CannonLaw Newsletter - June, 2004
INSURANCE COMPANY BAD FAITH
Most of us carry insurance--on our home, our car, our lives. The insurance company who sold you the policy probably tried to tell you that it was selling you peace of mind. You make your payments every month and then when you finally do have a claim--surprise--it is denied. Sometimes the denial is proper because the claim truly is not covered. Many times, however, the denial is improper, and the claim you have made really should be covered by the insurer to whom you have paid all those premiums. What then?
The answer is you may have an insurance bad-faith claim against your insurer. "Bad faith" by an insurance company can occur any time the insurer refuses to honor a legitimate claim by someone it insures. Examples of bad faith by an insurance company can include things like denying a legitimate claim, unnecessarily delaying the payment of a claim, neglecting to investigate the facts to determine if a claim is covered or not, or refusing to settle one claim unless you agree to settle another unrelated claim.
Texas law prohibits bad faith by an insurer, but, like all laws, it is not always followed. In fact, insurance companies test the limit of laws against bad faith, counting on the fact that the person with insurance is unlikely to go talk to a lawyer and find out his rights. The reason for this is simple: Every time that the insurer does not pay a claim it should have covered, the insurer profits.
Talk to a Lawyer!
So what can you do to protect yourself? First of all, an insurance adjustor is not your friend. Once you make a claim that could subject the insurer to liability, the adjustor is usually focused on nothing but keeping the size of the payout as small as possible. Be aware that most insurance adjustors are not lawyers, and even the ones who are are not always right when they say a claim is not covered. And do not hand over any documents to an adjustor until you talk to a lawyer. The insurance company may use them against you.
No matter what the adjustor tells you, talking to a lawyer is a good idea. Sometimes adjustors will tell you that the expense of consulting a lawyer and the time it takes to pursue a case through the courts means that you should take what is being offered right now. Remember: The adjustor is not looking out for you, and the "advice" not to talk to a lawyer is intended to discourage you from finding out if the offer is fair.
If you suspect that your insurer is not dealing fairly with you, call us. We want to help you get what you deserve under the law.
Thank you for trusting our firm with your legal needs. If you or someone you know has been injured due to somebody else's carelessness, please call us. We want to help.
DIET DRUGS CAN BE HAZARDOUS
As most of you know, many diet drugs can cause serious health risks. One of the most publicized diet drugs, Fen-Phen, has been banned from the market. Now the Food and Drug Administration ("FDA") has announced its intent to ban the use of another well-known supplement promoted for its weight loss effects: ephedra. So what is the real deal on diet drugs?
The Real Deal
As you might expect, the general purpose of all diet drugs is to promote weight loss. The most common means of doing this is by suppressing the appetite of the person taking the pills so that he or she eats less. Although most of us want to lose a few pounds for vanity, medical studies have shown that being overweight is very bad for your health. Carrying too many pounds is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. Right now, over a third of adult Americans and 20% of children are considered either overweight or obese and need to lose this extra weight in order to protect their health. Because so many of us need to lose weight, the diet pill business is booming. However, the question must be asked: How much risk should someone who wants or needs to lose some weight be willing to accept from the pills that help shed the pounds?
The dangers presented by diet drugs are well documented. Although some diet pills are available over-the-counter and others are available only through a doctor's prescription, both kinds of pills share one thing in common: a history of serious, dangerous side effects, including disruptions of brain function, primary pulmonary hypertension (known as PPH), and heart trouble. In fact, in the past 10 years a number of different diet drugs and dietary supplements marketed as promoting weight loss have been linked to different kinds of serious health problems, including Fen-Phen (serious heart problems), LipoKinetix (serious liver problems), and now ephedra (strokes, heart palpitations, and tremors).
While all of these drugs and supplements have either been banned or are the subject of warnings issued by the FDA, for every drug or supplement that is banned, 10 more remain for sale in the pharmacy or the grocery store. For example, there is a prescription weight loss drug available called Meridia. Despite the fact that the FDA found it only "moderately effective" in helping the seriously obese lose weight, the drug was approved. Now a consumer group has petitioned the FDA to have Meridia banned because of reports of a number of injuries and deaths associated with its use.
Some would argue that diet pills themselves are only half the problem and that the other half is the mindset people have that a bottle of pills can solve their problems. Although there are many people who have a medical need for diet drugs to help them control or reduce serious obesity, most doctors will tell you that diet pills are intended for short-term use, to help a person who is overweight or even clinically obese bring down his or her weight. However, doctors are not always aware of the dangers presented by the drugs they prescribe; very often, a doctor's main source for information about a drug is the drug manufacturer. Ultimately, even safe diet pills are not a long-term solution to a weight problem, and the only safe and sure way for an obese person to lose weight and keep it off is to change his or her lifestyle by eating less and exercising regularly.
If you suspect that you have been injured by one of the diet drugs mentioned here, or even by one not mentioned here, contact our office and we can help you to determine if you have a claim.
Diet Drug Warning Signs
Like all drugs, diet drugs have some commonly experienced side effects that are usually not life-threatening such as headaches, insomnia, dry mouth, or irritability. However, if you are taking diet drugs, it is important to recognize the signs of more serious problems. These warning signs include:
* Unusually high blood pressure;
* Unusually elevated heart rate (i.e., your heart is "racing");
* Mental disorders, such as depression, mania, or hallucinations;
* Serious skin irritations, rashes, or hives; and
If you are taking a diet drug and experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical help immediately. Failure to do so could result in serious, permanent injury, especially to your heart.
CONSTRUCTION SITES= CONSTRUCTION INJURIES
Construction is one of the largest industries in the United States, employing over six million people nationwide, and is a vital part of our economy. However, being a construction worker is also one of the most dangerous occupations, with over 8,000 people killed on jobsites every year (about 1,200 in Texas alone) and thousands more injured. The impact of these injuries can be devastating, not only to the worker, but also to the family that depends on him and the paycheck he brings home every week.
The reason construction is such a dangerous occupation is obvious; sites where buildings are under construction can be very dangerous. Although state and federal regulators have passed rules intended to make construction sites safer, there are any number of ways for construction workers to be killed or injured:
* Excavations can cave in;
* Workers can fall off scaffolding and ladders;
* Tools can be used improperly or can fail;
* Cranes can drop loads on workers' heads; and
* Exposure to loud machinery can result in hearing loss.
Unfortunately, suits involving injured construction workers are often more difficult to handle than other kinds of injury cases for several reasons. Some employers are covered by workers' compensation insurance, while others are not. In many cases, an injury or death at a construction site involves the acts of many workers employed by different companies, each of whom is pointing at someone else as the party responsible. Finally, the question of liability can turn on whether a party is the property owner, the general contractor, the subcontractor, or someone else.
Because of these complexities, it is vital to have a lawyer involved in construction injury cases as early as possible. If you are facing the aftermath of a construction accident, we will help you navigate the challenges these cases present and make sure that you get the compensation you deserve. If you or someone you know has been hurt in a construction accident, call us.
PROTECT YOUR CHILD FROM KIDNAPPING
It's a parent's worst nightmare. Your child is walking home and a predator tries to pick her up. What can parents do to help protect their child?
1. Make sure your child has a plan. Parents have to be the safety experts and safety instructors. Teach your child a plan to use in an emergency situation.
2. Make sure the plan is specific. Help your child develop techniques to avoid panicking in a frightening situation. Stress smart choices, not scared reactions.
3. Stranger does not necessarily equal danger. It is more important that a child recognize a dangerous action than a potentially dangerous person. A stranger who drives by in a car and waves is not dangerous, but if the stranger stops the car, gets out, and approaches your child, that is a dangerous action.
4. Focus on what to do. A long list of "do nots" will only confuse a child.
5. Make "No" an action verb. A child can express "no" by screaming for help, kicking, and/or running away. In a dangerous situation, actions speak louder than words, even if it means being rude to an adult.