Articles Posted in Automobile Insurance

In the aftermath of a truck accident, injured victims may struggle to cover the related costs, ranging from medical bills to lost wages. One commonly used solution is to file a civil lawsuit against the party responsible for the accident and resulting injuries and hold them liable for the costs. While this process is greatly beneficial for many accident victims, it can become complicated by insurance companies. Auto insurance is meant to help cover victims when accidents occur, but insurance companies are notoriously resistant to paying out compensation and may make the process increasingly frustrating for people who are injured.

A recent state appellate case demonstrates how insurance disputes can slow down the process of receiving compensation. According to the court’s written opinion, a semi-tractor trailer was hauling logs early one morning in December 2013 when the plaintiff’s vehicle collided with the logs extending from the back of the trailer. As a result, the plaintiff suffered severe and permanent injuries, including a spinal cord injury. According to the complaint, the medical expenses incurred as a result were over $1,000,000.

The plaintiff filed a complaint against several defendants, including the semi-tractor trailer’s insurer, which was the focus of this case. The insurance company filed multiple subsequent motions and defenses, including a motion for summary judgment, arguing that there was no coverage for the incident because the policy excluded incidents involving the truck driver who was driving at the time of the accident. The insurance company also disputed the uppermost limit of coverage in this case, arguing for the state’s minimum coverage of $100,000 rather than the federal minimum coverage of $750,000. In addition, and to complicate the case further, the insurance company claimed that the state court did not have proper jurisdiction to hear this case.

A Superior Court decision in Delaware is the perfect illustration of why it matters how quickly you consult with or hire an attorney. Although the underlying accident seemed to involve two passenger vehicles, the decision itself is relevant to any sort of vehicle, especially in the context of trucking accidents, where the insurance companies will be highly motivated to settle the matter as soon and for as little as possible.

In the case, Bernal v. Feliciano, Del. Sup. Ct. (2013), the plaintiff was involved in a car accident.

Following the accident, the plaintiff, who spoke only Spanish, had her daughter discuss the issue of lost wages at work due to the accident. She reached an agreement as to the lost wages for $410 with the adjuster, and he faxed over a cover sheet regarding the agreement, along with a general release. The language in the release included wording that stated that it was a release for any and all potential suits or claims, and any and all personal injuries or property damage known and unknown, foreseen and unforeseen. Believing that the release, which was sent with the cover letter regarding the $410, was only for wages, and based on her daughter’s telephone conversation with the adjuster, the plaintiff signed the release, and sent it back that day. This was in March of 2012.

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Last week, I read a newspaper article that confirmed a suspicion: Nationwide, people are buying less automobile insurance coverage in order to save a few dollars in insurance premiums. My advice: Be careful before reducing your automobile insurance coverage. Here’s why:

First, step back and think about why you buy automobile insurance coverage (in addition to being required at minimum coverage levels in Maryland, and Washington, D.C., and most other states). Your liability insurance coverage protects your assets which include your home, belongings and wages in the event that you cause an accident that injures someone else. If you buy $20,000.00 of automobile insurance liability coverage, but you have $35,000.00 in assets to protect, then you are exposing some of your assets in the event that a judgment is entered against you in an amount exceeding your $20,000.00 policy limit.

Another way you protect your assets is by purchasing adequate uninsured or underinsured motorists’ coverage (UM/UIM). If another driver strikes your vehicle and injures you, and if the other vehicle has no insurance, or not enough insurance, then you need to look back to your own automobile insurance policy coverage to protect you against losses. If you buy minimal UM/UIM coverage, then you place yourself at financial risk that you will be injured by a negligent driver who carries little or no automobile insurance.

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