Archive for May, 2010

Should I give a statement to the insurance company?

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Should I give a statement to the insurance company?

Any statement secured from an injured person at any time within 30 days after such injuries were sustained shall be presumably fraudulent in the trial of any action for damages for injuries sustained by such person or for the death of such person as the result of such injuries. No statement can be used as evidence in any court unless the party so obtaining the statement shall give to such injured person a copy thereof within 30 days after the same was made.

When you’ve been injured in an accident the insurance company may want to take a “statement”.  They will ask you questions about how the accident happened and the extent of your injuries.  These statements can be very important in your case.   Information you provide in a statement can be used against you later in a deposition or at trial if you are not careful.  Sometimes the insurance company is looking for ways to avoid coverage under the insurance policies.  A savvy It is always a good idea to consult with an experienced injury lawyer before you speak to the insurance company or an investigator about your accident or injuries.

Hit and Run Cases and Accidents caused by an Unidentified or Phantom Vehicle.

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

“Uninsured motorist coverage” (also known as UM coverage) pursuant to Minnesota law explicitly includes a hit and run motor vehicle.” Minn. Stat. § 65B.43, subd. 18. Caselaw has held that the term “hit-and-run” is synonymous with an accident where the driver flees from the scene, even though no physical contact occurred between the phantom vehicle and the vehicle of the person making the uninsured motorist claim. Halseth v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., 268 N.W.2d 730 (Minn. 1978).  Prior to 1975, the law allowed UM claims where the driver that caused the accident is unidentified, but the actual contact between colliding vehicles was required.  Minnesota law does not presently require physical contact with the phantom vehicle for an uninsured motorist claim to exist.  Heldt v. Truck Ins. Exchange, No., C7-94-1009, 1995 WL 1496 (Minn. Ct. App. 1995).

An important distinction exists, however, differentiating between “hit and run” situations which is “an accident causing damages where the driver flees from the scene” and situations where the driver at fault is unidentified because the claimant simply did not obtain the necessary information to be able to identify the defendant.  See Lhotka v. Illinois Farmers Ins. Co., 572 N.W.2d 772 (Minn. 1998) and Sao v American Family Ins. Group, C7-98-2010, 1999 WL 26213 (Minn. Ct. App. 1999).

Investigation is critical in UM cases involving hit and run or phantom vehicles.  Physical evidence and witness statements are crucial to the success of these claims, so fact gathering by an experienced personal injury lawyer is key.

Children’s Cases: Special rules apply to civil claims brought on behalf of minors

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Anytime the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit is a minor (under 18), there are special rules which must be kept in mind.  Minnesota Statutes require certain procedures be followed when handling such a claim.  These rules affect the ethical obligations if the attorney, require court approval of all settlements, and affect the distribution of the proceeds after the case is resolved.

Court Approval of all Settlements

By law every settlement involving a child must be approved by the court.  This law is in place to protect the child’s best interests from influence from insurance companies, attorneys, and parents.  It is also in place because minors cannot legally enter a binding contract.

Distribution of Funds

Any funds recovered on behalf of the child are placed in trust until the child turns 18.  These funds cannot be accessed without a court order.  Often they will be placed in a Certificate of Deposit (CD) or other conservative interest-bearing investment account at a local bank.  After turning 18, the funds are at the child’s sole disposal and discretion.  Your lawyer will typically provide a referral to an investment counselor or financial institution that can provide advice to make the most of the child’s asset once they reach adulthood.

Structured Settlements

A Structured Settlement is an agreement to make a series of partial payments over a period of years, rather than one lump sum payment.  In effect, agreeing to a structured settlement is like agreeing to let an insurance company invest the settlement proceeds.  Structures control the disbursement of proceeds even after the claimant is an adult, thereby reducing the likelihood that the asset will be squandered.  Structures can have significant tax benefits because not only is the original settlement not taxable, but the interest earned prior to disbursement may also be tax free. 

An experienced personal injury attorney can help you understandwhat settlement options will be in the best interest of your child when resolving their civil claims.