3 Common Questions About Personal Injury

There are a lot of misconceptions about Personal Injury law – in this post, find out the answers to 3 common questions about Personal Injury law.

If you’re like most people, you’re not going to take the time to research personal injury law until it actually affects you. So if you’re reading this it’s likely that you’re considering filing a personal injury claim. Here’s some answers to the three most common questions we hear concerning the personal injury claim process:

  1. What is my Personal Injury Claim worth?

    This is the fundamental question at the end of the day and a question we often get at the very beginning of the case when it’s unlikely your attorney will know the answer.  To understand why, here’s a brief explanation about how the value of your personal injury claim is determined.  To begin with, every single personal injury case has three essential elements:

    1. Liability – Who was at fault for the accident;
    2. Causation – What injures do you have that were caused by the accident; and
    3. Damages – How did your injuries affect your life (i.e. medical bills, lost earnings, pain & suffering, physical impairment, etc.).

    The value of the claim will not only depend upon all three of these elements, but also upon the availability of insurance or assets that will pay in the event of a successful judgment.  In other words, you can have the best case in the world with clear fault and big damages, but if there’s no money to get at the end of the day then your claim will be worthless.

    So, given the above, at the beginning of the case your personal injury lawyer will be evaluating whether they can prove the accident was the other person’s fault (and not also your fault), as well as the amounts and types of insurance that are available to recover. However, in the beginning it’s unlikely we will know your damages until all of your injuries have been diagnosed, you have received medical treatment, and we know how your injuries are affecting your life.

    Only after all of the above is known will your lawyer be able to accurately gauge what your claim is worth.  Please be very careful if a lawyer tells you they know the value of your claim in the very beginning.  Often unscrupulous lawyers will promise you the moon just to get you to hire them, only to find out at the end that your case was not worth what you were initially led to believe.

  1. How long will my Personal Injury Claim take?

    How long the claim will take will largely depend upon the extent of your injuries and how long your medical treatment lasts.  Typically, from the time you complete medical treatment you can usually count on it taking about an additional 60 days or so to gather all of the records, submit the demand and negotiate the insurance company’s highest offer.  Once you receive the highest settlement offer it will be up to you whether you want to take the settlement offer or hold out for more money, which will require filing a lawsuit.  A lawsuit is the only weapon your lawyer has to use against the insurance company to hold it accountable.

    If you decide to file a lawsuit, then be aware this will take some time.  The typical time it takes to get from filing the lawsuit to getting to trial in Dallas County is about 18 months.  However, you can usually get to mediation where cases are often settled in about 10 months from filing the lawsuit.

    It’s important that you know that most insurance companies are now using a strategy where they severely under-offer on your claim to try to force you to take far less than what your claim is worth to avoid the time a lawsuit will take.  With some insurance companies this practice has become so prevalent that a good injury lawyer will know that trying to negotiate a settlement is a compete waste of time and instead will immediately file a lawsuit to recover fair compensation for your injuries.

    For example, lets say you’re in an auto accident and have whiplash injuries to your neck.  You’re referred out to physical therapy that lasts 12 weeks.  During this time, while some of your symptoms are improving, you’re continuing to have some occasional numbness into your right hand.  Because of these symptoms your doctor recommends an MRI of your neck that shows you have a small disc herniation at one level.  You’re sent out to an orthopedic specialist who suggests you undergo an epidural steroid injection.  You get the injection and it helps your symptoms.  At this point it’s been about 4 months since your accident.  You’ve completed medical treatment and have been released by your doctors.  Now your personal injury lawyer will gather all of your medical and billing records, submit a settlement demand and negotiate the highest offer from the insurance company.

    This takes a couple of months to accomplish. It’s now been about 6 months since your accident.  If the offer of settlement from the insurance company is reasonable then your case settles and will be completely resolved in 1-4 weeks from accepting the settlement offer.  If not, then your car accident attorney will file a lawsuit.  You can expect the case will resolve in 10-18 months from filing the lawsuit in a case like this.  While some lawsuits take longer, few will take shorter than this and you can count that it will take at least this long, if not longer.

  1. How are Personal Injury lawyers paid?

    I’m sure you’ve seen all the lawyer ads that say “No Fee Unless We Win.”  That’s because personal injury lawyers are paid on what’s called a “contingency fee,” which means they get paid a percentage of all money they recover for you on your injury claim.  This percentage is usually 33.33% but commonly goes up to 40% if a lawsuit is needed. For more detailed information about how personal injury lawyers are paid, you can check out our blog article How Personal Injury Attorney Fees Work.

Jason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law FirmJason Franklin is founder of The Franklin Law Firm, a Dallas Personal Injury law firm that specializes in providing Real Help for Real Injuries to North Texas accident victims injured in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accidents, or other personal injury cases.  Because of his years of experience and record of success, Jason Franklin is frequently invited to speak to lawyer groups about Texas personal injury law.  Franklin has been repeatedly recognized by Super Lawyers as being one of the best personal injury trial lawyers in the State of Texas.


How Personal Injury Attorney Fees Work

How do you pay a personal injury attorney? Learn the details about their fees and expenses in this post.

If you’re injured, one of your first concerns might be, ”How will I ever afford a personal injury lawyer? Lawyers are expensive, aren’t they?”

Well, yes – lawyers are expensive.  But thankfully almost every personal injury attorney handles injury cases on a contingency fee basis.  A “contingent” fee means there is no attorney fee unless there is a money recovery and the fee is a percentage of the total amount of money recovered (usually 33.33% but often goes up to 40% depending upon the type of case and whether a lawsuit is required).   So, if you don’t get paid then there’s no fee owed because one third of zero is zero.  By charging a contingency fee instead of an hourly rate (which is usually many hundreds of dollars an hour) it allows anyone who has a legitimate injury to have access to legal representation regardless of their income.  Otherwise only the wealthiest among us could afford to hire a lawyer.

But if you’re thinking of hiring a personal injury lawyer, here are some important things you should know about contingency fees:

  • Value – An important tip about value. The best, most successful personal injury lawyers in the country charge fees that are about the same as the least experienced lawyers who have no track record of success in the courtroom.  Why?  Because they get paid using a contingency fee. What this means to you in terms of value is to understand that while both the good lawyer and the bad lawyer are likely going to charge you about the same percentage – the difference between the value you get can be night and day.  While no honest lawyer can ever promise you a specific result, a good lawyer can add value to your case in ways that make it far more likely that you will receive a larger recovery.
  • Economics – It’s important to understand that a law firm is a business – and because contingency fees are paid as a slice of the case, accident lawyers tend to fall into two broad categories:
    • On one end are the lawyers who only take cases involving the most serious types of injuries, people who’ve been paralyzed, severely burned, or have died. Because these are potentially worth millions of dollars, the lawyer will invest the resources to get the most out the case – such as using focus groups, mock juries and state of the art technology.  The more the lawyer can grow the case the more their slice of it will be worth.
    • At the other end are the lawyers who take a lot of small cases – these “volume” law practices are often the lawyers you see advertising on television, radio and billboards. These law firms can have many thousands of cases at any one time. And while the payout on each case may not be much, if the lawyer gets enough of them they can make a lot of money. The business model for these firms is not to grow the size of each case, but instead to settle them quickly with as little investment as possible because it’s all about volume.

     
    Unfortunately, this means that a lot of people with real injuries get lost in the middle.  The “high end” lawyers won’t take their case because it’s “too small,” but on the other end they don’t want to get caught up in a volume personal injury mill where their real injuries aren’t fully appreciated and their cases are settled for cheap.

    While there are some very good injury lawyers out there who don’t fall into one of these two broad categories – who will take your case and spend the time and energy to work it up correctly – you need to be aware that most injury lawyers will fall into one category or the other.  Read our other post if you want to know the 7 questions you need to ask before you hire an injury lawyer.

  • Expenses – Most Personal Injury attorneys in Dallas and elsewhere advance the cost of all case expenses and then recoup them from the money obtained in the judgment or settlement. These expenses can include such things as filing fees, medical and billing record fees, depositions and expert fees. Since these expenses are merely advanced, at the end of the case they are usually deducted from the client’s share of the recovery. Accident attorneys will usually take their contingency fee from the gross recovery and then deduct expenses from the remaining balance.
     
    For example, let’s say you recover $100 in your settlement and your attorney charges a 40% contingency fee: $100 – 40% ($40) = $60 to you.  But you also have $10 in expenses, so $60 – $10 = $50.  So in this example from a $100 settlement you would gross $50 – but from this amount you would also need to pay any outstanding medical expenses that you owe; the remaining balance would be what you actually pocket (net) from the settlement.But what happens if you have case expenses but you lose your case and don’t recover any money?  Because it’s a contingency fee, you won’t owe attorney fees because nothing was recovered. 
     
    But do you still owe the expenses?  The answer will depend on the contract you sign when you hire your injury attorney. Pay attention to the contract language and don’t be afraid to ask whether you will still owe expenses if nothing is recovered – often case expenses can be many thousands of dollars.

Jason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law FirmJason Franklin is founder of The Franklin Law Firm, a Dallas Personal Injury law firm that specializes in providing Real Help for Real Injuries to North Texas accident victims injured in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accidents, or other personal injury cases.  Because of his years of experience and record of success, Jason Franklin is frequently invited to speak to lawyer groups about Texas personal injury law.  Franklin has been repeatedly recognized by Super Lawyers as being one of the best personal injury trial lawyers in the State of Texas.


7 Questions you Need to Ask Before You Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer

You’ve been injured by the careless act of someone else, whether it’s a car accident, slip and fall, or other type of personal injury, and now you need to find a lawyer to help you. Finding the right lawyer to represent you is often the most important factor to a successful recovery.  But, with so many “tough,” “smart” lawyers out there who all promise that they’ll “fight for you” to get you the “money you deserve,” how can you tell the difference between the good lawyers and the bad ones?  How can you tell if the lawyer you’re considering is actually an expert in personal injury cases?

Knowing what questions to ask is very important.  The wrong questions will not get you useful information.  On the other hand, the right questions will get you the information you need to make an informed decision about what’s in your best interest and who will be the right lawyer to represent you.

Question No. 1: Why should I hire you?  What value are you going to bring to my case that’s different from the other lawyers out there?

Get ready, because you’re likely going to hear a bunch of vague answers about how they care, or the experience they have or their promises to fight for you.  Don’t settle for vague answers!  Press a little to see if the lawyer can provide specific examples of how they plan to work up your case that’s different from what most other lawyers will provide to you.  Sure, we all want a caring lawyer who spends time on our case, who is experienced and communicates with us – but how does the lawyer specifically plan to provide you with superior value?

An important tip about value.  The best, most successful personal injury lawyers in the country charge fees that are about the same as the least experienced lawyers who have no track record of success in the

.  Why?  Because they all get paid using a contingency fee.  Almost every personal injury attorney handles injury cases on a contingent fee basis.  A “contingent” fee means there is no attorney fee unless there is a money recovery and the fee is a percentage of the total amount of money recovered (usually 33.33% but often goes up to 40% depending upon the type of case and whether a lawsuit is required).  What this means to you in terms of value is to understand that while both the good lawyer and the bad lawyer are likely going to charge you the same percentage – the difference between the value you get for that same percentage fee can be night and day.  While no honest lawyer can ever promise you a specific result, a good lawyer can add value to your case in ways that make it far more likely that you will receive a larger recovery.

Question No. 2: Why should I trust you to represent me?  What experience do you have that will allow me to trust your case decisions and legal advice?

Board Certification

First, ask if the attorney is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law.  Only approximately 2% of Texas attorneys are Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law.  Lawyers certified in Personal Injury Trial Law are considered Specialists in the field of personal injury.  Those attorneys not board certified cannot claim to be specialists in the field.  Board Certification is a mark of excellence and a distinguishing accomplishment within the Texas legal community.  Board Certification means an attorney has substantial, relevant experience in a select field of law as well as demonstrated, and tested, special competence in that area of law.  Board Certified lawyers earn the right to publicly represent themselves as an expert in a select area of the law.  IN fact, they are the only attorneys allowed by the State Bar of Texas to do so.  This designation sets them apart as being an attorney with the highest public commitment to excellence in their area of law.  Also, Board Certification is not a one-time event.  It requires ongoing involvement in the specialty area which is periodically substantiated with references from peers in that field.  It also requires annual professional refreshment through continuing legal education course work to stay up-to-date with current trends in law.

Reliable Resources

There are resources you can check before deciding which lawyer to hire.  One of the most reliable ways to research a lawyer’s qualifications is to check sources that rate personal injury lawyers based on reliable criteria and their reputation in the legal community – what their fellow lawyers say about them.  Here are a few of the reliable resources that you should check out:

Super Lawyers

Super Lawyers is an annual listing of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Law & Politics performs the polling, research and selection of Super Lawyers in a process designed to identify lawyers who have attained this high level.  Only five percent (5%) of the lawyers in each state are named Super Lawyers.  Look for attorneys who have been named repeatedly to this list.

The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers

The National Trial Lawyers – Top 100 Trial Lawyers is an invitation-only national organization comprised of the United States’ top trial lawyers.  Membership is extended solely to the select few of the most qualified attorneys from each state who exemplify superior qualifications of leadership, reputation, influence, stature, and profile as civil plaintiff or criminal defense trial lawyers.

The Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum

The Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States.  Membership is limited to attorneys who have won multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements.  Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

Question No. 3: Are you actively involved in any legal organizations?

Are you an active member (not just paying dues) to any trial lawyer associations?  Lawyers, like other professionals, can simply pay dues to be a member of an organization.  Simply being a member of an association really doesn’t say much.  On the other hand, active participation shows a degree of concern and commitment to the profession.  And, if the lawyer has served in a leadership position it indicates they have the respect from other members of their profession.  Does the attorney actively participate on the Boards of trial lawyer associations?  Hopefully the attorney doesn’t just finish his day at work and then just go home.  Hopefully the attorney gives back to the profession, community, and has the respect of their colleagues.

Have you ever been invited to teach other lawyers about personal injury?

Lawyers who have been invited to lecture at legal education seminars (called “CLE”  – or continuing legal education) had the esteem of their professional colleagues.  They are asked to speak at legal education seminars because other attorneys want to hear what they have to say.

Question No. 4:  What percentage of your law practice are personal injury cases?  And how long have you been practicing personal injury?

What percentage of your practice is focused on personal injury cases?  You may have heard the saying, “jack of all trades, master of none.”  The law has become increasingly specialized, much like medicine.  If you have a specific medical problem you are usually referred out to a specialist.  You wouldn’t want your family doctor to perform spine surgery on you, would you?  Similarly, if you have a specific type of legal cases (i.e. personal injury) you should seek out a legal specialist.  While some lawyers are “general practitioners” who handle many different types of legal cases, the practice of law has become so complex that it would be highly unlikely that a general practice lawyer would have the specialized expertise in personal injury law.  Also, the lawyers who work for the insurance companies to defend personal injury cases are seasoned specialists who limit their practice to the defense of personal injury cases.  A general practitioner is likely to be at a major disadvantage when they go up against a law firm that specializes in the defense of personal injury cases.

Question No. 5: If my case needs to go to trial, will you be the lawyer taking it to trial?  If not, why not?  If so, what’s your trial experience?

Many people believe that all personal injury lawyers go to court and try cases on a regular basis.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  A significant percentage of lawyers who hold themselves out to be “trial lawyers” or “personal injury lawyers” have little or no jury trial experience.  One of the first questions you should ask is whether the lawyer tries cases in court, and, if so, how many jury trials they’ve had and when.  This is an important question that many people never think to ask.

Lawyers who defend personal injury cases, and the insurance companies they work for, know the injury lawyers who actually try cases and those who don’t.  And, even more importantly, they know who tries the cases well.  Insurance companies use this information to evaluate their risk.  One of the first questions an insurance adjuster will ask when a personal injury claim comes in:  Who is representing the plaintiff? 

There is only one way to get the real value our of your case and that is for your lawyer to prepare your case to go to trial from the very beginning.  The insurance company must understand and believe that your lawyer is ready, willing and able to try the case to a jury.  If you hire a lawyer who always settles and never goes to court, be prepared to take a substantial discount on your case.

Question No. 6: If I hire you, what can I expect from you regarding communications about my case?

  • Will you be able to look me in the eye and tell me the truth about my case and not just tell me what I want to hear? Not all attorneys are good at answering the hard questions.  Some don’t want to deal well with bad facts or issues and won’t tell you “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”  If after talking with an attorney you don’t have a feeling of complete trust, then it is time to find a new attorney.
  • How will you be communicating with me (i.e. e-mail, phone, office visit, letter) and how often? Do you have a call back policy?  IF so, what is it?

Question No. 7: What will you need from me during the case?

Beware of the lawyer who says, “I won’t need much from you at all.  You just focus on getting better and let me worry about the legal case.” The attorney client relationship is a partnership.  You and your attorney will be working together toward a common goal.  This means that you will need to communicate and consult on numerous issues during the case.

For example, how can the lawyer possible explain how your injuries have changed your life unless the lawyer spends some time with you exploring all the ways your injuries have affected you? The lawyer needs to get to know you to learn your story.  Anyone can relate the facts of an accident and the medical history.  It is quite another thing to be able to tell your client’s story in a compelling and powerful way so a jury fully understands the impact this accident has had on you and your family.

Jason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law FirmJason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law Firm, a Dallas Personal Injury law firm that specializes in providing Real Help for Real Injuries to accident victims injured in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accidents, or other personal injury cases.  Because of his years of experience and record of success, Jason Franklin is frequently invited to speak to lawyer groups about Texas personal injury law.  Franklin has been repeatedly recognized by Super Lawyers as being one of the best personal injury trial lawyers in the State of Texas.


3 Common Car Accident Injury Claim Defenses and How We Defeat Them

Learn about 3 common defenses used by insurance companies to devalue or kill car accident injury claims and how we defeat them.

Insurance companies and the lawyers who work for them have one goal – to pay as little as possible on a claim. That’s it. It’s not about “fairness” or paying you reasonable value on your legitimate injury claim. Instead, it’s about employing tactics to deny, delay and defend against paying you the reasonable compensation you deserve for your personal injuries caused by their insured’s irresponsible behavior.

Because the insurance companies’ strategies are largely the same, regardless of the facts of a particular case, personal injury trial lawyers see the same tactics used again and again. Here are three common ways the insurance company and its lawyers try to reduce or eliminate your legitimate personal injury claim:

  1. They blame you for causing the accident

    Texas is a comparative negligence state. This means that if a judge or jury finds you were partially at fault for an accident, the value of your injury award will be reduced by the percentage of your fault up to 50%. And if you are found to have the majority of the blame (51% or more) then you will recover nothing. For example:

    Fault for the Accident

    Amount of Award

    Amount you Recover

    Defendant 90% You 10% $100 $90
    Defendant 60% You 40% $100 $60
    Defendant 50% You 50% $100 $50
    Defendant 49% You 51% $100 $0

    Given the insurance company’s goal is to pay you as little money as possible, I’m sure you can see why this is the most common defense in car accident injury cases. Even in a rear-end collision case, the insurance lawyer can argue you swerved into the lane or stopped suddenly.

    How We Overcome This Defense: Hard work.

    First, we develop the case regarding who was at fault. In a motor vehicle accident case for example, we may obtain the police report, take recorded witness statements, visit the scene to take photographs and measurements, locate and secure video surveillance footage that may have captured the car wreck, obtain traffic light signal sequence data, analyze the damages to the vehicles to determine angles of impact, download data from the vehicles’ black box data recorders, and get certified weather station data if weather or the angle of the sun played a factor in the auto accident.

    Next, we strategize how we can use the information we gathered to undermine the defense case and catch the at-fault defendant in lies and inconsistencies. Lastly, we spend a lot of time preparing our clients so they can withstand any cross-examination thrown at them. We don’t do this by “coaching” them or telling them what to say. Instead, we simply arm them with all of the facts of the case and organize their truth to make it powerful. As an experienced Dallas trial lawyer, I will tell you that juries can spot when someone is being truthful and authentic and when they’re not. We always work hard to make sure that whatever testimony our client gives is honest, authentic and powerful.

  2. They deny causing you any injury

    If they can’t avoid responsibility by pointing the finger at you for causing the auto accident, they’ll attempt to avoid responsibility by claiming they didn’t cause your injury. The first tactic is to claim that you were already injured before the crash. For example, say you’re rear-ended and begin having neck pain that isn’t going away. Your doctor sends you to get an MRI of your neck and it shows that you have a herniated disk. The insurance defense lawyers have paid medical experts who will testify that your herniated disk wasn’t caused by the accident but rather was a “pre-existing condition” caused by normal wear-and-tear over time. This is especially true if you’ve ever had neck pain in the past. Even if it was minor pain your briefly had years ago. They will pour over your past medical records to look for any little thing they can use to say, “see – she had neck pain before! She must have already been injured!” The second tactic they use to try to avoid responsibility for causing your injury is to claim that you injured your neck doing something else and are simply trying to “pin it on the defendant” so you can get money for it.

    One way they do this is by exploiting delays or gaps in your medical treatment. Say you’re like many of us who don’t rush out to the doctor for every little thing. Yes, after the wreck your neck is hurting but you keep hoping it will go away on its own and it’s not until a month after the collision that you first see a doctor. You can bet that they’ll pound on the fact that it took you a whole month to even go to the doctor – if you were really injured you would have gotten treatment sooner – and will imply that you probably only went to a doctor because your attorney sent you there in an effort to drum up phony medical expenses for an injury case.

    How We Overcome This Defense: Science

    Not only will we obtain your medical records so we can document your health condition (and lack of complaints) before the collision in contrast to your complaints and the medical treatment you needed after the collision, but we will also use imaging studies and other objective diagnostic tests to prove that you were injured in the collision and will obtain expert medical testimony from your doctors and other experts who can explain the science to a jury.

  3. They attack you

    They attack your personal credibility and character. While the insurance company attorneys may not call you a liar outright, they are highly trained to imply in a variety of ways that you’re exaggerating your injuries, you’re simply motivated by money or are not being completely truthful.

    How We Overcome This Defense: Aikido

    You didn’t know that we could use Aikido in the courtroom? In the martial art of Aikido, one directs the attacker’s energy back on the attacker. We’re going to prove that it was the defendant’s choice to break important safety rules that caused the collision and your injuries. The jury’s job is then to assess how your injuries have affected your life, so we will present this evidence to them in an authentic, creative and powerful way.

    We are going to make sure the jurors recognize that it’s the role of the jury to enforce the safety rules of our community and it does so by requiring the defendant to make up for all of the harm caused to you. Not some of the harm – all of it. And that brings us to Aikido. After we’ve proved all of this, how do you think a jury will view the defendant’s insinuations that you’re a greedy liar and a fraud? If the jury allows these tactics it’s giving the defendant a pass. And giving the defendant a pass does not enforce safety rules and keep our community safer. In this environment, the more forceful the defendant and his lawyers attack you, the worse it is for them. Courtroom Aikido.

    The above defense lawyer tactics are straight out of the insurance company playbook we see used time and time again at trial. And why do you think they keep using them? Because they work. But they don’t work against an experienced personal injury lawyer who knows how to develop your case and present it in a powerful way. That’s the most important reason to hire the very best personal injury lawyer you can find. So please do your research. Not all injury lawyers are alike.

Jason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law FirmJason Franklin is founder of The Franklin Law Firm, a Dallas Personal Injury law firm that specializes in providing Real Help for Real Injuries to North Texas accident victims injured in a car accident, truck accident, motorcycle accidents, or other personal injury cases.  Because of his years of experience and record of success, Jason Franklin is frequently invited to speak to lawyer groups about Texas personal injury law.  Franklin has been repeatedly recognized by Super Lawyers as being one of the best personal injury trial lawyers in the State of Texas.


5 Dirty Tricks Insurance Companies Use to Devalue Your Claim

If you’ve been injured, insurance companies are NOT interested in treating you fairly. Here are some tricks they may try to use to devalue or kill your injury claim.

From the moment you contact the insurance company to report an injury claim they are beginning to build a case against you to minimize your claim. Why? Because insurance companies are in the business to make money. The more money they pay on claims the less money they make. It’s that simple. In fact, insurance companies often pay their adjusters bonuses for denying or devaluing claims.

While some insurance adjusters are nice people, it’s important to be mindful that they work for a company that will penalize them if they pay a claim’s true value and will reward them when they pay less than fair value. And these are the nice adjusters. Unfortunately there are other adjusters who will take advantage of you at every opportunity just so they can look good to their bosses and make more money for themselves.

Here’s 5 tricks the insurance companies may try to use against you and some helpful tips on ways you can protect yourself:

  1. Every word you say they are evaluating whether they can use it against you.

    For example, let’s say you’re in a car accident and you contact the at fault driver’s insurance company within an hour after the accident. The insurance adjuster may say, “I’m so sorry to hear you were in an accident. I hope you weren’t injured. Are you doing okay?” To which you may reply, “Yeah, I’m okay, I was just a little shaken up.” Well, guess what? The vast majority of injuries resulting from car accidents are subtle and usually don’t become obvious until sometimes days after the collision – injuries such as herniated discs or ligament injuries. The insurance company will use your statement against you later to minimize your claim by either arguing that you weren’t injured by this accident (after all, you said you were okay) or that your injuries are minor (if you were seriously injured you would have known it right away).

  2. You’re told they cannot evaluate your claim until you give them a Recorded Statement

    If this is a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance policy then this statement is a flat out LIE. There is NO requirement that you give a recorded statement for them to evaluate your claim. If this is against your own insurance policy (maybe for an accident where the at-fault driver was uninsured) then you do have a duty to cooperate with your own insurance company. But even if it’s your own insurance company, their goal is still to minimize your personal injury case.

    Not only do they want to use your words against you, they want to record them to use against you.

    “But if I’m telling the truth, how can the truth hurt me?” you may ask. Well, let’s say you’re driving through an intersection on a green-light, minding your own business, when you get t-boned. You see the car run the light and come into the intersection but it happens too fast for you to avoid it. This type of accident happens every day in the Dallas – Fort Worth metroplex. When asked about how it happened you might casually say something like, “he came out of nowhere” to mean that it was completely unexpected. But this type of statement can later be used against you to imply that because you never saw the car that it was YOU who wasn’t paying attention – after all, if you had been paying attention you would have at least seen it coming, even for just a second or two before it happened. “But the other car is the one who ran the red light,” you say. Well, as any Dallas car accident lawyer will tell you, I hope there’s an independent witness who stopped and gave you their information. Otherwise, it’s often a red-light swearing match – with the other driver saying it was YOU who had the red light.

    Please NEVER give a recorded statement until you talk to a Dallas injury lawyer.

  3. Swoop and settle

    Dallas personal injury attorneys get calls every day from people who have already signed away their claims in the days after the accident before they realized they were injured. As we talked about above, it’s normal for it to take some time before injuries become obvious. During this window, some adjusters will try to “swoop in” and get you to settle your claims for cheap. And, once you sign away your claims, they’re most likely gone forever and you will never recover compensation.

    Before you sign anything you should seek the advice of a lawyer, preferably a board certified personal injury attorney.

  4. Adjusters May Tell You that You’ll Get Less Money If You Hire a Lawyer

    This is FALSE and the adjuster knows it. The insurance company knows they are likely going to have to pay a lot more money on your claim if you hire an experienced injury attorney.

    I’m reminded of a heart-breaking call our law office received from a North Texas father whose 25 year-old son was killed when a drunk was driving the wrong way and hit his son’s car head on. The father made a wrongful death claim against the drunk-driver’s insurance policy and the adjuster told him, “We have a $100,000 policy, but a lawyer will cost you 40%, so why don’t we just pay you $60,000?” The father went to Super Lawyers and found our law firm and told the adjuster he was going to hire us. The adjuster then back-peddled and offered to pay the full policy limits. But the story doesn’t end there. We told the father not to sign anything until we reviewed it for him, free of charge.

    Interestingly, the release not only included the name of the drunk driver, but also the drunk driver’s mother. Given our years of experience, we suspected that by adding additional people to the release that the insurance company was trying to pull a fast one over on this poor family. We told the father we would not take a fee on the original $100,000 the adjuster already offered, but if there was additional money to recover we would only take a fee on the extra money. Well, it turned out our suspicions were right and the drunk driver’s mom had a separate $100,000 insurance policy with the same company that also covered this wreck.

  5. They May Seek to Delay Your Claim

    Unfortunately, some people get so fed up in dealing with the insurance company that they simply give up and forfeit their claims. The insurance companies know this, so they will often use excuses and delay tactics to drag the process out. For example, they may tell you that they’re still “investigating” the claim or they will tell you that they need you to gather and send them your complete medical records for the past five years.

Don’t let the insurance companies use dirty tricks to take advantage of you. If you ever have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact us at The Franklin Law Firm or call us at (214) 948-6464 for a free consultation.

Jason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law FirmAbout the Author:

Jason Franklin is a Board Certified Personal Injury Lawyer in Dallas, TX. He is past president of the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association and is frequently invited to speak to lawyer groups about Texas personal injury law.


Benefits of Hiring an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

After an accident, you can wander in a state of disorientation that hurts your case. You have dozens of questions to answer and piles of paperwork to sign. Not to mention, the legal procedures for an accident can bog you down and start to wreak havoc on your life. Especially after an accident, you have the pain to recover from. You have several solid reasons to hire a personal injury attorney, but here are some of the benefits of having an expert fight your case.

Knows the Legal Proceedings

Navigating the legal process and coordinating with the law can be a maze that is easy to get lost in. You have tons of confusing and frustrating aspects, and especially when you don’t know the legal jargon or the process, it can cost you the case and your needed compensation for medical bills, pain and impairment. Your Texas personal injury attorney understands how to navigate the legal waters and do it effectively. In addition, they also have the legal resources and the connections to help you come up fighting the most difficult cases. One of the most important factors in the case will be understanding the legal process and having the confidence to jump through the hoops.

Benefitting from All the Past Cases

An experienced personal injury attorney Dallas Texas firm will have taken on hundreds or possibly even thousands of cases before yours. The advantage of this? When you hire an experienced personal injury attorney, you benefit from all their past cases. Because they have seen what works and what doesn’t, you will have someone who can effectively fight for you. The type of injury case doesn’t matter because you can almost guarantee your attorney has probably undertaken a similar case. The injury from a bicycle, auto or pedestrian accident can have big consequences, but regardless, an attorney will move forward with the case.

The Power of Perspective

An experienced attorney will bring with them the power of perspective and insight from dozens of past cases. In addition, they have a level-headedness with them that proves beneficial. When you have someone experienced working for you, they will make better decisions for you based on years of legal experience and understanding the bigger and smaller laws. With such an attorney, you can make much better decisions to make the most from the situation.

Move on and Start Living Again

The greatest benefit of hiring an attorney is how you can get back to your life. After an accident, you have lots of demands coming at you. Insurance companies and law enforcement may want to know the details, and the phone calls and paperwork can start becoming an intimidating mountain. Without getting help from an attorney, you can spend hours of your time and energy trying to juggle the various aspects of it all. However, once you hire an attorney, you have the ability to delegate the busywork, and you can focus on the healing and getting back to life.

Experience with Assessing a Claim

A personal injury attorney will have experience with cases to tell you if it will pay to pursue a claim. They can tell you right from the beginning so that you don’t spend too much time in limbo. If the likelihood of winning the case doesn’t exist, you need to know that in the beginning before wasting time and expenses.

No Recovery? No Fee

Personal injury attorneys work on a contingency fee. This means if you fail to win money for the case you will now owe the attorney any fee.  You will however still be on the hook for any medical bills that you still owe.  If you recover money then the attorney gets a percentage of the total amount of money recovered – usually around one third of the total recovery, but this can increase slightly based on whether a lawsuit is needed.

The Red Tape

You often hire an attorney because the legal realm has plenty of complicated and confusing procedures. You have medical terms that make your eyes glaze over, and you have a bunch of paperwork, which has all come to define cases related to personal injury. When you meet with the attorney, you will be asked about the documents that you have concerning the case and the injury. The more documentation and evidence you have, the better.

Working with an Investigative Team

Normally, this type of attorney will employ a team of experienced investigators who have specialized niches, and they can skillfully look at some of the more technical aspects involving your case. Remember: Whenever you provide solid information about the injury, you have the potential to aid your case, and you can never have too much documentation.

Objective Standpoint

An injury can leave you in a frame of mind filled with anger, fear, frustration and pain. This can all cloud your ability to judge the facts with an objective lens. Attorneys will often take a more objective and birds eye stance of each case. First, because they weren’t injured, and second, because they have most likely dealt with hundreds of similar cases. With an attorney, you don’t have to worry you will hurt your chance at compensation through making rash decisions. To give an example, the fast payout might tempt you to take the cash and run. However, your attorney has expert legal advice and could steer you in the direction of your best interests. An attorney arms you with legal representation that keeps you safe.

Often having an experienced attorney is critical to a claim for compensation. For those who have been injured because of the careless choices others, you should look at the possibility of hiring an attorney. You want to do this as soon as possible after the accident because evidence starts to fade almost immediately, and memories also grow dimmer and have less legal weight. While you should obviously make sure your medical needs have been seen to, you should not overlook the legal aspect either.


Attorney Jason Franklin named to Texas Super Lawyers for 2015

Jason Franklin has been named to Texas Super Lawyers for 2015. Super Lawyers is a rating service of outstanding lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. The selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations, and peer evaluations. No more than 5 percent of all lawyers in the State of Texas are named to Super Lawyers.

Jason Franklin has previously been named to Super Lawyers – Rising Stars which recognizes the top up-and-coming attorneys in the state – those who are 40 years old or younger or who have been practicing for 10 years or less. Only 2.5% of Texas attorneys are chosen for this honor in any given year. Jason Franklin was selected for this honor on four separate occasions: 2008, 2010, 2011, and 2012.


The Use of Focus Groups as a Jury Research Tool

Jury research is a powerful tool. By testing the evidence of a case in front of people like the ones who will be jurors in the actual case, valuable insights about the strengths, weaknesses and risks of a case are often discovered that allows the attorney to develop themes and strategies to most effectively present the case to a jury.

All too often, many attorneys mistakenly believe that using jury research is only an option in very large and expensive cases.   Many attorneys often dismiss the possibility of conducting jury research because of these resource restraints.  One of the reasons for this is that many attorneys still think of jury research as using a time-consuming and often expensive method called a “Mock Trial.”

For many years jury testing was done primarily using a mock trial.  In a mock trial, attorneys representing the different parties in a case make their arguments and present their evidence in an adversarial trial setting.   The mock jury then deliberates and renders its verdict.  However, there are often a number of factors that can prevent a mock trial from being effective, including the time and expense involved to effectively prepare for and present the mock trial, as well as the different advocacy skills of the presenters.  Another issue with mock trials is the difficulty in fully developing the other side in the case. When lawyers have spent many months (and sometimes years) developing their own case, it is difficult (if not impossible) to fully develop the other side’s best case for mock trial purposes.

However, there is another far more effective method of conducting juror research called a “Focus Group.”  Focus groups are different from mock trials in that they present the information in a neutral way and do not try and simulate all aspects of an actual trial. Instead, the purpose of the focus group is to present the evidence of a case in a neutral and easily understood manner.

Conducting focus groups in this manner addresses many of the problems posed by a mock trial. Not only is this type of focus group more cost-effective, but by having a single neutral presenter the impact of advocacy is removed.  Rather than trying to “persuade” the jurors, we are simply listening to what’s important (and not important) to them.  What problems do they have with the evidence?  What doubts do they have about the case?  How do they value the damages?  All of these are questions that are often answered by using focus groups.

Another advantage to using focus groups is that they can be used a number of different times in the same case. You can use it early in the case to assist in zeroing-in on the type of evidence that needs to be developed.  Later, you can use it to develop case themes to effectively communicate your client’s story. You can use it to assess damages in preparation for settlement negotiations.  Focus groups are an extremely flexible research tool that can be used at every stage of the case.

Lastly, and importantly, focus groups can be conducted at a very reasonable cost, especially if the attorney conducts the focus group themselves rather than hiring a high-priced jury research firm to do it for them.

While focus groups certainly cannot guarantee an outcome, they are tremendously valuable in helping to put forward the best possible case.


Why Choose a Board Certified Attorney?

Mark of Excellence

Board Certification is a mark of excellence and a distinguishing accomplishment. Within the Texas legal community, Board Certification means an attorney has substantial, relevant experience in a select field of law as well as demonstrated, and tested, special competence in that area of law.

A Distinguished Few

There are more than 70,000 attorneys licensed to practice in Texas. Only 7,000 are Board Certified. Board Certified lawyers earn the right to publicly represent themselves as a specialist in a select area of the law. In fact, they are the only attorneys allowed by the State Bar of Texas to do so. This designation sets them apart as being an attorney with the highest, public commitment to excellence in their area of law. The process is voluntary and can only take place after an attorney has been in practice for five years, with a minimum of three years experience in the specialty area. Moreover, Board Certification is not a one-time event. It requires an ongoing involvement in the specialty area which is periodically substantiated with references from peers in that field. It also requires annual professional refreshment through TBLS approved, continuing legal education course work to stay abreast of current trends in law.

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization (TBLS) was established in 1974 by the State Bar of Texas to “promote the availability, accessibility and quality of the services of attorneys to the public in particular areas of the law… and advance the standards of the legal profession.” It operates under the continuing jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Texas. The TBLS certifies attorneys in 21 select areas of law and paralegals in seven areas. The TBLS is the only organization authorized to provide this service to the citizens of Texas.

The Board Certification process is rigorous and thorough with stringent, ongoing requirements after initial certification. In brief, an applicant must:

  • have been in practice a minimum of five years with three years of substantial involvement in an  area of law,
    • complete TBLS-approved Continuing Legal Education course requirements,
    • furnish at least 10 qualified, vetted references,
    • provide extensive, relevant experience documentation and
    • pass a comprehensive, daylong, specialty area examination.

Few Texas attorneys have answered the challenge laid down 36 years ago by the Supreme Court of Texas and the State Bar of Texas to “…serve the public interest and advance the standards of the legal profession.”
We invite you to connect with a Board Certified attorney today.


Explore Our New Site

The Franklin Law Firm, LLP is proud to announce the launch of our new website that focuses specifically on DWI Accident cases. Our goal is to become a powerful and influential resource  for the families living in Dallas and the surrounding area that have been affected by DWI accidents.  These accidents are 100% preventable – by holding drunk drivers accountable not only do we help the injured victims and their families, but we make our community safer.

Please take a few moments to explore the new site. Read about the Accountability, Respect, and Strategy that drives us and makes us who we are. See images of Our Courtroom and learn how staging mock juries prepares the families we help and sets us apart. Receive valuable knowledge, facts, Support & Resources, and Latest News under the DWI Information tab.

We are confident that our new site will be an important resource for Our Community. Check back often for more upcoming blogs about DWI topics or click here to contact us.