Car Seat Safety

Safety is our first priority, especially when it comes to the youngest members of the family. Dangers on the roadways are everywhere, so it is important to ensure the safety of the children in your car. Using car seats properly can go a long way in keeping children safe from these dangers. Here are some tips to keep those precious little ones safe in the car.

  • Be sure to select the proper car seat. Car seats usually have weight and height restrictions, so make sure you select one that is appropriate for your child.

  • Make sure the car seat is installed properly. Read and follow all instructions for installation. If you are unsure if you have installed it properly, many local fire departments and police stations offer car seat inspections.

  • Register your car seat with the manufacturer. This ensures that you will receive recall and safety notices. If your car seat is recalled, be sure to have it repaired or replaced as soon as possible.

  • Make sure you properly secure and tighten all safety straps every time you place your child in the vehicle.

Replace a car seat that has been involved in a moderate to severe crash. Even though you may not see any visible damage, crash forces are extreme enough to weaken the plastic in a car seat.

I am the next of kin and I think the Doctor committed Malpractice, Do I need to have an autopsy?

We talk to people all the time who have lost loved ones who believe that their loved one suffered malpractice at the hands of a doctor. They tell us what happened and we ask "was an autopsy performed?" They almost always ask "should I get one?" The answer is YES.

Why? In a medical malpractice case, we have to show that the carelessness of the doctor, nurse, or other medical professional directly caused the death of your loved one. Now, this is very hard to do because one of the common defenses that the other side always puts out is a laundry list of all the other things that were bad that caused the death.

What we have to show is that the carelessness caused the death, and that it was the one thing that did it. Without an autopsy, this is extremely hard to do because, if you’ve ever looked at a death certificate, it normally has several different reasons for death.

So if by some chance you are facing a situation where your loved one has died and you believe medical malpractice contributed to your loved one’s death, make sure to always get an autopsy. Sometimes it is the only way that the case can go forward and that justice can prevail.

What is the difference between liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage?

There are two major parts of your car insurance policy that Alabama drivers need to understand: the liability coverage and the uninsured motorist coverage.

Liability coverage is required for all drivers under Alabama law. Liability insurance protects your assets if you cause a wreck and hurt someone. If you have liability coverage, the insurance company will hire an attorney to defend you in a lawsuit as well as pay the person for the accident up to the limits of the coverage you purchased.

Uninsured motorist coverage protects you from other people. With uninsured motorist, if a driver with no insurance or little insurance hits you and you are hurt, then your insurance company will pay up to the limits of the coverage you bought. Uninsured motorist coverage also will protect you if you are a victim of a hit and run and the other driver is never caught. Normally, you do have to pay extra for this, so don’t feel bad that your insurance company is giving you money. You along with many other people are paying for this protection.

Guest Passenger Statute

Recently, I was asked to review a case where the potential client’s mother was killed in an automobile accident in which her uncle was driving. The uncle was at fault in the accident and the potential client wanted to know if she could bring a claim for wrongful death for her mother’s estate.

Unfortunately, as I told her, Alabama has what is called the guest passenger statute. Alabama is the last state in the nation to retain a guest passenger statute. Basically, under the guest passenger statute, passengers are limited to suits against drivers based on gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct. In other words, in a car accident case the person who caused the accident is usually legally negligent and therefore responsible for the injured party’s damages.

But under Alabama law, a passenger in the vehicle must prove that the driver was not only negligent, but also grossly negligent or reckless in some way. Most drivers on the road, absent some extraordinary circumstances such as drunk driving, are merely negligent if they cause an auto accident. Unfortunately, for this potential client’s case, I had to tell her that the circumstances surrounding her mother’s death simply didn’t give rise to a claim and that she was barred under Alabama law.

There are exceptions to this statute, though. Had the uncle been a taxi driver or had he been paid to take her mother somewhere, that would have changed the status. But as a general rule of thumb, if you are getting a free ride, under Alabama law your driver is immune to the ordinary duty of care that most drivers would have with respect to you.

Delay in Treatment by the VA

By now you've probably heard about the delays in treatment that our veterans have been the victims of at the hands of the VA. One report that I saw said that more than 1000 veterans may have died in the last decade because of malpractice or lack of care from Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Centers.

Sadly, many of the victims of medical malpractice and their families never realized they could have filed a claim against the VA. Many people believe that the VA is immune from lawsuits because it is controlled by the government. This is not the case. Under the Federal Torts Claims Act, the Federal government can be forced to compensate victims of wrongs. Unfortunately, the time frame for making a claim under the Federal Torts Claims Act is very short, so you must prepare your claim as quickly as possible.

As everyone in our office has served in the military, the treatment of our fellow veterans is near and dear to our hearts. We stand ready to help you right the wrongs that the VA is perpetrating against veterans. Give us a call if you or someone you love has been a victim at the hands of the VA.

I was just in a multiple car accident. How do I know who was at fault?

Multi-car pile-ups happen more frequently that many people realize, and the complexities of this type of case can be very difficult to navigate. Each of the drivers’ insurance companies typically will try to place blame on you or one of the other people involved in the accident for their injuries. This makes it confusing to know who is truly responsible for which expenses. Because no insurance company wants to pay for another driver’s negligence, proving fault can be very difficult, but there are some things you can do to help determine who was truly at fault.

  1. Taking pictures of the accident – Taking pictures of the accident can show things such as where the cars ended up as well as weather conditions, the condition of the road, etc. These pictures can show a lot about how the accident occurred and this will help you with your claim.

  1. Writing down what happened during the accident – Writing down what happened during the accident as soon as it happened can help you determine what happened. Typically, you may not be questioned about the accident by an insurance company or an attorney for days or even weeks. In that meantime, a lot of the details can become a little fuzzy. So to help you remember those details, write down as much as you can about the accident right after the accident occurs. Anything can help, from the speed you were going to what you saw around you.

  1. Talking to the police – At the scene of an accident, the investigating officers are trying to find out exactly what happened, and they are taking statements from everyone involved as well as maybe some witnesses who might have seen the accident as well. Talking to them and letting them know what you saw and what you experienced can help them create the most accurate report they can. Giving them your side of the story so they make sure to put it in their report also goes a long way with putting together the complete picture.

  1. Talking to an attorney – An attorney can help you navigate the complex insurance claim process. The attorneys in our office, for example, are very familiar with the insurance companies and their tactics and, for many cases, have dealt with the same adjuster on multiple cases. An attorney is also familiar with things such as contributory negligence and many of the mechanics of an accident.

At the end of the day, having as much information as possible is the key. If you have been involved in a multi-car accident, please feel free to give us a call.

Who is responsible in an accident that involves a drunk driver?

People who drive while drunk put the lives of everyone who is on the road at risk. In cases where a drunk driver causes injuries to someone, sometimes the drunk driver is not the only person you could potentially collect from. Of course the driver is the person who made the decision to drink and get behind the wheel when it wasn’t safe, so you can typically collect from the driver.

Also, if the driver had been drinking at a bar or club or other place that serves alcoholic beverages, the bartender who served the drinks may also be liable for the injuries that the driver actually caused. Many times the bartender is in the best position to know if someone has had enough, and many times those bartenders knowingly serve alcohol to someone who has already had enough and then let them drive away. If a bar or bartender does this, then they may also be held accountable.

Sometimes you may not know if the person had come from a bar or bartender; however, the police investigation or an experienced attorney can in many cases find out those facts and allow you additional avenues of recovery. If you have any questions or have been injured as a result of a drunk driver, please feel free to give us a call.

What does $25,000/$50,000 mean anyway?

As all drivers in Alabama should know, Alabama requires minimum liability coverage on their automobiles. In Alabama, the minimum is $25,000/$50,000. But what does this mean?

The first number is the bodily injury liability for one person injured in an accident. The second number is the bodily injury liability maximum for all injuries in one accident. Basically, the policy is telling what coverage is available for a person injured in the accident and what total coverage is available for any one accident.

So, if you have the minimum liability in Alabama, which is $25,000/$50,000 coverage, each injured person would be covered up to $25,000, but the total coverage available for the accident is only $50,000. If 5 people are hurt in the accident, the most any one person would be paid is $25, 000, but all 5 people would have to share the total of $50,000. In this situation, if any one person’s damages exceed $25,000, or if the entire claim of everyone that was in the accident exceeds $50,000, you would be personally responsible for what the policy did not pay.

This puts a lot of people at risk in Alabama as most people in Alabama purchase the minimum required by the law. The Insurance Information Institute has recommended that you carry at least $100,000 of bodily injury protection per person and $300,000 per accident written as $100,000/$300,000.

While most people just think about the premiums that they have to pay, when faced with a lawsuit and being sued, their entire livelihood is put at risk. Hospitals and doctors are not cheap, and depending on the damages in the car accident, that minimum amount can easily be used up.

If you still have questions about the coverages that your policy has, feel free to give us a call and we will be happy to look it over for you.

What's the difference between a contingency fee, a flat fee, and an hourly fee?

Many people come into my office every day wondering how exactly an attorney gets paid for the work they do. There are three main types of fees that attorneys charge in order to get paid. These types are the contingency fee, the flat fee, and the hourly fee.

In all of these types of fees, costs may or may not be included. So a question that someone speaking to an attorney needs to ask is, "Am I going to be responsible for costs on top of your fee?"

A contingency fee means that the attorney does not get paid unless he collects for you. You hear of these a lot of times on commercials during late night TV and see them on attorney websites and in the Yellow Pages. A contingency fee is the type most-used in a personal injury case.

The second type of fee is the flat fee. A flat fee is where the attorney charges a flat amount to represent you in your legal problem. This takes some of the guess work out of how much you are going to owe the attorney for his services. Again, you need to ask if costs are included because those can be a surprise when you see them on your bill.

The third type is an hourly fee. An hourly fee is where the attorney charges a certain rate per hour that he works on your case. This could be a little, or this could be a lot depending on the amount of work involved, so it could be a big surprise when you get a bill for more than what you think it should be.

There are variations on these three types of fees, but these are the main types of fees that attorneys charge. The important thing to remember is that before your retain an attorney, have them explain to you exactly how their fee is going to be calculated and how much you are going to owe for representation.

Which insurance company do I use if I have been in an accident?

This week, a potential auto accident client called our office with the question, "I have been in an accident and have medical bills. What insurance company do I submit the bills to?"

This is a question that we get all the time with people in our office. You don’t feel like your health insurance should cover it with your deductibles because it's the other guy's fault.

The reality is that when you are hurt in an accident, you need to seek treatment as soon as possible. If you have health insurance, it is wise to use your health insurance to pay your medical bills as they come up. In the long run, you end up paying less that way as well. Your health insurance company has a contracted rate with your medical providers so that the insurance company only pays a portion of the amount billed, and the rest is written off or discounted by your doctors. When your claim is settled, your health insurance company will have the right to be reimbursed for the amount they actually paid, the contracted rate, to your doctors. So basically, if you use your own health insurance, more of the settlement monies in the case will go directly to you rather than all of your doctors.

You already have a lot to deal with after an auto accident. You are receiving medical treatment, you are missing work, and you are trying to get your car fixed or replaced. It can relieve a little bit of stress off of you by having your health insurance worry about paying your medical bills and you can take time to recover.

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