Full Coverage Does Not Necessarily Mean Full Tort, Choose Wisely

Do you know the difference between “Full Coverage” and “Full Tort?”  Over the years I have had the opportunity to discuss these insurance terms with a lot of folks who learned the hard way what these mean.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked a potential client whether they have “Full Tort” and the potential client responds “Yes, I have Full Coverage.”  Unfortunately, “Full Coverage” does not necessarily mean that the person has “Full Tort.”  You can have “Full Coverage” and not have “Full Tort.”  You can have “Full Tort” and not have “Full Coverage.”  So what do these terms mean?  
Full Coverage means that you are carrying comprehensive and collision coverage on your vehicle.  If you own a newer car, you have a loan on your car, or you are leasing your car, you probably have Full Coverage.  In fact, most lenders are going to require you carry Full Coverage but they could care less whether you are carrying Full Tort.  Collision coverage means that your insurance company will pay to fix your damaged vehicle, minus a deductible, regardless of who was at fault for the crash.  With Comprehensive coverage, sometimes referred to as “Act of God” coverage, your insurance company will pay to repair your vehicle if damaged not a result of a collision.  If a stone flies up and cracks a windshield, a tree branch falls and damages the roof of a car, or a driver collides with an animal resulting in vehicle damage, your insurance company will pay to repair your vehicle, minus a deductible typically, if you have Comprehensive coverage.  Collision coverage and Comprehensive coverage are optional.  You don’t have to purchase either unless a loan or lease company requires it.
The tort option selection, on the other hand, defines what rights you have if someone else causes a crash and hurts you or a member of your family.   In Pennsylvania, you can choose what rights you want to have against an at-fault driver.  The two options you have to choose from are Full Tort or Limited Tort.  If you chose Full Tort you basically agree that you will pay more for your insurance but you keep your rights to pursue non-economic damage claims (pain and suffering) against the at-fault driver’s insurance.  If you go with Limited Tort, you give up that right to pursue claims for pain and suffering in exchange for cheaper insurance rates.  There are a few exceptions to Limited Tort (i.e. when the other driver is convicted of a DUI as a result of the crash, if the other driver is operating a vehicle registered out of state, if you are occupying a business owned vehicle at the time of the crash, if you are pedestrian/motorcyclist/bicyclist at the time of the crash, or if your injuries are serious.)  If one of those exceptions applies, you can still pursue pain and suffering claims even with Limited Tort.  Right about now, I expect some readers are thinking that they would not want to pursue claims for pain and suffering unless the injuries were serious anyway.  But what is serious to you may not be serious to an insurance company.  If you have Limited Tort, do not expect that an insurance company which may have to pay a claim will agree with you that your injuries are serious.  Even if your injuries are such that you require treatment and therapy for years, it still may not be enough to convince an insurance company that the injuries are serious.  It can be quite frustrating when you are injured, must seek medical treatment for months, perhaps unable to work for an extended period of time, and unable to engage in your normal activities and then have an insurance company representative tell you that your injuries are not serious enough and that you do not deserve to be compensated. 
Understand that generally this coverage selection applies to all resident relatives so if Dad chooses Limited Tort his selection binds not only himself but wife and kids too.  To me, choosing Full Tort or Limited Tort is not just making a coverage selection on your auto insurance, it is a choice of whether you want to keep your rights or give up those rights in exchange for cheaper insurance rates.  Choose your rights wisely.  
If you were injured in a motor vehicle accident, call Mooney & Associates today!  We represent injured clients in South Central Pennsylvania, including the areas of Chambersburg, Greencastle, Waynesboro, Shippensburg, Carlisle, Gettysburg, York, and Hanover.  Call 1-877-632-4656 to protect your rights.  

What types of Workers’ Compensation Settlements are there?

Not only do I frequently get asked if a workers’ compensation settlement, or otherwise known as, a compromise and release agreement, is right for a specific client, but also, what types of settlements are there for workers’ compensation.  This post will explore what I see as the three type of compromise and release agreements for settling your workers’ compensation claim.

1.   Wage Loss Only:  This type of settlement fully settles your wage loss benefit only.  What does that mean?  It means that any entitlement to or if you are receiving weekly or biweekly wage loss benefits, after agreeing to a lump sum amount of money, you will no longer receive those checks or be entitled to any workers compensation disability benefits.  However, your entitlement to medical benefits is unaffected in this type of settlement.  That means your right to have medical bills related to your work injury paid by the workers compensation insurance carrier continues indefinitely into the future until otherwise settled or terminated by a Workers’ Compensation Judge.  This type of settlement is usually limited to very severe injuries where medical treatment will be required for a substantial period of time, perhaps for the rest of the injured workers’ life.  It is also rare.  Quite frankly, when an insurance carrier wises to settle, they wish to settle all benefits to get rid of any liability. Just because you may need some prescription medications for the rest of your life does not means an insurance carrier would be willing to settle your case with this structure of settlement.

2.  Wage Loss with Open Medical Period:  This type of settlement fully settles your workers compensation disability payments, your weekly or biweekly payments, and keeps your medical benefits open for either a specific period of time or for a specific medical procedure.  Usually, a specific period of time is for one year or six months. An insurance carrier may be willing to enter this type of settlement because it sees an end to liability in the future.  It is usually also the type of settlement where there is interest in resolving the wage loss benefits from both the injured worker and the insurance carrier, but there is a scheduled surgery or procedure.  Therefore, the insurance carrier is willing to allow benefits open for a period of time to include the scheduled surgery/procedure and followup treatment to that surgery/procedure.  It can also be used when there is a foreseeable end to treatment, say, six months of physical therapy.  Additionally, an insurance carrier may agree to keep medical open for surgery specified in the agreement and any follow up treatment as it relates only to that surgery.  Again, an insurance carrier may be willing to enter this type of agreement because they see an end to liability on the horizon.  It is important that you speak to Mooney & Associates before agreeing to any settlement offered by the insurance carrier.

3.  Full Compromise and Release:   This is the most common type of workers compensation settlement and the type of settlement that insurance carrier’s prefer.  This type of settlement settles all of your workers’ compensation benefits, both wage loss and medical benefits.  It is important that you confer with us here at Mooney & Associates to ensure this settlement is right for you and your future needs.  It is important to remember that when you agree to a full and final compromise and release agreement, that you are agreeing that you will not be entitled to future wage loss or medical benefits as related to your work injury.  Ever.  Even if your condition worsens, once you agree to a compromise and release agreement, you are ion your won.  You can never go back on your Employer or Insurance carrier.  That is why it is absolutely critical for you to seeks consultation with us.  We can help you determine if this settlement is appropriate for you and if so, negotiate a fair, reasonable lump sum.  If you get contacted by your insurance carrier with an offer to settle, you should contact Mooney & Associates right away.  Don’t settle before meeting with us.

Settlements are not right for everyone.  We will look in a later post on some factors on whether settlement may be right for you.

If you have any questions as to whether settlement is right for you or which settlement is appropriate for you, contact us today at 717-632-4656 or toll free at 877-632-4656.

We representation injured workers in central Pennsylvania, in areas like Chambersburg, Carlisle, Shippensburg, Harrisburg, Gettsybrug, Hanover, York, New Oxford, Greencastle, and Waynesboro.  (Franklin, Cumberland, Dauphin, Perry, Adams, and York Counties)

PA Supreme Court scales back Asbestos exposure

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has decided in a recent asbestos case that mere exposure to asbestos is not sufficient to prove a link to asbestos related cancer.  Instead, the Court said Plaintiffs would have to establishment a relationship between the exposure and the development of the disease.

“Simply put,” the court said in its 53-page opinion, “one cannot simultaneously maintain that a single fiber among millions is substantially causative, while also conceding that a disease is dose-responsive.”

Essentially, the Plaintiff’s counsel in this case relied upon a popular asbestos theory of ‘any breath or fiber’ theory meaning that exposure to just one asbestos fiber was sufficient to show exposure that could lead to cancer.  Pennsylvania now joins Texas as states that have rejected that theory.

Claimant’s should hire an Attorney for Pennsylvania workers compensation

A recent article in the Claims Journal looks at various reasons and socio-economic groups that tend to hire Attorney’s to represent them in workers’ compensation cases.   Interesting, as you can tell, the article takes the approach that sometimes, Attorney’s are unnecessarily involved.  Given the fact the article is written by the insurance industry, that fact is not surprising.

The reality of workers compensation is that insurance carriers and employers, in their quest to control costs, often attempt to move workers back to jobs they are not ready for, settle cases at unreasonably low settlements, and try and modify, suspend, and terminate an Employee’s benefits based on suspect independent medical examinations.   

So if you are an injured workers or have a friend or relative that was injured at work, you may be asking yourself, when is it time to contact an Attorney?  We aggressively encourage injured workers’ in Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Harrisburg, Carlisle, York, Gettysburg, and Hanover to contact us immediately.  In many cases, the Employer may pay wage loss benefits, pay medical benefits, and do everything they are suppose to under the Pennsylvania workers compensation law.  However, you should still contact us at Mooney & Associates so we can monitor your case as it progresses.

Does it cost anything for us to monitor your case?  No.  If your Employer is paying your benefits and medical bills we will monitor your case for free to ensure that your Employer/Insurance Carrier continue to do what they are suppose to do. 

Your legal rights in the workers compensation system are extremely important.  Your actions can effect your future medical care and your right to future wage loss benefits should your condition worsen.  That is precisely why we encourage you to contact us when you get injured at work.  It is important for you, the injured worker, to be protected.  Don’t sign any documents related to workers’ compensation without checking with us first.  Your rights are too important to gamble with when you are injured.  

Call us today to protect your workers’ compensation rights.  Mark Buterbauugh handles the firm’s workers’ compensation matters.  He previously worked for a large workers’ compensation defense firm representing some of the largest Employers and Insurance carrier in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  Attorney Buterbaugh is more than aware of the strategies employed by Employers and Insurance Carriers.  Call us today at 717-632-4656 or toll free at 1-877-632-4656.

PA Justice Orie-Melvin to step aside to fight criminal charges

Pennsylvania State Supreme Court Justice Jane Orie Melvin turned herself in this morning to face nine criminal charges against her, filed by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zapala. 

“In order to avoid the appearance of impropriety and in accordance with precedent, Justice Orie Melvin is voluntarily recusing herself from all judicial duties pending resolution of the criminal charges,” wrote William I. Arbuckle III, who has been representing the justice in a pending Judicial Conduct Board investigation. 

He continued, “She is not resigning from the court. The justice denies any wrongdoing and will vigorously defend these politically motivated criminal charges.” 

The charges stem from illegal use of state funds and state employee in electoral politics.  Similar charges brought down Justice Melvin’s sister, State Senator Jane Orie, who is to be sentenced on June 4, 2012 after being convicted of 14 of 24 criminal charges against her.  Of the 9 pending criminal charges, four are felonies. 

The charges are the result of a Grand Jury Investigation that investigated whether Justice Melvin illegally used paid staffer for campaign purposes.  The grand jury investigation mirrors the investigation by the Attorney General’s Office that concluded with several Pennsylvania Legislative leaders being convicted, namely former Speakers H William DeWeese and John Perzel, former Majority Whip Mike Veon, and others.  The presentment stated:

“It now appears that not only was Justice Orie Melvin directly and knowingly involved in using state paid staffers from both the judicial and legislative branches of the Pennsylvania government in her political campaign activities, but it also appears that she was aided in those endeavors by two accomplices, co-conspirators, and siblings “Janine Mary Orie and Jane Clare Orie,” the presentment states.

Burden of a Proof after 500 weeks upheld

The Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court applied the standard burden of proof in Reinstatement of benefits to the exhaustion of 500 weeks of Partial Disability Benefits.  When a Claimant files a Reinstatement Petition to be reinstated to full total disability benefits, he must meet the burden in showing a worsening condition.  However, what about after the Claimant reaches the statutory 500 week limit on partial disability benefits and a funded light duty job is terminated?

 The Court address this very issue in Sadisky v. WCAB (Allegheny Ludlum Corp.)   In this case, the Claimant was working a light duty job, a funded position with Easter Seals, not with his original Employer.  After Claimant reached the maximum 500 weeks of partial disability benefits, his funded position with Easter Seals was no longer funded, therefore, no position existed for the Claimant.  Claimant filed a Reinstatement Petition to be reinstated to total disability benefits because his light duty position was no longer available. 

The Court upheld that even when Claimant reaches the 500 weeks of partial disability benefits and his light duty job is eliminated, to be reinstated to total disability benefits, Claimant must still meet the burden of showing that his condition had worsened.  The Court stated that it is not enough fro Claimant to just show that light duty is unavailable. 

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PA Superior Court grants summary judgment in dog bit case

The Pennsylvania Superior Court has granted summary judgment in a personal injury case involving a dog bite on a child.  The mother of the victim child filed a personal injury action against the Landlord of the property averring that the Landlord was in control of the property and knew or should have known of the violent tendencies of the dog.  

The Court upheld the rule that in order for a Landlord to be liable for a dog bite, the Landlord must have actual that the tenant harbors a dog with violent propensities. Furthermore, the fact that one tenant does odd property related jobs at the property does not make him/her an actual agent of the Landlord and therefore his knowledge can not be imputed on tot he Landlord.  In terms of knowledge of a Landlord, the Court upheld the standard of actual knowledge.  Constructive knowledge, or otherwise stated ‘should have known’, is not sufficient. 

Here is a link to the Decision

Serving Personal Injury clients in Hanover, York, Gettysburg, Chambersburg, Carlisle, Shippensburg, Harrisburg, Greencastle, an Waynesboro!

The Firm!

As a second introductory post, we introduce you to the 2012 Mooney & Associates attorneys

From left to right sitting:  Attorney Jeff Lawrence, Founding Partner John Mooney, Attorney Jason Imler

From left to right standing:  Attorney Tyann Miller, Attorney Mark Buterbaugh, Attortney Katrina Luedtke, Attorney Rachel Shreck, Attorney Judy Miller, Attorney Goerge Swatrz, and Attorney Amy Ehrhart

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Welcome to our personal injury blog

As an introductory post, we wish to welcome readers to the official Personal Injury blog of Mooney & Associates.  We are a south central Pennsylvania law firm serving the communities of Hanover, Gettysburg, York, Harrisburg, Chambersburg, Carlisle, Shippensburg, Mercersburg, Greencastle, and Waynesboro and Waynesboro areas.  Our firm vigorously represent clients in personal injury, family law, criminal defense, wills and estate law, and business law.  The focus of this Blog is dedicated to the personal injury practice of the firm.  Our personal injury clients are represented by three Attorneys, John Mooney, Jason Imler and Mark Buterbaugh.

Mooney & Associates was started 15 years ago by found partner John Mooney.  Attorney Mooney has over twenty-five years of experience in general practice. After being a partner in the law firm of Gates and Mooney for eleven years, Attorney Mooney found the firm in 1997.  Attorney Mooney has extensive expertise in litigation, especially in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense and family law. Attorney Mooney also has extensive experience in probate estate administration, estate planning, real estate transactions, business organizations and transactions, and all aspects of civil and criminal litigation, including preliminary hearings, trials, and the appeals process.  Don’t be surprised if you see contribution tot he Blog from Attorney Mooney. 

Attorney Imler, a Hanover native, started his professional career as a licensed insurance agent for six years while he earned his Bachelors degree from West Chester University. Attorney Imler obtained a law clerk position while in law school working on motor vehicle accident, workers compensation, product liability claims, and insurance disputes. Upon graduation from Dickinson School of Law, Attorney Imler accepted a position as an associate attorney with a Harrisburg personal injury firm. Since 2001, he has aggressively represented accident victims helping the victims receive fair compensation from insurance companies, large corporations, and others responsible for causing his clients harm.  Attorney Imler focuses his practice on motor vehicle accidents and social security disability.

Before attending law school, Attorney Buterbaugh served in various staff positions with the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for 14 years and served in various local elected positions in Shippensburg Borough and the Shippensburg School Board.  Attorney Buterbaugh graduated from Widener University School of Law in 2009. Immediately after Law School, Attorney Buterbaugh served as an Enforcement Attorney with the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, charged with enforcing regulations and laws with Pennsylvania’s new casino industry. In 2010, Attorney Buterbaugh worked for a large Pennsylvania defense firm working exclusively in workers’ compensation defense, representing some of Pennsylvania’s largest employers, insurance carriers, and third party administrators. Attorney Buterbaugh handles the firms workers’ compensation cases and also provides representation in social security disability, premises liability, and dog bite cases.

We will be utilizing this Blog to bring you the latest news in personal injury in Pennsylvania, to keep you updated on the latest case law that could effect your claim or future claim, and to share relevant information to our readers.