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Advice from an experienced Ohio personal injury lawyer
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.
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.
Ohio personal injury attorney Bill Price explains why accepting an insurance provider’s settlement offer may not be the right decision.
One of the most common challenges you’ll face after an injury is the need for money. We already need it every day, but when you’re injured and can’t work, you need money more than ever to provide for your family.
To make matters worse, insurance companies know your situation. They know whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck or if you’ve been out of work for 6 months due to an injury – and they use this to their advantage.
Insurance companies deal with claims every single day. Claims just like yours. Claims that involve personal injury accidents like automobile crashes, tractor-trailer wrecks and even slip and falls. You don’t deal with an injury every day. In fact, the average person only brings one lawsuit against a company in their life regarding personal injury – if at all.
Insurance adjusters take that knowledge and use it against desperate, inexperienced injury victims. You don’t know whether your injury is worth $50,000 dollars or millions. What you do know is that with a family member out of work, bills can pile up quickly. Not only are there lost wages, but also medical bills, including hospital stays, prescription drugs and even physical therapy. For a struggling family, $50,000 can seem like a lot of money.
While an early settlement can help get you back on track and help pay off some bills, don’t accept an offer before seeking legal advice. An experienced personal injury attorney can look into the matter for you and help determine if more insurance money is available. Remember, a quick settlement may help right now, but what about future medical costs? If you’ve been seriously injured, it may take a very long time before you’re able to return to work – if ever. All future costs should be carefully examined in order to provide you and your family with the compensation you deserve.
To learn more about personal injury law, I encourage you to watch the video above and to explore our educational website at www.elkandelk.com. If you have legal questions, please call us at 1-800-ELK-OHIO. I welcome your call.
by Arthur Elk
Insurance companies can often seem like large, impersonal corporations that are protecting their own interests above all else. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. Your insurance company provides a service that you contracted as a customer, so you deserve to be treated as such. As an experienced car accident lawyer, I work with clients to achieve a positive resolution to insurance claims, and I have developed knowledge over the years to give substantial advice. The following are a few key pros and cons when dealing with insurance companies and information you should take care to remember in the event of an accident.
First, ensure that you initiate contact with your insurance company as soon as possible in the event of an accident. After health and law enforcement concerns have been considered, contact your insurance agent. Second, keep a log of all correspondence and conversations with your insurance company, including names, times, and dates as well as a summary of the relevant facts or particular details of your claim.
Third, save all paperwork and receipts relating to your accident. You should request copies of charges from medical providers and estimates from automotive repair locations. Keep physical copies of documents in case you need to refer to them at a later time. When you work with a car accident lawyer, they can help maintain records like police reports, medical records, and other correspondence.
Lastly, be aware of time limits. Most insurance policies carefully detail deadlines for filing of claims. Be sure that you file any claims before these deadlines pass.
Most of all, remember that you are a customer of the insurance company. You have legal rights, and they in turn have legal obligations. If you are in any doubt of your position, a skilled car accident attorney can give quality advice and help you through the process.
“Get the Most from Your Auto Insurance” by Kelsey Owen, Better Business Bureau, March 14, 2013.
“20 things to know about auto insurance” by Dana Dratch, Bankrate.com.