Other Publications By Attorney Stoehr
See page 4 for Attorney Stoehr’s article: “Develop a ‘Nose’ for Handling Loss of Smell Cases”
ASK THE LAWYER
Ask the Lawyer is a biweekly publication by Attorney Stoehr in several leading newspapers in west-central Pennsylvania. Ask the Lawyer includes current topics in personal injury law such as automobile insurance, auto and truck accidents, nursing home neglect and abuse, and general negligence law. Below is the list of the various topics covered in these publications. The list will grow as Attorney Stoehr continues to write these articles.
DEBUNKING THE MYTHS OF THE AMBULANCE CHASER – PART I – Published August 2, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
In concept, most of us believe that a personal injury lawyer can be of great benefit if you have been injured through no fault of your own. After all, how can a layperson understand insurance and disability law, or how to place a value on a case? While an experienced injury attorney can be the ideal advocate for you, there are some misconceptions, a/k/a/ myths, which need debunked.
1. The Contingency Fee Is Too High. There is no fee unless the attorney is successful with the claim. The fee is based upon a percentage of the settlement. The attorney can work months or years without compensation until the case settles. From his fee the attorney must pay office overhead and taxes like everyone else. Pittsburgh and Philadelphia lawyers can be more aggressive with their fees. This does not mean that the out-of-town attorney is any better, only that he charges more! Nonetheless, a good P.I. lawyer does not close the file until all of his client’s problems have been resolved.
2. Injury Attorneys Only Want The Big Cases. Not true. I think this is more of an issue with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia lawyers who want our local cases. They resist traveling to our area, or spending much time with the injured party, unless the anticipated fee is large. Putting those lawyers aside, most injury attorneys will work a smaller case, if the facts and evidence support the claim, and the injuries are indeed caused by another’s negligence. Personally I have handled claims ranging from $5,000.00 up to $2,000,000.00.
A good injury lawyer tackles all of your worries and concerns, so that you can focus on getting well. Call my office if you have any questions about your potential injury claim. See us in two weeks for Part II of this series!
FIGHTING CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE – Published June 21, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
All children deserve to live in a safe environment free from harm and neglect. Recent high-profile cases of child sexual abuse have rattled and outraged our local communities. “Sexual abuse” generally means unlawful sexual contact or other kinds of sex-related conduct between a child and an adult, or a young child and an older child. The abuse may cause physical injuries and psychological trauma, and may affect the child for a long time.
While injuries caused by sexual abuse can be treatable, the road to recovery is painful and expensive. The law provides for victims to sue their abusers to pay for their wrongdoing, as well as medical and psychological services. In certain cases, victims can also sue businesses, schools, and service organizations that failed to keep the child safe while in its care. In most legal situations, there is a statute of limitations. In Pennsylvania, you have two years to file a lawsuit from the date of an injury-causing incident. However, there exist special rules for lawsuits brought by adults who suffered sexual abuse as a child that allow the statute of limitations to be extended. For many reasons, individuals of child sexual abuse may not have reported that abuse as a child and could now successfully bring claims to recover money damages from the persons who caused them harm.
My office currently represents a child who was sexually abused by an adult while staying at a social service facility. It is my hope to assist this child and the family in securing the funds necessary for treatment of the trauma inflicted upon them as a result of the assault. If your child has been sexually abused, or you were abused as a child, please call me to review your case.
SOCIAL HOST LIABILITY – Published June 7, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
One often hears parents say, “I’d rather have my kid and his friends drinking in my house than driving around drunk.” With upcoming graduation parties and summer cookouts, many parents may think that allowing their teen and their teen’s friends to drink at home under adult supervision keeps them safe. Parents who allow their teens to have friends over to drink may be surprised to find they are subject to liability laws that make them vulnerable to lawsuits, fines and jail time.
First and foremost, it is against Pennsylvania law to intentionally and knowingly furnish alcohol to a person who is underage. Any adult who furnishes alcohol to a minor faces prosecution for that crime. “Furnish” is defined as ” to supply, give or provide to, or allow a minor to possess alcohol.” Further, Pennsylvania law permits recovery of damages from a host who knowingly serves alcohol to the point of intoxication to a person under 21 years of age when someone is subsequently injured as a result of the intoxicated person’s actions.
Driving while under the influence is not the only way a person can become injured from alcohol consumption. Swimming pools and backyard fire pits can quickly become hazards and lead to injury to someone who has been drinking or to those around him. If that person is underage, the individual who furnished the alcohol can be sued to cover the injured party’s medical bills and other money damages. If you or someone in your family has been injured by an adult’s negligent act of serving alcohol to a person under the age of 21, please call me to discuss your case.
MORE ON DISTRACTED DRIVING – Published May 17, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
Last summer I wrote a piece on distracted driving. Distracted driving refers to any activity performed while driving that directs the driver’s attention away from the roadway. Naturally this includes texting, but also cell phone usage, eating, drinking, or using a GPS. I reported that in a recent year Pennsylvania had 13,790 crashes and 66 fatalities caused by distracted driving.
More recent Pennsylvania statistics are alarming. A new report states that 1,410 drivers were cited for texting alone while driving in 2014. That is 220 more citations than 2012 when the ban on texting became law. Drivers are also being cited under a different Pennsylvania law which prohibits using headphones while driving. Recent federal statistics show that 3,154 people died in crashes involving distracted drivers and approximately 424,000 people were injured while texting in 2013.
I recently settled a case where a driver in Bedford dropped her cup of coffee while traveling a divided roadway. Instead of leaving the cup alone until later, she leaned over to the passenger floor area to retrieve the cup, thereby taking her eyes off the road for at least four seconds. She drove with her head down at 35 mph while traveling directly toward my client. In fact, my client noted that the defendant’s upper body was not visible while her vehicle approached him. It may be shocking to learn that a vehicle traveling only 35 mph will travel 70 yards in four seconds. Just like my client, I am sure that you do not want two tons of steel coming at you without a driver. Remember the Rules of the Road when you are driving. Call my office if you have been the victim of another driver’s distracted driving.
WORK ZONE SAFETY – Published May 5, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
Every year highway workers and motorists are injured and killed as a result of work zone crashes. Roadway work zones are hazardous for motorists who drive through the complex array of signs, barrels, and lane changes. Workers who build, repair, and maintain our nation’s streets, bridges, and highways are exposed to injury.
In 2014 there were 24 people killed in work zone car accidents in Pennsylvania, an increase of 50%. Over the last five years there have been 10,586 accidents and 128 fatalities in Pennsylvania work zones. From 2003 through 2013, the Bureau of Labor Statistics ranked Pennsylvania fourth in the nation for road worker deaths.
State law requires drivers to slow down when approaching a work zone, and to increase visibility as much as possible. PennDOT reminds motorists to move over for road workers or face a stiff fine. The Pennsylvania Steer Clear law requires drivers to move to a lane that is not immediately adjacent to an emergency response area.
The U.S. Department of Transportation – Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reports the most common accidents in work zone areas are rear end collisions. The FHA also reports that fatalities occur to drivers more frequently than workers in work zones. The majority of fatal work zone crashes occurred on roads with speed limits greater than 50 mph.
Obviously, too many people suffer from injuries that could have been avoided. If you are injured by another person’s lack of care in a highway work zone, you may be able to file an injury claim for damages. You may certainly call my office for a free consultation.
THE STATE OF PAIN – Published April 19, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
If you stub your toe, hit your thumb with a hammer, or touch a hot skillet, you have experienced acute pain. Persistent pain that lasts at least two months is considered chronic in nature. Two major risk factors for chronic pain are surgery and trauma. Most doctors will tell you that the number one reason that people present to their office is for pain, and treating chronic pain is quite challenging for the health care profession. Our society often emphasizes the quickest fix, but pain management can be a time-consuming trial and error process for health care providers. Health care professionals are trained to cure conditions, but when it comes to pain, they are not taught how to help people manage it. Further, insurance carriers don’t always offer coverage for recommended pain treatments.
As a personal injury attorney I see the effects of chronic pain on daily basis. All of my clients have suffered from an injury of some sort. Most come to me because the pain has persisted and resulted in some form of restriction of limitation, even a disability. Unfortunately they find themselves immersed in a sub-culture of doctor’s visits, physical therapy, injections and pain medications, for which they have no experience. This can result in fear and often anxiety.
Fortunately strides have been made in the management of chronic pain. Now, pain medicine is recognized as its own discipline, and pain is considered a chronic disease, not just a symptom related to a disease. If you want additional information about chronic pain, contact our office. If you believe that your chronic pain was caused by another’s negligence, you may have a personal injury claim. See our website or call for more information.
MOTOR VEHICLE – CHILD PEDESTRIAN ACCIDENTS INCREASE IN THE SPRING – Published April 5, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
According to a new study presented at the 2015 annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) most motor vehicle-child pedestrian accidents occur when children are unsupervised, near schools and bus stops, and in the spring months during the afternoon and evening hours.
Data taken from 2012 shows that these type of accidents occur most frequently when no parental supervision is present from the time of school dismissal until the early evening hours. Injuries peak during the warmer spring months, particularly June, and when children were clustered near schools and bus stops located near schools.
In the study, researchers reviewed medical records of child pedestrian accidents in Philadelphia during 2012. Seventy-three percent of the accidents occurred when the child was attempting to cross the street. In fact, most accidents occurred in the middle of a block. In a broader study, 557 child and young adult pedestrians under age 20 were killed by motor vehicles in the U.S. in 2012 while 22,000 were injured. Nearly 3/4 of the pedestrian fatalities occurred in urban settings which lead to the aforementioned Philadelphia study.
It is easy to imagine that these facts and statistics can be applied to young people in Altoona and central Pennsylvania. Children are left unsupervised for after school activities during the spring months. Sporting activities typically involve practice after school and before dark. According to these studies, this is the time when accidents occur for children struck by cars.
We are all awaiting sunshine and warmer weather. Remind your children to be careful crossing the street. I am hopeful that drivers keep a lookout for the presence of child pedestrians.
PA AUTO INSURANCE: IT’S TIME TO PROTECT YOURSELF – Published March 8, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
It astounds me that local drivers do not pay a few extra dollars to protect themselves. If you are reading this article, odds are you have enough liability insurance to indemnify yourself if you cause an accident. Obviously you do not want to be sued and risk losing your assets. However, many local operators do not purchase uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage. These coverages protect you if the other driver is uninsured or underinsured. It is mandatory for insurance agents to offer this coverage to you. However, it has been my experience that many insurance companies do not do a good job in communicating this to the consumer. Additionally, people perceive that UM/UIM coverage is a duplication of basic medical and liability insurance coverage. Another common misconception is that this coverage is expensive and unnecessary since the law does not demand it. The truth is that this type of insurance is very affordable and can be customized to fit your budget.
Odds are that if you are involved in an accident, and are injured through no fault of your own, 13-15% of the time the other driver will be uninsured. The chances of the other driver being underinsured increases to 25%. You need to purchase these coverages if you cannot afford to get injured or confined to a hospital because of an accident you did not cause. This coverage provides for excess medical bills, loss of earnings, and your pain and suffering.
Nearly every person I represent tells me that they are not the type to sue. First, most claims can be settled without having to file a lawsuit. Secondly, it is amazing how quickly you will change your attitude about being justly compensated, once you realize that you have been injured due to someone else’s carelessness. Take the time to examine your insurance policy and make sure that you spend a few extra dollars to purchase uninsured and underinsured motorists coverage. Feel free to call our office if you have any questions about this necessary coverage.
FLASH FREEZING IS CAUSING MAJOR DRIVING PROBLEMS – Published February 8, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
In these harsh winter weather conditions, many car drivers across our state of Pennsylvania, as well as the country, are dealing with less than desirable road conditions. According to news source Syracuse.com, the phenomenon of “flash-freezing” is causing major problems on both roads and sidewalks across the East Coast this winter.
Flash-freezing occurs when rain freezes instantly on smooth surfaces, such as highways, and creates extremely icy and unsafe conditions. Flash-freezing is especially dangerous because it can happen in patches on the road, not entire areas, so it can occur where people least expect it. One such flash-freezing occurrence recently resulted in a 30+ car pile-up on I-76 and additional accidents on I-476 in our home state of Pennsylvania. One person who was interviewed for the Syracuse article stated that, even though she was going 10 miles an hour on the stretch of I-76 affected by the freezing, she felt that she had little control over her car.
Flash-freezing is not the only source of slippery conditions. Often businesses and even homeowners do not take care of their parking lots or sidewalks. An artificial condition can cause freezing, such as a defective spouting. In other instances, people do not salt after shoveling to prevent ice formation. Business owners should frequently inspect their parking lots to see if “black ice” exists. Black ice is not a phenomenon, it is very common. Falls can be prevented if macadam surfaces are treated properly. Call our office if you want a free consultation if you have fallen on snow or ice and been injured due to someone’s negligence.
STAY SAFE WHILE WALKING THIS WINTER – Published January 25, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
Chances are you have encountered at least one instance in which your feet did not feel solid on the cold winter ground. According to the Detroit News , you are not alone. They gathered statistics from Accident Fund Insurance, which is a midwestern company that handles many workers’ compensation claims. They reported that compared to 2012-2013, the number of winter slip-and-fall claims doubled in 2013-2014. For the midwest, that means that about 33% of all workers’ compensation claims were accounted for by slip-and-fall events. In Pennsylvania the numbers are most likely similar.
The article also offered a few tips in dealing with winter weather, such as:
- Wear footwear that has both a good tread and is water resistant. Attaching ice grips to your shoes may be a good idea as well.
- Keep a pair of extra shoes at your office to avoid having to carry them in every day.
- When winter ice is melting, black ice will form. Be careful, even in areas that appear solid and dry.
- Be extra cautious in parking lots and entrances to buildings.
- As much as possible, keep your hands free. Use a tote bag with a shoulder strap or a backpack instead of carrying items in your hands.
- “Walking like a penguin”, i.e. taking short steps using a wide base of support.
If you have slipped and fallen on the property of another, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and pain and suffering. Attorney Doug Stoehr will consider representing you if you have sustained slip-and-fall injuries due to the fault or negligence of another. Visit his website at www.stoehrlaw.com or call 814-515-9074.
SNOWMOBILE INJURIES – Published January 11, 2015 – Altoona Mirror
According to the International Snowmobile Manufacturer’s Association, different countries’ laws governing snowmobile operation are extremely variable, and there are generally fewer regulations for snowmobile operation than for other similar vehicles like ATVs. Most fatal snowmobile accidents occur when excessive speed and/or alcohol consumption play a role. Not only does alcohol impair judgment and inhibit responses, it can also lead to hypothermia. Night driving is also a particular hazard, and some reports estimate that most fatal accidents occur between the hours of 8PM and 3AM.
Interestingly, many snowmobile accidents also result in drowning. When children are involved in fatal accidents, the majority of deaths tend to result in head and spine injuries from impact against an object, such as a tree or wall. Be sure to:
- Wear warm, water-repellant clothes with a windproof outer layer. Don’t forget gloves and goggles.
- Tell others of your estimated time of arrival and let them know your route.
- Always ride with someone else–don’t travel alone.
- Carry a first aid and safety kit. A tool kit, flashlight, maps, and flares may be useful.
- If you go through the ice on your snowmobile, a special snowmobile suit may help you stay afloat for a short period of time. Pull yourself onto the ice and roll away from the hole! Keep your mittens/gloves on during this time, even though they are wet.
Off-road vehicles, such as snowmobiles and ATVs, are potentially dangerous vehicles for many of our state’s youth. Improper ATV use is the leading cause of serious injury among Pennsylvanians. Attorney Doug Stoehr handles cases involving injury as a result of accidents involving off-road vehicles.
HOW MUCH ARE JURY VERDICTS? – Published December 21, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
You will not hear or read much in Blair County about jury verdicts for civil cases. Our judges have done a good job in persuading attorneys to utilize methods to settle instead of taking the case to a jury. Mediation is an excellent settlement option, most of my cases that go to mediation do indeed settle.
The problem with awarding money damages in a civil trial is that jurors do not know how much to give. Pennsylvania law precludes the attorneys from suggesting an amount. I disagree with this. It is difficult for a juror without experience in valuing a claim, to begin at zero dollars and work his way up to a reasonable dollar amount.
Jurors are influenced by life experiences, bias, and prejudice. The venue or location of a jury trial is a big factor. Philadelphia jurors typically award much more than central or western Pennsylvania jurors. Nonetheless, I have found that people want to do the right thing, but simply need more information.
Because we are similar to Allegheny County, only two hours away, I will tell you about a recent case there. The plaintiff suffered a minor concussion after being rear-ended in a car accident. The defense argued that she could not have been injured badly because the property damage was only $800.00. She suffered with post-concussive symptoms for three weeks after the accident, when dizziness from that concussion caused her to lose her balance and suffer a second concussion. She lived with post-concussive symptoms for five years. The plaintiff was forced to trial because the defendant’s insurance company only offered $2,000.00. The jury awarded her $110,000.00 for her pain, suffering, and inconvenience.
Contrary to propaganda that you may read or hear, plaintiffs only want to be compensated for their injuries. The woman in Pittsburgh is not going to retire on her $110,000.00 award. However, it does offer her some compensation for the changes to her life. Should you ever be asked to serve on a civil jury trial, hopefully this article will be helpful to you.
HOW WE HANDLE YOUR CLAIM – Published December 12, 2013 – Altoona Mirror
When people contact the office they naturally feel that they have a good case. However, there are many factors to consider, and evidence to be evaluated, before I decide to take the case. I am selective because I only want to work on those claims where I believe enough evidence exists to obtain a favorable result for you.
You will be asked to give a detailed account of the accident details and your current and past medical treatment to a staff member. I will review all of the materials and any other documents that we ask that you bring to the office. We will spend as much time as needed to get started. I will thoroughly discuss all aspects of the claim with you.
During this first meeting you will sign a Contingent Fee Agreement which is a contract between you and me regarding the representation. You will also sign an authorization so that I can obtain your medical records. From this point forward, I will be in constant contact with the defendant’s insurance company, reviewing your medical records, performing legal research, and guiding you along the way regarding questions you may have about medical bills, lost wages, and medical treatment. We will also assist you in finding medical coverage for your treatment. I promise to return all of your phone calls if I am not available when you call. We can get together and meet as often as reasonably necessary. We will work together toward a hopefully successful settlement of your case. You will be pleased with the results.
SHOULD I CHOOSE A TV LAWYER? – Published November 30, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
We have all been subjected to the endless rounds of television commercials from lawyers. Television advertising by lawyers is authorized by the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. However, no lawyer shall make a false or misleading communication about his services. Additionally, lawyers should avoid the creation of an unjustified expectation of obtaining a specific result for a client.
You have likely noted that nearly all local advertising does not come from local attorneys. Rather, it is typically the larger Pittsburgh or Philadelphia firms. These firms will literally spend millions to lure in an injured and susceptible person. To justify their expenditures these firms usually only want the larger cases. The small-medium cases are rejected or referred by the advertising firm to a different law firm. Regardless, you lose the personal touch. Let me explain.
As a local lawyer, I handle injury claims in Blair and the surrounding counties. I return all phone calls and meet with my clients as often as they want. I know the local physicians with whom you treat, and the judges who will hear your case. I am even familiar with the roadways where you have been hurt. Can the out-of -town TV attorney make the same claim?
I can get you the same great results that the out-of-town TV lawyers claim that they get, often better. See my website at www.stoehrlaw.com for more information about handling your injury case, or call us for a free evaluation at 946-4100. Stay local for better service and great results.
C AN THEY RECORD OUR CONVERSATION? – Published November 10,, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
Many years ago I was an insurance claims representative before I went to law school. It was a mandate in the claims department that representatives record interviews with claimants. We wanted to preserve the testimony and, of course, try to use anything the claimant said against him. Insurance companies still insist on recorded statements.
There is absolutely no legal requirement that a claimant submit to a recorded statement over the telephone. Furthermore, it is illegal in Pennsylvania to tape record a conversation with another person who does not authorize the same. While I do believe that insurance companies do obtain the required authorization, they often make the inexperienced claimant feel like they have to give a recorded statement.
Another favorite tactic of the insurance industry is to require the claimant to sign a medical authorization without any limitations or restrictions. The claims representative will indeed need your written authorization in order to obtain medical records to evaluate your claim. Unfortunately the insurance companies typically do not restrict the use of the authorizations to those injuries sustained in the accident. Rather, the authorizations are broad in general, thus, they can be used to obtain unrelated medical records or treatment records going back many years. As your attorney, I would never allow you to give this type of authorization to the insurance company. It is better that I obtain the applicable records, review them first, and then send the relevant records to the claims representative.
For these reasons and many others, it is usually best that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to represent you if you have a claim. You may call my office for a free legal opinion about the merits of your claim.
Medication Errors in Hospitals – Published October 29, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
Unfortunately medication errors occur often in hospitals. Recent statistics cite at least 1.5 million medication errors every year in hospitals. Here is a more alarming statistic: the Institute of Medicine reports over 44,000 deaths per year as a result of preventable medication errors in hospitals.
A medication error is a preventable event that may cause or lead to inappropriate medication use, or patient harm, while the medication is in the control of the hospital. Two out of three hospitals have an electronic medication delivery system. However, many hospitals have a patchwork of electronic data systems supplied by different vendors, and the systems do not always work together. Additionally, communication is often not clear between the hospital’s pharmacy, the doctor prescribing the medication, and the nurses who assess the patient’s drug response. This leads to the wrong medications being used, incorrect dosages, and failure to monitor the patient’s response to the drug.
In a wrongful death case, a young man was admitted to a hospital with back pain and prescribed the opioid Dilaudid. The prescribing doctor ignored a pre-existing medical condition as a contraindication to Dilaudid. The doctor expected the pharmacist to catch the risk. The nursing staff had not been adequately trained to program the pain pump and to monitor the patient’s response. The hospital also did not have protocols to prevent these problems. The patient died from an overdose of Dilaudid.
What can we do to protect ourselves? I really do not know, other than to ask questions and research the medications being prescribed while hospitalized. This is a very serious matter, do not hesitate to protect yourself or a loved one in the hospital.
Dog Law in Pennsylvania – Published October 12, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
Every year nearly 5 million people are bitten by dogs, and close to half of those victims are children. 1 in 5 people require medical attention, especially children. The vast majority of children are bitten on the face, neck and head, often requiring reconstructive surgery.
Not all of the injuries caused by dog bites are physical. A dog bite injury can take a huge psychological toll on the victim, particularly a child. Children often suffer from anxiety, fear of dogs, nightmares and difficulty in socializing. For example, I represented a six-year-old bitten by a pit bull. The police report stated that a large chunk of flesh bitten from my client’s thigh was spat onto the ground. My client required multiple surgeries, and suffered from nightmares and bedwetting.
In 2012, dog bites accounted for approximately 1/3 of settlements of all homeowner’s insurance liability claims. Pennsylvania ranked fifth in states with the most dog bite insurance claims.
There is a leash law in Pennsylvania that should not be confused with general negligence principles. Historically, the claimant in Pennsylvania had to prove that the dog had bitten at least once in the past. However, the law in Pennsylvania now is the following: If a dog has any vicious propensities, regardless of whether it has bitten in the past, the dog’s actual bite upon you can serve as the standard for determining whether the owner was negligent.
A landlord can be liable for a dog attack. The landlord may be held liable for injuries by the dog owned and maintained by a tenant when the landlord has knowledge of the presence of the dangerous animal, and the landlord fails to control or remove the animal by retaking possession of the premises.
Don’t kid yourself: Many drivers fail to carry insurance – Published September 25, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
The most recent data from the Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimates that over 15% of the driving population is uninsured. In Philadelphia 58% of registered owners drive while uninsured. This should concern you for several reasons. One, your property damage claim will not be paid by the other driver if he is at fault. Therefore, you need to carry collision coverage.
Secondly, and more importantly, you will not be compensated for your own personal injuries if the other driver is uninsured. Thus, it is imperative that you speak with your insurance agent now. Demand that the insurance company give you pricing for uninsured motorists coverage (UM) and underinsured motorists coverage (UIM). UM and UIM coverage is available to compensate you for your bodily injury if the other driver was at fault and failed to carry injury insurance. UM and UIM coverage is dirt cheap but your insurance agent will not sell it unless you demand it.
In an upcoming issue of Ask the Lawyer, I will cite some examples of potential clients who were unable to pursue claims because they failed to carry UM and UIM coverage. Please do not assume that an accident can never happen to you; statistics show that you will suffer a collision at least twice during your driving years. Don’t be “that guy” who could have received compensation for his injuries, but failed to buy inexpensive UM or UIM coverage. Do it now!
Motorcycle Safety – Published August 26, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
Motorcycle season continues through late summer and early fall. Charity rides also continue which raise money for good causes. Hundreds of bikers from our area will participate in the upcoming Burgi’s Low Life Riders 11 th Annual Charity Ride which benefits children with serious medical needs, and the Tyrone American Legion Dice Run which benefits the Blair/Clearfield Associations for the Blind.
These same bikers who raise money for charities also share our roadways. I have always noticed some tension between bikers and operators of motor vehicles. Both sides claim that the other does not follow the rules of the road. Putting all differences aside, both bikers and drivers need to be aware of each other and make safety first. Although I am not a motorcyclist, I believe that bikers deserve respect on the roadways. I also believe that motorcycle riders should wear helmets. There is a disturbing trend in the US where only 19 states enforce helmet laws. Clearly riding a bike without a helmet increases the chance of head and neck injuries. I handle at least one claim a year where an injured individual suffers the residuals of a traumatic brain injury. A traumatic brain injury can cause changes in speech, cognition, memory, and the ability to earn a living.
Contact my office if you have been involved in a motor vehicle or motorcycle accident. I will work hard to obtain compensation for you if you have been injured through no fault of your own.
DISTRACTED DRIVING – Published August 10, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 15 people die and 1,200 people are injured every day because of distracted driving. Distracted driving refers to performing an activity while driving that directs your attention away from the roadway. Naturally, this includes texting. Pennsylvania law prohibits sending, reading, or writing a text message from a smartphone, iPad, or a similar device while driving.
Distracted driving also refers to cell phone usage, and eating, drinking, or engaging a GPS/navigation unit or a car stereo. In Pennsylvania alone, there were 13,790 crashes and 66 fatalities caused by distracted driving in a recent year.
I am presently handling a case where the driver dropped her cup of coffee while traveling a divided roadway. Instead of leaving the cup alone until later, she diverted her attention to the floor, and recovered the cup while maintaining the same rate of speed. This caused her to cross the centerline and strike my client head on. In the Complaint, we included an additional count for punitive damages due to the defendant’s reckless conduct.
This is the lesson to be learned: we would all criticize someone else for distracted driving. However, do we hold ourselves accountable to this same standard? I suggest that we all review our personal driving habits and make the necessary adjustments for any distracted driving. You may personally save a life.
Contact my office if you have any comments about distracted driving or the case I am handling.
How Much Will This Cost Me? – Published July 25, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
I limit my practice to handling personal injury claims. Injury attorneys are not paid hourly which may surprise you. Rather, I am paid on a “contingency basis.” I do not get paid anything unless I am successful with your claim. This means that I work for nothing on many cases for several months or years. Much work is necessary in order to develop the claim. It is understandable that most clients cannot afford to pay hourly while the claim develops. Therefore, personal injury attorneys accept cases contingently, i.e., the attorney is only paid contingent upon a successful outcome to the case.
The percentage of contingent fees can vary with the standard being 33.33%. While this may seem high, consider the fact that I may spend hundreds of hours on your case. Clearly I am assuming a risk that the claim may not be successful at the end. Further, the cost in operating a law firm constantly increases and I must pay this overhead before I pay myself. The net amount for me after overhead is subject to income taxes like anyone else. At the end, my lofty fee of 1/3 becomes, in reality, much less than it appears.
If an injured person were expected to pay hourly, he would likely give up his claim. However, the contingent fee gives you an opportunity to obtain the compensation you deserve for your damages without any risk to you. Call my office if you are injured and want advice about making a claim.
Should I Make a Claim? – Published July 8, 2014- Altoona Mirror
Much is made nationally about people being “litigious,” or very quick to file a lawsuit. In reality, I do not see much of this locally. What I actually see or hear more often is “I am not the type to sue.” What people do not realize is that many claims can be settled without filing a lawsuit. This is particularly true in the personal injury area.
It is usually easy to determine if your injury is due to another’s carelessness. For example, your leg may be fractured from a car accident due to someone running a stop sign, or a stray dog bites your child without provocation. If the facts are more complex, an experienced injury attorney can sort this out, and tell you the likelihood of success if you pursue a claim.
I would like to clear-up some myths about personal injury claims. First, local attorneys do not recruit claimants or chase ambulances. Secondly, I reject more cases than I accept. It is not my goal to discourage people from making a claim. I simply want readers to realize that a certain amount of evidence and favorable law is needed before a claim can have a successful outcome. Thirdly, most defendants have insurance to cover a loss. Although technically your claim is being made against the guy who ran the stop sign, or the woman who owns the dog that bit your child, their automobile and homeowner’s insurance policies will pay these claims. Thus, your claim will not financially hurt them.
Call my office if you are injured and want advice about making a claim.
Automobile Insurance: A Warning – Published June 23, 2014 – Altoona Mirror
Hopefully you recall the article I wrote in Just Cause magazine in 2012, about uninsured and underinsured automobile coverage. UM coverage is available for you if you are injured through the fault of someone else who drives an automobile without insurance. UIM coverage protects you if the other driver carries some liability coverage, but not enough to adequately compensate you. Imagine being rear-ended by the kid with the beater car who allowed his insurance to lapse. What if you miss time from work or your medical bills exceed your limit of coverage? You will not be compensated if you do not carry your own UM coverage.
Now assume that you have $100,000 in liability coverage but only $15,000 in UIM coverage. Change the facts above and assume that the other driver carried the Pennsylvania state minimum of $15,000 in liability coverage. Here, you would receive $15,000 from the other driver’s insurance, and $15,000 from your own insurance. Wouldn’t it have been better had you insured yourself for $100,000 in UIM coverage? Then you could have potentially received $115,000.
Stacking of UM/UIM coverage is a simple matter that is often overlooked. Assume you and your wife each have an automobile and a third vehicle used by your kids. If you carry $100,000 in UM/UIM coverage and stack the coverage, you could potentially make a claim for $300,000 in UM or UIM benefits.
Automobile insurance is mandatory in Pennsylvania so you might as well do it right. UM/UIM coverage is cheap. Demand that your agent adds UM/UIM to your policy.