Injuries can lead to serious and long term physical, emotional and financial harm. If you have been injured in Texas then you should speak with a lawyer soon after the injury. Lawyers can assess the merits of your case and help obtain relief owed to you under Texas law. Recovering for an injury with the help of an attorney is often the right thing to do even if insurance companies would have you believe it is a rip off. Lawyers in Texas represent clients in injury claims in Dallas, Fort Worth and other parts of the state.
1. If I am injured in an accident in Fort Worth, what is the most important thing I can do?
The most important thing you can do is get well. Consult a doctor for any injuries you may have and follow all of your physician’s advice. All the legal stuff aside, the most important thing after an accident is to heal. That’s right–talk to a doctor before lawyers. Seeking treatment from a qualified physician and following through with the treatment is very important. Even if you don’t want to follow the treatment or think you cannot afford it. Depending on the nature of your injury, refusing to complete treatment can result in permanent pain, disfigurement, or disability. None of those are worth refusing some bed rest or medication. If you really disagree with the treatment plan you should obtain the second opinion of another doctor.
Additionally, it’s really important for your case that you complete the treatment your doctor proscribes. Without healing as much as you can it is very difficult to prove your injuries are not due to your own negligence after the injury occurred. The other party to your injury, and their insurance company, will argue that you made the injury worse by failing to complete treatment so they are not liable for the full extent of your injuries. They usually win on that argument. Do yourself a favor physically and financially and complete the treatment your physician orders.
2. What is the second most important thing I can do after an accident in Dallas or Fort Worth?
Decline to discuss the case with the other party, his insurance company, the insurance adjuster, or his attorney until you have decided whether you will hire an attorney to represent you. Of course, if you decide not to hire an attorney, you will have to make your own decisions about what statements you offer them in the future.
A common practice for insurance adjusters and the attorneys to ask for a “statement” from you. They may ask for you to give them a signed, written statement. Sometimes they will just ask you for one over the phone and record the conversation. If you call them, the automated system at the beginning of the call may even tell you the call is recorded and then the adjuster won’t even have to say anything and can just ask you what happened or ask about your injuries. You may be thinking, “what’s the big deal?”
Well, these statements you give them, formally or informally, can and will be used against you. What often happens is an injured person gives a statement and doesn’t fully describe the facts or injuries and later in the course of trying to settle the case or even going to trial the statement comes back out and they show that you said your injury wasn’t that bad or the injury didn’t happen the way you said it did.
Until you decide you are going to hire an attorney and until you hire an attorney you should not provide any comments about how the injury occurred, what your injury is, or what treatment you are undergoing. Simply tell them you are obtaining an attorney and if they would like to leave their contact information you will forward it to your attorney. If you are involved in a vehicle collision you can provide policy information for your own insurance.
Once you have hired an attorney, you should have no direct contact with any other party to the injury, their insurance adjuster, or their lawyer. Forward all requests for information to your attorney.
3. Can’t I just work with the insurance adjuster or attorney for the other party?
You can and you will have to if you decide not to hire an attorney. However, you should understand the reality of how insurance works and what happens after an injury. Insurance adjusters tend to be the first people to reach out to you after an injury. You may have filed a claim against the other party’s insurance or the other party may have contacted their own insurer and let them know about the accident. Either way, the adjuster will try to “get the facts” or ask for a “statement”. Adjusters can be incredibly personable, they may be very direct and business-like, or they may be rude and pushy.
Regardless of the approach by the adjuster – and it may change over time – you should understand that they are not your ally. Although the commercials tell you that “you are in good hands” and “we’re on your side” you are not and they are not.
The adjusters receive training from day one in an environment that sees every injury as suspect and every injured party as a scam artist trying to milk them for money. Not every adjuster buys that attitude but a lot do, so they tend to view your injury in a way most favorable to the insurance company. The insurance company does not want to pay out a penny more than they have to, because each penny they pay you is a penny out of their profits. So instead they set up bonus programs that incentivize the adjusters to pay out as little as possible. They also teach the adjusters ways to discredit you and your injuries. They will tell you your injuries are worth less than they are. Or they will drag out the process to make you desperate to just get it over with and accept less money.
They will deceive you about the law. They have no duty to be honest with you.
So yes, you can work with them but you have a very, very low probability of getting fair compensation for your injuries. The insurance companies use software to determine the maximum expected value for your injury, including present and future medical bills, past and future lost earnings, past and future pain and suffering and so on. They then work you down from that number. The easiest way to cut down your compensation is to refuse to pay for future anything. The next easiest way is to refuse to pay for any pain or suffering. By cutting out relief you may be able to legally obtain from a court they can pay you a fraction of the compensation you deserve.
They know those games do not work with a personal injury lawyer. Hiring a lawyer lets them know you are serious about getting a fair shake. One common practice by adjusters is telling you a lawyer won’t do any good. The adjuster won’t offer you any more and a lawyer will just take some of it. That is not always the case. Frequently it is not.
However, a lawyer can evaluate your case for very little money and determine the probability you should receive a larger settlement or jury award based on your injury. Sometimes there isn’t enough value added by hiring an attorney to make it a better deal. Hiring a lawyer just for a consultation to evaluate your case will not require paying a substantial amount.
4. How are my medical bills paid?
Depending on where the injury occurs several types of insurance may initially pay those bills. If injured at work, your employer’s worker’s compensation insurer may pay or your own health insurance may cover costs. If injured in a vehicle, your insurance policy may include Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments Coverage (MPC). On the other hand if the other driver is uninsured, your uninsured motorist coverage may cover medical bills. If your auto insurance does not cover it then your health insurance may cover it. If injured away from home, in some cases your home owners insurance may cover those bills; but your health insurance will probably be the first place you turn. Sometimes medical providers require you to sign a lien on any settlement or verdict to make sure they receive repayment.
When you settle with another party’s insurance or obtain a judgment, you generally must repay your insurance company. After that, you should pay any outstanding medical bills from the remaining proceeds.
5. How much is my claim worth?
Injuries do not have specific values – in spite of how insurance companies treat them. It is impossible to know what your claim is worth without knowing details about your injury. The best way to determine the value of your claim is to schedule a consultation with a personal injury lawyer.