Will a Person on a Car Title Be Held Liable in a Car Accident?

 

 

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Jared Richards. I’m one of the partners here at Clear Counsel Law Group. One of our readers has recently asked whether the person who’s on title with him on a car is going to be liable or responsible if he is at fault for an accident. The answer is maybe, but we have another video on this and please check it out. The quick answer is that person is going to be responsible if the responsible is just lending somebody a car or having somebody as co-title on the car. It’s not going to mean that they are instantly responsible. Now there are generally 3 methods that we go about to show that somebody else who isn’t driving is responsible.

Method one is that the person who owns the vehicle is the employer or in law sometimes we say the master of the person who is driving. Meaning the owner instructed the driver to drive and while the driver was doing what the owner said, they got in an accident. Now generally this applies in an employee or employer relationship. It certainly doesn’t happen every time. If somebody is on co-title with you, it’s generally not the case. The next thing that we look at is what we call negligent entrustment. Negligence entrustment is when you own a vehicle and you give it to somebody that you know is not fit to drive.

Now there is a lot of case law on negligence entrustment and there tends to be an exclusion. You want to talk to your attorney and your attorney will have to do probably some briefing for the court on this, but there is an issue of whether negligence entrustment can even happen on somebody who is on co-title, who is on title of the car because they have a right to drive. You’re not letting them drive it. They have a right to drive. There is a law on that and some area for argument. The last is the person who is on co-title with you. If they are a member of your household, if they’re family and a member of your household, then the answer is yes they probably actually will be liable then that has to do with the family responsibility act.

Most of the time no, the person is not going to be responsible, but there are times specifically if they’re your employer, if you’re running an errand at their specific request behest or if you are a family member living with them, then they might be responsible. Thanks and will see you in another video.

 

What is an Appropriate Amount of Car Insurance to Carry?

 

How Much Car Insurance Coverage Would You Recommend?

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Jared Richards. Hi, I’m Jared Richards. I’m one of the partners here at Clear Counsel Law Group. Now, one of our readers has recently asked us how much insurance coverage he should have on his car. It’s an interesting question because there are many different types of insurance coverage you can have on your car. There’s insurance coverage that will cover the property damage that you cause if you’re at fault. There’s insurance coverage that will cover property damage done to your car even if it’s your fault. There is other coverage that will cover your car if it’s somebody else’s fault and they don’t have enough or they don’t have any insurance. That’s for the property damage. Let’s talk about injury.

Now, it’s the same idea. There is liability insurance that’s going to cover you if you hurt somebody else. There’s uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage that covers you if somebody else hurts you. Then there’s MedPay. MedPay simply pays for medical bills. Now I want to talk about how much coverage we have in liability. The answer, I think, is having as much as you can afford. Now, it’s tempting sometimes to either not buy insurance, which is just wrong, I think it’s immoral to not buy insurance, or to simply go with the state minimums. I think that’s also problematic, and possibly also a moral issue.

Now, I understand there are budgetary issues that every family has to deal with. Sometimes, realistically, minimum policies is all that the family can possibly afford. Even if you had the best budgeter examining and altering their budget, they would still put them on a 15/30, a minimum policy. If you have more money, and getting more insurance is not relatively all that much more expensive, buying is helps two people. One, it helps protect you. I had somebody come in recently and say that they had been in a car accident and somebody was suing them. They had assets that were exposed. If you have assets, if you have a lot of money in the bank account, if you have property, if you have real estate rental property, if you have other investments, you need to have insurance. You should also talk about it to an attorney, and you can come talk to our asset protection department, about how to set up those assets so they are protected.

Let’s move on to what I view as a moral issue of protecting others if it’s your fault. The idea is that none of us wants to cause an accident, none of us. It’s so easy to do it. Some are from sheer stupidity. They’re doing things that they shouldn’t be doing: drinking driving, things like that. Some of them are just simple mistakes. We all mistakes when driving. Luckily, for most of us, we don’t make mistakes when somebody’s in our way. But people screw up, and it’s an accident and people get hurt. Now if you find yourself in that situation where you have seriously hurt somebody, don’t you want to be in a position where you can offer up your own insurance policy? You know it’s not going to make it right. You know it’s not going to bring them back their legs or make them work again. It’s not going to make it better. It’s not really going to truly make it even, but it’s the best you can do.

If you’re sitting on a 15/30 policy and, heaven forbid, you nod off at the wheel or you over-adjust your car and you over-adjust your car and you make a mistake that anybody can make, and you kill somebody or you paralyze them for life, or you otherwise seriously, seriously hurt them, you want to be in a position where you can make it as right as possible. For those that have financial ability, I really encourage go buy at least $100,000 of coverage, at least, preferably 250. I’ve even seen a 500/500 policy. Now on top of that, both to protect yourself and to protect others, umbrella policies are very inexpensive. Purchasing a million dollars in coverage on top of your car insurance policy for just negligence, it’s a very affordable prospect. It protects your assets and it fulfills your duty to try to make things right if you have committed a wrong, even if it’s accidental.

I’m not selling insurance here, but you may want to talk to your insurance agent and make sure that your limits are appropriate to protect you, to protect your family, and to protect the other people that are on the road around you. If you have any questions, feel free to give us a call. Thanks for watching this video, and we’ll see you in the next video.

What to do if You are in a Car Accident with a Person that has No Insurance

You have been in a car accident with a person that does not have insurance; now what?

Transcript:

Hi. I’m Jared Richards. I’m one of the attorneys here at Clear Counsel Law Group. One of our readers has asked what to do if they have been in a car accident and it turns out that it’s not their fault. It’s the other side’s fault. The other side has no insurance and there is no underinsured motorist coverage. I’m not sure there’s much to do. You may be in trouble.

A couple of things we want to make sure is that the other side, the person who hit you, doesn’t have assets sufficient to cover your claim. Most people don’t, unfortunately. Nevada has certain laws, I think of them as the bankruptcy laws. It’s really laws against enforcing a judgement and what that means is let’s say we are taken to court. We’re to go all the way to get a court to issue a judgement saying that the person who hit you owes you $20, 30, 40, 50,000. Insert your number. It doesn’t really matter. Nevada has laws that say we can only collect against certain property of the defendant. Usually, as a general basis, that means that we can only collect 25% of their take home income after deducting minimum wage.

That might not be a lot of money. People get to protect $15,000 in equity in their car, up to $500,000 in equity in their house, about the same amount in an IRA, unlimited amount in a life insurance policy or an annuity. For most people, it’s very difficult to collect and so there may not be much to do. Most of the time in that situation, it’s not worth suing.

That leads to another interesting question and an important question and that is what kind of insurance should you have. First of all, you need to have health insurance. If you were injured in that accident, you need to have that health insurance to get the treatment that you need. Unfortunately, health insurance is not going to cover certain things. It is not going to cover your pain and suffering. It’s not going to cover your lost income. That’s where we get into two other very, very, very important types of insurance.

The first is life insurance. Heaven forbid, you were to die in an accident and your family is relying on you as a bread winner. This is where having your own life insurance policy makes a whole lot of sense. They’re generally not very expensive if you get term and if you are responsible for a family, then you really need to consider having it.

The second is underinsured motorist coverage. This is also extremely important. I would encourage everybody and I understand there are budgetary issues that some people just cannot find room in their budget. Sometimes it’s not their fault. Sometimes it’s because of bad budgeting and sometimes it’s really not there fault. There’s just no room. One, I would encourage everybody to have more than the state minimum insurance levels. Really, I would like to see everybody at a least $100,000 of coverage or more. I’d prefer more but at least $100,000.

Second, I would encourage everybody, everybody, to purchase underinsured motorist coverage. Underinsured and uninsured motorist coverage is so very important. The point is that if you’re driving around you cannot rely on the person that hit you to do the right thing because we have so many who are uninsured and so many that are insured at minimums, at state minimums. $50,000 when we are dealing with medical bills does not go a very long ways and so I would encourage everybody to have at least $100,000, I’d prefer $250,000, of coverage both on liability and on underinsured motorist coverage.

In case I didn’t talk about it before, underinsured motorist coverage is that coverage that’s going to kick in once the other side’s policy has paid out. Uninsured motorist coverage, it’s the same thing. It’s just that the other side has no coverage. Your own coverage is going to come in to cover your injuries, your pain and suffering, your lost income. Please don’t drive around assuming everybody else is doing the right thing and you should protect yourself. Thanks for watching and as LeVar Burton would say, we’ll see you next time.

Will You Recover Damages if You Are Not Wearing a Helmet in a Motorcycle Accident?

 

What if You Are Not Wearing a Helmet in Your Motorcycle Accident?

Transcript:

Hi. I’m Jared Richards. I’m one of the partners here at Clear Counsel Law Group. One of our readers has recently asked what happens if you get into a motorcycle accident and you’re not wearing a helmet. Well, other than your head might splatter against the ground, there’s a question as to how it affects any settlement you might get.

Really, when we’re doing settlement posturing, we always have an eye to what would happen if this went to a jury. The question is, what would a jury do if they know that you don’t have a helmet on?

Well, this is kind of an area of undiscovered country. Now, this hails back to what we call the seat belt defense. Now, the seat belt defense is something that a defendant would want to try to bring to say that the injuries wouldn’t have happened, or they would not have been as bad if the victim had been wearing a seat belt, and they weren’t.

Well, in Nevada, we have a statute that specifically says that defendants cannot bring that as evidence, that a jury doesn’t get to see whether or not there is a seat belt in use.

Thanks to our 2015 legislature, thanks, guys, for listening to lobbyists, that rule has been repealed specifically against cab companies.

That’s right, because clearly cab companies are the people that we need to defend, because it’s not like we put our lives and bodies in their control and protection. I hope the sarcasm came through on this video.

But anyway, generally, the jury will not see whether or not there is seat belt use. Now, there are a few limited exceptions that we won’t go into here. But the question is, is that fair? Before I answer the motorcycle helmet question, the question is, is the seat belt rule fair?

Well, one of the answers, it doesn’t really matter if it’s fair. It is the law. As long as it’s the law, we follow it. But I think it is fair. There is a reason for it being far. Follow me through.

 

The Seat Belt Question Is More Difficult Than You May Think

Most people when they first hear that, they think, “Well, if he wasn’t wearing a seat belt, it’s his own darn fault.” Is that true? The question I have is, is not wearing a seat belt an invitation for somebody to hit you?

Not wearing a seat belt did not cause the accident.

Not wearing a seat belt did not cause somebody to run a red light or run a stop sign or drive drunk and hit you.

Wearing a seat belt is simply not wearing a seat belt. It’s not an invitation or consent to get hurt.

Now, yes, if you’d worn a seat belt, it would have prevented more damage. Now, that is a specific legal theory that the defense will try to bring up. The defense will try to bring up a term called “mitigation of damages.” The term “mitigate” means to lessen, to soften.

The rule is that if you’re a plaintiff and you’re an injured victim, you have the obligation to lessen your damages any way that you can.

Now the question is, does mitigation of damages apply in a seat belt situation? The answer is, the courts go both ways.

But the majority of courts seem to say that the answer is no. You don’t have a duty. Because mitigation of damages, that duty only starts after the injury is imminent.

Either it’s happened or it’s imminent. Most people don’t have cat-like reflexes that they see the accident coming and they can throw their seat belt on real fast. Now, my 7-year-old thinks he has those reflexes. But in reality, none of us do.

There’s not enough time between the accident and the injury to put on a seat belt, so that duty does not actually start. The obligation to mitigate damages doesn’t exist, or at least you are incapable of doing it in time, and thus it shouldn’t apply.

Now courts go both ways on that issue.

If you’re not in Nevada, and you don’t have a seat belt rule statute protecting you, then I don’t know which way the judge is going to go. But it makes sense that mitigation of damages only starts after the injury is imminent, then it wouldn’t apply.

Now, some would say, well, you should put your seat belt on every time. Look, you should, of course. Of course, we advocate, everybody should wear their seat belt. But the question is, for mitigation of damages purposes, when you get into your car in the morning and you drive away, is it reasonably likely that you’re going to get into an accident?

No, it’s not. Now it is possible.

It happens. But reasonably likely, do you think there’s a 50% chance every time you get in your car you’re going to get into an accident? A 20, a 10, a 5, a 1% chance? Not even a 1% chance that you are going to get into a accident that day when you get into your car.

So it’s not reasonably likely that you’re going to be injured. So while everybody should wear a seat belt, a jury should not know about it, about whether or not they were wearing a seat belt, in an effort for a defendant to try to decrease the amount of damages, decrease the jury award.

 

How All of This Applies to Your Motorcycle Accident

Now let’s move that over into the motorcycle accident arena. Well, I think you can see pretty clearly that wearing a helmet and wearing a seat belt, the analogy holds true between the two of them.

If duty to mitigate damages doesn’t exist in a car accident with a seat belt, it shouldn’t exist in a motorcycle without a helmet. The difference is, we do not have a law, a specific statute in the state of Nevada that says that use of a helmet does not come into evidence.

Really, you’d have to talk to your attorney and he is going to have to argue that how we deal with seat belts should bleed over to how we deal with helmets, that the law should be consistent across the two arenas. Even though we don’t have a statute, the principles that I just spoke about, that failure to wear a helmet is not an invitation to hit you.

Failure to wear a helmet is not a failure to mitigate damages, because you didn’t know you were going to be hit right then.

That being said, although it should not in theory, and I think in all ethics, should not affect the settlement amount, or the amount you get from a jury, please wear a helmet. Let’s just avoid the situation by having you wear the helmet.

If you have trouble after a motorcycle accident, please call me (702) 476-5900.

Well, that’s this video, and I hope to see you in another one.

 

What if I do not Accept a Settlement Offer before Trial?

 

The risks of rejecting a settlement offer before trial

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Jared Richards. I’m one of the attorneys here at Clear Counsel Law Group. One of our readers has asked: What are the risks if I don’t accept a settlement offer before trial? I don’t know who this reader is. It’s anonymous, but I would tell you talk to your attorney. This is a very case sensitive question and it completely depends on your case, but as a general matter, I would say this: it depends on the case.

There are certain risks that are inherent in every case. That has to do with the jury. Juries can be erratic. They can be unpredictable. A jury is generally made up of just general citizens. Some of them have a better understanding of the law. Some of them have less understanding of the law. Some of them have a worldview that is going to line up with your worldview, and some of them are going to have a worldview that in no way lines up with your worldview.

Any time that we take a case, even if it’s a very strong case, and we present it before a jury, there is a risk, sometimes a significant risk, that a jury is not going to see it the way that we see it. One advantage of accepting a settlement before trial, or at least specifically before you have a jury return a verdict, is at least you know what you’re getting. It’s the old phrase “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Settlements are good because we know what we’re getting.

Now sometimes the parties, the defendant and the plaintiff, just cannot see eye to eye and are nowhere near settlement. The plaintiff thinks that the potential value of the case far exceeds any settlement offers on the table. At that point, yeah, maybe you need to proceed to trial. There are two other risks that you should look at when you’re rejecting a settlement offer that’s going to force you into trial.

Risk number one is cost, your costs. Going to trial can be very expensive. Depending on the case, it can mean spending sometimes tens of thousands of dollars, sometimes more, on expert witnesses, bringing them in, having them testify. Experts can be terribly expensive. Let’s say that you do get more than you were to get in a settlement. Again, this is where we get very case specific. Depending on what the judgment is from the jury, you may find yourself actually putting less into your pocket than if you had accepted the settlement, because you have the cost of a trial.

Now let’s talk about the cost of losing. The cost of losing means that you might be subject to the other side’s costs. Heaven forbid, you might even be subject to their attorneys’ fees. You can talk to your attorney about offers of judgment, and we’ll have those in another video. Again, this is where it’s very case specific, but if you reject an offer and you lose at trial, it is possible that you could end up paying the costs and maybe even the fees of the other side.

Now you need to sit down with your attorney and you need to go over all of the risks, the costs, the benefits, and see if settling now makes sense, or see if really the offer is too low and your chances at trial are too good. That it’s really worth presenting this to a jury to see what they’re going to say even if you run the risk of losing. Again, final advice is it’s case by case and you need to talk to your lawyer. That’s the answer to that. We’ll see you in another video.

 

How to Find out Insurance Policy Limits from a Car Accident

After a car accident, how do I learn the policy limits of the driver who hit me?

Transcript:

Hi. I’m Jared Richards, I’m one of the attorneys here at Clear Council Law Group. One of our readers has recently asked us how to find out policy limits in a car accident situation. For those of you that are unfamiliar, it becomes important to know what the defendant’s car insurance limits are, in order to negotiate a settlement, which I think makes sense. Prior to 2015, it was a fairly simple procedure in Nevada. We used to have law that was, unfortunately, repealed a few months ago. The insurance companies were rather aggressive during this legislative session. As of a few months ago, we had a law that required insurance companies to disclose the limits, the amount of the insurance policy, if we sent a medical record, or if we sent authorization for them to go gather their own medical records. Unfortunately, that is no longer the law. What is left is a big gaping hole, there is no legal requirement, or at least no statutory requirement, for insurance companies to disclose that information.

Since that law has been repealed, we’ve had conversations with a number of adjusters trying to get that information, and here are the results of some of those conversations. In some conversations, the adjusters reluctantly tell us, or sometimes whisper it so that we know. In some of those conversations, they outright tell us that the law has changed, and now it’s illegal for them to tell us the insurance limits. That, of course, is a bunch of baloney, and yes, I used the word baloney. It is absolutely not illegal for them to tell us. It may be against their company’s internal policy, but there is no statute that prevents them from telling us. What they’re trying to do is just simply keep people negotiating, trying to negotiate in good faith, in the dark, which, in my opinion, and in the opinion of certain courts, is not good faith negotiation.

I want to talk about that for a second, of why disclosure of policy limits is important. It is difficult to negotiate a case, often impossible to negotiate a case, unless you know what you’re actually dealing with. We disclose to the other side the size of our claim, they should disclose to us the size of the funds available to settle that claim. In support of that idea, if you file suit, one of the very first things that the defendant is required, by law, to disclose in the state of Nevada, is the insurance policy. All available information about the insurance policy, including policy limits. There’s a reason the courts force it, because the courts understand that you have to have that information to negotiate in good faith. Unfortunately, now that are statutes have changed, pre-litigation before you file a lawsuit, more and more insurance companies are refusing.

Sometimes, they’re third party sources that might have the size of the information, the size of the policy information. One tactic that we’ve tried, sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it had simply led to a lawsuit, which, I guess, is life, is the threat that if they don’t disclose to us, then we have no option other than filing a lawsuit. There is some case law in that. There is some case law that tells insurance companies that if they don’t disclose the policy limits, there’s no way for the plaintiff, the claimant, you, to negotiate in good faith, so it requires a lawsuit. Certain courts have held that that, in fact, is bad faith on the part of insurance companies. You can watch our other videos about the ramifications of bad faith, it’s a pretty big deal.

To review, simply asking, sometimes third party sources, threatening a lawsuit, and then the last is finally, filing the lawsuit. Sometimes we find that necessary that you have to file the lawsuit. Unfortunately, the Nevada legislature has let us all down a bit, they’ve increased the number of lawsuits that have to be filed because insurance companies no longer feel like they have to disclose. Unfortunately, that also means that, for the average person, it’s more difficult to settle the case without the use of an attorney, because now it’s becoming even more necessary to have an attorney to even find out the basic information about the policy. Anyway, there’s the answer to that. If you have more questions, keep on watching our videos.

Who to Sue in a Car Accident

 

Knowing who to sue in a car accident

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Jared Richards, I’m one of the attorneys here at Clear Counsel Law Group. One of our readers has asked, “If I’ve been in a car accident, who do I sue? The driver or the owner of the vehicle who’s on the insurance policy?”

The answer is: Well, it depends. Instead of talking about suing, I want to talk about who is responsible for a wrongful act, which we call a “tort.” Now, the driver is almost always responsible, so assuming that car is at fault, then the driver who is driving it is almost certainly also at fault. There may be a few exceptions, that we won’t go into here. The answer is one, you would have a claim against the driver. Now the question is, do you have a claim against the owner or the insured?

Now, those are actually two different distinctions. The owner of the vehicle may own an insurance policy. Most of the time, does. The insured may be the owner, but most of the time, almost every time, the insurance policy will cover the driver, and so it doesn’t really matter … in a normal situation, it usually doesn’t matter if you have a claim against the owner. The insurance company is going to cover the driver.

There are certain circumstances where you do have a claim against the owner, and the question here is, is the owner responsible at all for the accident? There are usually two main theories of liability that indicate that the owner is, in fact, liable. The first one is that of, we’re going to throw a nice attorney Latin phrase in for you, a term called “respondeat superior.”

“Respondeat superior” simply means that the superior is going to be responsible. For example, the employer. If an owner of a business sends his employee to go pick up supplies, and the employee, while doing what the business owner has told him to do, gets into an accident, then the business is responsible for the actions of its employee. The question here, the thing that we have to look for, is, was the employee acting within the scope of his employment?

I’m sorry if I’m getting into legalese terms. Sometimes you get too buried in the law, and it’s tough to pull yourself out, but essentially, if you are running an errand for your boss or for your employer, and you get into an accident, the employer is on the hook. You are on the hook too, but the employer is also on the hook. He is responsible for the actions of his employees. Now, we can talk, and we probably will in another video, about the exceptions to that rule, and there’s a lot of case law on this, a lot of rules involved in that. In general, the employer, if the person who gets into a car accident is acting as part of his employment, the business is going to be on the hook.

Outside of that, because that’s a special rule of law, that just simply says the master is responsible for the actions of his agent. Now the question is, let’s say that it is simply you lend a car to a friend, and the friend gets into an accident, are you responsible? The answer is, most of the time, no. You have really no responsible for the actions of other people with one principle exception, and that is what we call “negligent entrustment.” If you know that your friend is a drunk, specifically if you know that your friend is currently drunk, or you know that your friend is an unsafe driver, you know you really shouldn’t hand over those keys, if you hand over the keys, you are responsible.

There’s a plethora of cases that talked about that as well. That certainly doesn’t apply in every case or even the majority of cases, but it absolutely can apply. Now, the final … I think I said there were two ways, I’m going to talk about a third, and that is what we call about the “family responsibility act.” In Nevada, we have a statute that says that if you’re in the household, and you lend your keys to somebody in the household, and they get into an accident, you are going to be responsible, regardless of “negligent entrustment,” regardless of employment, you’re going to be on the hook.

Here in Nevada, those are the three main things that we look for to see if somebody else, if the owner of the vehicle might be responsible and not just the driver. Now the question that he asked is whether he should sue. We always try not to sue if we can, but we always are ready to sue if we cannot resolve the claim without litigation. Anyway, there’s the answer to that, and I hope to see you in another video.

What is a Personal Injury Loan?

What you need to know about a Personal Injury Loan

Transcript:

Hi, I’m Jared Richards. I’m one of the partners at Clear Counsel Law Group, and one of our readers has asked “What is a personal injury loan and should I get one?” The short answer is, I would say 90 to 99 percent of the time personal injury loans are the devil. They’re not good. Let me explain some of the basis here.

When you get into an accident and you’re hurt, and it sounds weird to a lot of people, but it is the way the law works, is that you have a property right. You have a property right in your injury, and there are some people out there that are willing to lend money in exchange for a lien on that property right. Sometimes when somebody gets hurt there are companies out there that will offer them a loan in exchange. Let’s talk about what the nature of this loan is.

It has some good things and it has some horrible things, usually. The good thing that is in most of these loans, every loan is different so you have to look at the fine print, but most of these loans are what we call non-recourse loans, meaning that so long as you don’t otherwise run in default of a loan which, you have to look at the fine print, we’d see what that means.

If you lose the case generally you do not have to pay back the loan. That’s what non-course means. The only recourse the lender has, the only recovery he has, is against the lien that he gets put on your case. He doesn’t have one against you directly. Now, that is good in general for borrowers because if, for whatever reason, the jury comes back with a low settlement or a low award that doesn’t pay off the loan, or heaven forbid you actually lose the case, you don’t have to pay back the lender, so that’s good.

The bad is this, that essentially these are hard money loans and the lenders charge outrageous interest rates. The most reasonable interest rate that I’ve seen is about 38 percent. The more common I’ve seen is 10 percent a month. Don’t be fooled. If you see somebody offering you 10 percent it’s probably 10 percent a month, which means 120 percent a year.

The worst that I’ve seen, and I don’t want to name names, but I really want to name this name, but I won’t, is 240 percent, 20 percent interest a year. Other things we have to look at are the underwriting fees. Some charge underwriting fees. I find that most that offer 10 percent don’t charge an underwriting fee. The one that was charging 20 percent a month charged a 50 percent underwriting fee.

I’ve seen other underwriting fees from fairly reasonable, I think, of 100 bucks, or a couple hundred bucks to thousands of dollars. The next question is, “Should you get a loan?” I would say 95 percent of the time the answer is “No.” These loans are so expensive and the frustrating part that people find is yes, it is using your asset that you have, and I hate to call it an asset but under the law that’s technically what it is.

Your injury claim, you’re using money that you will eventually get, but you’re using it now, and you’re using it now at a very expensive rate, so that by the time that you get to actually settlement and you’re looking to what you get in your pocket, well, you’ve already gotten some of it in pocket, and you’ve already spent it.

In order to get that into your pocket, you have purchased a loan that is so very expensive, sometimes doubling, tripling, quadrupling, the amount that you borrowed to begin with. What are situations where you might need it? I’ve only found two where I think it might make sense.

The first situation is, I’m thinking of a specific case, where the father was the sole breadwinner and he was injured to the extent that he could not work. His family would be out on the streets because he wasn’t able to work, and we helped find him a loan that was the best interest rate that I could find, and it supported his family for a few months, not many, but a few months, while we were trying to settle the case.

There may be an occasion where you need certain treatment, or let’s say you need to go to another state to get treatment, and the only way that you can have your room and board is borrowing against your case. I can see that may be justifiable, and remember, this is not in every situation, this is in case-specific situations.

I would tend to advise everybody else “Don’t touch them.” They’re not good. They’re very expensive. They’re going to leave you dissatisfied, and they make settling the case at the end sometimes problematic. I won’t go into all of that, maybe in another video, but in general I think that hard money loans on your case are problematic.

People should avoid them, but there are a few situations where it might be justifiable. I would talk to your attorney if you’re thinking about doing that. I certainly would not rush in, and I would really act with caution and try to avoid them. Thanks for watching and we’ll see you in another video.

 

Document Automation, lawyers, attorneys, files

Document Automation for Attorneys – A Primer for Newbies

Document automation is often viewed as the holy grail of attorney efficiency.  For those of my colleagues who are completely uninitiated, document automation is the use of a computer system to create or “assemble” a document using a template and data from a source outside of the template.  At its most basic, you can think of document automation as mail merge.  That being said, document automation can be as simple as mail merge, but can also be far, far more sophisticated.

 

What Can I Automate?

Let me give three examples of document automation:

 

Example One – Mail Merge

Most people are familiar with Mail Merge.  It is a function in Word and Word Perfect that pulls names and addresses from a spreadsheet and inserts that information into letters and envelopes.   That way, if you want to send the same letter to 50 different people, you can simply input the addresses into a spreadsheet and have the word processor extract the information from the spreadsheet to assemble 50 different letters and envelopes.

 

Example Two – TurboTax and Bestcase

TurboTax is a great example of more complex document automation.  TurboTax and its competitors have a large library of tax templates.  TurboTax uses a fairly complex interview process to gather information from the user.  TurboTax analyzes the inputted data to determine which template is best for the user, calculates the values to put into those templates, and subsequently, assembles the tax forms.  TurboTax goes an extra step of document management by filing the documents with the IRS for you.  BestCase is very similar to TurboTax, except it is used by attorneys to prepare bankruptcy filings.  BestCase also does some document management by filing the assembled documents with the bankruptcy court for the user.

 

Example Three – Estate Planning

Estate planning is a fairly obvious application for document automation because this area of law relies so heavily on templates.  Some attorneys essentially use mail merge to create simple wills and trusts.  More sophisticated systems are akin to TurboTax in that they take the attorney through a sophisticated interview to gather information about the client, and then print out unique documents based upon that interview.  Many of you may be familiar with LegalZoom.com.  LegalZoom applies a middle ground approach by using a more simple interview, somewhat watered down for non-attorneys, to assemble simple estate planning documents.  A powerful document automation system can create sophisticated interviews and estate plans.

The practical application of document automation is certainly not limited to mail merge and estate planning.  My firm uses a document automation system to gather information about personal injury cases, litigation and probate, and uses that information to create demands, complaints, discovery requests, accountings, and so forth.

Here is the ultimate rule about document automation:  If you can reasonably predict what a document will look like given a standard set of facts, you can automate that document.  Thus, estate plans, basic template motions, letters and so forth work well with document automation.  Unpredictable documents, such as summary judgment motions, are more difficult to automate.  The basic template of an MSJ may be worthwhile to automate, but the a case-specific MSJ would be difficult to automate.

 

What Software Should I Use for Document Automation?

The software utilized will determine the sophistication of the automation.  I will give four examples.

 

The Basic: Microsoft Word

As I mentioned above, Microsoft Word has a Mail Merge function that lends itself to basic automation and document assembly.  Although a programmer could set up pretty sophisticated macros in Word, that is beyond most people.  There are plenty of videos on Youtube about how to use Mail Merge.

The two major drawbacks with Mail Merge are (1) it lends itself primarily to fill-in-the-blank forms and (2) you have to connect Mail Merge to a secondary data source, usually a spreadsheet. This usually means that the secondary data source is in a different format than the Word document.  In other words, you will have to pull the address list, put it in the spreadsheet, and then run the mail merge.  It requires extra steps, but is still faster than doing it all by hand.

 

The Basic/Intermediate: Practice Management Software 

Many practice management systems are jumping on the document automation bandwagon.  Clio is a great example.  In Clio, you can upload a template and program the template to pull data from Clio into the template.  For example, you could add a field in the template for «Client First Name» and have Clio insert the client’s first name1)My syntax may be incorrect, but you know what I mean..  You can conveniently go into the client’s matter in Clio, click a couple of buttons, and the proper document will download onto your computer.  You also do not have to be a rocket scientist to make it work.  You can probably figure it out in an afternoon.

The major drawback with document automation from providers like Clio is that it is not very powerful.  Sure, you can tie data fields from Clio into your templates, but you do not have powerful custom interviews or computations, such as if/then statements.  You may also miss out on powerful Word formatting because you are not using a native Word program.

 

The Advanced: Hotdocs and Competitors

The really exiting automation comes in the form of Hotdocs and its competitors2)As a disclaimer, my law school had a class on using Hotdocs.  I took two semesters of it in law school and have well over 500 hours of programming experience in it.  I am a bit biased..

With Hotdocs and its competitors, you can set up specific and complex interviews to gather information from the user.  You can establish computations to do math or to see if certain criteria are true.  You can then use if/then statements to gather data from the user based on the information that s/he has already entered.  Hotdocs communicates directly with Word or Word Perfect and has a simple programming language that you use directly in the word processor.  That way, Hotdocs creates native Word and Word Perfect documents that maintain the original formatting.  With the simple programming language in Word, you can establish if/then statements to ensure the document you are assembling matches the data you have entered.

 

A Hotdocs example

I use Hotdocs to assemble most of my personal injury documents.  I use the Hotdocs interview to keep track of all of the parties to an injury, along with their insurance companies.  Hotdocs holds information about all of the treating physicians, liens, lien settlements, attorney’s fees, attorney’s costs, and so on.  We use Hotdocs to store the information and help us analyze the case.  Once all of the information is in Hotdocs, we use it to send medical records requests, balance verifications from medical providers, lien reduction request, and so forth.  In the end, we use Hotdocs to print out a final accounting to the client, showing the client how all of the settlement funds were applied and showing the client the net monies s/he will receive.  Hotdocs does all of the math for us, and includes different clauses in the final accounting, depending upon the lien holders and settling parties.

We have programmed Hotdocs to treat medical providers with liens differently than medical providers without liens.  Our program in Hotdocs knows how to handle Medicaid liens and so forth.  The beauty of Hotdocs is that the attorney can program his or her brain into the system, depending on how creative the attorney is and how well the attorney can anticipate likely factual scenarios.

The main benefit of a powerful system like Hotdocs is that it is…powerful.  Hotdocs and its competitors, however, come at a large price.  First, you have to purchase the licenses.  This runs about $800 for a Hotdocs programmer’s license and about $350 for a user.   Then, you have to actually program Hotdocs.  It comes with a blank slate.  You have learn a basic programming language and platform, and then actually program the interviews and Word templates.  It can be very worthwhile, but it is a lot of work, or expensive if you are paying someone else to do it for you.

In the end, if you are thinking about dabbling with document automation, you should probably consider starting with something like Clio’s document automation.  It will teach you the very basic of template building and document assembly.  You will quickly find the limitations of such a system.  At that point, you might consider moving onto a more advanced system like Hotdocs.

Enjoy your experimentation.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. My syntax may be incorrect, but you know what I mean.
2. As a disclaimer, my law school had a class on using Hotdocs.  I took two semesters of it in law school and have well over 500 hours of programming experience in it.  I am a bit biased.
Car Safety

Supplements to Auto Insurance and Nevada Law

Most folks1)that drive are familiar with how automobile insurance works.  Of those folks, less are familiar with the mechanics of the supplemental offerings, underinsured and uninsured motorist protection and MedPay. The law in Nevada treats uninsured and underinsured motorist protection in a similar manner, but applies a distinction2)with a difference for MedPay.  This post will discuss what these types of supplemental insurances are, and how the law treats them differently.

 

A few insurance definitions

What is underinsured motorist (UIM) protection?

A supplemental option to your liability policy that insures you if you the victim of an automobile accident, and the perpetrator does not have a sufficient amount of insurance to cover the costs of your damages. Many policies cover the driver and members of the driver’s household whether they are in the primary automobile or in the automobile of another.  The terms of the UIM policy differ between companies, and as you will see, it is imperative that you read your policy carefully.

 

What is uninsured motorist (UM) protection?

Similar to UIM, only it insures you in case the perpetrator does not have any insurance at all to cover the costs of your injuries.

 

What is MedPay?

Known as auto medical payments insurance, it is an insurance extension that pays for medical expenses3)the amount is capped if you or household member is injured in an automobile accident. Depending the specifics of the policy4)again, make sure to read it carefully! it may cover you and household members while in other vehicles, while riding public transportation, and even when walking.

 

Nevada law and the above insurance supplements

And you thought these supplemental insurance concepts were simple, eh? Well it is time to go spelunking in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS); as it turns out, insurance companies are required by law to offer UIM, UM, and MedPay:

NRS 687B.145  

      2.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, insurance companies transacting motor vehicle insurance in this State must offer, on a form approved by the Commissioner, uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage in an amount equal to the limits of coverage for bodily injury sold to an insured under a policy of insurance covering the use of a passenger car. The insurer is not required to reoffer the coverage to the insured in any replacement, reinstatement, substitute or amended policy, but the insured may purchase the coverage by requesting it in writing from the insurer. Each renewal must include a copy of the form offering such coverage. Uninsured and underinsured vehicle coverage must include a provision which enables the insured to recover up to the limits of the insured’s own coverage any amount of damages for bodily injury from the insured’s insurer which the insured is legally entitled to recover from the owner or operator of the other vehicle to the extent that those damages exceed the limits of the coverage for bodily injury carried by that owner or operator. If an insured suffers actual damages subject to the limitation of liability provided pursuant to NRS 41.035, underinsured vehicle coverage must include a provision which enables the insured to recover up to the limits of the insured’s own coverage any amount of damages for bodily injury from the insured’s insurer for the actual damages suffered by the insured that exceed that limitation of liability.

 3.  An insurance company transacting motor vehicle insurance in this State must offer an insured under a policy covering the use of a passenger car, the option of purchasing coverage in an amount of at least $1,000 for the payment of reasonable and necessary medical expenses resulting from an accident. The offer must be made on a form approved by the Commissioner. The insurer is not required to reoffer the coverage to the insured in any replacement, reinstatement, substitute or amended policy, but the insured may purchase the coverage by requesting it in writing from the insurer. Each renewal must include a copy of the form offering such coverage. (emphasis added)

 

So it is clear5)once we whack our way through all that verbiage that insurance companies must provide an option to Nevada residents to purchase UIM, UM and MedPay supplements to their automobile insurance coverage.  But are there requirements as to how insurance consumers must decline the supplemental coverage? NRS 690B.020 provides guidance in reference to UIM and UM:

 NRS 690B.020  

      1.  Except as otherwise provided in this section and NRS 690B.035, no policy insuring against liability arising out of the ownership, maintenance or use of any motor vehicle may be delivered or issued for delivery in this State unless coverage is provided therein or supplemental thereto for the protection of persons insured thereunder who are legally entitled to recover damages, from owners or operators of uninsured or hit-and-run motor vehicles, for bodily injury, sickness or disease, including death, resulting from the ownership, maintenance or use of the uninsured or hit-and-run motor vehicle. No such coverage is required in or supplemental to a policy issued to the State of Nevada or any political subdivision thereof, or where rejected in writing, on a form furnished by the insurer describing the coverage being rejected, by an insured named therein, or upon any renewal of such a policy unless the coverage is then requested in writing by the named insured. The coverage required in this section may be referred to as “uninsured vehicle coverage.” (emphasis added)

      2.  The amount of coverage to be provided must be not less than the minimum limits for liability insurance for bodily injury provided for under chapter 485 of NRS, but may be in an amount not to exceed the coverage for bodily injury purchased by the policyholder.

 

Ok, UIM and UM policy supplements must be rejected in writing. Additionally, the amount of under-insurance “must not by less than the minimum amounts for liability insurance.” NRS 485.185 provides instruction as to what those amounts are:

 NRS 485.185     

Every owner of a motor vehicle which is registered or required to be registered in this State shall continuously provide, while the motor vehicle is present or registered in this State, insurance provided by an insurance company licensed by the Division of Insurance of the Department of Business and Industry and approved to do business in this State:

      1.  In the amount of $15,000 for bodily injury to or death of one person in any one accident;

      2.  Subject to the limit for one person, in the amount of $30,000 for bodily injury to or death of two or more persons in any one accident; and

      3.  In the amount of $10,000 for injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident, for the payment of tort liabilities arising from the maintenance or use of the motor vehicle. (Added to NRS by 1979, 1820; A 1981, 18621987, 10901993, 24841995, 27342007, 2049) (emphasis added)

 

So we know that the NRS requires insurance companies to offer UIM, UM and MedPay.  We also know that a customer must reject UIM and UM in expressly in writing, while the statute is silent on how MedPay is to be declined.  Additionally, we know there are statutory minimums for the amount of UIM and UM to be offered6)$15,000 for an individual, $30,000 for two or more persons.

Yet there are more ambiguities to be clarified.  If an insurance company does not have a written declination for MedPay, do they have to pay out under NRS 687B.145? What happens if you have a six-figure UIM policy, but the insurance company includes a non-occupancy exclusion as a term, and you are in an accident while riding in the vehicle of another. Will you be able to recover anything? We will need to examine case law to get clarification.

 

Wingco v. Gov’t Employees Ins. Co. (GEICO)

Wingco determines if a written rejection is necessary for a MedPay policy:

By its terms, NRS 687B.145(3) requires Nevada motor vehicle insurers to offer insureds the option of purchasing medical payment or “medpay” coverage in the amount of at least $1,000. But the statute does not state that the insurer must obtain a written rejection of this coverage. For Wingco to prevail, this court would have to read a written rejection requirement into NRS 687B.145(3) that it does not expressly include7)Wingco v. Gov’t Emps. Ins. Co., 130 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 20 . Mar 27, 2014, page 4. Read the case here

The court goes on to state that because the statute is unambiguous, it is improper to read the written requirement of rejection into the statute8)if the legislature desired insurance companies to obtain a written rejection for MedPay, the statute would say so explicitly.  Because no written evidence is required, the issue of if a consumer was offered MedPay will be one ‘of fact,’ meaning at trial, each side would need to present evidence proving that MedPay was or was not offered9)a fairly expensive option to obtain the statutory minimum of $1,000.

 

Continental Insurance Co. v. Murphy

A written rejection of UIM is necessary per NRS 690B.020(1). In Cont’l Ins. Co. v. Murphy,10)120 Nev. 506, 511, 96 P.3d 747, 751 (2004). Read the case here, the Nevada Supreme Court reaffirmed that a 1st Party Carrier must have a written rejection in order to deny coverage. In that case, the Plaintiff had a $300,000 UIM policy, but was injured while not occupying an insured vehicle. Continental Insurance had a non-occupancy exclusion as part of the UIM policy and denied they had to pay anything. The Nevada Supreme Court held:

(1) There must be a written waiver of UIM, so there non-occupancy exclusion was invalid,

(2) Nevada public policy only requires minimum coverage as determined by the statute.

So while the non-occupancy clause was invalid, it was only invalid as to the minimum coverage. Thus, on a $300,000 UIM policy with a non-occupancy exclusion and no written waiver, the 1st party carrier must provide at least $15,000 in coverage.

So, one last time, it is imperative to read your insurance policy.  The poor folks in the case above thought their $300,000 of UIM followed them no matter how they traveled, but learned that hard way that it was not the case.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. that drive
2. with a difference
3. the amount is capped
4. again, make sure to read it carefully!
5. once we whack our way through all that verbiage
6. $15,000 for an individual, $30,000 for two or more persons
7. Wingco v. Gov’t Emps. Ins. Co., 130 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 20 . Mar 27, 2014, page 4. Read the case here
8. if the legislature desired insurance companies to obtain a written rejection for MedPay, the statute would say so explicitly
9. a fairly expensive option to obtain the statutory minimum of $1,000
10. 120 Nev. 506, 511, 96 P.3d 747, 751 (2004). Read the case here
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