The Harper Law Blog

The Harper Law Blog offers news, announcements, thoughts and articles on life, law and our practice areas of emphasis.

Governor to sign Fair Insurance Bill?

Posted Saturday, May 12, 2007 by Ed Harper

State of Washington Governor Christine Gregoire is posed to sign the Insurance Fair Conduct Act SB 5726. However, insurance representatives plan to meet with Washington State Trial Lawyers (WSTLA) early next week to discuss their differences. Consumer groups hail the bill as progressive and allow consumers more rights in their claims against their own insurance companies.

Insurance associations claim the bill would harm the insurance industry. The insurance lobby claim that monetary damages would be allowed to be increased, it would allow for the payment of costs and attorneys fees to the consumer, and would permit the courts to award triple (treble) damages as a punitive measure.

This bill makes sense. Insurance companies generally take advantage of their policy holders when given the opportunity. In light of companies such as Allstate and Farmers using a computer software program to reduce claims (Colossus) of their own policy holders, this bill should be enacted to protect consumers.

The Washington State Senate approved SB 5276 on a vote of 31 to 18. The Governor was supposed to sign the bill on May 8, 2007. The signing was halted in light of the demand by insurance groups to meet with WSTLA leaders.

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Claiming malpractice against your physician

Posted Saturday, April 21, 2007 by Ed Harper

A recent University of Michigan Law Review article Mat 2007 has shown that doctors are given more deference from juries than what you may have been hearing in the news. Physicians have a higher percentage of wins when they go through a jury trial. However, when the evidence is strong towards the negligence of the physician, the patient has an almost 50% chance of winning.

Don’t fall prey to the notion that jury verdicts have damaged the system. Physicians have insurance for a reason and if their rates are too high, they should do a better job at regulating their own. Studies have shown that 80-90% of malpractice cases are against the bottom 10% of the physicians.

As one who advocates for an individuals rights, our government should allow the jury system to continue with no limitations on verdicts or caps. Caps do not keep insurance rates down for physicians, it only caps the damages and prevents the injured from recovering the true value of their injuries.

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Insurance industry profits soar in 2006

Posted Thursday, April 19, 2007 by Ed Harper

A decline in catastrophic events has caused the insurance industry to post record profits in 2006. According to industry sources, the U.S. property/casualty insurance industry posted a record $31.2 BILLION NET GAIN on underwriting for the year. This has resulted in record profits for most insurance companies in 2006.

Underwriting is the methodology of evaluating risks and exposures for the prospective client. Profits from underwriting requires the insurance company to charge more premiums in comparison to what claims are paid out.

In other words, this profit has resulted from excess premiums remaining after losses have been paid out and the company’s administrative expenses have been deducted.

Following the Katrina losses in 2006 and other natural disasters, insurance companies charged their customers a higher price for the same insurance. When fewer disasters struck the companies have profited handsomely.

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Social host liability

Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 by Ed Harper

Property owners owe a duty of care to their guests to exercise reasonable care. This is subject to much discussion on what was/is reasonable care.

A property owner must either warn or create a safe environment for their guests. Washington case law states the following: “This standard of care imposes a ‘duty to exercise reasonable care’ toward licensees where there is a known dangerous condition on the property which the possessor can reasonably anticipate the licensee will not discover or will fail to realize the risks involved.” Younce, at 667. If a duty exists, it is met by making the condition safe or by giving a warning of the danger. Younce, at 668.

When someone comes onto your land, they are deemed to be “licensees”. A licensee is “a person who is privileged to enter or remain on land only by virtue of the possessor’s consent”, Restatement (Second) of Torts 330, and includes a social guest. Younce, supra.

Washington courts have interpreted this to mean that an owner of a premises has possibly breached their duty of care to the licensees on their property by supplying alcohol to their guests who were minors. In Younce, supra at 667-69, our State Supreme Court applied the Restatement 342 standard of care where the minor plaintiff was injured when she was struck by a car driven by another minor on the defendants’ property where minors were drinking alcoholic beverages at a high school “kegger” party.

So, where does that leave you? My suggestion is to not serve alcohol at any employment or church related function. There are too many concerns for the host as well as a church to allow alcohol to be served to one’s guests.

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Brain Injuries

Posted Wednesday, March 14, 2007 by Ed Harper

Brain injuries are on the rise. Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBIs) or Brain Injuries are increasing due to the more resilient vehicles (cars are not incurring as much property damage) on the road today.

“More than 40 percent of TBIs are the result of traffic accidents” the most common cause of this type of injury.

Ironically, advances in protective equipment – seatbelts, airbags, helmets – may have led to increases in TBIs over the past decade or so, Dr. Lifshitz says. That’s because people who once would have died from injuries in an accident now live, but with badly wounded brains. – Recent MSNBC article.

People are injured as a result of the sheering forces on the brain when sudden acceleration and deceleration incidents occur. Incidents such as car collisions and falls can cause permanent injuries. The brain, soft and jelly-like, is slammed into the hard and bony skull. Permanent damage often results as nerve fibers are torn apart and the brain cells often do not recover.

According to the National Institute of Health, “Symptoms of a TBI can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the damage to the brain. A person with a mild TBI may remain conscious or may experience a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes. Other symptoms of mild TBI include headache, confusion, lightheadedness, dizziness, blurred vision or tired eyes, ringing in the ears, bad taste in the mouth, fatigue or lethargy, a change in sleep patterns, behavioral or mood changes, and trouble with memory, concentration, attention, or thinking. A person with a moderate or severe TBI may show these same symptoms, but may also have a headache that gets worse or does not go away, repeated vomiting or nausea, convulsions or seizures, an inability to awaken from sleep, dilation of one or both pupils of the eyes, slurred speech, weakness or numbness in the extremities, loss of coordination, and increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation.”

Brain injured victims must rely on family and friends for assistance. The injured person often cannot hold a job as they lack the ability to remember, cannot concentrate, and employers lose their patience. Society must learn to assist the ever-increasing number of brain injured people.

If you or a loved one has been injured through someone else’s negligence, call Harper Law, PLLC.

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