simonsWhat are your options if you should be involved in a car or truck accident while driving to a sales meeting or making a delivery? Who pays to repair or total your car or truck and for your lost wages and medical bills? Your case can get complicated very quickly.

There are multiple sources you can pursue to collect compensation for your damages. In addition to filing on the at-fault driver’s or vehicle owner’s liability insurance policy and your automobile insurance benefits, should you consider filing on your company’s workers’ compensation policy?

How will workers’ compensation affect your claim?

You may have been told that you cannot file against or sue your employer for damages if you were injured on the job. You may be able to but it’s not always a good idea. Here’s why.

Workers’ compensation insurance covers your medical treatment and lost wages without you having to prove fault. In return for the guarantee of a substantially limited pay check, you waive your right to sue your company — even if it were negligent. But what if your service department failed to properly maintain the company truck’s brakes, causing you to crash and get seriously injured?

There are other drawbacks as well. You usually receive less quality medical care. Most “good” doctors refuse to file on “comp” since payments are drastically curtailed and the paperwork and red tape can be onerous.

Further, you will have to reimburse the money you receive for your lost wages and medical bills. This is a legal concept called subrogation authorized in the Texas Labor Code. That means that you will have to pay back the comp carrier for what it paid you up front. So if your net settlement proceeds are $20,000 but the comp company has already paid you $20,000, your “new money” will be zero. Not good, since your initial payments will have already been spent by you or paid to hospitals and doctors.

A good injury lawyer will fight to get that subrogation amount that you owe reduced. We are in the process of finalizing the severe injury case of the man pictured above who was driving his truck for his company when another vehicle failed to yield the right of way. He’s had three surgeries to date. We successfully obtained a huge cut of what he owed to comp after getting him the maximum available under the large insurance policy available.

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After a car wreck, there are various ways that a Texan can recover his damages.

In addition to filing on health insurance, workers compensation, disability, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits, he can also attempt to collect from these sources:

  • the at-fault driver’s or the vehicle owner’s car insurance company;
  • the underinsured motorist (UIM) policy that he, the driver (if he is a passenger), or the vehicle owner purchased. This happens if the money offered is not sufficient to compensate him for his damages.
  • the uninsured motorist (UM) policy he, the driver, or the vehicle owner purchased. This happens when the at-fault driver is not covered by liability insurance or is unknown, as in a hit and run.
  • the personal injury protection (PIP) benefits on his, the driver’s, or the owner’s policy; and/or
  • the at-fault driver if he has sufficient assets that exceed his insurance coverage. This is rarely, if ever, the case.

In a larger damage crash, multiple insurance company, adjusters, and attorneys will be involved. The process can be confusing and daunting. The services of a good personal injury lawyer are recommended.

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61815125-cartoon-illustration-about-the-mediation-process-I am proud to have successfully resolved a difficult truck collision case Friday at a mediation for a substantial amount. I wanted to thank Michael Carnahan for his excellent work.

You might not know what a mediation is or how it can help you if you have a dispute with an insurance company, so here is information that can help you understand this critical process.

What is mediation?

Mediation is a voluntary procedure where the parties to a lawsuit agree to hire a neutral third party, who is a retired judge or an experienced trial attorney, to help them resolve their impasse.

After a lawsuit is filed and the discovery of evidence has been made (and on rare occasions before suit is filed), the attorneys for the opposite parties can agree that it is time to see if they can reach an out of court settlement.

In the personal injury world, the injured persons, insurance company representatives, and their attorneys meet at a neutral site, usually the mediator’s office. He or she attempts find a number to compensate the plaintiffs for their damages that the parties believe is equitable.

The plaintiffs have already or will make an initial demand, either in a written demand or a joint meeting (rarely used now). All sides will have provided the mediator with their position papers, with key exhibits and briefing of relevant cases, weeks prior to the mediation date.

Usually the plaintiffs and defendants are far apart on what they estimate the case is worth after a jury reaches its verdict. And of course no one knows what that number will be in advance. I analyze 62 variables to help evaluate how much a jury might award in damages.

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dreamstime_s_46737113Have you seen a driver keep drifting into your lane, hitting the rumble strip or running a red light until another driver beeps the horn and he slams on his brakes?

The driver is drunk, right? No, maybe he or she fell asleep at the wheel.

The effects of sleep deprivation are similar to alcohol consumption. Going 20 hours without sleep is equivalent to drinking until you have reached a .08 percent blood alcohol concentration (BAC), which would put you legally over the limit. Unlike drinking, however, you may not worry about feeling a little tired.

Presumably everyone knows that drunk driving is dangerous. But the seriousness of drowsy driving is not widely appreciated.

A person who would not consider getting behind the wheel after getting wasted at a bar might think nothing about doing so after being awake all night or only getting five hours of sleep. Continue reading

useBased on our first week, unfortunately no.

After an extremely dangerous New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day caused by icy roads and the drunks driving on them, the first week in North Texas started on a sad note with four people dying in car accidents Six people tragically were killed here since that time.

And on Friday police announced the cause of the crash that killed former Dallas Cowboys receiver Terry Glenn in Irving several months ago.

The causes of this weekend’s fatal Dallas-Fort Worth auto accidents were the usual suspects:

  • Rear-end collision at intersection. A mother and her seven year-old daughter were killed when their passenger van was struck from behind while making a left turn. The driver of the pickup truck that rear-ended the van claimed not to have seen the vehicle at the Johnson County intersection. In other words, he wasn’t paying attention.
  • Drunk driver heading wrong way. A wrong-way driver on Texas 121 in Grapevine killed a Fort Worth man when he crashed head-on into his vehicle. The wrong-way driver was drunk at the time, and he survived with only minor injuries, of course. He’s been charged with intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle and intoxication assault with a vehicle.

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male-client-with-beardIf you have unfortunately been in a car accident (with over 100,000 a year in the DFW area, they happen far too often) and are researching a good car accident lawyer, here are a few of our firm’s recent reviews on Yelp for your consideration:

12/21/2017

I contacted Mr. Berenson about a week after my car was totaled by a truck that hit me from behind based on reviews. The people at his office (esp Mindy) were always kind and prompt in keeping me informed. Mr. Berenson also personally kept me informed as to my options  & his progress on the case. He won a fair settlement & all my medical bills were paid. He had to deal with 2 insurance companies to get results. They are great people to deal with & professional to boot.

Jim E.  Fort Worth

12/13/2017

I was absolutely impressed with Mr. Berenson and his team. They were all very kind and empathetic toward the situation we were in. My car was totaled and I took the brunt of the hit. Both of my kids were properly installed in their car seats and for that I am thankful, as their injuries were far less. His team makes the process as smooth as possible for their clients. They went far above my expectations and even lent us interest free money to help with a repair to our other car.

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dreamstime_s_81881804Insurance companies are notorious for denying and minimizing payments to people injured in car accidents, especially to those with pre-existing injuries. That is not fair. This is another reason you need a good injury lawyer fighting for your rights if you have been crashed into.

After all, hardly any Americans are in perfect health. So how can an insurance company refuse to pay fair compensation to someone who

  • has been in a previous wreck or hurt his body after falling down, lifting a heavy object, or playing sports — often many years ago?
  • has a previous injury that had totally healed?
  • has had surgery to a different part of his body, say his neck, and has now only injured his back?
  • has a medical condition that results in much worse damage than the defendant could have expected?

The defendant in court must pay for these damages. This important legal concept is referred to as the eggshell skull rule.

What is the rule?

Tort law has always held that the defendant takes the plaintiff as he finds him, including all hidden symptoms, fragile conditions, and unforeseeable medical problems. You should not be punished for being injured or weak before the crash, unless the damages you are claiming were not caused by it.

Imagine that a fictional plaintiff has a skull that is as thin as an eggshell. What if the injured person is elderly or frail? A fender-bender that might cause a mere bruise to a normal person’s head could potentially crack open the plaintiff’s extremely fragile skull. The defendant can’t possibly know this of course. However the defendant is liable for killing the plaintiff even though he could not have foreseen that the minor accident would be deadly.

The eggshell skull rule illustrates the most extreme example. But in real life, this doctrine applies to such medical conditions as previous herniated disks, osteoporosis, torn rotator cuffs, concussions, or use of blood-thinning medications to treat blood clots. Continue reading

131209201711-03-weather-1209-horizontal-large-galleryWith freezing temperatures and wet roads forecast in North Texas, I was concerned this weekend would be particularly dangerous and it was. A toxic mixture of drunk drivers and slippery highways led to hundreds of car crashes.

170 auto accidents, including 26 rollovers, happened in Fort Worth on NYE before 9:00 PM — before prime drunk driving hours had even begun.

Later four people tragically died in these car accidents:

  • 12:33 AM – a wrong way driver crashed head-on into another vehicle on I-35 south of Dallas, killing both drivers.
  • 5:20 AM – a motorist died when a car he stole from a strip club caught fire after hitting a curb and crashed into a light pole on Irving Boulevard.
  • 5:25 AM -two good Samaritans stopped to help a driver who had collided with the median wall on LBJ Freeway. Another vehicle slammed into the accident scene, killing the driver and injuring one of the good Samaritans. The other good Samaritan, an off-duty Garland firefighter, escaped injury by jumping over the median when he saw the vehicle barreling down on them.

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Reunion-Tower-NYEThe New Year’s Eve forecast calls for extremely low temperatures, rain, and possible ice. Not exactly the weather we had hoped for to ring in the new year.

And to make our roads even worse, drunk driving will also spike this weekend. Alcohol already accounts for one-third of all fatal accidents and that number skyrockets to 42 percent on New Year’s Eve.

I passed a crash at an intersection driving into the office this morning — and the weekend hasn’t even started yet.

But you can still enjoy a happy and safe new year’s celebration.  Continue reading

capitolIt’s almost the new year and time to plan ahead and reflect on 2017. All in all, it’s been a good year for Texas drivers.

Here’s a recap of the most significant traffic safety laws enacted this year that will make our roads safer in the future.

Texting ban

Finally, after six years of trying by the Texas legislature, texting while driving is illegal as of September 1st. We were almost the last state in the U.S. to restrict this dangerous practice. Could the bill have been stronger? Sure. A $25 citation and other restrictions watered the deterrent value down, but the new law making texting while driving a misdemeanor is a good start.

And more good news: another proposed statute that would have blocked municipalities from imposing their own stricter texting while driving regulations was not passed. One item on my 2018 wish list is that Fort Worth and Dallas join the 100 other cities with local ordinances that are tougher.

Why? Government statistics reveal that 20 percent of car accidents involve a distracted driver. In my experience, the number is higher since distracted drivers rarely admit to the police that they were texting, surfing the net, or dialing numbers while driving after a car wreck.

There’s no better time than the present to further limit driving distractions and make our roads safer. Continue reading

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