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Why $100,000 in Auto Liability Insurance is Not Enough

By Chuck Geerhart In our profession as personal injury trial lawyers, we see cases every day in which a negligent driver has caused injury and does not have enough liability insurance. Many times these drivers are responsible members of their community, with good jobs, homes, and families. Precisely the type of people who cannot afford to have a sudden large financial liability which will force them to drain assets above and beyond their insurance. It could be you. It all starts when the driver, let’s call him John, buys or renews his auto insurance. John makes $75,000 per year as a mid-level manager for a large corporation. He’s married with two kids and owns his own house. He knows he needs more than the state minimum of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. His insurance broker or sales representative tells him he will be just fine with $100,000. John thinks, “Sure, that sounds right. I’ve never injured anybody. And if I did, how badly would they be hurt?” A year later, John is driving on the freeway in the rain and hydroplanes into Pam’s car, slamming her into a ditch off the road where her car rolls over. Pam requires emergency spinal surgery, and her medical bills alone are over $100,000. Add in her claim for wage loss and pain and suffering, and John is seriously underinsured. His own assets are at risk. How does this play out for John? If he is lucky, Pam simply settles with his insurance carrier for the policy limit. (Pam may have uninsured motorist coverage– see below.) If he is unlucky, Pam and her lawyer say, “Disclose your assets and we’ll consider settling with you for a fair amount of your own money.” If Pam takes John to court and wins a large verdict, say $500,000, John’s assets, and his wife’s, are at risk. His wages can be garnished. Pam can put a lien on any property he owns, and his bank accounts. John may have to consider bankruptcy. Not a pretty picture. How can people protect themselves against this horrible situation? First, buy at least $500,000 in liability insurance, or better yet $1,000,000. It does not cost much more to go from $100,000 to $500,000, only about $100 per year with most carriers. If you are a homeowner, purchase an umbrella policy of at least $1,000,000 at a cost of about $200. Umbrella policies sit on top of auto and homeowners liability policies and add extra protection against larger losses. Another way to protect yourself is to purchase a lot of uninsured motorist (UIM) coverage.  It’s a very inexpensive way to protect yourself and your family if a negligent driver hurts you. Example: you buy $500,000 in UIM and are hit by a driver who causes you to have surgery. But that driver is either uninsured or only has a state minimum $15,000 policy. Despite the irresponsible actions of the other driver, you will have access to up to $500,000 in insurance to cover your medical expenses, wage loss, and pain and suffering. And you don’t even have to go to court- your carrier either pays you or you go to a simple binding arbitration that will take a day or less. If you have a large claim, you would want to be sure to be represented by a well-qualified personal injury lawyer. The upshot: carrying larger amounts of insurance coverage is relatively inexpensive and can save your financial life when the nightmare happens and you injure someone.

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Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse = A Front Group for the Far Right

You may have heard radio spots or seen billboards by a group calling itself “Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse” or CALA, in which the group talks about how lawsuits are driving business out of California. CALA is a “front group” for ultra-right conservative business groups. CALA has no problem misstating the facts about the number of lawsuits in California, because its goal is to stomp out as many consumer rights and remedies as possible. It wants a “frictionless” environment where big business and polluters can do whatever they wish at the expense of the health and safety of innocent citizens. Here is a link debunking CALA’s false claims:

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Why Ending the Filibuster is Good for the Average Person

Just before Thanksgiving, Congressional Democrats voted to end the 60 vote majority required to end a filibuster of a Presidential nomination. They had to do this because Senate Republicans were refusing to allow a vote on three very well-qualified nominees for the very influential DC Circuit of the Federal Court of Appeals. Republicans claimed the President was attempting to “pack” the court (a la FDR in the 1930s), but their sense of history was misguided. FDR sought to create new seats on the U.S. Supreme Court to dilute the existing Justices’ voting power. President Obama is only trying to fill existing seats on the court– seats that George Bush filled during his term. If the people later vote in a Republican President, then he or she will get to name conservative judges to the courts, and if the people have also voted in a Republican Senate, then all of these nominees will be easily confirmed unless they have serious skeletons in their closets. If Democrats control the White House and the Senate, as is the case now, they get their picks. That’s Democracy!

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Why You Should Support Prop. 46, the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014

Why You Should Support Prop. 46, the Troy and Alana Pack Patient Safety Act of 2014 Prop. 46, which arose out of the death of the Packs’ children caused by a drugged driver who had been doctor shopping for prescriptions. The Act addresses three serious medical problems: 1) impaired physicians, 2) over-prescribing due to the lack of computerized tracking of prescriptions and 3) woefully inadequate allowable damages for persons injured or killed due to medical negligence. The Act calls for mandatary drug testing of physicians, just as occurs with pilots and public transit drivers. It also sets up a rigorous system for tracking prescriptions of controlled substances. As to No. 3, the current limit of $250,000 for pain and suffering (even if you’re a quadriplegic) was set in 1975 and adjusted for inflation should be $1.1. million.

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Why You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage. And Lots of It

Every month, I talk to someone who was injured by a driver who either carried no insurance or not enough insurance. Often, my clients have not adequately protected themselves by carrying at least $100,000 (or more) in Uninsured Motorist (UM) Coverage. If you get hit and injured by someone with no insurance, you can recover up to $100,000 (or more if choose higher limits) in medical bills, wage loss and pain and suffering from your own insurance carrier. If the person who hits you has some insurance, say the state minimum of $15,000, but you break your leg and have surgery, you can claim for all your damages above $15,000 from your own carrier. This is called an Underinsured Motorist (UIM) claim. There are two other factors that make UM coverage great (and please note– I don’t sell the stuff): 1) It’s cheap! About $50 a year buys $500,000 in coverage. Also, if you make a claim for an accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured motorist, your rates won’t go up, since you weren’t at fault. 2) You resolve any disputes over the value of the claim with your UM carrier in binding arbitration, meaning you don’t have to go through a jury trial. The arbitration usually takes a day or less to complete.

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