Jim Adler | The Tough, Smart Lawyer
By Jim Adler July 8, 2016

It seems unthinkable, yet tragedies continue across America as adults leave children alone in cars — cars whose temperatures, especially in summer months, can severely harm or kill children in minutes due to hyperthermia, or elevated body temperature.

How does this happen? Many drivers simply forget a child is in the back seat, though some leave kids alone in cars deliberately, perhaps thinking they’ll be gone only a few minutes, so what difference does it make?

In truth, it makes a huge difference. Safety experts say that in just 15 minutes a child can suffer life-threatening kidney or brain injuries inside a hot car.

In an enclosed car, or even one with a window cracked, the vehicle quickly can become like a furnace in hot weather, injuring or killing the child inside. Pets, too, often suffer such a fate when left inside vehicles.

Studies show that in one hour, a car with its windows up in 80-degree outside temperature can have a 123-degree temperature inside. Transparent windows allow the sun to shine in, and vehicle parts such as dashboards or steering wheels can absorb this heat and convey it to the air inside.

The human body can suffer heat stroke when its temperature exceeds 104 degrees. When the body reaches a 107-degree temperature, cells are damaged and organs begin to shut down, leading to death.

What’s worse for children is that their thermoregulatory systems aren’t as efficient as adults,’  and their body temperatures warm three to five times more quickly. 

Texas Law About Leaving Kids in Cars

In Texas, leaving kids in cars alone is against the law — at any time and in any weather, and regardless of the outcome.

Texas’ law about leaving kids in cars is Texas Penal Code § 22.10. It states that a person commits a Class C misdemeanor offense when that person “intentionally or knowingly leaves a child in a motor vehicle for longer than five minutes, knowing that the child is (1) younger than seven years of age;  and (2) not attended by an individual in the vehicle who is 14 years of age or older.”

According to child safety advocates at KidsAndCars.org, Texas is one of just 19 states that have laws forbidding persons from leaving children alone in cars — whether the child is injured or not.

But even with its law, Texas is the leader nationally in hot-car deaths of children, according to research by San Francisco University’s Department of Earth and Climate Science.

Neighboring Louisiana also has unattended child laws concerning kids left in cars. In June of 2016, police in East Baton Rouge, LA arrested the father of a baby, 8 months old, who died of hyperthermia, then charged him with negligent homicide.

The man said he was supposed to leave the girl at a daycare facility and forgot, then left her in the vehicle when he parked at a school where he was running a baseball camp.

Temperatures in Baton Rouge went as high as 93 degrees that day. That meant a car interior could reach 110 degrees in just 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 20 minutes.

In another example, a father in the Atlanta area was indicted on murder charges after his son, 22 months old, died when left in a hot car in 2014.

An animal left alone in a car also can bring charges to an adult.

Officer Juan Luis Cerillo Jr., 37, of San Juan Police, in South Texas, was charged with cruelty to non-livestock animals after leaving his K-9 partner, Rex, in a hot car in McAllen. He was fined $4,000 after the death of the police dog, a Belgian Malinois.

Child Deaths in Hot Cars Soar

Though public awareness of the problem is growing due to news reports of hot car fatalities, the number of child deaths in hot cars has soared in recent years.

In early June of 2016, the National Safety Council reported that about three times as many children — 11, compared to 4 — had died this year compared to this time last year after being left inside vehicles which became overheated. But by early July, with summer underway, San Jose State University reported that 16 children already had died in 2016.

Three of those deaths have been in Texas, with one in Houston. On June 11, Evan Trapolino, 3, died after being trapped inside a locked car in north Houston and then going into cardiac arrest.

Houston Police said the boy left his house without his parents’ knowledge and entered the car, then couldn’t exit because of child safety locks. When his absence was noted, his family searched for him for up to 45 minutes before finding him in the car. He later died at a hospital.

Since 1998, an average of 37 kids died in hot cars annually, according to the NSC. That’s a total of 661 heat stroke deaths of children in hot cars from 1998 through 2015.

Of those, almost a third of them were under 1 year old and 22 per cent were 1 year old, so more than half were helpless infants.

Hot Car Deaths Start With Forgetfulness

This horrible statistic concerns one of the most preventable vehicles deaths imaginable, since the vehicle is not even moving. Not only that, but simple forgetfulness causes most of hot car deaths.

San Jose State University research showed the following breakdown for how these tragedies have happened since 1998:

  • 54 per cent of children were forgotten by their caregiver
  • 29 per cent of children were playing in an unattended vehicle — a vehicle which should have been locked to prevent this
  • 17 per cent of children were left in a vehicle intentionally by an adult

How to Avoid Hot Car Deaths

Safety experts say much of the problem involves adults who are self-absorbed or perhaps sleep-deprived and stray from a set routine when running errands, then simply forget that a child is in the back seat. To avoid hot car deaths, they recommend placing an item belonging to the child in the front seat as a reminder when a driver exits the vehicle.

Or, place something vital that will be needed upon exiting — such as a purse, briefcase or cell phone — in the back seat where the child is located.

Jim Adler & Associates strongly urges all drivers to be aware of child passengers at all times. A small child’s life is a horrible price to pay for mere forgetfulness.

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I am a Patrol Deputy for the Sheriff Office and while working one night, a drunk driver crossed the center stripe on the highway and struck my patrol vehicle head on with his pick up truck. Needless to say we (the drunk driver and I) were both lucky to survive, as the accident occurred at highway speeds. Following my release from the hospital, I knew that I would need to have someone represent me. My employer was happy to represent me in regards to prosecuting the driver for criminal charges but, can do little in respect to the recovery of financial losses for medical bills, pain and discomfort, time lost from work etc... This is how my relationship with Jim Adler and Associates began. Yep, you probably guessed correctly when you think of what made me choose the "Texas Hammer" to represent me. Those half obnoxious, half way entertaining commercials and radio announcements most Texans have been seeing and hearing on the TV and radio for years instantly came to mind. Yes, I wanted to "hammer" this S.O.B. for trying to kill me but, more importantly I was worried about the costs associated with the life long injuries I had sustained as a result of this drunk driver's negligent behavior. I contacted Jim Adler and Associates and so began our relationship. I was immediately surprised by the prompt attention and the expression of genuine concern for my well being that I received from the employees of Jim Adler's office. Now as you can imagine, lawyers are not a breed that is held in very high regard by people in my profession but, my experiences with Jim Adler's office and his employees have forced me to amend my way of thinking, at least on the civil side of the house anyway. I have to chuckle when I say that because my experience as a client of Jim Adler's firm has been exceptionally pleasant. So before I venture down one of the stereotypical and infinite number of rabbit holes associated with the relationship between members of law enforcement and lawyers; I will do my best to stay focused on my experience with Jim Adler & Associates. Upon being informed that my case had been accepted by Jim Adler's office; I was contacted by Iris Sanchez who informed me that she was to be my case manager and any questions, comments and concerns could be directed to her. I was pleasantly surprised to receive regular calls from Iris assisting with my medical appointments and future follow up appointments. Iris had informed me that Jim Adler's son, Bill Adler would be handling my case and I was even more surprised to receive several calls from Bill to discuss my case. Now you might be thinking "what's the big deal" with the person who is representing you contacting you? In reality, you are correct in that it isn't a big deal but, what is noteworthy and what separates Jim Adler's Office from the multitude of other lawyers is the genuine expressions of concern and the desire Bill Adler conveyed to me to do their best to help me. I felt an immediate connection and instantly realized I had made the correct choice in contacting Jim Adler & Associates to handle my case. One thing I think lawyers and police officers can agree on is the proverbial wheels of justice turn very slowly. Months go by and our professional relationship is never neglected. Through the unwavering attention of Iris Sanchez and Bill Adler himself, I never felt "out of the loop" so to speak and always had a clear understanding of where my case was at in regards to the legal process. In conclusion, I know my brief description of my experiences with Bill Adler and, his assistant Iris Sanchez, cannot provide the credit they deserve. Together they have done an outstanding job representing their firm/employer. If you are seeking a great firm to represent your legal interests and, take comfort in establishing a professional relationship that feels more like a friendship than a casual business acquaintance, then I highly suggest Jim Adler & Associates.read more
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