In one of my last posts, I talked about what the insurance companies do not want you to know. They do not want you to know that most, if not all persons who were driving a car, who did not drive safely (i.e. did not follow the rules of the road) who injured another Hoosier and who has been sued by that injured person has insurance to pay for the harm caused. Everyone has insurance. It is mandatory.
What you may not know is that not everyone has enough insurance to pay for all the harm they cause. For example, say you are in a drunk driving accident. Say you are hurt badly. Say the drunk driver has $50,000.00 in liability insurance to pay for they harm he caused. Your medical bills alone are $150,000.00, and that does not figure in your lost wages and your permanent injury which will not allow you to return to your old job. Ah, but you say, I was smart, I bought Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) to protect myself. UIM coverage is a type of coverage you can buy that will pay for the serious personal injury caused by another who does not have enough insurance to cover your harms. Now you say to yourself, well I bought UIM insurance in the amount of $100,000. You think to yourself, well at least I have a total of $150,000.00 ($50,000 from the drunk driver and $100,000 UIM) to help me pay my bills. You call your insurance company and tell them you are making your claim for the $100,000.00 in UIM coverage you bought to protect yourself. The insurance company says, Sorry, in Indiana, we (the Insurance Companies) are protected by a law (which we lobbied hard for by wining and dining legislators and getting the kind of access to power that you Joe Hoosier can only dream of getting) which allows us to offset the $100,000 of UIM coverage you bought from us (and paid full price for) by the amount of the drunk drivers liability insurance. You say, that’s crazy, why didn’t you (Insurance Company) tell me that when I bought the UIM coverage? You get some snarky reply like because you did not ask.
You are mad so you go to a lawyer to find out your rights. The lawyer tells you that the Insurance companies influence in Indiana is strong and that they do indeed enjoy the protection of the setoff.
I am that lawyer, and I have had that conversation with many Hoosiers who just can’t believe its true. I tell them we all need to stand together against these kinds of injustice, but it is difficult to overcome the influence the insurance companies money achieves. I say lets get rid of the setoff. Let Hoosiers get the benefit of what they thought they were buying to protect themselves.
I have been very vocal about distracted driving. It is as bad as drunk driving. Now I want to share with you a sad tale involving a detracted driver. To make things worse, the distracted driver was driving a semi tractor-trailer at the time he was driving distracted and predictably caused a distracted driver collision.
A group of young people were on their way to a concert in another state. The young people were in 3-4 separate cars, and they were in a kind of caravan. In the rear of the line of cars was a young man, about 27 years old. He worked for a major retailer and his talents were just being recognized. You see he had a gift for using the computer and an eye for how to use that gift to make his employer more efficient and profitable. He was driving his girlfriends van. The young woman was skilled at her marketing job, and the future looked so bright for these two. They were exactly what Hoosiers take pride in, they were smart, hard working, and committed. They were looking forward to the concert and spending time with their friends. They were looking forward to a life promised by the American Dream.
They were in a another state. They were on a major highway. They realized traffic was slowing in front of them and they braked. The problem up front was a collision. They brought their van to a stop behind their friends at the rear of a long line of cars who were also stopped. Unknown to these young lovers, a semi tractor-trailer was barreling down upon them at highway speed. The driver, was distracted, looking either at a phone or other media delivery device. The driver did not notice that traffic was stopped. The driver realized too late that traffic stopped. The semi tractor-trailer smashed into the van. We want to think that the young couple suffered their wrongful death instantly. We just don’t know. The van exploded into flames. The semi tractor-trailer continued its carnage, blasting into other cars causing serious personal injury to many others including serious burns, broken bones and brain injury.
All this carnage wrought because one man could not keep his eyes on the road and away from his phone. A mother is left to grieve. She endures the weight of this loss. She hears herself saying to other parents, I hope you never know this pain, and cannot fathom that this is her life, her loss, her burden for the rest of her life.
Don’t cause drunk driving accidents- Just don’t drive drunk. Don’t cause distracted driving accidents- put the phone down.
I am asked by every Hoosier asking for information about Social Security Disability Benefits how long it will take for the Disabled Hoosier to receive benefits. The answer is not a one size fits all. Each claimant has differing medical issues that will affect how long the process takes. So, let me start out with a general discussion of the process.
First one files and application. It generally takes three to four months to process the application. If the application is denied, the applicant must appeal that decision by filing a Request for reconsideration. It takes, again, about three to four months to process this appeal. If the Request for Reconsideration is denied, the applicant must file a second appeal known as the Request for hearing Before Administrative Law Judge. It generally takes 10-14 months to process this appeal to the point of having a hearing. If the Judge denies the appeal, the applicant must file an appeal to the Appeals Council. This process takes anywhere from a couple months to 14 months to complete. If this appeal is denied, the applicant must file an appeal in the Federal District Court. This process can take 4-8 months. If this appeal is denied, the applicant can file an appeal to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.
I know this seems daunting. However, a vast majority of those who receive benefits are approved at the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge. In addition, there exists a Compassionate Allowance. This is a list of injuries, illnesses and or diseases which usually result in a finding of disability. Thus, if you have a condition which is listed on the compassionate allowance list, you claim will be expedited.
Remember, the burden of proving disability rests with the applicant. This proof comes in the form of medical records, tests, and reports. Therefore, an applicant must be able to present evidence of the disability in the form of medical records of treatment. If you have not sought medical treatment, I suggest you do so immediately. If you do not, your chances of proving your disability are very, very small.
A jury serves the function of resolving disputes between citizens in a civil, non violent manner. In the personal injury case, the jury is asked to decide what is the proper remedy for the harm caused to another Hoosier by another’s negligence. As we stated last, most defendants have liability insurance to indemnify the defendant for any judgment entered against them. This means that the defendant, the one who caused the harm to another, will never pay anything out of their pocket.
I say again that I think that if a jury is to be fair, then it should be told the truth. For instance, did you know that many defendants have immunity for the harm they cause. This means that the person who was injured by the negligence of two different defendants, and one is immune, the first defendant can claim the injury was caused by the immune party’s negligence, but the jury cannot know that the immune person will never be responsible for making up for the harm caused to the injured Hoosier. So when a jury returns a verdict for the injured party for say one million dollars and divides the fault for the harm equally between the two responsible parties, the immune party will not have to make up for the harm they caused and the injured party will only receive $500,000.00. Now you may say that $500,000.00 is a lot of money and the injured party should be happy with that. While, I agree $500,000.00 is a lot of money in the abstract, it may not be enough money if the injured person’s medical bills are $500,000.00 and the injured person can no longer work and support their family. In this situation, not only is the injured party no longer a tax paying productive and contributing member of society, the injured party becomes a drain on the public resources of Medicare, social security, Medicaid, food stamps etc. So who ends up paying for the immune person’s negligence? Everyone who pays taxes.
That is not fair.
The laws granting immunity, which ultimately place responsibility on the tax payer while letting the responsible party off the hook need to be abolished. In addition, jurors should be told that a immune person is not going to be held responsible for their actions.
I represent people who have suffered serious personal injury or wrongful death in car accidents, drunk driving accidents, trucking accidents, construction accidents, and really any type of case where a Hoosier is injured as a result of another person who is not responsibly careful. When we ask a jury to help us decide whether the person was not responsibly careful, and if so, what the compensation is for the injured Hoosier, we face a lot of prejudice. The insurance industry has done an effective job convincing the public that anyone who has been injured because another person was not responsibly careful, and who asks that person to be responsible for making up for the harm caused, is a cheater, out to get something for nothing.
Well, I am not going to try and convince you this is right or wrong. I am asking , however that the playing field be level at trial. To this end, I say let’s stop lying to the jury. The insurance industry has also been able to convince the powers that be that jurors are not smart enough to handle the truth, and that we must hide the truth from them. Some examples:
No one can inform the jury that the defendant, if he/she has liability insurance, will not have to pay any defense costs or the judgment entered against them. This is all paid by the defendants insurance company. The insurance industry argues that if jurors know this information they will unfairly return verdicts based on that information. On the other hand, the industry is perfectly happy to benefit from the possibility that jurors may feel sorry for the defendant (they don’t want them to go bankrupt) so they do not decide a fair amount of compensation. I don’t think jurors do this either, but that’s not the point. The point is, if we are after the truth in a trial then let’s start by being honest with the jurors. Hoosiers are smart.
In Indiana the Medical Malpractice Act places a cap on the amount of damages an injured person can receive, and jurors cannot be told this fact. For example, a baby is injured at birth, and the evidence shows the doctor was drunk during the delivery and that drunkenness caused the baby to be seriously and permanently injured. The jurors hear all the evidence and decide that to take care of the baby, it will cost $10,000,000.00 dollars. After they have been dismissed, the judge will have to reduce their judgment to $1,250,000.00 because state law requires the judge to do so. That law is unfair, but knowing it will not change the jurors ability to do anything about it. So, why not just tell them the truth?
We cannot achieve justice and find the truth if we are lying to the persons making the decisions. I say lets tell the jury the truth. This is not a liberal or a conservative point of view. It is just the truth.
In order to be eligible for Social Security Disability Benefits, the claimant must show proof of the existence of a disabling condition that is expected to last at least twelve months. Some conditions are known to be so disabling that they are considered compassionate allowance conditions. Compassionate Allowances (CAL) . CALs are way of quickly identifying disabling conditions and diseases that invariably qualify for disabled status under the Listings of Impairment. The Listing of Impairments is exactly what it sounds like., It is a list of Injuries, illnesses, or diseases, that qualify you for disability if your condition is severe enough. We can help you identify whether your condition qualifies as a CAL. Please give us a call or write for more information.
Two people were suffered wrongful death in a head on collision in Madison County last night. At least three people were flown by life line helicopter as a result of serious personal injury. According to news reports Lukas D. Green of Muncie Indiana crossed the centerline and collided head on with the car driven by an as yet identified driver. It is not clear why Mr. Green crossed the centerline. This presents another reminder to all Hoosiers that distracted driving kills and maims. Distracted driving includes a wide range of behaviors which take the drivers full attention away from the road. Distracted driving may include talking on a cell phone, texting, reaching to the floor board for a dropped item, turning around to talk to someone in the rear seat and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
I say that distracted driving includes drunk drivers and impaired drivers because numerous studies show that texting impairs a drivers concentration just as much as alcohol. Parents, take this time to have that discussion with your children. Distracted driving, in any form is dangerous and potentially deadly.
We wish the injured passengers a full and speedy recovery. We are saddened by this awful loss of life. Be careful out there.
One of the most common questions I get, when talking to people about their social security claim is, “ Do I qualify for benefits?”. My first response to that question is well, why do you think you are disabled and what do your doctors say about the subject? Usually the person tells me why they think they are disabled. I then have to ask, because they usually forget to tell me what their doctor has to say, do you have any medical proof that you have a medical condition that is causing you those terrible symptoms. The callers usually asks, what kind of proof are you talking about. I respond by saying andy kind of objective evidence that proves you have the problem you say you have. Objective evidence of a condition usually takes the form of some kind of test. If the problem is a spine problem, the objective evidence can be one of many tests such a CT scan, MRI, Bone scan or x-ray. If the problem is a nerve problem, and EMG is a common tests. If the problem is a breathing problem, a pulmonary function test is a common objective test. If the problem has to do with a blood disorder (Anemia, polycythemia vera, rheumatoid arthritis) a blood test is an objective test. Generally there is an objective test for most problems.
The rules and regulations put out by the Social Security Administrationrequire that the claimant submit medical evidence of the existence and the severity of the medical condition causing the alleged disability. If the claimant has not seen a doctor and obtained the tests, I tell them they stand no chance of getting benefits. Many folks complain that they are uninsured and cannot get the medical tests performed to see if they have a medical condition that is causing disability. I encourage these folks to apply for Medicaid, The Healthy Indiana Plan, or the Wishard Advantage Programif they live in Marion County. I also encourage them to seek out free or reduced cost clinics to get that medical treatment. Sometimes, I encounter folks who have some money but are uninsured, essentially the working poor. They tell me that they would have to give up things for their children or paying their mortgage to pay for the medical tests. I tell them that although their choices are few, and not very good choices, they are still choices and if they think they are disabled, they must provide evidence of that disability.
If you are thinking you are disabled, make sure you get proper medical care and treatment. It may help you avoid disability, but if it cannot, it will be the evidence you need to make your claim.
On Monday afternoon, while I was enjoying Labor Day with my family I received a call from a distraught driver. He told me of how he was driving through an intersection, on the green light, and was hit broad side by a drunk driver who ran the red light. The caller’s partner was killed in the collision. The next day, my wife and I were walking our dogs near our home when we noticed paint marks on the road of a busy intersection. I knew they meant that there had been a collision at the intersection, but I did not think much of it. As we walked on, we met my wife’s sister who lives near the intersection. She told us that a drunk driver had disregarded the stop sign and hit a motorcycle. The two Hoosiers on the motorcycle were killed.
What is going on? I know we have done much better in the last decade focusing attention on drunk driving collisions, but this destructive behavior continues to kill, maim and ruin lives. Consider these statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
More than a third of the people killed when an alcohol-impaired-driver* crashes are not the impaired drivers. In 2011, 9,878 people lost their lives because of drunk driving. These people make up one-third (31%) of all motor vehicle crash fatalities in the United States. The total number of people killed in motor vehicle crashes has fallen, but the proportion of those fatalities that are from drunk-driving crashes has remained the same for the past 10 years.
Our attitudes on impaired driving have changed but we still have room for improvement. Forty years ago in a roadside survey of drivers, almost 1 in 12 (8%) were driving drunk. The most recent data (2007) from the same survey shows that rate is down to 1 in 50 (2%), which is good progress. Those impaired drivers still claim the lives of nearly 10,000 people a year – and one-third are their passengers, occupants of other vehicles, pedestrians, or bicyclists. Drunk drivers cost our economy nearly $60 billion
Before you drink and drive, consider this- It can happen to you. 9,878 people is a good night for the Indianapolis Indians. Think about all those people, gone in the swig of a bottle. Do not drink and drive.