Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is one of the options when you are selecting car insurance coverage. Many people are confused about what this is, what it covers, whether they need it, and, if so, how much coverage they may need. This blog post will shed some light on these questions.

What is Uninsured Motorist Insurance and What Does It Cover?

Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage (“UM”) is insurance that you purchase, which will protect you if you are involved in a crash in which the at fault driver does not have bodily injury insurance (“BI”), or his BI coverage is not enough to cover your damages. For example, let’s say you are rear-ended at a stop light by a driver who was simply not paying attention. That crash would be the other driver’s fault. If you are injured your personal injury protection insurance (“PIP”) will pay the first portion of your medical bills, lost wages, etc. But if your damages exceed your PIP coverage, you will need to have those damages covered by the other driver’s BI coverage. If the other driver was not carrying BI, you may be stuck covering the rest of those damages yourself, unless you have UM. If the other driver did not have BI and you have purchased UM coverage, you could make a claim under your own UM coverage for medical bills, lost wages, and other out of pocket expenses related to the crash, up to your UM policy limits.

The same thing happens if the other driver has some BI coverage, but it is not enough to cover your damages. For example, if you suffered a back injury as a result of the crash and needed to have surgery, your damages could be very high. In that case, even if the at fault driver was carrying a $10,000 BI policy, it would not be enough to cover your damages. As in the last example, you could be stuck covering anything over the $10,000 coverage limit yourself; however, if you have UM coverage, you could make a claim to your UM policy for the amounts in excess of the amounts covered by your PIP and the at fault driver’s BI, up to your UM policy limits.

Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

In short, yes.  As described above, UM coverage protects you if you are in a crash caused by a driver who does not have sufficient insurance coverage. Unfortunately, many Florida drivers drive without BI coverage as it is not required in Florida except in certain circumstances. This can mean that you are left to cover much of your own damages despite the fact that the crash was someone else’s fault.

How Much Uninsured Motorist Coverage Do I Need?

This is a personal decision, but we typically recommend at least $100,000 in UM coverage and also recommend stacking the UM coverage. This means that if you have more that one vehicle on your policy, you can essentially double (or triple, quadruple, etc. depending on the number of vehicles on the policy) your UM coverage in the event of a crash. The other option is unstacked coverage, which would mean that you have access to the policy limit you chose with no chance of multiplying that coverage. UM coverage typically adds only a small amount to your insurance premium and provides huge protection in the event of a crash.

An example of a situation in which UM coverage might be hugely important is when a four-person family is involved in a serious collision that requires surgeries. The medical costs alone could easily be in the high six figures. Without sufficient UM coverage, it is possible that the family could face financial ruin. Stacked UM coverage can be an important tool for protecting your family from financial disaster in the event of a collision.

How Do I Make a Claim Against My Uninsured Motorist Coverage?

If you are involved in a crash, you need to make sure you follow all the appropriate steps to protect your right to make a claim under your UM policy. If the at fault driver has some BI coverage, you need to make sure you are considering the requirements of your UM policy when you settle with the driver’s BI coverage provider. Before settling a personal injury claim resulting from a car crash, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney. Here at Thoele | Drach our consultations are free, and we do not get paid unless we recover compensation for your injuries. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss your case and how the various insurance policies come into play with you.

Midland Funding, LLC is a company that buys accounts in default (also known as bad debt). A consumer credit account typically goes into default and is charged off once it has been 180 days since a payment has been made. These accounts are typically consumer credit accounts such as credit cards and store cards. Midland purchases these accounts in groups and often only pays pennies on the dollar to get them. Midland Funding is what is called a 3rd party debt collector. This means that they never originally owned any of the accounts that they try to collect on and instead Midland relies solely on the portfolios of debt they purchase to turn a profit. Midland Funding files thousands of collection lawsuits each year against consumers.

Midland Funding typically uses a sister company called Midland Credit Management to begin collecting on the accounts purchased by Midland Funding. Both of these companies share the same parent company, Encore Capital Group. Midland Funding is one of the nation’s biggest buyers of unpaid debt.

Why is Midland Funding Suing Me?

They are suing because they claim that one of the many accounts they have purchased belongs to you and you therefore owe them now, not the original creditor. They are trying to get you to pay them the alleged amount or have a court enter a judgment against you for the alleged amount. When you boil it down, Midland is using the court system as a tool to ensure their return on investment for the account they claim is linked to you. They typically will also send letters offering to “settle” the alleged debt for 70-80% which is likely far more than what they paid for it. If you have been recently served with a Midland Funding, LLC lawsuit then you should take action to protect yourself.

How can I fight a Midland Funding Lawsuit?

Thoele | Drach can help you fight back against Midland Funding. Settling a case helps you avoid a judgment for the amount Midland is seeking and the costs involved in the filing of the lawsuit. If Midland obtains a judgment against you, they may be able to garnish your wages, bank accounts, and put liens on your property. Most of our settlement agreements do not involve our clients paying Midland Funding any money.  Thoele | Drach has also taken Midland Funding cases to trial to make them prove that they own the debt, and when they can’t, we win.

If you are being sued by Midland Funding or another third-party debt collector, you should consult an experienced debt defense attorney, like those at Thoele | Drach, to discuss your options and rights.

Since 2015, Thoele | Drach has developed a state-wide reputation as being the Baker Act defense firm. No other firm has the resources to respond aggressively to these highly specialized cases that are fraught with pitfalls at every twist and turn. This post is the first in a series on the Florida Mental Health Act of 1971, commonly known as the “Baker Act,” which allows the involuntary institutionalization and examination of an individual.

A person being held under the Baker Act does have rights.  Under Florida Statute 394. 463(2)(i)(1)-(4), when a person is the subject of an involuntary examination, he/she can be held in a facility for a maximum of 72 hours. During this period of time physicians and counselors will examine and interview the patient to determine his/her mental state and the type and duration of further treatment that may be needed, including further involuntary confinement.

Many facilities and administrators are mistaken in their understanding of the Baker Act’s requirements and oftentimes interpret the Baker Act in favor of obtaining additional days of insurance benefits. To obtain these additional days, facilities and administrators routinely claim that they do not release patients or a psychiatrist is not available on the weekends. Florida Administrative Code 65E-5.351(3) Minimum Standards for Designated Receiving Facilities, requires that “[e]ach receiving facility shall assure that its reception, screening, and inpatient services are fully operational 24-hours-per- day, 7-days-per-week.”

The Baker Act requires release if a patient is examined and determined to be releasable earlier than the 72-hour examination period. The facility must, within the 72 hours, do one of the following things:
1. Release the patient without condition;
2. Release the patient for voluntary outpatient treatment;
3. Request that the patient give consent to being admitted for voluntary inpatient treatment;
4. File a petition for involuntary placement with the appropriate circuit court when outpatient or inpatient treatment is necessary, but the patient refuses to consent.

In most cases, patients have family or friends that can help. Florida Statute 394.459(2)(b) states that “[i]t is further the policy of the state that the least restrictive appropriate available treatment be utilized based on the individual needs and best interests of the patient and consistent with optimum improvement of the patient’s condition.” The Baker Act specifically states that involuntary confinement is not appropriate when any apparent harm “may be avoided through the help of willing family members or friends . . . .” Florida Statute 394.463(1)(b)(1).

If you or someone you know is being held under Florida’s Baker Act and you believe it was done improperly, it is important to consult with an attorney experienced in this area, like the attorneys at Thoele | Drach, to discuss your or your loved one’s rights under the Baker Act.

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After you have been in a car crash, you may be shaken up or in shock.  This may be in the case even if the crash seems relatively minor.  Following are 9 steps you can take to protect yourself and your interests after a car crash.

  1. Stop your car safely. You should never, ever leave the scene of a crash.  When stopping, make sure you are stopped in a safe area, and look carefully at traffic and the other vehicles involved in the crash before you exit your vehicle.
  2. Take pictures. Once you are safely stopped, you should take pictures of the crash scene.  Make sure you have pictures of all vehicles involved in order to preserve the record of what happened at the time of the crash.  Your memory and the memories of any witnesses may erode over time, so it is important to have photographic evidence of the crash.  If you can, take pictures of the vehicles as they were at the time of the crash, before moving them off the roadway.  Additionally, make sure to take photographs of any visible injuries you may have.
  3. Talk to witnesses. If there are any witnesses, get their name and contact information.  Those witnesses may be very important later.
  4. Call the police. You should always call the police, even if you don’t think there are any serious injuries involved.  It is best to have a crash report.  The police will also collect contact information from each person involved in the crash, including insurance information.  Be truthful when speaking to the police.  Tell the officers exactly what happened to the best of your knowledge.  If you do not know the answer to a specific question, it is ok to tell the officer you don’t know.  Do not speculate or embellish the facts.  Make sure that you do not admit any fault for the crash.  If you are asked if you are injured and you are unsure, you should say that you are unsure.  Often, injuries and pain caused by a car crash will not show up until hours later.
  5. Exchange information. You should always exchange names, contact information, and insurance information with everyone involved in a crash.  Typically, the police will gather this information, but if, for some reason, the police do not respond, you should do so yourself.  Make sure you have information for each driver and passenger involved.
  6. Seek medical attention. As mentioned above, injuries from car crashes are not always immediately apparent.  The pain my not show up until a day or two after the crash.  Unless you are sure you are not injured, it is best to seek immediate medical attention at your local emergency room, an urgent care clinic, or your primary care physician.  You can sustain serious injuries, even from a minor impact.  It is also important to be seen quickly so that you have access to your PIP (or personal injury protection) benefits.  Your car insurance will pay for a certain portion of your medical expenses, but in order to claim these benefits you must be seen within 14 days of your crash.
  7. Report the crash to your insurance company. You will want to report the crash to your insurance as soon as possible following the crash, but it is best to wait until after you have retained an attorney to assist you with your case.  If you do contact your insurance company to report your crash before you have retained an attorney, do not give any recorded statements to the insurance company until you have retained a personal injury attorney.
  8. Do not take any money from anyone. You may be contacted by the at-fault party’s insurance company following the crash.  The insurance company may offer you some money at this time for your injuries.  If this happens, do not take the money, and do not give any type of statement to the insurance company.  If you have already retained a personal injury attorney, give the insurance company your attorney’s information and ask them not to contact you directly again.  If you have not yet retained a personal injury attorney, tell the insurance company that you do not wish to speak to them until you have hired an attorney.  In no case should you accept money from the insurance company before talking with your personal injury attorney. 
  9. Retain an attorney. It is important to retain an experienced personal injury attorney, such as those at Thoele | Drach as soon as possible after your crash to protect your interests.  We will be able to help you speak to your insurance company and any other parties involved in your case with your best interests in mind.  While you are focusing on treating your injuries and healing, we can focus on ensuring that your rights are protected.  Most personal injury attorneys, including Thoele | Drach offer a free consultation and work on a contingency basis, meaning there is no legal fee unless we recover compensation for your injuries.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (more commonly called the FDCPA) is a federal law that protects consumers from harassment, abuse, and other predatory practices by debt collectors.

The FDCPA protects consumers in several ways.

  • Debt collectors must tell the truth.

Debt collectors cannot do or say anything false, deceptive or misleading to collect a debt.  This means they cannot misrepresent the amount of the alleged debt, whether the debt is past the statute of limitations, or the legal implications of not paying the debt.  Debt collectors also cannot pretend to be a law enforcement officer or use a name that is not their own.

  • Debt collectors cannot act unfairly.

More than just prohibiting debt collectors from being untruthful, the FDCPA prohibits debt collectors from acting unfairly.  Debt collectors cannot collect more than you own on a debt, cannot solicit postdated checks, cannot threaten to deposit or deposit a postdated check you may have provided before the intended date, and cannot threaten to take property or file a lawsuit when they do not have the right to do so (for example, if the alleged debt is past the statute of limitations).

  • Debt collectors cannot abuse or harass you.

Debt collectors cannot use profane or abusive language when speaking with you about your debt.  Debt collectors cannot threaten violence against you or call repeatedly in an attempt to annoy or harass you.  Additionally, when you speak to a debt collector, he or she cannot refuse to identify him or herself, by name and by the name of the company for which he or she works, and must also inform you that he or she is a debt collector.  Debt collectors also cannot tell others about your debt.  This includes family members or your employer.

  • Debt collectors have to validate your alleged debt.

If a debt collector contacts you, they need to prove that you owe the debt they are attempting to collect.  One important requirement of the FDCPA is that a debt collector must send you a letter within 5 days of their first communication with you.  That letter must provide the following information:

  1. How much they claim you owe;
  2. The name of the creditor seeking payment;
  3. A statement that unless you dispute the debt within 30 days, the debt collector will assume the debt to be valid;
  4. A statement that if you notify the debt collector in writing, within 30 days, that you dispute the debt, the debt collector will obtain verification of the debt and mail that to you; and
  5. A statement that upon your written request, again within 30 days, the debt collector will provide you with the name and address of the original creditor, if it is different from the current creditor.
  • You have control over your communications with debt collectors.

You can set rules about how and when debt collectors can contact you.  Firstly, debt collectors cannot contact you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.  If you ask a debt collector not to call you at work, he or she must not do so.  If you are represented by an attorney and you or your attorney have informed the debt collector of that representation, the debt collector cannot continue to contact you directly.  Finally, debt collectors must stop calling if you ask them to do so.  You are within your rights to request that all contact be in writing.  You should make this request in writing.

If a debt collector violates the FDCPA, you have the right to file suit to seek actual damages, as well as statutory damages of up to $1,000, plus costs and attorneys’ fees.  Violations of the FDCPA happen more often than you might think.

If you have been contacted by a debt collector who has violated the FDCPA, you should contact an attorney, such as the attorneys at THOELE | DRACH, to see if you have a claim.  Many attorneys, including those at THOELE | DRACH, take these types of cases at no cost to you.

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Whether you are facing an FAA enforcement action, you sustain injuries (physical, psychological, and/or emotional), or lose a loved one in a plane or helicopter crash, it is important to contact an Aviation Attorney for advising and representation, as quickly as possible. Let Justin Drach’s 20 years of pilot experience that includes over 10 years in the United States Navy flying the S-3B Viking and F/A-18C Hornet work for you. Justin received certification by the Navy as an Aviation Safety Officer, is a Certified Flight Instructor, and is an experienced jet warbird pilot. We can assist the parties affected by:

Investigating the crash, including its cause(s)

Documenting each individuals injuries and losses

Navigating details of complex state, federal and even international laws

Negotiation and navigating the litigation on behalf of the parties rights

Ensuring the strongest possible vantage points from which to make a claim for compensation

We document and map out strategies to argue the whole picture of liability issues surrounding serious and catastrophic injuries. We work with investigators to determine the accident’s cause(s), identify the responsible parties, and begin the legal process towards holding the various companies involved as accountable for the issues of liability. Some common causes of airplane and helicopter accidents include:

-Airport safety issues

-Air Traffic Control negligence

-Defective equipment

-Maintenance issues

-Explosions

-Pilot or airline negligence

-Runway accidents

-Dangerous weather conditions

We have the aviation experience and negotiation skills to handle cases against airlines, airports, aircraft manufacturers, pilots, insurers and a broad range of other defendants.

Insurance defense attorneys often fight aviation crash cases aggressively, either denying liability or attempting to settle cases at a fraction of their potential value. We know how to prove injured clients’ real damages and fight effectively for the highest level of compensation.

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