They Are Not Your Friends

Dealing with the other guys insurance company.

Is there anyone out there that still believes that the insurance company for the person that caused you harm is really going to help you out?  The business model of insurance companies is simple, take in as much money as possible through premiums and pay out as little as they can through claims. It’s how they make a profit.

My video blog explains exactly how to handle this situation.

Large Truck Crashes in Virginia

Large trucks on the highway pose a significant threat to drivers of passenger cars. Although the trucks account for only four percent of registered vehicles nationwide, they account for nine percent of vehicles involved in fatal car crashes.

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In 2013, there were approximately 342,000 accidents involving large trucks, resulting in 3,964 fatalities. In those fatal wrecks, the person killed was an occupant of the other vehicle 71 percent of the time! The truck driver was killed only 17 percent of the time. Injuries from large truck wrecks are very similar. The injured parties are occupants of the other vehicle 72 percent of the time.

In Virginia, there were 1001 vehicles involved in fatal crashes in 2013, 100 of which were large trucks. Of the 89 people killed in these wrecks involving large trucks, 24 were occupants of the truck, while 61 were occupants of the other vehicle, and four were not occupants of either vehicle.

Nationwide, the majority of wrecks involving large trucks occur when the roads are most populated. Sixty-four percent of wrecks happen on weekdays, and 73 percent occur between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Alcohol is rarely an issue with truck drivers. In fatal large truck crashes in 2013, only two percent of the truck drivers had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or higher. Drivers of passenger cars involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of .08 or higher 23 percent of the time.

Collisions with big trucks are obviously something to be avoided. To do so, it helps to recognize the types of truck driver errors that most often contribute to wrecks. According to Virginia’s 2014 crash statistics, truck drivers were cited for a moving violation in 5,151 of the 9,750 crashes. Sixteen percent of those violations were for improper lane changes, and another 16 percent were for following too closely. Nine percent were for failure to yield the right of way.

These types of actions by truck drivers indicate two defensive strategies for passenger car drivers: 1) assume the driver of a big truck cannot see you due to blind spots, and 2) get out of the way. In a passenger car, you can’t afford to come into contact with a big rig. You might have the right of way, but that is of little consequence when 4,000 pounds goes up against 80,000 pounds! And the trucker might be wrongfully tailgating, but moving over and letting him pass is always the best play.

If you’ve been injured in a car wreck with a large truck, you should consult with an experienced, compassionate personal injury attorney who understands Virginia law. To learn more, ASK ABOUT IT! Call Sandler Law Group – toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

Chronic Pain Is Hard to Prove in a Lawsuit

Pain remains an unfathomable phenomenon. Even with the advances in technology over the years, a tool that we could call a “pain meter” has not come into full existence. Thus, when someone in pain expresses how he or she feels, no one can perfectly validate the intensity of the pain.

Although pain has long been one of the determinants in awarding damages, it is also one of the most contested components in any personal injury case. There are many factors that may trigger pain, some of which may be related to a prior injury.

Unfortunately, a few people fake pain, not realizing the negative effects of their actions on others, who are validly and badly injured. As a lawyer for injured people, it can be difficult to rip that doubt out of the minds of defendant lawyers.

Back problems and human backache pain with an upper torso body skeleton showing the spine and vertebral column in red highlight as a medical health care concept
Back problems and human backache pain with an upper torso body skeleton showing the spine and vertebral column in red highlight as a medical health care concept

This puts people who are honestly and badly hurt in a quagmire. You could just imagine how someone truly debilitated by pain struggles in court to prove that the experience is real and not just a product of mental fabrication. Take, for instance, the case of a truck driver named Carl Koch.

In a work-related accident in 2005, Koch sustained first-degree and second-degree burns on his face down to his right arm. Koch was standing close to his truck’s tanker of molten tar when the connection of a hose suddenly broke. Splashes of 300-degree tar caused his burn injuries.

Intensive treatment had successfully alleviated the onset severe pain. Unfortunately, about two years later, Koch complained of unresolved pain to his right arm. It was established by his pain manager that he had “chronic neuropathic pain” due to damaged nerves—a long-term effect of the tar accident.

When he filed a lawsuit against his employer, he was accused of fabricating or exaggerating the intensity of his pain. The accusation was like another blow, literally adding insult to his injuries.

Determined to prove his case, Koch’s team resorted to a brain scan called fMRI, or functional magnetic resonance imaging. The technology is believed to capture specific brain locations that become activated when the body experiences pain. While on the verge of losing after several turndowns by laboratories, the fMRI was performed by a physician who advocated herself as a neuroscientist. Although the defendant strongly questioned the admissibility of the fMRI as piece of evidence, both parties eventually agreed to an $800,000 case settlement.

The technology used in Mr. Koch’s case likely played a vital role leading to the case settlement. But this is cutting-edge technology that is expensive and not accessible to everyone.

If you have been injured in a car wreck, you need an attorney who is skilled at fighting for your right to compensation. With The Sandler Law Group, you can always ASK ABOUT IT! Call us toll free at 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

What Happens in an Accident Reconstruction?

Auto accident involving two cars on a city street
Auto accident involving two cars on a city street

Accident reconstruction involves using investigative, engineering, and physics to attempt to determine the cause of an accident. The reconstructionist uses evidence to draw conclusions about what might have caused or contributed to an accident. Reconstruction is typically used for severe crashes or accidents involving fatalities. In Virginia, testimony of accident reconstruction experts is severely limited, and in most cases it will not be allowed, as the Court has been very reluctant to find that the circumstances upon which the experts base their opinions are EXACTLY like the real circumstances. Assumptions or reliance upon “averages” are not generally allowed, so the role of the reconstruction expert is limited.

Some evidence is physical — things you can see or touch — such as the cars themselves, skid marks, traffic signals, and medical records. Other evidence is testimonial, such as statements given by the drivers, passengers, and other witnesses.

In an accident reconstruction, all of the evidence is pieced together much like a puzzle. The reconstructionist uses principles of physics, engineering, and mathematics to determine issues like the following:

  • The speed of each vehicle at the time of impact;
  • Whether brakes were applied and, if so, the distance;
  • Whether the brakes of the vehicles had been properly maintained or might have failed;
  • The angle of impact;
  • Driver steering input;
  • Whether the roadway surface was slick, due to factors such as oil or ice;
  • Whether either driver was violating federal or state laws when the crash occurred.

The uses of accident reconstruction are not limited to lawsuits. Car manufacturers sometimes use reconstruction to identify potential vehicle safety issues and to improve car safety. State and federal highway agencies also use accident reconstruction to improve the safety of roadways and related devices, such as guardrails.

Modern-day accident reconstructionists and their clients benefit from computer technology. There are many programs that help reconstructionist by performing computations, testing theories of the crash, and re-creating accidents.

At The Sandler Law Group, we believe in avoiding accidents whenever possible. However, if you or a family member were injured in an accident and you’re considering hiring a lawyer, ASK ABOUT IT! Call us toll free at 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online atwww.sandlerlaw.net or email us at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net to get started.

 

How Do You Get a Copy of a Virginia Crash Report?

Crash report

Drivers involved in car wrecks often want or need to get a copy of the accident report. In Virginia, the official name for this document is a “police crash report.”

The police crash report outlines all the basic information about a crash, the vehicles involved, the drivers and passengers, and causes and contributing factors to the accident. It also includes the investigating officer’s diagram of the crash scene and information about the location of impact on each vehicle. There are special pages that are completed when a commercial motor vehicle or pedestrian is involved. In addition, and often obtained only by special request, may be witness statements, a ‘DUI checksheet, or other documents identifying witnesses and scene diagrams.

The easiest way to get a crash report in the Commonwealth, prepared by the State Police Department, is to request it from the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). The DMV is the official custodian of records that reflect crashes that must be reported under state law. The DMV keeps the records for at least three years after the date of the accident. Depending upon the City involved, you may be able to obtain one simply by walking into the Central Records department of the Police Department.

Only certain people are legally allowed to obtain a copy of the crash report. Of course, the driver, someone who was injured in the crash, or someone who owned property involved in the crash can get a copy. In addition, any of these people can give authorization for someone else to obtain a copy of the report on their behalf.

If a minor is hurt or killed as a result of the crash, his or her parent or guardian may obtain a copy of the report from the DMV. Similarly, if an adult is injured or killed in the crash, that person’s next of kin or personal representative may obtain a copy of the report.

Aside from these people, others who were not involved in the crash may obtain information from the police crash report only if they are legally allowed to obtain it. The DMV’s website provides details about how to request a report from that agency.

A few Virginia law enforcement agencies make their crash reports available through an online vendor known as Buycrash.com. As of the writing of this article, the following agencies make their reports available through Buycrash:

  • Colonial Heights Police Department;
  • Roanoke City and County Police Departments;
  • Staunton Police Department;
  • Vincent Police Department; and
  • Warsaw Police Department.

To use this tool, you must have certain information about the crash. You must also confirm that you are authorized to receive a copy of the report.

At The Sandler Law Group, we deal every day with vehicle accidents and crash reports in Virginia. If you have questions, ASK ABOUT IT! Call toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

Portrait of modern couple looking at real estate agent giving his visiting card

What Is a Reservation of Rights Letter?

Portrait of modern couple looking at real estate agent giving his visiting card

Contracts for auto insurance place certain obligations on both the insurance company and the insured driver. For example, the insurance company is generally required to defend an insured driver in court if that driver is sued due to a “covered” motor vehicle accident. Depending on the details of the crash, however, an insurance company may ultimately decide that the insured driver’s actions are not covered under the policy.

Just after an accident occurs, facts can be fuzzy. It can take the police some time to determine what they think happened. Often, even a driver involved in an accident may not be aware of all the facts that caused or contributed to the accident and to his or her injuries.

Similarly, when a claim is first submitted to a driver’s insurance company, the company does not know very much about what happened. To clear things up, it will assign an investigator to obtain relevant evidence — such as the police report, witness statements, medical records, and photographs — and then determine how to handle the case.

It is important to remember that the insurance company is not interested in anything other than finding a way NOT TO PAY. If they can back out of their obligation under the policy to cover a loss, then they will, because it saves them money, even if it hangs you out to dry. By denying the circumstances of coverage, or by claiming that you misrepresented some face when you applied for the policy, they can try to weasel out of their obligation to cover you if you are the person at fault, or avoid paying you if you are the claimant.

Your insurance company only has to meet certain obligations in its contract with you — such as defending you in a lawsuit — if the accident is “covered” by your policy. Insurance companies sometimes cannot immediately tell whether an accident is covered. When that happens, the insurance company sends its insured driver a “reservation of rights” letter. This means that although the insurance company is going to investigate the accident — or possibly even provide a legal defense in a lawsuit — it may later decide that the accident is not “covered” under your policy and stop defending you at that time. A reservation of rights letter, however IS NOT a denial letter. Rather it is a letter that says that, for the time being, they are going to continue to investigate and defend the claim for your, pending the outcome.

Because a reservation of rights letter puts the insured driver on notice that the company may LATER deny coverage, it is usually a good idea to see an experienced injury lawyer if you receive one of these letters.

At the Sandler Law Group, we believe in preventing or avoiding accidents whenever possible. Unfortunately, even when precautions are taken, accidents occur. If you or a loved one was injured in an accident, ASK ABOUT IT! Call the Sandler Law Group—toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900—to schedule an initial FREE consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.

The Driver’s Privacy Protection Act Keeps Your Private Information Safe

A magnifying glass hovering over the word Privacy and other related terms such as secrety, protection, security and identity

Did you ever wonder what protections exist for all the private information you are required to provide to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles? Federal and state laws work together to help protect your confidential information.

In 1994, Congress passed a law called the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (DPPA), which was originally designed to guard against crime. Congressional members were concerned with the illegal use of personally identifiable information for purposes such as fraud and identity theft. Yet another driving force behind this federal law was that private information had been used — although rarely — by stalkers to locate their victims.

As you might expect, there are several exceptions to the general prohibition on non-use under this federal law. For example, your personal information may be obtained by law enforcement to use in crime investigations. Here are some other examples:

  • government recalls and emissions issues;
  • insurance company accident investigations; and
  • lawyer investigations in personal injury lawsuits.

What is protected by the DPPA? Your name, street address, driver’s license number, Social Security number, telephone number, photograph, and medical or disability information. Information about your traffic violations, accident history, and license status are not protected under this law.

However, Virginia law provides even more protection for your private information than the federal DPPA. Your driver records are privileged under a Virginia law passed by the General Assembly in 1994. Although there are exceptions, many of them either require you to have applied for a certain type of job or position or for you to have given consent for the release of your information. For example, if you apply to work for a volunteer fire company or to volunteer for the American Red Cross as a vehicle operator, a shortened version of your information can legally be provided. You can review all of those exceptions here.

Under Virginia law, your information cannot be released to companies who want to use it to market products or services to you.

If you’re in an accident due to the negligence of another driver, call Sandler Law Group. You can also ASK ABOUT IT! Call toll free 800-9-THE-LAW or (757) 627-8900 to schedule an initial consultation. You may also contact us online at www.sandlerlaw.net or by email at GSandler@Sandlerlaw.net.