Recent News

Mineral Rights Disputes in Texas

There was a time in North Texas when buying real estate was pretty much cut and dried and on the level. Ironically, it is what is happening below the surface that is giving headaches to all parties involved in a real estate transaction. This is mainly because of mineral rights disputes, which elevates a domestic issue (buying a home) to commercial litigation over who owns who.

To understand why commercial litigation comes into the picture, it is necessary to understand the impact of the natural gas found in Barnett Shale, both in economic and real estate law terms. It will also explain why homeowners are now practicing rigorous due diligence when tracing the ownership of property they are considering buying.

Barnett Shale is the site of what is considered the largest reservoir of onshore natural gas in the US and is located under Fort Worth, Texas. The location of Barnett Shale, which is in urban areas such as Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, has necessitated the negotiating of mineral rights with landowners. It is possible for drilling operations to be done with minimum damage to the surface area (although not always), and the landowners are paid for the lease of the land as well as royalty for whatever a particular well produces. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, not really.

Mineral rights are not necessarily tied in with surface land ownership. This means that it is entirely possible for a parcel of land to have two owners: the surface land owner and the mineral rights owner. Prior to Barnett Shale, very little notice was given to tracing the ownership of mineral rights, which were often severed from the surface land title and not included when the surface land changed ownership. This can lead to mineral rights disputes. For example, let us say a surface land owner agrees to rent out the mineral rights to a mining company, presuming ownership of the mineral rights. And then the actual owner of the mineral rights disputes the contract. This can lead to a pretty heated commercial litigation, especially if the area turns out to be lucrative.

This state of affairs is by no means limited to North Texas, Barnett Shale or natural gas. Many parts of Texas have yielded commercially-viable deposits of coal, oil and other fuel sources, and have become the focus of mineral rights disputes.

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Multiple Vehicle Motorcycle Accident Statistics

A technical report commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and published in 1981 still mostly reflects the cause and effects of a multiple vehicle motorcycle accident today. Aptly named the Hurt Study (after head of the research team Harry Hurt, not as a reflection of the topic), the paper offered 53 insights into motorcycle accidents in general. Among these are interesting snippets including:

  • Only 2% of all motorcycle accidents were due to bad weather (probably because motorcyclists avoid going out then)
  • Most motorcycle accidents occur during short trips and near the starting travel point
  • Excessive speed was not a significant factor: median crash speed and pre-crash speed were 21.5 and 29.8 mph respectively
  • Nearly 50% of all motorcycle accidents are alcohol-related
  • A significant number of motorcyclists involved in accidents had no license or had a revoked license

It also included several observations on multiple vehicle incidents and the survival rate of motorcyclists involved in accidents. Some observations for multiple vehicle motorcycle accidents:

  • Comprising 75% of these motorcycle accidents, in most cases the other vehicle was a passenger vehicle
  • Drivers of the other vehicle impinged on the motorcycle right-of-way, causing approximately 66% of accidents
  • A majority of accidents occurred because the motorist did not see the motorcycle until it was too late, and most happened at intersections. The use of motorcycle headlights even during the day and wearing bright colors increased conspicuity of motorcycles and reduced the number of accidents significantly
  • Motorcycle riders involved in these types of accidents are at an extremely high risk of injury (98%), and the degree of severity increases exponentially with motorcycle size, speed of collision, alcohol consumption and lack of protective gear, especially a safety helmet

A motorcycle accident is bad enough, but when another larger vehicle is involved, the consequences can be deadly. If you were involved in a motorcycle accident caused by a negligent motorist, you need to make sure you don’t just become a statistic. Make the driver pay for negligence with the help of an experienced motorcycle accident lawyer.

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Trucking Statistics and New Laws to Improve Safety

Texas is criss-crossed by numerous major highways, with commercial trucks and 18-wheelers frequently traveling great distances through the state. Unfortunately, the statistics for an 18-wheeler accident is grim; over 98% results in at least one fatality. Not enough emphasis can be placed on ensuring road safety when it comes to operating big rigs because it is so often catastrophic for the other party. This is why there are so many rules governing commercial motor vehicles and why the penalties for non-compliance so stiff.

It has become even more rigorous as a new law comes into effect to further reduce the incidence of big rig accidents on US highways. The Moving Ahead for Progress for the 21st Century or MAP-21 was signed into law by President Obama on July 6, 2012. MAP-21 seeks to bolster the teeth of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in enforcing safety rules and regulations. Under MAP-21, several carriers have been given cease and desist orders for failing to comply with the FMCSA regulations. This has made the message to other carriers loud and clear that the government is determined to reduce the number of unfit CMVs and incompetent CMV drivers operating on American highways.

MAP-21 supports the FMCSA strategic framework for improving CMV safety through the following core principles:

  • Raise the thresholds for entry into the CMV industry
  • Require CMV carriers and drivers to comply with safety standards or cease operations
  • Weed out carriers whose CMVs fail to meet safety standards, and CMV drivers who are incompetent and unfit to travel on US roads

MAP-21 went into effect on October 1, 2012, and provides more funds for the FMCSA to implement its Highway Safety Improvement Program which focuses on infrastructure safety and safety programs to reduce 18-wheeler accident and highway fatality statistics.

The aggressive campaign to prevent highway accidents is laudable, but there are always those who slip through the cracks. If you suffered injuries in an 18-wheeler accident and you believe it was due to negligence, it is your duty to file a suit against the driver and carrier to discourage such behavior. An experienced truck accident lawyer can be an invaluable ally if you decide to take legal action. Taking legal action may also make the FMCSA stand up and notice, and properly sanction the parties responsible.

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Volunteering Abroad

While volunteering in your own neighborhood can do a lot to make it a better place to live, your neighborhood might already be a relatively great place to live. Maybe your passion for helping others could be used in another part of the world.

Volunteering abroad gives you a unique opportunity to travel to another part of the world and make a positive impact on the lives of people you would have never otherwise met. There are a lot of benefits to volunteering abroad, including:

  • Seeing a new culture from within
  • Living among locals in your host nation
  • Personal growth
  • Learning a new language
  • Helping people in need

Many non-profits as well as the U.S. government offer international volunteering opportunities. These opportunities typically charge for room and board, and do not include airfare in their prices. It is best to look at some of these opportunities as though they are vacations where you are volunteering part of the day and completely free the rest.

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Thinking about Building a Custom Pool? What You Should Know.

Custom pools can be much more expensive than your regular-shaped in-ground swimming pool, but there is no reason why you cannot control how much money you will fork out. The secret to good pool building is planning.

The first you need to plan for is the service providers. If you intend to build an awesome pool on your property, it is not advisable to get into DIY mode. Pool building is not as simple as it looks. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you could make costly mistakes and you will end up having to redo everything from scratch. You need to employ professional custom pool builders to make sure everything goes, well, swimmingly.

Once you have seen the wisdom of turning it over to professionals, the next step in your pool building project is to get an architect to design and sketch it to scale. You can then get the total area, which will otherwise be difficult if you have an irregularly shaped, and get a rough estimate of the costs. The average cost for building an in-ground swimming pool using gunite is $50 per square foot, give or take $10, for example.

Show the sketch to different pool contractors and get estimates. Make sure the contractors you are considering have good reputations in the area. Ask neighbors with a pool about their contractor and narrow it down to three of the best ones with reasonable prices. Some pool contractors consider their work art, and may want to put in their own ideas. Listen but make sure you go with something you personally like. The artist-type also tends to charge more. Once you’ve chosen, quickly get a detailed written estimate of the work and cost.

Once you have the basic pool costs estimated, you can turn your attention to fencing and landscaping as well as other frills. Keep adding features until you wallet starts shrieking. Frills can easily double the cost of pool building. Finally, make sure you factor insurance payments into your budget, as adding a pool to your property can increase your legal liability in some instances, and as such, can affect homeowner’s insurance premiums.

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Refinery Accident Prevention Takes a Backseat

The oil and gas industries are hugely important businesses in the state of Texas, but unfortunately, refineries are inherently dangerous; the raw materials, processes and products come together to put workers at high risk all the time. Factor in the failure to comply with safety regulations in favor or productivity, and cutting corners in regular maintenance of aging machinery, and you have what can only describe as an explosive situation waiting to happen.

Texas is home to the largest refineries in the US, but size is not a major factor when it comes to the possibility a refinery accident. All refineries have the potential for serious accidents, and the workers are the first to feel it. But despite numerous incidents, big and small, that have happened in the last two decades, there has been no serious push-back from those slated to oversee and impose regulations on refineries.

Critics agree that a powerful lobby plus the almost constant demand for more end-products of refineries by a fuel-hungry population has muzzled regulatory bodies. Companies that have been brought up on charges for violations of safety regulations have managed to use the courts to delay any significant change in the status quo. This means that refinery workers have no choice but to hope and pray that the piece of equipment they are working on doesn’t decide that today is the day it will explode.

It is only when a serious refinery accident does happen, as in the case of the 2005 explosion at the BP refinery in Texas that took the lives of 15 people and injured 170 others, that people sit up and take notice. It resonates because it costs these refinery companies money. So if you or someone you know works in a refinery and suffers an injury because of unsafe working conditions, make sure that they hear your protest. Consult with a refinery accident lawyer and hit them as hard as possible where it hurts most: their pockets. Maybe then they will give more attention to protecting the people who work for them.

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Truck Accident Prevention and Hours of Service Regulations

Hours of Service (HOS) federal regulations that cover commercial motor vehicle (CMV) drivers are designed to prevent fatigue-related truck accidents. A CMV is generally used for interstate commerce and satisfies any of the following:

  • More than 10,001 pounds
  • Weight rating of 10,001 or more
  • Transports 16 or more people without compensation
  • Transports 9 or more people with compensation
  • Transports hazardous materials in quantities requiring the use of placards

The newest version of HOS regulations was published on December 27, 2011 and was effective two months later on February 27, 2012. Full compliance is mandatory by July 1, 2013. The American Trucking Association has petitioned for a review of these rules before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals.

The new rules include rules for the 34-hour restart, where drivers could clock in 70 hours per week after a 34-hour stretch off-duty. Two rest breaks of 30 minutes each are also mandated for night-driving (based on home terminal time) between 1 and 5 in the morning.

There are two categories for drivers under HOS regulations: property-carrying and passenger-carrying.

Property-carrying CMV

  • Maximum of 11 hours driving after 10 hours off-duty
  • Drivers may not drive beyond the 14th hour after coming off duty
  • Maximum of 60 hours on duty in a 7-day period or 70 hours over 8 days
  • Sleeper berth equipped trucks: minimum of 8 hours in the berth within the 10-hour mandatory off duty

Passenger-carrying CMV

  • Maximum of 10 hours driving after 8 hours off-duty
  • Drivers may not drive beyond the 15th hour after coming off duty
  • Maximum of 60 hours on duty in a 7-day period or 70 hours over 8 days
  • Sleeper berth equipped trucks: may split the mandatory 8 hour off duty into two periods provided neither is less than 2 hours

Civil penalties apply for CMV drivers who violate the prescribed time limits, or who fail to follow mandatory break periods. If it can be proven that a fatigue-related truck accident resulting in an injury occurred due to a violation of the HOS, the injured party may be eligible to file for compensation from the party responsible for their losses, whether that is the truck driver himself / herself, or the company that employs the driver.

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Online Forums and Nursing License Defense

The Internet is an extremely effective tool for discovering information, but there are limits to its usefulness. You don’t go online to have your appendix out; in the same way, you don’t get nursing license defense advice from an online forum, unless you don’t plan to practice nursing for much longer.

Being brought up on charges that could cost you your nursing license is a very serious matter indeed. You should not act precipitately based on advice you get on nursing chat rooms, boards or forums, no matter how persuasive or well-intentioned. Each disciplinary case is different, and the only legal advice you should take is that from a nursing license defense attorney who practices in your jurisdiction.

In Texas, the licensing organization is the Texas Board of Nursing (BON), and they have very specific rules for disciplining nurses in the state. No two disciplinary proceedings will go in exactly the same way, and the outcome depends largely on how the defense is handled, and how the board staffers (those who legally represent the interests and concerns of the BON) view a particular situation.

Complaints against a particular nurse can come from patients, relatives of patients, other nurses and co-workers, doctors, or employers. In many cases the defendant was innocent, made an honest mistake, failed to document properly, or was ignorant of some rules and regulations that led to the misconduct or violation. Unless the case is properly handled, what may be a dismissible case can lead to license revocation, suspension, or restriction which can have a serious negative impact on a nurse’s career.

This is a tragedy if the nurse in question is otherwise competent. In matters that involve one’s career or livelihood, it is never a good idea to be impulsive. Before you do anything decisive, such as voluntarily surrendering your license which can be difficult to reinstate afterwards, consult with a nursing license defense attorney. It may be the best move you will ever make in your professional career.

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Teaching Children the Benefits of Volunteering

Teaching Children the Benefits of Volunteering

There are many ways for an individual to make an impact on his or her community. One of the best ways to do this is to take on opportunities to volunteer. When there is a call for volunteers, it demonstrates a distinct need for specific help.

Volunteering is a great way to serve your community, but can also be used as a tool to teach children the value of helping others. Donating your time to those in need is a great way to lead by example. Children are incredibly impressionable, so when they see you make someone else happy, they will want to make other people happy too.

Some ways to get children volunteering include:

  • Cleaning parks and riverbeds
  • Delivering meals to the elderly
  • Serving food to the homeless

Beginning volunteer work at a young age increases the chances that an individual will volunteer as an adult. The love of serving the community grows stronger with more volunteer work.

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