In the summer of 2018 the Houston Chronicle published a report entitled Out of Control: Houston’s roads, drivers are country’s most deadly. Among other shocking statistics, the report states that Houston sees 640 traffic deaths per year in addition to 2,850 serious injuries.
So what is it like to be a car accident attorney in the deadliest metro area in the country? Houston auto accident attorney Hank Stout explains:
What would you most attribute Houston’s problem with car wrecks?
HS: From what we see daily, inattention, other unnecessary distractions, and bad decision-making are the root cause of most car wrecks in Houston.
What are the common causes of car accident cases?
HS: Some common causes we see are cell phone inattention, speeding, not following traffic control devices such as stop lights and yield signs and drinking and driving. Except in the case of a product failure such as a tire blowout, almost all car accidents are caused by a person or company’s carelessness or bad decision making.
What’s the most common mistake you see people make after a car accident that you wish you could stop?
HS: There are three primary mistakes people make after a collision. First, failing to call the police or waiting on the police to obtain a report of the collision. Without a report, the at-fault driver may change his or her story to avoid taking responsibility for the collision.
Second, not going to the doctor to get checked out after the collision. Many people assume or hope the pain will go away so don’t seek medical attention until weeks or months after the collision. We encourage everyone to see a doctor to ensure there are no serious injuries of which you may be unaware.
Third, some people make the mistake of assuming they will be treated fairly by the insurance company or worse that the insurance company is on their side. On the contrary, the business of insurance is handling claims and their goal is to save as much money as possible (which means as little to the injured party – you – as possible). If you were injured, you should seriously consider hiring a lawyer, someone who is paid to fight FOR you, not against you like the insurance company.
What should driver’s do if they are in an accident with someone who has inadequate or no insurance?
HS: Statistics show that approximately 20% of drivers do not carry insurance. This problem is compounded by the fact that most divers do not carry enough underinsured motorist coverage or uninsured motorist coverage (UIM/UM) or any UIM/UM insurance.
If you have been involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or a driver who doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your damages, you may be able to look to your own insurance carrier for coverage if you have UIM/UM coverage.
These are often tough situations for the injured person, but in certain circumstances, a lawyer can help you navigate the process in a way that covers your medical bills and still leaves you some money for expenses.
What made you want to be a car accident lawyer?
HS: My initial experience with personal injury litigation was from representing large oil and insurance companies. Through defending these companies, I saw the impact that these cases had on the lives of the injured person and how a good lawyer could help make a substantial difference in that person’s life.
After a few years of defending personal injury claims, I decided that I preferred to help individuals and families rather than defend the companies fighting against them and often responsible for the accident.
What car accident case that you’ve handled had the biggest impact on you?
HS: The case with the biggest impact on me was the first personal injury case I handled. I was still working for a large defense firm when a close family friend came to me with a problem. She had been involved in a significant collision with a company truck that almost claimed her life.
After the collision, her problems were compounded by the fact that she hired a sign and settle lawyer (i.e. a lawyer who just wants to get a quick settlement regardless of the amount). The accident lawyer she hired was trying to settle her case for a very small amount without her approval. She came to me and I took over the case and stopped her prior lawyer from settling the case.
Instead, I filed suit for her, hired a number of different experts, and worked hard to prepare the case for trial. As a result of all my efforts, the case was settled the day before trial and the company paid my client several million dollars. Helping ensure that my client and friend had ample means necessary to pay for medical care, rehabilitation and other expenses for life following this horribly debilitating accident was hugely impactful to me.