Insurance companies are hard to deal with when you need to make a claim. They don’t make the process easy. They don’t always pay the bills they should pay. They don’t always make fair offers to resolve claims. They often delay, deny, and defend legitimate claims to boost their corporate profits. It is no surprise that insurance company are disliked by almost everyone.
Despite being disliked, most people should buy more insurance. The title of this article should probably read “Adequate Auto Insurance: A Necessary Evil” because just having auto insurance is not enough to protect you. Having adequate auto insurance can be the difference between escaping an accident relatively intact financially and being forced into bankruptcy.
Even though it is against the law to drive a vehicle in Washington without insurance there are far too many people on the road without insurance. In fact, according to the Insurance Research Council, 16% of the drivers on the roads in Washington do not have insurance. That means if you are involved in a collision there is at least a 1 in 6 chance that the other driver does not have insurance. The actual probability of being hit by an uninsured driver is probably great than 1 in 6 because the same people who are irresponsible enough to drive without insurance are also irresponsible on the roads. They may have been involved in several accidents or received several tickets and now cannot afford insurance. Do not let them destroy your life too.
Even if a person who injures you in a motor vehicle collision has insurance, they probably do not have adequate insurance. The minimum liability coverage that an insurance company must offer to a resident of Washington is $25,000. With the skyrocketing cost of medical care, $25,000 is not enough for most motor vehicle injuries. Even a “minor impact” collision can cause substantial harm both physically and financially. Most of our clients who are involved in rear-end collisions with relatively minor damage to the vehicles suffer back and or neck injuries. They typically treat with a combination of chiropractic care, massage therapy, or physical therapy. Just a few months of treatment can costs more than $5,000.
More serious injuries can cause the medical bills to skyrocket quickly. Just an initial visit to the ER with a CT scan or MRI will likely exceed $10,000. Any time a person is admitted to a hospital or needs surgery, the cost can quickly become too much for any middle class family to bear. With the right insurance coverage, however, those bills can be an afterthought and you can focus on your recovery.
When deciding what coverage to get, always error on the side of more. A policy with $35,000 in Personal Injury Protection is a good start. The Undersinsured Motorist Coverage should be at least $100,000 but $250,000 is much better. Never settle for the minimum policy even if it saves you a little money up front. No one expects to be involved in a collision but if you are, it is nice to know that you have a policy that can take care of your finances so you can take care of you.
Unfortunately just having the right coverage does not always mean you will be compensated. Stopping your insurance company from delaying, denying, or defending your legitimate claims is a subject that is too complex for this short blog post. If you have questions about forcing your insurance company to keep up their end of the bargain, please give us a call. Protecting the rights of the injured is all we do at Sadler Ladenburg.
The 7th Amendment to our nation’s constitution provides “in suits at common law . . . the right of trial by jury shall be preserved . . .” which is a cornerstone of our judicial system. The founding fathers were well aware that a court of law, with a jury of our peers was the only forum in which a common man could attain justice against the government, the rich, and the powerful.
“I consider trial by jury as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.” -Thomas Jefferson
“In suits at common law, trial by jury in civil cases is as essential to secure the liberty of the people as any one of the pre-existent rights of nature.” -James Madison
“That in controversies respecting property, and in suits between man and man, the ancient trial by jury is preferable to any other, and ought to be held sacred.” -George Mason
In the past 15-20 years there has been an attack on our right to a jury trial. The attack has come from many angles. Tort reform legislation has limited the authority of juries to decide cases. Media campaigns from insurance companies and big business have caused people to believe juries are “out of control” which has prejudiced the jury pools before they even hear any testimony. Lastly, the proliferation of arbitration clauses in many areas of our lives such as cell phone contracts, employment agreements, student loans, insurance policies, credit card agreements, and nursing home contracts has stripped many consumers of their right to a jury trial.
Arbitration clauses force disputes into a private justice system where cases are resolved behind closed doors by a professional arbitrator. Unlike juries who decide one case, based on the facts of that case, professional arbitrators work with the same attorneys, insurance companies, and corporations on many cases. Their decisions may be impacted by their desire to continue to be hired as an arbitrator. Most troubling, however, is the fact that these decisions are made away from public scrutiny. The system allows corporations to hide facts of their wrong doing from the public which makes them less accountable. Patterns of wrongdoing that can be brought to light in court proceedings can be kept under wraps and allowed to continue in the arbitration arena.
Supporters of arbitration clauses argue that these clauses are in a contract the consumer has agreed to be bound by. This playing field is not level. These contracts are not ones in which the consumer really has any bargaining power. They are “take it or leave it” contracts.
“The sad reality is that today too many Americans must choose between forfeiting their legal rights and getting adequate medical care,” Senator Patrick Leahy
There is some hope, however, that these arbitration clauses will finally be seen as an attack on our constitutional rights. On September 28, 2016, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department issued a rule that bars any nursing home that receives federal funding from requiring that its residents resolve any disputes, including nursing home neglect in arbitration, instead of court. The rule promises to restore a fundamental right to more than 1.5 million residents of nursing homes. Last May, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the nation’s consumer watchdog, drafted rule that would prevent credit card companies from using arbitration clauses that bar consumers from banding together in a class-action lawsuit.
These recent changes by federal agencies are a good start but more needs to be done. Legislative change might seem impossible as insurance companies and large corporations have pumped millions into their lobbying efforts. However, if enough people become aware of the proliferation of arbitration clauses and the impact they have on their constitutional rights, maybe our voices can be heard by our representatives. Maybe a grass roots campaign can prompt the legislature to act to preserve our right to trial by jury.
Cars are safer now than ever before. In general our roads are safer now than ever before. Yet, a jump in traffic fatalities last year pushed deaths on U.S. roads to their highest level in nearly a decade. According to the National Safety Council, fatalities rose 6 percent in 2016, reaching an estimated 40,200 deaths compared to 37,757 deaths the previous year, according the National Safety Council. The group gets its data from states. The last time there were more than 40,000 fatalities in a single year was in 2007 which had 41,000 deaths.
The deaths in 2015 were significantly higher than 2014 as well. In fact, the two-year increase in traffic death was the sharpest rise the U.S. has seen in 53 years.
It is difficult to know for sure the cause of this increase. One possible cause could simply be because Americans drove more miles last year. Compared to 2015, Americans logged in 3 percent more miles. This is likely due to continued lower gasoline prices and an improving economy.
Another key factor in the increase in traffic fatalities is distracted driving. Traffic deaths had been decreasing steading until reaching their low point in 2011. About that same time, the use of smart phones rose dramatically and the death rate also began to rise. The combination of more miles being driven and more phones in the hands of drivers is recipe for disaster.
There are things you can do to lower your chances of being in a collision. Put your phone out of your reach when you are driving. Slow down. Speed kills so follow the speed limits. Be aware of your surroundings and other drivers. If you see someone driving while distracted, create distance between you and that driver.
Not every collision is avoidable. If you find yourself a victim of a collision, please do not hesitate to contact Sadler Ladenburg for free advice. Our personal injury attorneys represent car accident victims throughout Washington.
What is a life worth? It seems like an impossible task to place a monetary value on a person’s life. In our civil justice system, juries are asked to do just that when someone is killed by the negligence of another person, business, or government. Although it is difficult to think what number might be fair, most people believe that some amount of compensation is owed to the family of the victim.
Take a moment and think about which of these four scenarios are reasonable. Assume for each case the person died in a car crash that was not their fault:
Case 1. A jury awards $2,000,000 to the parents of a 17 year-old who died the day before she turned 18.
Case 2. A jury awards $0.00 to the parents of an 18 year-old who died the day after she turned 18.
Case 3. A jury awards $2,000,000 to the retired parents of a 35 year who hadn’t seen his parents in 5 years but had been helping them pay their rent
Case 4. A jury awards $0.00 to the retired parents of a 35 year old who had been living with them, providing emotional and domestic support but not financial support.
What if I told you that the law in Washington does not even allow juries in scenario 2 and 4 to make a decision? In those cases, the parents are not even allowed to bring their case to a jury. The law in Washington does not allow the parents or siblings of an adult to bring a claim for wrongful death unless they were financially dependent upon the decedent. The day your child turns 18 is the day their life has no value to you under Washington law.
Just a few days ago, a local judge dismissed a case against the defendants in the Ride the Duck tragedy that killed 5 people in Seattle. Do you think the legislature should change the law to allow parents to recover damages in cases like these?
This time of year is filled with festivities and celebration, but as we all know it is also the darkest time of the year. Here are a few tips to help this season be a little brighter and safer.
Check your car lights.
When was the last time you took a look at your car headlights, brake lights and fog lights? If you’re like most of us it has been a while. The next time you have a moment, turn those lights on and walk around your vehicle to be sure they are all shining their brightest. Having good illumination can make a big difference in your vision and can help others on the road see you better too. An added bonus: it’s preferable to find out before you’re told by someone else in the form of a moving violation ticket.
Give yourself extra time.
With the hustle and bustle of the holiday season in full swing, we are all crunched for time to get things done. Unfortunately, this can mean stressful and sometimes speedy driving. This combined with the later sunrises and early sunsets can be a dangerous combination. Try to give yourself an extra 5 or 10 minutes to get where you’re going and you will be less likely to take risks with speed.
Check exterior home and office lights.
Exterior lights can sometimes be an afterthought because we only use them for the brief moments coming or going to our homes or workplaces, however having well lit walkways and porches can make these regular trips much more pleasant and safe. How often have you arrived to your entryway to a dim or burned out bulb and an armful of packages or groceries while trying to find your keys? Fresh, bright bulbs will make these everyday trips easier.
Wear reflective and bright clothing.
Keeping active in the winter months can be a great mood boost, but we also need to keep safety in mind while walking, running or riding our bikes. Ditch the dark colors for some bright white or yellow and you will be more visible to motorists. Adding a reflective strip or a flasher is another great way to help you been seen and staying safe.
These simple steps can go a long way toward making the season safer. If you are the unfortunate victim of a negligent driver, please do not hesitate to contact the personal injury attorneys at Sadler Ladenburg. We help victims of car accidents everyday.
When mild to moderate impact collisions happen on the road, some injuries are expected. It is not uncommon for people to sustain injuries to the back and neck. There is a also serious, often initially unnoticed injury that can occur from a seemingly “mild impact” collision. A mild traumatic brain injury can often go undiagnosed after a collision because there is no outward sign of injury. The victim’s life may change forever and he or she may never connect the changes to the auto collision.
A victim of mild traumatic brain injury is one who has suffered any period of loss of consciousness, or loss of memory before or after the collision, or suffered an alter mental state, or experiences focal neurological deficits. The injury can occur after being struck on the head or after the brain undergoing an acceleration/deceleration movement without direct external trauma to head. Many mild traumatic brain injury victims do not realize they have a head injury because the damage was caused by the brain moving within the skull and not by the head being struck.
Most victims of collision have other injuries that are perceived to be more acute or more serious. They may be experience severe neck pain and spasms. They may even have nerve pain radiating to their legs. Those injuries will often over shadow a mild traumatic brain injury, at least initially. When the victims acute injuries stabilize and the victims attempts to return to their normal daily routines, they symptoms of the mild traumatic brain injury become more apparent.
The symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury can be very persistent and include nausea, vomiting, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, sleep disturbance, quickness to fatigue, lethargy, concentration problems, memory loss, speech or language problems, irritability, quickness to anger, and other behavioral changes.
It is important for victims of auto collision to explain all their symptoms to their health care providers even if they do not relate a particular symptom to the collision. Many victims of mild traumatic brain injury will settle their injury claim with the insurance company before they even realize their memory loss or mood swings are a result of the collision. As a result, they are compensated for a few thousand dollars of medical bills for treating a sore neck but they are stuck with a cognitive disability that will impact their employment and social life for years, maybe forever.
If you have suffered a brain injury due to negligence, please call Sadler Ladenburg today to learn about your rights and options.