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The best way not to be in a car crash on New Year's Eve is obvious
What is one of the most dangerous nights to be out on our Dallas-Fort Worth roads? That's easy, it's New Year's Eve. While almost all people will make it home safely, a car crash on New Year's Eve happens far too often. The National Safety Council has projected that up to 45,000 people will be injured and 427 will lose their lives during this three-day holiday weekend in the United States. That is shocking.

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.

An injured person must prove their case at trial. They must introduce pertinent evidence including proof of medical bills that are reasonably priced. The defendant can attack this evidence. The judge rules on the admissibility of the medical bills and other damages and the jury decides how much compensation the injured party receives. To make trials more efficient and fair, Texas law has allowed the parties to prove and disprove medical bills and records with affidavits since 1979.

The New In Re Allstate opinion

The Texas Supreme Court issued an opinion on Friday that will dramatically curb the use of these affidavits and require doctors to testify in person. The justices directed a Corpus Christi trial court to vacate its order that struck a counter-affidavit filed by the plaintiff's car insurance company.

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

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 statute lists various requirements that must be strictly followed. These are some of the common errors made:
  • 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?

It is usually necessary to have a personal injury attorney resolve this expensive issue. That is because until the lien is released, insurance companies will insist that the name of the hospital appear on the settlement check so it gets paid in full.

red-light.jpg You see this as you drive in North Texas all the time. You slow down and come to a stop when you see that the traffic light changes to yellow, then red. This is Driver's Ed 101, not to mention common sense. But another driver -- often a young man in an oversized truck -- guns it and blazes through the intersection. We saw that happen as we were taking this photo. The problem is when someone -- often in a smaller car coming from a side street -- doesn't or can't see that truck. These red light runners are causing more and more fatal car crashes.

New report explains what is causing these fatal car crashes

A new study reveals that this serious problem has reached a new high. Almost 1,000 people died at the hands of red light runners in 2017, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. This was the fifth year in a row that this terrible number increased and there is no apparent end in sight. And worse, the number of total traffic deaths is quickly approaching 40,000 a year in the country, another horrible statistic. In Texas, over 3,600 people lose their lives and 250,000 are injured each year in car and truck wrecks. Why is this happening? Although more vehicles are on the road every year, we do not believe that is the reason.

Red light running is causing a surge in fatal car crashes

There are too many people who choose to break basic traffic laws and drive through red lights. The study revealed that about one out of every three drivers admitted to have done this just in the last 30 days. We know because we handle a lot of red light running crash cases. We think that people are more prone these days to think they can get away with this and have less regard for the safety of other drivers, let alone their own. Then add in the huge number of SUVs and trucks that over half of drivers now drive here in the Dallas-Fort Worth area as a matter of style, not to mention survival. So bigger vehicles with more steel and higher hoods and larger frames and bigger bumpers are going to do more harm to other vehicles, especially smaller cars. The AAA officials recommended that more red light cameras be installed to combat these reckless drivers. They correctly point out that police officers can't be everywhere. Of course, Texas just did the exact opposite when the state legislature voted to ban red light cameras - after the Supreme Court had found them to be safe and legal. It's the worst combination for other drivers: a driver in a huge truck speeding through a traffic safety device with no regard for other vehicles he might crash into - and little if any chance of being punished. And these drivers are often uninsured or underinsured so your damages might not get paid in full if at all. So this can be a recipe for disaster for North Texas motorists. It's not fair that people like you who obey the laws should have to pay for the illegal actions of other drivers who choose to run red lights.

Distracted driving has also increased these car wrecks

In addition, we see the number of distracted driving crash cases increase year after year. Smart phones, vehicle infotainment, and people with lower attention spans are to blame. It's the new norm that the guy next to you is also reading his Twitter feed or watching a game. Or that the woman behind you doesn't notice that you are at a stop at a red light because she is texting her friend or applying makeup as she drives. Most of the people who perish are innocent drivers who are not obeying the law and not driving while distracted

We can help you

These horrible wrecks - we hate to use the euphenism "car accidents" - can be deadly. Or after the innocent driver's head, neck, back and body are thrown into the door, window, steering wheel, or smashed into by an air bag exploding at 200 miles per hour, serious injuries can result. These t-bone collisions can require ambulances, emergency rooms, doctors, physical therapy, prescriptions, and of course cause substantial pain. And that's not counting the lost wages and disruption of your life and those of your family as you try to cope. You need help. Fast.

Getting in a car accident can be a living hell. You may have already had a surgery or need one. You won't be able to move without pain.  You can't sleep. You won't have your car. You might not be able to work. You will owe a ton of money to a hospital and doctors. For example, today a client of ours found out she needed a major cervical fusion after she was rear-ended a few weeks ago in Dallas. If this has happened to you, here's a question you need answered: should you settle with or sue the other driver? This photo was taken from the Tarrant County District Courts building of the Tarrant County Courthouse after a hearing. This is a difficult but critical decision. This is why your best course of action is to hire a good personal injury lawyer who will make the right decision and speed you through this complicated process. We at Berenson Injury Law have seen this on a daily basis for almost 40 years and do everything possible to help people get through a horrible period of their lives. Mr. Berenson met with a young man and his parents on Friday to give him his settlement check from his devastating DWI crash -- which only happened two months ago. He had to have a major surgery to his back. He and his family were thrilled with the results. Now we are fighting to get him paid another sizeable insurance payment. Later, after Mr. Berenson had obtained a giant settlement for a nice young woman and saved her over $100,000 in medical bills, her mother very nicely wrote him this email: "Thank you for being such a warrior and making the outcome positive. We would have been lost without you. Thank you always for your and your team's valued support."

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  
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