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Articles Posted in Insurance

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Texas drivers are required to have a minimum of $30,000.00 in automobile liability coverage to compensate someone for their injuries. This is the bare minimum and it only compensates the accident victim, not the insured. If you are injured by an uninsured driver and you only have liability coverage, you will not be compensated for your losses or injuries as a result of the accident. Many Texans drive on our public roads without any insurance and those who have coverage often only have the minimum amount of coverage.

We often counsel clients to purchase uninsured/underinsured coverage (‘UIM”). This coverage protects you or your family when injuries are sustained in a motor vehicle accident and the at fault driver doesn’t have any insurance or enough coverage to compensate you or your family. Purchasing UIM protects you and your family while purchasing liability coverage protects other drivers.

Recently, it has been disclosed that Allstate Insurance Company has seen their numbers of new customers, for their automobile insurance, decline rapidly. Allstate has struggled recently to bring in new clients but it is still the second largest automobile insurer. Progressive Corp. and GEICO have increased the number of new auto insurance policies they underwrite. Some popular auto insurance companies in Texas operate primarily without agents such as AMICA. Sometimes for a few more dollars you can get a substantially better auto insurance policy as compared to the bare bones cheapest product in the market.

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San Antonio injury lawyers are united in their outrage over a law that is referred to as the “paid and incurred” law. The Texas legislature passed this law in 2003. In 2005 the legislature, with the backing of medical professionals and legal professionals, attempted to undo this mistake, but the governor failed to sign the new legislation. In short, the law states that when an injured party seeks to recovery for his personal injury all that can be submitted are those bills that have been “paid and incurred”. Previously, the injured party could submit the value of the medical services they require to become whole or in other words the non-discounted value of the medical services provided.

As an example: A hardworking Texan buys health care for his family. Part of the benefit of health insurance is that your health care providers agree to provide their services at a discount to all members of that health plan. The hardworking Texan buys the health insurance to protect his family and because it is against his principles to place the risk on society if something catastrophic happens to him or his family.

If the hardworking Texan and his family are hit by a drunk driver sending them to the hospital, they will get medical treatment at a substantial discount because of their foresight in buying health insurance. The discount provided by health insurance plans vary but can often be approximately 75%. Because of “paid and incurred” the drunk driver gets a substantial break on the economic damages and is only responsible for the 25% of the medical bills paid by the insurance company. Prior to “paid and incurred” the drunk driver was responsible for the reasonable value of the services provided by the hospital.

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During the recent election cycle there was some dialogue about the Texas Supreme Court and their bias towards insurance companies. This perceived bias is supported by the Court’s rulings that favor insurance companies almost 90% of the time. This is even more alarming when you consider that in the vast majority of the cases reviewed the injured party prevailed in the trial court and also prevailed in the court of appeals; however, with some regularity the Texas Supreme Court reverses the findings of a jury of citizens as well as a panel of appellate judges and ruled in favor of the insurance company or corporate defendant. When an insurance company or large corporate defendant appeals a judgment to the Texas Supreme Court it is likely going to win.

The Texas Supreme Court acts in many instances as a monolithic block, voting in favor of defendants, and often reversing decades of legal precedents. Some have even gone as far as to suggest that the Court, which is comprised of 9 Republican Justices, rules in favor of many of the companies that donate substantial contributions to their campaigns. The vast majority of the money raised by the Texas Supreme Court comes from insurance companies, medical entities, and large law firms with cases before the Court.

In a recent case the Texas Supreme Court ruled against Texas homeowners who had defective synthetic stucco installed on their homes. Don’s Building Supply, Inc. vs. OneBeacon Insurance Co., 51 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 1367 (Feb. 7, 2008) In the OneBeacon case, the Court overruled decades of Texas jurisprudence in a decision that favored the insurance company. Because of the Court’s ruling, thousands of Texas homeowners will not be able to recover for damages to their homes. In a nutshell the Court ruled that the homeowners were too late in bringing their lawsuit, even though it was without dispute that the homeowners did not know about the damage being done to their homes – because the damage was hidden by the defective stucco. Prior case law in Texas would have allowed the lawsuit to proceed based upon the “discovery rule.” The discovery rule was a common law theory that allowed a lawsuit to proceed past the typical cutoff date if the injury or harm was not discoverable by the person harmed, even with the exercise of due diligence. Citing the language contained in the insurance policy – language created by and placed into the policy by the insurance company – the Court ruled that the discovery rule did not apply to this circumstance.

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That “money-saving, high fuel economy” car you just purchased may come with hidden costs. Many Texas drivers, like automobile owners all over the country, are buying smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles for their transportation needs.

However, one cannot look to fuel-efficiency alone when examining cost savings – what you save in fuel costs, you may pay for in additional insurance rates.

A study by Insure.com, an online insurance brokerage company, was recently reported in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) and the study found that a 40-year old male driver buying a Mini Cooper (which reportedly gets 37 mpg) would pay over $400 per year more for insurance than if that same driver purchased a Toyota Sienna minivan (which reportedly gets 23 mpg). There are many more examples (Honda Civic vs. Honda CR-V; the Civic gets approximately 10 mpg more, but costs over $400 more per year to insure).

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It has recently been reported that the world’s largest insurance carrier – insurance giant AIG – is in deep financial trouble. According to various AP reports, AIG is in immediate need of between $20 and $40 million dollars, and may require as much as $70 – $80 million for long term needs. The entities that rate insurance companies for investment purposes (Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investors Services and Fitch Ratings) have all reduced the score of AIG in recent days.

While company investors and executives battle the financial worries and attempt to quell a worried market, many individuals with life insurance policies are concerned over whether they will still have protection for their families in the event that AIG goes under. After quick debate a decision was made by the United States government to provide $85 million in funding to the insurance company to keep it afloat. So, in the short run, it appears that AIG will survive and can attempt to continue its business enterprise. However, the scare placed many life insurance and other policy holders in fear of losing their protection. Policy holders in Texas should know about certain protection plans in place in the event of a worst case scenario.

In the event that an insurance company, such as AIG, becomes insolvent, the State of Texas created a fund that can provide assistance and cover those policy obligations, at least partially. More information can be found by reviewing the information contained at the Texas Life, Accident, Health & Hospital Service Insurance Guaranty Association.

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There have been several recent stories in the San Antonio news media involving hit and run automobile accidents. The trauma inflicted by a hit and run driver, and the injuries suffered by a victim of hit and run drivers in San Antonio, Texas can be devastating. Unfortunately, the pain and injury can be compounded unless the victim carried uninsured/underinsured motor vehicle protection coverage on their personal auto insurance. If the perpetrator flees the scene, and the victim cannot identify the hit and run driver in order to make a claim against the perpetrator’s insurance, the only available option may be if the victim had uninsured/underinsured protection.

Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance protects you, and your family riding in your vehicle, from persons that cause an accident and either do not have insurance, or do not have enough insurance to pay your hospital and doctor bills, lost time at work, and other recoverable losses under Texas law. Likewise, if another driver hits your vehicle causing a wreck, and then flees before they can be identified, the uninsured coverage on your policy will protect you and pay those losses.

Uninsured/underinsured coverage is usually very economical, and much less than the cost of the original liability policy that Texas law requires drivers to maintain. By adding this valuable insurance coverage to your policy, you can protect yourself and those traveling in your vehicle. If injuries are sustained, your losses and the damage to your vehicle can be protected on your own insurance policy and you can prevent yourself from being victimized twice.