Bugs Bunny said it well when he asked, "What's up doc?" He must have been in a pretty bad car accident, at least a month before, and he was getting the MULTIPLE bills that you could get, if you were injured and treated, following a car accident, motorcycle accident, pedestrian accident, 18 wheeler crash. I had a potential new client call me a few weeks ago and tell me about an offer from an adjuster, for a $1,300 "hospital" bill and $1,200 for pain and suffering. The more I spoke to the potential new client, the more I realized that he was in the same boat I was in, before I started working at a law office, in that I did not realize how many bills you could get, after receiving emergency care, following an accident. Below is a discussion of some bills that an injured victim could receive after a car accident, motorcycle accident, pedestrian accident, 18 wheeler crash.

1. Air Ambulance

Depending on the severity of your injuries, you may be transported, via air ambulance, to the nearest emergency room. An air ambulance is staffed with medical personnel who are there to stabilize you and your injuries, to the best of their abilities, so that you can be transported to the nearest trauma facility. Thankfully, prior to working in a law office, I had never had any dealings with an air ambulance. Early on, in my legal career, we had a client who was transported via air ambulance and when we received his bill, my mouth literally dropped open. The bill was more than $60,000.00 dollars. 

2. Ambulance

If you are close enough to a trauma center, you may be transported via ground ambulance, to the emergency room. Again, depending on your location, you may have to be transported via ground ambulance to a location where an air ambulance could pick you up; in this instance, you will have a bill from both, the air ambulance, and the ground ambulance. While in the ambulance, you will not only be charged for the supplies used to stabilize you and your injuries, but you will also be charged for the mileage used to transport you to and from the accident location to the air ambulance pick up location or to the emergency room.

3. Emergency Room Hospital Bill

This is the main bill that people expect, when they are in a car accident, motorcycle accident, pedestrian accident, 18 wheeler crash. This bill will cover your time in the hospital, all procedures performed upon you in the hospital, all supplies used to care for you, in the hospital. In the Texoma region, emergency room bills, following accidents range from $5,000.00 to $30,000.00 and higher. If you are dealing with an adjuster and you think you have provided them your emergency room bill, but the bill is only $1,300.00, chances are slim that this is your actual hospital emergency room bill. It is probably one of the bills discussed below.

4. Emergency Room Physician

The doctor that treats you in the emergency room will have his own separate bill. Depending on the level of the trauma, the bill will vary. These bills will typically come from a "group", like Texoma Emergency Physicians or Sundance Emergency Physicians. The potential new client that called me about the $1,300.00 hospital bill was actually looking at the emergency room physician bill. Following an accident, if you do not receive the bill from the emergency room physician, you can contact the emergency room where you treated, ask for the billing department, and ask them for the name and phone number of the emergency physician service they use.

5. Radiologist

If the emergency room doctor orders x-rays, MRIs, CT scans, or any other radiological diagnostic tests performed, while you are in the emergency room, following an accident, you will also have a bill from the radiologist. The radiologist is the doctor that reads the x-ray and creates a report to include in your emergency room hospital records. 

6. Pathologist

If the emergency room doctor orders blood to be drawn, while you are in the emergency room, following an accident, you will also have a bill from the pathologist. The pathologist is the doctor that analyzes your bloodwork and creates a report to include in your emergency room hospital records. In the last five years, I have seen more and more emergency room physicians ordering blood work, following an accident.

7. Anesthesiologist

If you undergo surgery, following an accident, you will also have a bill from the anesthesiologist. The anesthesiologist is the doctor who puts you to sleep, for surgery, or any other procedure that cannot be performed while the patient is awake and creates a report to include in your emergency room hospital records. 

8. Other potential providers

Depending on the state of your health, prior to the accident, you may have several of your own doctors check up on you, if you are hospitalized, following the accident. If you have a heart doctor, or cardiologist, they may be called in for consult. If you are under treatment of a pain management doctor, he or she could also be called in for consult. If you are under the care of a physician for any autoimmune disorders, your specialist may be called in for consult. If you have arthritis, your rheumatologist may be called in for consult. The list could go on and on, but the basic idea is that if you are under the care of a physician, at the time of your accident, the emergency room physician may call in any or all of your treating physicians, for consults. Each doctor that is called in for consult will have their own bill.

If you have health insurance, you might not see any of these bills if you do not owe a co-pay or patient responsibility payment. This is typically why most people do not know that they have all of these medical expenses, related to their collision, because they never see the bills. Medical expenses are a part of your claim, following a car accident, so you want to make sure that you have all of your medical bills, when you present your claim or if you chose to hire a personal injury attorney, they will need to make sure they have all of your medical expenses, to present the claim to the liability adjuster.

You have to be very careful, when presenting your claim to the adjuster, because even though they most likely know that you should have more than one bill, if you went to the emergency room, they can still try to settle your claim with you, only for the bills you presented, have you sign a release, and then you have settled your claim for less than it is worth and if any of those unpresented medical bills have balances, you still owe them. Just remember, after an accident, if you get emergency room care, "What's up doc, and doc, and doc?" As always, stay safe!

There are close to 50 million cyclists and 230 million motorists, in the US, according to statista.com. That means for about every 5 cars, on the road, there is one cyclist. It is the responsibility of both the cyclist and the motorist to drive safely, not only to protect themselves, but also to protect other roadway travelers. Below is a discussion of some safety measures that cyclists can take, along with some safety tips that motorists can practice, as well.

1. Wear a helmet!

Over 40% of cyclist v. motorist crashes result in head injuries. Another scary statistic, regarding cyclists and head injuries is that 60% of bicycle crash fatalities are the result of head injuries. The severity of these head injuries could have been reduced if helmets were worn. Helmets do not guarantee no head injury in a cyclist v. motorist collision, but they do offer added protection to the skull and brain. The cost of a bicycle helmet ranges from $15.00 to $50.00, but the cost of life- long head injuries, from a cyclist v. motorist crash, can be in the millions. It seems like an obvious and easy choice…wear your helmet!

2. Wear protective gear…wrist pads, elbow pads, knee pads!

Motorists, in vehicles, are protected by the body of the vehicle; the stability of the metal frame and fiberglass body add protection to the human being inside the vehicle. A bicyclist has no protection from their mode of transportation; for this reason, cyclists need to create their own body protection/body armor. This protection comes from wrist guards, elbow pads, and knee pads. This body armor adds additional protection from other common cyclist v. motorist crash injuries, called fractures, or broken bones. When a cyclist is thrown from their bicycle, depending on how they land, the first thing they will try to do, it put their hands down, to break the fall. Wrist guards, with plastic or metal supports, can help minimize wrist and hand fractures. If the cyclist is thrown down on their side, upon impact, the elbow is one of the of the first parts of the body to slam into the ground; the protection from the elbow pads could help reduce the shattering of the elbow. Lastly, if a cyclist is thrown to the ground, knees first, knee pads would protect the knee, decreasing the chance of a knee-shattering injury. Long story short, wear the protective gear for the additional protection that your bicycle cannot provide for your body.

3. Wear bright clothes!

Another safety precaution that cyclists can take is to wear bright clothing. If you are not a fan of the bright orange and yellow safety vests that construction workers wear, visit your local cycle shop for a wide variety of bright, cool-wicking shirts and shorts. If you have pick between a bright colored top and bright colored pants, go with the pants. On a bicycle, your lower body is more in the site line of the motorist. If you can add colored socks to your outfit, even better. 

According to bicycling.com, "driver reaction time, for a driver to perceive an unexpected object, recognize it and act (either to slow the car or steer it away from the object) on average, ranges from 1.25 to 2 seconds." A car traveling only 30 miles per hour, with an undistracted driver, will travel about 55 feet in 2 seconds. Under normal conditions, if a car is coming at a cyclist and the driver doesn’t notice the cyclist, he won’t react in time to avoid a collision. This means, for protection, the cyclist needs to do everything possible to help the motorist see the cyclists, as soon as possible, to allow for as much reaction and braking time, as possible. Long story short, wear the bright clothes!

4. Follow bicycle rules of the road!

As a cyclist, you need to be aware of the laws, for your state, regarding bicyclists. Below is a list of some laws (with some discussion), regarding cyclists in Texas. These laws, and many more, regarding bicyclists in Texas, are found in the Texas Transportation Code.

Sec. 551.101. Rights and Duties

(a) A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:

a provision of this chapter alters a right or duty; or

a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.

(b) A parent of a child or a guardian of a ward may not knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this subtitle.

Basically, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, unless there are laws for motorists that could not apply to cyclist, like a requirement for functioning brake lights or annual inspections.

551.103. Operation on Roadway

(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:

(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;

(2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway;

(3) a condition on or off the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway; or

(4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:

(A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or

(B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.

(b) A person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.

(c) Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.

In basic terms, if at all possible, cyclists should stay to the right side of the lane, unless they are traveling on a one-way road, then they should stay to the left. Cyclists can ride beside each other as long as it is safe and does not affect the flow of traffic.

5. Share the road!

As motorists, in vehicles, we are bigger and take up more of the road, leaving the cyclist at a disadvantage, not only in size, but also in visibility. This puts the burden of being extra aware of our surroundings on the motorist. We need to keep our eyes on the road and this means to minimize our in car distractions. We need to make sure we come to a complete stop, at stop signs; rolling stops, where bicycles are crossing marked intersections, often lead to bicycle v. vehicle collisions and significant injuries, for the cyclist. If a motorist plans to turn right on red, they need to look right, left, then right again and check all mirrors, rear view and side, as well as look in the back window to make sure no cyclists are around. When you are in a parking lot, make sure you have checked all possible points of impact, where a cyclist may be, before you back out.

As motorists and cyclists, if we follow the rules of the road and make room for and keep our eyes out for each other, we can all have safe and happy travels. As always, stay safe!

Home, home on the range, where the deer and the antelope play! I was driving to the gym, this week, and I saw a cow on the side of the highway, with a truck driving alongside, trying to coax it back away from the highway. It made me think of all of the things I have learned about livestock, wild animals, and car wrecks, so I decided to share a little information with my readers. You might be wondering, "Are there any laws, requiring cattle owners to keep their cattle fenced in?" If so, great question! Texas is an open range state.

1. What does open range mean?

If you are wondering what "open range" means, that is understandable. Open range means that cattle owners are not required to put up fences, to keep their animals on their land. Texas has been an open range state for centuries. The Texas Supreme Court continues to support the right of cattle owners, to keep their lands "open". The open range designation allows for cattlemen to drive their cattle along cattle drives, to take the livestock to auction, to move the cattle freely on the land, without restrictions of fence posts and barbed wire. If you are in a wreck with livestock in an "open range" state, the livestock owner will most likely, not be liable for your damages. Fear not, there may be local laws that can protect roadway travelers from roaming, road crossing livestock.

2. How do I find out if my county is open range?

As time past and Texas became more industrialized, counties began to enact what are called "stock laws" to protect the roadway and highway traveling citizens. These laws require cattlemen to fence their livestock, to keep them off the roadways and highways. It would be nice if there were a common place to look, to find out if your county is open range, but unfortunately, there is not. Typically, these laws are memorialized in the county's commissioner court meeting notes. If you need a copy of the actual law, which you might, if you are in a wreck with livestock, you can start with a call to the county clerk and they should be able to direct you where to start your search, to get a copy of the local livestock law, if there is one. Below is a list of some of the counties around us and what their local stock laws say:

  County               Stock Law            Animals Covered                                                Year Elected

Grayson             Yes                        Horses, mules, jacks, jennets, donkeys       1979

                                                           hogs, sheep, goats, cattle

Denton               Yes                         Hogs, sheep, goats (1898), horses, mules  1898 & 1900

                                                            jacks, jennets, cattle (1900)

Hunt                    Yes                         Hogs, sheep, goats (1882), horses, mules   1882 & 1907

                                                            jacks, jennets, cattle (1907)

Fannin                 Yes                        Horses, mules, jacks, jennets, cattle, hogs    1919

                                                            sheep, goats

Collin                   No                           None                                                                   N/A

Cooke                  Yes                          Horses, mules, jacks, jennets, cattle            1900

If you live in a county that has adopted a stock law and a livestock owner fails to put up or maintain fencing, to keep the livestock on his/her land, and one or more of that livestock come on to the highway and cause you to have a wreck, you could potentially make a claim against that livestock owner for negligent maintenance of the fencing that was put there to protect you, a roadway traveler. 

3. What about wild animals?

If you crashed into a wild animal, since the animal is not "owned" by anyone, you would not have any one to make a claim against. For this reason, if you live in a town or often travel through a town, that has a large wild animal population, that cross the roadways regularly, you will want to make sure that you have collision coverage, on your vehicle, this will allow you to get your vehicle repaired, if you hit a wild animal. If you do not have health insurance, you will want to look into what is called Medical Payments coverage or Personal Injury Protection, to protect your body in these types of crashes. Both of these coverages will cover medical expenses up to the limit of the policy. In some states, Medical Payments is subrogatable; that means they could require re-payments, from a third party settlement. Because Medical Payments can be subrogatable, it may be a little more affordable than Personal Injury Protection. Make sure to have a discussion with your insurance agent to determine what is the best type of coverage for you!

4. Safety tips if a crash with a large animal is inevitable!

Over the past 2 decades, I have been involved in cases where horses and cows have crossed the roadways, causing some severe injuries. If you travel on roadways with a high wildlife or cattle population, the first thing to do, is try to avoid collisions with these animals; you can do that by minimizing distractions, in your vehicle, staying in the middle lane (livestock tend to roam near the open land/pastures, so if you are in the middle lane, it will allow you a little more time to react), and if you see loose cattle, call local law enforcement, so they can work to get the cattle back where they belong. If you see the animal, and have time, try to give some quick flashes of your driving lights, and honk your horn; this could urge the animal to move off of the roadway; back to where they came from. One last tip, some animals tend to travel in herds, so be on the look out for herds and if you see a herd, slow down, be alert, and allow yourself extra reaction time, incase one has strayed from the herd. 

If you were not able to avoid the collision, according to farmersalmanac.com, " If you do hit a large animal, lean toward the door frame and not the center of the car. When animals are hit head-on, they tend to roll over the vehicle, crushing the center of the windshield and roof. If you do happen to collide with an animal, remember to never touch or help an animal in the roadway. Pull off the roadway and immediately call the police and be sure to get a police report; many insurance companies may not pay for damages without a police report." I think the word "roll" is a little on the weak side, to describe what happens when you slam into a large animal on the road; what I have seen, from previous cases that I work on, was when the driver slammed on their brakes, the front of the car dipped down, then basically through the large animal, right into the windshield, causing to crash through the windshield and directly into the driver and passengers in the vehicle.

Like most collisions, there are many steps we can take to avoid crashing into roaming cattle or wild animals. As always, stay safe!

After almost two decades of dealing with bodily injury adjusters, one might think I have heard every possible excuse for denying or minimizing a bodily injury claim, but sadly, I hear new "arguments" on a regular basis. Below is a discussion of some of the most common "arguments" that I hear, with some weapons to beat those arguments.

1. Low Property Damage/Mechanism of Injury

The most common argument that I hear from adjusters is that the property damage was too low for anyone to have been injured in this wreck. The adjuster sends me pictures of the property damage, which is barely visible, and a copy of the repair invoice, that is typically below $1,000.00. Adjusters know that pictures of vehicles with minimal damage and property repair receipts for under $1,000.00, tend to lead juries to agree that there was no way someone could have been injured in this wreck, but do not fear, not all hope is lost.

A common response that I give adjusters, when pointing out that low property damage does not mean everything, when it comes to the body that was inside the vehicle, is the egg carton example. The carton represents the car, and the eggs inside represent the occupants of the vehicle. If you drop the egg carton on the floor, most likely, there will not be any damage to the carton, but once you open the carton, you will see broken eggs inside. Just like, when you open the door to a vehicle that had minimal damage, you will still see "broken" victims inside.

I one had a client that was driving a really old truck; you know, the ones that were built to stand the test of time and there was literally no damage to his vehicle. He banged his head on the windshield and had severe headaches for weeks. He returned to the hospital and they did a CT scan on his head, where they found swelling in his brain. The physician performed an emergency procedure, where he drilled holes in my client's skull, to relieve the pressure building up on his brain, and again, this was from a wreck where there was no visible property damage.

2. Gap in Treatment

This is another common adjuster argument, and it can also be exceedingly difficult to overcome. The magic number seems to be 2 weeks. Adjusters tell me, "Mary, if your client was in that much pain, there is no way they would have waited 2 weeks to get additional treatment." Another attempt to minimize the claim, when there is a gap in treatment, is when the adjuster says, "Well, there was so much time between the visits to the doctor, there must have been something else that happened (intervening cause) that caused your client to be in pain again. Juries also tend to agree with defense attorneys that make these arguments.

Before we talk about some weapons against the "gap in treatment" argument, I do want to remind you how important it is to avoid a gap in treatment, if at all possible. Gaps in treatment give the adjuster ammunition to try to devalue your bodily injury claim, but they also delay your recovery time. It is especially important to follow your doctor's treatment plan, as closely as possible, to avoid any gaps in treatment. 

The simplest defense to this argument is that the doctor did not order the patient to follow up within two weeks. Sometimes, doctors prescribe a month's worth medication and order the patient to complete the medication, prior to returning. Also, when ending a therapy regiment, the therapist may decrease the number of visits to bi-monthly or even monthly visits. 

Another successful weapon against the "gap in treatment' argument would be other medical issues (if they exist), that kept you from treating. I had a client that was pregnant, when she had a wreck, and she tore a ligament in her knee. The ligament actually required surgical repair, but she could not have the surgery, while she was pregnant. There was a several month gap in treatment, but the adjuster could not make the "gap in treatment" argument, as my client had a medical excuse, as to why there was a delay for the treatment. 

3. Soft tissue injury

When it comes to arguments against extended pain and suffering, adjusters love to rely on the "soft tissue" injury argument. A soft tissue is basically anything in your body that is not a bone. This means that bodily injury adjusters like to argue that if you did not break a bone, you were not hurt that bad. That is definitely a faulty argument.

When I was in high school, I played basketball. I went up for a shot and came down and rolled my ankle to the side and to the back; I tore three ligaments; ligaments are soft tissues, not bones. When we went to the orthopedic surgeon, he told my parents, as far as pain and recovery time, I actually would have been better off to break my ankle, then to have torn the three ligaments.

It is more difficult to help members of the jury understand the pain of a soft tissue injury because soft tissue injuries are usually on the inside and even an x-ray cannot show a soft tissue injury. This is where it is helpful to have a doctor that can explain what is going on in the body and how these "soft tissue" injuries cause pain. When you are treating with your doctor, make sure to explain every ache and pain that you have! It is also helpful to keep a journal, with daily explanations of everything that you have gone through, to help beat the "soft tissue/minimal pain and injury" argument.

It is always important to remember that the bodily injury adjuster is not your friend; they work for the insurance company. As most employees want to do well for their employer, most bodily injury adjusters want to do well for the insurance company; they want to succeed in their job. This typically means they want to pay out as little as possible, to help their employer keep as much money as possible. These "arguments" can help the bodily injury adjuster keep the money for the insurance company, but you can use some of the weapons listed above to beat those arguments and get the compensation you deserve. 

As always, stay safe!

 There are 2 general portions of a car wreck bodily injury claim; the first one is liability and the second one is damages. In the liability portion of the claim, the injured victim must prove that the other driver was at fault. Sadly, more often than not, when it comes to proving liability, you are dealing with a battle of stories – he said v. she said. Fortunately, if you know the right places to look, the injured victim can gather evidence to support their version of liability facts.

1. Police Report

If a police officer investigated the collision and completed a police report, it is usually the easiest piece of evidence to get, after a car wreck. You can call the police department directly, ask for records, and someone in the records department will explain to you how to get a copy of the police report. The police report has a lot of valuable information on it. It will have a description of the wreck, the insurance information for the person that hit the injured victim, witness contact information, and the officer's opinion, as to who was at fault, among many other things. Sometimes, to save a step, if the investigating agency has a web page, you can check their web page out and it may explain to you, exactly what you need to do to get a police report.

2. Witness Statements

Sometimes, the officer will note what the witness said, on the police report, and will also list their contact information; that is so helpful! Other times, I not really sure why, there is no information listed on the police report, regarding a witness. If this is the case, and you are fairly sure there is a witness, then you will want to do what is called an Open Records Request. In Texas, under the Texas Freedom of Information Act, you are allowed to request a great deal of information, from the investigating agency, including witness statements. Sometimes officers have witnesses complete witness affidavits, where they explain what they saw, regarding the car wreck. Other times, officers have the witnesses describe what they saw, and record the witness, while they are talking on their lapel microphones. When you make your open records request, you will want to make sure you request both written and recorded statements.

3. 911 Call Recordings

911 call recordings are one of the most valuable pieces of evidence, to help prove who is at fault.  Since the call is made almost immediately after the wreck, the version of events is typically very accurate. It is also helpful when the caller is not the injured victim or the negligent driver. Unbiased, 3rd party witnesses are given the most weight. You would also request these recordings with an Open Records Request. One important note, depending on who receives 911 calls, be it the police department, the sheriff's office, etc., you may need to send a separate Open Records Request, to the proper agency, just for the 911 calls, if 911 calls do not go to the agency that investigated the car wreck. I currently have a case, where there was a conflict, regarding the cause of the wreck. After hiring me, I did the Open Records Request, got the 911 calls, sent them to the adjuster, and liability was cleared. As I said before, 911 call recordings are great pieces of evidence to help prove liability.

4. Emergency Vehicle Dash Cam Recordings

It is rare that an officer witnesses a collision, but it does happen. Emergency vehicle dash cam recordings are helpful to show if the negligent driver was "out of sorts". You might be thinking, "What does that mean, Mary?" If so, great question! If an investigating officer suspects a driver is intoxicated, the officer will have the driver perform field sobriety tests, in front of their squad car, to record the tests. These videos are INVALUABLE because Texas juries do not like drunk drivers. I had a case (I am not making this up), where the negligent driver, after he crashed his SUV into my clients, jumped out of his SUV, with not one, but two broken arms. He was belligerent and yelling at the officers, calling them very inappropriate things, while making very inappropriate motions with both of his broken arms, telling the officers to do very inappropriate things, all on video. Further investigation revealed medication bottles and empty beer cans, in the SUV. As you can imagine, this was all EXTREMELY helpful evidence, for my clients.

5. Investigating Officer Lapel Recordings

As I said above, when the officers talk to the witnesses, they record the conversations on their lapel microphones. These recordings can provide a wealth of information. These recordings are obtained via open record requests, as well. When multiple parties are involved, these recordings help clear up confusion regarding liability, order of impacts, number of impacts, what each witness saw, who was driving what vehicle, the list goes on and on. Like the emergency vehicle dash cam recordings, these recordings can also reveal if a negligent driver is "out of sorts". I have heard MANY lapel recordings, where you can hear the other driver slur as they speak; they are slow to respond; they have difficulty answering simple questions, like the date, time, how many drinks they had before they got behind the wheel.

6. Interrogation Recordings

Once a suspected drunk driver is transported to jail, they are questioned. Often, these interviews are recorded. As all of the other pieces listed above, these can be obtained via open records request. They provide evidence, like the negligent driver's state of mind, as the lapel recordings do, but they also allow the viewer to actually see the negligent driver. I have found that the times when the suspected drunk driver is alone, waiting to be interrogated, are the most informative. I have seen suspected drunk drivers literally pass out on video. I have seen them talk to themselves. I have seen them say how upset their parents are going to be that they drove drunk and crashed their car. I have seen them have conversations with people that were not there. I have seen them tell stories to the wall. Again, a wealth of helpful information to prove who was at fault, for the car wreck. 

7. Commercial Building Surveillance Cameras

Commercial building surveillance recordings are RIDICULOUSLY hard to get. I talked to gas station owner that said their recordings roll over every 4 days; that means that you have to not only request, but obtain the recording, before 4 days pass. It is rare that business owners will just turn over these recordings. Your best chance to get the recording is for the police to subpoena it and then you get it from the police, under an open records request. This is also a rare occurrence, but if you know your wreck happened in front of a commercial building, that recorded the wreck, you will want to talk to the investigating officer, their supervisor, the chief of police, whoever you need to talk to, to make sure the video is subpoenaed and protected. 

Over the last 20 years of working with accident victims, I have learned a great deal about what kind of information that is out there to help the victim. I hope you found this as helpful and interesting as I did.

As always, stay safe!

In the past two decades, that I have been working with accident victims, I have learned a great deal of medical terminology. I have also learned that it is quite easy to misunderstand or confuse the things that a doctor tells you, especially in the emergency room, after a traumatic experience. I have had accident victims tell me that the doctor said their spine was broken and the explanation from the doctor could definitely have sounded like that, but the actual medical terminology could be extremely different; you can have spinal fractures and injuries to the soft tissues that support your vertebra and that would all fall under an injury to your spine. Below is a discussion of some common diagnoses that follow car wreck, motorcycle wrecks, slip and fall incidents, or any other personal injury, caused by the negligence of another.

1. Sprain/Strain

The most common diagnoses that I see, following a car accident, is sprain or strain. Some insurance adjusters claim that sprain and strain are the same injury, but they are not. According to healthline.com, a sprain "is the overstretching or tearing of ligaments. Ligaments are the bands of tissue that connect two bones together in a joint. The most common location for a sprain is the ankle joint. A strain is the overstretching or tearing of muscles or tendons. Tendons are the cords of tissue that connect bones to muscles. The most common locations for a muscle strain are the hamstring muscle and the lower back." Common symptoms of strains include muscle spasms, joint pain, swelling, and reduced flexibility and range of motion. Common symptoms of sprains include bruising, joint pain, swelling, and reduced flexibility and range of motion. 

2. Fracture

Car accidents, motorcycle wrecks, 18 wheeler crashes, and slip and fall accidents are all culprits of fracture bones. In layman terms, a fractured bone is a broken bone. What I have learned, in my many years of working with accident victims is that a fracture diagnosis can have several variations. The best kind of fracture diagnoses, if you have to have one, would be a closed, simple fracture. A simple facture is more like a crack in the bone. These fractures typically can heal without surgery. A closed fracture means that the skin was not fractured by a broken bone. The worst facture diagnoses would be a compound, open fracture. If this were your diagnoses, that means your bone broke completely, in to two or more pieces, and one of those pieces punctured or "opened" your skin. Treatment for fractures varies greatly, depending on the degree of the fracture. The slightest of fractures can be treated with casts or splints, where the most severe of fractures may require surgery, including screws and plates to hold the bones together, to allow them to heal back to their original positions. Often, following a fracture, a doctor will prescribe physical therapy, to strengthen the muscles that were affected by the brake and the time of immobilization in the splint or cast. Most fractures lead to early onset arthritis. 

3. Contusion/Hematoma

Another set of common diagnoses following a car accident, 18 wheeler crash, or motorcycle wreck 

are contusion or hematoma. According to healthline.com, "A contusion happens when an injured capillary or blood vessel leaks blood into the surrounding area. Contusions are a type of hematoma, which refers to any collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. " To put it simply, a contusion is a bruise. If you are a victim of a personal injury and you sustain contusions or hematomas, due to the incident, you will want to take pictures of the bruising. Bruises tend to get worse and then fade away. You will want to take pictures of the bruising from day one until it completely fades. The pictures are great evidence for an insurance adjuster or a jury, if your case goes to trial, to be able to actually see your injuries. Some injuries, following an accident, are not visible to the naked eye; bruises are visible. A hematoma, as described above as a "collection of blood outside of a blood vessel" can become hard, if the blood does not go away from the affected area. These masses can be very painful and draining or even surgical removal.

Hopefully, you never have to hear any of these words, but more likely than not, you will, for yourself or a family member or a friend and when that happens, it will be good to be prepared and to have a basic understanding of what the doctor is talking about. If you are in the emergency room and your doctor or your child's doctor is explaining something to you and you do not understand, it is always good to ask for further explanation, so that you understand what is going on with your body. Also, it would not hurt to make notes, of the explanation, in your phone or on a sheet of paper, because accidents are so stressful and nerves are shot, so it is quite easy to forget what the doctor told you, in the days to come.

As always, stay safe!

There are many reasons to hire a personal injury attorney, but this article discusses three of the most important reasons to hire a personal injury attorney, if you have been injured due to someone else's negligence (poor choices), in something like a car accident, motorcycle wreck, 18 wheeler crash, or vehicle v. pedestrian collision. 

1. Personal Injury Attorneys read A LOT!

I feel safe in saying that I have NEVER read as much, as I did when I was in law school. I am an avid reader and have been since I first learned how to read. When other kids were asking for extra TV time or extra Nintendo time, I was asking for extra time to read, before bed! I was the kid that took their book and flashlight to bed! That passion for reading continued all the way through college and into my adulthood, so to say that I have read a lot, would be an understatement. You might be thinking, Mary, why do I, an injured person, care that you have read a lot? If so, great question. There are CONSTANT changes in the world of personal injury and civil litigation. Not only changes to laws, be it by statute or case, but procedures change, processes change, insurance company requirements change, I could go on and on with the list of the things that can change, related to personal injury claims. How do we learn about these changes? Sometimes on the news, but most of the time, through research and what do you have to do, when you research…read! Read, read, read!!! Constantly increasing their knowledge base, through reading, makes a personal injury attorney valuable to an injured person, as they not only have their past knowledge and experience to rely on, but also the constant consumption of new information, to protect the injured.

2. Personal Injury Attorneys know THE LAW!

Besides reading about changes in procedures, regarding civil litigation, processing of insurance claims, and requirements of personal injury claimants, personal injury attorneys spend a great deal of time reading about the law! Old law, new law, potential new laws…we currently have SEVERAL proposed laws, before our senate and house of representatives, that could greatly affect a personal injury victim. If you want to educate yourself, regarding some of these proposed laws, check out the website texaswatch.org.; it is a great source of information! Below is a list of some of the proposed laws currently before the Texas house and senate:

· House Bill 19 and Senate Bill 17…These are both proposed legislations to protect commercial trucking companies and take away protection from Texans, and any drivers, who drive on Texas roadways.

· House Bill 1617 and Senate Bill 207…These are both proposed legislations to limit patient access to care. Texans are already greatly limited in their ability to receive medical care and if either of these bills pass, it will only make it worse.

· House Bill 1131…This is actually proposed legislation that would be to the benefit of a car wreck victim, regarding property damage. If passed, this law will not allow property damage adjusters to "require" the use of sub-standard parts in the vehicle repair process.

· House Bill 359 and Senate Bill 1935…This proposed legislation is also for the benefit of injured victims, specifically, those involved in uninsured/underinsured motorist claims. If passed, this legislation will require first party insurance carriers to step up and do what their clients have paid them to do and pay claims, without requiring their insureds to go to trial, against the uninsured/underinsured negligent driver.

These are just a few examples of potential new laws, that could affect a personal injury victim. Laws, passed by our house and legislature, are not the only laws that effect personal injury victims. There is also case law that personal injury attorneys must know about. Prior to COVID, new cases were being handed down daily, that steadily changed how personal injury claims were handled. A personal injury attorney must keep up with all of this law, all of these changes; a personal injury attorney must know new law, old law, and old law that is no longer in effect. There is such a great deal of information that must be known to properly handle a personal injury claim and a personal injury attorney was trained, in law school, to gather, digest, and process this information.

3. Personal Injury Attorneys Have Time!

The most important thing that personal injury attorneys have, when it comes to handling a personal injury claim is time. When dealing with adjusters, time is a necessity. It is rare that you get through to an adjuster on your first call. It is rare that you get a return call from an adjuster on your first voicemail. There are times, more often than not, when a follow up voicemail, follow up email, voicemail to a supervisor, and follow up email to supervisor are required to get one thing moved forward, in a personal injury claim. When an injured victim is trying to treat, work, take care of their children, take care of their home, deal with the pain, and just do life, it is rare that they have the time, to deal with this kind of ludacris follow up. Not only is it time consuming, but it is frustrating. Personal injury victims already live on edge because they are in pain, so any additional stress or frustration makes life so much more difficult. It is a personal injury attorney's job to do the required follow up. To leave the 5 voicemails, working their way up the chain, to talk to someone who can move the claim to the next step. It is the personal injury attorney's job to follow up, as often as necessary, to make sure the injured victim is not victimized, again, but this time, not by a negligent driver, but by an adjuster trying to hold on to the insurance company's money just a little bit longer.

Like I said, in the beginning of the article, there are NUMEROUS reasons to hire a personal injury attorney, following a car wreck, motorcycle accident, 18 wheeler crash, vehicle v. pedestrian collision, or any other personal injury, but three of the most important reasons are a trained ability to take in and process information (lots of reading), a knowledge of the law and how it effects the personal injury claim and claimant, and I would say, most importantly, time; personal injury attorneys have the time necessary to force an insurance adjuster to move a claim forward.

As always, stay safe!

I am coming to you today, totally disgusted. I have a client whose car was totaled, in a car wreck. The car was towed to a wrecker lot because it was not drivable. As required by law, a representative from the wrecker lot contacted the lien holder. What happened next was just unbelievable. 

A. Client's credit damaged by actions of Car in a Box lien holder.

Instead of contacting my client, their customer, the car in a box lien holder picked up the vehicle, directly from the wrecker lot, put my client's account in repossession status (even though my client had payments automatically deducted from his bank account) and then, as icing on the cake, since the car was totaled and the liability carrier paid less than what was owed (Texas only requires payment of fair market value on a totaled vehicle), they put the account in charge back status. 

Thankfully, my client made the incredibly wise choice of purchasing GAP coverage, when he bought the car, and we are working to get the "gap" covered, and at that point, if the entire note is paid off, the lien holder will then remove the "charge off" status on the account, from my client's credit. Now, because of this lien holder, my client's credit has taken not one, but two hits.

B. Background on Car Purchase

Now, for a little background, my client bought his car from a car in a box business. I thought this was a great idea because it forgoes the entire "in person" car buying experience and that is one process I would avoid, if I could. I like getting a new car, but I do not like all of the gyrations that are required to get one, at the dealership, in a live, person to person transaction. After the experience my client had and apparently, many other car in a box customers had, I think the in person dealership gyrations might be the best route.

C. Car in a Box Insane Contractual Clauses

When I contacted the Car in a Box lien holder, to find out why they took my client's car, without contacting him, the Car in a Box representative told me there was a clause in the contract that required my client to contact the lien holder if the car was not in his possession. That clause also said, if the customer (my client) did not contact the lien holder, regarding the "new location" of the car, my client was in default of the contract. I asked the Car in a Box representative what they were doing to help my client, their customer, in this situation. She said taking the car was in the customer's best interest, to avoid the car being sold at an auction. I asked her how it was in the customer's best interest to take their car, as opposed to contacting the customer to find out what was going on and why the car was a wrecker lot. She had no answer for that. Every response that the Car in a Box lien holder representative gave me was to the benefit of the lien holder and detriment of the customer (my client).

D. Other Car in a Box Horror Stories

After a search on reddit.com, I found the following horror stories. One Car in a Box customer stated " (Car in Box company) changed my contract!!! AFTER I SIGNED IT!! Thankfully, I have a signed copy of the pdf on my desk which I saved the day I made the purchase." 

Another Car in a Box customer noted, regarding his contract, "Mine changed seven times before delivery. I saved the pdf file each time."

Another Car in a Box customer, regarding his experience with the Car in a Box company, "Still waiting on a title for a vehicle I bought 6 months ago. Filed a BBB complaint and now they’re saying 6-10 weeks."

One customer, who just wanted to get his car, noted, "This is exactly what happened to me except after the third time of delay we called to make sure it was getting delivered and they said they didn’t have the car anymore because they sold it to a different customer."

This Car in a Box customer, explained his less than satisfactory experience, "It took 8-9 weeks for mine to pop up finally. Horrible experience trying to buy over all. It just showed up with unexpected damage to the steering column I now have to take time out of my schedule to get repaired. Disgusted."

One last horror story, reported on consumeraffairs.com…"Never in my life have I encountered a worse experience dealing with customer service issues…I have tried to call them on the phone during regular business hours during the week and been on hold for over three hours before I lost connection. Every time I reach out to them on web chat the bot responds and says they are finding a human associate. It takes anywhere from 45 minutes or more for such a human to show up. By which time I am away from my computer or working on something else and I miss the few minute window where they say "sorry we haven't heard anything from you so are dropping from the chat".

Every time they say they are bogged down and will respond via text it is literally 45 minutes to HOURS between my text requests and any response. This is in between each exchange of them asking me something and me responding. The last time I tried this they said they would have someone get back to me and days later still nothing. What's more annoying is that I would happily take email customer support given the horrifically slow response times. But this is never offered so support issues get dropped and left unresolved rather than slowly continuing."

E. Car in a Box Employees…what do they have to say?

One previous Car in a Box employee stated that "a large reason why I resigned from the position was because…they hired 30 people, a week, and NO ONE received adequate training. Lack of communication was rampant, leading to field advocates coming unprepared, sometimes, not even knowing that along with dropping off a vehicle, they are supposed to pick one up as well. Customers have negative experiences because Car in a Box employees are rushed through training and improperly equipped to take care of the customers."

As I started this article…Buyer Beware. There were MANY MORE complaints and horror stories, on-line, but I just noted some of the worse. One of the Car in a Box companies has 1,477 complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau. Buying a car is a HUGE investment and also something you do to protect and provide for your family. The next time you need a new car, make sure to think before you act. Read reviews of the business where you are going to buy the car, especially, when it comes to how things were handled AFTER the purchase. Stay safe (even from dangerous contracts and poor customer service)!

On many occasions, I have had clients ask me, following a car wreck, "Mary, what am I supposed to do about my car? I've never been in a car wreck and I don’t even know what my options are." Dealing with property damage can be so frustrating, but if you are armed with the tools and knowledge necessary, you can handle it well and make sure you are not taken advantage of by adjusters trying to save every penny they can, for the insurance company. Below is a discussion of some issues you will come across, when dealing with an insurance adjuster, after a car wreck, to get your property damage resolved. 

1. Can I get it fixed?

You basically have two options, regarding resolution of property damage, following a car wreck; potentially, you can (1) have the car repaired or (2) the insurance adjuster can choose to deem your vehicle a total loss. If you are able to get the vehicle repaired, you have the right to choose whatever body shop you want, to fix your car. If you do not have a body shop of choice, the adjuster may suggest a preferred body shop. A preferred body shop is a body shop that has gone through an application process, with that specific insurance company, and agrees to follow certain procedures, the insurance company instructs them to follow. Dealing with a preferred body shop does seem to quicken the process, but I have also had clients agree to go with a preferred body shop and end up VERY unhappy with the work that was done on their vehicle. Some suggestions, if you are considering a preferred body shop, that you have no prior experience dealing with, check Google for reviews or ask around to see if you know anyone that has used that body shop in the past. It is very frustrating to think that you are at least going to be able to wrap up the property damage portion of your claim, then you go to the preferred body shop and your vehicle was not adequately repaired.

2. What about a rental?

Another common question, "Can I get a rental vehicle?" If the insurance company for the person that caused the wreck, accepts liability (fault), you should be able to get a rental vehicle very quickly. Sadly, it seems that adjusters are taking more and more time to "investigate" the claim, delaying a liability determination, and leaving the injured party with no transportation. If that is the case, you can look to your own policy for rental coverage. If you do not have rental coverage on your policy, you can pay for a rental, out of pocket, and then if liability is accepted, you can present the receipt for the rental, to the adjuster, for reimbursement. Finally, if you are not provided a rental and are not able to pay for one, again, if liability is accepted, the insurance company will be required to pay you loss of use damages for every day that you were without a vehicle, due to their insured's negligence.

3. What if the adjuster says it is totaled?

If you are thinking you read it wrong above, that the insurance company gets to decide if your vehicle is a total loss, you did not read it wrong, it is the choice of the adjuster, not you, as to if the vehicle will be deemed a total loss or not. Typically, if the cost to repair the damages exceeds 80% of the fair market value of the vehicle, the adjuster will deem the vehicle a total loss. You might be thinking, "What is fair market value?", if so, that is a great question. In layman's terms, the fair market value of your vehicle is what you would have to pay to get the same vehicle, in the same condition, in the same region. It is EXCEEDINGLY rare that you can find your EXACT car, in your geographic region, with the same mileage, level of prior wear and tear, amenities, etc. Typically, if an adjuster decides to total a vehicle, they provide the vehicle owner with a report or CCC valuation, where they found 10 or so vehicles, somewhat similar in a somewhat close geographic location (I have seen them go at least 3 hours away before) and then take an average of the value of those 10 or so vehicles to determine the fair market value of the totaled vehicle.

You might be wondering if there is anyway to confirm that what the adjuster is presenting you is a true fair market value. There are several websites, where you can search the value of your vehicle, but two of the best are KBB.com (Kelly Blue Book) and NADA.com. Both sites will require the mileage of your vehicle and your zip code, to give you an idea of what to expect, regarding the fair market value of your vehicle. One note, regarding vehicle valuation, is that if you have recently had work done on your vehicle, like new tires or a new engine, in the last six months, you can present these receipts to the adjuster, to attempt to add to the fair market value of the vehicle. One other note, regarding after market parts, if you have those on your car, be prepared to be unhappy, as most insurance companies do not pay any where close to fair market value for after market parts; you can expect to receive fair market value of stock parts.

4. Property Damage Claim Handling FYI

When you are dealing with an insurance adjuster, it will always benefit you to confirm communications in writing; emails are quick and convenient. If you do not get a return call or returned email from the adjuster, you will want to follow up with their supervisor, via phone and email. If you are in a rental, make sure to stay in contact with the rental company, in case there are any changes, regarding the return date, to make sure you are not stuck with an excess rental bill or the adjuster tries to reduce your property damage settlement, by the "additional" rental funds. If your vehicle is towed from the scene of the wreck, you will want to make sure the wrecker receives the liability insurance information, for the person that caused the wreck. If your vehicle was towed to facility that has storage fees, you will want to work with the adjuster to get it moved to a storage free facility, as quickly as possible; excessive storage fees can also cut into your property damage settlement.

Handling a property damage claim can be stressful and difficult, but with the information above, you will be armed with the necessary tools to make sure your property damage gets resolved, but also to make sure no one takes advantage of you.

As always, stay safe!

About Me
I am Mary Bradshaw Coones, your personal injury attorney. I am passionate about helping people and I want to help you!