Did You Know...Your Insurance Company Will Represent an Uninsured Driver Against You?

In an effort to help you the consumer be more aware of what really happens with your insurance premiums, I want to make sure you understand what happens when the real world collides with the insurance world. 

Hypothetical, or Example:

Suppose you are in South Carolina driving your beautiful wife and young child to church one morning when suddenly and without warning a drunk driver passes out at the wheel behind you and plows into your vehicle causing serious personal injuries. The drunk driver stumbles away from the scene but is later found at the convenient store nearby trying to buy beer. The police come do an investigation as you and your family are taken off by EMS to a nearby hospital and you eventually get to talk to the trooper that investigated the collision. The trooper indicates the driver was arrested for drunk driving (the driver's 4th), driving under suspension and disorderly conduct. He will probably be released from jail soon since no one died and since he doesn't really have any money, the fines will be a moot point. Drunk driver has no insurance on the vehicle because he could not afford it and lives in a van by the river (so no assets). 

Question:

1) Who pays for the medical bills, damaged property, permanent scarring, surgeries, and months on end of an altered lifestyle all because of this idiot?

2) Do you think the EMS transportation, medical services, car dealership, towing company, plastic surgeon, therapist, and rental company all will work for free out of the kindness of their hearts?

 

Answer:

1) In the state of South Carolina the law is that every driver must carry liability insurance and uninsured insurance to drive on the roadways in the state. That is it. Any additional coverage is up to you and what you are savvy enough to get with the right insurance company and agent.

So using the hypothetical above, the family injured would have to file a claim against their own automobile insurance company to try and be reimbursed and brought back to the position they were in before the drunk driver ever struck them.

Do you think that means your own insurance company will bend over backwards to help you OR do you think that means your own insurance company that you pay the premiums on will stand in front of the drunk driver and work against you to minimize what you receive?  Let me answer that for you...the later.

What if you have to file a law suit? Who represents the drunk? Well your insurance company provides an attorney that will look to be representing his interest and would actually sit at the drunk's table in front of the jury at a trial. 

That is why it is important to get a good insurance company focused on its members instead of a poor insurance company focused on their bottom line. In my opinion the top poor insurance companies are Allstate, Esurance, Safeco, and Direct General. It doesn't mean your insurance company is great if I didn't just list it, these are just the worst. 

2) No those services are not free and they will send you to collections if you do not pay them within 90 days regardless of who is at fault. They provide services and they want their money for those services. 

 

Stay tuned for more real life scenarios. To better educate yourself on insurance read these posts. 

 

"Full Coverage" Automobile Insurance

 

How Do Insurance Companies Make Money?

Our Arms Are Open When Those Good Hands Are Around Your Neck

If this is your first time reading my blog, you may not know how I feel about Allstate Insurance Company-

I personally think they are the worst automobile insurance company anyone could possible have, period.

Many articles and posts have been written about the company I commonly refer to as "Allsnake":

Don't get upset-get even. However, you need to know what you are up against and be willing to fight them to change this horrible disparity. We are here to help even the playing field. Call us today at 864-231-7171 or visit our website.  

A skit I put together based on my dealings with Allstate:

 

 

Hit & Run Collision: My Personal Experience

This morning while traveling on Augusta Street in Greenville, South Carolina around 9:10 a.m.,  I was in the right hand lane headed to drop off our two dogs when suddenly and without warning a Ford SUV came directly into my lane striking the driver's side quarter panel and causing me to run into and over the right side curbing. Prior to contact I was edging to the right and pressing on the horn in an effort to prevent the collision but to no avail. After being run into and over the curbing I pulled into the exit of DryClean USA , I checked on the dogs that were a little shaken up in the back seat but more importantly noticed the other driver continuing down the road. I felt confident he knew what had happened considering he jerked back into his lane then put on brakes to stop but after I went off into a parking lot, continued on. 

Needless to say I was furious but more importantly I knew, not having a witness or third party to verify what had just happened, I was SOL (not a lawyer term). Why would I be &*^* out of luck you ask? Well in South Carolina in order to utilize your own uninsured coverage against someone that is unknown to you several circumstances have to happen, one of those being a witness to the collision. (  S.C. Code 38-77-170).  I got back onto the road and noticed he had been paused by a stop light further down the road. In an expedient manner, but not over the speed limit, I was able to get beside him to try and wave him over. Short of shooting me the bird, he simply gave me a facial expression I will keep throughout the process and waved back at me. I then got behind him and dialed 911 to pass along the make, model, and license tag number of his vehicle. After doing so, I then pulled beside him again and mouthed, "P-O-L-I-C-E" and showed him my phone. A funny thing happened, he pulled over. 

After pulling over into a church parking lot, I got off the phone with 911 and told them I would call back if I needed police assistance. He rolled down his passenger window and I said, "Man, you ran me off the road and kept going! What's your deal?". A lot of my "fight or fight" response lowered when I saw he had two minors in car seats in his back seat. He immediately apologized saying, "I'm sorry, I must have had the sun in my eyes and just didn't see you there beside me." I said, "Well, you saw me go off the road then you didn't stop when I flagged you down. Why was that?" He just shrugged his shoulders and asked if anything was wrong with my vehicle and told me he had Travelers Insurance. Rather than wait on hour on police to do a report from conversations they hear from both of us, I simply used my Iphone to record down him saying his information, along with the date and time of the collision.  (I DONT RECOMMEND ANYONE ELSE USING THIS METHOD! ALWAYS NOTIFY POLICE).  In addition to having police come if you want to document things with your phone, go ahead. 

A more thorough evaluation of the vehicle indicates a noticeable impact point on the driver's front quarter panel, ground up passenger front rim, and alignment that needs to be inspected at this point. My right shoulder and wrist are a little jammed from impact of curb but we will have to let medical professionals determine any injuries. Depending on how cooperative the at fault driver is in disclosing the truth to his own insurance company will be the true test of character. I will provide his name, work information, address and other particulars as needed, if needed to help with any further revelations. 

Most times the investigating officer will not write a ticket for "hit & run" if the other driver is actually there. Don't get upset, just try and get the other driver to admit to it while you record them. 

LESSONS TO BE LEARNED FROM A LEGAL AND PRACTICAL STANDPOINT

  • If you are ever side swiped, run off the road, or struck by another vehicle that does not stop you need to be able to prove an impact occurred, you need to have a witness, and you need to try and notify police of the make, model, and license tag number of the vehicle. Otherwise you are SOL;
  • Always call the police and have them do a report, then you have all information on the other driver you need without "trusting them to do the right thing";
  • Never trust the other driver will tell the truth later down the road or do the right thing, always get it documented, recorded, videoed, or some verification at that time or place. 

SEE ALSO

Hit-and-Run Accidents in South Carolina: What You Need to Know

Anderson County Property Arbitration: January 2014 Report

I have blogged about the benefits of citizens filing for property arbitration hearings in their respective county when they are unhappy, insulted, and/or confused with the offers they receive from the at fault driver's insurance company following a motor vehicle collision. Clicking on the link below from a prior article I wrote, will set forth the actual law on property arbitrations and highlight the items you should bring to win your case. More importantly, this process may take more time but it only costs $10 (ten dollars). Seriously, you could get hundreds or thousands more on your property for a $10 investment and your time. 

Why do I advocate property arbitration?

  1. I feel insurance companies habitually take advantage of people injured through no fault of their own and start kicking them while they are down immediately with low ball or inaccurate information about property reimbursement. 
  2. Insurance companies can lie and mislead you on the law because they aren't lawyers, they are only protecting their money. Not your money.
  3. It is such a simple, affordable, and successful process for the property owner to get more money than they are being offered by the insurance company AND cost the insurance company additional money for being greedy. 

Below I have detailed a real life example and scenario that happened in Anderson County on January 16, 2014 in an arbitration hearing for one of my clients.

BACKGROUND

My client was the owner of a 1971 Pontiac Bonneville that had been passed down from his family to him and kept in pristine shape. He loved that car and had strong emotional and sentimental attachments to it. On occassion he would allow his son to drive the car and on one such day his son was driving in Oconee County when suddenly and without warning he was violently rear ended while driving in his lane of travel by a young girl in a Dodge Ram pick up truck. The damage was extensive to the classic vehicle. However, my client wanted it repaired or paid the classic value he associated with it. Liability was not in dispute, the at fault driver was responsible for the collision for speeding. 

Unfortunately, the at fault driver was insured by Safeco Insurance Company and they took a draconian approach to resolving my client's property damage. They offered to pay my client $3,500.00 for the vehicle because their own estimate for repairs was $5,700.00 and they felt that my client's vehicle was worth the lowest end of the NADA estimate. You have to realize insurance companies don't make money paying it to claims from their insureds causing harms and losses. Insurance companies make money low balling, minimizing, and starving out clients to force them to settle. 

My client refused Safeco's low ball offer and followed my advice by filing a property arbitration in the county the at fault driver lived, which was Anderson County. Since I was assisting his son on the personal injury claim from the motor vehicle collision, I thought I would run by the courthouse and make sure he presented the best case in front of the panel and the defense attorney hired by Safeco.

In any property arbitration hearing the plaintiff, or person bringing the claim, will present their side of the case first. The plaintiff should bring two or more property estimates signed and notarized by the company providing the estimate, pictures of the damage or vehicle, a copy of the accident report, and be prepared to answer any questions the panel my have. Next, the defense attorney will present their case and explain to the panel why they think the property damage is only x amount of dollars. 

Yesterday, we presented the evidence and although Safeco had only offered $3,500.00 19 months earlier, at the hearing they agreed the claim was worth at least $5,000.00. My clients had originally filed on their own and only asked for $7,500.00 but since I came I went ahead and provided a more recent property estimate for over $10,000.00 and asked for that amount from the panel. The whole process took around 30 minutes from start to finish. The panel eventually awarded my client $8,255.00, which turned out to be the difference between Safeco's original estimate of $5,700.00 and my more recent estimate for over $10,000.00. A fair verdict no doubt and more than double what Safeco had ever offered my clients. 

Go forward people and fight this battle! Stop being railroaded into accepting less than the value of your vehicles. Stand up and fight for yourselves. The insurance companies will continue to take money from your hands as long as you allow it. 

 

PRIOR ARTICLE DETAILING PROCESS AND LAW:

South Carolina Property Arbitration: Your Weapon Against Insurance Adjusters

 

Deer, Turkeys, & Other Wildlife in South Carolina Do Not Carry Insurance

They may carry insurance in other states but I can only speak to South Carolina law. A recent State Farm Deer Vehicle Confrontation Report indicated that the month of November was the month most likely to strike a deer. The second and third most active months were, October and December, respectively. 

Anyone traveling in the state of South Carolina for any period of time has either directly or indirectly encountered some wild animal that decides at the most in opportune time to cross the road. The driver of the motor vehicle must immediately decide between that cute furry creature or their lives. Many drivers make the choice for the cute furry creature, causing thousands of dollars in property damage and personal injuries

Like in any instance of survival, there are ways to protect yourself against ignorance, accidents, and PETA like compassion for animals over your own well being and the well being of those passengers in your vehicle. It's called the right type of automobile insurance. 

What covers you when there is no other vehicle, person, or entity to blame? Your own insurance if you were educated on it by your insurance provider or smart enough to educate yourself by reading this blog. 

Everyone that can afford cigarettes, tobacco, gas, books or alcoholic beverages can afford the following additional insurance coverage to better protect themselves. Everyone cares about themselves, right?

Comprehensive Coverage: covers damage caused by incidents other than a car accident, including theft, fire, vandalism, weather, falling objects and animal damage.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP) or Medical Payments Coverage: is "no-fault" insurance that covers you and your passengers for any damages sustained while in the operation, maintenance, and/or use of the insured vehicle. If you have PIP coverage it often times covers, or follows, you while in another vehicle. Depending upon the insurance company and contract, you can stack PIP coverage. PIP coverage is awesome and you are not the sharpest tool in the shed if you don't have it. 

Watch out for those furry creatures!

 

 

 RELATED ARTICLES

"Full Coverage" Automobile Insurance

Traffic Light Disputes in South Carolina

It's interesting how many people trust that the opposing party in a dispute will have the same recollection of facts from that incident as they do. Traffic Signal, or traffic light, disputes are often times a prime example of polar opposite accounts of the same motor vehicle collision.  Regardless of who had the right of way, turn signal, green light, red light, yellow light, or flashing light, someone apparently failed to do something when two vehicles collide.

Sure there are very rare instances in which a glitch may exist in the actual traffic control device but let's focus on the 95% rather than the 5% probability. One, or more, parties of the motor vehicle accident  failed to do what they were suppose to do when approaching an intersection. Unfortunately, when there has been a traumatic collision and various parties are being transported by EMS, the investigating officer is not able to properly evaluate the collision but must use their best judgment, experience, and observations of the scene, property damage, and any eye witness accounts. 

Did you know that even when the investigating officer finalizes and publishes their accident report, that report can not be used as "evidence of the negligence or due care of either party at the trial of any action at law to recover damages"?

The positive thing about the above statement is that insurance companies, a/k/a evil empires, can not use those reports against you if you believe the information to be in error. However, you will have to gather as much information as you can from independent witnesses, pictures of the area, possibly employ an accident reconstructionist, and/or attorney. 

It's sad to think you must immediately begin preparing for a battle after being violently rammed by another vehicle while they were texting, drinking, and/or high on methamphetamine but if you can't trust that the violating party will be honest or the investigating officer to be diligent, then who else are you going to trust?  Are you going to trust the at fault driver's insurance company? BWWWWWAAAAAAAAHAAHAAA, it's 5:00am and I just fell out of my chair laughing uncontrollably. Are you going to trust your insurance company? BWWWWWWAAAAAHHHAAHHAAA. I did it again. 

Well you can always read the below definitions and try and argue that to the insurance company. Oh dont do it to me again, I am just now getting back settled in my chair. I have made this process easier by posting the definitions and rules in the state of South Carolina at the end of this article.

The most important thing to remember is to always and at all times be your own advocate in instances where you realize there is going to be conflicting stories from opposing parties with differing interests as to how one incident happened. --Trey Mills

 

SECTION 56-5-550. Traffic-control signal. 

Any device, whether manually, electrically or mechanically operated, by which traffic is alternately directed to stop and to proceed is a "traffic-control signal." 

SECTION 56-5-580. Right-of-way. 

"Right-of-way" is the right of one vehicle or pedestrian to proceed in a lawful manner in preference to another vehicle or pedestrian approaching under such circumstances of direction, speed and proximity as to give rise to danger of collision unless one grants precedence to the other. 

SECTION 56-5-1260. Immediate report of accidents resulting in personal injury or death. 

The driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to or death of any person shall immediately by the quickest means of communication, whether oral or written, give notice of such accident to the local police department if such accident occurs within a municipality, otherwise to the office of the county sheriff or the nearest office of the South Carolina Highway Patrol.


SECTION 56-5-1290. Evidentiary use of reports. None of the reports required by Sections 56-5-1260 to 56-5-1280 may be evidence of the negligence or due care of either party at the trial of any action at law to recover damages. However, law enforcement officers may refer to these reports when testifying in order to refresh their recollection of events. 

SECTION 56-5-2120. Required position and method of turning. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn shall do so as follows: 
(a) Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. 

(b) Left turns. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle on the roadway being entered. 

(c) The Department of Transportation and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic-control devices to be placed and thereby require and direct that a different course from that specified in this section be traveled by turning vehicles and when such devices are so placed no driver shall turn a vehicle other than as directed and required by such devices. 

(d) Two-way left turn lanes. Where a special lane for making left turns by drivers proceeding in the opposite directions has been indicated by official traffic-control devices: 

1. A left turn shall not be made from any other lane. 

2. A vehicle shall not be driven in the lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway or when preparing for or making a U turn when otherwise permitted by law. 

SECTION 56-5-2120. Required position and method of turning. 

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn shall do so as follows: 

(a) Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. 

(b) Left turns. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn left shall approach the turn in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the direction of travel of such vehicle. Whenever practicable the left turn shall be made to the left of the center of the intersection so as to leave the intersection or other location in the extreme left-hand lane lawfully available to traffic moving in the same direction as the vehicle on the roadway being entered. 

(c) The Department of Transportation and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic-control devices to be placed and thereby require and direct that a different course from that specified in this section be traveled by turning vehicles and when such devices are so placed no driver shall turn a vehicle other than as directed and required by such devices. 

(d) Two-way left turn lanes. Where a special lane for making left turns by drivers proceeding in the opposite directions has been indicated by official traffic-control devices: 

1. A left turn shall not be made from any other lane. 

2. A vehicle shall not be driven in the lane except when preparing for or making a left turn from or into the roadway or when preparing for or making a U turn when otherwise permitted by law. 

HISTORY: 1962 Code Section 46-402; 1952 Code Section 46-402; 1949 (46) 466; 1977 Act No. 144 Section 1; 1993 Act No. 181, Section 1412. 

SECTION 56-5-2150. Turning movements and required signals. 

(a) No person shall turn a vehicle or move right or left upon a roadway unless and until such movement can be made with reasonable safety nor without giving an appropriate signal as provided for in this section. 

(b) A signal of intention to turn or move right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the vehicle before turning. 

(c) No person shall stop or suddenly decrease the speed of a vehicle without first giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided herein to the driver of any vehicle immediately to the rear when there is opportunity to give such signal. 

(d) The signals required on vehicles by subsection (b) of Section 56-5-2180 shall not be flashed on one side only on a disabled vehicle, flashed as a courtesy or "do pass" signal to operators of other vehicles approaching from the rear, nor be flashed on one side only of a parked vehicle except as may be necessary for compliance with this section. 

SECTION 56-5-2310. Vehicles approaching or entering intersection. 

(a) When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection from different highways at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. 

(b) The right-of-way rule in subsection (a) is modified at through highways and as otherwise provided in this chapter. 

HISTORY: 1962 Code Section 46-421; 1952 Code Section 46-421; 1949 (46) 466; 1977 Act No. 144 Section 5. 

SECTION 56-5-2320. Vehicle turning left. 

The driver of a vehicle intending to turn to the left within an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard. 
 
RELEVANT LINKS:
 
 
 

 

Anderson School Bus Hit and Run: Who Pays?

Reports are coming in today that a local Anderson County school bus was violently rear ended and then the at fault vehicle fled the scene into an apartment complex. Luckily there were witnesses to this collision. Why does that matter? Well if you can't find the at fault party, or negligent party, who pays the medical bills for the nine children that were taken by EMS to AnMed Emergency Room? Is Anderson County responsible now? Stay tuned for answers to these legal issues, or just give us a call.

RELATED ARTICLES:

 

South Carolina Property Arbitration: Your Weapon Against Insurance Adjusters

If insurance companies didn't frustrate people over their property damage from a motor vehicle collision (that wasn't their fault to being with), what good would they be doing the legal profession? I would estimate that sixty (60%) percent of clients we see are infuriated by the way the at fault driver's insurance company has treated them on the evaluation and reimbursement of their mangled vehicle.

Consumers, you have options! Stop believing everything the insurance adjuster tells you to be the gospel truth. Start using the vast information at your finger tips and motivating these insurance companies to treat you fairly. Attorneys in South Carolina can not take contingency fees on property damage recovery amounts and insurance companies use this to their advantage by trying to strong arm you.

If you receive property damage from a motor vehicle collision in the State of South Carolina then you should be able to recover several things:

  1. the fair market value of your vehicle if it is a total loss;
  2. the repair of your vehicle to its pre-collision state (if not a total loss);
  3. a rental car or 
  4. loss of use= $25.00 a day for every day you were unable to use your vehicle or not provided a rental;
  5. depreciation for your vehicle now being worth less than it was before the collision as a result of having after market parts and being labeled as having been in a collision.

Of course they won't. Insurance companies don't make money giving it away. They make money paying you less than your claim is worth and thus maximizing their reserves and net income. What? They know they can tell you things that aren't true because you really won't do anything about it anyway. Or will you? Now that you understand what the law in South Carolina says and that they are obviously breaking the laws after all you have had to go through. Will you do something now?

YOU HAVE TWO CHOICES:

  1. Take the value they are trying to force feed you after some negotiation with knowing what you need to ask for and be done with it;
  2. File a Property Arbitration claim with the Clerk of Court in the county the collision happened or defendant lives. It routinely only costs five ($5.00) dollars. That's it.

How do I do that?  Great question. Plus, insurance companies hate having to come explain themselves for trying to low ball you in front of the arbitration panel, which consists of three (3) lawyers in the county you filed. Most times you can get more negotiating done after you forward a copy of the arbitration to the adjuster you were working with.

I have posted the an excerpt below and highlighted important points for those too lazy to read the whole thing.

START FIGHTING BACK AND STOP TAKING IT ON THE CHIN FROM THOSE GREEDY INSURANCE COMPANIES 

 

 

SOUTH CAROLINA CODE OF LAWS

ARTICLE 7.

 

ARBITRATION OF PROPERTY DAMAGE LIABILITY CLAIMS


SECTION 38-77-710. Appointment of attorneys as arbitrators to hear and determine property damage liability claims; process and procedure.

The court of common pleas, or any inferior courts having concurrent jurisdiction, in and for each county, shall by order of reference appoint an attorney or attorneys to hear and determine, by arbitration, property damage liability claims arising out of motor vehicle collisions or accidents and to award actual and punitive damages. This order must be consistent with the provisions of this chapter and may not be inconsistent with the Rules of the Supreme Court of South Carolina. Process and procedure must be as summary and simple as may be reasonable and may provide for the taking of evidence in the form of reports, statements, or itemized bills or in any other manner without the procedural and evidentiary limitations which pertain in jury trials. The court may provide for the taking of depositions of a witness within or without the State.

HISTORY: Former 1976 Code Section 56-11-510 [1962 Code Section 47-750.135; 1974 (58) 2718] recodified as Section 38-77-710 by 1987 Act No. 155, Section 1.

SECTION 38-77-720. Number, qualifications, and compensation of arbitrators; fee paid by claimant.

(a) The order of reference shall establish a panel of arbitrators each of whom must be a member of the bar and the members must be selected for service in particular cases on some fair rotation basis. Three arbitrators shall hear and determine each case and the decision of two of the three arbitrators shall determine the issue. However, the parties to the dispute may, by agreement, provide for determination of the disputed claim by one arbitrator.

(b) Each arbitrator assigned to determine the claim may be compensated, not to exceed thirty-five dollars for his services and time, payable out of the funds of the court and which may not be taxable as costs to either party.

(c) The claimant who is the moving party in seeking arbitration shall pay to the clerk of court a fee of ten dollars. Five dollars must be retained by the clerk as the cost of filing the claim and final judgment and five dollars must be used to pay the cost of service on the other party or parties.

HISTORY: Former 1976 Code Section 56-11-520 [1962 Code Section 46-750.136; 1974 (58) 2718] recodified as Section 38-77-720 by 1987 Act No. 155, Section 1.

SECTION 38-77-730. Request for arbitration; no formal pleading and process; arbitration docket; filing of claim; service of summons to defendant.

(a) Any person who is a party to the disputed property damage liability claim may submit his claim for determination through arbitration. No formal pleading or process is required. The clerk of court of each county shall prepare and keep an arbitration docket and set the cases thereon for arbitration as provided by law for the settling of cases in the court of common pleas.

(b) The claim must be filed with the clerk of court in the county in which the cause of action arose or where the plaintiff or defendant resides. The claim must be filed in triplicate with the clerk of court on forms to be provided by him. The forms shall set forth the names of the parties, the date and place of the accident, and the amount of property damage claimed. The clerk shall file one copy in his office, and one copy must be served upon the defendant as provided by law for service of summons and complaints. The sheriff, or such other person, shall promptly serve the claim upon the defendant and shall receive the sum of five dollars to defray the cost of securing this service. The sheriff, or such other person, serving the process shall promptly file an affidavit of personal service with the clerk of court on forms to be provided by the clerk.

(c) There must be attached to, or made part of, the form a summons to the defendant named notifying him that he should file a response with the clerk of court within thirty days from the date of service and that failure to file a response within thirty days entitles the plaintiff to a default judgment. The form must be signed by the party filing it or his attorney, if any, and shall by order of reference show the address of the person signing it.

HISTORY: Former 1976 Code Section 56-11-530 [1962 Code Section 46-750.137; 1974 (58) 2718] recodified as Section 38-77-730 by 1987 Act No. 155, Section 1.

SECTION 38-77-740. Hearing; notice to parties; damages to be awarded; securing attendance of witnesses.

(a) The court, or the clerk acting for the court, shall assign the arbitrators to hear the matter at the courthouse, or other designated place in the county where the claim is filed, within sixty days after the date of filing, or as soon thereafter as is feasible. The clerk of court shall, on a form provided by him, advise the parties or their attorneys of record, if any, by mail as to the place, date, and time of hearing and shall advise the parties to bring all records which may pertain to the claim, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Two estimates of damage to the motor vehicle or its contents signed by the estimator.

(2) Signed receipts for car repairs.

(3) Bills or receipts for other property damages claimed.

The forms shall also contain notice to the parties that, if they cannot attend because of illness or otherwise, the clerk of court must be notified as soon as possible with the request that another date be set for the hearing.

(b) Property damages must be awarded as provided by law, including, but not limited to, actual damages, loss of use, depreciation, and any other property damages which are the direct and proximate result of the accident.

(c) The parties may secure the attendance of witnesses by their voluntary appearance or may secure their attendance by subpoenas prepared and issued in accordance with the laws of this State.

HISTORY: Former 1976 Code Section 56-11-540 [1962 Code Section 46-750.138; 1974 (58) 2718] recodified as Section 38-77-740 by 1987 Act No. 155, Section 1.

 

 

500 Motor Vehicle Collisions Reported in Northwest Corner of South Carolina from Ice

The South Carolina Highway Patrol reported that over 500 wrecks, or collisions, occurred during the icy weather that came into the upstate on Friday, January 25, 2013. The northwestern corner of South Carolina, also known as the "Golden Corner", was blanketed with freezing rain early on Friday causing Pickens and Oconee County government offices to close early. 

Unfortunately, a fatality was reported in Pickens County when 52-year-old, James Allen Carroll, lost control of his 2003 F-250 pickup on an icy patch on U.S. 123. Another fatal collision occurred in Spartanburg County in a multiple car pile up.  All other wrecks and collisions reported indicated non-fatal injuries.

OTHER RELATED ARTICLES:

Anderson Independent:  "Icy Weather in Upstate Brings Two Fatal Accidents, Many School and Office Closures"

The Post and Courier: "Hundreds of South Carolina Wrecks Blamed on Icy Roads"

Six People Injured in Anderson County: Minimum Automobile Insurance Review

The minimum limits for automobile insurance in the state of South Carolina are $25,000.00 per person for bodily injury, $50,000.00 for all persons per accident in bodily injury, and $25,000.00 per accident in property damage. (Current through the date of this blog post).  Every driver must carry liability coverage for harm, or injury, they may cause others and uninsured coverage to protect themselves from others not following the rules, ie when harmed, or injured, by drivers without automobile insurance. (For a more in depth analysis feel free to read the actual South Carolina Code on Automobile Insurance, S.C. Code Ann. 38-77-10, et al.)

I have discussed the term "full coverage" on previous blog posts and will only revisit it to say, 90% of clients I assist think they have full coverage and they do not. There is a two inch thick reference book by my desk entitled, "The Law of Automobile Insurance in South Carolina", so understand there are many twists and turns in the world of insurance law. There are two main items everyone should add to the minimum coverage, underinsured coverage and Personal Injury Protection, because these items protect your interest instead of you depending on the general population having enough insurance coverage when you are seriously injured.

Let's make all these facts and figures relevant:

  • Example 1: The Anderson Independent reported that six people were injured on Sunday, August 19, 2012, "Six Hospitalized in Sunday Morning Collision." Let's assume only one driver was responsible for the collision, albeit an accident and not intentional, and was not one of the six injured. If that at fault driver has minimum insurance coverage, the most any one of those six people could receive for their injuries, without pursuing personal assets of the at fault driver, is $25,000.00. The most all six injured parties could receive under the same example, is $50,000.00  aggregate between all six of them.  But what if one party had a broken arm that required surgery? That doesn't change the fact that the only amount of coverage the at fault driver has is $25,000.00 per person per accident in bodily injury and $50,000.00 for all persons per accident. That is why it is important to make sure you have underinsured coverage and PIP coverage. Nobody will watch out for your interest more than you.
  • Example 2: Also reported recently by the Anderson Independent was a fatality when a motorcycle driver lost control of his bike and was killed. "Clemson Motorcyclist Killed in Accident on Liberty Highway." There was apparently no other vehicle involved and was merely an accident with no other party being negligent, or liable. Therefore the only relevant automobile insurance coverage would be PIP, or medpay, and only if the driver incurred medical expenses prior to his untimely death. The only party is the driver and you can not pursue your own liability coverage against yourself in a collision. See also "Single Car Accident Leave Drivers and Passengers with Few Options."

When you have been involved in a motor vehicle collision and been injured, you want to make sure at the very least you have your interests protected within your own insurance coverage. Your right, that is not fair because it was the fault of someone else and they should take care of all your medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, permanent disfigurement, and loss of earning capacity. Fill in the blank, "Nobody said life was _____." Plus, if they have minimum coverage they are doing everything required of them by South Carolina law. Good luck trying to get a judgment against personal assets that don't exit, too. I have several outstanding judgments, one against a 19 year old that will most likely never own anything and one against a now defunct corporation. We've all heard the saying, "Can't get blood out of a turnip." Well that's true.

Ndamukong Suh Tackles Motor Vehicle Collision 101

The popular Detroit Lions football player was enjoying some "off" time during his recent two (2) game suspension for allegedly kicking a player while he was down and now has jumped right into personal injury law.

Apparently this past weekend in Portland, Oregon, a boy named "Suh" was driving his 1970 Chevrolet Chevelle muscle car when suddenly and without warning he lost control and ran into an inanimate object.  Several reports are now indicating that Mr. Suh had two passengers in the car that incurred injuries as a result of the motor vehicle collision

As I tell my clients, there are always two (2) hurdles to jump in any personal injury case: 1) Who is at fault? and 2) How much is it worth? There are many other factors in summing up those two items and the more information that can be garnered by other parties, ie witnesses, medical professionals, responding police officers, video footage, and pictures, to strengthen your case.

Some reports have Mr. Suh indicating all parties are fine, while other reports have the two female passengers saying they have lacerations, contusions, and other such upper and lower extremity complaints. Mr. Suh says he was trying to pass a taxi and the passengers' version says he was just driving too fast for conditions.

The first hurdle is most likely an easy hurdle in the above story. Mr. Suh was the driver of the car and through his driving it ended up colliding with a stationary object not in the roadway.

Hurdle #1 check.

The second hurdle is going to be harder because of the general nature of the parties, popularity of the driver, and social bias thanks to mass insurance and chamber marketing.

  • You will have those naysayers that will refute those women were ever even in the car regardless of what facts come out;
  • You will have others say, the female passengers are just trying to get money because they were in the car with a professional athlete; and
  • You will have those others that believe those two women were in the car at the time, probably got banged up from the impact of an old 1970 Chevrolet with little safety features but will minimize their injuries because they believe the women should not have been out past midnight and/or should not have fled the scene without seeking assistance.

See how quickly one simple set of facts that only three (3) potential people know the real truth to can get twisted? Mr. Suh's will be more memorialized because of his 911 recorded statement. The other passengers have no record other then what they say that they were at the scene. Just because this case has become famous for the party that wrecked, don't think this scenario doesn't happen every weekend in your own county.

Be smart if you are in a collision and/or harmed by the negligence, ignorance, and/or omissions of others. Don't think some insurance adjuster for the at fault party is going to believe you because you are you. They don't care. Frankly neither does that jury of your peers. They care when they realize it could have just as easily happened to them. 

Don't say it, show it. Document it. Picture it. Text it. Friend it. Tweet it. Email it. Link it in.

 

RELATED STORIES:

Single Car Accidents Leave Drivers and Passengers with Few Options

Cops: Suh car crash passenger fears retaliation

Ndamukong Suh reportedly lied to police about accident

Portland police: 2 passengers contradict Ndamukong Suh’s crash report

Why Is It Important to Report a Wreck to the Highway Patrol or Local Police?

First and foremost for accountability when it comes time to be reimbursed for your property damage or personal injuries.  Yes, this essentially equates to insurance purposes. The person that causes the collision may be apologetic and a "really nice person" at the scene but a couple days later have a change of heart and not be so forthcoming with their admission of liability.   Therefore the primary reason is to ensure that the at fault, or sole contributor, that admits to being inattentive or distracted is memorialized by the reporting South Carolina Highway Patrol or local authorities. The primary goal of any insurance company is to protect their insured and if their insured said it was not their fault, the property damage on your car or medical treatment you incurred is not going to be reimbursed anytime soon, if at all.

Secondly, if this is a serious offense and someone is driving on the roadways under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they need to be stopped! Hopefully, no one is seriously injured and by helping this person realize the gravity of their actions, you may save lives down the road.

Thirdly, you have no idea the true impact this collision will have on any property damage to your car or any personal injuries to your person. (no pun intended). Your adrenaline is pumping, so you feel no pain initially. Or the frame of your car is bent but you don't realize that until you pull off and the vehicle drives crooked. Too late. You let that "nice person" go with a handshake and a smile. That's okay, I am sure you have a couple thousand dollars lying around to repair your car and medical expenses.

A few tips if you are in an accident, from both a personal injury lawyer and person that has been in two accidents (neither of which were his fault):

  • Call 911 or *HP immediately, regardless of severity. If not life threatening tell the operator and explain the details. Those calls are recorded by the way;
  • Take pictures of the property damage with your fancy phone or at the very least make a mental note;
  • Make sure to get any contact information from any witnesses, especially if they do not have time to stick around for the reporting officer. They can still be helpful but not if you don't know how to get in touch with them. It would be better if they could stick around and talk to the officer;
  • If the other party tries to leave the scene make every effort to get their license tag, vehicle description and/or notify the 911 operator. License tags are usually only 6 characters. You can remember that;
  • If you feel any pain at all, notify the reporting officer and go get checked out when the ambulance, or EMS comes out. Otherwise, you know what the insurance company for the at fault driver will say?  "Obviously you were not hurt because you did not seek immediate medical attention."

 

Dumb Driver News: South Carolina Motorcyclist Hit Twice: At Fault Driver Calls Boyfriend Before 911

Recently, one of my clients had the misfortune of being in oncoming traffic while a young girl was talking on her cellphone with her boyfriend. The young girl veered into oncoming traffic and struck my client.

When she got out of the car to check on my client, he begged her to call 911 because he was in a great deal of pain (he was suffering from a broken hip-among other things). She screamed and jumped into the car which did not have the emergency brake on, causing it to roll back over my client in the road.  She jumped out and said, "Oh no!" She then used her cell phone to call her boyfriend to ask what to do. Either her boyfriend heard my client screaming in the background for medical help or he was smarter than his fifth grade educated girlfriend and told her to call the POLICE.

Eventually my client was able to get his cellphone from his pocket and call 911  and get much needed medical attention. After a  week in the local hospital his medical bills from the collision greatly exceeded the dumb girl's insurance coverage.

This is an excellent illustration for the need in having UIM, or underinsurance, coverage and PIP, or personal injury protection, coverage.  There are a lot of dumb drivers out there with minimal limits which in South Carolina is $25,000.00. You don't want to be on the receiving end of their ignorance and negligence.

Yes, this is a true story.

 

Related Posts:

"Full Coverage" Automobile Insurance

Bad Economy Leads More Drivers to Drop Insurance

 

Will South Carolina Insured Drivers Benefit from New Technology Focused on Adjusting Premiums?

An article in Fast Company magazine by Malia Wollan entitled "Progressive Uses New Driver-Focused Technology to Determine Insurance Rates" initiated my contemplation into the vast depths insurance companies will begin to delve in an effort to enrich their already unfathomable net profit. 

The article describes a palm sized device named "Snapshot"  that is set up on a  wireless network and provides Progressive with real-time driving reports, to include the number and time of miles driven, incidents of hard braking or quick acceleration, and speed.

This may sound great from an insurance standpoint, but are you the consumer really gaining more by allowing your privacy to be invaded and having equal opportunity to both lower or raise your premiums? The selling point from Progressive's standpoint would be the lowering of premiums. However the the sword cuts on two sides, as Progressive's own Chief Executive Officer Glenn Renwick found out about his wife's driving:

In March, Renwick plugged a device called Snapshot into the on-board diagnostic computer in the couple's shared car... When he logged on to monitor the couple's stats, he saw "more hard brakes than I expected."

As the article aptly points out, "Luckily for Renwick, bad driving does not result in higher rates." Other hard nose bottom line insurance companies are hot on the technology trail with Allstate Insurance Company rolling out Drive Wise, a device similar to Snapshot, and GMAC Insurance  partnering up with OnStar to offer discounts to infrequent drivers willing to track their mileage through the in car service.

The true issue here is that insurance companies want someone to pay their premium and never have any claims. That is how they make money.

As Gregory Locraft with Morgan Stanley stated:

Insurance companies are always trying to find the little old lady who leaves her car in the garage.

 

 

 

RELATED ARTICLE:

 

How Do Insurance Companies Make Money?

 

 

 

Colossus Saves Allstate Billions in Handling Automobile Accident Claims: So What's $10 Million?

Allstate, the evil empire, is the worst insurance company anyone could have for automobile insurance coverage. They are even worse when you are injured or harmed by one of their negligent insureds traveling on the roadways in South Carolina.  They have spent good money on formulating software that helps minimize the human interaction in claims adjusting and at the same time limit the monetary payout.

In comes New York State Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn, leading four other states into an investigation into Allstate's Colossus software. As reported by the New York State Insurance Department:

 “Allstate has agreed to implement procedures to ensure transparency and fairness for consumers who have bodily injury claims,” Wrynn said. “The new processes ensure that claims will be handled consistently in different regions of the country, and consumers will have the right to get the information they need in order to understand how Allstate evaluates their claims and make sure they are fairly treated.”

More importantly Allstate has to modify their claims handling process in the following manner:

 

  • Providing notice to claimants that the Colossus software program may be used in the adjustment of their bodily injury claims;
  • Enhancing its management oversight of Colossus to ensure that it adheres to established criteria and a uniform methodology in selecting claims to be used to “tune” or modify the software to reflect recently settled claims;
  • Strengthening its internal auditing of Colossus and bodily injury claims handling to ensure adherence to written guidelines and procedures;
  • Consolidating its bodily injury claims handling practices into a single claims handling manual; and
  • Not establishing a policy or rule requiring claims adjusters to settle bodily injury claims solely on the value recommended by Colossus and not providing incentives for claims adjusters to settle claims at or near the value recommended by Colossus.

You can see the full article entitled:

 

Allstate Agrees to $10 Million Regulatory Settlement Over Bodily Injury Claims Handling Processes

 

To read more articles about Allstate, please see:

Pedestrians and Motor Vehicle Accidents in South Carolina

The Anderson Independent Mail reported that a young girl was struck and injured by a vehicle yesterday in Anderson County.  Reportedly, there was a school bus in the area and she darted out across the road.

A pedestrian, or any person on foot, has duties just like those driving motor vehicles to be responsible, however, sometimes the higher duty and responsibility remains with the driver of the motor vehicle to be more alert and observant.

South Carolina Drivers' Manual is where we all started and had to learn the "rules of the road" before being granted permission to get our license. After the introduction, the manual goes into "General Information", more specifically the subsection entitled, "Sharing the Road" states:

It is your responsibility as a driver to be on the lookout and to take every precaution possible to not injure a person on foot. If you see a vehicle, pedestrian or children near the road, you should slow down and be prepared to stop. (General Information p.45)

The South Carolina Code of Laws sets forth a few reminders for all of us drivers on the roadways as it pertains to pedestrians:

  1. SECTION 56-5-3230. Drivers to exercise due care.

    Notwithstanding other provisions of any local ordinance, every driver of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or any person propelling a human-powered vehicle and shall give an audible signal when necessary and shall exercise proper precaution upon observing any child or any obviously confused, incapacitated or intoxicated person.

  2. SECTION 56-5-1520. General rules as to maximum speed limits; lower speeds may be required.

    (A) A person shall not drive a vehicle on a highway at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing. Speed must be so controlled to avoid colliding with a person, vehicle, or other conveyance on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of a person to use care.

    (F) The driver of a vehicle shall drive, consistent with the requirements of subsection (A), at an appropriate reduced speed when approaching and crossing an intersection or railway grade crossing, when approaching and going around a curve, approaching a hillcrest, when traveling upon any narrow bridge, narrow or winding roadway, and when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.

South Carolina case law follows in line with the before mentioned rules in stating:

  • One operating a motor vehicle on a public highway owes an urgent duty to keep a proper lookout and to keep the vehicle under proper control.  Yaun v. Baldridge, 134 S.E.2d 248, 251 (S.C.1964).
  • Negligence is established as a matter of law if the only inference is that either the driver did not look or did so in such a careless fashion as not to see what was in plain view. Williams v. Davis, 243 S.C. 524, 134 S.E.2d 760 (1964).

No one may truly know what happened during the incident with the young girl and the driver may have used ever caution and observation available to him. However, this is a time to remind all of us who get behind the wheel to just remain alert and vigilant to our surroundings.

 

Allstate Makes Me an Offer I Can't Refuse

It appears the behemoth insurance company, Allstate, does have some type of consumer conscious after all.  Through my repeated articles denouncing the insurance company for their unprofessional and unethical claims handling:

They have decided to hire me on as a consultant to change their brand awareness. They have offered me a salary into seven figures and 10% of any noticeable increase I can bring through higher premiums, less payouts, and lower defense fees.  Given that Allstate brought in $518 million in net income for the most recent 4th quarter of this recession, business is good!

More importantly they have allowed me the freedom of closing all their outstanding claims for minor wrecks, major wrecks, and anything under $10,000.00 in medicals by extending an offer of 3-4x your medical bills, plus $5,000.00 extra for your patience as they have surely yanked you around in the past couple months.  (For example, if your medical bills are $5,000.00, I can offer you $15,000.00 to $20,000.00 + $5,000.00 inconvenience charge--you choose the value you prefer).

All you have to do to get this settlement is mention to your adjuster that Allstate's new Positive Brand Awareness CEO, Floyd S. "Trey" Mills III said it was okay. It's time to enjoy your freedom and move on with your lives. Let us rejoice with this new conscious of such a formerly evil company.

Best wishes with your settlements on this, the 1st of April, commonly referred to as "April Fool's Day".

Why is the Insurance Company Not Named as the Defendant in the Lawsuit?

I had a good question today by a reader that inquired as to why he had to file suit against the person that harmed him without putting down the insurance company that he had been dealing with.  That is an excellent question and presents so many layers of legal analysis that I am merely going to skim the top and provide a somewhat basic version.

It's because insurance companies lobby big money to be the "man behind the curtain" without ever truly having the target on their backs.  In a trial you can not mention "insurance" for either party regardless of type, ie health insurance, homeowner's insurance, and automobile insurance. Those are considered collateral sources and are not to be given weight by an impartial jury. Yes, yes, we all know about "insurance" even if we were in that magical jury box but it can not be talked about in court by either attorney, plaintiff, or defendant

We all know that when you are harmed/injured in a wreck by the negligence, omission, and/or ignorance of another, that person's liability insurance will have to assess the personal injuries and property damage that arise out of all wrecks. OR the "uninsured" policy of your automobile insurance will cover the property damage and personal injuries because the at fault person is without insurance.  Yes, that means your insurance company defends the at fault party against you.

Often times after you leave the scene of the wreck, or incident, in question you never speak with the responsible party. However, you are contacted by the responsible party's insurance company that then gives you the cold shoulder or acts like you did something wrong.  (I appreciate them doing that because it makes my life so much easier).

OR in a really ironic turn of events, your insurance company then defends the at fault party against you because they really don't want you to just walk away with those premiums you have paid for the past couple years.  You have to earn them by fighting your own insurance company for compensation for your injuries and property damage! Hilarious, I know.

Seek legal advice anytime insurance companies are involved. You don't have to retain legal counsel but it doesn't cost you anything to hear what the law really is in a personal injury case vs. what insurance adjusters reading from a computer to save their company money say it is.

I'm just sayin....

 

 

South Carolina Property Arbitration for Depreciation, Loss of Use, & Actual Damages

I have always threatened to take an insurance company to arbitration over their ridiculous offers but never had a client that could afford to take the time and roll the dice on a Battle Royal. Ask and you shall receive. *(see a recent update on this article at the bottom).

Today, I partook in my first property arbitration over depreciation, or diminution of value, due to an automobile wreck and subsequent repair of their vehicle.  This was my first because, as an attorney and business venture, it is not worth the time, effort, or eventual outcome to pursue such action, especially when there are personal injuries that arise out of the accident. The personal injury claims are a much more valuable and worthwhile effort for attorneys to assist. However, I did this one pro bono, gratis, and/or "for free". Although I did not gain financially from this venture, I was able to gain through experience.  A much more valuable weapon against evil insurance companies.

With most every car accident arises two causes of actions

  1. Property Damage: A claim for property damage can be in the amount of actual damages (repair costs), loss of use (not having your car/having a rental), and depreciation/diminution of value (the value of your car before vs. after the accident-given that it was in a wreck); and
  2. Personal Injury: Any injury sustained as a result of the physical, mental, and/or emotional impact of the accident, or trauma.

In my case, the plaintiff had her brand new, candy apple red convertible slammed into by a dump truck.  The defendant did not dispute that they were at fault.  The defendant repaired the vehicle and provided a rental but when the plaintiff inquired about depreciation due to the stigma of the car being in an accident, the insurance company said they did not recognize such damages. WHICH IS BULLSHIT and ILLEGAL.  Insurance companies don't make money paying it out, they make money keeping it.  

The highest offer the defendant made was only a couple hundred dollars to my client, even after I became involved.  At arbitration the plaintiff was awarded almost triple the insurance company's highest offer and it was the insurance company's expert testimony that helped the arbitration panel make their determination. 

Why would an insurance company drag this out and only offer a few hundred dollars? That would be because 80-90% of you will go away and the 10-20% that fight them are cheaper to pay off than the 80%.  It is a numbers game. The more you roll over to the insurance companies, the more money they make, and the more they laugh at you. Don't let them laugh at you, fight back!

You don't have to be an attorney to request an arbitration hearing or to file a claim in small claims court. Please go to this link to learn more:

http://www.doi.sc.gov/consumer/auto.htm

South Carolina allows for persons to request an arbitration through S.C. Code Ann. 38-77-730:

 

SECTION 38-77-730. Request for arbitration; no formal pleading and process; arbitration docket; filing of claim; service of summons to defendant.

(a) Any person who is a party to the disputed property damage liability claim may submit his claim for determination through arbitration. No formal pleading or process is required. The clerk of court of each county shall prepare and keep an arbitration docket and set the cases thereon for arbitration as provided by law for the settling of cases in the court of common pleas.

(b) The claim must be filed with the clerk of court in the county in which the cause of action arose or where the plaintiff or defendant resides. The claim must be filed in triplicate with the clerk of court on forms to be provided by him. The forms shall set forth the names of the parties, the date and place of the accident, and the amount of property damage claimed. The clerk shall file one copy in his office, and one copy must be served upon the defendant as provided by law for service of summons and complaints. The sheriff, or such other person, shall promptly serve the claim upon the defendant and shall receive the sum of five dollars to defray the cost of securing this service. The sheriff, or such other person, serving the process shall promptly file an affidavit of personal service with the clerk of court on forms to be provided by the clerk.

(c) There must be attached to, or made part of, the form a summons to the defendant named notifying him that he should file a response with the clerk of court within thirty days from the date of service and that failure to file a response within thirty days entitles the plaintiff to a default judgment. The form must be signed by the party filing it or his attorney, if any, and shall by order of reference show the address of the person signing it.

 

 

SECTION 38-77-740. Hearing; notice to parties; damages to be awarded; securing attendance of witnesses.

(a) The court, or the clerk acting for the court, shall assign the arbitrators to hear the matter at the courthouse, or other designated place in the county where the claim is filed, within sixty days after the date of filing, or as soon thereafter as is feasible. The clerk of court shall, on a form provided by him, advise the parties or their attorneys of record, if any, by mail as to the place, date, and time of hearing and shall advise the parties to bring all records which may pertain to the claim, including, but not limited to, the following:

(1) Two estimates of damage to the motor vehicle or its contents signed by the estimator.

(2) Signed receipts for car repairs.

(3) Bills or receipts for other property damages claimed.

The forms shall also contain notice to the parties that, if they cannot attend because of illness or otherwise, the clerk of court must be notified as soon as possible with the request that another date be set for the hearing.

(b) Property damages must be awarded as provided by law, including, but not limited to, actual damages, loss of use, depreciation, and any other property damages which are the direct and proximate result of the accident.

(c) The parties may secure the attendance of witnesses by their voluntary appearance or may secure their attendance by subpoenas prepared and issued in accordance with the laws of this State.

 * Modified on December 21, 2009:

Don't think being an attorney affords you any differences when dealing with insurance companies. I recently had to go through the same process with an insurance company as a result of a property damage claim. They forwarded me a check significantly lower than the actual repair costs, rental car invoice, and depreciation. I requested an explanation within 7 days and received none. I filed arbitration pleadings in the proper county and had an offer almost double the initial amount within 3-4 days.  Don't play around with them. File the arbitration papers for $5.00 and then send them an original copy with a reasonable demand.

Single Car Accidents Leave Drivers and Passengers with Few Options

I often consult with clients that have been in a single car accident and want to utilize the insurance coverage they have paid on for years because they have "full coverage". Well, liability insurance is just that, it goes in effect when you are at fault for causing someone or something injury and/or damages. Not when you cause yourself injury or damages. People would be running their cars into trees on purpose to get insurance coverage if that were the case.

Accidents happen and those in the "driver's seat", literally and figuratively, have a duty to the passengers in the car.  Passengers traveling in the car during a single car accident often times have claims against the insurance company of the driver.  "Fault", or liability, is a legal term here used to proceed against the insurance company of the driver. Sometimes that driver is your friend, family member, and/or loved one.  However, their insurance premium is going to go up regardless of what you do because they are going to have a "claim" for property damage or simply for the accident.  Thus, you are causing no more trouble and are actually using resources that your friend, family member, and/or loved one has provided for people like yourself. Medical Payments/Personal Injury Protection is additional coverage everyone should have because it benefits every occupant in a car that has been injured, regardless of who is at fault.

Unfortunately there were more than a few single car accidents in Upstate South Carolina this past week as reported by The Greenville News and Anderson Independent:

Be careful out there on the roadways. Regardless of whether you are the driver or a passenger.

Allstate Insurance's "Good Hands" are Wrapped Around Your Throat!

I can't stand by silently watching so many people be duped by the calm, collective gentleman touting the wonders of Allstate Insurance Company through it's "accident forgiveness", "safe driving bonus", & other cute deductible programs through a commercial or website. Reminding people they are in "Good Hands" with Allstate. Those "Good Hands":

Let me share another perspective of Allstate Insurance Company (sucks) that you will not find out about until you actually need to use them through a claim, injury, or traumatic event where someone hits you and has Allstate Insurance. Or better yet, and I love it when I explain this to clients, YOU have Allstate Insurance through your Uninsured or Underinsured insurance coverage and they:

  • deny your claim or play hardball;
  • Delay your claim; and
  • Or the funniest, make you have to file a law suit while they defend the at fault party. That's right they (Allstate) defend the party that caused you injury while you try and get compensated through your Underinsured coverage.  Ask a representative today if you think I am lying.

If you have never had to file a claim or utilize the benefits of your own insurance coverage then you have no idea the process that you have to go through when dealing with Allstate. 

Allstate may provide you with a couple dollars savings over another insurance company on the front end but what good is paying an insurance premium if you are not going to be able to utilize those benefits when you need them?--Trey Mills

When Allstate gives you problems, hold on tightly and give us a call to try and get their hands off from around your neck.

 

What Can I Do About Property Damage to my Car After a Wreck?

Don't panic. You have just been in a wreck and your vehicle was totaled or determined to be undriveable. The other driver was put at fault by the investigating officer. What do you do now?

  1. Take note of which towing service takes your vehicle. This is after you take tons of pictures to the damage on your vehicle and the other vehicles.
  2. Contact the at fault driver's insurance information that is located on the FR-10, or green incident report, completed by the officer.
  3. Report the wreck to the at fault driver's insurance company but do not agree to a recorded statement or further inquiry on the phone.
  4. Identify to the at fault driver's insurance company that your vehicle was damaged and you need a rental.
  5. If the at fault driver disputes the officer's determination of liability (that they were indeed at fault) then the at fault driver's insurance company will dispute paying for your vehicle and giving you a rental.
  6. Order the more detailed FR-50, two page accident report, from the South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles.  (You will have to send in $6.00 so click on the hyperlink for the address).
  7. Demand a rental car of like kind. They will say no, but ask and plead anyway.
  8. If your car is determined to be "totaled", then you will need to determine the value of your car based upon its mileage, year, overall condition, and essentially what it would take to replace exactly what you had before the wreck. 
  9. Go to Autotrader.com, Edmonds.com, NADAguides.com, or KBB.com and try and find a vehicle just like yours within a 50 mile radius of where you live to get an idea of what your vehicle is worth. Send those examples to the adjuster if you do not like the number they offer.
  10. Two (2) claims arise out of the majority of wrecks: a property damage claim and a personal injury claim.  Make sure if you settle your property damage claim that you ONLY settle your property damage claim and not your personal injury claim. Yes, insurance companies trick people all the time by having them sign away both claims.
  11. If the at fault driver's insurance company is taking an inordinate amount of time and you have coverage on your insurance, then file your property claim with your insurance company. Yes, the otherside was at fault but this will get the problem solved and you will be reimbursed your deductible when the at fault driver's insurance company finally pays.
  12. If you are not provided a rental vehicle immediately after the wreck and you are without your vehicle for a period of time before you are offered a settlement on your property damage. You are entitled to "loss of use" for the time you are without your vehicle. The owner may recover the value of the automobile’s use during the time in which he was necessarily deprived of its use. Adams v. Orr, 260 S.C. 92, 98 (S.C. 1973).
     

My clients are most frustrated with property damage. I am most interested in your personal injury claim. That is why I provide you with this very comprehensive guideline when dealing with insurance companies over property claims.

If you have questions about your insurance policy, read my "Full Coverage" article.

Let's Talk About Insurance Baby, Let's Talk About He & She, Let's Talk About All...

"Let's Talk About Insurance"

(Punch it, Jim Yo, Lawyers can’t talk about this in court
Come on, why not?
People might misunderstand what they're tryin' to say, you know hear the truth about this lady being able to afford 10 times this poor injured person's medical bills and impairments?
No, but that's a part of life)

Come on

[CHORUS]

Let's talk about insurance, baby
Let's talk about “He” and “She”
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about insurance
Let's talk about insurance

Let's talk about insurance for now to the people at home or in the office
It keeps coming up anyhow
Don't deny, delay, and defend like Allstate or make void the topic
Cuz that ain't gonna stop it
Now we talk about insurance in our offices, on the phone with adjusters, with defense attorneys being paid by the hour
Too bad our clients and the public don’t know, anything goes
Let's tell it how it is, and how it could be
How it was, and of course, how it should be
Those who think it's dirty have a choice
Pick up the pen, phone, or email and tell your Department of Insurance off
Will that stop US Chamber from bad commercials or adjusters from lying to clients prior to representation, Pep?  I doubt it
All right then, come on, Spin

[CHORUS]

Hot to trot and confusing, too many options make any man's wallet pop
Insurance Companies use what they got to get whatever they don't got
Unsavvy consumers drool like fools, but then again they're only human
This person was hit because the other driver behind them was really moving
Texting, chatting, drinking, playing with the child seat in the backseat
Nothin' they ever swore was ever common
The mistakes were always in place, thanks to lobbying insurance to heads of state, men of distaste
hospital administrators, doctors, insurance adjusters, defense attorneys, no one is able to be self-insured with her not to get with
Or even mess with, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce she says was next on her list
And believe me, you, it's as good as true
There ain't a Chamber alive that Insurance Companies couldn't get next to
Insurance Companies had it all in the bag so they should have been glad
But they were mad and sad and feelin' bad
Thinkin' about the things that they never had
No truth, facts, or empirical evidence to make claim for reform,no frivolous lawsuits to actually point to, no common sense approach to claims adjusting, no mention to their insured’s that they actually represent at fault drivers in uninsured claims, just butt sex, followed next without a check and a note
That last night was denied!

Let's talk about insurance, baby (deny it)
Let's talk about “He” and “She” (delay it, defend it)
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
Let's talk about insurance (on your home, auto, or self)
Let's talk about insurance (don’t do it)
Let's talk about insurance (Oo No)
Let's talk about insurance

Ladies, all the ladies, louder now, help me out
Come on, all the ladies - let's talk about insurance, all right
[repeat]

(Yo, Pep, I don't think they're gonna print this in the paper)
And why not? Everybody has insurance
I mean, everybody should be paying their premiums and asking questions
Come on, how many people you know actually ask questions and look behind the false claims, misleading marketing by Chamber of Commerce and other Justice Deformers?
Not too many jurors I know)

[CHORUS]

  For those humming "Let's Talk About Sex" 

  I recommend clicking this and re-reading the article:

 

 

Bad Economy Leads More Drivers to Drop Insurance

M.P. McQueen of "The Wall Street Journal" reports that:

More drivers are letting their car insurance lapse because of the sour economy, putting themselves and others at risk........

Ms. McQueen quoted Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute, as saying:

"A good proportion of people on the road are either uninsured or underinsured, and so you have to protect yourself... "

"Your odds of being in an accident with an uninsured driver are substantial."

As I reported in my "Full Coverage"  article:

Minimum insurance limits in the South Carolina are mandated by S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-140 and at the present time are 25,000/50,000/25,000. Likewise, UM, or uninsured coverage is mandatory but you should carry higher than the minimum limits.

Insurance coverages that protect you when someone is uninsured, underinsured, or is covered with Allstate are below: (insurance companies don't want you to know about them because it costs them money in the long run):

  1. UIM- In accordance with S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-160, this is optional coverage you can purchase in the event that damages are sustained in excess of the liability limits carried by an at-fault insured (driver) or underinsured motorist. Remember minimum coverage is $25,000.00 per one person.
  2. UM-This is uninsured coverage and essentially your insurance company will defend the at fault person against you. HUH? Read it again. That's right! You're own insurance company defends the uninsured person against you. Why? Insurance companies don't make money paying you money, that includes your insurance company. Call and ask them if you think I am being untruthful.
  3. PIP/MEDPAY- This is the greatest insurance ever. If you do not have it, you're an idiot. It's cheap, too.
  4. GAP Coverage-Gap insurance covers the difference between what the insurance company says your car is worth versus what's left on your car loan, or note.

Insurance Companies Admit Whiplash Injuries Occur in Minor, or Low, Impact Wrecks!

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is an organization dedicated to reducing the losses — deaths, injuries, and property damage — from crashes on the nation's highways and is wholly supported by auto insurers (read insurance companies).

In a news release dated December 17, 2008, the IIHS reports (important parts underlined):

Rear crashworthiness needs improving:  Many automakers haven't paid as much attention to protection in rear crashes, compared with front and side, Nolan points out. Good seat/head restraints are key to preventing whiplash injuries. Neck sprain or strain is the most frequently reported crash injury in US insurance claims. When a vehicle is struck in the rear and driven forward, its seats accelerate occupants' torsos forward. Unsupported, the head will lag behind the forward torso movement, and the differential motion causes the neck to bend and stretch. The higher the torso acceleration, the more sudden the motion, the higher the forces on the neck, and the more likely a neck injury is to occur. Keeping the head and torso moving together is crucial to reducing whiplash injury risk. To accomplish this, the geometry of a head restraint has to be adequate — high enough to be near the back of the head. Then the seat structure and stiffness characteristics must be designed to work in concert with the head restraint to support an occupant's neck and head, accelerating them with the torso as the vehicle is pushed forward.

"In stop and go commuter traffic, you're more likely to get in a rear-end collision than any other kind of crash," Nolan says. "It's not a major engineering feat to design seats and head restraints that afford good protection in these common crashes."

In these whiplash tests and throughout the article no mention was given to the amount of property damage done to the car. Can you believe that? This was testing done by insurance companies and they didn't mention a single word about the amount of property damage done to the rear of the vehicle as an indicator of personal injury.  This article mentioned "acceleration", "sudden motion", and "higher forces to the neck."  Well surely these vehicle tested impact at a high speed?

Rear crash protection is rated according to a two-step procedure. Starting points for the ratings are measurements of head restraint geometry — the height of a restraint and its horizontal distance behind the back of the head of an average-size man. Seat/ head restraints with good or acceptable geometry are tested dynamically using a dummy that measures forces on the neck. This test simulates a collision in which a stationary vehicle is struck in the rear at 20 mph. Seats without good or acceptable geometry are rated poor overall because they can't be positioned to protect many people.

If you are currently dealing with an insurance adjuster or company on a wreck claim, print this article out from IIHS' website and send it to them.  Make sure you highlight the portions above if you have been in a rear end collision. It may not matter because they only do what their computer tells them but it will make you feel better.

Personal Injury Protection (PIP), Medical Payments Insurance

P.I.P, or Personal Injury Protection/Medical Payments, insurance coverage is not well known or well publicized.  This type of insurance coverage can play a crucial role if you or someone you love is involved in an automobile wreck.  The most advantageous element of this coverage is the "no-fault" aspect. 

  • S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-144 indicates that PIP coverage is not mandated but if an insurer sells no-fault insurance coverage which provides personal injury protection, medical payment coverage, or economic loss coverage, the coverage shall not be assigned or subrogated and is not subject to a setoff.
  • What does all this mean?  Insurance is just that- insuring against a potential risk.  As I mentioned in my "Full Coverage" article, you get what you pay for. 
  • PIP is optional insurance coverage and is relatively inexpensive.
  • PIP covers you and the other occupants in your car that have your permission to be there. 
  • If you cause the wreck, you still have coverage. 
  • If you did not cause the wreck, you still have coverage IN ADDITION to any personal injury claims that may arise.

G.I. Joe always helped information sink in when they parted by stating,"Knowing is half the battle!"

Tell your insurance agent you want PIP/Medical Payments coverage on your insurance policy-today.

DISCLAIMER: I do not get kickbacks from insurance agents! However, if you have been injured, I can not go after coverage that you never had to begin with!

Auto Torts XXXI Seminar: Working Hard for My Money

Headed down to Atlanta this weekend to learn how to be a better attorney through the help and guidance of more seasoned veterans.

As the South Carolina Association for Justice's website indicates:

This seminar has been described as "the best seminar in the region, if not the country". Each year the SCAJ's Auto Torts Seminar is scheduled for the first weekend after Thanksgiving weekend at the Ritz Carlton Buckhead, in Atlanta Georgia. Trial lawyers from across the south gather to hone their skills, earn 10 hours of CLE credit (including 1 hour of ethics) and experience the best holiday shopping, entertainment and food Atlanta has to offer.

A rigorous schedule of intense seminars and break-out sessions squeeze in plenty of "independent time" for further reflection.  The sacrifices a poor, plaintiff's attorney makes in trying to better their trade.

 

Allstate Insurance Sucks

Dealing with Allstate on a routine basis for personal injury claims, I know how they frustrate me to no end.  However, I was interested to see the amount of Google entries for this title.

Are you really in good hands? Or should you consult an attorney anytime you see a name followed by the word "insurance"?

 

"Full Coverage" Automobile Insurance

When I turn to my clients and ask them about their automobile coverage, they quickly respond back that they have "Full Coverage".  Full coverage to them and full coverage to me are two different things. My idea of full coverage is below:

  1. $100,000/$300,000/$100,000 Liability and Property Coverage ( Minimum insurance limits in the South Carolina are mandated by S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-140 and at the present time are 25,000/50,000/25,000. Likewise, UM, or uninsured coverage is mandatory but you should carry higher than the minimum limits).
  2. Personal Injury Protection/Medical Payments (PIP/Medpay)- $25,000.00.  This is no fault insurance that protects you and other occupants of the car. This is optional coverage you can request that is very inexpensive.
  3. Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)- $100,000.00. In accordance with S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-160, this is optional coverage you can purchase in the event that damages are sustained in excess of the liability limits carried by an at-fault insured (driver) or underinsured motorist. Remember minimum coverage is $25,000.00 per one person.
  4. Comprehensive/Collision Coverage-Again these are optional coverages you can get that provide deductibles you pay to have your automobile repaired if it is in a collision or damaged as a result of something other than collision, ie fire, theft, weather, vandalism, etc (comprehensive). Often times collision coverage is required if you finance your vehicle through a bank, or lender.
  5. GAP Coverage-Gap insurance covers the difference between what the insurance company says your car is worth versus what's left on your car loan, or note. I was not going to include this in my "Full Coverage" but in the past few weeks I have had 3 clients that would pay triple their premium in exchange for GAP coverage.  

Full coverage to my clients usually means the bare minimum it takes to drive on the roadways of the state of South Carolina. As stated above, that would be liability coverage if you cause injury or property damage to someone else at $25,000/$50,000/$25,000 and Uninsured Motorist Coverage for incidents where you are injured by someone that failed to follow the law and carry the minimum insurance coverage. The amounts I use above can be adjusted to fit in each individuals budget. If you carry the bare minimum required by law, just remember the old adage that "You get what you pay for!"

INSURANCE is just that, coverage and protection when losses are injuries occur to you or your family as a result of the negligence or lack of responsibility of another party.  Be prepared when that time comes. The South Carolina Department of Public Safety put out a report a few years ago that indicated a traffic wreck occurred every 4.7 minutes.