Why isn’t the insurance carrier using new parts on my car?

What vehicle owners need to know about aftermarket crash parts

By William J. Price

aftermarket crash partsWhen my 2006 Honda Accord was involved in an accident, the insurance company opted to use “non-original equipment manufacturer aftermarket crash parts” in the repairs. Also called non-OEM aftermarket crash parts, these parts were not new. The use of certain types of aftermarket crash parts can be a cause of concern for vehicle owners who are not properly informed about the practice. Read on to learn what you can expect of the parts used in repairs on your vehicle.  Continue reading “Why isn’t the insurance carrier using new parts on my car?”

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.

Continue reading “Navigating the insurance claims process: Tips from a personal injury attorney”

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.

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!

Are you protected from uninsured drivers? Tips from an Ohio personal injury lawyer

by R. Craig McLaughlin

1 out of every 8 drivers on Ohio’s roads is driving without auto insurance. Are you protected if you’re involved in a crash with an uninsured driver?

The next time you’re commuting to work or are carpooling kids to soccer practice, take a look around at the other cars on the roadway. Pick out eight vehicles. According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS), one or more of those eight drivers is driving without insurance. When you consider 50,000 Ohio crashes a year involve an uninsured driver and 75 percent of those crashes are caused by the uninsured driver, you better make sure you have taken steps to protect yourself and your family.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage - car accident lawyer
Photo Credit: Caleb George / CC BY 2.0

What is uninsured motorist coverage?

Ohio law requires drivers to maintain proof of financial responsibility in the minimum amount 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; and $25,000 for injury to the property of others in any one accident. Most people comply with this law by purchasing an insurance policy, but statistics show there is a large segment of Ohio drivers who are driving without insurance.

If you are involved in a car crash caused by an Ohio uninsured driver, you could be left holding the bag. Unless that driver is a celebrity, professional athlete or recently won the lottery (all of these are highly unlikely or they would have had the money to purchase liability auto insurance in the first place!), then you won’t have any source of compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, out of pocket expenses, and pain and suffering.

So what can and should you do? You need to make sure your insurance policy provides uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is there to compensate you for your damages and losses in the event you are involved in a collision that is caused by an uninsured driver.

This is an optional coverage in Ohio, but one you should definitely purchase to protect yourself and your family. Check the declarations page on your auto insurance policy to see if you have it. The declarations page is a document that comes with your policy and lists the types of coverage you have; the amount of coverage and the amount of premium you pay for the coverage. Do not be tempted to save a few dollars on your premiums by declining uninsured motorist. And in my opinion, if your insurance agent fails to offer it or suggests that you decline this type of coverage, then I suggest you find a new insurance agent immediately.

The tale of two similar clients who had very different outcomes because of the purchase of uninsured motorist coverage

I recently had two clients who both suffered very serious injuries in a car crash caused by an uninsured driver. “Bill” was on his way to work when the driver of another car fell asleep, crossed left of center and struck Bill’s truck in a head-on collision. Bill’s truck was demolished and he suffered a fractured hip, shattered pelvis and other serious injuries. He was taken by ambulance to the hospital where he needed surgery. He then spent nearly a month at the hospital and a rehabilitation facility before he was able to go home. Bill’s medical expenses exceeded $100,000 and he was unable to work at his job as a construction foreman for over six months. His wife was a stay at home mom who cared for their two young daughters. Like many Ohio families, they lived paycheck to paycheck and depended on Bill’s steady income.

In an effort to save a few dollars each month on his car insurance, Bill made the mistake of not purchasing uninsured motorist coverage that would have given him some protection in this tragedy. Fortunately, Bill had health insurance that paid for most of his medical bills, but he was still responsible for thousands of dollars in medical bills in the form of deductibles, co-pays, and other out of pocket expenses. Since the driver had neither liability auto insurance nor any assets to pursue and Bill did not purchase uninsured motorist coverage, he was on the hook for these unpaid medical bills; was not going to be compensated for his significant lost wages and did not receive money for the dramatic impact this incident had on him and his family. I had to deliver this bad news to Bill that I was not able to recover anything for him or his family. Bill and his family avoided filing for bankruptcy, but this tragedy took its toll on him and his family financially, physically and emotionally.

Contrast Bill’s story with what happened to my client “Karen.” She was on her way to visit her mother when an uninsured motorist ran a stop sign and caused a T-bone collision that sent Karen’s car spinning off the side of the road. Karen suffered a herniated disk in her neck, a fractured arm and other serious injuries. Like Bill, Karen had to undergo surgery to repair the damage, had an extended hospital stay and missed significant time from her job as an administrative assistant. Fortunately, Karen had purchased uninsured motorist coverage in the amount of $250,000. Therefore, I was able to obtain this money for Karen, which paid for her medical bills, reimbursed her for her lost wages and compensated her for the disruption this event caused in her life.

Purchase Uninsured Motorist Coverage To Protect You and Your Family

So what is the take away from this article? Check the declarations page of your auto insurance policy to make sure you have uninsured motorist coverage. With 1 out of every 8 Ohio drivers on the road not having liability auto insurance, you are playing “Russian Roulette” with your physical, emotional and financial future if you do not have uninsured motorist coverage. I encourage everyone who asks me to purchase at least $250,000 or more of both liability and uninsured motorist coverage. I also suggest you ask your insurance agent about and consider purchasing an umbrella or excess insurance policy of $1 million or more to further protect yourself. An umbrella insurance policy is insurance that provides additional coverage above and beyond the underlying auto insurance policy. However, make sure you specifically request an umbrella that provides additional insurance coverage for both liability and uninsured motorist coverage because some insurance companies only issue umbrella policies for liability insurance coverage and not uninsured motorist coverage.

 

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.

Top Holiday Driving Hazards

Driving when you’re impaired or distracted is always dangerous – but add low visibility, the potential for ice and snow and the pressures that come with the holiday season, and December just might be one of the most dangerous months to be on the road. This year, avoid the four most dangerous holiday driving hazards.

winter driving

Read before you go: What to do if you get stuck in the snow

The four most dangerous holiday driving hazards 

1. Distracted Driving

Driving while using cell phones for both talking and texting holiday messages can put you and other drivers at risk. Pull over when using your smart phone to check out store hours and locations.

2. Drunk Driving

Holiday dinners and celebrations frequently include alcohol, and sometimes, even drugs. In 2014, 12,480 OVI-related crashes occurred on Ohio roadways. These resulted in 340 deaths and more than 7,000 injuries, according to the Department of Public Safety[1]. December was among the top months, with 1,104 impaired driving crashes. “This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a designated driver,” urges Elk & Elk Managing Partner Arthur M. Elk. “If you plan on consuming alcohol, take a cab, designate a sober driver or use a ridesharing app like Uber or Lyft to help get you home safely.”

“This holiday season, give yourself the gift of a designated driver.”

 – Arthur M. Elk

3. Emotional Driving

Stress brought on by the holidays can be overwhelming and those emotions have a serious effect on our driving. If you are worried, upset, frightened, depressed or even feeling extremely happy, your driving skills can be as diminished as they would be if you were texting or intoxicated. Drivers often react to these pressures by driving too fast for conditions, making aggressive lane changes, failing to yield right-of-way and generally disregarding the needs and safety of others using the road.

4. Drowsy Driving

Busy schedules during the winter holidays can lead to insufficient sleep, warns Elk. “Drowsy driving can decrease your reaction time, impair your vision or judgment and can increase your chances of getting into a car crash.”

Even if you take steps to avoid common holiday driving hazards, bad weather or the actions of other drivers may cause a traffic crash to occur. Make sure you have these essential winter items in your car at all times.

 

 


 

[1] Ohio Department of Public Safety. Ohio Traffic Crash Facts 2014. Columbus, 2015. http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/2014CrashFacts.pdf

Top 7 Spring Driving Tips

Springtime means flowers are in bloom, trees grow new leaves, and… the roads are full of potholes. While beautiful, spring in Ohio presents plenty of driving challenges, so be sure to follow these important tips when you hit the road.

Spring Driving TipsSpringtime presents plenty of challenges for motorists

  • Share the road. Warm weather brings motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians out on the roads. Many pedestrians are distracted by texting, talking on cellphones, and listening to music, so they may be unaware of the traffic around them. Be extra cautious around intersections and in residential communities.
  • Slow down in wet conditions. Reduce your speed and increase your following distance when it rains—even if it’s only misting. Remember, even a small amount of water can mix with oil and road dust to create slippery conditions.
  • Replace your wiper blades. Be sure your vehicle is ready for spring showers by replacing your windshield wipers at least once a year. Don’t drive faster than your wipers can clear water from the windshield.
  • Avoid driving through puddles. As tempting as splashing through big puddles can be, try to avoid them. Potholes may be lurking beneath the surface and spraying water can impair your brakes, cloud your vision, or cause you to hydroplane and lose control of your vehicle.
  • Keep your eyes peeled for bad road conditions. The spring thaw reveals potholes, crumbling pavement and other hazards. If possible, go around potholes. They can damage your tires or throw your car’s front end out of alignment. Before maneuvering to avoid a pothole, check surrounding traffic to ensure this will not cause a collision or endanger nearby pedestrians or cyclists. If you can’t avoid a pothole, try to slow down without slamming on your brakes.
  • Keep your tires properly inflated. Tires are your car’s first line of defense against damage from potholes and uneven pavement. When checking the pressure in your tires, ensure they are inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended levels, which can be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door.
  • Watch out for animals. Spring means animals are emerging from hibernation and entering mating season. Scan the roadside for critters, keeping in mind that many animals, especially deer, may travel in groups and are most active at dawn or dusk.

Now get out there and enjoy this gorgeous spring weather!

 

Black Friday Safety Tips

The holiday shopping season begins with a bang on Black Friday weekend. While media reports are often filled with accounts of in-store violence, statistically, you’re more likely to be injured in the parking lot. In fact, Progressive Insurance recently revealed their parking-related claims saw 36.5% increase on Black Friday.

Whether you’re driving or walking, there are important steps you can take to keep yourself and your family safe.

Drive Safely in the Parking LotBlack Friday Safety Tips

  • Watch your back. When backing out of a parking spot, be aware of pedestrians, waiting cars, others who are backing out at the same time and motorists who speed through lanes.
  • See clearly. Avoid parking next to vans and large trucks that block your space from general vision of others. If you can’t see well enough to back out safely, get help from one of your passengers.
  • Eliminate distractions. Turn off your cell phone to avoid temptation. Be sure to set up navigation and GPS devices before you take the car out of park.
  • Watch for pedestrians. Remain cautious of pedestrians on crosswalks and moving in-between and behind cars. Be especially alert to children who are not always paying attention.
  • Learn to play the outfield. Outlying areas have more spaces, lighter traffic and a lower risk of collision.
  • Buckle up. Even a low-speed collision can result in serious injuries. Make sure everyone is strapped in a seat belt or child car seat before you put the car in gear—even if it’s just a short trip to another part of the parking lot.

Be a Safe Pedestrian

  • Keep alert at all times. Put away your smartphone and take out those earbuds. We know distracted driving kills, but “distracted walking” is also dangerous proposition.
  • Don’t dillydally. Snap a pic of your parking spot with your cell phone or write down exactly where you parked your car to avoid wandering aimlessly through the parking lot.
  • Be predictable. Use crosswalks whenever possible. Never assume a driver sees you (he or she could be distracted, under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, or just not seeing you). Try to make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.

From all of us at Elk & Elk, have a safe and happy holiday season!

Airbags Exploding Like IEDs – Car Occupants Hit with Shrapnel

In an urgent message to consumers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has recalled millions of vehicles due to defective airbags, which can spontaneously explode and seriously harm passengers.

According to government officials, owners of affected Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, Subaru and General Motors vehicles should take “immediate action” to replace defective airbags, produced by Japanese manufacturer, Takata. The message is especially urgent for drivers in warm climates with high humidity.

In an interview with ABC News, auto safety expert Sean Kane said the problem with the Takata airbags is its internal inflator.

“[It’s] the canister which sits in the center of the airbag, it’s like a metal can,” Kane said. “When that’s ignited, it’s overpressurizing the canister and the canister is exploding, much like an IED [improvised explosive device], and sending shrapnel into the occupants of the vehicle.”

Kane also said that the explosions have resulted in “severe lacerations” and caused at least four deaths.

On its website, the NHTSA lists more than 7.8 million vehicles with model years from 2000 to 2006 – as well as the 2011 Honda Element — that have been subject to related recalls over the past two years and strongly urges owners to take them to their dealers immediately.

Failure to Warn

In an article dated September 11, 2014, The New York Times revealed that Honda and the airbag supplier have known about this life-threatening flaw for at least a decade:

The danger of exploding air bags was not disclosed for years after the first reported incident in 2004, despite red flags — including three additional ruptures reported to Honda in 2007, according to interviews, regulatory filings and court records.

In each of the incidents, Honda settled confidential financial claims with people injured by the air bags, but the automaker did not issue a safety recall until late 2008, and then for only a small fraction — about 4,200 — of its vehicles eventually found to be equipped with the potentially explosive air bags.

Consumers who are uncertain whether their vehicle is impacted by the Takata recalls, or any other recall, can check on www.safercar.gov/vinlookup. On the site, you can search for recalls by vehicle identification number (VIN) and sign-up for NHTSA recall alerts, which go out before recall letters are mailed by the manufacturers to the affected owners.

Sources:

Halsey, Ashley, III. “Airbag Defect Spurs Recall of 4.7 Million Vehicles.” Washington Post, October 20, 2014. Web. Accessed October 21, 2014.

Tabuchi, Hiroko. “Air Bag Flaw, Long Known to Honda and Takata, Led to Recalls.” The New York Times, September 11, 2014. Web. Accessed October 21, 2014.