Articles Tagged with #insurance

No two settlements are identical.  But my friend/cousin/neighbor/etc. settled their claim for $$$$ and they were not hurt as bad as I was.  We hear this all the time when it comes to personal injury settlements.  Unfortunately, all I can say in response is “Good for your friend/cousin/neighbor/etc.”  Even within the same vehicle in an accident, there can be different settlement results among the claimants.  That’s because no two people are identical (except identical twins! And even they are going to have some differences—just ask their Mom).

throwing-money-in-the-air_t20_bAN1ap-300x200

                Think about it.  Even in a rear-end collision, the occupants of the vehicle are going to be affected differently. *  Those in the back seat may be impacted greater than those in the front seat since they are physically closer to the impact.  Or maybe not.  Maybe the backseat passengers are children who are secured in proper car seats and are more insulated from the impact and were not injured at all, and yet the parents in the front seat sustained soft tissue injuries to their neck and back, or a knee injury from striking the dashboard, or a head injury from striking the steering wheel.  Each of those injuries, or lack thereof, is going to merit a different settlement value.

                However, the nature of the injuries alone do not dictate settlement value.   The amount of settlement bills incurred are also a factor in determining settlement values.  In North Carolina, the amount of bills incurred in an accident has become a veritable playground for insurance companies and hospitals and a minefield for claimants and their attorneys.  This is due to North Carolina General Statute 8C-1-414, commonly referred to as Rule 414.  This is an evidentiary rule stating evidence of medical expenses is limited to the amount “actually paid to satisfy the bills.” Therefore, if the two parents in the above scenario are both employed and each have their own health insurance through their respective employers, and they both go to the same hospital, that hospital may have a difference contract with each health insurance provider.  This can result in the hospital charges that each parent are allowed to claim toward the total bills are different, even if the actual amount of the two hospital bills are the same.  Of course, that would even be assuming they received the same treatment at the hospital.

Picture it:  you’re driving home from a long day at work. You reach an intersection with a green light. But, you’re t-boned by someone that runs the red light while on their cell phone. You have suffered some very severe injuries. You must be extracted from your car by the fire department. You’re flown by helicopter to the nearest trauma center and spend a month in the hospital. Your medical bills when you’re released are more than $150,000. You also have a permanent injury and can’t return to your old job or way of life.accident-on-the-city-road-at-night_t20_neaR6K-300x200

            The liability insurance for the person that caused the accident becomes the first source of your recovery. Each state sets the minimum amount (“minimum limits” in lawyer-speak) each driver must have in order to drive. North Carolina’s minimum limit is $30,000South Carolina’s minimum limit is $25,000.  There are no hard statistics, but (in our experience) the vast majority of drivers carry only the amount required by law. It doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out that a minimum limit policy doesn’t go very far in your situation.  This sad scenario is something that we as injury lawyers see far too common. There is no worse feeling than telling an injured person that there is no way to get more money for a client.

            So, how do you avoid being out of money in a serious accident. You need to add a three-letter acronym to your own car insurance:  UIM.  UIM stands for under-insured motorist coverage. It is an optional coverage in both North and South Carolina.  UIM provides coverage to you in the event you’re in an accident in which the at-fault driver (the person that caused the accident) doesn’t have enough insurance to pay your bills. UIM covers you as a driver, not just your vehicle. The more UIM you buy then the greater your protection will be in the event of a catastrophic accident. The law in South Carolina requires an insurance agent to make a “meaningful offer” of UIM coverage. But you should specifically ask for UIM coverage as part of being an informed consumer.

insurance-agent-examine-damaged-car-and-customer-filing-signature-on-report-claim-form-process-after_t20_VL9777-300x200

Liability Insurance: A Necessary Evil

Let’s face it, just about nobody likes auto insurance.  For most people, it’s a cost you’re forced to pay for something you never get anything from.  Making matters worse, most people have no idea about what coverage they are paying for or what kind of options they really have.  For many, the only thing that matters is the cost.  However, if you are involved in a collision, having the right types and amount of insurance can make all the difference.  This post will address one of those types, liability insurance.

Liability Insurance

53607309_429589447816937_3099377748028686336_n-1-300x235

Choose Wisely…Your Insurance Company Matters

It seems like any time you turn on a television, radio or computer these days, you can’t escape a commercial from an insurance company.  Think about.  I bet you can hum the jingle or say the catchphrase from half a dozen insurance companies without even thinking hard.  That’s not a coincidence.  There are a handful of insurance companies that flood the airwaves with commercials and have done so for years.  I’ll admit, some of these are pretty clever.   Whether it is a talking amphibian, a guy constantly causing chaos or an athlete giving neighborly advice, the goal is always the same: to sell you insurance.  And you know what, it works!  The biggest advertisers have the most insureds in the United States.

So you may be thinking, so what, who cares how much these companies advertise?  Here’s the thing: The top advertisers are also the most difficult insurance companies to deal with from a settlement perspective.  It’s my opinion that the biggest advertisers make up for all of those advertising fees by paying less on insurance claims.  How a claim is handled, varies greatly one from insurer to the next, yet the top advertisers are almost all the most stingy when it comes to paying claims.  I don’t think that is a coincidence.

close-up-of-hand-showing-insurance-word-and-car-people-house-through-magnifying-glass_t20_eo2mEa-300x200
As a personal injury attorney in North Carolina, I hear this from clients all the time.  Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not true.  At the very least, it is not what they believe it to be.  In North Carolina, as in most states, you are required to purchase auto insurance to legally be allowed to drive on public roadways.  Each state sets its own requirement as to the minimum amount of insurance and type of insurance that you must purchase to be a legal driver.  The primary purpose of these requirements is to protect innocent persons from your negligent driving.  In North Carolina it is called the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act and can be found at NCGS §20-279.21.

North Carolina requires that all drivers carry at least $30,000 in liability insurance.  This is sometimes referred to as “minimum limits” or a “30/60” policy.  That means that you only carry the minimum amount of auto liability coverage required by law in North Carolina.  Under a minimum limits policy, the most any one injured claimant can collect is $30,000 and there is only $60,000 in available liability coverage for all the claimants involved in an accident.  For example, if you, your spouse and your children are involved in a car accident and spouse and children of the at-fault driver are in the other vehicle, there is a total of $60,000 in available liability coverage for all seven claimants (assuming two children in each car).  With the costs of health care rising, if all seven claimants are transported by ambulance and get checked out at the hospital, you can easily see how quickly that $60,000 is exhausted, let alone if there are any serious injuries or follow up visits are needed, or worse, if someone dies as a result of the accident.  None of those factors change the amount of money available to the claimants in a minimum limits policy.

As such, it is highly recommended that you carry as much auto liability coverage as you can afford.  There are two reasons for this.  One is that most people do not go out and intend to cause a collision.  They generally the result of negligence.  Think of all the things people have to distract them, even momentarily, the radio, the weather, the other cars on the road, GPS, eating or drinking, texting, talking on the phone, children, the list goes on and on.  As such, if you have assets that you want to protect, you should carry higher liability limits so that claimants can focus on your insurance coverage instead of trying to get money from you directly.  The second reason is that, in general, you have to carry higher liability coverage in order to purchase higher Uninsured (does not have insurance) or Under-insured Motorist Coverage (does not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for your damages), both of which help to protect YOU and your family.

Contact Information