August 19, 2014

How Do You Get Paid Your Underinsured Motorists Insurance?

Daniel Juarez.jpgI've represented a lot of people over the last 34 years who were hit by an underinsured driver, and since I posted about uninsured drivers yesterday, I'd explain how this related topic works today.

I just represented this hard-working client during the required recorded statement with his insurance company's adjuster in Austin this morning. I'm fighting to get him more than the $30,000.00 from the at-fault's insurance company (the total limits available) and $5,000.00 Personal Injury Protection benefits that have been paid. If his company doesn't agree to tender his $30,000.00 policy, I will file suit to recover that amount. I believe that we have a strong case and that we will win.

And it meant a lot when my client shook my hand several times after the statement and said that he appreciated all the hard work I had done in a short period of time and that he considered me his friend. Here's a selfie I took of us just last week when I met him downstairs in our parking garage (to save him the trip upstairs) to give him the first check.

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August 18, 2014

Which County Has Most Uninsured Drivers? (Hint: It's Here)

Dallas Skyline Highways.jpgDallas County again leads the cringe-worthy list of where your chance of being hit by a noninsured driver is the greatest. More people here -- over 16% -- don't even carry the most basic liability insurance, according to our state officials.

But as a Fort Worth personal injury lawyer, I think that the number of uninsured drivers in the Metroplex is even higher.

Or almost as bad, people have insurance, but with a bottom of the barrel company which routinely delays and denies claims -- if you can even get the adjuster to respond.

I was delighted today to make one of them pay my client the full $30,000.00 limits. But it took a lawsuit for this to happen.

Over the last 34 years, I've represented hundreds of people who were hit by a noninsured or thinly covered driver.

If no other insured driver, company or governmental entity is responsible, and my client has not purchased uninsured motorist coverage (or the at-fault party has substantial assets that can be collected, which is rarely the case), that person must absorb the damages for his vehicle damage, medical bills, and lost wages himself.

Why do we have so many uninsured drivers in the DFW area? Analysts point to two problems: rising insurance rates and budgetary constraints. The 50 largest auto companies just announced that they are raising their rates an average of 11% for the coming year. We alredy have the highest rates in the U. S. Many people decide to just take their chances at not getting caught. But many companies charge as little as $40 a month for liability coverage, and with fines starting at $350 for the first offense, $1,000 for the second violation, and jail for multiple violations, let alone the exposure for payments for property damage and being sued, this probably isn't a smart move. I encourage everybody to shop around for the best rates. Here's a good link to help you do that.

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August 15, 2014

Just Recovered Full Insurance Limits Against A Not DUI Teen

OK, so here's the drunk driving/drag racing week's final post: I met yesterday with these two wonderful clients to hand them their final checks after recovering the entire insurance policies available, well in excess of $100,000.00, short of trial. I argued that the young man that crashed into them on Highway 121 in Hurst was possibly impaired (he claimed he fell asleep at the wheel at 10:00 in the morning). There was no evidence of any alcohol or drug use, however. I also reduced their outstanding medical bills by over 50%. It was gratifying to read these kind words from them on the leading Avvo lawyer rating service:

My wife and I were in a horrible accident a year ago. Bill was retained as our Lawyer and during the past 13 months has worked diligently for our fair treatment. The whole ordeal after the wreck was one mountain to climb over another but the Berenson Law firm has been the one positive we could count on. We thank Bill and his staff for our legal services but also for the treatment on a personal basis far beyond what was expected.

Thank you so much, Daniel and Sarah (names were changed to respect their privacy). That means a lot, knowing that you were so pleased with your results. I work hard to make sure that all of my clients are happy. More reviews can be found here, in case you have been injured in a collision and are shopping around for the best attorney for your case. I am an Eagle Scout, and our motto, after all, was "do your best."

Without an aggressive attorney, I'm sure that my clients wouldn't have received much money -- if any. In fact, the young man's insurance company flat out denied coverage, claiming that it couldn't find their own driver. I did, and got him served with process at 6:00 a.m. -- as he was being released from the Hood County jail for threatening his grandmother with a knife. This is a charge I told the defense attorney I'd nail him with at trial.

Brooks for blog.jpg

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August 14, 2014

Justin Bieber Wasn't DUI Or Drag Racing?

What a week. First the Tony Stewart tragedy and yesterday fellow celebrity bad boy and racer Justin Bieber plead guilty to misdemeanor charges of careless driving and resisting arrest.

Tony Stewart Justin Bieber.jpgYou'll no doubt remember that Bieber was arrested in Miami Beach in January in what police called an illegal street drag race. Theyoung pop star was driving a rented Lamborghini next to a Ferrari driven by another 19 year old singer and had the street blocked off by his body guards at 4:00 in the morning. I blogged about it here.

Bieber was also found to have an alcohol level below Florida's 0.02 limit for underage drivers (Texas has a limit of 0.00 for drivers less than 21 years of age), but urine tests showed the presence of marijuana and Xanax and a police video showed him walking unsteadily. Bieber was also charged with resisting arrest after a profanity-laced screaming fit. Sounds like he might have been DUI to me. And he didn't have a valid driver's license.

The plea bargain includes a 12-hour anger management course, a $50,000 charitable contribution, and court fines. Bieber made over $50 million last year so that shouldn't be a problem. I just wish he had made that anti-drinking public service announcement the judge asked him to do to discourage other people -- especially teens -- from this dangerous behavior.

Teenagers Getting Drunk And Crashing Their Cars -- A Deadly Problem

Vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and about 25% are caused by an underage drinking driver, according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Other statistics from 2012 show that:

-- There were 2,823 motor vehicle accidents among people age 13- to 19-years-old.

-- 2,228 teenagers died in motor vehicle accidents, many just 16 years old.

-- 16- and 17-year-old driver deaths increased 19 percent from 2011.

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August 13, 2014

Injuries And Deaths At Texas Motor Speedway?

Texas Motor Speedway.jpgThe Tony Stewart tragegy in New York made me wonder how safe the Texas Motor Speedway in north Fort Worth is. Has there been a crash harming drivers or spectators? Fortunately, this hasn't happened here (yet). But TMS has had several collisions out on its property in the past few years that should have been prevented and as a Fort Worth injury lawyer, I find them alarming.

Death Several Weeks Ago

In July, a 14 year old young woman was tragically killed in its parking lot. Kierstin Eaddy, an honor student from Flower Mound, was participating in an autocross event on a Sunday morning when her go-kart wouldn't stop and hit a fence. It's not clear what happened. Perhaps the go-kart was poorly maintained, its brakes or accelerator were defective, or the staff had not insured that the young woman fully knew how to drive it. A complete investigation is necessary to determine who is at fault.

Death and Traumatic Brain Injury

Four years ago, Andre Vandenberg, a 56 year old instructor at the company that allows the public to drive or ride in super-charged Corvettes, crashed into a concrete wall at a speed of over 100 mph and sustained a traumatic brain injury. His passenger, Don Krusemark, an 87-year-old man who was being honored as a leading blood donor for Carter Bloodcare, was killed. A blown tire or an improperly maintained brake rotor apparently caused the Vette to crash. Vandenberg was a former motorcycle racer from South Africa who has had a tragic past; his father, brother, and mother in law all died in car crashes. Later, the Speedway revised its safety procedures and restricted speeds on the oval track. Both of these cases settled out of court for unknown amounts.

Traumatic Brain Injury

A Tarrant County jury awarded more than $11 million to the family of Ryan Davies, an 11 year old boy who also suffered a traumatic brain injury at the Speedway four years ago. Ryan and his baseball team -- also from Flower Mound -- were celebrating a victorious season by getting to drive a 500-pound miniature race car at speeds up to 70 mph. Another boy lost control and hit Ryan in the parking lot. Ryan's younger brother witnessed the catastrophe as it unfolded.

Ryan's parents filed a lawsuit against TMS seeking damages, including over $2 million in medical expenses. Poor Ryan is permanently confined to a wheelchair. The suit alleged that the Speedway failed to provide adequate training, signs, barricades, or a "kill-switch" on the race car. TMS filed a third-party action against the boy who hit Ryan and his parents, claiming they should have known that their son was emotionally unfit to drive.

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August 12, 2014

Road Rage Is A Serious Problem Here in Dallas Fort Worth Too

The horrifying Tony Stewart crash I've blogged about here reminded me of the many cases I've handled here over the past 34 years where angry drivers intentionally crash into other cars.

I just finalized one of these road rage cases two weeks ago where a woman started tailgating my client's SUV on Interstate 20 in Fort Worth late at night. He wisely exited at his first chance and when he reached the traffic light at the next intersection, the woman had followed him and crashed into the rear of his vehicle. This pushed him, his girlfriend, and her daughter at least 20 feet forward. The damage to the rear of my client's SUV was not that visible and her (high risk, low assets) company denied that the woman was at fault and that my clients were hurt.

Adam Crash Pictures DWI Road Rage.png
I filed suit and forced the woman's insurance company pay her entire insurance policy limits to my clients, even though they had fortunately only sustained minor injuries.

My clients were very pleased with their results. The woman very nicely wrote this review on Yelp:

Mr Berenson was very helpful and guided us in the right direction through this whole process. This is the first time i had to hire a lawyer and i was a bit scared of it all but in the end i was very happy with everything. Mr Berenson took very good care of us and made sure we got what we deserverd. I would recommend Mr Berenson to anybody.

I am fortunate to have the best clients in the world! More of their kind testimonials can be found here, in the event that you are shopping around for a good personal injury lawyer in Dallas Fort Worth and want to read a few reviews.

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August 11, 2014

Tony Stewart Kills Young Driver - Road Rage To Blame?

Tony Stewart, the three time NASCAR champion, unbelievably ran over another driver Saturday night on a dirt track in upstate New York.

A 20 year old man, Kevin Ward, Jr., had bumped his car with Stewart's on a turn and was hurled into the wall. A caution flag was thrown. Ward got out of his car and waited for Stewart to pass on the next lap, angrily pointing his finger. According to witnesses, Stewart saw Ward and accelerated, hitting him with the right side of his car. This horrifying video showing the collision was posted on YouTube (WARNING - graphic violence depicted).

What Will Happen Next With This Tragic Case?

Local police are investigating the cause of the wreck. Criminal charges have not yet been filed, and I'm betting none will be, given the higher burden of proof they require -- not to mention Stewart's high profile, income (over $20M a year), and popularity.

The facts are murky at this point. What made young Ward jump out of his car and try to confront the superstar? Could Stewart have seen him racing at 100 mph, let alone stop in time? Ward was wearing a black jump suit and the track was dimly lit.

If the evidence supports it, a suit for wrongful death should be filed. The Ward family deserves to know what caused their son to die. It might be that both parties were at fault. This is the province of our civil justice system, to sort out opposite versions of how events happened and to assess liability and damages, if any.

Criminal and civil actions would also send a message to race car drivers like this hot head -- and to the general public -- that lethal violence on race tracks and on our roads will not be tolerated.

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August 8, 2014

Dallas Family's Road Trip Leaves Two Killed and 10 Injured

seatbelt-602535-m.jpgTwo members of a Dallas family were killed, and 10 other people injured, as a result of a recent rollover accident on Highway 130 South between Austin and San Antonio. The family had been on its way to visit an aunt in San Antonio when the accident occurred.

The family had departed in two vehicles, but vehicle broke down and the family decided to combine all 12 people into a GMC Yukon SUV. Unfortunately, when the family got to Lockhart, the SUV suffered a blowout. The driver then panicked and lost control of the SUV, which then rolled over multiple times.

Compounding the problem was the fact that the SUV was traveling on the part of Highway 130 where the speed limit is 85 miles per hour, making it the highest in the nation. I blogged about this new road when it opened and predicted that there would be more injuries. As a result, a problem that might not have been that serious became every traveler's nightmare.

Eight of the family members were ejected from the vehicle because, although there was a child seat set within, no one was wearing a seat belt. People were "scattered everywhere," and two sisters, 31 and 27, died at the scene. One had been a medical assistant and was a mother of four children, while the other had dreamed of opening her own bakery. What a tragedy.

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August 6, 2014

Deadly Crash On I-20 In Arlington Caused By Drunk Driver

A man who was DWI rear-ended a tanker truck on eastbound Interstate 20 early this morning, according to this news report on WFAA.

The drunk driver then lost control of his car underneath the New York Avenue bridge and crashed into a Sports Utility Vehicle. Both vehicles hit the center median at highway speed.

Tragically, Elaine Plummer, 57, was pronounced dead at a local hospital. My prayers go out to her family.

Three passengers in the drunk's car were seriously injured in the collision and were rushed by ambulance to JPS and other hospitals. The truck driver was fortunately not hurt.

Police determined that alcohol and speed were responsible for this horrible crash. They expect to arrest the driver shortly. I anticipate that he will be charged with one count of intoxication manslaughter and three counts of intoxication assault.

What a nightmare.

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August 5, 2014

Leading GM Ignition Switch Case Sent Back To State Court in GA.

Despite an attempt by General Motors (GM) to move the wrongful death lawsuit filed by the Melton family to the federal court system, U.S. District Judge Thomas Thrash, Jr. ruled that the case should be handled in a Georgia state court. That happening made it a very bad day for GM. By trying to move the Melton lawsuit to federal court, the automaker was attempting to avoid having to defend the case in Cobb County, Ga. GM didn't want to have key company lawyers, engineers and officers put up for depositions and be questioned under oath. They also had to know that a jury, after hearing the damning evidence against GM, including its lengthy cover-up of a known safety hazard, would punish GM severely. The awarding of punitive damages is something the automaker definitely wants to avoid.

GM Recall Ignition Parts.jpgAs we have previously written, Brooke Melton, a 29-year-old nurse, was killed in a car crash near Atlanta in 2010 while driving her 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt. The ignition switch in her car failed and caused her death. We will prove that the defective switch caused the Cobalt to lose power, stall and crash. Brooke's parents sued GM after their daughter's crash was linked to the defective ignition switch. They settled with GM last year for $5 million. But then in February the automaker finally admitted the existence of a defect it had known about for 11 years. GM, as a direct result of the Melton lawsuit, issued a massive recall. The Meltons asked that their settlement be rescinded and they refiled the lawsuit against GM. Brooke's parents, Ken and Beth Melton, wanted to keep the case in Cobb County, Ga., where it belonged. As expected, Judge Thrash rejected GM's claim that the Meltons had fraudulently joined the dealer, and sent the case back to state court.

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August 4, 2014

Two North Texas Students Die in a Single Car Crash On the Way to Music Performance

marching-band-174746-m.jpgTwo students from north Texas were killed after their Dodge pickup truck crashed into a tree as they were on their way to a musical performance at Louisiana State University. What a heartbreaking story.

The crash occurred in central Texas, along Highway 7, close to Marlin and Kossee in Falls County. Troopers from the state Public Safety Department believe that the truck had drifted off the road and the driver lost control trying to correct it. The pickup truck then flipped on its side and slammed into a tree.

One of the victims, 19-year-old John Patrick Stewart from Dallas, majored in instrumental studies, while 21-year-old Laura Onwudinanti had recently graduated from Baylor University with a bachelor's degree in music education.

The crash also injured two other students who were inside the vehicle, 21-year old Jacob Travis Hale from Fort Worth, who also majored in instrumental studies, and 18-year-old Megan Taylor Ritzi from Fort Worth, who will be entering college this fall.

All four were on their way to a meeting of the International Clarinet Association, where they would have performed.

Currently Ritzi and Hale are at the Baylor Scott & White Temple, a Level 1 trauma unit, where Ritzi is listed in critical condition and Hale in fair condition.

Baylor University issued a statement in which the chancellor, Ken Starr, stated that the "family" at Baylor University and the School of Music were broken-hearted over the tragic accident. Students placed black, white, and red ribbons around a fence at Lake Highlands High to honor Stewart, who had graduated just the year before as a salutatorian. Friends remembered him for being wholly devoted to music, as well as extremely hard-working and talented. At the time he graduated, Stewart told the Dallas Morning News that he would try to change the world by altering the lives of those around him through music, leadership, and friendship.

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August 1, 2014

Ethan Couch-Like Teen Causes Death of 16 Year Old

It has barely been a year since the horrific "affluenza" crash in Burleson caused by a drunk teen. The outrageously intoxicated 16 year old Ethan Couch drove his father's company's Ford 350 into a group of innocent bystanders, killing four people, and critically injured a fine young man whom I represented.

Couch's blood alcohol content was .24% -- three times the legal limit if he were 21 years old.

Now another drunk teenager has just crashed his truck west of Fort Worth and killed his passenger. Sadly, it was just announced that a 16 year old from Weatherford died this week at John Peter Smith Hospital. My prayers go out to his family.

The 19 year old man from Alvarado, Buddy Barnes, was driving his 1994 Ford Taurus while intoxicated at 1:00 a.m. Saturday night. Seven of his friends were packed inside. Barnes missed a curve, drove off the road, and crashed into two trees. He and a young passenger were ejected from the car.

This happened on Dennis Road outside of Weatherford, not far from the Sugartree course where I've played golf, so I am familiar with the location.

The medical condition of Barnes and the other five teens is not known at this time.

Barnes was charged with DWI and now faces a charge of intoxication manslaughter. What an absolute tragedy, all the way around.

Affluenza Teen Case Similarities

It is impossible not to draw a connection between this crash and the now infamous "affluenza" one. As you may know from previous posts or the news coverage, my client was a fine young man who is now tragically paralyzed after he was also thrown out of his vehicle. Fortunately, we were able to successfully resolve the case in court, but I think about him frequently and pray that doctors can help him recover from his injuries.

We have to crack down on drunk drivers in Texas. We have more of them here than in any other state, even California, which has 12 million more people. A shocking 1,296 people died from these crashes in 2012. This figure increased 7% from the year before. The problem is out of control.

In my practice, I've seen that drunk driving crashes are often the most serious auto accidents, because they are often high speed, head-on crashes. Here's a photo of my poor clients' car in a case that I'm working on now.
Page PD photo.jpg

I hate drunk drivers, and go after them with a vengeance. I settled another case for the drunk driver's full insurance limits yesterday. I'm also a proud supporter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers and am pleased to be one of its only approved attorneys in Tarrant County.

Here are more frightening statistics about drunk driving collisions:

Alcohol-fueled injuries hurt almost 17,000 people in 2012;

There were over 25,000 alcohol-related crashes were over 25,000 that year;

Last year in Tarrant and Dallas Counties, 121 people were killed and 1,261 others were seriously injured by DWI drivers;

Continue reading "Ethan Couch-Like Teen Causes Death of 16 Year Old " »

July 30, 2014

How Do You Pay For Medical Bills From Your Auto Accident?

An article in today's paper sadly reports that 44% of people in the Dallas area are "drowning in debt" -- most often due to hospital and doctor charges from motor vehicle collisions. How does this happen? And how can it be prevented?

People hurt in car and truck crashes can have piles of medical bills and not know how or when they will get paid. Unfortunately, until a final settlement is negotiated or a jury verdict is obtained, the injured person must try to figure out the best way to pay for his medical expenses. This can be a complicated, frustrating, credit ruining process if it is not handled properly.

Let me explain what your best options are if you have been in an automobile or truck accident in the Dallas Fort Worth area:

1. Hire an experienced and aggressive attorney who will fight for you. Richard Spence.jpg

A good lawyer can save you a ton of money. My office works with all of the health insurance companies to make sure that your bills are being processed for payment. Some companies refuse to pay, delay payment, or only pay for some of the bills unless pressured to do so. Sometimes the health insurance company pays, but then files a lien under the ERISA subrogation (reimbursement) rules and may not be legally entitled to do so..

Some hospitals or doctors will refuse to file on your BlueCross or Cigna policy and demand payment in full. Some hospitals file liens and demand full payment, but liens do not attach to all cases, notably those involving wrongful deaths. In certain circumstances, an emergency medical provider can file a lien. Sometimes non qualified providers, like chiropractors, wrongfully file liens.

Then there can be problems if Medicare, Medicaid, workers compensation, quasi-workers compensation plans, or other funding is involved. Tax and child support liens cloud the issue.

There can be many medical offices and many people involved. This gets complicated quickly. There is a lot of money at stake -- thousands and often tens of thousands of dollars. Everyone wants to be paid now.

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July 29, 2014

GM Recalls: Claims And Suits

Bill Berenson Injury Law is investigating claims for people who were injured or for the familes of those who were tragically killed in collisions involving GM vehicles that have been recalled due to defective ignition switches or other mechanical problems.

If you or a loved one were injured in a crash involving one of these vehicles listed below, please contact us today for a free consultation at 1-888-801-8585.


Damage Claim Filings Begin This Friday For Defective Ignition Switches

Beginning on August 1st, damage claims can be submitted for drivers who were injured or who died due to defective GM ignition switches. This office stands ready to assist you.

Over 2.6 small, often basic General Motors cars had defective ignition switches. This caused the key to suddenly turn off, shutting down the engine, brakes, steering, and air bags. Even something as minor as the driver's knee brushing against the key ring or the vehicle hitting a pot hole could suddenly move the switch to "off" and cause a crash. It only would have cost GM 57 cents per switch to fix the problem. GM chose not to spend this paltry sum, fully aware that fatal wrecks would occur.


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July 25, 2014

Three Fort Worth Motorcycle Riders Injured During Charity Ride

kuwait-3rd-motorbike-show-512402-m.jpgNo sooner does this blog issue warnings about drivers being alert for motorcycle riders than another horrifying collision takes place in the Metroplex. A van plowed into a group of 60 motorcycle riders this weekend while they were raising money for charity and injured three people. It's truly lucky many people weren't killed.

The members of the Fort Worth Harley Owners Group were traveling in formation in the center lanes of Interstate 30 when a van somehow crashed into the exit barrier wall near the Interstate 30/35 West interchange. The van's airbags deployed, preventing the driver from seeing other vehicles around her, and her large vehicle collided into the motorcycles.

While it is not known at this time what caused the driver to hit the wall in the first place, several riders believe that she was driving while texting (DWT). Fort Worth police merely confirmed the obvious: the driver was inattentive.

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