Q: Can my case be settled without a lawsuit?
A: In order to save time and avoid financial resources, it is our goal to try and settle every personal injury claim without a lawsuit. However, this is not always possible as insurance carriers and self-insured defendants are often unreasonable and would prefer to play the "waiting game" before providing an injured claimant with adequate compensation. While every case has its own unique set of facts and insurance companies differ in their approach to claims handling, we are typically able to resolve approximately one-third of car accident claims without a lawsuit.
Q: I understand that a lawsuit has to be filed for my claim. How long will it take for my case to get to trial?
A: It depends. However, cases filed in the County Courts at Law for Harris County are typically resolved in nine to twelve months and cases filed in the District Courts of Harris County take slightly longer to resolve.
Q: What is mediation? Is it the same as arbitration?
A: Mediation is an informal process by which the parties to an existing lawsuit attempt to reach an out of court settlement before the case is called to trial. Mediation is normally presided over by an independent party who is usually an attorney and works to try and broker an agreement between the litigants. Since trial courts rely on mediation to move cases off of their dockets, mediation is normally required before a case will be scheduled for a jury trial. Assuming that the insurance carrier attends mediation in good faith, it can represent an opportunity to settle your case on favorable terms. Mediation is different from arbitration in that mediation is a formal of dispute resolution meant to resolve existing cases. In contrast, arbitration refers to an alternative from the court system whereby an arbitrator assumes the role of judge and jury and is empowered to resolve the dispute. Although arbitration is normally not a part of most personal injury cases, certain employment-related injuries may be subject to arbitration if there is a mandatory arbitration clause in the injured plaintiff's contract with the employer.
Q: I have health insurance. Can I use it to pay for my accident-related medical expenses?
A: Yes. However, the use of health insurance to cover accident-related medical expenses is generally disfavored. First, Texas law now limits recovery of medical expenses in tort claims to those which have been "paid or incurred." For a brief explanation, hospitals and other providers have managed care contracts with health insurance companies pursuant to which large percentages of the total charges are adjusted or written-off. Under Texas law, the adjusted or written-off charges are not recoverable in court and a personal injury plaintiff is limited to the paid amounts (paid either by the insurance company or the plaintiff himself) and the incurred amounts (any balance which remains outstanding after health insurance payments are applied.). As a second reason to avoid the use of health insurance, the health insurance carrier will normally seek reimbursement or subrogation against the proceeds of the settlement or judgment.
Q: I do not have health insurance and my hospital bill has not been paid. Do I have to pay my hospital bill before my case can be settled?
A: Yes. Under Texas law, a hospital has a lien against the proceeds of your settlement or judgment for the full amount of the hospital bill and we are obligated to ensure that the bill is paid. However, hospitals will typically be willing to negotiate the total amount of the charges.
Q: I do not have the money for an attorney. How can I seek help with my personal injury case?
A: The Baird Law Firm handles all personal injury cases on a contingent fee basis which means that our legal fees are paid through a percentage interest in your claim which is collectible if your case produces a settlement or judgment. If there is no recovery, no legal fees are owed. Should we be hired to represent you in a personal injury matter, the specifics of the contingent fee contract will be fully explained to you.
Q: I do not have health insurance and have no way to pay for medical treatment. Can I still receive treatment for my injuries?
A: Yes. We can reach agreements with your health care providers whereby the providers will defer payment until such time as your case either settles or a judgment is reached.
Q: In addition to suffering personal injuries, my car was damaged in the accident. How will the property damage be handled?
A: While you have the option of having your own insurance carrier handle the repairs, we typically recommend that the insurance carrier for the responsible party assume responsibility for the repairs. We can assist in reporting the property damage claim to an adjustor and ensuring that the repairs are completed properly.
Q: What is PIP? What effect will it have on my case?
A: PIP refers to Personal Injury Protection Benefits which are a special type of insurance coverage available to pay medical bills from an automobile accident. PIP is provided by your own insurance company as opposed to the insurance carrier for the responsible party. However, Texas law doe not mandate PIP coverage so not all injured parties carry it and there can be different amounts of PIP available depending upon the terms of the policy. When available, PIP coverage is extremely valuable as it reduces the amount of funds which need to be repaid to medical providers at the end of a case therefore increasing the client's net recovery.
Q: The driver who hit me does not have insurance. Does this mean I have no case?
A: Not necessarily. If you have uninsured motorist ("UM") coverage available on your own policy, you may be able to still recover for your injuries. You should seek our advice if you are in this situation as every case is unique.
Q: The insurance adjustor wants to take a recorded statement. Should I agree to this?
A: We typically allow our clients to provide recorded statements to the insurance carrier. However, we are always present during the statement to make sure that appropriate questions are asked and that the process is not abused by the insurance carrier. We never recommend talking to an insurance adjustor or providing a statement without counsel present during the process.
Q: What is a deposition? Will I have to provide one?
A: A deposition involves providing sworn testimony out of court before your case goes to trial. Opposing counsel asks you a number of questions about the case which are transcribed by a court reporter and the parties to the case have access to the transcript. Many but not all plaintiffs are required to provide a deposition as part of pre-trial discovery. In the event that a deposition is ultimately necessary in your case, we will help you fully prepare for the process.
Q: What type of damages are recoverable in a personal injury claim?
A: Typical damages for personal injury include past medical expenses, reasonably anticipated future medical expenses, past lost wages, diminished future earning capacity (inability to work at all in the future or ability to work at a reduced rate of pay in comparison to pre-accident employment), pain and suffering, mental anguish, impairment, and disfigurement.
Q: The police report says I am at fault for the accident. Do I still have a case?
A: Although most insurance adjustors make an initial liability determination based upon the police report, the police report alone does not tell the entire story of the case. In addition, police reports themselves and the opinions recorded therein from the investigating officers are generally not admissible at a civil trial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can provide you with specific advice depending upon the facts of your case.