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Your Houston Car WreckInformation Center
How To Report A Car Wreck In Houston, TX
Notifying the police of a car accident can be very important even if you are not injured. When the police come out to investigate they generally make an official crash report, which can be very helpful if the person who hit you suddenly changes their tune after the cars leave the scene.
It is shocking how often a person who is at fault for the crash indicates they are sorry at the scene but somehow after they’ve contacted the insurance company, the accident is now “your” fault. Reporting an accident to the police can help prevent this from happening.
Police officers will generally interview both drivers and write down their storys of how the accident happened. Having the police involved gives you an important witness to prevent the guilty party from “changing her story”.
Call 911 For Serious Car Accidents
By reporting your car accident to authorities, a police officer will investigate the crash and generally will prepare an accident report that will contain a diagram of the vehicles and also offer the officer’s opinion on whether any laws were broken and who was at fault. While portions of the accident report may or may not be admissible in a personal injury trial, they can provide a powerful incentive for the adverse insurance company to accept responsibility and attempt to settle a claim.
Houston Police Department Auto Accident Number
You can also call the Houston Police Department auto accident number, which is: (713) 247-4072. Again, it is important to document the accident facts before the story may change by the person who is responsible for the crash.
The Houston Police Department also has a non-emergency number of 713-884-3131 and you can visit the Houston Police Department’s website for even more helpful information. Or the HPD online accident report page.
About Texas Accident Reports
The Texas Department of Transportation handles all accident reports in the state of Texas. Police officers that investigate accidents are supposed to write a report on any crash that results in injury, wrongful death, or damage to property that is more than $1,000. The report should be submitted to the Texas Department of Transportation within 10 days from the crash date. Texas Transportation Code Section 550.062.
Obtaining A Crash Report
To obtain a copy of your car accident report you can go online and obtain one through the Texas Department of Transportation website.
You’ll need some basic information in order to obtain the report such as:
- Names of the parties involved in the accident
- Date of the accident
- Location of the accident
Additionally, the state charges a fee for the crash reports, which are six dollars for a copy for eight dollars for, a certified copy of the official crash report.
Important Information to Obtain After A Car Wreck
Documenting your accident to the extent you can is an important step in preserving your claim.
Information That should be obtained if you are able at the scene
- The other driver’s name address and telephone number
- The driver’s license number of the other person
- The license plate of the car that hit you
- The name address and telephone number of any witnesses
- Taking photographs of the resting place of the vehicles before they are moved
- Taking photographs of the damage to your vehicle and the vehicle that hit you
- Recording any statements by the other driver admitting fault.
Taking photographs and recording voice memos with your cell phone can obtain much of the information needed from the scene of an accident.
If you can get the other driver to give you a statement on your phone it will go a long way to prevent them from changing his or her story later on.
If you were seriously injured, you may not be able to obtain the necessary information as you’re being transported to the hospital. Do not worry, as the investigating authority will undoubtedly get the majority of the information for you. However, it is important that you ask the officer as soon as you can if they documented any witnesses and obtain the names and telephone numbers of such witnesses.
Police officers routinely do not record the witnesses ’ names even though they can provide very powerful evidence should the case go to trial. So if you can get any witness names and contact information. Taking a video statement on your cell phone is an easy way to get witness accounts for use later.
THE DO’S and THE DON’T’STHE DO’S
Do take advantage of free consultations from a qualified personal injury attorney.
Do look at the declaration page of your own car insurance policy to find out what coverage you have and if it may help you with the wreck.
Do notify your own insurance company after you are in a car accident even if it is not your fault.
Do take pictures of the damage to your vehicle, the accident scene, the other person’s vehicle, and the other driver.
Do keep track of who you speak to regarding the accident such as the name of your insurance adjuster, the name of the other adjusters, and telephone numbers and titles of those who may contact you.
Do keep receipts for all of your out-of-pocket expenses such as medical expenses, rental car, or other expenses caused by the accident.
Do understand that in Texas, you will only be entitled to the fair market value of your vehicle on the date of the accident, plus tax title and license if it is totaled out.
Do let your medical providers know that you were in an accident and make sure you keep your explanation of how it occurred short and to the point.THE DON’T’S
Don’t give the adverse insurance company a recorded or written statement without first speaking to a qualified personal injury lawyer and decided how you are going to proceed.
Don’t expect the adverse insurance company to be fair. They are out to pay as little as they possibly can on any claim you make.
Don’t accept the insurance company’s valuation of your vehicle without doing your own research on what the car is worth.
Don’t necessarily feel you have to go to the repair facility suggested by the adverse insurance company.
Don’t get in the middle of the repair process between the shop you choose and the insurance company. Let the shop you trust handle your repairs and let them deal with the adverse insurance company directly. Just make sure the repairs or to your satisfaction when you pick up your car.
Don’t consider settling the personal injury claim from an automobile accident until you have got a handle on your personal injuries. Never consider settlement before you are certain as to the nature and extent of your injuries. Many insurance companies will show up shortly after an accident and offer a small amount that may include “estimated medical expenses”. This approach shifts the risk of serious injury on your back and off the insurance companies – don’t do it.
Don’t believe that the words ”we accept responsibility”, or ”we’re going to pay this claim” mean that the insurance carrier intends to be fair with you. It is their hope that you trust them and do not seek out a qualified personal injury lawyer.
Don’t give a blanket release of medical records or employment records to the adverse insurance company.
Don’t believe that an adjuster or insurance company will treat you the same as they would if you had an attorney.Contact a personal injury lawyer who handles car accident claims.
If you’ve been in a serious car accident speak with a car accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash. Knowing your rights and options is an important first step in any insurance claim after a car wreck. Contact the Baumgartner Law Firm for a free no-obligation consultation – (281) 587-1111.
If you have been injured in a car wreck seeking prompt medical attention is critically important to not only your health but also your personal injury claim. Many people believe that their symptoms will simply go away and they do not seek medical attention until much later.
Insurance companies are looking for any excuse they can find to reduce what they pay or not pay and discounting the medical treatment is a favorite trick.
It’s one of those “darned if you do, darned if you don’t situations” in that you can expect an insurance adjuster to question the timing of your treatment — whether it was too long after the accident, or too early after the accident.
Adjusters will indicate that someone waited too long to get treatment or too long to be diagnosed with the proper injury. Additionally, adjusters can be expected to indicate that some treatment was not medically necessary because an appropriate period of time has not passed. An example would be getting an MRI shortly after the accident when the insurance company would prefer that you waited months later and get the necessary testing.
The best plan is to follow your doctor’s recommendations for your treatment without regard to what the insurance company believes or wants to do. While adjusters would like to substitute their judgment in their attempts at reducing their settlement for their doctors, your health is more important than any insurance claim.Advanced Testing May Be Necessary Often a person is “discharged” from the emergency room with instructions to “follow up” with a physician. It is only after an MRI or CT scan is done that a proper diagnosis can be made. Emergency rooms usually only do those tests when a severe injury is suspected.
If you have health insurance, it is always a good idea to submit your bills to your health insurance company for payment. If your health insurer does not want to pay because it was a car accident, you may want to consider contacting the Texas Insurance Commissioner to file a complaint. See Reporting Insurance Company Abuse.
If you do not have health insurance, you will either need to pay for your treatment out-of-pocket, go to a hospital emergency room, or find a medical provider who will allow you to pay them out of the proceeds of a settlement.
Prompt Care is Important
It is important that you seek prompt medical attention because as we set forth above, if you delay in seeking treatment, the adverse insurance company will claim that the accident did not cause your injuries, regardless of the objective factors.
Many insurance defense law firms have doctors who do nothing but testify before the insurance company and whose opinions are always that the injured victim was not hurt or that the medical treatment they received was excessive and uncalled for. This is called a defense medical examination and the doctors in Houston who perform this type of service for the insurance industry are infamous in their opinions that the victim was not hurt or is exaggerated. One highly used doctor in the Houston area is famous for his opinion that after the accident victim walked out of the emergency room, no further treatment was required.
If you have questions regarding a personal injury claim from a car wreck or would just like to know your rights and options speak to a Houston car accident attorney as soon as possible after the crash.
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Being in an automobile accident is stressful in itself. Dealing with an adverse insurance adjuster can be very frustrating and actually can hurt your case if you are not careful.
Here are five things that adverse insurance adjusters wish you did not know.
Because the victim now believes that the insurance company has accepted responsibility, they mistakenly assume that they will be paid fairly for their injuries.
This trick is especially effective because many people who need an attorney believe that they can handle the claim themselves and only learn that they cannot when they first discuss money with the adjuster.
Sadly, all too often, the damage has been done to the case by the failure of the victim to hire an attorney early on in the process.
The general rule is the more serious your injury the more likely you are to need an attorney to obtain fair value from an insurance company. The earlier you retain an attorney the better chance you have for a full and fair settlement.
There are some cases where you may be obligated to give a statement such as when you are dealing with your own insurance company. Even then, prior to giving a statement to your own insurance company, you should take advantage of a consultation with a personal injury attorney.
With a third-party insurance company, you are never obligated to give a statement.
The purpose of the statement from the adverse carrier is not to learn your side of the story, or even learn of your injuries. It is to get things on the record that can undermine or hurt your case.
You can expect questions relating to how the accident happened with an eye toward what your potential responsibility may have been, even when it’s clearly the other person’s fault. Here are examples:
- Were you wearing your seatbelt?
- When did you first see the other vehicle?
- Did you hit your brakes?
- Where were your eyes looking?
- Do you have a cell phone? Were you on the phone? What is your cell phone number? Who is your provider?
As you can see, the questions are clearly designed to get responses that may be able to help defend the case. Some of the questions that you will be asked to serve no purpose other than to potentially help in defense of the case.
You will hear things such as “we didn’t include that”, “we don’t allow that” or similar phrases that indicate your medical treatment, which your doctors felt was necessary, was not satisfactory to the insurance company at this point. This is a method designed to reduce what they may have to pay if you fall for it!
These statements do not necessarily mean your medical treatment was unnecessary or unreasonable — only that the insurance company will use whatever tactics they can to reduce or try to reduce what they have to pay for the case. This is a particularly nasty approach because if you fall for it, you will be paying for medical treatment that was caused by the defendant’s conduct.
The best way to combat this is to hire an attorney to handle the claim for you.
Insurance companies do not get their name on huge skyscrapers by paying fair value to those that they can pay less than fair value. Additionally, there are many issues such as healthcare reimbursements that must be dealt with to maximize a personal injury settlement for the victim.
There are studies that show people with attorneys net much more money than those who handled the case on their own.
With a serious injury, you need a very serious attorney to help you, and hiring one early in the process can be an important first step. Choose an attorney with a track record of success in the type of case that you have and not a lawyer who may occasionally handle a case like yours.
Look to Dealing With Your Own Carrier- If the Adverse Insurer is Not Helpful Most of the time, victims would be better off handling the claim through their own insurance company provided they have collision coverage. This is true, even though you will be out of your deductible initially. It is been our experience that your own insurance company generally will treat you better than someone else’s insurance company.
Additionally, your own insurance company will be more responsive and often much fairer about the procedure.
People do not want to involve their own insurance company after a wreck that was not their fault.
While this is understandable, your own insurance company may be the better route to take because they are in the business of claims handling and will deal with the negligent driver’s insurance company and take that burden off of you.
If you elect to go through your own insurance company to get your car repaired or get the fair market value of your car if it is totaled, make sure you ask your insurance company to collect your deductible from the negligent party’s carrier.
Your own insurance company will seek to obtain your deductible back at the same time they collect the money that they have spent for the repair or replacement of the vehicle. In effect, your insurer will collect from the other insurer the money your company spent to repair or replace your car if the accident was the other person’s fault.
It’s been our experience that if the accident was not your fault, your own insurance company probably should not hold the accident against you.
The first reason is that the other party’s insurance company does not owe you a duty and will generally delay or deny as long as they possibly can. Moving slowly is the rule rather than the exception. Also, if the driver who caused the wreck is not straightforward with their own insurance company the claims handling process can be further delayed.
The second reason is that in Texas, our civil justice system does not generally provide a remedy for claims handling abuses by the adjuster for the other party. Tort reform has exacerbated the attitude and treatment that many innocent families are subjected to by an adverse adjuster.
It is always a good idea to obtain photographs of the damage to your vehicle before it is repaired. This is especially true if you were injured in the accident and the property damage is significant.
If you go through your own insurance company for rental car coverage look at your insurance policy to see the limits of your coverage so there are no surprises at the end of the rental.
Total Loss If your vehicle cannot be repaired and is “totaled” (which is when the repair costs exceed the value of the vehicle), then the insurer handling the claim will be responsible for the fair market value of the vehicle plus tax, title, and license fees necessary to obtain a replacement vehicle of comparable value.
Expect an adverse insurance company to look to values that are the lowest they can find when looking to total a vehicle. You on the other hand should go online or to a dealer and obtain factual information regarding the value of your vehicle at the time of the accident.
Be wary of companies that appear to be “independent” of the insurance company that is hard to give a value for your vehicle. Those companies work for the insurance company that hired them and know where their bread is buttered. Be prepared to counter the lowball efforts with real facts from authoritative sources.
Obtaining rental car reimbursement from an adverse carrier when your car is totaled is very difficult as there is case law indicating that the adverse carrier does not owe rental car reimbursement when the vehicles totaled. Nevertheless, some of the more reputable insurance carriers do in fact pay for your loss of use until the time they tender an offer to you and settlement of the property damage claim.
If your vehicle is “totaled” you may want to look to your own auto policy for rental car coverage.
An insurance adjuster will need the documentation of all injuries in order to evaluate and settle a personal injury claim. The following is a list of specific items the adjuster will need to see in order to evaluate your injury.
- The accident report: If you have it, give it to the adjuster. If you don’t, the adjuster can obtain it.
- Copies of your medical bills
- Copies of your medical records that are related to the treatment you received for the injuries of the accident
- A letter signed by your employer documenting lost wages during the time you missed work because of any injuries sustained in the accident.
- Information regarding your health insurance policy.
- Whether or not you are on Medicare or Medicaid.
- Photos of your injuries
Handling an Injury Claim Without A Lawyer? Here’s The One Question You Need To Ask The Adjuster.
One question anyone who is contemplating handling their own car accident injury claim should ask the adverse adjuster is: “how are you going to calculate my pain and suffering?”
Frequently, folks call us several months after their accident and are frustrated with their dealings with the adjuster. In a typical scenario, the adjuster indicated at some point that they were “accepting liability” and the people expected fair treatment from the adjuster. That was a huge mistake.
Many insurance companies now use a computer algorithm to determine damages, and the computer model they use takes into consideration things such as: “do you have a lawyer?” and “is the lawyer any good?”, but what the computer model doesn’t include is much, if anything, for pain and suffering.
So, as early on as you can when handling your own injury claim, once the adjuster has indicated they are accepting the claim, ask specifically and demand an answer to the question:
How are you going to pay me for my pain and suffering?
The adjuster will not want to answer that question and probably will give you a runaround answer that does not truly address the question. For most people, especially those with serious injuries, this is a legitimate question that needs to be answered. If the adjuster can not answer the question, it is your indication that you need a qualified injury attorney.
If your car accident is minor, and the injuries you sustained resolve quickly and are not that serious, how you get paid for pain and suffering may not be a big deal.
For those with broken bones, disc problems, nerve damage, head injuries, or other serious ailments, how you are paid for pain and suffering is a significant question, and one, I predict the adjuster will not really ever answer.
There is a reason why the insurance company does not want you to hire an attorney!
Am I Being Offered A Fair Settlement?
One question many personal injury victims have is regarding the fairness of a settlement offer initially made by the insurance company. It is important for personal injury victims to understand that the insurance carrier will try to pay as little as they possibly can on any claim.
If an insurance adjuster can get away with paying $0.10 or $0.20 on the dollar, the adjuster will likely get a raise or a bonus, but at minimum, certainly a pat on the back for settling the case cheap.
It is extremely difficult for individuals unfamiliar with personal injury on a daily basis to determine what is a reasonable and fair settlement offer by an insurance company. There is a reason why many insurance companies indicate early on, that “they accept responsibility”. That reason is to prevent you from believing you need legal help.
Here are some guidelines for analyzing the fairness of a settlement offer!
You were not at fault but the insurance company seeks to sign new partial responsibility for the crash
One tactic that many insurance companies use is to attempt to shift responsibility from their insured to you or another person as a method of reducing what they are offering you.
While the police report in its entirety may or may not come into evidence in a personal injury trial, portions of the actual report should come into evidence. While the determination by the officer at the scene is not binding on the judge or jury and gives you an idea of whom an impartial third-party thought was at fault for the crash.
The offer of settlement has excluded some of your medical expenses that were actually paid!
Texas has had pretty radical tort reform, which adversely impacted every personal injury claim-taking place in the state of Texas. One of the provisions of the tort reform was to limit the amount available for recovery for medical expenses to the amount that was “paid or incurred”, which means the out-of-pocket payments by you and your health insurance company and not the gross amount billed by the healthcare provider. However, if you are on the hook as owing a balance after payments by your health insurance company that should be included in your medical total.
One tactic that many insurance companies use to try to reduce what they payout for a car accident is to “disallow” some medical expenses under justifications that include:
- The service was not necessary
- The service was overpriced
- The medical expenses unrelated to the accident
- The procedure or test was done too early or too late
- Various other excuses
While this tactic is common, it is not that effective when a case is taken to trial as the insurance carrier will need to obtain some testimony to support their position regarding the disallowing of a medical expense – in most instances.
The Offer Does Not Include Fair Lost Wages
Many adjusters will attempt to disallow lost wages simply by indicating that the medical records do not indicate the necessity for missing work. In other words, they want a written statement from the doctor. While it may seem funny to some, we have seen this tactic used for people who were so badly injured that they couldn’t even get out of bed.
The Insurance Adjuster Discourages You From Hiring An Attorney
If the insurance adjuster you are dealing with discourages you from speaking with an attorney that is probably your first clue that you probably need legal representation. It is only after the initial offers made by the insurance company that personal injury victims understand that they really need an attorney to help them. Unfortunately, by then many times damage has been done to the claim.
Future Medical Needs
If you have future medical needs that are real and concrete and explained to you by your medical providers, that should be a part of your discussions regarding a reasonable settlement amount? If a physician testifies in a personal injury trial that the victim needs ongoing medical treatment and the reasonableness and necessity of the cost of it that should be appropriate for consideration by the judge or jury.
If you have future medical needs that are clearly identified in the medical records, and the adjuster is not including that in your settlement offer- it may not be fair.
Very Serious Injury
The general rule of thumb is if your injury is very serious you probably need an attorney. If your injury is minor and her medical expenses small, you may or may not require the services of an attorney to help you through the process.
Limited Insurance Coverage
Every personal injury claim is unique and must stand on its own merits. Nevertheless, attorneys who handle personal injury claims learn through experience the value of an individual claim. The value can only be determined after a thorough review of the facts of the accident and studying the medical records with a fine toothcomb. Additionally, the amount of insurance available to cover the crash can play a part in many valuations particularly when the insurance coverage is limited.
Many people sustain very bad injuries but the insurance coverage is inadequate and unless your defendant turns out to be independently wealthy, the amount of insurance coverage is a big factor.
Houston Auto Accident Injury Attorneys
Hiring an experienced and reputable car accident attorney is often the best step for handling a claim with the insurance company. The ability to file a lawsuit and march toward a jury trial serves as leverage forcing a reasonable evaluation of a damage claim when liability is relatively clear.
To get help on a car accident case in Houston call the Baumgartner Law Firm at 281-587-1111.
Do I Need A Car Accident Lawyer?
You’ve been in a car accident and are wondering whether or not you need to hire an attorney to help you through the claims handling process. Often, personal injury claims can be complex and this article was written to give you an idea of the situations in which you may want to hire an attorney and those in which you may be able to handle yourself.
The Accident Factors Are Complex
If there are multiple vehicles involved in an accident, it is more likely that you will need help for handling the claim. Likewise, if you are injured by a crash with a commercial vehicle such as a semi-truck, garbage truck, or even a company vehicle you may want to get help from the best truck accident lawyer early on in the process.
The Severity Of Your Injuries
The general rule of thumb is the more serious the injury the more likely you will need to hire an attorney to assist you with the process. Extremely serious injuries such as those involving permanent disability and/or surgeries almost always require an attorney to handle them effectively. Alternatively, very minor injuries such as a whiplash-type injury with moderate medical treatment may not require the assistance of counsel.
Health Insurance Subrogation
After a car accident, if you’re Health Insurance Company paid your medical bills and someone else was responsible for the accident, you may want to hire an attorney to help you with the claim and also handled the insurance payback issues. Recent changes in the law in Texas make hiring a personal injury attorney a very attractive proposition when you have health insurance subrogation. In effect, if your health insurance company paid a significant amount of medical bills you may get credit for retaining an attorney to collect from the third party. In this situation is no reason not to hire a lawyer.
If the insurance company you are dealing with makes you a ridiculous offer of settlement you may need to hire a car accident attorney to assist you with the claim. Be aware that if you wait too long to call an attorney many lawyers will not take the case as a policy matter. Also, if you have never handled a personal injury claim before there are things that the insurance company can ask you to do which can actually hurt your claim.
Future Medical Needs
In situations where the personal injury victim will require ongoing or future medical care hiring an attorney is probably the appropriate route to take. It is difficult for non-lawyers to be able to navigate the minefield of future medical expenses in relation to a fair settlement and other issues such as health insurance payback.
Hiring A Car Accident Lawyer
If you feel you are going to need the help of a car accident lawyer make sure you speak with an attorney who is both experienced and reputable in your community. There is no substitute for experience and results.
Be wary of retaining a law firm, which will treat you like a number and not a person. High-volume personal-injury practices of some law firms are not calculated to lead to maximizing the settlement offers to their clients.
There are many sources that you can research online to determine the reputation of the law firms that you are considering. Martindale Hubbell offers the fairest assessments of attorneys in the Houston area because they base the assessments on blind reviews from other Houston attorneys. Some of the other rating companies have “paid” relationships with clients and they tend to favor the people that pay them. Take those paid relationship ratings with a grain of salt. Our car accident attorneys have been winning maximum damages for over three decades. We can help you too!
How to Deal With Insurance Adjusters
We get many calls from injury victims who get frustrated after dealing with an insurance adjuster representing the negligent party’s insurance company. The main complaint that we hear is the adjuster was rude, followed by ridiculous lowball offers.
It may help to understand that the typical insurance adjuster probably has up to 200 open files at any one time. They have a lot of pressure from their bosses and the guidelines that they are operating under are very strict.
This does not in any way condone behavior that is taken as rude, but it does help to understand the adjuster’s position and where they may be coming from. Additionally, insurance adjusters view the situation as an open file or claim number. To the personal injury victim, it is personal. To the adjuster, it is strictly business.
Now, understanding that the claim is a business decision for the adjuster and that they are generally limited in the parameters that they operate in, personal injury victims can help themselves by following a few suggestions.
ALWAYS BE NICE
Even when an insurance adjuster is rude or short with you it is never a good idea to respond in kind to them. Two wrongs never make a right and these are the same people that you are asking to write you a check.
Threatening an insurance adjuster is something that almost everyone would be tempted to do but it is also very counterproductive. They’ve heard it before and they don’t care. I will file suit – okay! Going to get a lawyer – okay! Threats to adjusters are counterproductive.
Asking questions of the insurance adjuster will help clarify their position and also give you some insight on what you may need to do to move your case forward. Often if you follow the advice above, an insurance adjuster may actually give you helpful advice. We have had many personal injury clients over the years told by an insurance adjuster that they should probably hire a lawyer.
REALIZE YOU MAY NOT KNOW WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE
In a big city like Houston, the odds of a person being in more than one accident over a ten-year period are pretty good. If you’ve been through a personal injury claim before you may have an idea of what is needed, but if you haven’t, you probably don’t. Consider taking advantage of a free consultation with the personal injury law firm early on after the accident.
TRY TO LOOK AT IT FROM A THIRD PARTY PERSPECTIVE
Looking at the cause of the accident and the injury claims from a third-party perspective can be very beneficial to a personal injury victim. Injuries by their very nature are personal and the victims tend to view it from their own perspective. If the case cannot be settled and you end up hiring a personal injury lawyer who files a lawsuit, is likely that 12 strangers may decide the value of the case. Looking at your situation as though you were a stranger can help you better understand the reality of the claim.
Probably the biggest single factor that can impact the case is for someone to delay either taking action on the case or getting the medical treatment that they need. In some cases, it is important to preserve evidence and actions are often necessary to accomplish that. Also, long gaps in treatment or even delays for initial treatment can have a negative impact on the case. From the third-party perspective discussed above, a juror may ask if the injury was so severe or problematic, why did the victim wait so long for treatment?
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE CONSULTATIONS
Some of the best Houston personal injury attorneys offer free consultations for accident victims. Obtaining advice on what to do and why soon after an accident can at least set you on the proper path toward resolution.
Texas has had fairly significant tort reform, which has negatively impacted the value of almost every personal injury case. In some instances, the negligent party actually gets the benefit of a personal injury by being personally responsible and carrying health insurance. This can be a topic to cover with a free consultation from a leading personal injury law firm. If someone is telling you what a case is worth, and their case was not recent, those days are long gone.
A SETTLEMENT IS FOREVER
Often, people end up settling a case and then inquiring later on whether there’s anything more they can do to get more money from the case. This can be particularly dangerous when involving serious injuries and a quick settlement. The greater the exposure for the insurance company the more likely it that they will try to limit that exposure by dangling a carrot in front of you as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, insurance carriers are in the business of profit-making and not in the business of being fair to the injury victim. If an insurance company can pay $.10 on the dollar for a claim they will do so. Avoid quick settlements -if you have any questions regarding the extent of your injuries. The more serious your injury the more likely you will need help.
ACCEPTING RESPONSIBILITY DOES NOT MEAN PAYING FAIR VALUE
Personal injury victims routinely are told after a clear liability accident that the insurance company will “accept responsibility” or words to that effect. The accident victim takes that to mean that they can then expect a fair settlement offer. That is a big mistake. Accepting responsibility usually only means they will offer something- often less than the medical bills.
IF YOU ARE GOING TO HIRE A LAWYER, DO SO EARLY
If you’re going to hire a personal injury attorney to help you with your accident case, you’re better off hiring one early in the process than you are after having tried to handle it on her own for a while. Then only will you get advice that you need upfront but you can stop worrying about the case and let the attorney handle it? And most importantly you did not damage the claim by doing something you should not have done.
Timing of A Houston Car Accident Injury Claim
It takes much longer than many people expect to settle a personal injury claim in the state of Texas. The adjuster handling your claim will need specific information to document in their file and evaluate your injuries and their liability exposure in order to move forward with the settlement. See what to provide the adjuster.
Texas Injury Evaluation Process
The injury evaluation process begins with the receipt of the medical records that relate to the injuries you sustained in the accident. Obtaining medical records from your doctors and medical providers can take much longer than many people anticipate. The state of Texas sets the maximum fees that can be charged to you for obtaining your medical records from the providers.
Once the adjuster has received her medical records, the records are reviewed to see what injuries have been outlined, as well as your diagnosis and prognosis. What your doctors have to say about your injuries is very important evidence in a personal injury case. Note that not all doctor testimony will be treated the same. Many insurance companies take these reports and the testimony of some doctors and chiropractors with a grain of salt.
Additionally, the insurance adjuster should be in receipt of information proving your lost wages during the time you were recovering from your injuries. This can be in the form of statements from your employer or potentially your W-2s for the period and any prior periods.
After the adjuster has obtained all the necessary information, the settlement process can proceed fairly quickly. However, in Texas, the general statute of limitations is two years from the date of the accident and a victim must have filed suit within such time or they will have forever waived the claim. There are certain exceptions regarding minors and others. If you have questions, you should contact your attorney to discuss them immediately.
If the case ends up in litigation, the process can take up to two years to obtain a jury trial in Harris County, Texas. There are certain fast-track procedures that can be utilized to obtain an earlier trial date.
If you believe you may need a lawyer to assist you in a personal injury claim stemming from a car accident, contact the lawyer of your choosing immediately and do not wait until the last minute. Many reputable personal injury attorneys have policies that prevent them from accepting cases that are very close to the statute of limitations. By waiting until the last minute, you may not only hurt your case but also limit the attorneys who may be interested in helping you.
Common Defense Tactics In Car Accident Lawsuits
It is helpful to understand the mechanisms used by defense attorneys and insurance companies in defending car accident claims. This article is intended to give you an overview of some of the common defense tactics in defending a claim.
TACTIC: Blame You
In Texas, we have a negligence scheme that involves allocating fault between the plaintiff (personal injury victim) and the defendant (negligent driver). If the defense attorney can convince the jury that you are partly at fault it can reduce or eliminate your damages from the accident.
For this reason, the most common tactic of defense for a car accident claim is to seek blame for the role of the claimant in the accident. For instance, if you were rear-ended the tactic is to claim that you stop suddenly or swerved quickly into the other lane of traffic this susceptible to blame for your actions. If the other driver ran a red light, you can anticipate the defense will be that really their light was green and your light was red.
TACTIC: Suggest You Did Not Prove Your Case
You always hear defense attorneys suggest that you did not adequately prove your case and that you have the burden of proof.
TACTIC: Imply You Are Doing It For The Money
A common defense tactic is to assert or imply that you are only looking for the money and not really for justice after the accident. This is a common theme among defense attorneys and they will suggest that your treatment and other actions were based upon building a lawsuit and not related to reasonable medical help. This tactic is actually much easier and more effective than many people anticipate because it requires no proof on the part of the defendant only implication.
TACTIC: Attack Your Credibility
The defense will always attack the plaintiff’s credibility and if not outright call them a liar suggests that they are exaggerating and not being truthful with the judgment of the jury. The unfortunate part of this tactic is it does not matter how straightforward and truthful the victim is the tactic will be utilized anyway.
TACTIC: Attacking Your Medical Care
The common subject of a defense lawyer’s examination and closing arguments is the amount and necessity of your medical treatment. The defense will attempt to imply that you did not really need the treatment, and were only doing it to build your lawsuit. Additionally, they will argue that you waited too long warhead to bigger gaps in between treatment or that you got treatment earlier than necessary. It’s one of those darned if you do darned if you don’t situations.
TACTIC: Attacking Your Lost Wages
The defense attorney will imply that you did not really need to miss work or that if you did you are exaggerating the amount of your compensation or your calculations of your lost wages. This can be particularly difficult for self-employed victims.
TACTIC: Blame The Lawyers Greed
Many defense lawyers will seek to tie your attorney to your doctors and imply that the attorney sent you to the doctor for the purpose of the case, and not for medical treatment. In other words, the defense will imply that the case is phony. Most personal injury victims are shocked when they realize that these tactics are going to be used against them when their injuries are real and their claim is substantial.
It is very difficult for many personal injury victims not to take personal offense to tactics that attack their credibility and their sworn testimony. Some defense attorneys are more skilled than others at implying shady conduct as opposed to accusing the plaintiff of exaggerating or lying out in the open.
Legal Deadlines To File A Case In Texas
Everyone has heard of the “statute of limitations” and if you have been hurt in an accident that was the fault of someone else you must know about the limitations that may affect your case.
Statute of Limitations
The general personal injury statute of limitations in Texas is two years from the date of the accident. Within that time you must file a lawsuit and thereafter use diligence in your attempts to serve the defendant to preserve your ability to move forward with your lawsuit.
There are certain exceptions that can extend and/or shorten a limitation period. One example is if a personal injury victim is a minor, the minor’s limitations may be tolled until they are 18 years old in order to give the child a chance to move forward in their case.
Alternatively, if you are in an accident that was caused by a governmental entity in Texas there may be certain notice provisions that you must comply with in order to perfect your right to sue the governmental entity or employee. Some municipalities have very short notice provisions from a few months to six months and it is very important that you comply with the formal notice provisions that may apply to such entity.
There are other legal deadlines that can impact a personal injury claim in Texas such as a statute of repose for products that are over 15 years old at the time of the accident. This specific limitation is one that does not serve well the citizens of the state of Texas because it can give you immunity after a certain period of time to foreign manufacturers such as those from China, Korea, or Japan. We hope that the new leaders in Austin will repeal this draconian law that hurts Texas families and helps foreign companies.
If you have any issues or questions regarding a potential limitation or the timing of a personal injury claim contact your attorney as soon as possible after the accident.
It is much better to speak with your attorney shortly after the accident than later on and find out that important date or deadline had been missed.
Car Accident Damages In Texas
If you were seriously injured in a car accident, one question you will have is: “What compensation is available for my injuries?” The following is a general primer for the legally recoverable damages available in the state of Texas for personal injury or wrongful death.
Personal Injury Damages In Texas
The basic jury question for personal injury cases is what sum of money it paid now in cash, would fairly and reasonably compensate the victim for his or her injuries if any that resulted from the occurrence in question? Both past and future, if any:
- Physical pain and mental anguish
- Loss of earning capacity
- Physical impairment
- “Paid or incurred” medical expenses
- Exemplary or punitive damages – in appropriate cases only.
Children and spouses can receive damages when their husband, wife, or parent has been seriously injured in some cases. The law generally looks to place a dollar amount on the actual losses suffered by the children or spouses.
Wrongful Death Damages in Texas
The general wrongful death damages in the state of Texas are as follows:
- Pecuniary losses – meaning the loss of care, maintenance, support, services, advice, counsel and contributions of a pecuniary value that the air would have received from the decedent had he lived.
- Loss of companionship and society
- Mental anguish
- Loss of inheritance
The specific question regarding wrongful death damages depends upon your relationship with the decedent. In other words, spouses have a question as to minor or adult children.
As with personal injury car accident claims, exemplary or punitive damages or available in wrongful death or survival causes of action when the wrongdoer offends the community because of the nature of the wrong, the character of the conduct involved, the culpability of the wrongdoer, the sensibilities of the parties involved and the extent to which the conduct of offends a public sense of justice and propriety in Texas.
Texas Automobile Insurance Explained
In Texas, everyone that owns a car is required to carry auto liability insurance in case of an accident. This insurance coverage pays to repair the other driver’s car or pays damages up to the policy limits when the accident was your fault.
The minimum coverage in the state of Texas for liability is 30,000 for each injured person with a total of 60,000 per accident. Property damage coverage is a minimum of 25,000 per accident. This is known as the minimum 30/60/25 coverage.
While liability coverage is what is required in Texas, people who can afford to do so should consider additional coverage. We recommend that those that can obtain underinsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage as well as personal injury protection coverage.
There are many accidents throughout the state of Texas with drivers who do not actually have valid car insurance at the time of the crash. If you happen to be in an accident with one of these people and the crash was their fault, you may end up holding the bag unless you have uninsured motorist coverage.
Unfortunately, Texas has a very high percentage of drivers who do not carry liability coverage. The problem has been exacerbated by the Department of Insurance in Texas allowing insurance companies to sell “junk policies”.
Many people believe that they have insurance coverage only to find out that they do not after a car wreck.
Proof of Financial Responsibility and liability coverage is required in at least the following circumstances:
- When asked by an officer.
- When in an accident.
- When you register or renew your registration.
- At your annual car inspection
Fines can be up to $350 and more for the first offense of failing to have proof of financial responsibility.
Use caution when obtaining insurance coverage.
Common limitations or exclusions from coverage include the following:
- Named driver policies – covering only those who are specifically named in the policy.
- Excluded drivers – does not cover people excluded under the policy.
- Business use exclusion – does not provide coverage if the vehicles used for business purposes at the time of the accident.
There are many other exclusions and one should read their policy closely or sit down with their insurance agent and go over your policy at the time of purchase or renewal.
It is much better to spend 15 minutes with your agent than end up with a large bill you are not planning on paying because you do not have the coverage you thought you did.
A. Liability Coverage
Liability coverage pays damages suffered by other people when you are at fault in the accident.
Common damages include the following:
- Personal injury damages.
- Repair costs for replacement their market value for damaged vehicles.
- Rental car expenses for the other driver while their cars being fixed.
Liability coverage generally includes you and your family members, people driving your vehicle with your permission, and family members attending school away from home. However, it is prudent to check your own policy for exclusions or limitations of coverage (given the junk policy problems in Texas).
B. Collision Coverage
Collision coverage pays for the cost of repairing your own car after an accident. If your vehicle were totaled out you would only receive the fair market value for your vehicle less your deductible.
C. Comprehensive Coverage
Comprehensive coverage pays the cost of repairing your car or replacing it if it is stolen, damaged by the weather, or other events other than an automobile accident. Comprehensive coverage will also pay the rental car if your vehicle happens to be stolen.
D. Medical Payment Coverage
Medical payment coverage pays medical and/or funeral bills from accidents up to the amount of the limits. It covers you, your family members and passengers regardless of fault. Unfortunately, if you collect from a third party such as a negligent driver medical payment coverage requires you to pay your insurance company back. For this reason, personal injury protection is preferred over medical payment coverage.
E. Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
Personal injury protection covers the same medical expenses as medical payment coverage but it also covers up to 80% of your lost wages. Additionally, medical payment coverage does not need to be repaid if you collect from the negligent driver. The minimum limits of PIP coverage are $2500 but you can buy more coverage if you are inclined. Personal injury protection must be rejected in writing.
F. Underinsured/ Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)
In Texas and particularly in Houston, underinsured and uninsured motorist’s coverage is essential if you can afford it. The sheer number of drivers who are driving without insurance coverage makes the odds of your being in an accident with an uninsured driver very high.
Underinsured coverage pays your damages up to the policy limits when the person that caused the accident did not have enough liability coverage.
Uninsured motorist coverage pays your damages when you’re involved in an accident caused by another and they did not carry liability coverage.
You must specifically reject underinsured/underinsured motorist coverage and your insurance carrier must offer you the option of purchasing such coverage.
G. Rental Coverage
This type of coverage pays for a rental car if your car has been stolen or damaged in an accident. Usually, the benefit is a set dollar per day with a limited number of days.
H. Towing Coverage
This coverage pays for towing a car after an accident and can also include other labor charges such as jumping your battery when your vehicle is disabled.
Everyone who carries automobile insurance coverage should consider sporadically pricing comparable options from other insurance companies. Many people are surprised that the savings they can accrue if they have been with a company for a number of years without obtaining competitive quotes.
Consumers should also research insurance carriers that are considering buying auto insurance from. Many of the major companies have worked hard on their reputation for customer service. Others have developed a reputation for failure and refusal to pay legitimate claims and requiring litigation to resolve a claim.
Many Texas families are unnecessarily subjected to litigation simply because the insurance carrier they chose has determined to play hardball with every person who makes a claim. This dilemma has been magnified under the provisions of “tort reform” implemented several years ago in the state of Texas.
Additionally, the failure to have a real remedy when an auto insurance company abuses the claim handling procedures has been a real problem for Texas families.
Make sure the insurance company you choose to do business with has a good reputation of being fair in the claims process or you may find the claims process extremely upsetting.
Additional information regarding insurance coverage can be found at www.tdi.texas.gov.
Reporting Insurance Company Abuse in Texas
If you feel you have been abused by your insurance company contact the Texas Department of insurance and file a complaint.
We Report Insurance Company Abuse
You can also research your insurance company to obtain information such as the number of justified complaints that have been filed against the company in recent history.
You can download the complaint form here.
The Texas Department of Insurance also has a very helpful page that describes different situations in which you can obtain help from the Texas Department of Insurance.
It should be noted that in the recent past, some people feel the Texas Insurance Commissioner has one more pro-insurance company and less helpful to Texas families than they would like.
Auto Injury Lawsuits
It is important to hire a competent car accident attorney in Houston, as soon as possible after being involved in an auto accident and to communicate fully with that attorney so he or she can begin gathering evidence. Physical and medical evidence is important to a case and a lawyer needs to be able to begin gathering it as soon as possible. Experts are also key elements in a successful auto injury or wrongful death case. Baumgartner Law Firm maintains an extensive bank of experts including reconstructionists, investigators, law enforcement personnel, technology experts, treating physicians, and specialists in nearly every medical specialty.
Contact A HoustonAuto
Although a client’s presence is necessary for some aspects of the litigation process, the Baumgartner Law Firm attempts to minimize inconvenience to our clients and the amount of time that is needed from them. The Baumgartner Law Firm wants clients to be at peace knowing legal matters are being taken care of for them, allowing them to maintain their lifestyle as much as possible and focus on becoming whole again
Call us for a free consultation today at (281) 587-1111.