Mike Davis Featured in Oak Hill Gazette: Pony Commissioner Looks Back on Nearly 30 Years in Oak Hill

For the last 30 years, Slack & Davis Partner and Co-Founder Mike Davis has made it his mission to ensure that children in the Oak Hill Youth Sports Association (OHYSA) in Austin were building confidence, learning something new, having fun and forging long lasting friendships.

For Davis, his involvement in OHYSA began as a volunteer when his son first started playing T-Ball. At the 50-year anniversary of the ballfields, Davis spoke with the Oak Hill Gazette and remarked that volunteering was a slippery slope – he first started out as a “helper dad,” then became an assistant coach, and the following year he was head coach. From there, his involvement with the league continued, landing him on the league board and subsequently in the position of President from 1998 – 1999.

During his tenure, he came up with the idea for tournament play with other youth sports associations to provide players greater exposure and help them better transition between league and high school ball. “It turned into a big deal that’s continued to this day,” said Davis.

Even when Davis was diagnosed with lymphoma, he told the Gazette, “About the only thing I looked forward to every day was when I was out there on the field coaching my team.” Years later, Davis noted that coaching still provided a release for him from the stresses of his work as an attorney. He was able to get as much back as he was giving, which extended beyond volunteer work. When floods hit South Austin a few years ago and completely devastated the sports complex, Davis and the firm contributed financially to all restoration efforts, even sponsoring brand-new scoreboards to celebrate the firm’s 20th anniversary and to honor the sports complex.

Through his later years at Oak Hill, Davis learned the true value of coaching when he no longer had a child on the team. He was a more laid-back coach, and even though the team did not win often, each kid signed back up for the next year. “If we do our jobs right as coaches, they’ll love it no matter if they win or lose.”
 

Are Helicopters Safer Than Airplanes?

Are helicopters safer than airplanes

If you’ve ever taken (or considered taking) a helicopter ride, you might be wondering: Are helicopters safer than airplanes? How safe are helicopters, in general? Helicopter vs. airplane safety statistics published by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) paint a complicated picture, especially since helicopters and airplanes are often operated for different reasons and under different conditions.

Are Helicopters Safer Than Airplanes?

Many other factors also come into play when you are comparing statistics. Since the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not oversee the safety of tourist helicopter companies, for example, there can be a wide range of training and experience levels among helicopter pilots. Read on to learn more about helicopter vs. airplane safety.

How Safe Are Helicopters?

Statistics show that smaller aircraft, including private planes and air taxis (a category that includes helicopters), are more accident-prone than larger commercial flights. According to the NTSB, in 2015, there were zero fatal plane accidents involving commercial airlines in the United States. Of the 415 aviation fatalities in the U.S. that year, 100 percent involved general aviation aircraft, air taxis, commuter planes and foreign or unregistered planes.

Of the three air taxi helicopter accidents in the U.S. which occurred in 2010, two resulted in serious injuries and significant damage to the helicopters. – Review of U.S. Civil Aviation Accidents, 2010  

Why is there such a difference in fatal accidents between commercial airlines and smaller aircraft, including helicopters? There are several factors that can help explain this discrepancy. First, in any category of aircraft, the majority of accidents occur during takeoffs and landings. Second, regarding helicopters specifically, the biggest factors affecting flight safety are weather conditions along with pilot training, experience and skill. Since helicopters typically land and take off far more often than larger aircraft, and since general aviation pilots aren’t required to have as much training or experience as commercial pilots, helicopter flights are more prone to accidents, including fatal ones.

Other Factors Affecting the Risk of Helicopter Flights

Unlike airplanes, helicopters do not require a runway for landing, so they are able to land almost anywhere; this is one reason why they are often used in high-risk military or medical rescue missions. Helicopters also fly at much lower altitudes than most other aircraft, which brings hazards like the sudden, unexpected appearance of buildings, landforms or other aircraft into play.

More than half of air tour helicopter accidents between 2007 and 2009 involved system or component failures.  – Review of U.S. Civil Aviation Accidents, 2007-2009

Furthermore, since helicopters have far more controls than airplanes for pilots to learn in navigation, the accident rate during training sessions is twice as high for helicopters as for airplanes. The overall rate of helicopter crashes, however, is only slightly higher than that of airplane crashes, and the fatality rate is actually slightly lower for helicopters.

There are also different risk factors among the various types of helicopters themselves. Personal helicopters, which are often operated by less experienced pilots, have a higher crash rate than professionally operated commercial helicopter taxis. Lower-quality helicopters also crash more often than higher-end models, likely due to differences in mechanical quality along with pilot experience and training. Helicopters certainly have more moving parts than airplanes, which means more parts that might fail mechanically, causing an accident.

Most helicopter accidents involved a loss of pilot control, collisions during takeoff or in flight or system failures.  – Review of U.S. Civil Aviation Accidents, 2007-2009

Weather and other conditions of the flight also make a difference. Emergency flights, such as military or medical rescue flights, have a higher crash rate than flights for business or pleasure, since they often fly regardless of weather and other conditions.

How Safe Are Helicopter Tours?

Discovering a new area from the unique vantage point of a helicopter is an enticing opportunity. Gaining that aerial view of the terrain below, perhaps to observe or admire animals or landforms you might never have spotted from the ground—it’s no wonder many people love exploring by helicopter. Even helicopter flights close to home are exciting for the new perspective and information they can provide. But how safe are helicopter tours?

Let’s look at the facts and statistics:

  • Helicopter tours operated by a more experienced and highly trained pilot are safer than those piloted by someone with less experience and training.
  • If you are considering taking a tourist helicopter ride, check the company’s safety ratings and customer reviews before you book your flight.
  • It’s also a good idea to keep an eye on weather reports on the days leading up to your flight, so you’ll know if it’s best to cancel or postpone. (Of course, reputable pilots won’t fly in adverse conditions like rain or wind.)
  • Finally, helicopter tours are one area in which the old rule of “You get what you pay for” certainly applies.

Companies charging lower rates for a tour are likely making up costs by hiring less-experienced helicopter pilots who require less pay than a more experienced, highly trained pilot. While you can never receive 100% assurance of a safe flight, it may be a good idea to spring for a more expensive helicopter tour with an established company that has high safety ratings and excellent customer reviews. 

Consult An Aviation Attorney

Unfortunately, sometimes accidents happen when you least expect it. If you or someone you know is involved in an aviation accident, whether it’s a commercial flight, air ambulance, helicopter or other aircraft, our attorneys at Slack & Davis have deep experience in aviation law and can advise you on the best course of legal action. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Truck Accident Causes and What To Do If You’re Involved in One

Truck Accident Causes

Vehicle accidents of any type always carry the potential for grim outcomes. But when a car is involved in an accident with a large truck, such as a semi, tanker or 18-wheeler, the outcome is especially likely to be serious, if not fatal. Smaller vehicles hardly stand a chance against larger trucks that outweigh them by many thousands of pounds—and unfortunately, many times, the truck is to blame for the accident.

Truck Accident Causes and What To Do If You’re Involved in One

One of the most common truck accident causes is driver error due to fatigue, inexperience, or driving under the influence. Other common truck accident causes include equipment failure, speeding, unsafe highway or weather conditions, and trucking company policies that may prevent alert, well-rested drivers.

What Truck Driver Accident Statistics Show

According to the Federation of American Scientists, rates of truck accidents, injuries and fatalities have been rising since 2009. This rise led to federal regulations which went into effect in 2013 that were intended to limit truck sizes, as well as truck drivers’ time spent on the road, but the Senate Appropriations Committee has since moved to suspend many of those regulations. Most recently, in March 2017, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) abandoned its proposed “restart rule,” which would have required truck drivers to take a 34-hour rest period at least once per week.

The FMCSA has also proposed other rules that have faced opposition and have yet to become law, such as stricter training standards for drivers and trucks being equipped with speed limiters to prevent speeding on roadways. Both drivers and motor carriers have protested regulations like these due to the constant push for greater productivity and wages. The suspension of these regulations, however, may contribute to truck drivers spending longer hours on the road in longer, heavier trucks, both of which can put truck drivers and other vehicles at greater risk of being involved in a serious or even deadly accident.

Common Truck Accident Causes

In the early 2000s, the FMCSA, together with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, conducted a study examining the causes of nearly 1,000 serious crashes involving large trucks that occurred across 17 states. According to the results of this study, the leading causes of truck accidents include: brake problems (29%), speeding (23%), unfamiliar with the roadway (22%) and roadway problems (20%). Driver fatigue, drug use, and inexperience were also contributing factors.

Overall, there are five primary causes of truck accidents:

Truck driver impairment due to fatigue or driving under the influence

Spending long hours on the road leads to fatigue, which impairs alertness and driving ability; fatigue can also push some drivers to rely on stimulants and other substances to stay alert, despite the fact that these also can impair their ability to drive.

Equipment failure

A piece of a truck’s mechanical or electrical equipment can fail, which can result in a catastrophic injury. Brake failure or even a tire blowout can cause a truck driver to lose control of the vehicle, resulting in a devastating crash.

Highway or weather conditions that make driving less safe for everyone

The heavier the vehicle, the longer it takes for the driver to bring that vehicle to a complete stop, especially when roadways are wet or iced over. Similarly, sudden slow-downs and stops necessitated by construction, accidents or other roadway hazards are more difficult for longer, heavier vehicles to navigate or respond to quickly.

Speeding

Exceeding recommended speeds is a major factor in many roadway accidents, whether involving trucks, cars or other vehicles.

Trucking company policies

Some company policies push drivers to spend longer hours on the road, thereby creating unsafe conditions for everyone. Many truck drivers are subject to pressures such as strict deadlines and low hourly pay, leading them to push onward on the road instead of stopping to rest.

What to Do if You or Someone You Love Is Involved in a Truck Accident

When you or someone you know has been involved in an accident involving a truck, the injuries can be serious and the resulting medical bills can be staggering—not to mention the damage to your vehicle and any wages lost while you’re out of work. When there is a tragic loss of life due to a truck accident, the financial and emotional toll can be even more severe.

The personal injury attorneys at Slack & Davis are compassionate and experienced in the area of truck accident injuries. We take a personalized approach to pursuing the compensation our clients deserve after experiencing a devastating truck accident. Whether you personally or someone you know was involved, call Slack & Davis for legal advice on your particular situation. Our attorneys will help you fight for the fair compensation you deserve.

Ladd Sanger Authors Texas Lawyer Article: The Shifting Sands of Personal Jurisdiction

In the Texas Lawyer article “The Shifting Sands of Personal Jurisdiction,” Partner Ladd Sanger provided perspective on the issue of personal jurisdiction when it comes to aviation litigation. As an FAA-licensed commercial airline pilot, and a licensed helicopter pilot, Ladd examined how aviation litigation can become even more cumbersome, as battles over jurisdiction continue to prolong and complicate cases.

“Aviation cases are particularly affected by personal jurisdiction, because there are almost always numerous jurisdictions implicated given the transient nature of aircraft,” Sanger wrote. “For example, it is common for an aircraft to be manufactured in one location, maintenance on the aircraft and its engines to be done in several states, manufacturers in additional jurisdictions, and operators/pilots coming from yet other places.”

What this all adds up to for plaintiffs is often the need to file multiple lawsuits in multiple jurisdictions, resulting in inefficiency within the judicial system, as each separate case will proceed on different discovery and trial schedules. This translates to drawn out litigation and increasingly complex battles with the defense, who typically fight to avoid jurisdictions which they believe to have a plaintiff bias. For both sides, the litigation of jurisdiction can easily wind up costing more than the underlying litigation.

So where does that leave aviation litigation today, in the future and particularly in Texas? Sanger concluded by noting that Texas is already seeing the implications surrounding the changes in personal jurisdiction, which has resulted in an uptick in aviation cases filed in Texas. This is likely because the state is home to many airframe, engine and maintenance companies where jurisdiction is proper under the most stringent standards, as well as the state’s pro-business mentality, sophisticated judiciary and laws favorable to defendants.”

Passenger Bill of Rights: What You Need to Know About Passenger Air Protections

Passenger Bill of Rights

In recent weeks, certain unfortunate and disturbing incidents on major airline flights have made international news, leading many people to wonder about passengers’ rights on domestic and international flights. Is there such a thing as an airline passenger bill of rights?

Passenger Bill of Rights: Myth or Reality?

Perhaps the most infamous recent incident involved a man who was involuntarily “bumped” and then physically dragged from an overbooked United Airlines flight in April 2017. Several other passengers on the flight took cell phone videos of the altercation between the Chicago aviation authorities and the passenger, a 69-year-old doctor from Kentucky. These videos revealed a high level of force used to remove the man from the flight—force that ultimately resulted in injuries to him, including a concussion, broken teeth and a broken nose.

Since that incident came to light in news outlets around the world, discussion of airline passenger rights has understandably taken center stage. What are passengers’ rights aboard an aircraft? Which entities determine and enforce those rights? To understand this issue, we need to take a closer look at the history of airline consumer protection laws.

General Laws Protecting Airline Consumers

Since the U.S. airline industry was deregulated in 1978, the federal government no longer has control over some of the business practices followed by many airlines. Still, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) does determine and enforce certain protections for airline customers (i.e., passengers), and further, those airline passenger protections have been expanded in recent years to outline passengers’ rights in cases of lost luggage, hidden ticket fees, extended tarmac delays and more. Meanwhile, international agreements like the Montreal Convention address passenger problems occurring on international flights.

The main DOT airline consumer protection law in effect states that passengers have the right to expect “safe and adequate service in airline transportation” and to be protected “from unfair or deceptive practices” by airline carriers. If airline carriers are determined to have violated these or other consumer protection laws, the DOT is authorized to enforce the law.

Laws Regarding Overbooked Flights

The common practice of an airline selling more tickets than there are seats on the plane, commonly known as overbooking or overselling flights, is an issue that has taken center stage due to recent incidents like the one aboard the United Airlines flight. The DOT has outlined airline passenger protections relating to overbooked flights along with several other issues in its Consumer Guide to Air Travel and Airline Consumers’ Rights FAQ.

These sources state what anyone moderately familiar with air travel already knows from experience: In the case of both domestic and international flights, it is common practice for airlines to overbook flights in order to compensate for “no-show” passengers. And while arguably inconvenient and annoying for those passengers who are involuntarily “bumped,” this practice is not illegal.

DOT Rules Regarding Involuntarily Bumping Passengers

In the case of passengers being bumped involuntarily from overbooked flights, airlines are legally required to do the following:

  1. Ask for volunteers first to give up their seats, before bumping anyone involuntarily from an oversold flight.
  2. Disclose to passengers the airline’s criteria for determining which passengers may be bumped involuntarily.
  3. Provide the bumped passenger with substitute transportation and compensation (if required according to a set of tiered dollar amounts based on projected arrival time delays).

The above rules apply to both domestic and international flights with larger commercial airline carriers but not to charter flights or flights on smaller planes that hold fewer than 30 passengers. Also, airlines are permitted to determine their own criteria—such as a passenger’s frequent-flyer status, the fare they paid or how late they checked in for the flight—for involuntarily bumping a passenger.

When Federal Consumer Protection Laws Fail Airline Passengers

Fortunately, involuntarily bumping passengers is rare. Unfortunately, none of the above rules adequately covers situations like the one that occurred on the United flight, in which the doctor, who had already boarded the plane and taken his seat, was then de-boarded by force. While most cases of passengers being involuntarily bumped from flights occur in the gate or ticketing area, rather than after the passenger has already boarded the plane, this isn’t always the case, as the United Airlines incident made clear.

That incident called to light the fact that the DOT’s oversales rules do not specify limitations on when or where airlines are permitted to involuntarily bump a passenger. Furthermore, the DOT’s rules do not address the manner, including acceptable level of force, in which airlines may enforce involuntary de-boarding of passengers. Until future legislation addresses these gaps in regulations, other passengers may still be at risk of suffering personal injury due to similar incidents.

Since the April 2017 United Airlines incident, Congress has been actively looking into ways to overhaul airline policies to prevent such incidents in the future. Consumer advocacy groups hope that passenger protections will be further expanded and clearer rules will be imposed regarding overbooked flights and involuntarily bumped passengers. Specifically, many lawmakers are determined to pass legislation banning airlines from forcibly removing passengers already aboard the aircraft (in the case of an overbooked flight). Still, any aviation bill that comes to a vote is sure to be the subject of much debate.

What to Do if You or a Loved One Experiences Injury Aboard a Flight

Unfortunately, seeking legal action against an airline can be an intimidating, costly and sometimes disappointing venture for a passenger, even in seemingly clear cases of personal injury or wrongful death due to an airline’s negligence or unfair practices.

Fortunately, at Slack & Davis, our attorneys are experts in aviation laws, regulations and related consumer protections. If you or someone you know has suffered injury or wrongful death while aboard a commercial flight, air ambulance, private plane or other aircraft, Slack & Davis can help. We have a track record spanning two decades and are committed to giving our clients personal, caring attention as we handle their personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit with dignity and respect.