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Information about Personal Injury in Washington State

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Monthly Archives: June 2011

Older Drivers and Injury Statistics

Categories: Auto Accidents

By Arthur D. Leritz. Posted on .

We’ve all heard the statistics about how younger drivers are typically more likely to be involved in motor vehicle collisions.   It makes sense, and it’s something we have been told, well, since we were old enough to drive.   Of growing concern, however, are the drivers at the other end of the spectrum:  “older drivers,” defined as drivers 65 years of age and older.  This will become more of an issue as the baby boomers continue to age. . . and drive.    Some recent findings are cause for concern:

In 2008, more than 5,500 older adults were killed and more than 183,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. This amounts to 15 older adults killed and 500 injured in crashes on average every day.

There were 33 million licensed older drivers in 2009, which is a 23 percent increase from 1999.[1]     

Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. More than five times as many people 70 years and older were killed on motorcycles in 2008 than in 1997.[2]

Of the 708 traffic fatalities reported in Washington State in 2008, 86 (12.1%) involved drivers aged 65 and older.[3]  This is slightly higher than the national average of 11.1%.[4]  Surprisingly, it is Vermont that has the highest percentage of fatalities involving drivers over the age of 65 (18.6%), and not the typical “retirement states” of Florida (11.2%), Arizona (11.2%) and New Mexico (9%).[5] Lousiana had the lowest percentage of fatalities involving drivers over the age of 65 (7.9%).[6] 

A recent survey done by the Centers for Disease Control found that older drivers tend to limit or self-restrict their driving during certain conditions:

Of the current drivers, about 57% of men and 81% of women reported that they avoided driving under certain conditions. Respondents most commonly limited their driving at night and in bad weather. One-third of older men and two-thirds of older women stated that they avoided driving under each of these conditions.

Other findings included:

Only 9% of older men, but 34% of older women, reported avoiding driving on highways or high-speed roads.

A third of older men and 44% of older women reported avoiding driving in heavy traffic.

About 10% of older men and 15% of older women reported cutting back on driving due to a physical problem in the last year.

Of those that cut back on driving due to physical problem, 40% cited vision-related issues as a reason.[7]

If you are a driver age 65 or older, you can reduce your risk of getting in a motor vehicle collision by doing the following:

  1.  Avoid driving in conditions of poor visibility, high traffic or high speed areas, such as freeways.
  2. Avoid driving while on medications that affects reaction times or mental alertness – if in doubt about which medications may affect your ability to drive then consult your doctor.
  3. Exercise regularly to increase your strength and flexibility
  4. Leave more room when following vehicles to allow a greater reaction time.
  5. Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and wear corrective lenses when required.

If you know of an older driver that is having difficulty driving in certain conditions or has had a recent collision, talk to them and voice your concerns.  You may end up saving their life and the lives of others.    


[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] ttp://www.cdc.gov/Motorvehiclesafety/Older_Adult_Drivers/adult-drivers_factsheet.html

Insurance Fair Claims Act (IFCA) In Action: Leveling the Playing Field and Protecting Washington Consumers

Categories: Personal Injury Resources

By Jacob W. Gent. Posted on .

In 2007, the Washington state legislature passed the Insurance Fair Claims Act (IFCA) which provided Washington consumers a legal cause of action against insurers who violate their fiduciary duty to their policyholders. The Act permits the Office of the Insurance Commissioner (OIC) to penalize insurers for, among other things, improper denial of claims in “bad faith” and overcharging customers for insurance policy premiums. In 2010, the OIC levied $583,750 in fines against insurers doing business in Washington state. According to an article1 in The Olympian dated April 7, 2011, the OIC has fined Washington insurers more than $167,000 in the first quarter of 2011 alone. Fines collected by the OIC are placed in the state’s general fund to pay for other state services.

Examples of fines and disciplinary actions in 2011 include:

• Aetna Life Insurance Company was fined $65,000 for violations, including unreasonably denying 220 claims for acupuncture treatment. In addition, the company refunded $16,427 to policyholders.

• Philadelphia based Ace American Insurance Company was fined $50,000 for using premium rates not filed with the state.

• Progressive American Insurance Company, Progressive Northwestern Insurance Company. and Progressive Max Insurance Company were fined $30,000 for improperly deducting sales tax and fees from cash value calculations in more than 1,700 auto claims. Another $415,299.00 was also refunded to its policyholders.

The insurance companies have responded. In an article by the Puget Sound Business Journal dated May 17, 2011, Karl Newman, president of the Northwest Insurance Council (NWIC) was quoted as saying:

Insurance companies have a fiduciary [duty] to pay every legitimate claim and deny everything that’s not covered under the contract … The law [IFCA] came from a flawed assumption [there wasn’t enough protection in place for policyholders].”2

According to the NWIC, the Insurance Fair Claims Act has overburdened the insurance industry with unnecessary costs, causing insurance companies to compare the cost of paying a claim it considers fraudulent against the risk of defending its decision to deny a claim in court.

According to the NWIC, there has been a 9.3% increase of “questionable claims” in Washington state since 2008, costing an alleged $200 million in claims related costs. In spite of the claimed increase in indemnity and claims related expenses allegedly caused by IFCA, insurance companies in the state of Washington remain extremely profitable, collecting $8.4 billion in new premiums, while paying out $5.1 billion in claims in 2009, according to the OIC.

Anyone with a complaint against an insurer, agent or broker can contact the insurance commissioner’s office at 1-800-562-6900 or file a complaint at www.insurance.wa.gov.

1. http://www.theolympian.com/2011/04/07/1607393/olympia-fines-against-insurers.html

2. http://www.bizjournals.com/seattle/blog/2011/05/questionable-insurance-claims-jump-9.html

NFL Toughens up On Fines for Improper Head Hits

Categories: Brain Injury

By Richard H. Adler. Posted on .

In October 2010, the issue of concussions and brain injuries had caught the attention of the NFL as seen by the significant fines assessed against players who caused helmet-to-helmet contact during tackles.  The fines were an initial attempt to draw black-and-white boundaries for players and league officials and to send a strong and new signal that helmet-to-helmet hits were now off limits.  The NFL’s actions demonstrated concern about the long term consequences for players and for the future of the sport.  For the remainder of the season, many players appeared unfazed by the new fines and improper hits continued throughout play-offs.   But then again, change like this does not come overnight.

 

In 2011, whenever football practices and games resume, and in an effort to “walk-the-talk” against helmet-to-helmet hits, the NFL will heighten its fines to reach into the owners’ pockets.  The new rule was designed to force a cascade of implementation requiring coaches to instruct players on safe and proper tackle techniques in this new era.  Despite some objections by players and owners, the NFL has clearly entered a new and enlightened era on protecting the brains of its players and the future of football.  Equally as important, the NFL’s change will have an immediate and longer term cascading effect on youth sports and the need to have greater awareness of risks and consequences when a youth athlete is suspected of having a concussion. This growing awareness will result in the prevention of preventable brain injuries in youth athletes.

 

As an attorney and advocate for those with traumatic brain injuries ranging from sports concussions to pedestrians struck in a crosswalk, I wholeheartedly agree with the NFL’s stand to make sports safer and protect players.  In 2009, I was fortunate to lead a coalition of local community partners dedicated to making sports safer for youth athletics.  As the then-President of the Brain Injury Association of Washington, we joined with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Harborview Medical Center, the Seattle Seahawks/Sounders FC, University of Washington,  Seattle Children’s Hospital, Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, Washington State Youth Soccer Association, Washington State Athletic Trainers Association, and Cannfield & Associates Risk Managers, to help pass the first-in-the-nation youth sports and concussion.  This law standardized the best medical and coaching practices by requiring the removal from the practice or competition following suspicion of a concussion or head injury until the youth athlete was cleared in writing by a licensed healthcare provider trained in the evaluation and management of concussions.  This law also educates students, parents and coaches to know and understand the signs and symptoms of concussion and “when in doubt, sit them out.”

 

To read more about the NFL’s new fines, click here to read the full New York Times article.