Understanding Damages in your Personal Injury Claim

When you have been injured by the actions of another person or business, you have the right to seek compensation for your losses. Often referred to as damages, injury victim has the right to seek damages for economic and non-economic reasons. Every case is different and will qualify for different types of damages and for different amounts. Your Texas personal injury attorney will explain to you what applies specifically to your case.

Economic Damages

All personal injury claims have the right to seek economic damages. These damages will contain compensation for the following items:

  • Medical Costs. This will include current and future medical costs related to the injury. This part of the compensation will vary greatly based on the extent of the injury or injuries, the amount of care necessary and the anticipated future care for the victim.
  • Wages. This portion of the compensation package will include losses the victim incurred regarding their wages. This will include current and future anticipated losses of earnings as well as benefits. If the employer paid for medical care or contributed to a retirement plan these losses would also be included in the compensation.
  • Work Training. If your accident has caused you to lose your ability to perform your specific line of work, your attorney may seek compensation for you so that you can be retrained for a new job position. This does not apply to all cases but is a very important issue that must be addressed, especially for victims that are younger adults.
  • Cost of Services. This is a broad range of compensation that will include any additional expenses you may have suffered as a result of your accident or injury. This includes expenses such as:
    • Over-the-counter supplies and medications
    • Additional child care expenses to allow for medical treatment
    • Service providers like cleaning or lawn care because you cannot perform tasks at this time and it was your responsibility to do these things prior to the accident
    • Special transportation costs to and from the doctor

You may also have additional expenses that are not listed here. Your personal injury attorney Dallas TX will go over every type of economic damage you are entitled to based on the facts of your case and explain them to you in detail.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are very specific to a case and may or may not apply to each type of injury. These types of damages include:

  • Disfigurement or Impairment. If the injury has caused you to become disfigured or impaired in any physical or mental capacity, you can seek personal damages
  • Disability. Any type of personal disability that is a result of your accident can be included as part of the compensation package
  • Loss of Enjoyment. If your life has changed because of the physical or mental injuries caused by your accident and you can no longer pursue the activities you once enjoyed, you can seek compensation for your losses
  • Pain, Suffering and Mental Anguish. Depending on the type of case you have and the injury received, you may also be able to seek out compensation for pain, suffering and mental anguish. Since this is a very specific form of compensation, your attorney will have to work closely with you to determine the extent of this compensation

It is very important to understand that every case is unique and that different types and amounts of compensation apply. Your Texas personal injury attorney will review your case and the laws that apply to your injury as well as the insurance policy covering the event so that they can seek the most compensation on your behalf.


A Guide to the Dangers of Distracted Driving

Any personal injury lawyer Dallas TX will know that distracted driving can be many things. In fact any activity that draws the driver’s attention off of the road and operating the motor vehicle properly and safely qualifies as distracted driving. This could be physical, visual, or even mental stimuli.

A simple way of thinking about distracted driving is that it ultimately represents anything at all that gets your eyes off of the road in front of you or takes your mind off of the critical task at hand. If you have been a victim of such negligence, then you need to contact a reliable Texas personal injury lawyer.

Three Categories of Driver Distractions Exist

Cell phone talking and texting is not the only distracted driving culprit. There are three different broad categories of these, including the following:

  • Visual distractions – relate to taking off your eyes from the road in front of you to look down at anything else
  • Cognitive distraction – happens if your mind gets away from you and you drift off onto a mental topic other than the task at hand
  • Manual distraction – happens if you remove your hands from the wheel in order to grab something or take hold of something

There are so many examples of this distracted driving that it is hard to keep them all straight. The more common ones are the following:

  • Texting while driving
  • Talking on hand held or hands-free cell phone
  • Going to social media or writing emails on smart phones
  • Engaging with smart phone or vehicle navigation
  • Programming a playlist or putting on a song using a phone or musical device
  • Eating while driving
  • Making videos or taking pictures
  • Playing with any hand-held gadget as driving
  • Putting on makeup
  • Playing with the CD changer or radio station when driving
  • Hair brushing, teeth brushing, or shaving when driving

Cell Phones Are Among the Worst Possible Driver Distractions

The world of smart phones has brought mixed blessings. Everyone may be well-connected and free from inconvenience now, but the price to pay has been high. The obsession with texting, social media posts and reviewing them, and smart phones in general has created a potent threat to driving. This distraction driving thanks to cell phones does not show any favoritism from one age group to another, either gender, or any race. It is able to create tragedy victims out of any individuals regardless of how wealthy or poor they may be.

It does not take much to tempt even disciplined drivers to their phones while they are driving a motor vehicle. A flashing Snapchat notification, beeping email or text message, or mesmerizing thrill of seeing a Facebook post or Instagram message appear can all mean the difference between life and death behind the wheel of an automobile. Even a simple ringing phone can cause an otherwise careful and responsible driver to take his or her eyes away from the road for a split second too long.

It is true that no age is able to withstand the allure of this distracted driving anymore. Yet studies have revealed that teenage drivers are the most prone to yield to smart phone temptations as they are operating a vehicle. This could be them adjusting their Apple Music, Pandora streaming song, or Spotify. They might seek out directions off of Waze or Google Maps. They could take pictures or selfies, or shoot off a critical text message.

Any of these activities could cause instantaneous death. It is a cruel joke that daredevil teens now like to snap off selfies of themselves driving the car then post it up on Twitter using the hashtag #IHopeIDontCrash. The widespread nature of this behavior is shocking. According to a study commissioned by the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, two for every five students who drove a car last month did minimally one text when driving. It is why the greatest proportion of distracted driving deaths comes to teens.

On average, individuals will look at one of their text messages for a good 4.6 seconds. While operating a car at 55 miles per hour, this means that he or she takes eyes off the road ahead for a whole football field’s length.

Penalties for Distracted Driving

There are fines of from $200 to $500 for driving while talking on or playing with a cell phone. The antagonist in a car accident can be subjected to “common law negligence” if their actions lead to injury or the death of another person. A Dallas personal injury lawyer might sue for such legal treatment in a case.

This could mean that the driver had to pay to cover lost wages, medical expenses, other expenses the victim suffered, and pain and suffering-related costs. This is why you need to contact a good Dallas personal injury lawyer if you are injured while driving a vehicle in the greater Dallas area.


What to do after a Car Accident

After an auto accident, often people are in a state of shock about what just happened. It can be disorienting.  But even if you are able to take action on only a few of these suggestions you will be better off. 

  • Take some deep breaths and stay calm
  • Keep yourself and others safe
    • Turn on hazard lights
    • Do not exit vehicle unless safe to do so
  • Take photos of cars nearby
     
    If you are able, take a few pictures of the license plates of vehicles who would have witnessed the accident before they drive off. Unfortunately most witnesses do not stop and license plate numbers can be used later to track down eye witnesses in needed. 
  • Call the police
     
    Even though many people involved in an accident want to resolve the issue as soon as possible, it is important that you call the police. You may have suffered injuries you are unaware of. A police report documents the accident and will be available to you as evidence in the event you are in fact injured.
  • When the police arrive, insist on a police investigation and crash report
     
    Sometimes police officers don’t want to complete an accident report if there aren’t any immediately obvious injuries.  They may tell you “we don’t do accident reports.”  This isn’t true.  Ask repeatedly that they do a crash report.  If they refuse, get the officer’s name as well as the name of their supervisor. 
  • Do not move your vehicles unless safety requires that you do so
  • Exchange information with other driver(s)
    • Name, address and phone number
    • Driver’s license number and date of birth
    • Insurance company and policy number
    • Make, model and license plate number of vehicles

     

  • Photograph and document the accident
    • Identify witnesses – Get name, address and phone numbers
    • Use phone to take photographs of:
      • All vehicles involved
      • All people involved
      • The overall scene of the collision (intersection, traffic lights, etc.) Take photos from different angles to accurately capture everything. And don’t forget to show skid marks, broken glass or debris on the ground.
  • If you are injured, get medical treatment as soon as possible
     
    Often, due the nature of common injuries in a car accident and the stress and adrenaline you experience after the crash, the fact that you have suffered an injury may not be immediately obvious.  If you are injured or believe that you may have suffered an injury, it is important to see a doctor as soon as possible.
     
    After you visit a doctor, it is important to comply with prescribed medical treatment or rehabilitation and to continue with any follow-up appointments. Your medical treatment will document the severity and extent of your injuries as well as ensure that you are seeking appropriate attention and care. After all, the most important thing is to ensure that your injuries are treated and that you get better. Nothing is more important than your health.
  • Report the accident to your insurance company
     
    Report the accident to your auto insurance company by phone, smartphone app or online. Failing to notify your insurer immediately after an accident could violate of the terms of your policy and make it impossible to file a claim at a later date.If you have collision coverage, you or your auto body shop will be reimbursed to pay for repairs. If the accident was your fault, the policy deductible will be deducted from your payment.
     
    And you can typically expect your auto insurance rate to rise at the next renewal period, unless accident forgiveness is built into your policy.If you weren’t at fault, your rate generally won’t rise and you’ll be fully reimbursed from the other party’s insurer. But if the driver doesn’t have adequate insurance, you can still recoup costs of vehicle damage and personal injuries if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
  • Do not give a recorded statement to any insurance company without first seeking legal advice
     
    Insurance carriers will be seeking to limit or deny your claims immediately after an accident. Always consult with a personal injury attorney, preferably a Texas Board Certified personal injury attorney, before giving a recorded statement, even to your own insurance company.

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 Insurance Companies Really Make Money and 2 Reasons Why You Should Care

Understanding how insurance companies make money is important to you for 2 main reasons:

  1. It affects the premiums you pay for insurance; and
  2. It affects the payout you receive on an insurance claim if you ever have one.

The Basics

Insurance companies do not make money by paying out claims. Insurance companies make money in two ways:

Underwriting income. Premiums are the monthly, quarterly, or annual fee that customers like us pay to the insurance company in exchange for an insurance contract. The contract lays out the terms and conditions of when the insurance company will pay on a claim, but they will use every trick, tactic and strategy in the playbook to avoid paying you or to wait as long as possible to pay you and then to pay you as little money as possible on your claim.  This is often referred to as the “Deny, Delay and Defend” strategy.  Here’s why:

The insurance industry has two major categories of expenses: 1.) payment of claims and 2.) operating expenses.  The percentage of money paid out in claims as a percentage of premiums earned is called the loss ratio.  And the percentage of premium income paid toward expenses is the expense ratio. When a greater sum is taken in premiums than is paid out in claims and expenses, an insurance company generates underwriting income. The lower these “combined” ratios are, the greater the net underwriting income. So one reason the insurance company wants to deny or defend against paying you is to decrease its loss ratio and thereby increase its profits.  The reason the insurance company wants to delay paying you as long as possible has to do with the main way insurance companies make money – investment income.

Investment Income. Insurance companies have a very different business model from most other types of businesses in that customers pay upfront and they (maybe) deliver a service later.   This is called an inverted production cycle which means policyholders pay premiums upfront and contractual payments are made only if and when an insured accident has happened. During the length of time between collecting your premiums and paying out on your claim (if and when you have one), the insurance company uses this large pool of cash and invests it in things like money market funds, bonds and real estate.

In fact, insurance companies make the vast majority of their profits through this investment income. So the longer period of time the insurance company has between taking your money in premiums and paying you money on your claim, the longer amount of time is has to invest that money (which is actually your money) for its own profit.  This is the main reason the insurance company wants to delay paying you on your claim.

How this Affects your Cost for Insurance

Because insurance companies collect premiums upfront, they do not know how many claims they will have to pay on in any given year (i.e. what their loss ratio will be).   Because the actual cost of their product is unknown at the time they charge you for it, they must calculate approximately what their claim payout costs will be through the use of statistics, historical analysis and computer algorithms. This process is called underwriting, which involves calculating the probability of the risk for each insured or category of insureds. So your car insurance rates aren’t an accident. They take into consideration many factors, some of which may surprise you.

Who you are: Age, gender, marital status, ZIP code, number of years you’ve been licensed, homeownership, occupation, education and even grades

Your driving record: Accidents, traffic violations and insurance claims history.

Your credit score:  Credit history, type of debt, etc.

What and how you drive: Owned or financed, current value, annual mileage, claims record for all owners of that model, anti-theft devices and safety features, and whether you use the car for business (your rates will be higher if you drive your car to and from work or for business – rates are lowest for people who only drive for pleasure).

How much coverage you want: Liability (from minimum liability limits up to $500,000 or more), whether or not you buy comprehensive and collision (both of which carry a deductible that influences their final cost), medical payments, uninsured motorist, or extras – such as rental reimbursement or towing.

Which of these factors affect car insurance rates the most?

While each car insurance company decides on its own how heavily to weigh a rating factor, for most drivers the following factors tend to influence rates the most:

Your ZIP code. Even if you have never filed a claim, your rate can increase dramatically simply by moving from one ZIP code to another.

Your age. Men under 25 and unmarried women under 21 have the highest rates. Drivers over 50 may get discounts.

Your driving record. Accident claims tend to matter more than speeding tickets do. More than one of either is bad news, and so is a major violation such as a DWI.

Your credit. Insurance companies point to numerous studies that correlate poor credit scores with higher numbers of claims. In Texas, while a company can use your credit score, it can’t refuse to sell you a policy or cancel or non-renew your policy based only on your credit. To find out which companies use credit scores and how they use them, visit the Learning Center on HelpInsure.com, which is a free service of the Texas Department of Insurance.

Your previous insurance coverage. In Texas, companies can charge more if you drove without insurance for more than 30 days in a row in the 12 months before you applied for insurance. If you didn’t, a company can’t charge you more for liability coverage because of your previous lack of coverage.

Are car insurance rates set by law?

Yes and no. Car insurance rates are regulated by the states, but as long as companies observe state laws they are free to charge whatever someone is willing to pay.

State laws ensure that a company charges the same rates to drivers who fit the same risk profile.  Another company may charge you much less, or much more, but it too must offer the same rates to all drivers who pose a similar risk.

All states set minimum levels of liability insurance coverage.  In Texas, the minimum liability limits are $30,000 per person / $60,000 per accident and $25,000 for property damage per accident.  This basic minimum coverage is called 30/60/25 coverage.  This means that no single injured person can collect more than $30,000 under the policy and no more than $60,000 can be collected from the policy for a single accident regardless of the number of injured people involved.

Some states require that you buy uninsured motorist coverage. In Texas, you are not required to buy uninsured motorist coverage, but it must be offered to you and your insurance company is required to have you sign that you reject uninsured motorist coverage if you choose to do so. These financial responsibility laws ensure that drivers who inflict injuries on others have a means to pay, and those who are injured have coverage if the other driver does not.

If you finance the purchase of your vehicle, your lender may require that you buy comprehensive and collision coverage to protect your car from physical damage, but states do not require this.

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.


Never Sign a Release Without Having a Lawyer Review it

Before we begin, please know that The Franklin Law Firm offers a Zero Fee Guarantee. This means that you’ll NEVER pay a consultation fee and the only way our firm receives money for our legal services is when we are the ones who recover money on your behalf. So, no matter how big or small your case, we’re available to talk to you about the language in your Release at No Charge To You.

What is a Release?

A Release is a settlement agreement where a person agrees to waive (“release”) their legal rights in exchange for a certain sum of money.  For example, let’s say you were in a car accident in Dallas  – the other driver is clearly at fault, tells you they’re sorry and gives you their insurance information. You call to set up the claim and the at-fault insurance company sends over an adjuster to evaluate the damage to your car.  In speaking with the adjuster, they ask if you were injured and you tell them your neck is sore but you haven’t seen a doctor. Several days later the insurance adjuster calls and makes you an offer on the property damage.

You think it’s a fair offer and you accept.  The adjuster tells you that they will send you a Release and that you need to sign and return it before they’ll send you the check.  When you get the Release, it says that you agree to release the at fault driver and his insurance company from  “any and all claims” arising from the accident in exchange for payment of the agreed amount of money.  But did you know this Release would likely waive all your claims including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, as well as any future losses you may experience?  REMEMBER it’s the language of the Release and not what the adjuster tells you that counts. Even if the adjuster tells you the Release is only “for the car damage,” the language of the written agreement controls.

While many insurance adjusters are honest people, unfortunately there are some adjusters out there who are shrewd and downright aggressive in their efforts to settle a potential injury claim quickly.  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.  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.  In the industry this is known as a “swoop and settle” claim tactic. They may tell you that because you haven’t seen a doctor in the week after the wreck you’ll never be able to recover money for injuries, but because they want to be fair to you they’ll offer you $500.  This is FALSE and is only designed to get you to settle any claims you may have for cheap. But 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.

This “swoop and settle” tactic isn’t only used in small injury claims.  Often on larger claims the adjuster may tell you “if you hire a lawyer, then you will end up with less money in your pocket.” 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.

Another trick is when the adjuster offers you the “policy limits” but never confirms in writing that the amount offered is actually the limits of the policy.  You sign the Release for $50,000 when the actual limit on the policy was $100,000.  Too bad, so sad – the language of the Release controls.

We have also seen the adjuster add parties to the Release who had additional insurance that would cover the claim. For instance, my law office once received a call from a North Texas family whose adult son was killed by a drunk driver. The family made a wrongful death claim against the drunk-driver’s insurance policy and the adjuster told them the policy limit was $100,000 and sent them the Release to sign. The family went to Super Lawyers and contacted The Franklin Law Firm.

We told the family not to sign anything until we reviewed the Release for them FREE OF CHARGE.  When we reviewed the Release, the language not only included the name of the drunk driver, but also included 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 family about our Zero Fee Guarantee – that we would NOT take a fee on the original $100,000 the adjuster already offered, but if there was additional money we could get for the family then we would only take a fee on the extra money we recovered for them.

Well, it turned out our suspicions were right and the drunk driver’s mom had a separate $100,000 policy with the same insurance company as the drunk driver that applied to the wreck as well. If the family had taken the adjuster’s word for it and signed the Release, they would never have known about (much less collected) the additional $100,000.

The moral of the story is simple: Never sign a Release until you consult with an experienced attorney and get reliable legal advice.  It doesn’t have to be us, but The Franklin Law Firm will be happy to review the proposed Release under our Zero Fee Guarantee at no cost to you.  We just want to make sure that you’re not being taken advantage of and that you know the rights you will be signing away.

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 to Prove You Were Injured in the Car Accident and Not by Something Else

The Insurance Company and its Lawyers will make you prove that it was the car wreck that caused your injuries – Find out in this post the steps you need to take to make sure you can prove it

Get checked out by a Doctor

It’s very common after a motor vehicle accident, even one that seems relatively minor, for you to have some soreness for a few days after the accident.  But if after a few days your pain is not going away, seems to be getting worse, or if you have new symptoms, such as numbness or tingling radiating into your arms, hands, legs or feet, or if any of these feel weak, you need to get checked out by a doctor who is familiar with the types of injuries commonly caused by auto collisions. And when you see a doctor, be sure to let them know about all of your symptoms.  Not only is it important to your health, but the sooner you’re seen after the accident by a medical care provider the better, so they document your injuries and complaints and the fact that they first appeared after the wreck.  The longer you wait, the more likely the insurance company is to argue that you could have injured yourself doing something else between the date of the accident and when you finally went to see a doctor.

Keep a Journal

If you have any visible injuries, swelling or bruising, its important that you take some pictures of them.  It’s also important that you write down the symptoms you’re experiencing and how they affect you.  For example, if after a whiplash injury you’re having numbness or tingling in your arms or hands, is it both hands or only one?  If only one-sided, is it the right or the left?  Or does it switch back and forth?  Are there specific fingers that are going numb or is it your whole hand? How often is it happening and how long does it last?  Does it happen after you do a specific activity or does it just come and go out of nowhere?  Keeping a journal of your specific symptoms will help your doctors to diagnose your auto accident injury.  Also write down how your injuries are affecting you.  Are you dropping things?  If so, what and how often?  If certain activities cause you pain, write down what they are and be as detailed as possible. Where does it hurt and what does it feel like – burning, aching, stabbing, throbbing? Again, all of this information will not only help your doctors but will also help prove that it was the car wreck that caused you injuries.

Follow Up with All Recommended Medical Treatment

If your doctor recommends physical therapy, chiropractic treatment, imaging studies (like an MRI), or other diagnostic tests, you need to follow your doctor’s orders.  Being injured is that last thing any of us needs – especially when it’s by someone who wasn’t paying attention to what they were doing and hurts us.  We have work and family commitments that need our attention and taking the time to follow up with treatment can be a real inconvenience. But you’re not going to be useful to anyone if you don’t get the treatment you need to get better.  And the insurance company lawyers will look for any gaps in your treatment or a failure to follow up with medical care as reasons to deny that you were really injured.

Hire an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

I know.  Having a lawyer tell you that you need to hire a personal injury lawyer may sound like a barber telling you that you need a haircut.  But if you have real injuries from an auto accident, you’re going to need real legal help to get fair compensation for your injuries – preferably from an attorney who is Board Certified in Personal Injury Trial Law.  Here’s how an expert injury lawyer can help you:

  • Gathering important evidence about the crash itself, including police accident reports, traffic light sequence data, evidence from the vehicles, and obtaining recorded statements from any witnesses;
  • Gathering your past medical records so we can prove what your medical condition was before the accident and contrast it to what it’s been like after;
  • Has medical knowledge to be able to monitor the treatment you’re receiving to make sure you’re getting quality medical care for your injuries; and
  • Has the legal experience needed to develop, prove and present your case in a highly effective way to get you Real Value for your Real Injuries.

JJason Franklin is founder of the law offices of The Franklin Law Firmason 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.

 

 


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.