10 & 2 or 9 & 3? Personal Injury lawyer Ben Schwartz talks about how to hold the steering wheel in a car to protect you in case of an accident. Airbags can actually hurt you if you’re holding the wheel at 10 & 2.
Should You Hold The Steering Wheel At 10:00 and 2:00?
Today we are going to do a viewer question from Keith in Delaware. Keith wrote in, he said basically he’s taking a Drivers Ed course. The instructor told the class that you should hold the steering wheel at the 10:00 o’clock and 2:00 o’clock positions. Apparently, Keith tried to ask the instructor “Doesn’t that make it somewhat unsafe? Because what if the airbag goes off?” The instructor said, “Look, this is how you do it, you are supposed to hold the steering wheel at 10:00 and 2:00.”
Well, Keith, I’m here to tell you as a personal injury lawyer who handles significant injury cases involving car accidents with airbag deployment, you should absolutely not hold the steering wheel at the ten o’clock and two o’clock positions. The reason is that when they came up with the idea of holding a steering wheel at 10:00 and 2:00, it was before power steering. When I was a kid, you know, the cars that people drove did not tend to have power steering. You would have to really muscle the wheel around to get the car to steer if you were going at a slow speed. So, you would need to have your hands at 10 and 2 in order to be able to force the wheel around. That’s how you get as much leverage as possible.
Nowadays, cars have power steering – almost all cars have power steering. Not only do they have power steering, but they have airbags in the center of the steering wheel and if you get into a frontal impact and the airbag goes off, you can cause significant injury to your hands, your forearms, your thumbs. We have had numerous cases where people have had thumbs amputated after an airbag deployment. People have broken their hands, broken bones in their hands, broken bones in their arms after an airbag deployment because of the way their hands were looped through the steering wheel.
If you have got your thumbs wrapped around the steering wheel and the airbag goes off, what happens to your thumbs? You can cause significant injuries by having your hands in the 10:00 and 2:00 positions. I like to say if you have your hands on your knees under the steering wheel and you hold it that way, or you put your hands at the 9:00 and 3:00 o’clock positions, I would say that’s much safer. Also, don’t cover the airbag with your thumbs, don’t loop your thumbs through the steering wheel, otherwise you’re asking for trouble if you have an airbag deployment.
Today we are going to take a viewer question from Charlie in New Castle, Delaware. Charlie wrote in and said, “In a criminal case, why would a court sentence someone life plus 100 years? What does that mean? Does that mean they have to stay in jail 100 years after they die?”
The answer to that question is, I have seen that too. Not necessarily in Delaware, but in other states. I have seen news reports of people being sentenced to life plus “X” number of years, life plus 100 years, life plus 50 years, what have you. I think the reason you see that is because in many states a life term in a criminal case does not necessarily mean “life.” Sometimes when someone is sentenced to a life term it may presumptively mean 25 years or it may mean 25 years to life or something like that. The parole board may get a hold of the case after 25 years and have the opportunity to release that person from that life sentence of imprisonment. I think that giving someone life plus 100 years, life plus 50 years, or what have you, what the judge is doing is saying is that these sentences have to run one after the other, that is called consecutive. The sentences have to run consecutive even if a parole board were to say, “We are going to give you parole on the life sentence,” or even if the life sentence really means 25 years, there is a secondary sentence that has to run behind it to make sure that person never gets out of jail.
That is basically what my understanding of what life plus “X” number of years means. I really appreciate the question, Charlie. If you are watching this video and you have a question for me about the law, criminal law, personal injury law, anything like that, or trial work, jury trial work, please send me an email.
Today we’re going to answer a question from Jackie in Connecticut. Jackie wrote in and she said, “I’m a paralegal and I was reading your article about workers’ compensation and dog bite cases. I’m in Connecticut & I’m handling a dog bite case with an attorney here and our state has strict liability too. Our client also was on the job. If you could briefly share with me how to proceed with filing both claims. The workers’ compensation actually paid the medical bills, but do I follow up with the homeowner’s insurance for our client to be able to get pain and suffering damages?”
This is a really great question, Jackie. I appreciate you sending me that email and giving me that question. I think it’s very insightful and it’s something that if you’re an attorney, or if you’re a paralegal, or if you’re a member of the general public, this is something that you might want to know about. Essentially, I cannot tell you how things work in Connecticut. I cannot advise you on Connecticut law. I represent people in workers’ compensation cases, dog bite cases, personal injury cases generally in Delaware and Maryland and other attorneys in my firm handle cases in states like Pennsylvania and New Jersey. But I don’t handle cases in Connecticut. I don’t know Connecticut law. Every state law is going to be different. Jackie, I can give you a framework to think about this and I can answer your question about what to do in reference to which insurance company to contact.
Let’s back up a minute. You’re already handling this client’s case. They were on the job and they were bitten by someone else’s dog. You’ve made a workers’ comp claim with their employer’s insurance company. What does workers’ compensation cover? I don’t know, I’m not a Connecticut attorney, but I can tell you that every state has some scheme of workers’ compensation insurance coverage. It’s going to be likely to cover medical expenses. It’s going to be likely to cover wages or some form of wage replacement. Typically in workers’ comp cases, depending on which state you’re in, typically in workers’ comp cases this is called total disability lost wages. It’s going to cover permanency so that if there is some permanent functional loss of use of a body part or an organ, the claimant, the client, is going to be likely to be eligible to receive some form of compensation for that. It’s going to cover disfigurement, which in a dog bite case, is very often the case that you have a disfigurement. Because disfigurement means a change in appearance, so if you have scarring in a visible area on your client, they probably have a right to make a claim for disfigurement benefits under workers’ compensation. Depending on the state there are other things that workers’ comp may or may not cover.
Then you asked how do I make a claim for the liability case? The liability case is this, it’s not the workers’ comp case. Let’s say that you want to pursue a claim against the dog owner who has this dangerous dog that’s going around attacking people while they’re trying to do their jobs, that is called a liability case. It’s called a liability case whether your state has strict liability for dog owners whose dogs injured people. It’s called a liability case whether you don’t have strict liability, you might have to prove that the owner negligently permitted the dog to bite your client. It’s the liability case. Nonetheless, in the liability case, you can make a claim for the same stuff that you made a claim for in the workers’ comp case. The medical expenses, the lost wages, permanent functional impairment to a body part, disfigurement or scarring.
You can also, generally speaking, make a claim for pain and suffering damage in your liability case and that’s one of the big things that makes a liability case different from a workers’ comp claim. In workers’ comp claims in the United States of America, you don’t get pain and suffering damage.
The third thing that you need to consider, well let me back up on this liability claim… You asked, “Do I contact the dog owners insurance?” I would say you start with the dog owner himself or herself. You contact the dog owner and you say you are representing Mrs. Smith, we are going to make a liability case claim against you. Please contact your homeowner’s insurance and have your homeowner’s insurance claim representative get in contact with me. That way I can work out a resolution to this case and not have to sue you. Oftentimes the homeowner does nothing, so you send him or her a letter. You send it certified mail. If you don’t get anywhere, you can contact the recorder of deeds for the property records department in the county or state where the homeowner resides. Maybe they have a mortgage and the mortgage company required them to have homeowner’s insurance and you can research who their homeowner’s insurance is. Or maybe you start sending out letters to the various insurance companies that do a lot of business in your state. Tell them if you insure this person get in contact with us, we are going to file a liability claim against them. These are all the ways you can find out who the homeowner’s insurance, or if there is homeowner’s insurance in the first place. You can sue the owner of the dog and if you file a lawsuit against the owner of the dog, if they have homeowner’s insurance or renter’s insurance, that insurance company will provide them with the defense attorney and pay any judgment you get against them or any settlement that can be obtained.
Now with all that said, here’s the fourth thing that you need to think about. When you are working on an on-the-job dog bite, does your state have a system of liens and credits? If your state has a system of liens and credits, that means that what workers’ comp has paid for medical treatment or permanent impairment, or what have you, is going to be paid back to the workers’ comp insurance company out of this liability claims settlement. It also means that in the situation and where you settle the liability claim settlement and your client receives money from that, the workers’ comp carrier might have a credit. So, if you settle let’s say for example you settle the liability claim for $10,000 and your client gets $6,500 dollars in their pocket, that might mean that for the next $6,500 dollars of medical treatment that is submitted to workers’ comp workers’ comp he or she doesn’t have to pay, that would be a credit.
These are the 4 things you look at in coordinating benefits in an on-the-job dog bite.
What benefits can we obtained through workers’ comp?
What benefits can we obtain through a liability case?
Is there a system of liens and credits and if so, how do we time these claims?
How do we time these settlements so that we maximize the benefits for our client?
I hope that this discussion gives you a framework for how to go about handling this claim. My suggestion would be to watch this video, watch it a couple of times. Send me an email. I cannot give you state-specific legal advice, but I can give you a framework for how to think about how to handle this case. That framework can be used to talk to the attorney who is going to be litigating the case in order to make a plan that helps you maximize the benefits for your client.
Jackie, thanks for your email. Good luck to you. You can contact me if you have questions about the law generally about personal injury litigation in general. I’m Ben Schwartz, an attorney in the state of Delaware and the state of Maryland as well.
Thanks for watching!
Dog Bite While At Work – Workers’ Compensation and Dog Bite Cases
Delaware Attorney Ben Schwartz gives some insight on why cops put their hands on the car once they have pulled someone over. It is believed they do this to leave fingerprints in case the driver of the vehicle does something wrong or to harm the officer.
Today we are going to take a viewer question from Sylvia in Wilmington, Delaware. She wrote in and said, “why do police officers put their hands on your car when they pull you over?”
I think this is a very insightful question, Sylvia. Here is my understanding of what’s going on. The police officer, I actually recently saw this happen myself. I was driving down the road and I saw a Delaware State Police trooper pull someone over on the side of the road, what he did was, he walked up to the passenger side of the car. He put his hand on the back of the car, put his hand on the back of the trunk, put his hand on actually the back window, put his hand on the top. As I was driving by, I saw it happen, and that was not too long ago. So, I know Delaware State Police is still doing this.
What I believe they are doing is, they are leaving fingerprints so if the driver of that vehicle does something to them and speeds off and the car is then found, it will have the police officers fingerprints on it so that they can tie the driver of the car back to whatever bad event happened when the police officer pulled them over.
Essentially, it is an officer safety thing. It is leaving the evidence in case the person harms the officer and flees the scene. Basically, it is giving police officers in the future the ability to lift prints off that vehicle and trace them back to that officer that pulled the vehicle over.
It is an interesting thing; I have personally seen it happen. I know other people have mentioned it to me and it is a really good and insightful question. If you are watching this video and you have a question for me about criminal law, personal injury law, trial practice, etc. please send me an email below.
Thanks for watching.
Why Do Cops Put Their Hands on Your Car When The Pull You Over?
Today we are going to do a video on Defense Medical Examinations in Personal Injury lawsuits. I have been asked several times to do a Top 10 video on this topic of independent medical exams or defense medical exams; sometimes called insurance company medical exams. It is something that we deal with all the time because we are handling personal injury cases. Basically, if you are not familiar with what this is, it is something that happens in personal injury cases, or maybe not necessarily personal injury cases per se, like car accident personal injury cases, slip and fall personal injury cases. I understand they also come up in another context as well, such as in employment-type cases, insurance claim type cases. It is quite often that an insurance company hires a doctor to perform a defense medical exam or a defense lawyer who is representing an insurance company or representing the at-fault party in a claim and of course that means is hired by an insurance company. That defense lawyer will hire a medical doctor to perform a defense medical exam.
If you’re watching this video, chances are you have been injured in a car accident or some other type of incident. You have made a claim. You hired a lawyer and you’re pursuing a lawsuit. During the lawsuit, the defense lawyer has scheduled you for a defense medical examination with a doctor who is not your treating physician. He is not your choice of doctor, it is somebody hired by the insurance company.
So, folks want to know, what do I expect? What should I do to get prepared for this? I made a top 10 list. Now, this is not everything under the sun that you could do to prepare for a defense medical exam. I think the top 10 things that if I were injured in an accident if I were a plaintiff or a claimant, and this happened to me, these are probably the..
10 things I would do to get prepared for a defense medical exam
Know your relevant medical history and your providers’ names. That doesn’t mean get your medical records and memorize everything. That means you should be generally familiar with where you went and what you did for medical treatment after your accident. You should be generally familiar with the names of your doctors, physical therapists, and facilities. If you had shoulder surgery after a car accident, you should know what the facility name where you had the shoulder surgery, whether that be the operating room in the hospital in your community or whether that be in an ambulatory surgery center. You should know the name of the facility; should know the names of the providers of the doctors. You would be surprised how many times we have clients, or where we are involved in cases, and the people don’t know the names of their doctors. I can tell you that if you’re going to a defense medical exam with the doctor, that doctor will have been provided with your medical records, he’ll know the names of your medical treatment providers. You should know the names of your medical treatment providers too.
Don’t minimize or maximize your injuries for purposes of the exam. Whatever your injuries are, however you’re feeling on the day of the exam, it is what it is. The last thing that you want to do is get into an exam and act as if the injuries are worse than they really are, or get into the exam and try and minimize the injuries, telling the doctor that they’re not as bad as everyone’s making them out to seem. It is what it is. Follow that mantra it is what it is, don’t make it more and don’t make it less.
Don’t take antispasmodics or muscle relaxers before a defense medical exam. There are a lot of people who have been injured in an accident and sustained things like disc herniations in their necks or their backs. One of the things that happen when you have disc herniations or you got another structural damage to a body part is that the damaged disk or ligaments can press on nerves which send interruptions in the nerve signals and causes muscle spasms. One of the things that a defense medical doctor or insurance company doctor is going to be doing in a defense medical examination is palpating or feeling the muscles in order to determine whether there’s any spasm. You don’t want to quell the spasms or stop the spasms during this exam, you want the doctor to feel them if there. In other words, don’t take anything to mask the symptoms that the doctor should be able to appreciate to come to a valid conclusion as to your diagnosis.
You should be prepared to describe the effects of your injury on your life, but only if asked. In a defense medical exam, you’re only going to answer those questions which are asked of you. You’re not going to volunteer information. You’re not there to inform the defense medical examiner of anything that they don’t want to know. They’re going to have your medical records, they can look in the medical records and get almost all the relevant information from the records. If they ask you how the injury has impacted your life, I think that it’s wise to be prepared to answer the question with 1-2-3 examples of things that it is now harder to do or things that you cannot do because of this injury.
Don’t miss the appointment or arrive late. One of the things that sometimes happens in personal injury cases is the claimant or the plaintiff get scheduled for defense medical exam and they miss it. This is not like missing a normal doctor’s appointment. These defense medical examiners are paid thousands of dollars by the insurance companies to do these medical examinations. The missed appointment fee can be a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars. There are cases where people miss their defense medical examination and then in order to get their case to proceed, the courts will force them to pay the missed exam fee. So, it can be very expensive if you miss it. You should not miss it and you should not be late. I would arrive at least half an hour, or an hour early, to the defense medical exam. If I got scheduled for a defense medical exam and I was not familiar with the location, I would go the day before to that location to make sure I know where I’m going. I would do it the day before, or the weekend before, sometime before so that on the day of the exam, I know where I’m going and I can get there.
Understand that in your case, the day when you are scheduled for a defense medical exam is the best day for surveillance. So if there’s going to be a day where the defense lawyer or the insurance company is going to send out a private investigator to follow you around and videotape you, videotape you walking to see if you walk with a limp, videotape you lifting things to see if you’re able to lift different things, videotape you to see where you go and what you do, it’ll be on this day because this is the day when they know where you’re going to be and what time you’re going to be there. This may be the only day in the entire case where they know where you’re going to be and when you’re going to be there. So I would not advise you to pick this day to go water skiing; pick this day to climb a tree. I would not advise you to do anything out of the ordinary on this day, you should assume that on the day of your defense medical exam you’re going to be surveilled by a private investigator.
Ask your attorney ahead of time if you can video record or audio record the defense medical examination or take a friend with you. This is something that is going to differ from state-to-state. In some states, your plaintiff’s personal defense attorney can go with you to the medical defense medical exam. In some states, a nurse can go with you, a nurse selected by your lawyer can go with you. In some states you can take a friend. In some states, the entire exam will be videotaped and audiotaped to preserve what happened. In some states, none of this stuff happens. In some states, there is nothing requiring the defense to videotape these exams. Oftentimes the doctor says one thing happened and the patient or the plaintiff says another thing happened. Before you go to the exam, you should ask your attorney what you can do and how you can record it. At a minimum, I think you should take someone with you and even if you’re in a state where you can’t videotape it, where you can’t audiotape it, take a friend with you and ask when you get there if that person can accompany you into the exam room. Whether you be nervous, and you want to take a friend with you or you just want to have some moral support, take a friend with you if you can.
Take detailed notes of what the doctor did in terms of the examination, the testing, etc. and give those notes to your attorney. Oftentimes I find that when the doctor testifies, the doctor says I did 27 different tests. I had them doing range of motion testing, I did palpation, I did this test and that test. I used a tool to measure range of motion. Then I asked my client, did the doctor do all those things? The client says the doctor didn’t do any of those things. Well, when you’re in the exam, you should be taking note, paying attention to what the doctor is having you do. You should be paying attention to what the doctor is doing, what body parts is he focusing on, what testing is he doing and then you should write it down. If you can’t write it down there and then in the exam room, when you get out to your car, have a piece of paper and a pen and write it down there and then. This is what happened during the exam, then give that piece of paper to your lawyer so your lawyer knows what actually happened.
Time it! You should time everything, note the following:
– what time you arrived at the doctor’s office
– what time you went into the exam room
– what time the doctor came into the exam room
– what time the doctor started his physical exam of you
– what time that ended
– what time you left the exam room
– the time you left the doctor’s office
This way you can calculate how many minutes the doctor was laying hands upon you and doing physical testing. You can note how many minutes the doctor was asking you questions and discussing the case in taking a detailed history. This is all information that is vital for your lawyer to have because when the doctor testifies, the doctor’s going to say, “I was with this patient for an hour, I took 40 minutes of time in order to do a comprehensive physical examination.” Your experience may be, the doctor had you in the exam room for 11 minutes and took 4 minutes of time to do an in-comprehensive physical examination. That’s a good thing to know because often times these doctors are paid a lot of money by insurance companies and they don’t really do what they’re supposed to do. That is something we need to know as attorneys in order to properly represent our clients.
10. Be nice to the doctor and be nice to the doctors’ staff. These doctors are hired by insurance companies to give testimony minimizing people’s injuries. To give testimony essentially saying that the injuries are not as they are claimed. In order to have some credibility, the doctor needs to be able to point to an occasional case where he agrees that the person is legitimately injured. So, even if that’s 1 in 100 exams, if you’re the 1 in 100 people that are nice to that doctor, or the 1 in 100 people that are nice to that doctors staff, maybe you’ll be the person where the doctor gives an accurate, honest, truthful assessment, confirming that you are truly injured and your case will settle. I think being nice to them, even though they’re hired by the insurance company, even though they’re wearing the Black Hat, they’re the bad guy, be nice to them anyway because that’s the classy thing to do.
I’m attorney Ben Schwartz, I hope you found this video interesting and informative, especially if you’ve got to go through the defense medical examination process in a personal injury case. If you have questions for me that you would like me to answer in a video blog format send me an email below. Thanks for watching!
Defense Medical Examinations in Personal Injury Lawsuits