Answering All Your Personal Injury, Social Security Disability, and Bankruptcy Questions
When a catastrophic event puts your future at risk, anxiety and uncertainty will cause you to have a million questions. What can you do? How can you provide for your family? Will you recover?
Allow the extensive experience and knowledge of the Packard Law Firm put your worries to rest. Come learn the answers to your questions and see how we can help pull you out of the depths of uncertainty.
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Is driving while using a cell phone really that dangerous?
We hear a lot about how dangerous it is to drive while talking on a cell phone. In fact, the City of San Antonio recently passed an ordinance banning the use of hand held devices while driving.
But once you learn the facts, you really come to understand just how dangerous it is.
- When you are talking on a cell phone, you are 4 times more likely to have an accident than when you are not.
- 26% of all the accidents in the United States occur when at least one of the drivers is on a cell phone.
- Over 50% of the traffic fatalities occur when one of the drivers is talking to someone or using a cell phone.
The reason this is true is because of a phenomenon called cognitive distraction. It doesn't have anything to do with not watching the road but everything to do with the fact that your brain has a hard time multi-tasking. It has a hard time perceiving and calculating movement when you are talking on a cell phone.
The University of Carnegie recently did a very important study, where they put people in a driving simulator and let them talk on the phone and then they took a functional MRI which actually measured the brain activity. And they discovered that the part of you brain that measures movement and that calculates what you have to do to avoid an accident, decreases 37% when you are talking on a cell phone. Additionally your field of vision decreases 50% even when you are staring out the windshield. You can see 50% less. That is why you miss your exit when you are talking on the phone, that is why you miss a stop sign, that is why you are 4 times more likely to cause an accident.
From your friends at the Packard Law Firm, stay off the cell phone when you are driving. And if you do get in an accident, make sure you give us a call or fill out the form online. We will be glad to help you any way we can.
Why did you decide to become a bankruptcy lawyer?
First of all, I have a passion for taking the legal structure, the bankruptcy code and matching it with peoples lives. I customize a Chapter 13 plan in a way that will match the lifestyle and the obstacles that people are going to have and enable them to keep the things that they will absolutely need.
That is fun for me. I enjoy doing that. I enjoy crunching the numbers. I enjoy working with my staff to customize a bankruptcy plan that will succeed in court and will have a real result that will really help reorganize their life.
"David is a great lawyer. He has been doing bankruptcy for over 20 years. He doesn't pressure people. He talks about the options, lays it out in front of them and explains the different outcomes for the different paths that they can take. If you have questions, give David a call and he will lay out your options in front of you and get you a resolution to your financial problems."
-- Michael Packard, Partner, Bankruptcy Attorney
What is the difference between a Chapter 7 and a Chapter 13 bankruptcy?
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Allows You to Eliminate “Unsecured” Debt
Basically, a Chapter 7 is a way for a person to eliminate their unsecured debts. What they are seeking is a fresh start, a clean slate. They want to continue to pay for certain secured debts, like their house note or their car note, but discharge or eliminate their unsecured debts like credit card bills, medical bills or signature loans.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Is a Way to Reorganize Debt over Time
Chapter 13 by contrast is a way for a debtor to reorganize their debts over a plan of 3 to 5 years. What that means is, you are going take the back payments on your house note, the vehicle note, any kinds of loans you have for appliances, lump those all together into a monthly plan payment and pay that out monthly over an extended period of time. That usually allows a person to keep the things that they have worked hard to get in the first place and pay it out and pay their creditors as much as they can afford.
How does Chapter 13 Allow You to Keep the Things You Need While Lowering Your Monthly Payments?
A Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows a person to reorganize their debt by making payments that are significantly less, in most cases, than what they were paying before. And it does it in several ways:
- First, you are only required to pay a certain interest rate to most creditors and right now in most cases it is 5.25%
- Secondly, in many instances you are able to lower the amount that you pay down to the value of the collateral rather than the balance that is owed. So that usually reduces the principal that you pay out.
- Thirdly, you are often able to increase the term over which you pay your creditors to a period up to 5 years.
- And finally, debtors are often able to lower the amount that they pay to their unsecured creditors down to literally pennies on the dollar, if they qualify. At any rate, you are able to pay your unsecured creditors often at zero percent interest.
So with those four tools, a Chapter 13 debtor has the ability to lower their payments to a budget that they can afford while continuing to keep the things that they need in order to reorganize.
Get Help Reorganizing Your Debt
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How can I determine whether my employer has "authorized" workers' comp or is a "non-subscriber?"
As explained on this website, if you are injured at work, it makes a big difference whether your employer has authorized workers' comp or some cheap benefits plan that they administer themselves. If they have authorized workers' comp insurance, then you get your compensation through the workers. comp system. If they do not, then you can recover the full amount of your damages through the court system as long as you can prove that the employer is at least 1% at fault in causing your accident. So how do you know whether your employer's benefit plan is "legitimate" workers' comp from an approved provider?
The employer is required by law to tell you if they are a non-subscriber, but sometimes that information is buried in the the paperwork. Thus, if you are unsure, you can call the Texas Department of Insurance at 1-800-252-7031. Give them the name of your employer and the date of your injury, and they will tell you whether or not your employer was an official workers’ comp subscriber at the time you were injured. You can also check on the TDI’s website at www.tdi.texas.gov, which also has a list of employers that subscribe to official workers’ comp. If your employer is not on the list, you may have a legitimate non-subscriber case, and you should contact us to see if you can recover for all your losses and injuries.
Can my employer retaliate against me for filing a workers’ comp claim?
Generally speaking, Texas is a “right-to-work” state – meaning that your employer can fire you for almost any reason. However, if management discourages you from filing a workers’ comp claim, or if they make negative comments about the fact that you already filed a claim, and then they fire you (or take other adverse employment actions) you may have a wrongful termination case.
This usually happens because of the tremendous pressure placed on supervisors and foreman to keep lost time injuries to a minimum. Unfortunately, some managers will not report injuries to improve the company’s “lost time injuries” statistics. For example, some managers might put an injured employee in a tent or shed and call it “light duty” and will then feel justified not reporting the incident as a “lost time injury”!
The problem with this approach, of course, is that the employee is not getting the appropriate medical care. When the employee finally feels that enough is enough, they file a workers’ compensation claim and get fired! This kind of activity is illegal in Texas and there are steps you can take to protect your rights. If you feel you have been treated unfairly at the worksite because you filed a workers’ compensation claim and have questions, feel free to give us a call.
Can the family sue the employer when the company causes the death of an employee?
Sadly, some work-related accidents are lethal. Workers' comp has a modest death benefit for the family, but is there anything else that the family can do when the employer is responsible for the death? Normally, an employer who carries official workers' comp insurance is completely immune from suit when they injure their own employees. However, when the accident results in death, there is a tiny crack in the employer’s armor. The family of the deceased can sue the employer even if the employer has official workers’ comp if they can show that the employer’s gross negligence caused the death. To prove gross negligence, the family must show that the company knew that its actions created an extreme risk of harm, but nevertheless proceeded with conscious indifference to the rights, safety and welfare of others. In essence, it is the "I don’t give a darn" standard. In other words, if the employer knows that its actions are very dangerous but proceeds anyway, it is grossly negligent. If you think your loved one’s death was caused by gross negligence, give us a call, and we may have a chance to pierce the immunity created by workers’ comp and seek full recovery for all your losses.
Did someone who was not working for my employer (a 3rd party) help cause my accident or injury?
In Texas, employers who purchase approved workers’ compensation insurance have almost complete immunity from lawsuits when they injure their own employees. This means that the injured workers have to be compensated through the workers' comp system, which is usually a raw deal for the employee. In fact, the injured workers are frequently grossly undercompensated in the workers' comp system. Thus, a good lawyer will look for ways to add to or supplement the compensation paid through the workers’ comp system. One way to do this is to look for a third party that may have contributed to the accident.
There are many situations when someone other than the employer is to blame for the accident. For example, suppose you are driving on a work-related errand, and another car crashes into you, the at-fault driver was not working for your employer, and is therefore considered to be a 3rd party. In this situation, you can receive your normal workers’ comp benefits from your employer’s insurance carrier, but you can also seek compensation from the at-fault driver. This is known as a 3rd party case. (The injured worker is considered to be the 1st party, the employer/co-workers are considered to be the 2nd party, and the party that actually caused the injury is considered to be the 3rd party.) Thus, even when the employer can’t be sued because it bought official workers’ comp insurance, the 3rd party is not immune and can be sued even when you are also receiving workers’ comp benefits. There are many types of 3rd party cases. You have a 3rd party case when there are multiple contractors on a job and one contractor hurts an employee of another contractor. Faulty construction equipment, negligent architects, and negligent property owners all can create opportunities for a 3rd party case. If you do have a legitimate case against a 3rd party, you will be able to recover all the damages that you could not recover in the workers’ comp system – such as your remaining past and future lost wages, pain and suffering, and lost capacity.
What are my rights when my employer did not carry ‘official’ workers’ comp insurance?
Normally, employers can effectively immunize themselves when they injure their own workers simply by carrying “official” workers’ comp. Thus, one might think that every sensible employer would make sure they have this coverage. But many Texas employers do not do the sensible thing. Remarkably, 1/3 of all Texas employers do not carry official workers’ comp. These employers are called “non-subscribers.” Why do so many employers non-subscribe? Because official workers’ comp is more expensive than cut-rate plans, and 1/3 of the Texas employers have decided to take the gamble and either go without any insurance or buy a cheaper plan. These plans provide fewer benefits and give less protection to the injured workers. It is a classic “profits over people” business decision. These employers provide a cut-rate “benefit” plan that has even fewer benefits than the official workers’ comp plans with no administrative protections. The employers then try to persuade the injured workers to take what little benefits the plan offers without asking questions or causing “problems” for the employer. Unfortunately, many injured workers think that they are getting workers’ comp when, in fact, they are getting a watered-down version that is administered by the company – not by the Texas workers’ comp system. This is deceptive and unfair.
Fortunately, if the injured workers are informed about the non-subscriber law, they can do something to protect themselves. They can file a lawsuit in state court and obtain full and complete compensation as long as they can prove that their employer (including a co-worker) was at least 1% responsible for their injuries. Many times, this 1% responsibility can be proven by showing that the employer had inadequate safety training and/or insufficient staff to do the work safely. You may also be able to show that your employer provided inadequate warnings and/or failed to provide proper equipment. All these things relate to the employer’s general duty to provide a safe working environment.
What happens if the other person does not have enough insurance to cover all my medical bills and damages?
If you do have car insurance, then you will want to check to see if you have certain coverages such as auto collision, personal injury protection, uninsured/underinsured protection and/or medical payments protection. Depending on the circumstances, these coverages may be very helpful to you.