322 Brooks Street, Sugar Land, TX. 77478 281-565-5900
We are 21!

We are 21!

On May 1st 1995 the law firm of Carpenter & Carpenter, P.C. began with Brent, Kathy and our paralegal in one small office with two desks and one phone and a plan to represent a select group of clients in their legal matters.  Twenty one years later our practice still represents a select group of clients, but with a little more space in our historic Sugar Land office on Brooks Street.

About seven years ago we expanded our areas of practice from exclusively wrongful death, personal injury and products liability to include business matters including such issues as breach of fiduciary duty, shareholder issues, non-compete, and other disputes.  We also work to counsel our clients in how to avoid litigation rather than having to deal with it.

We have handled cases across the United States and tried cases which have lasted over a month, a case which was broadcast live on the internet, defended individuals who were being sued for millions of dollars by corporations, and represented a company in divesting a shareholder of interest in the company.  We have also represented a family whose daughter was killed in a rollover crash against the vehicle manufacturer, parents of a young man who was killed due to the actions of a reckless driver, a widow and her children when their husband and father was killed in a refinery and many, many more.

Our firm is a Martindale-Hubbell AV preeminent rated firm, Brent and Kathy are nationwide speakers, and have published a book “My Car Crash Case” to help people to handle their own smaller car crash cases without having to a lawyer. Kathy is a former director of Fort Bend Lawyers Care and has been active in community activities in Fort Bend County.  Brent is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law, he has been listed as a Texas Super Lawyer by Thomson-Reuters every year since they began this honor in 2003, is a member of the Texas College of the State Bar, former Fort Bend Bar president and ATLA product liability chair.

The constant in all of our cases is that we have been fortunate to have great clients and attorneys who trust us to work with them on their cases.   When we started our firm we knew that we were not going to be a volume firm, but rather a firm that would know each client and treat them like we would want to be treated.  While we only take a limited number of cases we work to make sure that every person who contacts us is provided with the information they need to make an informed decision and, if it is a matter we will not handle, we work with them to find a lawyer who will.

So if you are in the neighborhood the month of May, give us a call and come by to help us celebrate us being legal and having the best clients and co-counsels in the country.

Primary Judicial Recommendations (R & D) – Because it’s the only option at this point

Primary Judicial Recommendations (R & D) – Because it’s the only option at this point

 Primary Election  March 1, 2016

Early Voting Period: February 16 – 26, 2016

Republican Judicial Election Recommendations

Supreme Court:

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 3 Debra Lehrmann

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5 Paul Green

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9 Eva Guzman

Court of Appeals: Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals Sherry Radack

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2 Kevin Jewell

Justice, 1st Court of Appeals, Place 4 Evelyn Keyes

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 9 Tracy Elizabeth Christopher

Fort Bend County District Courts:

District Judge – 240th Judicial District Chad Bridges

District Judge – 387th Judicial District Brenda Mullinix

District Judge – 400th Judicial District Maggie Jaramillo

District Judge – 434th Judicial District James H. “Jim” Shoemake

District Judge – 505th Judicial District David Perwin

Fort Bend County Court: Judge, County Court at Law No. 5 Harold Kennedy

 

Democratic Judicial Election Recommendations

Supreme Court:

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 3 Mike Westergren

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5 Dori Contreras Garza

Court of Appeals: Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals Jim Peacock

Justice, 1st Court of Appeals, Place 4 Barbara Gardner

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 9 Peter Kelly

If a court is not listed then no recommendation is made for that party candidate.  That could be because I like the other party candidate better or I just don’t know them well enough to recommend them.   Also as a final disclaimer some of my recommendations for the general election may change depending upon the primary results and/or my learning more about the candidates who I don’t know as well.

Do you want your Case Decided by Politics or Law?

R or D – Why you shouldn’t pull the straight ticket for Judicial Races.

Every few years we have the opportunity to elect our people who will represent us and in Texas those who may at some point decide our future either due to a civil dispute or a criminal matter. I believe in our judicial system and know that there is not a better way in existence to resolve disputes than through a jury trial presided over by a fair and impartial judge.

We as Texans have the right and responsibility to elect our judges. So how are you supposed to know which judge should get your vote? Maybe you should just vote straight ticket if you don’t know because that person “must think like me if they are in my same political party”? What do you do if more than one person is running for the same judicial position in the same party? Maybe by who has the name that sounds familiar or sounds more Texan or American? Maybe by the time you get to the judicial elections you are so tired of trying to figure it out that you just quit there? All of these “ways” of deciding who is the person who may be the judge deciding your case happen. They are all not only wrong but a dangerous. There have been elections in the past few years the counties around us in which the least qualified of all the candidates was elected because of one of these reasons. We have lost great judges from both parties due to a straight ticket vote swing one way or the other.

It is hard for me to make a determination on which judges I would vote for who hear strictly criminal or family cases as I only handle civil cases. Before I vote on those positions, I ask friends of mine who practice before those courts as well as do my own research to decide who I should vote for. In this election, as in elections past, I have created a list of the various courts along with who I recommend for the position. I have also listed what party they are affiliated with so you know if they are in the primary you are voting in. As an aside I understand why the people running for judge need the backing of a political party as it is expensive and time consuming to run a campaign, but once the general election comes I believe the judicial elections should just list the candidate without party affiliation and making it where any straight ticket vote would not register for either candidate.

When I hear judicial candidates proudly state that they are against lawsuits or for any particular organization for group (whether it be to limit recoveries or be for locking people up), I have to wonder if they are planning on following the law or trying to make it from the bench “Judicial Activism” is the familiar term.

I know what some of you are thinking: You are supporting particular judges and want us to vote for them because they rule for you? While that would be great, it is not the case. In fact I almost every one of the sitting judges, despite my brilliant arguments, has ruled against me or made a ruling which negatively impacted a position I held at least once. So why would I support them? Why not just vote for a particular party? I support these individuals because I have practiced before them, seen their work, read their opinions (or those of whom they are running against) and want the best judicial branch of the government we can get. I want a judiciary which treats everyone as equal and not as a statistic to appease their supporters and donators.

So how do you determine who you should vote for in the judicial elections? Glad you asked, here are my 5 Rules for Selecting Judges:

 

Five Rules for Selecting Judges

One: VOTE. If you don’t vote, don’t complain.

Two: Ask attorneys who practice before the Judges and Justices and who have to deal with the clerks on a weekly basis. These are people who have a working knowledge of what is good and/or bad and deal with the consequences of both. They should be able to tell you who they would support and why.

Three: Read their propaganda (I mean mailers). Any decent ones are going to list the candidates’ accomplishments and biography. Here is what sends up red flags for me. Any candidate who touts that they are going to be tough on criminals, get rid of frivolous lawsuits, be more republican or democratic than their opponent, etc., etc. I know that political parties are a necessity for the backing and support of candidates (including judges) but I want an elected official who is fair to all. I want a judge who is going to have one job and that is to enforce the laws as they exist and treat everyone equally. I want a judge who believes in the innocent until proven guilty and not one who brags about putting people in jail or being tough on crime.

If you enforce the law then usually the right thing happens, if you have an agenda then run for congress and not the bench. Do some investigation on the candidates before you vote on someone who may impact your life greatly in the future. (I hear from clients all the time, I never thought I would need a lawyer or be involved in litigation. I’m not one of those people {see my blog https://carpentercarpenter.com/blog/who-are-those-people-doing-all-the-suing/})

Four: Select who you would want to decide your case if everything went wrong, if you had to sue someone or were sued or if you were charged with a crime. Is that judge you are voting for someone you would want sitting up on the bench?

Five: You are allowed to take information into the voting booth. After you have done your research and made your decisions on who you will be voting for, make a list and take it with you when you vote so you don’t get forget who it was you decided on for the position on page 3 of the ballot and make sure you finish the entire ballot.

 

Joint Primary Election | March 1, 2016
Early Voting Period: February 16 – 26, 2016

Judicial Election Recommendations

Supreme Court: Recommendation (if any):

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 3 Debra Lehrmann R.

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 5 Dori Contreras Garza D.

Justice, Supreme Court, Place 9 Eva Guzman R.

Court of Appeals:

Chief Justice, 1st Court of Appeals Sherry Radack R.

Justice, 1st Court of Appeals, Place 4 Barbara Gardner D.

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 2 Jim Sharp D.

Justice, 14th Court of Appeals, Place 9 Peter M. Kelly D.
(I actually really like both) Tracy Elizabeth Christopher R.

Fort Bend County District Courts:

District Judge – 240th Judicial District Chad Bridges R.

District Judge – 387th Judicial District Brenda Mullinix R.

District Judge – 400th Judicial District Maggie Jaramillo R.

District Judge – 434th Judicial District James H. “Jim” Shoemake R.

District Judge – 505th Judicial District David Perwin R.

Fort Bend County Court:

Judge, County Court at Law No. 5 Harold Kennedy R.

Harris County District Courts:

District Judge – 11th Judicial District Jim Lewis D.

District Judge – 61st Judicial District Dion Ramos D.

District Judge – 80th Judicial District Larry Weiman D.

District Judge – 125th Judicial District Kyle Carter D.

District Judge – 127th Judicial District R.K. Sandill D.

District Judge – 129th Judicial District Michael Gomez D.

District Judge – 133rd Judicial District Jaclanel McFarland D.

District Judge – 151st Judicial District Mike Engelhart D.

District Judge – 152nd Judicial District Robert K. Schaffer D.

District Judge – 164th Judicial District Alexandra Smoots-Hogan D.

District Judge – 165th Judicial District Debra Ibarra Mayfield R.

District Judge – 215th Judicial District Elaine Palmer D.

District Judge – 333rd Judicial District Joseph “Tad” Halbach R.

District Judge – 334th Judicial District Grant Dorfman R.

10 Litigation Rules (or your parents were right)

The rules come from things my parents told me while growing up and the picture is of a tree which on Hwy 71 on the way to Austin.  No matter how many times I drive that road seeing it always makes me smile.

1.  Close your mouth and open your ears
a. Listen to your client, let them tell their story you might learn something
b. listen to opposing counsel they might be right
c. listen to the judge – hearings are called that for a reason
d. listen to the jury – vor dire is a chance to hear what they have to say

2.  Treat others like you want to be treated.
a. Your client is important and should be treated with respect
b. People in your office and opposing counsels office
c. Court personnel, they really do talk about you

3.  Tell the truth
a. Clients need to know the good and bad
b. Opposing counsel
c. Witnesses
d. Jurors
e. The Court

4.  Do your homework
a. You need to make sure you understand the issues of the case
b. Know the parties and witnesses and counsel
c. Understand the Court (likes – dislikes)
d. Understand your jury

5.  Play hard but fair
a. Represent your client
b. Make your argument but concede where wrong
c. Things have a way of coming around

6.  Get your rest
a. If you do not take care of yourself, how can you help your client
b. Take some time off

7.  Eat right and exercise
a. See #6
b. Get an outlet for stress

8. Be respectful
a. The court will rule against you – accept it with class
b. Lack of respect = lack of confidence

9.  Winning isn’t everything
a. You will lose – learn from it
b. Be humble in victory, gracious in defeat
c. You will remember the losses more than the wins

10. Have fun
a. Take time to enjoy life – you work hard enjoy the fun times
b. Make time for your family and friends
c. Take time and enjoy a victory – celebrate wins

Auto Insurance Primer

Will it protect me if I am in a wreck?                             What should my coverage do and what do I need?

You are involved in a crash. There are several steps you need to take immediately depending upon whether you caused the wreck or it was caused by someone else (see prior blogs). Once you get past the initial shock, have seen the doctor and taken care of some of the immediate needs your involvement with the insurance company(s) will begin. There are several potential policies which could apply to your crash. Probably the most important thing to realize is that there is no longer a Standard Policy in Texas. Insurance companies can (and do) write policies which exclude things that most of us would consider basic and the only way to really understand what is and is not covered is to get a complete copy of your policy and read it. Now would be a good time to pull out your policy and review it before you need it. You may find that you need to modify or add some coverage now to protect you later.

Liability coverage – this generally provides coverage for you when you cause a wreck. The minimum limits in Texas are currently $30,000.00. If it is your insurance policy and you are driving your car that is listed on the policy you are probably covered. If someone else is driving your car and caused the wreck your insurance may not cover it (even if they are your own family member). Assuming you are covered for the wreck, you need to make sure to notify your insurance company about the wreck and cooperate with them in defending you (or whoever was driving). Also make sure you instruct them in writing that you are to be informed and provided copies of any and all offers to settle the case. The insurance company may not have the same interest in protecting you and your assets that you think they should. If there is an offer to settle within your policy limits and the insurance company refuses to settle you may be exposed to personal liability for any excess and would need to discuss this with an attorney. If your insurance company refuses to settle when you believe they should, you should request they indemnify you for any judgment and expenses over and above the policy limits (including whatever cost you incur for a personal attorney).

PIP – Personal Injury Protection is required to be part of every auto policy in Texas, unless it is waived in writing. The minimum coverage amount is $2,500.00 but you can get much higher coverage if you choose. PIP covers everyone in the insured vehicle up to the individual PIP limits and covers every insured no matter what vehicle they are in. It covers your medical expenses as well as 80% of your lost wages. PIP is not dependent on fault (meaning it pays regardless of whether you caused the wreck or someone else did) and you do not have to pay it back if you receive a recovery from another source. Note: If you are making a claim under your Uninsured or Underinsured Policy (see below) there may be a credit but not a repayment.

Med-Pay – This is a type of coverage which some insurance companies and their agents push as a “better deal” than PIP. ALWAYS BUY PIP!!! Med-Pay does not cover lost income or wages. It only covers medical expenses and also requires that you pay it back out of your recovery. If your policy has this, switch it to PIP.

UIM/UM – Uninsured/Underinsured – this coverage is required in Texas but like PIP it can waived. Do Not waive your UIM/UM coverage. If you are in a wreck caused by someone who has no insurance or their insurance is not sufficient to cover all your damages, this policy will provide coverage. It gets a little tricky because your insurance essentially becomes the others drivers insurance coverage for this wreck. So your own carrier will be defending the person that hit you and due to some case law in Texas, they have no duty to evaluate or settle your claim until you take them to trial and get a judgment; however even coverage with these limitations is far superior to being injured and having no means of recovery (or inadequate recovery). The UIM/UM policy applies to everyone in the vehicle up to the policy limits and generally applies to claims regardless of which vehicle (and in some cases even outside the vehicle) you are in at the time of the wreck. You do need to check the policy to make sure that a driver or vehicle is not specifically excluded from coverage.

Property Damage – This covers what you would expect – damage to the vehicle, but also damage to the property within the vehicle. If the vehicle is totaled it should pay the value of the vehicle at the time of the wreck. If damaged it should pay to repair it to the condition it was immediately prior to the wreck. Did the crash break your expensive sunglasses, was your computer in the back seat and now doesn’t work? These would be covered under the property damage policy. After a wreck do an inventory and take pictures of anything in the vehicle which was damaged. Don’t forget car seats and booster seats. It is generally recommended that after any crash they be replaced. Under this policy you should (if not get it) rental car coverage. That should pay for you to get a rental vehicle during the time it takes to repair your vehicle. The rental vehicle should be of the same general size and type of your vehicle. If you have a truck they should provide a truck not a compact car as your rental. Under the property damage coverage you may also be entitled to a claim for diminished value. This is when your vehicle has less resale value due to it being in a crash. The value will generally be determined by an expert who will be able to provide the proof in difference to the insurance company.

Every wreck is different, but one common denominator is that they are all unpleasant. Expect the best, plan for the worst. Review your policy now to determine what coverage you currently have and what you may need to change. If you are involved in a wreck and have questions, give us a call. We are here to help.