Articles Posted in Auto Insurance

blog-pic-of-car-on-top-of-coinsIf you have been in a car wreck, you naturally assume that the at-fault driver has liability insurance and will pay your damages. But a shocking 20% of Texas motorists — or about 3.5 million people — are not insured. And based on the number of times we see this happening, we think this number is higher. Almost everyone who has insurance carries the state-required minimum amount which only pays a maximum of $30,000 for the injuries to one person, $60,000 for the injuries to all people, and $25,000 for all vehicles damaged. This is often not enough, especially with the high cost of medical care. And that’s not to mention the multiple claims filed by drivers and passengers in chain-reaction car accidents. That is why you must purchase an uninsured/underinsured coverage policy to protect you and your family.

If you are injured in an all-too-common uninsured/minimally insured driver accidents, this post will answer your questions including

  • When can you use your policy?
  • What should you do if your insurance company does not make a fair offer of settlement?
  • Do you have to file a lawsuit and testify at a trial?

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blog-pic-of-car-on-top-of-coinsSubrogation Can Make Big Difference In Final Payment

If you have been in a car wreck, hopefully you have good health and automobile insurance policies. They can get your vehicle damage, medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses paid quickly before the other driver’s insurance company pays you money. But people are often angry to learn that they may have to pay this money back when they settle with the other driver’s insurance company or the jury returns a verdict. The concept is called subrogation and it can throw a wrench into a car accident settlement or recovery of money.

Subrogation is a long-standing equitable doctrine that allows insurance companies to recover money they have paid to someone else. In personal injury cases, a subrogation lien is asserted in two situations:

  • for medical bills paid by your health insurance company and
  • property damage and other claims paid by your auto insurance company.

Consider a typical wreck when you are crashed into by a driver who runs a red light. You tell the ambulance, hospital, and doctor that you are covered by an Aetna plan and hopefully they file your bills with your health insurance carrier and are paid. But your health insurance company can file a subrogation lien or the hospital can file a lien if certain legal requirements are met and not tell you.

Further, your automobile insurance company may also pay your property damage and assert its right to repayment from the at-fault driver.

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If you have been in a car crash, you need to understand that the auto claims process is designed to cheat you. Insurance companies use tactics designed to keep you from getting your damages paid back for car repair, medical bills, lost wages, pain, and other items. This includes not just the other driver’s  insurance company but your own if you have purchased collision, rental car, personal injury protection, medical payments, uninsured motorist, and underinsured motorist benefits. This post will explain what you can do to protect your rights and make more money.

Auto Claims

Insurance companies are obviously in business to make as much money as possible. They make less profits if they pay out substantial amounts in claims. So an  adjuster looks for ways to save his company money.

Even if he seems friendly, he is trained to use often abusive tactics that guarantee that he (or a jury if you take your case to trial) pays less than what a claimant deserves. Smart people know this and seek immediate help from a personal injury specialist.

People are unfortunately hurt in car crashes in Fort Worth and Dallas every day. And to compound their injuries, enormous medical bills add up quickly.

Who pays for the ambulance, emergency room, diagnostic tests, doctors, and prescriptions — the other driver’s automobile liability company, your auto liability company, your health insurance company, government agencies, or the other driver? When? In full or will you have to pay some of the bills up front?

This can become a nightmare if it is not handled correctly from the start.

What should you do?

The problem begins when you cannot direct the ambulance driver to a hospital that takes your insurance or might accept you for financial reasons, such as John Peter Smith or Parkland. You probably don’t even know which hospitals are in-network on your insurance plan. And you may not even have a health insurance policy, or if you do, you might not have met the annual deductible yet or can’t afford the co-pays and other expenses.

But the EMTs are trained to rush you to the nearest ER so you can be diagnosed and treated for your injuries. Especially when computed tomography (CT) scans or magnetic resonance images (MRIs) are needed, your first day’s medical expenses can easily be $5,000 — and often $10,000 or more. There are horror stories like this all over the internet.

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President John F. Kennedy wrote a revolutionary Consumer Bill of Rights in 1962 which would have given Americans the new rights to be safe, informed, able to make good choices, and be heard as consumers.

Texas Bill of Rights

The U.S. Congress never approved it but the Texas Department of Insurance fortunately created its own version for insurance policyholders. The Texas Bill of Rights gives you rights that help you when you are:

  • Buying insurance
  • Cancelling or not renewing a policy
  • Filing a claim on your insurance
  • Enforcing your rights

Furthermore, insurance companies are prohibited from discriminating against you or unfairly using credit information to decide who to insure or how much of a premium to charge.

Did your automobile liability company give you a copy of the Texas Consumer Bill of Rights along with your policy? If it didn’t, it has already violated one of your rights as the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) requires all insurance companies to issue a copy to all of its policyholders.

The Texas Bill of Rights is not part of your policy but your insurance company must nonetheless abide by the rules it contains. It is extensive and filled with important information. You should review it before buying or amending your policy or if you think you have been treated unfairly.

When you are filing your claim and enforcing your rights as a consumer, how does this help you? Continue reading

After you received auto accident injury treatment, the hospital may file a lien against your settlement. This lien gives the hospital the right to take funds to pay your outstanding bills. Because insurance companies often refuse to pay medical bills for accident injury care, the liens can equal thousands of dollars.

Frustratingly, you might negotiate a fair settlement only to have the insurance company write a check to you and the hospital. This ensures the hospital gets the money it claims it’s owed. But, this common practice can create headaches for you as you try to reach a settlement with the at-fault driver’s insurance company. In addition, this practice complicates recovery of your settlement funds if the lien was invalid. Continue reading

Insurance adjusters are carefully trained to pay out injured people as little money as possible — if any. At the same time, they spend billions of dollars convincing you that they are your “good neighbor” (State Farm), “you are in good hands” (Allstate), or that “Liberty stands with you.” What nonsense.

These companies often use tricky, even sleazy, tactics to minimize claim and lawsuit amounts. That’s why you need a personal injury lawyer to fight for you.

How do you know when an insurance company is trying to cheat you? It’s easy. You’ll know it when you see that they

1. Pretend to be your friend. Don’t believe it. The adjusters are reading scripts and asking questions right off their computer screens. They will call back wanting to know if you are getting better but want to later be able to refer to the day you said you were feeling “better.” What they want to do is to gain your trust so you’ll accept a low settlement offer.

2. Pressure you to give them a recorded statement. Don’t even think about it. You are not legally required to. And anything you say can and will be used against you in settlement negotiations or at your trial, if one becomes necessary if and when they don’t offer you a good amount of money.

As soon as possible after the crash, the adjuster wants to  catch you off guard. You will probably be on pain medications, scared, and not had enough time to consult with an attorney. I’ve refused almost every

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After being in a car wreck, a person is often injured and in shock. In the middle of this unexpected turmoil and pain, he or she may forget to call 911.

That’s a serious mistake. You need a police report. If you can’t identity that driver or have an officer testify in court that he caused the car accident, good luck collecting compensation for your damages.

While you are waiting for the police to arrive, make sure all drivers give you identifying information. Write down or photograph driver’s licenses and insurance cards and take photos of vehicles showing property damage, license plates, the scene with the position of vehicles (if not moved yet) and injuries. And don’t forget to get the names, emails and phone numbers, and observations from witnesses.

Importance of police report 

The report contains a wealth of useful information that a personal injury lawyer needs to prove liability and initial damages. The report will have the date, time, location, road, speed limit, vehicles, drivers, licenses, liability insurance, property damage, injuries and severity codes, alcohol and drug use, ambulances, hospitals, and other crucial facts.

Key observations including a diagram showing the position of vehicles, traffic control devices are included. Potential problems like obstructions to view, weather issues, and vehicle defects will be noted. Admissions of fault and excuses by drivers and the names and phone numbers of eyewitnesses are written down.

For example, I am about to file a lawsuit against a young man who was speeding and crashed his sporty car into my client’s SUV, causing him to flip over multiple times and severely injure him. The police report also notes that the defendant driver claimed the reason for him crashing was that he was “tired” — at 4:30 in the afternoon. Who on a jury is going to believe that? The police officer found the kid was speeding.

The report lists which driver the officer believes was at fault and includes traffic citations and codes for traffic laws that were broken. Here’s the list of these details and what the fault codes mean.

After we are hired, my staff immediately buys the report and goes to work. An assistant drove to Hurst to pick one up today. We highlight key details and investigate troublesome findings. If the report has errors, we ask the officer to correct them. We try to locate and interview drivers, passengers, and witnesses. In “he said, she said” cases, these recordings can be decisive.

If the other driver failed to stop at a red light or stop sign, we try to get a statement from him. We also do a complete internet search of his background including prior crashes and criminal history, including DWIs. We look at his assets and try to learn how much insurance coverage he purchased and also review your auto policy with you to see if additional benefits are available. We can attempt to subpoena the other driver’s phone records to determine if he was texting or ask an expert to analyze any available video footage.

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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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Almost all (98%) of car accident claims and cases settle without a trial. However reaching an out of court settlement that is fair to you if you don’t have a skilled professional at your side is virtually impossible. Without knowing the law and the tricks of the trade, you are at the mercy of the insurance company claims adjuster. And he or she knows this.

car accident claims

If you know how to make a compelling claim and negotiate, you will receive much more money. If you want to represent yourself, here are the basic steps a personal injury lawyer uses to successfully negotiate car wreck cases.

1. File claim as soon as possible

After obtaining the police report and conducting an investigation, my office notifies the at-fault driver’s insurance company about our client’s car wreck quickly. This gets the case off to a good start and lets the company know we mean business. We request that the adjuster verify receipt of the letter and outline any objections or defenses the liability carrier plans to raise. We then call to establish communication and attempt to find out how large the adverse driver’s insurance policy is. We investigate other insurance policies and ways to pay our client’s medical bills and establish contact with those entities as well. If there is Personal Injury Protection and other benefits like Medicare, we file the applications to get that process moving.

If you are not represented by a car accident lawyer, here’s a word of caution: only give out information to the insurance adjuster that is necessary to submit your claim. The less you say at this stage, the better. Do not give a recorded statement until you have had the chance to talk to an attorney. Insurance adjusters often take advantage of accident victims who are still in shock and are feeling pain from the accident, are impacted by painkillers, and may not have an idea how to proceed. Then they “swoop and settle” and get a full release of claims for minimal compensation. Continue reading

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