Injured in a car accident? Call us now for immediate help with your car accident claim
If you were injured in a car accident in the Houston area, or anywhere else in Texas, you are probably looking for information about your legal rights and may be worried about the medical expenses and lost wages piling up due to your injury. You may also be dealing with insurance companies and their adjusters and lawyers. Getting your car accident claim settled for the amount you deserve as quickly as possible may not be something you can do on your own. That's why you should consult with an experienced, Board Certified injury attorney as soon as possible.
Why you should hire experienced attorneys immediately to handle your car accident claim
When you are injured in a car accident, the insurance company for the other driver will get to work immediately trying to protect the negligent driver at your expense. The insurance companies and their adjusters and lawyers have worked on hundreds or even thousands of car accident cases, so they know the legal tricks and traps to use to protect themselves and minimize your injury claim. Do you know what to do to protect your legal rights? Let us help you.
Because you are at an extreme disadvantage, we suggest you consider contacting us immediately. We have successfully handled hundreds of car accident cases against all of the major insurance companies, with a proven record of success. Read about results we've obtained for car accident victims.
When you hire our law firm, you can rest assured that we will work with you throughout the entire process to ensure that you get the settlement you deserve. We will guide you through the legal system, investigate your case fully from the very beginning, and be prepared to take your case to court if the insurance company doesn't make you a reasonable, fair settlement offer.
When you hire our law firm, not only do you get our team of experienced lawyers on your side, but you also get the benefit of the reputation we have established over the years with the insurance companies. The insurance companies know when we take a case we mean business. They know that they will not be able to "low ball" you or trick you into accepting a settlement that is less than fair to you.
Some people prefer to wait a few weeks or even months before getting their own lawyer involved. While this is appropriate in small, minor accident cases, we do not recommend waiting if you have been seriously injured. If you wait too long, it may be too late. The insurance companies and their lawyers and adjusters will have already investigated the case from their point of view, taken witness statements, and done what they can to protect themselves. We think it is sensible for you to take steps to protect yourself, too, rather than wait until it may be too late.
What to expect from the car accident claims process
Don’t be afraid to find out your rights after a Houston car accident and pursue the compensation you deserve for your injuries. A lot of the fear that keeps victims from getting help is a simple fear of the unknown and what will happen. To help, here is a general overview of what to expect from your car accident injury claim:
- The immediate aftermath of the car accident. Your focus at this point should be on recovering from your injuries and documenting the accident. Notify the police, and notify your insurance company, and, even if your injuries are minor, it’s wise to at least have your family physician take a look at you and monitor any symptoms.
- Building a relationship with a Houston accident attorney. If you have been injured in an auto accident in Houston, you may need the help of an experienced personal injury attorney to get a truly fair settlement that covers the full cost of your car accident injuries. Make it a priority to at least speak with an attorney about your case and your rights in a free and confidential consultation—even if you don’t ultimately decide to pursue a claim or hire an attorney.
- Filing an accident injury claim. Once you’ve decided to pursue compensation, you can file a claim against the other driver’s insurance company for your injuries. If you are working with an attorney, he can handle all the details of this step and advise you on any applicable time limits.
- Waiting for the other driver to respond. After you have filed a claim, you will generally need to wait a short period for a response from the other party. The other driver may choose to admit some or all responsibility, deny responsibility, or even start a countersuit against you.
- Negotiating with the other driver’s insurance company. As you enter mediation with the other driver’s insurance company, you may find yourself sorting through complex options. The insurance company’s first offer is often insultingly low, and it sometimes takes strong evidence and clear documentation to come to an agreement on what is fair to you.
- Moving on to other options if you cannot reach a resolution. If you and your attorney are unable to negotiate a fair settlement with the other driver’s insurance company, it may be appropriate to take your case to trial. If you’re not sure if this is the right option for you, contact us today to talk it over.
When should you contact an attorney after a car accident?
If you have been involved in a car accident, you may be wondering if you need to contact an auto accident attorney. The decision to seek legal advice after a car crash depends on the details of the accident. For example, if you or any of your family members were injured during the accident, then you should seek the assistance of an experienced car accident lawyer, especially if there were permanent injuries or a significant amount of time spent away from work.
Insurance companies can be difficult to work with and it is not uncommon for a low settlement to be offered, even if there were serious injuries. Auto accident lawyers are used to working with insurance companies and can usually negotiate a better settlement than if you were to try to handle it yourself. Insurance adjusters are given a certain settlement range and they will generally start out at the low end of that range. An attorney will be able to place a value on your claim, which will help you get the compensation you deserve.
There are many types of circumstances involving car crashes that should be handled by a car accident lawyer, which include:
• Permanent injuries occurred
• There were serious injuries
• Death resulted from the accident
• Pedestrian was involved
• Accident happened in a construction zone
• Police report is inaccurate
• Insurance company is uncooperative
• Insurer involves an attorney
• Fault is apparent
Sometimes a settlement cannot be reached and a lawsuit becomes the only option to recover fair compensation for your injuries. If your auto accident case ends up in court, an attorney can build a strong argument on your behalf to help you win the lawsuit.
Even if you have already settled with your insurance company, it is possible under certain circumstances, to bring a legal action against them. The lawsuit would have to be separate from the settled claim. Typically, the insurance company will have you sign a settlement agreement that prohibits you from suing the insurer on that occurrence after the settlement has been signed and it releases them from making any further payments on that claim. However, that does not necessarily prevent you from filing a lawsuit on future claims that are different than the settled one.
Why you shouldn't give a recorded statement after a car wreck
After a traffic accident involving serious injury or wrongful death, you can expect the insurance companies to be pounding on your door (not literally, of course!) and calling you all the time for a "statement." Even though the insurance adjuster may tell you he or she is just trying to "gather up some information" or "get enough information to settle your case," the reality is that most insurance adjusters in serious accident claims are there to try to "trick" you into saying things that will hurt your case.
Be Very Careful About What You Tell the Insurance Adjuster—Especially If You Don't Have Your Own Lawyer Yet
It is generally a good idea not to give a recorded statement at all. Why? Because the insurance adjuster may be asking you "trick" questions that will hurt your case later on. If you have sustained any injuries in your auto accident, do not give a recorded statement without talking to your own lawyer first. It will definitely be used against you when you—with or without a lawyer—try to settle your claim. Even if you don't hire a lawyer, at least talk to one before you agree to give any recorded statement.
If you don't have any bodily injuries, and your only claim relates to damage to your car, then you can probably settle your claim without hiring a lawyer. This is the ONLY situation in which you may be well served to go ahead and give that recorded statement. This way, you will be paid much more quickly on your property damage claim. However, you should still talk to a lawyer before you do this.
You are not required to give a statement to the insurance adjuster
The other driver's insurance company will call and want to pressure you into giving a recorded statement. The insurance company may even tell you that, by law, you have to give a recorded statement. That is FALSE! You are under no obligation to give a recorded statement to the other driver's insurance company. Many times, the insurance company will try to convince you that you are somehow required to give a "recorded statement." This is simply not true. In fact, it may be a terrible idea to give a statement to the insurance company:
- First, insurance companies hire seasoned professionals who may try to trick you into saying something that will hurt your case.
- Second, after a serious injury or wrongful death, you may not be in a position to give an accurate and complete statement.
- Third, anything you say to the adjuster may be twisted and used against you after your injury.
Insurance adjusters are highly skilled at manipulating you into making statements that can hurt your claim down the road. Your statement is "recorded" for this very reason—they want to use it against you if you pursue your claim.
So, if you think they want your "statement" just to get information so they can pay you on your claim, try this approach: tell the adjuster you are willing to give a "statement," but you don't want it to be "recorded." See how the adjuster reacts. If the adjuster wants your statement just to get information from you, why would they need it to be recorded? Can't they just take notes of what you say? Before giving any kind of statement to the insurance company, seriously consider getting your own independent legal advice.
What Is the Insurance Company Expecting to Gain From Getting a Recorded Statement?
The other driver's insurance company is looking out for its own interests and is not looking out for what is best for you. Insurance companies know that, immediately after an accident, most people have not hired an attorney yet. Your recorded answers could be used to severely limit how much money the insurance company pays you. What are they expecting in a recorded statement? They are hoping that:
- You will say something that can later be used against you. Getting a statement on record before you understand your rights allows the insurance adjuster to potentially twist your words into something you did not mean, which will be used against you at a later time.
- They will keep you from "changing the story" later on. By getting a statement while you are still reeling from accident, or before you know the full extent of your injuries, the insurance company can argue against anything that comes up later. For example, if you didn’t know you’d injured your back in an accident until a few days or weeks later, the insurance adjuster could argue that you didn’t mention back injuries in your earlier recorded statement.
Insurance companies have become increasingly aggressive in demanding recorded statements from accident victims, even when those statements are not legally required. While we often tell clients to avoid giving a recorded statement, we understand that it can be hard to avoid—especially if the adjuster from the other driver’s insurance is getting pushy about the issue. Sometimes, it’s just hard to say “no” to the person who stands between you and payment of your medical bills.
Just remember that the insurance adjusters are professionals at this sort of thing and have extensive training in taking statements from injured people. This is why it is important to always speak with an attorney before giving a recorded statement.
How to know if the insurance company is trying to trick you
If you want to know if the insurance company is trying to trick you, ask them these questions and see what they say:
- Before you take my statements, will you admit liability, put it in writing, and have the insurance company sign the letter?
- Before you take my statement, will you promise to pay for all my medical care until I am 100% recovered, and will you put that promise in writing, too?
- Before you take my statement, may I see a copy of your investigation file for this case?
- Before you take my statement, can I take a recorded or written statement from the person who hit my car?
- Before you take my statement, will you promise to settle my claim and send the settlement check within 30 days?
Most insurance adjuster will not answer these questions or follow through with the commitments in the questions. That's because they are not really trying to help you or settle your case quickly or determine what's wrong with you so they can pay your claim. They are trying to minimize what they owe you.
What to do if you can't avoid giving a statement to the insurance company, or if you've already given a statement to the insurance company
While avoiding a statement is almost always the best choice, preparing yourself for a statement is probably the second best choice. If you feel like there is no way you can avoid giving some kind of statement to the insurance company, here are some tips:
- Speak with an attorney first. Remember that a recorded statement is probably not legally required, and victims who offer these statements before speaking with an attorney can easily wreck their claims without realizing it. If you absolutely must give a recorded statement, you can schedule a time to speak with the insurance company after you have a better understanding of your rights.
- Keep answers short and to the point. While you always want to be honest about what happened, you also don’t need to offer more information than is being asked for. Whether you are filling out the police report or talking to an insurance adjuster, keep your responses short and sweet unless you are speaking with your own legal counsel.
- Don’t guess if you don’t know. Victims may be asked to estimate details like speeds or distances while speaking to the adjuster, but it may be wise to avoid guessing if you’re not sure. Instead of feeling pressured to offer a guess, don’t be afraid to simply say that you don’t know. If you are pressed to offer an estimation or opinion, don’t be afraid to make it clear that it’s only a guess.
If you've already given a recorded statement to the insurance company, don't panic. Although it could cause some potential problems with your case, there may still be time to save your claim if you’ve already given a recorded statement. You are definitely not the first car accident victim to get talked into giving a recorded statement, and you probably won’t be the last. In fact, this is the most common mistake people make after they are in a car accident. Depending on the details of what you said and what happened, you could still build an injury claim that is stronger than the words being used against you. But you’re probably going to need help.
If you have given a recorded statement, getting compensation for your injuries may be more difficult. First, get informed about your rights so you can avoid further mistakes. Then, talk to an attorney who has experience with complicated auto accident claims. Not every case is the same, and not every attorney has experience, skills, and resources needed to take on a difficult accident case. Make sure you reach out to an attorney who can give you personalized attention, offer honest information about how the recorded statement might affect you, and has the skill and knowledge required to make sure a small mistake doesn’t become a big problem later on.
Should you believe the insurance company if they say you don't need a lawyer for your car accident claim
In their initial visit with you, insurance adjusters will try to talk you out of contacting a personal injury attorney. They may even bad-mouth lawyers in general. What they won't tell you is that, while you hang around without an attorney, the insurance company has literally hundreds of attorneys on retainer working around the clock, examining your claim for ways to minimize or even eliminate it. Some insurance companies will send letters to people involved in accidents that tell the injured person that they do not need an attorney. Since 1995, for example, Allstate has been sending a letter entitled "Do I Need an Attorney?" which makes the following misleading claims, among others:
- Claims are settled faster when a lawyer is not involved.
- Lawyers charge a percentage of recovery but, if you settle directly with Allstate, you get to keep the entire amount.
- Injury victims can hire a lawyer later if they don't like the settlement offer.
The letter includes many other statements that are misleading, half-true, or not true at all. In fact, the insurance company's own statistics prove that it costs the insurance industry an average of $9000 more per claim when the injured person has a lawyer. The reason the insurance companies try to convince people not to hire an experienced lawyer is because they know they can settle the case more cheaply if the injured person doesn't have a lawyer.
The real truth is that talking to a personal injury attorney—sooner rather than later—can only help your claim. A lawyer who is experienced in handling personal injury claims can walk you through your claim and give you a sense of the compensation you deserve after being hurt. Even if you don't wind up hiring an attorney, that initial discussion will help you be able to better navigate the claims system and obtain a better settlement. If the insurance company is trying to convince you not to hire a lawyer, you should know right away that they are trying to trick you into settling your case for pennies on the dollar. Talking to an attorney will only strengthen your claim.
How to avoid falling for insurance company tricks
Insurance companies play a game with you when you try to make your injury claim. You will never win at their game, because they made up all the rules to benefit themselves. However, there is a lot you can do to protect yourself and avoid falling for their tricks:
- Don’t delay getting medical care
- Write down everything you remember about the accident, including information about the exact accident location, weather, time of day, the presence of witnesses—anything and everything you recall.
- Get a copy of the police report.
- Don’t sign anything from the insurance company until you talk to a lawyer.
- Don’t give the insurance company a recorded statement.
- Don’t sign a blanket medical release form.
- Don’t settle quickly.
- Don’t mess around with your future and your family’s well-being—get advice and guidance from an experienced attorney before making any decisions about your case.
It isn’t about accident victims getting rich. It is about victims having enough money to pay for the months, years, or even lifetime of medical care they’ll need after a bad accident. For most serious injuries and accidents, you absolutely must consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer if you want to fight for the full worth of your claim. Once your case is in the hands of a qualified injury attorney, the insurance company can no longer play by its own made-up rules, but must abide by the rules of our legal system.
Fortunately, for the most part the rules of our civil justice system are fair to injury victims, and they are certainly much fairer than the insurance company's rules. If you believe the insurance company is using any of these tactics against you, contact an attorney right away.
Why the police report matters after a traffic accident
Most car accidents of any significance are investigated by the local police. Typically, the police officer will drive to the scene of the wreck, interview all involved drivers, interview any witnesses, inspect the vehicles, inspect the scene, and complete a written accident report that same day. While this may seem very routine, the police report can actually become a crucial document for establishing the initial facts about a wreck, especially if there is a later personal injury claim. To help clear up any confusion, here are some important things that accident victims need to understand about the police report.
What is included in a car accident police report
The police report usually includes a lot of important information, such as:
- When and where the accident happened. The officer will document the time of the accident and where it happened. This means that the police report is often referred to again and again as an official document for establishing these kinds of basic facts.
- A diagram of the scene. Many times, the investigating officer will include a rough diagram of the accident scene. For more serious auto crashes, the officer will take pictures and maybe even call in the police "accident reconstruction" team to do a detailed analysis of the crash.
- Statements from the people involved. Usually, the officer will record what each driver says about how the wreck happened. Sometimes, an officer will also document what passengers or witnesses at the scene have to say.
- The officer's conclusions. Typically, the officer will write a brief narrative of his or her opinion on how the accident happened and complete a "factors & conditions" section indicating who, or what, caused the wreck. Sometimes an officer will also record citations issued.
- Property damage. Officers will document the location and extent of the property damage to all involved vehicles, as well as indicate whether or not each vehicle was towed from the scene.
- Injuries. Police officers usually document whether anyone was hurt in the wreck, and he or she will usually also indicate the severity of any injuries.
- Ambulance transport. If anyone is taken from the accident scene by ambulance, the officer will record the ambulance company and the hospital to which the person was taken.
Why it matters what the police report says about your car accident
The police report is the first document that establishes when the accident happened, what happened, who was involved, and even who may be at fault for the wreck, making it a key document if you later decide to file an injury claim. Police officers are typically viewed as neutral parties who are doing their job, and folks usually will generally defer to what a qualified police officer has determined in his or her investigation of a car crash. The police report is also a public document, and you should understand that your statements in that report will be available to the other driver’s insurance company, the attorneys involved, and nearly anyone else who wants a copy.
This all means that it really does matter what the police report says. Unfortunately, this also means that the other driver’s insurance company gets a chance to twist your words on the report and minimize your claim based on those statements—even if it’s clear that you weren’t sure what happened and may have been in shock at the time.
Keep in mind that it is the police officer’s job to get the facts, not to help you win a later injury claim. While police and law enforcement officers are there to assist you at the scene and make sure those who are injured get transported for medical care, the responding officers are only interested in the facts. You will be asked to give facts and sometimes estimations, but you should be careful to note when you don’t know the answer or aren’t sure what to say. Don’t try to guess or give more information than is needed.
However, if the police report contradicts your case in some way, you don’t have to give up on your injury case. Many times, inconsistencies in a police report are something that an experienced attorney can handle.
What to do if the police report isn’t accurate
The police report is sometimes the most important document that comes up in cases involving accident injuries, and it’s a legitimate concern if you think the report may be inaccurate. Two of the most concerning mistakes include situations where:
- The police report faults you incorrectly. You have a good reason to be concerned about this, but your lawyer should be able to hire an expert in "accident reconstruction" who can show how the wreck was not your fault.
- The police report says you were "not injured." Of course it seems scary, but this is not something that typically destroys a car accident case. Many officers simply check "not injured" if the person does not request an ambulance. Most officers will acknowledge during questioning that they are not medical experts, and they will defer to what the doctors have to say. So, as long as your doctors support your injury case (if they don't, you don't have a case!), do not be too concerned about the officer's injury finding.
The bottom line is that it does matter what the police report says, but the report is definitely not the last word on all important case issues. An accident case is not based exclusively on what is contained in a police report, as there is so much more information out there that is important. However, there are some things you can do to make sure the document is accurate—or build supporting evidence of what really happened:
- Request a copy of the police report. You can usually get a copy of the document by contacting the police station online or by phone and paying a small fee. Once you have it, look over all the details very carefully and think about what information might be missing or misleading.
- Talk to an attorney who has experience winning accident cases for victims. If you notice discrepancies or statements that you’re worried about in the report, you can save a lot of time and headaches by contacting an experienced attorney directly. By talking over your concerns with an attorney, you can find out if the inaccuracies might be a problem and exactly what you can do to make sure it doesn’t wreck your injury case for compensation.
Should I Sign a Medical Release Form After My Vehicle Accident?
The real reason the insurance company wants you to sign the medical release form
After a serious car accident many people feel disoriented and unsure how to proceed. You may be angry, or you may want to put the crash behind you and get on with your life. In the middle of your struggle to come to terms with what happened to you, the insurance company asks you to sign a medical release form. Do you just go ahead and sign it so you can get all the paperwork out of the way? After all, what’s the big deal?
The purpose of a blanket release form is to give the company complete access to your medical records. One reason that the insurance company wants your records is to find out if you had a preexisting condition that would allow them to deny your claim. A preexisting condition is something that you suffered from before the accident. For example, the insurer could be looking to see if you have had back and neck problems before your automobile accident. That way they can argue that the back and neck pain you experienced as a result of the accident was in fact already there – even if that’s not true.
Basically the whole point of asking you for a medical release form is for the insurance company to find a way to get out of paying your medical expenses. Why else would they want access to your entire medical history? To maintain control of your personal records, you could submit copies of the relevant records yourself. However, the best thing is for you to speak with your attorney about the medical release form request and get their expert legal advice.
You are entitled to collect your own records and provide copies to the insurance company. This allows you to select the appropriate records and keep your privacy rights intact.
Why we offer a 100% free, confidential consultation about your car accident case at no obligation to you
In the aftermath of a serious car accident, you may not be sure where to turn with your questions - or even what to ask when you get there. While you may not be ready to commit to hiring an attorney for your case right away, you need help figuring out how to get started with your claim, what your rights really are, and how to handle the other driver’s insurance company while you sort out everything.You know you need immediate answers - that time is not on your side.
Fortunately, there is a fast and simple way to get the answers you need in the overwhelming first moments that follow a car accident, and you are under no obligation for taking advantage of it.
Our office offers a completely free, easy, and confidential case review, which is specifically meant to help car accident victims get the information they need. Even if you aren’t sure what to ask, our experienced Houston car accident attorneys will walk you through what you need to know and answer the questions that are likely on your mind, including:
- Do I really need a Houston car accident attorney after I’ve been injured?
- Is it really worth it to file an accident injury claim?
- Can any attorney handle my case?
- How can I protect my rights while I consider my options?
- What options are actually available to me?
If you or a family member have been seriously injured in an accident, you can start getting no-obligation answers today.