Before You Hire a Vancouver Washington Personal Injury Lawyer

The process of hiring a personal injury lawyer in Vancouver can be difficult and it is normal to feel overwhelmed.  A good lawyer will help you win your case, and look out for your interests. There are many issues to consider when choosing a lawyer. Be sure to interview a number of different Vancouver lawyers to be absolutely sure you find the lawyer who will best handle your case. A good place to start is an internet search using Google, Bing, Yahoo, Avvo, Lawyers.com or other tools to run down information.The following questions are intended to help you in the selection process as you choose the right Vancouver attorney.

  • Start with: Have you tried a case like this? Have you arbitrated a case like this? Many who call themselves “personal injury” attorney’s have never tried a case.
  • What training do you have in this area of law? Do not be afraid to ask for documentation of education including continuing education. This is a very important part of selecting the right lawyer for your needs.
  • Do you teach this area of practice to other lawyers? A sure sign of a quality lawyer is acceptance as a teacher among peers.
  • What is your work experience in your areas of practice?  Many lawyers dabble in personal injury and wrongful death cases hoping to pull in a case and make a quick settlement. You do not want a divorce lawyer handling your serious personal injury or wrongful death case. Don’t be afraid to ask how many cases the lawyer has taken to trial or arbitration.
  • What is your rate structure? We believe graduated rate structures are a come on and an indication the lawyer is not willing to fight for you. In our office at Caron, Colven, Robison, Shafton, most personal injury and wrongful death cases are charged a contingent fee of one third at every stage of the proceedings. We do not demand a higher fee to do what you hired us to do, go to trial. We aggressively pursue our cases and anticipate filing most of them.
  • Have you handled this type of case before? Ask for examples.  While not completely necessary to know, it can ease your mind to know that your lawyer has worked on cases like yours in Vancouver, Portland and Southwest Washington.
  • Does the attorney handle appeals? Most aggressive and experienced personal injury, litigaton, insurance law and wrongful death attorneys will have some appellate decisions listed under their name.
  • How are litigation costs handled? Serious personal injury lawyers do not ask you to pay up front or force you to finance your personal injury or wrongful death case as you go. A law firm that cannot afford to fund your case is not a good choice.
  • How will you keep me posted on the progress of the case? Before hiring a Vancouver lawyer make sure you understand how they plan on communicating the details of the case with you. When you are harmed in an accident in Vancouver, contact the law firm of Caron, Colven, Robison & Shafton today for a free initial consultation.
  • Look carefully at the fee agreement. Are you being asked to pay overhead in addition to a contingent fee agreement? Is the agreement more concerned about the lawyer getting paid after you fire them than anything else? Graduated fees are often a sign of a lawyer who does not want to take your case to trial. A low 25% fee followed by 33.33% to 50% fees if the lawyer actually has to go to court can be intended to force you to settle short.

Under Insured Motorist Insurance in Washington State

By statute and court decision Washington state has developed a consumer friendly law of under insured motorist insurance. Under insured motorist coverage provides you with insurance when the at fault party has no insurance or does not have enough insurance. This coverage is also known by the abbreviations UM and UIM. Lawyers use UM for the completely uninsured driver. If the at fault driver has some insurance, but not enough to fully compensate our client the term UIM is used.

UIM must be offered with any new policy of automobile liability insurance issued in Washington state. If the consumer does not knowingly waive the coverage, in writing, the coverage will be in effect in an amount equal to the liability coverage whether the product was offered or not. This is “first party” coverage affording protection to the named insured, family members and in may cases passengers using the vehicle with permission.

In Washington UIM coverage “floats” on the liability coverage carried by the under insured driver. This floating layer of coverage is available to pay damages exceeding the under insured motorist’s liability coverage plus other first party coverage under PIP or Med Pay.

Non-owned vehicles. One benefit of UIM coverage is that it will provide coverage for you or a family member while riding in an non-owned vehicle. Some insurance companies (Safeco and Country Mutual for example) “float” your UIM coverage on any UIM coverage on the other vehicle. This is known as “excess” insurance. Others (State Farm, many Farmers policies) do not provide “excess” coverage. This is a valuable benefit and you should ask your agent about it when shopping for insurance.

Guest Passenger Coverage. Under Washington law permits but does not require an insurance company to afford UIM coverage to permissive passengers. Look for an exclusion in the UIM coverage for passengers who are covered by the liability coverage of the policy. As with Non-owned vehicles, not all companies offer the same coverage. You could be paying for a premium policy (State Farm for example) only to discover that it does not afford as much coverage as a less expensive policy.

UIM coverage is a tremendous bargain and should not be declined unless the only alternative is no coverage at all.

Regular Use Exemption Leaves Drivers Uninsured

Buying auto insurance shouldn’t be like Russian Roulette, but sometimes it is.

How a company applies a common exclusion found in all automobile policies makes a big difference in the value you receive. The exclusion is referred to as “the available for regular use” exemption. It is designed prevent you from covering multiple cars you own or use at our discretion by buying a single policy on one car.

One insurance company interprets this exclusion so broadly that it leaves its insureds uncovered in common situations like carpools, buses, including school buses, and ride share arrangements. This exclusion can deny you and family members liability, underinsured Motorist (UIM) and Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverages.

State Farm is aggressively pursuing exclusion of coverage under the “available for regular use” exclusion found in all auto policies. Who would expect this exclusion to extend to a ride share, van or carpool, your kids on the school bus or while visiting a non-custodial parent for the weekend? It can even apply to a ride to school with a friend or relative or a bus, even a taxi.

Recent cases in which denial was threatened or actually occurred include the following.

  1. A food bank manager preferred riding the bus to work over driving her car. State Farm denied her PIP and Under insured motorist coverage when an uninsured motorist hit the bus she was riding on injuring her knee.
  2. A college student was denied PIP and UIM coverage for injuries sustained while riding to school with his roommate. The student had never driven the roommate’s car, did not have a key or other access to the vehicle. In State Farm’s eyes the fact he rode in the car every other day 4 days a week made he car “available for his regular use” and thus not covered, unless he took out a policy on it too, which isn’t possible.
  3. A daughter driving her mother to a medical appointment in her mother’s car was denied coverage under her own UIM and PIP polices on the basis that driving her mother to her weekly doctor’s appointments was “regular use” of the mother’s car.
  4. A young woman was denied PIP and UIM coverage for injuries sustained in a crash while riding with her boyfriend, with whom she did not live. The basis was that because he always drove on their dates his car was available for her regular use.
  5. A child was denied UIM and PIP coverage while riding with his father. Father had visitation one or two days a week and alternating weekends. To State Farm this made Dad’s car available “for regular use” of the child. Dad had let his policy lapse. State Farm insured the child’s mother, but refused to cover the child under the mother’s policy on the basis that the visitations made the father’s vehicle available for the child’s “regular use”.

By extension this exclusion can be applied to children riding the bus to school or regularly scheduled events. Car pool arrangements for work, sports and other activities. Relatives, friends and neighbors who regularly share travel by automobile etc. No other company employs this broad application of the exclusion.

The irony in each of these cases is that there is no way to privately insure yourself on a city bus, in a taxi, while visiting a non-custodial parent or riding with a friend or relative. You simply have no insurable interest in any of the vehicles involved. No other company has taken this extreme stance on this exclusion.

When considering a change of automobile insurance carrier consider another serious limitation in State Farm coverage in Washington. State Farm does not allow external stacking of either PIP or Under Insured Motorist coverage on non-owned autos. This limits the value of the coverage when you are injured as a passenger in someone elses car as compared to other companies including Country, Safeco and Liberty. The “other insurance” clause of the UIM coverage will disclose this coverage. Look for language stating that your policy is EXCESS over similar insurance on a non-owned vehicle.

State Farm and a number of other insurers also exclude guest passengers from UIM coverage if the liability coverage also applies. Other insurers do not do this. This means if you are at fault and your guest passenger is hurt, only the liability coverage will apply.

When you are harmed in an accident in Vancouver, contact the law firm of Caron, Colven, Robison & Shafton for a free initial consultation.

Motorcycle Crashes Taken Seriously: A Case Study

This is a discussion of an actual case. In this case we suspected liability would be contested based on statements an officer made to the cyclist. We acted quickly to ensure all evidence was secured. As a result we obtained a favorable result. The lesson however is that a motorcycle case must always be treated as contested.

An experienced motorcycle rider stopped at a stop sign at a rural “T” intersection. The stop sign was positioned at least a cars length back from the white stop line. As the bike foot pushed his bike toward the stop line a teenager “cruising” along the main road that formed the top of the “T” cut the corner and slammed into the motorcycle. The collision caused serious injuries. The teen and a passenger claimed the motorcycle had “come out of nowhere” and pulled into their path. The officer placed the point of impact near the center line of the main road. This indicated a failure on the motorcyclist’s part to yield the right of way. The investigating officer went to the hospital and charged the motorcyclist with DUI on the basis of an admission to having had two beers. He arrested him for investigation of felony vehicular assault based on injuries to the passenger on the bike.

The motorcyclist called William Robison Vancouver Washington personal injury attorney. Mr. Robison’s first action was to call motorcycle accident reconstruction engineer Larry Tompkins, P.E. As in other cases, they met at the scene. At the scene Tompkins documented the evidence while Attorney Bill Robison looked for witnesses.

From evidence Larry gathered at the scene it obvious that the automobile driver had driven far off the roadway to hit the motorcycle. In fact, it was clear that the automobile driver had begun his turn well before the intersection, far from the officer’s point of impact. He had crossed a wide parking strip then reentered the road hitting the motorcycle from the right side. The point of impact was adjacent to the stop sign.

Two witnesses were also located. Both were eye witnesses. Both had attempted to tell the officer the automobile driver was lying about the crash. These witnesses confirmed that the teen driver had cut the corner. Realizing his mistake he had  attempted to drive behind the motorcycle but struck the passenger as the cyclist tried to pull away to avoid the impact. Marks where the motorcycle had spun in a circle were clearly visible on the pavement.

A quick investigation resulted in a recovery of policy limits from the at fault driver. We also recovered the liability coverage on the motorcycle and the underinsured motorist coverage for the passenger even though there was no evidence at all that the motorcyclist had done anything wrong. This is one case where the prejudices of the investigating officer actually worked a substantial benefit, at least for the passenger on the motorcycle.

No charges were ever filed, after the investigation conducted by Mr. Robison and Mr. Tompkins was reported to and reviewed by an experienced collision investigator with the law enforcement agency in charge of the investigation the report was corrected (but not before the motorcycle coverage paid the limit to the passenger).

Every motorcycle collision is a contested case. For that reason the lawyer experienced in handling these cases will start out by hiring a qualified reconstruction engineer, visiting the scene, examining all vehicles and carefully recording all information.

It is important that the lawyer understand accident reconstruction. This means, in addition to being familiar with the literature, the lawyer understands basic physics as they are applied to collision reconstruction. Failure to appreciate that every motorcycle case will be vigorously contested can mean the difference between success and failure.

Motorcycle Accident Attorneys

The first lesson any lawyer who wants to handle motorcycle crash cases learns is that you can’t handle these cases like car crashes. Liability will nearly always be denied. Even if fault is clear there will be attempts to blame the motorcyclist for “failure to avoid”. This defense can be based on the thinnest of evidence. Unless the case is quickly and carefully documented the evidence to defeat such defenses may be lost.

1. Motorcycle crash witnesses estimates of speed are seldom right. Witnesses will over estimate the speed of a motorcycle proportionally to the loudness of the exhaust and brightness of the color. Studies show that even those experienced in this area will place the speed of a motorcycle with loud pipes and bright colors well above that of a drab and quiet bike. For this reason it is important to have a qualified motorcycle crash reconstructionist investigate the crash as soon as possible.

2. Research shows drivers do see you. Other drivers do see motorcycles far more often than believed. Studies show that drivers misinterpret information regarding the motorcycle. They estimate the distance poorly and rarely accurately judge speed. Good defensive riders appreciate this fact and assume they will not be seen, or if seen not given the right of way. Automobilists often claim the motorcycle had no lighting or exaggerate speed to cover their fault.

3. Motorcycle speed can be accurately estimated from crash data. Several methods of estimating impact speed in car v. motorcycle cases have been studied. Skid length, wheel deformation, fork displacement and throw distance all factor into the equation. The length of skid marks, number of tires locked, points of impact and rest and data regarding the roadway all enter the equation and must be documented as soon as possible.

4. Eye witnesses often are not. Frequently a careful interview of someone claiming eye witness status will disclose that they are not an eye witness. Many times an interview will disclose that the witness was drawn to look by the screech of tires or the noise of the collision. What the witness actually saw and what he thinks he saw are often very different. Estimates of speed, statements of lane travel and so on can be seriously at odds with physical facts. A good investigation will document these discrepancies.

5. In the eyes of the insurance industry there are no innocent motorcyclists. Just getting on a bike and starting the engine is negligent in the eyes of an industry with no interest in fair claims settlement. For this reason it is important to consult an attorney with experience in contested liability motorcycle crash cases who understands the issues and knows how to defeat defense attempts to shift blame.

It is not cheap to properly document a motorcycle collision. If your attorney is unwilling or unable to undertake the investigation required your probability of a fair recovery will be reduced.

Get The Compensation You Deserve

When you are injured in an accident as a result of the negligence or recklessness of another party, you deserve to be compensated. Contacting a Vancouver accident lawyer is the first step and a free consultation now is a good start. Compensation includes:

  • Property damage: We can help with your property damage claim, appraisal and negotiations including diminished value claims.
  • Medical bills: With rising health care costs, medical bills are a big problem. It is an even bigger problem when you were injured as a result of the actions of someone else. Consistent treatment and good records are a big help. Read my discussion on selecting a chiropractor before seeking such treatment.
  • Lost wages: When you are injured and can no longer perform your work, it is devastating both financially and mentally. Your quality of life deteriorates. Insurance companies count on taking advantage of the stress and hardship their insureds cause you and your loved ones.
  • Pain and suffering:  Although it is hard to put a price on pain and suffering, money damages are the only way we can achieve justice for you. How long, how bad and how interfering are your injuries? These things determine the value of your loss.
  • Physical disability: Becoming physically disabled as the result of an accident is very traumatizing. In addition to the physical distress, severe mental stress and decreased quality of life can result. Our experience in handling such claims can make a big difference in your future.
  • Upholding community safety. One of the strongest reason for enforcing rules requiring just compensation is to prevent people from needlessly endangering others. There is no shame in helping enforce the community interest in seeing that those who break the rules pay fair compensation to those they hurt.

Tips for Selecting a Chiropractor for Your Personal Injury

As the injured victim of an automobile collision in Washington or Oregon one of your first priorities is to get effective medical treatment. The second is to make sure your medical bills are paid. If you choose to undergo chiropractic treatment, selecting the right chiropractor can make a big difference in the out come of your personal injury claim. The money spent on medical treatment is your money, and it must be used wisely.

Chiropractic treatment is effective treatment for sprain/strain type injuries to the spine, dizziness induced by whiplash and often for extremity injuries. If you suffer personal injuries in an automobile accident, choosing the right Chiropractor can make a big difference in the outcome of your treatment, and help you obtain fair compensation for your personal injuries.

Experienced personal injury and automobile accident attorneys know which Chiropractors provide quality treatment and support their patients in presentation of their injury claims. There are many qualified providers in the Portland Oregon, Vancouver Washington area.

Tips for Selecting a Chiropractor:

1. Ask about experience with automobile accident and personal injury claims. Has the doctor attended post graduate training in accident injury evaluation and treatment?

TIP: Ask if the doctor does depositions and testifies in court. Nothing is worse than incurring thousands of dollars in medical expenses then finding out the Doctor won’t go to bat for you.

2. Has he/she testified in court or given depositions for patients? Ask for the names of some Washington and Oregon personal injury attorneys the doctor has worked with, call them and ask what they think.

TIP: Beware of the doctor who steers you to a personal injury attorney who is in a distant location. If your attorney is 180 miles away, do you expect the same contact, knowledge of local providers, defense attorneys and courts as a local attorney has?

3. Does the doctor work with multiple attorneys? The best chiropractors maintain a list of attorneys they know to deliver quality results in car crash and personal injury cases. Doctors who work with only one attorney are often directing you to their collection agent. Expect your PIP or Medpay to go away quickly and then, with no money for further medical care you will be discharged.

TIP: Look at the charting, if it makes no sense to you what will an insurance adjuster or juror think of it?

4. Does the doctor have an intake and examination protocol specific to cases involving personal injury claims? Look for detailed intake information on the mechanism of injury, biomechanics and past medical history. A detailed mult ipage auto accident injury questionaire that asks meaningful questions is a must. The intake examination should be very detailed and include orthopedic, neurologic and chiropractic tests. Often an hour or more is spent in intake and exam on the first visit.

TIP: You should feel the doctor has taken the time to know what happened to you and how it affects you.

TIP: The questions asked should be relevant and not create traps for later.

5. In addition to a good intake protocol the doctor should take the time to hear your story. An experienced doctor knows that some questions create problems. Such questions as “how fast was the other car going” are traps and experienced doctors know this. Rarely will a rear-end collision victim have any way to estimate the speed of the other car. Studies have proven that the lead driver will almost always over estimate the speed of the impact. The same studies show that those who rear end other drivers vastly underestimate their own speed. If you are asked to estimate speed of any car, you should also be asked what the basis for the estimate is.

TIP: You should be able to see what the x-rays show for your self.

6. Not all chiropractors take x-rays. Many of the best now send patients who need x-rays out to state of the art centers with highly trained radiologists. If they do take x-rays, ask to see your x-rays. If you can’t actually see the bones clearly the x-rays are of little use and are a waste of your money. Beware the doctor who points to the x-ray and tells you you have serious spinal damage but does not refer you out for special studies. This is often a marketing ploy.

TIP: Avoid attempts to manipulate your fears.

7. Beware of attempts to make you fear that your injuries will result in death if not treated chiropractically. There is no evidence that subluxations cause death. God probably did not send you to the chiropractor to save you from a life threatening condition in your spine. That is another cynical marketing ploy.

TIP: Chiropractors should work with other specialists.

8. Ask, “do you refer to and receive referrals from medical doctors”? Ask for names. If you are told “NO” find another doctor.

TIP: Don’t be sucked into a treatment plan designed to enrich the doctor not to help you recover from your personal injury.

9. Beware of the “treatment plan” contract. Any treatment plan that predicts more than 4-8 weeks of treatment at a time is suspect. Proper treatment protocol requires re-evaluations regularly and adjustment of treatment accordingly. If you are asked to sign a contract for a specific treatment plan leave the office and don’t look back. Read any treatment plan carefully. We are now seeing plans that include $70 a visit for physical therapy. In one case this was nearly $2,000. The “physical therapy” consists of having the patient sit in a wobble chair for 15 minutes while waiting to see the doctor. While that is creative use of time in the waiting room it is not a good use of your money.

TIP: This is a business transaction for your health, avoid having your beliefs used against you.

10. Beware of “the Lord sent you to me” and similar schemes that prey on your religious beliefs or fears for your health. There are practice building “gurus” who actually teach doctors to join churches and to use group identity, guilt and fear to get patients and keep them coming back. If the treatment is doing no good quit going and find a new doctor.

TIP: Avoid programs designed to sell services to your family and scare your spouse or children into thinking you need a great deal of care.

11. If you are told you have to bring your spouse or children, to a lecture hosted by the doctor, before you can become a patient, be very cautious. This is  a sales tactic used to instill fear in you and your family to induce you to seek treatment.

TIP: Use common sense, you know your body.

12. Don’t continue to treat if you have ongoing pain, severe pain or numbness in an arm or leg, severe headache or poor results unless you have been referred to a specialist. If you are not given a referral go see a M.D. If you think your treatment is “too much” it probably is. Good Chiropractors have no qualms about referring you outside their specialty area.

TIP: Ensure the doctor is not in it just for the PIP, demand to see your bills.

13. We find many doctors treat until a miraculous cure occurs. This invariably occurs right after the personal injury protection coverage runs out. Many of these clinics have a program designed to produce $10,000 in bills in less than 4 months. Patients are then adrift, often with no more medical coverage and possibly even being dunned to pay the extra over and above the PIP. Most of the time these patients report little or nothing by way of results.

TIP: Keep your eye on the ball.

14. Ask to see your chart notes. If there are only a few scribbles, that you can’t read or understand, don’t expect an insurance adjuster to put much credence in anything else the doctor provides. Worse yet, many charting programs “default” in a way that makes your recovery seem much better than you feel it is. Make sure you agree with the chart. Make sure you agree with what the doctor is saying about you. Are you really getting better with each treatment or are you getting worse?

TIP: Make sure the doctor is interested in what you have to say.

15. Don’t treat with a doctor who does not talk to you. Every visit should include at least a few minutes with the doctor to discuss your progress and symptoms. If you are simply handed a short form to fill out and placed in a room where the doctor, or an associate, pops in, pops your back and pops out, you are in a practice scheme designed to maximize profit, not results.

TIP: Don’t let the pip become exhausted before you seek alternative treatment.

16. If you need outside referrals having something left in your PIP account is essential. Watch your bills. Keep an eye on the bills. A common scheme involves sending bills only to the insurance company, not to the patient. Coincidentally in some practices the treatment plan and bills result in a miraculous cure when the cost hits the Washington or Oregon statutory Personal Injury Protection medical payment limit. Often the patient still has significant problems but now has no money for further treatment and owes a balance to the chiropractor.

Don’t Get Cheated out of Your Totalled Car, Three Hints.

When your car is damaged or destroyed in a motor vehicle collision that is not your fault, last thing you need is to get cheated on the replacement. The following information should help protect you from loss on your rental and your car.

Rule #1. At least half of what the other person’s insurance company tells won’t be true.

RENTAL CARS

Accident victims are entitled to compensation for all losses caused by the auto accident. This includes “loss of use” of your car. This is measured by the value of the use of your vehicle, not something less. You can’t up grade to a luxury model unless you pay the value difference but the auto insurance company cannot force you to downgrade either. You are entitled to fair compensation for what you actually lose.

In each of these recent cases the insurance company’s insured negligently caused the total loss of the accident victim’s vehicle. In each case the auto accident victim was told that the auto insurer was responsible only for rental of a $25 per day sub-compact rather than the full sized vehicle that was destroyed. The car crash victim was told they had to pay to “upgrade” to the car they were entitled to! This is not true. If you encounter this type of tactic call an experienced Vancouver Washington personal injury and car crash attorney.

Total Loss Valuation

As personal injury attorneys we see a lot of tactics designed to minimize the amount a person injured in a car crash recovers. One tactic is using dealer pricing of trade in vehicles. The most common however are computerized valuations. These valuations do not actually value your car. They value a theoretical “average” car based on numerous vehicles that are allegedly for sale or have allegedly sold for specific prices.

In such a total loss valuation performed by the insurance company for the negligent driver I found the same significant “errors” had been used to downgrade the amount paid for the injured driver’s car. Comparison vehicles were misidentified as to year and options. Options the loss vehicle had were ignored. Further scrutiny of the valuation showed more serious deficiencies.

We requested copies of everything the negligent driver’s insurance company used to value the damaged vehicles. I then began making calls to the automobile dealers listed to make sure the comparison vehicles really are comparable. What I found made me question the entire total loss valuation process.

Hint: Demand the valuation documents, all of them.

You will get a report many pages long. There will be anywhere from a half dozen to a dozen or more “comparable” cars. The most obvious question is “Why do you need to “compare” 15 vehicles when you have 3 or 4 that are almost EXACTLY the same as my car?” The reason is that using a lot of “comparable sales” drags the average value down. This is particularly true because the computer program “devalues” the cars being used as “comparable” then devalues your car on the basis of the devalued cars. If you have an average or below average car, the system might be OK but if you have a newer car or one with low miles, your car will be under valued.

Hint: Do your own research into the value of your car, two very similar cars are a better measure of value than 15 mismatches.

On the valuation you will see the source of valuations reported. Telephone calls to the dealers who had allegedly quoted “take prices” produced interesting results. In one case the person quoted had no authority to set a price, he could only convey offers. In the second case I learned that the vehicle had already been sold for more than the alleged “take price”. Check craigslist.org, auto trader and other sales sources.

Hint: Research the autos used to produce the valuation.

Review the “comparable” cars and look for “outliers”. These are cars that sold for way below what similar cars sold for. To drag the price down these “fire sale” cars are left in the appraisal. The alleged sale price is not adjusted up to reflect desperation sales or other factors. Only cars sold in a bona fide transaction should be counted. The definition is: ” an arms length transaction between a willing buyer who does not have to buy and a willing seller who does not have to sell.” Outliers have no business in the valuation process.

BONUS HINT: I often hear from people who have been told that the adjuster can’t consider comparable cars outside the valuation the insurance company came up with. That is not true. Ask to speak to a supervisor if this trick is pulled on you.

BONUS BONUS: The best comparable sale is your purchase of your car. If you recently purchased he car in a bona fide transaction that is as good a valuation as can be found, demand it be considered particularly if you improved the car after you bought it.

Valuation methods like “CCC” and “Autosource” rely on a valuation method that does not actually appraise your car. It appraises a mythical vehicle. If they really wanted to value your vehicle they would find two or three very similar vehicles, they would not search high and low for as many vehicles of the approximate year, make and model as they can, toss out those they think sold for too much and then run an average.

After The Car Crash – When Your Vehicle is Totalled?

When you are injured in an automobile collision the last thing you need is to be cheated on your property damage and loss of use. Here are some hints on protecting your pocket book.

LOSS OF USE

When I first wrote this post I knew of two cases in which consumers were deliberately cheated on their loss of use. I have now heard of many indicating this is a wide spread practice not limited to a single company.

In all cases State Farm is the guilty party. In each the injured party was told that State Farm was responsible only for rental of a sub-compact car rather than the full sized vehicle that was damaged.

That representation is false. “Loss of use” means loss of use of your vehicle, not something different. You can’t up grade to a luxury model unless you pay the value difference but they cannot force you to downgrade unless they agree to pay you the value difference. Demand a car of equal quality and complain to the Office of the Insurance Commissioner if they refuse.

UNDER VALUATION OF TOTAL LOSS

Undervaluation of total loss cars is a chronic problem. Most companies use services that don’t actually value your vehicle. Instead they use adjusted values for a bunch of vehicles somewhat like yours to arrive at a mystical average. If you drive a beater this can actually work in your favor. If you take good care of your car or own a rare vehicle you will get a raw deal.

We request copies of everything the insurance company uses to value the damaged vehicles. I then begin making calls to the sellers and dealers listed to make sure the comparison vehicles really are comparable.

In most instances a review of the valuation disclosed significant “errors”. Comparison vehicles are often misrepresented as to year and options. Options on the loss vehicle are then ignored. Further scrutiny of the valuations often reveals more serious deficiencies.

Telephone calls to the dealers who had allegedly quoted “take prices” produced interesting results. In one case the person quoted had no authority to set a price, he could only convey offers. In another I learned that the vehicle had been sold for more than the alleged “take price”.

We also review the comparison cars and look for “outliers”. These are cars that sold for way below what similar cars sold for. I recently called the listed seller on one of these vehicles and discovered the sale was a desperation sale as the owner was dying of cancer, could not use the car, and badly needed some money. That is anything but the type of bona fide sales transaction that is supposed to be used.

Is Expecting Fair Treatment From an Insurance Company Expecting too much?

One of the things most of my new or prospective clients tell me is “We are not sue happy people” or some variation on that theme. Thankfully almost no one is “sue happy”. The myth of the sue happy American is just that, myth. Suing someone is a big deal. It is not something to take lightly. Even if there are sue happy folks, very few attorneys will have anything to do with an unjustified lawsuit so their happiness will be short lived.
It does seem the insurance industry is sue happy these days. Offers in most cases are far from fair. Also the insurers force you to engage in protracted litigation at significant cost in time and expense.
Gone are the days when every under insured motorist policy allowed you to save time and money by arbitrating your case. However, the insurance industry knows that juries almost always award less than panels of professional claims adjudicators. When it comes to income loss juries are particularly tightfisted. You might want to look in your own policy. In the under insured motorist section look for the “if we can’t agree” section and see what you have to do when they deny your claim, can you arbitrate, or do you have to sue them? If there is nothing there or if the words “agree to arbitrate” appear you will have to file a lawsuit. State Farm, California Casualty and many others will routinely remove your suit to Federal court, doubling down on the expense they force you to incur to get fair treatment.

When another driver ignores the rules of safety on the road and injures someone else we only have one way to help the injured party, money damages. If those who ignore the rules are allowed to get away without paying full compensation then the rules that protect us all are weakened, and we are all less safe as a result.

Insurers today spread the myths and memes they have created to bolster their bottom line. One such myth is the myth of the “sue happy” American. In reality, those who bring lawsuits to enforce the rules and protect public safety are acting in the best interest of the community.