Insure.com’s Rating of Best Auto Insurance Companies

This week, Insure.com, the self-proclaimed independent consumer insurance website, released its list of Best Insurance Companies based on customer satisfaction rankings.  The company surveyed 3,835 customers of 15 large insurers in auto, home, and health insurance, and 14 in life insurance.

The survey asked about:

  1. customer service
  2. claims satisfaction
  3. value for price paid
  4. percent who plan to renew
  5. percent who would recommend the company

Based on their responses, the top auto insurance companies were:

  1. USAA
  2. State Farm
  3. Farmers
  4. GEICO
  5. Auto Club of Southern California
  6. Nationwide
  7. Liberty Mutual
  8. Allstate
  9. American Family
  10. The Hartford
  11. Erie Insurance Group
  12. Progressive
  13. MetLife
  14. Travelers
  15. Mercury General

It’s important to note, having sued drivers covered by most of these companies, I would have a different ranking.  My ranking would largely be focused on what company is most reasonable in willing to admit when their drivers caused a problem, and who are willing to protect their customers by making fair settlement offers when their customers do something wrong.

Using my criteria, I’d put USAA, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, and Hartford in a top group.  I’d put MetLife, Nationwide, Travelers and State Farm in a middle group.  I’d put Farmers, Allstate, Progressive, and Mercury in a bottom group.

My criteria is certainly different than that used in the survey, but I also think it’s an important perspective when you’re buying insurance.  Heaven forbid, if you do cause a wreck, you want to make sure your company protects you.  When the company doesn’t offer enough and forces a lawsuit to be filed against you, then that’s likely the insurance company not doing its job.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE FOUR: Looking Solely To Price And Not Knowing What You Are Buying

You see or hear many insurance companies saying that you can save money simply by switching insurance coverages.  But prospective buyers shouldn’t just look at the price.

Usually, the price is lower because you’re not comparing the same products.  The new insurance company may be offering lower limits, not selling you the same coverages, or excluding drivers who you may need covered.

You certainly don’t want to spend more than you have to, but you need to make sure you understand why the price differences exist.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE THREE: Getting Burned By “Excluded Drivers”

Generally, when you buy auto insurance, the policy will cover you, your family, or anyone else who has permission to drive your vehicle.  Thus, if you or your child or your best friend are driving and cause a wreck, the insurance will protect all of you. This is a big benefit.  You never know when you might let someone borrow your car for something.
But today, many insurance companies are starting to offer policies that exclude drivers.  It’s not unusual to see low cost companies have a long list of people who they don’t cover.  Indeed, some new policies only provide coverage to those people specifically identified.

These kind of policies don’t provide near the protection that standard policies provide.  And they affect you in ways that you might not imagine.

Recently, we represented a woman who was estranged from her husband.  After they got back together, they were driving on a road trip.  Because she was getting tired, she let her husband driver her car.  While the husband was driving, they were in a serious wreck caused by an underinsured driver.

We settled the claim against the other driver and then pursued a claim against her underinsured driver coverage.  But the UIM carrier denied the claim because the husband, who was estranged when the policy was purchased, was specifically excluded under the policy.  Even though who was driving made no difference in whether the wreck would occur or how it occurred, the fact that the driver was excluded deprived my client of her needed benefits.

When you’re purchasing your insurance, make sure you understand the true implications of potentially excluded drivers.

Auto Accidents: Top 9 Mistakes When Buying Your Auto Insurance MISTAKE ONE: Purchasing Minimum Insurance

Most people think they only need to purchase the minimum insurance required by Texas law.  This is a huge mistake.

Generally, the more assets you have, the higher insurance you should purchase to make sure you’re protecting you and your assets.  But most people should consider purchasing significantly more than the minimum limits.

For property damage, the minimum required by the law is $25,000.00.  But today, the average new car costs over $30,000.00, and the prices go much higher than that.  If you are just purchasing the minimum limits, you are still leaving yourself exposed to significant liability should something happen.

Similarly, for personal injury claims, the minimum coverage is $30,000.00.  That might sound like a lot.  But when considering the cost of health care, that’s a small amount.  Whether you’re talking about liability insurance, protecting you against someone else’s claim, or uninsured/underinsured, protecting you and your family, a simple hospital visit might exceed that cost.  In that instance, by purchasing the minimum limits, you will have done a good job protecting the hospital or your health insurance company, but you won’t have done a good job protecting yourself.

People’s situations differ, but I generally recommend people purchase at least $100,000/$300,000 for personal injury claims and $50,000 for property damage claims for both liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  However, many people will be in a position where I’ll recommend much higher amounts.

Serious Personal Injury May Happen While Texting And Walking

No doubt you have seen the video of the woman texting and falling into a fountain at a shopping mall. While the video was funny and no one was serioiusly hurt, the ramifications for texting and walking have the potential to be fatal.

It used to be that everyone got to where they were going by just walking there. If they had anything to say to the person when they arrived, that was when the conversation took place. Cell phones had not yet been invented, and no one seemed to miss being out of touch with others. It was just the way life was back then. Now, with the advent of cell phones that do just about everything, staying in touch is not only easy, it may also kill.

Many people do not see the harm in texting while walking. After all, they are safe on the sidewalk, mall or wherever they happen to be headed. But, are they? Consider the case of the young teen who was texting her boyfriend about their planned date, when she walked out between two parked cars, right into the path of an 18-wheeler. The cell phone survived the impact. The young girl did not. Was her life worth texting dangerously?

What about the case of the young man who was walking down the stairs at work and texting his buddy about their weekend plans? Because he was not paying attention to where he was walking, he missed the last two steps, fell hard and hit his head on a cement floor. His cell phone survived the impact. He sustained traumatic brain injury. Was his forever altered life worth texting dangerously?

If you do not think texting and walking is a big deal, because maybe, nothing has ever happened to you, consider the emergency room statistics across the U.S. that show over 1,000 pedestrians have needed emergency medical care because of texting and walking accidents. Each year, the numbers go up, not down. While texting and walking is not a smart thing to do, texting and driving is markedly worse, as you can kill someone else by negligently not paying attention to the road. Be smart and above all, be safe.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke LLP. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Another Austin Wrong-Way Driver Wreck

Last night, two people were killed in a collision when a driver was driving down Mopac the wrong way.

Just before 1:00 a.m., APD received calls of a driver driving southbound in the northbound lanes of Mopac.  The APD dispatched several police cars and even a police helicopter to try and intervene, but they couldn’t get there fast enough.  The driver of the wrong-way car, reportedly a 26 year old woman, collided head on with another vehicle near Duval Road.  The driver of the wrong-way car was pronounced dead at the scene. The other driver, Robert Murphy, was taken to St. David’s Round Rock Medical Center, where he later passed away.

It seems like these types of wrecks — where someone is driving down a highway the wrong way — should never happen.

But they’re a lot more frequent than we’d like to think.  I’ve been writing about wrong way wrecks in Austin for at least the last four years.  And in 2010, Austin had two wrong way car wreck fatalities within a couple of weeks of one another.

Sergeant Darrell Burnham, one of the officers working the scene of this morning’s crash, said he can think of three incidents on Mopac that occurred fairly recently.

Most of these wrecks have several characteristics in common:

  • Most occur at night  (today’s occurred at 1:00 a.m.);
  • Most of the wrong way drivers are either impaired by alcohol or drugs or, to a lesser extent, are elderly drivers (alcohol is suspected in today’s wreck); and
  • Many occur on roadways with confusing entrance/exit designs.

These wrong way wrecks are particularly problematic for several reasons.  They often involve fatal or serious injuries.  Due to the nature of the wreck, most of these are head-on collisions, which bring a tremendous amount of force.

They are also hard to avoid.  When an innocent victim is traveling in the proper direction, they are usually at the mercy of the wrong way driver.  And since statistics show that wrong way drivers are often impaired, making it hard for a person traveling the proper direction to really anticipate the wrong way driver’s next move.

Finally, these wrecks are going to become an increasing problem.  They often occur on highways that have confusing entrance and exit ramps.  As Austin grows, we have more and more large highway intersections that are potentially confusing and offer opportunities for wrong way drivers to enter roads the wrong way.

For more information on wrong way drivers, you can read some of my prior posts on the problem:

You can also read the Texas Transportation Institute’s worksheet: Wrong Way Driving on Freeways in Texas:  Problems, Issues & Countermeasures.

 

 

PERSONAL INJURY: Make The Most Of Your Doctor’s Appointments

For whatever reason, people get intimidated when going to doctor’s offices and they forget to tell their doctors about all of their issues, they’re unwilling to ask follow-up questions, or they’re flustered and forget what the doctor says.  This is a threat to your health, but if you’re a personal injury victim, it also has a big affect on the value of your case.

Here are some tips to help avoid these problems.

• Identify your symptoms. If you’re feeling ill, spend some time documenting the problem in specific terms: what hurts, how much, how long you’ve felt sick, anything that might have contributed to it, and so forth. This will help your doctor make a diagnosis more efficiently.

• Bring your medical history. On your smartphone, or just a piece of paper, keep track of such health-related items as previous illnesses, vaccinations, accidents, and allergies, as well as your family’s medical history as far back as you can go. All of this gives doctors a better context for determining your condition.

• List medications. List all the medicines, vitamins, and supplements you take on a regular basis. Your doctor will need the information in case any of them might be causing unexpected side effects, and to avoid interactions if he or she prescribes any new medications for your condition.

• Prepare questions. Don’t rely on your memory alone. Write down questions as they occur to you before the appointment so you don’t forget any relevant details while talking with your doctor.

• Take notes. Again, you’re better off writing down what your doctor says so nothing slips your mind later. Ask for a printed list of instructions to ensure you’re interpreting his or her advice correctly.

 

REPUBLIC OF TEXAS (ROT) RALLY WEEKEND — LOOK OUT FOR MOTORCYLES

This weekend, Austin is hosting one of the largest motorcycle rallies in the world. Unfortunately, the last several ROT Rallies have resulted in too many fatalities, about three per year if I was guessing.

As is our tradition, I’m again posting our safety tips to help prevent motorcycle injuries.  As they use to say in CHIPS, one of my favorite shows as a kid, “Let’s be careful out there.”

Here are the Motorcycle Safety Foundations top ten things that drivers need to know about motorcycles:

1. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don’t “recognize” a motorcycle; they ignore it (usually unintentionally). Look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection.

2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

3. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.

4. Because of its small size a motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is. Don’t assume all motorcyclists are speed demons.

5. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders, (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle’s signal is for real.

7. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

8. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

9. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop “on a dime.”

10. When a motorcycle is in motion, don’t think of it as motorcycle; think of it as a person.

 

If you want to see additional videos on motorcycle safety or read additional tips, simply search this site for ROT Rally.

 

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motorcycle accident, please call us at (512)476-4944 and give us the opportunity to help you.

Gas station lies about selling booze and jury returns 15 million dollar verdict in wrongful death case

Sometimes it is the little things in life that, once discovered, change the outcome of a trial.

This particular case took seven years to finally offer the family some sense of closure over the death of their 13-year-old son. The young boy was killed in a car wreck, as the drunken driver of the vehicle lost control and slammed into a tree. The car was full of teens that had been partying and everyone was inebriated. In fact, the group of friends had been going back and forth to a local convenience store that fateful night, buying booze.
They didn’t buy booze just once. They ultimately came to the gas bar and convenience store three times that night, stocking up on more alcohol each time. In short, the gas bar was selling liquor to underage minors. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that they finally admitted they had sold the kids booze. For years they denied the sales had ever happened.

When the case got to trial, the jury was angry that the former owners of the store had blatantly lied about the role they played in the deadly accident. It appeared they did not want to admit they had illegally sold alcohol to minors and that in doing so had precipitated the death of a young boy and created the perfect storm of events that would seriously injure three other teens. The jury handed down a $15 million verdict.

Although the young boy’s family was relieved to have the case finally resolved, they didn’t care that much about the jury award. The main reason they went to court was to try and ensure that others would get the message that it is dangerous to sell alcohol to minors. Nothing would bring the young boy back, but perhaps the fact that the former owners were held responsible for his death would demonstrate that such actions are illegal, immoral and unethical, and that eventually, those who sell to minors or over-serve those already drunk will be held responsible for their negligence.

Wrongful death lawsuits are usually not about revenge. They are a vehicle to make a point and get a message heard. They are one way for a grieving family to achieve some form of closure. If you have been in a situation similar to this one, make contact with an experienced Austin personal injury lawyer. You need to know what your legal rights are and what to expect should your case go to trial.

Brooks Schuelke is an Austin personal injury attorney with Perlmutter & Schuelke LLP. Contact an Austin injury lawyer at Civtrial.com or (512) 476-4944.

Brain Injury Basics: Neuropsychological Testing

If you have suffered a brain injury, you might be referred to a neuropsychologist, who will often recommend neuropsychological testing.

A neuropsychologist is a psychiatrist with a specialty in the science of brain-behavior relationships.  In other words, they deal with how brain function affects your behavior.   The neuropsychologist uses a number of methods, including neuropsychological testing, to evaluate your injury.

Neuropsychological exams usually consist of a series of questions about your condition.  Some tests may be brief, but some may be much more detailed, taking up to a full day.

The test results are used for a number of different purposes.   Depending on the need, the purposes may include (1) diagnosis of an injury; (2) patient care and planning; (3) treatment; (4) evaluation of treatment; (5) research; and (6) forensic neuropsychology — for use in litigation and lawsuits.

For personal injury purposes, we’re interested in all of those categories.  We’re interested in 1-4 to make sure you get better and get the care you need, and we also seek a forensic evaluation for your case.  In the litigation context, the neuropsychologist can help confirm you have a brain injury, document the extent of your injury, evaluate your future course of treatment, and provide opinions about your recovery, both in terms of your daily activities and your work life.

Perlmutter & Schuelke, LLP maintains offices in Austin, Texas. However, our attorneys and lawyers represent clients throughout the state of Texas, including Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Forth Worth, El Paso, New Braunfels, San Marcos, Kyle, Buda, Round Rock, Georgetown, Lockhart, Bastrop, Elgin, Manor, Brenham, Cedar Park, Burnet, Marble Falls, Temple and Killeen. By Brooks Schuelke

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