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Articles Posted in Auto Insurance

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

Study finds hospitals charge people an outrageous 340% too much for ER care.

Johns Hopkins Medicine researchers have analyzed the records of over 12,000 emergency rooms in all 50 states and discovered that prices for the same procedures varied wildly between different hospitals. Rubbing more salt on the wound, the most vulnerable, least insured, and poorest patients were often charged the highest prices.

The researchers then compared the prices charged to the amount listed by Medicare. On average, patients were billed 340 percent more for their services than the Medicare listing price.

The researchers aptly referred to the practice as “price gouging.” This has got to stop. Car wrecks are not profit centers to support the rest of the hospital. Continue reading

Texas storm damage law takes affect on September 1

Three months before Harvey began to form, the Texas legislature passed what now seems like a foreboding insurance law. Touted under the catchy name “hailstorm lawsuit reform,” the insurance industry aggressively lobbied for Texas House Bill 1774 — which makes clear who stands to benefit.

The law takes affect on September 1, and the timing couldn’t be worse. Our main focus now is on rescuing people and helping those who have been displaced. Thousands of people have fled their homes and are living in temporary shelters as thousands more remain in storm ravaged housing waiting for boats and helicopters to reach them. The death toll is at 10, a number that will likely increase.

And the rain is still coming.

Of course, we urge policyholders to put safety first. If you cannot safely file your claim by Friday, you are not barred from doing so. However, for those who can, submitting your insurance claim before Friday has advantages.

All claims filed prior to September 1 fall under the current insurance law, which offers important consumer protections. Continue reading

How Texans Are Harmed 

You assume that other drivers next to you are covered by liability insurance, right?

Not necessarily. We have 2.6 million uninsured drivers in Texas. And Texas insurance companies are allowed to sell “junk policies” that eliminate coverage to anyone who is not listed. As a result, many people buy them so they can exclude their reckless 16-year-old sons and spouses with histories of DWI’s and car accidents.

This means you won’t be able to collect any money for your medical bills, lost wages, and damages if one of these uninsured drivers crashes into you. Does that sound fair to you?

When the 1.2 million drivers with these junk policies are added to all those without insurance, there’s a 30% chance you won’t get paid back.

I’ve had to deal with this situation more often than I’d like as an injury lawyer for the past 37 years and I’m concerned that people are often placed in this unjust position.

Everyone loses: the injured driver who must file a claim with his own company and pay a big deductible (assuming he paid for uninsured motorist coverage), the at-fault driver left open to being sued, and doctors who are not repaid.

Since Texans are the worst drivers in the U.S., we need all the protection we can get on our roads.

I’ve advocated that our state leaders meeting in Austin keep motorists safer by passing laws which will ban texting while driving, lower the DWI limit, and preserve our economical way to prove medical services and bills that are needed for trials.

Requiring that ALL drivers be covered by liability insurance is another easy and sensible way our legislators should be safeguarding our rights. Continue reading

The largest insurance company in the world, State Farm, spent a whopping $525 million dollars last year to gain your trust and convince you that it is your good neighbor.

Don’t fall for it. When you are in a car wreck, liability insurance companies are definitely not your friends. They pay you the least amount of money they can get away with to maximize their gargantuan profits.

Here are some of their most common ruses you should be aware of.

1. They call you immediately

You may still be recovering in the hospital or just be getting home after the collision. You may be on pain medications. They catch you off guard, make vague promises like “we’ll pay for your bills,” and rope you in before you have had time to consult with a lawyer to learn what your rights are.

2. They demand a statement

They ask you leading questions that can be used against you later. But you are not required to give a recorded statement. Only if one is absolutely necessary, a good personal injury attorney will review the facts, tell you the questions you can expect, practice with you, and require strict guidelines so the answers can’t hurt you in court.

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I regularly represent the parents of minor children who have been injured in car crashes. I was in court yesterday on a tragic collision where one teen died and her brother was seriously injured when the SUV driven by their father ran a stop sign, was t-boned, and rolled over. When the mother still had many questions, I thought it would be a good idea to blog about the unique challenges that parents should be aware of.

Let’s say your family was unfortunately involved in a car crash. Obviously a baby cannot talk about what happened. The law also recognizes that children and teens lack the maturity and experience to appreciate the full consequences of their decisions. Until a person is 18, he or she cannot make a legal decision. For these reasons, all states impose special protection on these minor plaintiffs.

How does being under the age of 18 affect the settlement process and the preservation of the damages awarded to your children? Continue reading

Automobile insurance companies make vast sums of money by charging high premiums, then delaying, lowballing or denying collision claims. State Farm has a staggering net worth of $87.6 billion. It paid its CEO $8 million last year. Its new regional headquarters in North Dallas cost over $500 million and will employ over 8,000 people. But just try to pry money from an adjuster’s hands without a tough fight – and a good lawyer.

What is one good way to make these companies pay you a fair amount of money after you’ve been crashed into by one of their lousy drivers?

One tool injury lawyers employ in Texas is the Stowers demand. Used properly, it forces automobile insurance companies to engage in good faith negotiations and pay off large trial judgments.

The Stowers doctrine dates back to a 1929 Texas Supreme Court decision in G.A. Stowers Furniture Co. vs. American Indemnity Co. when the court provided injured people a more level playing field.

Before then, an insurance company could just deny a claim. And if the injured person sued its driver, the company was willing to take its chances in court where it hoped to win the case or minimize the size of the verdict. If it lost, it would simply pay off the judgment after several years without penalty or pressure.

So how does the Stowers doctrine help you? Continue reading

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