Questionable Tactics Insurance Companies Use To Lessen the Settlement Received From a Motor Vehicle Collision

Small car damaged from a motor vehicle accident

 

Automobile insurance adjustors want to save their companies money on every claim, so they will try many different ways to get a claimant to accept a low-ball offer, even if their claim might call for a higher compensation. One highly questionable tactic is the quick low-ball settlement offer that is extended by the insurance company shortly after the accident takes place. Insurance companies will do this to:

  • Blindside the claimant and bring the offer to their attention during a stressful time where the person might not be at their best to make an important/informed decision regarding settlement.
  • Get the claimant to accept the low-ball offer prior to the victim accessing all the damages and injuries, they have sustained from the accident, without the benefit of multiple doctor visits and/or diagnostic testing.
  • Have the victim agree to an offer that doesn’t represent what their claim is possibly worth Insurance Companies may also postpone/delay the processing of the claimants’ documents to try to get them to a point where they will accept anything to pay for mounting medical bills, car repairs, and everyday expenses they may be struggling to pay for after an accident. Furthermore, after not seeing any progress in a claim people will sometimes drop their claims altogether which is a win for the insurance company.

The Bodily Insurance adjustor (the at fault’s insurance company) might reach out to a claimant just a few hours after an accident to try and get details from the claimant and get them to deny that they were injured from the accident. Therefore, never speak to the adverse insurance carrier prior to consulting with an attorney. Adjusters also may ask the claimant for a statement that is recorded but again this can negatively impact the victim’s claim, as this can provide the adjustor with information to give you less of a settlement. If requested, always respectfully decline, and contact an attorney.

Insurance companies may also send the claimant a medical authorization to execute, which will allow the insurance adjuster to obtain ALL of your medical records regarding your entire life. Signing this form will allow the adjustor to obtain every medical record/report generated by every doctor the claimant has ever seen. In summary these records can be used by the insurance company to make a case against the victim that they were not injured by the accident in question and again justify giving the claimant less money for their claim.

Here at Hicks and Motto, We deal directly with the adverse insurance company so you can focus on healing and getting back to normal. Call Hicks & Motto, 561-683-2300.

What are the elements of a wrongful death claim?

Car with damage from an accident causing a wrongful death claim.

 
 

Losing a loved one is never easy but losing a loved one due to the negligence of a third party is particularly difficult. Oftentimes, when we lose someone due to the negligence of others, we feel compelled to find answers, and we want someone to be held accountable for their improper actions.  In order to establish a viable wrongful death claim, however, there are three specific elements that must be met.

 

  1. Negligence:

In order to hold a third party accountable for the loss of a loved one, it is first necessary to prove that the third party had a responsibility to provide a duty of care to a loved one and failed to do so, resulting in damage or injury to another person. This is called negligence. Examples of negligence may include a driver who fails to stop at a red light causing a traffic accident that injures another driver, or a physician who fails to check his patient’s chart for allergy information prior to prescribing the penicillin that causes the patient’s death.

In cases where wrongful death may have occurred due to the negligence of a doctor, nurse, or other health care provider, negligence must be proved based upon an established standard of care. This means that the negligent healthcare provider’s actions must be compared to the actions of a reasonable healthcare provider in a related background to see if the established standard of care was met.

 

  1. Causation:

The second element that must be met is causation, otherwise known as the “but for” test. In a wrongful death claim, this means that the deceased would have lived “but for” the negligence of a third party. To return to the example above, the patient would not have died but for the physician’s failure to check the patient’s chart for allergy information prior to prescribing penicillin. If the physician had checked the patient’s chart, which is a reasonable standard of care for a physician, the physician would have known not to prescribe penicillin to the patient, and the patient would have lived.

 

  1. Damages:

The final element to be met is damages. This means that it is necessary to prove to the court that the loss of your loved one caused losses that impacted you and your family in a negative way. Some examples of damages are hospital bills, the pain and suffering endured by the deceased, burial and funeral costs, lost income, and loss of companionship. Unless proof of these losses is provided, the element of damages cannot be met.

 

If you have questions regarding a possible wrongful death claim, contact the attorneys at Hicks & Motto for a consultation free of charge. You have questions, we have answers.

 

 

Fatal Motorcycle Accidents Continue to Rise Every Year

Hicks and Motto attorneys for motorcycle accident injuries

 

 

In what we find to be unsurprising news, deaths from motorcycle accidents increased dramatically when tracked over a 10-year period – in fact, the statistics show that from 1994 to 2014, nationwide fatalities increased EVERY YEAR.

Sadly, Florida’s statistics follow the same trend. The most recent data show that total motorcycle crashes increased from 8,706 to 9,143, with fatalities increasing from 497 to 531 (source: Florida Highway Safety & Motor Vehicles).

To put this death toll into context, here’s a jarring view – motorcycles account for less than 1% of the national miles driven but account for 15% of traffic deaths. So, with close to 5,000 people dying every year while riding a motorcycle, it makes this form of transportation 26 times more deadly than driving a car.

There are many reasons for this high rate of fatalities and injury accidents involving motorcycles; the most commonly reported being that the motorist didn’t see the motorcycle until it was too late.

If you are a motorcycle rider, what can you do to stay safer on Florida’s congested and dangerous roadways?

  • WEAR A HELMET, even though you are no longer required to by Florida Statutes Section 316.211. It reduces your probability of head injury by as much as 70%.
  • BE CONSPICUOUS; wear bright colors and always be sure your headlamp is on even in daylight.
  • AT NIGHT, wear reflective gear and in addition to your headlamp, use your running lights (if your bike is equipped with them).
  • EXCESSIVE SPEED is involved in a significant number of accidents, so obey posted speed limits.
  • ALCOHOL INTAKE impairs reaction time. You do not have to meet legal standards of intoxication to be a few seconds too slow – and on a motorcycle, that is the difference between life and death.

Motorcycle riders are at an overall higher risk on the road – the stats bear it out – and are at a much higher risk of serious injury or death. Motorcycles have the same rights as cars to be on the roadways, regardless of some people’s opinions to the contrary. If a motorcycle rider is injured or killed through no fault of their own, they or their family are entitled to the same compensation as those injured or killed in an auto accident.

If you or a loved one need a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer with the experience to negotiate adequate compensation, or take your case to trial, contact Hicks & Motto at 561.683.2300.

Safe Cycling in Unsafe Times

bicycle accident-hicks and motto

With school back in session, the number of bicycles sharing the road with automobiles dramatically increases, and we’re reminded to be extra careful. Soon, South Florida’s weather may actually grow cooler, and even more cyclists will be hitting the road.

The United States Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports there were 783 bicyclists killed in traffic crashes in the United States in 2017 (its most recent data). No surprise – a car vs. bicycle crash almost always leaves the cyclist injured.

The most troubling part of that statistic is that Florida leads the country in the number of fatal bicycle crashes, accounting for 125 of those 783.

There are two main types of crashes: the most common — falls, and the most serious – those involving cars.

There are things you can do to decrease the risk of a crash.

  • Regardless of the season, bicyclist deaths occurred most often between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Bicyclist deaths were 8 times higher for males than females in 2017.
  • Alcohol was involved in 37% of all fatal bicyclist crashes in 2017.
  • Bicyclist deaths occur most often in urban areas (75%) compared to rural areas (25%) in 2017.
  • Ride responsibly and remember: All states require bicyclists on the roadway to follow the same rules and responsibilities as motorists.

 

Here’s a quick list of what to do in case of a bicycle accident:

  1. Check yourself – do a cursory and visual search of your person to determine if you have sustained any injuries that need immediate attention. If necessary, call an ambulance. Do not be a hero!
  2. Assist the injured – check with each person involved in the accident to see if they have been hurt. If necessary, call an ambulance.
  3. Call the police!
  4. Gather as much information as you can – take pictures of the scene; document the make, model, and license plate of the offending vehicle; gather the vehicle’s driver information including name, address, phone number, license number, and insurance information.
  5. Do not admit fault – your comments made in the tension and excitement of the moment may not be accurate! Wait for all the facts, and consult an attorney before admitting to responsibility, especially if you received a traffic ticket.
  6. Obtain witness information – write down the names and addresses of all the witnesses or involved parties to your accident. Don’t forget any passengers from the vehicles. Ask the witnesses what they observed.
  7. See a doctor – serious injuries do not always show immediate symptoms. It is smart to have your doctor, or an emergency room doctor, examine you as soon as possible. PIP laws require you to see a Medical Doctor within the first 14 days after your accident.
  8. Bicycle Repair – take your bicycle to a reputable shop with skilled mechanics to evaluate the damage.
  9. Tickets – don’t admit fault even if you are given a citation. The police officer is only giving his or her opinion of what happened. The ticket itself may not affect your case.
  10. CALL HICKS & MOTTO at (561) 683-2300 – Be sure after your accident you contact your law firm right away. A lawyer can give you advice and help you through the process whether you are at fault or not.

Summer is Ending — Watch for School Buses!

Palm Beach County Schools are back in session starting Monday, August 12. Here’s what you need to know about the laws so you, your fellow travelers, and the students can stay safe.

Florida law says signs must be posted around each school zone telling drivers how fast they can go and when the school zone is in effect. Some signs feature flashing lights rather than a list of times — so don’t assume that because there aren’t lights flashing, you aren’t in a school zone.

If a driver goes over the posted school zone speed — which in Florida could be as low as 15 mph, but no higher than 20 mph — that driver could see a whopping fine. If the set school zone speed limit is 20 mph and you’re caught going 40, your fine usually would be $175 — and that’s aside from any other citations an officer may write. But that speed in an active school zone would net you a ticket of $350.

If a school bus stops to pick up or drop off children, there’s only one situation where it’s legal for drivers to pass: if there is a five-foot barrier or unpaved median between the side of the road you’re on and the side of the road the bus is on.

Bottom line — these are kids going to and from school. Err on the side of caution, avoid a moving violation — and keep our children safe.

Remember, if you are involved in a motor vehicle crash or slip and fall, call Hicks & Motto.

Put Down That Phone, Drivers

put down the phone drivers

You already know texting and driving is dangerous.

Beginning today, Florida drivers will be ticketed if caught, so it will be expensive, too.

When Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 107, it made texting and driving a primary offense. That means an officer who sees you doing it can pull you over and write you a citation.

There are enforcement issues – but do you want to take that chance?

In order to prove you were texting while driving, the officer needs to look at your phone. But the officer must inform you of your right to refuse to hand your phone over before that.

Here’s the exact text of the statute: “A law enforcement officer who stops a motor vehicle for a violation of paragraph (a) must inform the motor vehicle operator of his or her right to decline a search of his or her wireless communications device and may not access the wireless communications device without a warrant.”

There are also exceptions — you can use your phone for GPS or call 911 or other emergency services. You can also use your phone hands-free. The other exception is that you can text if your car is stopped, such as at a stop sign or red light.

While you’re getting used to the texting/driving ban, get ready for the October 1 portion of the same law to go into effect. It bans handheld phone use in school zones and active work zones. You’ll get a warning from October 1 through the end of the year, and starting January 1, 2020, you’ll get a ticket.

Our advice? Don’t text and drive. Distracted driving results in injury and death on the roads. If you or a loved one are injured due to another’s negligence contact Hicks & Motto at 561.683.2300.

 

Car Insurance: Get the Right Coverage!

auto accident

If you own a motor vehicle which is registered in the State of Florida, you are required to have certain types of coverage, namely Property Damage and Personal Injury Protection. If you have only these two types of coverage, you have what is mandated by the State. You do not have “full coverage.” Many people mistakenly assume that if they carry the required coverage, that is all they need – nothing could be further from the truth!

At Hicks & Motto, we can’t begin to tell you how many injured people have come into our office in the last 25 years after having been in an automobile accident and thinking they have “full coverage,” since they have the coverage which the State requires all automobile owners to have. It is heartbreaking to tell them that they actually have no insurance coverage which will pay them in the event they need to be off work for an extended period of time, or that will pay their medical bills for extended hospitalization or surgeries.

There are two additional types of coverage which are, in my opinion, extremely important to purchase. The first of these is called Bodily Injury Liability (“BI”) coverage. That coverage is designed to protect your personal assets in the event you cause or contribute to an automobile accident. For example, if you are involved in an automobile accident which is totally or partially your fault, and anyone is injured, the injured party or parties can sue you. This is the case if you are driving the automobile or if you own the automobile which is involved in the accident.

If you don’t have BI coverage and the injured person or persons obtain a judgment against you for damages they sustained on account of your negligence, your personal assets can be in serious jeopardy. Further, you will either have to defend yourself in court or hire an attorney at your own expense to do so. If, on the other hand, you had purchased Bodily Injury Liability coverage, your insurance company will not only provide an attorney on your behalf, but they will also pay the injured parties’ damages up to the limits of your coverage.

If the driver who caused the accident does not carry BI coverage and you are seriously injured, you may have no recourse against that driver, unless they have sufficient personal assets against which you can collect a judgment. So, how do you protect yourself in that situation? Uninsured (or underinsured) Motorist coverage, called “UM” for short, is the answer. If you have UM coverage, your own insurance company will pay you for your damages if the at-fault driver either doesn’t have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, or doesn’t have sufficient coverage to adequately pay all of your damages. UM is very valuable coverage to have – IT PROTECTS YOU.

In addition to discussing Bodily Injury Liability and UM coverage with your insurance agent, be sure to also ask them to review your current policy to be sure you are carrying adequate Property Damage coverage. In this day and age, when many vehicles on the road are worth $50,000 or more, you need to be sure you have enough Property Damage insurance. Also, carefully look at your Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage and Medical Payments coverage. In my experience, for just pennies a month, you can increase your Medical Payments coverage to the maximum allowed by law. Make sure you understand what it means if you have a deductible on your PIP and ask how much it would cost to remove that deductible.

If you are involved in an auto accident, call Hicks & Motto, P.A. for a free consultation.

May 21-27 is National Safe Boating Week!

The number of vessels registered in Florida increased slightly in 2016 — to 931,450 — and the state leads the nation in registered vessels. Additionally, it is estimated that up to one million non-registered vessels actively use Florida’s waters, and this segment of the boating population appears to still be growing. Our waterways show the strains of congestion, as each year brings more residents and visitors together to utilize our abundant water resources and enjoy Florida’s boating lifestyle.

2016 SUMMARY OF BOATING ACCIDENTS

  • Florida leads the nation with a total number of 931,450 registered vessels in 2016.
  • There was a total of 714 reportable boating accidents in 2016.
  • Collison with vessel was the leading type of accident with a total of 181 (25%).
  • Towed watersport activities were involved in 13 accidents, resulting in 13 injuries.
  • Paddlecraft (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards) were involved in 10 accidents resulting in nine fatalities and three injuries.
  • July was the month with the highest number of accidents (96).
  • Monroe County reported the highest number of accidents and injuries (105 total accidents with three fatalities and 52 injuries).

BOATING FATALITIES

  • 56 fatal accidents for 2016 resulting in 67 fatalities.
  • 29% of the fatal accidents were falls overboard (16 accidents). Boaters falling overboard remains the main cause of boating fatalities.
  • The leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents was drowning with 40 fatalities (60%).
  • July was the deadliest month in 2016 with eight fatalities.
  • Alcohol or drug use is reported to have played a role in 24% boating fatalities.
  • 95% (58) of the victims of fatal boating accidents were males.
  • 65% (39) of the 60 operators involved in fatal accidents were age 36 or older.
  • 78% (47) of all vessels involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were 21 feet in length or less.

BOATING INJURIES

  • There were 714 accidents resulting in 421 injuries. The rate of injury was 45 injuries per 100,000 registered vessels.
  • REPORTABLE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT ACCIDENTS
  • Personal watercraft (PWC) accounted for 13% of all registered vessels in Florida.
  • PWCs were involved in 26% (253) of reportable boating accidents.
  • Rented PWCs represented 41% (89) of PWC involved in accidents
  • 42% of PWC accidents involved a collision with another vessel.
  • 45% of PWC accidents occurred in Miami-Dade (32), Monroe (20), and Pinellas (18) counties.
  • 11 fatalities resulted from the 158 PWC accidents.

EDUCATION STATISTICS

  • The Florida Fish & Wildlife Coservation Commission (FWC) issued 47,307 Boating Safety Education ID Cards in 2016.
  • 63% of the cards were issued to persons born on or after January 1, 1988.
  • Of the 47,307 cards issued, 34,654 were issued to males, 12,606 were issued to females. An additional 1,132 cards were printed for lost, damaged, and information changes.
  • 70% of the operators involved in fatal accidents had no formal boater education.

Boating education is critical

Florida’s current boating safety education law only applies to boaters born on or after January 1, 1988, operating a motorized vessel of 10 horsepower or greater. The face-to-face contacts by FWC officers and its partner agencies are a critical part of outreach efforts and education to the boating public. These statistics show us that the boat operator most likely to be involved in a boating accident is a middle-aged or older male who has boating experience, yet has never learned the most important safety considerations by having taken a boating safety course. When officers observe boating violations or perform fresh and saltwater resource enforcement activities, they conduct boating safety inspections aimed at both identifying and preventing violations or accidents. FWC officers make boating safer and ultimately save lives.

Safe boating is a choice

Florida is the leader in promoting boating accident prevention. The FWC, in association with the National Safe Boating Council, Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., West Marine, and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), launched a statewide boating safety campaign as part of a national initiative. The “Wear It Florida” campaign encourages boaters to wear life jackets anytime they are on the water and educates boaters about the ease and convenience of inflatable life jackets. The campaign is designed to reach the public through a variety of methods including media events, exhibits, personal contacts, social media, radio, and televised public service announcements.

For more information, contact Samuel Cohen of Hicks & Motto at scohen@hmelawfirm.com or phone 561.683.2300.

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