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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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