If You Have Been Hit by a Tractor-Trailer Please Contact Us Immediately

March 19, 2020

Tractor-trailer drivers are trained to never admit fault or apologize if they’ve been involved in an accident – even if the accident was obviously their fault. These drivers are told that they will lose their bonus, truck, or even their job if they are found at fault for an accident. The employers and insurance companies educate them on how to document an accident scene, record witness statements, and speak with the investigating officers. Most of our clients have not had the benefit of that training. Worse, our clients are often being loaded into an ambulance as the truck driver is documenting the scene and giving the police officer his version of the facts. Why do they go to all of the trouble you ask? Commercial vehicles like tractor-trailers can cause massive damage – both to people and property. Serious trucking accidents are on the rise here in the low country as our already overcrowded roads are filled with more and more big trucks causing more and more serious injuries and deaths. Compounding the problem, the need for commercial drivers is on the rise while the availability of qualified drivers is diminishing. Unfortunately, that equals more unqualified drivers behind the wheel. The good news is that tractor-trailers and other commercial vehicles are required to have much more insurance coverage than private vehicles so there is more money available to pay for the massive damage they often cause. More good news is that tractor-trailer verdicts are on the rise in the Southeast with the median verdict now at just over $4 million. Armed with the truth, juries are beginning to hold these trucking companies and their unqualified drivers accountable. We know the insurance companies’ playbook and we know how to defeat the specialized Trucking Defense Lawyers the insurance companies and trucking companies hire.  Even worse news for them, we know the trucking companies often have the smoking gun in their own files – and we know how to get it. The moment we are contacted about an accident, we send a team to photograph, measure and inspect the accident site and all the involved vehicles. Also, most tractor-trailers now have tracking and/or recording devices (“black boxes”). We immediately pursue that data before it is written over, lost when the system resets, or otherwise inconveniently disappears. However, we are not contacted until weeks or even months after the accident. By that time, the evidence from the accident scene is no longer available and we are behind the trucking company and the insurer in our efforts to investigate the accident. In a recent case involving a tractor-trailer, we were not hired until weeks after the accident. By that time much of the evidence was no longer available. As a result, our only option was to prove the case using the trucking and insurance company’s own investigation – a difficult prospect at best given that insurance adjustors zealously guard their investigation files and claim they are protected from disclosure by a work product privilege. True to form, in this case the defendant trucking company refused to produce the investigation of the accident scene that was […]

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Do Insurance Companies have to tell you how much coverage is available for your claim?

April 9, 2019

You’ve been in a car accident and your medical bills are already piling up.  One question that many people who try to handle their own claims forget to ask is “How much insurance coverage is available?” This is an extremely important question as it can affect the value of your case, the manner in which the insurance company handles your claim and whether other coverage such as underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage is triggered. Knowing the amount of coverage available is essential to any negotiation. The insurance companies have this information at their disposal and you can bet that it will greatly affect the way that they negotiate. Insurance companies handle claims in which they have minimum coverage ($25,000.00) very differently from claims where there is $100,000.00 or more in coverage. The majority of clients that we speak with who have tried to negotiate their claim without a lawyers assistance don’t have this information and don’t know how to obtain it.   Insurance companies will not give you this information voluntarily. However, S.C. Code §38-77-250 requires an insurance company to provide either the declarations page or a sworn statement providing the limits of coverage. To obtain this information, you must send a written request satisfying the requirements of S.C. Code §38-77-250. The request must be under oath, setting forth the specific nature of the claim asserted, must state that the requestor has the authority to make such a request and must also enclose a copy of the incident report regarding the claim. Here’s an example: “Client was injured in an automobile accident with your insured on January 1, 2019. Pursuant to South Carolina Code § 38-77-250(A), I am hereby requesting a copy of your insured’s declaration page or a statement under oath of a corporate officer or the insured’s claims manager stating with regard to each known policy of non-fleet private passenger insurance issued by you, the name of the insurer, the name of each insured and the limits of coverage. I am duly authorized as the claimant’s attorney to make this request and have attached a copy of the pertinent incident report. “ This request MUST be sent via certified mail or statutory overnight delivery. Once received, the insurance company will have 30 days to provide the coverage. Often the response provided by the insurance company is subject to interpretation or incomplete. It is important to have a lawyer who has experience handling insurance claims review this information before entering into any negotiation. Knowing all the information is key to resolving your claim for the most money possible. Negotiating your injury claim without being fully advised is a gamble that you should never take. If you have been injured in an accident, contact the attorneys of the Gruenloh Law Firm for a free evaluation and learn how much insurance coverage is available in your case.

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In An Accident With a Hit and Run Driver? Here’s How to Make Sure You’re Covered.

March 18, 2019

Car accidents happen. A driver makes a mistake and hits another person’s vehicle, the police are called, medical care is administered if necessary, and insurance information is exchanged. While unfortunate and inconvenient, most times car accidents follow a predictable procedure, and the insurance company of the at fault party will cover the damage. But what happens if you’re driving down a dark road and a pair of headlights bears down on you, hits you and then leaves the scene of the accident without stopping? What if you have injuries, medical bills and damage to your car but have no way of knowing who caused your accident? These situations are known as collisions with unknown drivers, and it can be difficult to collect what is owed to you under your insurance policy. The good news for the victim of such an accident is that it is possible for them to collect under uninsured motorist coverage. This type of coverage is statutorily required in South Carolina, and anyone who is insured has this coverage available. See S.C. Code Ann.§ 38-77-150. The bad news is that concerns regarding fraud have led South Carolina lawmakers to enact specific provisions as to when a person is able to make a claim on their uninsured motorist coverage for an unknown driver. Unless the victim has complied with the law, the driver’s coverage will be denied. For this reason it I essential that you get legal representation if you find yourself in this situation. S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-170 states lays out three requirements in order to make a claim. The first requirement is that “the insured or someone in his behalf report[] the accident to some appropriate police authority within a reasonable time, under all the circumstances, after its occurrence[.]” S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-170(1). Essentially, this section states that the victim must promptly report the accident to the police as soon as they become aware of what has happened and are able to do so. While this provision seems straight forward, it still needs to be mentioned to ensure compliance with the law. The second requirement is the most complicated and involves proving that an accident with an unknown driver actually occurred. The law states that “the injury or damage [must be] caused by physical contact with the unknown vehicle, or the accident must have been witnessed by someone other than the owner or operator of the insured vehicle; provided however, the witness must sign an affidavit attesting to the truth of the facts of the accident contained in the affidavit[.]” S.C. Code Ann. § 38-77-170(2). What this means is that you need proof that the accident occurred. The simplest way to prove this is evidence of contact between the victim’s car and the unknown driver’s car, which is commonly referred to as “trading paint.” If no contact occurred however, as in our earlier example where an unknown car forces another off the road, then there must be a witness willing to sign an affidavit explaining what happened. This requirement can become complicated, as the witness cannot be the driver or owner of the vehicle […]

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Signing Anything for an Insurance Company Without a Lawyer’s Advice May Lead to You Signing Away Your Rights

March 12, 2019

If you have been injured in a car accident, then it is likely you have received documents from an insurance company, such as an “authorization” or a “release.” Keep in mind that the document forms used by insurance companies are the product of countless insurance defense lawyers writing and rewriting documents to better benefit their clients – the insurance companies. No matter how sophisticated you may be, if you don’t the experience of daily exposure to some of the more insidious insurance tricks, you are at a disadvantage.  Be smart and if an insurance company asks you to sign anything – Don’t. Call and get our advice first. We’ll give you our opinion for free and it will only take a minute.    Don’t Give the Insurance Company Authorization to Your Medical Records Insurance Companies often send “authorizations” to people who have been injured in a car accident. These “authorizations” are in fact HIPPA medical record releases that allow insurance companies to get any and all of your medical records and possibly even psychological records. In one particularly egregious situation we had a client who was pregnant at the time of her accident. She signed an authorization before she was represented by us and the insurance company used the authorization to obtain all of her medical records – including hers and her newborn baby’s birth records. Many people ask – why are insurance companies entitled to my medical records that are completely unrelated to this accident? The answer is – they aren’t. In fact, unless you are in litigation, they are entitled to only the records to which you decide to give them access. At the Gruenloh Law Firm we don’t give insurance companies authorizations. Not only is that a “close your eyes and hope for the best approach” – it’s just lazy. We obtain only the relevant records and provide the insurance companies with only the relevant records. While you must give up some privacy in making a claim, there are limits. Imagine an insurance company using a 15 year old record (which they should not have been given access to from the beginning) to deny your injury claim. It happens every day.  Don’t Sign a Release Without Advice A release agreement is a form of a contract giving up certain rights and claims in exchange for compensation for your injury. In plain language, a release is the document that the insurance company wants you to sign so they end your claim. There are many types of releases, including the release of all liability and claims, a property damage release and what’s referred to as a covenant not to execute. All of these releases are generally provided as consideration for payments made by the insurance company. Keep in mind – insurance companies want releases and they will pay money for them. The important thing is that you release only what you intended to release.  As with authorizations, insurance companies almost always draft releases that give them very broad rights. So while you may be led to believe that you are only giving up certain claims, you may find after […]

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Understanding The Insurance Claims Process for a Personal Injury Claim Related to an Automobile Accident

February 20, 2019

Your objective in filing a claim and negotiating with an insurance company should be to get the highest settlement offer that the insurance company is willing to make without having to resort to filing a lawsuit. The claims process begins when you report your injury to the insurance company and file a claim. If you file a personal injury claim with an insurance company after an accident, you will be speaking with a claims adjustor for the purpose of negotiating a settlement. At each step of your interaction with the insurance company adjustor, you should be advocating for the highest possible settlement. The claims adjuster will tell you that they are investigating but make no mistake – the adjustor will be using their experience and the resources of the insurance company in an attempt to diminish or deny your claim. It is the adjustor’s goal to pay you as little as is possible to settle your accident claim. Often, insurance companies will not even tell you how much insurance is available for your claim. It is essential to know whether the person who caused the accident is insured for $25,000, $50,000 or even $1 million.  The adjustor and the insurance company know this information and, in order to have an effective negotiation, you must have as much information as they do. Insurance adjustors negotiate claims every day and it is their job to pay as little to you as possible. Our clients often tell us stories about adjustors who warn claimants that if they reject the insurance company’s initial offer, they will not receive a higher settlement if they hire an attorney, and will actually receive less because they will have to pay attorney fees. This simply isn’t true. It is well known that insurance companies offer less money to people who are not represented by an attorney and that those settlements on average are very low. Our clients receive substantially higher settlements than people who are not represented. This is in part due to our experience in negotiating settlements but it is equally due to our skill and reputation in the courtroom.  If you’ve been told that hiring an attorney will not assist you in obtaining a higher settlement and want additional information on why this is untrue, please call us now. If you decide to accept the insurance company’s settlement offer, the personal injury claims process will end at that point. You will be asked to sign a release that will end any and all future rights you may have – even if your condition worsens, your medical bills rise, your ability to work is diminished etc. This is the reason that insurance adjustors are eager to reach out to you and ask you how you are. They want you to settle quickly. If the insurance adjustor gives you a low offer (your medical bills plus a small amount for pain and suffering would be typical), you have the option of rejecting the insurance company’s offer and getting help. In this situation you might have $5,000 in medical bills and the adjustor offers you $7,000. For some this […]

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