SAN LUIS OBISPO, CA – After an investigation by the California Department of Justice the owner of Manse on Marsh along with a former employee have been arrested in connection with the wrongful death of one of the independent living facility’s residents.
The Attorney General’s Office of the State of California filed charges on July 19, 2017 against Christopher Skiff, 54, and Gary Potts, 63, for involuntary manslaughter and dependent adult and elderly abuse. Investigators maintain that these men knowingly and willfully put the life of Mauricio Cardenas, 65, in danger, which led to his 2014 death, as alleged in the complaint.
“The inquiry was brought about because Cardenas’ death was so odd,” according to a report given in 2015 by Skiff to CalCoastNews. “Law enforcement and our own District Attorney absolved us both of any criminal wrong doing.”
On December 21, 2014, Cardenas was trying to cross Los Osos Valley Rd. in Los Osos when a 2010 Dodge Challenger hit and ultimately killed him. Ricardo Serafin, 26, was driving the Challenger at the time. Serafin was determined not to be at fault by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) because the area where Cardenas was trying to cross was in complete darkness.
The Bureau of Medi-Cal Fraud & Elder Abuse got a letter on December 30, 2014 saying, “Cardenas should have never been admitted to the MMALF independent living facility since he had been diagnosed with dementia and MMALF does not have a dementia waiver and therefore is not allowed to house residents with dementia.”
The letter goes on to allege that, as a result, Cardenas never received the proper oversight and care that his condition required.
“The consensus is that if Cardenas had been placed in an appropriate living environment with the proper security precautions his safety could have been looked after and he would not have lost his life,” according to the letter.
According to CalCoastNews, on March 24, 2015, investigators with California’s Medicare Fraud & Elder Abuse Division raided Manse on March seizing computers and files. Kristin Ford, DOJ Press Secretary, said that a search warrant had been issued, which justified the raid.
“We will confirm that on March 24, 2015 we served a legal search warrant on the facilities of Manse on March, located in San Luis Obispo,” Ford said in replying to a 2015 email inquiry. “Because this involves an active criminal investigation, we cannot provide any additional information or make any official comments at the present time.”
Manse on March is an independent assisted living community providing seniors with some level of care along with certain amenities. There are 87 apartments situated on the property in three separate buildings.
One resident’s family member reported that once investigators started searching through the facility, Skiff met with residents and staff in a group setting and advised them to consult with an attorney before they spoke to any of the investigators.
Potts was booked into the Smith County Jail in Texas where he remains held without bail. Skiff was booked into the San Luis Obispo County Jail and released the same day.
The most vulnerable adults among us are often our elderly. Often elderly adults become victims of abuse in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. An estimated 1 to 2 million elderly adults are injured, exploited or mistreated every year. Problems of malnutrition, bedsores, neglect, infections, falls, fractures, dehydration, failure to medicate & monitor, financial abuse, as well as physical, verbal, and sexual abuse exists in many nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, we are committed to helping the elderly and their families through these difficult situations. Every person deserves to be safe from harm by those who care for them. If your loved one has suffered abuse in a nursing home, assisted living facility or from in-home care provider, the personal injury attorneys at O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley can help you obtain justice for your loved one. Contact us today for a free case evaluation with an experienced elder abuse attorney.
OAKLAND, CA – A surveillance camera picked up the horrific sight of a car slamming into three innocent children in Oakland crossing the street using the crosswalk. Neighborhood residents are demanding changes.
The footage clearly shows the collision sending two teenaged girls into the air, while the little boy that was crossing with them is pulled under the car and dragged.
The accident occurred on Wednesday, July 5, 2017 at about 9:30 p.m. in the intersection of Brookdale and Fruitvale Avenues in Oakland.
Residents in the neighborhood report similar accidents happening in the past. They are calling for the city to install blinking lights in the crosswalk.
It is painful to watch the video of the accident. It shows the car being driven by a young person hitting the children as they crossed the street in the crosswalk, causing the girls to fly into the air and the toddler being pinned under the car.
The accident occurred right outside Mark Legaspi’s Filipino restaurant, so his surveillance cameras videotaped the whole tragic event.
“Everyone was scrambling to help,” relayed Legaspi. “The baby was being dragged along under the car. Let’s save that baby!”
It was a miracle that all three kids survived this horrific accident.
One of the teenaged girls and her little brother, who were injured in the accident, are cousins of the other girl that was hit by the car.
They were walking home the night of the accident. They were careful, looking both ways before entering the crosswalk and just assumed the car would come to a stop and let them cross.
Just before being hit, the girls could be seen bracing for impact.
Legaspi reported that this is the third time pedestrians have been hit in the crosswalk in the last three years. This is not counting the number of car crashes that have occurred in the same intersection.
“Surprisingly, no one has been killed,” Legaspi said. “However, I’ve witnessed three pets getting run over and killed right here.”
He blames distracted drivers speeding through the interaction for the accidents. Legaspi did contact Noel Gallo, the City Councilman for this area, requesting something be done to make the crosswalk easier for drivers to see.
“They probably have to send people out to study the road because we have had so many accidents here,” said Gallo. “But this time I think it’s a no-brainer that something has to be done.”
Gallo said he heard that these three victims have already been released from the hospital and are recovering at home.
Witnesses described the driver as stopping at the scene of the accident and being remorseful. They said he carried a passport, so was obviously from another country, and admitted that he had not been issued a California driver’s license.
It has not yet been reported whether the driver did have a valid driver’s license or if the police placed him under arrest.
At O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley we have 50 years of litigation and trial experience. We have the expertise and a proven track record of success in personal injury law. If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with a Bay Area auto accident attorney, please contact us. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
BRENTWOOD, CA – A woman, 72 and a 1-year-old were among 9 people transported to area hospitals when a stolen car going the wrong way plowed head-on into a van on Highway 4 in Brentwood, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The CHP said that the crash was called in just after 8 p.m. Saturday night. The accident occurred on Highway 4 right at Sand Creek Rd. in Brentwood.
Earlier that day, Concord police got a report that a gold 1994 Honda Accord was stolen. This was the car that was going the wrong way, speeding east on the westbound lanes of Hwy. 4, the CHP said in a statement issued on Sunday.
The wrong-way car sped past a number of other vehicles before it crashed into a 2015 Honda Odyssey van driving westbound at Sand Creek Rd. carrying seven people, the CHP said.
CHP officials said that 9 people were taken to a local hospital. All occupants of the van were from San Francisco and transported to John Muir Medical Center, which is in Walnut Creek.
A 61-year-old woman suffered major injuries, but has since been stabilized. A 30-year-old driver was moderately injured. Four passengers sustained minor injuries: two girls, ages 10 and 2 and two women, ages 72 and 34. A baby just 1 year old appeared to have no injuries, but was transported to the hospital anyway as a precaution.
The Accord was carrying a 22-year-old passenger who suffered major injuries and was transported to Dublin’s Eden Hospital and is now in stable condition, according to the CHP.
The 24-year-old wrong-way driver was identified as Rafael Duarte of Oakley. He was treated at John Muir Medical Center for minor injuries before being arrested for alleged felony drunk driving, operating a vehicle without a license, possession of a stolen car, driving with no insurance, and going the wrong way on a highway, causing injury. He was booked at Martinez Detention Facility upon discharge from the hospital.
Each year in the United States, wrong-way driver crashes kill 300 to 400 people on average. This represents approximately 1% of the total annual number of traffic related fatalities. It may be a tiny percentage overall, but since crashes involving wrong-way drivers are usually head-on or high-speed sideswipes coming from the opposite direction, they tend to be a lot more serious than other types of collisions.
Wrong Way collisions are inevitable when someone enters a freeway or controlled-access highway on an exit ramp going the wrong way, or when drivers make maneuvers that cause them to drive the wrong way or in the wrong direction. Collisions involving wrong-way drivers are definitely a problem on our highways. They may be infrequent, but the consequences for the people involved in these crashes are far more serious than those resulting from other types of traffic accidents.
If you or a family member has been in a traffic accident involving motor vehicle negligence and want to speak to a reputable Bay Area attorney who specializes in auto accidents, please contact O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley Attorneys at Law. We will answer all your questions, explain your legal rights and how best to protect them.
SAN PABLO, CA – A motorcyclist was killed Monday morning in a hit-and-run crash involving a big-rig travelling westbound on Interstate 80 in San Pablo. This was tragically the second fatal collision on the very same stretch of highway that day. The Contra Costa County Coroner was able to identify the victim.
Nicholas Brown, 35, from Fairfield, died in the collision, which was called in at 6:22 a.m. The accident happened on westbound Interstate 80 near El Portal Drive.
CHP Officer Matt Hamer said the big-rig truck, which was described as being yellow with a white trailer in back, hit Brown while making an unsafe lane change. Brown then struck another car, and this caused him to be ejected off his motorcycle, throwing him onto the highway. Brown was pronounced deceased at the scene.
Witnesses observed the big-rig driver pulling over and remaining for about five minutes before driving off, Hamer said.
A big-rig matching the description was later pulled over by officers, but that truck is not thought to be the big-rig involved in the crash. Hamer said that the search is still on for the suspected vehicle.
According to CHP officers, all lanes of the highway were reopened by 7:55 a.m.
Earlier that morning, in a separate crash on the same stretch of Interstate 80, Lindche Tran, 25 from Richmond was killed.
At approximately 4:05 a.m., Tran was driving along in a Honda Accord when suddenly it spun out of control, hitting the center median. The vehicle came to a stop facing the opposite direction and with lights out, Hamer said.
As Tran exited her car, a Dodge Charger was approaching and the driver could not avoid crashing into the Honda and Tran. She was pronounced deceased at the scene, said Hamer.
There were two occupants in the Dodge and both were transported to a local hospital suffering from minor injuries, Hamer said.
The highway remained shut down until about 6:10 a.m., which was less than 15 minutes prior to the collision that took Brown’s life.
Anyone who has information on either traffic accident is encouraged to phone the Oakland CHP Office at (510) 450-3821.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek compensation. That compensation will include present and future wages, medical expenses, and funeral costs, but it will also include loss of love, guidance and companionship, moral support, and financial support. Protect your rights, contact an experienced wrongful death lawyer at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP
Suspect in collision released from jail just one day before the crash; mom and baby remain hospitalized.
The names of the two boys that were killed over the weekend in the Highway 4 crash have been identified. On Monday the authorities released their names as their three-month-old baby brother remained in the hospital fighting for his life.
Lorenzo Reyes, 10, and Vincent Rothenberg 5, both San Pablo residents, were riding in a Dodge Durango when they were ejected when an Infiniti FX flew off the Solano Way exit going westbound onto the adjacent on-ramp slamming into the Durango, according to California Highway Patrol authorities.
The crash occurred a little before 11 p.m. Friday night. The Coroner’s office of Contra Costa County released the names on Monday. The boy’s 35-year-old mother was still being treated on Monday at Walnut Creek’s John Muir Medical Center for neck injuries. Their 3-month-old baby brother remained Monday at Oakland’s UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital in critical condition.
Lemuel Wilson, 35, from Oakland, is the one suspected of being behind the wheel of the Infiniti FX. He is now in custody, having been arrested for: suspicion of 2 counts of vehicular manslaughter, suspicion of 2 counts of hit-and-run that caused great bodily injury, as well as suspicion of 1 count of driving with a revoked or suspended license that caused great bodily injury.
Sgt. Ray Kelly, spokesman for Alameda County Sheriff’s Office on Monday evening confirmed that last week Wilson had been in jail facing charges involving misdemeanor battery, making criminal threats, and possession of ammunition while at Gale/Schenone Hall of Justice in Pleasanton.
Wilson’s case was heard before a Fremont judge last Wednesday. The judge lowered his bail, which was $100,000, down to $10,000. The following day, Wilson posted his lowered bail and was released from custody. That was one day before the Highway 4 crash, according to Kelly.
If you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek a remedy and payment. Protect your rights, contact an experienced Wrongful Death Attorney at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. We are well known and respected throughout the legal community and among our clients. From our offices in Walnut Creek in Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento, we serve clients throughout Northern California. Our experience and expertise are available to you.
In the US, Wrong Way Driving accidents result in an average of 300 to 400 deaths per year, speaking to around 1 percent of the aggregate number traffic fatalities that happen yearly. While this is a small overall percentage, because wrong way driving crashes include head-on or opposite direction sideswipe crashes at high speeds, they have a tendency to be more extreme than different sorts of accidents.
Wrong-way driving is a result of drivers making wrong way entries onto freeways or other controlled-access highways, or making mainline moves that bring about driving the wrong way/direction. Impacts from wrong-way drivers is a persistent issue on US roadways. Because the results of wrong-way driving accidents are a great deal more serious than different sorts of crashes, government traffic safety agencies consistently audit various access control measures. Typical measures include the design of on/exit ramp approaches and signage. The goal is to find potential changes or additions that will reduce wrong-way entries.
Furthermore, they look to investigate the potential advantages of detecting wrong way driving incidents, and providing quick warnings to the wrong way driver, to relevant authorities, and to other drivers in the immediate area. In Sacramento and San Diego, they are testing just such a system, with positive results.
It was immediately obvious that a car was heading the wrong way as it entered an off-ramp of a highway in West Sacramento. It occurred on the 5th and Bridge St. exit ramp of Highway 50, which is across from the home of Egor Mikhayloeskiy. He’s witnessed too many near-accidents caused by wrong-way drivers. Mikhayloeskiy reported, “I see drivers doing this several times a day.”
Many visitors to the Bay Area use the exit on 5th and Bridge St. on their way to Raley Field to see the Rivercats, the Giants’ AAA team, play. But that particular off-ramp is very often mistaken for an on-ramp. “I always see cars from all directions honking at drivers heading onto the off-ramp, trying to warn them not to go there,” said Mikhayloeskiy. That’s why the California Highway Patrol has partnered with Caltrans in a trial program to prevent accidents caused by wrong-way drivers.
The program is being tried out in Sacramento and areas of San Diego to start with. The 5th and Bridge St. off-ramp in Sacramento is among 17 spots along Highway 50 that are included in the project, said Gilbert Mohtes-Chan, spokesperson for Caltrans. “These countermeasures are our latest attempt to aggressively combat the serious problem posed by wrong-way driving,” he said. There are huge “Do not enter” signs posted on the off-ramp, along with bright red reflectors warning drivers that they are going the wrong way. “We are trying to get drivers to self-correct so they turn their car around on the off-ramp and drive back off,” said Mike Sheets, a CHP Officer.
Additional countermeasures have been taken on six off-ramps by equipping them with a specialized radar system run on solar power. When the system’s sensors detect a vehicle driving the wrong way, it sets off a series of warnings: the signs start flashing LED lights, video cameras start operating and the vehicle’s license plates are captured, plus a loud alarm goes off on highway patrol cell phones and computers at Rancho Cordova’s Traffic Management Center.
“Every second counts when you have a wrong-way driver,” Officer Sheets explained. “We need to get there as fast as possible so we can stop this driver.” The project, which is slated to run for two years, just began in January. Since then it’s detected 2 wrong-way drivers. One suffered a minor crash. The driver was subsequently arrested for DUI, according to Sheets.
The second driver heeded the warnings at 5th and Bridge St., and turned the car around before entering the highway going the wrong way. So, the system worked as planned. “It seems to be working well so far,” Officer Sheets exclaimed.
The wrong-way driver that we saw stopped after spotting the warning signs. A police officer driving by helped guide the car off the ramp. “Drivers suddenly realize now that they’re going the wrong way and turn around on their own,” Mikhayloeskiy said.
“As a result of these safety measures, I’m not seeing wrong-way drivers entering the highway on the off-ramp like I used to,” Mikhayloeskiy said.
O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP is a law firm serving the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Our attorneys represent clients in a wide array of serious personal injury claims. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident due to another's negligence, you may be entitled to compensation. Our attorneys possess the specialized knowledge needed to win maximum compensation in complex cases.
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Derick Almena, leaseholder of the Ghost Ship warehouse, and Max Harris, a tenant in the building, have been arrested for involuntary manslaughter. They each face 36 counts in the December inferno at the Ghost Ship warehouse in Oakland, according to Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County’s District Attorney.
The fire started during an electronic concert and dance party, killing dozens of people who were unable to escape the two-story blaze as the dilapidated warehouse burned. One of the two exits to escape the fire was blocked, said authorities.
On Monday, O’Malley reported that these two individuals “knowingly created a dangerous fire trap with very few escape routes. They then packed that area with partygoers and are now faced with the gravity of what they caused.”
If convicted of all 36 counts, Almena and Harris would each be facing up to 39 years in state prison. Both men were arrested early Monday.
Teresa Drenick, Assistant District Attorney, did not offer any information on Harris, but according to probable cause document, he lived at the Ghost Ship and was the creative director who collected rent and the acting intermediary between the warehouse owners and Almena.
Just after the fire, Almena apologized to the families of the victims while strenuously defending himself, claiming he never would have intentionally put his tenants in any danger.
“I’m here to say just one thing: I am profoundly sorry,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.
On Monday, Almena’s lawyers said: “We will vigorously defend our client in court. These charges represent a serious miscarriage of justice. We have every confidence that this attempt to scapegoat our client will ultimately fail.”
O’Malley claims that these men were reckless in setting up a death trap. She said they housed up to 25 tenants in the warehouse and deceived the building owners and officials about this. Almena and Harris permitted large amounts of flammable materials to be stored floor-to-ceiling in the building, she said.
“We continue to grieve the loss of these 36 vibrant young women and men who should be here with us now,” she said.
“That means no one applied for a permit for any work on the building in the last 3 decades. We have no violations on record for work on the interior of the main building submitted for that street address,” he went on to say.
Three weeks prior to the fire, the latest complaints were filed with the city.
“Inspectors went out to the address in November to follow-up on a complaint about an illegal structure and blight on an adjacent lot,” Ranelletti said. “That lot does not have the same address as the Ghost Ship.”
The warehouse, along with the lot next door, had become a dumping ground for oil containers, old cars, trash and pests, according to various complaints.
According to records, a lot of the complaints were about the lot, mentioning a “ton of trash piling up” as well as “an unlawful interior structure” at the Ghost Ship next door.
According to the probable cause document, “Almena allowed tenants to utilize unconventional building materials, things he collected, in creating their individual living spaces. These materials were often recycled dried out wood items like fence boards, window frames, shingles, wooden sculptures and furniture, organs, pianos, tapestries, rugs, RV trailers and other discarded items.”
Authorities said the precise cause of the fire might remain undetermined due to the severity of damage done to the contents of the building.
Lawsuits maintain dangers were long known
After the fire, the families of Michela Gregory and Griffin Madden, who perished in the blaze, filed lawsuits, naming the owner of the building and certain employees of various county and city departments as defendants. The lawsuits claim these people knew that the Ghost Ship posed serious dangers long before it went up in flames.
Among those who knew or should have known about the hazards are members of Oakland’s Fire Department. They actually “held and attended a musical event” at the warehouse before the fatal fire, according to the lawsuits. The lawsuits also say that the closest fire station is just a block away.
Aside from legal claims against Alameda County and the city of Oakland, the Gregorys and Maddens target the owner of the building, Chor Nar Siu Ng, along with landlords Almena and Micah Allison.
Other defendants named in the lawsuits are a California music label, a promoter, a musician from Madison, Wisconsin along with two landlords of properties nearby who “provided services and utilities to the Ghost Ship, which included electricity and a restroom that invitees and patrons could use on their premises during musical and other entertainment events.”
Drenick was mum as to whether there would be any more criminal charges filed. “At this point, the 36 involuntary manslaughter charges filed are the 36 we stand by.” She went on to say that the investigation by their office has been completed.
A wrongful death is a death caused by a negligent, careless, intentional or reckless act of another person or corporation. All states guarantee the right to compensation for families and children of those who are killed in a wrongful death. if you have lost a loved one in an accident caused by another, you may be eligible to seek a remedy and payment. Protect your rights, contact an experienced Wrongful Death Attorney. When you call the law offices of O’Connor, Runckel & O’Malley, you will be talking with an attorney who has spoken with hundreds of people in your similar circumstance. You will be treated with the respect and sympathy you need during your time of heartbreak and anguish.
ALAMEDA, CA – Two people were killed and six others injured when a truck and minivan collided Monday morning in downtown Alameda, according to authorities.
Alameda police and the County Coroner’s Bureau both confirmed that two deaths occurred as a result of Monday’s accident.
Tuesday the coroner’s office said the fatalities were Simon Sotelo, who most recently lived in Union City and Briana Ortega who was from Hayward, both 17 years old.
The other passengers in the pickup with Sotelo and Ortega are all in their teens to early 20s and were still in the hospital as of Tuesday morning, according to police.
The collision took place at Lincoln Avenue and Park Street and police said on Facebook that speeding might have been a contributing factor in the accident reported around 8:00 a.m.
The truck had seven occupants, of which two were killed and five others seriously injured, according to the Facebook post. Law enforcement has not disclosed where Sotelo and Ortega were sitting in the truck.
Ortega died at the scene, while Sotelo later succumbed to his injuries at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, according to the post.
Carol Ziogas lives in the neighborhood where the crash occurred and she, her daughter and son-in-law immediately rushed over after hearing the vehicles collide. They observed first responders putting a tarp over the female passenger, while a male passenger was having a neck brace put on.
Ziogas said, “There were shoes scattered all over the street, along with papers and other kinds of debris,” adding, “The Jaws of Life had to be used to remove the roof in order to get the last passenger out.” She went on to say, “He was in a daze just sitting there.”
The truck’s five other occupants were all transported to local hospitals in critical condition.
The truck ended up in Alameda Bicycle’s parking lot on Webb Avenue and Park after the collision.
Ole’s Waffle Shop is nearby and that’s where Matt Clay was dining when he heard the crash.
“All I could see was someone on the ground,” he said. “It was a horrific crash.”
According to the Facebook post, the female who occupied the minivan was transported to an area hospital. Her injuries were not considered life threatening.
Ziogas explained that this was not the only fatal crash occurring within one block of their home. She said that the locals in town are understandably worried about drivers’ exceeding the speed limit, which happens all the time on Park Street.
According to the Traffic Incident Mapping System run by UC Berkeley, May 24, 2015 was when the last fatal accident happened at this intersection. That’s when a vehicle hit a pedestrian walking across the street inside the crosswalk. The system indicates that four fatal collisions have occurred in Alameda, just in the last four years.
Area streets were closed to traffic for several hours on Monday. At 6:30 p.m. they reopened Park Street.
If you’ve ever been in a car accident you know what a hassle it can be just dealing with your own insurance company. But if the accident isn’t your fault, just think what you’ll be dealing with when it comes to the insurance company of the stranger who plowed into your car.
Here are a few tips to help you file a claim with the other party’s insurer, which would be a third-party claim:
Get complete information Whoever caused the accident is supposed to report it to their auto insurance company. But, sometimes they’re reluctant to do so. To play it safe, you should also call their insurance company and advise them of the accident.
To do this you are going to need the other driver’s complete information, which you should gather at the scene of the accident. This is what you should get:
Name and address of the other driver
The name of the other driver’s insurance carrier and policy information
If there are witnesses, get statements from them as well as contact information
Take photos of the scene of the accident using your smartphone
This is the evidence you will need to substantiate your position on who caused the accident. Some auto insurance companies have mobile apps that help motorists document an accident on the scene right after it occurs. Some of these apps provide a checklist telling you how to gather the information for your claim with them or the other driver’s insurer.
Make the proper notifications Take it upon yourself to notify the other driver’s insurance carrier that there has been an accident involving one of their policyholders and that you were involved as well. Just give them the facts of what happened, even if you are convinced the other driver was at fault.
It is up to the police to decide who was at fault and whether they should issue a ticket. On their own, the insurance company will make their own determination as to who was at fault. This might or might not agree with the assessment made by law enforcement. In making their determination, the insurance company will consider the police report and statements from the drivers and any witnesses as well as physical evidence.
Even if you think you were not the cause of the accident, it is always best to call your insurance company to inform them of the accident. This shows good faith on your part and this will help you if the other driver’s insurance carrier denies that their policyholder was responsible for the accident, in which case you would need to file a collision claim.
In theory, you should just need to notify the other driver’s insurance company of your damages plus any injuries, tow your car to the body shop, see a doctor and just wait for the insurance company to pay these bills.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t always play out as it should. Auto insurance companies often insist that you get their authorization for any car repairs and medical treatments. If their insurance adjuster does not give authorization for your car repair before it’s taken to the body shop, there can be a problem. At the very least, make sure that the insurance carrier has already accepted liability before you start having your car repaired. Get them to email all of this to you so you have their authorization in writing.
You need to know that no insurance company can demand that you take your car to a certain repair shop. Most states allow insurance companies to recommend car repair shops, but they are not legally allowed to insist that you use the auto body shop they name. It is your choice.
You may need an attorney The other driver’s insurance company may tell you to have your own insurance company pay for the repairs, claiming they have no reason to believe their policyholder was at fault. While there are laws in most states that make it illegal for an insurance carrier to deny a claim without making a reasonable effort to investigate the facts, or to deny a claim when it is reasonably clear that they are liable, it may not be easy to fight with the other driver’s insurance company.
You may choose to file a claim with your own insurance company and they might very well decide to fight it out with the other insurance carrier for compensation if they determine the other driver caused the accident.
If you do decide to fight with the at-fault driver’s insurance company by yourself, you’ll need a good lawyer, especially if you have serious injuries. Your attorney will help you understand and navigate the insurance laws.
You may have even collected evidence that proves the other driver was at fault, he may have even admitted this at the scene, but your claim is still denied by his insurance company. How can this be? Because he may very well have told them a different version of what caused the accident that does not fit with your version of events. His insurance company may prefer to believe him just to get out of paying your claim.
The truth is that sometimes the insurance carrier will side with their policyholder, even when their version of events conflicts with the police report.
It is not at all usual for an insurance company to side with their policyholder when there is no accident report by the police and it’s not clear who is at fault. In many states, the officer that shows up at the scene of an accident may look at the damage and determine that it’s only minor (usually under $500), and the officer won’t file any accident report. Estimates by body shops for that same damage can total in the thousands. You need to take your car yourself to a reputable repair shop in order to get an accurate determination of the extent of your car’s damage.
If the damage won’t cost a whole lot to repair, you can always file a case in small claims court against the other driver. Insurance companies are well aware that the longer they can drag out a claim, the more apt you are to cave and settle for less or just go away.
If you’re getting nowhere, turn to your insurance carrier Even though you did not cause the accident, you can still file an accident claim with your own insurance company if you have this sort of coverage. The claim would be for them to pay for your damages and injuries.
You can do this if you are adequately covered with collision insurance. In this case your insurance company would pay for the repairs on your car or compensate you if your car is a total loss. If you decide to do this, you would still be responsible for paying the deductible towards the repairs. But, you may actually get that amount of money back if your insurance company ends up settling with the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.
If the other driver has no car insurance and you have what’s called “Uninsured Motorist Property Damage” or UMPD coverage, you can file a claim with your insurance for the damage to your car. On UMPD claims you do not have to pay any deductible.
If an accident is not your fault and you are forced to file a claim with your insurance company, this does not necessarily mean that your insurance rates will go up.
There are laws in most states prohibiting insurance carriers from surcharging or raising their policyholders’ premiums for accidents that were not their fault. Unfortunately, these laws won’t stop your insurer from dropping you when it comes time to renew your policy if you’ve filed a slew of recent claims.
Understand your coverage for injuries In most states, if you sustained injuries in a car accident in which you were not at fault, you would file your injury claim through the other driver’s insurance company. If they do not have any car insurance, you could file a claim under your coverage for Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury, but only if you are covered for this. You could also file a claim with your health insurance provider.
Do not pay too much for a rental car Insurance companies naturally look for ways to cut costs, and saving money on reimbursing policyholders for the cost of a car rental is an easy target.
They do this by advising accident victims that they’ll only pay so much per day for a car rental. If you’ve been the victim of another driver’s negligence, you do have rights when it comes to recouping the costs involved in resolving the disruption in your life, and this includes the cost of a rental car while yours is being repaired.
If you rent reasonably you can avoid paying a portion of those costs. Do not buy a collision damage waiver if your rental company offers this because you are covered under your own insurance policy for any damage to a rental car.
If you rent a car at a reasonable price and your insurance company tries to short-change you somehow on the reimbursement, ask them to put their reason in writing. Insurance companies must advise you in writing when they decide to deny or somehow reduce payments to their policyholders.
Know what you are entitled to It would be very helpful for you to become familiar with the prompt-payment law in your state. Every state has an Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act that spells out the how long an insurance company can take to give you a check to cover your damages.
One thing to consider: Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Acts very often do not give you the same rights if you are filing a claim against the other driver’s insurance company as opposed to filing your claim with your own insurance company. Check out California's Fair Claims Settlements Practices Regulations to find out more.
Sending a factual letter off to the at-fault drivers insurance carrier would be the best way to advise them of what you expect, letting them know that you know your rights. In the letter you would tell the insurance company that you expect them to cover all reasonable costs incurred by you due to the accident. This would include them paying for car repairs or the car’s total-loss value, diminished value, lost wages, medical expenses, pain and suffering plus the cost of renting a car. All of this points out the insurance company’s responsibilities according to public policy.
Keep detailed records and copies of all correspondence. Make a note of the dates and times you speak to customer service reps as well as their names.
If you or a loved one has been the victim of motor vehicle negligence and would like to speak with an Automobile Accident Attorney, please contact us at O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.
Published on behalf of O'Connor, Runckel & O'Malley LLP. The information presented in this article is not legal advice, is not to be acted on as such, may not be current and is subject to change without notice.
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