Posts Tagged ‘negligence’

UMmmm . . . SUM Auto Insurance Policies are Better Than Others

April 24th, 2012 Comments off

One of the least understood and, therefore, overlooked options for automobile insurance is the one that provides uninsured and underinsured liability coverage.  It is listed on the policy declarations page under the heading “UM/SUM.”

Uninsured Motorist coverage “UM” is mandated by New York State.  It protects the driver and passengers of a vehicle who are injured by uninsured negligent drivers.  Each car insured in New York State must have, at minimum, the basic “$25K/$50K” coverage.  That is, a maximum of $25,000.00 per injured person and a maximum of $50,000.00 to be divided among all injured persons.

Confused?  Here’s how it works.  If a thrice-convicted drunk driver forgets to pay his auto insurance premium and kills a forty-year-old father of four by rear ending him into a concrete divider, the man’s wife can recover $25,000.00 from his own insurance company under his basic UM coverage.

However, if one of his children is also in the car suffers a head injury and is permanently brain damaged, he too can recover $25,000.00.

But if a second child is in the backseat and sustains bilateral comminuted “tib/fib” fractures, his wife and the two children will split $50,000.00.  And not a dime more.

“Wow,” you might wonder, “how can this family be financially protected from such an unfathomable tragedy?”  That’s where “Supplemental Underinsured Motorist” coverage helps.  If Dad has a $300K/$500K liability policy with DoRight Insurance Company, he can purchase SUM coverage up to the same amount as his liability coverage.  Then if the driver has no insurance or a policy with lower liability coverage, his own insurance company will indemnify him for the difference between the two policies.  So, if Dad was alone in the car, his wife could recover $275,000.00 from DoRight.  And if two or more people were in the vehicle, they will split $450,000.00 between them.

Purchasing UM/SUM coverage for the same limits as your liability insurance makes sense.  It’s the only way to protect yourself against uninsured and underinsured drivers.  And who wouldn’t want to protect himself and his loved ones as much as he protects a stranger?  Besides UM/SUM coverage is cheaper than a ten-dollar whore at a French seaport and UM/SUM claims are not “charged against” the owner’s policy.

So . . . why doesn’t every owner buy the maximum coverage?  There are several reasons:

(1)        IGNORANCE.  Many people just don’t understand how automobile insurance works.

(2)        STUPIDITY.  Some drivers ignore the advice of well-informed and well-intentioned insurance brokers (most are in this category) who recommend that they purchase the maximum UM/SUM.

(3)        AVARICE.  A few sleazy insurance brokers know that there is little profit to be made selling UM/SUM coverage and try to lure customers by selling policies with the cheapest premiums.

(4)        SLOTH.  A few other brokers are too lazy to bother scrutinizing the policy or explaining to the customer how SUM works and why it is so important.

Don’t fall victim to one of these sins.  Examine your insurance policy.  If you have the maximum UM/SUM coverage, pat yourself on the back, praise your insurance broker or thank your lucky stars. If you don’t have the coverage, wake up, get smart and find a good broker.

What happens if the mailman slips on snow and ice on your property?

January 28th, 2011 Comments off

In New York, property owners owe a duty of care to remove dangerous snow and ice conditions on their property.   If snow or ice exists on a person’s property, they could be liable for a slip and fall if they were negligent in failing to remove the snow or ice.  Negligence can be defined as: acting, or failing to act, in a reasonable manner to prevent foreseeable risks of harm to persons. 

So what constitutes acting in a “reasonable manner” when it comes to the removal of snow and ice?  Firstly, it depends on how long the snow and ice condition existed.  Under the “storm in progress” doctrine, a property owner is not required to clear snow and ice until a reasonable time after the storm ceases.   Further, as with any dangerous condition on property, a landowner is only liable if they were on notice of the condition- either actual or constructive notice.  Constructive notice will be found where a condition had existed for such a long period of time that the property owner, in the exercise of due care, should have recognized it and remedied the condition.   In New York, there is no bright-line rule for how long an icy condition must exist in order to constitute constructive notice.  In New York City, the Administrative Code Section 16-123 gives property owners four hours after a storm ceases within which to clear any dangerous snow or icy condition and until 11:00 a.m. where the storm occurs overnight.

Secondly, the reasonableness of a property owner’s actions or inactions will be judged by the methods employed for the removal of the snow and ice.  Juries have repeatedly weighed factors such as whether the property owner threw down salt, ice melt and/or sand and whether they used shovels, ice picks or a snow thrower in determining whether an accident was the result of a property owner’s negligence or simply an unavoidble hazard caused by  nature.