Monday, July 21, 2008

For the safety of our children.

Over the last few years, our firm has become increasingly involved in cases involving children hurt at school. This inevitably creates conflicted feelings among the public. On one hand, the potential for civil liability causes school districts and employees to pay closer attention to the physical well being of our children. The safety of the kids, after all, is job one. On the other hand, schools are, for the most part, underfunded. This naturally causes concern for the continuing education of our children.

Thankfully, school districts carry insurance policies to cover these risks. If little Johnny loses a hand in shop class (Heaven forbid), and the injury was due to the negligence of the middle school or its employees, the school is not going to lose its sports program. The claim is simply turned over to the school's insurance company. Unfortunately for the child, however, the insurance company may not be liable for the full extent of the child's damages, due to Oregon's governmental immunity laws.

There is a certain level of uneasiness that is natural when contemplating a claim against a school district. I come from a family of teachers, and certainly understand the conflict. But, as my grandfather used to say, "There's little reason to follow the rules if you can't get into trouble." Thus, it is important to remember that the potential for civil liability helps to protect our children. There is no way to completely prevent injuries at school. The tort system simply minimizes the risks.

- Tim Williams

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

“People who are hurt go to the doctor.”

In my previous career as an insurance defense lawyer, that was one of my favorite lines. When someone gets in an accident and doesn’t go to the doctor immediately, or has a big gap in treatment, it’s a gift to the insurance companies. The insurance company will use the lack of treatment or gap in treatment to suggest that you are not really hurt. Injured people sometimes forgo treatment for a variety of legitimate reasons. For instance, they may not think that the injuries are bad enough to go the emergency room, or they may not want to make a big deal about it, or they might believe the injuries will get better on their own. However, unless you are a doctor, you should be checked out by qualified medical personnel and follow the doctor’s orders. Remember, juries are more likely to give you all of your medical expenses if you treat immediately, follow your doctor’s orders, and treat consistently.

If you are in an automobile accident and there is insurance, you are eligible for medical coverage. It’s called PIP (personal injury protection). One of the first things you’ll want to do after being checked out by medical personnel is to call the insurance company and open a PIP claim. The insurance adjuster will give you a claim number that can be used to pay for the accident related medical expenses. For more information on PIP and what it covers, click here.

-Arne Cherkoss