Travelers love the Christmas season because it provides built-in free time that doesn’t eat up too many work vacation days. It is the perfect time to go on lavish vacations that have been planned out all year. However, while you’re planning for your Christmas vacation it is important that you plan how to stay safe. This means planning for more than just taking car safety into consideration—especially if you are traveling out of state or abroad for several days or weeks. Planning for a safe Christmas vacation is the key to creating a memorable time.

While traveling isn’t usually dangerous, it still remains important that you protect yourself and your belongings when traveling for a Christmas vacation.

Preparing for your trip on the homefront

One of the most forgotten aspects of traveling is preparing your home for your trip. This is a necessary step for overnight trips but becomes especially important when you plan to travel for several days or weeks at a time. Leaving your home unattended during the holiday season can lead to several scenarios that can put your home and your belongings in danger.

Home security

If you have a security system installed in your home, make sure that it is working properly. This includes motion detectors, alarms, cameras, and any other home monitoring equipment. Additionally, it is important that you have someone check on your home while you are away.

If you don’t have a security system, ask a trusted neighbor to keep an eye on your home. A neighbor can report any suspicious activity to the police and keep you informed. Lastly, don’t forget to remove your ‘hidden’ spare key in your absence.

Stop mail and other deliveries

A UPS or FedEx delivery during the holiday season is no longer just the annual “surprise” fruitcake from your mother-in-law. In the era of Amazon offering your favorite make-up primer on subscription, it’s common for delivery boxes to show up on your doorstep unexpected. Even if these boxes only have items worth a few dollars, a thief may notice how long they sit by your front door and figure out that you’re not home. In addition, thieves may keep an eye on your mailbox as an indicator of an empty house. It’s best to make sure that all of your mail and deliveries are held while you are gone.

A hold mail request can be completed by calling 1-800-ASK-USPS or by completing a form at your local post office. The postal service will hold mail from three to 30 days. Additionally, you can pause subscriptions through the company that offers your subscription.

Don’t post on social media

Times have changed since the days Home Alone hit theaters. Nowadays, criminals seeking to rob your home don’t need to wear a police uniform and for some reason hang out in your house to find out if you’re leaving for a Christmas vacation. In fact, posting the details of your vacation to social media may be all criminals need to know that your home will be empty over the holiday. While you may think that the information you share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is only seen by your friends, you’d be amazed at the amount of information that is shared with people who aren’t on your friend list.

Unplug holiday decorations

The last thing you want to happen while you’re traveling is to have no home to return to. This is why ensuring your home is free from fire hazards is a key element to safe Christmas travel. Christmas tree lights and other holiday decorations should be turned off and unplugged while you are gone. If you are committed to keeping your home festive during your travel, consider purchasing a light switch timer that you can program to turn your lights on and off automatically. However, it is important to note that even with a light switch timer, real Christmas trees that dry out are extreme fire hazards. If your tree is real, it’s best to just unplug it while you’re away.  

You can also use these light timers to turn on lights in different rooms to make your home appeared occupied.

Unplug Electronics

TVs, computers, stereos and other electronics can cost a lot of money. The best way to protect them in your absence is to make sure that they are plugged into a surge protector. If your devices are plugged directly into the wall, unplugging them can save you from replacing them if a rough storm causes a power surge. Bonus: unplugging these electronics will shave a few dollars off of your electric bill.

Pipe care

If you live in a cold region, then your pipes may be in danger of freezing while you are on Christmas vacation. Give a trusted friend or neighbor the key to your home while you’re traveling so that they may enter your home and check on your faucets. It is equally important to make sure that your pipes are properly insulated. In addition, keep your heat running at a reasonable setting while you’re away. These simple steps can prevent frozen pipes that can lead to costly repairs.  

Give someone your travel itinerary

It doesn’t matter if you are traveling alone or with your family, a travel itinerary will make sure someone at home knows what hotel you are staying in, as well as when you are expected to return home. In addition, consider leaving a copy of the front page of your passport with the same trusted person. In the event that you lose your passport while overseas, the friend can fax you the copy and save you an extended hassle with the U.S. Consulate.

Avoid Serious Injuries on your Christmas Vacation

We all know that winter driving presents specific challenges during the holiday season. However, traveling by plane and to unfamiliar places presents its own sets of dangers. Being naive on these trips can lead to identity theft or personal injuries while abroad.

Be aware of your surroundings

Pedestrian involved accidents are a risk no matter where you’re traveling in the world. In fact, pedestrian-involved crashes are on the rise. This is partially due to more drivers using devices while behind the wheel. Also, more walkers are paying more attention to their phones than their surroundings. While you may be looking at your phone to get directions,  it is extremely important that you keep an eye on what is going on around you.

In addition to accidents, you are also at risk of having your IDs, money and other important items stolen if you don’t pay attention to your surroundings. When traveling, it can be easy to get distracted by major tourist attractions. However, it is at these locations where you are most likely to get pickpocketed. In short, don’t get too lost in snapping the perfect picture of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Pickpocketers rely on you paying more attention to the attraction than to them.

Avoid driving in unfamiliar areas

While driving is convenient and allows travelers to go where they want when they want—it might be best to avoid taking to the roads yourself. This is particularly true if you are unfamiliar with the local driving customs or habits of a different state or foreign country. Additionally, if you are inexperienced driving in winter weather, don’t try to learn while on vacation. Taking public transportation allows travelers to get to their destination without dealing with traffic or other conditions that can lead to a serious crash.

Wear the proper equipment

A safe Christmas vacation may include wearing safety gear. For example, if your family is planning a ski trip then it is important that each member of your family is equipped with the proper size helmet, goggles or sunglasses, gloves, and other gear. It also important to note that the larger a ski is, the faster it goes. On the hand, if you are traveling to a warmer climate, make sure that you wear the proper gear for water sports and activities.

Be cautious around water

Fleeing the cold weather to a warmer climate is the ideal winter vacation. Warm weather means swimming in hotel pools or a beautiful ocean. However, drowning is the biggest killer of Americans traveling abroad. Approximately 20 percent of American deaths abroad were caused by drowning. When you travel, it is important to keep water safety top of mind:

  • Only swim during daylight hours
  • Swim in areas patrolled by certified lifeguards
  • Do not let children enter or near water without a responsible adult present
  • Read up on the local weather and water patterns that may put you or your family in danger
  • Always swim with at least one other person
  • Find out the safest places to swim from locals

Know where you’re going and where you came from

Getting lost can lead you into a dangerous area or even make you an easy target. Before you leave your hotel room, know exactly where it is you’re going. Your smartphone will likely have a map that can lead you to your destination. However, in case of reception problems, carry a paper map with the route to your destination highlighted.

Additionally, it’ll be useful to know where your hotel is. Carrying a card from the hotel with the address and phone number will be helpful in the event you get lost or need assistance. If you are in a country that doesn’t speak your language, it may also be helpful to give your driver the card rather than attempting to pronounce the name of the hotel.

Be wary of unmarked taxis

Taxi scams run the gamut. Travelers who take an unmarked cab may be overcharged or in some cases, robbed. Because of this whenever it’s possible, use a taxi stand or ask your hotel concierge to book your taxi. Even marked taxis may try to scam an unsuspecting tourist. Before getting into the cab, make sure that you negotiate a fare and verify that the taxi’s meter is working. This will ensure that you are taking a legitimate taxi with a professional, licensed driver.

Another solution is to take an Uber or Lyft. These companies allow you to order a ride and pay through your debit card through an app on your phone. Additionally, you can see what your driver looks like and the kind of vehicle they are driving.

Avoid drinking too much

Overindulgence can lead to you letting your guard down. If you’re going to drink make sure you have a safe and guaranteed way to get back to your hotel room. Additionally, make sure that you have a partner with you to keep up with surroundings and details.

Be careful riding electric scooters

Electric scooters are sweeping into cities around the world. While these scooters are convenient and fun, they bring unique challenges to motorists, pedestrians, and their riders. There have been reports of the devices locking up leading to a rider losing control, hit and runs and pedestrian injuries from negligent scooter drivers. Use these devices with extreme caution. We also recommend that you avoid these scooters if you’ve had too much to drink.

Double check your travel documents

If you are traveling abroad, you may want to double check the status of your travel documents. While it may seem like having a passport guarantees your rights, there are risks associated with being able to re-enter the United States when you travel out of the country—even if you are a U.S. citizen. People who have a midwife-signed birth certificate are especially vulnerable to this violation of civil rights. Several documented reports of citizens being denied re-entry to the United States even with a passport have made headlines in recent years. These people have had their passports confiscated by immigration officials or had their passports revoked while abroad and denied their right to enter the country. If this occurs, this is unconstitutional and a violation of your civil rights.

Have a Safe Christmas Vacation

Whether you’re traveling abroad or traveling three hours to your parents you should always keep safety as your top of mind. When you stop thinking of safety, personal injuries happen. While not every accident or injury is preventable, you can do your best to avoid them. When another person’s negligence leads to your injuries, feel free to contact The Carlson Law Firm to discuss your case.

AUSTIN — Adtalem Global Education Inc.’s recently announced sale of for-profit college DeVry University to Cogswell Education—an arm of Palmer Ventures—will not affect the Texas lawsuit filed by The Carlson Law Firm attorneys in Texas on behalf of former DeVry students. According to a press release from Adtalem, Cogswell Education, LLC assumed full ownership of DeVry on Dec. 11.

Students who enrolled at the for-profit giant were duped by claims that DeVry graduates enjoyed enviably high employment rates and top salaries when compared to graduates of other schools. These students fell prey to an aggressive and deceptive marketing scheme, which the Federal Trade Commission characterized as false and not substantiated by adequate data.

Since the January 2018 filing of the lawsuit, 33 additional Texas DeVry graduates have joined the lawsuit action—nearing the total number of plaintiffs to 100. Notably, the acquisition of DeVry University by Cogswell Education will not affect their claims. The case is ongoing in federal court in San Antonio.  

In 2016 DeVry entered a settlement agreement with the Federal Trade Commission after a two-year investigation by the federal agency into the school’s marketing practices revealed serious irregularities. As a result of this enforcement action, many defrauded DeVry students received a refund that averaged some $280. However, the DeVry students in the Texas case have incurred tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt and other damages. The Texas case aims to cover the gaps that the FTC’s enforcement action failed to address, such as student loan forgiveness.   

The DeVry sale came under scrutiny from media outlets earlier this year evoking concerns over venture capitalist Bradley Palmer’s acquiring the chain with little scrutiny from the current administration. Reports questioned Palmer’s ability to run a chain more than 60 times the size of the California school he already owned.

Attorneys representing DeVry clients John Fabry and Luis Munoz are available for comment.

About Us

With 12 locations across the state, The Carlson Law Firm is a Texas-based personal injury firm committed to providing exceptional legal services to our communities. We handle a variety of personal injury cases, including auto accidents, trucking accidents, motorcycle injuries, and workplace injuries, as well as medical malpractice, defective products, nursing home neglect, offshore injuries, wrongful death and much more.

The ongoing case is Rangel et al. v. Adtalem Global Education, Inc., et al.; Case 5:18-cv-00082-DAE.

Media Contact: Kazia Conway
kconway@carlsonattorneys.com

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If you are contemplating a divorce, your first question is probably whether you are entitled to one. While celebrity news makes it seem as though divorces are easy to come by, you may be surprised to learn that Texas courts require couples to have a solid reason. To obtain a divorce, you must raise and prove at least one ground for a court to grant the divorce.

In fact, the Texas Family Code provides seven grounds for divorce in Texas. The state categorizes these grounds into fault or no-fault divorces. These classifications may be relevant for purposes of division of marital property, an award of spousal maintenance, and to a certain extent, parental fitness.

What is the Difference Between a Fault and No-fault Divorce?

There is a substantial difference between a fault and no-fault divorce. For starters, a fault divorce typically requires the person seeking the divorce to prove the other party is at-fault somehow. However, in a no-fault divorce, no blame is assigned to either party. The type of divorce you file may have a significant effect on the outcome of your dissolution of marriage. For example, in a fault divorce, a judge may distribute marital assets unequally because of infidelity. On the other hand, no-fault divorces may end up in a 50/50 split of assets no matter the reason. 

Texas is one of 33 states that allow for a person seeking a divorce to choose between a fault or no-fault divorce. The type of divorce you are able to file largely depends on the state you live or are eligible to file in. Fortunately, if you are able to file for divorce in Texas you have the option of choosing between a fault or no-fault divorce.

Fault Grounds For Divorce in Texas

A fault divorce requires the person requesting the divorce prove that the other party has done something wrong. There are several that the party filing for the divorce can use to justify ending the union. Divorce courts require the party filing to provide proof that the grounds actually exist. For example, proof can come in the form of testimony from a witness with first-hand knowledge of the spouse’s bad behavior. In other cases, proof can come from documentation collected by a private investigator.

While fault divorces are becoming less common because of the ease of no-fault divorces, they are still an option for Texas couples. These types of divorces are considerably more expensive to obtain. The most common fault grounds include the following:

Cruelty

The grounds for cruelty in Texas are defined as willfully causing pain or suffering to your spouse. This treatment is so bad that it renders the couple living together insupportable. Cruel treatment is a relative term. In fact, each case must be determined on its own facts. For example, one person may believe behaviors to be cruel while another person may not.

In order for a judge to uphold cruelty as a fault, the cruelty needs to be a willful, persistent infliction of unnecessary suffering. The suffering may be mental or physical. However, mere trivial matters or disagreements are not sufficient.

Adultery

Adultery means “the voluntary sexual intercourse of a married person with one not the husband or wife of the offender.” If you have clear and positive proof that your spouse was having an affair, you have grounds for a divorce. You don’t have to go to such lengths as videoing your spouse cheating, but adultery can be proven through circumstantial ways. For example, receipts or bank statements showing purchases of gifts, jewelry, loans, or trips for a lover may be sufficient evidence. However, mere suggestion and innuendo do not suffice.

It is important to note that acts of adultery that occur after you file for divorce and are no longer cohabitating can still support a fault-based judgment against the adulterer. Because of this, it is best to avoid getting into a relationship until the divorce is final.

Felony Criminal Conviction

If your spouse is convicted of a felony then that is grounds for a divorce. A judge will grant your divorce if during the marriage, your spouse was:

  • Convicted of a felony
  • Imprisoned for at least one year
  • Has not been pardoned.

It doesn’t matter if the felony conviction was a state or federal penitentiary. Notably, if the state’s case against the convicted felon was based on his or her spouse’s testimony, a divorce cannot be granted on these grounds. However, the court may still grant a divorce based on insupportability or cruelty.

Abandonment

A court may grant a divorce on this ground if the other spouse has voluntarily left the complaining spouse. In addition, the spouse must have left with the intention of abandonment and remained away for at least one year. Further, the spouse must have the intention not to return to live with his or her spouse. 

The abandonment period must be continuous for a one-year period. For example, if your spouse comes back for a few nights, this could restart the one-year period. However, if the spouse returned home with no intent to continue living together, then a court may still grant a divorce.

Uncommon Grounds

Courts will grant a fault divorce for a number of reasons. Other grounds for divorce may include:

  • Alcohol or substance abuse
  • Impotency
  • Infertility
  • Homosexuality (for married heterosexual couples)
  • Cultural or religious differences
  • Financial backing (when one spouse is unwilling to support the other financially even if he or she has the means to do so)

No-Fault Grounds for Divorce in Texas

Since the late 1960s, no-fault divorces have become increasingly more common over fault divorces. These divorces are often less expensive and take less time—which is why a majority of people opt for them. No-fault divorces do not require the person requesting the divorce to prove that the other party has done something wrong. In many cases, people don’t want the mudslinging that comes along with a fault divorce. In addition, these records may become public record making the most intimate details of your divorce accessible. 

The person filing for divorce does not need a reason for the court to grant a no-fault divorce in Texas. However, they still have to show why a court should grant the divorce. Common grounds for no-fault divorce include the following:

Insupportability

A court may grant a divorce without regard to fault. One of the ways the court will do that is through insupportability. Insupportability is the common ground for divorce. This ground simply means that the marriage is no longer endurable, insufferable and intolerable.

To qualify under this it must be shown that the marriage has become so insupportable due to the conflict, that the conflict destroys the marriage. Further, that there is no reasonable expectation that the parties are getting back together.

Living Apart

A court may grant a divorce without assigning fault to either party if they have been living apart for at least three years. Much like abandonment, the two parties cannot have cohabitated during that time. 

Confinement in a Mental Hospital

This ground applies when a spouse has been confined in a mental hospital for at least three years, and it appears that said the mental disorder is of such a degree and nature that either the spouse is not likely to adjust, or is likely to relapse.

Defenses to the Grounds for Divorce in Texas

With the adoption of no-fault divorces, the state of Texas abolished defenses for recrimination and adultery. However, the state still continues to recognize condonation as a defense.

Condonation

Condonation is a defense to the fault grounds above and is the act of forgiving another party. To establish this, the court must find that there is a reasonable expectation of reconciliation requiring forgiveness by the offended party and repentance by the offender.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

Every divorce is unique. This is why it is vital for everyone filing for divorce in Texas to seek help from a qualified family law attorney. No matter what the grounds for divorce, The Carlson Law Firm understands that this is a difficult situation. This is why we are here to help. If you are considering filing for divorce, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced family attorney at The Carlson Law Firm. Our attorneys have been protecting the rights of families across Central Texas since 1976. We are available 24/7. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation consultation.

What better gift for the holidays than a gift of safety, specifically car safety. This year be at peace and give a gift that shows those on your list how much they really mean to you. Equipping your loved one’s vehicle with some essential road safety devices will allow you to sleep a little easier while reducing their risk of getting into avoidable accidents. These small and relatively inexpensive items play a big role in vehicle safety and reliability especially during winter driving when road conditions can be hazardous and unpredictable. The following ideas can help you get started on gifts for the open road:

Blind Spot Mirrors

car safety gift guide

Not every vehicle comes equipped with blind spot monitoring systems. However, a simple, low cost yet effective alternative are blind spot mirrors. These tiny, adhesive mirrors provide lane visibility that standard side mirrors don’t. They are easy to install and stick to a vehicle’s side mirrors. These items reduce the chances of a left-of-center crash. The handy adhesive mirrors eliminate the dangers associated with blind spots and may prevent future car collisions. You can sleep easier at night knowing your loved one can safely change lanes and merge onto major highways.

Available for $9.99

Digital Tire Pressure Gauge

car safety gift guide

While some vehicles display the pounds per square inch (PSI) on all four tires and what it should be on the cabin dash, others will only show a warning light when your tires are low. And let’s face it, the do-it-yourself tire inflation stations are not as easy-to-use as we would like. It can be difficult and frustrating to read the pop out tire gauges that come standard on these machines—especially for less experienced drivers. You can alleviate this frustration and improve a loved one’s gas mileage by stuffing their stocking with a digital tire pressure gauge this Christmas. This digital tire pressure gauge displays tire PSI making it easy to understand and can be used anywhere, anytime. No more driving out of your way to a gas station to check your tire pressure. This accurate device’s digital display is easy to read and comes backlit in case of nighttime emergencies.

Available for $11.31

Battery Jump Starter

car safety gift guide

Realizing you have a dead battery when no one is around is anyone’s worst driving nightmare. Help your loved ones avoid this frustrating and sometimes dangerous situation by gifting a jump starter this holiday season. The Stanley FATMAX delivers jump-starting power with 700 peak amps and 350 instant starting amps. Finding someone to provide a jump-start won’t be a worry with this handy jump starter is sitting in the trunk. They’re great for starting a car, and parents of teen drivers have peace of mind knowing it is also a backup charger for cell phones—helpful in a power outage. The Stanley FATMAX also features a 120 PSI air compressor to inflate tires with low pressure and is equipped with a high powered LED light in case the car trouble occurs at night.

Available for $39.97

Emergency Roadside Kit

car safety gift guide

No one expects to have car trouble, leaving them stranded on the side of the road. However, it does happen without warning. This AAA Roadside Emergency Kit is perfect for new drivers and seasoned drivers alike. The kit includes jumper cables, a flashlight, and first aid kit, along with more than 40 other essential components you may need in the event of an emergency. An emergency roadside kit will not only provide peace of mind, but it may also actually save a life. This gift is suitable for any driver on your list!

Available for $32.66

Cell-phone Holder

car safety gift guide

If your vehicle does not come equipped with a navigation system, it is likely you are using your cell phone for driving directions. While our phones are just as accurate as dedicated GPS systems, it is not safe to look down at your phone or drive with one hand on the wheel and the other handling the device. For those loved ones who enjoy hitting the road for a long drive, a cell phone holder is an extremely useful gift that has the added bonus of boosting their safety. This simple-to-install gadget mounts to a vehicle’s windshield or dash and fits most smartphones. Drivers can type in the directions to their destination then place their cell phone in the holder for convenient and safe navigation assistance.

Available for $12.95

Seat Gap Filler

car safety gift guide

Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of car collisions. In fact, 3,450 lives were lost due to distracted driving in 2016 alone. If we’re being honest, who hasn’t dropped their cellphone while driving between the seats? Suddenly, it becomes a mission to recover anything that has fallen in between the seats, and extremely dangerous to attempt while driving. However, many of us have done so and will probably continue to do. The Seat Gap Filler sounds funny but it is the perfect way to avoid potential accidents caused by distracted driving while digging for lost treasures in the seat gaps. Not to mention it is the perfect companion gift to the cell-phone holder mentioned above.

Available for $19.99

Pet Barrier

car safety gift guide

For many pet owners, traveling with their fur baby is a must. However, depending on your pooch, this may be a safety issue. Some dogs may get excited and jump from the back seat to the front seat causing a great distraction to the driver. To avoid this dangerous situation from potentially harming your loved one while driving, consider a pet barrier. This pet barrier is a simple mesh netting that easily attaches to your vehicle to contain your precious pets to the backseat. Loved ones will still be able to take their pup on trips, but will have a much easier time paying attention to the road.

Available for $15.99

Flare Kit

car safety gift guide

People pulled over to the side of the road due to car trouble are in danger of being struck by oncoming traffic. Unfortunately, many people do not follow the move over law which leads to catastrophic injuries and even death. It is critical to have something to catch the attention of approaching vehicles, especially at night when visibility decreases. The Original Highway Flare Kit comes with six 30-minute highway flares and a free high visibility safety vest. These items are essential for protecting the occupants of a vehicle during a roadside emergency.

Available for $20.99.

Car Safety Hammer and Seatbelt Cutter

car safety gift guide

A car safety hammer and seatbelt cutter are lifesavers for anyone trapped in their vehicle. For example, if you are involved in a car collision that jams your seatbelt buckle or door and you need to quickly escape the vehicle, this seatbelt cutter and safety hammer combo can save your life. This device fits on the side of your door for easy access.

Available for $13.99

Car Jack

car safety gift guide

Most of us feel prepared by having a spare tire in our vehicle. However, what good will that tire do if you don’t have a car jack as well? This LiftMaster Hydraulic floor jack is the perfect answer. Depending on whom you are purchasing for, you might want to ensure they know how to fix a flat!

Available for $35.99

Give The Gift of Safety This Holiday Season

Roadside emergencies happen when we least expect them. Gifting something that will attribute to car safety is often not on the top of our minds. However, your friends and family will be thankful you not only thought of their safety but also gifted something that could end up saving their lives. Talk about the best gift ever!

If you or someone you love is injured in an auto accident, the team of dedicated and compassionate injury attorneys at The Carlson Law Firm can help ensure your rights are protected and you are given the medical treatment you require, as well as the compensation you deserve. Contact any one of our 12 locations today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation. We’re here to help.

 

Every year, approximately 900 people are killed and nearly 76,000 people are injured in car crashes during snowfall or sleet. As we move deeper into December, temperatures are dropping across the nation and the chances of inclement weather are increasing. With these weather changes comes a shift in the road conditions—just in time for the drive home to visit your family for Christmas. Driving with your family in tow, and probably carrying more weight than usual with added luggage, means taking extra precautions for winter driving.

Weather can become very severe throughout the state so it is important to drive with extra care.

According to the Federal Highway Administration, more than 70 percent of the nation’s roads are located in snowy regions. A snowy region is defined as one that receives more than 5 inches of snowfall annually.

Common Types of Winter Weather Car Crashes

The best way to avoid a crash is to be aware of how you are driving and aware of your surroundings. While certain driving risks exist year-round, winter driving comes with its own unique set of risks. Heavy snowfall and slick roads can lead to serious accidents—even for the best drivers. The following are the most common types of winter weather car crashes:

Sliding

Snow, ice, sleet and rain create less than ideal road conditions. As a result, one of the most common causes of winter weather car crashes is caused by sliding on slippery roads. Unfortunately, sliding can lead to various types of collisions at intersections, downhill and others.

Rear-Ends

Driving too quickly or too close to the car ahead of you in bad weather can lead to rear-end collisions. Winter weather often requires frequent stops. It is important to be a courteous driver and be mindful of your speed.

Spinning Out

Wintery weather on the roads puts vehicles at risk for spinning out of control when driving in snow and ice conditions.

Left of Center Collisions

Because of snow-covered roads, or in some cases sliding, drivers may find it difficult to maintain their lane leading to left-of-center crashes. These crashes are common on crowded roads. Avoid these types of accidents by slowing down and staying aware of your surroundings. However, if you find yourself drifting, attempt to regain control without hitting the brakes.

What Negligent Actions Can Lead to Winter Weather Car Accidents?

There are a variety of conditions that can lead to a dangerous situation. In fact, snow and icy road conditions lead to more than 1,300 deaths and over 116,800 injuries each year. Because winter weather road conditions already make for dangerous situations avoid these actions:

Unnecessary travel

Drivers who don’t have to go out, shouldn’t. Keep an eye on the weather and make sure to plan your grocery stone ahead. Further, if the weather conditions are bad enough, consider skipping or rescheduling minor or unimportant trips.

Driving too fast for weather conditions

Speeding, even in perfect weather, is always dangerous. But when the weather affects road conditions, drivers need to slow down. Snow, ice, sleet and rain make the roadways slick in addition to reducing visibility. In more severe conditions, it may be necessary to drive below the posted speed limit. In fact, the Federal Highway Administration recommends that drivers reduce their speed by 30 to 40 percent in bad weather on city streets. In addition, when traveling on freeways, drivers should reduce their speed by 3 to 13 percent and 5 to 40 percent during heavy snow.

Quick Acceleration

Over time, we tend to outgrow pushing the pedal to the metal. However, those who haven’t, may not understand that accelerating their vehicle too quickly prevents their tires from gaining traction.

Reduced Visibility

Drivers who fail to remove the wintry mix from their vehicle’s windows before moving the gear selected drive are putting others at risk. Ice, snow, sleet and rain can stick to windows. When this occurs, sight visibility while driving is significantly reduced. Before driving, drivers need to slow down and clear their vehicle’s windows of the wintry mix. Additionally, using the vehicle’s defroster will keep windows and, most importantly, windshield clear while driving.

Tailgating

Icy or snowy roads mean that vehicles need more space to come to a complete stop. A negligent driver may be in a rush to get to their destination. As a result, they may result to tailgating or following too closely. Drivers should leave for their destination in enough time to drive responsibly in winter weather.

Under normal conditions, AAA recommends driving three to four seconds behind the car ahead. However, in poor weather conditions, it says that the following distance should be increased to eight to 10 seconds.

Braking

Vehicles require more time to stop on slick roads. As a result, drivers should allow extra time for stopping their vehicle. In addition, drivers should avoid driving cars they are unfamiliar with in bad weather. Being familiar with how the vehicle brakes can help drivers prepare to properly apply the brakes in unexpected situations.

Vehicles with anti-lock brake systems may require drivers to press the brakes harder to achieve a quicker stop. Having this level of knowledge and comfort with your vehicle can prevent a serious crash.

Prepare Your Vehicle for Driving in Wintery Road Conditions

It is very important to start preparing for your winter drive even before you start the car for your trip. Before severe weather hits, make sure your vehicle is well-maintained. This is, of course, best done by a professional mechanic. Winterizing your vehicle will help your vehicle’s operating efficiency during the colder months.

Check, Repair, Replace

Top off all your fluids, including the windshield washer fluid. Other areas to check include battery; antifreeze; wipers and windshield washer fluid; ignition system; thermostat; lights; flashing hazard lights; exhaust system; heater; brakes; defroster; tires (check for adequate tread); and oil level.

Electrical system

Ensure that your vehicle’s battery is in tip-top shape. During the colder months, your battery needs to be fully charged to start your vehicle. If your battery is older than three years,  have your battery checked and replaced. In addition, you should have your alternator or generator, voltage regulator and drive belts checked too.

Your ignition system should be checked as well. Damaged ignition wires, a cracked distributor cap and worn spark plugs can make starting your vehicle difficult or lead to a breakdown. Avoid these issues by having your vehicle checked ahead of the cold weather.

Finally, bad weather can make it more difficult to see and be seen. Ensure your vehicle’s lights and lenses are functioning properly. Grime on headlights reduces their effectiveness by as much as 90 percent.

Brake system

The ability to slow your vehicle is necessary for driving in any driving environment. Have your brakes checked regularly and do no delay and necessary maintenance or repairs.

Tires

Tire traction determines how well your vehicles accelerates, turns and stops on a road surface. This is especially important if you live in an area that receives light to moderate snowfall. All-season tires are good for climates that receive this level of snowfall. However, those who live in areas or traveling to areas with heavy snow might want to consider snow tires. Snow tires are specifically designed for driving in snowy weather or snow-covered roads.

On some roads, you may be allowed to drive with chains on your tires. If you need chains on your tires, be sure to follow the posted signs.

Exhaust system

Keeping the windows up and running the heat to keep warm is a major bonus of living in the modern era. But before the snow starts, have a mechanic check your exhaust system for leaks. This willing minimize your chances of carbon monoxide poisoning. The exhaust system carries away carbon monoxide and other harmful gases produced by your car’s engine. In addition, it muffles engine noises. If you become stuck in the snow and have your engine running, open a window slightly and clear snow away from the exhaust pipe.

Windshield wipers, washer, glass and vehicle exterior

During bad weather, your windows are your lifeline. Having clean windows is imperative to offering optimal visibility. Have your windshield wipers replaced periodically to avoid streaks on your window. In addition, if dirt or other grime build up on your windshield, you washer reservoir bottle should have an anti-freeze water solvent. Clean windshields of ice and snow to ensure to prevent damage to your wipers.

Gas tank

Keep your gas tank half full at all times. This is to help to keep moisture from collecting in the fuel lines, which can freeze. This is also a good idea because if you are stuck in bad weather on the side of the road, you will be able to run your car for heat.

How The Carlson Law Firm Can Help You

The Carlson Law Firm has years of experience protecting the rights of injured people all over the nation. We have a successful record of helping recover just compensation for those involved in car crashes. As your attorneys, we will use our specialized knowledge to fight for you to get you the compensation you deserve from the party negligent for your injuries. Call The Carlson Law Firm to discuss your legal options today.

We are available to speak with you 24/7. Contact us today for a free consultation.

A raw beef recall linked to a salmonella outbreak that has sickened 246 people in 25 different states is being expanded to include more than 2,500 tons. The current recall comes just months after the Arizona-based JBS Tolleson plan recalled about 3,500 tons of potentially contaminated beef in October.

To date, the recall affects approximately 12,093,271 pounds of non-intact raw beef products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has labeled the recall as a Class I Recall meaning that the health risk is high. Addition, the USDA has recommended that consumers throw away or return meat covered in the expanded raw beef recall:

  • packaged between July 26, 2018 and Sept. 7, 2018
  • carries “EST. 267” within the USDA inspection mark

In addition, the USDA has provided photographs of the labels of the affected packages. Affected raw beef products have been sold at more than 100 stores nationwide, including Sam’s Club, Walmart, Ralph’s and under the brand names of Kroger, Laura’s Lean and Generic JBS.

While JBS maintains that all of the affected product was removed from shelves during the October recall, the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service say that its investigators identified at least three patients believed to have been sickened by the beef that was not part of the October recall.

The company says that it made a “cautious decision” to expand the recall because of some potentially contaminated frozen in consumers’ homes.

Who is JBS Tolleson?

JBS is the world’s top meat processing plant. In fact, the mega-meat processor surpasses the combined total of the world’s top 11 to 20 meat processing companies.

The company is a leading processor of beef, pork and lamb in the U.S. Additionally, it is the leading processor of beef in Canada and the largest cattle feeder in the world. The company has operations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

Are Foodborne Illness Outbreaks Increasing?

According to preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the overall number of Campylobacter, Listeria, Salmonella, Shigella, Vibrio and Yersinia infections increased 96 percent in 2017 compared the 2014-2016 average.

In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention foodborne illness affects one in six American every year. The agency estimates that 48 million people get sick each year due to at least 31 pathogens. Additionally, about 128,000 people are treated in the hospital and about 3,000 die annually. Each year, approximately 200 illness clusters are investigated, but only about 15 turn out to be actual outbreaks. So far in 2018, there are currently 23 outbreak investigations ongoing or completed.

Foodborne illness outbreaks are influenced by seasonal and environmental factors. In fact, according to the Fourth National Climate Assessment, foodborne illnesses are on the rise because of increasing temperatures on Earth. Salmonella is one of the more common types of food poisoning.

Outbreaks are the end of a very long outbreak investigation process. The process includes collecting evidence, confirming an illness causing pathogen and tracing contacts. This is typically a coordinated effort between the CDC and state health departments.

The proportion of Americans considered to be at risk for foodborne illness is increasing. However, many of these people may not know that they are at risk.

Complications from Food Poisoning

Dehydration is the most common complication of food poisoning. The condition is marked by the severe loss of water and essential salts and minerals. This occurs when a person is unable to replace fluids lost through food poisoning symptoms, vomiting and diarrhea. In most healthy adults who get plenty of fluids, dehydration isn’t much of a problem. However, in vulnerable populations such as very young children (under five), older adults, pregnant women and people with suppressed immune systems or chronic illnesses, the effects of dehydration are much more severe.

There is often confusion between stomach bugs and foodborne illness. However, the two illnesses differ in incubation period and symptoms:

foodborne illnesses, food poisoning, ground beef recall, salmonella, bacteria

Is ground beef safe to eat if I cook it?

Ground beef is a staple in the food we eat. We can find the meat in everything from tacos to burgers prepared at home, in restaurants or school cafeterias. However, with the recent raw beef recall, it’s best that you practice excellent food safety when preparing ground beef.

Bacteria exists everywhere—including on our foods. This bacteria comes from the animal slaughtered, processing equipment or from the environment. The surface of intact meats like chicken breast, roast and steak often have bacteria. This surface bacteria is easily killed off during cooking. For this reason, eating a rare steak doesn’t carry the same risks as eating a rare hamburger.  However, in ground meats, the bacteria on the surface mixes throughout the meat as it ground into tiny pieces. As a result, ground beef, chicken, turkey, pork and any other ground meat must be cooked all the way through in order to kill bacteria.

While freezing can kill some bacteria, others can survive both refrigerator and freezer temperatures.

Preparing ground beef

Make sure that your beef is not a part of current or past raw beef recalls. If it is, throw it away or take it back to the store you purchased it from. Even if you cook recalled products all the way through, ground beef can brown before all of the bacteria has been killed. Additionally, these products may contaminate other surfaces in your kitchen. It is best to just not take the risk.

In restaurants:

  • Double check the food of vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women and the elderly.
  • Don’t be afraid to send back any undercooked ground beef products
  • Be aware that bacteria from ground beef products have contaminated other foods on the plate—including the plate.

At home:

  • Cook meat until a thermometer insert in the thickest part of the patty, meatloaf or other ground beef dishes is at 160°F.
  • Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Clean your hands, counters, thermometers and utensils with hot, soapy water after they touch raw ground beef.

Raw Beef Recall Victims – Call The Carlson Law Firm for Assistance

Food poisoning can lead to serious illness or death. Foodborne illnesses can happen as a result of the negligence of food manufacturers and others in the food processing chain. Food poisoning cases are complex civil lawsuits. A Food Poisoning Attorney from The Carlson Law Firm can help you recover the compensation you deserve. Damage recovery includes:

  • Past and future medical expenses
  • Lost income
  • Out-of-pocket expenses
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress

Additionally, if you lost a loved one from foodborne illnesses as a result of distributor negligence, you may be able to file a wrongful death lawsuit.

If you or a loved one suffered severe food poisoning symptoms by the latest raw beef recall, there is help. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a food poisoning attorney to discuss your options.

There is so much to be thankful for during the holidays. The season comes with fun family gatherings, an excuse to eat plenty of delicious food, festive decorations all around and gift exchanges with friends and loved ones. There’s no doubt that it’s better to give than to receive, but getting the perfect present for your Secret Santa may have you feeling a bit overwhelmed. Worry not! We are here to help you choose a gift that will not only bring a smile to the recipient’s face but will also pay it forward to an important charity or cause.

2018 Gifts That Give Back

Why not give a gift that will also help someone else this holiday season? Perhaps you can help others in need, or give towards an organization you or a loved one feels strongly about. Making a difference while making your loved one feel special is possible. Check out how you can give a gift that keeps on giving to everyone on your holiday list this year.

Roma Boots

gift that gives back

Roma Boots offers eco-friendly vegan rain boots that are perfect for any fashionista in your life. These super stylish boots are made from natural rubber and knitted cotton. Gifting these boots does good for more than just one person. For every pair sold, the company donates another pair to a child in need. In addition, 10 percent of all proceeds fund educational initiatives around the world. The company has donated over $2,248,020 worth of boots in their mission to help people struggling in poverty.

Roma Boots start at $19 a pair in children’s sizes and $49 a pair in women’s sizes.

Cuddle and Kind

gift that gives back

You can never go wrong with gifting a doll or stuffed animal to the special kiddo in your life. Cuddle and Kind hand knits beautiful dolls that come in a variety of different characters from mermaids to reindeer and penguins. No matter the child in your life, there is a doll to fit their personality. You can help this company meet their goal of providing 1 million meals every year to hungry children in 65 countries. For each doll purchased, Cuddle and Kind provides 10 meals to children in need.

Hand-knitted dolls start at $50.

Lux Woods

gift that gives back

Shopping for your dad, your husband or adult son can be time-consuming. However, save yourself the headache this holiday season by purchasing the unique craftsmanship of a Lux Woods handmade wood watch for the hard to shop for man in your life. Lux Woods is an organization that is committed to a “Buy one, feed one, plant one” model. They are working to end worldwide, childhood hunger by collaborating with Feed the Children. In addition, the company has partnered with Plant a Billion Trees to plant 1 billion trees by 2025.

Men’s watches start at around $70.00.

Love Your Melon

gift that gives back

Who doesn’t like to feel warm and cozy? Gift a beanie that can be worn with pride from Love Your Melon. This company’s mission is to improve the lives of children battling cancer in America. Love Your Melon contributes  50 percent of net profit from all products including beanies, headbands, scarves, blankets and more goes to the Love Your Melon fund to support nonprofit partners fighting against pediatric cancer. Additionally, those profits benefit charitable programming initiatives for children battling cancer and their families. To date, Love Your Melon has given more than $4.7 million dollars towards the fight against pediatric cancer.

Beanies start at $35.00

Good Spread

gift that gives back

Do you have any peanut butter lovers on your holiday shopping list? If so, Good Spread organic peanut butter is a gift that will not only fill their tummies but their hearts as well. Each year, nearly 2.6 million children under five years of age die from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM). For every Good Spread purchased, a treatment of MANA Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food is sent to a malnourished child. This Ready-To-Use Therapeutic Food has completely cured 96 percent of children treated with the product in less than six weeks. To add to the warm feeling of helping a child in need, you can track where the MANA packet is headed by using the unique tracking code on your jar.

Good Spread is available for $6.99 a jar.

Thistle Farms

gift that gives back

Thistle Farms provides a second chance at life to survivors of human trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. This company not only employs women who are recovering from life on the street, but they also provide residential programs providing housing, food, healthcare, therapy, and education at no cost to the residents. Once the women leave the program, they are not alone. They will continue to have access to counseling education assistance and assistance with financial emergencies. You can be a part of changing someone’s life for the better by purchasing a product handcrafted with love by women survivors, as every single sale will benefit them. In 2017, there were 1,300 survivors employed and 9,000 nights of safe housing for women in need. Products range from bath and body products to home goods and accessories.

Gifts are available for purchase as low as $5.

Yoobi

gift that gives back

Even the children who you are shopping for this holiday season can take part in receiving a meaningful gift that will help others in need. For every item purchased, Yoobi donates a school supply item to a classroom in need in the United States. Not only does a lack of school supplies affect a child’s schoolwork, but it also damages their confidence. Yoobi in partnership with Kids in Need Foundation has been able to impact over 4 million children by providing them with fun and unique school supplies to improve classroom behavior, grades, and self-esteem. These stocking stuffers with a purpose are the perfect way to teach young children how important it is to give back to the less fortunate.

Gifts start at $5.

Warby Parker

gift that gives back

Sunglasses are a gift that many people on your list would love. Warby Parker works with a handful of partners worldwide to provide glasses to people around the world who need them but don’t have access to them. For every pair of glasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need. Warby Parker has given over 4 million pairs of glasses to alleviate the problem of impaired vision.

Sunglasses available for $95 a pair.

Rescue Candles

gift that gives back

Do you have any dog lovers on your nice list this year? Rescue Candle handcrafts eco-soy candles with fragrances like Pup’kin Spice and Mango Mutt. The company donates 15 percent of all proceeds to animal rescue shelters. If you or your human friend have a shelter close to your heart, you have the opportunity to handpick the shelter that will benefit from your purchase. If not, your purchase will still be included with a donation card that tells you exactly where your donation went.

Candles starting at $12.99

Zen Pig

gift that gives back

Approximately 1 billion people do not have access to clean water. But you can make a difference through providing clean water access to one person for an entire year with the purchase of a Zen Pig book. The Zen Pig teaches children about love and kindness. Teach the little one in your life a lesson through reading. Enjoy the added bonus of also teaching them that small acts of kindness can go as far as potentially saving lives.

Books available for $7.95.

 

 

For many divorced or never-married parents with custody orders, dividing up the holidays can be a major source of conflict.  While each court order is different, and parents are allowed to make other arrangements if approved by the court, there is a standard approach that the state of Texas takes when handling Christmas custody arrangements after a split. In Texas, this standard is characterized with every other year for both major holidays (Christmas and Thanksgiving), as well as school vacations for custodial and noncustodial parents.

Determining parenting responsibilities, even legally, is a complicated process for any parent. Even with a custody order in place, there may still be some confusion around the holiday season.

How is Custody Determined?

Custody is a legal term used to describe the legal and physical relationship between a parent or guardian and a child. Custody covers the gamut from where a child will live to what school the child will attend to who has the right to make medical decisions for the child. There are two types of custody arrangements.

  • Legal. Legal custody addresses the important decisions that need to be made. It covers education, religious and ethical beliefs, discipline standards and medical care.
  • Physical. Physical custody determines who has possession and control of the child.

Many co-parents have joint legal and physical custody. This means that both parents have the right to make all the important decisions for children the couple share together. In other words, when it is time to make a decision concerning the child, the parents must work together to do what’s in the best interest for the child.

What is a Custodial and Noncustodial Parent?

Both parents are important to their children. However, for purposes of determining a parenting schedule, the law defines parents by whether or not they have primary physical custody of the child. The definition of custodial and non-custodial are as follows:

Custodial Parent

The custodial parent is also called the managing conservator. While the courts may give parents 50/50 custody, they will often assign one of the parents with a larger timeshare as well as a primary residence. This parent is typically who the child resides with a majority of the time.

Non-custodial Parent

Also referred to as the possessory conservator, the rights of a non-custodial parent depend largely on the custody order the court puts in place. Typically, these parents will have access to the child on a defined schedule, such as every other weekend and one weeknight.

What is the Standard Holiday Visitation Schedule in Texas?

Because the holidays are a coveted time which can lead to disputes between co-parents, the Texas Family Code provides a standard schedule. This schedule is standard no matter how many miles the custodial and non-custodial parents live apart. In addition, this schedule overrules conflicting weekend or Thursday periods of possession.

For Christmas, Texas non-custodial parents:

  • Have possession of the child in even-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day the child is dismissed from school for Christmas vacation.
  • Return the child to the custodial parent at noon on December 28.

For Christmas, Texas custodial parents:

  • Have possession of the child in odd-numbered years beginning at 6 p.m. on the day child is dismissed from school for Christmas vacation.
  • Allow the non-custodial parents to take possession of the child at noon on December 28.

In Texas’ standard holiday visitation, the parent who does not have the child on Christmas will have the child on Thanksgiving.

What Counts as a Denial of Visitation?

Children do best when co-parents can work together in a flexible and cooperative way to develop a schedule. Each child is unique and it’s best if parents work together to meet the needs of their child. However, when that doesn’t occur parents may be at a loss of how to enforce visitation orders.

In order to get your visitation orders enforced by a court, you will need to show a pattern of denials. To prove a denial, you will need the following:

  • Visitation orders that clearly state a time, place and date to exchange the children.
  • Proof that you showed up at the exact court ordered time and location of the exchange.
  • Proof that your ex acted in contempt. A text message showing the other parents denial isn’t enough. You must go to the location on the correct date and time ordered.
  • Record names of anyone who witnessed the denial of visitation.

Keeping a visitation journal will help you determine if your ex has a pattern of visitation denials. In this journal, write down exactly what happened in the visitation journal. For example:

“I called my ex to tell them I was coming to pick up my child at 6 p.m. However, there was no response. When I arrived at 5:55 p.m., I waited for 20 minutes for my ex to show up then went inside the restaurant to buy a cheeseburger.”

If you purchase something while waiting on your ex for an exchange, make sure you save your receipt to prove you were in the neighborhood.

What Can I do if my Ex Denies my Visitation?

While friends and family may tell you to get the police involved, visitation denials are a civil matter. Police officers typically prefer not to get involved unless a dispute rises to a criminal matter.

“However, depending on the department, police officers may read the court orders and try to assist in a resolution for the parties,” Carlson Law Firm attorney Cheryl Powell said. “However, they are unable to enforce the policy because it is a civil matter.”

To resolve the matter, Cheryl says that a parent has two options:

“A qualified family attorney can help a parent Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus,” Cheryl said. “If granted, the Writ of Habeas Corpus requires the person that has the child to appear in court with the child. In addition, the parent can ask for a Writ of Attachment directing the child’s delivery or return.”

Notably, if an ex withholds the child on more than one occasion, then the second option is for a parent to file a Motion for Enforcement.

“The length of time these matters take to resolve depends on the court’s schedule,” Cheryl said. “It’s important to remember that a parent who denies visitation can be held in contempt by the court and be fined and/or jailed.”

Christmas Custody: Tips to Co-Parent with Ease this Holiday Season

The holidays are a chaotic time even under the best circumstances. But when you are balancing the additional obstacle of co-parenting and holiday visitation schedules, the season for joy can become completely insufferable. Remember, to keep your children’s well-being as your top priority. You can keep your sanity and do what is best for your children by following these simple tips.

Try to be Flexible

Even with a written, court-ordered agreement, things come up. For example, more than 50 percent of U.S. families are remarried or recoupled. As a result, your ex may need to be in two places at once such as picking up children a few hours’ drive away at the same time they need to pick up the child you share together. If you both can agree to a pickup time that works for both of you then do it. As long you as there is no flat-out denial of time with your child, being flexible and cooperative can make your holiday stress-free.

Communicate

Co-parenting is not easy. However, learning to communicate with your ex in an open and honest way can prevent misunderstandings. While texts can be helpful with documentation, they can also lead to misunderstandings. Even in casual conversation, the tone of a text may be lost or misinterpreted. However, the stakes of misreading a text between co-parents is extremely high. Picking up the phone to discuss holiday arrangements can save you from holiday visitation headaches and frustrations. Keep in mind, that it is OK to make some concessions and ask for concessions in return.

Keep your child’s best interest at the forefront

Many former couples get trapped in the mindset of what the other parent is doing or has done wrong. Thoughts like “she wants to control everything” or “he’s selfish” can muddy the waters on what’s truly in the best interest of your child. By recognizing that your children need both parents in their lives, you can make your holidays easier. Children need and want relationships with both of their parents and extended family. Put your child’s needs above your pride and support your child’s relationship with their other parent.

Contact a Qualified Family Law Attorney

Family matters can be extremely difficult to navigate during the holiday season. However, you do not have to stress over whether or not you will be able to see your child this holiday season. If you are in a situation that requires assistance with the court, contact our firm. The Carlson Law Firm offers free consultations with knowledgeable family law attorneys.

“With a qualified family law attorney, you can be confident that we will use our extensive legal knowledge and resources to pursue your ideal outcome for your case.”
-Cheryl Powell, Family Law Attorney

The Carlson Law Firm Can Make Your Holidays Smoother

Children thrive with a routine. And even if they do not get to spend every holiday with you, knowing what to expect each year can make the Christmas season a better experience for both parents and their children. If you are considering a divorce, understand that your transition into co-parenting doesn’t have to be a difficult one. Or, if you were never married to your child’s other parent, you don’t have to beg to see your child on Christmas or other holidays. Establishing a custody agreement will ensure both parents are getting equal treatment after a split year round.

Contact The Carlson Law Firm to discuss your options with a Board-Certified Family Law Attorney. Our compassionate and knowledgeable family law attorneys can answer your questions about custody arrangements during the holiday season.

Driving is a particularly dangerous activity. However, because of the number of times you’ve gotten behind the wheel of a car and survived it is easy to forget just how dangerous it is. Even if you believe that you are a good driver, you may be doing these nine unintentional driving habits making roads less safe. While the number of motor vehicle deaths has decreased significantly since the 1970s—thanks to advancements in vehicle safety technology—a new report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) notes that there has been an increase in the number of fatal crashes involving SUVs and large trucks.

SUVs are increasingly becoming America’s vehicle of choice. Because of their size, they can often make drivers believe that they are a safer vehicle. As a result, drivers may allow themselves to slip into bad habits that make traveling less safe.

Driver error is often the primary cause of a wreck. No matter the size of your vehicle, you should always practice safe driving habits. Avoid slipping into the following bad driving habits to keep the roads safe.

Ignoring Traffic Signs

The number of pedestrians killed in accidents involving SUVs has skyrocketed by 81 percent in the last 10 years. Stop signs and yield signs exist for a reason. Taking a moment’s pause to double check there are no children or pedestrians saves lives. In addition, cars can come out of nowhere and motorcycles are hard to see.

Failure to Check Blind Spots

Whether you’re driving on the highway or backing out, SUV blind spots are a notorious cause for crashes. Drivers who fail to check their blind spots before moving into another lane can collide with other vehicles. Check your mirrors and turn your head to make sure you are safe to switch lanes.

Failure to Use Turn Signals

Not just limited to SUVs, not using your turn signals is a sure fire way to put yourself in harm’s way. Changing lanes or turning without letting the cars behind you know can lead to rear-end crashes. Good drivers let other drivers know what their intended actions are.

Tailgating

Because of their size and weight, larger cars can do significant damage to smaller cars on the road. Tailgating can lead to rear-end crashes to petty actions such as brake checking. It’s best to just go around a slow-moving vehicle when it is safe to do so.

Driving Above the Posted Speed Limit

Speeding is the most ticketed driving offense. Driving above the speed limit is a key factor in car crashes. In addition, speed also contributes to how severe a crash is, as well as more serious injuries.

Reckless Driving

Changing lanes to quickly, driving well above the limit and aggression on the roads can lead to preventable, yet serious crashes.

Share the Road

Merging is simply a part of the driving experience. Letting a car into your lane isn’t going to stop you from reaching your destination.

Accelerating When the Light Turns Yellow

Many people have come to view the yellow light as a warning to speed up to make it through a light. However, the yellow light’s purpose is to warn you to slow down to a complete stop for the red light. Speeding through yellow lights is one of the worst habits a driver can have. Often, you don’t have enough to make it through the light. You risk running a red light and colliding with a vehicle that had the actual green light.

Cell Phone Use

We know! This is one of the more obvious bad driving habits, such as drinking and driving; however, it’s also one of the most common offenses. With nearly every app sending push notifications it can be easy to give in to the temptation of looking at your phone while behind the wheel. However, even just a quick glance puts you and others at risk. It’s best to pull over or wait until you reach your destination to check your phone, read a text or make a call.

The Carlson Law Firm Can Help

If you were injured in a car crash because of another person’s bad driving habits, contact The Carlson Law Firm. We have been defending the rights of Texans for more than 40 years and are ready to help. Our compassionate personal injury attorneys can help you get the compensation you deserve for your injuries or loss. Our firm will fight for you as we help you navigate your personal injury claim.

Many shoppers are ditching the over-crowded parking lots and long checkout lines by choosing to shop for the holidays in their pajamas at home, or on their lunch break at work via smartphone.

However, online shopping can easily darken your holiday spirit if your credit card information gets in the hands of a scammer. Fake companies and identity thieves love the holidays because of the increase of people browsing and shopping online for gifts. In fact, online shopping sales in 2017 hit a record at $108.2 billion dollars. This figure is projected to increase this holiday season by at least 14.8 percent.

Secure holiday shopping online is an absolute must, which is why we have compiled useful tips and recommendations to reduce your risk of encountering a virtual Grinch this Christmas season!

Online Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

Shopping Sites That Don’t Really Exist

Fake shopping sites tend to use clickbait phrases such as “discount gifts”. They also pitch enticing offers that appear too good to be true, which in many cases are just that. Instead of sending you the goods you paid for, they now have your payment information to do with as they please. Avoid these bogus sites by checking the URL for misspelled retailer names and words like “deals” or “sales” as part of the URL. It is also a red flag if you spot “HTTP” instead of the more secure “HTTPS” format. Stay away from sites that do not list phone numbers or street addresses but a P.O. Box instead. One of the most important factors when it comes to secure holiday shopping online is payment information. Stay away from sites that require payment by wire transfer or prepaid debit cards.

Fake Freebies

Your inbox may already be overflowing with “free” merchandise messages, or you may have noticed similar posts on social media. Although the word free is tempting and brings out the curiousness in most of us, clicking on a link for details can be a ploy to install malware on your device. Do not fall for the sneaky reasoning behind the requirement of your credit card information to cover shipping costs. If you are really interested in the deal, check the manufacturer’s website or call the toll-free number listed on their website for more information. If there is no sign of this freebie on the site and their customer service representative does not have knowledge of it, assume scammers are waiting for you to take the bait.

Bogus Charities

The holiday season is indeed the season of giving. This time of the year brings out the best in many of us, making it more likely to want to give to the less fortunate or towards causes we feel strongly about. The tips for secure holiday shopping online also apply to charitable donations. Scammers take advantage of the good in people by creating bogus charities in the hopes of tricking those who are trying to bring comfort and joy to others. If you have not previously donated to a particular non-profit organization or cause, ignore all email solicitations. Pay attention to the names of charities that sound like well-known charities. For example, a fake charity may replace words like “National” for “American” in well-known names.

It’s normal during the holiday season to receive increased calls from people asking for donations. Do not provide your payment information over the phone unless you dialed the phone number to that specific charity. It is recommended that you take the time to research an organization you wish to donate to and verify their legitimacy at Charity Navigator or Give.org before donating.

Gift Card Cons

It is never a good idea to purchase a gift card from someone other than the store issuing it or the retailer’s website. Online auctions for gift cards are risky because the person selling it may have tampered with the card. For example, they have access to the numbers on the card; which means they can cash in the card after monitoring and confirming activation by simply calling the issuer’s toll-free number.

Sketchy Surveys

We have all seen the posts on social media promising a gift card in exchange for your time to fill out a survey. You may also receive these unexpected offers to your email inbox or through a text message on your cell phone. Be very cautious with these survey requests as the links that are supposed to lead you to the survey often hide malware. Another risk to consider is future identity theft after you provide the personal or financial information that is required as a supposed reward deposit. Even something as simple as providing an email address may get you on a scammer’s shared list for future swindles.

Legitimate company surveys will typically lead back to the company website. You can spot a scammer’s survey by hovering your computer mouse over the URL. You should see the company’s name before the “.com” for an indication that it is truly from a legitimate vendor.

Tips to avoid online scams this Holiday Season

Your favorite holiday can quickly turn into a dreaded one if you become a victim of an online scam. Shop smart this holiday season by following these helpful tips to ensure secure holiday shopping online.

Shop on familiar websites

To avoid risking your credit card information getting into the wrong hands, only shop from online businesses that you are familiar with and trust.

Stay away from Public Wi-Fi

The convenience of shopping online with our smartphones saves time while we are waiting in line at the grocery store or having coffee at a local shop. However, public wi-fi is not a form of secure holiday shopping online because Wi-Fi networks use public airways that a tech savvy scammer can intercept. This makes it risky to enter login or credit card information while connected to public Wi-Fi.

Strong passwords are a must

Many online retailers now have the option of creating an account for you to save your credit card information. In addition, these sites will ask for your address to make future online transactions easier. This is a great convenience until someone gets the password to your account, changes the shipping address and charges it to your payment method. To avoid this, create a strong password that does not contain your personal information such as your pet’s name.

Verify website security

Spotting a secure website is not as difficult as it seems and is essential for secure holiday shopping online. A webpage has privacy protection installed if there is a small lock icon in the corner of your URL fields which will turn green and say “secure” depending on the browser. Also, if you do not see an “s” after “HTTP”, that webpage is not secure.

Monitor your statements

Make it a habit to check your bank and credit card statements for fraudulent charges once a week, not just during the holiday season. If you are busy and have the tendency to forget to do so, set up account alerts that will send you a text message or an email after a transaction.

Stay organized

Although adding something to your to-do list during the holiday season may sound like a hassle, it is a good idea to stay organized and add to your efforts of secure holiday shopping online. After any holiday purchases, keep the receipt, online order confirmation number and tracking number stored in a designated place that you can easily access if you have a problem with the order.

If you don’t receive your goods, take action

The previous tip will come in handy if you do not receive the items you purchased. Call the company and provide them with your order confirmation number. If you cannot get a hold of anybody because the website you ordered from is fake, your credit card company may be able to help you at this point.

Report the scammer

If you realize you are the victim of a scam, immediately notify your credit card company and close your account. The next step is to file a complaint with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission who can also help you with a recovery plan.

How The Carlson Law Firm can help

One of the most stressful challenges to face in life is dealing with financial difficulties. At The Carlson Law Firm, we have attorneys that understand everybody’s debt situation is unique. If you find yourself struggling with debt, and are looking to file for Chapter 13, Chapter 7 or are not sure what to do, our experienced personal bankruptcy lawyers can help. We can evaluate your case and provide you with the expert legal guidance and service. Contact us for a free consultation. We care, we can help.


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