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Articles Posted in Court proceedings

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The 2021 Texas Legislature enacted 666 new laws, most taking effect today. Overshadowed by the controversial ones affecting voting, guns, and abortion is one that drastically affects the rights of people injured in a commercial truck crash.

Truck crash cases will be harder to win in court

House Bill 19 will make Texas highways more dangerous by relaxing the legal requirements that hold negligent drivers and their employers liable for the damage they cause.

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Almost every Texas personal injury case has been altered by the pandemic. Going to court is far different now. For example, it is impossible to imagine the Texas Supreme Court (pictured above) holding a hearing on Zoom earlier this year. What does the future look like for legal proceedings?

A Texas Personal Injury Case During the Pandemic

Back when things were normal, Texas courts conducted about 200 jury trials a week. People that testified had no fear of getting sick and infecting others.

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In another sign of the epochal impact of the coronavirus, the Supreme Court is conducting its hearings via teleconference for the first time in its history.

But sadly, with all the high-tech wizardry that is available and expected in 2020, the nine justices and attorneys were still not able to be seen by the public.

The Texas Supreme Court and several Texas and federal courts of appeal have already conducted and livestreamed hearings on You Tube. And many other appellate courts have videotaped and audiotaped their hearings for years.

So it is hard to believe that the U.S. Supreme Court is the only branch of government that has always restricted Americans’ right to see it in action. It seems to be operating in a technological Stone Age.

In this video-drenched world, we take it for granted that we can watch everything. For example, try to imagine only listening to the impeachment hearings or a presidential news conference.

Still, allowing the public to finally get to hear the guarded justices ask questions was a quantum leap forward for the tradition-bound court.

It reminded me how my world opened up when I won a newfangled transistor radio when I was 10 years old in 1964!

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I have been asked by several clients if the coronavirus will affect their car wreck cases. No one knows as we are in uncharted territory. On top of the anxiety we are all living through, as a Fort Worth personal lawyer, I am very concerned how the virus could affect injured people’s medical treatment and personal and financial outcomes.

Here are some specific questions I have.

       1. Will fewer police respond to crashes?

It is essential that the police come to the scene of a crash and determine which driver was at fault. Without a favorable police report and officers who can testify in court, a car accident can become a “he said/she said” dispute. These are often denied by the other driver’s insurance representatives so a lawsuit must be filed. Juries may not know which driver to side with.

Furthermore, the police report contains important information that the car accident lawyer can use to help his client win the case. This includes the names and identifying information about all drivers, insurance policies, date, time, location, speed limit, weather, vehicle damage, witness’s observations, admissions of fault made, injuries reported, alcohol use, etc.

My office obtains the police report for our clients at no charge. The sooner we get the report, the sooner we can get to work.

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When has a trial lawyer represented his client too zealously?

The Texas Supreme Court heard arguments Friday here in Fort Worth in the nationally-watched sanctions case of Brewer v. Lennox Hearth Products. There was a packed courtroom and an overflow crowd at Texas A&M Law School.

The Court’s decision will set boundaries on just how far a lawyer can go to win a trial. And making the hearing even more sensational, the attorney in question, William Brewer III of Dallas and New York City, has often been in the headlines, most recently while representing the National Rifle Association.

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The governor’s final day to sign or veto bills passed by the state legislature was Sunday. Fortunately, the right of Texans to access the courts and recover damages was not adversely affected. Of the 7,500 bills introduced and 1,400 passed, here are several that affect the car and truck crash cases we have specialized in for almost 40 years at Berenson Injury Law.

HB 1693 AFFIDAVITS TO PROVE MEDICAL RECORDS AND BILLS

The plaintiff must file his medical records and bills with affidavits proving that the service was reasonably priced and necessary and itemize how much of the bill was paid and how much is due. The new law accelerates the filing deadlines by requiring that affidavits be filed 90 or 120 days after the defendant’s answer is filed/experts deadline.

In an unanimous decision in Garcia v. City of Willis #17-0713, the high court dismissed a lawsuit Friday that would have eliminated the widely despised red light cameras in Texas. The plaintiff had filed a class action lawsuit to declare they were unconstitutional and sought to obtain a refund of the millions of dollars of fines Texas motorists have paid.

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On procedural grounds, the Supreme Court found the plaintiff lacked standing, chose to pay his fine and avoid the required administrative hearing, and governmental immunity barred the reimbursement claim.

The decision follows other attempts to outlaw the cameras. For example, in February the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago called a similar argument “a dud” and noted that the advantages of the cameras outweighed other concerns.

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UnitedHealthcare slammed for violations of federal and Texas law

A federal judge in Northern California released a 106 page decision Tuesday which held that UnitedHealthcare fraudulently created guidelines that denied benefits to its members solely to save money.  The court found that United’s mental health subsidiary had used self-serving guidelines to justify the denials of badly needed mental health treatment for over six years. The guidelines conflicted with generally accepted medical standards as well as federal and state law, including our statutes in Texas. The story sounds like it came from a John Grisham novel like The Rainmaker.

Judge Joseph Spero wrote that the primary factor in the development of internal company guidelines was the maximization of profit, not adopting generally accepted medical practices. The provider had focused on its ‘bottom line as much or more” than the health of its policyholders and had illegally denied badly needed treatment to thousands of them.

If you have been injured in a car or truck accident, you will have a lot of questions especially these:

  1. Will I have to go to court?
  2. How much money can I receive?
  3. How long will it take?

This post answers the first question and the other two are addressed in these posts:

How much money is my car accident case worth?

The litigation process

Will my case settle out of court or go to a trial?

There are two ways that someone can collect his or her damages: an insurance company can pay them an agreed amount of money or a jury can award them monetary damages.

Statistics show that about 99% of all injury cases settle outside of the courtroom, usually before a lawsuit is filed.

So the chances of your case settling are excellent. But that answer as well as the amount of money you might receive and the length of time the process may take depend on many factors including the following:

Key information that is needed

  • Your case’s strengths and weaknesses;
  • Your liability facts and vehicle damage;
  • Your chance of winning a trial totally or partially, as negligence is attributed between all drivers and companies involved;
  • Your injuries – are they permanent or temporary, hard tissue or soft tissue, did you have surgery, etc.
  • Your medical expenses – how many are outstanding, were paid, and were written off;
  • Your lost wages, lost job benefits, and lost capacity to earn a living;
  • Your disability, disfigurement, loss of consortium, and other damages;
  • Your financial condition – your need for a quick recovery of money or your ability to wait for a trial;
  • Your desire to go through the usually frustrating and slow court process;
  • Your injury lawyer – his experience, ability, and reputation;
  • Your negotiating ability (if you are trying to represent yourself) and knowledge of legal, insurance, and medical issues;
  • Your goals; and
  • The other driver’s/company’s insurance company insurance policy limits and his/its assets

We at Berenson Injury Law evaluate these and other variables when we first meet with our new clients. We ask if our clients would prefer us to try to get the maximum amount of money from the insurance company or sue. After practicing personal injury law for almost 40 years, Mr. Berenson has never had a client who wanted to go to court if he could avoid it.

Later, we analyze these variables and recommend that our clients take their case to court or accept a settlement offer. We then try to reduce outstanding medical bills and perform other services to make our clients more money.

If you are undecided between entering into settlement negotiations, accepting a settlement offer, and going to a jury trial, we are happy to analyze your car or truck accident in a free no-obligation meeting or phone call. Continue reading

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