Information for injured persons and Social Security disability claimants in Texas and throughout the United States. By Robert A. Kraft
About My Blog
The purpose of this blog is to provide information to people who have been injured due to negligence, and to those who have filed for Social Security disability benefits, or who are considering filing for Social Security disability benefits.
Our Dallas, Texas personal injury and Social Security disability lawyers want to help. To find answers to your questions, please use the Google search box or the Categories list below. If you still don't find what you need, just send an e-mail to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll get right back to you.
As you go to your picnics and fireworks celebrations, please remember why we celebrate this day, and think good thoughts for our men and women who are putting their lives on the line for us this day and every other day.
I wish the State Bar of Texas would get serious about the "ambulance chasers" who give the legal profession a bad reputation. I've seen little evidence of that, but a recent law passed in Texas gives a potential new solution to the problem. There is now a civil remedy available for those who have been illegally solicited by personal injury lawyers, and at least a few people are coming forward and filing suits against those lawyers. Parts of these recent developments were mentioned in a story in the New York Times. Here are excerpts:
Joined by lawyers who are tired of competitors illegally soliciting business after accidents, prosecutors are cracking down on a lesser-known, multimillion-dollar criminal enterprise in Texas: barratry.
Barratry — illegally offering legal services to people within 90 days following an accident — is a third-degree felony in Texas punishable by up to 10 years in jail. The difficulty in prosecuting the white-collar crime is often wrapped up in uncovering systematic insurance fraud schemes. Texas lawmakers passed a law last session to bolster the battle against barratry, and a handful of notable arrests — including charges against a state representative — have been made this year, presumably with more to come.
In practice, barratry ranges from small-scale operations — case runners approaching accident victims at their home or a hospital, and then selling the case to a lawyer — to large-scale schemes, such as when telemarketers, chiropractic firms and legal offices conspire to lure patients, inflate injuries and bank millions of dollars from fraudulent insurance claims.
“I have seen a huge increase in this sort of activity lately,” said Wendy Baker, the Harris County prosecutor who is pursuing barratry charges against State Representative Ron Reynolds, Democrat of Missouri City. “I don’t know why some crimes become more popular than others, but at the moment, it seems to be barratry.”
Mr. Reynolds was arrested after an undercover investigation by the Harris County district attorney’s office determined a chiropractic firm was persuading patients to sign contracts naming Mr. Reynolds as their legal counsel before the patients had physical exams or met him. Mr. Reynolds was released on bail and issued a statement maintaining his innocence.
“Since becoming an elected official,” he said, “I have voted for new laws holding lawyers guilty of barratry more accountable to their victims.”
In the 2011 legislative session, the Texas House voted unanimously for a law that allows barratry victims to sue a lawyer or case runner to void an illegally solicited contract and collect any money paid to the lawyer plus damages. A person who is solicited, but does not sign a contract, can also sue for up to $10,000.
“It’s a law with some teeth,” said Bill Edwards, a personal injury lawyer in Corpus Christi who supports the new law. In addition to creating a financial incentive for plaintiffs to turn in lawyers and case runners who make illegal offers, Mr. Edwards said that under the new law, lawyers like him can provide criminal evidence, collected during pretrial discovery hearings in civil suits, to prosecutors and the State Bar of Texas.
“It’s a safe bet that we’re going to see an increase in the prosecution of this,” said Jesse McClure, one of two new special prosecutors the Texas Department of Insurance hired to increase prosecutions of insurance fraud. He added that Mr. Reynolds’s arrest “got everyone’s attention,” and he expects to prosecute a number of barratry cases that will come to light as a result of the new law and his insurance fraud investigations.
It is difficult to comprehend the profound impact on millions of people that a 16-minute speech delivered almost 50 years ago has had. We need to listen to this speech more often than once per year. Here are links to the text and to the audio. Please take a few minutes on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to refresh your memory.
This guest post is contributed by Chris Jacobson who writes on the topic of Criminal Justice Degree Online . Chris can be reached at his e-mail id: chris.jacobson7-AT-gmail-Dot-com
No one really wants to go to court and go through the long and often messy process that is a trial, but when it comes to claiming what’s rightfully yours, it’s not good to give up without a fight. And that’s where your personal injury lawyer comes into the picture and helps you deal with not just your monetary compensation, but also the emotional fallout as well. By helping you understand your case better and providing you with the psychological boost you need to stay out of depression in this trying time, your attorney can make your life much easier by helping you decide if it is better to take the case to court or settle outside after mediation or arbitration.
There are both pros and cons to settling out of court, and even though each case is unique, the following apply to most cases in general.
On the plus side:
The settlement is usually quicker and the money is in your hand sooner than you expect it – this helps take care of medical expenses and other immediate costs without having to incur debt.
You save yourself and your family the agony and stress of going through a long and arduous trial – it takes up a major part of your life and your work and other aspects suffer as a result. You have to be in court on all the days of the trial, and this could wreak havoc with your professional and social life.
You can keep the details of the case, and much of your personal life, outside the court and public records. With out-of-court settlements, you can ask for a confidentiality agreement where the details of the case are kept private and out of public records.
Also, you don’t have to relive the experience for a jury and suffer the questions of an avid defense attorney.
Even though most attorneys work on a contingency fee basis, you will incur some costs during the trial and you’ll find it hard to make ends meet, what with the medical and other expenditure that’s already on your head.
A court case can take years to reach a conclusion, and even when it does, appeals filed by the other party can drag it even further.
On the minus side however:
The amount you get is sometimes less than what a jury would have awarded in a civil court.
Frequently, the damages take into account only the actual cost of injury (medical expenditure, accidental damage to property, and so on) and does not provide for punitive damages or emotional and mental agony suffered or loss of job or the quality of life.
It would seem like the most sensible thing to do when fighting a personal injury case is to ask for an out-of-court arbitration and settlement, and trust your lawyer to get you the best possible deal based on your circumstances. Even though the compensation may be less, it saves you the hassle of a long-drawn out court trial and the agony of prolonging your bitter experience for longer than necessary. However, talk to your attorney and make the best decision for your case, based on the facts and details available.
My thanks to Chris for this excellent article. His last sentence sums it all up — talk to your lawyer, and follow his or her advice. Your lawyer will have your best interests at heart, and will give you solid information on the pros and cons of going to court, based on the specific facts of your own case.
I'm not advocating lawsuits against our senior citizens, but this story in the Chicago Tribune sounds exactly like a situation that happened recently at a Dallas assisted living facility. The victim in Dallas was seriously injured. Perhaps facilities should conduct training courses for residents who use motorized wheelchairs. Those devices can move pretty fast, and they carry a lot of weight. Getting hit by one would be painful even for a young person, and could be literally fatal for an elderly person.
If attorney Fred Benjamin had his way, all facilities that allow people to use motorized wheelchairs would also implement a certain set of safety measures — speed limits, crosswalks and traffic monitors.
The Chicago lawyer said he is representing two clients who allege they were injured being run down by the electric contraptions because safety precautions were not taken. In the most current case, which Benjamin filed last week in Cook County Circuit Court, an 84-year-old woman says she was exiting the dining room at her senior living center on Sept. 17, 2009, when a resident in a motorized wheelchair plowed into her at full speed.
Emma Jean Conner was left with a broken leg and hip, which required surgery, Benjamin said.
Conner's lawsuit alleges that her living center, Victory Centre of Roseland LLC, and its parent company, Pathway Senior Living LLC, failed to properly care for and supervise residents when they allowed residents to move "at a speed that was too fast and that endangered other patients."
"They allow these people in motorized chairs to just fly through," Benjamin said, adding that he is representing another client in a similar case against Jewel-Osco. "There needs to be people to monitor them, to keep control."
Aaron D'Costa, chief business development officer for Pathway Senior Living, declined to comment on the lawsuit Tuesday but said the company is reviewing its practices.
"We have looked to see what we can do operationally to help improve the interaction between residents," D'Costa said.
Conner is asking for an unspecified amount of money.