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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  • What happens if I am an undocumented immigrant and am hit by another driver? Can I still file a claim?

    injured undocumented immigrantsIf injured in an accident, an undocumented immigrant has legal rights. A person’s residency status does not prevent that person from filing a claim against an insurance company after an accident has occurred.

    If an undocumented immigrant has been involved in a wreck that was caused by another careless driver, then that driver, along with that driver’s insurance company, is responsible to pay for any damages caused by the accident - regardless of status. This includes payment for medical treatment, property damage to the car, and pain and suffering. However, it should be noted that, from a practical standpoint, an undocumented immigrant might have difficulty proving lost wages because they do not have a legally documented work status.

    Many insurance companies use fear tactics. They know that many undocumented immigrants are afraid that legal actions might affect their status in the country. They know that they can get away with treating the claim unfairly and so they do. Another dirty trick used by some insurance companies is that they say that they cannot provide compensation because the undocumented immigrants do not have a social security number. This is simply not true.

    The truth is, insurance companies and attorneys do not use an injury claim to threaten an immigrant’s residency status because it is considered unethical. Also, the law recognizes that everyone has the right to obtain medical treatment and the doctors and hospitals have the right to be paid.

    If any of these tactics are used, it should not be tolerated. Claims involving undocumented immigrants are often complex and it may be a good idea to get an attorney so that your claim can be treated with the type of respect that the immigrant deserves.

  • Will My Car Insurance Rates Increase If My Insurance Company Pays to Repair My Car, Even When I Wasn't at Fault in the Accident?

    Insurance companies can raise rates for almost any reason. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should not file a claim after a traffic accident.

    Do Insurance Companies Have Free Rein When It Comes to the Rates They Charge?

    In Texas, car insurance companies can increase rates pretty much anytime they want to. In fact, it is legal for car insurance companies to raise rates just for asking about a claim—even if you never file one. There are actual reports of car owners who have had their rates increased even when they never filed a claim of any kind—all they did was call and discuss the situation with their insurance company. In 2013, the Texas legislature passed a bill that prevented an insurance company from increasing rates against homeowners just for calling about a potential claim. The bill originally had similar protections for car owners, but under intense pressure from the insurance lobby, this language was taken out.

    Other times, the insurance company will place some of the blame on you even when the police determined that the other guy was at fault. This is another reason they increase rates.

    So If They Are Going to Raise My Rates, Why Would I Ever Have My Own Insurance Company Pay for Anything?

    First of all, insurance companies have a way of finding out that there was an accident even if you do not file a claim, and they may increase your rates no matter what you do. In these cases, you might as well file a claim and get your money.

    Moreover, the numbers usually work in your favor. For example, say that your rates increase from $600 per year to $725 per year because of an accident that was not your fault. That would be $625 over the next 5 years. (Rates usually go back down after 3-5 years.) If your claim is worth $2,500, it is a no-brainer to take the money and pay the increased premium.

    Finally, you are allowed to change insurance companies any time you want. If the accident is not your fault, you should not have a difficult time getting a fair quote from another insurance company. Just because your insurance company increases your rates does not mean that all insurance companies will do the same. So if your company increases your rates, just shop around and get a better rate with someone else.

    I have heard some clients say that they do not want their insurance involved no matter what. Sometimes, that works out OK, but many times, it costs them thousands of dollars.

    Of course, if you have questions and want to talk through the issues, you are welcome to call me.

  • What Should I Tell My Insurance Adjuster After An Accident?

    calling insurance adjusterThe short answer is, yes.

    Most insurance policies have a provision requiring prompt notice of an accident. Additionally, your policy may provide coverage for repairs to your vehicle, or it may even cover a rental car while yours gets repaired.  Many times your own insurance company acts more quickly than the other driver’s insurance company.  So, you need to call and set up a claim with your own insurance company to get the process going.

    But there are also a few landmines that you want to avoid.  First, don’t go into detail about your physical injuries, especially if you talk to the adjuster soon after the accident. Since he or she will be the one who negotiates the settlement, many times an adjuster will hope to pin down your specific injuries early on when you don’t even know how badly you were hurt.  A good approach to take when the adjuster asks about injuries is to say that you don’t know the extent of your injuries, but you want to get checked out by a medical provider.  Many car wreck injuries aren’t apparent the first few days after an accident, so keep that in mind when you make your initial call to your adjuster.

  • It is legal for the other side to take pictures and videos of me without my consent?

    Yes, and it happens more often than you might think.  Aggressive insurance companies and  defense lawyers often hire private investigators to watch an injured person from a distance and take photos or video to make it appear that they are not injured.  If you are injured, you should assume that this could potentially happen to you.

  • What is the first thing I should do after an accident?

    First, make yourself safe. Sometimes a simple accident can turn into a pileup.  Also, Texas law requires drivable vehicles to move off the main roadway onto the shoulder.  

    woman after car accidentSecond, call the police and report the accident.  You need the police there to write an accident report.  They usually take a while to show up, so make the call as soon as you can. When they show up, make sure you talk to them about what happened.  Don’t guess about things you didn’t see or don’t remember.  

    Getting in an accident is traumatic.  In times like this, the human body fills with adrenaline, and that can mask pain.  So when the officers ask, let them know about any obvious injuries.  But rather than telling them you are not injured, let them know that you would like to get checked out by a doctor to see if you are injured.  Many times, pain and soreness show up days after an accident.

    Third, exchange contact information and insurance information with the other drivers.  If the police are there, they will usually facilitate this.

    Fourth, take pictures if you can.  You want pictures of each car that is involved in the accident, and whatever damage the vehicles sustained.  Get pictures of the accident scene as a whole, showing landmarks and intersections in the background.  Also, take pictures of any injuries you have.  Scrapes and bruises heal pretty quickly, so document these injuries with photos through the healing process.  The same is true for more significant visible injuries.  Every few days, take a few pictures.

    phone call after car accidentFifth, call your own insurance company and report the accident.  Don’t go into detail about any injuries, simply say that you are going to go get checked out.  Your policy might cover a rental car.  If it does, ask for help setting that up.

    Lastly, go to the doctor and get evaluated soon after the accident.  Ideally, this will be the same day as the accident.  If you wait to get evaluated, the insurance company will try to blame your injuries on something else.  Keep in mind, that many doctor’s offices won’t treat you for accident-related injuries, so you might have to go to an emergency room or urgent care center for your initial evaluation.  If you need help setting up treatment, a lawyer can help point you in the right direction.

  • What happens if a person dies while his or her lawsuit is pending?

    The law allows the executor of the estate to continue the lawsuit on behalf of the heirs as if the accident victim were still alive.  If the negligence caused the death, then Texas law allows certain family members to pursue their own claim.  This is called a wrongful death action. 

  • Who files the claim when the children are injured? What happens if the parents are divorced? Can either parent file a claim?

    Normally, the custodial parents or guardian files on behalf of minor children.  (Find out the answer to the rest of the question.)  In some cases, the court will appoint a lawyer to review the file and approve the settlement of a minor’s injury claim.  Typically, the defendant pays for this review.

  • Should my health insurance company pay for my medical bills that are caused by an accident?

    health insurance coverageIf you have been involved in a wreck that was not your fault, then the careless driver’s insurance company is responsible to pay for the medical treatment for the injuries you received in the accident.

    You might think that it is best to give the hospital or doctor the insurance information of the careless driver that caused the accident. This seems logical, but in reality, it is extremely unlikely that the careless driver’s insurance company will pay anything at all.

    So what should you do? First and foremost, you should always put your health first. Get the medical treatment you need.

    Many times, a lawyer will have an arrangement with some local health providers where the lawyer guarantees that all of your medical bills will be paid at a later date, usually after the case has settled. This is extremely helpful to individuals who need treatment now and cannot pay for it until the case settles.

    If your lawyer cannot guarantee payment, then it is usually best to use the health insurance you would normally use for a sickness or an injury. After the case is settled, your insurance company will get reimbursed for any money paid for treatment that relates to the accident. Sometimes you or your lawyer can negotiate with your insurance company and reduce the payment amount that needs to be reimbursed.

    If you do not have any insurance, you may consider getting treatment at a local charity hospital or obtaining financial assistance from a local charity organization.

    In sum, after a wreck, do everything you can to get the medical treatment you need; nothing more nothing less. Follow your doctor’s instructions and do everything you can to get better. Appropriate medical care is the most important thing you do for your health and your case.

  • It is possible to sue a government entity (such as a city, school district or state) for causing my injury?

    In the case of a car wreck caused by a government employee, Yes, you may file suit against the City, district, county or state.  However, there are strict (and short) notice requirements as well as other limitations.  In the case of injuries caused in other ways such as negligently maintained buildings or roads, filing a claim is allowed, but only in limited situations.   

  • The person who caused the car wreck was the driver of the car in which I was the passenger. Can I file a claim for my injuries?

    passenger claiming injuriesIf you have been involved in a wreck that was not your fault, then you are entitled to be compensated for the damages that result from the accident. This is true even if you and the driver were in the same vehicle.

    Even with simple accidents, if you are injured as a passenger, there are often up to four different kind of insurance coverages that can apply - the driver’s policy, the driver’s UIM policy, your own UIM policy, and your own PIP policy.

    For example, let's say that you are injured as a passenger and both drivers are partially at fault. The breakdown could be as follows:

    1. Liability policy of the drivers:  You may be able to recover under both liability policies with the driver of the vehicle you were in, and the other driver involved in the accident. Each side would pay according to his percentage of fault.
    2. Your driver’s UIM policy: “Underinsured Motorist” (UIM) insurance policies essentially pay for medical expenses and other damages that result from an accident caused by a driver who does not have enough insurance to cover all of the damages. If the insurance to the liability policies described above do not fully compensate you for the harm you sustained during the accident, then your driver’s UIM policy can be used.
    3. Your own UIM policy: If the above insurance policies do not  fully compensate you, you can use your own UIM policy as well. This is true even if you do not own any of the vehicles involved in the wreck.
    4. PIP: “Personal insurance protection” (PIP), is an extension of your car insurance and it covers out of pocket medical expenses. Many times it is called “no-fault” coverage because it pays regardless of who is at fault and regardless of what other insurance policies have paid.

    In sum, when there is an accident, it is extremely important to find all the insurance policies involved. This is especially true of you have substantial medical bills or lost wages.