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Surprise! New law started on 1/1 to cut thousands of dollars in medical bills

After someone is injured in a car accident, they must be treated immediately. They naturally assume their medical bills will be paid quickly -- by someone else. But unfortunately, this doesn't often happen. We strive to get our clients the maximum in-pocket recoveries of money. We also stay on top of all new laws and court decisions that can help them. So we are excited to announce some great news for the victims of car accidents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The "No Surprises Act" took effect on January 1st. So what does that mean and how can that help you?

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.

Average Compensation for a Whiplash Settlement
If you've been in a car or truck crash, you will experience a lot of pain. But who will pay for your medical bills, lost wages, vehicle damage, and other expenses? Unfortunately, the insurance company for the driver who caused the wreck has clever ways to pay you as little money as possible. Here are a few of them.

Swoop and settle

The next day you may get a call or text from an insurance representative who says he or she wants to pay you money immediately. But usually the amount offered is only between $500 and $1,000. They might also make a vague promise to pay some of your medical bills - if their company decides they are reasonably priced.
Here is a typical story of how this game is played: an 18-year-old woman in Frisco named Rayza was crashed into, had to give a recorded statement, and settled her claim for $1,000. But her pain increased and she had to seek medical treatment. The company refused to pay her any other money and personal injury lawyers could unfortunately not help her since she had signed a release. The biggest problem is that you don't know how much your expenses are. You will be shocked when you see how much some providers charge car wreck victims and their health insurance companies. So if the ambulance, hospital, emergency room, radiology, chiropractors, physical therapists, pharmacies and other medical providers charge a total of $10,000, accepting a company's offer of maybe $1,000 to 3,000 is not a good idea.
Our office gets calls from injured drivers like this several times a year. A man contacted us several weeks ago. It is almost impossible to rescind the release. We did this once when we proved our client could not fully understand English.

Warning: even an oral agreement can be enforced

The Dallas Court of Appeals held that a verbal offer to pay the injured driver $500 and some medical bills was a binding contract - even though the driver immediately changed his mind, hired a personal injury attorney, and returned the check. In the case of Gilbert v. Fitz, the GEICO adjuster representing Fitz admitted that Mr. Gilbert's medical bills would be $8,000 to treat his broken ribs and wrist and his other injuries. They ended up being $15,000. Gilbert sued Fitz for his damages. However, not only did he lose his case, he was ordered to pay $10,000 in attorney's fees.

New law would end these oral releases after a car wreck

State Representative Julie Johnson from Dallas introduced HB 2374 which allows a driver to revoke a verbal settlement agreement. All seven members of the House Insurance committee voted in favor of it and it awaits the vote of the House of Representatives. Of course insurance companies will continue to swoop and settle, even if this law is passed.  By asking the injured driver to sign a form acknowledging that they understand what is happening, this will keep people from making rush decisions. There should be a short cooling off period, as there is with the sales at conventions or door-to-door homes. Texas Watch, a consumer organization, has urged Texans to contact their representatives to support HB 2374.

Recorded statements

The other insurance company's representative will also demand a recorded statement. He won't tell you but his detailed questions are designed to deny or minimize (1) his driver's responsibility for causing the collision and (2) your bodily injuries, medical expenses, and other damages if you decide to pursue legal action. You are not required to give a statement and it is almost always a bad idea. Mr. Berenson rarely if ever agrees to one unless it is absolutely necessary. If he does, he first reviews the expected questions, police report, photographs and other evidence with his clients so they are prepared. He also makes sure the statement will not be used later in court.

Other tricks to expect

There are too many to list in one post. Take a look at this article which lists more ways companies take money from you.

A good car accident lawyer can help you

The insurance representative will usually tell you that don't need to hire a car accident attorney since they are taking care of you. Don't believe it. The last thing he wants you to do is to hire a personal injury lawyer who can guide you what can be a confusing medical/legal process. We have been written blog posts for years about these insurance tactics guaranteed to result in small settlements or jury verdicts. Texas Watch advises drivers not to speak to the at-fault driver's insurance company before consulting with a car accident lawyer. The first consultation with Berenson Injury Law is free. We can explain how we can help get you the results you want after your wreck. And there is no fee due until the case is won in court or settled.
Mr. Berenson has successfully represented injured Texans for over 40 years. He only handles vehicle crash cases (not medical malpractice, dangerous drugs and products, etc.).
Still not sure if you want to talk to us and let us answer your questions at no charge? See what some of Mr. Berenson's clients have written about how satisfied they were with their results.

For more on this topic:

Recorded statements: why you need an attorney Need help paying your medical bills? Podcast about Rayza's claim

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. Background: Mr. Brewer represented a company that was sued after lighting hit a house, causing it to explode in Lubbock in 2012. Tragically, a young man died. The family filed a wrongful death and products liability lawsuit claiming the pipe was defective and that other parties were negligent. Brewer hired a company which conducted a poll of Lubbock residents just before trial. When the plaintiffs found out, they filed an emergency motion for sanctions against Brewer. The case settled out of court. The court heard days of testimony on the sanctions motion. Brewer said that the poll was merely designed to test his litigation themes and the questions were random and balanced. While he admitted that he had reviewed the questions, he said that an independent polling company selected the people called and that other law firms did polling before trials. Further, no court decisions or disciplinary rules prevented him from doing the survey. However, the plaintiffs claimed the telephone survey was an unethical "push poll" designed to taint the jury pool and intimidate witnesses for the plaintiffs. After hearing days of testimony, including from Brewer, the court found that Brewer's behavior was unprofessional and unethical. It wrote that the poll and the firm's other activities could have tainted the jury pool and affected the verdict. The court fined Brewer $133,000 for attorneys fees and expenses and even ordered Brewer to attend remedial ethics classes. Brewer appealed. The court of appeals in Amarillo affirmed the punishment and increased the amount to $177,000 due to additional legal fees. The court foreshadowed its opinion by quoting the Texas Constitution's guarantee that the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate. That fundamental pillar of our legal system is embodied in the 7th Amendment of the United States Constitution. The court upheld the decision and Brewer appealed to the Supreme Court. Four major trial attorney organizations filed a "friends of the court" brief opposing Brewer's conduct.

Fort Worth hearing:

The justices grilled both sides on these key questions: 1. Should an appellate court be allowed to review the trial court's role as fact-finder in sanctions cases? 2. What requirements should be set before a lawyer is sanctioned? 3. Was the telephone survey a balanced survey of potential jurors or a biased attempt to control their opinions? 4. If a trial settles out of court, does the allegedly offending attorney still interfere with the fairness of the trial? 5. Should all focus groups, mock trials, internet research into potential jurors, and polls be outlawed?

Duty to act zealously

Lawyers are held to the highest of professional conduct codes, perhaps the highest of any profession. The very first tenet in the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct is that lawyers must represent their clients competently and diligently. There can be gray areas involving legal ethics and almost every possible question has been answered by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. The very existence and future of the court system rests on attorneys' ethical behavior. The lawyer is an officer of the court and must act as the guardian of our legal system. Furthermore, the attorney is a member of the community at large who must uphold the system of justice and make sure that its image is not tarnished. The decision by the Supreme Court will provide badly needed guidance to the Texas legal community.

New decision is a rare victory for plaintiffs

If you are injured in a crash caused by someone driving while intoxicated, file a lawsuit, and receive a punitive damages award from a jury, will you be paid? A surprising federal court ruling from the country's most conservative federal appellate court of the 13 circuits decisively answered that question. Background: Carlos Sanchez got drunk at a bar in San Antonio, ran a red light, and slammed into this car driven by Richard Frederking in 2004. Sanchez pled guilty to DWI. Frederking was seriously injured and sued Sanchez for general and gross negligence and his employer for negligent entrustment of its vehicle. The jury awarded Frederking $137,000 in compensatory damages and an additional $207,000 in punitive damages because it found that Sanchez acted with gross negligence (a high bar to overcome so awards for punitive damages are uncommon). However the insurance company refused to pay the punitive damages. It crazily argued that the collision was excluded from coverage because it was not an "accident" but that Sanchez (in his inebriated state) had committed an intentional act. The company also said the crash was a natural and expected result of its policyholder choosing to drive while intoxicated. The plaintiff was required to file a second lawsuit against the insurance company in state court. The case was removed to federal court which found in favor of the insurance company. Tuesday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans reversed and remanded that decision in Frederking v. Cincinnati Insurance Company, 18-50536. In a blistering decision, the court wrote that the insurer’s efforts to escape paying this victim were typical of the industry. “Only an insurance company could come up with" an argument this contorted, the decision written by James Ho, a judge appointed by President Trump, sarcastically began. The three-judge panel found that no court had ever endorsed such a ridiculous interpretation of the word "accident" and that any driver would assume that the negligent driver was covered even if he or she were drunk. Judge Ho has already stirred up controversy with his decisions or dissents on hot political topics. His and many other Trump Administration appointments have sharply turned the nation's bench to the right.

Texas, we have a problem: we are again #1 in fatal accidents involving alcohol

Far too many Texans have to fight drunk drivers in court like Frederking did. In 2017, the last year for which the federal government has released statistics, Texas was regrettably once again first in this terrible category. And worse, the Lone Star State was at the top of all three levels of driver intoxication: from .01-.08 blood alcohol content, .08-.15 BAC, and above .15 BAC. A driver can be charged with DWI if he or she has a blood-alcohol content of .08. How much is that? If you are a typical 200-pound man, consuming six cans of beer over a 2.5-hour period will usually make you legally drunk. And if you were a 150-pound woman, even if you stretched your six beers across five hours, you’d still be over the limit. I have advocated for lowering the limit to .o5%.  Utah just did. Many countries have a 0.0% alcohol tolerance. Not one drop. Berenson Injury Law proudly supports MADD's efforts to end drunk driving In Texas the threat of injury or death as a result of a driver’s driving drunk is extreme. Over 1,000 Texans lost their lives in 2017 because a driver was DWI. There’s no reason these accidents should be more numerous here than in California, which has millions more drivers. We need to change our laws in Texas to impose more serious civil and criminal penalties on the people who choose to drive drunk. Mothers Against Drunk Driving is working to make Texas roads safer, a goal we should all get behind. MADD's most recent victory was getting HB 3582 signed into law last month. This increases the incentive for first-time offenders to agree to have engine interlocks installed in their vehicles so that drunk drivers are kept off of our streets. Here is more information about the new law. The original law has already proven to be highly effective. Berenson Injury Law is proud to be the Champion Sponsor of the North Texas Walk Like MADD on September 7th. We are also donating $50.00 restaurant gift certificates to each of the fastest male and female runners in the under 40 and over 40 categories. You can register for the race/walk or donate by clicking here.

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. SB 2342 EXPEDITED ACTIONS and JURY PANELs - Effective on 9/1/20 A new procedure where cases requesting damages of less than $100,000 can be expedited applies to cases with requested damages up to $250,000 and the limits of county courts at law are increased to that amount. The limit for justice of the peace courts doubles to $20,000. Six-person juries used in county courts at law will expand to 12 people. Effective January 1. SB 891 NEW WAY TO SERVE DEFENDANTS VIA FACEBOOK AND STATE WEBSITE and NEW COURTS A defendant can be notified on social media or by publication on a website operated by the state for certain cases (none involving personal injury). Further, certain counties will be granted new district and county courts and judges get pay raises. HB 2929 HOSPITAL LIENS - Effective on June 10, 2019 The Texas Property Code regulates how hospitals can secure payment by filing a lien even if the patient was only admitted to the emergency room. The amount the hospital can recover is capped at 50% of the total recovery and the protection in Civil Practices & Remedies Code Section 146.003 cannot be overridden. Became effective June 10th. HB 259 NAMED DRIVER POLICIES Some auto liability companies have sold "junk policies" which excluded many drivers from coverage. This law prevents these policies from being sold. HB 1631 RED LIGHT CAMERAS This controversial issue and the Supreme Court case which had just held that they were legal may increase the number of intersection collisions. These new laws become effective on September 1st unless otherwise noted.

The following bills did not pass:

HB 649 AUTO LIMITS DISCLOSURE Would have permitted a claimant to learn if the at-fault driver had liability insurance and how much his policy limit was. HB 3832 / SB 1215 MEDICAL BILLS NON-PAYMENT Would have required the court to punish the plaintiff for not having his medical bills paid by his health insurance company, even if there was a valid reason that did not happen. HB 1739 UNINSURED/UNDERINSURED LAWSUITS Would have removed the requirement that an insured driver have to first obtain a judgment against the responsible driver before he could file for benefits under his UM/UIM policy. HB 1348 AUTO REPAIRS Would have required car repair shops to use quality parts and also permit policyholders to pick their own repair shop. HB 2374 "SWOOP AND SETTLE" Would have stopped auto liability companies from pressuring injured people to release their claims immediately after the collision. Thanks to the Texas Trial Lawyers Association for this analysis. Related content: New laws that made Texas roads safer this year  

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. 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.

Medical bills after car or truck accidents often become financial nightmares. Money Magazine just wrote that a trip to an ER can destroy a typical family's finances. But this is especially a crisis in Texas where exorbitant "surprise bills" are mailed at two times the national average. One third of Texans who go to a hospital get stuck with them. To combat this abuse, state lawmakers set up a medical bills mediation program ten years ago. The word is finally getting out and the demand for this invaluable service has overwhelmed the Texas Department of Insurance.

Why we need medical bills mediation

Obviously no one ever plans to be in a car accident or have any kind of medical emergency. He certainly doesn't think he will be rushed to an expensive hospital and charged enormous amounts by the ambulance, hospital, ER doctors, radiologists, and specialists. Most people don't have the ability to pay these bills and assume they will be paid quickly by the at-fault driver's liability company and his own health insurance plan. But the injured person won't know until months later which charges, if any, were paid -- assuming he was insured and met his annual deductible. Many are not paid by the health insurance company because a provider was out of the plan's network or the hospital was is in but the doctor was out of network so the physician's bill has to be paid in full.

If you have been injured in a car accident in Texas, you might want to familiarize yourself with basic Texas car accident laws. This will give you a better understanding of how to recover your financial damages and know what questions to ask a personal injury lawyer who can assist you.

Texas Car Accident Laws

Report the car or truck crash

For starters, Texas law has a requirement that drivers must call contact the police. Hopefully a law enforcement officer will write a Texas Peace Officer's Crash Report (Form CR-3), which is required if any one reports being injured or there is damage to any vehicle more than $1,000. But we have seen many examples when drivers say that they do not want to go by ambulance to a hospital so no police report is written. Make sure this happens as the report will be very useful when you are negotiating your claim with the other insurance company or the jury is considering the testimony of the police officer at trial.

Understand insurance available

At the accident scene, drivers should exchange contact identifying details and insurance information. Obtain the names and contact information of witnesses as well. Take photos of all vehicles, the scene, and any injuries. Texas is a comparative fault auto accident state which means that the liability of all drivers will be considered so make sure that you are not considered at fault at the scene, which often happens in a two car "he said/she said" situation without independent eyewitnesses. To safeguard you, the law requires purchase of liability insurance. Minimums for the coverage are the following:
  • $30,000 for each person injured subject to a total of $60,000 for all people injured; and
  • $25,000 for all vehicle damage
However we often see at-fault drivers presenting bogus proof of insurance, expired proof, or being excluded from the policy. A good injury lawyer can immediately help you determine if the other driver has a valid insurance policy and if not, what you can do to get paid back. Furthermore, if multiple vehicles are involved, it is essential that you pursue your claim quickly and aggressively or there may not be sufficient (or any) insurance available to pay your claim and you will need to file a lawsuit and take your case to court -- and hope the other driver has sufficient resources to pay you out of his own pocket.

See a hospital or doctor

Doctor Examining Patient

It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. At the very least, make sure you see a medical professional within 48 hours. Even if you feel okay in the state of shock and with the adrenaline rush you are probably feeling, injuries caused by motor vehicle accidents may not be obvious immediately. If your injuries begin causing you problems weeks later and you have not had a checkup, the other driver's insurance company will no doubt claim that you were not injured and not pay the damages you are entitled to.

Know the responsibilities of the unsurer

Drivers may choose to buy or decline coverage for vehicle damage, liability, uninsured and underinsured motorist protection, personal injury protection, and other benefits. Once you have the time, you need to file a claim with your insurer as soon as possible.Your insurance company can either support or reject your claim within 15 days of a claim being submitted. Should the company reject the claim, it needs to provide you with an explanation. Otherwise, after acceptance, the company must pay you, by law, within five business days for the claimed amount.

Gather evidence

If you believe the other party is guilty of negligence, your personal injury attorney will help you obtain supporting documentation in the form of the police report and other evidence of how the crash happened, medical bills, lost wages, and other damages. If you have this information, this will assist you in your first meeting with a car accident attorney. Sometimes, insurance companies want policyholders to sign a release that states they will not file any more claims in relation to the wreck. Never sign off on a property damage claim if it also releases your claim for personal injuries, medical costs, lost wages, and damages. The law forbids the delay of a claim payment in lieu of a release. To ensure that you receive a just and fair settlement in a lawsuit, you must prove that the other driver had a duty to use care and that he or she breached that duty. You also need to show that this lack of care resulted in personal injuries. Therefore, you must show that a duty existed, that the duty was breached, and that breach led to your injuries. You have two years to file a lawsuit in the state of Texas to claim monetary relief, but waiting will jeopardize your case.

Determine the value of the case

Settlement

If you choose to file a lawsuit to cover your current and future medical costs as well as loss of income, the settlement amount can vary, depending on the following factors:
  • The severity of the crash;
  • Whether you were partially responsible for the accident;
  • Your injuries;
  • The medical costs;
  • The loss of income, job benefits, and future employment;
  • Any scarring;
  • Your insurance coverage and the other party’s coverage;
  • Your lawyer's ability to persuade an insurance adjuster or jury to pay favorable compensation.
Contact us so we can help you get compensated if you have been in a car or truck wreck.

People often confuse filing a personal injury claim with going to court. Most of the time, a personal injury settlement can be reached without ever filing a lawsuit. An agreement occurs when the two parties negotiate to reach a settlement amount that is reasonable. Sometimes the injured person attempts to handle the negotiation on his or her own. But they rarely get the best outcome when they handle the negotiations themselves. Insurance companies are known to use every trick in the book to take advantage of them. Negotiating is a fine art that requires skill and experience. When it is used to settle something as important as a personal injury claim, it is best left to a trained professional. The process follows a fairly structured process that needs to be understand in-depth. There are many ways to do the case substantial harm. A personal injury victim only has one chance to get a fair settlement. He cannot afford to gamble on his own capabilities. Before you talk to anyone about your personal injury settlement, you should talk with an experienced personal injury attorney who knows your rights. The first meeting is free and will be invaluable.

What Is a Personal Injury Claim?

Personal injuries occur to a person due to someone else’s negligence. The most common cause of personal injuries is vehicle accidents. The injured victim has the legal right to seek compensation for his damages from the at-fault party. Personal injury claims fall under the heading of tort law. For there to be a tort, there must be a legal duty to act in a certain way, a breach of that duty, causation and injury. Very few personal injury claims are paid by the person who caused it unless an underinsured company is involved. Few individuals have the resources to pay a claim directly from their bank accounts. There’s no real benefit to filing a claim or suing an individual who doesn’t have the money to pay. On the other hand, a skilled personal injury attorney knows how to find all of the person’s sources of money to get their client the best possible recovery. If the at-fault person has insurance, that company is responsible for paying the other person’s claim. The injured victim reports their injuries and files a claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company. If the at-fault person is not insured, he will file a claim with his own insurance company. After receiving the claim, the insurance company’s claims adjuster will determine if the claim is valid and how much he believes it is worth in court. Insurance claims adjusters count on the individual’s naivete and vulnerability during negotiations. They look for clues that the individual isn’t familiar with the process or the law. Some common mistakes people make when filing their claim are to not obtain the necessary proof of all past medical bills, future medical costs, or current and future lost income. The insurance adjuster might respond by making an offer that is too low to compensate for all of the person’s damages. Sometimes the injured party mistakenly believes taking the original offer is their only option. In any case, they need a lawyer to determine whether the offer is acceptable, or if it needs to be negotiated. A personal injury attorney does not simply use a formula to determine a fair settlement for his client. Every crash is different, and so are the factors that go into determining the value of a claim. An attorney who specializes in personal injury law knows how to calculate the full value of a crash case. More importantly, he knows how to negotiate with the insurance claims adjuster to get a fair personal injury settlement. If the insurance doesn’t agree to a fair settlement, he will go to court to fight for his client's rights. One reason that so many personal cases are settled before they ever go to court is the expense. Attorney's fees, filing fees, deposition expenses, court reporters, and other expenses can mount up quickly. A court case costs both sides a lot of time and money. Negotiating a settlement that is agreeable to both sides results in more money for the victim to pay for their damages and medical costs. Another reason is that trials are risky to both sides. There is no way to predict a jury’s decision until it hears the evidence and deliberates. Negotiating is often the best option because both sides have to agree to the outcome. There are no surprises. A bird in the hand can be worth two in the bush. That’s why being experienced and skilled at the art of negotiation is so important to the outcome. Failing to get legal advice when it’s needed will make a big difference. It’s a one-time opportunity to get it right.

What You Need to Know About Negotiating a Personal Injury Settlement

If you decide to negotiate for a personal injury settlement on your own behalf, make sure you do it in a timely and efficient manner. Even if you don’t hire an attorney to represent you, schedule a free consultation to evaluate your case. You don’t want to get hung up on an important detail that you don’t know anything about. Knowing and following the Three Ps of Negotiating is essential to your case. They are preparation, patience, and persistence. That counteracts the insurance company's Three D's of Handling Claims: deny, delay and defend. Entering into a negotiation without adequate preparation makes you vulnerable to the tactics of the claims adjuster. It’s more than a matter of crossing your Ts and dotting your Is. The insurance company is looking for problems and mistakes, however slight, that could cost you thousands and even tens of thousands of dollars. Although negotiation is faster than a long, drawn-out trial, the negotiation process still moves slowly. People who are used to resolving issues quickly will find it difficult to follow the steps of negotiation in a patient manner. Taking longer to reach an agreement can be an advantage. It gives them more time to think about their next step in the process if the negotiations don’t end there. The steps of negotiation begin as soon as the claim is filed. There’s not a lot of time allowed at the beginning of the process to get educated on personal injury law. The claimant needs to make the best use of the time in-between the negotiation steps. The same is true for persistence. Getting a very low initial offer can derail some people’s claims. Often, this is a tactic the claims adjuster uses to test your knowledge. Never enter the negotiation process without knowing what your case is worth. Once you submit your claim, stick with your original documents that confirm the seriousness of your injuries and the validity of your need for medical treatment.

Step 1: Don’t Wait to File Your Claim

Report the accident and injuries to the insurance company right away. Many of them give you only a 24-hour period to do so. Today, many claims are filed online on the insurance company’s website. If that isn’t an option, they may accept claims over the phone.

Step 2: Don't Wait to Hear from the Insurance Company

The insurance company may send you a “reservation of rights” letter soon after you submit your claim. This letter is to inform you there is a problem with coverage or liability and whether they plan to investigate your claim. Even if they do agree to investigate further, they aren’t admitting to any liability. If you haven’t already discussed your case with an attorney, now is a good time. You need to understand the full meaning of the letter and what it means for your case.

Step 3: Submit a Demand Letter to the Insurance Company

Once you have obtained medical treatment and healed from your injuries, you should send a demand letter to the insurance company. This letter should include
  • Details of how the accident happened and the seriousness of your injuries.
  • Your itemized damages, including your medical expenses, lost income, and any out-of-pocket expenses including co-pays and car rental fees. Your attorney will determine how much to include for these special damages, along with the compensation you deserve for general damages.
  • Damages for pain and suffering. A ‘multiplier” is used to determine the amount of compensation you should receive for pain and suffering. The multiplier is based on the severity of the injuries, how long they last, and the pain you endure. Serious injuries often require pain management treatment. Long-term injuries and those that last a lifetime will cause more pain and suffering than those that heal in a few weeks or so.

Step 4: Wait for a Response

Once you submit a demand letter, the insurance company’s claims adjuster should respond. They may call you to make an offer or provide you with a return letter that includes a written offer. It is better not to talk directly with the claims director. Your personal injury attorney knows the tactics used by insurance companies to pay less. He will use his knowledge and skills to negotiate a better settlement on your behalf. He will make a counteroffer on the initial offer given by the insurance company and continue to fight to make the company pay top dollar.

Step 5: Reject an Offer That Is Too Low

You or your attorney should write a response letter to the claims adjuster rejecting the offer. In addition, the letter should include a counteroffer. This offer should be only a little lower than the original offer you made. Don’t let the claims adjuster minimize the extent of your injuries. Explain how serious they are and the impact they have had on every area of your life. The goal at this point is to keep the negotiations going without agreeing to a significant reduction in the amount.

Step 6: Wait for the Negotiations to Continue

Negotiation is a process of back-and-forth. Sometimes it can be difficult to wait on a response to your counteroffer. Patience is one of the most vital skills a negotiator has. The insurance claims adjuster might be taking their time to evaluate your claim. Maybe they know taking their time will make you more agreeable to a lower offer. Don’t step out of line in the negotiating process. If you submit another offer before you get a response, it will impact your case and result in your getting a lower personal injury settlement. After all, they aren’t going to agree to your original offer if you give them a better deal.

Step 7: Accept or Decline the Final Offer

If the claims adjuster accepts your last offer, they will notify you of the settlement agreement. At this point, the negotiations are over, and you will receive the settlement amount you submitted last. If not, they may respond with a final settlement offer. If you feel happy with the offer, you will need to follow several steps to accept it. It’s a little more complex than receiving a check and cashing it.
  • If the personal injury claim is due to an automobile accident and you have underinsured motorist coverage with your insurance company, you must obtain consent from your automobile insurer to accept the settlement. Otherwise, they may deny your claim for benefits from your underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Most injured victims must use their personal health insurance to pay for their initial medical treatment. Once you receive your personal injury settlement, the insurance company must be reimbursed. This complex area of the law is called subrogation and requires the expertise of an attorney.
  • Send a confirmation letter to the insurance company showing that you agree to the settlement amount. If you received and agreed to the offer over the phone, submit a confirmation of settlement letter to the insurance company which states the agreed upon settlement amount.
  • Have your attorney review the terms of release before you accept the offer.
  • Sign the release form and submit it to the insurance company.
  • Take any additional steps suggested by your attorney. Every case is different. Make copies of all documents you send to the insurance company to keep for your records.
If you don’t feel that the offer is acceptable, the next step is to file a personal injury lawsuit. If your case progresses to this point, an attorney who is familiar with your claim is your most valuable asset. Even if you haven’t had legal representation up to this point, you need to have it now. If you have filed a personal injury claim for your injuries from a vehicle accident, contact Berenson Injury Law. Bill Berenson is a top rated Texas attorney who fights for his client’s rights. Get the legal guidance you need to maximize your compensation and pursue your injury claims.
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