Prepare for North Texas’ Hail Storm with These Safety Tips

Angel Reyes III Insurance, Safe Driving

Prepare for North Texas' Hail Storm with These Safety Tips - Reyes Browne Reilley Law

April showers bring May flowers, but springtime storms in Texas pose a very real threat. Meteorologists have predicted severe weather for the DFW this evening, which could include baseball-size hail.

Tonight’s forecast also expects damaging winds, with gusts that could reach 70 mph. The chance of tornados is also possible. Read these tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe during these dangerous storms.

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Nerve Damage After a Car Crash

Nerve Damage After A Car Crash Personal Injury Lawyer

The human nervous system is incredibly sensitive, and sustaining head or neck injuries after an auto or truck accident is fairly common. Even a minor fender bender can leave you with Neuropathy, or nerve damage. After being injured in a car accident, no matter how severe, it is extremely important to contact a professional personal injury lawyer to evaluate your case. Insurance companies will try their hardest to save money on payouts, often at the victim’s expense. The road to recovery can be costly, especially with nerve damage — Combining the costs of medical bills on top of time away from work can severely hurt your bank account. It’s our job to ensure these companies pay what is owed in full.

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Flash Flood Safety Driving Tips

Angel Reyes III Auto Accidents, Insurance, Safe Driving

Picture of a flooded highway, with ducks swimming across.

A powerful storm has dumped 10 inches of rain on parts of the Dallas-Fort Worth area over the past few days, causing widespread flooding. Flash floods are the number one weather-related killer in the United States — most flood fatalities happen because people try to drive through deadly waters rather than avoid them.

The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in automobiles as they are swept downstream. Of these drownings, many are preventable, but too many people continue to drive around the barriers that warn you the road is flooded. A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away a small car, while 2 feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles. It is NEVER safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

With more rain on the way, follow these tips to stay safe in your car during a flood.

How to Drive in a Flood

Pay attention to barricades.

Don’t ignore them by driving past them.

Do not drive through standing water on roads or in parking lots.

The average automobile can be swept off the road in 12 inches of moving water, and roads covered by water are prone to collapse. Attempting to drive through water also may stall your engine, with the potential to cause irreparable damage if you try to restart the engine. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route.

Take extra precautions if you’re forced to drive through water.

If no alternate route exists and you have no other reasonable alternative but to drive through standing water.

  • Do your best to estimate the depth of the water (if other cars are driving through, take note of how deep the water is).
  • Drive slowly and steadily through the water.
  • Avoid driving in water that downed electrical or power lines have fallen in — electric current passes through water easily.
  • Watch for items traveling downstream — they can trap or crush you if you’re in their path.
  • If you have driven through water up to the wheel rims or higher, test your brakes on a clear patch of road at low speed. If they are wet and not stopping the vehicle as they should, dry them by pressing gently on the brake pedal with your left foot while maintaining speed with your right foot.
  • Stay off the telephone unless you must report severe injuries.
  • If your vehicle stalls in the deep water, you may need to restart the engine to make it to safety. Keep in mind that restarting may cause irreparable damage to the engine.
  • If you can’t restart your vehicle and you become trapped in rising water, immediately abandon it for higher ground. Try to open the door or roll down the window to get out of the vehicle. If you are unable to get out safely, call 911 or get the attention of a passerby or someone standing on higher ground so that they may call for help.

Texans Need These 3 Types of Car Insurance

Angel Reyes III Auto Accidents, Insurance

bigstock-Car-key-on-an-insurance-policy-14770019-1024x746

When considering car insurance coverage in the state of Texas, there are three important types that you should bear in mind – personal injury protection (PIP) benefits, uninsured motorist coverage, and gap insurance.

By familiarizing yourself with these three types of insurance coverage, you are in a better position to make informed decisions are your automobile insurance policy.

Personal Injury Protection Benefits

PIP benefits represent an extension of automobile coverage that is available in some states. Personal injury protection benefits, PIP benefits, are also known in some quarters as no-fault coverage. PIP benefits are designed to pay regardless of an allegation of fault or legal liability. PIP benefits typically arise out of an injury accident where you or the driver of the car you are in carrying PIP coverage.

A claim for PIP benefits typically is made against a person’s own insurance company. This is the case even if another party is deemed to be at fault for causing the car accident. There are some exceptions to the general process of filing against an individual’s own insurance company. For example, if the person desiring to make a claim does not own an automobile, filing a claim against his or her own company would be impossible. If you are a passenger in an accident, the driver may carry PIP on the vehicle, and if so, you may be covered.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Uninsured motorist insurance coverage is included in Texas auto policies unless rejected. The policy provision provides a person coverage in the event an uninsured driver causes an automobile accident or if you are in a serious injury accident and the responsible party does not have enough insurance to cover your damages.

If an accident occurs, an injured person files a claim for uninsured motorist coverage and compensation with his or her insurance carrier. Technically, the insurance company pays the difference between what an uninsured driver can or does pay towards compensation for damages and what the injured person would be entitled to if insurance coverage existed.

Unfortunately, Texas court rulings have given the insurance companies the upper hand by ruling carriers do not have the obligations to pay until after a verdict in a trial. The requirement of an actual verdict has led to an unconscionable situation where insurance companies routinely force an unnecessary lawsuit just because they can. Worse is that the carriers are allowed to use in-house attorneys to reduce their expenses while running up the costs to their insureds. No doubt the consumer is being taken advantage of with this unfair situation.  Many states police the insurance companies by allowing bad faith claims, Texas, however, has largely sided with insurance companies and the campaign contributions keep flowing.

GAP Insurance

Guaranteed Auto Protection insurance, or GAP insurance, is a creation of the financial industry in the United States. GAP insurance provides compensation in the event of an accident for the difference between the actual cash value of a motor vehicle and the amount of money still owed on a loan or lease.

Often, in the aftermath of an accident, a determination is made that a vehicle is underwater regarding its actual cash value and the outstanding balance on a loan or lease. GAP insurance coverage provides compensation to the lender or leasing company to cover the “gap” that exists between the cash value of the vehicle and the cash settlement associated with an accident.

A skilled, experienced automobile accident lawyer can provide you more information about available insurance coverage in the aftermath of an accident. Call a seasoned car accident professional at the Reyes Browne Reilley law firm today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Understanding the Eggshell Skull Rule

Angel Reyes III Aside, Insurance

eggshell-300x292In personal injury cases, there are times where an injured party has had a pre-existing condition that was exacerbated by the accident.

As a result, the plaintiff’s injuries are more severe than they would have normally been had the plaintiff not had the pre-existing condition.

For example: suppose someone is rear-ended in a car accident. One week before the crash, the person had neck surgery.

Now, the rear-end collision completely messed up the neck surgery and, not only that, it caused the neck to be in worse condition than it was prior to the surgery.

Understandably, she would suffer significantly more damages than a person who had a perfectly healthy neck prior to the crash.

Does this mean that the at-fault party is responsible for all of her additional damages?

Understandable question, and not uncommon.

Under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, or eggshell skull rule, yes, the at-fault party would be responsible for the additional damages, even though they were made worse by her prior medical condition and surgery.

Under the eggshell plaintiff doctrine, an at-fault party must take the victim as they find them.

An injured party’s damages are not reduced because he or she is more susceptible to an injury than most people. Essentially, the eggshell plaintiff rule holds the defendant financially responsible for all damages that his or her negligence caused, regardless of the plaintiff’s frail or delicate condition or preexisting injuries.

Even though the eggshell plaintiff rule is well-understood in the Dallas Metroplex area, and throughout the nation, that doesn’t stop insurance companies from trying to claim that a plaintiff’s injuries were pre-existing and not caused by the accident – this is a dirty trick played by insurance companies.

If you had a pre-existing injury, don’t let that stop you from filing a personal injury claim. You  have every right to file a claim against the at-fault party.

More Safety Means Higher Car Insurance Costs

Angel Reyes III Insurance

250652-300x200New cars have steadily increased the high-tech crash-prevention gear, and now they are having a perverse effect on car-insurance costs: They are soaring.

Safety features such as autonomous braking and systems to prevent drivers from drifting out of their lanes are increasingly available on vehicles rolling off assembly lines. Auto companies and third-party researchers say these features help prevent crashes and are building blocks to self-driving cars.

But progress comes with a price.

Enabling the safety tech are cameras, sensors, microprocessors and other hardware whose repair costs can be more than five times that of conventional parts. And the equipment is often located in bumpers, fenders and external mirrors – the very spots that tend to get hit in a crash. Insurance companies, unwilling to shoulder all the pain, are passing some of the cost off to buyers.

Insurance sticker shock is a blow to auto makers looking to increase adoption of high-tech safety packages, which can add thousands of dollars to the price of a new car and deliver significantly higher margins than other options.

At present, though, only a fraction of buyers opt for the technology, often known as “advanced driver assistance systems,” or ADAS. As a result, replacement parts are disproportionately expensive.

An industry alliance representing a dozen auto manufacturers declined to comment on repair costs. Several automakers said safety is a top priority, and while new parts are expensive at first, they tend to fall over time.

Owners of ADAS-equipped cars aren’t the only ones footing the bill. Liability insurance is on the rise, too: A driver of a more-basic car may be liable for damages in a collision with a vehicle loaded with safety gear.

State Farm in October raised Illinois insurance rates 5.9%, the largest such jump since 2003. In addition to the need to fund costly repairs of safety tech, the company is also factoring in trends such as more miles driven and distracted driving, a company spokeswoman said.

Car-crash fatalities are increasing as people spend more time on the road and attempt to multitask with smartphones while at the wheel. Miles driven by Americans rose 2.8% to a record 3.2 trillion in 2016, according to the Federal Highway Administration. That increase was far outpaced by a 6% surge in motor-vehicle deaths in the same period.

Industry wide, the average annual car-insurance premium increased 14% since 2014 to $990, according to an estimate by the Insurance Information Institute.

How Can I Reduce the Cost of Having a Teenage Driver on My Policy?

Angel Reyes III Insurance, Insurance Law

Teen_Driver_2-731735-editedThe financial shock of adding a teenager to a family auto insurance policy is getting less shocking… kind of.

An annual analysis by insuranceQuotes.com found that adding a teenager still increased annual premiums substantially, but the magnitude of the increase has been falling over the past few years.

Adding a single teenager to a policy caused annual premiums to increase an average of 78 percent, or $671. But rate increases have been decreasing since 2013, when the average increase was 85 percent.

Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst with insuranceQuotes, said that factors in the trend may include safer automobile technology, a dip in the number of teenagers getting driver’s licenses and the continued impact of “graduated” driving programs, which place restrictions on new drivers until they gain more experience on the road.

But the impact of adding teenagers to a policy is still a jolt to families, especially those adding boys. Putting a male teenager on your insurance policy increased rates an average of 89 percent, compared with 66 percent for a female teenager, the analysis found.

Ms. Adams said premiums increased when a teenager was added because, statistically, younger drivers — particularly boys — have more accidents than older, more experienced drivers, and file more insurance claims.

Nearly 1,900 drivers aged 15 to 20 died in car crashes in 2015, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, up 9 percent from 2014.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among teenagers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As with most insurance costs, the impact of adding a teenager varies by state. Adding a teenager in Rhode Island bumps up premiums by more than 150 percent, while parents in Hawaii get about an 8 percent increase.

For the analysis, insuranceQuotes.com hired Quadrant Information Services, an insurance data firm, to calculate the price increase of adding a driver aged 16 to 19 to a family’s auto insurance policy. The averages are based on a hypothetical couple — a man and a woman, both 45 years old, married and employed — who each drive 12,000 miles each year and have good credit and driving records. The policy tested included $100,000 for injury liability, $300,000 for all injuries, a $500 deductible on collision and comprehensive coverage, and uninsured motorist coverage.

Here are some questions and answers about teenagers and auto insurance:

How can I reduce the cost of having a teenage driver on my policy?

Kathy Bernstein Harris, senior manager for teenage driving initiatives at the National Safety Council, a nonprofit, said that some insurers offered discounts for students who get good grades (even though it’s not necessarily clear that being a good student correlates with safer driving). Discounts are also often available for new drivers who take driver’s education classes.

Ms. Harris said the best way to reduce claims and hold costs down — and keep your child safe — was to set rules and spend time driving with teenagers and coaching them along, even after they pass their driver’s license tests. “Just getting a piece of plastic doesn’t mean they are totally prepared for the open road,” she said. “The first year of independent driving is the riskiest.”

Many state programs set restrictions on teenage drivers, such as curfews for night driving and limiting the number of other people, particularly other teenagers, who can ride in the car with them. Ms. Harris urges parents to follow such rules. “With every teen passenger you put in the car,” she said, the risk of a crash increases.

The council’s DriveitHome website offers resources for parents and teenage drivers, including interactive safety tests.

Are some cars safer than others for teenagers to drive?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety each year publishes a list of safe, affordable cars for teenagers. In general, larger, heavier vehicles are best.

Ms. Harris suggests that parents not buy a new car specifically for their new teenage driver — or, if they do, that they make it clear that the car is the family’s car, rather than the teenage driver’s personal vehicle. By making the car a “family” car, she said, parents can better set rules for its use and talk about where their child is headed and who is expected to go along.

Also, she advises getting teenagers involved in researching the safety and price of a new car, as a way of teaching them lessons about budgeting, and emphasizing the need for safe driving habits.

Are there apps that can help reduce distracted driving?

Technology is emerging that can disable texting and social media on cellphones while the car is in motion. One system, Cellcontrol, recently was favorably reviewed by Consumer Reports.

The organization also offers other tips for reducing distracted driving and increasing safety for teenage drivers on its website.

The Secrets Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Know

Angel Reyes III Auto Accidents, Insurance

bigstock-Top-Secret-Concept-Top-Secret-232925815-1024x678Hiring a personal injury attorney should be the first step for the severely injured after a car or truck wreck. Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex personal injury victims must make a series of choices after an accident, and many of those involve dealing with the insurance company. Coping with an adjuster or an insurance company that is trying to pay as little as it possibly can be incredibly frustrating. However, if you are going to represent yourself- here are a few secrets:

It is Not Personal – Just Business for the Adjuster

Typically, an adverse adjuster will contact the car or truck crash victim after a serious injury accident. It is important to remember that the adjuster is not on your side and does not have your interest at heart when attempting to settle a claim. Your claim is probably one of several hundred the adjuster has on the plate. Don’t make the mistake of believing they care about your situation. If the adjuster is going out of his or her way to be helpful to you- that is a signal they may be worried about the amount of your claim.

The Bigger the Claim, the Harder They Try

Insurance companies strive to pay out as little as it possibly can on claims and in delaying paying as long as possible. Often consumers are frustrated that the insurance carrier will not call them back or respond to their claims made against the driver of the other vehicle. The ability to get in touch with the adjuster is usually in direct proportion to the amount they may feel they may have to pay out. If the guilty party had a significant insurance policy – such as a commercial vehicle, and your injuries are severe, they probably will be responsive.

On Large Cases, They Want You to Represent Yourself

The more serious the claim, the more likely it is you will get a call back from the adjuster. One technique used for severe injury and wrongful death cases where the insurance company has substantial exposure is for the adjuster to be extremely personable and friendly. That is because if the insurance company can convince the victim not to hire an attorney the odds of them saving money on the case vastly increase.

They may tell you “we accept liability” or words to that effect, partly in the hopes you will feel confident in handling the claim yourself. Study after study confirm those represented put more money in their pockets than those without an attorney.

However, in less severe cases, frequently the innocent victim has a hard time getting a response from the insurance company. Keep in mind that the longer the claim process drags out, the longer the insurance company can keep their money. Further, initial work must be done on your case to develop the claim, and if this work does not get done the value of the matter drops. Delay is always in the best interest of the defendants. Sometimes, the insurance companies drag the process out so long that victims find themselves in the statute of limitations quandary.

 Adjusters Know Claims Handling Techniques

It is no secret that adjusters are sent to class and trained in how to handle car accident claims to pay as little as possible to the victim. Accident victims should have the opposite results in mind and be seeking to obtain the maximum compensation available for their injuries. The truth of the matter is that with many injury claims, the insurance company does not treat an unrepresented person the same as those with a capable accident attorney.

A few techniques used by adjusters include:

  • Demanding a recorded statement
  • Saying things to reduce your expectations
  • Always rejecting your first offer- even if reasonable
  • Trying to shift the blame to you or others

Preparation is a Key

If you’re committed to handling the claim yourself, you should be prepared to discuss and negotiate with the adjuster. Preparation is critical, and it is critically important that you have all the relevant facts at hand. Preparation would include copies of all of your medical records, a summary of your lost wages, and of course information regarding the defendant and his insurance company. You should also be aware of coverage under your auto policy that may apply in addition to those paid by the defendant’s policy.

Collecting evidence about the collision can also be helpful. Where there any witnesses that support your side. Did the other driver make admissions at the scene or except fault? Photographs of the damage to your vehicle can also be helpful when it shows a severe impact. Photos can also be useful in allowing a jury to understand how the crash occurred.

Don’t Forget Medical Payback

It is helpful to have goals set for your settlement and an idea of which medical bills outstanding or health insurance companies that are reimbursed out of the settlement. Many hospitals file liens in Texas against insurance claims when they treat an accident victim after a car wreck or 18-wheeler accident. Likewise, health insurance companies uniformly have subrogation clauses in their policies that allow them to seek reimbursement for proceeds collected in an automobile settlement. Your goal for your injury case should not be the maximum gross amount paid by the other driver’s insurance company but the amount that you get to keep after paying everything off.

Negotiate with the Medical Providers

Hospitals and doctors and health insurance companies routinely reduce the billed amounts or the amount they will accept in satisfaction of their lien or payback. Start talking with those who have an interest in your case as soon as possible.

Make the Adjuster Give You Specific Numbers for Pain and Suffering

With severe injuries, the personal or human or damages are the highest portion of the claim. Pain-and-suffering and disability should be a big part of a settlement when the injuries are severe. A general rule of thumb is that the more serious your damages, the more likely it is you will need an experienced and capable personal injury attorney to help. When you are discussing the settlement numbers with the adjuster, consider asking them to apportion the damages for such things as pain-and-suffering, disability, medical expenses, lost wages and the like.

Be Wary of the Reduction or Disallowed Medical Expense Trick

If the insurance adjuster starts discounting your medical expenses and you don’t like the numbers your hearing for pain-and-suffering or disability, that should be the first clue that you may need to hire an attorney.

Texas passed “tort reform,” and the current law only allows medical amounts that are actually “paid or incurred.” In other words, if the hospital wrote off part of the bill due to contacts with your health insurance or otherwise, it is the net number that counts for claims in Texas.

Personal Injury Lawyers Will Talk with You

There are a substantial number of personal injury attorneys in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex area who offer free consultations for injury victims. Anyone injured in an accident should consider taking advantage of such an offer to understand the claims process and issues that they may face.

While there are limits to how much consulting you can reasonably expect, a conversation with a capable attorney certainly will not hurt.

If you are going to hire a personal injury attorney, keep in mind the sooner, the better. Waiting until a lawsuit must be filed to protect the claim will make it much harder to retain a quality lawyer.

Do Your Homework in Choosing an Attorney

If you have come to the conclusion you need help, do your homework before hiring an attorney to work your case.

Some suggestions:

  • Read actual client reviews and peer reviewed ratings
  • Avoid “mill” firms (high volume law firms)
  • Make sure the attorney you choose is the one who will do the work
  • Look for specialty or niche practices as your first choice

Do not hesitate to call the experienced attorneys at Reyes Browne Reilley if you or a loved one has been injured in a car or truck wreck, and you decide you need help.