Public Backlash Prompts Settlement of Car Accident Claim

When we purchase an insurance policy for our vehicles or other property, the insurance company has not only a moral, but also a legal obligation to investigate any claims and provide a decision in a timely way…in the end, you expect your insurance company to stand up for your interests in the event of an accident.

Sometimes, insurance companies fail in this obligation – when they do, the company is said to be acting in “bad faith.”

Most cases involving “bad faith” on the part of an insurance company go unnoticed. But in the case of Katie Fisher and her insurance company, social media, blogs and other online channels quickly turned her case into a PR firestorm for her insurance company, Progressive.

First for the story on Katie’s case, who tragically lost her life in June 2010 when another driver in an SUV ran a red light and hit her car in the side…sadly, the young college grad died instantly.

The offending driver in this case did not have adequate insurance coverage to pay Katie’s family. The policy limit was $25,000. Katie though did purchase uninsured/underinsured motorists coverage up to a $100,000 for a situation like this. Under the terms of the policy, Katie’s insurance would agree to pay the different between her payout limits and what the offending driver could pay.

In this case, the at-fault driver could only pay $25,000, which left a difference of $75,000.

The Fisher family needed this amount in order to pay Katie’s debts and final expenses. Rather than paying the difference though, the family was forced to prove fault by suing the offending driver. Once they had the decision – which was favorable to their case – the Fisher’s could then use the decision to force Progressive to pay.

In the trial to establish fault though, Katie’s insurance company actively participated in the offending driver’s defense. If it was determined that Katie was at fault, even 1%, Progressive would have been absolved from any financial obligation under state (Maryland) law.

Once Progressive attempted to blame Katie for the accident, her brother, Matt Fisher, posted the family’s story on the Internet.

Once Matt posted the story online, it spread quickly. Before long, literally thousands of angry customers were posting complaints on Progressive’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. What really touched off the PR firestorm though was Progressive’s response to these Facebook and Twitter postings.

In reply to the postings on the company’s social media accounts, Progressive offered the same response – “We fully investigated this claim and relevant background, and feel we properly handled the claim within our contractual obligations.”

This response just fueled critics’ anger even more.

According to the Fisher’s attorney, Allen Cohen, Progressive agreed to settle the case for well above the $75,000 the family was initially seeking. In an interview with CNN, Cohen explained the payment was for Progressive’s “…failure to exercise good faith toward their insured.”

Watch the interview of Matt Fisher below for more.

You assume your insurance company has your back in the event of an accident. This “peace of mind” is the reason you buy auto insurance in the first place.

If you’ve been in an auto accident in Tennessee and are experiencing similar problems with your insurance company, it’s important you consult with an attorney who specializes in both auto accidents and insurance bad faith.

Knoxville car accident attorneys at the Gilreath Law Firm possess extensive experience in both legal areas. Losing a loved in an auto accident is a tragedy words are unable to describe. In terms of financial impact though, you do have recourse from the offending driver. And if your insurance company mishandles your claim or otherwise doesn’t fulfill their obligations to act in good faith, understand that you have grounds for obtaining further compensation.

 

 

 

Understanding Personal Injury Attorney Fees

If you’re in a car accident or slip and fall due to another party’s negligence and sustain serious injury, a personal injury lawyer can help you obtain the compensation needed to make you whole. Medical expenses, property damage and lost wages are just a few of the financial hardships that will come your way.

If you hire a personal injury attorney to help you recoup these costs, it’s important you have a clear understanding of how your lawyer will charge you for their efforts. Having this understanding ahead of time will help ensure there are no misunderstandings when your case is over.

Most personal injury attorneys charge for their professional services in one of two ways – either on a contingency fee basis or an hourly rate.

Contingency fee is the most commonly used by attorneys, including here at our Knoxville personal injury firm. Essentially, this means that you only pay the attorney when either a monetary settlement or a judgment is obtained for your case. The final amount is typically a percentage of the final settlement. If your attorney does win your case, you will also likely need to pay any expenses the attorney incurred in the preparation of your case.

If you don’t win any kind of settlement, you will NOT be responsible for paying your attorney.

The advantage of a contingency fee of course is that if your case isn’t successful, you will not have to pay the attorney anything. Also, your personal injury attorney will motivated to obtain the best settlement possible since they will benefit as well.

One disadvantage of the contingency fee basis – you may feel your attorney doesn’t warrant such a high fee if they were able to secure a settlement quickly.

Hourly rates for personal injury cases are pretty rare but do occur.

Under this arrangement, you pay the personal injury attorney for the hours they spent working on your case, regardless of whether you obtain a settlement or not. One reason they’re typically not used in personal injury cases is that they require cash up-front at a time when most accident victims may be under financial stress.

This of course brings up the big disadvantage of an hourly rate – you pay the attorney regardless of whether you win any settlement or not.

When you’re interviewing potential personal injury attorneys around Nashville or Knoxville, be sure you have a clear understanding of their fees. If they charge on a contingency basis, have an agreed upon rate before hiring them. If they want to charge hourly, it may be a sign they think your case isn’t too strong and unlikely to bring a large settlement.

When speaking with attorneys, get them to provide you with a projected breakdown of what they expect to recover, how much of that amount will go for attorney fees/expenses, and how much will be left for your medical expenses, lost wages and more.

Also, when negotiating a contingency fee arrangement, ask whether the percentage is based on the amount before expenses are deducted (gross award), or after expenses are deducted (net judgment).

Having a clear understanding of how much a prospective personal injury attorney expects to recover, and expects you to have after everything is settled will set the right expectations for your case, and also help you better plan your recovery.

Why Asset Searches are a Vital Part of Any Personal Injury Case

In the event an injury to you or your child occurs that’s caused by someone else’s negligence, legal remedies exist to help you deal with the effects of that injury, especially in the long-term. Medical bills, property damage and lost wages are just a few of the financial costs accidents bring.

In the immediate term, your insurance company (…especially if it’s a car accident) can provide relief. But unless your injuries require minimal treatment and time away from work, your policy limits will not cover the long-term costs required to deal with your injuries. Aside from this reality, some insurance companies even deny paying out maximum policy amounts.

If you have an injury of this magnitude, a personal injury attorney can file a claim for damages from the at-fault party.

Once you consult with an attorney and decide to move forward with a claim, one of the first things that will need to happen is an asset search. This vital information will help an attorney determine how the guilty or negligent party is able to satisfy any potential judgments.

Any good attorney will conduct an asset search so they can present you with all possible options. Besides, an asset search doesn’t cost too much – typically less than $300.

All that’s needed to get started is the defendant’s name and last known address. From there, the asset search company will look nationwide at both individual and corporate assets. The search will also look where the defendant may be hiding assets – like in a family trust or partnership.

Among other things, an asset search will confirm such things as:

  • Name and address of defendant
  • Employment Information
  • Real Estate
  • Any cars, boats, motorcycles, etc.
  • Any other legal judgments
  • Any liens or bankruptcies
  • …and more

Having this information in hand will allow your attorney to present you with the best options. In many cases, the defendant simply doesn’t have any type of assets to satisfy a judgment. They do not own property and have very minimal, if any insurance. If an asset search reveals this, your personal injury attorney can then explore other options.

If you’ve been injured in an accident caused by someone else’s negligence, be sure you get a full understanding of the defendant and their capability to satisfy a judgment before pursuing a claim head-on.

A good personal injury attorney (Knoxville) will understand this, which is why an asset search is typically the first action taken in a case of this nature.

Federal ‘Hours of Service’ Rule Limits How Long Truckers Can Drive

Literally thousands of big-rig trucks traverse the nation’s highways each day. And each day, a tragic accident involving a big-rig truck occurs somewhere – either here in Tennessee or along one of the numerous routes throughout the United States.

Driver fatigue from long hours of driving can certainly be attributed as a cause for many truck accidents.

We all know how driving long distances can be tiring. Even though you’re just sitting, there’s something about long road trips that can drain a person.

Considering that truckers drive long distances on a regular basis, the government instituted rules to limit the number of hours someone can spend behind the wheel. Rules were first instituted way back in 1939 but have been revised several times since then. These rules were put in place because driver fatigue is considered to be one of the highest causes of truck accidents in the U.S.

Currently, a single driver can only drive for a maximum of 11 hours in a 14-hour work day. After 11 hours, the driver must get off the road and take a break for a minimum of 10 hours. In one week, a truck can be on the road for 60-77 hours. Even though there are rules in place limiting the number hours a trucker is driving, many disregard the rule.

Some drivers disregard the rule on their own while some are ordered to by the company they’re driving for.

All truck drivers are required to maintain a log detailing when they started driving and when they stopped. If you’ve been involved in an accident with a big-rig truck, the driver log will be an important piece of evidence.

Below are criteria for determining if a driver falls under the “hours of service” rule:

  • Truck weighs more than 10,000 pounds
  •  Truck has a gross vehicle rating or gross combination weight rating of over 10,000 pounds
  • Truck is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (…w/o compensation)
  • Truck is designed or used for transporting 9 or more passengers (…w/compensation)
  • Trucks carrying hazardous materials that require a placard

Any driver meeting these criteria must observe the 11-hour limit.

If they don’t, they put all other drivers on the road at risk.

Have you been involved in an accident with a large truck? If so, was driver fatigue a factor in the crash?

If you have been involved in a wreck a big-rig trucker that was driving well past the legal limit, you certainly have grounds to obtain compensation from the driver and the company he’s driving for.

To discuss your case, contact truck accident lawyers in Knoxville today for a free consultation.

Two Separate Truck Accident Cases Award Multi-Million Settlements

In recent months, two separate truck accident cases concluded with pretty substantial jury awards – one for $3 million in Florida and the other for $7 million in Arkansas. Both accidents led to fatalities.

The first case in Florida involved the family of Julio Rentas Jr., a 33-year old man who was killed on Interstate 95 in Flagler County in 2009. The federal jury in U.S. District Court ruled in the family’s favor, awarding $ 3 million.

Rentas’ case involved a collision between two tractor-trailers. Another truck driver, Betty Ann Tucker, was driving for Williamston Distributors. As she was attempting to merge onto the highway from an emergency lane, she failed to yield the right of way. Doing so caused Rentas (…who was driving a tandem tractor-trailer) to hit the back of Tucker’s truck.

Ms. Tucker testified that an emergency light had come on in her cab and she pulled off the road to investigate. She then accelerated down the emergency lane to try and re-enter the right lane of the highway. She testified she saw lights approaching but figured they were far enough away.

Besides testimony, the jury was presented with information claiming Tucker had been on duty for 19 hours, well over the 14-hour “Hour of Service” limit established by the Florida Motor Carrier Safety Act.

The next case, this time in Arkansas, concluded with a $7 million federal court jury award to the family of a truck driver who was killed when his truck collided with another truck in northern Arkansas. Roger Reagan was driving for Maverick Transportation was hit by Morgan Quisenberry, who was driving for Dunaway Timber Company.

Traveling west on US Hwy 62 near Yellville in Sept. 2008, Quisenberry’s truck crossed into the eastbound lanes and collided with the truck Reagan was driving. His family showed Quisenberry to have been on the road longer than U.S. Department of Transportation rules allow and contended he was fatigued.

Additionally, records proved that the driver had a bad record and was not an experienced commercial driver.

Numerous studies have shown driving while fatigued to be as dangerous as driving under the influence of alcohol.

Accidents involving large trucks can be especially devastating, even if you’re in a similar type vehicle. If you or a loved one has been adversely affected by an accident with a large truck, you may be entitled to compensation for medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering.

To discuss your case further, contact truck accident attorneys at the Gilreath Law Firm in Nashville and Knoxville today.

Original stories published in the Jere Beasley Report

——————————

Personal injury attorneys at Gilreath & Associates offer years of legal experience, compassion, and commitment for the welfare of our clients. Our record of success in 12 states throughout the Southeast speaks for itself.  The skilled, highly experienced injury attorneys at Gilreath & Associates know how to achieve the positive legal outcomes you need to move on with your life.  We also know that compassion counts.  We are committed to our clients, and fight for them every step of the way because we genuinely care about their welfare.

Are you seeking legal representation? Contact the experienced legal team at the offices of Sid Gilreath for a knowledgeable evaluation of your case.