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Insurance companies use Colossus program to pay less money. Here's what you can do about it.

If you have been injured in a vehicle crash, you want to know how you can recover your damages. Our personal injury law firm will fight to get you fairly compensated. But almost every car insurance company uses a manipulative software program called Colossus to minimize the amount of money they pay to injured victims. This post explains how you can combat this software to make more money.

The pandemic caused people to drive less last year. Roads were almost empty for months due to lockdowns, virtual work and school, and home deliveries. So a new report showing that 2020 was one of the worst years for fatal car accidents came as a shock to safety officials.

All time high for fatal car accidents

According to the National Safety Council
  • Over 42,000 Americans lost their lives in car accidents in 2020 -- a huge increase over the year before and the highest total in 13 years;
  • A shocking 5,000,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes last year;
  • For the first half of 2020, while the number of miles dropped by 17%, the number of fatal car accidents increased by 20%;
  • Collisions are now the leading cause of death for our children and young people from ages 1-25; and
  • The cost to our country is an astonishing one-half trillion dollars a year.
  • Almost 4,000 Texans perished in a vehicle crash, the highest total in years. Year after year, Texas has the highest number of fatal car accidents in the United States.
This is crazy. How could this possibly have happened?

After the horrific February 11th chain reaction that took the lives of six people and injured scores of others, it was announced that a federal agency would investigate. Well, that was the least that could happen. We need to find out what caused Fort Worth's deadly crash and how another tragedy like this can be avoided. However, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that the National Transportation Safety Board will only look into whether the toll lanes had been deiced before the historic storm shut down Texas for a week - if it makes a report at all. Critics say a complete investigation and remedial action is needed. We wholeheartedly agree. This was the worst massive collision in our city's history. It could have and should have been prevented.

How Fort Worth's deadly crash scene unfolded

Early that morning, freezing rain began falling. This added to the already iced over roads. It was dark outside. Motorists driving down a hill on Interstate 35 between 28th Street and Northside Drive had no time to react to cars and trucks that had wrecked ahead of them. They slammed on their brakes but were unable to stop, causing a whopping 133 vehicles to collide into each other. There are no shoulders on the toll lanes on the toll lanes. But they would not have been of much use with cars and trucks driving 75+ miles an hour on treacherous roads. This bad weather was predicted. We warned drivers days before to stay off the roads and gave winter driving tests since we rarely, if ever, see them. But the toll lanes remained open for business as usual, as if nothing bad could happen. There were no warning signs, barriers, lane closures, or police to reduce or slow down traffic. After the tragedy, we asked
  • why the toll roads with the 75-mile-per-hour speed limits were open in the first place, and
  • whether the poor design of the toll roads made this pile-up inevitable.

What will happen next

It is not clear what will come out of the federal investigation, if anything. Usually, NTSB defers to state and other agencies and does not get involved in vehicle crashes. Further, it did not send out its own crash team as it should have done. Who will investigate and who (if anyone) will be blamed? The Texas Department of Transportation is not going to fault the North Tarrant Express Mobility Partners which owns and operates the toll lanes. That private company gets to keep all of the tolls collected for 52 years in exchange for funding and building them. It allows as many drivers as possible to make more money -- even during a crippling ice storm. TxDOT is obviously not going to held liable since it was not in charge of the toll lanes and enjoys sovereign immunity from prosecution in most cases. We may have to wait until the verdicts in the lawsuits that have and will be filed to learn what really happened. The first one was filed in South Texas against six of the 18-wheeler drivers and their companies, not against Mobility Partners. That business has denied that it is at fault for causing Fort Worth's deadly crash because it applied deicing brine on Tuesday night. This disaster happened Thursday morning. Any report that blames road crews sweeps the real blame under the rug.

Is 75 mph a safe speed?

Further, the state legislature passed a law that set 75 miles per hour as the default speed limit unless a slower (or faster) limit was prescribed. However the test that determined that 75 mph was safe was conducted in perfect conditions when the weather was good and traffic was light. And we know that many drivers speed, so they may have been exceeding that limit that morning. NTSB has the power to recommend that Congress or a federal agency make or revise laws based on what its investigation reveals.

The lethal combination of higher speed limits and poor road design

To hold down the cost of the $1.4 billion reconstruction of I-35 West, shoulders and break-down lanes were eliminated. Speeds limits were increased to encourage drivers to pay large tolls to use them. The vice president of government affairs at the National Safety Council, Jane Terry, was furious about what happened here. "We need people to become outraged over this because we need to do better," she said. You have to wonder if speed limits are safe to begin with. A national group called the Governors Highway Safety Association has urged the federal government to reduce speed limits to save lives. Its director called on Congress to curtail drivers who go to fast: "Let's treat speeding the same way we treat seat belt use and drunk driving." The Biden administration is proposing that billions of dollars be added to the federal highway construction program. This is the perfect time to look into how our roads can be safer. You can bet that the speed limits on the toll lanes are not going to decrease or that the expressway will be closed down the next time we have deadly weather like we did last month. And it is a given that the roads will not be redesigned to allow more room to avoid crashes. But they should. Berenson Injury Law has successfully represented thousands of motorists over the past 40 years. We only handle car, truck, 18-wheeler, motorcycle, and pedestrian injury and death claims. We also advocate to make our roads safer so that crashes don't happen in the first place. Please contact us if you need any help with a crash that you have been involved with. Star Telegram article: Will NTSB expand its probe into deadly I35W pileup? 

  • How does a child collect money from the other driver's insurance company?
  • Is the money paid now?
  • What can it be used for?
  • Do I have to file a lawsuit and go to court?
  • Will my child have to testify?

LEGAL PROCESS WHEN A CHILD IS INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT

The parents should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer. He or she can usually represent all people injured in the collision, including the parents if they were the driver or passenger. One or both of them will represent their child/children as their guardian or "next friend." The car accident attorney will attempt to negotiate a favorable settlement, depending on the facts of the case. If this can be accomplished, the adults can settle their claims and and receive their proceeds immediately. If a good settlement cannot be reached, the injury lawyer will file a lawsuit. However, the child cannot be paid until he or she reaches the age of 18 and is emancipated. Until then, they obviously do not have the legal capacity to make decisions, including hiring an attorney or settling a personal injury claim. Instead, the parents will approve the final settlement or decide to file a lawsuit. Many times, an attractive settlement can be attained. At that time, the parents' lawyer files what seems like an oxymoron -- a"friendly lawsuit" where the details have been agreed to in advance.

THE ROLE OF THE GUARDIAN AD LITEM

The judge appoints a guardian ad litem to represent the child's best interests. They investigate the case, meet with the parents, consult with the attorneys involved, and study the medical records and bills. They advise the court whether the offer is fair, all medical bills have been paid or will be paid, and the needs of the child have been carefully considered. When I am appointed by a judge as the guardian ad litem, I also reduce or further cut down outstanding medical bills and liens to get the child a larger recovery of money. The parties appear before the judge (by Zoom during the pandemic) at a hearing. The minor child does not need to attend. The court hears the testimony and normally approves the settlement. This hearing is required or the child could file a lawsuit when he or she attains the age of 18. A record is made showing that the parents and the insurance company understood the legal details to prevent future disputes. The fee for the guardian ad litem is paid for by the insurance company.

WHAT CAN THE FUNDS FOR A CHILD INJURED IN A CAR ACCIDENT BE USED FOR?

The money belongs to the child, not the parents. The funds cannot be paid to someone even if they are 17.
The money cannot be given to the parents before then. The funds are solely for the use and benefit of the child injured in a car accident and as a matter of law, have to be protected for the child's future. You occasionally hear of stories like one in Utah where several months ago, a man was recently charged with felony theft for stealing his daughter's substantial settlement.
A court allows the minor child's funds to be used to pay for things that directly help the child, particularly paying medical bills and liens. If there are future medical expenses, they are the responsibility of the parents until the child turns 18.  If the child is still undergoing medical treatment, the case should be postponed until he or she has recovered and the value of the claim can be determined. The parents' lost wages caring for the child are not reimbursed. Special educational needs (e.g. an arts program the parents cannot afford for a budding artist) can occasionally be paid from the funds. Buying a car is rarely allowed unless there is a compelling reason. I am involved in a case now where a 15-year-old really wants to start driving when he turns 16. I have explained to the mother that unless that is the only way he can get to school, this will not be approved by a judge.

HOW IS THE MONEY INVESTED ?

There are two choices for how the money is distributed. A. Annuity: This is a guaranteed insurance contract that will be used when the amount of the settlement is higher. There are different plans that can pay money on different payout schedules. Most courts like to see a "college plan" where money is divided between ages 18 - 22 in annual, semi-annual, or monthly payments. Other schedules can be chosen by the parents. This is preferable to giving a large sum of money to the just turned 18-year-old who can plunk the money down on a new car or take a vacation. The advantages to an annuity is that the funds are protected and offer favorable interest rates and tax benefits.
B. Registry of the court: (the bank account administered by the county).However if the child's settlement is relatively small, usually less than $10,000, payment can often be made up front. That is because most annuity companies cannot fund such a small amount of money due to start-up costs. The insurance company writes a check to the county clerk and the money is deposited into the "registry of the court." The fund accrues interest and when the child reaches the age of 18, they can go to the county administration building and with be paid in full. C.  Disability payments: if the car wreck is very serious and the child is disabled, consideration must be given to whether Social Security disability benefits can be paid. If so, a special needs trust may be needed.

IF YOU HAVE QUESTIONS

My law firm can answer your questions and help you through what can be a complicated process. We only handle car and truck wreck cases. There are far too many of them in Texas. One just happened this morning here and four children are reported injured. There is never a charge for the first consultation and all legal services and costs are free unless and until you recover money. Please contact our office at 1-885-801-8585 or click here.

Texas wrongful death lawsuits will provide answers; Griddy also sued for price gouging

A lawsuit was filed by three people injured in the massive 133-vehicle pile-up on the express lanes of I-35 on February 11. Six people tragically lost their lives and at least 60 people were injured. Many other Texas wrongful death lawsuits and personal injury suits will be filed to establish liability and collect damages. The plaintiffs accuse five companies of failing to hire, train and supervise capable drivers. The drivers are accused of driving too fast for the icy road conditions. The lawsuit was filed in the 93rd District Court in Hidalgo County where one of the companies is headquartered. The 18-wheeler companies sued were Federal Express Package System Inc., JB Hunt Transport, Inc., Rich Transport, LLC, GG's Produce Transport, LLC, and Go To Logistics, Inc. The chain reaction was caused by
  • a thin layer of black ice;
  • freezing rain;
  • darkness;
  • 75 miles per hour speed limit;
  • lack of shoulders; and
  • no warning signs.
This was a catastrophe waiting to happen. Drivers reported that when they hit their brakes, there was no way to stop their vehicles. NTE Mobility Partners, which operates and maintains the toll lanes, said that it had applied brine on Tuesday evening. It is not clear at this point whether (1) more or a different de-icing agent should have been applied closer to the time of the crashes; and (2) if the toll lanes should have even been open. That photograph is crazy, especially since today's temperature will get to 81 a week or so later. But it is troubling that our city and state were so unprepared for bad weather. Several state representatives have demanded answers to how these disasters could have happened. The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation. Trials in the Texas wrongful death lawsuits will provide answers and accountability.

Deadly winter storm caused by energy grid and local power companies according to new suits

In related litigation news arising out of the historic freeze, several lawsuits have been filed against the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) on behalf of those who died in last week's paralyzing storm. ERCOT was widely condemned for its management of the electrical grid, turning off power to four million Texans when the wind chill was below zero. It then left power off for days instead of providing rolling blackouts as it first promised. ERCOT provides almost all of Texas's energy and we cannot borrow energy from the other two national sectors. Several local Houston-based energy company have been also sued. Several people froze to death, including an 11-year-old boy. It is tragic that at least 29 Texans were killed during the storm, including the six in the tragic Fort Worth collisions. That number is more than one-half of the 56 people who died in the United States. And we were 4 1/2 minutes away from having no power for months. Investigations are needed to make sure we understand how these deaths occurred and how they can be prevented in the future. The legal process will provide relief to the surviving families and victims.

Natural gas supplier Griddy also sued

In further related storm news, the power supplier was named in a $1 billion class action lawsuit yesterday. It was accused of price gouging by a Houston-area woman whose usual bill of $200 to $250 per month shot up to $9,340.

Due to the deregulated Texas energy market, Griddy and other electrical providers can increase their prices, depending on market conditions.

Natural gas bills increased by 10,000% for many customers. That is outrageous.

People need to be protected

Federal and state officials need to prevent deadly but preventable highway crashes, power outages, and energy price gouging from happening so innocent Texans are not hurt and killed next winter if the temperatures plummet.
Please contact Berenson Injury Law if we can assist you with a car, truck, or 18-wheeler collision causing you injuries.

There have been hundreds of car wrecks in Texas since the historic winter storm shut down our state this week. If you have been injured in a Texas icy road accident, you need to know how to proceed. This article will answer questions you may have including
  • What should you do at the scene and later on?
  • When and how can you make an insurance claim?
  • Can you file on the other driver's liability company, your company, or both?
  • How can you prove the other driver was at fault?
  • Will you have to file a lawsuit?

10 steps to take if you have been in a Texas icy road accident

  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KZKy1NbG3gc&feature=youtu.be

Horrifying series of collisions shuts down I-35

Early this morning, a thin layer of ice coating the high-speed toll lanes near North Side Drive on Interstate 35 North caused one of the worst series of crashes that Fort Worth has ever seen. The catastrophe made national headlines. This video shows the clean-up of the estimated 133 vehicles in the pile-up. Berenson Injury Law has handled many crashes on I-35, including a death caused when the reconstruction of the highway happened.

A winter weather advisory is in effect for North Texas today. There is a good chance of freezing temperatures and rain that could leave a sheet of ice on our roads and bridges. By Saturday night, the wind chill may be almost zero degrees. We may break all-time low records on Sunday. The roads could be treacherous by then. Texans rarely have to drive on dangerous streets, so the chance of being in a car or truck crash will multiply. Hitting a patch of ice could lead to disaster. Here is a real-time map that will help you plan a safe route from DriveTexas.org. The problem is compounded because other drivers will forget to slow down. Others will continue to text and drive. Even worse, some will drink and drive. Unfortunately, police officers and emergency rooms (and yes, personal injury lawyers) will be busier than usual.

Tips to keep you safe

Doctor Examining Patient

So as you can see, this is a very important topic. The problem is that you will not know in advance which doctors you need to see, what they charge, and who is paying them. That is the reason that the statute of limitations in Texas is two years from the date of the collision. Lawmakers knew how long this process can take and gave injured Texans two years to treat and then negotiate their insurance claim or file a lawsuit.

How to get your medical bills paid before the settlement or jury verdict

You might assume that State Farm, GEICO, or the insurance company the negligent driver is covered by will automatically mail you reimbursement checks. Unfortunately, this never happens. Why not? Insurance companies, like businesses, do everything they can to maximize their profits. They do this in two ways: raising premiums and lowering the money they pay in claims.
That is why the company often denies fault and minimizes damages. It does not want to pay much, if any, money until an aggressive personal injury lawyer makes them. How much should the insurance company pay if it assumes liability and decides to make an offer? You can't get an accurate answer from the internet, a friend, or a lawyer commercial on TV. Without the expert help of an experienced personal injury lawyer, you are not be in a position to know how much a car accident case is worth.

Ways to get your medical bills paid before the settlement or jury verdict

No one will tell you what your final tally for your medical bills will be. Rarely will they even know. Hopefully your pain will resolve quickly. But each person is different and you may continue to need medical treatment.  These are some places to start to get your medical bills paid quickly.

1. Health insurance

You should file on your plan. But you need to know that there can be complications. We see these on a daily basis:
  • You have not met your annual deductible (especially now that it is January and a new year has begun);
  • Large co-pays are required;
  • The plan claims it does not have to pay anything since the other driver's policy is the primary one responsible:
  • Your company says that your hospital or doctors were out-of-network;
  • Your hospital or doctors refuse to file on your health insurance, wanting more money from the driver's liability insurance carrier;
  • The plan limits which doctors you can see and how many times you can see them;
  • The doctors on the plan refuse to treat you because they fear the case may go to court; and/or
  • The plan pays but files a subrogation lien demanding repayment.

2. Personal injury protection 

PIP is a very useful policy that you or the vehicle owner may have purchased. It will pay you and everyone in your vehicle up to a minimum of $2,500 for medical bills and 80% of lost wages. Here is more information that can help you: How to maximize Texas Personal Injury Protection

3. Medical payments

"Med Pay" is a limited option you or the owner may have bought but it has a big disadvantage: you have to repay your company back when you recover money.

4. Uninsured motorists

Your uninsured motorist policy can be utilized if the careless driver has no liability insurance or causes a hit and run - both of which happen often in Texas.
Recovering damages when driver hit by an uninsured driver

5. Underinsured motorists

Underinsured motorists coverage can be filed on if the bad driver only had the minimum policy of $30,000 per person and your damages are clearly much higher than that. For example, you had to have surgery, your medical bills were $50,000, and you lost wages of $5,000.
Takeaway: the other insurance company does not have to reimburse you for your medical bills up front and will try to underpay you later.

We can help you

If you have suffered from personal injuries caused by another driver in Fort Worth, Dallas, or anywhere in North Texas, you should also seek the assistance of an experienced lawyer. The personal injury claims process is complicated and trying to handle the claim or lawsuit yourself can cost thousands of dollars. We will guide you through the snake-like process. Among other steps we take, we will
  • obtain the police report and speak to the officer,
  • investigate how the collision happened,
  • get statements from eyewitnesses,
  • secure photographs and other evidence,
  • prove liability,
  • work with you and your doctors to get the medical treatment you need so you heal as quickly as possible,
  • make sure their payment is made or secured,
  • document your injuries and medical bills so you can be fairly compensated, and
  • negotiate a favorable out-of-court settlement or file a lawsuit.
For over 40 years, Berenson Injury Law has successfully represented injured Texans. The only way an insurance company will ever pay someone a reasonable amount of money is if it believes that the injury attorney can convince a judge and jury to award a large verdict. Our experienced team of professionals will help you figure out your best strategy. We tailor a plan to meet the individual needs of every client.
Please let us know how we can help you by calling us at 817-885-8000 (toll-free at 1-888-801-8585) or by filling out this contact form.
For more information please read:
Our next post which will give you more ways to get your medical bills paid or deferred. New ways health insurance companies cheat car wreck victims Two new ways medical records and costs will be easier to obtain  

Ticket for Texting and Driving

The epidemic of DWIs in DFW is officially out of control

When a judge and police officer were disgracefully jailed last week for driving while intoxicated, you know that we have a crisis. How can people paid to enforce the law break it? Committing DWIs in DFW is outrageous for drivers plus being hypocritical when committed by those supposed to protect us from drunk drivers in the first place. So what happened and why do we bring this to your attention? 1. Dallas County criminal district judge Friday night, a judge crashed into a light pole in the 13500 block of Midway Road around 11:00 p.m. She was arrested and taken to the Farmers Branch Police Department jail and released the next day on bond. Criminal judges make life-changing decisions that can imprison people for the rest of their lives. Civil judges determine the amount of damages to be paid to victims of DWIs in DFW who are injured in auto and truck collisions. The judge involved here has served for two years. Before then, she practiced as a criminal defense attorney. She obviously knew better. 2. Fort Worth Police Department lieutenant On Tuesday afternoon at 3:00 p.m., a lieutenant was arrested for driving while intoxicated in front of an elementary school. He was spotted asleep behind the wheel of his police cruiser. And for some unexplained reason, there was a child in the back seat. He is a high-ranking and experienced 14-year veteran with the FWPD. He clearly knew better.

3. Firefighter injured in wrong-way crash

As just one of thousands of examples of how serious DWIs in DFW are, early Sunday morning an Irving firefighter suffered a traumatic brain injury when a drunk driver who was going the wrong way on State Highway 183 hit him. Aaron Donohue was working a five-vehicle collision caused by (guess who) a drunk driver in the closed-off westbound lanes. The 23-year-old woman from Arlington had been driving the wrong way for miles on this busy highway. She said that she thought she was headed east towards Dallas. She continued to drive after nearly killing Mr. Donohue. It is truly a miracle that someone - or some people - did not die. This crash has become an unfortunately routine collision in North Texas.

DWIs in DFW epidemic rage on

North Texas is always at the top of the list for these especially deadly crashes in our state. There were about 5,000 collisions last year in the four counties that make up the heart of the Metroplex. They tragically took the lives of 131 people. Every one of these crashes was 100% preventable. Wrong-way and hit-and-run crashes are often caused by intoxicated drivers. If they are caught, it is common for a personal injury lawyer to investigate and learn they have no liability insurance or any way to pay for the (often enormous) damages they have caused.

What should be done

The illegal actions of these two are aberrations, since virtually every other judge and police officer is a hard-working, law-abiding professional who does a good job performing their duties. This judge and lieutenant are entitled to a presumptions of innocence and trials. Until then, we call on them to be suspended and even fired. If found guilty, they must be given the maximum punishment. Further, their sentences must be heavily publicized to serve as warnings to others who would violate already thinly-enforced DWI laws. We understand that the pandemic is the #1 problem now. But the DWI crisis existed long before the virus began this winter and will keep surging after we hopefully can bring Covid-19 under control. MADD was started by a mother 40 years ago after her teen-aged daughter was killed in a drunk driving crash and its work is more urgent now than ever. We must take action to prevent the driving public from the never-ending saga of DWIs in DFW. The fact that a district judge and police official think nothing of violating the law is alarming. OK, we already know about the countless celebrities like Justin Bieber, Kevin Hart, and Keanu Reeves, not to mention the high-profile sports figures like Tiger Woods, Michael Phelps, and Mike Tyson who have been charged with driving while intoxicated. But when the public sees criminal laws being so flagrantly disregarded by the very people who take oaths to uphold them, this obviously sends the wrong message. Trust in government and law enforcement is already badly eroded. Our country is still reeling from protests against the police and officials after one of the most turbulent years in our history. We expect and need the highest standard of conduct from our elected representatives, judges, and police officers. That is why this topic is so important.

We can help you

We are ready and able to investigate motor vehicle collisions, work with medical professionals, develop files, handle insurance claims, get medical bills and lost wages paid, answer all questions, and file lawsuits as necessary against reckless drivers - especially drunk ones. Last week, we filed suit against an extremely drunk driver in Fort Worth who caused a man to die and another to be seriously injured. Many of our clients have been injured by intoxicated (or stoned) drivers. And one woman was crashed into by two drunk driver within the last year. Here is a photograph of her SUV upside down on Interstate 20. We successfully obtained all insurance available from several policies in both of the cases. If you have been injured by any negligent driver, call us at 1-885-801-8585 or chat with us. There is no charge with the first consultation. We will guide you through what can be a complicated process and fight to get you the compensation you deserve.
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