Document. . . But TTexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_June2016exas Is Trying To Ban Them

The Dallas City Council voted to renew the city’s contract for red light cameras last week just after the Texas Senate voted to eliminate them. At least 40 cameras, a lot less than the 66 first authorized when the program began 10 years ago, will be in place at dangerous intersections.

Although some Dallas residents objected for various reasons, council members pointed to a 47 percent decrease in car accidents at the camera-enforced intersections to back their decision.

Texas Lawmakers Want to Put the Brakes on Red Light Cameras

These cameras have been controversial since they made their appearance in Texas a decade ago. Some towns have gone so far as to pass referendums, including in Arlington where residents voted to remove them.

Two years ago the Texas House passed a bill to end red light cameras but it died in the Senate. So the practice of ticketing people through the mail continues across the state.

A new bill has been filed in the Texas Senate to ban red light cameras across the state, excepting on toll roads. Another bill filed would prevent counties from refusing registration of a vehicle based upon too many red light tickets, which is the policy in Dallas. The Senate bill now moves to the House for approval. Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_4902386“I didn’t realize I was injured until a few days later.” I often hear this explanation as to why my client did not seek medical treatment immediately after a car wreck. But insurance adjusters and attorneys have sometimes claimed the injured victim is exaggerating or his symptoms are not related to the car accident.

That’s unfair. An auto accident is a traumatic event. A person’s body is hit with tremendous force and thrown around in an unnatural way. You may have lost consciousness. You will be in shock and dazed. And your car is wrecked. It’s not surprising that you could have suffered severe injuries that are not obvious right away but you don’t know what to do next.

Even if you feel okay immediately after the crash, you should always seek a medical evaluation. You should also be aware of common delayed symptoms that might not manifest for hours or days later, especially the following ones.

1. Headaches

Early diagnosis of a brain injury, concussion or blood clot is particularly important. A blood clot puts you at risk of stroke as the oxygen supply is cut off from that segment of your brain. You must also take special precautions with a concussion to avoid a second concussion before the first one has healed. And yet these injuries are notoriously silent at the early stages.  Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_11188653Since tomorrow is the deadline to pay income taxes, if you received a personal injury settlement last year, you might be wondering if you need to report that amount to the IRS as income.

Most of the time, your damages for your medical bills and pain and suffering are not considered income and are not taxable. This can save you a bundle of money. But this sometimes depends upon how those damages are categorized.

The damages for your personal injuries are not taxable, except for any related medical expenses you deducted in prior years and for which you already received a tax benefit. You cannot also deduct these medical bills on your 1040. Damages you received for emotional distress and anguish are treated the same way.

More good news: Texas does not assess its 8.25% sales tax on settlements, allowing an injured person to receive even more money.

On the other hand, lost wages or lost business profits resulting from your accident injuries have to be reported. They replace your earnings, which would have been taxed had you not been injured. The IRS also taxes punitive damages.

With the lack of income, payroll, and state sales taxes, the injury award can be worth many thousands of dollars more.

More information is here.
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dreamstime_xs_48208777-300x199Good news for policyholders! Insurance companies must now pay for deceptive practices under a Texas Supreme Court ruling released this week.

The opinion hinged on whether the policyholder was entitled to benefits. If so, the policyholder could recover damages for the insurance company’s wrongdoing, even if there was no breach of the insurance policy.

The Case

USAA Texas Lloyd’s v. Menchaca involved a claim for damages caused by Hurricane Ike on the Gulf Coast in 2008. Gail Menchaca filed a claim with her homeowner’s insurance for damage to her home. The adjuster for the USAA Texas Lloyds insurance company determined that the estimated repair costs were less than Ms. Menchaca’s deductible so he declined to pay her anything for the damage. A second adjuster also estimated only minimal damage from the storm.

The policyholder sued USAA for breach of her homeowner’s policy and for the company’s violation of the Texas Insurance code that governs fair settlement practices. She argued that the company’s failure to properly investigate her claim resulted in her loss of insurance benefits.

The jury found that the company did not breach the policy but did violate the insurance regulations and awarded her the damages the company should have paid on her hurricane claim. The company appealed, arguing that since it did not breach the policy, no damages for bad faith could be awarded. However the court ruled in favor of the consumer and established five new ways to determine how these cases should be decided.
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Have you received a call from someone who threatens you with going to jail for not showing updreamstime_xs_29662892-300x199-300x199 for jury service? He says he’s from the U.S. Marshall’s Office, gives his badge number, mentions the name of the judge who told him to call you, and even has the Tarrant or Dallas Courthouse listed on caller ID. The victim is told he must pay a huge fine immediately and some people do. One woman paid the fraudsters $2,000. That’s terrible to hear. But it’s a scam.

I’ve been a personal injury attorney in Texas for 36 years and have tremendous respect for our civil justice system and the jurors who are the backbone of this essential process. This rip-off angers me.

If you do receive one of these calls, report the incident to the U.S. Marshals Service to stop these horrible scammers from victimizing anybody else.

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dreamstime_xs_4915045-300x214Cost Of Getting To Trial Should Be Affordable

In a personal injury trial, the plaintiff has to prove his or her damages. If the defendant challenges this evidence, the judge rules on its admissibility. The jury then listens to both sides and decides liability and damages.

The system is designed to provide an efficient evidence-gathering process for both sides. As an injury lawyer, I am concerned about a proposed law, House Bill 2301, that could have major repercussions on the civil justice system and skew the scales of justice in favor of defendants.

This bill is designed to make the streamlined procedure to prove routine medical records and bills more difficult and expensive for injured persons.

Before trial, the plaintiff submits evidence of the necessity and cost of medical services to treat his injuries. This is usually done by an affidavit signed by his doctor or custodian of medical records. Unless the defendant refutes the need for medical treatment or the fair cost of the amount charged, the affidavit is deemed to be sufficient evidence for the jury to consider damages.

The present system works. As we say here in Texas, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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https://www.fortworthinjuryattorneyblog.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/233/2017/04/Screen-Shot-2017-04-07-at-11.31.31-AM-300x201.pngA person who creates a problem should also be part of the solution. That’s why Texas has had the Driver Responsibility Surcharge Program (DRP) since 2003.

The program requires reckless drivers to pay fines that fund trauma centers where the victims of car accidents receive care. Under the program, drivers receive points for various traffic infractions. Drivers pay $100 for six points in three years and an additional $25 per point above six. A drunk driver wracks up even more fines — $1,000 for a first time DWI conviction and $2,000 if the drunk driver’s blood alcohol concentration was above .15. A driver who has an invalid license owes $250.

The money goes to Level I trauma centers such as John Peter Smith Hospital (pictured here) in Fort Worth that accept all patients regardless of ability to pay. Often these trauma centers are the only place critically injured patients can receive lifesaving urgent care.

Now some Texas lawmakers have deemed this program unfair to the bad drivers and have introduced a bill to repeal it. There’s no word on how the victims of these bad drivers will get the medical care they need without the funding.

Often they have no health insurance, and if they do their company denies or minimizes payment, the hospital is out-of-network, and/or deductibles and co-pays are prohibitive.  Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_27451221-300x200We have the technology and the knowledge to bring pedestrian deaths to zero. Instead, the rate keeps rising.

In 2015, injury lawyers were surprised that pedestrian deaths had increased by the largest amount since national records were first recorded more than four decades ago. But 2016 has topped the previous record with 6,000 pedestrian deaths, another 11 percent spike. And no doubt, this year’s number will be even higher.

What is responsible for this record number of deaths? I’m sure you guessed correctly: texting.

But not just texting drivers. Texting walkers.

Everywhere you look, people’s eyes are glued to their phones, whether they are walking, biking, running, pushing baby strollers, and of course driving.

The phone-obsessed are oblivious to danger. We saw that firsthand last week when a texting driver killed 13 members of a church choir when his pickup truck collided with the charter van. If there were ever a case that should get our state legislature to outlaw texting while driving, this is it.

On Tuesday, a young woman plunged 60 feet from a bridge in Northern California and barely survived after taking a selfie.

People are so focused on the phone rather the risks around them that they are just accidents waiting to happen.

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Yesterday a judge finalized a lawsuit when a 17-year-old high school student was critically injured. My client was a Ramirez-Scene-300x232passenger in a car that was being driven by another young man in south Fort Worth. My client’s driver sped through a red light and was t-boned by a dually pickup truck at the intersection shown here. My client tragically suffered a traumatic brain injury and is still in a vegetative state months later.

The young man’s injuries are catastrophic. But the driver’s substandard insurance company denied the claim, saying he was not a covered driver under his mother’s liability policy. And the truck driver’s liability carrier denied that he was at fault. There were no other insurance policies or assets to collect on. This left no money for the family’s huge medical bills and other damages.

We went to work. After a diligent investigation and negotiation, we convinced the two insurance companies to pay both insurance policies in full. The second policy for the truck driver was substantial. My staff and I fought to reduce the young man’s medical bills from $700,000 to only $7,500. I reduced my attorney’s fee by almost one-half and waived all expenses to give the young man more money for his future medical care. I quickly arranged for a special needs trust to be drafted to handle his future medical needs to preserve his Medicaid entitlement and hired an excellent but lower priced attorney to also act as the trustee. Other legal details were handled. Finally, I pushed to get the settlement approved by the court in less than four months from the day of the collision.

The young man is fortunately showing signs of improvement. That’s great news.

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imgres-1-300x168UPDATED 4/13/17:  Police found two entire marijuana cigarettes and five that had been partially smoked ones in the truck and an affidavit was filed stating that the truck driver admitted he took clonazepam and  Lexapro and Ambien (generic forms) earlier that day.

UPDATED 4/3/17: Truck driver admits to texting while driving at 65 MPH for over 20 minutes. The church bus was a retrofitted Ford 350 van.

3/31/17: A New Braunfels church is devastated over the loss of 13 of its members in a horrifying head-on collision Wednesday afternoon. The choir members were travelling home from a retreat west of San Antonio when a huge Duelly pickup truck collided head-on into their van.

The impact tragically killed all but one of the van passengers. The survivor remains hospitalized in critical condition. They were seniors ranging in age to 87 years old. The driver of the pickup, a 20-year-old man, is in stable condition.

Before the wreck, callers had alerted police that the truck was swerving all over the road and was about to crash into other vehicles. Deputies were on their way to try to stop the catastrophe.  Continue reading

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