If you have been injured in a car accident in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, your legal damages may exceed the at-fault driver's liability policy. If that happens, how can you be fairly compensated?
How do you win your case? Car accidents can be overwhelming. If you have been injured in a car accident and believe that someone else is at fault, you naturally feel that you are entitled to recover compensation for your damages. Screaming at her or him is not going to help you. Proving liability is the key, as the at-fault driver often denies responsibility and their insurance carrier refuses to make any payments.
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.
When you are rushed to a hospital after a car crash, the cost for treatment and testing often exceeds $10,000. But instead of filing on limited insurance policies, the hospital can file a hospital lien to guarantee that it will be paid in full from your settlement or verdict. This is unfair and can wreck settlements. A major national newspaper just reported about the abuses with hospital liens. It noted that one hospital makes a shocking $10 million a year this way. How rich hospitals profit from patients in car crashes However, sometimes the hospital does not follow Texas law and its lien is not enforceable.
What are the requirements for a hospital lien to be valid?
- The required information is omitted;
- The patient is admitted after the allowable time;
- The facility does not file the hospital lien with the correct county clerk or at all;
- The hospital charges too much;
- The medical treatment is for too long of a period of time; and/or
- The hospital accepts partial payment.
Is there a limit to the amount covered by the lien?Yes, the amount must be reasonable for necessary services to treat a serious medical problem. However, proving these criteria can be difficult. Fortunately, thanks to a new law that took effect on January 1st, a personal injury lawyer can use cost estimates that the hospital is required to post on its website. For example, a hospital charged $3,400 for each of the four CT scans performed, but its site says that the test should only cost $675, so this saved our client a large amount of money. The attorney can also research what other local hospitals charge for the same services. Further, the total medical bill cannot exceed more than 50% of all amounts received by the injured person. For example, if the victim receives the negligent driver's total insurance policy of $30,000 and the hospital bill is $20,000, it must reduce the amount below $15,000. However, that is still an enormous amount, so the cap is often ineffective at making sure the patient is fairly compensated. In addition, the hospital is required to bill the patient's health insurance company, Medicare, or Medicaid plans within (1) the date on any applicable contract or (2) at the latest, by the first day of the 11th month after the injury. If the hospital partially collects on the patient's health insurance policy, it is barred from further payment from the patient. A new law will prevent surprise bills.
How do you know if a hospital lien was filed?Further, the lien must be filed before the patient deposits the check that they receive from their attorney. The hospital is not required to write or call the patient or their lawyer. But the minute the lien is filed, all parties have automatic notice. They can be held legally accountable if they do not pay the hospital. In other words, you can not claim ignorance as an excuse for nonpayment. Therefore, a careful last-minute search is necessary. Here is a list of all the county clerks in Texas to contact to verify filing. Some courts have held that even if the person's name is misspelled or information is missing, the lien is still valid, so check other spellings if it does not appear the first time.
Can only the first hospital file a lien?No, a lien can also be filed by providers including the
- ambulance company in smaller counties with populations less than 800,000;
- emergency room physicians if the reasonable cost of the services is less than $1,000; and
- if the victim is transferred to another hospital, the lien also protects the second facility.
Are all insurance policies covered?
No, the lien does not attach to the victim's own insurance policies including personal injury protection and uninsured/underinsured motorists benefits. In other words, if the other driver who causes the collision did not have a valid liability policy, did not have enough insurance coverage, or the patient was paid by a benefit available under his own auto policy or by workers compensation, the hospital cannot assert the lien.
How can the hospital lien be removed or reduced?
- what their injuries are,
- whether he or she needs surgery,
- how much their medical bills and lost wages are,
- how much pain they have and will experience, and
- if they have suffered other damages.
More resources to get your medical bills paid or deferredYou need to know up-front that this process is not easy. There is no one-size-fits-all solution and more than one source of funds is usually needed. You will have access to some of the following resources but not others. Calling or writing the medical provider if you believe that you have been overcharged or the services were inadequate may assist you. The Texas Department of Insurance has some useful resources including Texas Department of State Health and the Texas Medical Board also investigate complaints against hospital and doctor for over billing. A good car accident lawyer will help you put together the pieces of your jigsaw puzzle. Mr. Berenson is one of the top-rated personal injury attorneys in North Texas. He only represents people who have been injured in car, truck, and 18-wheeler collisions. Contact him if you have any questions about your injury claim.
How to get your medical bills paid before the settlement or jury verdictThat 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
5. Underinsured motorists
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
How can a personal injury attorney obtain medical records and costs?After a car crash or other tortious act, the lawyer must obtain the victim's medical records and calculate their bills to prevail in their lawsuit or insurance claim. Unfortunately the process to obtain medical records can be expensive and slow and the ability to learn medical costs has been nonexistent. But these should not be road blocks that delay litigation and hobble insurance claims in our high-speed digital world. So it is good news to both plaintiff lawyers and their clients that the federal government has adopted two important remedies to fix these problems.
1. New medical records rule
- Deadlines for healthcare providers to deliver electronic records to patients are shortened to 15 days, half of the 30 days now allowed;
- Records must be delivered to injured people who request their records online free of charge; and
- Patients can request that records also be sent to their attorney.
How to get medical records efficientlyIn 2009, as part of the Recovery Act to counteract the Great Recession, Congress enacted the HITECH Act. It substantially expanded and required electronic health information use in the medical industry. One commentator called it "HIPAA on steroids." That aging privacy law and medical records delivery system enacted in 1996 was rarely enforced and if so, penalties were minor. One of its best features of HITECH was the patient's ability to to obtain records for only $6.50 per record-set plus postage and the labor cost of the provider, not the costs of outsourced providers including HealthPort and Ciox. Costs may increase if the records are recorded on paper. This fee superseded any state law that allowed higher amounts. This was critical since enormous mark-ups are the norm. Records regarding a hospitalization with surgery can cost over $1,000, and more with required affidavits. HITECH allowed an individual to obtain their electronic medical records within 30 days by using a simple request. He or she could also direct that they be sent to their attorney or other party. Practice tips: 1. Only the individual, not an attorney, can make the HITECH request. The letter should simply designate who the recipient of the records is and be signed by the individual. 2. He or she must pay for the records. 3. The individual can designate their attorney to receive the records. 4. If the individual has deceased or is incompetent, a personal representative may sign the request of their behalf. 5. However, the attorney is allowed to fax the letter from their office on the client's behalf and can write a follow-up letter notifying the provider that it has violated HIPAA regulations and that he or she intends to file a complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. 6. A HIPAA third-party authorization is not required. 7. All records, including x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, film and CDs, bills, and audit rails, must be produced. The only exception is for psychiatric notes taken during a counseling session and documents prepared for litigation or quality control. 8. If the responding provider/records custodian does not reply, file a complaint filed with the Office of Civil Rights at HHS. See www.hhs.gov/ocr/complaints/index.html 9. Sometimes, this process is not as easy as it should be. More information about this process and how to meet objections from the records providers is here.
The decision that caused the new ruleThe new rule undoes the damage to plaintiffs caused by a lawsuit filed by a national medical records provider which claimed that HITECH caused it to lose a substantial amount of money. A federal judge on the D.C. Circuit ruled in January 2020 that third parties -- especially law firms -- could no longer obtain those records inexpensively and made other decisions that reduced the simplicity and cost-savings of HITECH.
Huge penalties can be assessedThe U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has actively enforced patients' rights to obtain their records cheaply and quickly. Each violation can be penalized with a fine up to $1 million.
2. New medical costs ruleEffective January 1, 2021 the Price Transparency Rule requires all U.S. hospitals to publicize 300 of their standard charges on their websites. This must be in an easily readable and searchable format to enable patients to make intelligent decisions about the cost of upcoming operations, diagnostic tests, and treatment. For example, one of the largest hospital chains in Texas has disclosed for the first time that a magnetic resonance image to the cervical spine will cost $958.19 (without health insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid). This is useful information.
What lies ahead?The process of obtaining medical records and calculating the reasonable cost of medical bills will continue to be one of the thorniest aspects of a personal injury lawsuit. The battle will continue. For example, a new bill has been pre-filed in the Texas Legislature that convenes tomorrow to further reduce the amount of medical bills that can be allowed as "paid or incurred." Stay tuned.
How to avoid a pedestrian injuryYou never think a car or truck is going to hit you as you are walking until it does. Here are some things you must do to prevent this from happening:
- Maintain constant vigilance and walk defensively;
- Wear high visible clothes, especially in the early morning and late afternoon hours when drivers are dashing to and from work;
- Don't wear headphones in both ears - or at all;
- Don't run stop signs and lights if you are cycling; and
- Don't walk and read your cell phone
Cases we are handlingOur law firm just filed a lawsuit on behalf of a man who was seriously injured when his truck was rear-ended by an extremely intoxicated driver. That caused his truck to flip over and land on a man who was working outside, tragically taking his life. We just settled a major case for a man seriously injured as he walked next to an interstate highway late at night. We are representing a young man struck as he crossed the street to catch his school bus, a woman paralyzed after she was hit by a vehicle in north Fort Worth, and several other pedestrians. We have handled pedestrian and bicyclist injury cases over the past 40 years.
Berenson Injury Law can help youMr. Berenson runs, walks, and cycles on our roads and understands the dangers involved. He strongly recommends that Fort Worth residents use the wonderful Trinity Trail network. Here is a photo where it goes by his building for the last 37 years (his firm's offices can be seen near the top).
- serving on the Road Safety committee of the Fort Worth Safe Cities Coalition,
- supporting the Fort Worth Independent School District's and Blue Zones Project's Safer Routes to School program,
- sponsoring Fort Worth's first city-wide bike rodeo last year, and
- arranging bicycles and helmets to be donated to schools.
Please stay safe out there during these difficult times.
In both categories, insurance companies often claim that they are not responsible for paying the damages claimed. They argue they are only liable for the damages their policyholder caused from the date of the tort forward -- if there was a new injury at all. Read: How preexisting injury can harm your case unless you do these things These cases often go to trial. The judge decides whether an eggshell plaintiff or preexisting injury instruction should be given to the jury. It hears evidence about prior conditions and decides damages. There can be legal road blocks. In every negligence claim, the plaintiff must convince the judge or jury of certain elements. One is that the defendant's breach of the duty they owed caused their injuries. Another is that this breach is the proximate cause of their losses.
The plaintiff will need documentation from an accident reconstruction expert and doctors. Magnetic resonance images may show that they need major surgery to repair discs in their spinal column. Or they may have injured discs but at a different levels and places. The personal injury lawyer will obtain your complete medical files and diagnostic films, not just since the crash date, but for the five to ten years before it happened. They can prove that the plaintiff had no previous injury or that it is a different one.
Texas trial law is adding a new instructionThe 2020 Texas Pattern Jury Charges that may be published next month will apparently revise the instructions substantially. We will revise this post when the PJC is published. We can help you We specialize in motor accident cases and have helped injured drivers across Texas for over 40 years. Many have preexisting conditions or are older. We use our expertise and experience to fight insurance company abuse and unfair tactics. We recently filed a lawsuit when a company's driver crashed into our frail clients who were 82 and 81 and recovered a substantial amount. If you have any questions, please contact us. Related posts: How much is a car accident case worth? What Texas car accident adjusters don't want you to know about your case Please contact our office if you have any questions.
If you have unfortunately been injured in a Fort Worth car accident, this is probably the first time you have had to deal with the personal injury claims process. So you have questions about your legal rights and how a personal injury lawyer can help you. In my 40 years specializing in personal injury law, the question I get asked the most is how much money do you think I will receive after my medical bills are paid? It's a great question. I have discussed this on my web site and blog posts, in a book and seminars I have written and taught to injury attorneys.
How to calculate how much money you might receive from a Fort Worth car accidentSince every car and truck wreck is different, there is no way to state one answer. The real answer can only be learned after the injured person files a lawsuit and a jury returns a verdict for his or her damages (but even then, the verdict can be and often is appealed to a higher court). As a result, there is no one-size-fits-all formula that injury lawyers and insurance claims adjusters and their attorneys use. It is true that many years ago, some cases were sometimes resolved by the "three times medical bills" calculation, but that hasn't been used in a long time. That is because someone who only had a mild neck strain could see a chiropractor 50 times and have a $10,000 medical bill, then claim his fender-bender was automatically worth $30,000. However no insurance company adjuster would begin to pay that inflated amount, especially now. Furthermore, the online calculators designed to get you to hire the law firm that publish them to lure you into hiring it are inaccurate. Take a look at the photograph above from a Fort Worth car accident I recently settled for a large amount of money. Just looking at the picture, it is not clear how badly the occupants were hurt. We have seen serious looking crashes where people only suffered relatively minor injuries, as well as the complete opposite happening, especially with all the pickup trucks and SUVs on the road. A good personal injury attorney is skilled at investigating the collision, dealing with insurance companies and medical providers, obtaining critical evidence, developing the case for trial, and knowing how the value of one case can be substantially more or less than another one. As the file develops and the facts become clearer, the car accident lawyer will have the information needed to more accurately estimate a range of settlement values, say from $20,000 to $25,000, then do his best to get more than that. Negotiations can be complicated. Each side uses different variables and can reach different numbers as they estimate what a jury might decide.
What affects the value of a Fort Worth car accident?We look at approximately 62 variables before we can accurate estimate a range of a case's value in court, but the four primary ones are
- how serious the crash looks;
- how seriously injured the person was;
- how much his reasonable medical bills were; and
- how much insurance is available and which carriers are involved.
Fort Worth car accident claim by typeThese are estimates of what various kinds of crashes might be worth, depending on the variables mentioned above:
- Drunk driving accidents – Despite the well-known dangers of driving while intoxicated, some motorists still get behind the wheel after drinking too much. Fort Worth DWI accidents frequently settle for the drunk driver's insurance policy limits which are usually $30,000 (although we are working on one now with a $1 million policy) to $100,000. This depends on the severity of the accident victim’s injuries, how elevated the drunk's blood alcohol content was, the amount of insurance, and if an alcohol-provider like a bar or store is involved.
- T-bone accidents – T-bone or sideswipe accidents are often the result of distracted driving. These accidents frequently occur at high speeds and often cause serious injuries. Fort Worth sideswipe accidents can settle in the range of $20,000 or more, depending on the above variables.
- Rear-end accidents – Rear-end accidents are extremely common, again due to the prevalence of cell phone use while driving, and vary widely. Depending on the severity of an accident victim’s injuries, these cases may settle for anywhere between $15,000 and $30,000 and even more, depending on the amount of available insurance or whether a company owned the vehicle.
- Hit-and-Run accidents – While many assume that there is no way to recover financially after a Fort Worth hit-and-run accident, that is not necessarily the case. Hit-and-run accident cases tend to settle for $30,000, depending on the seriousness of the injuries and whether that driver is apprehended or whether you file on your own policy's uninsured motorists benefits.
- Motorcycle accidents – Fort Worth motorcycle accidents often result in serious, life-changing injuries. Typical motorcycle accident settlements can range from $30,000 to $100,000.
- Truck accidents – Accidents involving large commercial trucks tend to be some of the most serious accidents due to the trucks' size and weight and the speed at which these accidents often occur. On average, Fort Worth truck accident cases settle for between $100,000 and $200,000, depending on the facts, but we have handled cases where the final total recovery is in the millions.