Articles Posted in Insurance

stalker.jpgThe “Creepy Jury Stalker” story, straight from my hometown, Syracuse, New York, has gone “viral”. The New York Law Journal covered it, and so did the American Bar Association Journal not to mention the Syracuse Post Standard.

Now an even more important news source is covering it: Me.

The backdrop to the story is a dental malpractice trial in Onondaga County Supreme Court. The insurer for the defendant dental practice was AIG, the same AIG which helped collapse the global economy in 2008. I guess their fifteen minutes of fame infamy back then wasn’t enough, and they have come back to the trough for more.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for doctor bad.jpgToday I accompanied a wreck of a man — a severely injured car wreck victim — to a so-called “independent” medical examination (“IME”). (You will see why I say “so called” soon enough.) The poor guy got t-boned a few years ago and ever since has suffered horrible pain emanating from his cervical and lumbar spine. He has had two surgeries, one on his neck and one on his lower back, not to mention countless rounds of physical therapy, epidural injections, trigger point injections, pain meds, and chiropractic treatment. Even so, he has been losing his war against the pain.

All of his many doctors have concluded that (1) he is badly injured; (2) the car accident caused his injuries (he was fine before then!); and (3) he is totally disabled.

Open and shut case, right? Wrong. The insurance company defending this case has a right, under New York personal injury law, to have the victim present to a so-called (there I go again!) “independent” medical examination (“IME”) by a doctor of their choice. The so-called “independent” doctor (paid by the insurance company) then renders an opinion whether the victim is injured, and if so what his injuries are, whether the car accident caused them, and whether he can work at all.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for insurance claim form.jpgJust read an article in the New York Times titled, “How to Know if You Have Enough Auto Insurance“. The article gave some interesting statistics: Nationally, the average jury award for motor vehicle accident injuries is $181,197, and about 5 percent of car accident injury claims in 2010 were for more than $100,000 while only about 2 percent reached $300,000.

Then there are those occasional multi-million dollar jury verdicts. How do you protect yourself against those?

Anyone can make a mistake driving, including you. Do you need to protect yourself against such judgments? Is it expensive to do?

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bicyclists racing.jpgA recent hit-and-run driver case in the Geneva NY area has some people wondering whether a downed cyclist or pedestrian will get more insurance compensation if the guilty hit-and-run driver is caught. The answer is probably not. Why?

First, in my experience representing Central New bicyclists and pedestrians in hit-and-run cases, hit-and-run drivers usually carry minimal insurance. They are usually irresponsible (that explains why they take off), have poor-paying jobs, and no real assets. All they can afford, or want, is the minimal coverage, which is $50,000 in “no-fault” and $25,000 in “bodily injury” (also called “liability”) insurance.

Since this is the minimum insurance, everyone who owns a car in New York has at least that, including injured cyclists or pedestrians who own a car, or whose family member he or she lives with owns one. The injured cyclist/pedestrian automatically gets at least this minimal coverage from their own (or family member’s) auto insurance if they are victims of a hit-and-run and the driver is not caught.

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for bicyclists racing.jpgThe other day I blogged about a car-on-bicycle collision in the Gorham-Rushville NY area. A hit-and-run driver knocked Kevin Royston, an avid cyclists, off his bike and into a ditch where a passing motorist spotted him and called for help. His leg, broken in four places, has now been partially amputated.

The Geneva Bicycle Center along with Kevin’s family and friends are now offering an $11,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the hit-and-run driver. Michaels & Smolak now adds $1,000 to that pot of reward money, making the total $12,000. Why?

Some of Kevin’s friends feel that he will get better insurance coverage if the hit-and-run driver is caught, but they are probably wrong. The coverage will probably be the same. So that’s not why we are chipping in. (If you are interested in knowing why the coverage probably won’t change, click and read here).

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for insurance claim form.jpgI read this article in the Syracuse Post Standard the other day about how no-fault insurance regulators plan to start “kicking crooked doctors out of New York’s no-fault program“, referring to such doctors as “linchpins in fake-accident scams that cost insurers and policyholders hundreds of millions of dollars”.

As a Central and Syracuse New York auto accident lawyer, I have represented many, many auto accident victims over the years. And I have some questions for the regulators who are targeting no-fault victims’ doctors. The first is, “what planet do you live on?!”

I have never, in my career, known any auto accident victims’ doctors or other medical professionals to take part in “fake” no-fault claims. Instead, I have known no-fault insurance carriers to hire biased doctors to issue one-sided reports used to justify denying car-accident victims their medical treatment. These doctors butter their bread with a regular stream of income from the no-fault insurance industry, which asks them, time and time again, to give an opinion as to whether their insureds’ no-fault funded medical treatment is “reasonable and necessary”. With surprising (actually, not) regularity, these doctors, bought and paid for by the insurance company, find the insured’s medical treatment NOT necessary or reasonable. The no-fault carriers then use these reports to justify denying payment of any further medical treatment for their insured, who by the way, dutifully paid their no-fault insurance premiums for years.

lawyer & client.jpgDear friendly insurance adjuster:

Thank you for your recent letter requesting permission to take my injured client’s “recorded statement” regarding the accident your insured so carelessly caused. As a Central and Syracuse New York personal injury lawyer, I appreciate all communications with insurance adjusters that might help me resolve my clients’ claims. My response is a conditional “yes”. I will allow you to take my client’s recorded statement only if you allow me to take your insured’s recorded statement.

I really doubt, though, that you will agree to this absolutely fair proposal. I have proposed this same “swap” hundreds of times to many different insurance adjusters from all kinds of insurance companies, including yours. So far, no insurance adjuster has agreed to it. They all want to take, but not to give. Haven’t they ever learned that it is better to give than receive?

christmastree.jpgA client of mine is having a very merry Christmas indeed. I already blogged about his Waterloo, New York car accident case. Guy was passenger in his buddy’s car, who was stopped and waiting for traffic to clear so he could turn left into a driveway. Driver from behind, lost, looking at a map while driving, rear-ends them at full speed, causing them to flip over. Our guy ends up with a herniated cervical disc that takes him out of his welding job, for good, and requires surgery. The surgery helps, but does not rid him of the pain.

At first, there appeared to be no more than $100,000 in insurance, the policy limit of the driver/owner of the at-fault vehicle. There was no indication in the police report, or anywhere, that the negligent driver was doing anything but his own business when he rear-ended our guy. But an off-the-cuff remark by him at the scene — about some “bovine sperm bottles” he had in his pickup truck — tipped us off that perhaps he was working for some company that dealt in such products, even though he owned the vehicle and there was no company emblem or signage on it.

After some investigating, we turned up a California employer. The insurance carrier for the employer discloses a $1,000,000 insurance policy. Now we’re talking! But still, we felt our client’s case was worth more – what with all his pain and suffering, his completely altered life style, and the loss of his job.

Thumbnail image for deer crossing street.jpgNews reports say that a driver carrying 3 passengers in Sennett crashed after swerving to avoid a deer. A 27-year-old Auburn female passenger was killed and four others were injured in the collision. The car struck a culvert, rolled over several times, and ejected three of the passengers. It seems that all of the passengers suffered fairly serious injuries.

These were young people — late teens and early twenties. As the father of several kids that age, I can say that the parents are living my worst nightmare.

Finding enough insurance to fully cover all the injuries will be a challenge. To have the best shot at getting sufficient coverage, the passengers or their families should promptly retain a New York car accident lawyer to fully represent their interests, which includes investigating all potential insurance coverage.

I ran across a fellow personal injury attorney’s blog post pointing out that only one state, Oregon, requires attorneys to be covered by malpractice insurance. When you think about it, it is amazing there are no laws on the books in other states requiring attorneys to carry malpractice insurance, especially personal injury lawyers who handle multi-million dollar claims for their severely injured clients. Can you imagine surgeon not carrying malpractice insurance? Unheard of. Lawyers make mistakes, too, and their clients should be protected from that, just as doctors’ patients are.

I am not sure whether we need a law that all New York lawyers carry malpractice insurance. But I do think we need, at the very least, a law requiring full disclosure. I think all uninsured New York lawyers should be required to disclose, on their letterhead or in some other prominent place, “we do not carry legal malpractice insurance”. Why? Because most clients see lawyers as “rich” professionals, and assume they have adequate insurance coverage, just like doctors do. If they knew the lawyer they were about to hire was “bare”, they might decide to choose another lawyer who is covered.

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