How Do I Settle A Claim With An Insurance Company Amicably?

This is another question I recently received.

A person was injured in a car wreck, they submitted a demand letter, and tried to negotiate, but the insurance company was stonewalling them.  What are they supposed to do?

There isn’t a good answer for someone in this situation.  Insurance companies may engage in stonewalling tactics that are designed to get you to accept less than the full value of your claim.

When you hire us, and this happens, our response is to file suit.  That’s the alternative and the hammer you can use to get a new adjuster, get a new perspective to the insurance company from a lawyer and to prove that you can enforce the claim.

But if you’re trying to represent yourself, you don’t have that option.  As a result, the insurance company, knowing that you don’t have a real alternative, doesn’t have an incentive to pay the full value of your claim.

This type of conduct is one of the reasons that insurance company studies find that claimants who are represented by lawyers do substantially better overall than those who try to represent themselves.

I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news to people in this situation.

Will Austin Ban Use of Cell Phones While Driving?

A lot of momentum seems to be developing for the idea that Austin will ban drivers from using hand-held devices while driving.  In February, the Austin City Council appointed a Distracted Driving Study Group to look at the problem of distracted driving.  On Monday, the study group released a memo recommending that the city council outlaw the use of handheld devices while driving.  There seem to be two main reasons for this.  One, using a hand held cell phone while driving can be distracting and dangerous.  Two, making it illegal to use hand held devices would make it easier to enforce the ban on texting whiile driving (now it’s difficult to tell is someone is texting or dialing a phone number).

I’ll keep you posted on the story as details emerge.  In the meantime, KXAN has done a nice story on the issue.  You can watch it below.

 

I Waited Two Months To Go To The Doctor. Do I Still Have A Case?

I received this question the other day, and I thought others might be interested in the answer as well.

The short answer is “yes.”  Just because you didn’t immediately go to the doctor does not mean that you were not hurt and that you don’t have a case.

But those types of delay do make presenting your personal injury claim much more difficult.  Insurance companies are looking for any small excuse they can find to not pay your claim.  And a “gap in treatment” (as described in the question) is one of the key factors they rely on to defeat claims.

That’s not to say that I agree with insurance companies or that a gap kills your case.  I know a number of people who just don’t like to go to the doctor.  They’ll suffer an injury and try to wait on the problem to resolve to see if they can avoid going to the doctor.  Others simply can’t go to the doctor as soon as they would like.  Perhaps they can’t afford a doctor’s visit, don’t have time to go to the doctor, etc.

So while this type of gap doesn’t mean you no longer have a claim, it can make your claim much more difficult.

How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?

This is a common question we hear, and it’s hard to give a great answer because the potential span is so large depending on a number of factors.  For instance, we might resolve some cases within a few months of opening the case, and we might resolve some several years after opening the case.  But the timing is all dependent on the various factors in the case.

The first big factor is how long it takes you to get better.  We generally don’t want to resolve a case until you’re either healed or the doctor tells you that you’re not getting any better.  We don’t want to be in a situation where we have settled the case and then you turn out to be hurt worse than we thought.  So the first factor is how long it takes you to heal.  Some clients heal in a couple of months, and for some clients, they don’t heal for a couple of years.

The second main factor is whether we have to file suit.  If we can resolve a claim without filing a lawsuit, then the case is usually finished much faster than having to pursue even a simple claim in a lawsuit.  Lawsuits are slow and time-consuming so a lot of times the lawsuit process is the cause of the delay in your case.

There may also be a number of other factors, such as whether the other party has insurance, how much insurance the other party has, how much the other party cooperates, etc.

While I wish I could promise you a quick, tidy process, lawyers who do that aren’t telling you the truth.

 

 

Posted on: July 28, 2014 | Tagged

I was hit by a drunk driver. Does that affect the value of my case?

This is a question that I’ve received a few times.  And the answer is, “Being hit by a drunk driver should increase the value of your case, but it doesn’t always.”

What do I mean?  Obviously, if the jury knows that you were hit by a drunk driver, they would get mad at the drunk driver and likely award you more money.  The trick is whether the jury gets to hear you were hit by a drunk driver.  Defense lawyers will go to great lengths to ask the judge to hide from the jury the fact that the driver who hit you was drunk or under the influence of drugs because knowing that might be prejudicial to the driver.   There are tricks the defense lawyer will use to try and make this happen.

Fortunately, there are a number of tactics for our side to help us increase the likelihood that the jury gets to hear that the other driver was drunk.  Unfortunately, there are too many plaintiff’s lawyers who don’t know these tactics.

If you’re hurt by a drunk driver, you need to do your homework and make sure your lawyer knows these tactics.  Ask your lawyer what he or she might do to help increase the odds that the facts regarding the other driver’s drinking are admissible.  Ask your lawyer what trial lawyer organizations he or she belongs to help stay educated on the evolution of these tactics.  Make sure the lawyer you want to hire is qualified to maximize the value of your claim.

Posted on: July 25, 2014 |

I fell in a parking lot because of broken pavement/sidewalk. Can I sue?

This question was posed to me recently, and the short answer is “yes.”

This is called a premises liability case.  In Texas, a customer can prevail in a premises liability case against a business if the customer can prove several things: (1) that the condition (here the broken pavement or sidewalk) posed an unreasonable risk of harm; (2) the business owner knew or reasonably should have known of the danger; (3) the business failed to use reasonable care to make the condition safe; and (4) the business failed to use reasonable care to warn the customer about the condition.

While these questions may seem simple, there are a lot of difficult issues hidden inside of them.  For instance, almost all premises cases have disputes about whether the condition was unreasonably dangerous.  This often requires expert witnesses who can talk about building codes or other rules and regulations that might apply and why failing to comply with those regulations is dangerous.

Additionally, when proving whether the business owner knew or should have known of the danger, arguments arise over how long the condition had been present.  In this type of case, where broken pavement or sidewalk is likely to occur slowly over time, the issue might not be important.  But if you’re suing a business over a spilled drink on a floor or something similar, then you have to prove how long the drink had been on the floor.  As you might imagine, that can be difficult.

There are other similar difficult issues that make this a much more complicated question than it might normally seem.  That’s why it’s so important to have a competent lawyer on your side when you’re hurt in these situations.

 

 

Posted on: July 24, 2014 |

Is Your Insurance Company Paying Fairly?

Last week, local news station KXAN ran a great story on the problems that consumers encounter trying to get insurance companies to pay their claims.  Unfortunately, I see this on a daily basis.  When you’re hurt or injured, insurance companies seem to employ the old deny, defend and delay tactics to try and minimize what you’re paid.

The person in this story was lucky.  After a battle, he thinks he received a fair payout without having to hire an attorney.  But most people who try to handle their own claims aren’t that lucky.  As lawyers, we know the tactics the insurance companies are trying to use against you, and we know the ways you can mess up your claim.  That’s why it’s reported that even insurance companies studies prove that claimants who have lawyers who can help guide you through the process end up with much higher recoveries, on average.

I urge you to watch the story below:

 

Posted on: July 15, 2014 | Tagged

Amusement Park Safety

roller-coasterEarlier this week, several people were injured in a roller coaster accident at Six Flags in Valencia, California.  Apparently, a tree fell on the track, injuring two people and causing a number of others to be stranded for hours.

That’s tragic.  Amusement park injuries occur more than we think, and they are often severe.

But what caught my eye was the source of the story.  The story I saw was on Yahoo, but ran in the Christian Science Monitor.  Why did it catch my eye?

A lot of people have never heard of the Christian Science Monitor, but it’s an internationally respected newspaper that has won several Pulitzer Prizes and dozens of other awards for outstanding journalism.  When I was in back in high school participating in speech and debate, we used to read many of the articles, and most of the headlines, to prepare ourselves for our various competitions.

The Yahoo story stuck with me because I’ll always remember a competition in the small town of Hondo, Texas, where I quoted an article from the Christian Science Monitor in one of my speeches.  I didn’t do as well as I normally did or expected to do, and I couldn’t figure out why until we received the judges’ sheets after the contest.  And my judge railed on me for citing a right wing propaganda machine during my speech.

I didn’t correct my judge to let him know about his errors.  But I’ve always remembered that story because it’s an important to so many lessons for me.  I’m just sorry a roller coaster accident had to be the reminder.

 

 

Posted on: July 9, 2014 | Tagged

Get Ready To File Your Chrysler Ignition Switch Claims

As you probably know, Chrysler admitted earlier this year that just over 2.5 million of its vehicles had defective ignition switches.  The switches were faulted in at least 165 deaths and countless more serious injuries.

In an effort to control litigation costs, Chrysler has set up a claim process that will serve as an alternative to litigation.  If injured as a result of a faulty ignition switch, you may submit a claim, and it will be reviewed by attorney Kenneth Feinberg, who will make awards that Chrysler has agreed to pay.  The hope is that the process will be expedited and reduce costs.  Under the proposal, your claim must be made between August 1 and December 31 of this year, and Mr. Feinberg has a goal of resolving each claim within 90 to 180 days of filing.

From a claimant’s perspective, the biggest potential advantage appears to be the speed of the filing and resolution.  A typical products liability lawsuit would usually take much longer than the time hoped for in this process.  Additionally, Mr. Feinberg has publicly stated that he doesn’t want to litigate issues relating to whether the claimant’s conduct contributed to the wreck — for example, was the claimant drunk, speeding, etc.  Those types of issues would obviously be huge concerns in a trial.

On the downside, Mr. Feinberg has a lot of experience in evaluating claims and making awards in situations such as this (he handled the Sept. 11 Victim’s Compensation Fund and he’s currently doing similar work in the BP oil spill arena), and he has received a fair amount of criticism about his awards in the BP case.

If you don’t want to enter the process, then you can still file a lawsuit.  However, which path to take is a decision that must be made on a case-by-case basis.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a wreck caused by a faulty ignition switch, please call us and we’ll try to help you.

Posted on: July 1, 2014 | Tagged

Head Injuries: New Settlement In NFL Concussion Lawsuit

helmet smallYou may recall that the previous settlement agreement between the National Football League and a class of former players was scrapped by the judge, who was concerned that there wouldn’t be enough funds to fully compensate the injured players who sustained head injuries.

Yesterday, the parties entered into a new settlement agreement.  Unlike the last settlement, this settlement isn’t capped at any specific amount.  This ensures that any former player who develops a qualifying neurocognitive condition will be compensated for the injury.

This is an interesting way forward.  Obviously, we represent a number of clients who have sustained head injuries, so I know the ways that these types of injuries can affect someone.  But I’ve also done some work on class actions, and it’s highly unusual to craft a settlement that doesn’t have a cap on the damages.  It will be interesting to see how the case proceeds and whether the ultimate amount paid out will surpass the $765 million that was being set aside in the prior agreement.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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