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 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.

 

 

Nationwide Is Not On Your Side: Marketing Jingles are Flashy, Fictional, & Frustrating

I had a client come in today with three young kids all under the age of 10 and all boys. They were tough to contain for her much less for my soon-to-be-married and "kidless" self. As I was informing my client's mother, who owned the car, on how she had been swindled out of depreciation from State Farm with her property settlement one of the boys yelled out in a melodic manner:

 "Nationwide is on your side..."

I quickly turned towards him with the indignation of an elementary teacher, ruler in hand and asked who taught him such lies and slander? All in the room looked perplexed but none more than him. I quickly indicated to him that he had been lied to and should never repeat such blasphemy. As if on cue, all three boys chimed in: "Nationwide is on your side..." 

At that point I realized what I was up against and what all Americans must face, mind numbing advertising that showers us night and day through all mediums of media.  Since the more money one entity or individual has the more exposure they will be able to give their flashy, fictional, and frustrating jingle or flat out lies......Yet at the same time I realized how effective such a childish and simplistically thought out plan can so easily massage and manipulate mainstream society.

Try not to let those insurance company jingles persuade you too much during this massive blitz of corporate marketing and advertising to get us consumers already in the mindset of spending to sell ourselves short of the true coverage and protection we need.  Be on the lookout for "Trey's Top Three" where I pick out:

  1. the top three insurance companies that treat injured parties fairly;
  2. the top three things you need to add or include with your insurance; and
  3. the top three insurance horror stories from this year.

 

To help get your mind off that previous jingle, think about this:

The only hands that come from Allstate are wrapped around your throat.

Or maybe since I have renamed one of our local adjusters "Low Ball":

Nationwide will chap your hide.

Don't worry, last one:

Like a drunk driver, State Farm doesn't care.

2009 South Carolina Personal Injury Articles in Review

I started blogging back in November of 2008 therefore with the closing of the 2009 calendar year, this will be my first (1st) full year in review.

There is little doubt from my background, occupation, and particular writing style that I hate insurance companies. I have highlighted those articles I wrote throughout the 2009 year that provide the biggest return on investment for my readers. I hope that you have enjoyed reading my blog, regardless of your own personal beliefs and opinions, as there are always two sides to any issue.  

South Carolina Foreclosure Sale: My Personal Experience

Given the current economic climate and the many more foreclosures I feel will be coming on the market in the first quarter of 2010, this is a good read for those of you thinking houses are bought for $1.

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

Numbers speak for themselves and more than likely you will be involved in a wreck. If the wreck is bad enough to cause any property damage you do not necessarily need a lawyer.

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

This article goes into more depth than the one above when the insurance company jerks you around over something so easy to determine value such as property.

Dogs Bite, Owners Pay: South Carolina Dog Bite Law

There is no one bite rule in South Carolina. This is strict liability and if your dog bites someone else anticipate some insurance payout.

Insurance Companies Don't Care About You: They Care About Your Premiums

I say what others think and know. This is no different and you should understand the logistics.

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

They are awful. The worst insurance company you could possibly use in my personal opinion. I can tell war stories against Allstate for days on cases I had just in 2009. Please stop letting such blatant insurance abuse happen by using the worst insurance company out there.

Insurance Claim Game: 10 Tips to Follow

When you are injured in an automobile wreck these tips may help you avoid having to hire an attorney on a smaller case. 

Tips for Young Lawyers on Being Trial Lawyers

After four full years of practicing and being thrown into a trial the first couple months as a lawyer, I guess I have learned some things. I am just excited to still call myself a young lawyer at 31.

Graduation Speech for Mid-Carolina High School 2009

I was blessed and honored to come back to my high school and give the commencement speech.

F___ You If You Have Never Had Cancer!

After my uncle was diagnosed with cancer and started his battle earlier in the year a flow of emotions and memories were brought back from my experience some 14 years ago. Sorry for the language but it was what I was feeling at the time.