| Read Time: 2 minutes | Uncategorized

What are Texas Dram Shop Laws?

If a drunk driver causes an accident that injures you, you can sue the driver for personal injury. If you die in the accident, your surviving relatives can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The problem that frequently arises is that the minimum accident insurance coverage in Texas is only $30,000 per victim—and this presumes that the driver is even insured, which all too often is not the case. Moreover, personal injury and wrongful death claims frequently exceed the minimum coverage amounts. The purpose of dram shop laws is to hold a third party (typically a bar or nightclub) liable for a personal injury or wrongful death claim. Texas dram shop laws help ensure that the victim receives full compensation. The idea behind dram shop liability is that the third-party defendant contributed to the accident by serving alcohol to the intoxicated driver. More than 40 states have enacted dram shop laws.   What is a “Dram Shop”? A “dram shop” is a bar, a club, a tavern, or any other commercial establishment that sells alcohol and allows customers to consume alcohol on the premises. A liquor store is not a dram shop because it does not serve alcohol to be consumed on-premises.  Texas Dram Shop Laws Not all dram shop laws are the same, and Texas dram shop laws carry certain distinctive features. To win a dram shop claim in Texas, you must prove that: The defendant is licensed or permitted to serve alcohol or actually sells alcohol; The defendant sold, provided, or served an alcoholic beverage to a customer at a dram shop; The customer was already obviously intoxicated at the time the dram shop served them alcohol;  The customer proceeded to cause a vehicle accident; and The accident resulted in damages (injury, death, or property damage). The basis for liability is the assumption that the accident would not have occurred if the dram shop had refused to serve alcohol to the customer.   Social Host Liability in Texas Suppose you throw a party at your home. You provide alcohol, and one of your guests causes an accident on their way home. Can the victim of the accident sue you? Well, the dram shop laws of some states do allow victims to assert liability against social hosts. This is not the case in Texas, however. A victim cannot sue you for providing alcohol as a social host, except if the alcohol was given to a minor. Social Host Liability Exception for Minors The victim can sue a social host for providing alcohol to a minor if: The minor was under the age of 18 (even though 21 is the legal drinking age in Texas), The provider was at least 21 years old, The alcohol provider was not the minor’s parent or custodian, and The provider knowingly served the minor or knowingly allowed someone else to serve the minor. Except for the case of serving alcohol to a minor, a social host is not liable under the Texas dram shop law—even for providing alcohol to an obviously intoxicated guest.  Take Decisive Action The best time to begin preparing your claim is as soon as possible. Doing the groundwork for your claim promptly prevents it from growing stale with time. The Zimmerman Law Firm P.C. has been fighting for the rights of central Texans since 1962, and our attorneys enjoy the benefit of over 85 years of combined experience. Allow us to put our knowledge of Texas dram shop laws to work for you. Contact us 24/7 by calling 254-333-8869 or by contacting us online.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | Injuries

Common Types of Personal Injury Cases

Were you or your loved one injured as a result of someone else’s carelessness? Maybe you’re dealing with medical bills or you lost time from work because of your injuries.  Common types of personal injury cases include car or truck accidents, workplace incidents, and product defects. Types of injuries in personal injury cases include neck and back trauma, burns, amputations, fractures, and any serious injury stemming from someone else’s negligence.  The key qualification for personal injury cases is that someone did something or failed to do something, and as a result, you or your loved one was injured and suffered damages. Your personal injury attorney can answer any questions you may have about whether your case qualifies and help you navigate the next steps.  Vehicle Accidents In both 2020 and 2019, there were just under 4,000 fatalities each year from traffic accidents involving motor vehicles. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, in 2020 there was not one single day without a death on the state’s roadways. Of those deaths, just under 500 were motorcycle riders, and one in five were pedestrians. Whether you were the driver, passenger, or pedestrian harmed in a motor vehicle accident, a personal injury lawsuit can compensate you for medical expenses, property damage, lost wages, and pain and suffering.  Wrongful Death When a loved one dies as a result of someone’s carelessness, their family can bring a wrongful death lawsuit. It allows the family to recover for such things as funeral expenses, medical bills, compensation for the lost income, and loss of companionship.  Workplace Accidents If you were injured on the job, you might be entitled to financial relief for your medical expenses and time away from work. Compensation for workplace injuries usually comes from workers’ compensation. Children’s Injuries  If your child is being bullied or harassed and the school fails to address the issue, it might be liable for any injuries your child suffers as a result. Children have suffered serious injuries and even suicide as a result of bullying. Other child injuries can happen from car and bicycle accidents or sexual assault. If someone injured your child, you can file a personal injury claim to hold the other party accountable. Product Defects Product defect injuries happen from defects in the design or manufacturing of a product or where a company fails to properly warn of their product’s dangerousness. Some examples of defective items that have caused harm to people include airbags, asbestos, household chemicals, children’s toys, and recalled cars. The Zimmerman Law Firm Is Your Texas Personal Injury Resource Other personal injury claims include animal bites, slip-and-falls, asbestos exposure, and nursing home abuse. Whatever your circumstances, the Zimmerman Law Firm can fight to get you the compensation you deserve. We are not the typical “assembly line firm”—personal attention and client communication is key. When you come in to speak with us, you will meet the attorney handling your claim, not a paralegal or intern. Contact us today to schedule your consultation. We have offices in Waco and Austin for your convenience. 

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Wrongful Death

Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable Income?

Texas law allows for anyone who suffered the loss of a loved one to pursue a wrongful death case. Through a Texas wrongful death lawsuit, surviving loved ones can obtain monetary compensation for the losses they endured as a result of the negligent party’s actions. A wrongful death award can easily reach the six and seven-figure range. This may lead many families to wonder, Are wrongful death settlements taxable? Generally, damages collected through a wrongful death lawsuit are not taxable income under the United States Internal Revenue Code. This is because damages in a wrongful death claim compensate a grieving family for losses they sustained and are not considered “income.” However, the IRS will assess tax on certain portions of a wrongful death award. Damages in a Texas Wrongful Death Lawsuit Losing a loved one in a preventable accident is one of the most horrific events a family can experience. To help offset the impact of such a tragedy, Texas law allows surviving families to pursue financial compensation from the at-fault party. While every case is unique, a Texas wrongful death case often contains compensation amounts for the following: Loss of financial support; Loss of future financial contributions; Loss of household services; Loss of company and companionship; Mental and emotional anguish; and Funeral costs and burial expenses. These damages all fit into the category of “compensatory damages,” meaning they compensate a family for their losses related to the accident. In addition, courts award punitive damages in some Texas wrongful death cases. Unlike compensatory damages, punitive damages (or exemplary damages) focus on punishing the at-fault party for their actions. Punitive damages are not awarded in every case. To obtain punitive damages, a family must show that the at-fault party acted with fraud, malice, or gross negligence. Not only that, but a family must prove that punitive damages are appropriate by “clear and convincing evidence,” which is a high legal standard. When Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable? While the tax code is quite complex and exceptions exist, the general rule is that compensatory damages are not taxable while punitive damages are taxable. The reason for this goes back to the purposes of each type of damages award. Compensatory damages help offset the losses a family suffers, and therefore, are not considered income by the IRS. In other words, these damages make up for a loss.  On the other hand, punitive damages do not relate to a family’s losses and instead are meant as a form of punishment. Because of this, the IRS considers punitive damages as taxable income in most cases.  How Tax Consequences Play Into Wrongful Death Settlement Negotiations Most Texas wrongful death cases do not go to trial. Instead, the grieving family reaches an agreement with the insurance company to settle the case. Insurance companies like to settle cases because it limits their risk. However, they also want to settle a case for as little as possible. When engaging in settlement negotiations, it is important that you understand the tax consequences of the insurance company’s offer. For example, emotional distress damages can fall into the category of compensatory or punitive damages, depending on how they are classified. Settlements in wrongful death cases often involve significant amounts of money. And given the high income-tax rate, it is imperative that families do everything they can to keep as much of the settlement as possible. An experienced Texas personal injury attorney can help you understand the tax repercussions of an insurance company’s proposed offer. A lawyer may also help you negotiate a more favorable settlement. In short, you should always discuss the tax consequences of a wrongful death lawsuit with your lawyer before accepting any offer from the insurance company.  Contact the Texas Wrongful Death Lawyers at the Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C. If you recently lost a loved one in a Texas accident, the dedicated personal injury lawyers at Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C., are here for you. Our team of attorneys has more than 85 years of experience advocating on behalf of injury victims and their families. We routinely handle cases involving some of the largest insurance companies in the country. With our help, you can hold the negligent party responsible for your loved one’s death accountable for their actions. Not only can this provide your family with much-needed compensation in the wake of the tragedy, but it will also make Texas a safer place by discouraging dangerous and irresponsible behavior. We handle all types of personal injury cases, including those involving car accidents, slip and falls, work injuries, and product liability claims. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call at 254-272-3220 today. You can also reach us through our online form.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Wrongful Death

How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out?

If a loved one passes away due to someone else’s negligence, you should always look into filing a wrongful death claim against the responsible party. The damage that such a loss can have on a family is enormous, so affected parties deserve compensation for their loss. Compared to other civil claim settlements, wrongful death settlements are often very significant in size and scope. If the person you lost was your family’s primary earner, a wrongful death settlement may be essential to your financial stability. Because of this, one of the most common questions we get from our clients in wrongful death cases is, How are wrongful death settlements paid out? There is more than one way that a wrongful death settlement can be paid out. In this piece, we outline those options for you.  What Is in a Wrongful Death Settlement? As noted, wrongful death settlements differ from other civil settlements in their size and scope. This is particularly true when the deceased individual has a family for which they are the primary source of income. In such an event, recoverable damages often include: Funeral and burial expenses; Loss of the deceased individual’s future earnings; Loss of employment benefits (often including insurance coverage); Retirement contributions; and Non economic damages like grief, loss of a loved one, and loss of consortium or companionship. The combination of these damages often exceeds six figures. For example, the 2014 wrongful death of Eric Garner in New York City led to a payout of $5.9 million for his family. That doesn’t mean that your wrongful death settlement will end up in the seven-figure range; there was a lot that went into the Eric Garner case that was atypical of wrongful death claims. Still, this figure illustrates the potential enormity of wrongful death claims. What Options Do I Have for My Wrongful Death Settlement Payout? Because the potential size of a wrongful death settlement is so great, it is important to consider how that money is paid out. After all, you want to set yourself up for long-term financial security. Fortunately, there is more than one way that we can structure wrongful death lawsuit payouts. If you are in the initial phase of filing a wrongful death claim, you should carefully consider how you want to receive your settlement money at the end of the day. Lump Sum Wrongful Death Lawsuit Payout Your first option is to take a lump sum payout of your wrongful death settlement. A lump sum payment is just what it sounds like: you receive a one-time lump sum. The lump sum encompasses the entirety of your settlement, and you can do with it what you wish. The advantage of a lump sum settlement payout is that you get all the money at once. You can take care of any expensive bills you have and spend, save, or invest your money entirely as you wish.  Ironically, receiving all your money at once can also present a drawback. When people receive a significant sum of money all at once, the temptation to spend the money is always there. As a result, sometimes people who accept lump sum payments end up spending the money sooner than they anticipated. This, of course, can lead to financial instability and insecurity. One of the other drawbacks to lump sum settlements is tax-related. For any income generated by the lump sum payment (dividends, capital gains, etc.), you are liable for the related income tax.  Structured Settlement Wrongful Death Lawsuit Payout The other option is to negotiate a structured settlement in your wrongful death case. With a structured settlement, you receive a specified amount of money at defined intervals. You can set up your structured settlement so that you receive a certain amount each year, each month, or even every other year. The advantage this provides is long-term financial security. Many people designate a third party to invest their settlement money for them so that it generates income as it “sits.” Investment can enhance each of the periodic payments. Even better, the income that the invested money generates is not considered taxable. Perhaps the biggest disadvantage to structured settlement payouts is their inflexibility. When you set up your structured settlement payouts, you can do so at whatever interval or the amount you want. However, once the agreement is set, altering it is not easy, and sometimes impossible. Thus, many consider structured settlements risky due to their inflexibility. What If I Take a Lump Sum and Want Something Different? People change their minds all the time. It is only human for us to change our viewpoint on something as new circumstances and facts come to light. Unfortunately, once you receive your lump sum wrongful death payout, you can’t exactly give the money back. The agreement was made and fulfilled, so you really can’t change it.  However, you can still set yourself up with something similar to a structured settlement payout if you choose to do so at a later date. To do that, you just need to purchase an annuity with your lump sum. You get to decide the terms of the annuity, similar to a structured settlement. Aren’t Sure Which Direction to Go with Your Wrongful Death Settlement Payout? If you are planning to file a wrongful death claim and aren’t sure how you want to receive your settlement, we at The Zimmerman Law Firm can help. We will review your case with you, go over your financial needs and circumstances, and help you make the right decision for you and your family. Wrongful death claims are always difficult for families, so at The Zimmerman Law Firm, we always take a compassionate approach with our clients. Our goal is to make sure you get everything you need to set yourself up for the future. That’s why we always have someone available to answer your questions. If you want to see if we are a good fit for your needs, contact us today for an entirely risk-free consultation. From there,...

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Wrongful Death

Elements of a Texas Wrongful Death Claim

A legal claim for wrongful death can be brought by loved ones seeking justice and financial relief on behalf of a loved one who passed away due to the negligence of another party. This cause of action is not applicable to every accidental death situation. Specific wrongful death elements must be present to succeed on this legal claim.  In Texas, wrongful death occurs when the injured person would have had the right to file a personal injury lawsuit if they had lived. This also applies in the case of an unborn fetus.  Wrongful Death Elements There are four elements to this cause of action that the plaintiff must prove to win a lawsuit. These are similar to the elements that must be established for Texas personal injury claims. Each wrongful death element is crucial to the case. Under Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 71.001 to 71.003, if all elements of wrongful death are present, loved ones are entitled to damages.  Duty The first element of a wrongful death claim is that the defendant owed a duty of care to the person who died. One example of duty of care is the duty to obey traffic safety laws such as stopping at a red light, or not texting while driving. Breach of Duty You must next prove that the defendant breached their duty. A breach of duty occurs when a party fails to behave with the level of care that a reasonable person would exercise in a similar situation. Causation The causation element of wrongful death requires you to show that the death was caused by the breach of duty. There are two types of causation: Cause in fact means that the death would not have occurred but for the defendant’s actions; and Proximate cause means that the act was a foreseeable consequence of the defendant’s breach of duty. “Fault” is another way to think about the wrongful death element of causation.  Damages Finally, the negligent party’s actions must have caused damage. In the case of a wrongful death claim, the damages you must prove are those suffered by the loved ones of the deceased person as a result of the death—for example, loss of financial support and loss of companionship. Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas? A handful of people are permitted to file a wrongful death lawsuit. These include the decedent’s surviving spouse, children, and parents.  If none of these surviving relatives files the suit within three months of the death, a personal representative of the estate may file the claim instead. The Texas wrongful death statute of limitations give you two years to file the claim after the death of your loved one.  Proving the Elements of a Wrongful Death Suit Keeping accurate records of all the events surrounding the death of your loved one is the first step in building a successful case that meets all wrongful death elements. This includes accident reports, medical records, autopsy reports, and more. These documents can be difficult to compile as well as heartbreaking, but they are necessary. Your legal team will be able to guide you through this process, as well as conduct an investigation to determine the defendant’s level of culpability.  Our legal team at The Zimmerman Law Firm has over 85 years of combined experience representing clients with their personal injury and wrongful death cases. We can help you determine the value of your claim and the best way for you to get the compensation you deserve. Contact us for your free consultation.  FAQ What Are the Elements of Wrongful Death in Texas? There are four elements of wrongful death. These elements include duty, breach of duty, causation, and damage. Each element must be present to bring a cause of action.  Who Can File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit in Texas? The decedent’s surviving spouse, children, and parents are all eligible to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Texas. If these surviving family members do not file within three months of the death, a personal representative of the estate may file the claim instead. How Can an Attorney Assist in Your Wrongful Death Case? An experienced wrongful death attorney will determine the value of your case, investigate the death, gather proof of the negligent action that caused the death, negotiate with insurance companies, timely file paperwork, and represent you at trial if necessary.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Car Accidents

What Are the Most Common Rear-End Collision Injuries?

The injuries caused by a rear-end collision range anywhere from minor bruises and scrapes to debilitating brain injuries or loss of limb. Many victims usually underestimate the severity of their injuries, especially if those injuries are internal. Rear-end collisions often lead to these types of serious injuries, so it’s important to seek medical care immediately following the accident. After receiving care, our Texas personal injury attorneys can help you file a claim for the compensation you need to recover. Here are the most common rear-end collision injuries and the symptoms you should look out for. Whiplash This is by far one of the most common rear-end collision injuries. Whiplash occurs when a sudden movement snaps the head or neck forward or backward. This causes the ligaments and muscles of the neck to overstretch, often leading to a strain or tear. While whiplash is more likely to occur in high-speed collisions, it also happens in low-speed accidents.  The symptoms of whiplash from rear-end collision include muscle soreness, headache, numbness, dizziness, spasms, and stiffness. Many of these symptoms last for days or weeks, depending on the severity of the injury. Spinal Injuries Back injuries, including damage to the spine, are some of the most serious rear-ended collision injuries. The impact from a rear-end crash not only strains muscles in the lower back, but can also lead to fractures in the vertebrae or herniated discs. This often results in life-long complications and chronic pain. Symptoms of spinal injuries include headache, lower backache, arm pain, leg pain, stiffness, difficulty walking, numbness in the extremities, bladder control issues, and paralysis. The amount of time that it takes to recover depends on the severity of the back injury. For bruises and strains, pain may last for a few weeks. However, more serious injuries such as herniated discs or facet joint damage can cause lingering pain for several years.  Head and Facial Injuries Most common car accident injuries involve some damage to the face or head. In rear-end collisions, these injuries typically occur when a driver’s head strikes their window, steering wheel, or dashboard. Injuries to the head can be life-threatening, so it is best to get checked by a medical professional immediately following the accident.  A majority of facial injuries come in the form of bruises, cuts, scrapes, broken teeth, or a broken nose. While these injuries may not seem serious, they often require long-term treatment and can cause permanent disfigurement. The most dangerous kind of head damage is a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI can be caused by whiplash or head trauma and usually results in a concussion. The damage from a TBI is often permanent, leading to life-long neurological issues, including the following: Memory loss; Lack of focus; Impaired movement; Loss of balance; Depression; Sleep disorders; Light or noise sensitivity; Mood swings; Slurred speech; Nausea; and Seizures. For this reason, head injuries of any kind should be taken seriously after a rear-end collision, even if they initially seem to be minor. Chest Injuries Injuries to the chest, including fractures, are very common in rear-end collisions. While seatbelts and airbags prevent many fatal injuries, they can break your ribs during more severe crashes. This is especially true in a rear-end collision since the force pushes the occupants forward.  Immediately following an accident, it may be difficult to know if you have broken ribs. While sharp pain accompanies more severe fractures, cracks or hairline fractures may be less obvious and difficult to discern. Some symptoms of broken ribs include swelling, heat in the area, bruising, stiffness, and weakness. Severe pain when breathing, coughing, laughing, or twisting your body may also be an indication that you have broken ribs. Amputations Unfortunately, amputations happen often in severe rear-end accidents. In many cases, the force of the collision causes the car to crumple, leaving the victim vulnerable to crushed limbs. When this happens, emergency responders may have no choice but to remove the limb in order to save the victim’s life.  Amputations are life-altering injuries that drastically decrease a victim’s quality of life. Victims often need years of rehabilitation and psychological therapy to recover. And after some time passes, they may experience further complications that require additional surgeries. Some complications that may arise down the road include infections, blood clots, swelling, or heart issues. Injured in a Rear-End Collision? Call The Zimmerman Law Firm Today If you sustained injuries like the ones listed above in an accident that wasn’t your fault, we can help. For nearly 60 years, The Zimmerman Law Firm has been representing clients throughout Texas with their personal injury claims. Our experienced personal injury attorneys know that you need a compassionate advocate to fight for you. We will tirelessly work to negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf so you can focus on your recovery.  Contact us today to schedule a free case evaluation with one of our personal injury lawyers. We are proud to serve clients from our offices in Waco, Austin, Round Rock, and Killeen.

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Wrongful Death

Average Wrongful Death Settlement: What to Expect

If you have experienced the loss of a loved one due to the negligence or recklessness of someone else, you may be entitled to compensation for wrongful death. The amount you are eligible to receive will depend on a number of factors. There is no real way to determine the average wrongful death settlement because the circumstances of death are unique to each case. However, a personal injury lawyer can help you estimate the value of your claim. What Is Wrongful Death? A claim for wrongful death compensates the close family members of a deceased person for losses they experience as a result of their loved one’s death. To have a valid cause of action, the action or inaction that resulted in death must have been intentional or negligent. The action must have been the cause of or a contributing factor to the death of your loved one.  Potential Compensation for Wrongful Death Cases Compensation for wrongful death takes into consideration the impact of death on survivors. Damages can be both economic and noneconomic. Exemplary damages (also known as punitive damages) may also be available in egregious cases. Economic Economic damages are those that can be proven objectively using bills and invoices. Costs covered may include: Funeral and burial expenses;  Loss of decedent’s expected earning capacity;  Loss of benefits such as medical insurance coverage or pension plans;  Loss of inheritance; and Value of any goods or services that would have been provided.  Most estimated wages and benefits are calculated through the decedent’s intended retirement age. Non-Economic Damages that don’t come with a written cost are harder to prove but still just as valid. Non-economic damages attempt to place a value on the mental and emotional components of wrongful death. Non-economic damages may include: Mental anguish; Post-traumatic stress; Loss of the care, protection, and guidance from the deceased;  Loss of household services of the deceased; Loss of love and companionship; and  Loss of consortium.  Non-economic damages may require witnesses and expert testimony to prove that the damage occurred. Exemplary Damages Egregious behavior may be costly. An additional payout in the form of exemplary damages may be required to punish a defendant. These damages are most likely in cases where the defendant is a big corporation that would be undeterred by a small payout. But they could be available any time intentional conduct or gross negligence is involved, such as in the case of an accident caused by a drunk driver with repeat offenses.   Examples of Average Wrongful Death Settlements Wrongful death claims can come in all shapes and sizes. Who you are bringing the claim against will also impact average wrongful death settlement amounts.  A Texas court awarded a $9,360,000.00 verdict in 2019 against the City of Austin doing business as Austin Energy. The company was found negligent in operating and maintaining high voltage power lines that ran dangerously close to the side of a nightclub. This negligence resulted in the electrocution that killed Jaime Membreno. ​​ In 2019, Greyhound Bus was ordered to pay $20,000,000 for the wrongful death of a 25-year-old Texas resident who was hit while trying to get the driver’s attention to board the bus. The driver erred when he left the bus stop prior to the scheduled time and did not conduct a headcount.  A $4,500,000 wrongful death settlement was negotiated with Bexar County, Texas, in a lawsuit involving the fatal 2017 shooting of a 6-year-old caught in police crossfire. The person the police were seeking entered the home of the boy’s family without invitation. Officers thought she was armed and opened fire.  Factors That Impact Your Wrongful Death Settlement The amount of compensation you receive for your wrongful death lawsuit will depend heavily on the circumstances of the case including:  How the death occurred: Who was responsible: The degree of responsibility for the death; Other factors contributing to death; The age of the deceased; Salary and earning potential of the deceased; and Financial dependence of family members. If the death of your loved one was caused by the negligent or wrongful actions of an individual, your settlement may be different than if it had been caused by a large corporation.  Hiring a Wrongful Death Attorney The experienced team at The Zimmerman Law Firm has been fighting for the rights of central Texans since 1962. We understand how difficult it is to handle legal matters when you are grieving. Every case is important to us, and our team is dedicated to providing each client with individual attention and compassionate representation.   Do not settle for less than what you deserve for your wrongful death lawsuit. You have already been through enough. We’re here to help, and we don’t recover unless you do. Contact The Zimmerman Law Firm for your free case evaluation.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Injuries

10 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Personal Injury Lawyer

The legal process of personal injury claims is very complex compared to many other aspects of our day-to-day lives. Many people have never had to go through any sort of legal claim process before, so the prospect of filing a personal injury claim is often quite daunting. Sometimes, it is unclear what you should do next or even what you should do to get started. Luckily, when you hire a personal injury attorney, you hire not just an advocate, but a guide to take you through the claims process and help you get where you need to go. Before your lawyer can guide you through the legal process, however, you need to find the right one for you. Not every lawyer is the right lawyer for every person. Even for the same person, the right lawyer for a given legal claim is not always the right one for another. No two people are alike, and no two cases are alike, so to figure out whether someone is the right lawyer for you, you need to ask them some questions to get to know them and how they work in practice. Why a List of Questions Is Helpful Before consulting with any lawyers, it helps to prepare a list of questions you are going to ask them. Once you prepare your list of questions, you should ask those same questions to every attorney you consult with. That way, you can objectively compare the attorneys you speak with using the same metrics. To help you get started on your questions to ask a personal injury attorney, The Zimmerman Law Firm prepared this list of ten questions you should ask when hiring a personal injury attorney. What Questions Should I Ask a Personal Injury Lawyer? If you ask a lawyer in Texas all the following questions to start with, you will have a head start on getting to know them. That way, you can determine if they are the right attorney for your case and leave nothing to chance. 1. How Long Have You Practiced Law? Experience is critically important for any attorney. If the attorney you consult with has very little experience, they may not have the preparation necessary to successfully litigate your case. 2. Is Personal Injury Your Primary Focus Area? Some law firms handle just about any sort of claim that comes their way. This has its advantages but can also have its disadvantages. Notably, lawyers that lack a focus area can have a hard time keeping up with important developments in various legal areas. Conversely, a lawyer who focuses on personal injury will be well aware of any important changes in the law. 3. Do You Offer Confidential and Risk Free Case Consultations? This is a good question to ask before you consult with a given attorney. If the lawyers you speak to charge a fee for their consultations, you may not want to consult with them. After all, if you plan to speak with multiple attorneys, the consultation costs can add up quickly. Most personal injury attorneys do offer free consultations. 4. What Is the Value of My Personal Injury Claim? By asking each lawyer you speak with about the value of your personal injury claim, you can compare their answers. If one lawyer’s estimate far exceeds the other estimates, it may be a sign that that particular attorney has a habit of overpromising. 5. Have You Successfully Litigated Personal Injury Claims Similar to Mine? It always helps if your lawyer has successfully handled personal injury claims similar to yours. With that specific experience under their belt, they will know what to expect in your case, and can prepare accordingly. 6. What Fees Do You Charge? To avoid any nasty surprises when billing time comes, you should always ask any attorney about their fees before retaining their services. Furthermore, you can compare each lawyer’s fees to try to find the best value for your money. 7. What Happens If I Lose My Case? The answer to this question may come up in a discussion about attorney fees. Most personal injury lawyers work on the basis of a contingency fee. WIth a contingency fee payment arrangement, if you lose your case or it does not settle, your lawyer cannot collect a fee. By hiring a lawyer who works on the basis of contingency fees, filling your claim comes with very little risk. 8. Have You Faced any Disciplinary Action by Any Bar Association? If a lawyer has faced repeated disciplinary action, it may be a sign that they have questionable moral and ethical practices. You can avoid a potentially bad situation by steering clear of attorneys who were subject to repeated disciplinary action. Don’t just ask about Texas either; be sure to ask if they have faced disciplinary action from any bar association. You can also look up this information yourself online. If a lawyer lies to you about their disciplinary record, do not hire them.  9) What Case Was the Most Challenging for You? Why? Asking about what case was the most challenging for a given attorney will give you a window into their personality. You will get a glimpse into how that attorney reacts to adversity and how they work under pressure. It is a good omen if an attorney works well in difficult situations. 10) What Case Was the Most Rewarding for You? Why? This is another question that will help you get to know your attorney on a more personal level before hiring them. By asking this question, you can see what drives an attorney to do what they do. Furthermore, it can help you learn a bit about that attorney’s morals and ethics. It is important to note that this list is not exhaustive. You will always get to know someone better by asking them more questions. If you think of more questions after you consult with an attorney, you should make sure you ask those questions of the other personal injury lawyers you...

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | Work Injury

Injured by Faulty Equipment at Work—Who Is Liable?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are more than 2.8 million reported workplace injuries per year. While many of these injuries happen due to falls or other common workplace hazards, many occur because of faulty equipment.  In 2020, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) listed unsafe machinery as one of the top 10 reported workplace safety violations. Even though most employers follow OSHA’s regulations for inspecting and maintaining machinery, there are many who disregard the safety of their workers. Even minor work equipment malfunctions can put workers at risk. You may be wondering, “What is the most common injury caused by working with machines unsafely? Who is liable if I get injured using work equipment?” When faulty machinery causes an injury, you may be able to seek compensation from whoever is responsible. However, it may be difficult to determine who is at fault. At The Zimmerman Law Firm, we have decades of experience representing clients injured on the job due to the negligence of another. Our Waco work injury attorneys can help manage your case and your workers’ compensation claim at the same time, so you can focus on recovery. What Counts as Faulty Equipment? Faulty equipment is any machine, either mechanical or electric, that is too unsafe to use. There are several things that may cause a faulty machine, including manufacturing defects, design defects, and improper maintenance. Manufacturing Defect A manufacturing defect is an error in the creation of the machine that occurs during production or assembly. Typically, this defect causes the machine to become dangerous to use since it doesn’t meet the intended design specifications. Design Defect A design defect occurs when a machine is too dangerous to use, even for its intended purpose. The faults often originate from the overall blueprints of the design rather than the manufacturing process. Improper Maintenance Not all machinery defects are caused by defective parts or manufacturing errors. Some machinery injuries happen due to an employer improperly maintaining their equipment. OSHA has published requirements for machinery and machine guarding listed in their guidelines. According to standard number 1910.212, machines with the following parts require point of operation guarding to prevent injury: Guillotine cutters, Shears, Power presses, Milling machines, Power saws, Jointers, Portable power tools, and Forming rolls. In addition to these guidelines, OSHA states that stationary machinery must be securely anchored so that it doesn’t move. Machines that do not meet these standards are unnecessarily dangerous to operate. What Is the Most Common Injury Caused by Working with Machines Unsafely? The most common injury caused by using a machine unsafely is laceration. However, there are other injuries that can occur depending on the type of machinery. This includes  Broken bones,  Burns,  Traumatic brain injuries (TBI),  Spinal cord injuries,  Eye injuries, and  Amputations. Machine injuries tend to be severe and life-altering. For this reason, workers’ compensation is often not enough to cover all the damages associated with the injury.  Employer vs. Manufacturer Liability Proving liability for a workplace injury involving machinery can be difficult depending on the circumstances. If the machine is faulty because of a manufacturing or design defect, it may be easier to file a lawsuit against the manufacturer. However, if the machine malfunctions because of poor maintenance by your employer, you will likely be limited to pursuing a workers’ compensation claim except in very limited circumstances. Bringing a Case Against Your Employer In Texas, you can only sue your employer for negligence if they do not carry workers’ compensation insurance or if they intentionally harm you. However, if your employer has workers’ compensation insurance, you can file a claim for your injuries. Depending on your unique situation, this could include lost wages, rehabilitation, medical travel expenses, and more. Bringing a Case Against the Manufacturer Proving the liability of a manufacturer is a little different. In many cases, it’s possible to bring a product liability claim against a manufacturer for a defective machine. These defects can be caused by the manufacturer: Installing the machine incorrectly; Providing poor operation instructions; Designing the machine with safety flaws; or Building the machine using defective parts. For example, let’s say you are taking inventory in a walk-in freezer. When you try to exit the freezer, the door locks from the inside, causing you to suffer frostbite injuries. In this case, you may be able to sue the manufacturer for a defective door lock. Injured on the Job? We Can Help Workplace injuries can be devastating for workers and their families, especially when caused by faulty work equipment. The impact of the injury is usually life-long, requiring constant medical care or job changes. At The Zimmerman Law Firm, our work injury attorneys are dedicated to helping you maximize your recovery. We will help manage every aspect of your case from your workers’ compensation claim to your product liability lawsuit. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation with one of our Waco personal injury lawyers.

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| Read Time: 5 minutes | Car Accidents

What You Need to Know About Diminished Value Claims in Texas

When you get in a car accident, sometimes you suffer a personal injury. Other times, you experience loss in the form of property damage. Typically, the property damage that you suffer is some form of damage to your car. In Texas, the person who is to blame for an accident bears the liability for the damage that the accident causes. This means they are responsible for compensating you for medical bills, lost wages, and any property damage they cause.  A diminished value claim is a way to recover property damage from a responsible party. However, many people have never heard of a diminished value claim. Because diminished value claims are critically important in recovering damages, The Zimmerman Law FIrm put together this quick guide on diminished value claims in Texas. Texas Fault Rules and Liability Insurance Texas law looks at who caused an accident to determine who is liable for the damages the accident causes. The system is known as a modified comparative fault system. The system is comparative, as the law compares each party’s share of the blame to determine liability. Each party, with limits, can recover the amount of damages they suffered minus the percentage attributed to them. Because Texas is a fault state, the law requires all drivers to maintain a minimum amount of liability insurance. Then, unless a lawsuit is necessary after an accident, the responsible party’s insurance company compensates the damaged party. The system in Texas is called a modified comparative fault system instead of a pure comparative fault system. In a pure comparative fault system, regardless of percentage of fault, each party sees a reduction in compensation based on their own percentage of fault. If party A is 95% to blame for an accident and party B is 5% to blame, party A can still recover 5% of their total damages from party B.  The same result as outlined above would not happen in Texas’s modified comparative fault system. Instead, party A would not recover any damages from party B. This is because Texas’s modified comparative fault has a threshold of responsibility. If any party’s share of liability exceeds 50%, they cannot recover any damages from the other party. What Is a Diminished Value Claim? A diminished value claim is a way to recover property damages. When you are in an accident, the amount of damage to your vehicle can vary between minor scratches and other cosmetic damage on one hand, to rendering the vehicle entirely unusable on the other. In any case, the responsible party is liable for compensating you for that damage. If the car is unusable, that amount is the total value of the vehicle. If the car can be repaired, the amount is equal to whatever is necessary to restore the vehicle to its pre crash condition. There is one problem, however: even if a mechanic and body shop restore your vehicle to its pre crash condition, it is very likely that your car will lose value. That’s because car crashes often cause various underlying problems that inherently damage the vehicle but are not always visible. To rectify the situation, you can file a diminished value claim with the responsible party’s insurance company. The amount of your diminished value claim is equal to the difference between your car’s value before the accident and your car’s value after the accident. What Types of Diminished Value Are There? There are three main types of diminished value. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you will want to file one of the following claims: Inherent diminished value, Immediate diminished value, or Repair-related diminished value. Inherent diminished value refers specifically to the loss of a vehicle’s worth or market value. Inherent diminished value applies when you have made repairs to your vehicle but its value still decreases. Immediate diminished value refers to the difference in your vehicle’s resale value before the accident vs after the accident. Immediate diminished value applies only if you have not made repairs to your vehicle. FInally, repair-related diminished value refers to your vehicle’s loss in value because of faulty repairs, less reliable replacement parts, and any damage that has yet to be repaired. How to File a Diminished Value Claim You can file diminished value claims in Texas fairly easily. The process is similar to filing any other sort of insurance claim. To do so, you will need to gather evidence to demonstrate your vehicle’s diminished value. There are a couple ways to do this. Doing both will help to bolster your claim’s chances of success. First, you can look up your car’s Kelly Blue Book value before and after the accident. Second, you could go to a used car dealer for a valuation. Third, you could get a quote from an auto repair shop that accounts for all relevant damage. It always helps boolster your claim if you get more than one or two quotes on your vehicle.  Depending on the circumstances of your case, you should file one of two types of insurance claim. You will need to file either: A) a first-party insurance claim or B) a third-party insurance claim to recover diminished value damages. With a first party diminished value claim, you file the claim with your own insurance company because you were at fault for the accident. To do so, you need to have collision coverage, comprehensive coverage, or any other insurance product that covers property damage when you are at fault for an accident. You will need to file a third-party diminished value claim when someone else is at fault for the accident. You will do so through their insurance provider. What If the Insurance Company Denies My Diminished Value Claim? Sometimes insurance companies are quick to deny diminished value claims. One reason for this is that many attorneys do not take on diminished value claims unless they are already representing a party. Knowing this, insurance companies deny diminished value claims in hopes that the party making the claim will drop it. If...

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