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Business Interruption During COVID-19 & Commercial Insurance

Business Interruption During COVID-19 & Commercial Insurance

The economic impact on small businesses due to COVID-19 is undeniable. Further, the uncertainty surrounding the length of the shut-down and the availability of funds for relief loans has left many business owners wondering whether the business interruption coverage in their commercial general liability policy will provide coverage to offset financial losses incurred. Politicians in Washington have asked insurers to justify the refusal to pay out claims, and already class action lawsuits are being filed around the country against insurance companies.

When assessing whether business interruption coverage in a commercial general liability insurance policy applies to economic losses caused by COVID-19, the answer is—it depends on the particular policy. Generally speaking, however, most business interruption clauses require the loss of business income to be caused by direct physical loss or damage to the property that prevents the business from operating. Although it appears the COVID-19 virus can survive on surfaces for up to five (5) days, it is doubtful that this phenomenon would qualify as direct physical loss or damage to the property or be of sufficient duration to trigger most insurance clauses. In addition, many commercial general liability insurance policies exclude coverage for losses caused by viral contamination.
On the contrary, it is possible that the specific wording and coverages in any particular policy may provide coverage. For example, businesses operating in the food service industry or the hospitality industry may have specific clauses in their respective insurance policies that relate to losses caused by viruses or alternative business interruption losses like event cancellations. Consequently, all business owners who have sustained financial losses due to COVID-19 are encouraged to examine their insurance contracts.

If you need legal assistance in these matters, please contact us for a free initial legal consultation.

I Was Injured In A Car Accident. Should I Hire An Attorney?

I Was Injured In A Car Accident. Should I Hire An Attorney?

Victims of car accidents suffer a significant amount of trauma. Aside from the physical and mental impact left by the crash, they are responsible for dealing with the intricate motions of a post-accident insurance claim.

Given the complexity of this procedure, car accident victims tend to be at a loss regarding the best way to go about filing their claim. Many make the mistake of giving their insurance companies their full trust in fighting for their legal rights. Unfortunately, in cases like these, insurance companies place their own interests above the victim’s.

For that reason, if you’ve sustained personal injury from a car accident in Indiana, working with a skilled attorney is your best bet in getting the compensation you’re entitled to receive.

Statistics on Vehicle Collisions in Indiana

The number of annual car accidents in Indiana is staggering. The Indiana University Public Policy Institute reports a total of 219,112 collisions in 2017. These incidents lead to 911 deaths and 50,042 injuries.

The majority of these collisions were caused by impaired driving, distracted driving, aggressive driving and speeding. With such high odds of getting into a car accident, you owe it to yourself to be well-prepared should the worst-case scenario arise.

How Can an Indiana Personal Injury Attorney Help?

Following the shock of an accident — especially one that has left you with injuries — you need all the help you can get. By working with the right attorney, you’ll have an ally on your team who will help you defend your right to treatment and compensation.

It’s important to note that your insurance company is not your ally in this case. It’s in their best interests to relay the bare minimum payment in order to cover what they’ve determined to be your losses.

During their investigation following the collision, insurance companies will work to reduce their financial responsibilities as much as possible. Their motives are understandable, since their goals ultimately orient toward making a profit. However, this leaves car accident victims in a vulnerable position — especially if they don’t have anyone to represent them.

When to Contact Your Personal Injury Attorney

It’s important to initiate discussions with your attorney as soon as possible following the incident. In all cases, it’s best to do so before contacting your insurance company, as this will ensure your protection during the initial stages of the investigation.

Insurance companies will prey on any potential for negligence that they find in their investigation. They know that a victim is in an emotionally fragile state immediately following the incident. They also understand that your attention will mostly be spent on recovery and loss prevention.

If you lack the counsel of an attorney, it’s likely that you’ll be unfamiliar with your legal rights under formal recourse. Representing yourself in this case will only increase the risk of having your losses undervalued in court.

On the other hand, having a personal injury attorney as a partner throughout this struggle gives you access to their knowledge and experience. You’ll benefit from their network of physicians and personal loss experts. These sources will help your team arrive at the legitimate value of losses that you’ve sustained.

Personal injury attorneys know the process inside and out, and they work to help you receive what you’re entitled to.

Understanding Your Legal Rights

If you’ve sustained a personal injury from a car accident, the compensation you deserve might extend beyond medical coverage.

Depending on the severity of the incident, you might be entitled to the full recovery of lost wages caused by your injury. You’ll also be able to claim physical and emotional distress as part of your case. If family members are made to suffer by the lack of your companionship during recovery, they might also be deserving of compensation.

In cases where the insurance company seeks to settle out of court, it’s important that you operate with a full understanding of the value that you’re entitled to. In this case, your personal injury attorney will be able to assess the offer and negotiate on your behalf.

Working With a Personal Injury Attorney is Your Safest Bet

It’s possible to represent yourself in a case where you’ve sustained a personal injury from a car accident. However, unless you’re operating with a full understanding of Indiana car accident law — which requires years of study and experience — you risk missing out on significant compensation that you might be entitled to.

That’s why it’s best to hire a personal injury attorney. By doing so, you’ll benefit from their vast knowledge and expertise in navigating through the intricacies of your case.

Working together with an attorney will greatly increase your chance of being compensated for the full extent of your losses.

Work Injury Benefits in Indiana

According to recent statistics, 4 in every 100 people suffer from workplace accidents or fatalities in Indiana. Most of these accidents and fatalities are preventable and could’ve been avoided if the employers or business owners were careful with jobsite safety and security. Businesses are required by law to comply with OSHA standards on their jobsites but it’s difficult to keep track of all sites, so some slip through the radar. The authorities recognize this gap and insist that all businesses have work comp insurance.

The Worker’s Compensation Act

If you’re injured on the job or if your loved one has died as a result of a workplace accident, you are entitled to compensation and work injury benefits from the company. The right is covered by the Worker’s Compensation Act, which mandates that all employers have insurance to cover their liability in such cases. Some employers can get special permission to pay claims from their own funds, but most will use insurance. Such cases are presented to the Worker’s Compensation Board. They decide on the compensation amount and whether there’s liability on the employer’s apart. Employers can face a lot of consequences and penalties if they don’t carry work comp insurance or provide work injury benefits to their employees. These consequences include:

  • An order to cease doing business. The employer will have to arrange for comprehensive work comp insurance if they want to work in Indiana once again.
  • The court will ask the employer to provide proof of financial ability to ensure they can pay any claims, deposit a security, or take an indemnity, or bond to secure compensation for all injuries or fatalities caused during the period without insurance coverage
  • The employer is also considered to have committed a Class A infraction. They can be persecuted by the injured party if they can’t provide adequate compensation when needed.

As you can see, there are some protections in place to protect the interests of the employees and workers.

The Work Injury Benefits

The act covers personal injury or death claims that arise out of and during the course of employment. The compensation provides a limited number of benefits to the injured party and these include:

  • Medical treatment
  • Compensation for lost wages
  • Compensation for any disabilities due complete loss or loss in function of a part of your body

These are the only compensations the act provides for – temporary injuries and minor disabilities. However, permanent injuries and total disabilities are a different matter because they can impact your ability to earn more income in the future. If your ability to earn a living and lead a productive life is compromised, the compensation amount and ruling will reflect that.

The employer is liable if the accident occurs as a consequence of the job and is due to errors or negligence by the employer to provide safety gear and systems. Here’s a list of injuries that might be covered by the work injury benefits law:

  • Intentional Injuries – These injuries, when caused directly by the employer and owner of business, aren’t covered by work comp. You can file a civil suit to gain compensation. However, deliberate harm caused by managers, foremen, or supervisors are covered by worker’s compensation.
  • Repetitive Trauma – Any trauma or bodily harm caused as the consequence of doing the job is compensable. For example, you can get compensation if you develop carpel tunnel syndrome as a consequence of the job.
  • Parking Lot – Injuries and accidents caused by poorly maintained parking lots are also covered by workers compensation.
  • Heart Attack – This is covered if the injured party can prove that their job or workspace environment triggered the heart attack.
  • Injuries Caused in Ingress and Egress Routes – If you get injured when you enter or exit the employer’s property, you are eligible for compensation because you were on your way to work when the accident happened.
  • Heat and Sun Related Injuries – This is common in outdoor jobs like construction, door-to-door sales, etc. If you have heat stroke, sunstroke, or heat prostration and can provide it could’ve been avoidable, you will earn compensation.
  • Psychological Trauma – Psychological trauma caused by the job or at the workplace is also considered compensable. This can be due to stress, poor workplace environment, bullying and threatening at the workplace, etc.

What Steps Should You Take When You Experience Workplace Injuries?

Your actions immediately after the injury can compromise your case if you’re not careful. Here’s what you need to do immediately after you’re injured:

  • Get medical assistance without delay. This should be your first step because delays can worsen the injuries.
  • Contact your employer and inform them of the injury as soon as you can. The more you delay, the more you compromise your case.
  • File an injury or accident report when you’re able.
  • Call a work injury benefits lawyer immediately.
  • Don’t sign any legal document your employer provides without consulting with your lawyer.

Why Do You Need a Lawyer?

A lawyer will protect your interests and make sure you’re not pressured into compromising on the compensation. Here’s what a lawyer will do to help you:

  • They’ll consider all the information you provide carefully and offer unbiased advice on compensation, liability, and your chances of winning a case against the employer if it goes to court.
  • They’ll collect evidence, witness statements, and other such information to make sure the case is rock solid.
  • Lawyers will also help if you there’s a fatality involved. They’ll ensure dependents of the victim are adequately compensated.
  • Lawyers will shield you from the insurance company’s or your employer’s legal team. They can use pressure tactics in order to reduce the compensation amount.

Most work injury-related cases are settled outside court after thorough negotiations between both parties. They agree to a specific amount that covers expenses and compensates for the suffering caused by the incident. Some cases go to court because the parties can’t settle for a reasonable amount.

If you have questions, contact our office for a free consultation.

What to Know Before Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

What to Know Before Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit

Are you thinking of filing a personal injury lawsuit in Indiana?

You’ve been in an accident or experienced injury due to the negligence of another person. The hospital bills are mounting, and you have no idea how you will pay them. You’re taking medication for the pain and are unable to work. What should you do? Your first step is to consult with a personal injury attorney who will review your situation and determine the best course of action.

File a Personal Injury Lawsuit or Insurance Claim?

Personal injury comes in many forms: car accidents, falls, defective products, etc. Before filing a lawsuit, you may be advised to check into filing a claim instead. This should occur before a suit is considered.

The claims process consists of a series of negotiations that take place between you and the claims adjuster of the negligent party’s insurance company. The goal is to arrive at a monetary settlement that satisfies both parties. If such an agreement cannot be reached, it’s time to consult with a personal injury attorney to file the suit.

There are a number of reasons why a compromise can’t be reached in a personal injury claim. Perhaps the claims adjuster denies the insured caused the accident or disagrees with the severity of the injuries you sustained. The insurance company may also refuse to pay the monetary amount you are requesting. This is where an accident attorney can help.

Costs to Consider Before Filing a Lawsuit

Before filing a lawsuit, you should be aware of the costs involved. Often times, a negotiated settlement is preferable to a trial because it saves you money. Trials can also be lengthy, which can result in an interruption in pay due to more time requested off work.

Expenses of filing a personal injury lawsuit can include:

• Filing fees
• Serving costs
• Lost wages as a result of time away from work
• Costs of depositions and transcripts recorded by a court reporter
• Expert testimonies from medical officials for depositions and trial
• Costs of acquiring medical records, police reports, witness statements, etc.

It is often tempting to file a suit because you are unhappy with the amount of money offered by the insurance company. This, alone, is not a reason to choose this route. Before making the decision to file, carefully consider the potential costs and time associated with going to court. Some injuries may not be serious enough to merit a trial, and you could wind up spending more than you receive in damages.

An injury is considered serious when it causes damage that is either permanent, or that limits one’s ability to perform daily activities for a certain amount of time. These types of injuries include:

• Dismemberment
Death
• Fractures
• Significant scarring or disfigurement
• A body organ that is limited or altogether dysfunctional

Arbitration for Personal Injury

Arbitration is another option to consider before filing a personal injury suit. Here, both sides agree to present their case to a third party called an arbiter who then decides the outcome. The costs are much lower than those associated with a trial, and the process doesn’t take as long because the hearing can be set more quickly.

Statute of Limitations for Filing Personal Injury Lawsuit in Indiana

The time limit for filing a personal injury suit is called the statute of limitations. Failing to file before that time limit expires will result in losing your right to sue. If this occurs, you may not re-coop any damages you are seeking.

In the state of Indiana, the statute of limitations is two years. This time limit typically begins on the date the accident occurs. You’ll want to make note of both the time limit and date on which it began when contacting an Indianapolis personal injury attorney.

Comparative Fault

There is a comparative fault rule in Indiana that applies to injured persons who are found to be partly at fault for the incident or accident that led to his or her injuries. This serves to reduce or eliminate damages, depending on how much fault is assigned the injured person.

Indiana’s comparative fault rule works in this way. Suppose you are driving just over the speed limit when another car turns in front of you, causing impact. It is determined you share 25 percent of the fault, and the other driver is responsible for 75 percent. In this case, the damages you are awarded would be reduced by 25 percent. If your fault is found to be 50 percent or more, you will be prohibited from collecting damages from another at-fault party.

Auto Insurance Laws

When it comes to automobile accident claims, Indiana is a “fault” or “at-fault” state. This gives an injured party multiple options. The injured person can file a claim with his or her own insurance company, file a claim with another driver’s insurance company, making it a third-party claim, or seek damages in court. In this type of insurance settlement negotiation, the threat of going to court can be used as a bargaining tool even if a lawsuit is never filed. You can always consult with a personal injury attorney who can help you make the right decision.

Conclusion

Before filing any lawsuit, do your homework carefully. An Indianapolis personal injury attorney can provide you with the legal information you’ll need to decide which solution is best for you. The time following an accident or other type of personal injury is always stressful, especially when medical bills are involved, but the decision to file should never be taken lightly. You should consider the situation from all angles before entering into such a costly endeavor. However, if your injuries are serious enough, seeking damages may be the most appropriate route for you to take.

If you have been injured in an accident or incident involving another party, call Goodin Abernathy immediately to learn more about your legal options.

Injured – No Word from Insured

I Was Injured in an Accident Two Weeks Ago and Haven’t Heard from Anyone

Twenty plus years ago, the aforementioned set of circumstances would probably never have happened. In the past, the person who was at fault for your accident and injury, whether it be a motorist or a landowner, would have contacted their insurance carrier and reported the incident. That insurance carrier would have promptly assigned the matter to a claims adjuster who, more likely than not, would have contacted you within days, if not hours of the incident and worked with you to assure you that your medical bills and lost wages would be covered.

Unfortunately those days are long behind us, and today we commonly hear from our new clients that weeks have gone by since their injury occurred; they’ve not heard from anyone; their medical bills are mounting up, and they are losing income.

The reasons for this difference in the claim handling procedure are numerous, but the bottom line is that in today’s world the insurance carrier for the at-fault party is rarely going to be of any assistance to you whatsoever.

We even had instances where the injured party has attempted either by mail or telephone to contact the at-fault party to start the claim handling procedure only to run into a stone wall.

Personal injury lawyers are not magicians, however, they are well-trained and experienced in representing people who have been injured through no fault of their own. More importantly, we know how to “get the attention” of the insurance carriers for the landowners, the businesses, or the motorists who are responsible for the injuries sustained.

In addition, most people now assume that there is insurance coverage available for the at-fault party when in fact that is not always the case. The alternative to having the at-fault party’s insurance carrier pay for medical bills and lost wages often involves a claim against the injured party’s own insurance carrier through either uninsured or under-insured motorist coverage, medical payments under the injured party’s own policy.

Quite often in premises liability cases there is also medical payments coverage available to pay the injured party’s medical bills irrespective of who is at fault.

All of these different possibilities require knowledge of how the insurance industry works, of the various forms of liability insurance coverage available, and how those coverages interplay with the facts of any particular accident involving injury.

The absolute worst thing that a layperson can do is to try to traverse these obstacles by themselves, as it is all too easy to commit a fatal mistake in the claim even after you determine to whom the claim is to be made.

For all these reasons, it is extremely important for injured parties to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after any event which causes personal injuries.

*Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Real Estate Disclosure Forms, Contamination, and Meth Houses

As reported by the Indianapolis Star, the Indiana State Police have discovered 119 methamphetamine labs in Delaware County in the first 6 months of 2015.  The next highest was Noble County with 35.  While methamphetamine is an illegal substance that has wrecked many lives in Indiana, methamphetamine is also a large problem for realtors, landlords, and buyers and sellers of real estate due to the contamination that occurs in the houses and buildings where the meth is cooked.

Most Sellers of a 1-4 unit residential property are required to fill out a Seller’s Residential Real Estate Sales Disclosure Form per Indiana Code Section 24-4.6-2, et seq.  On page 2 under “Hazardous Conditions” the following question appears:  “Have there been or are there any hazardous conditions on the property…such as…toxic materials…?”  The Seller has the option to indicate “Yes,” “No,” or “Do Not Know.”  Methamphetamine contamination would be considered a toxic material.  With methamphetamine production, clean-up generally will involve, at a minimum, the removal of all surfaces that came in contact with the contaminants and removal of drywall down to the studs.  If a Seller fails to clean-up the condition or sells the property without disclosing the methamphetamine contamination, they could be liable to a Buyer for the failure to disclose.

If a house has been contaminated, there are also insurance issues that will need to be determined.  Does a landlord still have insurance coverage when a property is contaminated by a tenant?  Is there coverage for lost rent while the house is being cleaned up?  What about coverage if the health department or police order the house to be closed up until their investigations are completed?  As with all insurance questions, individual policies must be read entirely to determine whether there may be coverage for the landlord in these situations.

If you have concerns surrounding property you own that may have had an undisclosed methamphetamine lab in it or have questions surrounding your insurance coverage, contact the real estate attorneys at Goodin Abernathy, LLP to discuss your case.