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

 

South Carolina Medical Professionals Cheat Sheet to Legal Depositions

I am a lawyer not a doctor. Doctors are medical professionals trying to help people get better by diagnosing, treating, and preventing. When we step outside our profession and into another professional arena we know very little about, it can be confusing. No matter how much reality television we watch, it may not carry over to the realities we live in.

In the short time I have been an attorney, it never ceases to make me laugh when I go to a doctor's deposition. We, as lawyers, have to ask certain questions in certain ways to meet legal thresholds and adhere to the prevailing rules of evidence, which makes those questions sound verbose, obnoxious, and confusing.

  1. "Doctor  ______, is it your opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty that it is more probable than not, that my client's disc herniation were caused/aggravated/ and/or made worse from the motor vehicle collision/slip and fall/dog bite?"
  2. "Doctor ______, based on your education, observations, and medical treatment of my client, was it medically necessary to send them for physical therapy/diagnostic testing/pain management as a result of the motor vehicle collision/slip and fall/dog bite?"
  3. "Doctor ______, do you have an opinion to a reasonable degree of medical certainty as to the permanent impairments my client would be assigned under the AMA guidelines?"

It's important for medical professionals to understand that Plaintiffs have the burden of proving their case by the preponderance of the evidence. The most common example is the tipping of the scales of justice ever so slightly to provide an imbalance that would warrant the "preponderance" part, "more likely than not". (David Swanner of South Carolina Trial Law Blog gives several good examples).

Therefore, medical professionals don't have to know 100% one way or the other. They just have to give an opinion (based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty) whether an injury or aggravation of a pre-existing injury is "more likely than not"/ "more than a 50% chance"/ "ever so slightly tips the scales" was caused or directly affected by the trauma.

Plus, know what you charge for your office visits. You are a professional and are running a business. In the 100 or more medical depositions that I have taken, not one medical professional has been able to tell me what they charge per office visit. That could be one explanation in the health insurance and medical professional struggle now. How can you talk about lost profits and exorbitant prices when you have no clue about money, fees, or service costs directly related to services rendered?

This is the typical response cut and pasted directly from an recent examination of my client's treating physician's deposition:

I can't make an assessment about causation.  When I see a patient or take care of patients, I'm not really thinking about, you know, is this going to go to a legal situation. I'm mostly concerned about the patients and their well-being so I just go what they tell me, by the history.  So the answer to your question is:  I don't know.  I can't say with 100 percent certainty that the motor vehicle accident caused the herniated disk.

I asked the questions previously discussed. Do you have an opinion? Not can you tell me for certain. Plus, if you were truly concerned for the patient, you would also be concerned about the financial stress and misery of undergoing medical treatment and being personally responsible for the medical services you have rendered to them unless you agree that someone else affected their pre-existing injury or caused new injuries.

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....