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Did you know that one person is injured or killed in a truck accident every 16 minutes? 

The United States Department of Transportation estimates that over 500,000 truck accidents occur every year. More than 75% of truck driving accidents are due to the driver of the passenger vehicle.

Did you know that typically the injuries to the victims are severe and often fatal?

Large trucks account for only about 3% of auto accidents, yet because of their sheer size and weight, a semi-truck or 18-wheeler can cause incredible damage to the other vehicles involved and their passengers.

Do you know what to do if you are injured in an accident involving a commercial truck?

Seek medical help immediately, make sure everything is documented, make sure that law enforcement has responded to the accident and made a report.  Never take any calls from insurance companies without consulting with an attorney that specializes in trucking accident collisions first.  Often these accidents are the result of trucking safety or driving law violations. State and federal regulations often come into play in a truck collision. Truck accident cases can be complicated because the truck, trailer and contents can be owned by different companies and operated by yet other independent companies. For this reason, it’s imperative that you work with a Florida truck accident attorney who is skilled in this area of litigation.

Do you know what to do if someone loses their life in a trucking accident?

Once again, it is important that you speak with a skilled truck accident attorney.  There are many processes that the families of the deceased must go through and it can be very overwhelming given the grief and stress they are already enduring.  Having the right attorney and her staff helping them through the process can provide a lot of relief at that time.

Did you know that Marianne Howanitz is a nationally recognized truck accident attorney?

I am always available to answer any other questions or concerns you might have about a truck accident. And, as always, there is no charge to you at any time until or unless a settlement is reached.  You may reach me at 352-512-0444 or through my website: www.ocalaaccidentlaw.com.

Did you know this fun fact?

The world’s most solitary tree is located at an oasis in the Tenere Desert in Central Africa. There’s not one other standing tree within 31 miles. In 1960, it was smashed into by a truck.

As always, stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #truckaccidentattorney, Marianne

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Summer time and the driving is easy! Getting ready for a road trip this summer?  Check out these timely tips to keep you and your family safe on the road to paradise.

  1. Get your car serviced.

Regular maintenance such as tune-ups, oil changes, battery checks, and tire rotations go a long way toward preventing breakdowns. If your vehicle has not been serviced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, schedule a preventive maintenance checkup with your mechanic right away.

  1. Check your tires and replace your wiper blades.

Before a road trip, most people fill up the tank, gather snacks and make sure the kids are set up with movies and games. What about your tires? Even if not prompted by a warning light or unusual sounds, always double check your tires’ air pressure and tread depth before an extended trip, as healthy tires improve gas mileage and save money at the pump.

  1. Keep your eyes on the road.

One of the easiest ways to avoid accidents, wrong turns or other highway mishaps is to stay focused. Cell phones are most often responsible for distracted driving, one-third (33 percent) of Americans regularly take phone calls while on the road, and one in 10 drivers (11 percent) admit to texting while driving. To help put this risk into perspective, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports texting while driving on the highway is equivalent to driving blindfolded for the length of an entire football field.

  1. Observe speed limits – driving too fast or too slow can increase your chance of being in a collision.

That being said, also, never drive too fast for conditions or overdrive your headlights.

 

  1. Make frequent stops. During long trips, rotate drivers. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and get some rest.

Most experts agree that you shouldn’t drive more than 2 hours without stopping for a break.  Also, be aware of any medications that you may be taking, such as antihistamines, that may be impairing your ability to stay alert.

  1. Be respectful of other motorists and follow the rules of the road.

Leave plenty of room between yourself and other cars.  Be especially careful around semi-trucks, don’t cut in front of them too closely as they require much more room to slow down or stop than cars do.

  1. Who ya gonna call?

Even the most prepared and proactive drivers can end up on the side of the road because of unforeseen driving events. Whether it’s a flat tire, dead battery or overheated engine, have a backup plan for a roadside service such as AAA.

By following these quick tips and guidelines to safety, you can go full steam ahead to wherever your destination this summer may be! And should you or someone you know be injured in an accident, remember me-YOUR #accidentattorney.

Marianne Howanitz

 

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Last week I wrote about a young client of mine who developed an intense fear of driving or being a passenger in an automobile after she was involved in a rear end collision that injured her.  Many of you expressed a similar fear, so this week I researched to find some helpful tips to overcome, or at least alleviate, this common fear.

If you are someone that would like to overcome a driving fear, these tips from Jennifer Johnson may be very helpful. If you are the type of person who would rather run in the opposite direction in order to avoid driving or if you find yourself wobbling on jelly-legs whenever you try to open the driver’s door, it is possible that you are suffering from driving anxiety. Here are some tips on how you can cope with driving anxiety…

Relaxation Techniques

Deep breathing exercises are one of the most effective relaxation techniques for anxiety disorders.

Self-talking and positive affirmations are another relaxation technique that you can make use of while driving.  Tell yourself some words of encouragement such as “I can do this and I will be at my destination very soon and safely!”

Another self-talk technique is to tell yourself your reason for driving and outline the details or purpose for the trip.  The key here is to try to relax yourself by distracting your mind and keeping it away from any negative thoughts that will only exacerbate your feelings of anxiety.

Think of the good points for your purpose of driving. Are you excited about your arrival or the event coming up?

There are also self-help driving programs that have been helpful to many.

Observe Mindfulness While Driving

You need to observe ‘mindfulness’ all throughout the duration of your trip. Don’t allow your anxiety to make you lose focus whilst driving! Once you notice your hands starting to grip the steering wheel more tightly and your mind is telling you about impending accidents…stop your thoughts and get back to rule number one. Use relaxation techniques.

Choose A Driving Companion

People who are suffering from driving anxiety should carefully choose someone to keep them company while driving.  It should be someone whom you trust and someone who is very much aware of your anxiety and completely understands your condition.

This person must also be prepared to help you relax and stay calm.

Avoid those people who do not understand your anxiety or those who will only be causing you more stress and anxiety behind the wheel. Even if it is a husband or wife…if they are not supportive…do not drive…let them. Only drive with people who can help…not hinder. If you also hate being a passenger, say positive affirmations and deep breathe.

Know When To Take Driving Breaks

If you are experiencing driving anxiety, it is best to take several breaks behind the wheel. For example, you can take a break every 30 minutes of driving. You can either have someone else drive the car or you can look for a safe place to park for a few minutes.

You may increase the length of time for driving and shorten the time for your breaks once you notice yourself improving. If you are in a hurry, allow a trusted friend or someone else to do the driving for you.

Anxiety First Aid Kit

Another important thing that you must remember before you start driving is to check whether your anxiety first aid kit is complete.  Make sure that you have your bottle of water, cell phone with its charger and your relaxation CD inside the car.  It would also be best to have your own GPS so you can easily find your way back especially when you are driving to unfamiliar places.

Avoid Taking Anti-Anxiety Medications

Anti-anxiety medications may effectively relieve your anxiety. Unfortunately, most of these anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications cannot be taken while driving.  Taking these medications before or during driving is not recommended and will only increase your risk of accidents.

There are other tips too, such as progressive muscle relaxation for driving anxiety. There are self-help programs too and in my opinion these natural anxiety relief techniques are the best!

I sincerely hope this is helpful! Stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney Marianne Howanitz

 References

  1. http://www.theravive.com/blog/post/2011/09/25/Coping-With-Your-Driving-Anxieties.aspx
  2. http://www.calmclinic.com/anxiety/types/driving
  3. http://www.wikihow.com/Overcome-a-Driving-Phobia
  4. Anxiety relief techniques blog by Jennifer Johnson

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The most dangerous thing you do daily is get into a vehicle. Car accidents are a leading cause of death in the U.S., and the leading cause of death for teenagers in America. 32,675 people died in motor vehicle crashes in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and it is estimated that the numbers for 2015 will come in even higher. While you cannot control what other drivers do, you can minimize your risk of being in car accident by modifying your own behavior and always being alert to red flag behavior on the part of other drivers.

Red Flags to watch out for on the road would include:

  1. Tailgating
  2. Failing to indicate
  3. Hogging the middle lane
  4. Dangerous overtaking
  5. Hogging the outside lane
  6. Jumping traffic lights
  7. Undertaking
  8. Being slow away from traffic lights
  9. Hesitant braking
  10. Last-minute braking

And this doesn’t even take into count the drunk, distracted and new and old drivers on the roads!

Stay safe out there friends!

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clue-report-320x240

One of the best kept consumer secrets out there is the little-known CLUE report, which is made available to insurance companies on every single insurance consumer. I found this great information for my friends on the Blog 20somethingfinance.com by G.E. Miller. The CLUE report is the insurance-world equivalent of a credit report on insurance consumers and can have a profound impact on your personal property and auto insurance rates. However, despite its importance, only 1% of consumers said they were very familiar with the CLUE report and only 17% had ever heard of it. If you don’t know what a CLUE report is and how it can be used against you – I strongly recommend you read on.

Crusading for vulnerable consumers has become a deeply passionate pursuit of mine, so I decided to dig in to and find out answers to the following questions (and even ordered my own report in the process):

  • what is a CLUE report?
  • what information is reported?
  • when is information reported?
  • can your CLUE report be used against you to charge higher rates?
  • how far back do CLUE report claims and inquiries go?
  • when should you check your CLUE report?
  • how can you dispute any incorrect information?
  • how can you get a free CLUE report?

Hopefully you find this CLUE report overview helpful.

What is a CLUE Report?

CLUE is an acronym for the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange database, where insurers provide and obtain information regarding your insurance claims history. A CLUE report is a registered trademark of and generated by LexisNexis, an insurance consumer reporting agency (similar to credit reporting agencies like TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian, but for insurance instead).

There are actually 2 types of CLUE reports:

  1. CLUE Property Claims Report (i.e. for homeowner insurance claims)
  2. CLUE Auto Claims Report

The reports cover your personal property and personal auto claims history and are used by insurers to document your claims and inquiries and determine your risk profile, which impacts your insurance premiums.

What Information is Included in CLUE Reports?

The following information is contained in CLUE reports for each insurance consumer:

  • name
  • date of birth (partially edited out for security reasons)
  • Social Security Number (completely edited out for security reasons)
  • policy holder
  • policy number
  • gender
  • claim number
  • claim date
  • driver’s license, vehicle make and model, VIN# in the CLUE Auto Claims Report
  • description of the covered property and/or address of property in the CLUE Property Claims Report
  • type of claim
  • amount of claim
  • loss status
  • possible related claims
  • list or record of companies that have inquired about your loss history in the last two 2 years
  • your inquiry history (if submitted by insurer)

When Does an Insurer Contribute to a CLUE Report?

Insurers report to LexisNexis in the following scenarios:

  1. when they pay a claim
  2. when they set up a possible claim
  3. when they formally deny a claim
  4. when they receive an inquiry into a possible claim (not all submit this)

Inquiry history is key. If you call your insurer merely to inquire about damage and whether you should file a claim, a notation will get made. LexisNexis advises insurance companies not to report claims information when you contact them to simply ask a question about coverage or your deductible. However, they often do. This could come back to haunt you if someone asks you for a copy of your report later, you want to change policies, or have another claim later on.

Can your CLUE Report be Used Against you to Charge Higher Rates?

Unfortunately, yes. Insurers will typically request a CLUE report when you apply for new coverage or request a quote. The company will use your claim history and/or the history of claims at a specific property to decide if they will offer you coverage and how much in premiums you’ll pay for that coverage. Past claims are used as an indicator of future claims and to determine your risk profile. If you’ve had auto or personal property claims, you will typically pay more for future coverage.

Here are just a few of the ways your CLUE reports can be used against you:

  • Inaccurate information can be included in the report.
  • Fraudulent insurance claims made by others in your name may be included in your report.
  • Any recent claims against the property that you are purchasing can increase your rates on that property.
  • A report may use information other than claims data to rate you as a risk – even if the company doesn’t pay a claim. For example, a loss may fall below your deductible and the claim is denied or you are advised not to submit a claim. Even simple phone calls to inquire can be used against you.
  • Even when repairs are made and the property is restored to the original condition or you are not at fault in an accident, the CLUE report can include information about the claim.

All of this information in the report can affect the premiums you pay as well as whether you are insured at all if you are deemed to be a high enough risk. Scary, right?

How Far Back do CLUE Report Histories go?

Given the impact on insurance premium rates, one would naturally wonder how far back CLUE report claims and inquiries go. In other words, what is the historical lookback period for CLUE reports? CLUE reports typically contain up to seven years of claim history. According to LexisNexis,

“If you have not filed a claim against your auto or property insurance policy in the last 7 years, you will likely receive a clear report.”

When Should you Check your CLUE Report?

After researching CLUE reports in depth, here is when I plan to review mine (and others) for accuracy (note: you’re entitled to one of each report for free once per year):

  1. Once a year prior to policy renewals.
  2. Whenever I go shopping for a new insurance plan.
  3. Whenever I am in a car accident and make a claim.
  4. Whenever I look to purchase a new home, I will check my CLUE Property Claims Report and ask for a copy from the property owner of the property I am looking to purchase. In some states, sellers are legally required to disclose any damage or repairs – but that doesn’t mean they will. And getting a report from a third party to confirm is a smart move in case they are withholding information.
  5. Whenever I sell a home (if I have a good record to show, this can be a selling point).

How to Dispute your CLUE Report

CLUE report errors are possible can have a costly negative impact on your insurance rates. Errors can range from a simple error in data entry or information reported by insurer to fraudulent claims made in your name. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone’s mistake or fraudulent activities. Thankfully, there is a means to dispute incorrect information in your CLUE report. LexisNexis has the following to say about filing CLUE report disputes:

Upon receipt of your dispute, we have 30 days to conduct a reinvestigation of the information disputed and to record the current status of the information on your file or, in some instances, delete the information from your file. We will provide you with notice of the results of our reinvestigation no later than 5 business days after the completion of the reinvestigation. This notice will be provided to you by mail.

You can dispute by contacting LexisNexis by phone at 888-497-0011 or mail at LexisNexis Consumer Center, P.O. Box 105108, Atlanta, GA, 30348.

If the matter isn’t resolved to your satisfaction, you have the right to add a statement summarizing the nature of the dispute, which will appear in future CLUE reports. If you still don’t get results, you can contact your state insurance commissioner or file a complaint with the FTC.

 

How to Get a Free CLUE Report

Similar to how you can get one free credit report per year from each of the major credit bureaus (tip: you can also get free updated TransUnion and Equifax credit reports from Credit Karma any time) – you can click here to order your free CLUE report online, which is probably the easiest way to obtain your CLUE report.

You can also order by mail, or call LexisNexis toll free: 866-312-8076, Monday – Saturday, 24 hours/day, Sunday: 10:00 am to midnight EST. Ordering online is easiest.

You can get one free CLUE Property Claims Report and one free CLUE Auto Claims Report per year – and they can be ordered separately or together at the same time.

 

Teen driver in good mood with black car, selective focus on eyes
Teen driver in good mood with black car, selective focus on eyes

When a teenager gets a driver license, it signifies freedom and the lure of the open road. But with this newfound freedom comes a host of new situations and possible problems that most teen drivers have never encountered before. It’s a good idea to review these scenarios with new drivers in your family, and discuss how to handle them before they happen for real.

From traffic stops to road rage, here’s a primer on what you need to tell teen drivers as they take to the roads.

  1. What to do when you’re stopped by a police officer
    Safely pull to the side of the road, turn off your car, roll down the window and keep your hands visible. Don’t make any sudden moves or argue with the officer. Do your arguing in traffic court.

 

  1. How to deal with a flat tire
    Pull completely off the road, even if it means destroying the tire. Call roadside assistance and let that person change the tire. If you have a spare (many cars now only have an inflation kit) and know how to change the tire, make sure you are out of traffic and in plain sight of oncoming traffic before changing it yourself.

 

  1. What to do when the “check engine” light comes on
    If there is any change in the car’s performance, any mechanical noises, smoke from the tailpipe or electrical smells, stop the car and call for assistance. If there are none of these symptoms, take the car to a dealer and let them diagnose the problem. However, if you just bought gas, the light might just be indicating that the gas cap is loose. Tighten the cap and continue driving. The light should go off on its own.

 

  1. How to deal with a friend who is about to drive under the influence
    Don’t get in the car. Do anything not to drive with an intoxicated person, and that includes calling your parents for a lift or paying for a taxi. Your next move is to try to prevent your drunken friend from hurting themselves or someone else.

 

  1. What to do after an auto accident
    If the car is drivable and there are no serious injuries, turn on your flashers and pull safely out of traffic. Call the police to report the accident. Exchange insurance information with the other driver but refrain from discussing the accident and who is at fault. Make notes and use your cell phone’s camera to take pictures of the cars involved.

 

  1. How to drive in rain
    Reduce your speed and leave more room between your vehicle and those in front of you. Understand how to handle skids. Understand that a car might hydroplane on a rain puddle on the road and learn how to react to driving with reduced traction and visibility.

 

  1. How to avoid road rage situations
    Understand the severe consequences to you, your car and your driving record when minor disagreements escalate to life-threatening situations. When someone offends you, take a deep breath and know that your anger will dissolve in minutes. Don’t anger other drivers by cutting them off or tailgating. If you’ve inadvertently angered another driver, don’t get drawn into interacting with them. Ignore them or, if necessary, change your route. Finally, repeat this phrase: It’s just not worth it.

 

And lastly, but most important of all:

  1. How to drive safely

Distracted driving is fast becoming one of the country’s biggest health concerns.

As more and more drivers text while on the road, distracted driving crashes are steadily increasing year over year. In fact, the Center For Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 8 people are killed every day in the U.S. as a result of crashes involving a distracted driver.

However, distracted driving doesn’t just mean texting and driving. You can be distracted by one of many activities.

Distracted driving means driving while not fully paying attention to the road. Many people think of texting and driving or talking on the phone when driving; however, you can also be distracted by:

  • Reaching for your phone.
  • Changing the music.
  • Using an app.
  • Checking your GPS or map.
  • Taking a photo.
  • Checking email or posting to social media sites.
  • Eating and drinking.
  • Putting on makeup/grooming.

Even talking to a passenger in your car can be a distraction. You are distracted ANY TIME your mind and/or your eyes are off the road.

Even if it’s just for a brief text, the results can be deadly. Consider the following statistics:

  • When you send a text, you take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds. That’s the time it takes to drive the length of a football field going 55 MPH! (U.S. Department of Transportation).
  • At any moment during the daylight hours, about 660,000 drivers are handling cell phones or other electronic devices while driving in the U.S. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration).
  • You are 3 times more likely to get into an accident when distracted driving by manipulating a mobile device (Virginia Tech Transportation Institute).

 

While these are all great tips for new drivers, I hope everyone found something of value in it.  I know I will be downloading an app for my phone!