Navigating the insurance claims process: Tips from a personal injury attorney

By William J. Price

insurance claims processYour car was destroyed in a crash, and now you’re stuck dealing with the other guy’s insurance carrier. A few days after exiting the Emergency Room, you begin receiving medical bills and phone calls demanding payment. To make times worse, you cannot return to work until your doctor signs a paper acknowledging you are physically able to work. You send all of the medical bills to the adjuster asking to have your wages reimbursed. After a few days of no returned phone calls turn into a few weeks, you go from angry to irate.

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How much car insurance should you really have?

Teen Driver

Advice from an experienced Ohio personal injury lawyer

By R. Craig McLaughlin

I experienced several different feelings when my 16-year-old daughter earned her driver’s license. The first feeling I had was pride. She studied, practiced, and worked hard to get her license and achieved an important milestone on her path to adulthood. The second feeling I experienced was terror!

Representing people who are seriously injured in Ohio car crashes, I am very aware of the negative statistics associated with teenage drivers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, teen drivers are nearly three times more likely than drivers who are age 20 and older to be involved in a fatal crash. The last feeling I experienced was shock when I learned how much my insurance premiums were going up because I now have a teenage driver on my insurance policy!

No one likes making premium payments to an auto insurance company, especially if you never end up needing to use your policy. However, the Ohio Department of Public Safety reported there were 302,307 car crashes on Ohio’s roadways in 2015 – so chances are you’re going to need your auto insurance in some form or fashion during your driving career.

How much car insurance coverage do you really need?

Section 4509.101 of the Ohio Revised Code prohibits an individual from driving a car or truck unless he or she has proof of financial responsibility in the minimum amounts of:

• $25,000 for bodily injury to or death of one individual in any one accident

• $50,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more individuals in any one accident

• $25,000 for injury to the property of others in any one accident

Most people comply with this law by purchasing an insurance policy.

Liability coverage is the only type of coverage in a car insurance policy that is required by Ohio law. There are two types of liability coverage in a typical car insurance policy. Bodily injury liability coverage pays for injury or death to others when the driver of your car is at fault in a collision. Property damage liability coverage pays for damage you or the driver of your car caused to another person’s property. Liability coverage will also pay for your legal defense if you’re sued.

Sometimes the policy will be what is called a “split limit” policy, which means the insurance company is only obligated to pay a maximum amount to any one person and a maximum amount total for a single collision, regardless of how many people were injured. For example, if you cause a crash and injure three people, but only have bodily injury liability coverage that provides $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident, then the most any single injured person can recover from your insurance company is $25,000 and the most the insurance company will have to pay out total for bodily injury will be $50,000. In addition, the insurance company may be obligated to pay up to $25,000 in property damage that you caused.

What happens if there is no liability auto insurance coverage?

A car crash resulting in serious injuries is bad enough, but things only get worse for everyone involved if the responsible person does not have liability auto insurance coverage. The person who caused the crash could face the following consequences:

• A ticket for the traffic violation that will likely result in a monetary fine, points on his or her driver’s license, and court costs

• Penalties imposed by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) for failing to have insurance that include loss of driving privileges, a suspension of license plates and vehicle registrations, fees, and other penalties

• A monetary judgment against him or her for the injuries and damages that were caused that may result in wage garnishment or force the responsible person into filing for bankruptcy

A crash caused by a person who does not have liability auto insurance coverage is often even more devastating for the injured person. Unfortunately, I have had to deliver bad news to my seriously injured clients that the other driver did not have liability insurance coverage. Sometimes I was still able to help them by finding insurance coverage elsewhere (e.g., uninsured motorist coverage), but other times there is nothing I or anyone else can do. The victim does not get fairly compensated for his or her injuries and is often stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills, unreimbursed lost wages, and may even be forced into bankruptcy just like the responsible driver.

What can you do to protect yourself?

Check the declarations page of your auto insurance policy to see how much liability coverage you have, or call your insurance agent or company to make sure you’re not only complying with Ohio’s minimum requirements of coverage, but are far exceeding them. I have seen my clients’ medical bills soar into the tens of thousands of dollars with just a short hospital stay, a few diagnostic tests, or a single surgery. Getting a state minimum liability insurance policy (e.g., $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident) from one of the budget/discount insurance companies is not adequate in this day and age to protect you in the event you cause a car crash.

I encourage you to purchase at least $250,000 or more in liability auto insurance coverage and also suggest you ask about and consider purchasing an umbrella or excess insurance policy to protect yourself. An umbrella insurance policy that provides $1 million in excess liability coverage is relatively inexpensive and will provide you with extra peace of mind which is nice to have, especially if you have a brand new driver in your household like I do!

Craig McLaughlin represents people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of motor vehicle crashes, defective products, nursing home neglect, and other medical negligence. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, and AVVO and is a life member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.

Why is the insurance company delaying the repairs on my car?

By William J. Pricecar accident

Your car is sitting in the tow yard. You’ve left over six messages with the property damage adjuster to find out why your car has not been moved or even examined to be repaired. At the end of each message, you ask as nicely as you can to have them return your car. You call your insurance company, and the same occurs – no answer. You feel like you are getting “jerked around.”

Your suspicions may be correct. You, the victim, have no legitimate power to force the insurance carrier to come to the table and fix your car in a timely manner.

General Recommendations for Settlement of Claims

Under the Ohio Administrative Code, an insurance carrier is given 21 days to decide whether they will accept or deny a claim after a ‘proof of loss’ is received.  A proof of loss is a document sent by you (the claimant) to the insurance carrier outlining sufficient information for them  to determine the existence and amount of the claim.  Over the next three weeks, the insurance carrier investigates the claim to determine who is at fault.  All of these activities must be completed before your body shop even begins to repair your vehicle.

Additionally, the insurance carrier is not always limited to 21 days to complete their investigation. If the insurance carrier decides they need more time to investigate, they only need to contact the victim within the initial three weeks and provide an explanation for their need for more time. Routinely, insurance carriers will send victims a letter stating “we have not completed our investigation and we will contact you when it is complete.” The insurance carrier does not have to speak with the victim or obtain consent to prolong this process. Furthermore, victims have no recourse to force the insurance carrier to come to a decision.

No Deadlines for Decisions

As if all of this is not concerning enough, the State of Ohio does not set a deadline for which the insurance carrier has to come to a decision. If the investigation of a simple rear-end collision becomes overtly complicated for an insurance carrier, they are only required to send a letter every 45 days stating the status of their investigation. If your vehicle is destroyed in a crash caused by another party, leaving you without transportation to get to work or medical appointments, the insurance carrier can hypothetically delay the repairs of your car indefinitely.

No repair facility or body shop will begin to work on a vehicle damaged in an auto accident until they receive notification they will be paid for their services. A victim is at the mercy of the insurance carrier, who can legitimately delay the repairs as they “investigate” a simple fender bender. This is truly unfair.

About William Price

William J. Price focuses his practice on personal injury litigation for people who have been seriously injured or killed as a result of medical malpractice, nursing home neglect, defective products, negligence in construction sites and trucking and auto accidents. He has been recognized by Super Lawyers, Martindale-Hubbell, AVVO and is a member of the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Million Dollar Advocates Forum.


How to tell if your elderly loved one is in danger behind the wheel

Looking out for an aging parent or elderly relative can raise challenging questions and force you to initiate difficult conversations. You’ve probably noticed your loved one’s driving abilities beginning to decline, but how do you know when it’s time for them to hang up the keys for good?

How old is too old to drive?Too Old to Drive

It depends. We all feel the effects of aging at different rates, suffer different age-related health issues and have different skill and experience levels behind the wheel. All drivers suffer some decline in their driving abilities as they get older, but it wouldn’t be reasonable or fair to force everyone to give up their keys at a certain age.

When evaluating your loved one’s ability to safely continue driving, consider the following areas:

1. Cognitive Conditions

Do they have trouble focusing or solving problems? Have you noticed any symptoms of Alzheimer’s, dementia or another condition that could interfere with their driving abilities? A person’s mental health can sometimes begin to deteriorate long before their body, making it vital to watch for early warning signs.

2. Physical Abilities

Most people lose some range of motion as they age, but falls, injuries or conditions that weaken muscles, coordination and reaction time could put your loved one at a much greater risk of a crash. Pay attention to their ability to control the vehicle, check blind spots and adjust to changing road conditions.

3. Prescription Medications

Does your loved one take any medication(s) on a regular basis? What are the side effects of the drugs individually and when taken in combination?  According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 95 percent of senior citizens take medications that could impair their driving.

Use this interactive database to help determine if your loved one’s medications are putting them at risk.

4. Driving History

Did your loved one recently cause a collision, or have you witnessed some close calls? Have they received multiple warnings or citations from law enforcement? These are some of the more obvious signs of a decline in driving ability, and can be used as examples if you decide to bring up the issue.

What to do

If you realize it is no longer safe for your loved one to be behind the wheel, plan a time to sit down with them to discuss your concerns. Be firm but supportive, explain your reasoning and offer some alternative transportation options that could help ease their transition.

What measures can you take if your loved one refuses to stop driving, but you know they need to? Read this post for information on filing a reexamination request with your local licensing office.

Do you have a road trip planned for Memorial Day Weekend?

Safe Travel TipsYou’re not alone. American Automobile Association (AAA) estimates nearly 40 million Americans will be hitting the road over the three-day weekend.

Unfortunately, the National Safety Council believes this could be the deadliest Memorial Day holiday since 2009. If the NSC’s projections prove to be accurate, more than 400 lives will be lost and 50,500 people will be seriously injured in crashes.

Keep these 5 safe travel tips in mind as you get behind the wheel:

1. Put your phone away.

Despite numerous campaigns and programs designed to raise awareness about the consequences of distracted driving, over 650,000 motorists are using their cell phone or another electronic device while behind the wheel at any given time. Quitting this dangerous habit is one of the simplest ways to reduce the odds of a crash.

2. Turn off your hands-free system.

Many Americans falsely believe using their vehicle’s Bluetooth system or voice-to-text capabilities while driving is safer than using their phone directly. However, multitasking is a myth – the human brain cannot perform two cognitive tasks at once. You could fail to visually register up to 50% of your driving environment while participating in this form of distracted driving.

If you need to place a call or send text, have a passenger do it for you or pull off at the nearest rest stop.

3. Buckle up.

According to National Safety Council estimates, over 100 lives could be saved over the Memorial Day holiday if everyone on the road wears their seat belt. Buckle yourself in, and be sure all of the passengers in your vehicle have done so as well.

4. Calm down.

Traveling in heavy holiday traffic can be incredibly frustrating, but driving aggressively is not the answer. Closely following other vehicles, weaving through traffic and making abrupt lane changes only puts you at greater risk of a crash. If the tables are turned and another driver is tailgating your vehicle, maintain your speed and carefully move over as soon as your path is clear to allow them to pass you. Drive defensively and keep an eye out for other drivers engaging in risky behaviors.

5. Watch your speed.

Although some highways in Ohio allow for speeds up to 70 mph, there is no need to travel much faster than this. Keep in mind that your risk of a deadly crash is doubled every 10 mph you travel over 50 mph. Also, construction zones are beginning to pop up again as the weather gets warmer. Watch for reduced speed limits and changing road patterns.

As always, please remember to designate a sober driver if you plan on drinking during any of your Memorial Day festivities. Click here for more safe travel tips.

Have a fun and safe holiday weekend!