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Is Your Auto Insurance Ripping You Off?

auto insurance form

You did your research. You went out of your way to make sure you have “good” insurance on your car. So you think you know what’s really in your policy, right?

Unfortunately, probably not. Many insurance companies try to dupe you in the fine print.

Unless you’re an expert in insurance, I am going to assume you haven’t read every line of your insurance policy. Most people don’t.

How do insurance companies get away with this? Let’s look at an example.

Your Declarations Sheet

Most people receive and review their Declarations sheet and assume they know what they have in their policy. The Declarations sheet is the first page of your policy. It’s supposed to be a clear, concise, and accurate summary of your coverage that does not mislead you. Here’s an example of a USAA Declarations sheet:

usaa auto insurance declaration sheet

If you find it confusing, don’t worry. Most people have a difficult time figuring out exactly what is on this “summary” sheet. Here is what it says:

  • There are two vehicles that are insured: A 1995 Dodge and a 1996 Olds.
  • There is $100,000 of liability coverage per person and up to $300,000 for a total claim value in the event that you are at fault for a crash and other people are injured by you.
  • There is up to $50,000 of property damage coverage.
  • There is up to $25,000 in Medical Payment coverage per person (note that this only costs $6.98 per 6 months).
  • There is Lost wages benefits up to $2,000 per 30 day period.
  • There is Uninsured Motorist coverage up to $100,000 per person up to $300,000 per incident.
  • There is Underinsured Motorist coverage up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident.
  • There is a $500 deductible for comprehensive and collision coverage to fix your own vehicle.

By most standards, this should be pretty good coverage. But look a little deeper and you see a different picture. USAA doesn’t tell you about the ridiculous restrictions they place on these coverages. The most egregious is the Medical Payment coverage. This person paid for up to $25,000 in medical payment coverage. What USAA doesn’t tell you is that there are severe limits on this coverage.

car accident insurance

Photo: Natloans

USAA Restrictions

Let’s go through them one at a time.

1. They will only pay your medical bills for one year.

If you need medical treatment, USAA will refuse to pay for any bills after the one year deadline. So, whether you pay for $10,000 in coverage or $100,000 in coverage, it is all only good for one year.

The vast majority of people take longer than one year to fully recover from a serious crash. That means this coverage will not cover all your bills in an average case.

2. USAA decides what medical bills are “necessary and appropriate.”

So, if they decide that any medical treatment wasn’t necessary and appropriate, they won’t pay for it. This tends to be more the rule than the exception.

3. USAA will decide on their own when you have had enough treatment.

If they feel that you are taking too long to get better, they will have one of their own doctors look at your medical records. They will almost always say that you are over treating, and they will not pay for additional treatment.

4.They will let bills go unpaid.

Unless you dispute their denials and really push them on a refusal to pay certain bills, they will simply deny them, and if you don’t do anything, they will remain unpaid and potentially go to collections.

What Should You Do?

At the end of the day, insurance companies try to get you to pay a larger deductible every month by promising better and more coverage. But that may not be what you’re really getting. They are tricking you with the fine print by refusing to pay bills and claims that they are duty bound to pay.

Don’t sit back and take it! Have a talk with your agent today about terms like this and see if your insurance company is ripping you off.

If you think your insurance company has illegally refused to pay your bills, I can help.

Call me for a free consultation at 406-721-3354.

 

Will Your Headrest Protect You in a Crash?

headrest protection car crash

I bet 9 out of 10 drivers have an incorrectly adjusted headrest.

Why is this important?

Because getting rear-ended is the most common type of car collision in the world. When you get rear-ended, your head is initially thrown backwards and your neck can be massively extended. Contrary to popular belief, your headrest isn’t there so you can snooze while stuck in traffic. Headrests are designed to protect your head from moving too much when you get rear-ended.

The problem is that most people don’t adjust the headrest at all, or if they do, they adjust it for comfort and not protection.

Chances are that you’ll be in at least one car crash in your life. (Statistics say you’ll be in a car accident every 18 years.) It’s time to do everything you can to protect yourself in advance. First, get adequate liability insurance. Then make sure you’re correctly using your car or truck’s safety features.

How to Adjust Your Headrest: Pull It Up

The seat headrest usually can be adjusted up and down (height) as well as tilt front and back. So how do you actually use these adjustments correctly? Adjust them so there is little to no space between the back of your head and the headrest. Most people I see have their headrests pushed all the way down to the seat. This is usually not only incorrect, but can actually cause you additional harm in a crash.

The first adjustment is the head height. You should sit in your seat as you normally do, then pull the headrest up so the top of it is as the top of your head. (The easiest way to do this is to have someone help you.) You might have to press a button on your headrest to adjust the height.

properly adjusted headrest car

A high enough headrest will stop your head from forcefully jerking back during a collision. The cushion will do its job and protect you. If your headrest is too low, you could get whiplash or worse.

wrong way to adjust car headrest

The picture above is how most people have their headrests; I bet yours is like this. This is bad and incorrect. If you imagine your head violently being forced back in a crash, you can see there is a lot of room for the head to whip backwards. Your head will touch the top of the headrest instead of the flat/front part it’s supposed to contact. This can cause more significant injures than the crash itself and is responsible for a lot of neck injuries. As you can see, this headrest needs to be pulled up at least six inches to the top of her head. This is why it is useful to have someone else help you do this in your car.

Move It Forward

The second adjustment you should make to your headrest is moving it forward so your head is right next to it. You should be able to rest your head on the headrest if you just push back slightly when driving. The correct adjustment is shown below:

right way to have car headrest

It may seem unusual to drive like this at first, but it is the correct and safe way.

With the headrest adjusted to proper height and distance from the back of the head, you can see that it actually creates a cushioned wall against the back of your head. That is what they are designed to do. They are supposed to stop your head from whipping back at all. Below you can see why an improperly adjusted headrest creates space between the head and the headrest.

wrong way to put headrest car

Having space between your head and the headrest (above) defeats the purpose. The height is correct in the photo above, but with a gap, your head can snap back and slam against it during a crash.

You can adjust this a few ways. First, the driver’s seat should not be reclined. These days, too many people slouch in their car. Instead, tilt your seat so it’s mostly vertical. Then your head will be closer to the headrest.

Second, most headrests also have a tilt adjustment that can angle the headrest toward your head more. Chances are that if the gap between your head and your headrest is like the one in the photo, your seat is reclined too much.

Conclusion

Try driving with your seat and headrest positioned properly for a week — I bet at the end of the week, your back will feel better. Plus, you’ll have peace of mind that you’re protecting yourself in the case of a rear-end collision and lessening your chances of a neck injury. Every single client of mine would pay all the money in the world if they could just not have been injured in a crash. Don’t find out the hard way that a little prevention can help you for the rest of your life.

If you’ve been in a car accident and need a lawyer, we always provide free consultations. Call or email us today.

 

Why You Should Never Take Field Sobriety Tests

Arrested for a DUI but feel that you passed your field sobriety tests (FST)?

As a private DUI defense lawyer in Missoula, MT I can tell you that almost every DUI client I have had has thought that they have “passed” the field sobriety tests the police administered. Unfortunately, they were wrong. All of them. In this post, I’ll explain the three types of FSTs and why they’re designed to make you fail — even if you’re sober.

What Are Field Sobriety Tests?

FSTs, as we call them, are nationally recognized drills taught to all law enforcement officers capable of arresting someone for a DUI. These vary from state to state somewhat, but overall, the vast majority of the country uses 3 different drills.

The thing about these drills are that they are not pass-or-fail “tests” like you might think. Instead, I call them drills, because law enforcement is trained to put you into a scenario that is intended to make both sober and intoxicated people show “cues” of possible intoxication. No matter what you do on these drills, you can’t pass them. Similarly, you can’t really fail them – although falling over and being utterly unable to stand on your own feet is pretty close.

field sobriety test touch nose police officer

Police officers are supposed to judge these three drills and write down any “cues” that vary from their instructions.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Drill

The first test is called the HGN or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus drill. Nystagmus is the medical term for a jumping of the eye. The officers move a stimulus (often a pen, or just a finger) around in front of you. The officer is supposed to look for this jumping of the eye during the drill, because alcohol causes Nystagmus. Police don’t tell you that Nystagmus occurs naturally in people for at least 40 different reasons.

field sobriety test follow pen with your eyes

The other problem is, the test doesn’t really test amount of alcohol, just the presence of jumping that may or may not be caused by alcohol or drugs. If an officer is truthful, they would tell you that the more alcohol consumed, the greater the Nystagmus or jumping is in the eye. So why is there a drill that looks just for jumping, when police are trying tell the amount of alcohol consumed? These drills are intended to give law enforcement some subjective signs of alcohol intoxication – regardless of how flawed the drill is.

The Walk-and-Turn Drill

A second drill is called the Walk-and-Turn drill. This is also considered a “divided attention” drill. Divided attention means that an officer explains the instructions of the drill to you (usually really fast) and you are supposed to memorize the instructions perfectly AND perform the drill perfectly. The theory is if you are intoxicated you can’t listen, retain, and do the drill.

The problem is probably obvious: Even if you’re sober, it’s really hard to memorize rapid-fire instructions and do them perfectly. Plus, if you ask the officer to repeat the instructions, that’s a possible sign of intoxication. (The game seems rigged, right?)

So what do the cops tell you to do? Imagine this: You’ve just been pulled over and pulled out of your car. Cop lights are blaring overhead. An officer is accusing you of a DUI and asking you to place your right foot in front of your left foot, heel to toe, arms at your sides and hold that position. And that’s not even the actual drill! (Of course, if you break that stance, it’s a cue you’re drunk.)

field sobriety test walk the line 

Photo: Artondra Hall

Then the officer will point to a painted line (or ask you to create an imaginary line), then put one foot in front of the other, walk heel-to-toe, do not step off the line, keep your arms at your sides, and count out loud from one to nine as you take each step. After the ninth step, you’re supposed to pivot around your front foot, take short choppy steps, and then return to taking heel-to-toe steps back to the beginning with a total of nine return steps.

Got it? Do you remember every exact instruction from the beginning without going back for reference? Probably not. If you don’t remember them all, they will probably consider you intoxicated.

The One Leg Stand

field sobriety test stand on one leg

The third and usually final drill is referred to as the One Leg Stand. This is another divided attention drill.

After you have walked this line and realize you may be in some trouble, the officer will ask you to do this: Raise one foot (either one) off the ground at least 6 inches. Do not stop, don’t let your foot touch the ground, point the toes of the raised foot toward the ground, keep your arms at your side, keep your eyes on your raised foot, and count out loud from 1 to 30.

Give it a try. If you sway, lose your balance at all, raise your arms at all, hop, put your foot down, mis-count, fall, or do anything other than what was instructed, those are all cues you are drunk. Think it sounds easy? Go on YouTube and search people performing FSTs and see what you think.

Conclusion

The bottom line is, these drills are intended to make anyone look suspicious so an officer can request a breath test.

The drills basically let you know if you have good balance and attention. If the officer is doing her job, she’ll ask you first if you have any physical problems that would prevent you from doing the drills. (Officers are not supposed to perform the drills on someone with balance problems, knee problems, back problems, ankle problems, foot problems, etc.) The problem is that officers rarely explain to the subject the extent of the drills they expect them to do. So how is someone supposed to know if they have a physical condition that may prove problematic as to show “sober balance”?

So the next time someone accused of a DUI tells you that they “passed” the sobriety testing, you can open up a can of knowledge on them and tell them that they simply participated in drills intended to show anyone could be intoxicated. You can also tell them they had the right to refuse to perform the drills, but didn’t. Yeah, you can politely exercise your constitutional rights when an officer asks you to do any of this and say, “No, thank you” — and they can’t force you to do them. That’s what I recommend you do!

If you’ve been charged with a DUI, I can help, even if
you failed the field sobriety tests (as most people do!).

Call me for a free consultation at 406-721-3354 or toll free, 855-853-1482.

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