Friday, March 31, 2017

Face and Head Injuries are Common in Motorcycle Accidents



Riding a motorcycle can be fun, but in doing so, you expose yourself to a significant degree of risk. As we have discussed in the past, motorcycles offer much less protection than passenger vehicles, so accidents involving motorcycles are much more likely to be accompanied by injuries and even death. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration1 (NHTSA) estimates that over 80% of motorcycle accidents result in injury or death to the cyclist. Off all injuries that can occur in a motorcycle crash, head injuries are the most severe. Because motorcycles offer no head protection to the rider and ejection from the motorcycle is very common in accidents, head injuries pose a unique threat to motorcyclists.

Below, we'll take a look at some of the most common types of injuries from motorcycle crashes to see where head injuries fit in the larger picture, then take a more in-depth look at the consequences of head injuries and how to avoid them.

Most Common Motorcycle Accident Injuries

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention2 (CDC), the most common injuries from motorcycle crashes are too the legs and feet, accounting for 30% of all non-fatal motorcycle injuries. The next most common injuries are to the head and neck, making up 22% of all non-fatal motorcycle crash injuries. Going a step further than the CDC, the Association for the Advancement of Automotive Medicine took a more in-depth study that examined the parts of the body that are most likely to be injured in a motorcycle crash broken down by age. The results of that study are shown below in Figure 1, titled "Distribution of Injured Anatomic Region by Age Group."

As shown in Figure 1, by far the most common injuries in motorcycle accident among both age groups studied were injuries to the extremities, both upper and lower. However, when we remove injuries to extremities, which are less likely to be deadly than other injuries, we see that head, face, and neck injuries make up a substantial portion of the remainder, accounting for roughly 20-25% of all injuries for both age groups combined. Thus, it would appear that roughly a quarter of all motorcycle accidents involve injuries to the head, which are among the most serious and potentially life-altering injuries one can suffer.
Figure 1  

Dangers of Head Injuries

A traumatic brain injury3 is an injury to the brain that is normally caused by a violent blow or jolt to the head that causes the brain to move back and forth inside the skull, causing multiple points of damage. Because the brain does not heal the same way as other body parts, the effects of traumatic brain injury can be very difficult to overcome, if at all. The immediate effects of traumatic brain injuries are split into physical symptoms and cognitive symptoms. The physical symptoms of mild traumatic brain injuries include loss of consciousness for a few seconds to a few minutes, headache, nausea and vomiting, dizziness and loss of balance, and fatigue or drowsiness. Cognitive symptoms include blurred vision, ringing in the the ears, a bad taste in the mouth, mood swings and mood changes, and memory and concentration problems.

While the effects of a mild traumatic brain injury can cause temporary dysfunction and are treatable by rest and over-the-counter pain relievers, more severe brain injuries can result in bruising, torn tissue, bleeding, and other serious physical damage that can result in long-term complications. These more severe traumatic brain injuries require surgery and extensive rehabilitation. Physical symptoms of moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries can include:

  • Loss of consciousness for several hours
  • Persistent headache
  • Repeated vomiting or nausea
  • Convulsions and seizures 
  • Dilation of the eyes
  • Clear fluid drain from the nose and ears
  • Inability to awaken from sleep
  • Weakness or numbness in fingers and toes
  • Loss of coordination 


Cognitive symptoms can include:

  • Profound confusion 
  • Agitation and combativeness
  • Slurred speech 
  • Coma and extended loss of consciousness 


Longer term symptoms can include depression, persistent ringing in the ears, trouble with balance, and impaired memory and learning.

How to Avoid Head Injuries While Motorcycling

The most effective way to prevent traumatic brain injuries and other head injuries is also the simplest and easiest--wear a helmet! The U.S. General Accounting Office4 (GAO) found that helmeted riders have up to an 85% reduced incidence of severe, serious, and critical injuries than un-helmeted riders. Further, the NHTSA found that motorcycle helmets are 67% effective in preventing brain injuries specifically, while un-helmeted motorcyclists are over three times as likely to suffer a traumatic brain injury than those who were helmeted. Wearing a helmet has other benefits besides preventing injuries as well--the GAO study also found that helmeted riders had a 73% lower fatality rate than un-helmeted riders.

Helmets are so effective at preventing head injury that most states have made wearing helmets mandatory as a matter of public policy through helmet laws. In Florida, a person over 21 years of age may operate a motorcycle without wearing protective headgear only if the person is covered by an insurance policy providing at least $10,000 in medical benefits for injuries incurred as a result of a crash. Motorcycle riders under the age of 16 may not operate a motorcycle or moped without a helmet at all. Violations of this law are non-criminal infractions and are punished by a fine of $35. Although the fine for not wearing a helmet is low, the risks of doing so far outweighs the benefits.

Contact a Clearwater Motorcycle Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation

If you've been involved in a motorcycle accident and have suffered a head injury, please contact the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.

Dolman Law Group
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
727-451-6900






Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Why You should Consider Extended PIP Insurance




Florida law1 requires that every driver have a minimal amount of insurance called Personal Injury Protection, or PIP insurance. Specifically you must carry $10,000 of PIP coverage, which is meant to cover your medical expenses and other losses stemming from injuries sustained in a car accident. This coverage is known as “no-fault,” as it will cover your medical bills and losses whether you caused the accident or another person caused the accident. This no-fault system is intended to reduce the number of personal injury lawsuits that stem from car accidents in the Florida courts.

While $10,000 is the minimum PIP insurance requirement, you do have the opportunity to purchase additional PIP coverage, which is referred to as extended PIP. While many people decline this extended coverage, it may be a mistake to do so.

PIP insurance will cover the following losses in the event of a car accident injury:

  • 80 percent of reasonable medical treatment and services
  • Lost income from work missed work
  • Transportation costs
  • Costs of assistance needed


For many injuries, medical bills alone can easily exceed $10,000, needless to say other losses. You will not necessarily have the right to seek compensation through other means unless you meet specific requirements, so you may find yourself in a difficult financial position if you choose to only have the minimum PIP coverage. Far too many clients come to our office seeking help because they learn they have inadequate coverage after an accident occurs.

Purchasing any type of insurance can be confusing because the policies are not written in Simple language. Policies contain complex legal terms that can be overly-wordy and difficult to decipher. Most people do not fully understand the fine print of their policies when they purchase them. This can lead to a surprise when you make a claim that your policy will not cover all of your losses. While you may not believe that an accident and serious injuries will happen to you, crashes can happen to anyone and you do not want to be left without necessary compensation in the event of a bad accident.

If you were in an accident and are being told your coverage is limited when you did not know that, you should call an experienced attorney as soon as possible. An attorney can determine whether your policy was ambiguous or whether the information provided to you by the insurance company was accurate and adequate for you to make a decision regarding coverage. If not, you may be able to fight for additional coverage.

Consult with an Experienced PIP Insurance Attorney for Help Today

At the Dolman Law Group, we help injured car accident victims through all stages of their case. Whether you need help making a PIP claim or negotiating with your insurer or you need representation in a personal injury lawsuit, we are here to help. Please call our office in Clearwater at 727-451-6900 today.

Friday, March 24, 2017

How Auto Insurance Claims Work in Florida



If you drive a car, you are required by law in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to carry insurance to cover accidents. The amount of insurance you are required to have varies by state, but every state has a minimum amount of insurance you are required to purchase. In this legal landscape, two types of auto insurance systems have developed: fault systems (also known as “liability systems”) and no-fault systems (also known as “PIP systems”). Florida is a no-fault system.

Fault Systems vs. No-Fault Systems

The vast majority of states use fault systems, or, as they are more commonly known, “liability” systems. Under these types of insurance systems, the insurance company of the driver who is found to be at fault for the accident pays for the other driver’s losses. An example of the typical types of coverages used in liability systems is below:

  • $5,000 per person toward injury-related costs
  • $15,000 per accident toward injury-related costs (if more than one person is injured)
  • $10,000 per accident in property damage costs


Note that these amounts are paid to the driver who is not at fault for the accident. If you are found to be at fault and you are injured or your car is damaged, your insurance pays for your injuries with medical payments coverage and your property damage with collision coverage, both of which are usually optional add-ons to the above minimum coverages. At their heart, liability systems are concerned with fault—thus, in these systems, litigation is common after car accidents to determine who was at fault for the accident and whose insurance company must pay.

No-fault insurance systems are not concerned about determinations of fault in an accident, as their name would suggest. The policies issued in jurisdictions that follow no-fault systems are known as “personal injury protection” (PIP) policies, and they cover any injuries to the policyholder resulting from an accident regardless of fault. Thus, in states that use PIP systems, each driver’s insurance company pays for its own policyholder’s injuries and damages. After an accident, each driver simply files a claim with his or her insurance company and the insurance company pays for the driver’s losses up to the policy’s limits.

The main benefit of PIP systems is that they usually result in far less litigation clogging up the court systems; instead of fighting over who was at fault in an accident, the insurance companies just pay each of their policyholders for their losses, which makes sorting out exactly what happened in the accident much easier. In states that have replaced their liability systems with PIP systems, the most commonly cited reasons for doing so are that they reduce auto insurance rates, increase the fairness of reimbursement, and reduce the burden on the courts. States with no-fault insurance systems at the time of publication of this article include Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Utah.

Insurance in Florida

Florida law requires that all drivers in Florida have car insurance. The minimum insurance requirements the state requires are as follows:

  • $10,000 of no-fault PIP insurance
  • $10,000 of property damage liability (PDL) insurance 


PIP insurance covers your part of any medical expenses and income loss that results from a car accident, as well as:

  • Your child and other members of your household
  • Your child when he or she is riding on a school bus
  • You when you are a pedestrian or cyclist involved in a car accident
  • Passengers in your car who do not have their own PIP insurance and who also do not own a car


PDL insurance covers you for the damages you cause to someone else’s property in a car accident, such as cars, homes, or other buildings.

PIP and PDL requirements are just the minimum amount of coverage required by Florida law. most drivers, especially those with newer vehicles, will want to opt for enhanced coverage, which is available in the following forms:

  • Comprehensive: This coverage pays for damages to your car that are not the result of a car accident, such as scratches, dents, and hail damage
  • Collision: This coverage pays for accident-related damages to your car
  • Towing and labor: This coverage pays for any towing and labor costs that are associated with a car accident
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: This coverage pays for damages incurred by accidents with drivers who do not have insurance


Recommendations

The Florida Bar publishes a pamphlet to residents of the state of Florida with many recommendations on navigating the sometimes confusing landscape of auto insurance and car accidents. A few of their most important recommendations are below.

-Request a quote from several different insurers to make sure that you’re getting the best coverage for the lowest rate.
Make sure that the information on your application is accurate; false information could cause you insurer to cancel your policy or refuse to cover a claim when you make one.

-Make sure that you understand what your policy covers. Every policy should include a “plain language” description this, including a description of the benefits and coverages and a breakdown in how the premium is applied, a summary of what is and is not covered under specific conditions, a summary of the policy’s renewal and cancellation provisions, and a description of any credits or extra charges.

-Get a binder when you sign the application—this can be used as temporary proof of insurance until your formal policy is issued.

-Keep track of your policy renewal dates—most are for terms of either six or 12 months.

-Be sure to report any changes to your insurance agent, including new drivers, new cars, or changes in the use of your car.

Contact a Clearwater, FL Auto Accident Attorney Today

If you have any questions or concerns about Florida auto insurance or have recently been involved in an auto accident, please contact the attorneys at the Dolman Law Group for a free consultation by calling 727-451-6900.