Articles Posted in Insurance

thCentral New York personal injury lawyers like me have a tough job.  We have to convince a skeptical jury that our client’s injuries are real and significant. Most injuries are fairly “invisible”.  It doesn’t help that most pain and limitations in movement do not appear on x-rays or other films.  Unless the injury is very visible and obvious – like an amputated arm — most jurors start out with the preconceived notion that the plaintiff is either faking or exaggerating her injury to get money in court.  (Actually, this is very rarely the case, and is never the case when we at Michaels & Smolak present a plaintiff to a jury).

To present our clients’ injuries to the jury, we of course must elicit testimony from witnesses who have seen, first hand, the real life consequences of the injuries.  Such witnesses include not only the plaintiff herself and her immediate family members, employers, and others who have witnesses how the injury has changed her life, but also medical doctors who have performed surgery or treated her.  All these witnesses bolster the veracity of the injury.

The insurance companies we are up against, on the other hand, hire their own doctors to examine the plaintiff and to testify regarding the injuries.  Naturally, since these hired-gun doctors are not in the business of treating the injured plaintiff, but in supplying testimony paid for by the insurance company, their testimony tends to be biased against the plaintiff.  Their “job” is to try to minimize the injury. The examinations they perform on plaintiffs are misnamed an “Independent Medical Examinations” (“IMEs”) and the doctors who performs them are sometimes called “IME” doctors.  On the plaintiffs’ side, we prefer to call these examinations “Defense Medical Examinations”, or “DME’S”, since there is really nothing “independent” about them. (Read my prior post about IME’s).

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I have been blogging recently about how auto insurance protects bicyclists who are injured by automobiles.  For my previous blogs on this subject, click here and here.  In my last blog post, I discussed what remedies a bicyclist hit by a car has when the car either leaves the scene and cannot be identified (hit-and-run vehicle) or is uninsured.  I said that the injured cyclist can claim both no-fault  (basic medical expenses and lost wages up to $50,000 limit) and “uninsured motorist” benefits (pain and suffering compensation and any medical expenses and lost wages no-fault that go beyond the no-fault limit up to $25,000) from his or her own auto insurer or, if he does not own a vehicle, from the auto insurer for any relative who lives with him or her.  And as I discussed in the previous blogs, if the injured cyclist has Supplemental Underinsured Motorist coverage in his auto policy, he will have even higher levels of compensation available.

Today I am going to discuss what happens in the same scenario, but where neither the cyclist nor  anyone who resides with him owns a vehicle, and thus there is absolutely no auto insurance available.  Is the injured cyclist completely without a remedy?

No!  At least not in New York State.  And here’s why:

Bicycle accident, wheel in front of car low angle shot, focus on car Lenklypse 2012
I blogged just the other day about four ways auto insurance can protect you if you are hit by a car while on your bicycle.  Actually, there is a fifth way I did not tell you about.  Here it is:   Hit-and-run insurance, a/k/a “uninsured motorist” coverage.

It’s pretty unusual for one motor vehicle to strike another one and take off from the scene of the accident.  Even if that happens, the hit-and-run driver is likely to get caught if he takes his car in for repairs.  The police will be canvassing local body shops and repair shops for cars that match the description of the hit-and-run vehicle.

But things are different when a car strikes a bicycle.  There is usually little or no damage at all to the car (although the bike and cyclist are crushed!).  The driver can easily just drive away.  For example, a terrible car-on-bike hit-and-run happened a few years ago right near my hometown in Geneva, NY. The hit-and-run driver was eventually caught and prosecuted, but the bicyclist ended up losing his leg.

thWatching the Syracuse University basketball squad get scorched by North Carolina was tough. It seemed that North Carolina just could not miss a shot.  Their three pointers seemed to swoosh in just as easily as their shots from within the paint.  And SU?  They could not seem to even score a foul shot.  Where was the miraculous Syracuse team we saw only a few days ago pull off an amazing come-from-behind victory over number-one ranked Virginia?

Yes, despite playing their heart out, the SU team lost.

Every good personal injury lawyer knows the feeling.  That’s because good personal injury lawyers sometimes try tough cases, where the odds are stacked against them.  They take risks.  And sometimes they lose.

NYCMGEICOPROGRESSIVEAs a New York car accident lawyer, I have been on the other side of car insurance adjusters for decades now.  So I know the score.  I know our respective jobs.  They are supposed to try to pay a little as possible to save their employer money.  I am supposed to get as much for my injured client as possible.  I get that.

But what I don’t get is why a few of the auto insurance carriers — not all — seem to believe that offering my client an unreasonably small amount of money to settle actually saves their employer money.  Most of them understand that, if they offer me something on the short side of reasonable, but still within the range of reasonable, my client will probably take it to avoid having to go through protracted litigation and a stressful trial.  This saves the insurance carrier money because they don’t have to pay a lawyer to defend a lawsuit and because they don’t have to risk a big verdict at trial.

But a few “bad” car insurance companies don’t get that. Instead, they feel that unless they make my client settle for  1/2 or even 1/3 the value of the case, they have not done their job.  That just makes me sue them, and then they have to pay their lawyer to defend the case, and on top of that they have to pay my client the reasonable verdict the jury will likely give my client and which they should have offered me to begin with!  So they end up making their employer pay more, not less.

Flying copter with their gear on the background of a beautiful sunset.
Just the other day I blogged about a soon expected explosion in drone injury lawsuits. To summarize, this December, those drones look lovely all wrapped up under the Christmas tree, but soon they will take to our skies.  And fall from those skies.  Fall on things.  And on people.

If sales projections are accurate, tens of thousands of novice recipients of these gifts will try their hands at the controls of these small, unmanned aerial vehicles with spinning and unguarded rotors.

And guess what: Some folks are going to get injured!

insurance policy A New York resident is on vacation and has stopped into a rental car agency.  Let’s listen in:

Customer“Hello, I came to pick up my rental car.  I was told it was $30 per day”.

Salesman “Sure, but you should really get the “rental insurance” on it for an extra $10.  Otherwise, you may be responsible for any damage to the car or injuries to others.”

insurance policyWe made this offer in our latest Newsletter and had a solid response from our readers. So we are now offering it to our blog readers as well:

We are offering all our NY State readers a free auto insurance review.  Why? We see it time and time again. A client comes to us with severe personal injuries suffered in a car accident. The at-fault driver has only minimal car insurance, not enough to cover all the lost income or medical expenses. Our client’s hard-earned finances are wiped out. Sometimes they need to go on welfare. You can’t get water from a rock. So if the guy who hits you does not have enough insurance, and he has no real assets to go after, you are stuck between a rock and a hard place. UNLESS you have had the foresight to buy the right kind of insurance yourself. And buying it is not expensive. It’s just a matter of knowing what to buy. You just need a little advice on how to structure your insurance policy.

Time out. Here’s a quick quiz: Do you know what SUM (Supplemental Underinsured Motorist) coverage is? What about “spousal coverage”? How about “APIP” (additional personal injury protection) If you don’t, you need to talk to us. In our experience, many insurance agents do a very poor job of educating their clients about choices in insurance policies. They often want to take your money without doing the work it takes to get you the right protection.

boatingEveryone knows that driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a serious crime that can land you in jail. But few people know about boating while intoxicated (BWI) laws.

When we think of boating, we think of relaxing or even partying on the water, often with a cool beer in hand. We would never even consider doing the same while driving a car!

But the popular image of boozing while boating as “acceptable” behavior does not match the current state of the law in New York State. In 2006, Albany finally woke up to the statistical fact that boating while intoxicated is just as dangerous as driving a car while intoxicated. It thus passed a law ratcheting up the criminal penalties for boating while intoxicated to match those for driving a motor vehicle while intoxicated. And the BWI blood count limit is 08%, same as for driving a car. (The legal limit for minors is .02%).

courtroom-thumb-300x199I read recently about the case of a man charged with attempting to murder his mom by ramming her with his SUV as she sat in her living room. He ran it right through the wall. Why? Apparently he had a financial dispute with her. In my humble opinion, that’s a pretty lame excuse for murdering your mother. And geez, the weapon he chose was pretty bizarre, too.

The guy obviously has a screw loose, or more likely a brain full of loose screws.

The mother, of Mamakating, in Sullivan County, NY, ended up in the hospital with severe injuries. The son/driver, of Bloomingburg, NY, was charged with several crimes, including second-degree attempted murder. (Shouldn’t there be a separate and more severe charge for attempted mom murder?)

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