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We often forget that our auto insurance policies are contracts. Besides paying your premium on time, you should abide by your car insurance company’s rules.

But how can you abide by the rules when you don’t even know what they are?

Here are 10 common scenarios that Penny Gusner for Insure.com wrote about recently. If any of these hit close to home, quickly fix the issue before you get in a pickle.

  1. You haven’t added a licensed teen to your policy.

No one wants to raise their hand and offer to pay more for car insurance. But insurers are permitted to consider all household residents when they price a policy, including a teen. Withholding information about your teen driver from your car insurance company is a big no-no.

And insurers have ways of finding out. They can pull reports that identify “hidden” household members. One such report from LexisNexis looks for “undisclosed” newly licensed drivers between ages 15 and 25.  If your insurer finds out about your licensed teenager this way, it can revise your premiums to include the young driver, or decide it doesn’t want your business anymore.

If your insurer doesn’t find out about your teen until there is an accident, it still might cover the incident.  That would be a lucky outcome, but you’ll back premiums based on the teen driver. Or, your auto insurance company may say it’s not covering the teenager and is dropping your policy because of your failure to inform it.

  1. You let your adult child take your car with her when she moved to another state.

Sure, it’s so much easier to put off a call to your agent and let your child move away with a family car. But when your car is being driven and garaged in a new area, the risks of you as a customer have changed. Car insurance companies expect to be informed about these changes.  If your daughter were in an accident, your insurer could say you concealed vital information about the vehicle’s location, deny your claim and cancel the policy.

If you want to do things the right way, add the child’s name to the car’s title.  Then your child can buy insurance for the car in her own name and using her new address. This will also allow your child to register the car in her new state, which most states require.

  1. You sold your car to your son but still carry the insurance on it.

Uh oh. In general, you can’t carry insurance on a car in which you don’t have an “insurable interest.”  Typically, those with an insurable interest are the car’s owners, lienholders and co-signers – meaning those who would be affected financially if something happens to the car.

Since you are no longer the car’s owner, it’s time for the new owner — your child — to buy car insurance for the vehicle.  If he’s still a minor, you may have to be on the policy with him.  Minors typically must have a parent or guardian involved in the auto insurance contract.

You could face problems submitting a claim if you have failed to tell your insurance company about the ownership change. Or worse, the car insurance company could say you hid the change as a scheme to get lower car insurance rates, which would qualify as insurance fraud and a reason for it to deny claims and cancel the policy.

  1. You want to finance and insure a car for a relative who lives out of state.

Auto finance companies want evidence that the car loan is in the same name as the insurance policy. Since you’re not the primary driver of the car, nor is the car at your residence, it is difficult, if not impossible, for you to insure the car.

You should contact the finance company to see if it will allow your relative to be the “named insured” on a policy.  If it agrees, your relative has the hurdle of finding an insurance company in her state that will permit her to insure a car she doesn’t own.  If she can find such a company, then she still has to list you and the finance company on the insurance as owner and lienholder, respectively.

If you carry insurance on the car without telling your insurer about the situation and your relative wrecks the vehicle, it’s very likely the accident wouldn’t be covered.  Your car insurance company is likely to call you out for misrepresenting who was driving the car and where it was located, and cancel the policy.

  1. You lend your car to a friend for a few months and don’t notify the insurance company.

Your car insurance policy typically will cover a friend who drives your car occasionally, but it’s a different story when you loan your car out for a long period. The car is now housed someplace other than your residence, and someone else is acting as the primary driver of the car — both circumstances your car insurance company wants to know about.

If your insurance company’s rules allow, you may be permitted to add your friend as a driver to your auto policy, but most car insurance companies don’t want to add a person outside of the household.  If that is the case, your friend should consider insuring the car.  Some insurance companies will allow someone to insure a car that he doesn’t own, as long as the owner is listed on the policy.

If your friend crashes your car, your insurer can deny claims because you concealed pertinent information about the “real” driver and vehicle location. That can leave you and your friend on the hook for damages he caused.

  1. You sold your car and the buyer is making payments but you’re still carrying the title and insurance.

Don’t keep your name and insurance on a car that another person possesses!

First, as the owner – because your name is still on the title — you have vicarious liability for the actions of the person driving the car that you “sold.”

Second, you’re paying for insurance but any claims might not be covered. Your car insurance policy normally covers cars and drivers of your household, not others.

If you’re in this situation, you should sign the title over to the new party. He can easily get insurance once he registers the car — and you will no longer be held responsible for his actions. To protect your interest in the car, make certain you’re listed as the lienholder on the car’s title and auto insurance policy.  That way you’ll be notified if he tries to sell the car or drop car insurance.

  1. You’re delivering pizzas with your personal vehicle

Most personal auto insurance policies exclude coverage if you use the vehicle to deliver items, whether it’s pizza, newspapers, packages or medical supplies. Insurance companies see unsavory risk in delivery drivers because they are constantly on the road.

If you want to be paid to deliver items, you should change to a business-use or commercial car insurance policy. If you don’t and you get caught driving for deliveries, you’re on your own to compensate others for damages they sustained — and the damages to your own vehicle.

  1. You let an “excluded driver” drive your car.

Big mistake. When you put a named-driver exclusion on your policy it meant that the person listed is not covered under any circumstances and shouldn’t be driving your car.

So if that person gets behind the wheel of your car, even in an emergency, and causes an accident, you and the driver will be the ones to pay for any resulting injuries or property damage.

Hide your keys from any excluded driver in order to lower your risk of financial disaster.

  1. You bought a new car weeks ago and haven’t told your insurer.

If you traded in a vehicle, then your car insurance policy likely extends the same exact coverage to your new car for a limited time. This means if you bought only liability on your old car, your new car would only have liability coverage.

The deadline for informing your insurer about the new car varies by insurer, but is typically 14 to 30 days.

Don’t bet on having automatic coverage, either; some car insurance companies don’t give you any.

And if you’re adding a car rather than replacing one, you should buy coverage for it before driving it off the lot.

If you’re outside the insurer’s automatic coverage period, or there is no extended coverage on your new car, and you’re in an accident, your insurance company won’t help you. You’ll be paying out-of-pocket for damages you do to your own car or others.

  1. You haven’t told your insurance company that your live-in girlfriend drives your car.

Insurance companies hate it when you “forget” to tell them about a driver who lives with you or regularly uses your car. Insurers can’t charge you correctly if they don’t know about all licensed household members, including a girlfriend or spouse.

If you recently got married or moved in with someone, let the insurance company know immediately and have the person added to your policy as a driver. If you fail to do so, don’t be surprised if claims are denied if they cause an accident, or if you’re asked to pay back premiums based on the additional driver.

If your car insurance company believes you were intentionally hiding the driver – say your girlfriend has a bad driving record — then it may say you committed fraud by means of misrepresentation. This means your car insurance company can cancel your policy.

 

 

 

 

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So you’ve had an accident and your insurance company wants to “total” your car, motorcycle or truck.  What does that mean and what should you be aware of?

If your car is totaled and you have comprehensive and/or collision coverage, an insurer will pay you the full market value of your car or the limit of the policy, less your deductible if you are at fault. Cars typically are totaled when the cost of repairs approaches 65 percent of the car’s market value. The damage threshold varies by insurer, however, and may be established by state insurance regulators. To know for certain, you should contact your insurance company.

If you believe your totaled car is worth more than your adjuster thinks, you may be able to change his or her mind. Adjusters are experts at analyzing the used-car market to determine what your damaged car was worth before the accident. However, in some cases vehicles may be more valuable because they were kept in exceptionally good condition.

In such cases, you should be prepared to show your maintenance records and explain the steps you have taken to keep the car in top shape, says Robert Hunter, insurance director of the Consumer Federation of America.

“You can say ‘Look, it has been garaged, here are my service records, it is not an average car,'” he says.

Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California, says cars that have been customized may be more valuable than vehicles that have not been upgraded.

However, modified engines and other special features may not count if you failed to tell your insurer about them before the vehicle was damaged. If they weren’t written into your policy, the insurer is under no obligation to consider their added value, he explains.

“If you soup up the engine and put on different exhausts, if you put in a really expensive radio, you need to let your insurer know,” he says.

When you hire an accident and injury attorney, routinely these negotiations will be handled by them, at least they are in my firm.

Be safe out there friends!

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National Dog Bite Prevention Week® takes place during the third full week of May each year, and focuses on educating people about preventing dog bites. The dates in 2016 are May 15-21.

With an estimated population of 70 million dogs living in U.S. households, millions of people – most of them children – are bitten by dogs every year. The majority of these bites, if not all, are preventable.

  • Prevent The Bite reports that according to the Center for Disease Control, dog bites were the 11th leading cause of nonfatal injury to children ages 1-4, 9th for ages 5-9 and 10th for ages 10-14 from 2003-2012.
  • The Insurance Information Institute estimates that in 2013, insurers across the country paid over $483 million in dog bite claims.
  • The American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery reports that according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 26,935 reconstructive procedures were performed in 2013 to repair injuries caused by dog bites.
  • The U.S. Postal Service reports that 5,581 postal employees were attacked by dogs in 2013. Children, elderly, and postal carriers are the most frequent victims of dog bites.
  • The American Humane Association reports that 66% of bites among children occur to the head and neck.

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Getting insurance on your car seems to become more complicated every year.  Just how do they decide what rates to charge you or what can you do to get a lower rate?  In which company are you really in “Good Hands”?  Let’s start with some of the common myths out there, as provided by the Insurance Information Institute:

Myth 1 – Color determines the price of auto insurance

It doesn’t matter if your car is red, green or purple. What does matter is the type of car you select. Before you buy a new or used car, check into insurance costs. Auto insurance premiums are based on make, model, body type, engine size, the age of the vehicle and the age, driving record and credit history of the driver. Premiums are also based, in part, on the car’s sticker price, the cost to repair it, its overall safety record, and the likelihood of theft. Many insurers offer discounts for features that reduce the risk of injuries or theft. These include daytime running lights and anti-theft devices.

 

For years there has been a notion that color plays a significant part in calculating insurance premium costs, many people believing that red cars cost more to insure because they are linked to aggressive driving or speeding. The fact is, insurers have no interest in the color of a car, but they are interested in knowing if you have had any previous car accidents, the number of miles you drive annually and where you live.

Myth 2 – It costs more to insure your car when you get older

Quite the opposite—many drivers over 55 years of age can, in fact, qualify for a reduction in auto insurance rates, typically for three years, if they have successfully completed an accident prevention course. Insurance companies will usually provide up to a 10 percent discount on car insurance, but check with your provider before you sign on. Mature driving courses are available through local and state agencies as well as through the AAA and AARP. You can also check with your insurance agent to find out which defensive driving courses are approved by your insurer. If you are retired or are not employed full time, you may also be eligible for a discount of up to 5 percent off your car insurance. Age requirements for this type of discount vary by state and insurance carrier.

Myth 3 – Your credit has no effect on your insurance rate

Your credit-based insurance score does matter. An insurance score is a measure of how well you manage your financial affairs, not your financial assets. Many insurance companies take your insurance score into consideration when you want to purchase, change or renew your auto insurance coverage. Because the majority of people have good credit, and insurance scores are derived from a person’s credit history, most people pay less for insurance when insurance scores are entered into the pricing equation.

Myth 4 –Your insurance will cover you if your car is stolen, vandalized or damaged by falling tree limbs, hail, flood or fire

Comprehensive and collision coverage are optional coverages. Lenders frequently require drivers to buy comprehensive and collision coverage as a condition of a car loan agreement. Those driving older cars sometimes drop these coverages as a way of saving money. If a car is worth less than $1,000 or less than 10 times the insurance premium, purchasing the optional coverages may not be cost effective. But bear in mind that you need to purchase both collision and comprehensive coverage in order to fully protect your vehicle from all types of damage.

Myth 5 –You only need the minimum amount of auto liability insurance required by law

Almost every state requires you to buy a minimum amount of auto liability coverage. Chances are that you will need more liability insurance than the state requires because accidents often cost more than the minimum limits. In today’s litigious society, buying only the minimum amount of liability means you are likely to pay more out-of-pocket for losses incurred after an accident—and those costs may be steep. The insurance industry and consumer groups generally recommend a minimum of $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident.

Myth 6 – If other people drive your car, their auto insurance will cover them in the event of an accident

In most states, the auto insurance policy covering the vehicle is considered the primary insurance, which means that the owner’s insurance company must pay for damages caused by an accident. Policies and laws differ by state, and you should be familiar with these differences when allowing another person to drive your car.

Myth 7 –Soldiers pay more for insurance than civilians

If you are in the military—regardless of which branch—you actually qualify for a discount on auto insurance. In some situations, you might be able to have your commanding officer make a phone call on your behalf, but for most auto insurance companies, you will need to supply documentation that lists your name, rank and the time that you will be enlisted in the service. This allows insurance companies to determine how long you will be eligible to receive a military discount. Many auto insurance companies provide discounts for former members of the military as well as their families.

Myth 8 –Personal auto insurance covers both personal and business use of your car

If you are self-employed and use your vehicle for business purposes, personal auto insurance may not protect you. While auto insurance geared for businesses can be costlier than a personal policy, one of the best ways to keep your auto rates down is by having a good driving record. If there are others, such as employees, using your car make sure they also have good driving records. Check the records of your employee drivers at least twice a year to ensure they maintain a clean driving record.

 

 

Hope this clears up some common ideas and helps you to save some money!

Be safe out there friends!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentattorney,

Marianne

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Many drivers don’t think about their insurance coverage until after they have an accident and call their insurance company to file a claim to help pay for car repairs, a rental car and other expenses.

Unfortunately, many insured drivers are surprised to find out that their auto insurance does not automatically cover the cost of a replacement rental car after an accident. Since the average car is in the repair shop for two weeks after an accident, it can cost as much as $500 to rent a replacement car. But, some insured drivers pay little or nothing to rent a car because of an inexpensive but often overlooked option known as rental reimbursement.

Rental reimbursement coverage is available for only $1 or $2 a month with almost every auto insurance policy, but it is bypassed frequently by those who believe they will not have a car accident or those shopping only for the lowest cost premium. The cost of a rental replacement car adds up fast, so even if you don’t have an accident for eight or nine years, the coverage pays for itself when you need it most.

Sometimes working out the details of a claim with the auto insurance company can take time. Even if the accident is the other driver’s fault, you may have to wait several days or longer to get the other insurance company to agree to pay for a rental car. With your own coverage, there is no waiting.

A great resource for your information questions can be found here: http://www.iii.org/insurance-topics/auto-insurance or you can always contact me at (352)512-0444 or www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com  if you’ve been injured in an accident and just need some answers.

Be safe out there friends!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

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So you’re ready to “head out on the highway, looking for adventure” (showing my age there!) this summer?  Independent women are more and more finding themselves traveling our country’s roads alone for pleasure.  While it is wildly thrilling to be the only one in the car, singing along to your personal playlist, and stopping only when you want, where you want, I want to make sure you stay safe out there my friend!  Below are my Top 10 Safety Tips for Single Women on Road Trips.

  1. Take your car to the auto shop first—Before starting out on any road trip, always take your car in for service. Make sure your car is “road ready,” and that your oil is changed, tires are in good shape, antifreeze and the heater all working and there is not a lot of junk in your trunk (stop snickering). Start out fresh and clean!
  2. Always let someone know where you are—Though you may enjoy the freedom of feeling “lost” on the highway, it’s always best to check in with a family member or friend so someone always knows where to find you.  Texting is a quick and easy way to share your whereabouts, just not while you are driving. Sending a selfie of you in front of significant landmark signs can be fun, too.
  3. Notify credit card companies—Some credit card companies will block your card if they see “suspicious” activity like continuous gas charges. Inform companies that you will be traveling so they do not cut off your credit and leave you stranded without easy access to money. This happened to me!
  4. Keep cell phone charged—Before you start out on the road each day, charge your cell phone so it is ready for use in case of emergencies. You can also buy a portable battery to extend the phone’s life in case there is not a charger handy or use a car charger.
  5. Listen to weather reports—Be aware of the weather conditions where you are traveling and prepare accordingly. Many times, I have had to pull off to the side of a road and wait for a storm to pass. Be safe and be prepared.
  6. Always have maps and know how to read them—GPS systems may not always be reliable; carry current road atlases with you and know how to read them as a backup resource. Trace out alternative routes. Always have a Plan B route figured out in case your original highway choices are closed or backed up with traffic.
  7. Stop at places that are busy and well-lit—Look for locations that have other people around. Do not stop at deserted, dark places. It’s always a good idea to look like you know where you are and where you are going. If you have to ask for directions, casually ask employees at the establishment instead of random strangers. Be careful of walking and using your phone, these unaware moments can sometimes present opportunities for crime.
  8. Don’t stop for someone stranded on the side of the road—Though you may feel compelled to assist someone in trouble, if you’re alone, don’t stop unless you are sure it’s safe. It’s always a good idea to get to a safe place first and then call for help for the stranded driver, dialing 911 is helping out enough.
  9. Should your car break down, keep windows rolled up and do not open the door to strangers who stop to “assist” you. Make sure you have a current roadside assistance plan and contact them to come out to help you. Ask to see their ID for the service before getting out of the car when they arrive.
  10. And last, but certainly not least, do not pick up strangers—Do not offer rides or agree to share a room with anyone you don’t know. Though you may think the person you are helping is harmless, you can never fully know someone’s true intentions after just a few minutes of conversation. It’s hard to get rid of someone later, so don’t get into this situation by picking them up in the first place.

Hope this was helpful.  Now, go hit the road and have some fun adventure time!

YOUR #ocalaaccidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com

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The more information your attorney has about your case, the more quickly and completely you can be compensated for your medical expenses and pain and suffering. Documenting accidents, site situations, and road conditions has proven priceless in dealing with and settling claims.  It has often changed the outcome of resulting lawsuits and helped establish just settlements.

To ensure a complete, speedy resolution to your case, make sure your lawyer has all the information and documentation he needs to pursue a settlement. If the accident happened a while ago that information may include:

  • Your vehicle, insurance, and driver’s license information.
  • Details of the accident, including:
    • Date, time, location.
    • Weather and traffic conditions.
    • Information about other vehicles, drivers and passengers.
    • Names and contact information for witnesses and copies of any accident or incident reports filed.
    • Any pictures you have taken at the scene. Sometimes the law enforcement officer takes pictures, make sure to get copies of those, also.
  • Copies of traffic tickets writtenat the scene and information about any charges brought against drivers involved, including DUI charges.
  • Physician reportand medical records related to the accident.
  • X-rays and test results related to injuriesfrom the accident.
  • Information about pre-existing conditionsor injuries that may have been exacerbated by the accident.
  • Record of expensesfor ongoing medications, treatment, and therapies.
  • Any other expenses incurred because of the accident, including transportation costs.
  • Documentation of days, hours and wages lostbecause of the accident.
  • Copies of all correspondencewith insurance companies related to the accident.

It is always helpful to keep a personal injury diary to note appointments, expenses, contacts with the insurance company and your general feelings and medical condition following the accident. Also, keep track of your medical mileage for re-imbursement.

Keep your attorney up to date and let them know about new doctor visits, Radiology visits or surgeries that you have scheduled.  An email to paralegal is usually sufficient so they can get updated records.

Stay safe out there friends!

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When you or your loved one suffer an injury as the result of somebody else’s action, perhaps it seems natural that the person would offer to compensate you for your injury, or that their insurance company will do the right thing and offer a fair settlement. Unfortunately, that rarely happens. Many people will not take responsibility for their actions, and insurance companies profit from undercompensating injury victims. Insurance companies and their lawyers also know the governing law backwards and forwards, and they know that most non-lawyers have no idea what legal rights and remedies they possess.

An experienced personal injury lawyer knows how to build your case, how to negotiate your case with an insurance company, and, if necessary, how to take your case to trial. While it is possible to negotiate your claim with an insurance company yourself, insurance companies will typically do everything they can to take advantage of you and to effect the lowest possible settlement, while attempting to elicit statements from you that will damage your position if you ultimately decide to sue.

A lawyer is in a good position to help you obtain a favorable settlement that, even with the attorney fee deducted, significantly exceeds what you can obtain on your own.

One of the best ways to find a personal injury lawyer is to consult an attorney you trust. If you do not know any attorneys, ask your friends for names of attorneys they trust. It is not important that they give you the name of a lawyer who can handle your case – what is important is that the attorney is likely to comprehend the issues of your case, and is well-positioned to know which attorneys in your community have the skills to handle your case. Even if the attorney cannot personally take your case, he will often be able to refer you to a lawyer who can.

Please note that, when it comes to hiring a personal injury lawyer, many of the best personal injury attorneys do little or no advertising. They get their cases through “referrals” from other attorneys, due to their reputations for doing good work and getting good results.

Hiring a personal injury lawyer is a big step, and there is nothing wrong with consulting several lawyers to find one who makes you comfortable. Here at Marianne Howanitz, PA, we want you to do what you really need to do…relax, recover and let us take care of the rest.

Stay safe and informed out there friends!

YOUR Accident and Injury Attorney,

Marianne Howanitz

 

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It’s hard to know what to say to someone who’s lost a family member in an accident.  The truth is, and it hurts in the worst way, is that the mourner will be alone in their grief.

 After much research to learn how to be there for my clients I like what Christy Heitger-Ewing says in the article she wrote for the Huffington Post, which I am posting below:

  1. “I feel your pain.”

This is not the same thing as, “I know how you feel,” which is a statement I would avoid uttering because even if you’ve shared a similar circumstance, everyone’s journey is uniquely their own. The words, “I feel your pain,” however, is an expression of empathy.

In the book Grieving the Loss of Someone You Love: Daily Meditations to Help You Through the Grieving Process, authors Raymond R. Mitsch and Lynn Brookside maintain that the words “I feel your pain” are the four most helpful words that can be uttered to a grieving person.

“No other single sentence does more to break down walls of isolation formed by deep sorrow and regret,” write Mitsch and Brookside. “When those words are merged with a touch or an embrace, they mend the heart and lift up downcast eyes. They tell the griever that he is not alone in his grief.”

  1. “How about a hug?”

I get that not everyone is touchy-feeling, but for me, at least, when I was newly grieving, I felt starved for hugs. I wanted to hug the UPS man who came to my door. I wanted to hug my spin instructor after class. I wanted to hug my neighbor and her little dog, too. It was almost as if I was a china doll that had been broken into pieces, and every hug offered a smidge of glue to help piece me back together.

Two weeks after my mom died, my son had an overnight field trip to the zoo. My husband was one of the chaperones. I packed them up and waved goodbye. As they pulled out of the driveway, an intense sense of loneliness settled into my soul. I remember going through my phone contacts and calling neighbors until one of them answered.

“Can you come over and give me a hug?” I asked.

I probably sounded pitiful, but that’s what I needed right then and there. A hug wasn’t going to take away all my pain, but it helped get me through that difficult moment.

  1. “I’m sorry for your loss.”

It’s direct. It’s honest. It gets to the point. It shows you care. And as Patti Fitzpatrick, a grief support facilitator and bereavement minister, notes, “Two simple but extremely helpful and healing solutions that anyone can do is to 1) show up, and 2) say, “I’m sorry for your loss. Period.”

  1. “I’m here for you.”

Truth be told, grief makes a lot of people uncomfortable. It’s hard to see someone you care about torn up emotionally. It’s natural to want to fix them, but that’s just not possible. Therefore, the most helpful thing you can do for someone who is hurting is to offer to just be there for them in whatever capacity they need.

Ben Keckler, the minister who runs my grief support group, explained this notion beautifully when he said, “When you’re grieving, you don’t want to be around people who will see through you. You want to be around people who will see you through.”

  1. “I’ll bring you some lasagna next Tuesday.”

This is just an example. Offering to do something specific is an alternative to the usual phrase that folks utter: “Let me know if you need anything.” People make this kind of open-ended gesture because they want to help and are not sure what the griever may need. But for those who are newly grieving, the truth is that they often don’t know what they need, either — and/or they don’t have the energy to figure it out and then call you to request it.

That’s why it’s better to just make a specific offer like, “I’m headed to the grocery. I can bring you some milk and bread if you’d like.”

  1. “Would you like to talk about your loved one?”

It’s natural to worry that if you bring up the subject of the person who died, you’ll make the griever sad. Actually, the opposite is true. When a person loses someone super close to them, after the death they will continue to think about their loved one constantly. After several months have passed, the griever is astounded by how rarely people mention the person who died. It’s heartbreaking, really. So when you bring up a memory or share a story about the person who passed away, it lets the griever know that others remember their loved one, too, and that’s really comforting news.

  1. Ask, “How are you doing?” Then listen — really listen — for the true answer.

When you make it clear that you’re asking for a real and honest answer and not just expecting the trite response of, “Oh, I’m fine,” that promotes healing. Keckler says that “fine” can be an acronym for “Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional.” That’s certainly an apt description for those who are newly grieving because their feelings truly are all over the map. Sorting through them can be difficult, which is why it’s nice to have people in their life with which they can share their genuine feelings.

A few months into my grief, I remember telling my husband that I had figured out who my “safe” people were. Through conversations and interactions, I could tell which of my friends were okay with my being my authentic self and which were not. The “safe” ones checked in with me regularly. They sat with me and let me cry. They didn’t mind when I called them sobbing so hard that they could barely discern a word I was saying. They let me share openly, and that’s what I needed.

  1. Say nothing.

Just so we’re clear, I’m not suggesting that you avoid the grieving person or that when you talk to them you should pretend that you don’t know their loved one has died. That behavior would be hugely hurtful. I’m suggesting that you not be afraid to close your mouth and open your heart. Hold their hand. Offer them a tissue. Make a pot of coffee. Ask if they’d like to go for a walk. Whatever you do, let them lead the conversation. Often the biggest gift you can give a grieving person is permission to speak freely.

Mitsch and Brookside write, “So many of us are taught not to talk about our wounds. We absorb the message, spoken or tacit, that ‘talking doesn’t help,’ ‘weeping doesn’t change things,’ ‘talking about it will just make you sad.’ None of those statements is true. Talking about our sorrow does not increase our sorrow; it purges our sorrow.”

“The truth is that they often don’t know what they need, either — and/or they don’t have the energy to figure it out” really struck a chord with me because so many of my clients are unable to deal with the sudden loss alone the issues that come from what needs to be done after the accident.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  As a friend you can do more than just offer your condolences….you can be there to look out for their best interests….something they are NOT thinking of at that time. 

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grief
You can offer my services in their time of need. I will meet with them in their home and discretely and compassionately discuss their needs. If they retain my services, they can then do what they really need to do….relax, recover and let me take care of the rest.  I’m on it!

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A release from the US Department of State and the Board of Diplomatic Security in 2002 will help keep you safe on the road from becoming a victim of one of the most prevalent crimes in many parts of the world. Most carjackings occur for the sole purpose of taking the car; it is a crime without a political agenda and does not specifically target Americans.

You can protect yourself by becoming familiar with the methods, ruses, and locations commonly used by carjackers.

AVOIDANCE

The first step to avoiding an attack is to stay alert at all times and be aware of your environment. The most likely places for a carjacking are:

  • High crime areas
  • Lesser traveled roads (rural areas)
  • Intersections where you must stop
  • Isolated areas in parking lots
  • Residential driveways and gates
  • Traffic jams or congested areas

Learn to avoid these areas and situations if possible. If not, take steps to prevent an attack.

In traffic, look around for possible avenues of escape. Keep some distance between you and the vehicle in front so you can maneuver easily if necessary–about one-half of your vehicle’s length. (You should always be able to see the rear tires of the vehicle in front of you.)

When stopped, use your rear and side view mirrors to stay aware of your surroundings. Also keep your doors locked and windows up. This increases your safety and makes it more difficult for an attacker to surprise you.

Accidents are one ruse used by attackers to control a victim. Following are common attack plans:

The Bump—The attacker bumps the victim’s vehicle from behind. The victim gets out to assess the damage and exchange information. The victim’s vehicle is taken.

Good Samaritan—The attacker(s) stage what appears to be an accident. They may simulate an injury. The victim stops to assist, and the vehicle is taken.

The Ruse—The vehicle behind the victim flashes its lights or the driver waves to get the victim’s attention. The attacker tries to indicate that there is a problem with the victim’s car. The victim pulls over and the vehicle is taken.

The Trap—Carjackers use surveillance to follow the victim home. When the victim pulls into his or her driveway waiting for the gate to open, the attacker pulls up behind and blocks the victim’s car.

If you are bumped from behind or if someone tries to alert you to a problem with your vehicle, pull over only when you reach a safe public place.

If you are driving into a gated community, call ahead to have the gate opened. Otherwise wait on the street until the gate is open before turning in and possibly getting trapped.

Think before stopping to assist in an accident. It may be safer to call and report the location, number of cars involved, and any injuries you observed.

You can avoid becoming a victim. Ruses and methods, as well as the types of cars most often targeted, differ from country to country. Talk with the regional security officer (RSO) at your post about local scams and accident procedures.

In all cases keep your cell phone or radio with you and immediately alert someone regarding your situation.

DURING A CARJACKING

In most carjacking situations, the attackers are interested only in the vehicle. Try to stay calm. Do not stare at the attacker as this may seem aggressive and cause them to harm you.

There are two options during an attack–nonresistive, nonconfrontational behavior and resistive or confrontational behavior. Your reaction should be based on certain factors:

  • Type of attack
  • Environment (isolated or public)
  • Mental state of attacker (reasonable or nervous)
  • Number of attackers
  • Weapons
  • Whether children are present

In the nonconfrontational situation, you would:

  • give up the vehicle freely.
  • listen carefully to all directions.
  • make no quick or sudden movements that the attacker could construe as a counter attack.
  • always keeps your hands in plain view. Tell the attacker of every move in advance.
  • make the attacker aware if children are present. The attacker may be focused only on the driver and not know children are in the car.

In a resistive or confrontational response, you would make a decision to escape or attack the carjacker. Before doing so, consider:

  • the mental state of the attacker.
  • possible avenues of escape.
  • the number of attackers; there is usually more than one.
  • the use of weapons. (Weapons are used in the majority of carjacking situations.)

In most instances, it is probably safest to give up your vehicle.

AFTER THE ATTACK

Safety
Always carry a cell phone or radio on your person.

If you are in a populated area, immediately go to a safe place. After an attack or an attempted attack, you might not be focused on your safety. Get to a safe place before contacting someone to report the incident.

Reporting the Crime
Describe the event. What time of day did it occur? Where did it happen? How did it happen? Who was involved?

Describe the attacker(s). Without staring, try to note height, weight, scars or other marks, hair and eye color, the presence of facial hair, build (slender, large), and complexion (dark, fair).

Describe the attacker’s vehicle. If possible get the vehicle license number, color, make, model, and year, as well as any marks (scratches, dents, damage) and personal decorations (stickers, colored wheels).

The golden rule for descriptions is to give only that information you absolutely remember. If you are not sure, don’t guess!

CONCLUSION

Avoidance is the best way to prevent an attack. Use your judgment to evaluate the situation and possible reactions. Know safe areas to go to in an emergency. Always carry your cell phone or radio.

Non-confrontation is often the best response. The objective is not to thwart the criminal but to survive!

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