Monday, July 29, 2013


Frequently, we need the services of experts who can assist us in auto, truck, or motorcycle accident collisions. They can often tell us how fast vehicles were travelling before impact, the change in speed or velocity of the vehicles due to the crash (known as the delta-V), the angle/configuration of the impact, rotations and resting positions of the vehicles, and other valuable data.

These experts are also invaluable in measuring and pinpointing physical evidence like skid and yaw marks.

A recent case proves why it is generally a good idea to bring your expert to the scene.

In an intersection crash one of the issues was the speed of (let’s call him) driver A’s vehicle when he crashed into my clients’ car. He left a lengthy skid mark that was documented in the crash report. It roughly correlated to a speed of (let’s call it) X MPH at the time of braking…

All well and good. However, the investigating officer did not note in the crash report that the street where driver A was traveling had an uphill grade. When my expert examined the scene, he measured the degree of incline in the road. Because of the incline, it meant that driver A was actually going faster than what was originally thought, due to the fact that the skid mark was imparted on an uphill grade.

If the expert had not gone to the scene, this nuance would have been lost. In an intersection collision, a difference of a few MPH may make all the difference in establishing whether the collision was inevitable, or could have been avoided.

Another advantage that bringing your expert to the scene allows is the ability to create an actual scale drawing of the collision scene, if appropriate measurements are taken. This, along with the fact that your expert has thoroughly examined the scene, makes that expert more credible at trial.

It may cost a bit more to bring your expert to the scene, but it’s worth it, and it also sends a message to the insurance company that you’re taking the case seriously.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"I Was Injured By A Driver From Another State--How Will This Affect My Personal Injury Claim?"

Good question—glad you asked! It may have a major effect on your claim in certain circumstances. It’s what I call the “absent defendant” scenario.

Recently I resolved an auto accident claim for a client hit head on by a worker imported to our area from many states away. It was a bad crash, and the client’s treatment after the crash was reasonable, but there were no serious or permanent injuries.

As is customary, I tried to negotiate a settlement without filing a lawsuit. Eventually I was rewarded with a ridiculously low offer from the insurance company. But I knew (and so did the insurance company) that, if I filed a lawsuit, the at fault driver’s geographic distance/being out of state would translate into leverage for the client, and eventually a better offer.

Here’s why. In every case, the insurance company makes economic decisions as to how to proceed in defense of the case. In many cases, it would be cost prohibitive for them to locate and eventually bring their insured/negligent driver back to Ohio to be present at trial.

In fact, I learned early on in the case that the insurance company could not even locate the driver (so they said), so I knew that if we went to trial, there would be an “empty chair” at the trial table. This is usually not an optimal situation for the insurance company for obvious reasons—“out of state driver smashes local citizen and fails to show up for trial.” You get the picture.

As it turned out, weeks before trial, the offers were increased and the case got resolved.

In cases where the collision caused more serious injuries, the insurance company may well decide to pay for the expenses of bringing the driver to trial.

Bottom line: lawsuits are about leverage. In many cases, the “absent defendant” offers leverage that can translate into a better offer or verdict. More often than not, however, it requires filing a lawsuit to bring that leverage to bear.

Saturday, July 13, 2013


I hear this threat all too often, and it really ticks me off.

Scenario: client is involved in a crash that’s not his fault. His car needs to be repaired, but he hasn’t heard squat from the at fault party’s insurance company yet. So he calls his insurance company (in this case, Allstate).

The adjuster tells him (before he hires me): if you go through us to get your car fixed, your rates may go up, so it’s better that you go through the at fault party’s insurance company.

This is hogwash. What the adjuster didn’t tell the client is that in Ohio (and the majority of other states), if your insurance company pays for your car repairs, they have a right of subrogation against the at fault party’s insurance company.

Subrogation is a fancy legal term for reimbursement. Here’s how it would work. Your insurance company pays for your repairs. They notify the at fault party’s insurance company of the amount of repairs, and collect back every penny they paid.

And if you had a $500 or $1000 deductible, your insurance company will actually collect or capture that deductible for you, and send you a check in the amount of the deductible.

So if you’re not at fault, and the insurance company gets back every penny, how on earth can they raise your rates in this situation?

In my opinion, they can’t. More likely, this is a scare tactic designed to deter you from using your own insurance company to pay for your losses. Less paperwork for them, more hassle for you in many situations.

And if it IS true that they can raise your rates, all the more reason to drop them like Lance Armstrong at a truth convention and shop around.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Recent Law Changes Allow Insurance Companies To Delay Your Claim

A frequent question we're often asked is: "How does an insurance company evaluate my injury claim?"

One basic element is what I call "calculator” damages, for hard numbers that can be added like medical bills, lost wages, etc. These are tallied and then are included with what I refer to loosely as "general” damages, such as physical pain and disability, inability to enjoy activities of life and hobbies, and more important things like that (in my opinion, those are way more important than “calculator” damages…). From those basic factors, an insurance company will make an offer, recognizing that there is no magic formula for evaluating a personal injury case. And that’s because each case is unique (the subject of another post, so stay tuned…)

Until recently, insurance companies were not allowed to factor into the "calculator damages" the amount of medical bills actually paid by the injured person's insurance company. Example: a drunk driver broadsides you and you incur $10,000 in bills. Your health or auto insurance company pays $7,500 of those bills as "payment in full."

Until a few years ago, insurance companies had to accept the higher or gross amount of your bills instead of the discounted amount. However, The Ohio Supreme Court ruled that insurance companies and juries were permitted to take into consideration the discounted amounts paid.

So here’s what insurance companies are doing with this judicial gift. They are DEMANDING that you, the injured person, produce all the information on what any insurance company paid for your medical bills. Keep in mind that all the Ohio Supreme Court said was that they are allowed to consider these discounted amounts.

Well, the discounted amounts are now gospel and they have totally ignored the gross amount of the bills as an evaluation tool. Almost all of them will now claim that they “can’t evaluate the claim” even if you’ve provided a tally of all of your bills…unless they include the discounted amounts paid for those bills.

Baloney. It’s a ruse to ramrod a lesser offer down the throats of injured accident victims, and it also conveniently allows insurance companies to sit on your claim and delay an offer.

For the twenty five years I’ve been a personal injury attorney in Ohio, insurance companies and I managed to evaluate and settle hundreds of personal injury claims without all this attention to discounted medical bills.

Now, these multibillion dollar companies are just helpless and can’t begin to evaluate the claim unless you or we produce the discounts.

Discounts and delays. It’s good to be an insurance company.