It’s that time of year again when I recommend my clients review their car insurance coverage to ensure they have adequate coverage in case something bad happens. The easiest way to examine coverage is to take a look at your policy declaration (“dec” for short) page. Below is a good example of what a dec page looks like, along with the definitions of coverages below the chart:
In Missouri, if you have auto insurance, you automatically have $25,000 in uninsured coverage. In Illinois, it is optional (extra). I encourage everyone to increase this coverage because there are a staggering number of uninsured drivers on the road. Typically, it is not too expensive and avoids a situation where the maximum recovery is only $25,000, especially if you or a loved one has catastrophic injuries. I recommend increasing this coverage to $100,000 or $250,000, especially if the premium increase is small. While you cannot control what other drivers choose to do with their insurance decisions, purchasing extra uninsured coverage provides that added security blanket just in case something bad happens.
Underinsured coverage is different than uninsured coverage. Underinsured coverage comes into play if you get hit by someone who does not have enough coverage but your damages exceed the available coverage from the at-fault party. In this scenario, your insurance company steps in and provides additional coverage, hopefully making you whole for your damages. I recommend getting as much coverage as possible because the cost of this insurance is fairly inexpensive relative to the value it will provide if you (or someone covered under your policy) need(s) it.
*Note: Some insurance carriers write policies that deduct the amount recovered from the at fault driver from the underinsured coverage amount. For example, let’s say you have $50,000 in underinsured motorist coverage and the at fault driver also has a $50,000 policy. In this scenario, some of these policies determine you are not “under”-insured and exclude coverage (effectively only kicking in if the at-fault person had $25,000 in coverage, in which case it would only provide $25,000 in coverage). I think this is exceedingly misleading because most people are led to believe they have $50,000 EXTRA coverage when, in reality, they do not. These policies are typically enforced by the courts because it is a contract and, unless there is some ambiguity in the agreement, courts assume people understand what they agreed to in the contract. While I hope insurers are hit with a class action lawsuit at some point for what I feel is a deceptive business practice, until then, it is important to know exactly what is in your policy and for what you are covered. Ask your insurance salesperson if this applies to your policy and, as always, feel free to bring us your policy for a free review!
Medical Payments Coverage:
Medical payments coverage is no-fault coverage that pays for medical bills, regardless of whether an accident was your fault or someone else’s fault. For instance, if you are driving with a passenger and you accidentally rear-end someone else (meaning it is your fault, hence the no-fault aspect), if you and your passenger are injured and incur medical bills, your medical payments coverage will cover the medical bills up to your coverage. This is useful when an accident is your fault OR if it is someone else’s fault but you are waiting for the at-fault insurance company to make a lump-sum settlement at the end of the case. Your medical payments coverage can provide money to pay for bills to avoid going to collections if you are unable to pay those bills.
Typical coverage amounts are $1,000-$10,000 but I have seen as much as $25,000. Many people do not have this coverage because insurance salespeople cut it out as a way to provide a cheaper quote for your insurance premium. However, this is some of the cheapest, biggest bang for your buck coverage available. Some of the people who have it do not know what it is and do not use it, even when it applies. Some of my clients who begin the process through their insurance and then come to me later get frustrated because their own insurance company did not advise it was available and could be applicable to their situation.
I am happy to do a free review of your insurance coverage (auto/home/umbrella) to make sure you are getting the best value and the correct coverage to protect you and your family should something happen.
Is Your Vision Worth Only $250,000?
Some states have medical malpractice damages caps for lawsuits, arguing “runaway verdicts” are driving doctors and businesses out of the state or running up costs for hospitals. Those against caps argue jury verdicts keep bad doctors from hurting other people and give a victim a true measure of their damages. While the merits of damage caps are debatable, it is understandable why victims of medical negligence are strongly against caps, which can have devastating consequences. For instance, the state of Montana has a malpractice cap of $250,000. A jury awarded a woman $6 million dollars in damages against a doctor who did a non-approved procedure which eventually caused the woman to go blind in both eyes. People can debate the validity of the claim and whether the woman assumed the risk of the procedure but a jury heard arguments from both sides and appraised the woman’s damages at $6 million. The defense team for the doctor (and insurance company) then filed a motion to get the verdict reduced to the state cap of $250,000. The case is still pending but, if the judge rules in the defense’s favor, this woman may only get $250,000 for an injury a jury of her peers appraised at24 times higher.
Missouri has a similar cap, which increases every year. Currently, the medical malpractice cap in Missouri on non-economic (pain & suffering) damages is $465,531, with a cap of $814,679 for “catastrophic” cases of quadriplegia, paraplegia, the loss of two or more limbs, significant and permanent cognitive impairment, irreversible failure of a major organ, or significant loss of vision. That’s right – if a person is a victim of medical malpractice in Missouri, their damages for serious injury on the non-economic portion is just over $800,000 (and less if “non-catastrophic”). The question to ask is would you trade $250,000 for your vision or $814,679 for one of the catastrophic injuries mentioned above? Of course not, no one would, however, the sad part is the victims of malpractice do not get a choice and may not get ample compensation for someone else’s negligence. Of note is that this cap only applies to non-economic damages. Economic damages such as medical bills (including future) and wage losses are not capped.
One of the functions malpractice lawsuits serve is not only compensation but deterrence. In terms of compensation, the idea is to right the scales of justice and the only thing available is money damages. The person cannot (but certainly wishes) he or she could push a button and undo the negligent act. The person also cannot go out and do eye for an eye justice and cause the same damage to the wrongdoer. Nor will the person who committed the negligence (at least in the civil context, assuming it was not intentional) go to jail or face criminal punishment. The only remedy available for the injured person is money damages. But just as important is the second role of this type of law – deterrence. This means the law (and society) wishes to deter this type of negligent conduct by punishing the wrongdoer where it can hurt the most – their pocketbook. Ultimately, if someone is a bad doctor who commits more malpractice than other doctors, he will be driven out of business because insurance companies will stop insuring him. This creates a system of checks and balances.
Unfortunately, damages caps fail on both counts because they do not adequately compensate the victims of malpractice and they do not adequately deter this type of conduct. Moreover, because the punishment is capped, bad doctors and insurance companies can choose to gamble knowing that by fighting most cases, it will have a chilling effect on the amount of cases pursued. For injured parties, it can cost anywhere from $50-100,000 to bring these kinds of cases and, if the damages they can receive are capped, attorneys will not take these cases knowing they will have to put in a lot of time and money up front for limited recovery at the end of a case. In practice, this is absolutely the case because Illinois does not have caps and has a stronger track record of keeping bad doctors from hurting other people.
Throughout the years, we received many calls from people describing what they believe (and likely is) medical negligence. While we do not personally take these cases, we often review the cases and provide honest feedback. A very small number of medical negligence cases are ultimately pursued in court. The vast majority fall into one of two categories: (1) I believe there is negligence, however, the economics will ultimately not justify pursuing it on your behalf; or (2) sometimes you can have a poor outcome medically but it does not rise to the level of medical malpractice. This is often devastating to hear for the injured person (or their family), leading to outrage at the system.
While the intent of this post is not to solve the problem with damages caps, I hope to instead argue the fairer thing to do is protect our 7th Amendment right to trial by jury, where a jury of your peers listens to the evidence from both sides and determines a fair outcome on a case by case basis.
St. Louis Magazine Best Lawyers 2024
We are happy to announce St. Louis Magazine spotlighted Tarun as one of the top “Personal Injury Litigation – Plaintiffs” lawyers in the area. The selection is based on input from other lawyers who anonymously provided feedback of his work. We suspect it has a lot to do with his success in trials and in litigating cases. Since the reopening of the courts post-covid, Rana Law Group has taken 7 cases to a jury trial. That may not sound like a big number but, considering 99% of injury cases settle before trial, this is impressive for a firm of our size. We are happy his talents are respected by other lawyers in town and congratulate him for receiving this honor.
From time to time, clients call and ask which type of cases we handle. Our practice is built on referrals from satisfied clients. We know that if we work hard and do a good job for our clients, they will tell their friends about us. The best compliment from a former client is that client entrusting us with the potential case of their friend or family. Our office specializes in the following cases:
Personal Injury (auto collisions, trucking, motorcycle, slip and fall)
Traffic tickets and DUI/DWI
If you know someone that meets these criteria, please have them call our office. If someone does not quite fit the above criteria, please still have the prospective referral give us a call as we can usually help the person find the right attorney via a referral.
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