The Benefits of Uninsured And Underinsured Motorist Coverage: Protecting Yourself from Irresponsible Drivers!

by djventura | July 2nd, 2015

Author: David J. Ventura, Trial Attorney

Crumley Roberts, LLP

Under North Carolina Law, all registered motor vehicles must be insured by an automobile liability policy which carries a minimum $30,000.00 of bodily injury liability insurance. If you are injured in an accident through no fault of your own and someone else is at fault, their liability insurance pays you for your medical expenses, lost earnings and physical injury caused by a negligent driver. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of drivers across the country drive without the required liability insurance. This puts us all at risk of being injured by an uninsured driver who will not be able to pay for the harm caused by their negligent driving.

For instance, in North Carolina, the percentage of uninsured drivers on the road in 2012 was 9.1%. This compares with 7.7% for South Carolina, 10.1 % for Virginia, and 20.1 % for Tennessee.(Source:InsuranceResearchCouncil). In 2012 alone, uninsured drivers caused $2.6 billion in personal injury damages. (Source: Insurance Journal, “IRC: Uninsured Motorists a Perplexing, Pervasive Concern”, by Don Jergler).

In fact, most uninsured drivers cite a lack of money as the reason they did not buy the required bodily injury liability insurance. (Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, “States Look To Reduce Ranks of Uninsured Drivers”, by Teresa Wiltz). This means that those uninsured drivers are not likely to have the financial ability to pay you for all the damage they caused. One way to protect yourself is to buy Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage from your own insurance company when you insure your car, truck or van.

So what is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage? They are two types of automobile insurance designed to protect you if an uninsured or underinsured driver negligently causes a wreck. Uninsured Motorist Coverage protects you when you are hit by a driver who has no liability insurance at all. In that situation, your own automobile insurance company pays your damages after you prove the uninsured driver was at fault.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage applies to a situation where you are hit by a driver who has liability insurance, but not enough to pay for all of the damage and harm caused to you. With Underinsured Motorist coverage, once you have collected against all of the liability insurance available from the other driver, your own automobile insurance company pays you for any remaining damage and harm caused by the at fault driver.

Let me give a realistic example of how this insurance coverage can provide some protection if you are hit by a driver who is not insured. Mary is the mother of three elementary school children who works part-time while her kids are in school. Each day she finishes work before school lets out so she can pick her kids up from school. This allows her time to help with their homework, take them to after-school activities, make dinner, and get them to bed. Her husband Ron works a full-time job during the day and a part-time job at night so Mary won’t need to work full-time until the kids are older. As with most folks, finances are tight.

Life was going on as usual for Mary, Ron and the kids until the day a young male driver crossed Mary’s path. It happened two years ago. Mary had picked up the kids from school and was taking them to a friend’s birthday party. The weather was clear and it was a beautiful sunny day. The kids were so excited about the party. Sadly, they never made it to the party that day. Mary was driving down Maple Street about a mile from the birthday party when a young male driver ran a red light and broad-sided the minivan holding Mary and the kids. Miraculously, the kids were only shaken up and frightened. Thankfully, they were not seriously hurt.

Mary was not as lucky. Mary’s left leg was broken in two places, requiring surgery to insert a steel rod. She also sustained a concussion and multiple cuts and bruises from the shattered driver’s window. Mary’s medical bills totaled $25,000.00 and she missed three months of work, losing $3,000.00 in wages. Mary and Ron didn’t have health insurance or any disability coverage to pay for these losses. After recovering from surgery, Mary contacted her insurance company to inquire about the young male driver, and learned that his liability insurance policy had been cancelled for non-payment of premiums only two months prior to the wreck. Despite, this he kept driving around town with no liability insurance. Mary and Ron were out of luck. Two years later, they’re still dealing with the medical debt from Mary’s injuries. They think about filing for bankruptcy. The whole situation has put a strain on their marriage. Times are tough and stressful. The kids can tell something is wrong with Mom and Dad.

While buying Uninsured Motorist Coverage would not have prevented the wreck, it would have lessened the financial harm suffered by this family. In this example, $50,000.00 in Uninsured  Motorist Coverage would have paid for all of Mary’s medical bills and would have reimbursed her for her lost earnings. Mary still would have struggled to recover from her physical injuries, but at least the financial harm caused by the uninsured driver would have been lessened.

Now, if we change the facts a little, I can explain how Underinsured Motorist Coverage typically works. Let’s imagine that the young male driver carried the minimum required liability insurance of $30,000.00 but that Mary’s injuries were more severe and required a one month hospital stay costing $35,000.00, and let’s say that Mary missed six months of work and had lost earnings of $6,000.00. Under that scenario, Mary’s total economic damages would be $41,000.00. The young male driver’s liability insurance company would pay Mary $30,000.00, leaving Mary with $11,000.00 in uninsured financial damages. If Mary and Ron had purchased $50,000.00 in  Underinsured Motorist Coverage from their own automobile insurance company, Mary would have $20,000 in Underinsured Motorist Coverage available. Once the young male driver’s fault was determined, she could get paid $11,000.00 from her own insurance company to cover these uninsured financial losses. Besides financial losses, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage also covers physical injuries, pain and suffering, scarring, etc. This simple example illustrates the benefits of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage.

To have these protections though, you must purchase this type of insurance from your own automobile insurance company. Depending on your situation, North Carolina automobile insurance companies may charge about $100.00 per year for $50,000.00 in Combined Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. That’s about $1.92 per week to protect you in case an uninsured or underinsured driver crosses your path. Of course, only you can decide if it’s worth the price. As always, drive safely.

And remember, if you ever find yourself in a situation like that of Mary and Ron, give us a call. Crumley Roberts will “Stand Up For You”.

***

Scholarship Winners!

by acamundson | June 24th, 2015

Crumley Roberts is proud to announce the recipients of the Founder’s and Next Step Scholarships for 2015.  With a pool of over 300 applicants, these six individuals were selected for their commitment to academic excellence.  We are proud of each of them and cannot wait to follow their successes in the years to come!

 

Kayla Brenwald 1

 

Kayla Brenwald, of Elkin, recently completed two Associate’s Degrees at Surry Community College.  She was awarded the Next Step Scholarship and will continue her studies at Appalachian State University in the fall, where she plans to study Accounting.

 

Hunter Jones

Hunter Jones, of Morehead City, has completed her studies at Carteret Community College.  She was awarded the Next Step Scholarship and will continue her education in the fall at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

 

Matthew Pfender1

 

Matthew Pfender, of Concord, completed his studies at Fayetteville Community College.  He was awarded the Next Step Scholarship, and will be entering a program in Systems Engineering at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte to pursue a Bachelor’s degree.

 

McDaniel Wynne 2

 

McDaniel Wynne, of Bethel, graduated at the top of his class from North Pitt High School.  He was awarded the Founder’s Scholarship and will pursue a degree in History this fall at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

Anna Huffman

Anna Huffman, of Gibsonville, recently graduated from Western Alamance High School.  She has been awarded the Founder’s Scholarship and will pursue dual degrees in Political Science and Psychology beginning this fall with her enrollment at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Briona Pfeifer 1

 

Briona Pfeifer, of Mooresville, graduated from Lake Norman High School.  She has been awarded the Founder’s Scholarship and will pursue a degree in Biology on the Pre-Med track when she enrolls in classes this fall at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

 

We are exceptionally proud of all of these outstanding students and we wish them continued success in their studies!

Swimming Smart

by kmgondek | June 9th, 2015

Recently my wife and I had the pleasure of taking our two sons on a vacation cruise.   The boys (ages 6 and 4) especially love cruises because of the swimming pools and water activities onboard. Of course as parents, our priority is to make sure that our children are safe, especially around water.  As it turns out,  we all witnessed a lesson in water safety practices.

On one particular day during the cruise, I was in charge of supervising the boys while my wife was participating in an activity elsewhere.  Our sons were in the children’s pool area where the water is not more than 2 feet deep.  A Life guard was also on duty.

As to be expected the pools were crowded, and sounds of play filled the air.  Suddenly, though, I heard the piercing sound of the lifeguard blowing her whistle.  Not more than a few feet from where my sons were swimming, the lifeguard leapt into the pool and pulled a young boy from the water.  He looked to be around the ages of my children.  Staff cleared the pool and the life guard began CPR on the child.  The boy appeared to be responsive and breathing on his own when they were taken to the ship’s medical bay.  It was  a close call for that boy and his family.

I will never forget the look on the mother’s face as she came running up to the lifeguard who was administering CPR to her child.

By that time the pool had been cleared and my boys and I were watching a potential tragedy unfold.  I remember thinking just how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken from us.

This  incident happened in shallow water less than 2 feet deep, with a life guard actively monitoring the pool!  My sons asked me how it could have happened, so I took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of being safe around water and the potential consequences of failing to follow the rules.

Here are some precautions we take in our family;

  1. My wife and I always designate who is in charge of watching the boys when they are around water.  We never leave the kids unattended.  We do not rely on lifeguards.  We have two children to watch, the lifeguard has too many.
  2. Life jackets, life jackets, life jackets.
  3. Teaching the boys to be strong swimmers and to be comfortable and confident in and around the water.

With summer upon us, I thought it would be helpful to add some additional water safety information that can be found at www.safekids.org.  Please visit their website for all kinds of helpful information.  From their website;

The Hard Fact

Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4.

Top Tips

Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention.

When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy, which designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision.

Whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.

We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.

Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.

Have fun this summer and be safe !

 

Kenneth M. Gondek

Pre-Litigation Attorney

Crumley Roberts, LLP

2015 Scholarship Recipients Chosen, Winners Contacted Soon

by Staff | May 28th, 2015

The 2015 scholarship application period has ended, and recipients of Crumley Roberts’ 2015 Founder’s Scholarship and Next Step Scholarship have been chosen from a wealth of impressive applications.

Choosing winners was not easy, but our panel has selected several hardworking, talented students.

Winners will be contacted directly and announced on our website.

Crumley Roberts is proud to support these students in their efforts to continue their education.

$500,000 Verdict in Charlotte TASER® Gun Wrongful Death Case

by Dré Fleury | August 28th, 2014

Crumley Roberts’ attorneys, Karonnie Truzy and David Ventura, along with co-counsel Charles Everage, successfully represented a family from Charlotte, North Carolina, in a wrongful death case for the loss of their son stemming from a TASER® gun injury he endured at the hands of a Charlotte Metropolitan Police Department officer.  A federal jury awarded a $500,000 verdict to the parents of La-Reko Williams.

The incident occurred on July 20, 2011, as the victim was walking away from Lynx Woodlawn light rail station after a fight with his girlfriend. An article from The Charlotte Observer states that responding police officers asked the victim to stop and he failed to comply. He was then struck in the chest by electrodes from a TASER gun carrying thousands of volts of electricity.

The victim fell to the ground and was ordered on his back by officers. The officer alleged he failed to comply and was stunned again. This time though, the 21-year-old victim suffered a heart attack and died.

A lawsuit filed by the family alleged that the second jolt from the stun gun was an excessive use of force. The court agreed and a judgment was issued in favor of the victim’s family.

Charlotte litigation attorney, David Ventura, handled the case for the family, and he says the case highlights the importance of officers using discretion while subduing the citizens they’re hired to protect. David and the rest of the legal team at Crumley Roberts are hopeful the decision will help bring closure to the family of the young victim.

 

Brain Injury: NCAA concussion settlement has long term implicaitons

by Brian Kinsley | August 13th, 2014

Brain injuries and sports are becoming increasingly connected in the media and in the courtroom.  As more and more athletes come forward with medical issues stemming from past brain injuries, we will continue to see these cases arise to determine liability and, perhaps more significantly, we look to these cases to guide the future management of brain injuries by schools, sports clubs and other athletic organizations.

Most recently, the NCAA reached a settlement in a concussion lawsuit brought by former athletes in July.  The settlement had little impact on the individual plaintiffs in the case as no damages were included for the former athletes and no injury class action was pursued (they will be able to file individual personal injury law suits if they choose).  The big news about this settlement is the commitment by the NCAA to invest $75 million in medical monitoring and research to help determine the long term effects of brain injuries; both sport and non-sport related.

According to the settlement, the medical monitoring and testing will include current and former NCAA athletes which means that athletes that played in the past will be able to receive neurological testing to gauge the extent of any sustained injuries.  This testing will hopefully provide greater insight into the long term effects of brain injuries and could potentially open the door for many more individual personal injury suits by former NCAA athletes.  In addition, NCAA member schools will also be required to update policies and guidelines surrounding concussion management for athletes.

This settlement confirms that concussions are serious and costly injuries.  Significant work remains to be done to ensure that sports at all levels can be enjoyed safely.  We are hopeful that developing technologies and increased awareness and research will propel the organized sports community in the right direction.

Brian Kinsley is the Mass Tort/Products Liability Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. He is a Massachusetts native but now calls Winston-Salem, North Carolina home. When not at work, he enjoys cooking and spending time outdoors with his family.

High Point Drowning Case Dismissed Due to Governmental Immunity

by Karonnie R. Truzy | May 29th, 2014

In June 2010, a tragic drowning occurred at a city-operated swimming pool in High Point. The victim, Anthony Lee Hayes, a 17-year-old student at T. Wingate Andrews High School, was found unconscious on the floor of the deep end of the pool and was unable to be resuscitated.

It’s always devastating when a young person dies, but it is especially difficult to swallow when the death could possibly have been prevented. In any case, it is impossible to know what “might have been” which is why we rely on evidence to determine liability in the accident in question. The doctor who performed the autopsy stated that Mr. Hayes had been under the water ranging from 3-5 minutes. Lifeguards were notified by other swimmers that there was someone under the water and that is when they attempted to rescue him. The evidence of overcrowding in the pool in addition to the inattention and failure by lifeguards to detect that a swimmer was in distress generally provides a good foundation for a negligence case. Unfortunately, it was not enough as last month the Guilford County Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit we brought against the City of High Point on behalf of the estate of Mr. Hayes.

Why would a case be dismissed if there is evidence of negligence? Our common sense tells us that someone should be held responsible, or in legal terms, liable, for the accident. I believe that people have an innate sense of justice; however, from time to time there are cases like this where the “letter of the law” does not line up with what we consider to be right. Although I was sorely disappointed with the outcome of this case, I was not surprised. Earlier this year, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied a rehearing of a similar drowning case in Pasquotank County, essentially setting a precedent that a government entity in North Carolina cannot be held liable for performing governmental functions. While one does not generally consider the running of a swimming pool to be a governmental function, if the government provides a service that no one else will that benefits its citizens, the function may be considered governmental in nature.

This governmental or “sovereign” immunity was applicable in our case against the city of High Point. Basically, they could not be held liable – even though there was evidence of negligence – simply because the pool is run by the city for the benefit of the community. If the pool in question were on private property, the outcome would have been very different. Every case is unique, and the same immunity applied in this instance may not always apply when an injury or death occurs on government property. You should always consult an attorney if there is any question of liability or negligence surrounding an accident.

The important takeaway from this case is that you have to be vigilant regarding your safety and the safety of your family. If you spend time at a pool this summer – whether public or private – do not take your safety for granted and do not rely on others to monitor your children. It’s never a good idea to go swimming alone, no matter your age or swimming ability, and you should avoid swimming in overcrowded areas or where visibility is reduced.

Visit www.poolsafely.gov for more information about pool and spa safety.

Karonnie Truzy is a litigation attorney at Crumley Roberts and represented the estate of Anthony Lee Hayes in the referenced case against the city of High Point. He is a seasoned litigator and was recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer.

Barefoot Running Shoe Creator Settles Class Action Lawsuit

by Brian Kinsley | May 20th, 2014

If you are a runner, or have any runner friends, you have likely heard the latest news about the strange-looking, glove-like FiveFingers shoes.  These shoes, sold by parent company Vibram, were all the rage in the running world just a few years ago.  Said to emulate the effects of “barefoot running”, these shoes were embraced by 70 million Americans due to claims that using the shoes would support foot health by strengthening muscles and improving range of motion, balance and posture while running. Sounds good, right?   Too good to be true, unfortunately.

A $3.75 million settlement was recently announced in a class action lawsuit against Vibram.  Plaintiffs claimed unfair and deceptive trade practices were used to sell FiveFingers since the proposed health benefits were not based on scientific research.  While not necessarily financially substantial considering the number of potential class members, the settlement was successful in prohibiting Vibram from making any future claims about the health benefits of the FiveFingers shoes without “competent and reliable scientific evidence”.

This case is the latest in a series of shoe related class action suits.  In 2012, Sketchers paid a $40 million settlement related to unfounded claims related to their “Shape-Up” shoe line.  Reebok reached a $25 million settlement in 2011 for deceptively advertising a similar “toning shoe” product.  In a news release about the Reebok case David Vladeck, Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said, “The FTC wants national advertisers to understand that they must exercise some responsibility and ensure that their claims for fitness gear are supported by sound science.”

The purpose of these types of cases is not to get rich, but rather to modify corporate behavior through legal action.  It is the responsibility of citizens, and those in the legal community, to hold corporations accountable to consumer protection laws.  Regulations differ by state, but in North Carolina, the Unfair and Deceptive Trade Practice Act provides for a company to be fined up to $5,000 per misrepresentation.

When making purchasing decision, especially for health/fitness related products, you should carefully evaluate advertising claims. Check out these Tips for Buying Exercise Equipment from the FTC that can help you recognize claims you should watch for.

Brian Kinsley is the Mass Tort/Products Liability Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. He is a Massachusetts native but now calls Winston-Salem, North Carolina home. When not at work, he enjoys cooking and spending time outdoors with his family.

Crumley Roberts Awards $15,000 in Scholarships to NC Students

by Brett Crisp | May 11th, 2014

Six North Carolina students are one step closer to realizing their dream of earning a four-year college degree.  Each year, Crumley Roberts awards its $2,500 Founder’s Scholarship to graduating high school seniors who will attend an accredited four-year college or university. The 2014 recipients are Kelsey Eaves of Charlotte, N.C., Mackenzie Matthews of Pinnacle, N.C. and Christian Wheeler of Mooresville, N.C.

In addition, Crumley Roberts awarded its $2,500 Next Step Scholarship to three community college students planning to transfer to an accredited four-year college or university. The recipients are Becky Anderson of Henderson, N.C., Ryan Norwood of Norlina, N.C. and Morgan Sox of Apex, N.C.

The named students were selected from more than 350 applicants based on their essay or creative writing responses to the issue of distracted driving, particularly in young drivers, plaguing our nation.  To select the scholarship recipients, essays were judged by an independent and diverse panel of accomplished professionals and community leaders.

“Our scholarship programs are an investment in the future,” said Chris Roberts, President and CEO of Crumley Roberts. “An investment not only in the lives of the recipients, but also in our communities. We believe these students are the leaders of tomorrow and we are proud to encourage their continued growth and success.”

Crumley Roberts is committed to helping students follow their educational goals through its scholarship programs. To date, the firm has awarded nearly $190,000 in scholarships and technology to college-bound students.

Motorcycle Accidents Increase as Temperatures Rise

by Dré Fleury | May 7th, 2014

After a winter that more than wore out its welcome, folks in the Carolinas are now enjoying warmer temperatures that make you wonder if we’ve jumped right into the heart of summer.  These warm, sunny days beckon us outdoors to enjoy the beautiful NC landscape – making it prime time for motorcyclists to head out on the highway.

motorcycle_blog_image

If you’ve been on the roads lately, you can’t miss the increased number of motorcycles.  Every rider is eager to get back out onto the road after many months of idle engines.  Unfortunately, this also means an increase in motorcycle accidents.  The past few weeks have seen a dramatic increase in motorcycle accidents in North   Carolina.  These accidents often cause serious or even fatal injuries due to the exposed nature of riding a motorcycle.  Specifically, the risk of traumatic brain injury and paralysis is significantly higher for motorcyclists than drivers of traditional vehicles.

Vehicle drivers:  be aware of your surroundings and responsibly share the road with motorcyclists you encounter.  Sharing the road is a conscious choice and you must proactively look for motorcycles on the road, especially when changing lanes or at intersections.  Drivers often find it tricky to judge the speed at which a motorcycle is approaching, so you should allow extra traveling distance and avoid pulling out in front of motorcycles.

Motorcyclists:  increase your visibility by avoiding blind spots and wearing bright colored protective gear.  Smart and safe riding goes a long way toward preventing accidents.  Try not to share the lane with other motorcycles, and always approach other motorists at a safe speed and with enough distance to allow you to react to other vehicles.  Constantly look ahead down the road to identify cars or other hazards that might become a problem.  Every rider knows the feeling you get when a car is waiting to pull out across your path.  Your attention increases, pupils dilate, your fingers grip a little tighter on the brakes, and you are ready in a flash to take evasive action if the driver pulls out.  Someone told me a long time ago, when you’re riding, assume that no other cars on the road can see you.  That way you’ll make it back home safe, ready to go next time.

Sharing the road is a shared responsibility, but with safe driving/riding, vehicle drivers and motorcyclists can help reduce the number of motorcycle accidents this season.

For more information, check out our Motorcycle Accident Resources and Motorcycle Accident FAQ.

Dré Fleury is the Personal Injury Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. He leads a team of personal injury attorneys throughout the state who have represented numerous motorcycle accident victims and have witnessed how injuries sustained in a motorcycle accident can suddenly and dramatically change a life.