Protecting Yourself and Your Loved Ones
STEFON L. JACKSON, ESQ.
Senior Associate Attorney
MICHAEL T. BANNON, ESQ.
Ferrone Law Group
Heading to work becomes routine. It is virtually autopilot. That is, until you’ve been rear-ended. Or maybe you are running Code 3 and another vehicle collides with you. Immediately, you check to make sure you are OK. Hopefully you are, but all too often you’re not. Next, you question how bad the damage to your car really is, hoping the other driver is even insured, let alone has quality coverage. The problem is that the average driver in California is simply carrying the state-required minimum liability coverage — $5,000 for property damage and $15,000 for injury per occurrence with $30,000 if multiple individuals are involved. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a bumper, a paint job for $5,000 and a quick visit to the ER that will likely consume that entire $15,000. That’s the good news. The bad news is that according to the Insurance Research Council, two out of every five drivers in California are uninsured.
Time is of the essence with respect to asserting a claim for property damage or bodily injury.
It should be obvious at this point how important it is to have higher limits on uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage on your personal auto insurance policy. The cost of increasing your limits on this coverage is insignificant compared to the protection that the higher limits will offer. You are strongly encouraged to review your current policy to make sure there is an adequate amount of coverage. When determining what limits to set, think about the impact on you and your family if you suffer a significant injury that prevents you from working and requires extensive treatment. In the event that you must rely on this coverage because of an accident, seeking legal counsel can be helpful in securing compensation for both treatment and loss of earnings. Insurance companies tend to be more concerned about paying the minimum than properly protecting their insured.
Also, keep in mind that your commute to and from work may not be covered by workers’ compensation. This is known in the industry as the “going and coming rule.” However, there are several exceptions to this bar from recovery. This makes it very important to contact a workers’ compensation attorney to see if you can meet one of the exceptions. Obviously, if your accident occurred while on duty, that should be covered by workers’ compensation. Nonetheless, it remains important to be aware of both circumstances because the civil and workers’ compensation cases will need to be coordinated.
Sometimes, it can take a while to realize an injury has occurred, particularly once the adrenaline of the accident wears off. This makes it important to seek medical attention as soon as possible, even if it does not seem necessary. A thorough exam may uncover something you did not realize. It also provides immediate documentation, which is very useful for the valuation of the claim. The later someone seeks treatment following an accident, the easier it is for the insurance companies to take advantage of that individual by creating the narrative that the need for treatment is not associated with the accident. Additionally, time is of the essence with respect to asserting a claim for property damage and/or bodily injury. Insurance companies are hoping you delay, as this can be the difference in how your claim is valued. When an injury occurs due to a traffic collision, it is important to report the collision and seek legal counsel to discuss your options.
Lastly, if the injury is significant enough, your career could be in jeopardy. This may require you to retire early. It is important that you do not settle your claim too quickly before this is determined, because it can dramatically influence the value of the claim. If you retain an attorney, it is recommended that you ensure that the attorney is familiar with PERS and can coordinate a potential workers’ compensation claim. Whether the accident is deemed to be work-related can have a dramatic impact on your retirement benefits.
Ferrone Law Group stands in the unique position of representing public safety throughout the state. We have attorneys capable of addressing all of these issues in-house, making coordination a central tenet of our existence. Ferrone Law Group offers its services to both public safety members and their families. If you or a loved one has been in an accident, please feel free to contact us. Keep in mind this article is not intended to provide legal advice and is meant to be informative only. Individuals are encouraged to seek out legal advice tailored to their specific circumstances, particularly if they feel they fall within the circumstances discussed in this article.
About the Authors
Stefon L. Jackson, Esq., is a senior associate attorney with Ferrone Law Group, with years of experience in civil litigation, including personal injury and premise liability.
Michael T. Bannon is a partner with Ferrone Law Group and primarily handles complex workers’ compensation claims. Inquiries can be made by calling (805) 373-5900 or emailing email@example.com.