Homeowner's insurance helps protect you from financial losses due to damage to your home or its contents, as well as your liability for certain accidents.
Document the Attack Documentation of how and why the dog attacked you is critical to claiming damages beyond medical bills. This is especially true if your injuries were not severe but the dog's owner acted negligently in allowing the attack to occur. Make sure you take pictures of the property where the attack occurred, including any evidence of negligence such as an unsecured gate or broken collar/chain. Also, be sure to take pictures of your injuries and save any damaged clothing or personal items. Seek Medical Care Even if you do not think your injuries were severe, seek professional medical attention. Dog bites can lead to serious infections if a doctor does not properly clean and bandage them. You should also have a doctor professionally attend to lesions or punctures, as they can result in permanent scarring if a doctor does not properly close and treat them. Notify the Proper Authorities If you cannot find the dog's owner or the dog is a stray, contact your local animal control department. This will help remove a dangerous animal from the streets and could result in locating the dog's owner. You should also contact the police, especially if the owner is present, in order to create an official record of the attack. This will also let you know if there have been previous incidents involving the dog that could lead to a stronger negligence case against the owner. Collect Witness Information If there were any witnesses to your attack, make sure you are able to contact them to provide testimony on your behalf. If a witness can verify that the dog's owner was negligent in preventing the attack, that can become strong evidence in your negligence case against the owner. You will need the witness' name and phone number at the very least to contact them later when filing your injury claim or lawsuit. Keep Detailed Records of Your Damages Keeping detailed records of all of your expenses and losses related to recovering from the dog bite may allow you to recover these damages and losses later on. Take notes on how much time you miss from work, how the pain affects your day-to-day activities and emotional state, and how the attack has affected your mental health. Also make sure to note all expenses related to your recovery such as if you have to hire a housekeeper to do your daily chores
FLORIDA AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE Clarity In Turbulent Waters By Jeffrey D. Soud, Esq. The SOUD Law Firm / February 2012 The following is a discussion on certain aspects of Florida automobile insurance that I hope may be useful to you. Although you may have insurance in place now, or even if you recently purchased or renewed it, you can change it at any time to meet your needs. Do not be afraid to change what you currently have. The coverage you have may not be adequate. You should shop around with the major insurance companies (except Allstate and Nationwide), and do it in person sitting across from an agent, to get the best price possible. You should ask your insurance agent to “give you a quote" on the following types of coverage: Bodily Injury / Liability (This covers people you hurt) – Purchase 100,000 per person / 300,000 per accident or more if you can. Why? Because as an attorney, if I had a client even moderately hurt, I might seek a judgment against you if I know you have property or a good paying job. I might be able to garnish your wages or take your property. That’s why buying, as much of this as you can afford is important! If you can, buy 300/300 or 300/500 or 500/1mil. You could even consider what’s called an “Umbrella Policy". This, for instance, provides 1 million in coverage over and beyond what your home and auto policies provided. This runs between $200 and $400 per year, and sometimes is not a bad deal. Uninsured / Underinsured(UM) – This covers YOU (and your family) when people, who don’t have any insurance or don’t have enough insurance, hurt YOU – Buy as much of this as you can afford. It is usually limited to an amount equal to Bodily Injury/Liability you purchase. If you get into a bad accident with an uninsured driver/owner, who is going to make your house and car payments when you can’t work? This is assuming you don’t have “disability insurance" or AFLAC. But even if you had disability insurance, UM pays you for the injury you receive and the pain and suffering caused by the negligence of another. I know there are other types of insurances you could buy, such as health insurance, homeowner’s insurance, disability insurance, dental, vision and the like. Our focus here is on Florida Auto Insurance and UM is a major opportunity to protect yourself and your family very economically. Personal Injury Protection (PIP a/k/a “No-Fault Coverage") – This is a $10,000 benefit. No more, no less. Basically, it pays out for your Medical Bills (at 80%) and your Lost Wages (at 60%) up to the limit of $10,000. Keep in mind that your health insurance is secondary payor. Your health insurance kicks in after the auto insurance is used-up (“exhausted"). The important thing to emphasize here is: Whatever you do, Do Not elect a PIP deductible (Not $250, Not $500 and certainly Not $1,000)PIP pays for your car accident injuries regardless of the fact the other person caused the accident, and it does not matter if you were in your car or if your car was parked at home. So long as the accident was in Florida, if covers you and your “resident relatives". This coverage is mandatory. To be legal on Florida roads you need this (PIP) and “Property Damage" (PD) coverage, discussed below. I recommend more than this, but these two (PIP & PD) make you “legal", but NOT well covered, in my opinion. Medical Payments (Med Pay) – This is a supplement to pay your medical bills not completely covered by the 80% PIP. Specifically, Med Pay will pay that 20% balance of the medical bills not paid by your PIP coverage mentioned above. Because of Med Pay, you receive 100% coverage for your medical bills. I believe you should purchase at least $5,000 in coverage. If you can afford it, (and the premiums won’t be that bad, so ask) I would recommend upwards of $30,000. Property Damage – This pays for damage you cause to other people’s property. This will pay for the damage you cause to another person’s car or truck or fence, if you run into it. In Florida you are required to have at least $10,000 in coverage. I would recommend, given the high price to fix or replace cars these days that you purchase upwards of at least $25,000 in coverage. Comprehensive Coverage (theft, fire, storm, etc.) – If your car becomes damaged, not the result of a collision, this coverage will pay to fix your car, or, if the cost of fixing your car exceeds what your car is worth, this coverage will pay the market value of your car (sometimes called Actual Cash Value “ACV"). It usually has a deductible associated with it ranging between $100 to $500 dollars. Select the lowest deductible you can afford. If you are financing your car through a lender, all lenders require you to carry this and Collision Coverage so as to protect their loan. Collision Coverage – This pays for damage to your car, which was the result of an accident with another motor vehicle. This should kick in if (1) you were at fault for the accident; or (2) the person that hit your car is without insurance to repair or replace your car; or (3) the other person does not have enough insurance to repair or replace your car. Similarly, this coverage will have a deductible associated with it ranging between $100 to $500 dollars. So again, get the lowest deductible you can afford. As stated above, most banks or lenders who have a lien on your car will require you to carry this coverage to protect their interests. Even if you car is paid for and you own it out right, you should consider keeping this coverage if you are not willing to sacrifice the ACV of your car if it is destroyed. Most people forego this coverage when their car is not worth very much ($500-$3000) and the premium payment for this coverage is at a level where, after 2 years of paying this premium, it would equal the value of the car. Car Rental and Travel Expenses – ask for quotes and buy as much as you estimate is needed and fits your budget. If you don’t have your car (while it’s being repaired) and the other person doesn’t have insurance, how are you getting to work? Can you borrow a car from family or friends? Towing Coverage – If you ever need a tow for just about any reason, (your car breaks down or your battery dies) this coverage will reimburse your towing expense. This is not just for “accident" cases. However, keep in mind that most tow truck companies will require payment before doing the job. Get a receipt, submit it to the insurance company and get reimbursed. This can be an inexpensive coverage and well worth the cost in the long run. Conclusions: Take the time to shop. Go to your insurance agent(s) and ask for a quote. You should get quotes from at least three different insurance companies. You should make a personal visit to the insurance agent’s offices in your area, not over the phone. If you make a day of it, you could visit more than three. Work Sheets: In the PDF I am enclosing work sheets to help you shop for your automobile insurance. It should make the experience a little more tolerable. More importantly, with the use of these sheets, you should be able to identify what coverage best fits your budget and family needs. Take them with you when you visit the insurance agents. There is nothing to hide. Let them know you are shopping around, and to give you their best price. Paying Your Insurance Premiums: Try to pay your insurance premium in full every 6 months, if possible. This will eliminate a monthly bill and, more importantly, the possibility of missing a payment, resulting in NO coverage. Cancellation due to non-payment at the time you really need it, can be really bad. Avoid this at all costs. I know you believe this is important. What you may not have considered is devoting a little more time in order to get the best value for your dollar and at the same time provide excellent coverage for you and your family.
What is Subrogation and How Does it Work? Subrogation is essentially a right to reimbursement. In a personal injury case, subrogation allows an insurance company to recover the money that it paid on your behalf for medical expenses or other insurance benefits. Technically speaking, subrogation is actually the legal substitution of an insurance company for the injured victim, entitling the insurance company to make the legal claims of the injured victim. Put another way, an insurance company that pays benefits on behalf of an injured person steps into the shoes of the injured person and has the right to assert the injured person’s claims against the negligent party. Sometimes the insurance company will assert its claim directly against the person who caused your injuries (that person is called the tortfeasor). Other times, the insurance company will notify you or your attorney that it has a right to subrogation and that it expects to be repaid out of any money recovered in your case. Correctly handling subrogation claims is critical. Failing to properly resolve a subrogation claim leaves you vulnerable to lawsuits and judgments by the insurance company. Types of Subrogation Different types of insurers have different sources of the right to subrogation. For example, in Colorado, all Worker’s Compensation insurance companies have a legal right to subrogation granted by Colorado Revised Statutes, section 8-41-203. Health and disability insurance companies get their right to subrogation by contract—i.e. somewhere in all the paperwork that they provide you it states that they have a right to subrogation. Not every insurer has subrogation rights though. Typically, if an insurance company does not have a statutory right to subrogation and the insurance policy does not say they have a right to subrogation, then you do not need to repay it. But figuring out whether an insurance company truly has a valid subrogation claim can be difficult. It involves reading lengthy documents filled with legalese. It’s important to know where to look and what to look for. Even if a document claims the right to subrogation, that claim may not be enforceable. Limitations on the Right of Subrogation Sometimes victims believe it does not make sense to pursue a claim because they assume that all of the recovery will go to repay the insurance companies. However, this is often not the case. The only way to clearly evaluate whether a claim is worth pursuing is to consult an experienced lawyer with thorough knowledge of insurance law and subrogation rights. Not all types of recovery are subject to claims of subrogation. Even when certain types of recovery are subject to claims of subrogation, other laws limit the insurance companies’ rights to be fully repaid. For example, let’s consider a situation where an individual is working at the time he is injured. He is a salesman driving a company vehicle between work-related stops. While driving, someone runs a red light, colliding with his vehicle and seriously injuring him. Since he was working, worker’s compensation insurance pays all of his medical bills and also pays him for lost time from work. The insurer pays $40,000 for medical bills and $35,000 for lost wages. That means that the worker’s compensation insurer has a subrogation claim for $75,000. Let’s also assume that the person who ran the red light has state minimum insurance liability limits of $25,000 and no personal assets. The victim has underinsurance coverage on his own policy for $50,000. This means that the total available insurance coverage is $75,000. Let’s also assume for this example that the victim has a valid claim for all types of damages (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, and impairment of quality of life) that total $150,000. Should the person in this example pursue a recovery? The answer is yes. Although the worker’s compensation carrier technically has a right to subrogation for $75,000 and the total available insurance is only $75,000, the victim will still make a net recovery. Why? Because two laws apply to limit the insurer’s subrogation right. First, worker’s compensation insurance is only entitled to subrogation against money recovered from the defendant. In this example, that means the defendant’s $25,000 liability insurance coverage. The insurer is not entitled to recover against underinsurance coverage that the victim maintains on his own policy. Therefore, of the $75,000 recovered by the victim, only $25,000 is subject to subrogation by the worker’s compensation insurer. A second limitation also may apply to reduce the amount even further. Remember that in this example, the victim’s actual damages were $150,000, but the amount recovered from all available sources was only $75,000. Therefore, the victim only recovered half of his actual damages. Since he did not recover an amount equaling his total damages, the argument should be made that the worker’s compensation insurer should take a proportionate deduction from their subrogation claim. This reduces the amount subject to subrogation even further. Two other helpful rules sometimes apply to reduce the amount subject to subrogation. The first is called the Made Whole Rule. This rule applies to private health insurance companies governed by Colorado law. In cases where it applies, the Made Whole Rule states that if the victim did not recover the full amount of her damages, then the insurance company may not recover anything! The second helpful rule is the Common Fund Doctrine, which requires that insurers reduce their liens proportionately to pay a portion of your attorney’s fees and case costs. After all, if you hire the attorney who does all of the work to obtain a recovery that gets split between you and the insurance companies, how is it fair that you pay the entire fee and costs out of your portion and the insurance company gets its full portion? The Common Fund Doctrine applies to make sure that the insurance company does not get a free ride at your expense and makes them pay their fair share of your attorney’s fees and case costs. In summary, subrogation presents many difficult issues. No one simple rule exists for all subrogation cases. The rights of the insurer vary depending on: The type of case (car crash, premises liability, product liability); Who has the right to subrogation (worker’s compensation, private health insurance, ERISA benefits plan); and The source of the recovery (auto liability insurance, auto underinsurance, homeowner’s insurance). It is impossible to cover every possible example in this blog post. The important things to know are that many pitfalls and a few lifelines exist in the complicated world of subrogation. Knowing which limitations apply and how to assert your rights will make a tremendous difference to your net recovery. Our attorneys have successfully resolved hundreds of subrogation issues favorably for our clients. We will make sure that you receive the maximum recovery possible.
Accidents are an unfortunate fact of life; when the victims sustain serious injuries they may have a right to monetary compensation. It’s important to discuss a personal injury accident with an attorney who can help you pursue damages from the legally liable party. Individuals and corporations have a responsibility to those around them to keep them free from harm. People can’t go around living life without taking the proper precautions to prevent accidents. Accidents can happen anywhere at any time. This can be observed with auto accidents, airplane accidents or pedestrian accidents. People are prone to human error, nobody is perfect but they are still expected to exercise a reasonable level of care in the way they go about things. Errors can be deadly, whether they happen in the emergency room, or when handing the wrong prescription to a patient, or when administering anesthesia, or when forgetting to properly maintain an elevator. A simple momentary lapse in judgment can have devastating consequences for the unwitting victims. All it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Personal injury law is that aspect of law that deals with accidents and injuries. Accidents are not intentional violent acts, they involve negligence and carelessness. When people fail to take the proper precautions, or when they fail to exercise an acceptable standard of care, they can “accidentally" injure others in the wake of the event. Causing accidental injury does not mean that the responsible party is exempt from legal liability, quite the contrary. In America, causing accidental injuries or death to another individual is not tolerated. Victims of such injuries often have the right to sue in a civil liability lawsuit for damages. Fortunately, many state laws require that individuals and businesses retain insurance for such mishaps. Most personal injury claims are filed against insurance companies. Whether the insurance company is an auto insurance company, a workers’ compensation insurance company or a homeowners’ insurance company, most unfortunate accidents are covered by such policies. Common personal injury accidents can involve automobiles including: car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents, bus accidents, bicycle accidents and pedestrian accidents. Car accidents are one of the leading causes of death in this nation; therefore, their claims comprise a significant amount of all insurance claims in the industry. Another area of personal injury accidents involves premises liability. When people are injured on another person’s or business’s property, then it would most likely fall under premises liability. Such lawsuits would include swimming pool drowning, elevator accidents, amusement park accidents, dog bites and attacks, slip and fall injuries and much more. Workplace accidents are covered under personal injury law. When an employee or worker is injured during the course of their work, they may have grounds for a workers’ compensation claim. Under certain circumstances the injured worker may also be able to file a third-party claim against a sub-contractor or a manufacturer of a defective or dangerous piece of machinery or equipment. In the cases where the worker was killed on the job, their spouse and dependents may be able to receive death benefits from the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Patients who suffer undue injury or death at the hands of a medical doctor, physician or other medical professional may have grounds for a medical malpractice lawsuit. Victims of nursing home abuse or neglect may be able to pursue compensation for damages as well. If you or a loved one were injured by another person or company, you may have the right to file a claim against them. Don’t hesitate to contact a personal injury attorney right away to find out if you have a valid claim.
Many of us are responsible animal owners, and this guide should not be interpreted an indictment of dogs or their owners. However, dog bites are a problem in Georgia, and nationally, especially when it comes to young children as evidenced by national statistics. The American Humane Society estimates that there are almost 5 MILLION dog bites every year in the United States! Of those bites, children are the victims in approximately 50% of the attacks. Children also account for the most serious injuries and fatalities in dog bite cases. Nationally there are more than 12 deaths per year attributed to dog bites. Dog bites also constitute almost one-third of all claims against homeowner liability insurance. Given the current climate of dog bite litigation, this guide is a must-read for every dog owner in Georgia. If you find it helpful, please share it with your friends and neighbors to ensure they are doing everything they should to protect others from an inadvertent dog bite, and to ensure they are protecting themselves against liability. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) compiled a list of the most dangerous dog breeds, and some of the “regular culprits" top the list. The seven (7) most dangerous breeds the CDC identified: Pitbulls, Rottweilers, German Shepards, Huskies, Malamutes, Doberman Pinschers, and Chow Chows. Just like not all dogs within these breeds are dangerous, there are many breeds of dogs not identified in the above list that may have the propensity to attack under the right circumstances. Each factual circumstance is different, but it's helpful to review general Georgia law governing dog bite cases. Georgia Law Under Georgia law, there is a presumption that dogs are harmless. Thus, a Plaintiff, the dog bite victim, bears the burden of overcoming this presumption by showing the dog owner had superior knowledge that the dog was not harmless. This statue differs from some other states, like California for example, where dog owners are considered strictly liable if their dog attacks someone, almost regardless of the circumstances, and offers responsible dog owners significant protection. Georgia law provides for liability for dog bites through O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7, which sets forth the liability of owners and keepers of vicious or dangerous animals for injuries caused by those animals, or O.C.G.A. § 51-3-1, Georgia’s premises liability statute. Liability under a negligence theory does not exist in the instance of a dog bite action (for more information about traditional “negligence" lawsuits and the differences between those suits and dog bite suits, please download the free “Overview of Negligence Lawsuits" guide from our website under the Publications tab). In Georgia, unless there is evidence that a dog was not at heel or on a leash, as required by local ordinance 1 at the time of the dog bite, a Plaintiff must prove (1) that the dog was vicious or dangerous; and (2) that the owner knew it (or should have known it). The dog’s nature and the owner’s knowledge are two separate issues, and proof of both is necessary for recovery. These are very important components for dog owners to remember because 'superior knowledge' of the dog's propensity is often what provides for liability in these cases. For example, if your dog has behaved aggressively towards someone in the past and you knew about it (or a 'responsible dog owner' would have known about it), you would be held to have 'superior knowledge' regarding your dog's tendencies. Thus, the true test of liability is the owner’s superior knowledge of his dog’s temperament. Georgia does have separate laws that address “dangerous dogs." Georgia’s Dangerous Dog Control Law provides for the registration of dangerous dogs, proper enclosures, the purchasing of an insurance policy or surety bond against liability for personal injuries inflicted by the dog, and other requirements and penalties. See O.C.G.A. § 4-8-20 to 4-8-30. Under this Code, a dangerous dog is any dog that, according to the records of an appropriate authority inflicts a severe injury on a human being without provocation on public or private property at any time after March 31, 1989; or aggressively bites, attacks, or endangers the safety of humans without provocation after the dog has been classified as a potentially dangerous dog and after the owner has been notified of such classification.It is the intent of the General Assembly that the owner of a dangerous dog or potentially dangerous dog will be solely liable for any injury to or death of a person caused by such dog. O.C.G.A. § 4-8-30. Thus, it's important to separate dogs who have attacked before into a separate class by themselves when assessing liability – in essence, all dogs are innocent until proven guilty, but once they bite someone, the owner is on notice that the dog is potentially dangerous, and the expectation is now that the owner must take special precautions. Even in cases where the dog owner is found to have violated a local ordinance, or otherwise behaved in a manner that may give rise to his liability, he may still try to defend his actions by claiming the plaintiff “assumed the risk" of interacting with the dog. The defense of assumption of the risk bars recovery when the evidence shows that the plaintiff, without coercion of circumstances, chooses a course or action with full knowledge of its danger and while exercising a free choice as to whether to engage in the act or not. So, for example, if you approach an individual and his dog in a public park and choose to pet the dog without encouragement or acquiescence of the owner – if that dog bites you, a court may decide you knew there was a risk in petting an unknown dog, and and by petting it anyways, you knowingly took a risk. In that case, you would be barred from recovering against the owner. I would encourage all dog owners to familiarize themselves with O.C.G.A. § 51-2-7 and their local ordinances, both of which can be found through a simple Google search. Every county in Georgia has their own local ordinances governing expectations of dog owners, and it is critical that dog owners read and familiarize themselves with their local ordinances. Often, failure to follow your local ordinance will expose you to liability that could have otherwise been avoided.If you have any questions about what a particular ordinance means, please feel free to call us. Your homeowners insurance will cover you in the event your dog bites someone, but you should read the fine print to ensure you meet their reporting requirements because insurance companies are notorious for finding reasons to not cover your claims. The good news is the breed of dog typically does not affect your claim, though if you own a pit bull you need to discuss that with your insurance agent. In general, if your dog bites someone, you should record all the factual details and report it to your insurance company immediately as a potential claim. They will advise you about how to proceed next, and in the event you are sued, they will assign an attorney to defend your claim and you will be protected up to your policy limits. What to do if you have been bitten by a dog The first thing you should do if you have been bitten by a dog is get whatever information you can regarding the owner of the dog. Also get whatever information you can regarding the dog. If you are familiar with dogs, you want to note the dog's breed, color, height, weight, whether it was on a leash or not, etc. Cellphone cameras are great for documenting this type of evidence. Secondly, seek medical attention. You may think it was a minor bite, but animal bites are notorious causes of infection, and if left untreated, the bite can lead to a serious injury or even death. You also don't know whether the dog has had a rabies shot, regardless of what the owner tells you. Seeking medical attention also preserves evidence by allowing a medical professional to document the specifics of the wound. Take pictures of the wound (again, cellphone camera!). Most bites will not be serious, and the good citizen in you will probably prevail and you will decide you don't need to follow up. In certain circumstances though, the bite can be severe, the medical bills can pile up, and you may decide you want to explore a suit. Any person bitten by a dog that was being negligently supervised is entitled to reimbursement for medical bills, lost wages, any lost future income, any future medical bills, any permanent injury or disfigurement, and reasonable pain and suffering. If you later determine the bite was serious enough to consider legal action, contact an experienced attorney who understands how to litigate these cases.
Personal Injury Insurance in Auto Accident Claims Some of the most common causes of personal injuries are auto accidents. Drivers can purchase auto insurance to take financial responsibility for the accidents that they cause. All motorists are also required to carry the minimum amount of coverage under Texas law. If you have suffered a personal injury in a car, you can file a claim with your own insurer if you have appropriate first-party coverage. You can also file a claim with the insurer of the other motorist who caused the accident. These are known as third-party claims. Personal Injury Insurance in Slip and Fall & Premises Liability Claims Every year, several Dallas homeowners suffer injuries when they suffer a fall accident. Injuries caused in a slip and fall accident are typically severe. From fractures and broken bones, to more serious head injuries and spinal injuries, a Dallas homeowner can suffer injuries in falls caused by broken stairs, debris on the floor, cracked flooring and a number of other causes. Falls on another person's property can result in a claim filed under the property owner's homeowner liability insurance coverage. Homeowner liability insurance covers the homeowner for injuries that occur on the property. To hold the homeowner liable, you must establish that he or she was negligent, and that the negligence led to the injuries. For example, if a homeowner was negligent in failing to clean up a spill on tile flooring and you slipped and fell, you may file a homeowner insurance claim against the homeowner's insurance policy. Other Premises Liability Claims & Applicable Insurance Apart from slip and fall accidents, there are other ways that people can suffer injuries on another's premises and may file a homeowners insurance claim to recover damages. For instance, a person who visits a homeowner's property may suffer a vicious dog bite attack or an injury in a swimming pool. Similar to a slip and fall claim, victims can file a claim with the property owner's homeowners insurance. Personal Injury Insurance for Accidents on Commercial Property Owners of commercial property like restaurants and retail stores also have liability insurance should an accident occur on their property. Similar to homeowners insurance claims, the victim must prove the property owner's negligence - or negligence of an employee - to file the claim successfully. For example, if employees fail to fix a tripping hazard and you fell as a result, you may prove that this negligence led to your injuries. Health Insurance Coverage if Injured Your health insurance policy will also provide benefits for you and your family members when you suffer injuries in an accident. It may provide initial coverage after your accident, but the health insurer may recover payments it makes on your behalf if you are successful in recovering damages in a personal injury insurance claim or lawsuit. Keep in mind also that health insurance is subject to deductibles and copayments.