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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.

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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.

 

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20121213hitandrun1

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:
    • Make,
    • Model,
    • 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 were away from your parked car, jot down as much information as you can, such as:

  • Time,
  • Location,
  • Damage.

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.

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

Sources:  dmv.org and esurance.com

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The answer is yes. Even after a minor accident, a police officer can help you sort things out, and document what happened in case that becomes important in the future. As nice as the other driver might seem, their story may change and it will be difficult to prove without the backup of a police report, as recently happened to one of my clients. Having an accident report cuts down on the he said/she said at the get go.

A police officer’s presence at the scene — and any resulting police report — may be crucial to your claim. A trained police officer can be an invaluable source of help and information in such a confusing situation. A police officer can:

  • provide or call for emergency medical care (of course, if there are injuries, someone should call 911 as soon as possible, before calling the police)
  • protect the accident scene, and
  • investigate and document the cause of the accident.

In cases involving injuries, substantial damage to the vehicles, or significant motor vehicle law violations, the officer will write a police report of a car accident. Make sure to get the name and badge number of the officer and the police agency that the officer represents so you can get a copy of the accident report after it’s written. Also get the report number if it’s available.  There will probably be a small charge for the police report, but it’s worth it. The police accident report is a critical document which is relied upon fairly heavily by everyone involved in the claims process.

If You Have a Fender-Bender With No Injuries

Should you still call the police even if your accident is just a minor one? The answer is usually yes. Even after a minor accident, a police officer can help you sort things out, and document what happened in case that becomes important in the future. However, in many metropolitan areas, the police probably won’t come to the scene of your minor fender-bender. They will simply tell you to exchange information with the other driver. The police will not prepare a report in this situation.

If the Police Tells You to Just Exchange Information

If you do call the police, and they tell you to just exchange information with the other driver, what information should you exchange? At a minimum, make sure you get from the other driver(s) — and that the other driver(s) get from you — the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone numbers
  • Name of car insurance company
  • Policy number
  • Name, address and telephone number of insurance representative that you should contact about this accident.
  • License plate number (and state in which the car is registered)

Ask to see documents from which you can copy this information, such as a driver’s license and an insurance verification card. Why? Sometimes, drivers — such as those who don’t have insurance — will give false information if you don’t verify what they are telling you. If they won’t verify their information, call the police and insist that the driver stay until the police arrive.

If you are suspicious about the information you are getting, call the other driver’s insurance company from the scene of the accident to verify for yourself that the other driver has given you accurate information. But only verify coverage. Don’t give accident details to the other driver’s insurance company. Not yet. You’ll do that later, after you’re away from the scene of your accident and have calmed down.

If the Police Are On Their Way

If you call the police, and they do send an officer to the scene of your minor accident, they may give it a low priority. It could take up to one hour for an officer to arrive after you call the police. Wait for them. What should you do while you are waiting for them to arrive?

  • Assess the situation
  • Help anyone who is hurt
  • Protect the scene against further damage
  • Don’t make any agreements with the other driver at the scene
  • Document the scene with your cell phone or camera, and
  • Contact your own insurance company to notify them and see if they have anything they want you to do while there.

Once the police officer arrives, speak only with him or her about the specifics of your accident. Provide the information that the officer requests, but be careful what you say, even to the officer.

If you have any questions about what you should do, contact your local accident attorney for a free consultation.  My office is always happy to answer your questions!

Stay safe out there, friends!

 

 

 

Source:  http://www.all-about-car-accidents.com/

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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:

  • clouded thinking
  • inability to concentrate
  • difficulty remembering new information
  • headache
  • blurry vision
  • nausea
  • dizziness
  • 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.

If you’ve suffered significant injuries after a car accident, or you just want to make sure the claims process goes smoothly, you may want to talk with an experienced attorney. Learn How an Attorney Can Help with a Car Accident Claim.

My staff and I are always happy to answer questions about your accident you may have free of charge. And if we can’t help you, we may be able to point you in the right direction.

Stay safe out there friends!

YOUR #accidentattorney,

Marianne Howanitz

 

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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!

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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