Archive for the ‘Auto Accident’ Category

5 Things to Expect in the Days Following a Crash

Houston auto accident attorneyIf you have a driver’s license, you likely know the standard procedures to follow after a crash: exchange insurance information, call the police, get medical attention and report the crash to your insurance company. What about the aftermath of a crash? Even after following the standard procedures, pursuing a car accident claim can be complicated and overwhelming.

That’s why it’s important to know what to expect in the days that follow. Here’s what you should know.

1. You may be in shock

You may feel absolutely nothing after a crash. If your crash was serious, the feeling as if nothing happened may be unsettling. This is actually quite normal and often a result of being in shock. A crash can traumatic. You may have adrenaline running through your body, making it difficult to process what just happened.

2. Physical and emotional stress after the shock wears off

Once the shock begins to wear off, you may experience a wave of physical and emotional stress. In addition, emotions such as anger, pain, guilt, and even fear of driving may begin to surface. In time, this can turn into physical pain, especially if you sustained an injury that didn’t produce any immediate symptoms. Delayed reactions such as this is why you should always seek immediate medical attention after a crash.

3. A long list of things to do

The days after a crash can be messy. You have paperwork to handle, medical appoints to schedule, and insurance red tape to deal with. In addition, your car may need to be towed to an automotive shop for repair. While some shops may provide you with a loaner car, not all do. You may have to be issued a rental car from your insurance company, which could cost you upfront money out of pocket until you are reimbursed.

4. The other driver’s insurance company will contact you

It’s inevitable. You will receive a call from the other driver’s insurance company. They may either be pushy and try to pin the blame on you, or they may be friendly and try to offer to a small settlement. They are not your friend and are only looking to protect their own bottom line. They know that they can save more money in the long run if you take a lowball settlement. They’ll ask you trick questions in hopes that you’ll provide answers that can later be used against you.

It’s important that you refrain from speaking to them. The only insurance company you should speak to is your own, and even then, the details you provide should be minimal. If the insurance companies have any further questions, an experienced car accident attorney can answer on your behalf.

5. You will need legal representation

Car accident claims are highly complex and often create further stress for crash victims. Having a highly-skilled attorney in your corner can help ease some of that stress.

The only thing you have to do is set up your free case evaluation with Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law. Contact us to schedule one today.

6 Pieces of Evidence to Collect After a Car Wreck

Houston auto accident attorneyToo many people attempt to pursue a car accident claim without first gathering important evidence after a car wreck – especially when it’s not a catastrophe. Even a minor fender bender can result in whiplash or some other injury that may not produce any immediate symptoms. That’s why it’s critical that you always collect these six recommended pieces of evidence after a crash. They can be helpful when it comes time to file a personal injury claim against the at-fault party and his or her insurance company.

Information from the other parties involved in a crash

Taking down the names and phone numbers of all parties involved in a crash is essential but there is more information you should get, including the other person’s address, license number and car registration. You should always exchange insurance information, including policy numbers.

Details of other vehicles involved in a crash

Always gather information on the other car. Document the year, make and model; license plate number; and VIN number. The VIN can be found where dashboard and windshield meet.

Information regarding the responding law enforcement officer

Always call the police after a crash, even if it’s just a fender bender. Document the officer’s name and badge number and ask him how you can obtain the crash report. This document highly sought after in car accident claims and can help you in the long run.

Crash scene photos

If it’s safe to do so, you should always take photos of the crash scene from different angles. Be sure to snap pictures of car locations, skid marks in the road, and any damage to nearby buildings or structures.

Statements from witnesses

Witness statements are very helpful in car accident claims. If there are any witnesses available at the scene of a crash, take down their names and phone numbers.

Details of the crash scene

While at the crash scene, it’s important to document specific information regarding the location, directions in which cars were traveling and situated, the road and weather conditions, and other factors that may have lead to the crash. You may take note of these details or take photos and videos. If a police officer arrives at the crash scene, he or she will also document these details in the crash report.

You’ve followed all the recommended steps. Now what?

So you were involved in a crash and followed all the recommended steps. Now there are only two people you should share the evidence with: your insurance company and an experienced Houston car accident attorney. You are required to report your crash to your insurance company within a certain time frame but only provide the required details. Everything else should be discussed with your attorney.

Let the legal team at Smith and Hassler Attorneys at Law handle your claim. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation and operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning you only pay if you win. Contact us today to learn more.

3 People to Talk to After a Car Wreck — and the 2 People to Avoid

Houston auto accident attorney

Following a car wreck, figuring out the people you may have to talk to can be confusing and overwhelming. The people you discuss your crash with seem friendly and trustworthy, but how do you know who is really looking out for your best interests? More importantly, how do you know who to trust — and who to avoid?

Our Texas car accident lawyers recommend the three people you should talk to after a crash, as well as the people you should not speak to.

Who you MUST talk to

Your insurance company

Under the terms of your auto insurance policy, you must promptly notify your insurance company of a collision, even if you are not planning on making a claim with your own insurance company. Stick to the facts, but be cautious not to provide too many details, because anything you say could be used against you to reduce compensation or deny your claim. If possible, speak with an attorney before contacting your insurance company.

The police

Even if you were involved in a minor crash, it’s always a good idea to call the police. An officer will examine the scene and provide a non-biased police report, which is absolutely key to pursuing a successful car accident claim. A police officer will make sure any on-scene disputes are settled and all parties are treated fairly.

Your doctor

When pursuing a personal injury claim after a car wreck, a consultation with your doctor can make a big difference. Even if you feel OK after a crash, you should always seek medical attention. Conditions that don’t produce any immediate symptoms can still be serious. Most commonly, the symptoms of whiplash and concussions may take time to materialize. One of the biggest mistakes people make is believing they can just walk it off. Not only can immediately consulting with a doctor prevent a lot of future complications, it can connect your injuries to the crash, which is key to being compensated for medical bills.

Who you should NOT to talk to

DON’T talk to the other driver

We’re not suggesting that you ignore the other driver after a crash. You must trade your insurance information, name, and phone number with the other driver. It is important, however, not to discuss details as to why the crash occurred. You could slip up and say the wrong thing, which can later be used against you.

Even if a crash appears to be your fault, or involved some contributory negligence, only a thorough investigation can determine the cause.

DON’T talk to the other insurance company!

One of the biggest mistakes people make after a crash is talking to the other driver’s insurance company. They will likely contact you and may pretend to be on your side. These tactics are meant to convince you to say the wrong thing, which can later be used to hurt your claim. They may also try to get you to accept a settlement offer, which only covers a small portion of your medical expenses and lost wages. Don’t fall for it.

It’s best to not talk to the other driver’s insurance company at all. If they try to contact you or ask you any questions, it’s important that you first consult with an attorney.

The person you should ALWAYS talk to!

The experienced Texas car accident lawyers at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law can make sure you meet all your insurance form deadlines and help you find the right doctor. They’re also the best line of defense against harassment and unfair accusations of negligence from the other driver’s insurance company. Just refer them to your car accident attorney from Smith and Hassler, and we’ll handle the rest.

Legal services at Smith and Hassler are free unless we win your case. Our payment comes out of your settlement – there are no out-of-pocket costs.

Don’t hesitate. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

Attorneys on How a Change in Driving Culture Can Prevent Accidents

Houston auto accident attorneyAs part of its Out of Control series, the Houston Chronicle cites 640 deaths and 2,850 injuries on Houston-area roads in 2017. The staggering number of devastating crashes is attributed to a culture of “speed and convenience” that sees traffic accidents as an acceptable norm.

Dangerous driving behavior doesn’t always involve driving under the influence of alcohol or taking outrageous risks on the road. In most cases, it involves cumulative habits of inattentiveness and failing to comply with traffic laws often deemed trivial.

Most drivers who have developed poor habits behind the wheel are under the impression that a serious crash will never happen to them. Many of them have been driving distracted or ignoring traffic laws for years without any issues.

According to a “Traffic Safety Culture” survey conducted by the American Automobile Association (AAA) in 2017, nearly 45 percent of respondents admitted to reading text messages or emails while driving within the past 30 days. Moreover, nearly 35 percent admitted to sending text messages or emails while driving during the same time period.

It should be of no surprise that the survey also found that more than more than 21 percent of participants reported having been in a traffic accident in which at least one party had to go to the hospital. More than 11 percent were seriously injured themselves.

In 2018, the greater Houston area saw a 20 percent reduction in traffic fatalities, most notably due to programs that addressed driver awareness, quicker responses to highway accidents, and a decline in impaired driving.

In order to continue this upward trend, the Chronicle article suggests the following driving practices:

  • Paying attention to driving only
  • Reducing speed around potential hazards and blind corners
  • Maintaining a safe following distance from other vehicles
  • Looking out for pedestrians in crosswalks
  • Pulling over and taking a rest if drowsy
  • Wearing seat belts
  • Driving sober

In addition to practicing these safety habits, motorists should develop a new mindset towards driving. Rather than accept that accidents will simply happen, drivers can focus on what they can do to keep our roads safer.

Unfortunately, the message won’t reach everyone. There will always be some drivers who will continue to engage in distracted behavior, drug and alcohol impairment, and overall recklessness. That doesn’t mean you should have to pay for the negligent actions of others.

If you or a loved one sustained injures in a crash, don’t wait to act. An experienced Houston auto accident attorney at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law would be glad to sit down with you and discuss your legal options. To learn how we can help, contact us today.

Attorneys Offer Best Ways to Avoid Crashes Caused by Road Debris

Houston auto accident attorneyYou don’t always see it coming. Objects, small and large, laying in Houston’s roadways that simply don’t belong there. Road debris can include small metal objects that cause tire blowouts. They can also be larger objects that obstruct traffic – causing drivers to stop abruptly or swerve.

Road debris, a growing danger

ABC 113 Eyewitness News reports that road debris is a growing problem in Houston. Robert Henry, a member of the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) road debris cleanup crew, says, “Daily, we pick up anywhere between 2 to 5 cubic yards of material.”

Cleanup crews have found furniture, kids’ items, household appliances, tires and tire treads. Within the last six months, several traffic accidents or near accidents were attributed to road debris.

AAA reports that from 2011-2014, road debris was a contributing factor in over 200,000 traffic accidents, with 39,000 injuries, and 500 fatalities.

In order to stay clear of road debris, TxDOT and AAA suggest that drivers:

  • Remain alert, avoid distracted driving, and keep both hands on the wheel
  • Maintain a safe following distance of at least 2-3 cars, in case debris falls off a vehicle
  • Don’t swerve or over-correct – this is the cause of almost 37% of road-debris related fatal crashes

Who can be held accountable in crashes related to road debris?

In many cases when debris is dropped on Houston roadways, the owner of the vehicle is unaware of it and continues driving. When an item falls out of the back of another vehicle, it can strike the vehicles that follow. Some objects can even pierce through the windshield and injure vehicle occupants. In this case, the vehicle and driver can be identified and held accountable for improperly loading cargo.

If debris is left on the road for a long period of time without a known source, the local or state municipality in charge of clearing debris from the road may be responsible. Municipal negligence only applies if the debris was already identified but nothing was done to clear it.

If you have been involved in an auto accident due to road debris, it’s important to speak to an experienced Houston attorney who knows how to handle complex cases such as yours. Identifying where negligence occurred may take some digging. This includes extracting evidence from a detailed police report, witness statements, and possibly surveillance camera footage.

Let the legal team at Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law work for you. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Our Attorneys Discuss Rear-End Accidents & Whiplash

Houston auto accident attorneyAmong the most common types of car accidents are rear-end collisions. Often, these crashes are caused by distracted driving and speeding. The resulting collision can leave victims injured. The most common injuries are whiplash, pinched nerves, and fractured vertebrae. 

The symptoms of whiplash may not appear until days after a collision. This makes it crucial to document a rear-end accident thoroughly and seek immediate medical attention, even if it appears minor. This will provide you with a record of how your crash occurred and the injuries you sustained, which can later be used to support your claim.   

What is whiplash?

Whiplash happens when the spinal cord’s normal curvature experiences a sudden change, such as the rapid backward and forward movement seen in a rear-end accident. Even in low speed collisions, this movement can damage joints, muscle tissue, and tendons. In severe accidents, whiplash can fracture bones and tear muscle tissue. Nerves are likely to get pinched between bones, causing pain to spread to other parts of the body. 

What are the symptoms?

Whiplash is experienced differently by everyone, even people in similar accidents. Multiple factors are at play, including the position the victim was sitting in, their physique, and the angle of the collision. You should visit a doctor soon after being involved in any auto accident, even if you feel fine. Signs of whiplash can potentially be delayed by weeks. Symptoms include:  

  • Tightness and spasms in the neck, back, and shoulders 
  • Dizziness (also a symptom of a concussion) 
  • Pain when moving neck and/or head 
  • Difficulty swallowing, chewing, and hoarseness when speaking can be symptoms of damage to the throat  
  • Burning, tingling, and other abnormal sensations 
  • Upper back pain  

Treatment options 

When visiting a doctor following a rear-end accident, there are multiple tools at their disposal to diagnose injuries. X-rays can locate bone fractures and a herniated disc or other significant ligament injuries can be found using a CT scan or MRI. With proper treatment, most cases of whiplash result in a full recovery.  

Your doctor will likely recommend one or more of the following treatments:  

  • Remaining active 
  • Temporary use of a soft cervical collar (brace)  
  • Medications to reduce pain, swelling, and muscle spasms.   
  • Physical therapy  

Not all cases of whiplash are preventable. However, wearing your seatbelt, proper headrest positioning, and correct posture can reduce your chances in the event of an accident.  

If you were involved in a rear-end accident and are suffering from whiplash, you deserve justice. Contact Smith & Hassler to fight for the compensation you deserve after your accident.

Head-On Collisions On Houston Roads: Our Attorneys Discuss

Houston auto accident attorney

When two vehicles traveling in opposite directions crash into each other, you have a head-on collision. They don’t happen often on Houston roads, but when they do, they can result in life-threatening or fatal injuries.  

Head-on collisions can often be difficult to predict and thus difficult to evade. They usually happen on undivided roadways with frequent curves, especially in rural areas. However, they can happen on busy city streets as well. 

Head-on collisions are most commonly caused by:  

  • Distracted drivers 
  • Drunk or drug-impaired drivers 
  • Drowsy drivers 
  • Tire blowouts 
  • Brake failure 
  • Loose wheels 
  • Inclement weather 
  • Negligent passing 

The higher the impact, the more severe the injuries  

According to The Car Crash Detective, severe or fatal injuries are highly likely in a head-on collision on roads with a speed limit higher than 43 mph. While your vehicle’s front end, seatbelt, and airbag may absorb much of the impact in a head-on collision, they can only do so much to protect you.  

Additionally, the damage in a head-on collision at an impact of 80 mph can be four times more devastating than one that occurs at 40 mph. That’s because your vehicle’s front-end frame and interior safety features will no longer be effective at that speed.  

Your vehicle could be crushed and you could be trapped inside. Even worse, a high-impact head-on collision could cause you to be ejected from your vehicle. If you survive, you’re likely to sustain:  

  • Broken bones 
  • Severe head injuries 
  • Cuts, bruises and lacerations 
  • Severe internal organ damage 
  • Permanent nerve damage 
  • Severe spinal injuries 
  • Damage to limbs 
  • Paralysis 
  • Mental and emotional trauma 

The aftermath of a head-on collision 

Recovering from a head-on collision can be a lengthy, costly and emotionally exhausting process. You will most likely endure months of physical therapy, pain medication and surgery. The damage can be so severe that you may never be the same again.  

When filing a crash claim, you will need the help of an experienced Houston auto accident attorney. That’s because determining which party was at fault in a head-on collision can be very difficult.  

The driver who struck you may have been distracted, driving recklessly, or driving impaired. Perhaps the other driver was side-swiped by another vehicle in a multi-lane road. Or a vehicle defect caused your head-on collision.  

The attorneys at Smith & Hassler will work tirelessly to investigate your crash and use crucial evidence to support your claim. Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation. 

Can Reducing the Speed Limit In Houston Prevent Fatal Accidents?

Houston auto accident attorneyIn greater Houston, we have posted speed limits for a reason –  to protect the safety of all road users. However, some drivers fail to uphold their duty of care. Even if speeding drivers are skilled and attentive behind the wheel, their actions can put countless lives at risk.  

Accident victims are often faced with lengthy recovery times, expensive medical bills, and lost wages. In more extreme cases, innocent drivers can be fatally injured.  

Speed kills

Excessive speeding was a factor in a recent fatal accident in Harris County. The accident happened when one driver sped through a red light and struck another driver making a turn. Both the at-fault driver and the driver of the vehicle that was struck died in the crash. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 2016 had approximately 10,111 speed-related deaths, which accounted for 27 percent of all traffic fatalities for that year.  

Exceeding the posted speed limit can be especially dangerous because:  

  • Drivers are more likely to lose control of their vehicles 
  • Stopping to avoid a crash requires more distance 
  • Crash severity increases with speed 

A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) suggests that cities across the U.S. should reduce their speed limits in order to prevent accidents.  

The study’s focal point was on Boston, which reduced its speed limit from 30 mph to 25 mph on municipal roads and dense areas in 2017. In comparison to similar roads in Providence, RI (which did not reduce its speed limit) the study found that drivers in Boston: 

  • Were 29.3% less likely to exceed 35 mph 
  • Were 8.5% less likely to exceed 30 mph 
  • Were 2.9% less likely to exceed 25 mph 

Finding solutions

As part of the Vision Zero program, some cities have already reduced their speed limits. In 2017, Texas legislators filed House Bill 1368, which would reduce the default speed limit in cities across the state from 30 mph to 25 mph. However, the bill is still pending in committee. 

Similarly, transportation experts in Houston are considering taking a variable stance on posted speed limits on Houston highways. According to Beverly Kuhn, a senior research engineer at Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute, safety experts have proposed having adjustable speed limits on Houston highways using electric signs. This means the speed limit would increase or decrease depending on the road conditions or the amount of traffic congestion.  

If you or a loved one was injured in a crash caused by excessive speeding, you may be entitled to compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering. An experienced Houston auto accident attorney can vigorously fight to hold negligent drivers accountable, so you and your family can recover.  

Contact Smith & Hassler Attorneys At Law today to schedule a free, confidential case evaluation.

How the Roads of Houston Can Be Made Safer By Wrong-Way Driving Prevention Measures

Houston auto accident attorneyTechnology is being used in many new and exciting ways to make the roads of America safer for drivers, passengers, and other road users. New vehicles are being equipped with crash avoidance technology such as lane drift alerts, lane assist technology, cross-traffic cameras, and other warning sensors.

Now, technology is being used to identify and alert wrong-way drivers in order to reduce the risk that they will cause a collision.

The Causes of Wrong-way Driving Accidents

Wrong-way driving is “first and foremost a driver behavior issue,” according to one official at the Arizona Department of Transportation who spoke with ITS International. This official also reported that more than two out of every three wrong-way driving accidents in Arizona are caused by impaired drivers.

Often, the driver’s blood alcohol content is twice the legal limit or more. This is a driving behavior that must be addressed independently. Luckily, the good work of powerful advocacy organizations and government traffic safety agencies has been effective at addressing the problem of impaired driving across America. This must continue if the number of wrong-way accidents caused by impaired drivers is to be effectively reduced.

Other driver behaviors can also lead to wrong-way accidents. Here in Houston, one driver intentionally traveled the wrong way while fleeing from the police. The Houston Chronicle reports that the driver had caused a rollover accident before fleeing from the scene and leading police on a high-speed pursuit. She drove the wrong way on Highway 59, where speeds reached 100 miles per hour. She was eventually stopped before anyone could be injured. This was an incredibly lucky outcome in a situation that “could have been so much worse,” according to the Patton Village police chief. The driver was arrested on charges of both DUI with a prior conviction and fleeing from police.

This bad situation could easily have caused injury or death to other drivers in the area. In addition to the initial decision to drink and drive, the driver also chose to further endanger the public by leading police on a wrong-way, high-speed pursuit. This is the kind of driving behavior that cannot go unpunished.

In addition to criminal charges and administrative consequences (such as fines, fees, or a driver’s license suspension), it is important that victims hold negligent drivers accountable for their conduct through the civil court process. This can consist of filing a personal injury claim with the driver’s insurance company or filing a civil lawsuit against the impaired driver. Both of these processes provide important financial consequences to deter dangerous driving behaviors in the future.

Our Houston auto accident attorneys know just how devastating a wrong-way accident can be. It is important that victims protect their right to be compensated for all injuries and losses incurred as the result of a wrong-way accident. It is also important to hold negligent drivers accountable for their dangerous conduct (even if they were not impaired) in order to prevent future injuries to other innocent victims.

Recovering Damages in Houston Hit-and-Run Accidents

Houston auto accident attorneyTexas is among the most dangerous in the nation when it comes to hit-and-run accident deaths.

Valley Central reports that Texas hit-and-run-accident deaths are up 30 percent in the last two years. Nationwide, AAA reports that nearly 700,000 hit-and-run crashes have occurred each year for the last decade, with about two-thirds of those killed being either bicyclists or pedestrians.

Texas Transportation Code § 550.022 requires anyone involved in a traffic accident with property damage, regardless of whether the other driver is present, to stop. Violations in property-damage crashes may be misdemeanors, but in cases where injury is caused, a driver may face a felony charge and up to 5 years behind bars. Yet despite the law, many motorists choose to leave the scene of an accident.

Our Houston injury lawyers know how devastating these cases can be for injury victims and their families. Most result in very serious or fatal injuries. After a fatal hit-and-run, loved ones are left to wonder whether a victim suffered, or whether he or she could have survived if the at-fault driver had called 911 and stopped to render timely aid.

Drunk Drivers To Blame; Bicycle and Pedestrians Victimized

The risks in Texas are in part a consequence of a high number of drunk drivers and other risks that consistently cause our roads to rank among the most dangerous in the nation. Motorists who flee the scene of an accident are often afraid of interacting with law enforcement, perhaps because they’re driving drunk, driving a stolen vehicle, driving without a license or already have an outstanding arrest warrant.

Suing for Damages after Houston Hit-and-Run

Texas auto insurance law requires all motorists to have automobile liability insurance in minimum amounts of $30,000 injury coverage for each person and $60,000 for each accident. Even among those drivers who are carrying insurance, minimum coverage may not be adequate. As the Texas Department of Transportation notes, “[T]he minimum amounts might not be enough to pay all of the other driver’s costs if you’re at fault in an accident. Other drivers could sue you to collect the difference. Consider buying more than the minimum limits to protect yourself financially.”

However, when a driver leaves the scene and is never identified, recovery options for victims are limited. Among the best options is uninsured motorist (UM) or underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage. This coverage pays bodily injury damages (include medical bills, pain and suffering and disability benefits) and property damage to the policy holder in the event of a collision with an at-fault driver who either has no insurance or has inadequate insurance – and a hit-and-run driver is uninsured by default. Benefits are extended to you, family members, passengers in your vehicle and others who are driving your vehicle with your permission. While it’s not mandatory coverage under Texas law, those who do not want it must reject it in writing.

The Insurance Information Institute reports that 1 in 8 drivers are currently uninsured. Many thousands of others are carrying minimum coverage. Texas motorists are at particularly high risk for hit-and-run collisions. Add it all up, and UM/UIM coverage, which will add at most a few hundred dollars to your annual policy premium, is among the most important protections you can buy when it comes to keeping you and your family safe on the road.

If you’ve been injured, an experienced auto accident attorney at Smith & Hassler can help guide you through the process. Contact us today and find out how we can help you.