>> Tiffany Bittner: Welcome to LawCall. We have the legal questions this evening. In our caller segment we talk about fighting the insurance company. Why is it takes so long to get your claim paid? Is your insurance company playing in good faith? Give us a call. Haggling can be tough but dealing with someone uninsured can be worst.
First, personal injury attorney Kirby Farris is here. He will look at an e-mail question. Alice writes, “I was backing out of a parking spot and another vehicle backed into me. My insurance to pay.”
>> Kirby Farris: You do have things you can do. If an accident happens on private property, the police don’t do an accident report. Occasionally, they’ll do an incident report. Accident reports in Alabama are not even admissible at trial. As to your insurance claim, you are probably going to have to file suit against the insurance company to get their attention, like the topic of our show tonight. Sometimes it takes that to get their attention. If they are not being responsive, that’s the course of action. Depending on your injuries, you probably need a lawyer. Maybe not. There is a small claims court most folks can manage to get through on their own.
>> Tiffany Bittner: For more information, go online and click on the LawCall link. In tonight’s sidebar, Ken Riley explains how to protect yourself from uninsured motorists.
—- Side Bar —-
>> Ken Riley: Is uninsured motorist coverage worth getting? It isn’t required in Alabama, but that shouldn’t stop you from getting it. It’s an option to cover you and your passengers from an accident caused by a driver with no insurance. If you have an accident with someone with minimal insurance or no policy at all, you are in big trouble. It protects you from un- and under insured drivers. If you don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, ask your insurance carrier about upgrading. It might be the best decision you ever make. If you have a question, send it along to LawCall.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We continue the theme about filing claims. Give us a call tonight. The number is on your screen. You have another partner in crime to answer viewer calls and questions.
>> Kirby Farris: He’s been a dear friend for years. This gentleman has helped thousands of Alabamians with just this thing. Bob Prince is here. We are glad to have him onboard.
>> Tiffany Bittner: You are a regular we have on the show. People see you every week doing segments for us. If you want people to call you, what do you say?
>> Bob Prince: I’m trying to get the hang of it.
>> Tiffany Bittner: I don’t believe that. I think you are doing a fine job.
>> Bob Prince: I’m proud to be here
>> Tiffany Bittner: Tony, what’s your question tonight?
>> Caller: I was involved in a minor fender bender. Does the value of my vehicle — they want to total my vehicle. It’s 12 years old, 80,000 miles on it. I don’t want it totaled out. I want it repaired. What are my options?
>> Bob Prince: Okay you want to get it totaled and repaired and back on the road. Maybe a lawyer can help you if the insurance company says no to that.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Let’s here from Phillip. What’s going on?
>> Caller: I wanted to run through stuff. I was standing on my girlfriend’s front porch, ringing her doorbell. The front porch fell in. Her insurance said they wouldn’t pay because of lack of maintenance. I don’t know how you can maintain something like that without setting a hold through the block. I was out of work for a month. The insurance company tells me that there is nothing I can do.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Okay.
>> Bob Prince: I’m baffled that they would say that. Under the homeowner policy, say you sued her, then they have to pay that. If it’s a defect that they should have known about and didn’t warn you, they have to pay. They are trying to worm out, but go to a lawyer and let someone like Kirby look at the policy. I’ll be surprised how they can insure somebody and say, “wow, you didn’t keep it up”. That’s a claim.
>> Kirby Farris: I agree.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Let’s here from R.W. in Pelham.
>> Caller: I had a cousin I was helping care for. She went to the hospital and the hospital people was told if insurance don’t cover whatever you want to do, notify me and let me know what’s going on because the money is not there for a lot of stuff. She was 80 some years old. They assured me everything was covered. Fine. I get out, bring her home. Within a couple of months, she passed away. Then I get a bill from the hospital for $69,000. Said the insurance denied.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Kirby?
>> Kirby Farris: There’s a lot going on there. In order to help you out, we would need to look at what you are talking about. There are a lot of variables in terms of what we are looking at. If the insurance is not supposed to pay for the items, if the policy is excluding the item, the redress is against the insurance company. Another factor is if you are liable for that or not. You need to see a lawyer, figure out where the policy is in question, look at that and decide first of all if you are responsible for the bill, if the insurance company is supposed to pay.
>> Tiffany Bittner: We’ll take more questions right after the break.
>> Tiffany Bittner: If you are struggling with your insurance company, tonight’s the night for the question. We have Paul on the line tonight. Hi, Paul.
>> Caller: How are you?
>> Tiffany Bittner: Paula, I should say. Hey, Paula, go ahead.
>> Caller: I was recently rear ended by someone that had no license and no insurance. I took them to small claims court and they are trying to serve the papers to them, but they can’t find them. The person was not issued a ticket for speeding or no insurance or no license at the scene. I don’t know why they didn’t issue that. I wonder if there is anything I can do about any of it?
>> Kirby Farris: Wow. Listening to your case, sounds like don’t worry about the fact that the officer didn’t give a ticket, that’s small claims court. You are suing for negligence. They have to come to court or you get a default judgment. I would stay concentrated on the civil part to get your property damage back.
>> Bob Prince: You might scare them off with a personal injury claim.
>> Kirby Farris: That uninsured motorist coverage is critical for folks.
>> Bob Prince: You have to sign that you don’t want it, right?
>> Kirby Farris: Normally there is a statute on your policy, but you can sign it away. My experience has been that they don’t push it heavily. It’s not a big profit setter for them, but it’s important to have. It’s the most inexpensive car insurance compared to others.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Let’s talk about being injured. What are the steps folks should think about if they were involved in an accident? Maybe they are home now feeling aftermath and pain, their medical bills are piling up. What steps do they need to think about?
>> Kirby Farris: Get help. If you need treatment, your most important concern is your health. A few things we see in our practice, Bob sees it in his. Always give them a full and complete history. If you have back problems, tell them about it. While that stuff may not seem important to you because you are hurting, it’s important in your claim because they try to say you are not hurtful in your claim. We encourage people when you go to see a doctor, give them that information. We encourage people to keep a log. The biggest thing, follow your doctor’s advice. Follow a treatment plan. Get to see a personal injury lawyer. They’ll take care of that for you.
>> Tiffany Bittner: What is the time frame people need to think about after being in an accident?
>> The day your accident occurs is the day the injury company goes to work. You need to be careful what you are saying to people.
>> That’s a great point, Tiffany Bittner, good question. When the insurance company contacts you, if it’s the insurance company opposing you, you have no obligation to talk to them, and you shouldn’t.
>> That doesn’t mean you are trying to do something shady or anything like that, a lot of folks want to be up front and truthful about what’s going on, but you need to be guarded somewhat.
>> You have a professional on the other side that knows Alabama law. They want to hear you say things detrimental to their claim. It’s their job to minimize your claim. You talk to them, you are talking to someone that knows Alabama law, knows how to adjust claims, knows how to get the information to minimize your claim. It’s important not to talk with the insurance company on the other side.
>> And knows how to record you without telling you.
>> Which is again, legal in Alabama. If one person knows the conversation is being recorded, the other doesn’t have to know.
>> You see folks coming in after the accident and they seem fine but a week or so later —
>> There is always a delay. That’s a known medical condition that your adrenaline is pumping and you don’t feel that you are injured.
>> I had a parallel come in from a fender bender, two or three days later had to have surgery. Serious injury.
>> A lot to think about. We’ll take a break. When we come back if you want to talk about personal injury or fighting the insurance company, give us a call.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Here is what our calendar for June is shaping up like. June 12th, worker compensation, June 19th, grandpa and the law for Father’s Day. June 26th is buying or starting a franchise. A lot of good shows coming up, and a lot of folks to answer your questions and talk to you. We hope you will participate in the show and give you a phone call. If you have been watching and would like to talk to Bob Prince he is in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Kirby Farris from Farris, Riley & Pitt 324-1212 or deliveringjustice.com. That is his phone number and web address. Check out the attorneys you have seen on the show. They are happy to help you out and give you information if we don’t get to your phone call or question tonight. We were talking about personal injuries, and we talked about car accidents. Let’s take another step forward and talk about 18-wheeler accidents. They are different than a regular vehicle accident. They are bigger, larger, and damage is sometimes more. Let’s talk about that for a minute. What do folks need to consider if they have been involved with an 18-wheeler?
>> They weigh 80,000 pounds. Rarely do you come into contact with an 18-wheelers and win the battle.
>> We stress if you have been in an accident with an 18-wheeler, you have to have a lawyer. There is a whole body of federal law that applies to 18-wheelers that does not apply to regular vehicle accidents. Often you will have a driver from out of state and a company from out of state here in Alabama, which will put you in federal court. Not all lawyers that practice in Alabama practice in federal court. It is a different place to battle. Our lawyers often lose that battle.
>> With an 18-wheeler it’s important to get a lawyer quickly as you can. I would like people to be affirmative about it and get it lined up in case your family is in a wreck. Did you know the trucking company dispatches an accident reconstruction person to the scene, sometimes a defense lawyer to the scene. We had a case where they beat the state troopers there, gathering evidence, taking pictures, getting interviews, etc., while you are in the hospital trying to recuperate. You are behind the eight ball immediately.
>> When we talk about fighting the insurance companies, you are beginning in a disadvantage. You are hurt and worried about how you will pay your bills, taking care of your family, about your own recovery. You wait four or five days to retain a lawyer, you are way behind.
>> Tiffany Bittner: Let’s talk to Karen. What’s going on?
>> Caller: Hello. Okay, well this is my question, and my concern. I actually went and got an oil change at — I don’t know if I can say it, but a national chain. Actually, it was an oil change but they actually loosened all of the bolts off my tires. I don’t know why. As I was going back on the 459 on to the highway to go home, all of a sudden my car stopped. To make a long story short, tow truck, got towed back, the whole thing, but you know what? I could have been killed, actually, and I was told, “we are sorry”. I talked to the regional vice president of the company. They said, “we are sorry. I don’t know why they loosened the lug bolts off your car, but we are sorry and we’ll give you a free oil change”. My answer is, what is the liability for this?
>> Yeah, that’s very strange. When you were telling me your story, I thought a mechanic was trying to sabotage your car and pick you up, maybe having an ill intent toward you. I have never heard of you having an oil change and they loosened the lug bolts, you have been injured. You could go to small claims court. Your claim is not large enough for someone like — one of the larger law firms because they are only so many hours in the day, but you could go to small claims court to recover. I don’t know why they would mess with your wheels.
>> Tiffany Bittner: For an oil change. Let’s hear from Rocky in Moody.
>> Caller: I’m Rocky. I’m from Moody. I was recently rear-ended. The people that hit me had minimum $25,000. Six months in, can an attorney tell you to stop going to the doctor?
>> He can tell you, but you don’t need to do it. Your medical care is what’s important. Plus insurance companies, they look at what your total medical bills are. Some kind of “John Wayne” person that doesn’t go to the doctor gets penalized. You have to go and tell them you’re hurt.
>> I always encourage people to sit down and talk to your lawyer. Sounds like your situation is that you need to see a doctor. You don’t compromise your health for a claim under any circumstances. Let him know you are having problems and you need to see a doctor.
>> If the injuries are worth more than $25,000, uninsured motorist kicks in. That’s what’s so important.
>> Tiffany Bittner: 30 seconds left. I want you to explain contingent fees.
>> We are talking about fighting the insurance companies, contingency fees allow you to do that. You can hire a lawyer. They get a percentage of the recovery. You don’t have to pay them by the hour.
>> They’ll work with you on your case.
>> We don’t win, we don’t get paid.
>> Tiffany Bittner: All right. Thank you all for calling. Have a great week.