Archive for August 4th, 2010

Metro fires driver after fatal car accident in Houston

A fatal accident occurred  earlier this week involving a Metropolitan Transit Authority wrecker driver and a 64-year old woman whose identity has not been released.  Metro has since fired its driver Gregory Clark who failed a Federal Transit Administration– required alcohol test following the Tuesday August 3, 2010 accident. Clark’s wrecker was in service but was not hauling a bus at the time of the collision. The wrecker crashed into the female victim’s car at Scott Street and the south 610 Loop in Houston. The woman and her passenger were taken to Ben Taub General Hospital where the woman died. Metro and the Harris County District Attorney’s Office are working together to determine if criminal charges will be brought against Clark. Metro has stated that Clark was suspended for three days in May because he was found off his route. The Houston Chronicle’s story is here.

Do I need a personal injury attorney for my car accident?

Ultimately the decision must be your own as to whether you decide to retain a personal injury attorney to represent you for a car accident case (or any other injury case). A good personal injury attorney will give you a free consultation and will be up front with you about what an attorney can and cannot do for you.  At the end of the consultation you should feel that you understand what is involved in presenting a personal injury or car accident claim and how the process works. You should not feel pressured to sign up with an attorney simply because they met with you and gave a free consultation.  You should be able to make an informed decision about retaining an attorney.

Something you might consider in weighing whether to have representation is who is “on the other side” of your claim. In the great majority of instances you will be dealing with representatives of an insurance company (“adjusters”) who have handled many hundreds if not thousands of claims similar to yours.  Smith & Hassler’s attorneys and support staff routinely represent clients’ interests in claims made with insurers such as Allstate, State Farm, Progressive, Farmers, Liberty Mutual, Safeco, Zurich, Fred Loya, Mercury, USAA, Texas Farm Bureau, Germania and many others.

Insurance adjusters have an advantage over you in that they are very experienced in handling injury claims.  You on the other hand have probably been in one or two automobile accidents your entire life, and find the claims process frustrating and cumbersome, largely because you are not familiar with your rights under the applicable laws.  Bias aside, insurance companies and the adjusters that work for them have a financial incentive to pay you as small a settlement as possible.  Here is a link to a special report by CNN’s Anderson Cooper on how major auto insurers such as Allstate and State Farm play hardball with people making injury claims under their policies.

Insurance companies profit when they collect insurance premiums from their policyholders.  Paying claims eats into those profits, therefore what do you think an insurance company would rather pay you on your claim: fair value or as little as they can get away with?  Having an experienced, knowledgeable personal injury attorney on your side helps keep the insurance company honest and increases the likelihood you will be fairly compensated for your injuries and losses.

A good personal injury firm will make themselves available to answer your questions during the lifespan of your injury claim and will promptly return calls.  Research has shown that clients’ number one pet peeve is unreturned calls.  Your personal injury attorney ideally will handle the administrative burdens of your claim, such as gathering your medical bills and records from your medical providers, documenting lost income and if the claim is to be settled negotiating reductions of outstanding medical bills when possible.

Most personal injury attorneys, including Smith & Hassler, work on a contingent fee arrangement where the attorneys are paid for their work only if the client recovers.  For that reason the attorney and client’s interests are truly aligned and the attorney and client are in a sense partners.  For that reason there is great value to getting recommendations from friends, family and co-workers who have retained a personal injury attorney and been satisfied.