Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Your Auto Insurance Umbrella Policy: Protection After A Crash---Or Full Of Holes?

An automobile "Umbrella Policy" can provide your family with HUGE protection after an auto or motorcycle collision, but there are a few things you need to understand first, and a couple of possible holes in the umbrella you need to look out for.

But first things first--here's how an umbrella policy works. Simply, it is a policy you buy in addition to your underlying auto policy. Example: you have "100/300" liability and uninsured/underinsured (UM/UIM) coverage with your insurance company. If you purchase a $1 million umbrella, you now have a minimum of $1.1 million in both liability and UM/UIM coverage.

So let's say your headed for church for an evening meeting and you and your spouse are hit by a drunk driver. Both of you sustain serious injuries and require surgeries, rehab, lost time from work, home health care, etc. If the drunk driver had only $100,000 total worth of coverage, and not nearly enough to  compensate you for your medical bills, physical pain, and future problems, you could bring an underinsured motorists' claim against your own insurance company, and could recover potentially up to an additional $1 million.

(Little known fact: umbrella policies are incredibly cheap for the protection they provide. In a recent case I handled, the clients bought a $1 million policy for an additional $235 per year. A no brainer if you can afford it).

But there are two things you need to check out before you buy an umbrella. First and foremost, MAKE SURE THE UMBRELLA POLICY INCLUDES UNINSURED AND UNDERINSURED MOTORISTS' COVERAGE. DON'T BUY IT IF IT DOES NOT INCLUDE THIS COVERAGE!!! Why is this important? UM/UIM coverage is the MOST IMPORTANT part of your policy. It protects you and your family if some texting or other irresponsible driver injures you.

I have discovered quite a few umbrella policies over the years that did not include this protection. The clients thought they had "full coverage," only to find out after a bad crash that their umbrella did not include UM/UIM coverage. In my opinion, it is both wrong, and borderline fraud, to sell an umbrella policy that does not include valuable protection for your family.

How do you shore up this potential gaping hole in your umbrella? Ask your agent, in writing, whether the umbrella includes UM/UIM coverage, and GET THE ANSWER IN WRITING!

Second, ask whether the $1 million umbrella, that now includes UM/UIM because you're now an educated insurance consumer, is limited to $1 million no matter how many family members are injured? Some umbrella policies are written as "occurrence policies," meaning that the most the insurance company will pay is $1 million TOTAL, no matter how many family members were injured.

In the example above, what if husband's and wife's claims exceed the $1 million umbrella limits due to the severity of their injuries? They'd be out of luck and limited to $1 million with an "occurrence" policy.

Umbrellas are supposed to protect you when it rains. And we all know what it's like to get soaked from a cheap one when you're watching your kids' ballgame or walking from point A to B. That's nothing compared to the drenching you'll get if you have a hole filled umbrella policy--or worse yet, none at all.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Can A "Black Box" In The Operating Room Reduce Surgical Malpractice?

Yes, according to a Canadian surgeon who has developed aviation "black box" type technology for use in the operating room.

Most everyone is familiar with the "black box" that is retrieved from the remnants of the plane after a crash to study data at the time of the crash with an eye towards getting to the root cause and preventing future crashes. According to inventor and surgeon Teodor Grantcharov, MD,  the "OR black box works in similar fashion: it records video, audio, vital signs, the data from the anesthesia monitor, and lots of other important data that can be studied.

His purpose in developing this breakthrough software? Enhancing patient safety. The idea is that surgical mistakes can be studied in real time and used as a teaching tool to reduce or eliminate adverse errors and patient harms.

But how will the medical profession react to this newfound technology? Will it be welcomed with open arms, or will they fight it tooth and nail because it will be objective evidence of what happened in the operating room, making it less likely or impossible to "sanitize" what happened if a true medical mistake occurs?

My guess is that the initial reaction of surgeons and hospitals will be: "forget it!" They may well argue that black box technology will increase the chances of a medical malpractice lawsuit because patients (and their greedy lawyers) will try to get their hands on the data if a patient suspects that medical negligence occurred.

But I believe it may well have the opposite effect. Technology like this will ultimately serve a laudable goal of reducing the true incidence of operating room malpractice, which will in turn reduce even further the number of malpractice lawsuits. And a reduction of both is a good thing.

As it stands right now, the surgeon's dictated operative report is often the official paper version of what happened in the operating room, whether it consists of the truth, the partial truth, or a whitewashed version of the truth. Frequently, it is not representative of what actually transpired, and in cases where malpractice is suspected, the OR report can sometimes be unraveled in the face of later, objective data that tends to cast doubt on the surgeon's description of events.

And, sometimes, it stands as the truth even if it is a lie, because of the attorney's inability to prove that it was shaded or sanitized.

Black box technology is a potential game changer because of its objectivity. We hear all the time that patient safety is goal number one of any medical institution. As the technology progresses, it will be interesting to monitor the medical profession's position on its use, and how serious it is about patient safety.

After all, almost 400,000 people a year needlessly die in hospitals every year due to preventable medical mistakes. By comparison, less than 100 passengers on average die every year in the U.S. due to plane crashes. And when the plane crashes, we demand an immediate investigation and retrieve the black box, since a single plane crashing is unacceptable in our society.

Simple math--and protection of life--seem to make this decision a no brainer with respect to hospitals embracing the black box.



Monday, October 7, 2013

Injured By A Hit An Run Driver? The One Thing You Must Do IMMEDIATELY!

Unfortunately it's an all too frequent scenario. Out of the blue, you're sideswiped or rear ended.  Or you've been run off the road, forcing your car to crash. The responsible (or better yet the IRRESPONSIBLE) driver either doesn't stop or leaves the scene.

If you have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorists' (UM/UIM) Coverage with your own insurance company, you can make a claim with them for your losses like medical bills, lost wages, physical pain and disability, etc. As our book "Fully Exposed: How Your Insurance Company Is Stripping Your Policy" (available for FREE on our website), UM/UIM coverage can be a life raft if hit by a hit and run driver.

All Ohio insurance policies require you to have "corroborative evidence" (something objective like physical evidence or witnesses) that the hit and run driver caused the collision, as I have written about here. That post will explain what you or your attorney must do to gather your "corroborative evidence" in order to proceed with your uninsured motorists' claim.

But there's a real trap door lurking in your policy that you need to know about to stop your insurance company from weaseling out of your uninsured motorists' claim. It's this little clause, buried in the fine print of your policy (hell, it's all fine print if you think about it):

The person making the claim, under the uninsured motor vehicle coverage, must report a 'hit and run' accident to the police within 24 hours and to us within 30 days. 

It's real simple: run off the road or crashed by an idiot hit and run driver? CALL THE POLICE IMMEDIATELY! They'll file a report, and it will be on record. And then call your insurance company. Otherwise, you'll eventually get a letter from you own insurance company denying your claim for failure to notify the police, along with how much they value you as a customer and of course wish you the best with that leg fracture and surgery...

The takeaway? These insurance policies are set up to give your own company numerous opportunities to wash your claim down the drain. They know full well that most people don't read all this fine print.
I bet they hate Google and blogs like this...