Texas Stowers Doctrine Insurance Settlement

The Stowers Doctrine | Good Faith in the Settlement of Claims

By | Car Wreck, Personal Injury

What is the Stowers Doctrine and How Does it Apply to a Personal Injury Case in Texas?

Texas Stowers Doctrine Insurance SettlementUnder the typical Texas liability insurance policy both the insurer and the insured have mutual obligations and rights. The insured pays a premium to their insurance company to protect against unexpected losses and claims. On the other hand, the insurance company has a duty to defend against claims covered under the policy and a right to control the defense of litigation should it arise.1 Included in the right to control litigation is the insurer’s authority to make the decisions concerning policy coverage, the merits of claims made by third parties against the insurance company, and the settlement of such claims.2 But what happens when an insurance company refuses an offer to settle within the policy limits?

According to the Stowers Doctrine, the insurer has an implied duty to act in good faith and accept reasonable settlement demands within policy limits.3 This is called the Stowers duty. Through this duty the insurer protects the insured against judgements in excess of policy limits. Under the Stowers Doctrine, if an insurance company negligently failed to accept a reasonable offer within policy limits and a jury then returns a verdict in excess of the policy limits, the insurance company may be liable for the entire verdict, even though it exceeds policy limits.4

History of the Stowers Doctrine

The Stowers Doctrine originated in 1929 from the Texas Supreme Court case G.A. Stowers Furniture Co. v. American Indemnity, Co., 15 S.W.2d 544 (Tex.). Stowers Furniture Co. had an auto insurance policy with American Indemnity for $5,000. During the policy term, a furniture employee’s truck was involved in an accident and suit was brought by the injured passenger, claiming $20,000 in damages. While the suit was pending, the injured party served Stowers with a letter offering to settle for $4,000—within policy limits. The letter gave a deadline to accept the offer and provided proof of the excessive damages. American Indemnity refused to settle and went to trial with the intention of saving money. They lost at trial and a jury awarded the injured party more than twice the amount of the policy. The terms of the insurance policy stated that Stowers was responsible for a judgment in excess of the policy limits. Stowers paid the judgement and then sued the insurance company for reimbursement.

The Texas Supreme Court held that American Indemnity owed a duty to Stowers to exercise ordinary care in the settlement of claims. American Indemnity was responsible for protecting the insured up to the policy limit. The Court remanded the case to the district court to allow testimony of the serious nature of the passenger’s injuries to determine if American Indemnity was negligent in refusing the settlement offer.5 If American Indemnity rejected a reasonable settlement within the policy limits, they would potentially be liable for the entire judgement, even that in excess of the policy.6

The purpose behind Stowers is to encourage insurance companies to settle claims for the policy limit. Because insurance companies have complete power over litigation, they have a corresponding duty to their insured to exercise the same degree of care that a prudent person would exercise under similar circumstances. Failing to exercise such care is deemed negligent on the part of the insurance company.7 Put simply, the insured is protected from the insurance company taking a risk when a reasonable person would have settled.

How Does a Stowers Demand Work?

The Stowers Doctrine is a tool unique to Texas law and has created a new type of settlement demand: the Stowers demand. This demand is a time-sensitive letter sent to a third-party insurance carrier with an offer to settle within the insured’s policy limits.8 For a Stowers demand to be valid, five requirements must be met:

  1. the claim against the insured is within the scope of coverage;
  2. liability is reasonably clear;
  3. the demand is within the limits of the policy;
  4. the settlement terms are such that an ordinarily prudent insurer would accept it when considering the likelihood and degree of the insured’s potential exposure to an excess judgment; and
  5. the demand offers the insurer an unconditional, full release for liability.9

If these requirements are met and the insurer fails to accept the offer by the deadline, the defendant’s insurance company may be held responsible for verdict in excess of its insured’s policy limits.10

Footnotes:

  1.  Stephen G. Cochran, Texas Practice Series: Consumer Rights and Remedies § 5.13 (3d ed. 2017).
  2.  Id.
  3.  American Physicians Ins. Exch. v. Garcia, 876 S.W.2d 842, 846 (Tex. 1994).
  4.  See G.A. Stowers Furniture Co. v. American Indemnity, Co., 15 S.W.2d 544, 547 (Tex. 1929).
  5.  Id. at 548
  6.  Id. at 547
  7.  Texas Farmers Ins. v. Soriano, 881 S.W.2d 312, 314 (Tex. 1994).
  8.  American Physicians Ins. Exch. v. Garcia, 876 S.W.2d 842, 844–45 (Tex. 1994).
  9.  Id. at 849; Trinity Universal Ins. Co. v. Bleeker, 966 S.W.2d 489 (Tex. 1998).
  10.  See Ecotech Int’l, Inc. v. Griggs & Harrison, 928 S.W.2d 644, 646 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 1996, writ denied); Stowers Doctrine, Int’l Risk Mgmt. Inst.
Filing False Police Report Texas

What Can Happen if I File a False Police Report in Texas?

By | Domestic Violence

If You Lie or Exaggerate in a Police Report or File a False Report, You Could be Charged with a Class B Misdemeanor

Filing False Police Report TexasAs Fort Worth criminal defense attorneys, we are often asked by witnesses and victims what might happen if it comes to light that the story they told the police was not exactly true. We often see this in Domestic Violence cases, when a victim decides that the statement he or she gave on the night of the incident was perhaps embellished a little during a fit of anger. Witnesses later become fearful when they realize they might have to take the witness stand and give a different (truthful) account of the event. They worry that they might be charged with a crime themselves for filing a false police report.

Filing a False Police Report in Texas | Texas Penal Code Section 37.08

Section 37.08 of the Texas Penal Code provides:

(a) A person commits an offense if, with intent to deceive, he knowingly makes a false statement that is material to a criminal investigation and makes the statement to:
(1) a peace officer or federal special investigator conducting the investigation; or
(2) any employee of a law enforcement agency that is authorized by the agency to conduct the investigation and that the actor knows is conducting the investigation.

Filing a false report under Section 37.08 is a Class B Misdemeanor, punishable by up to 180 days in jail and a fine up to $2,000.

*Filing a false report about a missing child or missing person is a Class C offense, punishable by fine only.

Charges for Filing a False Report Do Not Happen Very Often in Texas

In our line of work, we see false reports on a daily basis. Be they embellished statements, outright lies, or  statements that simply omit important details, false reports happen all the time. In over 10 years, we have yet to see a case filed on a victim or witness for filing a false report or giving a false statement. While we’re sure it has happened, it doesn’t happen very often in our experience.  Perhaps it is because the state does not want to chill victims from reporting or because no one knows which story was actually true.  Either way, it is unlikely that a victim or witness who changes their story is going to be charged with an offense. Regardless, we always tell witnesses to simply TELL THE TRUTH.  If you tell the truth, even if the truth has changed since the first time you told the story, you’ll probably be in good shape.

*Note: this post does not discuss the offense of Perjury, which is a separate offense involving swearing to a false statement. See Texas Penal Code Section 37.02.

Recording Conversations Texas Wiretapping

Can I Record a Conversation Without the Other Party’s Consent in Texas?

By | Criminal Defense

Recording Conversations Without Consent in Texas | Wiretapping Laws

Recording Conversations Texas WiretappingWith roadway cameras at nearly every street corner, video surveillance in businesses, doorbell cameras on homes, web cams on computers, and recording capabilities on mobile phones – we must navigate carefully in a digital world. We’ve seen titillating news reports exposing a secret audio tape of a public figure having scandalous phone conversations, or video surveillance of questionable traffic stops that escalate in shocking fashion. You may have had a suspicious feeling that you were being recorded, or on the other hand, felt as if you needed to record a conversation with another for your own protection.

With privacy seemingly harder to come by as compared with days long past—what does Texas law say about recording conversations? Is it illegal to record a phone conversation with another person? What about in person?

The short answer is: YES, you can record a conversation with another person without that person’s consent. But this answer requires more explanation.

Recording Phone Calls in Texas | Texas is a One-Party Consent State

Under Texas Law, it is a crime intercept or record any wire, oral or electronic communication without the consent of at least one party. The good news is that you count as one party and if you’re recording then you have probably given yourself consent to record the conversation. Generally speaking, state wiretapping laws turn on whether the state is a one-party consent state. While some states require the consent of all of the parties to a conversation prior to recording, Texas permits the recording of telephone calls, so long as the consent of one of the parties is obtained. As stated, if you are one of the parties on the phone call, then you may consent to having your own conversation recorded—you need not alert the other party. Additionally, a parent may give vicarious consent to the recording of a child’s conversation if the parent has a good faith objectively reasonable belief that the recording is necessary for the welfare of the child.

However, if during a phone call there are multiple parties who are in different states, then be aware that other state laws may require pre-recording consent of all of the parties. In this scenario, if the recording party obtains consent from the other parties before the recording begins, then the recorder is not in violation of wiretapping laws.

See this link to learn more about the various state wiretapping laws.

Recording In-Person Conversations in Texas | Can I Record Someone Else’s Public Conversation?

Texas law (Penal Code §16.02) does not permit you to record in-person communications when the parties have an expectation that such communication is not subject to interception (i.e. If there is a reasonable expectation of privacy). If you wish to record a conversation to which you are not a party, all of the parties must give consent before the recording device is turned on or there must be no reasonable expectation of privacy (e.g. If the recording is taken from your doorbell camera and the parties are standing on you doorstep). If you are a party to the conversation, record away.

Further, you are able to record in-person communication at a public place, like a mall food court or at a football game for example, where parties do not have the expectation of privacy. Remember—if you say it in a public place, within earshot of others who may overhear, you do not have an expectation of privacy in those statements. Generally, such statements may be recorded without violating that state’s wiretapping laws.

A Word of Caution of Recording Conversations in Texas

Please be aware that there are both federal and state wiretapping laws that may limit your ability to making recordings of telephone calls or in person conversations. This article addresses state wiretapping laws in Texas only. Additionally, if a person has violated a state or federal wiretapping statute, he may be both charged criminally and be sued civilly by the damaged party.

Further, while a person may have successfully recorded a conversation under state and federal wiretapping laws, the act of disclosing the recording to other third parties could be, in and of itself, punishable criminally or civilly under other legal theories (such as slander, for example).

If you are faced with a wiretapping charge, or have questions about wiretapping, please contact an attorney who will address both the state and federal regulations as they are related to the facts of your specific case. Wiretapping charges are potentially serious felonies that could land a person in jail or prison, with fines ranging from $200 to $10,000. If you are faced with charges related to wiretapping in Texas, please contact our offices at (817) 993-9249 for a consultation.

Summary on Texas Wiretapping

  • A person can record a conversation to which you are a party in Texas without violating wiretapping laws, so long as the other party is in a “one party consent” state.
  • A person can record a conversation (to which he is not a party) if one of the participants gives him permission.
  • A person can record a conversation when, in a public setting, the participants do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy.
  • It is almost always illegal to record a phone call or private conversation to which one is not a party, does not have consent from at least one of the parties, and could not naturally overhear the conversation.

This article is for educational purposes only and should never be substituted for legal advice.

Accident on Icy Road

Accidents on Icy Texas Roads: Who is Liable?

By | Car Wreck

Accident on Icy RoadWhen we think of extreme weather in Texas, we generally think of severe thunderstorms, hail, wind, and tornados, but ice storms can be just as dangerous and damaging. There’s also a human factor when snow and ice hit Texas that increases the likelihood of severe injuries and even death-the untrained, inexperienced, and careless driver.

A Federal Highway Administration report states that on average, icy roads cause 151,944 vehicle accidents, 38,770 crash injuries, and 559 crash fatalities a year. These ice-related accidents produce roughly 11% of all weather-related accidents in the country. This is alarming because it shows how dangerous icy roads can be, but it should also alert you to the possibility of personal injury or property damage if you decide to drive in icy conditions.

Icy Roads in the Texas News (2018)

The Basics of Negligent Driving in Texas

In the simplest form, negligence involves:

  • A duty to a person (the duty to be a careful, safe driver);
  • A breach of that duty (driving too fast, etc); and
  • That breach causing damages to another person (property damage, injuries, or death caused by a car accident).

Every driver has a basic duty to other drivers to drive safely and not collide with anyone. This requires them to drive as a reasonably prudent person would drive in the given situation. When they breach that duty, or collide with another person or vehicle, they may be liable for the physical or financial damages they caused. But what if the roads were icy and the driver lost control?

Ice is NO Defense to an Accident! | Liability for Accident and Injuries in Winter Conditions

Drivers are expected to take note of weather and road conditions and adjust their driving accordingly. When the temperatures are near or below freezing and precipitation is present, there is a strong possibility of ice on the roads. Because a driver should know of the chance of icy conditions, they should drive as a reasonably prudent person would drive on icy roads.  Blaming the ice will not work if the driver crashes into another car on the road.

Precautionary Measures for Driving in Icy Weather | Driving in Texas in the Winter

When there may be ice on the roads, you should take precautionary measures when driving:

  • Don’t drive unless you have to;
  • Follow your local news or go to drivetexas.org* to get updates on road conditions;
  • Drive below the speed limit;
  • Do not get distracted from the road; and
  • Avoid hills, bridges, and low spots if you can.

If you are hit by a driver who was driving in icy conditions, even if they lost control, they may be liable for negligently driving. You should contact your attorney with the accident report and any other information from the accident to help work through your options.

For more winter weather driving tips, click here.

*drivetexas.org is run by the Texas Department of Transportation who also posts on social media outlets.

Christmastime Arrests Texas

Top 5 Reasons for Arrests During the Christmas Holiday Season

By | Criminal Defense

Christmastime Arrests TexasWhen you think about the Christmas season, you probably think about family time, presents, good food, and celebration. We think about those things too, but as criminal defense attorneys, we also think about the reasons that some of our clients get arrested during the holiday season. For this article, we took a look at the last 6 years of holiday season arrests (for clients that we represented) and compiled an (anecdotal) list of the top 5 reasons that folks get arrested during the Christmas/New Year’s season. Our goal is that this list will serve as a warning, so that your holiday season can be filled with the good stuff, rather than jail, bail, and calls to our office. Here goes:

5. Shoplifting

Many retailers slash their prices and offer steep discounts in the weeks leading up to Christmas and even bigger discounts after Christmas, but we have yet to see any retailer offer the “five finger discount” for their merchandise. Regardless, we see plenty of shoplifting cases during the Christmas season, making it our #5 reasons that people get arrested during Christmas. Depending on the regular price value of the item (not the discounted price), shoplifting theft charges can range from misdemeanors to felonies. Learn more about Theft law in Texas here.

4. Package Theft

In a similar vein to shoplifting, our #4 reason for holiday arrests is package theft. Many shoppers choose the convenience of online shopping and have their Christmas purchases delivered right to their front door. Some people see this as an easy target, following behind UPS or FedEx trucks to steal those would-be Christmas gifts from the front porch. However, with the increase in doorbell cameras, it is getting easier to catch the porch pirates in the act. Further, some law enforcement agencies have begun using dummy packages to bait thieves into getting caught. Package theft can range from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on what unknown treasure lay inside the brown box.

3. Airport Contraband (Guns and Drugs)

Going to visit grandma can require air travel for many families. This means that thousands more people than usual flood through DFW Airport between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It matters not from where these travelers hail. From Maryland to Oregon to France, if a person is arrested at DFW Airport, their case will be filed in Tarrant County, Texas and they will have to travel back to DFW to attend court. During the holidays, we see a surge in airport arrests when people bring items into the airport that are not allowed. These mostly consist of:

Even if the state from which a traveler is coming has legalized marijuana and the state to which they are traveling has legalized marijuana, if they are caught possessing marijuana in the airport, they will be arrested and charged. The combination of airport gun arrests and airport drug arrests make these types of cases our #3 reason for holiday arrests.

2. Assault Family Violence

In the movie Christmas Vacation, Clark Griswold showed an enormous amount of restraint when his extended family pushed him to the limit (especially Cousin Eddie), but not everyone is blessed with such a cool head. Christmas time brings added stressors into the family environment that can sometimes lead to verbal or physical altercations between family members, so much so, that these arrests rank at #2 in our book. Depending on the nature of the assault, a domestic violence arrest can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Learn more about Family Violence under Texas law.

1. Driving While Intoxicated

With all of the Christmas and New Year’s parties and the increase in No Refusal Weekends, it is not hard to guess that DWI arrests are #1 on our list. Driving While Intoxicated in Texas can range from a misdemeanor (if it is a first or second offense) to a felony (if there is a child in the car or if the person arrested has been convicted of DWI twice in the past). Our advice is to plan ahead and do not even take your car to a Christmas party when you plan to drink. Catch a ride from a friend or take an Uber or Lyft. That would be a lot cheaper than hiring an attorney and a lot less hassle too. Learn more about Texas DWI law here.

We Hope You Never Need Us, But We’re Here if Your Do.

We wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. As always, we hope you never need us to represent you or one of your loved ones for a criminal offense. This is even more true during the Christmas season. Hopefully this list will help you avoid trouble that looms during the holiday season. If you do happen to need us, we are only a phone call away at (817) 993-9249.

Contractor Fraud Texas Tarrant

My Contractor Pulled a Houdini! Now what? | Construction Fraud Under Texas Law

By | Fraud

Contractor Fraud Texas TarrantHave you sustained property damage in a powerful storm? If so, you probably had to call a contractor to do necessary repairs. It is sometimes customary in the construction industry for contractors to ask homeowners to pay for some of the work up front, and pay the remaining balance upon completion. Some contractors will ask you to fork over a hefty deposit to someone you do not know, yet you are trusting to get the job done. You are not alone. The good news is that most contractors will operate above the board. Even though social media reviews and ratings sites, such as Angie’s List, are sensible ways of vetting contractors and service providers in 2020, they cannot predict future white collar crimes perpetrated by individuals who are focused on scamming construction deposits out of desperate homeowners.

What Happens if Your Contractor is a Crook? | Construction Fraud in Tarrant County

What legal remedies are available to homeowners in Texas when a contractor pulls a Houdini, vanishing into thin air, cash in hand, without completing the repair work? Contractual breach is the most common civil cause of action. Generally, a contractual breach occurs when (1) there is an existing contractual agreement that is (2) performed (paid for) by one party, yet (3) the other party did not perform as agreed to, which (4) caused damages to the performing (paying) party. Material breach of a roofing contract may occur without intention, when a contractor takes too long to complete a project, or perhaps uses substandard materials, for example. This civil cause of action addresses the damages to the individual, but does not hold the wrongdoer accountable in a criminal court.

So what about those instances in which a scammer intentionally preys upon homeowners in the hopes of pocketing the cash and skipping town? Is this a criminal act?

Construction Fraud Prosecutions in Texas

Tarrant County, Texas has recently begun focusing prosecution efforts on contractor fraud. Homeowners in Tarrant County may call their local police agency to make an initial report. Additionally, homeowners may call the Tarrant County District Attorney’s White Collar Crime and Public Integrity Unit, created by Sharen Wilson, the District Attorney in Tarrant County. Wilson stated in a recent news article, “Construction fraud is a crime, and our citizens need to be protected from it.

When homeowners call the DA’s office, they will talk with a representative to see if the wrongdoing rises to the level of a complaint. If a complaint is filed, the DA’s office reviews the facts of the complaint for potential prosecutable offenses based on a variety of legal theories in criminal law. If the DA’s office finds elements of criminality, an investigation ensues which may result in criminal charges for the wrongdoer.

Construction Fraud Under the Texas Penal Code

The Texas Penal Code does not specifically provide a code section for construction or contractor fraud crimes. What are some of the legal theories and statutes the DA’s office is using to go after these home repair Houdinis? The Tarrant County DA’s office has prosecuted construction and roofing contractors who have absconded with the funds for misappropriation of fiduciary property, theft, insurance fraud, and elder financial abuse, to name a few.

Recently, the Tarrant County DA’s White Collar Crime Team prosecuted a man for theft from elderly victims. For his crimes, this man received three years in jail and an order to make restitution of $77,000.00 to his elderly victims. On multiple occasions, the man used aliases to approach homeowners in the mid-cities and Fort Worth areas, soliciting demolition and repair work. He accepted large sums of money, but never completed the work, or, did substandard work.

In January of 2019, another man pled guilty to Theft of $150,000- $300,000, for scamming 41 residents in the Arlington, North Richland Hills, and Mansfield areas, out of funds they paid him for roofing repairs. This man’s scheme involved sending employees door-to-door to sign customers up for repairs. The employees took checks from the victims, but the roofing work never began. As part of his plea agreement, the man was ordered pay the victims $230,000.00 in restitution.

Each of these types of cases is fact-specific and context-laden. Tarrant County has decided to take a strong stand against construction fraud. “We have made it a priority to put white-collar criminals on notice in Tarrant County—we will not tolerate scammers preying on our residents,” says Matt Smid, chief of the DA’s White Collar Crime Team. The county has also taken steps to provide the public with information regarding scams and fraud that is targeted at seniors. If you feel that you have been a victim of contractor fraud, you do have some options in Tarrant County.

Special Note to Attorneys who represent victims or perpetrators of constructions scams, implicating civil and criminal causes of action: Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 4.04(b) states that a lawyer shall not present, participate in presenting, or threaten to present criminal charges solely to gain advantage in a civil matter. According to the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, “giving notice required by law or applicable rules of practice, or procedure as a prerequisite to instituting criminal charges, does not violate the Rule, unless the underlying criminal charges were made without probable cause.

Scholarship Winners BHW

2020 BHW Scholarship Winners | Veteran Law Student & Military Dependent

By | Scholarship

Barnett Howard & Williams PLLC Announces the Recipients of the 2020 Scholarship Awards

BHW Scholarship WinnersThis was the 5th year for our law firm to offer scholarships. In honor of the sacrifices of our military veterans, we decided to that the scholarships should be connected to military service. The first scholarship is a $500 award for a Military Veteran Law Student and the second scholarship is a $500 award for a Military Dependent undergraduate student. Throughout the year, we received several applications from very deserving students. We appreciate all of the students that took the time to apply for the scholarships and wish them all the best in their studies. For those students that were not selected, we invite you to apply again next year as we plan to continue the scholarship offers as an annual award.

2020 Winner – Military Veteran Law Student Scholarship

The winner of the 2020 Military Veteran Law Student Scholarship is:

MATTHEW DUBRON

Matthew Dubron is a US Army veteran that served in the 82nd Airborne. Mr. Dubron currently attends Creighton University Law School. Congratulations Matthew Dubron. Best wishes as you continue toward your law degree.

2020 Winner – Military Dependent Scholarship

The winner of the 2020 Military Dependent Undergraduate Scholarship is:

KEVIN ARELLANO

Kevin Arellano is an Army dependent whose father served father served for over 20 years. Mr. Arellano currently attends the University of Texas at Austin and is pursuing a degree in neuroscience and biology. Congratulations Kevin Arellano. Best wishes as you continue in your studies.

More Information About Our Scholarship Opportunities:

For more information about how to apply for these scholarships in future years, please visit the scholarship pages:

Military Veteran Law Student Scholarship

Military Dependent Scholarship

Car accident Police Report

What if I Didn’t Get a Police Report for My Car Wreck?

By | Car Wreck, Personal Injury

Do I still have a case if the police didn’t make a report on my car wreck?

Car accident Police ReportMany people involved in motor vehicle collisions may not have police or accident reports documenting the specifics of the wreck. Sometimes it could be because the wreck was not reported and the police were never called. Other times, the police may have been called but simply did not respond. Law enforcement agencies often lack the resources to respond to each and every car wreck that occurs in their jurisdiction. More and more police agencies are putting policies into place that do not require them to respond to what the agency deems a “minor” wreck. The problem is that sometimes a wreck that law enforcement deems “minor” may actually have major long-term consequences (and injuries) for the individuals involved.

What can I do if the police never made a report of my accident?

If you are involved in one of these types of wrecks, and there was no accident report filed with the police, you can still have a valid personal injury case. Regardless of the reason, you may find that you do have a legitimate case and still need to file a personal injury lawsuit to be fairly compensated for your injuries. Having a police report can be an advantage when filing a personal injury lawsuit, but even without one it is possible to file and win your case.

Other Ways to Investigate

Police reports are helpful because they provide the parties and the court with relevant facts about the accident based on the observations of unbiased law enforcement officers. But, police officers are not the only people who can provide evidence demonstrating that the other party was negligent. A private investigator can help too.

When necessary, our personal injury attorneys work with private investigators to collect evidence about cases, find and contact witnesses, and gather information to determine which party was at fault in an accident. You will not be required to pay for these services up front. The cost for these services will most likely be presented as an expense that will be deducted from the total sum of your award or settlement.

Other Sources of Information

In addition to an accident report as well as witness testimony, other documents and materials can also be gathered as evidence of your injuries and their cost. These include medical records, videos, photos and other relevant documents. Your attorney can help you obtain these records and reports during the investigation and discovery stage of your case. These documents can help to build up a solid evidentiary basis for your case that your attorney will use to negotiate a settlement or represent you in court.

Your Own Statement

You are most often your best witness. You were present when the wreck occurred and personally went through it. It is always in your best interest to first provide an account of what happened to your attorney directly. Communications between an attorney and client are confidential, so before speaking with anyone about your case you should consult with your attorney regarding what you should or should not disclose and to whom. It is best to retain one of our attorneys so that we can speak confidentially about your case and determine the best course of action to proceed.

Ultimately, it is important to put together an accurate and coherent account of what occurred. Being injured in an accident is almost always a very emotional experience. Your attorney can help you establish a timeline of the events that is logical and provides a clear picture of how the accident happened and the injuries that resulted from it. This can be very similar to the type of narrative that the police would provide if they had written a report.

If you were seriously injured in a motor vehicle collision, and there is no police report, don’t worry. You may still have a very valid case for which fair recovery for your injuries can be obtained. Our experienced motor vehicle accident lawyers can help you determine the best course of action in these situations.

UM UIM Claims Texas

UM/UIM Insurance: When the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance is Not Enough

By | Insurance, Personal Injury

UM UIM Claims TexasTexas law is clear that every driver must maintain financial responsibility (auto insurance). But, the truth of the matter is that there are thousands of drivers on Texas roads who are underinsured with a minimum policy or not insured at all. What this means is that if you are hit and injured in a car wreck by one of these uninsured or underinsured drivers, you may have to use your own insurance to pay for your medical bills, lost wages, lost ability to work and/or other damages.

What can you do to protect yourself if you are injured in an accident caused by an underinsured or uninsured driver?

We recommend that you carry a significant amount of uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) protection insurance. These policies, which typically only cost you a few dollars per month, ensure that if you are injured by an underinsured or uninsured motorist you and your attorney will have a policy to pursue to properly compensate you for your injuries.

What are the minimum requirements of insurance in Texas and what else can you do to protect yourself?

Texas law requires that a driver have at least $30,000 of coverage for injuries per person, and a total of $60,000 per accident. Insurance companies also offer an option called personal injury protection (PIP). While some states require that drivers carry PIP, Texas does not. PIP is an additional option that provides coverage specifically for injuries sustained in a car wreck. Most people carry $2,500 in coverage under their PIP – this is the minimum coverage required to be “offered” in Texas when you purchase an auto insurance policy. PIP not only pays medical bills but, 80% of your lost income and reasonable household duties. You can purchase even higher limits of PIP through your insurance company and you should get as much PIP coverage as you can. Most insurance companies will sell you at least $10,000 in coverage under PIP, some even more.

Ultimately, if you are injured in a car wreck, your own PIP insurance would be the first policy to pay towards your damages before you can start to pursue the driver’s insurance who hit you.

Why the minimum coverage (and PIP) typically aren’t enough.

Often times, when you’re seriously injured, using your PIP and having the minimum amount of coverage to go after against the driver who hit you just isn’t enough. This is especially (and obviously) the case if the at-fault driver is uninsured. This is where your UIM/UM policy kicks in. If you don’t have UIM/UM coverage under your own policy, then you could be out of luck.

With UM and UIM insurance, claims that exceed your own PIP and the at-fault driver’s insurance will be covered up to the limits of your UM/UIM policy. Because of the vast amount of driver’s in Texas who are either underinsured or uninsured, in many cases UM/UIM policies are one of the only coverages available for your attorney to seek to compensate you for your injuries.

Do you need an attorney for UM/UIM cases?

Yes you do. First and foremost, you need an advocate to make sure you’re getting the most out of your claim against the at-fault driver. But if the at-fault driver is underinsured or uninsured and you have UM/UIM coverage, that doesn’t just mean that your own insurance company is going to automatically hand over the limits of your own UM/UIM policy.

When a driver seeks to be compensated out of their own UM/UIM coverage, they are often times still met with resistance by their own insurance company. The insurance company will still do what they can to pay you as little as possible (they’re a business and unfortunately, you’re often times still treated more like a number than an injured person). An attorney’s job is to break this mentality and advocate for you to be treated fairly and be taken seriously by these insurance companies – not just treated as another number in their computer programs.

What can you do if your own insurance company is not fairly compensating you under your UM/UIM policy?

The first step is to retain our firm to represent you. We’ll advocate for you and work to maximize your claim not only against the at-fault driver’s insurance company but with your insurance provider as well if you’re covered under a UM/UIM policy. Ultimately, if negotiations do not produce a fair offer from your insurance company, you may even bring suit to pursue a fair outcome against your UM/UIM policy.

To speak with an attorney about insurance policies that might be available in your case – including UM/UIM coverage – please contact our office for a free initial consultation.

Best Tarrant County Car Accident Attorney

Uber Lyft Accident Claim Liability Texas

Suing Uber and Lyft for the Accidents of their Drivers

By | Car Wreck

Uber Lyft Accident Claim Liability TexasRideshare companies like Lyft and Uber have risen to prominence over the last several years, grabbing a sizable market share from traditional taxi cab and town car companies. Additionally, there has been a surge in food delivery services (like DoorDash) and contract delivery drivers for Amazon. With more and more of these companies offering rides and deliveries from their part-time drivers, we are also seeing accidents involving the drivers for these companies. These accidents can sometimes have confusing liability issues that accompany them. It is important to know how to proceed and what you are entitled to if you are involved in an accident with a rideshare driver, as a passenger or another driver.

Can You Sue the Rideshare company? Who is Liable in a Lyft or Uber Accident?

As with most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Liability for an Uber or Lyft accident will depend upon whether the driver is logged on to his rideshare company’s app, and if so, whether the driver is waiting for a ride request or actively giving a ride or making a delivery. The Texas Insurance Code Chapter 1954 requires rideshare drivers to carry specific insurance policies that provide coverage regardless of their activity, so you will need to ascertain a few facts before you determine your course of action.

Was the Driver Logged on to the Rideshare App?

If the driver was NOT logged onto the ridesharing app, then the driver’s personal insurance will be responsible for covering the driver in the event of an accident. There generally will not be any ramifications for the rideshare company, and no real reason to pursue any claims against them. Of course, we would need many more facts to determine the exact course of action. If the driver is logged on to the rideshare app, you will need to determine whether they are in-between rides, or actively participating in a ride.

Was the Driver in-between Rides When the Accident Happened?

This is the largest gray area in the new insurance law. While coverage is required, there is no requirement regarding who must cover the driver. Many insurance companies exclude coverage on drivers using their personal vehicles for ridesharing purposes, and rideshare companies are hesitant to provide the additional coverage since they are not required to by law. Ridesharedashboard.com lays out the coverage options in Texas, pointing out that currently, only GEICO and Farmer’s offer coverage to both Uber and Lyft drivers, while MetLife will cover Lyft drivers only, and Allstate is currently working on their rideshare policy.

Nonetheless, the Texas Insurance Code Sec. 1954.052 requires rideshare drivers to be covered by a 50/100/25 policy. This means that they must be covered up to $50,000 for bodily injury or death of each person in an incident, $100,000 for bodily injury or death of a person per incident, and $25,000 for damage or destruction of property of others. This is a higher level of coverage than the standard 30/60/25 policy required for Texas drivers. This should not be an issue as drivers are required to notify their insurance provider if they are driving for a rideshare company. However, it will be very important to determine who is covering the driver in the event of an accident. Fortunately, there is a safeguard in Sec. 1954.054 that requires the rideshare company to cover claims in the event the driver’s policy has lapsed or does not cover the claim. If you find yourself in this situation, please get as much information from the driver as possible and contact an attorney immediately.

For driver’s logged onto the rideshare app but currently in-between rides:

  • Uber Provides: 50/100/25 coverage for its drivers and can supplement the personal policy
  • Lyft Provides: 50/100/25 coverage in the event a driver’s personal policy does not cover this much.

Was the Lyft or Uber Driver Engaged in a Ride?

The term “engaged in a ride” can mean two things: either the driver was on his way to pick up a passenger, or the driver currently had a passenger in the car. If the driver involved in the accident was currently engaged in a ride, that driver MUST be covered by a $1 million coverage policy according to Texas law. Recent legislative action in many states has pushed for this coverage, influencing these companies to adopt these insurance policies. Should you be involved in an accident with an engaged rideshare driver, whether as passenger or third party, this insurance should provide coverage for damages caused by the driver.

For drivers “engaged in a ride:”

  • Uber Provides:
    • $1 million coverage for damages caused by driver
    • $1 million coverage for damage done by an under/uninsured motorist
    • Supplemental coverage for collision and comprehensive personal policies
    • These will cover the rider if a rider is in the car with the Uber driver
  • Lyft Provides:
    • Lyft will take over as primary provider
    • $1 million coverage for damages caused by driver
    • $1 million coverage for damage done by an under/uninsured motorist
    • Supplemental coverage for collision and comprehensive personal policies

What Should You Do if You are Involved in an Accident with a Rideshare Driver?

  1. Get to a safe place and call 911. Safety and health are the first priority.
  2. Take pictures of the accident and surroundings.
  3. Get the names, phone numbers, addresses of everyone involved and any witnesses.
  4. Get the name of the rideshare driver, determine whether they were logged on to the rideshare app, whether he/she was engaged in a ride, and get a picture of the insurance policy
    • Under Sec. 1954.056b, the drivers are required to provide this information in the case of an accident
    • If you are the passenger of a rideshare when the accident occurs, screenshot the app on your phone
  5. Call your attorney.

 

To review companies’ insurance policies, click on their Logo below:

Uber Accident Coverage TexasLyft Driver Liability in Texas