It may sound strange to you, but from the moment you were injured by someone else's carelessness, you entered a war zone. You should not be shy about asserting your right to be compensated for your injuries caused by someone else. After all, just like everyone else who purchases insurance, you paid in advance so you will be able to recover your losses if you get hurt. So, why do I refer to this situation as a "war zone"? This is war because in the last few years insurance companies and many government officials have worked very hard and spent vast sums of money in order to limit the ability of injured Texans to recover fair compensation when they are injured. This campaign has been sold under the name "Tort Reform". The tort reformers claim that their goal is to lower insurance rates for individuals and decrease the cost of doing business. In reality, it is a cynical effort to increase the bottom line of the insurance industry and to help businesses avoid liability when they injure their employees or the public. If you don't believe it, ask yourself: "Have my overall insurance rates decreased since the start of tort reform?" The answer for most people is a resounding "No!" Also, talk to any one of the thousands of people who have been mistreated by the insurance industry after an accident and see if they think tort reform has helped their situation. You should also know that the tort reform advocates succeeded in imposing "caps" that limit damage amounts that may be awarded in certain types of personal injury cases. This means that the decision of how much to compensate you when you have been injured by someone else has been taken away from juries and placed in the hands of your legislature. The Texas legislature has "capped" damages without regard to the individual circumstances of different cases. For example, if you collide with your physician on the freeway, he can sue you and recover millions, depending on his injuries. However, if that same physician maims or kills you through his negligence during surgery, you can only recover a $250,000 worth of noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) under most circumstances. If you are a child, a nonworking housewife or a retired elderly person, you usually cannot claim any lost income, so this will probably be all the compensation you can ever recover from the doctor or hospital that injured you. Does that seem fair to you? Since insurers know that now, thanks to "tort reform", it is now much harder for you to recover compensation through the courts, they have even less incentive to offer you a reasonable settlement. And, because medical malpractice cases are so expensive to prepare and you are severely limited on what amount you can recover, it also means you may not be able to find an attorney willing to take your case. Regardless of how you feel about tort reform, it is important to remember that the vast insurance industry propaganda media campaign regarding tort reform has strongly influenced potential jurors. When you walk into a courtroom in Texas, you must understand that many jurors will assume upfront that your lawsuit is frivolous (think the "McDonald's coffee case"), and that you're trying to "get rich quick". So, even if you believe that there are many "frivolous lawsuits" and that yours is one of the rare legitimate cases, you are already at a disadvantage in the mind of your jurors. Knowing this, insurance companies will usually not offer a fair settlement unless you are ready, willing and able to go to trial. Think about it. The only thing that forces an insurance company to take your claim seriously is the threat that you might file a lawsuit, take them to court and win. This also highlights why it is very dangerous to trust your case to an attorney that runs a "settlement mill", meaning they take too many cases, hope to settle all of them, and never take anything to trial. The insurers know which attorneys take cases to trial. If the insurance company knows that your attorney never takes anything to trial, they will not take your claim seriously and will not offer you anything reasonable in settlement. Also, if your case does need to go to trial, wouldn't you rather start out with an attorney that is ready, willing and able to try your case?
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Before you negotiate or sign anything, learn your rights and how to protect yourself and your family. A personal injury lawyer can talk to you about your legal options, how to avoid common mistakes, and how to maximize your claim. Contact Todd Law Firm now to discuss your case. The consultation is free and there is no obligation. Or, simply call our Austin, Texas office at (512) 472-7799.