April 2009 Archives

April 21, 2009

Kentucky and Indiana Automobile Accident Victims Find Auto Insurance Companies Fighting Claims

It is happening all over Kentucky, Indiana and the rest of the country.  An individual is driving down the road when they are suddenly struck by another vehicle.  There is some damage to the vehicle and the individual is in some pain.  It could be a headache, neck or back pain, or a sharp pain in the knee.  After a visit to the emergency room or a physician, physical therapy or some other medical treatment is recommended which required some time off of work.  Before too long there are medical bills, lost wages and damage to the vehicle to worry about. 

car accident.jpgThese minor-impact automobile accidents happen every day.  However, what many people do not realize is that the problems for the injured person do not end after the accident -- they are just beginning. 

In an effort to reduce losses and increase profits, many large insurance companies deny and/or delay even the most straightforward of claims.  CNN and Anderson Cooper conducted an 18-month investigation into minor-impact soft-tissue injury crashes around the country.   What was discovered by reviewing documents and talking with former insurance industry employees was insurance companies systematically adopting a "take-it-or-leave-it" strategy when dealing these minor-impact soft-tissue injury crashes, even when liability is not an issue.  This strategy was deemed "institutionalized bad faith" by University of Nevada insurance law professor Jeff Stempel.  This strategy seems to have been developed in the mid-1990s and for insurance giants Allstate and State Farm, according to CNN, this strategy was developed with the assistance of consulting firm McKinsey & Co when looking for ways to boost profits.  CNN noted that while these documents from McKinsey are under seal in courts around the country, they were able to view several of them during a court hearing in Lexington, Kentucky.  One such document viewed by CNN played on Allstate's slogan "You're in Good Hands" by stating that the insurance company should put boxing gloves on those hands for claimants that insist on going to court.

As one former Allstate and State Farm employee stated to CNN, the strategy of these insurance giants relies on the three Ds -- denying a claim, delaying a settlement, and defending against the claim if it goes to court.

Read the articles by Anderson Cooper 360 regarding this investigation.

Insurance Companies Fight Paying Billions in Claims

Auto insurers play hardball in minor-crash claims

View the three part series which aired covered this investigation.


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April 13, 2009

Choosing the Right Nursing Home in Kentucky

When faced with finding the appropriate care for yourself of a loved one, the task of finding the right nursing home in Kentucky can seem impossible.  However, there are some great tools available to assist you faced with this situation. 

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) offers some great tools when you are looking for the appropriate nursing home to care for yourself or a loved one.  The Medicare office has on Nursing Home Important Information allowing you to compare nursing homes that are certified in Medicare and/or Medicaid.  A 5 Star Quality Rating System has been implemented which evaluates nursing homes on three crucial areas of importance:  Health Inspections, Staffing, and Quality Measures.  The rating system offers an individual rating for a nursing home on each of these areas and then offers a combined overall rating. 

This rating system can assist you in determining which nursing homes you would like to consider.  One of the most important steps you can next take is to visit the nursing homes you are considering. When possible, you also contact your Long-Term Care Ombudsman or State Survey Agency before making a decision. When you visit the nursing home you will be better equipped to discuss any and all questions and concerns your found when viewing the nursing home's rating. 

You can also take a Nursing Home Checklist with you on your visit.  Some great checklists are available from HHS and the AARP

Additional Resources:

AARP article:  How to Choose a Nursing Home

AARP article:  Evaluating Nursing Homes

April 3, 2009

After Injury Individuals Find That Independent Medical Exams Are Not Really Independent

Whether you have been injured in a car accident or at work, if you have made a claim for benefits (whether or not your claim has resulted in suit being filed) you might be subject to an Independent Medical Exam (IME).  An IME is designed by insurance companies and employers to reexamine an injured person to see if the doctor performing the IME agrees with the diagnosis and recommended treatment which was given by the injured individual's doctor.  However, as discussed below, many problems arise from these IMEs.   

doctor.jpgThe title of Independent Medical Exam can be very misleading as they are not really independent.  As a New York Times article explains, their review of case files, medical records and patient interviews in New York worker compensation claims indicated that exam reports that results from these Independent Medical Exams are routinely bias towards and benefit insurers and employers over the injured individual by minimizing or dismissing altogether the injuries sustained. 

The main reason for this bias is that employers and insurance companies are the companies that pay for these IMEs and therefore, if a physician starts producing reports that do not benefit the company's position on the injuries, that physician will likely not receive further IMEs from that company. 

Many injured individuals have been able to contest the findings of these IMEs and prevailed, however resolution can take many months or years and many people simply give up.  A personal injury attorney can assist an injured individual not only after a biased IME has been given, but before any IME has been conducted. 

If you have been injured in an automobile/trucking accident or at work and your employer or an insurance company is requiring an IME for your claim, conduct the the personal injury attorneys are Miller & Falkner to help protect your rights against unfair IMEs.
April 1, 2009

Yamaha to Recall Rhino ATV After 46 Confirmed Deaths and Hundreds of Injuries

On March 31, 2009 the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Yamaha Motor Corporation issued a recall for more than 120,000 of its Yamaha Rhino ATVs model 450 and 660 which have been sold since 2003.  The recall is due to an inherent design flaw that makes these vehicles unstable and susceptible to low-speed rollovers.  These rollovers have resulted in 46 confirmed deaths and hundreds of injuries including the legs and arms of occupants being crushed by the roll cage as the vehicle crashes to the ground.  Many of these injuries occur even if the occupant is wearing a seat belt.  These rollovers also occur on level or near-level ground and can occur even if the driver does not turn the vehicle sharply. 

Rhino 450 without doors.jpg
Rhino 660 without doors.jpg

Yamaha Rhino 450
(without doors) 
                                                                                         Yamaha Rhino 660
                                                                                         (without doors)

Yamaha is offering a free repair of this design defect.  Yamaha has also agreed to voluntarily suspend the sale of these models starting immediately until all are repaired. The CPSC warns that consumers should immediately stop using these recreational vehicles until the repair is made by a dealer.

Yamaha is also voluntarily suspending the of sale for the Rhino 700 model and implementing the same repair program. The CPSC also warns that consumers should stop riding the 700 model until it is repaired. About 25,000 Rhino 700s are part of this repair program.

View the recall in its entirety. 

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