 minutes. In 2015, the deadliest day was Saturday, September 26, when 22 people were killed. The deadliest month was October, with 356 fatalities. Serious injuries from crashes in Texas numbered 17,011 and overall injuries reached nearly 250,000, with injuries occurring every two minutes and eight seconds.

Below are more eye-opening numbers about motor vehicle accidents in the state:

• 54.2% of fatal crashes occurred in rural areas.
• 35.5% of fatalities involved single-vehicle, run-off-the road accidents.
• 40.3% of people killed were not wearing seatbelts.
• 27% of those who died were in a vehicle where the driver was under the influence.
• 52% of the 459 motorcyclists who died were not wearing helmets.

Distracted driving resulted in 476 fatalities in Texas. Nationwide, 62% of distracted driving fatalities are caused by the driver being “lost in thought”, or generally inattentive, according to data from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System. Cell phone use is second in causing fatalities, at 12%.

Pedestrians and bicyclists are not immune either. Hundreds of pedestrians and bicyclists died in motor vehicle-related accidents in the state in 2015:

• 550 pedestrians were killed, which is a 12.7% increase from 2014.
• 51 bicyclists died, a 2% increase from 2014.

For more facts, visit the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles crash facts: http://ftp.dot.state.tx.us/pub/txdot-info/trf/crash_statistics/2015/01.pdf

The attorneys at Slack & Davis have handled many cases involving traffic-related injuries or deaths. If you or a loved one have been involved in a traffic accident and need help, call us for more information.

See Slack & Davis’ infographic below detailing more eye-opening facts.

10 Eye-Opening Facts From Texas Motor Vehicle Reports

John Jose to Receive the 2016 H.G. Wells Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award from the Tarrant County Trial Lawyers Association

John Jose, Managing Partner of Slack & Davis’ Fort Worth office, has been named the 2016 recipient of the H.G. Wells Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award by the Tarrant County Trial Lawyers Association (TCTLA). The award will be presented on November 16, 2016 at the TCTLA Annual Meeting.

“We are thrilled to present the H.G. Wells Outstanding Trial Lawyer Award to John Jose this year,” said Mark Anderson, President of TCTLA. “John is a worthy recipient of this award, practicing law with high ethical standards and demonstrating exceptional trial advocacy skills throughout his 35-year career.”

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