Articles Posted in Personal injury laws

Document. . . But TTexasBarToday_TopTen_Badge_June2016exas Is Trying To Ban Them

The Dallas City Council voted to renew the city’s contract for red light cameras last week just after the Texas Senate voted to eliminate them. At least 40 cameras, a lot less than the 66 first authorized when the program began 10 years ago, will be in place at dangerous intersections.

Although some Dallas residents objected for various reasons, council members pointed to a 47 percent decrease in car accidents at the camera-enforced intersections to back their decision.

Texas Lawmakers Want to Put the Brakes on Red Light Cameras

These cameras have been controversial since they made their appearance in Texas a decade ago. Some towns have gone so far as to pass referendums, including in Arlington where residents voted to remove them.

Two years ago the Texas House passed a bill to end red light cameras but it died in the Senate. So the practice of ticketing people through the mail continues across the state.

A new bill has been filed in the Texas Senate to ban red light cameras across the state, excepting on toll roads. Another bill filed would prevent counties from refusing registration of a vehicle based upon too many red light tickets, which is the policy in Dallas. The Senate bill now moves to the House for approval. Continue reading

dreamstime_xs_11188653Since tomorrow is the deadline to pay income taxes, if you received a personal injury settlement last year, you might be wondering if you need to report that amount to the IRS as income.

Most of the time, your damages for your medical bills and pain and suffering are not considered income and are not taxable. This can save you a bundle of money. But this sometimes depends upon how those damages are categorized.

The damages for your personal injuries are not taxable, except for any related medical expenses you deducted in prior years and for which you already received a tax benefit. You cannot also deduct these medical bills on your 1040. Damages you received for emotional distress and anguish are treated the same way.

More good news: Texas does not assess its 8.25% sales tax on settlements, allowing an injured person to receive even more money.

On the other hand, lost wages or lost business profits resulting from your accident injuries have to be reported. They replace your earnings, which would have been taxed had you not been injured. The IRS also taxes punitive damages.

With the lack of income, payroll, and state sales taxes, the injury award can be worth many thousands of dollars more.

More information is here.
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dreamstime_xs_4915045-300x214Cost Of Getting To Trial Should Be Affordable

In a personal injury trial, the plaintiff has to prove his or her damages. If the defendant challenges this evidence, the judge rules on its admissibility. The jury then listens to both sides and decides liability and damages.

The system is designed to provide an efficient evidence-gathering process for both sides. As an injury lawyer, I am concerned about a proposed law, House Bill 2301, that could have major repercussions on the civil justice system and skew the scales of justice in favor of defendants.

This bill is designed to make the streamlined procedure to prove routine medical records and bills more difficult and expensive for injured persons.

Before trial, the plaintiff submits evidence of the necessity and cost of medical services to treat his injuries. This is usually done by an affidavit signed by his doctor or custodian of medical records. Unless the defendant refutes the need for medical treatment or the fair cost of the amount charged, the affidavit is deemed to be sufficient evidence for the jury to consider damages.

The present system works. As we say here in Texas, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

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IMG_0958It was just revealed by NBC5  that the Dallas school district has settled 680 personal injury claims and paid $2.3 million in settlements over the past few years.

Most are fortunately small injuries, so the recoveries are just a few thousand dollars each. But sometimes the injuries were substantial — and the settlements were not proportionately large.

The Phillips family, whose daughter suffered a ruptured spleen when a bus collided with the family’s car, told the reporter how the money did not cover their damages.

Due to laws governing the maximum amounts that can be paid by state, county, city, and branches of local governments like the school district here, the total amounts are limited.

How do those caps affect injury claims against governmental branches and units?

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dreamstime_xs_33224968Texas Farm Bureau (TFB) recently tried to trick Texans into giving up their constitutional right to a trial by jury.

The consumer watchdog of the Dallas Morning News, David Lieber, recently wrote about this outrageous attempt where in exchange for a 10% to 25% so-called discount, a customer would have given up his or her right to file a lawsuit. Instead, he would have to go to mediation and then arbitration if he disputed TFB’s appraisal of his damages.

But the mediator/arbitrator would be paid for/controlled by TFB. Care to guess who was going to win that dispute?

Texas Supreme Court (1)New Case To Make Often Exams Commonplace?

The Texas Supreme Court ruled on Friday that a trial court abused its discretion when it denied a defense medical examination (DME) of the plaintiff in a personal injury case. It may have opened the doors to a flood of DME requests.

In Re H.E.B. Grocery Company, L.P., Relator was a mandamus proceeding. The plaintiff, Daniel Rodriguez,  filed suit after he tripped over a loose metal plate in the parking lot of a H.E.B. grocery store.  He injured his spinal cord, neck, face, shoulder, arm and knee and underwent two spinal surgeries. Complicating the case, the plaintiff later filed a lawsuit after a Sam’s club employee dropped an artificial turf roll on his head and further injured his neck and head.

H.E.B. retained an orthopedic surgeon as its expert. After conducting a records review, the doctor opined that Rodriguez’s injuries were preexisting and that the MRI taken one month after the fall (and relied upon by the plaintiff’s surgeon) was inconclusive. H.E.B then moved the court to allow the expert to examine Rodriguez. The court denied the motion without explanation, which was affirmed on appeal.
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Seat belt -- woman buckling up

The Texas Supreme Court ruled last year that a defendant could use the plaintiff’s failure to wear a seat belt as evidence against him if this conduct caused or was a cause of his injuries. Nabors v. Romero overruled the court’s prior decision set 40 years ago.

On Monday, the Texas Eighth District Court of Appeals in El Paso issued a complicated opinion in this significant case that affects the outcome of automobile and truck collision lawsuits.
On remand, the justices concluded that the trial court had abused its discretion when it excluded the defendant’s expert’s opinion that seat belts reduce the risk of ejections in serious rollovers. However the court affirmed the trial court’s exclusion of the defendant’s expert who blamed injuries to four of the minor plaintiffs on the adult occupants on other grounds.

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Scalia 1

Antonin Scalia died at a West Texas ranch south of Marfa on Saturday. His death ignited a political war. And some suggested he was murdered, really?

Partisan warfare erupted within minutes between leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties about when — even if — a new justice should be nominated. Lists of possible candidates were published and vetted.

Justice Scalia was the longest serving justice on the Supreme Court, having been appointed by President Reagan 30 years ago. He was ranked as the third most conservative, behind Justices Thomas and Alito.

Justice Scalia was known, even revered, for his staunchly conservative rulings, emphasis on the original meaning of the Constitution, and often bitter dissents.

What effect will this rare election year vacancy on the polarized Court have on Americans? From current undecided cases to the very future of the Court itself, the justice’s death has set off a constitutional crisis not seen since Robert Bork’s unsuccessful nomination in 1987. 

Effect on the Liberal-Conservative Balance of Power

Several recent ground breaking decisions have been decided by 5-4 splits. As of today, the court is evenly balanced 4-4 or even 5-3 in favor of liberals, depending on Justice Kennedy’s unpredictable vote, so many split decisions with no precedential value may be common. 

But two of the liberal justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (age 82) and Stephen Breyer (age 77) and unpredictable Anthony Kennedy (age 79) are elderly. 

When they retire or die, the Court would tilt towards the right if the new president is a Republican. He could set a record by naming four new justices in his first term. 

These new justices would guarantee 7-2 decisions that reverse decisions concerning abortions, same sex marriages, the Affordable Care Act, immigration, criminal sentencing, and a host of other lightning rod cases. 

A Democratic president could achieve a 5-4 and possible 6-3 tilt to the left, making the Court the most liberal is has been since President Franklin Roosevelt’s appointments during the Great Depression.

The stakes for setting the direction of the highest court of the land have never been higher in our lifetimes.

All this while the justices are supposed to be above party politics.

Justice Scalia, who is reported to have been in excellent or poor health, would have turned 80 next month. A mandatory retirement age — perhaps 75 — needs to be considered to prevent the country from lurching into a political crisis the next time a justice dies.

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Thumbnail image for Gavel and scales of justice and money

Car Wreck Victims Get Rare Victory

In a unusual ruling in favor of accident victims, the U.S. Supreme Court decided today that an ERISA plan cannot pursue funds that the plan participant has already spent on untraceable items. 

In Montanile v. Board of Trustees of the National Elevator Industry Health Benefit Plan, an decision also surprising by its 8-1 vote, the Court considered whether an ERISA fiduciary was entitled to money the plan claimed was overpaid to the injured party if the funds were no longer in the participant’s possession and control. The Supreme Court said no.

tow truck

Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases

The Texas Supreme Court made a decision that restores logic and equity to property damages awards in auto accident claims. In its January 8, 2016 decision in J&D Towing, LLC v. American Alternative Insurance Corporation, the court ruled that Texas law permits loss-of-use damages in total-destruction cases.

This loss of use ruling is a victory for auto accident victims who were previously subjected to an irrational interpretation of Texas law by insurance companies. 

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