Archive for September, 2011

Jose Alberto Arreola and Osbaldo Avila killed in Montgomery County car accident

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Sep 2011
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KHOU is reporting a one-car accident in Montgomery County that has claimed the lives of three Porter High School students and injured two others. 17-year old Juan Manuel Velasquez was driving a white Honda Accord south on Sorters Road at South Plantation Estates at around 3:03pm on Wednesday September 28, 2011 when he lost control, crossed the roadway and the vehicle flipped over striking a tree. Juan Manuel Velasquez, 17, died at Kingwood Hospital. Two passengers also died in the accident: Jose Alberto Arreola age 17 was pronounced dead at the scene of the wreck and Osbaldo Avila age 18 died at Memorial Hermann Medical Center. Two other passengers, Joel Jonalie Alarcon (17) and Julian Avila (16) were listed as being in good condition at Kingwood Medical Center. It appears that excessive speed was a factor in causing the collision. Channel 2’s coverage of this tragedy is available here. Channel 13’s report is available here. The Houston Chronicle’s story is available here.

13 injured when school bus rear ends vehicle on Beltway 8

27
Sep 2011
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Channel 2 News is reporting that 13 people have been injured in an accident involving a school bus. According to the article, the privately owned school bus struck the rear of another vehicle which caused a multi-vehicle chain reaction style collision.  The wreck happened at around 8:00am on Tuesday September 27 on north beltway 8 at Greens Crossing. A total of 13 people were taken to Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital, Doctors Hospital and Northwest Medical Center. The school bus is owned by AFC Transportation – the story did not state which school(s) the students on the bus attended. AFC Transportation’s web site refers to the company providing contracted school bus services for Awty International School Houston, The Village School in West Houston and the University of Houston. Hopefully none of the kids involved were seriously hurt.

Diana DeLeon killed by hit and run driver on Highway 249

Diana DeLeon has been identified as a pedestrian who was hit and killed by a hit-and-run driver on Highway 249 near Perry Road. Diana was hit at around 2:00am while walking eastbound on the inside lane in the 2100 block of Highway 249. Sadly she died at the scene. The car is described as a small, black four-door car that should have front end damage. Anyone with information should contact the Harris County Sheriff’s Office at 713-674-5393 and help bring the hit-and-run driver to justice.

Drunk driver involved in serious accident on US290 at 34th Street

26
Sep 2011
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Early on Sunday September 25th a driver police say was intoxicated was involved in a serious two car collision at US290 and 34th Street. A black pickup truck crashed into a red-colored SUV: the driver of the SUV was intoxicated. An occupant of one of the vehicles was ejected in the crash and was taken to hospital with life-threatening injuries. Another person was taken to the hospital with a head injury. Channel 13’s story is here and according to Channel 13, one driver died in the collision.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) car accidents seem to happen every single night in the Houston area and throughout Harris County.  Sadly Harris County Texas ranks among the highest counties in the nation for drunk driving fatalities and drunk driving accident injuries year after year.  Drunk driving car accidents often create even more complications for the victim than a regular car accident: insurance companies usually won’t pay a claim or provide a rental car until they speak to their insured driver and get their version of what happened. The insurance company can’t do that if their insured was charged with DWI and is in jail. Call Smith & Hassler if you have been injured by a drunk driver’s gross negligence and ask for speak to one of our personal injury attorneys right now.  Smith & Hassler aggressively pursues claims against drunk drivers.

Stephen Loyd Hudetts charged for leaving scene of fatal concrete truck v motorcycle accident

KHOU is reporting that 60-year old Stephen Loyd Hudetts of Dickinson, Texas has been accused of leaving the scene of a fatal accident involving a concrete truck and a motorcyclist.  Motorcyclist Wallace Trexler, aged 53 of Santa Fe, Texas was found deceased at around 5:00am on September 12 in the 200 block of Delaney Road near the southbound I-45 entrance in La Marque, Texas. Video surveillance helped police track down Hudetts, whose bond has been set at $25,000. KHOU’s story is available here. The Galveston Daily News’ story is here. The Galveston Daily News states that the concrete truck belongs to Kelso Concrete which is based in Galveston, and that management of Kelso are cooperating with the police investigation.

Stephen Loyd Hudetts has been charged in the hit-and-run death of motorcyclist Wallace Trexler

If you have lost a family member due to the negligence of another, contact the wrongful death attorneys at Smith & Hassler. In the more than 20-years Smith & Hassler has existed in the Houston area, the Smith & Hassler firm has handled many wrongful death cases from 18-wheeler accidents to food poisoning incidents and we understand the special attention wrongful death cases require. You can arrange a free consultation with a Smith & Hassler Houston personal injury attorney for your wrongful death claim, either in-person or by phone.

Chavon Frank charged with intoxication manslaughter in W. Fuqua hit and run

Sadly there is yet another drunk driving accident fatality to report in Houston. Last night a woman driving a Toyota Corolla westbound on W. Fuqua at White Heather in southwest Houston around 9:15pm hit a young man and woman crossing the street: the driver of the Corolla ran a red light immediately before striking the couple. Shockingly, after striking the pedestrian the Corolla driver dragged the female for an additional 50-yards before coming to a stop. Rather than check on the people she had hit, the driver then jumped out of her car near Hiram Clarke and tried to run into a wooded area, but fortunately a witness chased her down and detained her until police arrived. Family and friends of the victims were present at the scene and were extremely emotional as they tried to learn if it was their loved ones who had been struck, but police officers would not allow them to get close to the crime scene. A young man asked a witness if the female who was struck was wearing a gray jumper: when he was told she was, the young man fell to the ground crying. The male and female who were killed were both in their 20’s.  The driver of the Toyota Corolla was taken into custody by police on suspicion of drunk driving, is currently in jail and is facing two counts of intoxication manslaughter. A story on Channel 2’s web site identifies the driver of the Corolla as 30-year old Chavon Frank. The dark gray-colored Toyota Corolla shows heavy front end damage:

What a terrible loss for the family and friends of the two innocent victims of the this driver’s selfish decision to drive drunk. FOX News’ story is available here. Channel 13’s coverage of the drunk driving accident is here. The Houston Chronicle’s story is here. Channel 2’s coverage is here.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) car accidents seem to happen every single night in the Houston area and throughout Harris County.  Sadly Harris County Texas ranks among the highest counties in the nation for drunk driving fatalities and drunk driving accident injuries year after year.  Drunk driving car accidents often create even more complications for the victim than a regular car accident: insurance companies usually won’t pay a claim or provide a rental car until they speak to their insured driver and get their version of what happened. The insurance company can’t do that if their insured was charged with DWI and is in jail. Call Smith & Hassler if you have been injured by a drunk driver’s gross negligence and ask for speak to one of our personal injury attorneys right now.  Smith & Hassler aggressively pursues claims against drunk drivers.

Car stalled on 290 causes 8 vehicle chain reaction wreck

21
Sep 2011
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Channel 2 is reporting that 8 vehicles were involved in a chain reaction collision that temporarily shut down US 290 this morning. The accident happened at around 6:20am on westbound US290 near 43rd street. Apparently a vehicle that had engine trouble had stalled in the middle lane and vehicle traveling behind could not stop in time, which resulted in a chain reaction style rear-end collision. The stalled vehicle that initiated the sequence of events apparently left the scene and witnesses were unable to give police a description of the vehicle. Two people were taken to hospital with reportedly minor injuries and no citations were issued according to the article.

Unsure of how to handle an insurance claim for personal injuries you have suffered in a car accident?  Don’t rely on the insurance adjuster handling your claim for advice…they have a conflict of interest! The less adjusters pay on injury claims, the more profitable their company remains. Insurance adjusters want to settle automobile accident injury claims as quickly as possible so they can cut-off the insurance company’s liability for additional medical bills and close their file.  Since Smith & Hassler was founded in 1989 by Michael Smith and Al Hassler, this law firm has practiced exclusively in the area of personal injury and has handled thousands of car accident injury cases.  Call Smith & Hassler for a free consultation AS SOON AS YOU CAN AFTER YOUR CAR ACCIDENT—get advice from someone with your best interests at heart.  There is no charge for an initial consultation with one of our personal injury attorneys.

Car accident at HPD academy injures seven

20
Sep 2011
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There was a two vehicle wreck on the training track at the Houston Police Department academy this morning. The academy is in the 17000 block of Aldine Westfield, and the accident happened just after 9:00am. Visiting law enforcement officials from China were at the track and were participating in the training exercise when the wreck happened. Two HPD squad cars were on the track, each carrying a Chinese official and an unknown number of police officers. One officer driving a patrol car attempted a J-turn and crashed into the other vehicle. As a precaution the victims of the crash were transported to the hospital, though fortunately none of the injuries are thought to be life-threatening. The video clip below is from KHOU and shows fairly severe rear-end damage to one of the cruisers. Looks like somebody is going to be buying the donuts for the next few shifts.

2 killed in high speed single car accident when Camaro wrecks on Bering in Houston

19
Sep 2011
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FOX News Houston is reporting a single car crash that killed both the driver and a passenger. The crash was witnessed by an off duty police officer. The wreck happened at around 2:30am Sunday September 18, 2011 when the new-style white-colored Chevrolet Camaro tore through a 30 MPH zone at an estimated 80 MPH. The Camaro was traveling south on Bering when it hit a curb near Doliver then collided with a light pole and a brick wall. The female driver and the male passenger both died at the scene: the male passenger was ejected from the Camaro during the collision. The medical examiner’s office will test the female driver for alcohol. A photograph of the wrecked Camaro shows extremely heavy front-end damage.

If you, a friend or a family member have been injured in a car accident, Smith & Hassler’s experienced personal injury attorneys are available to give you a free consultation either in-person or by phone.  Sometimes people injured in car accident wait before consulting an attorney. They have good intentions: not wanting to seem “sue happy,” waiting to see if their injuries will get better or because an insurance adjuster is discouraging them from seeking legal advice (that happens).  It is better to know your rights early in the process and have an experienced Houston personal injury attorney explain the steps involved in car accident injury claim and what you can do NOW to increase the chances of a good outcome.

Health insurance liens and personal injury settlements

If you were injured in an accident that was caused by the negligence of a third party, and some or all of your bills are paid by health insurance, your health insurance company may claim a lien against any insurance settlement you get from the third party that injured you.  Basically the health insurance company wants to get their money back out of the settlement.  Their lien would be up to the amount they paid toward your medical bills (but no more than that).

There are two types of health insurance plan: ERISA plans and non-ERISA plans.  The fundamental difference between the two types is who ultimately pays the bills.  In an ERISA plan the medical bills are paid by the employer providing the health insurance coverage, but the plan may be administered by someone like Blue Cross Blue Shield, Aetna or Humana.  In an ERISA plan the health insurance company (e.g. Aetna) administers the plan and handles claims, but at the end of the day the employer pays for the medical treatment.  In a non-ERISA plan, the health insurer (not the employer) pays for the treatment.

The difference between ERISA and non-ERISA health insurance plans matters because as a matter of federal law, an ERISA health insurance plan is entitled to dollar-for-dollar reimbursement of their lien out of the third party settlement proceeds.  Put another way, if an ERISA plan pays $1,000 on a hospital bill you have due to a car accident, the plan is entitled to get paid back $1,000 out of your car accident settlement, and if they don’t want to reduce their $1,000 lien they don’t have to.  If a non-ERISA plan however, the health insurer is more likely to agree to reduce the lien.

Health insurance companies are able to take out a lien against your recovery because they wrote subrogation language into your health insurance contract.  Your health insurance contract is probably many, many pages in length.  Buried somewhere in the contract is a subrogation clause that says, in essence, that if the health insurance plan pays your bills because a third party injured you, the plan is entitled to get reimbursed out of any settlement you get from the third party. Health insurers usually use a third party service to administer their liens, such as ACS Recovery, Benefit Recovery, The Rawlings Group and others.

Health insurance companies do not always pursue their lien by notifying the injured person’s attorney or the third party’s health insurance company however.

Please note that special rules apply if medical bills are paid by Medicare or Medicaid as opposed to other private health insurance.  Medicare and Medicaid liens must be paid out of the third party settlement proceeds, and if the third party’s insurance company (GEICO, Allstate, etcetera) thinks there may be a Medicare or Medicaid lien, they will not release any settlement proceed without something in writing stating the amount of Medicare or Medicaid’s lien, or alternatively they will name Medicare or Medicaid on the settlement check.