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Weapons of Mass Destruction...Topics You Need To Know

Weapons of Mass Destruction
...Topics You Need To Know
by Gary E. Swartz

Auto Insurance
You need to be aware that the minimum insurance required by law is $20,000 in the State of Maryland. Many use the minimum, and some drive without. The best thing you can do for yourself and others is to have enough coverage for yourself and for others who may be impacted by a crash. At the time of my accident [Reference "Weapons of Mass Destruction...My Story", inside story 12-10-06 issue.] I only had $100,000 on myself. One hundred thousand dollars does not go far. The drunk driver who crashed into me was insured for the minimum of $20,000.
Therefore, my carrier had to pay $80,000 for the under-insured, totaling $100,000 because my bills exceeded the $100,000 coverage. Unfortunately, you do not get the $20,000 plus the $100,000--your carrier subtracts the amount paid by the other carrier from your liability coverage. Additionally, you will also have to sign off if you accept to receive the insurance proceeds. It is my understanding that you can't have it both ways--either take the insurance proceeds or go after the guilty party before payment.
Reducing drinking and drunk driver crashes, with the Maryland Insurance Commission keeping track of if, premiums should go down. This would help offset the cost for having to increase insurance coverage. Should the minimum amount required be higher than $20,000?
Mediation Service
An option to hiring an attorney is contacting a mediation service. In most cases it is free and should save you about 1/3 or more of your auto insurance proceeds that normally would go to pay attorney fees. In some cases there may be a sliding fee scale. It is my understanding that the Washington County States Attorney's Office is in the process of considering implementing a limited criminal mediation service. You will have to check with the State's Attorney's Office by calling 240-313-2028 to see if those services are available. For more information you can call the Mediation Association at 888-826-2262 or in Annapolis call 410-260-1676 or the Hagerstown office at 301-665-9262.
Restitution
If you are fortunate enough to have a court ordered restitution amount granted and those who are ordered to pay do not pay, you then have to pay a fee to have the party or parties that were charged served. From what I've learned, you may also have to locate them yourselves if law enforcement cannot find them. The restitution order is good for 12 years and, thankfully, can be renewed. The Maryland Crime Victims Resource Center, Inc. (301-952-0063) may be able to assist you in this matter.
Medicare
If you are on Medicare, the company is entitled to reimbursement from your insurance proceeds for medical expenses they may have had to pay because of the drunk driver crash. Once your attorney receives the insurance check(s) to endorse, the insurance company will make sure that Medicare endorses it also before distribute.
You do have an opportunity to request for and fill out hardship waver forms. Ask about that. You may be granted partial or full wavers. I have found that the subrogation process was very time consuming. If you need assistance you can contact your elected officials who deal with Medicare issues. This is another avenue to speed up the process. I found that for the most part the Medicare contractor for subrogation liability issues were very reasonable. Normally, if there is a negotiating process going on concerning insurance proceeds, Medicare will require or suggest the attorney to reduce their fees. Most attorneys will reduce fees, but some will not. You might want to have an understanding on this issue in writing prior to hiring an attorney. As of 10-2-06, Medicare will use only one contractor to handle all Medicare subrogation/liability issues, as well as all benefit issues.
Maximum Penalties
Elected offices need to pass strict laws with penalties stiff enough to discourage drinking or drunk driving. The State's Attorney in the NJ/NY area must agree, she charged a drunk driver with murder and assault for crashing into a limousine that was returning from a wedding. The 7-year-old flower girl and the limousine's chauffeur were killed. The jury came back with a guilty verdict and a sentence of 25 years to life. In another test case, a drunk driver was charged with assault with a deadly weapon. Will Maryland's State's Attorney's Office follow suit?
I certainly do not know everything concerning these topics, but hopefully I have enlightened you. Keep safe, do not drink and drive, and keep an eye out for those who do.


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