Attorney Portrait Houston Accident News

Man on Motorized Scooter Struck, Killed by Drunk Driver in Houston

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Houston, TX (February 7, 2020) – A 39-year-old man died Thursday night when a truck drove off of the road and hit him. The accident occurred around 8:00 p.m. near the intersection of Bellaire Boulevard and Atwell Drive. Police say Carlos Lopez-Obispo, 57, drove his pickup truck on the curb of Bellaire Boulevard and hit a man who was riding a motorized scooter. Emergency services rushed the man to the hospital, who was pronounced dead on arrival. Police suspect alcohol was a major factor in the crash. A $100,000 bail was set for Lopez-Obispo, who is being charged with one count of intoxication manslaughter. The name of the victim has not been released. Sean Teare with the Harris County District Attorney’s Office says that the county ranks first in the nation for alcohol-related traffic deaths. So far, the trend looks like it will continue. Just two months into the year, Teare says “we already have somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 charged intoxication manslaughter or felony murder cases.” Sources: Click 2 Houston, KSAT Contact an Experienced Houston Car Accident Attorney Today Unfortunately, auto accidents like this happen far too often in Texas. Police must investigate these crashes thoroughly to determine the cause and hold those responsible accountable. At The Johns Law Firm, we understand how devastating these accidents are for the families and friends of the victims.  If you sustain injuries or lose a loved one in an accident like this, please contact one of our Houston car accident attorneys at 866-309-3499 to set up a free consultation. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims of this horrible incident. If a family member would like the name of a person removed for any reason, please click the “Remove Post” link. REMOVE POST

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Attorney Portrait Insurance

Single-Car Accident in Warner Robins Kills 2 People

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Macon, GA (February 3, 2020) – Two people died after a single-car crash in Warner Robins on Saturday. The accident occurred around 6:55 p.m. near the intersection of Feagin Mill Road and Highway 41.  According to Capt. Ronnie Harlowe of the Houston County Sheriff’s Office, the driver, 33-year-old Elmer Cisneros, was driving northbound on Highway 41 when he drove off of the road and into a ditch, hitting a tree. Cisneros and his passenger, 49-year-old Juan Ramirez, died due to their injuries. The Houston County Sheriff’s Office is still investigating why Cisneros drove off of the road. Source: WMAZ Contact an Experienced Gulf South Car Accident Attorney Today Unfortunately, auto accidents like this happen far too often in Georgia. Police must investigate these crashes thoroughly to determine the cause and hold those responsible accountable. At The Johns Law Firm, we understand how devastating these accidents are for the families and friends of the victims.  If you sustain injuries or lose a loved one in an accident like this, please contact one of our Georgia car accident attorneys at 866-309-3499 to set up a free consultation. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims of this horrible incident. If a family member would like the name of a person removed for any reason, please click the “Remove Post” link. REMOVE POST

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Attorney Portrait Insurance

Bad Faith Penalties Are Available When There Is Prompt Payment of Appraisal Award

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If you read your insurance policy closely, you will likely find an appraisal clause. What is this? In short, an insurance appraisal is a procedure for a policyholder and insurance company resolve disputes over the value of your claim. Our law firm has successfully handled numerous insurance appraisals, in some cases recovering more than 10 times the original amount paid to the policyholder. Let’s face it, insurance companies make more money when they don’t pay valid claims. Our law firm understands how to leverage your insurance policy for your benefit. While the appraisal process is supposed to provide an efficient mechanism to resolve an insurance dispute, it is still not proper for an insurer to undervalue your claim in the first place or wrongfully deny or delay your insurance claim. The Texas Prompt Payment of Claims Act is designed to penalize an insurer who unjustifiably denied, delayed, or underpaid a valid claim. However, it is not always quite that simple. Until recently, Texas courts have generally held that the payment of an appraisal award cleanses the insurer’s failure to promptly pay a claim. In other words, Texas courts permitted insurers to lowball an insured, force the insured to go file suit or go to appraisal, and as long as the insurer promptly pays the appraisal award, it would not face any liability for attorney’s fees or penalties even though the insurer significantly lowballed the claim in the first place. The Texas Supreme Court’s ruling in Barbara Technologies Corporation v. State Farm Lloyds says this is no longer the case. The Barbara Tech case involved a hail and wind claim in which State Farm estimated the damage at less than the $5,000.00 deductible. The policyholder filed suit and State Farm moved to compel appraisal. The appraisal award came back in excess of $195,000.00. State Farm promptly paid the appraisal award. After the appraisal award was rendered, Barbara Tech amended its complaint to seek attorney’s fees and penalties for violations of the Prompt Payment of Claims Act. Barbara Tech argued that State Farm acknowledged liability by paying the appraisal award and had failed to comply with the prompt payment statute by not timely issuing payment within 60 days after receiving all claim materials. The Texas Supreme Court held that an insurer may be in violation of the Prompt Payment of Claims Act if it delays payments beyond the statutory deadline regardless of whether the claim went to appraisal. In other words, simply paying an appraisal award may not cleanse an insurers’ failure to promptly pay a claim in the first place. What does this mean for Texas policyholders? It remains to be seen exactly how the holding in Barbara Technologies will be applied by lower courts. However, going to appraisal should no longer be viewed as a get out of jail free card for insurers who underpay claims. Getting Legal Help is the First Step Dealing with insurance companies can be a frustrating process. At Johns Law Firm, our attorneys understand how to leverage your insurance policy for your benefit. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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The Direct Action Statute and Collateral Source Rule Live On

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Recently, the Louisiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 372, a major bill that its proponents claimed would reduce auto insurance rates. However, the proposed legislation was all but rejected on May 7th, after an in-depth review by the Louisiana Senate Judiciary Committee. The committee raised strong concerns that not only would the bill fail in achieving its goal of lower insurance premiums, but that the bill also clearly favored insurance companies over consumers. The legislation, which had wide support by insurance companies, sought, amongst other things, to (1) end the collateral source rule and (2) eliminate direct actions against insurance companies. The legislation also proposed reducing jury thresholds and extending the prescription period to file a personal injury claim or tort action to two years. While lowering insurance rates should be a priority in Louisiana, the proposed legislation sought to fundamentally alter insurance litigation in a way that clearly favored insurance companies. Ending the Collateral Source Rule The collateral source rule is a legal rule that prevents a defendant (often insurance companies) from introducing evidence that a plaintiff has received payment from a third party. For example, a defendant in a civil action cannot offer any evidence at trial regarding the payment of the plaintiff’s medical bills or other insurance payments made for the plaintiff’s benefit. The purpose of the collateral source rule is so that a defendant can be held financially responsible for the full scope of damages they have caused. Eliminating Direct Action The Louisiana direct action statute allows a plaintiff to sue a third-party’s insurer directly to recover damages under an insurance policy. For example, if you file a personal injury action, the direct action statute allows a plaintiff to sue both the defendant and its insurance company. Opponents of the direct action statute claim that a jury is more likely to award more money if an insurance company is named as a defendant. Proponents claim the law simplifies the recovery process for individuals with claims covered by an insurance company. It also ensures a jury will award the full scope of damages caused by the defendant. From our experience, both the collateral source rule and direct action statute are important legal tools in Louisiana that are aimed at ensuring individuals and businesses are adequately compensated by insurance companies for their losses. Contact Us Today If you have questions about the collateral source rule or direction action statue, contact our team today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys. We offer free consultations.

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Attorney Portrait Insurance

8 Things to Do If You Are Injured While Working Offshore

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The offshore industry is a big factor in the Gulf South economy. Often lost in the shuffle are the workers who make this industry run. Let’s face it, offshore work is not only demanding, it is dangerous. The Johns Firm, LLC assists and represents offshore workers who have been injured in Texas, Louisiana, and throughout the Gulf South. While it is natural to feel a sense of dedication and loyalty to your employer. However, you need to understand that your injury claim will not be handled by the employer you know. It will be handled by an insurance company’s claims department and a team of experienced defense attorneys whose goal is to limit or deny your compensation. If you are injured on the job offshore, you need to take steps to protect your rights so your injury claim can be handled fairly. Here is a list of 8 things to do if you are injured offshore. Report You Injury to Your Accident and Employer Immediately Let’s face it, many of us don’t like to admit that we have been injured. We like to delay the inevitable, thinking that maybe the pain will go away. But when you wait to report your injury to your employer it only hurts your claim preventing you from recovering the medical benefits and financial compensation you deserve. One trick employers like to play is claiming that your injury is not work-related. Evidence that you did not immediately report an accident or injury only helps the employer avoid responsibility for your injury. For the best results, you should report your accident and injury immediately to your employer. Tell the Truth When you report an accident or injury to your employer, be careful to tell the complete truth. If you don’t know the details of what exactly happened, do not guess. Many honest people’s claims have gone nowhere because they decided to guess what happened instead of simply telling their employer what they know. You should always use extreme caution to be as factually accurate as possible. Get A Written Report Signed by Your Employer When you report your accident or injury to your employer, get a written report and be sure that the report is 100% accurate. Sometimes employers will create false reports with the hope that the injured worker will be do preoccupied with their medical condition to notice. If you can, review the report carefully. If the employer is being untruthful in their reporting, let them know in writing and consult an attorney. If your employer is attempting to stack the deck against you early on, you need to act with extreme caution. Do Not Go Back to Work if you are Injured Many employees make the mistake of returning to work the remainder of their hitch in the hope that the pain will go away. Don’t make this mistake. I once worked on a case where the employee returned to work despite severe back pain after slipping down a flight of stairs offshore. He worked the rest of his hitch, went home, and tried ice treatment and over-the-counter pain medication to treat his symptoms. When it was time to start his next hitch, he was unable to work, and he reported the accident and injury to the employer. The employer forced the employed to file a claim and proceed to trial more than one year later to get the benefits he deserved. The moral of this story is to report your injuries immediately and seek immediate medical assistance if the pain makes it difficult to work. If you cannot return to work, you should request to be taken back to shore. Provide Your Employer with a Written Statement In addition to getting a written report of injury, it is helpful if an injured worker provides a written statement about what happened. A written statement is different from a report. While the employer typically will prepare its initial incident report, the employee can provide a written statement to make sure that the full story of what happened is accurately reported. Again, if you provide a written statement, be sure that every fact is accurate. Exaggerating or embellishing what happened will only hurt your case in the long-run. You Should Select an Independent Physician for Medical Treatment Many employers will send an employee to their preferred physician after an accident or injury. Do not fall for this trap. We have seen employer preferred physicians misdiagnose numerous serious injuries to create a false narrative that the employee was not injured on the job. The law gives you the right to select your own physician. You do not have to see the employer’s preferred physician immediately after an accident. If you have a serious injury that requires immediate treatment, go to the emergency room. If you have a primary care physician that you use, be sure to visit him or her soon after the accident. Many times a primary care physician can refer you to a specialist who they believe will provide the best treatment possible. Follow Your Doctor’s Orders When you seek medical treatment, it is important that you comply with your doctor’s recommendations. If you do not comply with treatment recommendations, your employer will most certainly use that to claim that you are not being truthful about your injury. Accurately Report Your Symptoms to Your Doctor One of the hardest things for many of us to do is provide an accurate description of our medical issues. When you see your doctor following an accident, be sure to tell them exactly what is wrong. If you have pain and numbness in your back, take the time to describe exactly how the pain is impacting. For example, does not numbness extend into your legs. Is the pain stabbing? Is it constant? Is it more of a dull sensation? Have your legs just gone out on you while walking? It is important to provide your doctor with as much information as possible so they can provide the treatment...

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Attorney Portrait Insurance

A Former Spouse Is Claiming Life Insurance Money: What Do I Do?

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It is not uncommon for there to be competing claims for life insurance benefits between a recently widowed spouse and a former spouse. For the people seeking life insurance benefits, these disputes are emotional and different. These disputes typically occur when the deceased spouse neglected to change the beneficiary after a divorce. The rules on this issue are complex and vary from state-to-state. If you find yourself in a beneficiary dispute, you should seek the assistance of an experienced insurance attorney. Isn’t a Divorced Spouse Automatically Removed as A Beneficiary? Not always. Some but not all states have enacted a “revocation-on-divorce” law that states that a divorced spouse must be removed as a life insurance beneficiary. Typical exceptions to these laws are when there is a divorce settlement agreement for the ex-spouse to remain a life insurance beneficiary or the ex-spouse has been re-designated as a beneficiary. In other words, states with “revocation-on-divorce” laws require there be some affirmative act to prove that the insured intended for the ex-spouse to be a life insurance beneficiary. Even if there is no revocation-on-divorce law in your state, a spouse may still be entitled to at least a portion of the insurance proceeds. In community property states, a spouse may be entitled to at least one-half the life insurance benefits from a term life policy. Benefits from whole life insurance policies may be allocated based on the percentage of premiums paid during the marriage. Another consideration is when an insured attempts to change the beneficiary on an insurance policy but for a variety of reasons the beneficiary is never changed. In these situations, it is wise to consult our insurance attorneys who can guide you through your options and inform you of your legal rights. What About ERISA? Many life insurance policies are a fringe benefit provided by an employer. Life insurance policies issued through an employer are governed by a complex federal law called the Employee Retirement and Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA), which governs most employer-provided benefits to employees. ERISA-governed life insurance policies have specific rules that are entirely different from the state-specific framework of laws and rules that govern non-ERISA insurance policies. Under ERISA, the most recent named beneficiary is the rightful claimant. This means that under ERISA, an ex-spouse who remains the designated beneficiary on a policy will normally receive the life insurance proceeds unless one of a few specific exclusions apply. What Will the Insurance Company Do If There Are Competing Claims? If there are multiple people claiming life insurance benefits, the insurance company will likely file an interpleader or concursus action. In this situation, the insurance company will deposit the insurance proceeds into the court’s registry. It is then up to each claimant to make a claim for the insurance benefits. An interpleader or concursus action is a complex legal proceeding that will require each claimant to assert their claims in court. If the life insurance company has filed an interpleader or concursus action, you need to retain an experienced insurance lawyer to provide legal representation through this process. You should assume the other person(s) claiming life insurance benefits will have legal representation and will be intent on recovering the full amount of life insurance proceeds to your detriment. Failing to make a claim or making a misstep in court, could result in you not recovering the insurance benefits you are entitled to. Getting Legal Help is the First Step If you are involved in a beneficiary dispute, or just want to better understand your rights, contact our team of insurance attorneys. We have assisted hundreds of policyholders and claimants in complex insurance matters.

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Recovering Additional Living Expenses

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Homeowner’s policies typically include coverage for additional living expenses. This provides money for the cost of housing, food, and other living expenses incurred while your home is being repaired. Insurance companies will often try to force their insured to live in cramped hotels. While this may be suitable for a handful of days, for most people it is not a long-term viable solution. Getting Legal Help is the First Step If you are in need of assistance with homeowners’ policies, contact us today to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.

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When Can Your Life Insurance Claim be Denied Due to a Misrepresentation?

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Our attorneys represent policyholders whose claims have been denied for a variety of reasons, including misrepresentations on a life insurance application. A policyholder has a duty to provide accurate information to the insurer. If the application contains a material misrepresentation, the insurer may deny your claim. However, just because an insurance company claims a material misrepresentation was made does not make it so. In many cases, an insurance company’s denial is wrong. A material misrepresentation is the purposeful or unintentional concealment of a relevant fact. The most common misrepresentation issue that arises in life insurance cases concerns the disclosure of health information. For a variety of reasons, the fact that a medical condition was not disclosed on an application does not immediately give the insurer the right to deny the claim. Sometimes an applicant may not disclose a minor medical ailment. Other times an applicant may not be aware of a diagnosed condition. Further, the application itself may have not been fully completed by the applicant or the agent. It is also not uncommon for the insurance company to already have the information that it claims the applicant did not disclose. In short, insurance companies often claim an applicant made a material misrepresentation when the opposite is true. Incontestability Clause State law requires life insurance policies to contain a clause that state the policy will be incontestable after it has been in force during the lifetime of the insured for two years from its date, except for nonpayment of premiums. Despite these legal protections, insurance companies will still deny valid claims. Speaking with an Attorney You should consult an attorney if you believe your life insurance claim was wrongfully denied. In many cases an alleged misrepresentation is not material, in which case, the insurer is liable under the policy. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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TX House Committee on Insurance Considers Bills to Purporting to Increase Understanding of Insurance

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Today the Texas House of Representatives Committee on Insurance considered two bills purporting to increase your understanding of your homeowners’ insurance and car insurance. HB 1554 relating to the language of personal automobile or residential property insurance policy documents and related materials by Rep. Smithee would authorize an insurer to provide a customer a copy of insurance policy documents in a language other than English. In the event of any conflict between the English version and the alternative language version, the English version would prevail. HB 1555 relating to the status of personal automobile or residential property insurance policy summary documents by Smithee would authorize an insurer to provide plain language summaries of insurance policies. Both HB 1554 and HB 1555 are clear that they would not modify the policy of insurance but are rather intended to assist insureds to understand these complex policy documents. It is unclear why HB 1554 or HB 1555 are necessary. Presently, there is nothing that prevents or prohibits insurance companies from providing copies of the insurance policy in a language other than English or from providing policy summary documents. Any claims that they may run afoul of penalties for misrepresenting policy provisions are baseless, as an insurance company need only include a disclaimer that the policy controls. These bills appear to be a backdoor way for insurance companies to mislead policyholders while avoiding the consequences. Members of the committee seemed aware of the potential implications. Work remains to be done to ensure that fly-by-night insurance companies don’t use these provisions to misrepresent their policies to insureds. The bills were withdrawn and committee substitutes will be considered at a later date. You can follow the bills here: HB 1554 – https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=86R&Bill=HB1555 HB 1555 – https://capitol.texas.gov/BillLookup/History.aspx?LegSess=86R&Bill=HB1555

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Evaluating a Fire Insurance Claim

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A house fire can be devastating. In many cases, families from their homes are displaced for months while waiting for their insurance claim to be adjusted and paid, only to find that it isn’t enough to make them whole. Our attorneys have assisted hundreds of policyholders in recovering the compensation they deserve for the fire insurance claim. Insurance companies are notorious for undervaluing fire damage claims. Fire damage is complex. Fires can impair the structural integrity of a home requiring extensive structural repairs. Insurance companies tend not to pay for much of the damage caused by smoke and soot, which oftentimes is extensive. Getting Legal Help is the First Step If your property has been damaged by a fire, you may not have been properly compensated for your loss. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.

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