Halloween is just around the corner and everyone’s in the mood for scary movies. Remember the movie Christine? Pretty scary for the time, right? Well, this is not about that kind of phantom vehicle, sorry. This is about another scary kind of vehicle-the Phantom Vehicle. (Cue evil laugh)
A phantom vehicle is one that causes injury, death or damage either with or without making physical contact. For example, if a vehicle runs you off the road and causes you to crash, they are considered a phantom vehicle. The name refers to the fact that in most such cases, the driver of the phantom vehicle, much like a hit and run driver, leaves the scene, and thus in the subsequent accident investigation, the identity of the phantom vehicle is unknown. Only eye witness testimony, surveillance video or dash cam recordings may assist in identifying the phantom vehicle. It is also critical to get the name and address of any witnesses who saw the phantom vehicle as they can help you establish your claim.
Most Uninsured Motorist insurance policies will provide coverage to customers who have been injured as a result of a negligent phantom vehicle. However, many of those policies put restrictions on how phantom vehicle claims can be pursued. For example, some policies require that a phantom vehicle accident be reported to the insurance company within 24 hours of the crash. Meanwhile, other policies attempt to require that some physical impact between the vehicles occurred.
Phantom vehicle claims can be really tricky, so a wise consumer might want to consult an experienced Florida accident attorney. I have handled many such cases and would be honored to help you, too.
In the last week, I have received calls from three different people who have been involved in accidents with uninsured motorists. This means that I cannot help them recover all their medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering. I feel so badly for them and wanted to let you all know what you could do to help protect yourself.
Did you know that approximately 1 in 4 drivers in Florida are not insured? And nationally, the rate is about 1 in 7. A partial answer to this horrifying statistic is that I would highly recommend everyone carry Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage. It is relatively cheap to purchase when renewing your auto insurance and a real-life saver should you be involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage is basically what the name suggests, a driver and vehicle without an auto insurance policy. But, what does it mean to be underinsured? Let’s say you’re involved in a crash in which the other driver is at fault. You find out the other driver only has $10,000 in bodily injury liability coverage and that amount is not enough to cover your medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. In this case, the other driver would be considered under-insured—meaning that they have an auto policy but it’s not enough to cover all of your damages.
This is something you’ll need to think about, as the limits for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage can range from $10,000 to over $1 million. Some people choose a limit equal to their bodily injury liability limit, but that’s not always a requirement. For help deciding, you may want to consider a number of factors, including what kind of health insurance you have and whether you have access to short- and long-term disability through your employer to ensure you don’t lose out on wages if you’re too injured to work.
What does uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage typically cover? With this added coverage, your insurance company basically steps into the shoes of the at-fault driver, therefore, it covers the same damages as bodily injury liability insurance: past and future medical expenses, past and future lost wages and, if you are permanently injured, past and future non-economic damages like pain, suffering, scarring, disfigurement and loss of the ability to enjoy life.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage provides coverage to the driver and all passengers in the insured vehicle. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage also follows the insured. For example, if you are a passenger in your friend’s car and an uninsured/underinsured motorist injures you when he crashes into your friend’s car, your policy will cover your damages not covered by the at-fault driver to the limits of your own underinsured/underinsured motorist policy.
Should you be involved in an accident, be sure to get medical help immediately and if you have questions about the accident, please give me a call for a free consultation. We are available 24/7 to help you.
A black box. Also known as event data recorder it is traditionally associated with airplane accidents because it helps the investigators to determine what went wrong. But the technology is no longer limited to aircrafts. In fact, you most likely have a black box beneath your seat or behind the dashboard in your car. Almost all new cars are already equipped with one of these small devices and if you drive a car that is not older from 5 years, you most likely have one yourself. If you are not sure whether your car is equipped with a car black box or not, you can check the owner manual. The data from the car black box is a reliable record of the driver’s actions few seconds before the accident and is an important piece of evidence when there are no witnesses of the accident or/and the drivers are blaming each other for causing the collision. It records various data depending from one car to another, most often the speed, turning, braking, accelerating, decelerating, etc. about five seconds before the collision. However, those five seconds are usually enough to get the necessary information about the events that led to the accident. Even more, the data from the car black box has been also used as evidence in the courts and had a major influence on the outcome of the trial.
It is vitally important to contact an experienced Personal Injury Attorney as soon as possible after your accident in order to preserve as much evidence as possible.
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:
CLUE Property Claims Report (i.e. for homeowner insurance claims)
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:
date of birth (partially edited out for security reasons)
Social Security Number (completely edited out for security reasons)
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
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:
when they pay a claim
when they set up a possible claim
when they formally deny a claim
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):
Once a year prior to policy renewals.
Whenever I go shopping for a new insurance plan.
Whenever I am in a car accident and make a claim.
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.
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.
When you are the victim of a hit and run accident, you likely feel angry and confused, and it can be unclear how to get compensation for your damages and injuries. However, there are steps you can take to create a smoother experience, should you be in this unfortunate situation.
Gather as much information as you can to help police and your car insurance company identify the other vehicle. Try to find and get contact information for any witnesses.
If you have uninsured motorist (UM) coverage and/or collision coverage, your provider may cover the damage in a hit and run and compensate you or any of your passengers for any injuries.
What Is a Hit and Run Accident?
A hit and run accident is any accident in which a driver intentionally leaves the scene without providing contact information.
Examples of hit and run accidents include:
A car hits you and speeds off.
A driver hits your unattended parked car and leaves no contact information or way of collecting damages.
What to Do After a Hit and Run Accident
While you’ll likely be feeling immense stress if you’re a victim of a hit and run, it will help to stay as calm as possible and gather as much information as you can.
Having more information:
Increases the chances that the police will catch the driver who hit you.
Helps your car insurance company make decisions about your claim.
First, get as much information as you can about the car that hit you, such as:
License plate number.
Finally, take the following steps before leaving the scene:
Write down the time and location of the accident.
Take pictures of the accident scene.
Take pictures of your car, especially if another car’s paint is visible on it. (This will help you prove that you are not attempting to defraud your insurance company.)
If the hit and run occurred when you wereaway from your parked car, jot down as much information as you can, such as:
Who Pays for Hit and Run Damage and Medical Care?
This depends on certain factors, including whether the fleeing driver was identified and what state you live in.
Payment for hit-and-run claims usually comes through your own car insurance. In most states, the coverages in question are uninsured motorist bodily injury and uninsured motorist property damage, which essentially act as the at-fault (in this case, hit-and-run) driver’s liability coverage. Uninsured motorist bodily injury helps pay for injuries caused by a hit-and-run accident, while uninsured motorist property damage covers damages to your car.
The good news is that these coverages are relatively affordable, and they offer significant financial protection from the uninsured (or hit-and-run-committing) drivers up to the limits you select.
Savage Stallion is not only a great name for a rock band, but a common cause of injury here in Horse Country. Recently we represented a woman who was bitten by a passing stallion on a local trail. Negligence on the part of the owner often plays a role in a dog bite or animal attack. Laws vary by county, so if you have been bitten or attacked, it’s important to seek legal advice right away. If there is an injury, seek immediate medical attention. It’s not always possible to know just by looking at the animal if it is sick, and you want to guard against the chance of infection and other disease from a bite or related injury. If you have been bitten by a dog or injured by a vicious animal, do not admit fault.
According to www.webmd.com, animal and human bites may cause puncture wounds, cuts, scrapes, or crushing injuries. Most animal and human bites cause minor injuries, and home treatment is usually all that is needed to care for the wound.
Most animal bites occur in school-age children. The face, hands, arms, and legs are the most common sites for animal bites. Since most bites occur in children, be sure to teach children to be careful around animals and that an animal could hurt them. Young children should always be supervised around animals.
Dog bites occur more than any other animal bite and are most frequent in the summer months. The dog is usually known to the person, and most injuries result from the dog being teased or bothered while eating or sleeping. Boys are bitten about twice as often as girls. The arms, head, and neck are the most likely areas to be bitten in children.
Cat bites usually cause deeper puncture wounds than dog bites and have a high risk of bacterial infection because they can be hard to clean adequately.
Exotic pet bites, such as from rats, mice, or gerbils, may carry illnesses, but rabies is not usually a concern. The bites from some pets, such as iguanas, are at risk for infection but do not carry other serious risks.
Livestock, such as horses, cows, and sheep, have powerful jaws and can cause crushing bite injuries. Infection, tetanus, and rabies are possible risks.
Wild animal bites may occur while hunting, camping, or hiking. Infection, tetanus, and rabies are possible risks.
Adult bites that cause a wound to the hand can be serious. A clenched fist striking another person in the mouth and teeth can cut or puncture the skin over the knuckles. This is commonly called a “fight bite.” Underlying tissues may be damaged, and an infection can develop.
Bites from children are:
Usually not very deep.
Not as forceful as adult bites.
Not too likely to become infected.
Not damaging to underlying tissue.
When you have a bite:
Stop the bleeding by applying direct pressure.
Determine if other tissues, such as blood vessels, nerves, tendons, ligaments, joints, bones, or internal organs, have been injured.
Determine if treatment by a doctor is needed.
Clean the wound to prevent bacterial infections, tetanus (“lockjaw”), and viral infections, such as herpes simplex virus and cytomegalovirus (CMV).
Determine the risk for rabies and the need for treatment to prevent the disease.
Determine if you need a tetanus shot.
Have you been the victim of a dog bite or animal attack as a result of someone else’s negligence? It is important that you contact legal counsel as soon as possible. The preservation of evidence needed to prove your claim is of utmost importance and may be lost or destroyed if not preserved immediately.
My office often gets calls from accident victims that felt fine immediately after the accident and by a week later are in some serious pain. Vehicle accident injuries can be late-appearing. Here’s how to protect your health and your legal rights.
Almost any car accident is a traumatic event. From catastrophic collisions to fender-benders, there is a lot of force involved when a vehicle hits (or is hit by) something. Often, when people are in a car accident that seems minor, they do not notice any injury symptoms right away. This happens for a variety of reasons. In this article, we’ll help you understand the importance of monitoring your injuries following a car accident — for your physical well-being and to protect your legal rights.
Shad Withers, writing in the legal blog Nolo.com, had some really good advice that I would like to pass on to my friends.
CAR ACCIDENTS ARE EXCITING
Not “exciting” in the fun sense, more from a physiological perspective.
Sometimes athletes get injured during a game, and they continue to play without noticing the injury until the game is over. That is because their bodies are generating adrenaline and endorphins. These two chemicals operate to super-charge our bodies and even block pain.
Most car accidents will create a similarly heightened level of excitement. Your body will generate adrenaline and endorphins, which means you feel increased energy and (possibly) a lack of pain. Just because you feel fine immediately following a car accident, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you are fine. Once the release of those chemicals subsides, the pain from any car accident injuries could start to set in.
SOFT TISSUE INJURIES AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
A soft tissue injury refers to damage done to parts of the body other than bone. Muscles, tendons, and ligaments are considered “soft tissue.”
Car accidents, even low-speed ones, generate a lot of force. Drivers and passengers often come to a sudden stop right along with the vehicle in a car accident; or they may get thrown around the passenger area. This places a lot of stress on joints and other vulnerable areas of the body.
Perhaps the most common — if not the most recognized — type of soft-tissue injury is “whiplash.” This refers to an injury to the neck muscles when the head is suddenly, and forcefully, thrown forward and then back.
Soft tissue injuries typically result in pain, swelling, and reduced mobility, but these symptoms may not show up immediately. They can take days, even weeks, to manifest. In addition, soft tissue injuries are not visible on an X-ray. This makes them more challenging to diagnose and document. Getting proper medical treatment is the key first step, at or even before the first sign of pain or discomfort (more on this below).
CONCUSSIONS AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
Your brain is well-protected by your skull and the fluid inside of it. However, if you strike your head, or your body is violently jolted, your brain may strike the inside of your skull with great force. If this happens during the course of a car accident, you may sustain a concussion.
Concussions can be very serious, and the symptoms do not often show up immediately. Sometimes the symptoms are obvious (such as disorientation or even loss of consciousness), but they can also be more subtle. Here is a list of concussion symptoms:
inability to concentrate
difficulty remembering new information
lack of energy, and
abnormal sleep patterns (sleeping more than usual or less than usual)
If you exhibit any of these signs following a car accident, you may have a concussion; and you should seek medical attention.
SEE A DOCTOR AFTER A CAR ACCIDENT
Following a car accident, you should see a doctor if you feel any level of pain and discomfort. It may even be a good idea to get checked out even if you feel fine. Your doctor will be in the best position to determine whether you sustained any serious injuries in the accident. Your doctor can also give you advice on monitoring symptoms of potential injuries, including the sorts of red flags to watch out for.
If you end up making any sort of injury claim after the accident, it’s crucial to be able to document the fact that you sought medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time. If you wait too long to see a doctor, the insurance adjuster is going to argue that you couldn’t have been all that injured.
DO NOT SETTLE RIGHT AWAY
Following a car accident, the other driver’s insurance company may contact you and try to get you to sign a release of any claims you might have. The insurance company may even offer you a sum of money to entice you to sign the release.
You should wait until you have been fully evaluated by a medical professional before signing anything the adjuster puts in front of you. You should also wait long enough to make sure all injuries from the car accident have fully manifested themselves. Your doctor can help you determine how long this needs to be. If you sign a release, and an injury shows up later, you cannot then go back to the insurance company and ask them to pay for your medical treatment. You waive your legal right to pursue that compensation when you sign the release.
What is GAP Insurance and why should I add this coverage to my automobile policy?
GAP insurance or “guaranteed auto protection” is a coverage that you may purchase for your already existing automobile insurance policy. This coverage will pay for the difference between your vehicle’s actual cash value and the amount that you still owe to the bank or finance company at the time of loss. Insurance companies will only pay what your vehicle is worth at the time of loss (actual cash value) and if the vehicle is depreciated they will deduct that amount. Therefore, you could end up paying for the difference of the amount you owe on your car loan and the car’s current estimated value. As a result, you may want to purchase GAP insurance in order to protect your investment.
Over the years I have had many clients who were injured in auto accidents in Florida and time and time again my clients assumed that their comprehensive and collision insurance will pay for their vehicle damage. These clients were surprised to find out that at the conclusion of the case they did not receive full compensation in their property damage because they did not purchase GAP insurance. So do your research and contact your insurance company and request a quote for GAP insurance coverage before you really need it!
So, how do motorcycle insurers come up with their rates, anyway?
Believe it or not, they base their premiums on sound statistical data that helps them determine the likelihood of you filing a claim (and costing them money). Insurance companies consider a number of factors, including:
Driving record (moving violations)
In general, those who are younger than 25, female, married, live in a rural location, don’t ride much, drive a safe but inexpensive bike, and have a clean driving history and great credit are treated to the best rates.
The numbers are even scarier for older riders, who are increasingly taking up or returning to motorcycling after many years. Because of slower reflexes, weaker eyesight, more brittle bones, and other disadvantages, riders over 60 years old are three times more likely to be hospitalized after a crash than younger ones.
Still, many enthusiasts enjoy a lifetime of riding without injury. The key to optimizing your odds is to be prepared and avoid risks. Keep in mind that 48 percent of fatalities in 2010 involved speeding, according to the IIHS, and alcohol was a factor in 42 percent. Eliminate those factors and you’ve dramatically reduced your risk and hopefully, your rates.
Ready to hit the road this summer? There’s nothing fun about driving next to an 18-wheeler. They’re big and they have a frightening tendency to drift in and out of your lane more often than you’d like. But sharing the road with a big rig need not be a nightmare — there are things you can do to make it easier on yourself and your friendly neighborhood truck driver.
Michael Taylor, transportation special programs developer for the Tractor Trailer Training Program at Triton College in River Grove, Ill., says the top five pet peeves truckers had with fellow motorists are:
1) Riding in a trucker’s blind spots. Trucks have large blind spots to the right and rear of the vehicle. Smaller blind spots exist on the right front corner and mid-left side of the truck. The worst thing a driver can do is chug along in the trucker’s blind spot, where he cannot be seen. If you’re going to pass a truck, do it and get it over with. Don’t sit alongside with the cruise control set 1 mph faster than the truck is traveling.
2) Cut-offs. Don’t try to sneak into a small gap in traffic ahead of a truck. Don’t get in front of a truck and then brake to make a turn. Trucks take as much as three times the distance to stop as the average passenger car, and you’re only risking your own life by cutting a truck off and then slowing down in front of it.
3) Impatience while reversing. Motorists need to understand that it takes time and concentration to back a 48-foot trailer up without hitting anything. Sometimes a truck driver needs to make several attempts to reverse into tight quarters. Keep your cool and let the trucker do her job.
4) Don’t play policeman. Don’t try to make a truck driver conform to a bureaucrat’s idea of what is right and wrong on the highway. As an example, Taylor cited the way truck drivers handle hilly terrain on the highway. A fully loaded truck slows way down going up a hill. On the way down the other side of the hill, a fully loaded truck gathers speed quickly. Truckers like to use that speed to help the truck up the next hill. Do not sit in the passing lane going the speed limit. Let the truck driver pass, and let the Highway Patrol worry about citing the trucker for breaking the law.
5) No assistance in lane changes or merges. It’s not easy to get a 22-foot tractor and 48-foot trailer into traffic easily. If a trucker has his turn signal blinking, leave room for the truck to merge or change lanes. Indicate your willingness to allow the truck in by flashing your lights.
By taking simple common-sense steps to protect yourself and your family when driving near large trucks, traffic fatalities will continue to drop. Over the years, the trucking industry has improved the quality of truck drivers by making it more difficult to qualify for and keep a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). Mandatory drug testing has also been instituted. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published the following data in 2008. The intoxication rate for drivers involved in fatal accidents was:
27% for motorcycle riders- 23% for light truck drivers (pickups and SUVs, that is)-23% for passenger car drivers-1% for truck drivers
Still, more work must be done to combat tightly scheduled deliveries, overbearing stacks of paperwork and driver fatigue caused by federal regulations that work against the human body’s natural circadian rhythm.
Should you, or someone you know be injured or killed in an accident with a big rig, make sure to contact an attorney that specializes in these types of accidents and make that call as soon as possible to preserve your rights.