Doubtful and Disputed Claim…Should I Sign A Waiver?

Doubtful and disputed claim waiver? What does that mean? Personal injury Attorney Ben Schwartz answers the question below.

Doubtful and Disputed Claim…Should I Sign A Waiver?

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we are going to answer a viewer question from Sherry in Wilmington, Delaware. Sherry wrote in she said, “The at-fault drivers’ insurance company, in my car accident case, is offering to settle my case, but they want me to sign a waiver stating that my claim is a doubtful and disputed claim. What does that mean and should I not sign that piece of paper?”

Sherry what they are asking you to do is to sign a general release and basically, by signing that general release, you are agreeing that you will never make any further claim. You will not file a lawsuit.

Typically, in releases, it will say specifically that your claim is  “doubtful and disputed.” A lot of people see that language and they say, well that is not a doubtful or disputed claim, I am making a legitimate claim, that is why the insurance company is offering to pay a settlement. And that is true, but what you have to understand is that in personal injury cases, the insurance company is stepping-in and clearing up the dispute on behalf of the individual or the company that they insure. For example, if you’re rear-ended at a stop light by a drunk driver, that drunk driver is not paying you out of pocket to settle the claim. That drunk drivers’ insurance company is stepping-up to the plate and paying the settlement in order to prevent you from suing that drunk driver and going against him or her personally.

When you have a situation where essentially an insurance company is stepping-in to settle something, they do not want to do anything that could be seen as binding on their insured. They cannot step-in and speak for that drunk driver and say, I am sorry I hit you, it is a legitimate claim and I am paying money. They do not have the authority to do that. They are just the insurance company stepping in to try and settle the claim to prevent the case from going any farther. What they do is they include in the release, language that indicates that by paying you money they are not agreeing that you had a legitimate claim, they are not in effect taking it upon themselves to apologize for what their driver did; that is not their place. Their place is just to pay the settlement and close out the claim and resolve the litigation, or resolve the dispute, before it becomes litigation. When you see that language, what it really means is, we are just getting this settled so it does not go any farther. That might not be very satisfying if you have been seriously injured as a result of the negligence of another driver or the negligence of some other at-fault party, but that is what that language means.

If you have had a personal injury case and you are dealing with the insurance company and you are about to settle the claim and you would like us to review the release (or) review the case, make sure that the insurance company is not taking advantage of you, send me an email below. I can set it up so that you can sit down with an attorney, a personal injury attorney in my firm in the area where your accident happened. If it happened in Maryland, you can sit down with one of our Maryland attorneys. If it happened in Pennsylvania, you can sit down with one of our Pennsylvania attorneys. If it happened in Delaware, you can meet with one of our Delaware attorneys. We will review the case for you. We will talk to you about what the reasonable settlement amount might be. We can review the documentation, like the release, and make sure you are not signing something that is totally unfair to you or that really benefits the insurance company at great cost to you. I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz, it was a great question. If you have a question that you would like me to answer in video format, send me an email below.

Doubtful and Disputed Claim…Should I Sign A Waiver?

Office Locations - Personal Injury Lawyer

Click or Call 1-855-TIP-THE-SCALES

We have offices conveniently located to provide expert legal representation in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Dover, DelawareWilmington, DelawareHavertown, PennsylvaniaSalisbury, Maryland
Dover, Delaware
(302) 678-8700
1140 & 1126 South State Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Wilmington, Delaware
(302) 654-4930
1525 Delaware Ave.
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(610) 853-4888
850 West Chester Pike Suite 205
Havertown, Pennsylvania 19083
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Salisbury, Maryland
(410) 546-6415
Suite 500-A, 100 East Main Street
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map

In a hurry? Send us a quick Email.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Telephone (required)

Subject

Your Message

Email Disclaimer

Facebook Message Schwartz Lawyers

McDonald’s + Hot Coffee = $2.7M? Attorney Rob Collins breaks down this famous case.

Personal Injury Lawyer Rob Collins breaks down the famous McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit. McDonald’s + Hot Coffee = $2.7M?

McDonald’s + Hot Coffee = $2.7M? Attorney Rob Collins breaks down this famous case.

Hi, I’m Attorney Rob Collins at Schwartz & Schwartz,

I was talking to some people on staff here recently at Schwartz & Schwartz and the famous McDonald’s coffee case came up. This is a case that anyone probably who has been alive in the last 20 years has heard of. It has actually been used as an example of why tort reform needs to be passed and why the jury system is broken. There are all types of myths around this case and I thought this would be a good opportunity to actually clarify some things. When this case came out, the media covered a very small slice of the case; they did not really explain the facts. They did not explain what happened after the trial and so I am going to give you some of the basics. There is an excellent documentary on HBO called Hot Coffee (86% on Rotten Tomatoes as of 2/12/2018) and I strongly recommend you watch it if this (case) interests you at all, it really gets into the details of the case.

Back in 1992, there was a 72 year old lady named Stella Liebeck. She was a passenger in her nephew’s vehicle. He was driving, she was not, and he stopped so that she could take the lid off of her coffee to put cream and sugar in. They had just gotten coffee at McDonald’s when she went to remove the lid and spilled the entire cup of coffee between her legs. She was wearing sweatpants at the time and the coffee, as we later learned, was between 180 and 190 degrees Fahrenheit. As a result of this coffee soaking into her sweatpants, she ended up suffering third-degree burns over her legs, buttocks, thighs and genitals. The surgeons described it as about 6% of her total body area. Third-degree burns are the worst degree. As a result of these burns, she was hospitalized for 8 days, she had two years of follow-up treatment, she had to have skin grafts. This was a very painful and long-term medical condition that she had to deal with.

Originally, her attorneys went to McDonald’s and asked for around $20,000, really just to help cover the medical bills, co-pays, deductible – that type of thing. McDonald’s said, “No we are not going to give you anything.” So her attorneys filed suit. In every legal case, there is a process called discovery where the plaintiff gets to learn about what the defendant knows and the defendant gets to learn about what the plaintiff knows. In the discovery process it came out that McDonald’s was well aware that its coffee was at a dangerously hot level. In the 10 years prior to Mrs. Liebeck’s injuries, they had over 700 burn claims for their coffee, including third-degree degree burns.

Just to give you an idea of what 180 to 190 degrees is like, that is nothing like the coffee you make at home. When you make coffee at home, it is usually around 135 to 140 degrees. At 180 to 190 degrees, if that temperature coffee is in contact with the skin for between 2 to 7 seconds, it causes third degree burns. It is much much hotter than the coffee that you would get most places and far hotter than what you would get at home. In the discovery process in the lawsuit process, McDonald’s admitted quite a few things. You have to remember, McDonald’s is a big corporation and they are going to have top notch attorneys fighting this case. So, if they admitted these things then it is not like they got tricked into it, they really did know these things. They admitted that they had no effective warning on their coffee cups. They admitted that they had no warning that their coffee was so much hotter than the coffee that you would normally buy some place. In fact, they tried to say that the reason we sell our coffee so hot is because it is not intended for the person to actually drink it in the car. We sell this coffee under the belief that whoever buys it is going to drive home, drive to work and then drink it and that is why we make it so hot.

There is really no research or evidence to back up that belief. In fact, they knew that a lot of people drank the coffee in the car. They admitted that it is unsafe to drink coffee that is over 140 degrees. It can cause burns to the mouth and throat. They knew that. They also admitted that they knew the coffee was dangerous at the temperatures that they sold it, but they also had no intention of changing the temperature that they sold it. When this case went to the jury – this is the part that the media actually covered – it is a very small slice of the case. The jury awarded $200,000 for the medical bills. That was for the skin grafts, for the inpatient care, the 2 years of treatment. While we do not know the specifics in this case, in general, when medical bills are awarded by the jury, a the large portion of that award actually has to go and pay back the health insurance company. Most likely I would say at least half if not two-thirds of that award would have gone to pay back whoever actually paid for her medical care rather than Mrs. Liebeck, whether that is Blue Cross or whatever.

The jury also awarded $2.7 million in punitive damages and that really is what the media focused on. The $2.7 million number came from the plaintiffs attorney arguing to the jury, look they know it is dangerous, they say they have no intention on making it less dangerous, why don’t you award her two days of what McDonald’s make on coffee sales and that ended up being about $2.7 million. The jury agreed and that is really where the media coverage ended. That is the part of the case that everyone seems to want to remember and to believe to be true. Unfortunately for those who use this case to argue for tort reform, that is not how the judicial system works. The judicial system is set up so that you do not get crazy awards and if you do the courts can fix it.

In this case, the jury also decided that Mrs. Liebeck was 20% responsible for her injuries, so the $200,000 for medical bills and pain and suffering was reduced by 20% down to $160,000. Also, the judge reduced the punitive award from $2.7 down to $480,000, that is three times the actual award of $160,000 for medical bills and pain and suffering. You are really looking at a little over a half-million, right around $600,000 for the total award and that was at the end of the trial level case. The trial level is not the end of the case. The case got appealed by McDonald’s but before the appeals court made a decision, the case settled out of court. That settlement was secret, nobody knows exactly how much Mrs. Liebeck ended up with.

Generally, if a case settles between trial and appeal, the amount is going to be less than whatever the jury or the court awarded. We do not know how much less, but in reality, this case was not about some lady who was trying to drink coffee while she was driving and burned herself and didn’t know that hot coffee was hot and got you know a billion dollars. This case was really about McDonald’s refusing to sell a safe product and a jury saying that is not right, you really should sell a safe product. Since you have no intention of doing that, we are going to punish you and try to convince you to sell a safe product. In fact, there is some indication that it worked. McDonald’s has never come out and said this, but independent investigators have gone out to McDonald’s after the case and when they measure the temperature of the coffee being sold now, it was much lower, it was more like 160 degrees. As far as 160 degrees versus 180 and 190 degrees, it is much safer now than it was before this case. So, punitive damages are designed to punish somebody and to make other people in society not do the bad act that the punished party did. In this case they actually worked. Now the public is safer when they go and buy coffee from McDonald’s even though McDonald’s said they had no intention of doing that. I hope I have clarified some of the misconceptions that are out there. The popular beliefs on this case just really do not match up with the facts and if we are going to have honest debates in society, we really do need the facts. I would like to hear any of the comments that you may have so please put them below this video so I can read them. I am Attorney Rob Collins at Schwartz & Schwartz, thanks for your time.

McDonald’s + Hot Coffee = $2.7M? Attorney Rob Collins breaks down this famous case.

Office Locations - Personal Injury Lawyer

Click or Call 1-855-TIP-THE-SCALES

We have offices conveniently located to provide expert legal representation in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Dover, DelawareWilmington, DelawareHavertown, PennsylvaniaSalisbury, Maryland
Dover, Delaware
(302) 678-8700
1140 & 1126 South State Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Wilmington, Delaware
(302) 654-4930
1525 Delaware Ave.
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(610) 853-4888
850 West Chester Pike Suite 205
Havertown, Pennsylvania 19083
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Salisbury, Maryland
(410) 546-6415
Suite 500-A, 100 East Main Street
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map

In a hurry? Send us a quick Email.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Telephone (required)

Subject

Your Message

Email Disclaimer

Facebook Message Schwartz Lawyers

What is a Conflict Of Interest in Delaware Law?

Personal injury Attorney Ben Schwartz answers a viewers question on conflict of interest in Delaware law. The viewer said, “I had a consultation with a lawyer several years ago about filing for bankruptcy protection. Afterwards, I was in a car accident where I crashed into somebody – now I am getting sued. The Delaware lawyer suing me is the same lawyer who I met with for the Delaware bankruptcy case. Isn’t that illegal?” Please take a moment to read the transcript below or simply watch the video.

What is a Conflict Of Interest in Delaware Law?

Video Transcript:

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz.

Today we are going to answer a viewer question from Pete in Milford, Delaware. Pete wrote us and he said, “I had a consultation with a lawyer several years ago about filing for bankruptcy. Afterwards, I was in a car accident where I crashed into somebody – now I am getting sued. The Delaware lawyer suing me is the same lawyer that I met with for the Delaware bankruptcy case. Isn’t that illegal?”

It is a good question, Pete. It could be illegal, it might not be illegal. What you are talking about is called a potential conflict of interest. In other words, a lawyer is bound by the rules of professional conduct and one of the rules has to do with conflicts of interest. For example, Pete, if you came to me and you hired me to defend you for the ticket case. Let’s say in that car accident, you got the ticket. You came to me and you hired me for the ticket case. We beat the ticket. We won and then the person that you hit came to me and wanted me to represent them in the personal injury case against you, that would be a conflict of interest. I cannot defend you on one day in the ticket case, in the car accident matter, and then on the next day represent the person you hit against you, that is a direct incurable conflict of interest. You are not talking about representation in the same matter. You are talking about representation years prior in a different matter and so it is not a direct conflict of interest.

The question is, did the lawyer get any information from you in that confidential Delaware bankruptcy consultation, which that lawyer might now use against you, now that he is representing someone else against you? If you gave him or her information that now is going to be used against you, then that could be a conflict of interest. I would say unless that situation exists, there probably is no conflict of interest preventing that lawyer from going against you now. A lawyer can be on your side in the beginning and go against you later. Quite frankly, in the State of Delaware, where it is a pretty small state and everyone tends to know one another, especially downstate where there might be just a handful of attorneys in a small town or in a smaller geographic area, it is not incredibly uncommon to run into this situation. I hope that answers your question.

I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz & if you have questions for me relating to the law, relating to personal injury litigation, or the practice of law, send me an email below. Please be sure to let us know if you want your question answered in video format like this.

What is a Conflict Of Interest in Delaware Law?

Office Locations - Personal Injury Lawyer

Click or Call 1-855-TIP-THE-SCALES

We have offices conveniently located to provide expert legal representation in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Dover, DelawareWilmington, DelawareHavertown, PennsylvaniaSalisbury, Maryland
Dover, Delaware
(302) 678-8700
1140 & 1126 South State Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Wilmington, Delaware
(302) 654-4930
1525 Delaware Ave.
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(610) 853-4888
850 West Chester Pike Suite 205
Havertown, Pennsylvania 19083
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Salisbury, Maryland
(410) 546-6415
Suite 500-A, 100 East Main Street
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map

In a hurry? Send us a quick Email.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Telephone (required)

Subject

Your Message

Email Disclaimer

Facebook Message Schwartz Lawyers

What Is A Loss Of Consortium Claim?

Personal Injury Attorney Ben Schwartz defines a loss of consortium claim for a viewer. If you are legally married and your spouse is injured or killed, you’re not suing for your injuries or the death of your partner, you’re suing for the impact that your those injuries or death had on the marriage relationship. Keep reading or watch the video below…

What Is A Loss Of Consortium Claim?

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we are going to answer a question from Kathy in Georgetown, Delaware. Kathy wrote-in and she said, “what is a loss of consortium claim? Can you define it?”

Here is how I would define a loss of consortium claim. What I would say is, if you are legally married and you are in an automobile accident, or you have a slip-and-fall and you’re injured, or you are killed, your spouse has a right to make a legal claim or file a lawsuit. Your spouse is not suing for your injuries, your spouse is suing for the impact that your injuries or your death had on the marriage relationship. We see loss of consortium claims quite frequently in our personal injury cases. I will give you the typical loss of consortium claim that we deal with in a typical case.

Perhaps we have a man who is injured in a car accident, a drunk driver ran through a red light and smashed into him. Unfortunately, in the accident the man injured his left shoulder, tore his rotator cuff and had surgery to repair the damage. This is a very painful surgery in a lot of cases and his arm is in a sling. He is left-handed, so every week he would typically sit down and pay the bills by sitting down at the kitchen table and writing the checks. Now he cannot do it, so his wife has to now sit with him and do all the checks for him and do his correspondence to pay the bills. That is a task that she has to do now because of his injuries, but she never had to do that before. That was always his role; that was always his task. He goes out to mow his grass and he lives in a house on ⅛ of an acre. He gets the mower out of the garage, he thinks, well I’ve got my left arm in a sling, but I will just push the mower with my right hand. He mows the grass with his right hand.  It is great except he is bagging up the clippings and now the bag is full and he needs to empty the clippings. You cannot do that one-handed, so he has to go in and get his wife. His wife has to come out and she is the one who is now going to be emptying the bag on the lawn mower. She says, it does not really make a lot of sense for you to be out here mowing the grass one-handed. It is taking you 5 times as long, just go in the house and relax, I will finish mowing the grass. Now she is doing the yard work that she never had to do before, because he was injured because that drunk driver ran the light and smashed into him. These are some typical ways that an auto accident with injuries to one spouse will impact the relationship with the other spouse.

Here is a third example, that gentleman who was injured in the accident that had the shoulder injury and had the shoulder surgery. Typically he has a pretty sunny disposition. Typically he is pretty happy and gets along with everyone, but now he is in pain all the time. He has been in pain and he has gone through physical therapy. Everyday he comes home from physical therapy, the shoulder is throbbing worse. He goes to the doctor, the doctor does the surgery. It is a painful surgery, he comes home recovering, he is in a lot of pain. He snaps at everyone, he is angry all the time because he is in so much pain. During this time period, while he is recovering from the injury and getting better, he has got a short temper. Everyone around him has to deal with that and has to be more understanding and has to tiptoe around him. Everyone is walking on eggshells because the guy is in pain and he has got a short temper. His wife especially is impacted by that; she has to live with him.

So that is something that is an effect on the marriage relationship. She should be compensated for having to deal with that. She should be compensated for the impact that this accident has had on her, the spouse, even though she was not in the car and she did not get injured. That is a loss of consortium claim. That is our typical loss of consortium claim. We see it all the time in personal injury cases, auto accident cases, slip-and-fall cases, dog bite cases, etc. I hope that answers the question. I hope now you know everything you will ever need to know. Hopefully you never need to know anything, but hopefully now you know everything you need to know about loss of consortium claims. I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz, if you have a question for me that relates to the law, the practice of personal injury law in particular, send me an email below. Thanks for watching!

What Is A Loss Of Consortium Claim?

Office Locations - Personal Injury Lawyer

Click or Call 1-855-TIP-THE-SCALES

We have offices conveniently located to provide expert legal representation in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Dover, DelawareWilmington, DelawareHavertown, PennsylvaniaSalisbury, Maryland
Dover, Delaware
(302) 678-8700
1140 & 1126 South State Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Wilmington, Delaware
(302) 654-4930
1525 Delaware Ave.
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(610) 853-4888
850 West Chester Pike Suite 205
Havertown, Pennsylvania 19083
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Salisbury, Maryland
(410) 546-6415
Suite 500-A, 100 East Main Street
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map

In a hurry? Send us a quick Email.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Telephone (required)

Subject

Your Message

Email Disclaimer

Facebook Message Schwartz Lawyers

Sign the Petition – Don’t take doctors away from car accident victims in Delaware!

Personal Injury Attorney Ben Schwartz found out today that there is a bill, proposed legislation, that is going to go into the senate in the state of Delaware that limits what doctors and physical therapists can receive in the way of compensation for treating victims of car accidents. Go to change.org and sign the petition.

Sign the Petition – Don’t take doctors away from car accident victims in Delaware!

Hi, I’m Attorney Ben Schwartz,

Today we are going to talk about a topic that has absolutely got me all riled up. I found out today that there is a bill, proposed legislation, that is going to go into the senate in the state of Delaware that limits what doctors and physical therapists can receive in the way of compensation for treating my clients, for treating victims of car accidents. You might be looking at this and say what the heck do I care about that? I will tell you why you should care about that.

The reason why you should care about this is because every single person who is watching this video, or their family members, or their friends, or their neighbors, or their coworkers, is going to be injured in a car accident at some point in Delaware. I have this problem. Every week people come to me, or the attorneys in my office, and they say, “I was injured in a car accident, I cannot move my arm, my back is messed up, my neck is messed up, I hit my knee and my knee is giving out. I’ve got these injuries, I called my family doctor and the family doctor office said, what do you need to come in and see doctor such-and-such about? I told them the problem that I am having. I told them it is from a car accident. When they heard it is from a car accident, they said we don’t do that. Doctor such-and-such does not handle injuries from a car accident.” Or, they have been told you can come in, doctor such-and-such will see you for your injuries, but you have to pay cash. The reason is because it is difficult to deal with auto insurance companies if you are a doctor or a physical therapist. People who have been injured in accidents in the state of Delaware cannot get in to see their family doctors. They cannot get in to see their choice of medical provider because the medical providers do not want to deal with the headache.

This bill is going to limit what doctors can bill and get paid for. It is going to make it even worse for people who have been injured in an accident and who are trying to get quality medical care. So for the first time, I am doing a video that has something to do with politics. I usually stay away from politics. I created a petition at change.org. I am asking you, if you are watching this video, go to the petition at change.org and sign your name to it. Ask the state of Delaware Senate and House of Representatives not to cap what doctors and physical therapist can get paid for auto accident cases. The reason I want you to do that is because God forbid you should ever be in a car accident. God forbid your friends, family members, coworkers, or neighbors should ever be in a car accident. But if you are, I want you to be able to go to your doctor and get treatment.

This bill that is pending in state legislature is going to make it harder for you to get the care that you are going to want and need. Go to the change.org petition, sign the petition, share this video on Facebook with your friends and family and the folks that you are connected to through Facebook. Comment on this video if you think this is something important. Thanks for watching and thanks for hearing my rant.

Sign the Petition – Don’t take doctors away from car accident victims in Delaware!

Office Locations - Personal Injury Lawyer

Click or Call 1-855-TIP-THE-SCALES

We have offices conveniently located to provide expert legal representation in Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Dover, DelawareWilmington, DelawareHavertown, PennsylvaniaSalisbury, Maryland
Dover, Delaware
(302) 678-8700
1140 & 1126 South State Street
Dover, Delaware 19901
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Wilmington, Delaware
(302) 654-4930
1525 Delaware Ave.
Wilmington, Delaware 19806
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
(610) 853-4888
850 West Chester Pike Suite 205
Havertown, Pennsylvania 19083
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map
Salisbury, Maryland
(410) 546-6415
Suite 500-A, 100 East Main Street
Salisbury, Maryland 21801
Central Fax: (302) 678-8702
Directions & Map

In a hurry? Send us a quick Email.

Your Name (required)

Your Email (required)

Telephone (required)

Subject

Your Message

Email Disclaimer

Facebook Message Schwartz Lawyers