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June 16, 2014

Automobile Recalls at an All Time High in 2014

Since February of this year, Toyota Motor Corporation and General Motors Corporation have both announced vehicle recalls and have admitted to a blatant neglect towards consumer welfare and safety concerns. 2014 will most likely result in a rash of recalls and set tally records on safety related recalls in a single year.

The criteria for recalls has shifted, it use to be a compliance with laws or whether there were technical problems with a vehicle, but it has now shifted to whether the products can assure customers safety and peace of mind.

Toyota Motor Corp. has been one of the companies with the greatest recall in the recent years. In early June of 2014, Toyota Motor Corp agreed to pay a record $1.2 billion fine to U.S. Regulators to settle a criminal investigation into their unintended acceleration tied to defective floor mats and "sticky pedals" on some of their models. The "sticky pedals" problem was linked to 37 deaths worldwide.

In regards to, General Motors Corp., they too had issues with recalls. In their case it was disclosed that between 2003 and 2011 there were 2.6 million cars that had faulty ignition switches that ultimately led to 13 deaths. It became apparent that the ignitions would unexpectedly switch to accessory mode and shut off the engines, which then disabled the airbags and the power steering, on some of their vehicles. GM has since issued 29 other recalls of 15.8 million cars and trucks.

However; advances in automobile technology have made vehicles today safer than they were 15, 10, even five years ago, according to the Insurance Institute of Highway Safety.

Regardless, if your vehicle has a recall, it is at no expense to you. The cost to fix your vehicles' problem is on the manufacturer. So, if your vehicle has a recall, simply take your vehicle to your dealership and they will be responsible for the recall and the costs towards fixing whatever needs to be fixed.

Also, not all recalls are safety related and not all recalls affect every vehicle that fits the criteria for the recall. Some problems are environmental. For example, tires can fail for a number of reasons that could include salt on the road, which is normal during Midwestern winters but not likely in the South.

In order to see if your vehicle has been recalled for any reason you can go to the manufacturer's website or to Edmunds.com and search under car recalls. You can and may also want to contact your dealer or check at NHTSA.gov under recalls and defects.

April 29, 2014

2014 List of Top 10 Vehicles that Cause the Most Property Damage

Insure.com recently released the 2014 list of vehicles that cause the most property damage when involved in automobile accidents. The list is mainly comprised of pickup trucks and SUV's. Vehicles that tend to weigh more than passenger vehicles. The vehicles on the list tend to generate the biggest property damage claims and therefore; carry the heftiest liability insurance bills of the more that 750 2014 model year vehicles analyzed by Insure.com in its annual car insurance comparison study.

The top 10 vehicles considered to carry the biggest liability bills and therefore are likely to cause the most property damage are:
1) Ford F-250
2) GMC Sierra 2500
3) Ford F-350
4) Ram 1500
5) Infiniti QX80
6) Dodge Durango
7) Toyota Tundra
8) Jeep Grand Cherokee
9) Cadillac Escalade
10) Chevrolet Silverado 1500

The property damage liability portion of a persons' automobile insurance policy is generally a reflection of claims made against other owners of the same kind of vehicle. Property damage liability coverage pays when you damage someone else's car or property. Most drivers carry much lower limits on property damage liability than for bodily injury, that way their insurance premiums can be lower/smaller.

Regardless of the vehicle you own, premiums can and do differ from state to state and vehicle to vehicle. The common element however, is that the vehicles that cause the biggest property damage are vehicles with bumpers that do not match up with the bumpers found on sedan, coupes or passenger cars.

It is the height difference in bumpers between vehicles that cause the greatest damage. The federal government sets minimum bumper performance requirements for passenger vehicles, but those regulations do not apply to vans, SUV's or pickup trucks. Hence, SUV's , vans and pickup trucks have bumpers that are anywhere between 20-26 inches higher from the ground then passenger vehicles. Passenger vehicles are usually only 16-20 inches higher than the ground. This means that when trucks and SUV's collide with passenger vehicles, their bumpers can no right past each other, and depending on the force of the impact, can bypass the bumpers and go directly into the body of the vehicle and therefore; cause greater damage. Sometimes, bumpers overlap or even slide off each other, instead of becoming engaged, and therefore the result is extensive vehicle body damage.

October 3, 2012

Older Driver Safety in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia

According to the Associated Press, older drivers are on the road more than ever before. Nearly 34 million drivers are 65 or older. By 2030, deferral estimates show there will be about 57 million, making up about a quarter of all licensed drivers.

Older drivers have the highest rate of deadly crashes per mile even though they don't drive as often as younger drivers. Measured by miles driven, older drivers crash rates begin to rise in their 70s and even more in their 80s, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Health Issues can also impair older drivers. Health issues such as: arthritis and dementia, slower reflexes and they also use multiple medications, which can impair their driving. On average, about 60% of seniors voluntarily cut back their driving. Most avoid driving at night, on interstates and during bad weather. Older drivers seem to have more difficulty with intersections, making left turns, and changing lanes and/or merging. This is due to their gradual decline in vision and reaction times that come with aging.

In the District of Columbia seniors are required to have more vision tests, are required to renew their licenses more often than younger drivers and starting at the age of 70, older drivers must submit a doctor's certification that they are healthy enough to drive every time they renew their licenses. In Maryland, the Motor Vehicle Administration requires all people, starting at the age of 40, to take eye exams, and in Virginia, starting at the age of 80, drivers must renew their license in person and also pass an eye exam.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration proposed a national guideline for older driver safety earlier this summer. The proposal recommends that every state needs a program to improve older driver safety, doctors should be protected from lawsuits id they report a possibly unsafe driver and driver's licenses should be renewed in person after a certain age. These recommendations would push states to become more consistent and have safer roads.

August 23, 2012

New Laws Implemented for Scooter and Moped Riders in Maryland

As of October 1, 2012 all Scooter and Moped Riders will have to follow new laws being implemented in the state of Maryland. The new law going into effect will require all motor scooters and mopeds to be titled and insured, and all operators and passengers of scooters and mopeds must wear helmets and eye protection at all times.

Since the new law requires all scooters and mopeds to be insured, they must be insured with at least the minimum vehicle liability insurance for the state of Maryland. Riders must also, at all times, carry their proof of insurance whenever operating their scooters and/or mopeds.

Further titling information will be available through the Motor Vehicle Administrations (MVA) website starting October 1, 2012.

Maryland law enforcement officers have received training regarding the new laws going into effect and therefore, Scooter and Moped drivers should expect to be stopped and/or issued citations and/or warnings if they violate the new law, as of October 1, 2012.

For more information, please visit the mva website at http://www.mva.maryland.gov/

June 26, 2012

How to Tell if a Traffic Ticket Will Raise Your Insurance Rates

Here are three things that must happen in order for an automobile insurance company to raise your rates, once you have been issued a traffic ticket/citation:

1) The ticket must show up on your motor vehicle record (MVR);
2) Your state must allow insurance companies to penalize you for the violation, and
3) Your Insurance company must consider the violation a risk factor

Automobile insurance companies won't consider traffic violations/tickets that do not appear on your MVR. MVR's usually only reflect moving violations that endanger lives or property. Such violations include: running red lights, changing lanes without caution, speeding, DUI/DWI, reckless driving, etc..

If the violation appears on your MVR and your automobile insurance company finds out about it, your rates usually increase about 5% for the first ticket, but if you have various violations on your MVR, then your rates could go up about 20% or more. Multiple violations reveal a pattern of bad decisions and behavior as a driver and make you a higher risk to your automobile insurance company.

June 5, 2012

Dangerous Vehicles on the Road

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The following vehicles have been determined to be the most dangerous vehicles on the road, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS):

1) Dodge Ram 1500; score 2/5; bad ratings: side collisions and rollover

2) Colorado Crew Cab; score 3/5; bad ratings: side collisions, rollover & rear end
collisions

3) Mazda CX-7; score 4/5; bad ratings: rollover and rear end collisions

4) Mazda CX-9; score 4/5; bad ratings: rollover and rear end collisions

5) Nissan Pathfinder; score 3/5; bad ratings: rollover and rear end collisions

6) Jeep Wrangler; score 3/5; bad ratings: side collisions and rear end collisions

7) Suzuki SX4; score 2/5; bad ratings: rollover and rear end collisions


These vehicles were deemed the most dangerous based on 4 rating categories of the IIHS tests. The categories were: (1) a front crash test where a vehicle travels at 40 mph and hits a barrier head on; (2) a side-impact crash test where an SUV type vehicle strikes the driver side of the testing vehicle at a speed of 30 mph; (3) rollover crash testing where the vehicle is hit by metal plates on the corners to determine force capacity before the vehicle rolls over; and (4) a rear-end crash test where seats and seat belts are tested for protection against whiplash and other head and neck injuries.

Consumer Reports and crash safety ratings performed by the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the JD Power's Initial Quality reports were also used to analyze the vehicles performance.

March 14, 2011

What is the Real Cost of Health Care Fraud?

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The National Health Care Anti-Fraud Association (NHCAA) defines health care fraud as an intentional deception or misrepresentation that the individual or entity makes knowing that the misrepresentation could result in some unauthorized benefit to the individual, or the entity or to some other party.

In the United States, it is estimated that almost $226 billion a year are spent on health care fraud. That is 10% of the nation's health care expenditure. Therefore; consumers have higher premiums and out-of-pocket expenses, also reduced benefits and coverage. As for employers, they have increases in the cost of providing insurance benefits to their employees, as well as increasing the overall cost of doing business.

The Coalition Against Insurance Fraud claims that two out of five Americans want little or no punishment for insurance cheats. Consumers blame the insurance industry for its fraud problems because they believe insurers are unfair.
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The Journal of the American Medical Association, claims that almost one-third of doctors exaggerate the severity of a patient's illness to help the patient avoid early discharges from a hospital.

Categories of Fraud:
- Hard Fraud - this occurs when someone purposely plans or invents a loss. For example: staged automobile accidents. The "victim" obtains an attorney, who in turn refers the victim to a physician. The physician then submits charges to the insurance carrier and refers the victim for additional physical therapy. The physical therapy physician then also submits charges to the insurance carrier.
- Soft Fraud - this occurs when policy holders exaggerate a legitimate claim. For example: receiving treatment for a slip and fall accident on 2/1 and submitting that claim to insurance carrier and then changing that same service charge to 2/4 and resubmitting the claim.

The most common fraudulent acts are:
- The billing of late charges by a hospital
- False durable medical equipment claims (DME)
- Behavioral health fraud
- Medical identity theft
- Billing for services, procedures and/or supplies that were never provided or performed
- The condition treated or the diagnosis made
- The charges for services, procedures and/or supplies provided or performed
- The deliberate performance of medically unnecessary services for the purpose of financial gain

The cost of insurance fraud is factored in to the premiums we all pay. In order to lower these premiums, the laws against health care fraud must be tougher. Penalties must be instituted by both federal and state governments. As of the year 2010, only 40 state fraud bureaus exist. In order for health care fraud to be less common and less costly for each citizen in general, each state should have a fraud bureau. It is easier to prevent fraud than to recover payments once they have been made.

We, as consumers, can also do our part to lower health care fraud. We must never sign a blank insurance form. We must comprehend all claim forms we complete. We must request detail bills, or HICFA/UB 92 billing statements and we must always keep our insurance information confidential.

If you need to report health care fraud, please call your insurance company immediately. Also, contact your state insurance fraud bureau and file a complaint with the State Medical board.

December 27, 2010

If Google Cars Drive Themselves, Who Would You Sue?

Google-Car-auto-toyota-prius.jpgGoogle has developed a new car called the "Google Car". It is a Toyota Prius that is equipped with software that allows it to drive itself. The Google cars use video cameras, installed on the roof, radar sensors and laser range finders to travel through traffic on its own. These cars also navigate the road by using detailed maps. According to Sebastian Thrun, a Google software engineer, "Our automated cars use... Google's data centers, which can process the enormous amounts of information gathered by our cars when mapping their terrain."

The Google car was made with the intention to help prevent traffic accidents, free people's time, reduce distracted driving and drunk driving, and reduce carbon emissions. So far, the Google Car, has traveled about 140,000 miles and has only been involved in one traffic accident, a rear-end.

Google has yet to determine when these Google Cars will be available to the general public, but when they are, a question arises, if there is an accident, who would you sue?. The current statutes and case law in the United States were written for cars with human drivers, in order to determine the liability in an automobile accident. Therefore; once these Google Cars are put out on the market, laws would need to change.
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There are three factors that could determine liability in case of an automobile accident:

1) Google - the author of the software used by the Google Car;
2) Toyota - the current and only car Manufacturer of the Google Car; and
3) The Owner of the vehicle.

Liability would be determined on the type of accident and could have one or more of these parties at fault. The legal process would examine who is at fault. For example, was it a software issue or a mechanical failure? A software issue would be if the program made the wrong decision and caused a crash, and a mechanical failure would be if a part used to build the Google car was defective or malfunctioned.

All in all, the Goggle Car was created to make driving and roadways safer. In 2008, the NHTSA reported that there were 37,261 automobile fatalities. Lets hope that if and when the Google Car is put on the market it will lower the yearly number of deaths in the United States.

December 6, 2010

Drugged Drivers Increase Fatal Car Accidents Nationwide

Out of the 21,798 drivers who were killed in motor vehicle accidents in the United States in 2009, 63 percent of them were tested positive for drugs, and according to a National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) report, 18 percent of them tested positive for drugs.

Drug data was collected Nationwide and analyzed by the NHTSA as part of a Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). The types of drugs reported were over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs and illicit drugs as well.

Previous reports by the NHTSA have shown that alcohol and drowsiness are some of the leading causes of fatal traffic accidents, but this new report will begin to explore the role that legal and illegal drug use play in accidents. This report has shown that drug involvement in fatal motor vehicle accidents is indeed increasing nationwide. This report will pave the way for more research and could ultimately lead to the establishment of standardized testing methods that would look into drug involvement and fatal accidents.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has also published various reports that offer a look at roadway risks and show ways that lives can be saved. One IIHS report estimates that 7,440 driver deaths could have been prevented had blood-alcohol content levels been below .08%. The report also states that ignition interlock systems are one way to fight the problem of blood alcohol.

The ultimate solution would be that if you are impaired, whether it be from drowsiness, lack of sleep, alcohol use or legal or illegal drugs, it is best to not get behind the wheel and let someone else drive. Do not put yourself or others at risk of an accident and/or an untimely death. Common sense and caution need to be put at the forefront of your decision making and you need to give your keys to someone else. If you are impaired, Do not drive!

November 30, 2010

What States Have the Safest Roadways in the U.S.?

The Emergency Nurses Association (ENA) released a report in early October 2010 that shows that the two safest roadways are in Washington and Oregon, according to their 2010 ENA National Scorecard of State Roadway Laws. The District of Columbia has a score of 12, Maryland a score of 11 and Virginia a score of 9.

The 2010 ENA National Scorecard ranks states based on 14 types of legislation that address such things as seat belt use, motorcycle helmet requirements, devices to prevent drunk driving and cell phone use laws. States receive one point for each type of legislation they currently have. Oregon and Washington both had a score of 14, making them the safest roadways to travel in the United States.

Date collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that someone dies in a car crash in the US every 12 minutes and someone is injured, taken to and treated in an emergency department for injuries as a result of an automobile accident every 10 seconds. These injuries and deaths are preventable through roadways laws and enforcement of these safety laws, it is the passing of these safety laws that save lives.

Twenty six states and the District of Columbia have passed or enacted laws that prevent the entering, sending, reading or otherwise retrieving data for all drivers using wireless communication devices (i.e.: cell phones). 5,474 people died in 2009 as a result of distraction-related automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Safety and Transportation Administration (NHSTA). This means that 18% of annual fatalities are a result of distracted drivers nationwide.

To view the full 2010 ENA National Scorecard and State Roadway Laws report please visit www.ena.org.

October 25, 2010

5 Tips to Keep Teen Drivers Safe

5 Tips to keeping teen drivers safe while driving:
Safe Teen Driving.jpg
1. Buckle up - make sure a seat belt is worn at all times when behind the wheel. The AAA-Mid Atlantic has done extensive research and has proven that when a lap and/or shoulder belt is used it reduces your risk of being involved in a fatal traffic accident by 45%.

2. Passenger Limit - the fewer passengers in a vehicle the more attentive the teen driver will be while driving. The fewer passengers in a vehicle the fewer distractions the teen driver has and the safer he/she will drive.


3. Maintain Speed Limit - speed limits are determined by road conditions and teen drivers must know to obey the posted speed limits, especially during inclement weather conditions.

4. Do not use cell phone while driving - In the state of Maryland, it is now illegal for anyone under the age of 18 with a provisional driver's license to talk on a cell phone while driving. MD, DC and VA also have strict laws on texting while driving. Therefore, it is best to just have the teen driver not use a cell phone for any purposes while driving; and

5. Do Not allow Driving at night - Studies by the AAA-Mid Atlantic and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show that the most dangerous time for new drivers to be on the road is at night. Therefore do not allow your teen to drive at night unless its an emergency.

October 19, 2010

Involved in a Hit and Run Accident: Here is What You Need to Do

A hit and run accident is when you are involved in an automobile accident and one of the parties involved leaves the scene. This can leave you shaken and upset.
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Hit and run accidents have been on the rise for the last 10 years. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), reports that over 10% of all automobile accidents are hit and run accidents. There are numerous reasons why a person would leave the scene of an accident, but the two most common reasons are: being uninsured and being under the influence of alcohol of drugs.

Here are a few tips in case you are a victim of a hit and run accident:
- Assess your physical well-being as well as any other person involved;
- Call the police and report the accident;
- Write down any information you remember about the vehicle that left the scene;
- Identify any witnesses and obtain contact information from them, so you can contact them at a later time; and
- Call the Ambulance, if necessarily

If you are injured as a result of the hit and run accident it is important to seek emergency medical care. You will also need to contact you insurance company and report the accident. You will need to handle your property damage directly with your insurance company. You will also need to make sure that you have under-insured or un-insured coverage under your own person automotive insurance policy. You may find all this a bit much to handle, and if you do you will need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to assist you in dealing with the insurance company on your behalf.

October 6, 2010

Are Women Drivers Favored by Car Insurance Companies in the U.S.?

In 1959, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) was founded with the sole purpose of researching date to find out causes and preventive methods for motor vehicle accidents. IIHS is funded by auto insurers to help them gauge risk using three common factors of operating an automobile. The three factors are: human influence, vehicle influence and environmental influence.
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IIHS published gender reports in 2008 that found that more men die each year in automobile accidents than women. The report stated that men typically engage in much riskier driving practices than women. Some of these practices include:
- less seat belt usage
- driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, controlled and prescription drugs were included
- driving at higher rates of speed and above the posted speed limits

Also, in the 2008 gender report, were statistics that showed that when male drivers are involved in car accidents, the results are more often death. The report showed the following statistics:
- 71 % of all motor vehicle deaths were males
- 70 % of pedestrian deaths were cause by male drivers
- 87% of bicyclist deaths involved men drivers and
- 91 % of motorcycle deaths were male drivers

Gender, cell phone use, and zip codes are some of the factors used to determine automobile insurance premiums. Automobile insurance companies are for-profit industries; this means that all automobile insurance companies are in business to make a profit. The formula for profit includes an analysis of risk management.

Insurance rates are also determined by your driving record, the type of vehicle involved, how the vehicle will be used and your credit score. Since women seem to have better driving records, drive smaller and non-racing vehicles, use vehicles for work more than for pleasure and have better credit scores, it seems that women get lower premium rates.

September 27, 2010

One Third of Homeowner Insurance Liability Claims are Dog Bite Lawsuits

Dog Bite Law Suits.jpgIn 2009, $412 million was spent on dog bite lawsuits, a 6.4% increase from 2008. This figure averages out to about $24,840 per claim, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

Insurance coverage for dog bite claims provide compensation for injuries associated with animal attacks, such as medical expenses, lost wages, permanent scarring and pain and suffering.

In the United States alone, about 4.5 million dog attacks are reported each year. The majority of these incidents are not reported. Most people affected are postal workers and delivery people.
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Here are some steps recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the I.I.I. to prevent your dog from biting someone:

- Dog owners should consult with a veterinarian about suitable breeds for their home and neighborhood.

- Prospective owners should spend time with a dog before buying or adopting it and should make sure that the dog is not aggressive towards infants and/or toddlers.

- Have your dog spayed or neutered.

- Make sure children do not disturb the dog while eating or sleeping, and never leave a child alone with the dog.

- Socialize your dog so that it knows how to behave around other people and animals.

- Play non-aggressive games with your dog. For example: fetching the ball, as opposed to tug-of-war.

June 23, 2010

Physhield Insurance Exchange, a Risk Retention Group, Approved in Maryland

Physician Pic.jpgPhyshield Insurance Exchange, a risk retention group (RRG), has been approved in Maryland, to write medical professional liability insurance policies. Physhield now has the authority to operate as a liability insurer in Maryland, as well as other states, such as Florida, Texas and Nevada. According to Robert Trinka, Chief Executive of Phyhealth (an affiliate of Physhield) says that Physhield can also write policies in Washington, D.C.

This RRG will insure large, single speciality or multispeciality doctors groups that have more than $500,000 a year in premiums. The insurance will be sold through the sales force and Internet site of Maryland-based Palumbo Insurance Associates, a full service commercial insurance agency in Maryland.

Physhield's business model is to bring together groups of local physicians who will form a delivery network, and be the primary owners of the groups HMO license. They will develop and market HMO products for their community of patients. This is the doctors that Physhield will offer medical professional liability insurance to. It is these physicians that have the financial responsibility over the care that is delivered, and therefore, have a great deal of control over their own liability insurance situation.

Putting physicians in control of the care and the liability, results in more effective medicine practices. With more control come greater responsibilities, and these Physicians are held liable for the treatment and services they render.