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Personal Injury Law Case – What Happens After You Are Hurt?

Personal Injury Law Case – What Happens After You Are Hurt?

What happens when you’re injured in a car wreck? Injured by an 18-wheeler? Bit by a dog? Slip and fall at a business? Injured while in jail or prison? Assaulted? 

You’ve been injured, now what happens?

First, read my blog titled “What you should always do if you are hurt in an accident” to learn more about how to document your injuries and ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation you deserve.

Now, the most important thing to know about being injured is that in Texas there is a strict two statute of limitations from the date the injury occurred to file a lawsuit against the person, or company, believed to have caused the personal injury; there are a few exceptions to this deadline. But, if your claim does not meet one of the exceptions, and you file your personal injury petition after two years from your injury, you will not be able to get a settlement for your personal injuries.

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So, let’s discuss what happens before a petition is filed for your personal law case because before a personal law case petition is filed in Court, much can happen, and it usually goes like this:

  • You are injured
  • Notify insurance carrier of claim
  • Get medical treatment for your personal injuries
  • May need to check in with insurance carrier with status of medical treatment
  • Send demand letter once treatment is completed
  • Negotiate a settlement
  • Sign release to receive settlement check
  • If you can’t agree on an amount during negotiation, file a petition in Court

That’s it! That is what typically happens in a personal injury case BEFORE a petition is filed with the Court. If a settlement cannot be reached, or there is a denial of liability, then a petition can be filed with the Court. 

Here are additional questions you may still have about your personal injury law case:

  1. When do I get paid?

    There are only two times during a personal injury law case when payment is able to be made; 
  • when all treatment is finished or 
  • when medical treatment exceeds the policy limits of the insurance.

     2. How do I find out the policy limits of the insurance? 

Always request the policy limits be sent to you in writing by the insurance company. Never trust what the insurance company tells you on the phone, get it in writing. You need the bodily injury policy limits and any other coverage that may be available. 

    3. What records do I need to settle my case?

All medical records, all billing records and all pharmacy records. An example would be ambulance bill, radiology bill, lab bills, pathology bill, emergency room physician bill, surgeon’s bill and hospital bill. Also need all photos and videos of the property damage, the place where the personal injury occurred and photos of all personal injuries.

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I’m Hurt But I Don’t Have Medical Insurance. How Do I Get Treatment?

I’m Hurt But I Don’t Have Medical Insurance. How Do I Get Treatment?

I hear this question from clients all the time! 

“I went to the emergency room after the car wreck, but I didn’t get any additional medical treatment because I don’t have insurance or the money to pay for medical bills. Now I have medical bills that I can’t pay and need to settle my personal injury case quickly.” 

“A neighbor’s dog bit me but I don’t have medical insurance so I can’t see a doctor.” 

“I fell at the grocery store and have personal injuries. I made a report to the manager, but I didn’t let them call an ambulance because I don’t have medical insurance.”

Saddest part is, each and every one of these clients who have suffered personal injuries are still hurt. They have pain every single day and think there is no way to pay for medical treatment. 

Clients without medical insurance think just because they don’t have insurance, they are unable to get the medical treatment they need after being hurt in a car wreck, or bitten by a dog, or have fallen at a business. This is wrong. A Personal Injury attorney can make sure clients get the medical treatment they need with one simple letter.

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If you find yourself injured and you don’t have medical insurance, a Personal Injury attorney can help you by giving medical providers a Letter of Protection. This letter is a guarantee that the medical provider will be paid once your case settles. This letter, from your Personal Injury attorney, will allow you to get all the medical treatment for your personal injury and not pay anything until your case settles. This letter of protection allows you to get evaluated by a medical professional and get diagnosed. You may need physical therapy, injections, x-rays, MRIs or even surgery. There are providers out there who are willing to work with Personal Injury attorneys and wait for their payment until your case settles. With the help of a Personal Injury attorney, you will have access to the medical treatment you need for your personal injury claim

Don’t trust the insurance companies. They are NOT on your side. The insurance company on the other side wants to settle quickly and will offer a low settlement dollar amount to get the case settled and finished. They won’t tell you that you are entitled to get all the medical treatment required for your personal injury claim before you settle. They also won’t tell you that once you agree to a settlement, you are no longer able to get future medical bills paid.

Some insurance companies will call you on the phone right after the personal injury and offer you money quickly to settle. Don’t do it! Don’t fall for it. Even a verbal agreement on the phone to settle can be viewed as an accepted settlement. Don’t agree to anything before you get all the needed medical treatment for your personal injury. Discuss your claim with a Personal Injury attorney first. Remember, the insurance company, even your own insurance company, is not on your side! Talk to a Personal Injury attorney before settling your personal injury claim to ensure you get all the medical treatment and money you deserve for your personal injury claim.

Don’t settle your personal injury claim too quickly. Get evaluated by a medical provider and get all the medical treatment recommended for your personal injury before you settle. Once you agree to settle, even if it is a verbal agreement over the phone, your case is finished. You are not able to get any additional money for any future medical treatment you may need for your personal injury. 

Not having medical insurance should NEVER be a reason why a person who has a personal injury does not get medical treatment. A Personal Injury attorney can always assist you with getting the medical treatment you need. The most important part of every personal injury claim is getting all the medical treatment you need and with a letter of protection you can have access to the medical care your personal injury requires.

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Can you fire your personal injury lawyer?

Can you fire your personal injury lawyer?

Yes, even if you’re paying with a contingent fee! 

But… keep these things in mind before you fire your personal injury lawyer.

First, what are contingent fees? The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct defines contingent fees as a “fee contingent on the outcome of the matter for which the lawyer is rendering service”. This means the lawyer cannot and does not collect a fee for providing representation for your personal injury law case unless a certain result is obtained. In other words, client pays nothing unless the case is won and money is paid.

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Now, back to answering the question, “Can you fire your personal injury lawyer?” A good lawyer-client relationship is important for a successful settlement in a personal injury law case. Personal injury law cases can take months and sometimes years to settle and therefore it is important to have good communication, trust and respect from the lawyer and the client. But sometimes these client – personal injury lawyer relationships just don’t work out for a variety of reasons. Personality conflict, misunderstandings, or even poor communication. Whatever the issue is, don’t make a quick decision to fire your personal injury lawyer until you have considered the following. 

  • Try to work things out.

I always recommend that clients make an effort to work with their current personal injury lawyer before making a decision to fire them. Make an appointment for a face-to-face meeting with your current personal injury lawyer to discuss the issues and try to reach a resolution. The issue may be as simple as a misunderstanding or just a breakdown in communication. 

A face-to-face meeting will give you the opportunity to speak with your personal injury lawyer, inform him or her of what is bothering you, and will give you both a chance to work things out. If this fails, or your personal injury lawyer refuses to meet with you, always seek a second opinion from another personal injury lawyer and speak to them about your case and ask them to assist you with a decision to ensure the best outcome for your personal injury law case. 

  • Claims against your personal injury case.

The personal injury lawyer you want to fire is entitled to be paid for services he/she provided and may place a lien or make a claim against your personal injury law case to make sure payment is made. Personal injury lawyers do this to make sure they are reimbursed a fair and reasonable amount of money for the time he/she spent on your personal injury law case, this is perfectly legal and acceptable. Before making a decision to fire your personal injury lawyer, read the contract you signed with your personal injury lawyer, it should discuss whether cost for services provided will be a percentage of the settlement amount of your personal injury law case, also known as a contingent fee, or if payment is based on an hourly amount of time the personal injury lawyer spent on your case. 

  • New personal injury lawyer may not take your case.

If the personal injury lawyer you fire has provided a large amount of time working on your case, they are entitled to be paid for your personal injury case and your new personal injury lawyer may not be willing to take your case if he/she has to give up a large amount of money to your previous personal injury lawyer. Or worse yet, you may be asked to pay an additional percentage to the new personal injury lawyer, which means less money in your pocket when your personal injury law case settles. The fee splitting between the two personal injury lawyers will be resolved by the them and is not your concern or responsibility. Let the two personal injury lawyers resolve all of the fee splitting and reimbursement for payment issues. 

  • Speak to another personal injury lawyer first.

Don’t be quick to fire your personal injury lawyer, first get a second opinion from another personal injury lawyer. Ask that the two personal injury lawyers to discuss what fees can be worked out. The previous personal injury lawyer may just want to be reimbursed for all out-of-pocket expenses incurred for your personal injury law case. Remember that if your current personal injury lawyer has done quite a bit of work, there may be very little money form the settlement to pay a new personal injury lawyer. 

Each personal injury law case is unique, so the details of each case will dictate if an agreement with your previous personal injury lawyer can be reached. If an agreement cannot be reached with the previous personal injury lawyer, your new personal injury lawyer may advise you to file a fee dispute with the Texas Bar. You should not hire a new personal injury lawyer until you reach an acceptable fee agreement with the previous personal injury lawyer. 

The best plan is to consider the items discussed above before you fire your personal injury lawyer. Otherwise, you may be faced with paying additional fees that reduce the money in your pocket or even worse, you may be left with not being able to hire a new personal injury lawyer. 

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Personal Injuries : Just do two things to maximize your settlement

Personal Injuries : Just do two things to maximize your settlement

Most people go through life without getting into a car wreck, attacked by a dog, fall at a business, get assaulted, get hit by a car or get hurt at work. But when an accident does happen, most people really don’t know what to do to make sure they get all the money they deserve for their personal injury law claim. Instead, most people are only thinking about getting medical treatment or calling the police to make a report. Getting medical treatment and calling the police are important things to do immediately after you are hurt. But everyone needs to know and understand that documenting every detail of an injury and documenting medical treatment from the very beginning are the most important things to do to make sure all the money and compensation deserved are paid for the personal injuries.

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Why document all the details?

Memories fade after time and seeking treatment for personal injuries can take days, weeks,  months and even years. No one can possibly remember the details of every doctor appointment, or every medication prescribed that was taken over an extended amount of time. If the details about your personal injury accident is not well documented, it may reduce your personal injury settlement amount, it can also delay the settlement of your personal injury case. Remember, it is a fight for every dollar deserved in your personal injury settlement. A well-documented story is a huge weapon when fighting with the insurance company to maximize a personal injury settlement 

Here’s a common story: My client gets into a car wreck and says it is the other driver’s fault because the other driver ran a red light. There are witnesses, my client has personal injuries, cars are damaged, and the police arrive at the accident. The police question my client, the other driver, collect insurance information and speak to any other witnesses who are still at the car wreck. The police take notes, call an ambulance if necessary and call a tow truck if needed. Police also call to have the scene cleaned up if there is broken glass, spilled fluids or car parts in the road from the car wreck. Then the police hand my client their business card and tell them to call the station in a few days to get a copy of the police report that has all the details about the car wreck. All sounds good, right? Sounds like the police took care of the all the details and everything is documented in a nice little report that my client can get. Nothing for my client to do or worry about.

Wrong!!  Here’s why. 

The police officer may speak to witnesses since he/she didn’t actually see the car wreck to find out what happened, but most of the time the police officer does not get witness contact information. The police seldom, if ever, take pictures or retrieve video recordings from surrounding businesses. Without witness names or phone numbers, pictures or video, the car wreck and who is at fault can and does become an issue. Remember, the police officer did not see the car wreck, meaning the police officer cannot testify to any details about the car wreck or who is at fault, the police officer is just a “hearsay witness” and is unable to testify what he/she heard someone else say about the car wreck. This means the police officer is not a witness to your car wreck AND he/she failed to get contact information for witnesses that actually saw the wreck or get video surveillance that may have been available.

Here’s where the problem begins. My client doesn’t really know what the other driver told the police officer or what any witnesses told the police officer when being interviewed. So, when my client finally gets the police report, there is no witness contact information in the report, and the other driver said the same thing my client said, that my client ran the red light. If the police officer is unsure what happened, he may state both drivers are at fault, or even worse, state my client is at fault! At this point, my client is unable to track down any witnesses and really has no real evidence to prove the other driver ran the light. Unfortunately, by the time my client finds all of this out, it is too late to track down any video from traffic lights or businesses because the recordings have already been recorded over or deleted. My client could make attempts on social media to look for witnesses, but those witnesses may not be on social media or may be from out of town or out of state and never see the social media posts about the car wreck. 

Another story I see is when a client comes to my office because the other person’s insurance company has denied their claim. Why? Because my client was in a car wreck with another person and it was just a small fender bender, so no one called the police to make a report. Both drivers exchanged information and leave the scene of the car wreck. My client calls the other driver’s insurance to make a claim only to learn the other driver was using his deceased brother’s driver’s license, or the insurance information was fake, or the phone number for the other driver was fake, or the insurance policy was cancelled months ago, or the other driver already reported the car accident to their insurance but gave a statement it was my client’s fault. All of these things mean my client’s insurance claim gets denied.

My client has no police report, no witnesses and no real information about the other driver. It becomes a case where both drivers are blaming each other, and the other driver’s insurance will side with their customer because they don’t want to pay my client’s claim! And if my client only has liability insurance, their insurance company will not help them defend their claim. If my client has full coverage insurance, his/her insurance company may make my client 50% at fault for the car wreck and only pay half of my client’s claim. 

Just do two things to maximize your personal injury settlement.

  • Take pictures and video of everything!! Document everything!!

What everyone should always do as soon as they are in any kind of accident and are injured? 

  • If you’re in a car accident, or any other accident involving any other kind of vehicle, do not move the vehicles until you have taken pictures and recorded everything! This should be easy because everyone has a cell phone. Get your phone out and start taking pictures or video before any vehicles are moved. Talk to the other driver and record the conversation. You can absolutely do this; you don’t have to rely or wait on the police to do this. Take pictures or video of the other driver, their passengers, their driver’s license, insurance card, license plate, all vehicles involved in the car wreck. Take pictures up close and far-away of the car wreck. Just start snapping pictures or taking video. Take pictures of your personal injuries, the other person’s personal injuries and personal injuries of all passengers in all vehicles involved. Talk to witnesses immediately, don’t wait for the police, get their contact information before they leave the scene and record their statement about the car wreck. 

Pictures and video are absolutely invaluable in proving your personal injury law claim later. Look around the scene to see if there are cameras in the area that may have recorded the car wreck. Have a personal injury law attorney assist you with sending letters to make sure those videos are saved and request a copy. Now you have documented all the details of the car wreck and personal injuries to make sure you receive all the money you deserve. You have also made sure that that the truth about the car wreck is well documented by getting all witness information and available video.

  • If you’re in an accident by falling at a business, attacked by a dog or any other kind of accident, you should still take pictures and video. Take pictures close up and far-away of what made you fall, or pictures of the dog that attacked you, the location you were injured. Talk to witnesses and/or neighbors and/or the employees of the business and get their contact information, take their picture and try to record their statements. Also get witness contact information and take their picture and record their statements. Make a report with the business, get corporate office information regarding your injury, call animal control if necessary and take pictures of your personal injuries. Take pictures and make videos or audio recording of everything at the scene. Look for security cameras!

  • Start a journal. Keep all your medical records and medical bills!
  • Immediately start a folder where you keep all of your medical information. I always have all my clients do this because medical treatment can go on for several months and people forget about a doctor bill or forget the date or details of their visit or it sometimes it takes weeks or even months to get medical records and medical bills. Also, medical providers are now charging attorneys to produce medical bills if you lose the originals. 

Medical bills vs. Medical records

Medical bills are different from medical records. Medical bills only contain the billing information for medical treatment, basically the dollar amount charged for medical treatment. Medical records contain the doctor’s or nurse’s notes about your injury, for example you have broken arm, or sprained back, info about tests or x-rays. These records also contain details about your treatment, recommendations for future treatment and medications recommended or prescribed. 

If you are treated at the hospital or by any doctor, ask for your medical records and copies of all your bills during your medical visit. Keep a journal that lists the places you were treated and the dates. This will be a big help when putting together the timeline of medical treatment you received. It will also ensure you don’t settle your case and then get a huge doctor bill later that you forgot to turn in. Once your personal injury law case is settled and you sign a release, the insurance company will not pay any claims you forgot to submit.

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I’ve been in a car wreck, now what happens?

I’ve been in a car wreck, now what happens?

So many people ask me this exact question after they have relied on and trusted the other person’s insurance company to help them through the process. I tell people all the time, the other person’s insurance only has ONE GOAL, to pay you as little as they can for your car, your property and for your medical expenses. They are not on your side, ever! Anything you tell them; they will use against you later to reduce your settlement. This is always true, whether or not you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, car accident, semi-truck accident, 18 wheeler accident, slip and fall or a dog bite.

 

My advice to anyone in a car wreck, or anyone that has been injured or hurt, contact and hire an experienced personal injury attorney. This will ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to, the maximum settlement you are entitled to and that you understand the process each step of the way. Any delay in reporting an injury to your insurance company or the other person’s insurance company may have a negative effect on your settlement amount and may cause you to lose out on insurance benefits.

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Here’s a basic breakdown of what happens if you have been in a car wreck or vehicle wreck.

Whether the wreck was your fault or not, you will have two separate claims: 1) Property claim and 2) Personal Injury claim.

Each claim has their own rules, required proof and deadlines. Always report all wrecks to your own insurance company, no matter if the car wreck was your fault or not. By not doing this, you may lose out on getting paid for coverage you were unaware you had. Be honest about all the details of the injury. Seek medical attention immediately after being injured. Keep all medical billing and medical records as well as a log of dates, times, doctor’s contact information and details about each visit. Never settle your claim over the phone before you seek medical treatment and/or consulting with your own attorney. Insurance companies are now getting verbal settlements over the phone and immediately sending you a check. By agreeing to this and/or cashing the check, you are settling your claim and will have no future claims regarding your injury. You should also consult with and/or hire an experienced personal injury law attorney to help you with filing the correct claims before the deadline passes. Your own insurance company will not tell you what money you are entitled to or what benefits you are entitled to, you must file a claim and ask to have specific parts of your policy to be paid to you. Your own insurance company also wants to save money and not pay you all the money you are entitled to. Just another reason you should hire an experienced personal injury law attorney.

So, first there is the property damage claim. I mention this one first because it is usually the first one to get settled because the damage is already done and there is nothing pending to prevent this from being paid. This is usually your car or vehicle that was involved in the car wreck. Most people don’t know this, but you are allowed to pick the body shop that will repair your car. Don’t’ let the insurance company choose the repair shop or even suggest one. This decision to repair your car is all yours! The insurance company will send an adjuster to examine and take pictures of your car. The adjuster will also provide an estimate to the insurance company of what he/she thinks it will cost to repair your car. Keep in mind, the adjuster also works for the insurance company and is not your friend or on your side. Anything you say to the adjuster will also be used against you. Sometimes when this estimate is too low, the body shop will then provide proof to get additional money to repair your car. Most of the time, this part of your claim is pretty easy. But sometimes, the insurance company does not want to pay a fair amount for your car, especially if it is totaled. Here, you may want to hire an experienced attorney to assist you with getting all the money you deserve for your car.

The property damage claim and the personal injuries claims usually take place at the same time. For example, a person is getting surgery for personal injuries while their car is being repaired. Your settlement to get your car repaired has no effect on you seeking medical treatment for your injuries. The two claims are separate.

Second, are personal injuries claims. These are injuries you got when in the car wreck, slip and fall, dog bite, injury at work, or however you were injured. Here’s how this part of the claim works; you are injured, you get medical treatment, you finish all recommended medical treatment, you total all your bills, you submit an offer to settle. No money or settlement takes place until after ALL medical treatment is finished. If you have medical insurance, you can pay for treatment that way, or an experienced personal injury law attorney can arrange for you to seek medical treatment by sending a letter of protection.

Remember, you are free to choose the medical doctors you visit and you should always follow your doctor’s instructions on treatment. Do not sign any kind of release of medical records for the insurance company. These records, once all treatment is completed, can be provided at a later time when settlement talks are in place. At this point, you should seek all the treatment needed for your personal injuries and never stop early just because you’re tired or it is too much trouble. And you should never, ever stop early just because the personal injury law attorney you hired pressures you into stopping so he/she can settle the case. Your recovery and health are the most important thing once you have been injured in a car wreck. Once you have stopped treatment and turned in medical bills, the insurance company will not pay for any additional treatment.

 

Most people don’t know what to do or what happens if they have been in a car wreck or have been injured. That is why the insurance companies take advantage of people who have been injured. The only person who is on your side is an experienced personal injury law attorney that you hire. 

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Why I became a Personal Injury Law Attorney

Why I became a Personal Injury Law Attorney

When I graduated from law school, I had no idea what kind of law I wanted to practice. I liked criminal law, real estate law, wills and trust, civil law, personal injury law and I liked being in the courtroom. But most of all, I really liked helping people.

I spent much of my time in law school working different part time legal jobs, internships and volunteering at legal aid clinics and innocence clinics. I enjoyed the work and liked much of what I experienced. But I still had no idea what kind of law I wanted to practice.

Like many other lawyers who graduate from law school and pass the bar, I began working at a small local firm. It didn’t take me long to realize this was not a good fit for me While working there, I searched for and interviewed for several attorney positions, it became obvious that none of the positions open were a good fit for me either. So, I decided to open my own law office.

I only had about one and half years’ experience as an attorney at that time, no office equipment, no office furniture, no office phone, no other attorneys available to help or guide me and very little money. Sounded like a great idea!

By chance, my husband and I owned a building next to our home that had been rented out for years to another tenant who had recently moved out. It was a small metal building that was just one big open space on the inside. No walls, no flooring and in desperate need of cleaning, painting and updating. Perfect!

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I spent that first year taking any case I could find. I met clients in restaurants, coffee shops and even in the library. I put every cent I made into turning that little metal building into my law office. It took several months to get it to the point I could invite clients in, but the wait was worth it. I was still taking any client that contacted me, and unfortunately, I still had not found the right law for me.

It was about that time that my Dad suffered a traumatic brain injury. He sitting in a chair at a business when a huge piece of scaffolding fell on his head, knocked him unconscious and he fell to the floor. My Mom immediately contacted me for help with a settlement and medical treatment, but the case was in Oklahoma and I was not licensed there. The attorney they found to help them was absolutely terrible! He refused to return calls, update them on their case or meet with them. Each call to their attorney was worse than the last and his staff was also incredibly rude. My Mom begged me to call their attorney to get information, but the attorney and his staff treated me the same way and would state there was no update on the case and no other info was given. In the meantime, my Dad’s neurologist said it was the worst brain injury he had ever seen in his twenty plus year career. His medical bills were in the tens of thousands and his diagnosis was that there was not much that could be done to improve his condition.

At some point, my parent’s attorney contacted to tell them about a court date, didn’t tell them what it was about or what was going on. Absolutely no information about their personal injury law case was given to them. My parents made the drive to Oklahoma and it was in the courtroom, with the judge, all the attorneys for the business, court clerk, court reporter, bailiff, my parent’s attorney and their attorneys (five of them) that my parents learned for the very first time that the case was being dismissed!!!

Why you ask?? Because their attorney missed the filing deadline by three days. My parents left the courtroom still owing thousands in medical bills that they can’t pay and no money to help them pay it. But most of all, they left the courtroom with no explanation and no apology from anyone. Ever!!

How could this happen? Why did this happen? Not only did their personal injury law attorney treat them with no respect during their entire case but lied to them about documents being filed on time, failed to keep them informed about their case and hearings, failed to explain their case to them, and left them with no money for medical bills. I was powerless to help them with their personal injury law settlement and I was still powerless to help them against an attorney who had let them down.

It was then that I began looking into their personal injury law case, I researched, contacted other attorneys, read blogs and read any and all material I could find to help them with their case. I still could not represent them because I was still only licensed in Texas, but I helped them interview new attorneys to file a lawsuit against the first attorney for malpractice and pursue criminal charges. I learned all I could about personal injury law, insurance, liability, fault and settlement offers, and negotiation. I had finally found the law for me, Personal Injury Law. Fighting for people’s rights when they are hurt or injured was the best way, as an attorney, to truly help people. People who go up against big insurance companies or even unprofessional, rude and unhelpful attorneys. People who don’t understand what happens when your get injured. People who don’t understand the required paperwork or deadlines. People who don’t understand how to read an insurance policies or how to find out the limits of the policy. People who are treated badly by other personal injury law attorneys. And, people who are injured, like my Dad, who just need money for much needed medical treatment. People who need to focus on their medical treatment and not dealing with the personal injury law claim or lawsuit. Personal injury law had become and still is my love of the law. It is what I am meant to do.

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DWI arrest! Now what?

DWI arrest! Now what?

In Texas, when a person is charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), they are actually facing two very separate cases; one is a criminal case and the other is a civil case. If there is sufficient evidence of a DWI, the State of Texas, usually a Prosecutor at the District Attorney’s office, will charge you criminally. This means you could potentially be facing probation, jail time, fines, attending DUI/DWI classes or installation of car breathalyzer.

What most people are unaware of is that once there is sufficient evidence you were driving while intoxicated, the Department of Public Safety will also move forward and pursue a civil case; this case is an attempt to suspend or revoke your driver’s license.

There are very strict deadlines and regulations that DPS has in place regarding procedures and hearings regarding your driver’s license. The civil part of the DWI is governed by Administrative Law and a Prosecutor for the Department of Public Safety will prosecute the case. Also, because this case is civil, you are not entitled to a court appointed attorney or an attorney from the Public Defender’s Office. You can choose to represent yourself or hire an attorney.

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What is a Ladybird Deed?

What is a Ladybird Deed?

A Ladybird Deed, sometimes called an Enhanced Life Estate Deed, is a deed filed in the property records of the county where the Texas real property (home) is located. The deed is a protection from Medicare reimbursement claims should the owner of the Texas real property be placed in a nursing home or incur Medicare expenses. Keep in mind that the State is only able to make a claim for reimbursement for assets in a person’s estate. The Ladybird Deed causes the real property to transfer ownership outside of a person’s estate. The deed essentially makes the real property a non-probate asset and therefore not subject to State or Medicare reimbursement claims. (See Probate blog for definition of probate and non-probate assets.)

What does this mean? 
This means that when you apply for Medicare, an evaluation will be done on your assets as well as transfers of assets that took place five years before applying. The benefit of having a Ladybird Deed is that it is not considered a transfer under Medicare’s definition therefore the transfer does not need to be reported.

Another benefit is the owner of the Texas real property retains all power to sell, convey, or mortgage the real property without the consent of the beneficiary. Essentially the Ladybird deed permits the Texas real property owner complete control of their Texas real property, avoid probate at death and avoid their Texas real property from being subject to a Medicare reimbursement claim.

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What is Probate?

What is Probate?

Probate is a process used if a person needs court documents to transfer title of assets that belonged to a person who is deceased.

What happens in probate? 
After death, a person’s Will is filed with the Court along with an Application to Open the Estate, the case is heard by a Judge and documents (Letters of Testamentary) will be provided by the Court to allow the Executor of the Will to transfer title of the decedent’s assets according to the Will.

In simpler terms, Probate is a legal way to transfer title of assets of a person who is deceased.

Is probate required in Texas? No. If there are no assets or assets that don’t require a court document to transfer title, probate is not required. An example of how assets are titled that don’t require probate are:

  • Bank account with Payable on Death designation.
  • Vehicle owned with two or more persons with Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship.
  • Home owned with a recorded Ladybird or Enhanced Life Estate Deed.
  • Life Insurance with named beneficiaries who are still living
  • 401K with named beneficiaries who are still living.

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