HOW IMPORTANT ARE EVIDENCE AND WITNESSES?
Evidence and witnesses are everything. Unfortunately, often in auto collision cases, you don’t have any independent third-party witnesses because no one stops. It’s particularly true on things that happen on major freeways and such there were probably dozens of people who actually witnessed a collision but nobody stopped to give their information so that we could see it or that they could see the wreck or the injuries. That’s where the other sources of evidence and information come into play, most notably the police report if there is one, any photographs of the area, of the scene, of the damage to the vehicles, the damage to other objects that might have been involved in the collision such as the signposts or curbs or anything like that. More information is generally better than less in this situation. The hard part is getting it all gathered up before it all disappears.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO FOLLOW DOCTOR’S ORDERS IN AN AUTO COLLISION CLAIM?
Hurt people go to the doctor while trying to tough it out may be admirable when you’re on a high school football team, it doesn’t help you get better. Gaps in treatment such as from the wreck until the first medical care are examined closely by insurance adjusters when looking for an excuse to deny or reduce the value of your claim. No one wants you to have to go to the doctor longer than necessary but missing appoints and waiting to go for care reads like, “No big deal, must not be hurt”, to the insurance adjuster.
HOW LONG DO AUTO COLLISION CLAIMS TYPICALLY TAKE TO GET RESOLVED?
My experience has taught me that there are no typical cases. Each case is governed by its own facts. However, we can’t get started talking about resolving your case until we know what is going on with you medically. So completing your treatment or hearing from the doctor that you need more treatments is something that has to be done before we can start to come up with an evaluation. The bottom line is if you can tell me how long you’re going to be hurt, then I can tell you how long the process will take. But until you’re through the medical treatment and evaluation stage, there’s no point in even talking about the value of the case or how long it’s going to take to process. The only real deadline we have to keep in mind is once again, the two-year statute of limitations. Obviously, most people are done treating their injuries well before that date and were able to start talking to the insurance company about getting your case resolved.
HOW IS THE VIABILITY OF AN AUTO COLLISION CLAIM DETERMINED?
When I am evaluating a case for someone, in terms of the three-legged stool. In order for the stool to stand up, it has to have at least 3 legs or else it’s going to fall over. And when it comes to car wreck cases, the legs of the three stools are as follows. Number one, liability, which is, how did it happen? Why is it someone else’s responsibility? What were the safety rules that were violated by the defendant that caused the incident in question? Number two, damages. What are the effects of the incident? That includes the medical aspects, the emotional aspects and the overall effect that this has had on your life and your family. As an example, if you are going through on a green light and a drunk driver runs a red light and almost hits you, well you almost have a case.
You don’t have any damages as well because nothing happened to you. The third leg of the three-legged stool has to do with money which in this context usually has to do with insurance coverage or the ability to pay. Depending on who the defendant is and how much insurance they have can — will affect the viability and the value of your case. Unfortunately, over the years, I have seen many people who have sustained million dollar injuries but they were hurt by someone who had no insurance at all or only had the minimum liability limits in the state of Texas. In those circumstances, there may not be much that an attorney can do to help you. But in summary, those are the three things we need to look at. Liability, damages, and coverage or the ability to pay.
CAN SOMEONE REALISTICALLY HANDLE AN AUTO COLLISION CLAIM ON THEIR OWN?
I tell them good luck. I also tell them that if insurance company’s treated everybody fairly, we wouldn’t have anything to do and we’re plenty busy. The reality is the business model of an insurance company is to pay you as little as possible and resolve it as quickly as possible to their own advantage. Statistics have shown over the years that people who hire attorneys generally get better resolution of their cases both in terms of settlements and ultimately in a trial. A lot of people think that it’s simply a negotiation much like any other negotiation, whether you’re buying a house or buying a car but it’s not quite true because, in those situations, you have the ability to walk away. If you’re trying to buy a car and you’re not making progress with the dealer, you can go to a different dealership.
If you’re buying a house and the owner won’t move on the price, you can go look for a different house. In this negotiation, there is only one buyer and it’s the insurance company. So it’s not a true negotiation like other things in your life. The only hammer that you have is the threat of filing the lawsuit and having a jury hold them accountable for the full measure of damages and that that risk is greater to them than what it would cost to pay to settle the case. You don’t have that risk or you can’t create that risk or hold that hammer over their head unless you have an attorney and it needs to be an attorney who is ready, willing and able to file the lawsuit and go down to that courthouse on your behalf and try your case.
WHAT SETS YOUR FIRM APART IN HANDLING AUTO COLLISION CLAIMS?
The thing that I pride myself on is that my practice is small and that’s by design. I know all my own clients, I meet with them, I meet with them when we sign them up. I am involved with them throughout the process. If the case goes to trial, I am the one trying your case. I use my legal assistance to help me in gathering information and evidence and answering phone calls of course, but when you call here, you’re going to talk to the lawyer if you want to talk to the lawyer.
If I am not here, I will call you back. You won’t be passed off to someone else, you’re going to get a level of personal attention that I don’t believe you can get at a lot of other law firms that are bigger. If you’re interested in a lot of fancy office space and mahogany desks and things like that, well you’re going to be disappointed here. But if you’re interested in having your phone calls returned and getting straight answers to your questions from the attorney, I think we can help you.
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