Posts in: August


2Aug 2021

Having the right attorney can be the difference between securing a settlement or suffering under the weight of medical bills and lost wages following an accident. Whether you were involved in a car crash, suffered a slip and fall, or were involved in any other form of accident, choosing the right personal injury lawyer is a critical decision. However, choosing a personal injury lawyer does not need to be as complex as you may think. At The Hadi Law Firm, our trusted personal injury attorneys have connected with countless clients in need of legal representation. Now, we want to help you understand how to deal with insurance adjusters, navigate attorney consultations, consider the factors involved in going to trial, how incentives are aligned between stakeholders, lawyers that typically settle versus lawyers that usually go to trial, and the overall benefits of working with a personal injury attorney.

Insurance Adjusters

Insurance companies employ adjusters and claims representatives in order to reduce their losses. They do so by minimizing the amounts that the companies pay out in injury claims. If you are contacted by an insurance company representative who asks you for recorded statements, medical records, your story, releases and other information, you should tell them that you are contacting an attorney. Insurance adjusters will often try to get you to make statements that are ultimately harmful to your claim, and you should never sign releases without an attorney’s review. The releases insurance companies frequently ask for are blanket authorizations that allow them to dig through your entire medical history.

The reason they want to do this is so they can blame your injury on a pre-existing incident. This can result in your claim’s value being substantially reduced. It is also important for you to understand that the reason adjusters contact you is because their company believes that you likely have a valid claim. They want to get the information that they need in order to help them with their goal of either minimizing your payout or denying it all together. This is true even when you are dealing with your own insurance company in a case involving an uninsured motorist. Don’t fall for their tricks and instead, consult with a personal injury attorney.

Attorney Consultation

After you have discussed the facts of your case and the history of your negotiations with the insurance company, an attorney may give you a general opinion of how much your case is worth and how difficult it may be to get the insurance company to pay something in that range. This is when you should discuss the different ways your case could be approached, and whether the lawyer would be willing to handle it in the way you prefer. Find out a little bit about the lawyer’s background and experience.

  • Have you tried these types of personal injury cases before?
  • Have you tried or settled similar cases in my city or county?
  • Do you have the time necessary to actually work on my case right now?
  • If not you, who will be responsible for my case?
  • How will you let me know what is happening in my case?
  • What is your negotiation history?
  • Do you think we will need to go to trial?
  • What is your comfort going to trial?
  • Do we have other options?
  • What will my participation in the claim be?
  • What is your contingency fee and costs?
  • Will I be responsible for any advanced costs if we lose?
  • What do you believe is the likely outcome of my case?

Insurance companies will sometimes use dirty tactics to try to avoid paying the claims of injured people. These tactics may include unreasonable delays in your claims process, refusing to pay you even though liability is not in dispute or making unreasonably low offers despite your extensive injuries. A personal injury attorney understands these tactics. Insurance companies that engage in bad-faith negotiations may be liable to you for doing so. A personal injury lawyer may put an end to such tactics and seek the recovery that you should rightfully receive.

Trial Considerations

Most personal injury lawyers work on a contingency fee basis. This arrangement means that their fee is a percentage of what the client ultimately receives in compensation. And if the amount is small, most lawyers will not take on the claim because their overhead is too high to make small cases economically worthwhile. However, even if a case is too small to have a lawyer take over the entire claim, it may still be possible to hire the lawyer on an hourly basis to give advice on particular aspects of a claim.

By hiring a lawyer willing to go to trial, the insurance company will likely end up paying the full value of your claim. At the same time, the insurance company incurs the additional expense of defending the case. From a business standpoint, it’s in the insurance companies best interest to pay the trial lawyer fair value for the claim. Because in the long run, they will save money. The insurance company will obviously value a person’s claim much higher when that person has a lawyer who knows how to try a case and can win. Learning how to choose a personal injury lawyer can save you and your family time and money.

Incentive Alignment

Insurance companies are not on your side. These massive corporations like to control the entire personal injury case process, which is why they have teams of lawyers and adjusters to handle claims. Their goal is to make money, not to make sure that you get a fair settlement that represents the true value of your losses. The one thing that creates a risk to insurance companies that causes them to make higher settlement offers quickly is which lawyer you hire. Insurance companies consider your lawyer’s skill, education, reputation, and, most importantly, their track record of filing lawsuits and taking cases to trial.

On average, settlements for injury victims are 40% higher when represented by a lawyer compared to when they represented themselves. Similarly, insurance payouts are as much as 3.5 times higher for people with attorneys than people who represent themselves. The insurance company may offer you a settlement that appears to be generous. But after you accept it, you may quickly realize that it won’t come close to covering all of your losses or future medical treatment. The bottom line is that in most personal injury cases, an attorney will fight for your best interests and help you get the highest possible compensation.

Case Settlements

Lawyers who never go to trial are not much of a threat to the insurance company. Imagine you work for an insurance company and you decide how much to pay injured people. Your goal is to pay as little as possible because this is how your performance is measured. The less you pay out in claims, the more money you save the insurance company, which will increase your chance of receiving raises and bonuses. You have two similar cases with similar injuries and liability. The only difference is the lawyer who represents the injured people. Let’s assume that one lawyer settles every case, and the other is an experienced trial lawyer.

How should you pay these two identical claims with the only difference being the lawyers? What will the lawyer who never goes to trial do if the insurance company adjuster only offers 50% of the value of the case? Well, knowing they won’t file a suit, or won’t go to trial, this lawyer has no leverage or ability to fight for you to increase the value of your case. So the lawyer’s only option is to encourage you to take the low offer. Or the lawyer has to tell you to hire another lawyer and get less or no fee.

Trial Lawsuits

Now look at the contrast between the lawyer who settles all of his cases and never files a lawsuit. The insurance adjuster must decide how much to pay the injured victim with the lawyer who consistently files suit and takes them to trial. If the adjuster offers this lawyer 50% of the value of the case, this lawyer will file a suit, let a jury decide what your case is worth, and seek the full value of your case.

Because the injured person hired a trial lawyer, you as the adjuster knows the insurance company will have to spend a lot of money to pay for a lawyer to defend the case. Now the case just got a lot more expensive for the insurance company with the added costs of the defense lawyer. Also, now they have to pay “Insurance Doctors” to examine the injured person. They pay the “Insurance Doctor” to come to court and testify about your injuries.

Attorney Impact

If you handle your own case, you will need to have a good understanding of the legal underpinnings of your claim as well as the settlement process. Receiving a fair amount in the settlement may involve savvy negotiation skills combined with knowledge of both the statutory laws and case law. Some injury cases are highly complex. For example, if you were injured by a defective product or by what you believe was medical negligence, you may need the help of experts in order to uncover the evidence that you will need to prove your claim. Auto accidents may require accident reconstruction, witness interviews and a solid understanding of physics. You’ll also need to be able to decipher your own medical records so that you can appropriately value your claim.

If you are not comfortable with doing these things, consulting with a personal injury attorney is in order. An attorney who is experienced with personal injury cases may be better-equipped to value your claim. Your case’s worth will include all of your economic and noneconomic losses. Insurance companies often do not volunteer offers that include money for noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering, loss of consortium and others, on their own. The Hadi Law Firm is able to negotiate the recovery for both your economic losses as well as your more intangible ones. Committed to the field of personal injury, we strive to obtain justice for our clients through the entire case while demanding fairness and adequate compensation. Let our firm assist you with developing an aggressive and winning strategy for your case while providing you with competent representation.

2Aug 2021

The statute of limitations outlines a time limit for a plaintiff to submit their lawsuit to the courts, and it varies depending on the type of case being presented. Enforcing statutes of limitations keep things moving through the justice system more efficiently by prompting claimants to file as soon as possible. Without laws requiring plaintiffs to file their personal injury claims by a certain time, a plaintiff could feasibly wait as long as he or she wanted to file. This delaying of justice might not be fair for the defendant, who could lose opportunities to defend themself with the loss of evidence over time. Committed to the field of personal injury, The Hadi Law Firm strives to obtain justice for our clients within the two-year statute of limitation norm for Texas lawsuits along with the notable exceptions related to minors, adult sex crimes, the discovery rule, medical malpractice, first-party auto insurance, comparative negligence, maritime claims and asbestosis and silica-related illnesses.

Two Year Limit and Exceptions

In the criminal courts, statutes of limitations set time limits by which prosecutors must bring charges against a defendant. In the civil courts, statutes of limitations limit how long a plaintiff has to file a claim to damages against a defendant. In Texas, the statute of limitations for filing a personal injury claim is two years. This means that you have two years from the date of your personal injury or property damage to get your lawsuit onto a court schedule in order for it to be heard by the court. A two-year statute of limitations is the norm for a Texas lawsuit, and It’s important to note the statute of limitations because if the time has expired, then the court can refuse to consider a complaint, no matter how valid it is. Texas has identified a number of different scenarios that might delay the running of the statute of limitations “clock,” or pause the clock after it has started to run, effectively extending the filing deadline:

  • Minors
  • Adult Sex Crimes
  • Discovery Rule
  • Medical Malpractice
  • First-Party Auto Insurance
  • Comparative Negligence
  • Maritime Claims
  • Asbestosis

Minors

The two-year statute of limitations on personal injury cases is tolled for minors until they reach the age of maturity (18). Thus, when a minor sustains an injury, their statute of limitations generally does not run until their 20th birthday. However, this tolling provision also does not apply if the injury results in the death of a minor because the law generally affords extra protection to children. Aditionally, under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 16.0045(a), there are specific statutes of limitations for sexual assault and abuse claims against minors. A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than 15 years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates certain provisions of Sections 21 and 43 of the Texas Penal Code that prohibit:

  • sexual assault of a minor
  • aggravated sexual assault of a minor
  • indecency with a minor
  • promoting prostitution of a minor
  • continued sexual assault of a minor
  • sexual trafficking of a minor

Adults

A person must bring suit for personal injury not later than five years after the day the cause of action accrues if the injury arises as a result of conduct that violates certain provisions of Sections 21 and 43 of the Texas Penal Code that prohibit:

  • sexual assault of an adult
  • aggravated sexual assault of an adult
  • promoting prostitution of an adult
  • sexual trafficking of an adult

Discovery Rule

The “discovery rule” is another exception to the usual statute of limitations for filing injury cases. The victim may not reasonably discover the injury until a considerable length of time has elapsed after the negligent act was committed. The discovery rule allows the plaintiff to file the claim within a reasonable time once the injury is discovered. When the discovery rule applies, the statute of limitations is tolled until the plaintiff discovers, or through the exercise of diligence should have discovered, the nature of their injury and its cause in fact.

By hiring a lawyer willing to go to trial, the insurance company will likely end up paying the full value of your claim. At the same time, the insurance company incurs the additional expense of defending the case. From a business standpoint, it’s in the insurance companies best interest to pay the trial lawyer fair value for the claim. Because in the long run, they will save money. The insurance company will obviously value a person’s claim much higher when that person has a lawyer who knows how to try a case and can win. Learning how to choose a personal injury lawyer can save you and your family time and money.

Incentive Alignment

Insurance companies are not on your side. These massive corporations like to control the entire personal injury case process, which is why they have teams of lawyers and adjusters to handle claims. Their goal is to make money, not to make sure that you get a fair settlement that represents the true value of your losses. The one thing that creates a risk to insurance companies that causes them to make higher settlement offers quickly is which lawyer you hire. Insurance companies consider your lawyer’s skill, education, reputation, and, most importantly, their track record of filing lawsuits and taking cases to trial.

Medical Malpractice

Medical malpractice cases are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. However, tort reform in Texas has placed additional limits on medical malpractice claims that limit what and when exceptions may apply. There is a 10-year statute of repose that prevents even minors from bringing claims more than 10 years after the incident occurs. Additionally, statutory limitations on damages only apply to medical malpractice cases in Texas. Non-economic damages (such as those meant to compensate for “pain and suffering”) are limited to $250,000 per defendant, and $500,000 overall. For medical malpractice cases involving wrongful death in Texas, there is a cap that is indexed for inflation. The cap started out at $500,000, but with the inflation adjustment it is now around $2,000,000 (Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code section 74.303 (b)).

First-Party Auto Insurance

The statute of limitations on first-party claims are typically two to four years in Texas. An uninsured motorist claim, underinsured motorist claim and personal injury protection claim are filed as first-party claims against insurance companies pursuant to a written contract. If they fail to pay after a claimant has made a presentment of their claim, the claimant has the right to sue for breach of contract and/or a declaratory judgment action. The statute of limitations for breach of contract and the declaratory judgment is generally four years from the date of the accident. The personal injury protection claim statute of limitations is often defined by an insurance contract. They are commonly three years, but one should always check for changes or alterations. Additionally, if an agent commits negligence in the handling of the claim, that negligence claim may have a two-year statute of limitations.

Comparative Negligence

In shared-fault injury cases, Texas follows a “modified comparative negligence rule,” meaning that the amount of entitled compensation will be reduced by an amount that is equal to your percentage of fault. Texas law includes a proportionate responsibility rule, which dictates that a claimant may not recover damages if their percentage of responsibility is greater than 50%. If they are less than 50% responsible for their injuries, damages are reduced in proportion to their amount of responsibility (V.T.C.A, Civil Practice & Remedies § 33.001).

Maritime Claims

While three years is common, maritime accidents have numerous statutes of limitations that may apply under state and federal law. They vary depending upon whether the case is onshore or offshore, on a waterway, dock, or the ocean and other factors. Depending upon how and where the accident occurs, the case may fall under state personal injury law, state worker’s compensation laws, the federal Longshore and Harbormen’s Act, or the Jones Act.

Asbestosis

Pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 16.0031, a cause of action for personal injuries or death caused by asbestosis or silica-related illnesses has an extended statute of limitations. The cause of action accrues on the earlier of: the date of the exposed person’s death, or the date that the claimant serves on a defendant a required report. This means that the two-year statute of limitations will not begin until the earlier of the two above events occurs.

Attorney Impact

If you handle your own case, you will need to have a good understanding of the legal underpinnings of your claim as well as the settlement process. Receiving a fair amount in the settlement may involve savvy negotiation skills combined with knowledge of both the statutory laws and case law. Some injury cases are highly complex. For example, if you were injured by a defective product or by what you believe was medical negligence, you may need the help of experts in order to uncover the evidence that you will need to prove your claim. Auto accidents may require accident reconstruction, witness interviews and a solid understanding of physics. You’ll also need to be able to decipher your own medical records so that you can appropriately value your claim.

The Texas Torch

The “takeaway” from this very general outline is that the statute of limitations can be very complex in certain circumstances. If you or a loved one have been the victim of negligence, The Texas Torch is an experienced personal injury trial lawyer who is familiar with the various statutes and case law pertaining to the particular circumstances. The last thing you want is to miss out on your chance to obtain compensation, so do not risk the statute of limitations expiring for your case. At The Hadi Law Firm, our personal injury attorneys are committed to fight for you and ensure you receive fair compensation so that you focus your energies on full recovery.