Articles Posted in Insurance

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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IMG_854498% of cases settle out of court. In my 37 years of practicing personal injury law, I have never met any one who wanted to testify in a trial. My job is to get my client as much money as possible. Attempting to reach a favorable out of court settlement is often in his or her best interest.

After a thorough investigation and compilation of medical records, lost wages, and other documents, with the consent of my client, I often forward a complete demand package to the at-fault driver’s insurance company adjuster and attempt to negotiate a favorable out of court settlement.

The key to success is a well written demand letter. It’s a powerful tool that maximizes my client’s damages and has these distinct advantages:

  • It can resolve the claim in months — not up to the two or more years in can take to actually get to trial;
  • It saves thousands of dollars in additional legal fees, filing fees, court expenses, deposition fees, expert’s bills, and a host of other expenses; and
  • It avoids the anxiety of testifying and leaving the decision in the hands of 12 strangers who may rule against our side or even be biased against lawsuits or injury cases in general.

Of course I plan as if I’m going to be in trial, knowing that any case may not be successfully resolved.  And some cases must be filed in court immediately and others will never settle for as much money as I want my client to receive and suit is filed.

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Fiery-crashStudy 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

ER clinics must now give patients billing information up front.

You will need prompt medical care after you are injured in a car crash. But you don’t necessarily need to be taken by an expensive ambulance (the typical cost in Fort Worth is $1,600.00) to a huge level one trauma center and have to pay the hospital, emergency room, and radiology company $5,000.00 or more.

This is where freestanding ERs can fill the gap. But they can also sometimes come with an enormous price that is shocking.

After years of complaints about excessive bills for minor emergency clinics, the Texas legislature stepped in. A new Texas law will hopefully alleviate these surprise bills.

As of September 1st, freestanding emergency clinics must post which insurance companies cover their services.

I just discussed a similar problem about how air ambulance companies gouge people after auto collisions here and what you can do about it. Continue reading

dreamstime_s_20865098Air ambulance bills are sky high

When 17-year Colton Lightfoot crashed his motorcycle, his parents didn’t hesitate when doctors suggested that he rushed to the emergency room by air ambulance. At that alarming moment, they didn’t think to ask questions like how much that would cost or whether their insurance covered it in full or at all.  Naturally all they cared about was their son’s recovery.

But nothing could prepare the East Texas family for the enormity of the bill for that flight — $58,000. After their health insurance carrier only paid $15,000, they were stuck with a whopping $43,000 bill. And many of these carriers refuse to pay all medical bills when they find out that they were the result of a car wreck.

Their story is typical and I’ve seen the victims of car accidents grapple with this serious problem. Continue reading

main_600-300x162Almost every adult in the Houston area owns a car. Now hundreds of thousands of vehicles have been ruined by the torrential rainfall. This, added to the loss of life and staggering property and commercial damage, has become the worse natural disaster in the history of the United States.

Insurance companies have received more than 100,000 Harvey-related auto insurance claims. That number is expected to reach 500,000.

As car owners begin to review their policies, some might get an unwelcome surprise. Policies that seemed just fine at the time they were signed might actually exclude the types of damages caused by Harvey.

Unfortunately many car owners figured flooding was highly unlikely and opted for lower premiums instead of comprehensive coverage.

The thing about insurance is you have to predict what you might need and decide whether paying higher premiums is worthwhile. You could potentially pay premiums for a lifetime and never file a claim. Or, as with Harvey, your insurance might be a financial lifesaver. In many ways, it’s a gamble. But usually choosing the better coverage pays off. Continue reading

Our High Rate Of Uninsured And Underinsured Motorists Is A Serious Problem

Last week local drivers started being stopped by police to see if they had licenses and liability insurance. DL-signIt’s about time. I hope other police departments in the Dallas Fort Worth area start doing this. It’s for our own protection.

At just one checkpoint, police wrote 36 citations and ticketed 24 uninsured drivers on Bardin Road in Arlington in just a 1½-hour period.

With 1.6 million uninsured drivers, Texas was in the top five states last year. While our officials estimate that 13 percent of drivers in the state do not have car insurance, as a personal injury lawyer I have seen that this number is much higher. The Dallas News estimated the number of uninsured drivers in Dallas County at 16%.

But that doesn’t count the drivers who officially have insurance and the policy expired or is fraudulent, or the driver has been excluded from coverage, hits and runs, disappears, denies responsibility, or fails to cooperate with his insurance carrier.

The checkpoints have exposed important information about the high number of uninsured drivers driving in North Texas (photo courtesy of Chicago Tribune). What happens if you are hit by one of these drivers? Who will pay your damages?

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Mary-McLin-in-wheel-chair-300x225Why you are smart to hire a personal injury attorney

Some of the important questions you need answered if you have been injured in a car wreck are

  • how much money can I get from the other driver and his insurance company?
  • will they pay me as much money as I want? 
  • will a lawyer charge me so much that I should just represent myself?

I’ve been asked them countless times over the past 37 years as an injury lawyer in Fort Worth.

And I get it. I don’t like paying for something I could do myself either – that is if I have the skill and time, which I often don’t.

Here I’ll give you answers that will help you make a good decision about what to do after your car wreck case.

I’ve discussed this topic on my web site, in a book for injury attorneys, and at a presentation to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association.

A personal injury lawyer wants to get the most compensation for his clients and hopefully sooner, not later. Continue reading

dreamstime_s_35800476-2-200x300New Policy Refuses to Pay Bills For Patients Diagnosed with Non-emergency Condition

If you have been injured in a car accident in Fort Worth, how do you know whether your serious symptoms are a true “medical emergency?” You don’t. Only a doctor can know that,

That’s precisely the problem with the latest trend in health insurance that will deny payment of emergency room bills if the insurance company arbitrarily decides that your visit was not necessary.

Effective on July 1st, this new rule was started by two of the largest companies, Blue Cross and Blue Shield and Anthem, in three states.

You’ll get stuck with a huge bill from the hospital, ER, radiologist, specialists, and ambulance. After many car crashes, these charges can quickly add up to well over $10,000.00.

This unbelievable policy forces patients to immediately and correctly diagnose their injuries as they sit in their cars dazed or lie on the side of the road after a car wreck. They will have to weigh the risks of going to the emergency room versus waiting-and-hoping for the best. The repercussions of getting it wrong are enormous. What if they are have a broken bone, herniated disc, or brain bleed and don’t know it?

This is a serious problem for the victims of automobile wrecks — and for every one else.

You know that since this new policy will save the health insurance companies a ton of money, the other companies will adopt this infuriating idea and take it nationwide.

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IMG_4564-300x154After a car wreck, you are often rushed by ambulance to an emergency room for immediate treatment.  Before the ambulance arrives or later as you lay in the ER bed, you assume that your Aetna or Blue Cross will pay for all of your bills, right?

No, not necessarily. It’s a complicated system that is extremely anti-patient for these reasons:

  • If your health insurance plan should decide to pay the bills, it usually files a lien and demands full reimbursement from your car wreck settlement or verdict.
  • Your hospital may be out of network,
  • Your Aetna plan may say that it is secondary to the at-fault driver’s primary auto insurance policy and refuse to pay anything, and/or
  • You may not have met your annual deductible or have a large co-pay.

You won’t know this until later. Much later. What happens then?

You are stuck paying for $10,000 and often more of medical bills. You take it for granted that the other driver’s insurance company will reimburse you in full, and still give you plenty of extra money for your lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages.

Good luck if you don’t have an experienced personal injury lawyer on your side.

And to make matters worse, the emergency room department will also generate a separate bill which runs from $500 to $3,000 or more. This may also not get paid for the above reasons.

The hospital will file a lien so they get paid in full — or has the lien reduced by your attorney. Take a look at horrible story in today’s paper about a Good Samaritan who just had a $151,000 hospital lien filed on her after she had to have her legs amputated.

And a new bill has been approved by the Texas Senate that unfortunately allows emergency room physicians to also file a lien for their bills that must be paid from the proceeds and clarifies that any ER admission qualifies for the payment. SB 2066 will further reduce the amount of money an injured person will receive for his damages and I hope it does not get passed by the Texas House of Representatives and signed into law.

But at least there’s a little good news. State lawmakers just passed a bill that gives patients some recourse. The bill does not go as far as I would like but it is a good start to resolving this ludicrous system that hurts Texans. I urge Gov. Abbott to sign SB 507 so it becomes law.

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