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Posts Tagged ‘ homeowner liability ’

Happy New Year 2015 – It’s Time for an Insurance Coverage Review

As 2015 begins, it’s a perfect time to think about the year just past and how your insurance coverage is protecting you – for your home, rental property, cars, trucks, motorcycles, boats, RVs and anything else that you insure against loss.

January is a handy time for such a review as we consider the changes that have occurred in our lives in the last year and look ahead to changes that could be happening in the New Year.

For drivers, that means making sure that your cars, trucks, vans, motorcycles and other vehicles have adequate insurance protections for you, your family and your other passengers in the event of a crash or other loss. Vehicle accidents happen every day, often injuring people who have done nothing to contribute to causing the accident which has ensnared their lives. Victims are injured when other cars crash into their vehicles or in a myriad of other tragic ways.

Yet learning after such an accident that one’s automobile insurance or the other driver’s insurance isn’t adequate to compensate them for a serious injury is one of the toughest things we have to discuss with our clients here at MyPhillyLawyer. It’s a relatively common scenario, and one that we’ve seen over and over again recently involving a spate of cases that have come into our doors.

Here’s how it works. There are several key categories of insurance coverage for vehicles, including liability, uninsured motorist, underinsured motorist coverages and medical expenses. If you only have $15,000 of state minimum uninsured motorist (UM) coverage, then that is the full amount that your insurance company would have to give to you under an uninsured motorist claim. And that is simply not enough coverage if your injuries are serious or catastrophic. In fact, this kind of scenario is exactly why every driver on the road in Pennsylvania and every other state really needs to do a careful review of their insurance coverage annually to be sure they are well-protected for potential injuries caused by others who are not adequately insured.

Photo illustration of an insurance claim form. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/KLH49

In addition, there is a minimum $15,000 liability coverage requirement in Pennsylvania that was set some 30 years ago and has not been changed since then, which is absurd. It’s a travesty of justice for working people who drive around thinking that they have adequate insurance coverage and then find out how wrong those assumptions can be when the unthinkable happens and they are injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver. When is our Legislature going to do something about this?

It was a whole different world 30 years ago when the $15,000 minimum coverage limit was established, and unbelievably, no provisions were ever created to increase that figure annually for inflation and for changing times.

Another coverage area where drivers often find they are underinsured is for medical expenses in the event of a crash. The minimum amount for coverage in Pennsylvania is $5,000, and that miniscule, inadequate amount is what most people carry to help keep their insurance premiums lower.

Uninsured Motorist coverage, and the related Underinsured Motorist (UIM) Coverage, are actually the most important types of coverage that you can have for your vehicle, even more so than collision coverage. Collision covers the vehicle physically, but better protecting you as the driver – and your passengers – should be viewed as a smarter investment of your policy dollars. Drivers should look at raising their collision coverage deductibles so that they can afford to pay for higher UM and UIM coverage which will better protect them against another driver’s irresponsibility.

Drivers can possibly even save money by increasing their collision deductible (and lowering their costs for collision coverage) while still obtaining increased UM and UIM coverage of $300,000 per incident.

Yes, by raising your vehicle’s collision deductible, you are taking a known risk on having to pay more if your car is damaged, but the significantly higher UM and UIM coverages will protect you if God forbid you are seriously injured in a crash by another driver.

Not having enough UM and UIM coverage is a giant risk to take. Your life, livelihood, your work and your family can all be affected in an instant if you are seriously injured and are without adequate UM and UIM coverage. In the blink of an eye a family can have a catastrophic loss and if you don’t protect yourself, nobody else is out there to protect you.

Insurance is something you likely spend a lot of money on, right up there with mortgages or rent, food and other essentials. Don’t listen blindly to your insurance agent for their recommendations for such coverage. I’ve seen client after client get bad advice from insurance agents which then leaves them with inadequate coverage that will haunt them later when a tragic accident occurs.

If you suffer a life changing injury and can’t return to work after a crash caused by another driver who has inadequate insurance, your life and future can hang in the balance. The only way you can be adequately and fairly compensated after such an event is to have the highest amount of UM and UIM that you can afford. That can be accomplished without spending more on your existing policy by increasing your vehicle collision deductible, as I mentioned earlier. If you are going to take a chance, take the chance on the property damage. That’s better than having the unknown risk of having life changing catastrophic injuries and not having the money to pay for care.

Homeowners and renters also need to review their insurance policies annually to be sure that the insurance they have is still adequate to cover the latest value of their home and of their belongings, which could have increased in the prior year.  Additional purchases of expensive large-screen televisions, entertainment systems, computer and camera gear and other expensive electronic products means that your insurance limits might need to be increased. The same goes for quality jewelry and watches.

Insurance reviews can be done with your family’s insurance agent as part of an annual review of coverages, terms, policies and more. It’s a smart and important thing to do each year so that your family stays protected from losses.

And while you are at it, be sure to take some time as the New Year begins to create or update your personal will and other estate planning documents so that your family can carry out your last wishes if something should happen to you.

Injury cases, vehicle crashes and property losses of all kinds occur every day when innocent victims are hurt or killed through no fault of their own due to the actions or indifference of others, or due to hazardous weather or other disasters. That’s why it is critical to have a legal team on your side that uncovers every fact to bolster your case and maximize your damage award.

We here at MyPhillyLawyer stand ready to assist you with your legal case if you or a loved one is ever seriously injured in a vehicle crash anywhere in the United States. We represent the families of victims who die in such tragedies as well, to ensure that their families receive every penny of damages that they are eligible to receive.

Call MyPhillyLawyer at 215-227-2727 or toll-free at 1-866-920-0352 anytime and our experienced, compassionate, aggressive team of attorneys and support staff will be there for you and your family every step of the way as we manage your case through the legal system.

When Winning Matters Most, Call MyPhillyLawyer.

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Don’t Get Sued: Shovel Your Sidewalks After It Snows To Prevent Lawsuits

It’s been a relatively mild winter across the Philadelphia region this season, but this weekend’s forecast for a light snowfall is a great reminder to remain vigilant about keeping your sidewalks clear of snow and ice for pedestrians. Just a couple inches of snow was expected here, according to a story in The Philadelphia Inquirer, but a lot could still fall in the next six weeks of winter that lie ahead.

So what’s the big deal about a little snow? Actually, the legal ramifications can be quite serious if you don’t do your civic duty and shovel and clear your walks.

First, there’s the matter of fines you’ll have to pay if you are ticketed for not shoveling. In Philadelphia, fines can range from $50 for a first offense up to $300, plus penalties for late payments, according to the Philadelphia Code, Section 10-720.

Don't forget to shovel your sidewalks within 6 hours of a snowstorm. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Pixel_Pig

Don't forget to shovel your sidewalks within 6 hours of a snowstorm. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/Pixel_Pig

But even more important and potentially damaging to your financial security is the legal liability that occurs if you don’t clear the walks on your property and someone slips and falls and is seriously injured. You certainly don’t want someone getting injured on your property because of something you failed to do.

Slip and fall injuries are common because accidents and incidents do happen when weather conditions are poor as pedestrians try to navigate slippery streets, sidewalks, building vestibules and other areas. Your best bet is to prevent such injuries at the start – and their potentially costly lawsuits – by making sure to shovel promptly after a snow storm.

This weekend’s snowy forecast is a perfect time for homeowners, renters and business owners to review their snowfall responsibilities.

The City of Philadelphia isn’t the only community that has shoveling laws. Be sure to check with your local municipality to find out about the specific rules and fines in your community. Most municipalities have laws requiring that sidewalks be cleared within six hours after a snowstorm, just like Philadelphia.

In Philadelphia, the City Code requires a path to be shoveled that is at least 36 inches wide and is completely clear of snow and ice on any sidewalk. If the sidewalk between a building and the curb is less than 36 inches wide, then the safe path being created through the snow and ice should be at least 12 inches wide, according to the code. And under the law, you are responsible to do this whether you are the property owner, renter or real estate agent.

There are even rules about what to do with the snow you are shoveling. Are you thinking about shoveling the snow off the walks and back into the street? Don’t do it, the city says. That’s also against the law, and it’s dangerous for vehicles passing through on your street. Just put the snow safely onto the grass or between the curb and sidewalk to make things easier for everyone and to keep the streets clear, too.

If sidewalks aren’t being cleared in the city, you can report such violations by calling the Philadelphia Streets Department Customer Affairs department at 215-686-5560 or by contacting the city’s 3-1-1 assistance department.

And please remember, in the midst of all of these snow removal rules and regulations, don’t get mad about the existence of these laws. They’re there not to bug you but to protect us all when we are pedestrians. They’re there to make sure that we can all traverse our neighborhoods safely when inclement weather arrives with a vengeance.

You’d likely appreciate these rules if they prevent you from being injured if you slipped and fell while you are walking on someone else’s uncleared sidewalks, wouldn’t you?

As a property owner and as a pedestrian, you can appreciate such common sense and preventative actions by others in your community.

These kinds of slip and fall injuries are one of the most common types of personal injuries, leading to one of the most common types of lawsuits. For homeowners, it’s definitely something you want to avoid.

So get out there and enjoy the waning weeks of winter while keeping yourself , your family and your neighbors safer when it comes to sidewalks and snow and ice.

If you are seriously injured in a winter slip and fall accident, be sure to contact a competent, caring and professional attorney to assist you with your case as you seek treatment for your injuries and compensation for your pain and suffering.

When Winning Matters Most, call us at MyPhillyLawyer, where we are always here to help you.

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Tune in at 7 a.m. Thursday, June 30, to watch MyPhillyLawyer’s Dean Weitzman talk about swimming pool safety on WPHL-17 TV

There may be nothing more relaxing and refreshing than taking a dip in a swimming pool this summer, but pools can also be fraught with danger and liability if you are not careful.

To remind parents, homeowners and families about the importance of pool safety across the Delaware Valley, MyPhillyLawyer attorney Dean I. Weitzman will appear at 7 a.m. Thursday, June 30,  on the “Better Philly” program on WPHL-17 TV to share his legal insights and a collection of swimming pool safety tips.

Last month, MyPhillyLawyer published a blog post about pool safety which is a great guide to ensuring that your family and pool guests are safe while swimming on your property.

Children enjoy playing in a swimming pool. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/CEFutcher

Children enjoy playing in a swimming pool. Image credit: © iStockphoto.com/CEFutcher

Weitzman will remind “Better Philly” viewers of some of the main points about pool safety with five key safety tips:

*Completely Fence The Perimeter Around Your Pool – by closing off the pool to children who could wander into your yard, you can prevent accidental drownings and protect yourself from liability.

*Be Sure That All Young Children Playing Near Pools Are Wearing Life Vests – if a child should accidentally fall into a pool, they will be better protected by wearing an approved life vest.

*Never, Ever Leave Children Unsupervised Near A Pool – that means NEVER. If children are to be around or in a pool, they MUST be properly and adequately supervised by an adult who can swim and is trained in rescue techniques.

*Keep Rescue Equipment By The Pool At All Times – including a life ring and rope, a first aid kit and flotation devices.

*Parents Must Be Encouraged to Learn CPR – by knowing how to save a life in the event of an emergency, homeowners can protect their guests and themselves before rescue workers ever arrive.

According to statistics from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drownings are the second leading cause of death among young children.

“Ten people die per day from drowning in the U.S. according to the CDC,” Weitzman said. “One  child a day in our nation dies from drowning. Another four children are injured daily in swimming pools. That’s too many.”

The rate of drownings for African-American children ages five to 14 is 3.1 times higher than for white children, according to the CDC, often because they never learned to swim. “That is an impossible statistic to accept,” Weitzman said.

Prevention and training are the keys to reducing the death rates, he said.

“Foam toys, like arm-flotation devices, are not life-saving tools,” Weitzman said. “In fact, relying on those could be causing more deaths than they save” by giving people a false sense of security.

The risk of drowning in a pool can be reduced by 83% by surrounding the pool with a four-sided fence, he said. And there’s another 88% reduction in drowning rates by teaching children how to swim before they ever set foot in a pool.

An average of 385 children under 15 years of age died annually in the U.S. due to pool or spa drownings from 2005 through 2007, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and its Pool Safely safety campaign. Of those, 78%, or 299, were under the age of five.

As a homeowner, you must be vigilant, pro-active and firm about setting safety rules and enforcing them so that guests and family members aren’t accidentally injured or worse.

In the U.S., 37 drownings and 38 near-drownings were reported this year before the Memorial Day holiday weekend and the unofficial start of summer, according to government statistics.

Meanwhile, there are other dangers in pools, including entrapments – where a person is trapped by the powerful suction of an underwater pool drain that prevents them from surfacing and getting air.

According to the CPSC, from 1999 to 2009, there were 94 reports of pool, spa or whirlpool entrapment incidents that left 12 people dead and injured another 79. About 75% of those victims were under 15 years of age and 50% of the cases involved swimming pools. The victims died or were injured due to broken or missing outlet covers on the drains, which allowed them to be held against the drain underwater due to the pressure of the draining water from which they could not escape.

Such tragedies led in 2007 to the passage of the federal Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act (P&SS Act), named for a little girl who died in such an accident in 2002 in a hot tub. Virginia Graeme Baker was the granddaughter of former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III. The law, which went into effect in December of 2008, mandated new requirements for pool and spa safety and led to the national promotion of pool safety efforts.

This past March, the CPSC issued a press release describing how some pool drain covers that were believed to comply with the P&SS Act might have been improperly tested, leading users of some drain covers to have covers that might not have an adequate level of protection. The investigation into the improper testing is continuing.

“We all must do everything we can to make pools safer for children who play in them,” Weitzman said. “It’s summer and time to have fun. Please join me in making your swimming pool safer for your family and guests so we can all prevent tragedies from ruining this great season.”

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