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  • What is Bad Faith?

    When a client has uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage it is part of our job at the law offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California to make sure we pursue those claims if the third-party case settles for policy limits. There is the idea out there that it is easier to deal with your own insurance company and that they should just hand over the remaining "new money" on a policy because they want to keep their insureds happy. Unfortunately, this is not the case.

    You are not in good hands, they are not like a good neighbor, and you can’t rely on them to take care of you. At the end of the day, your insurance company is still an insurance company and they make money by taking in premiums and NOT paying out claims. They answer to shareholders like all insurance companies do and it is not easy to negotiate with them.

    However! There is a wonderful tool attorneys can use to make sure your insurance company treats you the way you ought to be treated. They cannot just disregard you or make you wait forever on a claim that should be obviously paid out because that behavior will open them up to a bad faith claim.

    Bad faith is when an insured sues their own insurance company for putting the company’s own interests above the insured’s interest. McCormick v. Sentinel Life Ins. Co., 153 Cal. App. 3d 1030 (1984) even ensures that a substantial delay without reason is enough of a breach of the covenant of good faith between an insurer and their insured to bring a claim.

    The fact is that insurance is mandatory in this country. We are not allowed to own or operate vehicles without it. We are forced to rely on these companies to handle claims when accidents do happen and because of that reliance, those companies have a duty to look out for the interests of their insureds. When they fail in that duty, they open themselves up to a bad faith claim.

    Just such a case came up in our Sacramento law office of Alan M. Laskin last week. Our client had over $50,000.00 in medical bills and needed two surgeries that would cost another $35,000.00. The third-party had a policy of $50,000.00. We settled that part of the case and then proceeded to pursue our client’s Underinsured motorist coverage, which was only an additional $50,000.00 (because his policy was $100,000.00 minus what he received from the adverse driver).

    Originally, our client’s insurance company only offered $5,000.00 "new money". In a case that should have been open and shut, we spent a year on discovery, flew to Los Angeles for a deposition of our client and a second time for his doctor’s deposition, and had to issue an Offer to Compromise pursuant to Civil Code Section 998, but we got the full $50,000.00 policy.

    Every day the insurance company did not pay our client, they made money earning interest on the money sitting in their bank account instead of sitting in our client’s bank account. It is unconscionable how they treat their own insured and you better believe we are pursuing a bad faith claim.

    Feel you have a bad faith case? Contact the law offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • Case Spotlight: Settlement Over Policy Limits in Auto vs. Pedestrian Case

    Congratulations are in order for attorney Jeffrey C. Arnold. He recently obtained a large settlement that exceeded the available insurance policy limits. He only had to file the lawsuit and the adverse insurance company caved immediately. He sent them medical records and billings that showed our client had $58,824.95 in medical services. And that was only one bill, because we were still waiting on four other facilities to send us their billing records. This was enough information to demand the policy limits of $100,000.00. We gave them a deadline and the adverse insurance company did not accept our demand.

    In order to “open” a policy, you have to demand the policy limits and give the other side sufficient information to conclude that the case has a value that is at or exceeds the limits. When they choose not to pay the limits, then the policy is open, meaning they will have to pay whatever amount a jury decides is just if the case goes to trial.

    In this particular case, our client was leaving a Wal-Mart shopping center when she and her cart were struck by a vehicle. The adverse driver had seen an open parking spot on the next aisle and was racing to get it before anyone else. Wal-Mart has surveillance of its premises and that includes the entrance to the store and some of the parking lot. Video is a very powerful tool. The video in this case clearly showed that the adverse driver did not stop for the stop sign and struck our client with her vehicle knocking her to the ground.

    Our client spent 8 days in the hospital and was diagnosed with a fractured vertebra. She was an elderly woman who had been living alone and was completely mobile before this vehicle versus pedestrian accident. She suddenly needed help with the smallest tasks and lost her independence. After her hospital stay she was transferred to a rehabilitation facility. After that she was transferred to an assisted living facility. It was seven months before she was allowed to return home.

    Her doctors said that she will likely never regain the independence and mobility that she had before. She is unable to drive herself to the store and must rely on family and paid care givers to run errands. She also cannot walk without the assistance of a walker or cane anymore.

    We filed the case after the insurance company rejected our policy limits demand. After you file a lawsuit, you then have to serve the Defendant so that they know they are being sued. Along with the Summons and Complaint, we served an Offer to Compromise pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 998 on the Defendant. The defense attorney immediately accepted our 998 in the amount of $249,999.99, two and half times the policy limits, in order to avoid litigating this case.

    I think that they knew they screwed up when they did not accept the policy limits demand. It was smart for the defense to settle instead of spending thousands of dollars and man hours defending a case where the facts were so clearly in the Plaintiff’s favor.

    Our client was relieved that it was all over with so quickly and that she did not have to go through the discovery phase of litigation. She can now focus on her health and hopefully recover over time.

    If you have been in an accident and need some help, give The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin a call. We may be able to help.

  • Case Spotlight: Dunlap v. Esurance, $11,400,000 verdict

    The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento & Elk Grove CA recently took a very interesting case to trial that may have a huge impact on personal injury cases in the future. Our client, Robert Dunlap was driving a truck owned by William Chapman when the steering locked up. He lost control of the vehicle, and hit the center median. The truck rolled two and a half times and landed upside down with Mr. Dunlap hanging from his seatbelt.

    Mr. Dunlap survived the crash, but he was gravely injured. He suffered two disc fractures, one at C6 and the other at C7, and was diagnosed with Brown Sequard Syndrome, a type of paralysis. Mr. Dunlap experienced numbness on his right side, stiffness, cramping, sharp pains, loss of feeling in his left hand, right hip pain, respiratory distress, and pulmonary contusions.

    A very bad crash, to be sure, but what is so important about this case?

    The fact that the steering on the truck had been complained about multiple times and no steps had been taken to fix it. In fact, the defendant in this case, Folsom Lake Ford, outright said that the truck was safe to drive when they knew there four worn ball joints in the vehicle that needed to be replaced. Documents showed that the mechanic who inspected the vehicle in July 2007 noticed the worn ball joints, but no recommendation was made to the owner to replace them.

    A prior owner of the vehicle, Mr. Sample, actually returned the truck to Folsom Lake Ford because he didn’t like all the problems he was having with it. In deposition he stated Folsom Lake Ford tried to tell him the shaking and steering problems Mr. Sample reported was because he had oversized tires on the truck. While having a lifted truck may change the steering, it doesn’t cause it lock up and not move at all. Mr. Sample knew this and got fed up with the truck and Folsom Lake Ford’s excuses. He turned the truck in and left with a different one.

    Mr. Chapman was the next person to buy the truck. When he brought it in to complain about the steering in July 2007, again, Folsom Lake Ford said it was the oversized tires, even though documentation noted the worn ball joints. The mechanic, unbeknownst to Mr. Chapman made a recommendation to replace the worn ball joints, but this was not relayed to Mr. Chapman in any form. Mr. Chapman continued to experience problems with the steering but believed the ASE certified mechanic when he told him it was safe. Under those promises of safety, he leant the truck to Mr. Dunlap in November 2007.

    All of this information is important because it shows that the defendant Folsom Lake Ford knew the vehicle was in a dangerous condition and they could have prevented this horrific crash by recommending the repair it needed. All Folsom Lake Ford would have needed to do was say hey "you need to fix this, it’s not safe" in order to protect themselves. But they didn’t and that put people at risk. They put Mr. Chapman at risk, his family at risk, and his friend, Robert Dunlap, at risk.

    The jury found Folsom Lake Ford liable for the harms suffered by Mr. and Mrs. Dunlap and returned a verdict in favor of the Plaintiffs in the amount of $7,476,926.00, with interest and costs added in the verdict is over $11,400,000.00. This is important because it shows businesses and car dealerships that you can’t cut corners. If you know a problem exists, it’s your responsibility to address it. You can’t put your head in the sand, blame oversized tires, and pretend a vehicle is safe just so you can sell it and make another buck. This jury showed that California juries will not stand for that kind of behavior. And neither will we here at the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin.

  • Traumatic Brain Injury: Suffering in Silence

    At the personal injury law offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California, we encounter many types of injuries that are caused by different kinds of incidents. There are, of course, typical complaints that we would expect if someone is in a car accident, including pain and stiffness in the neck or lower back. However, as of late, we are seeing more and more clients with symptoms like sleepiness, headaches, difficultly concentrating, and dizziness which may indicate that an injury to the brain has occurred.

    There are often complaints of fatigue and anxiety that can appear from a traumatic incident, but these typically disappear within two weeks or so. If a person continues to suffer from neurological symptoms it is important to get checked out. There are different types of brain injuries and there are treatments that can be used to lessen the impact of the incident.

    Post-Concussive Syndrome is by far the most commonly undiagnosed brain injury because the symptoms can be very mild. Most people can recover with rest and by minimizing stress, but life after a collision can be very stressful. While you are trying to get your car fixed, trying to make doctors appointments, and trying to continue to work through the pain, it is easy to overlook the importance of rest. Patients with persistent post-concussion syndrome may be treated with migraine medication or referred to a neurologist for treatment.

    You don’t need to lose consciousness in order to suffer a concussion. The word comes from the Latin concutere, which means “to shake violently”. It is caused by a sudden, direct blow to the head. If your head didn’t strike a portion of your car, you probably didn’t suffer a concussion, but many people strike the head rest and don’t really even think about it.

    Traumatic brain injuries can sometimes be very serious and effect your daily living. Cognitive testing is often used to determine to what degree a patient’s thinking capabilities have been affected. Physical abilities are also affected as it is the brain that controls the rest of the body. CT scans and MRIs are also used to find bleeding, bruises, aneurysms, or skull fractures. If treatment is necessary, doctors may recommend physical therapy, counseling, and/or medication.

    These symptoms are often overlooked by clients who have pain elsewhere. It’s often the lesser of two evils and people do not notice they even have these symptoms until their painful symptoms have subsided. It is important to be honest with your doctors and tell them everything that is going on after you’ve been in a traumatic event.

    Can’t sleep at night? They may be able to help. Sleeping too much? Again, talk to your doctor. Dizziness? Headaches? Double vision? Ringing in the ears? Difficulty with speech? Difficulty finding words? Difficulty concentrating? Take stock of every symptom and let your doctor know so that he can provide the best treatment for you.

    Need advice? Feel you have a potential personal injury case? Contact the Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin in Sacramento California today. 

  • I have been in a crash, now what?

    If you have been in a collision there is certain information you need to exchange with the other parties. In California, by law, under Vehicle Code section 16025, you must exchange:

    1. Driver’s name

    2. Driver’s current residence address

    3. Driver’s license number

    4. Vehicle identification number

    5. Owner’s name

    6. Owner’s current residence address

    7. Evidence of financial responsibility, such as company name, address, and policy number of valid automobile insurance

    If you do not exchange this information, you can be charged with violation of this code section and fined. Some people type up this information on an index card that they can hand to somebody, but I would be wary of just accepting something like that at face value. People move, owners change, and policies can lapse. An up-to-date proof of insurance card holds more weight.

    Also, you should write down the information yourself if possible. Take notes on your phone if you do not have pen or paper. You can even send yourself a quick e-mail with the information so you have it in two places. If you allow them to write it down for you, they may lie, transpose numbers, or purposely give you the wrong information. Ask to see their driver’s license and write down the information. Be sure to note if the license is valid because those expire too.

    This list is only what is required by law. If you are in a collision, we recommend you get as much information at possible. It becomes much easier later on if you know exactly who hit you. Once a case is filed, the Defendant needs to be personally served. In order to do that we need to know where they live. It can be expensive to hire a private investigator to hunt these people down, so it is a good idea to get the information when the collision happens.

    The Law Offices of Alan M. Laskin has designed a fillable form to make this sometimes awkward process easier. You can print it off and keep in your car. If you do happen to get in a collision, fill it out, and you will have a head start. If you are hurt, call us, and we'll help you.

    Exchange of Information Form