Posted On: October 31, 2006

Notify People Who May Be Responsible For Your Injuries

If you intend to file a claim for your injuries, it's important to notify potential defendants after the accident.

You don't have to know who was at fault for your accident; you must simply think about who might have been at fault. And in the beginning, you don't have to give the people involved, or their insurance companies, any detailed information about the accident or your injuries. All you have to do is notify them that there was an accident at a certain time and place, that you were injured, and that you intend to file a claim.
Determine Who Might Be Responsible

Before you can notify those responsible for an accident of your intention to file a claim, you must decide whom to notify. Notify all those who might be responsible. This usually depends on the type of accident in which you were involved. For example, in a vehicle accident you'll need to notify the drivers of all vehicles involved, the owners of the vehicles, the employers of the driver if the car was on company business, and your own insurance company -- and there may be others, depending on the circumstances each type of accident -- vehicle or slip and fall -- requires you to notify different sorts of people. For more about who to notify, see How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).
Write Notification Letters

Once you have determined those who might be responsible for your accident, your next step is to write letters telling each of them that the accident happened and that you were injured. You may need to send more than one letter -- for example, one letter to the business where you fell and another to the person who owns the property.

Write a letter of notification even if the others involved have assured you that they will notify their insurance companies. Your notification should be a simple, typed letter giving only basic information and asking for a written response. It should not discuss fault or responsibility, or the extent of your injuries; you will get to those things later on.

For detailed information about what to include in a letter of notification, and sample letters, see How to Win Your Personal Injury Claim, by Joseph Matthews (Nolo).
Don't Delay in Giving Notice

The important thing about giving others notice and starting your claim is to not delay too long. While you need not give notice within any specific number of days following an accident (except for claims against government entities), it is always best to start early, within the first couple of weeks after the accident.

Also note that filing a notice of an injury accident with people or agencies does not obligate you to file a claim against them. But if you do file a claim later, they will not be able to say that the claim has unfairly surprised them.

Posted On: October 22, 2006

Make Notes About Your Accident and Injuries

Writing down the details is far easier -- and more accurate -- than relying on your memory.

One of the first things you should do after you are injured is write down everything you can about your accident, including details of your injuries and their effect on your daily life. These notes can be very useful two or six or ten months later, when you put together all the important facts into a final demand for compensation. Having notes to remind you of the details of what happened, and what you went through, is both easier and more reliable than counting on your memory.

Get into the habit of taking notes on anything you think might possibly affect your claim and carry it through the entire claims process. Whenever you remember something you had not thought of before -- while you're in the shower, just before you fall asleep, as you're biting into a pastry -- write it down and put it with your other notes. Here are some specific things about which you should make notes.
The Accident

As soon as your head is clear enough, jot down everything you can remember about how the accident happened, beginning with what you were doing and where you were going, the people you were with, the time and weather. Include every detail of what you saw and heard and felt -- twists, blows, and shocks to your body immediately before, during, and right after the accident. Also include anything you remember hearing anyone -- a person involved in the accident or a witness -- say about the accident.
Your Injuries

In the first days following your accident, make daily notes of all pains and discomfort your injuries cause. You may suffer pain, discomfort, anxiety, loss of sleep, or other problems which are not as visible or serious as another injury but for which you should demand additional compensation. If you don't make specific note of them immediately, you may not remember exactly what to include in your demand for settlement weeks or months later. Also, taking notes will make it easier for you later to describe to an insurance company how much and what kind of pain and discomfort you were in.

In addition, writing down your different injuries may help your doctor diagnose you. For example, a relatively small bump on the head or snap of the neck may not seem worth mentioning, but it might help both the doctor and the insurance company understand why a bad back pain developed several weeks after the accident. Also, by telling the doctor or other medical provider about all of your injuries, those injuries become part of your medical records that will provide evidence later that such injuries were caused by the accident.
Economic or Other Losses

You may be entitled to compensation for economic loss and for family, social, educational, or other losses, as well as for pain and suffering. But you will need good documentation. Begin making notes immediately after the accident about anything you have lost because of the accident and your injuries: work hours, job opportunities, meetings, classes, events, family or social gatherings, vacation, or anything else which would have benefited you or which you would have enjoyed but were unable to do because of the accident.
Conversations

Make written notes of the date, time, people involved, and content of every conversation you have about your accident or your claim. In-person or telephone conversations worth noting may include those with any witness, adjuster, or other insurance representative, or with medical personnel.
Next Steps

You may want to return to the scene of the accident to take notes or pictures or locate and talk to witnesses who may help your case.

Posted On: October 18, 2006

How insurance can help protect a rental property business.

What's Below:


How can insurance help protect a rental property business?


A well-designed insurance policy can protect a landlord's rental property from losses caused by many perils, including fire, storms, burglary and vandalism. (Earthquake and flood insurance are typically separate.) A comprehensive policy will also include liability insurance, covering injuries or losses suffered by others as the result of defective conditions on the property. Equally important, liability insurance covers the cost (mostly lawyer's bills) of defending personal injury lawsuits.

Here are some tips on choosing insurance:



  • Purchase enough coverage to protect the value of the property and assets.
  • Be sure the policy covers not only physical injury but also libel, slander, discrimination, unlawful and retaliatory eviction and invasion of privacy suffered by tenants and guests.
  • Carry liability insurance on all vehicles used for business purposes, including the manager's car or truck if he or she will use it on the job.

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What does renter's insurance cover?


While tenants may not have as much at stake financially as property owners, they also need insurance -- especially tenants with expensive personal belongings. Tenant losses from fire or theft are not covered by the landlord's insurance.

The average renter's policy covers tenants against losses to their belongings occurring as a result of fire and theft, up to the amount stated on the face of the policy, such as $25,000 or $50,000.


Most renter policies include deductible amounts of $250 or $500. This means that if a tenant's apartment is burglarized, the insurance company will pay only for the amount of the loss over and above the deductible amount.


In addition to fire and theft, most renter's policies include personal liability coverage ($100,000 is a typical amount) for injuries or damage caused by the tenant -- for example, if a tenant's garden hose floods the neighbor's cactus garden, or a tenant's guest is injured on the rental property due to the tenant's negligence.


Renter's insurance is a package of several types of insurance designed to cover tenants for more than one risk. Each insurance company's package will be slightly different -- types of coverage offered, exclusions, the dollar amounts specified and the deductible will vary. Tenants who live in a flood or earthquake-prone area will need to pay extra for coverage. Policies covering flood and earthquake damage can be hard to find; tenants should shop around until they find the type of coverage that they need.


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Copyright 2004 Nolo

Posted On: October 9, 2006

Tenant Injuries: Landlord Liability and Insurance FAQ

Protect yourself from liability from tenant injuries.

What's Below:

When is a landlord liable for an injury to a tenant or visitor to the rental property?


How can landlords minimize financial losses related to repairs and maintenance?


How can insurance help protect a rental property business?


When is a landlord liable for an injury to a tenant or visitor to the rental property?

To be held responsible for an injury on the premises, the landlord or property manager must have been negligent in maintaining the property, and that negligence must have caused the injury. All of the following must be proven for a landlord to be held liable:



  • It was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the portion of premises that caused the accident.

  • The landlord failed to take reasonable steps to avert the accident.

  • Fixing the problem (or at least giving adequate warnings) would not have been unreasonably expensive or difficult.

  • A serious injury was the probable consequence of not fixing the problem (the accident was foreseeable).

  • The landlord's failure -- his negligence -- caused the tenant's accident.

  • The tenant was genuinely hurt.


For example, if a tenant falls and breaks his ankle on a broken front door step, the landlord will be liable if the tenant can show all of the following:



  • It was the landlord's responsibility to maintain the steps (this would usually be the case, because the steps are part of the common area, which is the landlord's responsibility).

  • The landlord failed to take reasonable measures to maintain the steps (for days or weeks, not if it had only been broken for minutes).

  • A repair would have been easy or inexpensive (fixing a broken step is a minor job).

  • The probable result of a broken step is a serious injury, and it was foreseeable (falling on a broken step is highly likely).

  • The broken step caused the injury (the tenant must be able to prove that he fell on the step and that the step is where he broke his ankle).

  • The tenant is really hurt (the tenant isn't faking it).


A tenant can file a personal injury lawsuit or claim against the landlord's insurance company for medical bills, lost earnings, pain and other physical suffering, permanent physical disability and disfigurement, and emotional distress. A tenant can also sue for damage to personal property, such as a stereo or car, that results from faulty maintenance or unsafe conditions.


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How can landlords minimize financial losses related to repairs and maintenance?



You can avoid many problems by maintaining the property in excellent condition. Here's how:



  • Use a written checklist to inspect the premises and fix any problems before new tenants move in.

  • Encourage tenants to immediately report safety or security problems such as plumbing, heating, broken doors or steps -- whether in the tenant's unit or in common areas such as hallways and parking garages.

  • Keep a written log of all tenant complaints and repair requests with details as to how and when problems were fixed.

  • Handle urgent repairs as soon as possible -- take care of any safety issues within 24 hours. Keep tenants informed as to when and how the repairs will be made.

  • Twice a year, give tenants a checklist on which to report potential safety hazards or maintenance problems that might have been overlooked. Use the same checklist to personally inspect all rental units once a year.


Also, your commitment to repair and maintenance procedures should be clearly set out in the lease or rental agreement.


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How can insurance help protect a rental property business?

A well-designed property insurance policy can protect a landlord's rental property from losses caused by many perils, including fire, storms, burglary, and vandalism. (Earthquake and flood insurance are typically insured under separate policies.)


A comprehensive general liability ("CGL") policy provides liability insurance, covering injuries or losses suffered by others as the result of defective conditions on the property. Equally important, liability insurance covers the cost (mostly lawyers' bills) of defending personal injury lawsuits.


Here are some tips on choosing insurance:



  • Purchase enough coverage to protect the value of the property and assets.

  • Be sure the policy covers not only physical injury but also libel, slander, discrimination, unlawful and retaliatory eviction, and invasion of privacy suffered by tenants and guests.

  • Carry liability insurance on all vehicles used for business purposes, including the manager's car or truck if it's used on the job.


If you need more information,

The Legal Guide for Starting & Running a Small Business, by Fred S. Steingold (Nolo), contains a detailed discussion of small business law, including how to insure your rental property.


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Posted On: October 7, 2006

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Posted On: October 3, 2006

How Dog Owners Can Avoid Being Bitten by a Lawsuit

If you've got a dog, take some simple steps to prevent injuries -- and legal headaches.

The numbers are up, and it's not good news: Dogs bite 4.7 million people every year.

The explanations are nearly as numerous as the pet dogs, now counted at more than 62 million. Some speculate that Americans, frightened of crime, are favoring fiercer breeds. And busy owners too often leave their pets home alone, untrained and unsocialized. Dogs that spend a lot of time by themselves (especially if they're tied up), aren't used to being around strangers and haven't received basic obedience training, are prime candidates to bite.
Who's Liable?

Those injured usually have the law on their side. In the old days, the law gave dog owners what was called "one free bite." Put simply, an owner wasn't liable for injuries unless the dog had already shown it was likely to hurt someone. The dog didn't actually have to have bitten someone -- for example, if your dog lunged at the neighbor, teeth bared, you were considered to be on notice that the dog might bite.

But most states now make owners liable for any harm their dog causes, whether or not the owner had reason to suspect that the dog was dangerous. Dog owners can find themselves on the hook for an injured person's medical expenses and lost wages, or even the therapy bills of a traumatized child. The dog owner may not be liable if the dog was provoked, or if the injured person was trespassing, but claims like these are often very hard to prove after the fact.

It's far better, of course, to avoid injuries rather than fight about legal liability after they happen. And the truth is that dog owners could prevent most bites.
Teach Your Dog

It's your job, as an owner, to train and socialize your dog. Humane societies everywhere offer low-cost basic obedience classes, which are a good way to teach your dog to behave around other dogs and people. And plenty of good tips are available in books such as How to Be Your Dog's Best Friend and The Art of Raising a Puppy, by the Monks of New Skete.

It's also up to you, as a responsible pet owner, to spay or neuter your dog. It will cut down not only on the number of unwanted dogs, but also on injuries to people. Unsterilized dogs are three times more likely to bite, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Sterilization will also make it easier to keep your dog from straying.

Here are some other simple steps to take.

Never let a dog run at large. In some states, you're automatically liable for any injury your dog causes while at large.

Keep your dog's vaccinations current. Rabies vaccinations are required by law. If your dog bites someone, the authorities, not to mention the victim, will view it a lot more seriously if the dog hasn't had a recent rabies shot.

Keep the dog out of strangers' paths. Lots of people -- mail carriers, salespeople, poll-takers, girl scouts -- routinely come to your front door. Keep the dog away from it. A fenced front yard isn't good enough; most people will open a gate and walk on up to the door.

Post warning signs. If you have any reason to think that your dog might injure someone coming onto your property, post "Beware of Dog" signs prominently. But remember that young children can't read. If you think children might still be at risk, put a lock on the gate.
Teach Your Children

Children are much more likely to be bitten than are adults, and boys are more likely to be bitten than girls. In large part, these injuries occur because the children have never been taught how to behave around dogs. All kids should know these basic rules:

* Don't pet a dog without letting the dog sniff you first.
* Never disturb a dog that's eating, sleeping or caring for puppies.
* Don't run from a dog.
* Try not to make eye contact with a dog; it can be threatening to a dog.

Finally, don't assume that familiarity breeds safety. Many children are bitten by dogs they are familiar with, on the dog's home turf. Children may take more chances with a dog they know, and a dog is more protective in its own home.

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