March 29, 2017

Legal News You Can Use: Know Your Rights When Unexpected Injury Occurs

Car_accidentAn unexpected injury can be frightening and disorienting, whether from an automobile accident, slip-and-fall, or a “freak” accident.  It is helpful to know your rights, and consider in advance the important steps you should take in these situations.

#1. Seek Emergency Medical Care

This may seem obvious, but take a minute to be sure you’re alright!  If you are able to do so, check on any passengers in your vehicle, or on others who may have been injured in a motor vehicle accident.  Once you have taken precautions for your safety, move your vehicle out of the lane of travel, if possible.  Then, call 911.

If you refuse treatment at the scene, go directly to your doctor or the local emergency clinic to be checked out, even if you think your injuries are minor.  Often times it is well after the adrenaline wears off that we start to experience pain.

#2. Inform Authorities and Get Copies of Reports

Wait for the police to arrive on the scene, and, respectfully ask that the other driver do the same.   If you have been injured in an accident on the premises of a business, notify the manager or supervisor immediately, or, inform the homeowner if you have been injured on residential property.  Always remain calm during the course of any conversations with the police, authorities, business representatives, or other parties involved.  Remember to ask for copies of any accident reports that are generated.

#3. Exchange Insurance Information and Take Photos

Try to get the names and contact information for any witnesses to the accident. If you have been in a motor vehicle accident, you should exchange insurance information with the other driver.  If you were injured on residential or commercial premises, ask for contact information for the appropriate insurance company.  Take photos of any visible injuries and damage to your vehicle or property.

#4. Don’t Ignore Follow-up Medical Treatment, and Keep Good Records

Don’t skip follow-up appointments, and be sure to obey the recommendations of any medical professionals who are treating you. Not keeping your medical appointments or failing to follow your doctors’ advice may hinder the healing process, and can also have an impact on any compensation to which you may be entitled. Insurance companies often try to reduce compensation for failing to do these things, calling it “failure to mitigate damages”. Your medical records will provide documentation in the event that the insurance company asks for it.    Save copies of doctors’ notes, time off from work, and receipts from any expenses incurred.

#5. Seek Legal Counsel

It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. It usually takes time to assess the full nature of your claim, including your injuries, property damage, loss of wages, out-of-pocket expenses associated with the claim, etc.  Do NOT sign any documents, releases or checks from the insurance company without first consulting with an attorney.

Beware of insurance companies who are quick to offer you cash after you have been injured.  Often, accepting a cash payout from an insurance company shortly after the incident means signing a written promise that you will not bring a claim or a lawsuit against the insurance company or the party they insure.  If you discover additional injuries or property damage after you have made this promise, you may inadvertently waive future recovery to which you may be entitled.

#6. Claims

Many, but not all, motor vehicle collisions have a two-year statute of limitations.  This means that you have the right to bring a lawsuit claiming damages arising out of the collision up to two years after the date on which it happened.  On the other hand, in some situations, if you fail to notify certain parties within as little as 60 to 90 days that you intend to bring a claim, you may forfeit certain legal rights. The time limits prescribed by Connecticut law vary depending on the type of accident and if the responsible party is an individual, business, municipality, or other entity; where the accident occurred, and other factors.

It is wise to consult with a competent attorney who can advise you as to the statute of limitations that applies to your particular situation.  It’s important to understand your rights after an accident. Many people mistakenly assume that if they file a lawsuit, they will be required to go through the stress and anxiety of a court trial.  However, the majority of lawsuits that are filed settle before reaching the point of a trial.  Following the important steps above will help make the road to physical, emotional and financial recovery much smoother.

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Attorney John A. Collins III

Editor’s Note: Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 70 years with a wide range of legal services.  John A. Collins III is the Managing Partner of the firm and a Director/Shareholder who concentrates in the areas of Personal Injury Law and Civil Litigation. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860)442-4416.

Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT  06320

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Legal News You Can Use: What Do You Mean — I Don’t Have Enough Insurance?

Car Crash
In our personal injury practice we frequently deal with clients injured in automobile accidents. Frequently (and sadly), we often have to explain to severely injured people that their insurance may be inadequate to compensate them for their injuries. Thus, part of our initial client consultation is spent reviewing – and trying to simplify – Connecticut’s laws dealing with liability and uninsured/ underinsured motorist coverage.

Our job is to zealously advocate for our clients . . . and to provide good counsel.  So, let’s cover some basics (different rules may apply for commercial and fleet policies):

1. What is “liability coverage”?
This coverage protects the negligent operator and/or owner of a vehicle for injuries caused by negligent operation of the vehicle up to the amount of the purchased coverage limit. This coverage is generally found in Part A of your policy.

2. What is uninsured motorist (UM) coverage?
Connecticut law (C.G.S. 38a-336) provides that that each automobile liability insurance policy shall provide uninsured motorist coverage with limits equal to the policy’s “liability” limits. Uninsured motorist coverage provides protection and compensation to the driver and/or passengers in a vehicle if they sustain injuries and the negligent tortfeasor (“the bad guy”) does not have insurance. This coverage is generally found in Part C of your policy.

3. What is underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage?
UIM coverage provides protection for the same occupants in the event that the tortfeasor does not have enough insurance. Connecticut law requires that the tortfeasor only needs $20,000 in liability coverage.

4. What’s the cost for UM/UIM coverage?
When the liability limits and UM/UIM limits are the same most companies charge a premium for UM/UIM coverage that’s significantly less than the liability premium. Check Part C of your policy declarations page and compare that premium to Part A; it’s often 60-75% less. It’s less because insurance company actuaries have determined that you are less likely to use UM coverage than liability coverage.

5. Should I purchase UM/UIM coverage which is lower than my liability coverage?
The short answer: No. Connecticut Law allows you to reduce your UM/UIM coverage. Don’t do it.  UM/UIM coverage is designed to protect the operator, passengers and family members (and in some circumstances, pedestrians) associated with your vehicle. The cost is much cheaper than the liability coverage premium.

6. Can I purchase higher UM/UIM coverage?
Yes you can . . . and should. Generally, as you purchase more insurance the premium cost becomes cheaper per $1,000 purchased.  Connecticut law allows you to purchase UM/UIM coverage which is double your liability limits. Thus, if you have a $100,000 liability policy, you may elect to purchase $200,000 in UM/UIM coverage. If you can afford it, you should do so for your own protection.

7. What’s the difference between straight UIM coverage and conversion UIM coverage?
Under Connecticut law your insurance carrier is allowed to reduce from your UIM recovery any amount paid to you by the tortfeasor. Here’s how it works:  let’s assume that you have an injury for which $100,000 is fair compensation. Further assume that the tortfeasor has a $25,000 liability policy and that you have a $50,000 straight UIM policy.  You would think that you could collect $25,000 from the tortfeasor and $50,000 from your UIM carrier. Wrong!  If you have a straight UIM policy your carrier can deduct the $25,000 from your $50,000 policy, leaving you with $25,000 from the tortfeasor and $25,000 from your carrier. . . to compensate you for your $100,000 injury. Conversion coverage eliminates the ability of your carrier to claim a credit for money you receive from the tortfeasor. Thus, you could collect $25,000 from “the bad guy” and the full $50,000 from your policy.  Better yet, if you had double UIM conversion coverage ($50,000 x2 = $100,000), you could receive $25,000 from the tortfeasor and up to $100,000 from your carrier, thus fully compensating you for your loss.

There are many local insurance agents who can arrange coverage for you. The intent of this article is to simply better educate you on the need for, and issues surrounding, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist law, so that you can make a better informed decision to protect you and your passengers in the event that the need to use such coverage should arise.

Suisman Shapiro Attorneys at Law is the largest law firm in eastern Connecticut, serving the community for over 70 years with a wide range of legal services.  John A. Collins III is the Managing Partner of the firm and a Director/Shareholder who concentrates in the areas of Personal Injury Law and Civil Litigation. For more information, visit www.suismanshapiro.com or call (860)442-4416.

Suisman Shapiro is located at 2 Union Plaza, P.O. Box 1591, New London, CT  06320

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