Grapevine Car Accident Lawyer
Grossman Law Offices Wants to Help You Understand What to do after a Car Wreck
Have you or a loved one recently been the victim in a major car accident along the Gulf Coast or anywhere in Texas? If this has happened to you (or if you’re watching a beloved family member fight for his or her life after one), in addition to recovering from your injuries, high on your list of questions is how to go about protecting your legal rights against those who would deny you fair damage compensation for the painful and, most likely, the expensive injuries you and your family must bear in the wake of this calamity.
If the wreck is not your fault, you have a legal right to seek compensation for the financial, physical, and emotional injuries you suffered in your car crash at the hands of the neglectful driver who hit you. But it is impossible to even guess, much less compute, the amount you actually may be entitled to because the damages you must ask for depend on the circumstances that surround the accident itself and the injures you have suffered from it: which all depend on the evidence of defendant guilt that your private investigation can uncover. An investigation that has not even begun: even if your opponents are already well into theirs.
The Grapevine and DFW Metroplex car accident lawyers at Grossman Law Offices hope to share some general information with you that applies to most car accident cases. We also hope you will better-understand if you have a valid claim against those who may have caused the accident. We’ll explain how the insurance industry significantly affect’s your case. This article will also help you appreciate the clear need to hire an attorney, any experienced attorney in personal injury law, if you wish to win rightful legal damages. And we say "win" because the odds are likely that you will have to fight for your compensation rights.
Now some of you might feel you can manage this matter on your own. If it’s just a little fender-bender and all you must deal with is property damage, it’s certainly possible. But, for your own sake, especially when you or any of your passengers suffered moderate to serious injury, you are best served to hire an experienced local car accident attorney: because without one, you’re asking for a lot of trouble.
As you move through this article, you’ll better-understand why your opponents will be all-too happy to trouble you. You’ll also learn a few of their tricks as well as get an idea of how an experienced lawyer can successfully counter them. We’ll share reasons why you should (or shouldn’t) settle your claim or case and avoid a trial. And finally, we’ll tell you how to go about hiring an attorney the right way: as well as how to read his responses to your careful interview questions. Make no bones about it. If someone was seriously hurt, you need an experienced lawyer. If you don’t retain one, you do so at your peril; and that of your family.
The Financial "Damages" Injured Auto Accident Victims Have a Right to Pursue
The term "damages" is the legal description of the monetary loss that an injured can claim after proving a defendant’s negligence. Damages do not refer to just the cost of your specific injuries (like only your medical bills). It is a general legal term that financially sums-up all of the value of the harm done to the plaintiff. In an instance where the victim fractured his collar bone in a car wreck, the broken collar bone is the actual physical injury. But the legal damages would be all monetary costs and, or, losses that produced by the injury (pain, suffering, lost wages, disability, property damage, etc). Damages will either fall into the categories of either General or Special.
- General damages are those found to be non-economic. They are viewed as quite subjective, and should be handled (and presented to a jury) very carefully if plaintiffs want to have the best chances of winning a civil trial. Some common examples of general damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Loss of consortium (or partnership, this can be classified as either a professional or marital partnership and in cases when a spouse who is a business partner is injured, damages for both professional and marital loss of consortium can be requested)
- Emotional distress
- Physical disability (either short-term, long-term or permanent)
Because of the subjectivity of these damages, a clear and effective explanation of general damage suffering, and the degree of that suffering, is an elemental aspect of filing (and winning) a personal injury claim. General damage amounts awarded differ from case to case, even if the injuries are alike. And an accurate accounting of those damages makes for a stronger case.
Special damages refer to the actual economic losses you incurred as a result of your accident. They are much more objective as they are primarily market-driven and much easier to compute: although this might not always the case. In an accident where the resulting injuries are enormously disastrous to the victim's state of well-being, no attorney may be capable of precisely determining, for example, how much longer their client will live.
So, a precise determination of lost wage damages for example, can be extremely difficult to calculate. This is because quite often, the victim’s salary history to-date, relative to what they might have expected to earn through future promotions or leaving that job to take a better one, are not always clear. This is why a lot of thought must be given to the more technical nature of the victim’s earning potential, like changes in job description, the pursuit of additional higher education or more specialized certification. All of these variables, and others, would invariably lead to a higher pay scale throughout the years, and a larger award for lost wages within the total damage package.
Some other examples of easier-to-assess special damages include.
- Court costs
- Medical costs incurred in the past and future, to include prescribed physical or other therapies if there is a long-term or permanent disability to the victim
- Damages to the victim's property
All of the damages that the plaintiff believes he or she has suffered must be clearly represented and submitted as evidence at trial. The Grapevine and North Tarrant County auto accident lawyers with Grossman Law Offices spend a great deal of their time on each case precisely calculating damages into a clearly itemized statement of the your complete financial losses as a result of the defendant’s negligence that caused the truck accident.
Do you Have a Viable Legal Damage Claim Arising From your Automobile Accident?
Auto accidents are common, every day occurrences. But how do we know whether or not we have a rightful personal injury case against a negligent driver-defendant who should reimburse us for our injuries? An injured accident victim has the legal right to collect money for his injuries by proving the required elements of an auto accident claim in court. Since all defendants are innocent until proven guilty, the burden to you, the injured plaintiff, is to show that you are owed these damages by the defendants who merely have to deny your claim. If you can’t counter those denials or clearly establish their negligence, then the defendant(s) win.
There are four of these elements to proving negligence against a defendant. They are presented sequentially, and built on the clear evidence that you and your attorney have successively proven. These elements are: duty, breach, causation, and damages. Below is a brief discussion of each of these four "pillars of legal success" so that you will have a better idea what it will take to prove that you’re entitled to compensation for the full amount of your legal damage request.
The route to a successful car accident claim begins with your attorney proving that the defendant owed you a duty of care. We all have a responsibility - or duty - to avoid injuring other people. This duty of care is defined by whether a reasonable person, under the same circumstances as your accident, could have known that their action or inaction would have caused injury to another person. Sometimes a duty of care is clear. One example of the legal duty required of all divers is this: At a red light, you must stop, because a reasonable person in the same circumstances would be able to see that not stopping at the red light could cause an injurious car wreck. However, other times proving the duty can be more elusive because it can depend on mitigating (or unforeseen) circumstances surrounding the accident itself. But in an auto accident, the normal duty of care is relatively straightforward
The next step is proving that the defendant actually breached the duty of care that is owed you. To prove this, you have to clearly show that the defendant acted unreasonably under the circumstances. To prove that the defendant breached their duty, you and your local car accident lawyer must present solid evidence to show exactly what the other driver did, or did not do, to cause the wreck. A jury will hear this evidence and other cogent facts to decide whether the defendant’s actions were, or were not, appropriate under the circumstances. Some examples of behavior that might be considered unreasonable breach include driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, rolling through stop signs, or driving without headlights in the dark, just to name a few. Of course all of these examples are dependent on the circumstances surrounding the car wreck. If you can prove that the other driver acted unreasonably under the circumstances, you have shown the jury that the defendant breached his duty of care next move on to proving the driver’s negligence.
Once you show that the defendant breached their duty, you next must prove causation. This means that the breach by the defendant was the direct cause of the accident that produced your injuries. And the common route is proving negligence. Many times, in order to avoid liability for your injuries, the defendant’s lawyer will work to shift responsibility of the accident to someone else. The defense will try to blame another driver, a pedestrian, or even you in order to get out of paying damages. They might claim "unforeseeable circumstances" (force majeure) such as a homeless person stepped in their path and forced them to hit you, or their toddler threw a bottle of juice which momentarily distracted you and caused the accident, or their headlights suddenly stopped working because of a blown fuse. Maybe it happened, maybe it didn’t. But if the defendant can convince the jury that unforeseen events or a third party caused the accident, he will probably not have to compensate you for your damages. To prove causation (negligence), your evidence must clearly show that the careless driver responsible for the accident (and your injuries) is liable for these damages. And this often involves disproving their explanations, no matter how illogical, or ridiculous they might appear.
Now that you’ve proven the negligent defendant caused the breach of the duty of care owed to you while he or she was behind the wheel of his car and is the cause of your wreck-related injuries, it’s now time to hand them the bill in court in the form of damages. "Damages" is the full amount the defendant owes you for those injuries. You must prove to the jury that the damages the defendant caused are fair and specific.
While you and your accident attorney are busy coming up with the right damage amount, the defendants are also working on the very same task, totaling up their anticipated losses from a guilty verdict. Damage amounts are usually the most contentious issue in a car accident case. Defendants calculate how much they think they owe accident victims just in case the jury finds them guilty. They often claim that they really owe you much less than you’re asking and will produce "records" to back up their assertion. Then they will try to justify their position by accusing you of asking for a handout by saying your damage request is excessive. They’ll also probably accuse you of filing a frivolous lawsuit, which is a pretty standard claim with defendants and their attorneys these days once the matter of defendant guilt has been clearly established by your attorney’s arguments. Nevertheless, you must clearly show the jury that your requested damage amount is realistic and proportional to the true harm done to you, and any of your vehicle’s passengers if there were any. Determining the full amount of damages is as important as the other three burdens of proof since you have only one shot to receive damages from any single negligent defendant in any personal injury lawsuit because - before you get the check - you must sign a document that releases the defendant from further damage claims; even after a trial. There are no do-overs.
But computing damages is quite a chore without an experienced DFW auto wreck personal injury attorney who knows the value of your losses and how to properly calculate them. How do you put a price tag on an intangible damage such as pain and suffering, or that of your child if one was injured? In calculating loss of earning capacity if you are disabled, how do you account for hypothetical raises and promotions you would have earned had you continued to work, or gotten a promotion, or were hired away by another company at double your current salary? How can you figure out how much all of your medical bills will amount to if your treatment is not yet complete, and your doctor can’t tell how long it will last? The Grapevine car accident lawyers at Grossman Law Offices know how to account for and calculate every one of your damages, and make certain that you recover as much as possible for your injuries.
Beware of all Defendants: Regardless of Whether They are Insured or Uninsured
Whether an insurance company is responsible for compensating you for damages from an auto wreck can have a significant impact on the legal process and ultimate outcome of your case.
All motorists in Texas are required to drive with proof of liability insurance coverage. But many still choose to ignore the law and drive uninsured. If the other driver is found liable for your injuries, he will most likely be personally responsible for compensating you if he or she is uninsured (and you do not have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage - UM/UIM). Often the other driver is insured, but doesn’t have enough to cover the full value of your damage claim. If that happens, then the other driver must pay you the difference. And if that driver can’t, your UM/UIM coverage should; but sometimes that can involve a fight with your carrier.
If any of these scenarios apply, you must be concerned about the defendant’s finances. If he or she is insolvent (in other words, doesn’t have the money to pay your damage award), then you might not receive fair (or any?) injury compensation. It’s sad when this happens. And a lot of car accident injury victims don’t receive full compensation for their injuries because the other driver was either uninsured and did not have the money to pay the victim for his losses, or had substandard coverage and could not make-up the difference..
Sometimes, a driver who has been involved in a wreck will take steps to hide his assets and appear insolvent. He might also try and hide this accident from his insurance company that could drop his coverage if he gets in another wreck. No matter the reasons for this defendant behavior, if you suspect this to be the case, the Dallas and Tarrant County car accident injury lawyers at Grossman Law Offices conduct a thorough asset check on any accident defendant to find out how much he’s really worth. That asset check also includes a determination of his or her insurance company, and level of coverage. If there’s money available, we’ll find it and work to make sure the court is aware of these hidden funds as well as the negligent defendant’s efforts to hide them.
Suppose that both you and the other driver were insured and his insurance company is responsible for compensating you for your damages. This is probably good news because in most insured cases it means that there will be at least some compensation money coming your way. And if you find out quickly that the other driver is properly insured, there are no serious physical injuries and all you’re dealing with is property damage, you might not need a lawyer. But proceed very cautiously, say as little as possible and keep your options open until you are ironclad-certain that things will are turning out your way.
This is because that in just about any accident where an insurance company is involved, it means that you’ll be up against an aggressive company that is in the business to make money, not to give it up uncontested. They will do everything possible to pay out as little as they can, or not at all. These companies employ adjusters, accident experts, investigators, and specialized insurance defense attorneys to try to deny your claim or to pay you as little as possible.
Also, most drivers with "street legal-only" insurance carry minimum coverage on their vehicle, and the insurance policy may not fully reimburse you for your losses if your injuries and property damage are especially severe. Just because there is money theoretically available under an insurance policy to compensate you for your losses doesn’t necessarily mean the money will be easy to get your hands on; or that it will suffice. Anyone who has carried minimum coverage for themselves (or tried to deal with a minimum coverage agency when they’re in an accident) understands that a few companies pay better (and quicker), while most of the others aren’t very responsive to any process other than taking-in premiums and not paying-out legitimate claims. With some, the only way to get their attention (or their lawyers’) is to file your case in court.
Any of the above "insurance-related" scenarios might apply to your auto accident. This is why, in order to be fairly compensated for your physical injuries, you will have an uphill battle against these professionals who commonly drag their feet when it comes to paying car accident insurance claims. And it’s one of the biggest reasons for you to hire an experienced auto accident injury attorney: ASAP!
The Odds are Pretty High Your Injury Claim Will be Denied: Regardless of the Insurer
A popular tactic of some auto liability insurers is to suddenly find an excuse to cancel the policy of its customers once they are involved in an injury-related accident. And there are as many of these insurers as cows on a large Texas ranch. Some arbitrarily cancel for no reason, or say that the monthly premium payment didn’t arrive before the wreck was reported: even if it did arrive and was credited during the state-mandated 10 day grace period from the due-date.
The Texas Department of Insurance keeps records on how these companies honor claims and they’ve recently revealed some alarming data. One Texas minimum coverage insurer took-in over $271 million in premiums in 2010; but has a claims complaint index (CCI) that is 250 percent higher than the state complaint average. Another took in $575 million and had a CCI of nearly four times the state average. The TDI also has a "top 10" list of insurers that have the highest total complaints in the way they handle claims.
A recent analysis of the Insurance Department’s consumer complaint figures showed that 11 of the 25 largest auto insurers in the state - all of whom are supposed to be honoring over 100,000 policies each - had a 2010 CCI that was above average. Complaints that drivers filed with the state included such accusations as delays in processing claims, "low-ball" offers and settlements, denial of claims and liability disputes.
Another favorite trick of some insurance companies in denying an injured claimant is for an adjuster for the company tells the injured person that if the claim isn’t paid, the person will have to hire a lawyer and will probably wind up with little money for the trouble. At that point, the injured victim feels forced to take 50 percent or less of the claim for damages. This excuse is patently false. But since the driver probably hasn’t talked to an experienced Grapevine car accident lawyer, he’s probably unaware of this fact, feels that he’s alone against the big bad insurance bully and accepts a measly offer that will never make those injury ends meet.
In 2010, Texas consumers filed more than 6,600 complaints against auto insurers in Texas. More than half were by drivers who were not at fault in the accident; but had trouble getting an insurer to pay their claims: so says Texas Watch, a watchdog consumer group that has turned more of its attention to auto insurance issues and their trend of higher denials. This includes denials by firms that offer uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist UIM coverage. Many of these are the more reputable firms we hasten to add.
The watchdog group also says that unethical companies have an advantage because they undercut regular insurers on price largely because of their shoddy and frustrating claims payment practices. Many times such carriers will spend pennies on customer service as they rake-in the dollars. Their business model is predicated on a complicated and frustrating claims process. And when a policyholder or accident victim throws-up their hands, takes a low-ball offer or gives up., they’re playing right into this carrier’s hands. A Texas Watch spokesman says "this is their business model."
In the fall of 2011, Texas Watch completed a survey of customer complaints when filing damage claims against auto insurers in Texas. The largest complaint types and their percentages were:
- Delays in handling claims 36.7%
- Unsatisfactory offers 21.8%
- Denial of claims 16.3%
- Other 14.6%
- Customer service 10.5%
In a UIM coverage claim with your carrier, things can get very complicated for non-attorneys. In order for an underinsured claim to be valid you have to show that you exhausted the other available policies. In other words, if you have $100,000 in total damages and the negligent driver has only $60,000 to fully cover, you have to get all $60k or your UIM claim is viewed by your insurance company as invalid and will deny payment for the balance of your damages.
It is very easy for the defendant’s insurer to pay you less than 100 percent of the value of their policy. But the fact that you didn’t collect full value makes it impossible for your UIM claim to be honored by your carrier. And there are a few well-known insurance carriers on that top-10 list that is kept by the Texas Department of Insurance; firms you would think would be above such petty behavior.
This is why it is all the more important to have an experienced Grapevine and DFW car accident lawyer help you with both claims (the liability claim against the other party and the UIM claim against your own insurance) since your success lies in collecting full damage value from both. In cases where you successfully get the other party to tender policy limits, thereby exhausting that policy, you still might encounter difficulties with your company’s insurance adjuster’s alleged ignorance regarding Texas laws; particularly the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act.
So your claim then becomes a contract issue between you and your carrier rather than a tort issue. And Grossman Law Offices knows how to leverage a TDTPA violation claim against an insurer to do the right thing and pay your legitimate claim when you have been hit by an underinsured motorist.
More on Insurance Company Tactics that are Designed to Deny Rightful Compensation
When you want their money, insurance companies can be extremely difficult to negotiate with. And they take up a lot of your time without an experienced attorney on your side. Insurance companies are out to protect their own interests. And as we said, those interests are about receiving premiums and paying out as little as absolutely necessary. So, if you’ve been seriously injured, their interests run counter to yours. They’ll use adjusters to try to find ways to deny your claims. These adjusters may call you repeatedly, claiming to want more information and then asking innocent-sounding questions about your accident. Their inquiries may seem harmless on the surface. But they’re usually calculated to induce you to say something that could be used against you to deny your damage claim. Whatever you say to them will probably be recorded and could come back to haunt you as evidence against your claim in the future.
Our clients quickly learn from us the best way to deal with insurance adjusters: and that’s just don’t deal with them at all. Adjusters don’t call our clients, but rather, us. And when adjusters can’t talk to our clients, they don’t have a chance to twist our clients’ words around to use against them.
Many times, especially if they know you have a good case, an insurance company pressures and even harasses you to settle your claim for less than it is worth. Sometimes it’s much less. Now we believe accepting a fair settlement offer if it’s truly fair to the accident victim. But accepting an unfair settlement offer can be devastating for your legal rights: because again, when you accept an offer, you forever waive your right to ever sue the defendant again. The settlement on the table is all that you will ever collect from that defendant (and his insurance company). So it’s important to never accept an offer unless it’s truly fair. And the only way to determine a fair settlement from an insurance company that wants to victimize you is with the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney who has represented victims here in Grapevine.
Insurance companies know that most accident victims are everyday folks who, as a result of this accident, are usually strapped for cash. They have hefty medical bills and auto repair bills that need to be paid quickly. And perhaps they are unable to work as a result of their injuries so their reduced income is used for monthly expenses, which means there’s little - if any - left over to pay accident-related expenses. So their obvious strategy is to entice injured victims with small amounts of fast cash that might tide them over for awhile. But what if that’s not the end of your expenses? Insurance companies are banking on you not figuring that out until they’re long gone and off the hook. Don’t let the defendant in your case (and his insurer) get away with paying you less than you deserve.
Here are a few more insurance company tricks they would never try to pull on our clients.
- They offer a settlement before the full extent of the medical treatment you’ll need is known.
- They offer you less property damage money than what’s due on your car loan.
- The insurance company doesn’t offer you a rental car while your vehicle is in the shop being repaired.
- The insurance company tells you they’ll pay your claim when you submit your bills, but then refuse either to do so or keep stalling you when you ask for payment. (by the way, we never submit original bills to an insurance company, only copies - we save the originals for court)
- The insurance company takes too long to respond to your inquiries (this could mean that they’re investigating your claim behind your back or just "shining you on" and haven’t yet told you they don’t intend to pay your claim).
- The insurance company (usually the adjuster) tells you that a settlement offer is "all that you’re entitled to" or "the best you’re going to get".
Can you think of another reason why you shouldn’t call an experienced DFW car accident lawyer to shield you from insurance companies and fight for your fair compensation rights?
Choose the Local Grapevine Car Accident Injury Lawyer Who’s Right for You
If you have been in a car wreck in our community, you need to contact a local attorney who can deliver the best results possible. Respected car accident lawyer Michael Grossman suggests that you speak with at least two before deciding on the one to handle your case. When consulting with one, ask about experience in handling cases similar to yours and make sure to discuss this lawyer’s record in litigating and settling similar car accident cases. Also ask the attorney to provide you with the names and contact information of former clients with cases similar to yours. And then call them. Do not hire the attorney unless you trust him or her and are confident in their ability to represent you in a way that you are comfortable.
The local car accident lawyers with Grossman Law Offices have been successfully handling car accident litigation for over 20 years. We’ve won favorable verdicts and negotiated fair settlements against virtually every major auto insurer in the country and most of the smaller ones; including the minimum coverage liability firms. Insurance companies recognize our name, and our reputation that precedes us. Both are very helpful in securing our clients’ fair claims from these insurers. Our business is making sure that you recover as much as possible for your injuries and simplify what - to many - is a complex, often dubious legal process.
You also might want to reconsider the offer of a relative lawyer or attorney-friend to represent you, even if the offer is made with the best of intentions. They might sound inspired to fight hard for your injury compensation rights. But you’ll soon discover that personal relation might find it quite difficult to emotionally detach him or herself from issues surrounding your case. A specialized, no-nonsense, car accident lawyer must have a keen eye to focus solely on the facts (not the emotional "drama") of the case if you are to be successful: and understand that often, winning compensation is a marathon; not a sprint.
What happens if that friend or relative attorney doesn’t do that; or accepts a less-than-fair settlement because he knows how badly you need the money now? And how will everyone feel once you end up losing that chance at fair damage compensation while the defendants skip-away all but unscathed? Keep your family members and friends out of your legal business. You will be very wise to remember this when deciding who will represent your 18 wheeler accident injury insurance claim or lawsuit. Let them relatives and friends be part of your personal support system. After all, that’s what they do best.
The time after a car accident is often stressful and confusing to the victims, and their families who must watch them suffer. Don’t add to the stress and confusion by letting an inexperienced attorney handle your case, or represent yourself when you are clearly unqualified to look out for your (or your family’s) best interests. We are uniquely qualified and fully prepared to get you the best results possible. If you or someone you know were injured in a car accident, contact an attorney at Grossman Law Offices today at 1-855-326-0000 (toll free), or send us an email, or fill out the form at the top of this page for a free consultation and find out how we can help you.
An experienced local attorney with Grossman Law Offices will analyze your case, and explain your options so that you will fully understand them. We want to make certain that you recover as much as reasonably possible for your injuries and make this sometimes complicated legal process as easy for you to understand and navigate to a successful end. Then you can resume your life: free from financial harm, and with this experience in your rearview mirror.