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Monthly Archives: May 2011

The goal in filing a car accident lawsuit

By | Personal Injury | No Comments

What do you think the goal in filing a lawsuit for a car accident is?
The goal in any lawsuit is to get a fair equitable amount. In my opinion, “getting as much as possible” (or hoping for a windfall) is a fruitless endeavor. A jury will correctly see right through this. Chances are, if a lawsuit has been filed, the insurance company on the other side is making a low settlement offer – if they are even making an offer. Some insurance companies wait until a lawsuit is filed to even make a settlement offer to pay the medical bills. Don’t forget about lost income and pain & suffering.

Facebook and Car Accident Injury Cases

By | Accidents, Car | No Comments

Law.com has a good summary of a car accident case and whether or not Facebook postings are discoverable in accident cases. This hasn’t come up in any Oklahoma cases (yet).

The case involved an auto accident back in May ’07. The insurance company defending the case was Allstate (well, technically, the attorneys they pay).  Remember that a jury doesn’t get to know who’s paying the defense attorney and who will be paying any judgment (in reality it’s almost always that person’s insurance company).

The Allstate attorneys in the case were hellbent on getting access to the plaintiff’s Facebook pictures. The attorneys argued that they needed the pictures to show what the plaintiff looked like before the accident (even though they already had pictures of her).

Liability was admitted, so the issue for the jury to decide was “how much did the plaintiff’s damages add up to?” (the airbag deployed during the wreck and the plaintiff suffered scars from the lacerations and resulting 95 stitches on her face).

The Pennsylvania court ruled that the plaintiff didn’t need to turn over the photos.

Some thoughts on the case:

  1. Note that the car accident was in May of 2007! Even though the case was clear/admitted liability, Allstate was still fighting the claim four years later.
  2. Admitted liability cases can be tricky/annoying for jurors: they generally aren’t allowed to hear if the property damage was settled and who’s actually paying the bills. Also remember that the plaintiff will generally need to repay anything that was paid by their health insurance company.
  3. Insurance companies and their attorneys will go out of there way to poke holes in car accident cases
  4. This reiterates the point that personal injury claimants should be truthful throughout the whole process.

5 Great Ways to Ruin Your Car Accident Lawsuit

By | Accidents, Car | No Comments

You can have a valid car accident claim, and oftentimes, an insurance company will manage to place a low settlement value on your claim. What do they look for?

1)      Are you telling the truth throughout the whole process?

a.       What did you say to the responding officer at the accident

b.      What was discussed with your doctors?

c.      Did you tell them everything? If your back is hurting, and you don’t tell them, you haven’t told them everything!

d.       Are you exaggerating your pain with your doctor?

2)      Are you following your doctor’s advice?

a.       Skipping doctor’s appointments, no matter how inconvenient, makes it look like you’re not really that hurt

3)      Assume the other driver’s insurance has your best interests at heart

a.       They are not representing you! They’re looking to minimize any potential payment to you

4)      Missing the deadline to file suit

5)      Not seeing a doctor immediately

a.       Insurance companies love to argue “delay in treatment = not hurt”

Oklahoma Pain and Suffering Rant

By | Oklahoma Law, Opinion | No Comments

Pardon the rant today, but I just saw at BusinessWeek.com that Tennesee has jumped on the bandwagon to limit damages for people. They are placing a cap of $750k on non-economic damages.

This begs the question:

Is an Oklahoman’s pain worth less than someone in another state?

Evidently.

Our state politicians (which also begs the question whose interests they value – insurance companies or people) recently passed legislation to cap non-economic damages at $350k. Note that the url I linked to is a NewsOK/Oklahoman newspaper editorial. Their argument is a new one: lawyers shouldn’t sue to overturn something that is unconstitutional.

Car Accident Lawsuits and Common Misconceptions

By | Accidents, Car | No Comments

There are  a TON of misconceptions when it comes to lawsuits. Car accident lawsuits are no exception. Here’s a few I’ve gotten lately:

“The at fault driver’s insurance company paid for my car. That means that they’ve accepted liability.”

Not necessarily.

It’s seems counterintuitive, but the insurance company may decide to fight your case on liability – even if they’ve already repaired your car (or paid for it if it was totaled).

Why would they do this?

  1. If your car is totaled, you will likely be racking up rental car expenses. If the other driver is held liable, and the expenses were reasonable, the insurance company would be on the hook for these.
  2. You can get attorney’s fees awarded in property damage cases.
  3. It’s a business decision for the insurance company.

“Well, the jury will be able to easily decide liability once they find out how much the insurance company paid for my car.”

That would be true if the jury is allowed to know if there is insurance in the case. In most cases under Oklahoma law, juries are not allowed to know if a defendant has insurance.

This can obviously make things frustrating for jurors. There are car accident cases tried before a jury that are limited to damages only (basically the insurance company values the claim lower than what the plaintiff does). In this case, liability is not an issue. In cases like this it’s common for the property damage to have already been settled.

If you like to read our state statutes, take a look at 36 O.S. §6091 and 12 O.S. §2411:

36 O.S. §6091:

No settlement made under a motor vehicle liability insurance policy of a claim against any insured thereunder arising from any accident or other event insured against shall be construed as an admission of liability by the insured, or the insurer’s recognition of such liability, with respect to any other claim arising from the same accident or event and no testimony with respect to such settlement shall be admissible in evidence with respect to any other such claim.

36 O.S. §6091:

Evidence of the existence of liability insurance is not admissible upon the issue of negligence or wrongful action. This section does not require the exclusion of evidence of liability insurance where the question of possession of liability insurance is itself an element of the action, or when offered for another purpose, including proof of agency, ownership, control, bias or prejudice of a witness.

Guess what happens if the jury asks if the car has been repaired or if the driver has car insurance?

They aren’t allowed to know. They are instructed to look at the issue (damages). In reality, nearly all car accident cases involve car insurance. The defense lawyers (and their medical experts) are all paid by the insurance company on the case.

What happens if the jury asks if the plaintiff has health insurance?

They still won’t get to know. A lot of people don’t want to give a plaintiff “double the amount.” BUT, if a personal injury plaintiff’s medical bills have been paid by their health insurance company, and he/she gets a settlement or verdict, those payments will generally need to be repaid to the health insurance company.

Car Insurance Terms You Should Know

By | Insurance, Auto | No Comments

A lot of these terms are self-explanatory, but it’s important to fully understand the most commonly used terms:

Policy or Insurance Policy – Your policy is the contract you sign with your insurance company. Make sure you read it!

Policy Limit – Your policy limit is the maximum dollar amount that the insurance company is obligated to pay under your policy.

Premium - This is the cost of your insurance policy. Higher policy limits will generally require higher premiums.

Coverage - This section details what the insurance company will actually cover.

Policyholder - This is the person who purchased the policy.

Insured - The insured are the people covered under the policy. Oftentimes this will include the policyholder and the policyholder’s spouse and kids.

Adjuster - The insurance company’s representative that will evaluate a claim and often offer to settle the claim.

Date of Accident – Self-explanatory but very important. If a set amount of time has passed, a car accident plaintiff will not be able to recover anything from the person who caused the accident

Pain and suffering = zero if you don’t have car insurance

By | Accidents, Car, Insurance Law, Oklahoma Law | No Comments

The Oklahoma Senate has an upcoming vote on SB 272. The bill was originally proposed to deal with relationships with car dealers and car manufacturers.

The bill was recently amended to incorporate a “no pay, no play” section for consumers. Basically, if you don’t have car insurance, and you are in an accident that is not your fault, your pain and suffering damages are zero.

Guess who benefits from this type of legislation? The people that are funding it: insurance companies.

What to do if you can’t get a serious offer on your car accident claim

By | Hiring an Attorney | No Comments

I hate lawyers, and I don’t want to file a lawsuit, but the insurance company is not being reasonable. They are really low balling me and they won’t even pay all of my medical bills. What can I do?

I’m sure I’m a little biased : ) but I strongly believe that lawyers help people.

It looks like you’ve narrowed your choices down to 1) accepting whatever the insurance company will offer you – even if it is a lowball number or 2) hiring an attorney and pursuing your legal rights. That decision is certainly up to you.