Archive for the ‘Auto, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents’ Category

What to Do if You Are Involved in an Auto Accident

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The pandemic has changed how police and law enforcement agencies are responding to certain types of auto accidents. It also means that drivers and passengers need to take extra precautions, such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance, while also making sure that the injured are cared for and appropriate evidence and insurance information are collected.

It’s important to be prepared and know what to do in case you find yourself involved in an accident. The minutes immediately following a collision are undeniably stressful; knowing in advance what you need to do can help make a difficult situation more manageable.

As always, your priority during an accident should be to determine if anyone has been injured and getting them help. Call 911 if necessary, so law enforcement and emergency medical personnel can be dispatched to the scene. Seek medical attention if you feel you or your passengers may have been injured. Keep in mind that not all injuries are evident immediately after the accident. It’s better to err on the side of caution than to find out later that you’ve sustained an injury.

At this time, some law enforcement agencies may not be responding to minor accidents with no apparent serious injuries. But this doesn’t mean you should leave the scene without collecting important evidence and information from everyone involved and any witnesses.

The camera on your phone is a handy tool for capturing photos of the scene and the cars, as well as some of these documents. Make sure your phone is charged whenever you get into your car.

Use your phone to:

  • Take photos of all cars involved to document the position and damages. Make sure your photos include the license plates of all cars involved.
  • Take a photo of the drivers’ licenses of all drivers involved.
  • Get the phone numbers and addresses for each person at the scene including witnesses.
  • Take a photo of the registration and insurance card for all cars involved.

While you’re at the scene, make notes and take as many pictures as possible to document what happened while it’s all fresh in your mind. Such documentation can go a long way toward supporting your side of the story should your case find its way into a courtroom.

Even if police don’t respond to the accident scene, you can still file an official police report after the fact. The evidence you collect at the scene will be very important during this process. Insurance companies generally require that there be a police report on file to even consider your claim.

Make sure to call your insurance company to report the accident. Your insurance company will want to know about the accident no matter which driver was at fault. Calling early helps make you look responsible in the eyes of the insurance company. In addition, most claims have a time limit for filing in order to be paid a settlement.

Limit your remarks to the facts. Don’t offer your opinion or express guilt for the accident. It’s easy to say things you may not mean in the stress of the moment. For this reason, it’s important not to admit guilt or offer any opinions about the accident while you’re at the scene.

Call a lawyer if there’s an indication of injury, either with someone in your car or the other vehicle. Enlisting the aid of a good accident attorney is a good idea in any serious accident. In fact, it’s imperative when there are injuries involved. A skilled personal injury lawyer can help you collect the money you need to pay medical bills and support your family until you’re able to work again.

Stay at the scene of the accident until the other parties and the police are ready to leave. You never want to leave the scene of the accident without reporting it or checking to see if the other party is hurt. If you’ve been injured in an auto or motorcycle accident, we’re here to help. Contact the Deuterman Law Group today for a free consultation.

Driverless cars: What do they mean for insurance rates and accident liability?

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Are driverless cars, also known as autonomous cars, still the future?

A few years ago it seemed highways of self-driving cars was imminent. However after some setbacks, including a class action lawsuit against Tesla Motors over their autopilot system and a fatal crash involving a pedestrian and an Uber autonomous vehicle, it seems some of the initial excitement has been tempered.

Deuterman Law Group first discussed the emerging legal and insurance issues of autonomous vehicles in 2016 on our blog. We posed the question, “When a driverless car causes a crash, who is legally liable?” The answer was largely unknown at that time.

Would the car owner be liable? The car manufacturer? The software engineer who designed the auto-pilot program? Is there a separate standard of liability if it shifts from driver liability to product liability?

Some of those questions are still unknown, but as legislation has developed, North Carolina is ahead of the curve as reported by Shea Denning on the North Carolina Criminal Law Blog by the UNC School of Government. The General Assembly ratified a bill allowing fully autonomous vehicles on state roads.

As we originally discussed, there are different levels of automation set by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and there are two levels of fully autonomous vehicles.

The highest level, SAE Level 5, is an automated system that can perform all driving tasks under all conditions that a human driver could perform.  When we think “driverless cars” this is what most often comes to mind – a vehicle that does all the driving for you without any human input.

Level SAE 4 vehicles have an automated system that can conduct the driving task and monitor the driving environment, and the human need not take back control, but the automated system can operate only in certain environments and under certain conditions.

In 2017 North Carolina enacted regulations define fully autonomous vehicles this way: “A motor vehicle equipped with an automated driving system that will not at any time require an occupant to perform any portion of the dynamic driving task when the automated driving system is engaged.”

A dynamic driving task is defined as a “real-time operational and tactical control function required to operate a motor vehicle in motion or which has the engine running.

An interesting note to this legislation is that there is no requirement that the person operating a fully autonomous vehicle with the automated driving system engaged be a licensed driver.

Note that the absence of the license requirement only applies when the automated driving system is engaged and does not allow unlicensed drivers to handle the dynamic driving tasks. Also the legislature expressly holds the registered owner of a fully autonomous vehicle responsible for any moving violations involving the vehicle.

This means if you are the owner of a Level 4 or Level 5 vehicle that is pulled over for speeding or improper lane change, you are still held responsible and can receive a citation.

At this time there are no SAE Level 4 or Level 5 vehicles on the market, but the major car manufacturers are actively developing them.

This spring SAE International, Ford, GM and Toyota announced the formation of the Automated Vehicle Safety Consortium, which seeks to develop and implement safety standards for autonomous vehicles.

As for the https://www.businessinsider.com/driverless-cars-could-negatively-affect-insurance-industry-2017-2insurance questions surrounding driverless cars, those remain to be fully explored. If self-driving cars reduce the risk of a collision, it would seem insurance premiums would also be reduced. If a human driver no longer has the burden, or even the capacity, to control the vehicle in accordance with motor vehicle laws, responsibility will shift to the manufacturers and sellers of the cars.

Auto Insurance Coverage: What You Need to Know

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Updated October 29, 2018

Do you have the right kind of insurance to protect you in an automobile accident?

Despite what their commercials say, the insurance company won’t take care of you in an auto accident unless you take things in your hands.

Don’t leave it in their hands. Make sure you have the right kind of insurance coverage and know what questions to ask when filing a claim.

  • What are you liability limits?
  • Do you carry collision insurance?
  • Does your policy include Medical Payments (or Med Pay) coverage?
  • Do you have Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist coverage?
  • Do you need additional endorsements or insurance, such as GAP coverage or an umbrella policy?

Continue reading to find out why each type of coverage is important:

Liability Insurance

Under state law in North Carolina, drivers must have automobile liability coverage. The minimum coverage requirements are $30,000 Bodily Injury for each person, $60,000 total Bodily Injury for all persons in an accident and $25,000 for Property Damage, according to the N.C. Department of Insurance. You might see this expressed as 30/60//25 coverage. You should consider purchasing more than the minimum required liability insurance.

Liability insurance falls into three categories: bodily injury liability, property damage liability and supplementary payments.

  • Bodily Injury Liability pays for damages suffered by other people who are injured in the accident. Coverage includes medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, disability, rehabilitation, pain and suffering, lawsuit settlements and legal expenses.
  • Property Damage Liability pays for damages to other people’s property. This coverage pays for car repairs and other property damage.
  • Supplementary payments provide coverage for other accident-related expenses not covered by the other liability limits. This could include bail bonds, your lost wages if the insurance company requires you to miss work to testify in court and other reasonable expenses incurred at the insurance company’s requests. You should review your policy or ask your insurance agent about your limits and exclusions for this type of coverage.

The bottom line: If you are involved in an accident, you may have to explicitly ask your insurance company about your liability package to receive your full coverage benefits.

Collision Insurance

The state of North Carolina does not require motorists to have collision insurance, but most lenders require it of drivers who are financing their vehicles. Collision insurance pays for damage to your vehicle during an accident. If you don’t have collision insurance and are found to be at fault for an accident, you will have to pay for repairs to your vehicle out of your pocket.

Comprehensive Insurance

This type of insurance covers other types of damage to your car (not resulting from an automobile accident) including fire, theft, hail damage, broken windows and flood damage.

The state of North Carolina does not require comprehensive insurance, but some banks and lenders may.

Medical Payment (Med Pay) Coverage

If someone else is found liable an automobile accident, their liability insurance should cover at least some of your medical treatment – depending on their coverage limits. Many motorists may opt to purchase Medical Payment Coverage as part of their insurance package to cover medical or funeral bills incurred as a result of an automobile accident.

This type of coverage is not required by law, but it will pay for medical treatment for the driver, family members and any passengers in the vehicle up to your coverage limits. Med Pay is good coverage to have. It is extremely flexibility, and it gives you a way to cover your medical expenses right away, even before an insurance settlement. In order to collect Med Pay benefits, you simply need to prove that you’ve been injured and that the treatments you’ve received are reasonable.

If you’re injured, you may have to ask to have Med Pay cover your bills. The insurance company may not inform you that these benefits are available to you.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Though the state requires all drivers in North Carolina to carry liability insurance, some people do not obey the law. Or their insurance policy may not cover the full extent of your costs for bodily injury and property damages. In such cases, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage can fill in the gap.

Uninsured Motorist coverage is a significant benefit, if the driver who is at fault in the accident doesn’t have insurance. Contact your insurance agent immediately if this coverage isn’t listed on your policy.

Underinsured Motorist coverage comes into play when the other driver doesn’t have enough insurance to cover your injuries and damages. If the other driver is underinsured, your own insurance policy can help cover the damages if you carry Underinsured Motorist coverage. Contact your agent if this coverage isn’t listed on your policy.

Insurance companies and their agents are required to offer Uninsured Motorist and Combined Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, but drivers are not required to accept this coverage. If you do not wish to have this coverage, you must reject it in writing. We don’t advise skipping this type of coverage.

Additional Automobile Coverage

In addition to the basic automobile coverage offered, you can buy additional insurance policies that provide further protection and coverage in the event of an accident.

These include:

Automobile Death Indemnity, Specific Disability and Total Disability Benefits Coverage

This endorsement will provide a benefit for death, dismemberment, specific disability and total disability resulting from an automobile accident.

Coverage for Rented Vehicles

This endorsement provides coverage for you or a family member who rents a rental vehicle on a daily basis for less than 22 consecutive days.

Coverage for Damage to Your Auto (Customizing Equipment Coverage; Coverage for Audio, Visual, and Data Electronic Equipment)

Through this endorsement, the limits of liability are increased to pay for damage to custom furnishings and custom equipment, and for additional permanently installed electronic accessories.

Towing and Labor Costs Coverage

This policy pays for towing and labor costs each time your covered automobile or any non-owned automobile is disabled or the keys are lost, broken or accidentally locked in the car.

Extended Transportation Expenses Coverage (Rental Reimbursement)

This coverage will pay, up to a specified rate and maximum total amount, for a rental car and other transportation expenses incurred while your vehicle is out of commission (such as when it’s being repaired).

Guaranteed Automobile Protection

This very important protection often called GAP insurance covers the difference between the actual cash value of your car and your loan balance. Many times, people will owe more on their vehicle than the insurance company determines it is work. GAP insurance covers the difference in those two figures, but it is generally available only on new vehicles.

Umbrella Liability Insurance

An umbrella policy provides coverage on top of your normal automobile liability insurance and provides extra protection should you be sued as a result of a car accident. Umbrella policies may provide anywhere from $1 million to $5 million in additional liability coverage on top of your existing automobile liability coverage. Umbrella policies, which usually cost $200 to $300 annually for $1 million in coverage, have high deductibles and don’t kick in until your other insurance policies have paid. Though these policies have high deductibles, your out-of-pocket expenses usually aren’t very high at all because other insurance policies cover the umbrella deductible.

Source: N.C. Department of Insurance, MSN Money

Saving Money on Automobile Insurance

You may be able to save money on automobile insurance if you have a safe driving record, if your car has certain safety features or if you have multiple insurance policies with the same company. Be sure to inform your insurance agent if any of the following apply to you or your vehicle, as this could lower your automobile insurance premium.

  • Your vehicle has anti-lock brakes.
  • Your vehicle has an anti-theft device.
  • Your vehicle has daytime running lights.
  • You agree to pay your insurance premiums electronically.
  • You are renewing your policy and did not have a loss or conviction during the last policy period.
  • You are considered a mature driver (normally age 55, but ages for eligibility can vary by company).
  • You have more than one automobile on the same policy.
  • You have insurance on your home and automobile with the same company.
  • Your vehicle has a passive restraint system (air bags, automatic seat belts and other safety equipment may qualify).

We recommend printing out this information and taking it with you when you meet with your insurance agent. The time to make sure you have proper coverage is now, before an accident, not afterwards.

You may also want to print copies of our What To Do In An Auto Accident Checklist to keep in your glovebox in case you are in an accident.

Print as many copies of the checklist as you need and put them in your car, your spouse’s car, your kids’ cars and your parents’ cars. It’s designed to go in the glove compartment with your registration card.

Even for our own employees, it’s easy to forget what to do in the chaos after an auto accident. Our checklist will help you keep your wits about you and will ensure that you don’t forget to get some crucial bit of information, such as the names and contact information for all witnesses.

We hope you’ll never need these documents, of course. But better to be prepared.

Take it Or Leave It: Insurance Companies To Auto Accident Victims

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Insurance companies have a huge incentive — profits — to hardball auto accident victims.

Their television commercials are designed to make you believe the auto insurance companies are on your side. You’ve seen their slick and entertaining ads, often featuring A-list entertainers, sports stars or talking reptiles. The premise is to make you laugh and leave you with the impression that if you’re involved in a car wreck, the insurance company’s main goal is to get your claim handled quickly and get a check in your hand so you can be back on the road and back to your life without any hassle.

The reality is very different, as many of our clients who have been injured in car wrecks can attest.

Despite ads that cast them in the role of helpers and heroes, auto insurance carriers are paying less and less on legitimate injury claims while continuing to raise premiums for the sake of their profits. Rather than offering accident victims fair settlements for their injuries, medical expenses and property damage, the insurance companies have a decades-long pattern of lowballing people.

The insurance company’s message is clear: “This is our offer. Take it or leave it.”

This is especially true in low-impact accidents – so-called fender benders – which can cause serious and painful soft-tissue injuries that can be debilitating and require substantial treatment.

Accident victims who don’t take the insurance company’s low-ball offer to settle their cases are forced into litigation, which can be expensive and is very risky. The carriers are banking that most people will take the low offer rather than go to trial. That’s because the insurance companies know they can more easily afford to go to trial than you can.

These insurance carriers continue to make huge profits by denying claims and low-balling offers, but do those profits result in lower premiums to you?

Hardly. Allstate has done just the opposite by raising rates.

Do those soaring profits keep Allstate and others from continuing to stereotype accident victims who assert their rights in the courtroom as greedy or looking for a lottery-sized payout?

No. The insurance industry, as a whole, tries to portray you, the person who wasn’t at fault, as the bad guy.

The insurance companies continue to inundate the media with advertising designed to make you think they’re on your side and acting in your best interest. The result is this: more and more jurors are coming to jury duty with the preconceived notion that auto accident plaintiffs must be greedy, committing fraud, or looking for a big payday.

Not one of our clients has ever said they were happy the wreck happened because they were going to receive a settlement. In fact all of our clients wished the wreck never happened at all.

But the insurance industry perpetuates the myth that people who aren’t hurt are getting massive payouts in so-called “frivolous” lawsuits. That’s just not true, but it makes for great headlines that get the public outraged.

Always remember that the insurance carriers are working in their own best interests, not yours.

That’s why you need an experienced attorney on your side.

A CNN investigation, which remains just as relevant and accurate today as when it was first reported, came to the conclusion that “if you challenge the offer by some insurance companies you will be left with no option but to go to court, where you will be dragged through the wringer.” Their strategy is to make it look like victims are trying to defraud the insurers.

The CNN article even quotes a former juror who said she assumed that the plaintiff had already received payment for injuries and other damages from the insurance company and that she brought the lawsuit out of greed. In reality, the accident victim’s insurance claim was never paid, and she lost in court.

The revelations in this article won’t surprise attorneys who represent injured people. Large auto insurance carriers have been using these hardball tactics for decades when addressing claims. And the practice has gotten worse and more brazen in the last decade.

When an auto accident case goes to trial, the other driver is listed as the defendant, but the lawsuit is really against their insurance company. The defendant is represented by an insurance company attorney. If the plaintiff wins, the insurance company will pay any damages, not the other driver.

But jurors don’t know that because the law does not allow your attorney to mention the insurance company during court. We can’t present evidence that your claim hasn’t yet been paid by insurance. The law also does not allow your attorney to mention that the insurer’s settlement offer wasn’t sufficient to cover your medical bills.

Because of these rules of evidence, jurors often draw the wrong conclusion that the plaintiff must have already been paid by the driver’s auto insurance carrier and is just seeking more money by suing the driver personally. This is not true.

In court, the insurance company’s attorneys also will try to discredit plaintiffs by questioning the nature and severity of their injuries. The most common injuries in minor impact cases are soft tissue, muscular type injuries – things you can’t see. But that doesn’t mean you’re not hurt or that you don’t need medical treatment for those injuries, just as you would if you suffered a broken bone or head trauma.

If you’ve been involved in an auto accident, consult our helpful guide outlining what you should and shouldn’t do when dealing with the insurance company. Before talking with an adjuster or signing anything, it may be helpful to consult an experienced personal injury attorney. An attorney can help ensure that your rights are protected.

I Was Injured As A Passenger In An Auto Accident, What Can I Do?

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As every driver knows, auto accidents happen. And you probably have a pretty good idea of what to do after an accident when you’re one of the drivers involved.

But what if you’re a passenger in one of the vehicles? What happens if you are injured? What happens if the driver of the car you were riding in was at fault?

As a passenger in a wreck in North Carolina you have the right to file an insurance claim against the driver who was at fault. Even if the at fault driver is a family member or a friend. An experienced attorney can help you succeed on your claim against the insurance company and make sure they aren’t wrongfully denying compensation to you. Your injuries may result in medical bills, missed time from work and pain and suffering.

Your insurance claim can cover these damages, and an attorney knows how to help you avoid any insurance traps and succeed on your claims. As you can see from the information below, resolving a claim when you’re the passenger involves knowing how insurance law operates in North Carolina and knowing how adjusters resolve claims.

How to file an insurance claim if you are a passenger in an accident

The process of filing an insurance claim as a passenger in a wreck is the same as if you were one of the drivers. Your first step is to obtain the insurance information of all drivers involved in the collision. This includes the driver of the vehicle you were in. (This checklist can help.)

If it is clear at the time which driver was at fault in the accident, you will file a claim with that person’s insurance company. If it is unclear which driver is responsible for the accident, it is best to file a claim with each driver’s insurance company. If multiple drivers are found to be partially at fault, their respective insurance companies will argue over and ultimately have to determine who is responsible for your damages in proportion to their policyholder’s fault.

How multiple victims affects your compensation

When there are multiple people injured in a wreck, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will typically limit the amount of money that can be awarded. Per accident limits means each injured party will have to prove their damages in relation to the other parties damages and the carrier will have to determine how to split the available limits amongst everyone who was injured. (Learn more about how to read and understand an auto insurance policy here.)

For that reason, it’s possible the insurance payout you receive won’t sufficiently cover your losses or medical expenses because you will only receive a portion of the total amount available. In these cases, the guidance of an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer can help ensure that you receive your fair share of compensation for your injuries.

Your relationship to the driver of the vehicle matters

When you are a passenger of an at-fault driver involved in an accident, chances are you have some sort of relationship to the driver. They may be your parent, spouse, friend, neighbor, or someone else with whom you have a close relationship.

It might feel strange to make a claim against the insurance policy of someone you know and care for. But keep in mind that his or her policy is there to protect you when an accident happens. That policy may contain benefits meant for you, and you may be able to file a claim, even if you are listed on the insurance policy. You can learn more about those types of cases in this blog post I wrote.

Your actions may affect your chances of recovery

Your behavior leading up to the accident may affect your chances of recovery. For instance, if you were aware the driver of the vehicle you were a passenger of was intoxicated or otherwise impaired and chose to be a passenger regardless, you may have forfeited your right to compensation for your injuries. Further, if you engaged in any activity that contributed to the accident, such as grabbing the steering wheel or putting your hands over the driver’s eyes, it could affect your claim and your case.

An experienced auto accident attorney can help you sort through these challenges to ensure that you receive the compensation you’re entitled as an injured passenger. Please contact us to see how we can help.

What Are Your Options When You’re The Passenger In A Wreck?

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You are a passenger in a vehicle driven by your spouse, your child, or your friend, and they run a red light or hydroplane across a rainy highway causing a wreck. You are injured in the wreck. Medical bills from the ambulance, hospital and doctors are coming in the mail. Now what?

We often are asked by injured passengers in the at-fault vehicle whether they have a claim and if so, against who. If you are injured as a passenger in a wreck in North Carolina you have the right to file an insurance claim against the liability coverage of the driver who was at fault. Even if the at-fault driver is your spouse, your child or your friend. And even if you are listed on the insurance policy.

It might feel strange to make a claim against the insurance policy of someone you know and care for. But keep in mind that his or her policy is there to protect you when an accident happens. That policy may contain benefits meant for you.

Liability insurance is a type of insurance that pays for bodily injury and property damage for which any covered individual becomes legally responsible. A driver becomes legally responsible when they are negligent. Negligence means the driver was careless or failed to exercise reasonable care and his actions caused an injury. North Carolina mandates this type of insurance on every registered vehicle to protect people from the harmful and costly damages of negligence.

Your insurance claim can cover a wide array of damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages from time taken off work to recover. A successful claim can prevent you from having to shoulder all of those costs.

As with many insurance claims, there are a number of variables that must be considered when filing a claim against the at-fault driver. These include your relationship to the driver, possible actions by you or others that may have contributed to the accident, and what other insurance benefits may be available to you. In order to protect yourself and your rights, you should contact an experienced North Carolina auto collision attorney who knows the law and can prevent the insurance company from denying your valid claim.

Unfortunately, we have learned of situations where a passenger didn’t timely seek counsel because they mistakenly thought being in the at-fault vehicle prohibited them from making a claim against the driver’s policy. Don’t let this happen to you. If you were injured in a wreck, call us immediately to talk about how we can assist you.

Tech Solutions to Prevent Texting & Other Distracted Driving

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There’s no getting around it: Texting while driving is dangerous, often deadly.

But with our constant need to check email and respond to messages, it’s also a hard habit to kick. Many of us are like Pavlov’s dogs when we hear that ping indicating we have a new message. We’re conditioned to look. And when we do, we take our eyes off the road.

That kind of distraction, even for just a second, can lead to an accident when you’re driving a car.

According to the National Safety Council, 3,000 people die in distracted driving crashes every year. Yet, 70 percent of drivers admit to using their phones while driving despite knowing the risk.

There are options to help limit your phone usage while driving:

  • If you have an iPhone and you’ve upgraded to the iOS 11 operating system, you can activate the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature to turn off texting and other distracting apps while you’re behind the wheel.

When the feature is enabled, the phone will prevent notifications when it connects to your car via Bluetooth or when it senses driving motion. Here’s how to set up the feature, according to Apple:

Go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.
Tap Add control to Control Center next to Do Not Disturb While Driving.

While Do Not Disturb while Driving is activated, you will be able to use map and navigation apps, although you won’t be able to input a destination while in motion. Passengers who want to use their iPhone in the car can disable the feature by indicating you’re not driving.

  • If you have a teen driver, you can set up a restriction that prevents them from turning off the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. Here’s how to do it:

On your child’s iPhone, go to Settings > General > Restrictions.

If you haven’t used Restrictions before, enter a new passcode. Remember this passcode for any future changes.

Under Allow Changes, tap Do Not Disturb While Driving.

Select Don’t Allow Changes.

  • You can also take a low-tech approach to distracted driving by turning off your phone when you get in the car or even putting it in the trunk. However, that can be problematic if you use your phone for navigation or if you need it to make an emergency call.
  • You can also sign a pledge to be an attentive driver and follow this checklist from End Distracted Driving whenever you get behind the wheel.
  1. Drive without reading or sending texts, snapchatting, using the internet, Facebook or social media of any kind.
  2. Call/text before I start driving to let parents, friends and others know when I’ll arrive.
  3. Wait to text or call others until they have stopped driving.
  4. Pull over to a safe location to check texts, social media, or listen to voice mail.
  5. Deputize my passenger when I am driving to text or make calls for me.
  6. When alone, turn my cell phone off before starting to drive.
  7. Stop texting, or end phone conversations with others once I learn they are driving.
  8. Pull over to a safe location or wait until I am finished driving to eat or apply make-up.
  9. Pull over to a safe location or wait until I am finished driving to adjust music on a phone or similar devices.
  10. When being driven by a distracted driver ask the driver to drive safer.
  11. As a passenger, share the responsibility for arriving safely with my driver and offer help so my driver does not drive distracted.

You can download a printable version of this checklist from End Distracted Driving

Car and phone manufacturers are recognizing the danger of distracted driving, including texting while driving, and they’re developing technology to block the practice. According to CNN, Nissan has proposed adding built-in boxes to its cars to that would block radio transmissions of any kind from reaching phones.

Technology to prevent texting while driving does exist. USA Today reviewed the best apps to prevent distracted driving, including one that lets you earn points you can cash in at the gas station and other retailers.

 

 

How Insurance Companies Determine If A Car Is A Total Loss

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Have you ever owned a vehicle you loved? What happens if that car is damaged in a wreck? You may be willing to do whatever it takes to repair the vehicle, despite the cost or time involved.

But the insurance company may declare a vehicle a “total loss,” even if the mechanic or body shop says it can be fixed.

What exactly is a “total loss” to insurance companies?

The term “total loss” has a different meaning in the insurance industry than it does to the average person or even a mechanic. When you’re told a car is a total loss, you may take that to mean the car is beyond repair and must be scrapped.

Total loss, as used by an insurance adjuster in a property damage claim, does not mean your car can’t be repaired. It means the expense of repairing the car exceeds the present day value of the car. This is an important distinction to understand, because the insurance company is only responsible for paying what your car was valued just prior to the wreck. If the repair costs are more than 75 percent of the total value of the car, the car is considered a total loss.

To determine whether the necessary repairs exceed this amount, the insurance company must assign a value to the vehicle. That’s part of what an insurance adjuster is doing when he or she examines your vehicle.

How do insurance companies determine if the car is a total loss?

Insurance companies base their payout amounts on “actual cash value,” or ACV.

Several different factors may be considered when determining ACV, including:

  • Make
  • Model
  • Mileage
  • Year
  • Condition

As you can see, the insurance company can’t evaluate the sentimental value of a car, because there’s no objective formula to determine it so the adjuster will stick to those factors listed above. The method of valuing a vehicle isn’t standard across the industry. One insurance company’s calculated ACV may differ significantly from the next.

These inconsistencies in calculating ACV give you some room to negotiate with the insurance company to increase the valuation of your vehicle. This could mean more money in your final insurance payout.

Negotiating actual cash value:

Start your negotiations with the insurance company by requesting a copy of the valuation report it used to determine ACV. The valuation report is an itemized list of the specifications of your vehicle — such as the make, model, and mileage — as well as an inventory of factory upgrades that may affect the overall value. Certain “extras” that increase the value of a vehicle, such as leather interior, airbags or a sunroof, may be missing from the report. If information is missing, alert the adjuster immediately.

The property damage adjuster may be willing to consider certain information you provide in the ACV. The Kelley Blue Book value, the value of similar vehicles in your area and upgrades (such as a state-of-the-art, after-market sound system) can all help to increase your ACV. Keep in mind that the adjuster will only consider the price of vehicles in your area and not nationwide.

If your vehicle has been deemed a total loss, the insurance company will offer the ACV to settle your property damage claim.

If you’re unhappy with the offer, you can have an independent appraisal performed at your expense to see if the appraiser values it higher.

If you agree with the ACV, then you need to decide if you want to surrender the car to the insurance company or keep the car and pay for the repairs yourself. Typically, the insurance company takes possession of a “total loss” car for its salvage value. If you want to keep the vehicle, the insurance company will pay you the actual cash value, minus the amount it would have received at a salvage yard and minus any applicable deductibles. From there, you can take the payout and have the repairs completed yourself.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, it’s important to understand your rights in North Carolina. An experienced North Carolina auto accident lawyer will help protect you from unfair insurance company practices and ensure you get maximum compensation.

For answers to other frequently asked questions about auto accident claims, visit our online news & learning center.

 

Understanding your auto insurance policy – Uninsured Motorist Coverage

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Today we’re sharing a guest post from the N.C. Advocates for Justice about the importance of having Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage as part of your auto insurance policy.

You can learn more about the different types of auto insurance coverage and understanding your policy in these articles:

Being involved in a wreck is a bad situation. Being involved in a wreck that is not your fault and where the other driver has no insurance is worse. Although N.C. law requires liability insurance, the reality is many drivers on the road lack liability insurance to pay for harm they may cause. Fortunately, since 2009 every policy of personal auto insurance issued in North Carolina requires coverage for this type of situation. That coverage is called Uninsured Motorist or “UM” coverage. This is not to be confused with Underinsured Motorist or “UIM” coverage, which applies when the at-fault driver has some insurance coverage, but not enough to cover the harm caused.

N.C. law requires that all policies have a minimum of $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident of UM coverage for injury and $25,000 for property damage, with the option to select higher limits. This coverage pays for damage to your car, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages resulting from your injuries. In essence, the UM coverage on your policy steps into the shoes of the uninsured at-fault driver and pays damages that person could be held responsible for under the law, with a few exceptions.

One such exception is punitive damages. Punitive damages involving automobile are most often situations involving drunk driving, racing, or similar plainly dangerous and reckless behavior. Punitive damages are intended to punish the reckless driver for what he did and deter him or her (and others) from repeating that conduct in the future. While the law allows that claim against the reckless driver, your UM coverage would not pay punitive damages even if a jury allows them.

“Hit-and-run” situations also require a particular analysis in North Carolina. In order to have a valid UM claim in North Carolina in a hit-and-run situation, you must prove “contact.”

The “contact” rule does not require the hit-and-run motorist contact your car. As long as the hit-and-run motorist contacts some vehicle or object which contacts your car, then you can be covered under the UM coverage.

Two different scenarios can show how that plays out. Let’s say you are driving to Wednesday night church, and your pastor happens to be traveling behind you in his car. As you enter a curve, an oncoming car is over the center line and heading towards you. If that vehicle hits your car, but doesn’t stop and leaves the scene never to be identified, you have a valid UM claim for any injury. That’s because of the physical contact between the hit-and-run vehicle and your own.

Alternatively, if you swerve to avoid the car and there’s no contact, but you end up going off the road damaging your car or being hurt, there is no UM coverage. This is true even if your pastor would swear under oath that you did nothing wrong and had to swerve or be hit head on. This can leave you with medical expenses that still must be paid. For property damage to be covered under UM, contact along is not enough. A valid UM claim for property damage requires both contact and the identification of the hit-and-run or uninsured driver responsible.

Requiring contact for a valid UM claim is designed to prevent fraud, so a person can’t simply wreck their vehicle on their own and falsely claim another driver caused it. A trend in other states to combat potential fraud, but allow UM coverage, involves allowing a UM claim with no contact if there is an independent witness or other corroborating evidence. To date, North Carolina has not followed that trend and we remain a strict “contact” state.

Facts in specific situations can result in different answers, and this basic description of UM coverage does not cover all scenarios. If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation like the ones described, seek legal advice for your particular situation. And remember, to protect yourself against drivers who lack sufficient insurance you should review your current coverage with your agent and purchase protection such as Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist coverage in high enough limits to cover you and your family.

If you have been injured in an auto, truck or motorcycle accident, give us at call at (866) 373-1130 or contact us here If you have been involved in an automobile, truck or motorcycle accident that was somenoe else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation for car repairs, pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, permanent impairment, mileage to and from your doctors’ appointments, prescription costs and rental car fees.

What you need to know about ride sharing services and the law

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When the transportation app Uber was officially launched in 2011, it was both praised for providing consumers with easier and less expensive transportation options and criticized as unfair competition and dangerous.

Fans of the service, and the similar app Lyft, immediately liked the cheaper fares and the ease of using their smartphone to arrange pick-ups. Some praised it for allowing individuals to make extra money using their cars.

Uber has since grown into a $40-billion company. It didn’t take long after the launch for some cracks to appear in this transportation revolution. Several media outlets and consumer safety groups started questioning the business practices of Uber, such as the screening process and qualifications for drivers. Questions also arose about whether those drivers are employees of Uber or independent contractors.

This new type of transportation arrangement also presented legal issues regarding who is responsible when something goes wrong.

These types of companies are referred to by lawmakers as Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

Taxicab companies are often highly regulated by state laws requiring training of drivers and proof of liability insurance. But Uber contended that it was only providing a platform in the new “sharing economy.” In other words, Uber was only providing a way for people who need a service to connect with people who provide a service, and therefore Uber couldn’t be held responsible or legally liable for the actions of the individuals using the platform.

Uber argued they were exempt from many of the regulations imposed by the states where they conducted business. In response, Uber faced heavy opposition and was even banned in some states and cities. State lawmakers struggled with the tension between innovation demanded by consumers and regulation of commercial activity that protects those same consumers. Uber then actively lobbied for laws more favorable to them.

These transportation companies also found themselves at odds with insurers, who have been quite clear that “personal automobile insurance is not intended to cover people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes,” according to an article in Insurance Journal.

A highly publicized fatal wreck involving an Uber driver and a 6-year old pedestrian in California brought into focus the issue of who caries liability insurance in a sharing economy.

At the time of the wreck, the Uber driver didn’t have a passenger but he was logged into the Uber app between rides. Uber had a liability policy providing up to $1 million in coverage but said they were not liable since the driver didn’t have a passenger.

That would mean the driver’s policy, which likely carried much less coverage, was the only policy from which the family of the little girl could recover. However, standard personal automobile insurance policies exclude coverage for people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes, meaning there would be no policy from which the family could recover.

Responding to negative publicity after the accident, Uber eventually backpedaled on its policy and said it would cover drivers with the app activated but not yet carrying a passenger.

The girls’ family settled a lawsuit against Uber in 2015. Terms were not disclosed.

North Carolina lawmakers addressed this issue in 2015 when they passed legislation requiring drivers transporting individuals via a Transportation Network Company, such as Uber and Lyft, to carry $1.5 million per accident in bodily injury coverage.

If the TNC driver is logged in to the app but not providing service, there must be $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident coverage. The law further stated that the coverage could be maintained by the TNC driver, the TNC or any combination of the driver and company. The new law also says that “a TNC driver is an independent contractor and not an employee,” which would impact a drivers’ ability to make a workers’ compensation claim.

In a future blog post, one of my colleagues will talk about how workers’ compensation laws apply to Uber and Lyft drivers.

As our economy changes and new technology and services emerge, new legal issues arise.

Do you  traditional taxicabs be replaced by Uber and other ride-sharing services? As the sharing economy grows and changes, what other novel legal issues will lawmakers be called upon to address? We’d love to know your thoughts.

 

Driverless Cars Raise Big Legal & Insurance Issues

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Driverless Cars Raise Big Legal & Insurance Issues

Driverless cars have the potential to make roads safer and save lives, according to the companies pursuing this cutting-edge technology. But when there’s no one at the wheel, big legal questions arise.

When a driverless can causes a crash, who is legally liable?

The Washington Post called that the “big question about driverless cars no one seems able to answer.”

At the Deuterman Law Group we’ve been watching this emerging market with particular interest as to how liability legislation will develop.

Google created a huge buzz when it first introduced the concept of driverless cars. More than 33,000 people are killed on the road every year, and 94 percent of those accidents are due to some type of human error, Chris Urmson, the technical director of Google’s self-driving car project told NPR.

“The good news is we can build software and hardware that can see the road and pay attention all the time and react more quickly and keep people safe on the road,” he said.

Now more and more companies are investing in this technology. Right now these vehicles are primarily in the testing phase in a very few cities, but it appears this may be the future of transportation.

In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged that the software, and not the human passenger, is legally the driver in these new types of cars.

What does this mean for liability and insurance coverage for these types of vehicles when they become available for purchase?

There are no clear answer yet.

Automakers could be held liable when driverless cars fail and cause crashes.

“This is largely a matter of product liability, several auto and insurance analysts said, not personal insurance — though as a 2014 study from the Brookings Institution suggests, determining where one type of coverage ends and the other begins will be tricky,” the Washington Post reported. “Basically, victims of a collision could (directly or indirectly through their own insurers) try to seek damages from a driverless-car maker for manufacturing a vehicle that didn’t operate as it was supposed to.”

So what happens if you buy a driverless car? Would your car insurance policy or rate change? Possibly, but no one really knows yet what these policies would look like or how much they would cost.

These cars will have different levels of automation, so insurers likely won’t have a standard policy that applies to all driverless cars. And while the federal government has weighed in on these vehicles, many states have not. “And it’s their laws that really matter to insurance companies,” the Washington Post reported, based on an interview with Wayne McOwen, executive director of the District of Columbia Insurance Federation.”That’s because it’s the states that ultimately issue the drivers’ licenses that insurers use to evaluate risk.”

Indeed, there’s a lot to ponder about driverless cars. Will they make our roads safer? Who should be allowed to operate them? How should these types of vehicles be insured? Who should legally responsible when these cars are involved in crashes?

What do you think?

Your social media posts may impact your workers’ comp or injury case

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“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

If you’ve watched any cop shows or movies, you’re probably familiar with those words. While Miranda rights only apply in criminal cases, those words are true even in civil cases.

What you say to the insurance adjuster, to your friends, coworkers and family members and even online on social media, can effect the outcome of your personal injury case or workers’ compensation claim. This applies to statements that seem to have little to do with your auto accident or injury.

The insurance company is looking for ways to discredit you and for reasons to deny your claim. Often, plaintiffs unwittingly give them the legal ammunition to do so with things they say off the cuff or online or without an attorney present.

Our advice is always that our clients should not talk to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. Also, be careful about what you share online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and other social networks, and also with whom you share that information.

A recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals sets a relatively low bar for authenticating information posted on social media.

The case in question, State v. Ford, was a criminal case, but what it says about social media evidence could also impact civil court cases, including workers’ compensation and auto accident claims.

The case involved a pit bull that attacked and killed a man living next door to the dog and its owner. Evidence was admitted in his criminal trial of a MySpace account that contained photos of the defendant and of the dog. Also admitted at trial were posts about the aggressive nature of the dog.

The defendant, who was the owner of the dog, was convicted, but appealed arguing the state had failed to prove he actually posted the photos and captions himself. His attorneys argued that the court should have provided additional evidence, such as the IP address where the photos and captions were posted. But the appeals court ruled the evidence presented was sufficient.

If you read the case, there was substantial other evidence conclusively linking the dog to the owner and the mauling, and the social media accounts were only one part of the prosecution’s case. But the gist of the ruling about social media is clear: The burden to authenticate social media is really low and can be based on purely circumstantial evidence.

So, anything posted on your account could be used against you.

We always warn our clients to be careful about postings on social media, and this ruling brings it home that a social media account can be incredibly harmful to your case.

In legal proceedings, information is power. If you start essentially giving that away by over sharing or publishing too many details of your life on social media, you are giving away the power you have in the case, to some degree.

Some things you should keep in mind if you have an ongoing workers’ comp or personal injury case:

  • When you talk to other people about your injury, they can be called to testify. Hearsay rules do not apply to statements made by plaintiffs in civil cases.
  • The only person who cannot be called to testify is your spouse. Coworkers, friends, neighbors, the guy at the convenience store and anyone else you talk to can be called to testify.
  • Quite often, coworkers are called to testify in workers’ compensation cases, and they will be asked not only about the accident but also about things you said the accident and your injury.

The Social Media Trap

Now let’s talk specifically about social media.

We live in a world where we’re constantly connected, and lots of people share many details of their lives on social media.

If you’re injured at work or in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you don’t have to unplug from social media. But you do need to be aware of how your posts, tweets and Instagram snapshots might be used in court against you. Even the hashtags you use or the places you check in via apps like Foursquare might come into play in your case.

I’ve seen it happen with my own clients.

One client, who had an injury claim, went out to a bar with friends one night and posted about it on social media. The other side tried to use that status as evidence that his injury wasn’t as serious as he claimed and didn’t affect his daily quality of life. The rationale was that if he could enjoy a night out with friends, then he must not really be hurt.

All because of a Facebook status.

We recommend that our clients use the highest privacy setting available on social media so the things you post are only viewable by close friends and family members. Even so, you need to remember that there’s no real privacy online.

It’s very likely the insurance company and their attorneys will see what you have posted, whether they find it on their own, someone shares it with them or we’re required by the court to provide it to them.

While we don’t expect you to stop using social media, be wise about it. If you have posted something you think could be misinterpreted or used against you in your case, let us know so we can make a plan for how to deal with it.

Don’t delete those posts. Even if they disappear from your Facebook wall or your Twitter feed, they haven’t really been erased. Plus, the N.C. Bar Association has issued some specific rules about deleting social media posts. Hitting delete may cause even more problems.

The lesson here is be careful what you say – and in many cases, it may be best not to say anything at all. The more information you put out in the world, the more likely it’s going to be used against you. #truth