Archive for the ‘claim evaluation’ Category

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Will Not Respond To Non-Injury Fender Benders

The Las Vegas Metropolitan  Police Department announced Monday, February 24, 2014, that beginning March 3, 2014,officers will no longer be responding to minor non-injury fender bender car accidents.

Metro Police says officers are being stretched too thin, trying to get to these types of crashes.  According to Metro Police, an average of 250 man-hours per week is dedicated to these types of wrecks.

Officers will continue to respond to injury accidents and hit-and-run incidents.  They will also respond when a driver in a wreck refuses to exchange insurance information.

Almost everyone knows that fender bender accidents do produce injuries.  The problem with this new policy is that many spinal musculoskeletal injuries do not manifest their symptoms until 24 to 48 hours after involvement in a traumatic event.  Often these musculoskeletal spinal injuries involve nerve root irritation or spinal disc involvement as a pain generator and lead to expensive treatment and diagnostics.  Some people become chronic from these injuries.  This new Metro policy degrades the injury producing potential of fender bender accidents.  Although the police reports and accompanying citations issued by Metro is not 100% conclusive to insurance companies in confirming liability for an accident, they go a long way in resolving an insurance company’s determination of the liability aspect of a claim, so that property damage claims can be resolved in a expeditious manner.  The new Metro policy will mean that accidents investigated by insurance adjusters will take longer.  Accident victims whose vehicles are dangerous to drive, are illegal to drive, or are non-driveable will be either forced to drive their unsafe, illegal and/or damaged vehicles or be without transportation in cases where victims do not carry their own rental coverage or cannot afford to pay their deductible to have their care repaired through their own insurance.

So who makes the decision that the accident is a “non-injury fender bender?”  How will Metro decide if an accident is an injury producing accident?  For Metro to respond to an accident, does a victim need to be transported from the accident scene to the hospital, thus incurring medical bills for the transport, hospital, ER doctor and radiologist?  The bills for emergent care can average at least $3,000 to $5,000.

The number one reason that most residents of Las Vegas get involved with Metro is their involvement in a motor vehicle accident.  So, if it now takes 250 hours a week to investigate all minor traffic accidents, that doesn’t seem like a lot of time and manpower to devote to traffic accident investigation.

If you have one of these non-investigated fender bender accidents, the adverse insurance company will most likely deny the accident injury claim because there is no traffic accident report.

If injuries arise from these accidents and these cases go to trial, a jury will probably be influenced by the fact that the accident wasn’t investigated by the police and impliedly reduce the significance of the accident.

Accident victims will need to hire attorneys to initiate more litigation to resolve these claims.  Under this new policy, Metro will lose revenue because traffic citations will not be issued to the at-fault drivers.  Even minor traffic violations now have fines in the $200 to $500 range.  If it takes an officer  two (2) hours to investigate an accident, the citations issued are compensation back to the City for the use of the officer’s time.

Because of the current economy, a great percentage of drivers on our roads have no insurance or they have expired or lapsed insurance.  The fines on these “no insurance” tickets are high.  In order to reduce the ticket from a fine above $1,000.00, the uninsured driver must obtain insurance after the fact.  This makes uninsured drivers obtain insurance which is a benefit to everyone.

Metro charges $10.00 for a copy of a traffic accident report.  The two insurance companies will order one and the drivers and injured passengers usually pick one up.  Certainly, the attorney representing the injured party has to order one.  This is additional revenue to the City.

If other cities are not investigating minor accidents, this should not be the standard in Las Vegas.  The general rule is that if the accident is not your fault then you want the police to investigate.  If the accident is your fault, don’t involve the police, if that is possible.

I know that there are a certain percentage of motor vehicle accidents where the parties decide to exchange information and don’t call Metro.  In these cases there is no ability to take written statements and document the facts of how each party describes the accident at the scene, when their  memory of the events is at it’s freshest.

Let’s talk about safety.  When there is a car accident out on the street traffic will still be  flowing.  Of course, you don’t want to move the vehicles until information is gathered and photographs are taken.  This creates a dangerous situation because law enforcement is not there at the scene to direct traffic.

Let’s talk about time.  Now, on most uninvestigated accidents, the parties are required by state law to file a station report of accident at a Metro substation or a SR1 form with the Department of Motor Vehicles.  This takes time.  Your time should be as valuable as traffic officer’s time.

It is likely that on uninvestigated accidents that there will be two (2) divergent reports of the accident after a time lapse which occurs when the drivers involved file their own reports.  It is a crime to give a false statement to a police officer, so having an officer at the scene promotes truthful reporting by the involved parties.  These accidents aren’t going to be reported accurately, and there is no way to reduce bias in self-reporting an accident unless an officer is present.

How will the new policy reduce fatal accidents?  All of this according to Metro is supposed to allow police to proactively enforce traffic laws in hopes of bringing down the number of fatal crashes.  However, if you are ticketed for an accident, this should cause the sensible person to reevaluate their driving habits so that the distraction (accidents are always caused by some type of distraction) that cased the instant accident does not cause another more serious accident.

How will the new policy reduce fatal accidents?  This new policy by Metro is bad for everyone.  Previously, Metro adopted the policy that it does not respond to motor vehicle accidents that occur on private property.  That policy makes those property damage claims and/or injury claims much more difficult.  I know that Metro’s budget has experienced cuts because of current economic conditions.  However, the investigation of minor property damage traffic accidents should not be eliminated.  Many criminals are taken off the streets because of minor accidents.  They may have bench warrants for serious crimes, suspended or revoked driver’s licenses, or they may be fugitives from justice skipping bail.  There may be illegal contraband in vehicles that can be seized.  If one party to an accident was drinking before an accident, then the investigation will take that driver off the street so that he can’t cause another accident.

Obviously, Metro has brought attention to their budget cuts by adopting this new policy.  I don’t see how this new policy promotes safety and prevents additional accidents, because when people causing accidents know the police won’t be involved, they are most likely to leave the scene or be inclined to give incomplete or false information to the victim.

Did you know Metro no longer investigates house burglaries?  The victim must fill out his own report.  What service will be cut next?

CHECKLIST: Did I Do Anything That Devalued My Recovery on My Auto Accident Claim?

If you think that you are not getting enough compensation on your auto accident, ask yourself if you did any of the following things that could have possibly devalued your case or claim. Check the ones that apply to your case or claim.
___1.  Failure to seek immediate medical attention.
___2.  Delaying the treatment for your symptoms because you thought they would get better.
___3.  Failure to summon law enforcement to the accident scene.
___4.  Failure to file a station report of accident and/or SR1 form with DMV if law enforcement did not come to the scene    of the accident.
___5.  Telling law enforcement and paramedics that you are fine, when you are nervous, shaking, confused and disoriented following your accident.
___6.  Failure to record adequate identity, insurance and vehicle information on the adverse driver and vehicle.
___7.  Failure to take accident scene photos.
___8.  Failure to obtain witness information.
___9.  Failure to take visible injury photographs.
__10.  Movement of vehicles before police arrived (unless safety issues were present).
__11.  Delay in retaining counsel.
__12.  Failure to record information on vehicle movement and body position at time of impact on a minor property damage accident.
__13.  Giving a recorded statement to the adverse carrier stating that you were not injured and your symptoms developed after that.
__14.  Failure to give your attorney an accurate prior accident history.
___15.  Failure to give your doctor an accurate medical and accident and injury history.
___16.  Failure to go for recommended medical treatment and medical follow-up.
___17.  Missing doctors appointments without a good reason and/or not calling to cancel your appointment.
___18.  Failure to obtain a doctor’s excuse for missed work, even if not required by your employer.
___19.  Failure to tell your employer that your were involved in an accident.
___20.  Not keeping a record on days/hours of that you missed work.
___21.  Failure to report initial minor symptoms to your doctor and reporting them weeks or months later, when they become worse.
___22.  Arguing with defense counsel in deposition, arbitration, or trial.
___23.  Failure to obtain medical treatment for symptoms you are experiencing after discharge from doctor.
___24.  Telling the doctor that you are fully recovered so that you can get discharged from treatment.
___25.  Failure to give an accurate explanation to your doctor of any aggravation of a pre-existing condition.
___26.  Not giving adequate time and attention to the completion written discovery.
___27.  Not reviewing documentation on your case prior to deposition, arbitration or trial.
___28.  A prior accident was revealed during your deposition or arbitration or trial that you didn’t tell anyone about.
___29.  Not taking medication as prescribed.
___30.  Not advising your attorney of new medical treatment or diagnostic tests.
___31.  Not responding to your attorney’s telephone calls and faxes.
___32.  Delay in responding to your attorney’s requests for communication.
___33.  Allowing your emergent bills to go into collections because you didn’t pay your deductibles.
___34.  Lengthy therapy without referral to a doctor to verify the medical necessity of this treatment.
___35.  Obtaining treatment from providers who are unfamiliar with auto accident cases.
___36.  Failure to tell your healthcare providers how the  injuries are affecting your daily activities.
___37.  Failure to tell your doctor that your injuries are affecting your ability to sleep.
Most insurance companies will use computer programs to evaluate your auto accident claims. These programs consider the aforementioned factors to reduce the value of your auto accident claim.
HOW DID YOU SCORE?

7 or less checkmarks – minor reduction in value
8 to 15 checkmarks   – moderate reduction in value
16-20 checkmarks     – major reduction in value
over 20 checkmarks   – you probably received only a nominal offer or no offer on your claim

The Impact of Social Networking Sites on Personal Injury Claims

As a personal injury lawyer, I have seen how trends in personal injury claims handling and litigation have changed over the years.  In this electronic age, information and documents posted on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace can potentially have a negative impact on personal injury claims.

Insurance Companies and defense attorneys are using these sites as a source to obtain damaging information about victims of personal injury accidents in their fight against compensating those victims for the personal injuries caused by their insureds.

If a person is involved in an automobile accident, he is likely to post some information concerning the accident, the injuries caused by the accident and how the injuries affected his life on a social networking site.  Insurance companies may find on these posts information that is favorable to them regarding how the accident happened, and/or they may find  information favorable to them concerning the development of injuries after an accident.  The more times that a story is told, the more likely that there will be inconsistencies.  Information posted on social networking sites may contradict subsequent accident and injury  reporting to insurance companies and to health care providers.  If contradictory information is obtained by an insurance company, this will certainly undermine the credibility of a personal injury claimant, and devalue his claim.

Credibility is an important factor to juries when they are asked to make decisions concerning an accident causing non-visible neck and back injuries. The general public has been well indoctrinated by insurance companies to get them to believe that all whiplash injuries are fraudulent.  A personal injury claimant’s credibility before a jury can be negatively impacted by photos and video of the claimant participating in physical or athletic activities after an accident. Any content that could portray a claimant in negative light should be taken off social media sites. The claimant should also have online friends refrain from posting this type of pictorial documentation from their own sites.

Posted information regarding illegal or immoral matters can be utilized by insurance companies and/or defense attorneys to put a personal injury claimant in a bad light and damage his character. A claimant must be very careful concerning what he posts. Google yourself to determine what content exists  that may compromise your claim. Think before your post, even on invitation-only sites. Don’t let anyone you don’t know become a friend after you make an accident claim.

Pictures or video of claimants riding motorcycles, motor boats, skateboards, bicycles or all terrain vehicles can undermine the value of their lawsuit or insurance claims Inflatables.

The same guidelines should apply to the content of your e-mail accounts.

If you belong to 5 networks and have 100 friends on each network, potentially hundreds of thousands of people can view your posts; and, your posts may not be protected by privacy laws.

So,  personal injury claimants and litigants need to give sone thought to cleaning  up their social media pages after involvement in an injury producing accident.

What is an “At-Fault Accident, and How Does it Affect Your Insurance Rates?

Recently, I have had a number clients who have been involved in auto accidents where they have been partially at fault for an accident and have not been treated fairly by their own insurance company.
NRS 687B.385 states: “An insurer shall not cancel, refuse to renew, or increase the premium for renewal of a policy of motor vehicle insurance covering private passenger cars of commercial vehicles as a result of any claims made under the policy with respect to which the insured was not at fault.”
What is an “at-fault accident”?
This statute was interpreted by the Nevada Supreme Court in the case of State Division of Ins. vs. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 Nev. 290, 995 P.2d 482(2000).  This case interpreted NRS NRS 687B.385 to include accidents in which the insured was 50% at fault or less.  This case put NRS 687B.385 in conformance with NRS 41.141, Nevada’s comparative negligence statute.  This decision means that an insured is at fault for an accident when his liability for a two-vehicle  accident is exactly 50/50, even though he can still recover 50% of his damages from the other driver under NRS 41.141.
Therefore, an assessment of 50% liability (or more) by your insurance company for an accident as an at-fault accident and  will probably result in an increase in your auto insurance rates.  If you are involved in another at-fault accident, your policy will probably be cancelled.
Let me give you a real life example. A vehicle making a lefthand turn going southbound to eastbound at an intersection enters a very wide lane, and stays to the left hand side of that lane.  Another vehicle, at about the same time, traveling northbound makes a right hand turn and enters the same lane but stays to the right hand side of the same lane.  The driver of the vehicle on the right then comes face to face with roadway signs indicating that the roadway lane is narrowing and she must merge to the left.  She does so and collides with the other vehicle traveling on the left hand side of the lane.  Both drivers are insured by the same insurance company. The vehicle on the right was forced to merge left because the lane narrowed into a single lane width. Roadside hazard/warning signs forced the driver on the right to merge to her left. The vehicle on the left was already on the left side of the roadway and did not have to change it’s position within the lane to enter the narrowed portion of the lane.
Anyone reading this fact pattern would automatically assume that the driver on the right hand side of the travel lane is more at fault for this accident than the driver on the left.  However, the insurance carrier, who was the same company for both parties, determined liability at 50/50 and assessed both drivers with an at-fault accident and raised both drivers’ insurance rates.
The insurance company’s assessment of 50/50 liability for this accident is unrealistic because:
(1) The driver on the left had no duty to anticipate the fact that the  driver on the right was going to swerve into her vehicle;
(2) If the vehicle on the right did use her left hand turn signal, the vehicle on the left, could not see it because the vehicle on the right was not in front of her vehicle; and
(3) The accident occurred eighty-six (86) feet east of the intersection where both vehicles entered the same roadway.
According to Nevada case law the adverse effect of a 50/50 assessment of liability will result in the increase of both drivers’ insurance rates for an at-fault accident.  In the event that there was  an assessment of 51/49 liability in favor of the driver on the left and against the driver on the right, the insurance company could not raise the rates for the driver on the left for an at fault accident.
Obviously, there is no exact science to assessment liability for any accident, however based on the facts and circumstances of this accident, a 50/50 liability assessment is completely unrealistic.
So, why did the insurance company raise the rates of both drivers? The only reason is for an economic benefit. Raising the rates of both drivers results in the insurance company recouping its losses for this accident more quickly from the increased insurance premiums from both drivers, as compared to raising the rates for only one driver. And, the insurance company only has to pay 50% of each party’s property damage, thus forcing the insured drivers to pay their own collision deductibles in order to have their vehicles repaired.
After the insurance company was asked to review the facts and circumstances surrounding this accident and to change it’s liability decision by one percent in favor of the vehicle on the left, they refused.
Now, if in the future, liability can be determined by a trier of fact in favor of the vehicle on the left, will the insurance company return the driver on the left’s increased premiums and collision deductible?  Did the insurance company act in bad faith concerning their liability apportionment decision?
Therefore, if you are in an at-fault accident where your insurance company assesses liability against you at 50/50 (or more), you will be assessed with an at fault accident. You should also  be aware of the adverse consequences of increased rates and cancellation of your policy.  You should also consult an attorney for legal advice concerning the insurance company’s decision.
If you or your children are involved with a fender bender accident where you are at fault, or partially at-fault, and  nobody is hurt, and law enforcement isn’t involved;  you should consider working out the property damage with the other driver to avoid increased insurance rates and/or cancellation of your policy.

Recently, I have had a number clients who have been involved in auto accidents where they have been partially at fault for an accident and have not been treated fairly by their own insurance company.

NRS 687B.385 states: “An insurer shall not cancel, refuse to renew, or increase the premium for renewal of a policy of motor vehicle insurance covering private passenger cars of commercial vehicles as a result of any claims made under the policy with respect to which the insured was not at fault.”

What is an “at-fault accident”?

This statute was interpreted by the Nevada Supreme Court in the case of State Division of Ins. vs. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 116 Nev. 290, 995 P.2d 482(2000).  This case interpreted NRS NRS 687B.385 to include accidents in which the insured was 50% at fault or less.  This case put NRS 687B.385 in conformance with NRS 41.141, Nevada’s comparative negligence statute.  This decision means that an insured is at fault for an accident when his liability for a two-vehicle  accident is exactly 50/50, even though he can still recover 50% of his damages from the other driver under NRS 41.141.

Therefore, an assessment of 50% liability (or more) by your insurance company for an accident as an at-fault accident and  will probably result in an increase in your auto insurance rates.  If you are involved in another at-fault accident, your policy will probably be cancelled. Let me give you a real life example.

A vehicle making a lefthand turn going southbound to eastbound at an intersection enters a very wide lane, and stays to the left hand side of that lane.  Another vehicle, at about the same time, traveling northbound makes a right hand turn and enters the same lane but stays to the right hand side of the same lane.  The driver of the vehicle on the right then comes face to face with roadway signs indicating that the roadway lane is narrowing and she must merge to the left.  She does so and collides with the other vehicle traveling on the left hand side of the lane.

Both drivers are insured by the same insurance company. The vehicle on the right was forced to merge left because the lane narrowed into a single lane width. Roadside hazard/warning signs forced the driver on the right to merge to her left. The vehicle on the left was already on the left side of the roadway and did not have to change it’s position within the lane to enter the narrowed portion of the lane.

Anyone reading this fact pattern would automatically assume that the driver on the right hand side of the travel lane is more at fault for this accident than the driver on the left.  However, the insurance carrier, who was the same company for both parties, determined liability at 50/50 and assessed both drivers with an at-fault accident and raised both drivers’ insurance rates.

The insurance company’s assessment of 50/50 liability for this accident is unrealistic because:

  1. The driver on the left had no duty to anticipate the fact that the  driver on the right was going to swerve into her vehicle;
  2. If the vehicle on the right did use her left hand turn signal, the vehicle on the left, could not see it because the vehicle on the right was not in front of her vehicle; and
  3. The accident occurred eighty-six (86) feet east of the intersection where both vehicles entered the same roadway.

According to Nevada case law the adverse effect of a 50/50 assessment of liability will result in the increase of both drivers’ insurance rates for an at-fault accident.  In the event that there was  an assessment of 51/49 liability in favor of the driver on the left and against the driver on the right, the insurance company could not raise the rates for the driver on the left for an at fault accident.

Obviously, there is no exact science to assessment liability for any accident, however based on the facts and circumstances of this accident, a 50/50 liability assessment is completely unrealistic.

So, why did the insurance company raise the rates of both drivers? The only reason is for an economic benefit. Raising the rates of both drivers results in the insurance company recouping its losses for this accident more quickly from the increased insurance premiums from both drivers, as compared to raising the rates for only one driver. And, the insurance company only has to pay 50% of each party’s property damage, thus forcing the insured drivers to pay their own collision deductibles in order to have their vehicles repaired.

After the insurance company was asked to review the facts and circumstances surrounding this accident and to change it’s liability decision by one percent in favor of the vehicle on the left, they refused.

Now, if in the future, liability can be determined by a trier of fact in favor of the vehicle on the left, will the insurance company return the driver on the left’s increased premiums and collision deductible?  Did the insurance company act in bad faith concerning their liability apportionment decision?

Therefore, if you are in an at-fault accident where your insurance company assesses liability against you at 50/50 (or more), you will be assessed with an at fault accident. You should also  be aware of the adverse consequences of increased rates and cancellation of your policy.  You should also consult an attorney for legal advice concerning the insurance company’s decision.

If you or your children are involved with a fender bender accident where you are at fault, or partially at-fault, and  nobody is hurt, and law enforcement isn’t involved;  you should consider working out the property damage with the other driver to avoid increased insurance rates and/or cancellation of your policy.


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