The Phantom (Driver) Menace

There seem to be a rash of “hit-skip” incidents going around, like this one just this weekend in Victorian Village.  Luckily, this guy was caught.  But what if they never find the at-fault driver?

Car-smoke

In Ohio, this situation is called a “phantom driver.”  Most insurance policies require there to be some other evidence that a crash happened, other than just the injured person’s word.

What does this mean to you:

If you are hit by another car who takes off, you will either need another person who witnessed the wreck to back you up.  Either that, or show some damage to your vehicle to prove there actually was a wreck.  Believe it or not, sometimes insurance companies don’t believe you!

 

You mean they didn’t do that already?

Hip joints are important.  Not just to be seen at on the weekends with all the cool kids, but more importantly, to help in walking and stability.  (See what I did there?)

Artificial hip maker Johnson & Johnson knew 40% of its hip implants would fail within in five years.  These are hip joints where metal contacts with metal, causing pain and metal ions to be shaved off into the blood stream.  Even though it knew this, the corporation continued to sell the defective hips to consumers.

iStock_000015645895XSmall

Under a new proposal, makers of artificial hips would now have to prove they were safe BEFORE they could selling existing hips or obtain approval for new all-metal designs.  Darn regulations!

What does this mean to you:

Insurance companies and corporations like Johnson & Johnson hide evidence and information that makes them look bad.  (Read: causes them to actually be accountable for the injuries they cause.)  Talk to a lawyer before ever attempting to communicate or negotiate with one of these companies.

 

So that’s why that happened

FSBD has discussed some of the rulings of the Ohio Supreme Court – including those that  stated products are never defective after 10 years, or limiting the amounts juries can give against the worst of the worst, or providing excuses for drivers who break the law and kill other drivers.  These rulings seem to defy common sense.  Why do they come out this way?

Thwack!

There has been a rash of articles recently focusing on the impact of campaign contributions to Judges, especially in Ohio.  Massive amounts of corporate money have been flowing in to judicial elections over the last decade.  No surprise, then, that state supreme court decisions tend to favor insurance companies and corporations over individuals.  You may have even see that two of the Justices on the Ohio Supreme Court are currently in hot water over campaign contributions they received at the same time they were hearing a case involving the contributors.

What does this mean to you:

Take the time to learn about judicial races.  Talk to your lawyer about what the candidates for judge stand for.  The decisions they make truly do affect all of us.

UPDATE:

I just saw this story today about a supreme court race in Illinois.  Perhaps it is time to embrace public financing for judicial campaigns.

They did what to who?

Unfortunately, car insurance companies rarely live up to their commercials, as we’ve discussed before.  Otherwise, that perky Flo from Progressive would be giddily settling claims to and fro and whatnot.

Go ahead. Make a claim. I dare you.

I saw this tragic story making the rounds online.  At the trial for the wrongful death of a motorist, the lawyer for the insurance company for the motorist (Progressive) worked in conjunction with the lawyer for the at-fault driver.  That is, the dead woman’s own insurance company called witnesses to try and blame her for the crash, just like the lawyer for the person who caused the wreck did.  Talk about adding insult to injury.

This is common litigation strategy and how most insurance companies behave, whether they are yours or someone else’s, because money is on the line.  Their goal in any case like this is to pay the least amount of money possible.

What does this mean to you:

In Ohio, your car insurance has a legal obligation to treat you in “good faith.”  If they don’t, they can be help responsible for additional damages beyond what they owe for your personal injury case itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You actually want to use it?

I saw a political cartoon a few years back that wondered what other industries would look like if they operated the same way out health insurance system does.  “You want to join our gym?  OK.  However, our data suggests you might actually use the equipment, so you cannot be a member here.”

I’m going to go with C, Bob, for $1,000.

So, as we await the Supreme Court’s decision on the Affordable Care Act in the Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services case (as if the outcome is in doubt), it seemed a post on health insurance was timely.

We all know that health insurance companies exist for one reason and one reason only: to make a profit.  And they seem to be doing quite well at that. One of the ways they recoup funds is through a process called subrogation, which is just a fancy word for “pay back.”  If health insurance pays money for you to go to the doctor, and if it is someone else’s fault you had to go to the doctor – because you were in a car crash or were injured by a defective product – the health insurance company generally has the right to be repaid out of any settlement or recovery you make.

What does this mean to you:

Though health insurance companies often have the right to be paid back in full before the injured person sees dime one (thanks to an Ohio Supreme Court ruling), lawyers handling a personal injury case frequently negotiate with the health carrier to reduce the amount that is owed back..

Leap of faith

Commercials for insurance companies make you feel all warm and fuzzy, don’t they?  If you believe these ads, some insurance companies are like your neighbor (but only the good ones), some are on your side, and others help old ladies cross the street.  What’s your policy?

We got another one. Get the stamp out!

Despite what these ads would have us believe, insurance companies sometimes actually act in downright un-neighborly ways.  Whether it be car insurance claim, a home owners claim, or any other kind of claim, insurance companies exist for one reason and one reason only – to make money.  (If they do anything other than try to maximize profit, they will be sued.)  To expect them to “do the right thing” is, unfortunately, not reality.

Your own insurance company has an obligation to treat you fairly, even if it means, believe it or not, they have to pay.  If your own insurance company wrongly denies your claim, or drags out the claims process, they may be practicing bad faith insurance, sometimes called “first party” bad faith.  One insurance company defense law firm was even nice enough to post some examples of what can be considered bad faith insurance.

What does this mean to you:

Insurance companies spend a lot of money on ad campaigns, mottos, and spokespeople to convince people they treat you fairly.  We all know, that doesn’t always happen.  Keep in mind that if your own insurance company gives you the run around, they may be liable.

Focus on the family

I spent the afternoon today at the Ohio General Assembly listening to testimony on some good legislation working its way through the legislature.

Don’t worry – I am covering you. With my arms.

As it stands, most Ohioans are not covered by their car insurance if a family member is driving.  Let me say that again to emphasize the absurdity – you are probably not covered by your own car insurance if you are riding in a car driving by your own family member.  This little known policy provision, called the “intrafamily exclusion,” can have draconian consequences in peoples’ lives.  The reason given for such a harsh legal rule, believe it or not, is that insurance companies are afraid families will collude with each other to injure themselves just to make an insurance claim.  One incredulous Justice has termed this absurd assumption “Munchausen’s Syndrome by Auto.”

Currently, Senate Bill 293 seeks to end this practice as it relates to wrongful death claims only, but not injuries, such as amputations or quadriplegia.  Certainly a step in the right direction.  A baby step, but a step nonetheless.

What does this mean to you:

Ask your insurance agent or your attorney whether your auto policy covers your family members when you are driving, or if it contains an intrafamily exclusion.  You need to know that your own family is protected in case of an accident, not just other people in the wreck.

Wait… what?!?

We want people to design safe products.  Fairly radical idea, I know.  Stay with me.  We also want people to make their products safe after they learn their product is not safe.  This is especially true for products used in a a manufacturing or warehouse setting, where the risks of amputation or death are high from exposed gears or rollers on all types of molding and other machines.

Number 35 is alive!

And what better way to show that a product was dangerous in the first place than that the manufacturer made it safer by adding a guard or other safety device after an injury or death.  If it was safe before, as they claim, why would they need to make any changes?

But Ohio law does not allow the jury to hear that the manufacturer made the produce safer.  Why?  The theory is that it would discourage manufacturers from doing the right thing and fixing their dangerous product.  Such after-injury changes are called subsequent remedial measures.

What does this mean to you:

Even though after-injury changes are usually not admissible at trial, they can be used to learn other relevant, admissible evidence to prove your case by counsel.