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Insuring Your Car: What is Full Coverage?

Do you know what is and is not covered under your automobile insurance policy? Most of my clients come into my office for the first time after a serious car accident with a false sense of security. They’ve been told they have “full coverage,” and assume they are “in good hands,” so to speak. However, insurers are not like good neighbors and it is up to you to purchase the coverage you want in the event of an accident. The truth is, “full coverage” doesn’t mean a thing in the realm of personal injury law, and figuring out what your policy covers after an accident puts you in a terrible position. There are several different types of coverage you can purchase. This is a simple guide to help you understand what your policy includes and what you might want to consider purchasing in the future. The following assumes that you have been in an accident that was not your fault, and you have suffered damages such as medical expenses and lost wages.
  • Underinsured Motorist (UIM): UIM is, in my experience, the most important coverage you can obtain. It is relatively inexpensive and will pay for accident related expenses (medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, etc.) when your damages exceed the policy limits of the at-fault driver. Montana law requires drivers to have a minimum of $25,000 in liability coverage. Of course some people don’t have any insurance, and in that situation, Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM) is applicable. UM and UIM are often lumped together in insurance policies. However, if you have ever been injured, you probably know how quickly medical bills can escalate. The minimum limits of $25,000 just do not cover much if you are in an accident and suffer physical injuries. It is up to you to protect yourself by purchasing UIM coverage. UIM limits of $100,000 per person are common among people who purchase this coverage. It is “personal and portable,” meaning you can tap into this coverage regardless of whether you are injured in your car or someone else’s. In short, UM/UIM coverage is probably the single most important coverage you can obtain. And, because it is relatively inexpensive and is used so often by seriously injured people, insurance companies do not really try to sell UIM coverage because it is not in their financial best interest. Insurers are required to offer UM coverage, but they are not required to talk to you about UIM coverage, so it is up to you. Get it.
  • Medical Payments: Also called “med pay,” this type of insurance provides no fault coverage for any individual who suffers injuries due to the operation of your car. This can be you, your sister, your best friend’s aunt … it doesn’t matter. It is often purchased in amounts like $2,500 or $5,000, but I have seen policies with $100,000 med pay coverage. It is fairly expensive, but it applies per person. So if you have four people in your car and all four are injured, it will pay the limit you purchase to each person. It also follows you, so if you are injured in another person’s car, you can access your med pay coverage regardless of who was at fault.
  • Bodily Injury: BI coverage is the limit your insurance will pay to someone you injure. The law requires you to have at least $25,000 worth of
BI coverage. The general rule is that the more you are worth (in terms of assets and cash), the higher you want this coverage to be. Keep in mind that if you severely injure someone in a car accident that is your fault, you are liable for all of the injured party’s damages, regardless of what kind of coverage you have. So, if you have the minimum limits of $25,000 and you cause an accident that results in someone suffering $100,000 in damages, the injured party can sue you personally for the $75,000 worth of damages not covered by your insurance. Another way to think about this is that you want to buy coverage in an amount that insulates you from personal liability. This is a very basic layout of some of the more important coverages you should be aware of. There are others (property damage, etc) but from the perspective of a personal injury attorney, these are most commonly at issue when someone is injured in a motor vehicle accident. So where do you go to find out which of these coverages your policy includes? Check the declarations page of your policy (often referred to as the “dec” page) which lists what your policy includes as well as the amount the insurance company will pay under each type of coverage. Finally, when it comes to choosing an insurance company, do your homework. There are companies who have been sued by their policy holders countless times for acting in bad faith and not protecting them or paying the benefits they are entitled to under their policy, and there are insurers who tend to put their insured before their own self-interest. Do NOT be influenced by catchy slogans. Sometimes it turns out that somebody you considered a good neighbor is actually a terrible person. Good luck!

Insuring Your Car: What is Full Coverage?

Do you know what is and is not covered under your automobile insurance policy? Most of my clients come into my office for the first time after a serious car…

Dog Bites and Your Rights

It’s a doggone problem that really isn’t funny at all. Dog bites. A Center for Disease Control study estimates that 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each year, 800,000 of those bites require medical care. This means 1 out of every 69 people will be bitten by a dog this year.

If you’ve been bitten by a dog and suffered injury that required medical attention you may be wondering what the next steps would be to collect your deserved compensation.

Montana law, both statutory and common, cover dog bite injuries. A three year time limit from the injury to the filing sets the perimeter in which a suit must begin; otherwise, your claim may be barred.

Spoon Law, Montana Dog bite
Dog bites and your rights

A dog owner is liable per Montana Statutes section 27-1-715 if:

“The owner of a dog that without provocation bites a person while the person is on or in a public place or lawfully on or in a private place, including the property of the owner of the dog, located within an incorporated city or town is liable for damages that may be suffered by the person bitten regardless of the former viciousness of the dog or the owner’s knowledge of the viciousness.

A person is lawfully upon the private property of the owner within the meaning of this section when the person is on the property in the performance of any duty imposed upon the person by the laws of this state or by the laws or postal regulations of the United States of America or when the person is on the property as an invitee or licensee of the person lawfully in possession of the property.”

With the help of your attorney, those injured by a dog outside of the afore listed statute can still pursue compensation per Montana’s negligence law. This kind of claim would require the injured person to offer evidence that the dog’s owner failed to pointedly restrain their dog that caused the injury. This is also the kind of claim that would likely be pursued if someone was injured by a dog by a mechanism other than a dog bite.

If you have been injured by a dog and fit the conditions outlined above, contact SpoonGordon law today where one of our personal injury experts can help you in the next steps to the compensation you deserve.

Dog Bites and Your Rights

It’s a doggone problem that really isn’t funny at all. Dog bites. A Center for Disease Control study estimates that 4.7 million dog bites occur in the United States each…

Montana – The Only State in the Union Where At-Will Employment Laws do not Apply

What does it mean for Montana not to be an at-will state? 

 Montana is one of the only states whose law allows for employees to have an extra-layer of protection. In other states employers can fire an un-contracted at-will employee at any time and for any legal reason. In Montana work at-will laws only apply during a probation period that is a standard six months unless otherwise established at the time of employment. Upon conclusion of the probationary period Montana employers must have valid cause in order to terminate one’s employment. 

 At-will also allows for employers to adjust the terms of employment with employees at any time for any reason without legal consequences. The employer may alter benefits, reduce time-off or change wage arrangements without consent of the employee. 

 As previously stated, however, Montana is not an at-will state. 

 What act protects employees from wrongful termination? 

 Passed in 1987 the Montana Wrongful Discharge from Employment Act “…sets forth certain rights and remedies with respect to wrongful discharge.” 

 The act declares a discharge is wrongful only if: 

1. It was in retaliation for the employee’s refusal to violate public policy or for reporting a violation of public policy;

2. The discharge was not for good cause and the employee had completed the employer’s probationary period of employment; or

3. The employer violated the express provisions of its own written personnel policy.

 An employee’s failure to adequately perform the task for which they were employed, an employee’s negligence to working lawfully, the employer’s company being dissolved or the interruption of business for any other reason are all lawful excuses for firing an employee.

 If you are a contracted employee, both the employer and the employee must be followed the contract terms even throughout the termination of the employee. If the employee is entitled to certain procedures and opportunities prior to being let go those obligations, by law, must be fulfilled.

 If you feel like you have been wrongfully terminated you should contact an attorney with employment law experience post haste. The time to file a claim on such measures is short and should be used wisely.

Montana – The Only State in the Union Where At-Will Employment Laws do not Apply

What does it mean for Montana not to be an at-will state?   Montana is one of the only states whose law allows for employees to have an extra-layer of protection….

What to do When You’ve Experienced a Slip and Fall

With the hustle and bustle of the season and the ever building ice due to Montana weather the chances of a slip and fall are greater now more than ever. If you’ve been the victim of a fall due to someone else’s negligence and if you have injuries as a result we encourage you to get help right away. 1. Seek Medical Attention Your first priority needs to be your safety and well-being. Consulting a doctor will not only get you on the mend but it also allows for a documentation of your injuries. This is imperative if you plan to seek compensation for the costs associated with injury caused. The defense may try to dismiss your injury claiming that it took place prior to when it actually did so having an expert and their medical expertise on your side will be to your advantage. 2. Document the Scene Did the establishment neglect to put salt out on the ice to begin the melting process? Did the walkway not get shoveled or did ice form inside the door of a store? Maybe a holiday display was put in a location that caused tripping. It is important to identify what caused your fall and then to document that cause. Simple cell- phone photos can be the perfect evidence in a trial. Although juries do their best to listen to the audible re-creation of the scene having tangible evidence is superior. 3. Identify Witnesses Did you fall with other shoppers in your presence? Were there several employees nearby when the accident took place. Ask for the names and contact people of witnesses present. Your attorney can use this information to get back in touch with them to help you prove your case. 4. Begin a Written Account of the Event When Traumatic events occur it is easy for details to fall off of the list of priorities. As soon as the accident takes place begin a journal of everything. The pain incurred, the doctors you visited with, any new symptoms.It is helpful to also include the narrative of how the events played out. What was your reaction when you realized you were going to fall? How did those around you react? Who was there? What did they say? The more details the better. 5. Contact an Attorney Right Away As soon as a slip and fall injury takes place there are reports to fill out and steps to take to build your case. Missing these steps could cause you to lose. By contacting an attorney in short order, they will ensure that all of the proper steps are being taken to legally protect you. That way you can take care of your body and they can take care of the paperwork. Finally, in Montana there are two things to keep in mind if you are the victim of a slip and fall:
  1. Comparative Negligence In the Treasure State comparative negligence rules exist. They declare that if a person is responsible for an accident his or her compensation for injuries and damages will decrease by the amount they were at fault. If you fell because you were not looking where you were going and you tripped on something you may still be rewarded but it will be less because you can be found partially at fault. 2. Advance Payments Also unique to Montana are our Ridley and Dubray laws stating that when liability is reasonably expenses can be paid prior to the case’s settlement. This will likely be the case for clearly at- fault slip and fall cases.
Payments for slip and falls are determined by a formula that takes into consideration the conditions etc. so it is imperative to have a well-qualified personal injury attorney on your side. Visit with our team today to allow them to assist you.

What to do When You’ve Experienced a Slip and Fall

With the hustle and bustle of the season and the ever building ice due to Montana weather the chances of a slip and fall are greater now more than ever….

10 Steps to Prepare for Deposition

Preparing for a deposition may seem like a daunting task and it should be taken seriously. This pre-trial oral testimony is taken under oath although no judge or jury is present. Only the opposing attorney, your attorney, you and a court recorder will be in the room. During your time in a deposition the opposing attorney will ask various questions and your answers will be recorded by the court recorder. Your counsel will likely schedule depositions for the opposing whiteness to help them build your case. During a deposition you are sworn under oath to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Anything that you say during a deposition may be used at trial so it is imperative that you arrive to a deposition adequately prepared for what lies ahead. Your attorney is there mainly to facilitate but they may ask you to clarify a confusing answer and raise objections for the record. Usually taking place in a casual setting, the intent of a deposition is to prepare the legal counsel to use your testimony to prove their case. Knowing what to expect when you arrive and what your attorney expects from you is of utmost importance. This requires preparation, concentration and internal discipline. We suggest two basic rules that should be your guideline during a deposition: “Listen, listen, listen.” Everything that is said and the context in which it is said should be noted. The other principle is “don’t try too hard.” Honest people with good intentions will often times try so hard to tell the truth that they tell more than what they should. Just answer the questions adequately and let the opposing attorney ask further questions if they so choose. Here are 10 steps to deposition preparation we suggest and encourage: 1. Take your time – He who writes the rules wins the game The person who sets the pace is always one step ahead of the others. By slowly approaching the situation and thoughtfully considering each answer you can rest assured that you will answer concisely and accurately. Don’t allow anyone else to rush you. It is your oath and your testimony. Thus it should be relayed at your pace. Everything shared during a deposition will be recorded and in the recordings it will be accuracy that matters not the speed with which you relayed the answer. Taking your time will keep you from feeling rushed, making mistakes less likely. The opposing lawyer may try to push you faster for that reason. Taking your time will allow you to truly understand the question and approach it with the best, most honest and precise answer. Taking your time will give your lawyer time to object if necessary. If there is an objection stop, listen and wait until you are advised to continue. 2. Always remember you are making a record – You typically can’t un-ring the bell The person who will say the least during your time in deposition truly holds the most power. The recorder and any other note takers may seem like flies on the wall but they are recording questions, answers, comments – anything may be taken down. Carefully reply to everything as if you are dictating an important document. 3. Tell the truth – It makes it easier to remember what you said the first time. Lying is a crime and it will also cause more extensive problems later on. Telling the truth means being genuine with each answer without being defensive or over-explaining beyond what the question asks. 4. Be relentlessly polite – Don’t tease the bear Remember what your primary goals are during the deposition? Listen, listen, listen and don’t try too hard. That’s your job. Theirs is to ask questions. Don’t waste your time and energy attacking their job. It will accomplish nothing. If there is a resin for things to get difficult, let your lawyer handle that. Stay above the fray. 5. Don’t answer a question you don’t understand Do not answer the question unless you hear it clearly and completely. You may ask the opposing counsel or the court reporter to repeat the question. You may also ask them to rephrase the inquiry. Don’t guess. If you don’t “get it” simply say so and it can be explained in a way that you will. 6. If you don’t remember – just say so Litigation can move slowly causing testimony to be delayed for months or even years after the events at issue. You can only testify to what you specifically remember. Don’t work to evoke memories that are unclear. Simply state that you do not remember. This may seem unnatural because in every day conversations we hardly admit to “not remembering” but it is a requirement that your testimony be completely accurate and that means only stating the facts as you know them. 7. Don’t guess If you don’t know the answer to a question simply say “I don’t know”. After all, you pledged to tell the truth. Two broad categories fall in to guessing: 1. Factual Details: If you first say “I don’t know” and the questioner asks for your “best memory” clarify to them that it would only be a guess or that you would have a large margin of error trying to pin-point the answer. 2. Inferences: In ordinary conversation we draw conclusions, inferences and opinions. There’s a chance we may be able to deduce 95% of the answer but in a deposition it is 100% or nothing. You can only testify to what you saw, heard or did. 8. Do not volunteer You are to answer the questions briefly, articulately and accurately. Keep it simple. If a question becomes muddled with complication or length ask for it to be rephrased. Never educate the questioner, volunteer information beyond the question, fill the silence or explain your though process. 9. Be careful with documents and prior statements. If you are quizzed about a document ask to see the document. If seeing the document is not allowed, the document will speak for itself. 10. Use your counsel Your counsel is there solely for the purpose of helping you. Don’t hesitate to talk to them often and for whatever reason you see fit. It will not reflect poorly on you from the record and it can help to calm your nerves and ensure a successful deposition. In closing, treat depositions seriously. Making jokes or wisecracks is a great way to antagonize. Even the mildest obscenity, ethnic, sexual or racial slurs can be taken out of context or considered derogatory. No conversation in deposition is “off the record”. One thing is for sure: the way you conduct yourself during deposition can make or break your case. Be cooperative, mindful and consult your attorney at any time for clarification or assistance.

10 Steps to Prepare for Deposition

Preparing for a deposition may seem like a daunting task and it should be taken seriously. This pre-trial oral testimony is taken under oath although no judge or jury is…

When Liability Is Reasonably Clear

When a car accident causes injury, it is easy for the injured person to be anxious about the payment of medical bills resulting from the accident. For those in car…