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Winter Storm Damage 101

Callie Miller - Tuesday, February 17, 2015

 

Are you responsible if fallen snow from the top of your vehicle causes damage to another vehicle while driving down the road? What about if a fallen tree limb from your yard damages your neighbor's roof? 

 

Winter storms can wreak havoc on the roadways and at homes and businesses. These FAQs from the Missouri Department of Insurance help clarify some basic liability issues:

 

What coverage is available for debris removal, power outages, lightning, frozen water pipes, water damage due to the breakage of frozen pipes, and the weight of ice and snow causing a roof, porch, or deck to collapse?

  • Debris removal for trees: Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay up to $500 for the removal of trees from the premises if the tree damages your home or other insured property. That coverage includes removing a neighbor's tree that fell on your property. It doesn't matter who owns the tree, just that it causes damage to an insured building or fence.
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  • Power outages: The typical homeowners policy excludes from coverage damages from power outages unless they result directly from covered "perils" (wind, hail, lightning, etc.). For example, if lightning strikes the house and causes a power interruption, the consequent spoilage of food in a freezer is covered.
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  • Lightning: Damage caused by lightning is covered.
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  • Frozen water pipes: The typical policy covers repair of frozen pipes and the damage they cause. An exception can occur when the dwelling is vacant or under construction unless you use reasonable care to a) maintain heat in the building or b) shut off the water supply and drain the system and appliances of water.
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  • Weight of ice and snow causing roof, porch, deck to collapse: The typical homeowners policy covers damage involving collapse of an insured building or any of its parts caused by the weight of ice, snow or sleet.
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What coverage must I have on my auto policy to cover repairs if ice fell on it and damaged it?

Comprehensive coverage will pay for ice falling on the auto.

Does a vehicle's owner have responsibility for ice falling off a vehicle and damaging the car behind it? Does the vehicle owner have any duty to clean off the vehicle before it is driven down the highway?

Generally, owners whose cars are damaged file these claims under their comprehensive or collision coverage, depending on the circumstances.

What about car accidents occurring on the ice?

Missouri is a "comparative negligence" state. In other words, if you file a claim under the other driver's liability policy, an insurer may find that both drivers were at fault and only pay partial costs for repair of your car. However, DIFP requires the insurer fully investigate the accident and document its basis for that determination.

You can read more Winter Storm FAQS at:  http://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/weather/winterstormFAQ.php. And if you're seriously injured and another party is at fault, speak with an attorney at Cook, Barkett, Ponder & Wolz to learn more about your rights. 

 

 

Understanding under-insured motorist coverage

Callie Miller - Thursday, October 16, 2014

Each year, about 2.9 million people are injured in car crashes – resulting in medical care and productivity loss costs of about $99 billion nationally.

 Motor vehicle insurance coverage covers some of that cost in most cases. But what happens when you’re injured by another driver, and the cost of your medical care and losses exceed the other driver’s coverage?

In Missouri, drivers have a minimum requirement of just $25,000 per person in automobile liability insurance coverage. If you are injured in a car wreck, and another driver is at fault, then you are effectively limited in what you are entitled to collect based upon the other driver’s policy. So if the at-fault driver only has  $25,000 liability coverage, and your medical bills exceed that amount, you may be stuck with the balance. In some situations, a lawsuit against the at-fault party may help recoup some expenses, but often if the other driver has insufficient insurance then he/she also has a limited income and assets.

One way to guard against this outcome is underinsured motorist coverage. Unlike uninsured motorist coverage, which is required in Missouri, an underinsured policy is optional. For an additional premium (usually with little expense) you’ll have “gap” coverage that will protect you if you’re ever seriously injured in an auto accident by another person.

So if you have  $100,000 in underinsured coverage, and the other driver has only $25,000 in liability coverage, your policy could allow for an additional $75,000 in coverage for injuries. There are limitations to this type of coverage, however, so it’s very important to review your policy carefully.

If you have been in a car wreck and have questions about your options, please contact the attorneys at Cook, Barkett, Ponder & Wolz.


Teaching teens to drive under the (right) influence

Callie Miller - Friday, August 22, 2014

Nothing kills more 15- to 20-year-olds than traffic accidents. And 80 percent of crashes involve some form of distracted driving – talking on a cell phone, or texting. Eating or paying attention to the back seat instead of the road. 


Many of those crashes could be prevented, which is why our firm launched a community outreach program that focuses on educating teen drivers and their parents.


Teens and their parents can log on to www.semocruisecontrol.com to request a free safe driving kit, and to download and sign the Cruise Control Safe Driving Pledge. Other resources are also available, including downloadable tips on helping teens become better drivers.   

5 Reasons Teens Are Likely to Crash

1.) Driver inexperience

2.) Distracted driving

3.) Speeding

4.) Using illegal substances

5.) Taking unnecessary risks


Those are all areas that parents can influence by setting a good example, talking to their teen, and reinforcing safe driving rules. Getting this message out to the community is a critical cause that we’re proud to support. 


It’s estimated that a Missouri teen is killed or injured in a car accident about every 43 minutes. That’s not a statistic anyone should be OK with, especially since so many of those accidents are preventable. And in many cases, parents are the key to that prevention.


You can follow Cruise Control on Facebook at facebook.com/semocruisecontrol.





Comparative fault – seeking damages when you’re partly responsible for a wreck

BOLD Marketing - Monday, August 04, 2014

Missouri, along with 12 other states, recognizes what’s known as the Pure Comparative Fault Rule. 


This allows a damaged party to recover even if he/she is 99 percent at fault, although the recovery is reduced by the damaged party’s degree of fault.


An easy way to look at comparative fault is to imagine a car wreck, with one driver running a red light and a second driver speeding. Each driver contributed to the accident. In court, a jury or judge would determine how much fault each driver has in the crash.

If the person who ran the light is primarily responsible, he or she might be 65% at fault; the second driver would then shoulder 35% of the fault. Each party would then collect damages equal to their percent of fault. For example, if the first driver who ran the light had $55,000 in damages, he or she would collect 35%, or $19,250. If the second driver (speeding), also had $55,000 in damages, he or she would collect $35,750 (65%) from the first driver, who was held primarily responsible.

In contrast, Contributory Negligence – used in a handful of states – essentially holds that if you contribute to your own injury, you can't hold anyone else responsible for it. In that situation, neither driver would collect damages.

If you have been in an accident, and would like more information about your options, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’re always happy to provide a free case evaluation.


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