Frequently Asked Questions

You have questions?  We have answers.  Click on your topic of interest to see answers to some of the most common questions people ask us about an area.  When you are finished simply click on the same topic again and the other topics will reappear.

 

Q How Do I Know If I Have The Proper Insurance? 

A The best way to know if you have the proper automobile insurance is to call an attorney and have him review and evaluate all of your policies. Most attorneys would be willing to perform this service for free. It is best to determine whether you have the proper insurance before you get into an accident because it is too late to change your coverages for that accident. Since the laws and rates affecting insurance companies change frequently in each state, you should make sure that you have all of the coverages to protect yourself and your family. It is not a good idea to rely solely on the advice of your agent since he may have certain incentives to not provide coverage you really need. 

Q Do I Need Uninsured Motorists Coverage? 

A Yes. In fact, in some states, you automatically have uninsured motorists coverage up to the limits of your liability limits unless you specifically waive such coverage. This coverage is the only way to protect yourself and your family if you are involved in an automobile accident with someone who either has no insurance at all or who has minimal coverage. You should maintain at least $100,000 worth of uninsured motorists coverage on all of your vehicles. 

Q What is Medical Payments Coverage? 

A This coverage is a type of coverage designed to pay for your medical expenses if you are involved in an accident in your vehicle. This coverage applies regardless of the fault of the parties and must be automatically paid if you present proof of medical expenses incurred as a result of an accident in which you were involved in your own vehicle. This coverage is available in addition to your liability and uninsured motorists coverage. It is recommended that you maintain $25,000 worth of medical payments coverage. 

Q What is the Difference Between Collision and Comprehensive Coverage? 

A Collision coverage applies when you have had an accident or damaged you car without the involvement of another vehicle. For instance, if you back into a pole or hit a tree, your collision coverage would pay for the damage to your vehicle. It usually comes with a deductible before the coverage pays for such damage. Comprehensive coverage applies to flood damage, vandalism or theft of your vehicle by another person. Again, it does not involve an accident with another vehicle unless it occurs during the theft of your car. It too usually comes with a deductible. However, it does not cover any of the contents which may be stolen from your car. 

Q Should I Get My Homeowners Insurance to Cover My Vehicles and If So How? 

A Yes. The more coverage you have available, the more likely it is that you will receive all of the compensation to which you are entitled if you are involved in a serious accident. Homeowners insurance can apply to you car by purchasing an umbrella or excess policy.. An umbrella policy in the amount of $1 million is usually available for a few hundred dollars extra per year and will entitle you to have additional coverage that applies to the liability and uninsured motorists coverages of your auto policy. It also gives the same protection to your homeowners coverages. 

Q Should I Contact My Own Insurance Company If I Have Been Involved In An Automobile Accident That Was Not My Fault? 

A Yes. Your own insurance company has certain obligations to you even if you are not at fault. One of these obligations is to pay to fix your car quickly and then go after the other driver’s insurance company to get reimbursed. If you have medical payments or rental car coverages, they may also be obligated to immediately pay for you to rent another car while yours is in the shop and to pay for your medical expenses. Make sure you contact your own insurance company immediately following any accident. 

Q Who Pays For My Medical Bills And Car Repairs?

A If you are not at fault in the accident, the other driver’s liability insurance will pay for your personal injuries and car repairs. If the other driver does not have insurance, then your own insurance company will pay for your personal injuries and repair expenses only if you have uninsured motorists coverage and/or medical payments coverage. If you are at fault in the accident, your liability insurance will pay for the injuries and property damage of the other driver. Your collision coverage will pay for your vehicle damage and your medical payments coverage will cover your medical bills. 

Q What If The Other Driver Does Not Have Insurance? 

A Most states have laws which make automobile liability insurance mandatory for any person owning a car. Various penalities and fines may be levied against any person failing to carry insurance in at least minimal amounts. This does not help pay for your medical expenses, lost wages and property damages. The only way to protect yourself in the event the other driver is either uninsured or underinsured (does not have enough coverage), is to purchase uninsured motorists coverage. Make sure you have this important coverage on all of your vehicles. 

Q What If I Do Not Have Insurance And I Am Involved In An Accident Which Was Not My Fault? 

A Because most states require that persons who own a vehicle must carry insurance in at least minimal limits, you will likely be the subject of a fine or other punishment depending on the law of the particular state. Generally, the other driver’s liability coverage will be responsible for paying for your injuries and property damages. However, many states have new laws called “no pay, no play.” This means that if you do not have insurance, you forfeit the first $10,000 (or what ever sum the law says), worth of damages you suffer. After that sum, you can recover from the other driver’s liability policy. 

Q Does My Uninsured Motorists Coverage Apply Even If I Am Injured In Another Person’s Vehicle? 

A Yes. Under most policies, your uninsured motorists coverage follows you to every vehicle in which you are an occupant or driver. Thus, if you are riding with a friend and get involved in an automobile accident with a driver who was at fault, but who does not have either any insurance or enough insurance, your uninsured motorists coverage will pay for your damage up to the policy limits. Many states will allow you to “stack” your own UM coverage on top of another UM coverage (like the owner of the vehicle in which you are riding). Check your state laws. 

Q Will My Insurance Company Drop Me If I Make a Claim? 

A Generally, if you are not at fault in the accident and you make a claim against your medical payments coverage or your uninsured motorists coverage, your insurance company will not usually drop your coverage. This is because the accident was not your fault. If you are at fault and another driver makes a claim against your liability coverage, your insurance company may drop or increase your coverage. 

Q Does My Insurance Provide Coverage To Persons That I Lend My Car To If They Are Not Named On My Policy? 

A Yes. Most insurance agreements contain what is know as the Omnibus clause. This means that if you give someone else permission to use your car, and they are involved in an accident, then the coverages you have also apply to them. However, the question of coverage usually depends on the issue of permission. If you did not give permission, then there may not be coverage. Be careful on this question because if you tell the adjuster that you did not give permission, they will deny coverage and you may be personally liable for the damages caused when the vehicle was used. 

Q Who Pays For My Damage If I Am Involved In A Hit And Run Accident? 

A If you have uninsured motorists coverage or collision coverage, your own insurance company will pay for your property damage and/or personal injuries. Under most policies, there must be actual contact with another vehicle before the uninsured motorist provision will apply. This means that if an unidentifiable vehicle runs you off the road without contact, you may not be able to recover for your personal injuries. However, if you have collision coverage, your property damage will be paid under this provision. If you have medical payments coverage, your medical expenses will be paid under this provision 

Q Do Most Automobile Accident Cases Settle Before I Must File a Lawsuit? 

A Generally the answer is yes. However, if there are severe injuries and the coverages involved are high, a lawsuit will usually be necessary. This is because there is too much information and too much money at stake to justify an early settlement. An early settlement may also depend on whether your injuries and your treatment are completely known before the time to file suit. It may also depend on how short the statute of limitations is in your state. If there is a short statute of limitations and your injuries are not well healed, you may have to institute suit. 

Q What Is The Statute Of Limitations For Filing A Lawsuit In An Automobile Accident Case? 

A The statute of limitations is a time period by which a lawsuit must be filed in order to preserve your claim. If a lawsuit is not filed within the appropriate statute of limitations you will generally give up all rights to pursue your claim. The statute of limitations varies by state. Some states like Louisiana have a short statute of limitations of one year in which to bring a claim. Other states may allow two or more years in which to bring a claim. Check with a lawyer in your state to be sure. The best advice is to seek legal counsel well before the first year anniversary of the accident.

Q What is a large truck? 

A By federal law, a large truck is defined as a truck with a gross weight of more than 10,000 pounds. This includes the tractor portion of the rig and the trailer that the tractor pulls behind it.

Q Are trucking companies regulated by the Federal Government? 

A Yes. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration establishes rules and regulations which govern commercial motor vehicles and the companies who operate these vehicles. Their stated purpose is to attempt to make the interstate highways safer. 

Q Does Federal law limit the hours that a trucker can operate his truck? 

A Yes. Since 1939, Federal law has placed restrictions on the “hours of service” that a trucker may operate his truck. Recent changes have been made to these rules for the first time in over 60 years. These rules are designed to promote safety by helping to ensure that truck drivers are getting the needed rest to operate their big rigs safely. 

Q How are the hours that a truck driver operates monitored? 

A By law, each truck driver is required to keep a log book which keeps track of the miles traveled, the hours of service, the hours of on-duty non driving time, the hours in the sleeper berth and the hours of off duty time. Regular traffic inspections and inspection at weigh stations are designed to police and check for driver compliance with the hours of service regulations. 

Q Do trucking companies use devices on their vehicles to limit the speed of their drivers? 

A Yes. Some trucking companies install devices known as “governors” that prohibit the truck from traveling at a speed above a certain set limit. Thus, drivers for these companies cannot exceed the maximum speed limits on interstates. Not all companies install these devices however. Many know that their drivers will be placed in situations where speeding is necessary to meet a deadline. 

Q Are truckers allowed to use radar detectors? 

A No. Effective in 1994, the Federal Highway Administration banned the use of radar detectors in commercial vehicles involved in interstate commerce. The only use for radar detectors was to evade speed limit enforcement. 

Q Are truckers required to stop at weigh stations on the interstate? 

A Absolutely yes unless the weigh station is closed or if the truck driver is directed to bypass the station by an official. Some modern weigh stations allow drivers to be weighed while rolling through devices installed under the interstate. Those drivers pay a subscription to a service that installs a transmitter onto the vehicle so that it can be identified by the weigh station authorities. Weighing is an essential part of enforcing the weight restrictions imposed on trucks operating in interstate commerce. 

Q Are truck braking systems the same as automobile systems? 

A No. Generally, auto brakes are operated through hydraulics. Most truck braking systems operated through the use of pressurized air. Because of the delays in getting the air through long hoses to the brake system shoes, trucks take much longer to stop than regular vehicles. 

Q Are trucks required to have anti-lock brakes? 

A As of March 1997, newly manufactured trucks are required to have anti-lock brakes. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration issued a rule in 1995 requiring this change. New trailers, single unit trucks and buses had to have anti-lock brakes by March 1998. All new trucks in Europe are required to have anti-lock brakes. 

Q What is truck under ride crashes? 

A Truck under ride crashes occurs when a vehicle runs under a truck, usually from behind. These crashes frequently result in a fatality. In January 1998, a new rule required a rear impact guard to be installed on new trailers

Q Are tractor trailers involved in a large number of crashes? 

A Yes. Tractor trailers are involved in more fatal crashes than passenger vehicles. However, tractor trailers have a lower non fatal crash rate than passenger vehicles. Research suggests that the size and speed of the large trucks is a key factor leading to an increased rate of fatality per accident. 

Q Are truckers required to pass a skills driving test to get a license? 

A Yes. Since 1992, commercial truck drivers have been required to obtain a commercial driver’s license, (CDL). This license requires that drivers pass a driving skills test to drive a commercial vehicle. If the driver violates any driving laws or gets into an accident during the test, he automatically fails the test. 

Q Are multi trailer trucks more dangerous than single trailer trucks? 

A Yes. Multi trailer trucks inherently have more handling problems than single trailer trucks. The additional connection points cause greater instability which can lead to jackknifing, trailer swing, etc. These vehicles are two to three times more likely to be in crashes, especially in conditions where ice and snow are present. 

Q Is driver fatigue a major factor in most truck accidents? 

A Yes. The rate of truck crashes goes up substantially as driver fatigue increases. Research shows that the hours between midnight and six a.m. is the highest period of driver fatigue. This is why the hours of service limitations were originally put into force. Drivers who violate the hours of service limitations are 77% more likely to report falling asleep behind the wheel of a large truck. 

Q Are trucks required by Federal law to carry insurance? 

A Yes. Federal law requires commercial vehicles traveling in interstate commerce to carry $750,000 of insurance for bodily injury and property damage. Most State laws also impose minimum insurance requirements on trucks not covered under Federal law.

What is Medical Malpractice?

In order to establish that medical malpractice occurred, the plaintiff must prove that the physician involved in his care deviated from the accepted standard of practice for that type of medicine. Importantly, this does not mean that just because another physician would have done something differently that the defendant breached the standard of care. The plaintiff has to prove that no reasonable physician in that specialty would have done it that way. An error in judgment is not malpractice.

Do most patients realize that medical malpractice has occurred?

No. There is an old saying that reads: “doctors always bury their mistakes.” Although this is a bit of a cliche used to over dramatize medical malpractice issues, it is true that the statistics prove that most medical malpractice goes unrecognized and unreported. In fact, one study estimates that as much as 90% of documented malpractice was not reported and not pursued by the patients.

Does a bad outcome mean that medical malpractice has occurred?

No. Just because the patient suffers a bad outcome does not automatically mean that malpractice occurred. Frequently, a bad outcome is caused by an unintended complication. Complications are not generally considered to be malpractice. In fact, most complications are contained on the consent form. Some of these include infection and bleeding.

How come more medical malpractice acts do not result in claims?

Much speculation can be offered as to why medical malpractice is not more frequently reported or pursued, but the likely explanation is that unless the wrong leg is amputated, most medical malpractice is not readily apparent to a victim or his family. Moreover, most state laws do not require that victims be informed of malpractice. In fact, most state laws specifically preclude the patient from discovering that a physician has been reprimanded or disciplined by his peers for actions which are considered to be malpractice.

What do I do if I suspect that malpractice has occurred?

When malpractice is suspected, do not accuse or insult the treating health care providers. Quietly request the records and have them reviewed by an expert. If the care by the physician is ongoing, you may want to request a transfer of the patient’s care to another hospital or health care provider. Document the events as they unfold. Most important, consult an experienced medical malpractice attorney.

Should I make a claim for any act of medical malpractice which is suspected?

No. Medical malpractice cases are not like auto cases where the filing of a claim will result in some settlement offer. These cases require the expert testimony of a physician which is extremely expensive. Moreover, even a clear-cut case of malpractice is not worth pursuing unless there is at least $100,000 in provable damages. Thus, without clear evidence of malpractice and significant damages, these cases are not worth pursuing.

What is the time limit for filing a medical malpractice claim?

Each jurisdication varies in the time period allowed for bringing a claim. In Louisiana, a person has only one year from the date the malpractice was discovered or should have been discovered to bring a claim. In no event can the claim ever be brought after three years from the date of the malpractice.

Can any lawyer effectively review and handle a medical malpractice claim?

Absolutely not. These cases are extremely complex, expensive and time consuming. The attorney who reviews these cases should be experienced in handling medical malpractice claims and have sufficient resources to have the case reviewed by top experts.

What fees do most medical malpractice lawyers charge?

Most medical malpractice lawyers charge a contingency fee of at least 40% of the total recovery. This fee is a little higher than the contingency charged for an ordinary personal injury case. The reason for the larger fee in a medical malpractice case is because of the large costs of pursuing the case and the substantial risk of not prevailing.

Do most medical malpractice cases settle?

No. If a physician settles the case for even $1, he gets reported to a national data bank. That reporting follows him for the rest of his career. Most medical malpractice insurance policies give the physician the right to decide if the case will settle.

Do most medical malpractice cases result in a verdict in favor of the patient?

Nationwide statistics tell us that only about 30% of all medical malpractice cases that proceed to trial result in a verdict in favor of the patient. That means that physicians win about 70% of the cases tried in court.

Are physician expert witnesses easy to find and are they usually willing to testify against another physician?

No. Good physician expert witnesses are not easy to find. However, experience medical malpractice lawyers usually have resources to find the best witnesses. Physicians in the same state usually do not testify against each other. Expert witnesses usually must be retained from out of state.

Why do medical malpractice cases take longer than normal legal cases?

In Louisiana, a patient must first submit the claim to a medical review panel before a lawsuit can be filed. This delays the case by at least two years. Moreover, the schedules of the multiple physicians usually involved in the case (expert witnesses and defendant doctors) delay it further.

Should I obtain my own medical records or should I get an attorney to obtain them for me?

It is essential that the patient attempt to get his own medical records first. When doctors and hospitals see requests from lawyers, such requests put them on notice of a potential claim. Records can be lost or even changed in some instances after a request from an attorney is received.

Are most medical malpractice awards subject to a cap on damages, if so, which damages are capped?

Each state has its own laws regarding medical malpractice. Louisiana has a cap on damages of $500,000. It includes all items of damages except medical expenses. Other states like California may have lower caps, but their caps allow recovery of lost wages.

Q What is Personal Injury?
A A personal injury is any harm or injury you suffer to your person. A personal injury is to be distinguished from a harm or loss suffered because of loss of reputation, breach of contract or fradulent practice. Any physical injury is considered to be a personal injury.
   
Q Do I have a claim for every personal injury I suffer?
A No. Just because you have a personal injury does not automatically mean that you have a justified legal claim. However, many people may not realize initially that their injuries were caused by the negligence of another.
   
Q Do I have a personal injury claim if I am injured at work?
A Probably not. Although there are exceptions to this rule, most jurisdictions do not allow an employee to sue the employer for the employer’s negligence. However, if the employee is injured by another at a job site, a personal injury claim may be appropriate depending on the jurisdiction.
   
Q Can I recover lost wages if I am injured?
A Yes, most jurisdictions allow a victim of personal injury to recover from the negligent party their lost wages which were caused by the injury. These are usually measured by determining how much the victim was earning at the time of the injury. The law attempts to place an injured person in the same position they would have been in if the injury had not occurred.
   
Q Should I try to preserve evidence after a personal injury?
A Yes. Even if you do not ulitmately file a claim it is better to have the evidence and discard it later than it is to let the evidence be destroyed and unavailable for use later. Photographs and witness statements are probably the best and easiest ways to preserve evidence.
   
Q When should I contact a lawyer about my personal injury claim?
A As soon as you realize that your injuries are significant. Contacting a lawyer is not the same as retaining a lawyer. Most lawyers offer free consultations. A lawyer can guide you through the early steps of preserving your claim in the event it becomes necessary later to file one. This does not mean that minor injuries warrant an immediate call to an attorney.
   
Q What is the time limit for filing a claim for personal injuries?
A Each jurisdication varies in the time period allowed for bringing a claim. In some jurisdictions, a person has only one year from the date the event to bring a claim. In others, the claim can be brought two to six years after the event. Regardless of the jurisdiction, thought should be given to the institution of a claim before expiration of the first year.
   
Q Do all personal injury lawyers handle all types of personal injury cases?
A Absolutely not. Many lawyers focus their practice on two or three types of cases. Some experienced lawyers handle a whole variety of case types. However, you cannot assume that just because a lawyer handles personal injury cases that he can effectively handle all types of personal injury cases
   
Q What fees do most personal injury lawyers charge?
A It varies. For automobile accidents, alot of attorneys charge a minimun of 1/3 of the recovery plus expenses. This figure may go up if the case is set for trial or an appeal is taken. In products liability and medical malpractice cases most lawyers charge a minimum of 40% of the recovery plus expenses. This higher fee reflects the degree of work and risk of losing costs..
   
Q Do most personal injury cases settle?
A Yes. However, more complex cases like medical malpractice and products liability cases frequently go to trial. Moreover, of the cases that do settle, most do not settle until the case is approaching a trial date. Remember, the defense lawyer works by the hour and gets paid more the longer the case drags out.
   
Q What types of damages may I recover in a personal injury case?
A Different jurisdictions allow injured plaintiffs to recover different types of damages. Some jurisdictions place caps on damages for certain types of cases. Most jurisdictions allow an injured plaintiff to recover out of pocket expenses and losses and some component of pain and suffering and mental anguish..
   
Q What are punitive damages?
A Punitive damages are damages designed to punish a defendant for willful and wreckless conduct. The theory is that this punishment will deter future bad conduct.Many states do not allow plaintiffs to recover for punitive damages regardless of the willfulness of the defendant’s conduct.
   
Q How long do most personal injury cases take to get resolved?
A It varies. Usually, most uncomplicated cases either get settled or tried within three years after filing. Some courts have a back log of cases which cause delays beyond three years. Generally, cases filed in federal court resolve much faster than those filed in state courts.
   
Q Will my case go before a judge or jury?
A It depends. Most jurisdictions have a threshold that the damages of the case must meet to qualify for trial by jury. Usually, both parties can stipulate to a trial by judge instead of a jury trial. However, most jurisdictions provide the absolute right to either party to request a trial by jury. A common exception to this rule is when the case is against the state. Most cases involving the state as a defendant are tried to a judge
   
Q Will insurance rates go up if I make a personal injury claim?
A It depends on who you ask. The insurance companies would answer this question in the affirmative in hopes of discouraging claims to increase corporate profits. However, most research has proven that filing claims has little or no effect on premium increases. The business and investing practices of the particular insurance company is the main driving force on premiums.

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