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Entries in insurance matters (9)

Monday
Oct132014

California's Prop 45: Sticking it to "the Man" or to the People?

Litigation Los AngelesBusiness & Environmental Litigation  

 

Stephen T. Holzer

818.907.3299

 

 

 

Continuing our series covering the various measures Californians will see on the 2014 midterm election ballot, we now turn to Proposition 45, or the Public Notice Required for Insurance Company Rates Initiative.

 

The crux of the question is this: Should insurance company rate changes for small businesses and individuals be regulated? Here's how regulation would be enforced if Prop 45 passes. The measure will require:

  1. The California Insurance Commissioner to approve rate changes or any other changes that affect charges to policy holders.

  2. Public notices, hearings and judicial reviews regarding rate changes.

  3. Health insurers to submit sworn statements attesting to the accuracy of information they submit to the Insurance Commissioner regarding the need for rate changes.

  4. Exemptions of large group employer health plans

  5. Auto, health and homeowners insurance companies to cease denying policies or raising rates for consumers based on credit history and lack of prior coverage.

Though the question is simple, it appears the answer may be more complicated. The battle lines are drawn almost exactly as you would expect, though there are some surprises on each side.

Supporters of Prop 45 include a variety of consumer watchdog groups; labor unions such as the California Nurses Association and the California Federation of Teachers; the California Democratic Party; and the current Insurance Commissioner, Dave Jones.

These groups argue that the cost of health insurance is running out of control, with no transparency regarding how insurers set their prices. Supporters of the measure claim health insurance premiums have risen 185 percent since 2002, and that one company in particular raised rates nearly 20 percent this year alone.

Opponents of Prop 45 encompass the California Medical Association; various hospital groups; labor unions such as the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; the California Chamber of Commerce and the William Jefferson Clinton Democrats.

Those against the measure say Prop 45 giving one politician – the Insurance Commissioner – so much power is a bad idea, and that treatment decisions should be made by doctors and patients, not someone who takes campaign contributions. They also argue against creating more costly bureaucracy, and that this proposition is sponsored by special interest lawyers looking to profit from health care lawsuits.

The latest Field Poll estimates 48 percent of those surveyed support Prop 45, over 38 percent oppose, and about 14 percent are still undecided.

Stephen T. Holzer is a Business and Environmental Litigation Attorney. Contact him via phone: 818.907.3299 or by email: sholzer@lewitthackman.com.

 

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Thursday
Aug232012

Insurance Companies Behaving Badly: The Progressive Fiasco

Personal Injury SettlementsInjury Attorney

 

(818) 907-3254
by David B. Bobrosky

 

Thanks to social media, the power is truly back with the people. 

It helped revive Betty White's career, thanks to a Facebook campaign by her fans. It got the Susan G. Komen Foundation to rethink its decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, and public outcry further prompted the resignation of five Foundation executives. Social media also sparked a movement to boycott Chick-fil-A, and then a counter-movement to support the chain, after the company president took a public stance for traditional marriage. 

 

Personal Injury Free ConsultationClick image to contact us for a free consultation.

Regardless of what side of these issues you fall, social media has proved to be powerful. Now, Progressive Insurance is the latest to be feeling the pain of public outcry in social networking forums. 

It started in 2010, when Progressive client Katilynn Fisher was killed in an automobile accident in Baltimore. Among other things, her insurance policy covered her for accidents with uninsured or underinsured drivers.

Nationwide Insurance covered the other driver, and promptly paid out its policy limits of $25,000 to Fisher's estate.

Under Fisher’s underinsured policy with Progressive, there was another $75,000 available to the estate.  A total of $100,000 certainly seems like nothing for the death of a loved one, but that’s all that was available.  To make matters worse, Progressive refused to pay out even the $75,000, claiming Fisher may have been at fault for the accident.

Apparently, in the State of Maryland, if your insurance company refuses to settle your underinsured motorist claim, you must prove your damages against the other driver first in court. In this case the other driver’s company had already paid its own policy limits.  Nevertheless, Progressive still fought the family. 

In California, it would be a little different.  After recovering the third party policy, an insured could demand arbitration against its own insurance company if it refused to pay on the underinsured policy.

Progressive refused to settle the matter for anything more than a third of the policy, and then set out to defend the other driver even though he appeared to be at fault.

This prompted Fisher's brother, Matt Fisher, to post a blog about the insurer on August 13th entitled My Sister Paid Progressive Insurance to Defend Her Killer in Court:

Here I address you, Prospective Progressive Insurance Customer: someday when you have your accident, I promise that there will be enough wiggle room for Progressive’s bottomless stack of in-house attorneys to make a court case out of it and to hammer at that court case until you or your surviving loved ones run out of money.... Which is what Progressive decided to do to my family. In hopes that a jury would hang or decide that the accident was her fault, they refused to pay the policy to my sister’s estate. 

Rather than accepting responsibility for its actions, Progressive posted a response to Matt Fisher’s blog.  Progressive stated:

            “Progressive did not serve as the attorney for the defendant.”

On August 14th, Fisher posted a response to a statement by the insurer.  Fisher pointed out that the Progressive attorney sat at counsel table during the trial, presented an opening statement, questioned the witnesses, and presented the closing argument.  As Fisher stated, he was “comfortable characterizing this as a legal defense.”

The posts earned the case some national media attention. Fisher was invited to appear on national television and Progressive's Facebook page saw an onslaught of negative commentary.

A circuit court in Maryland awarded $760,000 to the Fisher family. Progressive paid the $75,000 it owed to begin with, and then paid an additional undisclosed settlement for the way the company handled its own insured’s claims.

Had Progressive treated its insured fairly, it would merely have paid the $75,000, and saved the insured’s family additional grief. Instead, Progressive paid significantly more and put the family through additional anguish.

I’d like to think Progressive, and other insurers, have learned a lesson here…but we know they probably haven't. Insurance companies will continue to do whatever they can to pay out as little as they can on all claims.

David B. Bobrosky is a San Fernando Valley Personal Injury Attorney and avid safe driving proponent. Contact him via e-mail: dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.
Tuesday
Feb072012

California Small Claims Court: An Effective Tool for Smaller Personal Injury Cases

Personal Injury Attorney 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

 

Insurance companies are manipulating the civil justice system, and most people don’t have a clue that it’s happening.  

For years insurers have complained about the alleged “frivolous lawsuits” that are clogging the system.  But in reality, they are to blame for much of it in their efforts to discourage all claims no matter how fair or reasonable. 

 

Insurance Claims Process – The Unfair Game

 

Insurance companies realize that they can make it so expensive to litigate a smaller case that it can be cost prohibitive.  So rather than offer a reasonable settlement on cases they know deserve it, insurance companies refuse to offer anything, or will low ball claimants with offers less than the reasonable medical expenses they’ve incurred.  

Many times claimants, who would have settled for just paying the medical bills or slightly more, resort to seeking counsel. Once in litigation, insurance companies have their in-house counsel grind the cases and force the claimants all the way through written discovery, depositions and ultimately trial.  At that point, litigation costs usually exceed what claimants get from a jury.

This is where small claims court can be the equalizer.

Small Personal Injury Claims Advice

 

We get several calls per month pertaining to mild injuries suffered in car accidents.  Many times they are neck or back strains that have healed with a few months of physical therapy or chiropractic treatment.  These cases are just too small for our firm to handle.  In fact, because of insurance companies, they are becoming too small for most attorneys to handle.

We have advised many of our clients that they will be better off filing actions in small claims court.  This is where claimants can level the playing field against the biggest defendants without having to incur significant costs and attorney fees. 

Heather Peters proved this recently when she took Honda to small claims court over allegations that the automaker misrepresented the fuel economy of the Honda Civic Hybrid.  

Rather than participating in a class action suit that would have yielded her about $100 plus rebates toward a new car, Peters went her own way. She received an award of just under $10,000 – much more than participants in the class action case – in a California small claims court

There are many other advantages to small claims court: 

  • No attorneys are allowed.  Therefore, everyone is equal. 

  • Costs of pursuing claims are thousands of dollars less than a traditional Superior Court action. 

  • Cases are often heard within a couple of months, compared to more than a year for an average Superior Court case.

  • Rules of evidence are relaxed.  For the most part, claimants can just ‘tell their story.’ 

  • Cases are decided by Judges, Court Commissioners or Volunteer Judges, rather than angry jurors who do not want to be on jury duty.

  • The maximum award for bodily injury claims where the defendant is insured is $7,500.  The maximum award for most other individual claims recently increased to $10,000.

Small claims can be very effective in personal injury cases.  When litigation will be cost prohibitive, I advise the client of the pros and cons of small claims court.  If they choose to go to small claims court, I often times guide them through the process and help them prepare for their hearing.  

In every case I’ve helped an injured party, a reasonable award has been obtained.  Often times the award is as high, or higher, than a jury would award – with much less time, money and aggravation spent.  Thus, this leaves the client with more money in his or her pocket. 

California Small Claims Appeals: Insurance Companies Prolonging the Litigation 

 

Of course, reasonable, efficient awards are not good enough for insurance companies, so  they appear to appeal every small claims award in favor of a claimant – no matter how fair or reasonable.

A defendant who loses a case is entitled to one appeal of a small claims matter.  The appeals are heard by Superior Court judges, and attorneys are allowed in these proceedings. 

An appeal is still advantageous, however, compared to full blown litigation. Appeals are usually heard within 45 days, and depending on the judge can be more informal than a traditional court trial. For a basic personal injury matter, the appeals are often completed in less than a day. Even if an attorney must be hired, it is much cheaper to do so for a small claims appeal than full litigation.

In the appropriate case, small claims court can be a very effective tool for consumers.  It is a place where David can truly slay Goliath, and should be used more often.

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney at our Firm. Contact him at dbobrosky@lewitthackman.com, 818.990.2120.

 

 
Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

Thursday
Jun022011

California Auto Insurance - Policy Check

Injury Attorney Los AngelesLos Angeles Injury Lawyer 

 

by David B. Bobrosky
(818) 907-3254

 

California auto insurance industry experts estimate that 33 percent of the state’s drivers have no automobile liability coverage. And the rate of uninsured drivers in low income areas may exceed 60 percent.

Though recent figures from different sources have the overall numbers closer to 20 percent, that’s still more than 4,000,000 drivers with no insurance in the state.

And based on our own practice findings, we estimate that nearly 50 percent of the drivers we deal with have either no insurance or just the minimum.

Many of our clients think they have full coverage, which usually means they have liability, collision and comprehensive coverage. Unfortunately that excludes one of the most important auto coverage you could have – uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Types of California Car Insurance

 

Before explaining why uninsured/underinsured coverage is so important, let’s take a look at the most common coverages available:

▪  Bodily Injury Liability: provides coverage for people you cause injury to in an accident.

▪  Property Damage Liability: covers any property you cause damage to, other than your own, in an accident.

▪  Collision: covers damage to your own car when in an accident, regardless of who is at fault.

▪  Comprehensive: provides coverage for losses to your own car for incidents other than a collision. This includes cars stolen, or damaged from falling trees, animals, fires, etc.

▪  Uninsured Motorist: covers you, the insured members of your household and your passengers for bodily injuries, damages or death caused by another driver who was not insured, or who fled the scene.

▪  Underinsured Motorist: provides coverage for you, the insured members of your household and your passengers for bodily injuries, damages or death caused by another driver who had less liability insurance than you have in underinsured coverage.

Importance of Uninsured/Underinsured Insurance

 

If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver and you only carry liability, collision, and comprehensive, you are left to deal with medical bills, lost time from work and the pain, by yourself.

By adding uninsured/underinsured car insurance, you can seek compensation for your injuries for up to the policy limits of your own uninsured motorist coverage.

For example, with uninsured policy limits of $100,000, you can seek compensation for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering up to those $100,000 limits.

If the other driver carries limits of $15,000 and you have that same $100,000 in underinsured coverage, you could obtain the other driver’s $15,000 policy limits, and recover the difference between the two policies ($85,000) from your own carrier.

Thus, by carrying uninsured and underinsured coverage, you are protecting yourself, your business and your personal assets.

Check your California auto insurance policies and make sure you have adequate uninsured/underinsured coverage. Check your excess/umbrella policies as well, as only certain companies offer excess/umbrella policies that include uninsured/underinsured coverage.

Californiauninsured/underinsured motorists coverage is relatively inexpensive…how can you not afford to protect yourself?

David B. Bobrosky is a Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney. You can reach him at: 818.990.2120.

Disclaimer:
This Blog/Web Site is made available by the lawyer or law firm publisher for educational purposes only, to provide general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this blog site you understand there is no attorney client relationship between you and the Blog/Web Site publisher. The Blog/Web Site should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

 

 

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LEWITT HACKMAN | 16633 Ventura Boulevard, Eleventh Floor, Encino, California 91436-1865 | 818.990.2120