Archive for September, 2010
The two year anniversary of Hurricane Ike came and went on September 13, and we received a great many calls from new and potential clients leading up to that date. Frustrated with two years of effort trying to get their insurance company to honor their contracts, and seeing other firm’s marketing that “the end is near,” Texas homeowners and businesses turned to the legal system in large numbers to address their hurricane insurance disputes. One of the most common questions we received is this: when do I need to file suit to protect my rights?
Billboards aside, the law provides several different time frames for filing a homeowners or business insurance dispute. An insurance policy is a contract – in exchange for a premium, an insurance company agrees to honor legitimate claims. In Texas, you need to file a claim for breach of contract within four years of the violation of the agreement. But for most of our clients, the insurance company unfortunately has done more than just breach their agreement. Frequently, we have found upon investigation that the insurance company acted unreasonably and in bad faith when they denied or delayed the hurricane insurance claim. In those circumstances, suit must be brought within two years of the denial. To be safe, any insurance lawsuit involving property damage or other acts of insurance misconduct should be brought within two years of the denial.
Most of the time the insurance company didn’t come right out and announce that they were denying the claim. Instead, they issued grossly understated and inappropriate estimates, and only after the homeowner or business owner pushed for fairness did the insurer and the adjusters come right out and refuse to honor the claim. After Hurricane Ike, this often took months. So, any homeowner or business owner should look carefully at what the insurance company provided, and if the insurance company is still acting unfairly, the
Doyle Raizner LLP is proud to announce its trial victory on September 27, 2010 against Travelers Indemnity Company. For four years, Travelers Indemnity refused to provide medical benefits to Clyde Ashworth caused by a 2006 car wreck resulting in herniated discs to Mr. Ashworth’s lumbar and cervical spine. Two surgeries were requested by the treating physicians, Travelers failed to take responsibility for either. Unfortunately, the Division of Worker’s Compensation (under the Texas Department of Insurance) concurred with Traveler’s denial and Mr. Ashworth was forced to seek legal relief in Galveston County Court. Doyle Raizner began legal representation of Mr. Ashworth in May of 2010, after the unfortunate passing of Mr. Ashworth’s prior attorney. The two day trial concluded on September 24, 2010 and the decision was finally rendered on September 27. Mr. Ashworth prevailed on all issues before the Court and Travelers was ordered to pay the long overdue benefits. This favorable decision reversed and overturned two prior rulings before the Division of Worker’s Compensation. Doyle Raizner is thrilled to report this successful outcome for a very deserving client.
Doyle Raizner Files Worker’s Compensation Bad Faith Suit Against Valley Forge Insurance Company (CNA)
On September 27, 2010, Doyle Raizner filed a lawsuit on behalf of a nurse who injured her shoulder while moving patients at a Houston-area hospital. The lawsuit was filed against the insurance carrier, Valley Forge Insurance Company, and its adjuster for their wrongful denial of her medical and income benefits after a clear on-the-job injury. With no legitimate basis, this insurance company and adjuster took the position that the nurse’s injuries did not happen on the job and were pre-existing even though the nurse had no history of shoulder problems. Valley Forge Insurance Company and its adjusters were subsequently ordered by the Texas Department of Insurance-Division of Workers’ Compensation to pay benefits. And Valley Forge Insurance Company later admitted in a signed agreement with the injured worker that benefits were due. Unfortunately, the delay in payment of benefits caused significant harm to the injured worker from which she is still fighting to recover. Doyle Raizner is proud to represent the injured worker against Valley Forge Insurance Company and its adjuster.
On September 27, 2010, Doyle Raizner filed a lawsuit on behalf of a nurse who injured her shoulder while moving patients at a Houston-area hospital. The lawsuit was filed against the insurance carrier, Valley Forge Insurance Company, and its adjuster for their wrongful denial of her medical and income benefits after a clear on-the-job injury. With no legitimate basis, this insurance company and adjuster took the position that the nurse’s injuries did not happen on the job and were pre-existing even though the nurse had no history of shoulder problems. Valley Forge Insurance Company and its adjusters were subsequently ordered by the Texas Department of Insurance-Division of Workers’ Compensation to pay benefits. And Valley Forge Insurance Company later admitted in a signed agreement with the injured worker that benefits were due. Unfortunately, the delay in payment of benefits caused significant harm to the injured worker from which she is still
The San Bruno, California, pipeline explosion on September 9 calls into question several issues that are beginning to get attention from relevant experts and the media. These issues range from whether a similar pipeline explosion could happen in other neighborhoods across the country; whether it is safe for pipelines to run underneath homes; and the question as to who is responsible for the disaster that killed four people and destroyed more than 50 homes.
The answers to these issues will, in turn, impact affected residents’ homeowners and business insurance claims.
A key piece of evidence–the blackened piece of pipeline that is believed to have ruptured–was taken for investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board. In the meantime, temporarily displaced San Bruno residents are returning home to find utility workers from Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) scouring the streets with handheld devices for other unknown leaks.
PG&E has established a $100 million fund to help residents and the neighborhood recover. Likely claims will include compensation for personal injury (including wrongful death) and compensation for total or partial destruction of homes and surrounding property.
The pipe was apparently installed in 1956 and some experts have theorized that it ruptured from corrosion. Whether PG&E takes full responsibility will hinge on the outcome of the NTSB’s investigation. PG&E President Chris Johns has stated that his company will “do the right thing” if it is found to be responsible.
The true measure of PG&E’s resolve to address the disaster will be evident when affected residents begin to file claims for compensation with PG&E and its insurer. Often, attorneys must get involved to hold insurers and corporations accountable for negligence, and this case will probably be no exception.
Military personnel injured by the poisonous fumes emanating from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan had a victory yesterday when United States District Judge Roger Titus rejected KBR’s Motion to Dismiss their lawsuits.
As they have repeatedly in other lawsuits, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, KBR argued that it need not answer in the courts for its actions harming Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Specifically KBR argued that the courts have no jurisdiction to hear the burn pit cases because they present a “political question” that must be be left to the other branches of government. In a second defense, KBR argued that the company was essentially functioning as the government (even though KBR and its subsidiaries are private corporations making oodles of money off of American taxpayers) and therefore entitled to the same immunity from suit as the government under a creative theory of “derivative sovereign immunity.” Finally, they argued that they could not be sued because they were engaged in “combatant activities.”
In declining to rule in KBR’s favor, the court noted that KBR’s defensive arguments are in tension with the concerns of “soldiers and civilians injured from wartime logistical activities performed by hired hands allegedly acting contrary to military-defined structures.” Moreover, “Courts must be prepared to adjudicate cases that ultimately expose defense contractors to appropriate liability where it is demonstrated that they acted outside the parameters established by the military and, as a result, failed to exercise proper case in minimizing the risk to service members and civilians.”
The court’s decision paves the way for the plaintiffs to proceed with carefully limited discovery. The court did, however, leave open the possibility for KBR to raise its defenses again after discovery, so this will not be the last time KBR claims that it need not answer to American citizens in American courts.
Still, this is a meaningful victory for the many burn pit victims and is the second
Doyle Raizner recently filed suit against Golding Barge Line in the 149th District Court of Brazoria County on behalf of a crewmember injured off the coast of Texas, near Freeport. Doyle Raizner’s client is a Jones Act seaman. The lawsuit is based upon negligence (under the Jones Act), the doctrine of unseaworthiness, and the seaman’s employer’s refusal to pay maintenance and cure. As a result of the negligence of his employer and the unseaworthiness of the vessel, a cable snapped hitting the seaman and throwing him overboard. The seaman suffered multiple injuries, including injuries to his neck, head, and face. Doyle Raizner specializes in Jones Act and other Maritime cases and is proud to enforce this injured worker’s rights.
On September 3, 2010, Doyle Raizner filed suit in the Nueces County Court at Law against St. James Stevedoring on behalf of a deckhand injured off the coast of Texas. Doyle Raizner’s client is a Jones Act seaman and the lawsuit is based on the Jones Act and general maritime law which require that St. James Stevedoring owed the seaman a duty to provide a safe place to work, including a competent and adequately sized crew, proper equipment to complete the job, and a safe vessel. As a result of undermanning the vessel and not providing proper equipment for operations to save a damaged barge, the seaman suffered serious injuries to his back and leg. Doyle Raizner specializes in Jones Act and other Maritime cases and is proud to enforce this injured worker’s rights
The Mariner Energy-owned Vermilion Oil rig 380 exploded today about 80 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Crew rescue efforts are presently underway by the Coast Guard.
The full consequences of the explosion are yet to be known, including the impacts on the lives of the 13 crew members aboard who will be faced with picking up the pieces after an enormous trauma.