After accident, you’re owed for all of your ‘loss’

Q. My family was involved in a car accident. It was the other driver’s fault. We are attempting to settle but the insurance company only wants to pay for medical bills and damage to our car, even though we went through a lot of stress and other financial loss. What can I do to have them compensate us?

A. When someone causes an accident, they are responsible under an area of law known as tort law. The objective of tort law is to place you back in the position you were before the accident. This means compensating you for whatever loss you incurred as a result of the accident. Basically, there are two types of damages, economic and non-economic. Economic damages include all of your financial loss, such as the value of the car and medical bills. It sounds like the insurance company is offering to compensate you for this loss. You say you have “other financial loss,” and you should let them know you expect to be compensated for that loss. For example, you may have had some other personal property in the car that was damaged, or lost wages. Most insurance companies will compensate you for this type of loss once you give them proof of the amount.

The law also allows you to recover non-economic loss, such as pain and suffering and mental anguish. In my opinion, however, recovering for your “stress” may be very difficult. Recovering damages for mental anguish or pain and suffering in Texas can be difficult. You generally need an extreme situation. An example might be when you are receiving psychiatric care, or taking pain pills and seeing a doctor. You usually must show that the stress caused a substantial disruption in your daily routine. If the insurance company refuses to offer compensation for your stress and you feel you are entitled to it, you will need to speak with a personal injury attorney to assist you. Be sure to ask what it will cost before signing anything. You might end up with less money than you have been offered.

Q. My friend got a three-day eviction notice last week. Doesn’t he have 30 days to vacate, or can the manger make him leave after the three days? He is afraid all his possessions will be put out on the street.

A. If your friend has a lease, he cannot be evicted until the end of the lease term. Without a lease for a specific period of time, he would be considered a month-to-month tenant. With a lease, he gets the notice provided for in the lease, usually 30 to 60 days, before the end of the lease. If he is a month-to-month tenant, he is entitled to 30 days notice.

If he breaks the lease, however, for example by not paying rent, he can be immediately evicted with three-day notice. If he doesn’t leave, the landlord can go to court and have him and his property removed from the apartment. This process usually takes about two weeks. The landlord does not have the right to just throw him out. Look at the landlord tenant material on my Web site for much more information, Can a collection agency sue me for non-payment of a credit card debt that is more than three years old? Can they keep on calling me at work, even after I tell them to stop? I am afraid I will be fired.

A. Under federal law, the company must stop calling you at work once it knows your employer prohibits such calls. You should notify them of this when they call and follow up with a letter, sent by certified mail, so that you will be able to prove they know that your employer prohibits such calls. If they continue to call, they are violating the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. Let them know you know about this law.

Under Texas law, they can file suit for this type of debt up to four years after you defaulted.