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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Bicycle Accidents

Each year, thousands of Americans take to the roads on bicycles. This mode of transportation is touted as being more cost-effective and more environmentally friendly than motor vehicles but when it comes to safety, cycling can come with a much greater risk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 39,000 individuals were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2012. That same year, 724 cyclists lost their lives following accidents on the roads.

In addition to the dangers of moving vehicles, cyclists often suffer injury from being “doored”; this occurs when a driver, or passenger, of a stopped vehicle, suddenly opens the door into a cyclist’s path of travel. Injury can also occur from street defects, such as large pot holes or uneven manhole covers that can cause the cyclist to lose control. If you’ve suffered an injury while riding your bike, it’s important that you consult a personal injury attorney who has experience representing cyclists. Unlike other accidents, cycling accidents have a number of unique considerations; these include:

Insurance Coverage May Be Different for Cycling Accidents
Many attorneys have litigated car accident cases and may assume that the insurance process works the same way for cycling incidents, but this is rarely the case. In fact, many states have unique rules regarding the minimum coverage and payouts when a cyclist collides with a motor vehicle, even when the driver of the vehicle isn’t found to have been negligent.

The Laws of the Road Differ for Cyclists
In determining fault, your attorney must understand the roles and duties of all parties involved. When it comes to cycling accidents, few are intimately familiar with the laws that apply to cyclists but such knowledge is imperative for case success.

The Injuries Are Different
Injuries sustained when riding a bike are vastly different from those sustained when driving, or riding in, a car.An attorney who has represented injured cyclists will likely have a much better idea of how much money will be required for immediate and long-term treatment.

As experienced personal injury attorneys, our firm can help you through the complex litigation process following  a cycling injury and help you receive the compensation you need to recover, and get back on that bike as soon as possible.

 


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

SUM - The most Important Insurance you DO NOT Have

We have a new client who was out for a walk when he was hit by a car, suffering multiple fractures to his legs, wrist and hand. From the address in Brooklyn of the offending driver on the police report, and the fact that he was driving a 14 year old Chevrolet, I had a pretty good hunch that he had a minimal $25,000 insurance policy. I asked my new client if he had a car and he said he did. I asked him about his insurance coverage and he said he had the most wonderful insurance brokers who have been handling his family's business for decades and that I should call them and that they would send over the declarations page. He did know that he had a two million dollar umbrella policy, which I knew could not be issued unless he had several hundred thousand dollars in liability coverage. "Thank goodness" I thought, since this poor man would not be limited to the $25,000 of the offending driver's insurance coverage. Surely his own policy had Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage matching his own high liability limits, and therefore he could likely collect several hundred thousand dollars as compensation for his terrible injures.

I returned to the office and called his "most wonderful brokers" and they happily took my call and promptly emailed his declarations page to me. I looked at his coverage and I felt like I had been punched in the gut. His "most wonderful brokers" had in fact obtained liability coverage for him of $300,000 with a two million dollar umbrella; ample coverage if he ran someone over and they sued him. They had also gotten him $100,000 extra no-fault coverage to pay his medical bills, and he had full collision and comprehensive. This was not an inexpensive policy written by some no-name insurance company, but rather a fairly expensive policy issued by one of the largest and most well known insurance companies.

What his "most wonderful brokers" did not get for him however was Supplementary Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist (SUM) coverage of more than the minimum $25,000 required by law in New York. As a result, this poor man with two young children who was hit by a 19 year old kid driving a 14 year old car he bought used two weeks earlier for $900, could only collect $25,000 for his injures. I called his brokers and asked them to explain why my client was sold every high premium, high limit coverage available, but was not advised to purchase SUM coverage matching his $300,000 liability limits. I knew why, but I wanted to hear them say it. Instead they said they couldn't speak to me anymore and hung up.

PLEASE DO NOT LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU or your loved ones. For those of you who don't work with auto insurance everyday, Supplementary uninsured/underinsured (SUM) coverage is a type of insurance coverage on every auto policy in New York which provides you with coverage to collect against on your own policy if you are injured by another vehicle that has lower liability coverage than you have on your vehicle. The amount of coverage available to you is automatically set at the required minimum of $25,000, even if your liability coverage is much higher, but you have the option of purchasing additional coverage up to the limits of your own liability coverage.

In the case of my client, he could have purchased up to $300,000 SUM coverage and collected $25,000 from the policy of the person that hit him and $275,000 more from his own SUM coverage IF he had had it. But he didn't have it and here is why; New York State insurance regulations limit the amount of money an insurance company can charge for SUM coverage. While the premium on $300,000 liability coverage may cost more than a thousand dollars, insurance carriers can only charge about $45 for $300,000 SUM coverage. Because the amount the insurance company can charge is so small, the insurance companies, and their brokers, would actually prefer you not buy the SUM coverage because if you make a claim against it, it throws off the premium collected to claims paid out ratio ("claims loss ratio") used to determine broker bonus compensation and insurance company profits. Making a claim against your own SUM coverage also does not effect your own rates, because there is no finding of fault involved.

New York State Courts have held that a broker is NOT required to advise you to buy extra SUM coverage, and that they have no liability for failing to obtain extra SUM coverage for you unless you specifically request that coverage. The Courts have held that statements such as "give me the best insurance" or "give me full coverage" or "give me high limits" is not a specific request for SUM coverage. You must say "make my SUM coverage limits match my liability coverage limits" or "give me $300,000 (or more if your liability coverage is higher) SUM coverage" for the broker to be required to get it for you.

I want each one of you to take out the declarations page of your car insurance and check to see what your SUM coverage is. If it does not match your liability limits, your broker or insurance company has done you a tremendous disservice. Call them up and ask them why they did not advise you to get SUM coverage matching your liability coverage, and anything they say other than "because I don't make any money from it" is a complete and utter lie. Tell them to they are fired for putting you and your family at risk, and find a new broker or carrier who has your best interests at heart. For those of you who do not know me, I do not sell insurance. I am just the personal injury lawyer who has to break the bad news to you after it's too late to fix it.

Please share this with everyone you know and help them help themselves.



Monday, February 2, 2015

What Should You Do When Your Insurer Wants to Settle Your Personal Injury Case?

Hint: When You Are Injured, Your Relationship with Your Insurer Changes

Have you ever marveled at how much better an airline, retailer or other business is at processing your order and taking your money than it is at providing a refund? The reason is not technological and it is not because the refund process is somehow more difficult. It is because the nature of the relationship between you and the business has changed. You are no longer a prospective customer the business is trying to woo or a current customer the business is trying to please. Instead, you’re a liability. And liabilities are on the bottom of most businesses’ priority list. 

Likewise, when you are looking to buy car insurance or other insurance involving personal injury, insurers are anxious to “sign you” and lock in the premiums you will pay. When you are injured though, you are a liability and chances are you will be treated like one. 

Following an Accident, Your Insurer May Try to Save Money at Your Expense

Here is how most insurance companies respond to news of a serious accident on the part of one of their insureds. 

Perhaps a car accident has resulted in the need for expensive surgery, physical therapy and home care. Like everyone, you are afraid of a protracted delay in the payment of your medical expenses and other costs. Your insurer is aware that you are likely experiencing this anxiety. 

By offering you a quick settlement, the insurer can capitalize on your anxiety by offering you far less than your claim for damages is likely worth. For instance, perhaps you are insured for $1 million. Your medical costs and other losses may total $300,000. By offering you a fast settlement of $75,000, your insurer can appear helpful and concerned while actually saving $225,000.

 

Not all insurers handle claims like this example every time, but you should be aware of insurers’ motivations following an accident and make informed decisions accordingly. The best way to make informed decisions is with the assistance of an experienced personal injury attorney. 

A Personal Injury Attorney Can Protect Your Rights and Interests.

A qualified personal injury attorney can protect your interests by dealing knowledgeably with the facts of your case. What is the likely extent of your injuries? What are the limits of your insurance policy? What would a jury likely award you based on the facts of your case? And what is the actual value of your case, based on the answers to these questions?

Once your attorney investigates your case in conjunction with medical providers to assess your injuries and determines the value of your claim, he or she can work from a position of strength to negotiate with your insurer. Remember, an insurance policy is a legally binding contract. If you are injured and covered by insurance, your insurer is obligated to pay you the full value of your claim, unless you make the mistake of settling for a lesser sum early in the process. Contact a personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible whenever questions regarding insurance policy payouts arise. 


Monday, September 22, 2014

On-the-Job Injuries, Worker’s Compensation and Third-Party Claims

 

Worker’s Compensation Benefits Only Go So Far

Workers’ compensation laws have two primary objectives:  The first is to ensure that injured workers receive the compensation they need following an on-the-job injury and the second is to ensure that injured workers received the compensation they need quickly and easily, and without anxiety as to whether the funds will actually be available.

Millions of injured workers have received funds dispersed by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP), which compensates workers for lost wages, medical expenses and other expenses directly related to their injuries and losses sustained on the job. There is another loss for which the OWCP cannot reimburse workers: pain and suffering. This means that, despite injuries that are severe, injured workers are barred from OWCP compensation for:

  • Mental trauma associated with a serious injury or disability
  • The inability to accomplish the activities of daily living
  • Diminished quality of life
  • Loss of consortium on the part of a spouse or family member (in the event of the death of a worker)
  • Loss of mobility (except in relation to diminished earning capacity and other direct financial loss)

Fortunately, there is often a way for workers and their families to obtain additional, high-value, lump sum compensation following an injury on the job – a third-party claim.

What Is a Third-Party Claim?

To understand third-party claims, it’s important to understand that Worker’s Compensation claims are paid via the employer’s Worker’s Compensation insurance. In exchange for the benefit of receiving lost wages, medical expenses and other expenses to employees injured on the job, the injured employee relinquishes the right to sue the employer for damages.  Federal law limits what the insurance covers, leaving injured workers uncompensated for a range of losses.

Successful third-party claims result in compensation paid to an injured worker, or his or her family, not by Workman’s Compensation insurance but by a third party. A third party can be the insurer of a contractor, subcontractor, vendor or other party on a work site that was responsible for the accident and subsequent injuries, but not the injured worker's employer.

A third-party claim could look, generally like this:

While working for a roofing company, a roofing assistant sustains a concussion when a can of paint, owned by the house-painting contractor, falls on him from above. In the wake of the injury, the employee requires a great deal of medical care resulting in high medical bills and a month of missed work. The worker files for and receives compensation from the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs through his roofing company employer but this compensation only covers medical expenses and lost wages. In order to recover damages for the pain and suffering associated with the injury, the assistant hires a personal injury attorney and receives a high-value award for the other losses resulting from the injury. The award is not paid by the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs but instead by the insurer of the painting company whose negligence caused the injury. 

If you or a family member endured the pain, shock and loss of a serious on-the-job injury, you should investigate the possibility of a third-party claim. A third-party claim can result in compensation that covers your whole loss, not just the losses directly related to medical and wage expense. To learn more about third-party claims, contact a personal injury lawyer. 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Underinsured and At-Fault

Almost all states require some form of auto coverage insurance. This may include Bodily Injury Coverage, Personal Injury Protection, Property Damage Liability, Collision Coverage, and even Uninsured Motor Coverage. Depending on the state, the coverage level will vary greatly. For instance, you may only be required by to carry $25,000 in bodily injury coverage. While a relative residing across the country may be required to carry $50,000 in bodily injury coverage.  And while mandated requirements are often used as guides by drivers when selecting their policies, these coverage levels are not always enough to cover the cost of an accident. So what happens if you are underinsured and at fault in an accident?

The course of action will vary greatly depending on whether you are in a state with no-fault laws or traditional tort insurance laws. In states with no-fault laws, your insurance company will pay your damages while the other party’s insurance company will be responsible for theirs so if you choose to carry low levels of coverage the amount you receive after an accident will be capped by the coverage you selected. In states where traditional tort insurance laws exist, fault is established and the party at fault is responsible for the damages. If the driver at fault is underinsured in a traditional tort state, both parties may be in trouble.

Following the accident, your insurance company will seek to settle all claims as soon as possible. Even if you carry the lowest possible coverage, your insurer is responsible for your legal representation. If the opposing party has injuries exceeding your coverage level, and has Underinsured or Uninsured Motor Coverage, he or she may be able to collect the difference from this policy. However, if they don’t have this extra protection net from their own insurer or the damages exceed the policy limits, the injured party may file a lawsuit against you where your personal assets are at risk. 

In selecting an auto insurance policy, you might consider purchasing coverage above the minimum limits to protect your assets and livelihood. While a limit of $25,000 may seem high, the costs of healthcare continue to soar and just a one week stay at a hospital following an accident can easily exceed that amount.

 


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  The New York City (NYC) personal injury law firm, Friedman, Levy, Goldfarb & Green P.C., represents clients in Manhattan and New York County, Brooklyn and Kings County, the Bronx, Queens, Staten Island, as well as serving Nassau County and Long Island, Suffolk County, Rockland County, Westchester County, Harlem and throughout the State of New York.



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