Are You Up Against One of the Top Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America? Find Out from this San Diego, CA Personal Injury Attorney

Ever wonder how your insurance company stacks up against others? Ever wonder how the insurance company for the other driver or property owner will act following an auto accident or slip and fall accident? Will they treat you fair or will they lowball you and play hardball?

In a free report issued by the American Association for Justice (AAJ) entitled, “The Top Ten Worst Insurance Companies in America”, the AAJ reveals how insurance companies put profits over people and policyholders. As the report reads, the insurance companies’ strategy is to “deny, delay, defend–do anything, in fact, to avoid paying claims.”

According to the report, the worst insurance companies in America are:

  1. Allstate
  2. Unum
  3. AIG
  4. State Farm
  5. Conseco
  6. WellPoint
  7. Farmers
  8. UnitedHealth
  9. Torchmark
  10. Liberty Mutual

These insurance companies insure and compensate for auto accidents, slip and fall accidents, life insurance claims, and health insurance claims. Allstate was named the worst insurance company in America–again–in a dubious honor that seems to repeat each and every single year. According to the report, Allstate heads the list because of “a combination of lowball offers and hardball litigation.” It is even reported that insurance adjustors are instructed by their supervisors to deceive claimants by lying.

If you are insured by one of these companies you should consider switching to a more reputable insurance carrier. If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence and find one of these companies as the insurance company for the negligent person or company, hiring the best California personal injury attorney you can find may be your best strategy.

San Diego Injury Accident Lawyer Tells You to WAIT Before Accepting a Quick Settlement

If you have ever been injured in an accident, you may have experienced one of the new tactics that are being used by insurance companies to improve their bottom line at your expense: the quick, small offer to settle.

San Diego personal injury lawyer looks at this new tactic and cautions injury accident victims to be cautious when deciding “should I accept the insurance company’s offer” in this important article.

Answers to Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Car Accident Questions

Q: I was just involved in an accident and the insurance company offered me $1,000 with the promise that they would also pay all my health care for the next three months.  Should I accept their offer?

A: You should never accept a settlement offer from the insurance company unless you are done with treatment or you know what the total cost of your medical care will be.

The insurance companies–most notably Progressive, Mercury, and Allstate–have adopted a new tactic in California to ensure that they reduce the amount of settlements they pay out:  They try to get to the injured person immediately and offer cash quickly and a promise to pay for medical care up to a certain amount of time.  These insurance companies hope that the injured person, who typically does not want to hire a lawyer or be involved in a lawsuit, will accept a paltry amount for their pain and suffering (usually $1,000 or so) and the promise to pay for the injured person’s health care for a limited amount of time.

Here is why you should not accept this offer: you do not know how injured you are within a few days of the accident.  Shortly after the accident, most people are sore and have limited range of movement.  These symptoms could be a simple soft tissue injury that will resolve in 4-8 weeks or it could easily just as be the symptoms for a more serious injury that requires surgery.  Unfortunately, you and your doctors won’t know until you have undergone a conservative health care plan for several weeks and until you typically undergo an MRI.

But, in addition to that reason, the paltry sum of money offered by the insurance company can really only be attributed to the value of your “pain and suffering” and inconvenience following the accident (since they are offering to pay for your health care too).  $1,000 for this damage is too small except for the most trivial and minor of accidents.  Don’t sell yourself short.

Before you settle a California personal injury claim, contact an experienced injury accident attorney to advise you whether you are making a good choice.

San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Talks About Types of Collectible Damages

If you have ever been injured in an accident, you know that you incur numerous costs and your bills can quickly run out of control. As a result, you may wonder what types of damages you may be entitled to as a result of the other person’s negligence and carelessness.

San Diego disability attorney answers this question for you and describes the types of damages available for accident victims in this important article.

What damages are you entitled to be compensated if you are injured in a California accident case? Find out here…

If you are involved in an accident and you are injured, you may be able to receive compensatory or punitive damages in your personal injury case.

Compensatory damages are intended to reimburse and compensate the injured victim for costs that have been incurred as a result of the accident or for losses which do not create a cost but are compensable nonetheless. Compensatory damages can be divided into two different kinds of damages: economic and non-economic. Economic compensatory damages are basically compensation for anything that has a measurable cost via a bill or invoice such as medical bills for past and future medical care, past and future loss of earnings and earning capacity, and damages to personal property. Non-economic damages are any compensable damage which does not have a bill or invoice such as physical pain and suffering, mental and emotional anguish, and loss of companionship and support. The goal of compensatory damages is to make the injury accident victim “whole” and to compensate for all losses.

Punitive damages are meant to deter future similar conduct by the defendant and to punish for egregious behavior. Typically these damages only are awarded in a small number of cases and only after there is a breach of contract or after a law is broken. Punitive damages are not awarded often and the State of California taxes punitive damages at a rate of 75%.

The majority of judgments and settlements only include money for compensatory damages.

San Diego Injury Accident Lawyer Tells of Questionable Insurance Tactics that Harm People

An honest and efficient insurance industry is essential for people to manage risks and make sure that valid injury claims from serious accidents are paid quickly. Without a quick and legitimate way of receiving compensation, people do not receive the compensation they deserve when they need it.

Unfortunately, the insurance industry regularly uses questionable tactics to keep from paying legitimate claims. San Diego injury accident lawyer tells of the tactics used by the insurance industry in this news report.

Insurance Companies Try to Increase Profits Through Questionable Tactics

Posted on Dec 20, 2009

A new free report from the American Association for Justice (AAJ), “Tricks of the Trade:  How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse”, tells how the insurance industry is increasingly using questionable tactics to increase their bottom lines at the expense of injured people and claimants.  This only harms the public who relies on an honest and efficient insurance system to compensate them for serious accidents.

The Report identifies the following common insurance company tricks:

  1. Denying Claims:  This is the most common tactic and is regularly employed by all insurance companies, including Allstate, State Farm, and USAA.  By denying valid claims, the insurance companies boost their profits because those are monies that will not be paid out.  Insurance companies have even been known to incentivize their employees to deny valid claims.
  2. Delaying until Death:  Insurance companies regularly delay claims in the hope that the claimant will die before the claim is paid or hoping that the injured person will give up or settle for less.  Many people do just that rather than stay the course.
  3. Confusing People:  You are not alone if you have ever been confused after reading your insurance contract.  They even confuse lawyers.  Insurance companies regularly use confusing agreements and language to discourage consumers.
  4. Discriminating by Credit Score:  Insurance companies determine premiums and insurance approvals based upon credit scores.  Lower scores pay higher premiums.
  5. Abandoning the Sick:  Insurance policy holders who are the most need of medical care are often targeted by the insurance companies and have their benefits cancelled to lower the amount of money paid out for health care.
  6. Cancelling for a Call:  Some people will call their insurance company to get a feel how filing a claim will affect their insurance coverage.  If the effect is too negative, they won’t file a claim.  However, just by making the call, the insured has essentially made a claim as far as the insurance company is concerned.  At renewal, the insurance company can use these phone inquiries to deny claims.
Disability Appeal

San Diego Personal Injury Attorney: What You Can Do if the Insurance Company Becomes Difficult to Work With?

If you have ever had to file a claim with your insurance company or the carrier for someone who has injured you, you’ve experienced the tactics that the insurance industry uses to force you to accept lowball settlement offers or to deny claims.

In a new article on our law firm website, San Diego, CA personal injury attorney tells you what you can do if the insurance company becomes difficult to work with.

Answers to Personal Injury, Wrongful Death, and Car Accident Questions

Q: What can I do if the insurance company becomes difficult to work with?

A: Even in cases where liability is straight forward, insurance companies regularly try the same tactics as when liability is contested.  They try to deny your claim, delay your claim, confuse you, or refuse you.  This is not a shock.  All lawyers for injured people know this and so do the state agencies, like the California Department of Insurance, who regulate the insurance industry.  Unfortunately, the DOI which is intended to be the watchdog for the insurance industry in California does not seem to care or have the will to address these tactics.

The American Association for Justice issued a report, “Tricks of the Trade: How Insurance Companies Deny, Delay, Confuse and Refuse” which gives injured people some guidance and tips how to deal with the insurance companies.  To summarize, the Report provides the following tips:

  • Know What is Covered:  If you are making a claim to your own insurance company, know what types of coverage are contained in the insurance policy and how to go about appealing a denial.
  • Complete All Information Carefully:  A mistake, no matter how honest or trivial, can result in a denial.
  • Avoid Cashing a Premium Refund Check:  When your insurer decides to cancel your insurance coverage, one way it may do so is to send you a refund check for the premiums you have paid.  When you cash this check, it is saying that you agree to your insurance carrier canceling your coverage.
  • Put Everything in Writing:  Save all written correspondence and bills from the insurance company.
  • Contact the California Department of Insurance, if Necessary:  The DOI cannot represent you in a private complaint against your insurance company, but reporting the complaint may initiate a government investigation that leads to results.

If you follow these tips and the insurance company is still being difficult, you may want to consider consulting with an attorney who will be able to represent you against your insurance company.

San Diego Personal Injury Attorney Answers Client’s Question: How Much is My Injury Accident Case Worth?

Prospective clients to our San Diego personal injury law firm often ask, “How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?” It is the most frequently asked question besides, “How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?“.

Our San Diego injury accident law office takes pride in providing as much helpful and useful free information as we can to our personal injury clients and members of the public. We want to make sure the public is as educated as claims adjustors so we all can effectively fight the insurance companies and their hardball tactics.

How Much is My Personal Injury Case Worth?

San Diego personal injury lawyer and car accident attorney answer a common question of injury accident victims: “How much is my injury claim worth?” 

This is the most frequently asked question we receive from potential clients and injury accident victims besides, “How long is my personal injury case going to take?”

San Diego Personal Injury Lawyer Answers Client Question: How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?

One of the most frequent questions our San Diego personal injury law firm receives from prospective clients is, “How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?“.

Our office takes pride in providing as much helpful and useful free information as we can to our personal injury clients and members of the public. Only by ensuring that the public is as educated as claims adjustors and insurance company employees can we help effectively fight them and their hardball tactics.

How Long Will My Personal Injury Case Take?

San Diego personal injury lawyer and car accident attorney answers a very common question of injury accident victims: How long will my personal injury case take?

Aside from asking “How much is my injury claim worth?”, this is probably the most frequently asked question our office receives.

Law Group Has Gone Paper-less: A Report and How-To Guide

The paperless office has been the dream of many San Diego businesses, including personal injury lawyers. The benefits are tangible and real: reduced office storage space, the ability to access file documents from any file right on your desktop, remote access to any office file from anywhere in the world, and the ability to share and communicate with clients instantaneously through e-mail. As data becomes increasingly digitized and the ease of digitizing data also increases, the paperless office becomes more and more inevitable as the next clear method of law office management.

In the past, the hurdles to achieve this goal has been equipment costs, document management, and the transition cost of changing office systems. However, these hurdles no longer exist and creating a paperless office is now very simple–even for a solo practitioner.

The Law Group is now 5 months into its’ transition to a “paperless” office. Bear in mind that “paperless” does not mean “without paper”. Paper has been around for thousands of years and will continue to have a place in the digital office for the foreseeable future. The goal must be to reduce all unnecessary paper by digitizing it and storing it in a central location.

These were our office goals in making the transition:
1. Reduce office administrative time sorting and filing paper in files.
2. Reduce the time used to search paper files for relevant documents.
3. Create a method to better share documents with clients, opposing counsel, etc.
4. Eliminate the need to store closed files, thereby reducing overhead costs.
5. Stay within a budget of $1,000 for accomplishing this goal

All of these goals were achieved. In addition, we attained other goals, including reducing paper, toner, and copying costs.

After reviewing a number of resources and conferring with other attorneys who have done the same thing, here is how we did it.

Overview
The Small Solo Tech Blog shows the five quick steps to a paperless office:

It really is that simple.

Equipment
In order to effectively go paperless, you need the following equipment:
1. High Speed Scanner
2. Document Tracking Software
3. PDF File Creating Software

In addition, you should consider purchasing a second monitor for your desk (which will require an advanced video card for your computer). While this is not necessary for implementing a paperless office system–or anything else, for that matter–I swear that once you start utilizing a second monitor, you will not go back. A second monitor is like having additional desktop space to hold and manage your documents. It makes cutting and pasting between documents extremely easy and allows you to maintain your e-mail on one screen while drafting a document on another.

High-Speed Scanner
What we have found to be useful is a scanner that will scan single or double-sided documents in a single pass at a rate of at least 15 pages per minute. Based upon the recommendations of others, we purchased Fujitsu ScanSnap s510 scanners for each workstation. We haven’t been disappointed. The scanners scan quickly with a push of a single button, scan right to PDF, come with a full version of Adobe Acrobat (a value of $200 itself), and at a price of $395 per scanner they are the right price to meet our goals. I even bought one for my home office to scan personal bills and records.

Document Tracking System
Once you scan your documents to save on your server, you must be able to search amongst your files and also create an automated file naming system which will logically name your files and organize them for future use.

There are a number of third-party products out there. However, since our office was already using Time Matters for our practice management software, we decided to use its’ document tracking software and established an automatic file naming protocol which organizes files by matter and then description.

The automatic file naming protocol we use is this:

Matter Name/YYYYMMDD Name of Document Author.pdf

Why do we use this naming protocol? Primarily because it is easily searchable in both Time Matters and through Windows Explorer. Putting the date for each document in front of the file name allows documents to appear chronologically in Windows Explorer. This provides another way to locate documents quickly beside searching via the descriptive file name.

PDF Creation Software
Again, there are a number of third-party software solutions out there. But since the ScanSnap already comes with a full version of Adobe Acrobat–which also seamlessly integrates with Time Matters–we use Acrobat.

Even if you don’t plan to transition to a paperless office, we highly recommend purchasing a copy of Acrobat for your office. The latest version of Acrobat, version 9, includes a number of powerful tools including the ability to insert digital signatures in documents, insert signature tabs and labels to direct clients to take action, and bates stamp documents.

Implementing a System
Really, this is the hardest part. Not only do the partners and supervising attorneys need to buy in and insist that the system be strictly adhered to, but that commitment needs to flow to the support staff. Everyone needs to be able to perceive the benefit of changing how business is done.

Our system is very simple. As soon as a document comes in the office before any action is taken the document is scanned and stored. The document is also marked so that other staff recognizes that the document has been scanned.

In addition, to limit the number of documents required to be scanned, we have done away with our fax telephone line and printer in favor of toll-free internet fax. Faxes now appear on our desktops in PDF format and can be directly saved to the server. In addition, this allows us to fax documents from our desks without having to retrieve hard copies from the paper case file.

Summary
The benefits of this system are significant. But the time and effort might seem daunting. I assure you, however, that this system can be implemented in 30 days and everyone–your clients, your staff, and yourself–will love the change.

Escondido Pedestrian Bridge Opened in North San Diego County

North San Diego County recently saw the unveiling of a pedestrian bridge, to help walkers and bikers traverse Lake Hodges, usually traveled by those going between destinations in Escondido and San Diego.

Many who took this route have long been waiting for an alternate to having to take the busy Interstate 15, which has experienced many accidents and deaths in San Diego. Frank Lary, a cyclist who frequently was forced to take this highway over the lake noted that it was “very uncomfortable. I was always looking back at the cars, seeing people on their cell phones and not paying attention.”

The San Dieguito River Park officially opened the highly anticipated pedestrian path on May 15, 2009, just in time for San Diego’s Bike to Work Day. Having been in the works for about a decade, the 990-foot-long span is not only a slim stress-ribbon bridge, but it is the longest stress-ribbon bridge in the world. The $10.5 million bridge is designed to safely guide cyclists and pedestrians over Lake Hodges and out of the way of automobiles. It is constructed of steel, tensioned steel cable, concrete, and precast concrete panels.

The David Kreitzer Lake Hodges BBicyclePedestrian Bridge, as it has been named, will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily. It has benches on two points of its’ long span. Horses and fishing are both banned along the bridge.

San Diego Bike Riders Experience Increase in Theft

A recent rash of bicycle thefts has made the San Diego City Courthouse begin to rethink the way it treats bicycles, including where to lock them. As a high-profile cycling city, San Diego bike riders have ample opportunity and plenty of good weather to commute via bicycle rather than a car. However, due to the volume of, and demand for, bicycles, it is no surprise that thieves target them.

Brienne Thompson was one such victim when she locked up her $1,000 Fuji Roubaix in front of the Hall of Justice while serving jury duty. She even locked her bike with two very secure U-Lock locks, only to emerge from the courthouse to find that both had been cut off. San Diego Sheriff’s Department notes that the problem has “become an epidemic” and are even considering moving those specific bike racks to an area more clearly visible to law enforcement from the Hall of Justice.

The owner of the San Diego Bike shop in Downtown San Diego, Mohammad Karimi, was quoted “Bike theft is very bad in San Diego… with the situation with the economy, it’s more organize — seems to be more happening.” Karimi recommends Kryptonite locks which are great deterrents, and the company also now ensures bikes that use the locks up to $4,500.

San Diego Union Tribune Takes on Progressive’s Property Damage Division

In an article printed in today’s newspaper, the San Diego Union Tribune takes on Progressive Insurance’s property damage program.

According to the article, critics argue that Progressive’s program violates California’s anti-steering laws by allowing its adjusters to write their own property damage estimates and direct their insureds to pre-approved body shops for the work. In addition–and wait until you hear about this–critics claim that Progressive’s program seeks to reduce repair costs by cutting corners! Shocker!

Sarcasm aside, this seems to be the usual modus operandi for insurance companies. Why replace when cosmetic patching will do? Why use new parts when refurbished products can be found? And don’t get me started on the repeated failure of insurance adjusters to ignore alignment and other structural issues in favor of concentrating on cosmetic damages. Too many of our office’s auto accident clients have complained that their car just doesn’t drive the same afterwards for it to be a coincidence.

The public shouldn’t be so gullible to believe the commercials–the insurance companies are not out there to act in your best interests. They make money by collecting premiums and paying out less than the premiums they collect. If they have to actually use quality labor and parts, it just makes it that much harder.

New Surgical Checklist May Reduce San Diego Medical Deaths and Complications

San Diego patients may benefit from new safety checklists.

The World Health Organization estimates that approximately 500,000 surgical deaths and complications occur worldwide every year due to inexcusable medical malpractice. Too many times patients have signed incorrect surgical consent forms allowing medical staff to incorrectly label them for a planned procedure. Nurses have documented patient safety measures that never actually occurred. Doctors have injected medications that were not labeled on the surgical field. The list goes on.

In order to address this issue, the World Health Organization, along with the Harvard School of Public Health, has launched its first “Safe Surgery Saves Lives” campaign. The study is based on the theory that a one-page surgery checklist developed by several world surgical experts will greatly reduce errors and omissions in the Operating Room.

The study, conducted with the participation of 3,955 patients in eight different cities, demonstrated that this low-cost and low-tech tool significantly reduced surgical mortality and morbidity rates.

The annual savings from the prevention of major complications in the Operating Room can be anywhere from $15 billion to $25 billion. Encouraged by this thought, the Institute for Healthcare Improvements and the World Health Organization have initiated the “Sprint” challenge: to have every hospital in the country utilize the surgical safety list with at least one surgical team by April 1, 2009.

Contingency Fees Preferred by Clients, Study Finds

The Manhattan Institute is a conservative think tank that pushes a tort-reform agenda as it attacks plaintiffs’ attorneys for numerous evils, both real and perceived. One of the primary gripes tort-reformers have against plaintiffs’ attorneys is that the contingency fee agreements used so prevalently in litigation–a legal fee agreement where the client pays a percentage of any recovery to the attorney for his services–unjustly exploit clients who cannot afford hourly attorneys’ fees and thereby unjustly enrich attorneys at their expense.

So, it’s ironic that The Manhattan Institute’s PointofLaw website recently published a story describing the findings of a legal fees study performed by Israeli behavioral economists Eyal Zamir and Ilana Ritov. The study, titled, “Neither Saints nor Devils: A Behavioral Analysis of Attorneys’ Contingent Fees” found that–contrary to the beliefs of tort-reformers–the vast majority of litigation clients prefer contingency fee agreements to the traditional billable hour fee agreement.

The study reaches a number of conclusions, but the key conclusion is that clients are risk-averse. They prefer a fee arrangement where the attorney shares the risk of litigation with them, even if that means the client ends up paying more in attorneys fees for that service. The attractiveness of the contingency fee agreement is that if the client wins, he will recover monetary damages, and, if he does not win, he does not owe any money in attorneys fees (“heads I win, tails let’s call it even).

Think about the utility and value of the contingency fee agreement the next time you hear some tort-reform argument, or, worse yet, a tort-reform initiative seeking to ban the contingency fee agreement.