Lewisville Personal Injury Attorneys
Injury Law Alert - Fall 2007 Issue
- IF YOU'RE IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT...
- AUTO ACCIDENT CHECKLIST
- INSURERS PLAY HARDBALL
- HOME LOANS AND PREDATORY LENDERS
- INFORMATION ABOUT PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS
- GOOD GUYS CAN FINISH FIRST
- WHEN AN ANIMAL ATTACKS...
- FAMILY WINS $13 MILLION IN ASBESTOS RECOVERY
- TAKING THE BITE OUT OF AUTO INSURANCE
- DRUG SAFETY ALERT
IF YOU'RE IN AN AUTOMOBILE ACCIDENT...
There are approximately 12 million car accidents in the United States each year. It is a disturbing fact that you or someone you know is likely to be involved in an auto accident. Take a few minutes to read the answers to these frequently asked questions about accidents.
What Should I Do If I Am in an Accident?
See the accompanying article for a helpful checklist of "do's and don'ts" if you are involved in an accident.
How Are Insurance Claims Handled?
As soon as possible after the accident, contact your insurance company. If the accident was the other driver's fault, your claim should be paid by his or her insurance company. If the other driver does not have insurance, or does not have enough insurance, your insurance company may pay your claim, depending on what kind of coverage you have.
Some insurance companies will tell you that you don't need an attorney to represent you if you are injured in the accident. This is bad advice. Never give an insurance company official statements about the accident without consulting with us so that we can protect your rights.
What About Property Damage Claims?
Most property damage claims are handled quickly and efficiently and usually do not require a lawyer. If the accident is not your fault, the other driver's insurance should pay to fix your car, unless it would cost more to fix your car than it is worth. If this is the case, your car is "totaled," and you will receive only the market value of your car before the accident. Many repair shops will help you by providing free repair estimates for insurance purposes.
What If I Am Injured?
As with property damage, if the other driver is responsible for the accident, he or she is also responsible for your medical bills. If you have been injured, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Remember: An injury may not appear until long after the accident.
Do I Need an Attorney?
If you were not hurt, or if the only damage suffered is property damage, you probably will not need a car accident attorney. However, if you have been injured or have missed work, you should contact us immediately to help you get your fair due from the insurance companies. Unfortunately, many insurance companies make it difficult to recover for certain kinds of injuries (such as whiplash) without a lawyer's help.
How Much Will It Cost to Get Legal Help?
Most attorneys who handle personal injury lawsuits do so on a contingent-fee basis. This means that you do not have to pay for the attorney's services out of your own pocket, but instead the attorney will receive a share of the recovery if you are successful. If you don't win, you don't pay. We believe that you deserve good legal help even if you do not have a lot of money.
What Is My Claim Worth?
The answer depends on a number of different factors. You should be compensated for your medical bills and lost wages, both past and future. You also should recover something for the pain and suffering the accident has caused you. If your injuries are serious enough, they may affect you for the rest of your life, and so you should be able to recover for your lost earning capacity.
How Long Will It Take to Settle My Claim?
Many cases settle quickly, to everyone's satisfaction. Others continue for months or even years, depending on whether there are disputed facts and on the amount of medical treatment you require. Still other cases cannot be settled without a trial, which may take longer.
Who Do I Talk to?
If you have been in an auto accident and have questions about whether you need a Lewisville personal injury lawyer or whether you have a right to monetary damages, call us. Decisions that must be made after an accident are very important. We will be happy to talk to you about your case.
AUTO ACCIDENT CHECKLIST
- STAY CALM.
- Move yourself and your passengers out of harm's way. Call the police.
- Assist anyone who is injured. Call for an ambulance if necessary.
- Get the name, address, phone number, and license number of the other driver(s) and car(s). Exchange insurance information. DO NOT discuss the accident (except with the police), but DO make notes of anything the other driver(s) says about the accident.
- Get the names, addresses, and phone numbers of any witnesses.
- Get photographs of your vehicle, contact your insurance company, and write down everything you remember about the collision ASAP.
- Contact our firm to discuss your legal options.
INSURERS PLAY HARDBALL
Month after month, you pay hundreds of dollars in insurance premiums, expecting that if you have an accident your insurer will cover the bill. Unfortunately, this expectation all too often goes unmet because insurers play hardball in accident claims.
For the past decade or more, many insurers have taken a tough stance on paying so-called "soft-tissue" claims-those claims where the injury does not show up on X-rays, such as whiplash. This stance is sometimes called the "Three Ds": Deny the claim, delay the settlement, and defend in court.
So why the tough stand? The answer is simple: MONEY. For every dollar not paid out in claims, the insurer makes another dollar in profit. The fact that its insured gets dragged into court on a relatively minor claim does not seem to bother the insurance company, nor does the fact that an injured person goes uncompensated.
Insurers are paying less and less in claims, but continue to increase premiums. Why? Again, the insurers have done a good job of convincing people that liars and cheats who make false or inflated claims are actually costing them millions of dollars a year. This is also part of their strategy: Make the victims look as though they are trying to defraud the insurers, and make the lawyers who represent the victims look greedy.
The sad truth of the matter is that, as long as people let insurers get away with this strategy, insurers will continue to use it. The only hope is that when enough of us have been treated unfairly, we won't put up with it anymore.
HOME LOANS AND PREDATORY LENDERS
We shop around for the best deals on the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and the cars we drive. So why do many people not shop around for the best deal on the largest expense they will ever incur-their mortgage? The answer is that many people are taken in by the high-pressure tactics of predatory lenders.
Who are predatory lenders? They are lenders more concerned about making a buck than finding the right mortgage for you. Their lack of concern for the welfare of borrowers can cause all kinds of harm:
- They convince people to buy more home than they can afford through the use of pressure tactics and "teaser" rates;
- They sell properties for more than they are worth by using false appraisals; and
- They charge exorbitant rates for services that they do not provide or that are not necessary.
Because they target the very old, the very young, and those with less-than-perfect credit, predatory lenders can often convince people that they should not bother to shop around, and they lie to people about the process and about the loans they will receive. Often, the borrower discovers that he has paid too much for what he got or that he cannot afford the loan that was made, and he loses the house through foreclosure.
So what can you do to protect yourself? Much of it is common sense. Shop around for a loan, just as you would shop around for anything else. Ask for recommendations from professionals who do not work for the lender, such as your real estate agent. Remember, once the loan is made, it is your responsibility to pay it back in full, and anyone who tells you otherwise is not telling you the truth. Understand everything that you are asked to sign-if you need to, take a document home and look at it first. And remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
INFORMATION ABOUT PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS
Q: What is a personal injury (PI) claim?
A: Any kind of legal claim against someone for causing physical or mental injury to someone else is a PI claim. PI claims are commonly caused by automobile collisions, slip and falls, defective products, or medical malpractice.
Q: What compensation can I receive if I have a PI claim?
A: Although it depends on the facts, if you have been injured, you can usually recover for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental anguish, property damage, and any permanent injury you have suffered. In some cases, other people (such as your spouse or family) may also be entitled to recover.
Q: When is another person liable for my injuries?
A: Again, the answer depends on the facts, but most commonly another person is liable if your injuries are the foreseeable result of that person's negligence, which generally means carelessness toward you.
Q: How long does it take to make a PI claim?
A: It depends on a lot of factors, including the complexity of the case and the reasonableness of everyone involved. Some PI claims settle very quickly, while others have to go to trial or even to appeal, although this is relatively rare.
Q: Is my PI case a good one?
A: Only a PI lawyer can answer that question. If you believe that you have a personal injury claim, you should contact our office as soon as possible. If you delay, the law may prevent you from filing your claim and receiving the compensation that you deserve.
GOOD GUYS CAN FINISH FIRST
Twelve crew members who worked for the Overseas Shipholding Group (OSG) were awarded $437,500 each for reporting illegal dumping by OSG oil tankers. OSG is one of the largest oil tanker firms in the world. The company pleaded guilty to dumping thousands of gallons of waste oil and sludge into the ocean and systematically altering logs to hide the activity.
The 12 "whistleblowers" were appalled by the illegal activity and took steps to report the crimes. One crew member, who was threatened with firing if he did not participate in the polluting, kept a secret record of the dates of the polluting. Another crew member called the Coast Guard and described how an oil sensor was being "tricked" to appear as if no oil were being discharged. OSG agreed to pay a fine of $37 million for the dumping.
Sometimes, the good guys do win.
WHEN AN ANIMAL ATTACKS...
Every year, tens of thousands of people are injured in animal attacks. Although most victims are not seriously hurt, some are, and a number are even killed. The following information will answer some of the more frequently asked questions about such injuries.
Q: What should I do if I have been attacked by an animal?
A: The first thing is to seek medical care for your injuries. Almost as important is to get as much information about the animal and its owner as possible. If you are attacked by a wild animal or an animal that you cannot identify, your doctor may insist that you get protective rabies shots, a painful experience.
Q: What if the animal that attacked me has an owner?
A: If, for example, you were attacked by a dog belonging to someone, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. If possible, get some basic information about the owner of the dog, such as his name, address, telephone number, and insurance information. Act much in the same way you would act after having a traffic accident with another driver.
Q: How do I make a claim for my injuries?
A: Making a claim for injuries caused by an animal attack is usually a matter of contacting the insurance company of the animal's owner. Although the insurer will likely try to convince you that you do not need an attorney, don't listen to that bad advice. It is in the insurance company's best interest to talk you out of getting legal help, so make sure to consult with an animal attack attorney to protect your rights. You are ALWAYS entitled to talk to a lawyer.
Q: Do I have to show that the animal was vicious in order to recover?
A: Sometimes. If you are bitten by a dog that has never shown signs of aggression, the owner might be able to argue that he could not have prevented the attack because he had no reason to know that the dog would bite. In contrast, if the attack is by a guard dog or a dog bred for aggression or fighting (like many pit bulls), or the animal has shown aggression in the past, the owner will probably be liable for not taking the necessary steps to prevent your injuries. Again, the best way to pursue a claim arising out of an animal attack is with a lawyer who can help you determine the precise scope of your rights under a given set of facts.
Q: Assuming I have a claim, what kind of compensation can I recover?
A: The answer depends very much on the facts of your case. Certainly, you should be able to recover your medical expenses, as well as any wages you lost if your injuries rendered you unable to work. If the attack has left you scarred or disfigured, you can probably recover the costs of any cosmetic surgery necessary to correct the problem. You may also be entitled to something for your pain and suffering, and, in truly terrible cases, you may even be able to recover "extra" damages to punish the animal's owner if he is guilty of serious wrongdoing.
Q: What will happen to the animal and his owner? Will they get in criminal trouble?
A: Here again, the facts determine the answer. If the attack was by an otherwise good-natured family pet with no history of prior attacks, probably nothing will happen to the dog or its owner. However, if the dog has a history of attacking people, the authorities may find that it is dangerous and have it "put down." A new law enacted in Texas after several high-profile dog attacks makes it possible for the animal's owner to be held criminally liable in cases involving death and serious injury. But, as with all things legal, the facts will determine the outcome.
If you are injured by an animal, who pays?
Usually, it is the insurance policy covering the owner of the animal and/or the property where the attack occurred. Most homeowner's policies will cover injuries caused by the homeowner's pets, and some homeowners even carry special animal insurance coverage.
If the pet owner is not insured, this does not mean that he is off the hook. If he is legally liable for your injuries, he is also responsible for paying your damages, although they may be more difficult to collect.
The one person who should not have to pay is the victim: Your injuries are not your fault, and you should not have to bear the cost. If you or a loved one has suffered an animal attack, contact our office immediately.
FAMILY WINS $13 MILLION IN ASBESTOS RECOVERY
Although most people now know the dangers posed by asbestos, this was not always the case. Because cancers and other diseases caused by asbestos can take decades to appear, new asbestos lawsuits are still being filed, years after asbestos was no longer being used in consumer and industrial products.
One of these suits was brought by the family of a Texas man who died at age 41 of mesothelioma, a rare form of cancer caused by asbestos. The suit was brought against Georgia-Pacific, which made a joint compound, used in construction projects, that contained asbestos. The man had been exposed to the compound as a child, when he helped his father with construction jobs on the weekends.
Although the evidence showed that the Texan had been exposed to asbestos in other ways, the jury found Georgia-Pacific 75% liable for his injuries. It was likely influenced by evidence showing that, while all exposure to asbestos is bad, exposure to asbestos as a child is worse because children are more vulnerable to cancer-causing agents than are adults.
The jurors were also likely influenced by evidence showing that Georgia-Pacific had tried to hide the dangers of asbestos from consumers, had only half-heartedly complied with federal warning requirements, and had continued to sell the joint compound right up to the moment it was banned-internal documents noted that Georgia-Pacific's competitors were losing money by pulling their asbestos-containing products before they were required to.
Disturbed by Georgia-Pacific's lack of concern for those who used its products and its excessive concern for the bottom line, the jury returned a verdict of more than $13 million for the family.
TAKING THE BITE OUT OF AUTO INSURANCE
Even as payments by insurance companies for property damage and injuries shrink, insurance rates continue to rise. However, there are a number of things that the savvy consumer can do to lower his rates and reduce the auto insurance bite.
It Pays to Shop
The most important thing to remember is that auto insurance is a business and, just like any business, insurance companies want you to be their customer. They spend millions of dollars each year on geckos and other advertising, so it pays to shop around. Rates for the same coverage on the same driver in the same car can vary enormously from company to company, and even an hour spent shopping by telephone or over the Internet could end up saving you hundreds of dollars in premiums each year.
Many insurers give discounts if you have more than one kind of insurance with them. For example, if you insure your home and your car with the same insurance company, that may reduce the rate that it charges for both types of coverage. However, be careful: Just because you are getting a discount does not mean that you are necessarily getting the lowest rate.
Tweak Your Coverage
You may also look into changing your coverage. Simply raising your deductible from $500 to $1,000 per accident can save you a lot of money. Also, if you have an old car that is of little value, consider dropping your collision coverage because chances are that, if you are in an accident, the car will be "totaled" and you will receive only a nominal amount.
Some people may decide that they do not want common kinds of extra coverage (such as towing coverage and personal injury protection coverage, or "PIP"), but you should carefully weigh their value before canceling them. In particular, PIP coverage is usually worth the extra cost.
Not Created Equal
Remember, not all cars cost the same to insure: The hot-rod muscle car will usually cost more than the family sedan. If you are buying a new or used car, ask your insurer about the rates charged for different vehicles you are considering. If you buy the car that costs the least to cover, you will save money on insurance as long as you own the vehicle.
Also, ask your insurance company about discounts that may be available. Most insurance companies offer discounts for certain equipment that makes cars safer or more difficult to steal (such as car alarms, air bags, and anti-lock brakes) or for certain kinds of drivers that they believe are less likely to have accidents (such as those who drive less than the average, older drivers, and students who get good grades in school). Some insurers will give you an additional discount if you take certain kinds of classes, such as driver's education or alcohol awareness, classes they hope will make you a better, safer driver.
The best advice of all is to BE CAREFUL when you drive. The fewer accidents you have and the fewer tickets you receive, the better your driving record and the lower your insurance rates will be.
DRUG SAFETY ALERT
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a safety alert on Avandia, a drug used to treat type 2 diabetes. Several clinical trials have shown that there is a significant increase in the risk of heart attack and heart-related deaths in patients taking Avandia.
The drug is manufactured and marketed by GlaxoSmithKline. It was approved by the FDA in 1999, and more than one million people have taken the drug in the U.S. alone. Avandia has been heavily promoted to consumers, and some believe that GlaxoSmithKline should have known of the potential risks and warned those taking the drug.
According to the FDA, "Patients who are taking Avandia, especially those who are known to have underlying heart disease or who are at high risk of heart attack should talk to their doctor about this new information as they evaluate the available treatment options for their type 2 diabetes." If you or a loved one has suffered a heart problem that you believe is related to Avandia, be sure to contact our office to speak with a skilled drug injury lawyer.