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Motorcyclist Killed in Crash With Pickup Truck on Highway 49

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Byron, GA (July 31, 2020) — A motorcyclist died Thursday night after striking a pickup truck while allegedly trying to avoid a traffic stop. The crash happened at the intersection of Highway 49 and Houston Lake Road. According to the Georgia State Patrol, the motorcyclist, identified as Deandre Reynolds, was driving at a high speed in the northbound lanes of the highway when the Peach County Sheriff’s Office attempted to stop him. Reynolds then led police on a chase into Houston County. Following the pursuit, a man identified as Tavarous Williams was driving south in his Ford pickup truck when he attempted to make a turn onto Houston Lake Road. Reynolds collided with the pickup truck and was later pronounced dead at the scene. Georgia State Patrol found in its preliminary investigation that Reynolds wasn’t in sight of the Peach County Sheriff’s Office when he crashed into the truck. They are still trying to determine what caused Reynolds to run into the truck. Source: 13WMAZ Contact an Experienced Georgia Motorcycle Accident Attorney Unfortunately, auto accidents like this happen far too often in Georgia. Police must investigate these crashes thoroughly to determine the cause and hold those responsible accountable. At The Johns Law Firm, we understand how devastating these accidents are for the families and friends of the victims.  If you sustain injuries or lose a loved one in an accident, please contact one of our Georgia motorcycle accident attorneys or call us at 866-762-0302 to set up a free consultation. We will fight to get you the compensation you deserve. Our deepest condolences go out to the families of the victim of this horrible incident. If a family member would like the name of a person removed for any reason, please click the “Remove Post” link. REMOVE POST

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How Are Wrongful Death Settlements Paid Out

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If you have lost a family member due to the negligence of another party, you may be entitled to compensation through a wrongful death claim.  A wrongful death claim is a special type of legal claim that allows you to recover damages related to the death of a loved one. There are a number of situations in which a wrongful death claim might arise. For example, you may be able to recover on a wrongful death claim due to the negligent actions of a:  Driver,  Doctor,  Business,  Caregiver, or Manufacturer.  So long as the death of your loved one was a result of the negligent party’s actions, you may have a valid legal claim.  This can be extremely helpful in allowing you to recover from the death of your loved one. But how are wrongful death settlements paid out?  This article will discuss this important question that many wrongful death claimants have. For more information on this question and wrongful death claims in general, contact the Johns Law Firm today.  Who Pays the Wrongful Death Settlement Payment? Wrongful death claims will vary from case to case. However, insurance providers are typically the party that is responsible for paying out a wrongful death settlement.  It is important to note that although insurance providers will pay out claims on behalf of their insureds, their policies will often have a policy limit. Thus, depending on the extent and severity of the damages involved in your case, you may require more compensation than the insurance policy provides.  Further, many insurers will attempt to pay out as little as possible to satisfy a claim. Accordingly, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney to discuss whether a settlement payment is fair and equitable under the circumstances.   Are Wrongful Death Settlements Taxable? According to the IRS, settlements for wrongful death claims are generally non-taxable.  A wrongful death settlement is typically comprised of “compensatory damages.” The purpose of compensatory damages is to make a person whole or replace what was lost. Examples of compensatory damages in a wrongful death case include:  Loss of the deceased’s expected earnings;  Loss of inheritance; Loss of pension plans or medical coverage;  Mental anguish or pain and suffering; and  Loss of care, protection, guidance, love, and companionship.  Thus, it is important to look at the purpose of the damages. If the damages are meant to compensate the wrongful death claimant, it is likely that the damages are non-taxable. However, if the purpose of the damages is to punish the opposing party (punitive damages), the settlement may be taxable.  How Long Does It Take to Settle Wrongful Death Claims? Unfortunately, there is no easy answer to this question. Again, because each case is different, the length of time it will take to settle will depend on the specific circumstances of your case.  Some cases take only weeks or months to resolve. However, if your case involves complicated facts or a high amount of claimed damages, it may take much longer to reach a resolution.  Contact Our Team Today If you have questions about your potential wrongful death settlement, consider contacting an attorney today. An experienced wrongful death attorney can help you assess your damages, negotiate a potential settlement, and determine how your claim will be paid out.  At the Johns Law Firm, we want to help. Altogether, we are licensed in five states and have over 60 years of combined experience helping our clients get the compensation they deserve. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case and see what we can do for you.

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Steps to Take After a New Orleans Car Accident

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After you experience a car accident in New Orleans, you may feel overwhelmed with all you need to do. You might face a lengthy task list that includes car repairs, medical treatment, filing insurance claims, and more. If you worry about your ability to negotiate with the insurance company for payment, know that an accident lawyer can help. At the Johns Law Firm, our New Orleans accident attorneys help clients injured in car wrecks. We negotiate with the insurance company for a maximum settlement and take negligent drivers to trial if needed. To speak to one of our knowledgeable attorneys, call us for a free consultation. If you want to know what to do after a New Orleans car crash, keep reading. Take These Five Steps After a New Orleans Car Accident When you experience a New Orleans car accident, you need to take these five steps to protect yourself. These steps give you the best chance of physical recovery and financial compensation. Call the Authorities Immediately after an accident, you should call New Orleans police and paramedics. If you can get out of your vehicle, wait for the police and paramedics at a safe roadside location. Do not leave the scene of the accident until authorities arrive. Seek Medical Treatment Your medical care should be your top priority. Once paramedics arrive, they will evaluate your physical condition and transport you to the hospital if necessary. Even if you don’t need emergency medical care, you should still seek a medical evaluation soon after your accident. This evaluation can identify any injuries and provide key evidence for insurance negotiations. Collect Evidence If you do not need urgent medical treatment, collect evidence at the scene of the accident. You should take photos of the damage to your car and the other driver’s car. Photos of the surrounding scenery and anything that may have contributed to the accident can help your claim. Also, request the names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident. Save All Receipts Save all receipts and medical bills. Receipts for everything from car repairs to crutches can provide evidence for fair accident compensation. Bring all documentation of your accident expenses to your consultation with an accident attorney. Call an Attorney You should contact an accident attorney soon after your New Orleans car accident. At the Johns Law Firm, our accident attorneys help injured motorists get the compensation they need. We utilize investigators who can uncover crucial evidence for us to use in insurance negotiations. Call our law firm soon after your accident to give us the best chance to recover accident evidence. Contact a New Orleans Accident Attorney for Legal Advice If you experienced a car accident in New Orleans, you may need a personal injury attorney. The attorneys at the Johns Law Firm can negotiate with the insurance company to try to win your maximum compensation. Call our accident lawyers for a free consultation where we can discuss your accident and advise you of legal options. Contact us today to secure experienced legal representation while you focus on your injury recovery.

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Employment Discrimination in the Wake of a Pandemic

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As the Covid-19 pandemic stretches across the United States and the world, many workers have found themselves looking for a way to stay afloat.  As of the date of this article, 17 million unemployment applications have been filed in the past three weeks.  This as many businesses start to receive large, forgivable loans to maintain employees on payroll.  Now is as important time as ever to know your rights against discrimination so that you can protect yourself and your family. Employment discrimination is a sad, but pervasive problem in many workplaces.  Fortunately, employees that are harassed and discriminated against are protected by state and federal laws.  The present crisis does not eliminate these protections. Broadly speaking, an employer may not discriminate on the basis of age, disability, gender, race, national origin, religion, pregnancy, or sexual orientation.  Many state laws further enforce these anti-discrimination provisions and add further protections such as Louisiana and Texas, which prohibit an employer from taking any retaliatory action against an employee that refuses to engage in illegal conduct. With millions out of work and small businesses receiving millions in forgivable loans to rehire these employees, employers and employees must be mindful of the anti-discrimination laws already on the books. Federal laws include: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, commonly just referred to as Title VII, which makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, or sex.  It also protects against retaliation against a person making a claim of discrimination. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, which clarifies that Title VII protects against discrimination relating to pregnancy, child birth, or medical conditions related to either. The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which prohibits wage discrimination between men and women. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, which protects employees and prospective employees age 40 or older from discrimination. Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which protect persons with certain disabilities from discrimination in the workplace. None of these laws have been suspended by the pandemic. Understanding the Paycheck Protection Program and Your Rights To Be Protected Against Discrimination  The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is part of the recently passed $2 trillion aid package passed by Congress.  It provides forgivable loans to employers with 500 or fewer employees to retain or rehire employees dismissed as a result of the pandemic.  Businesses will receive loans up to $10 million dollars at a 1% rate of interest payable in two years.  However, if the business uses these funds for wages, paid sick, medical, or family leave, and costs related to group health care benefits during those periods of leave.  It also allows funds to be used for certain overhead costs like rent, mortgages, utilities, and certain other debt obligations, the loans will be completely forgiven.  The objective of the PPP is to get small businesses to retain as many employees during the pandemic as possible. Businesses receiving PPP loans may not discriminate in deciding who to retain or rehire.  Each of the anti-discrimination laws mentioned above continue to apply.  If you believe that you were terminated for a discriminatory reason or that your employer refused to hire you back after receiving PPP funds, you have rights. If you believe that you have been discriminated against by your employer during this crisis, contact us at The Johns Law Firm for a free consultation.

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Louisiana Class Action Attorney

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A class action is a type of lawsuit that is very different from a standard personal injury or insurance case. While litigation is often stressful, the stakes in a class-action lawsuit are at a different level. In many class-action lawsuits, the interests of hundreds if not thousands of people are at stake. Most class actions involve claims against well-financed corporations that are dead set on limiting their financial exposure and preventing a class action from going forward. The class action and mass tort lawyers at The Johns Law Firm are dedicated to maximizing damages for the victims of corporate fraud and malfeasance.  Characteristics of a Class Action Sometimes people do not realize that their claim could be part of a class action or that a class has already been created. If you have a potential class action claim you may ask, “why should I be part of a class action”. Wouldn’t I be better served filing a case on my own?” These are valid and important questions. In many cases, a class action is the only way to fight a corporation that has abused or exploited others.  The common theme for a class action is there are a lot of people who have similar legal problems. While each person’s case is important, sometimes the costs of bringing a single claim outweigh the cost of Because of that it may make sense to combine all claims into one case. That way a lot of the work can be consolidated in a single case.  Before a class action can go forward it must first be certified by a judge. To certify a class action, a judge will first consider: Do the members of the class have similar injuries? Can the members of the class be easily identified? There are common facts and injuries amongst the class.  There are a large enough number of class members. If any of the above four items do not exist, a court will probably not certify the case as a class and force each person to pursue a case individually.  One of the benefits of a class-action is efficiency. A class action allows many of the time-consuming issues in a case to be consolidated and handled together. It saves time, money, and judicial resources. Certification of a class action is not always easy. Defendants in a potential class-action normally fight hard to prevent class certification because many individuals will not file a lawsuit as an individual if certification is denied. To obtain class certification, you need to not only show that people have similar injuries, but also that the case involved a common set of facts.  Once a class action is certified, the parties can proceed to discovery. Discovery is the process of gathering documents, testimony, and information needed to support a case. One of the major benefits of a class action is that discovery takes place in a single case instead of hundreds or even thousands of individual cases.  Who Brings a Class Action? Class actions normally involve hundreds or even thousands of individuals. However, it starts with a single class representative who is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit.  There are lucrative financial incentives for being named as the lead plaintiff in a class action. This is not necessarily an easy position. A class representative owes several duties to the members of the class including: Remaining involved in the progress of the lawsuit. Reviewing the complaint and other pleadings.  Staying in touch with the class’ attorneys about the progress of the case.  Represent the best interests of the entire class.  Providing notice to the class of developments in the case. Agree to settle the case.  Providing notice of settlement to give other class members the choice to opt-out. The lead plaintiff has an awesome responsibility to ensure that the case is prosecuted by the class’s attorneys and that a resolution to the case is in the best interests of the entire class. Class members are not required to accept the settlement agreed to by the lead plaintiff. The lead plaintiff is required to provide you with notice that the case has settled. You may opt-out of the class-action lawsuit on pursuing a claim on your own.  When Should You Opt-Out? You should opt-out of the class action when it is not in your financial interest to remain. This is a decision that only you can make. In most cases, if your damages are not all that significant, you may have a hard time finding an attorney to represent you in the class action. A good example of when it would make sense to opt-out would be if you have damages that are not addressed by the class action. Let’s say you purchased and installed defective smoke alarms in your home. A class action may be initiated regarding the defective smoke alarms that included thousands of class members. If your house burned down because of the defective smoke alarm, it would make a lot of sense to opt our because your likely recovery in a personal lawsuit will be many times greater than what a class action settlement will payout.  Protecting the Rights of Consumers Some class actions become national cases with wide-reaching implications that are settled for large sums of money. However, not all class actions about money. There are many other class actions that address harms at the local level. For example, a case may be filed by local residents who have suffered damages because a corporation has illegally dumped toxins. Class action lawsuit have helped millions of people not only recover compensation for wrongs. They have also played a significant role in making our products safer. What are the Benefits of a Class Action? Class actions are often lambasted by critics who claim that they are unnecessary. Many of these criticisms are frankly misplaced. Class actions have played an integral role in ensuring that the products we use are safe. There have been numerous class actions in which large sums of money were...

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Apartment and Rental Fires: Is Your Landlord Responsible

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Few things can be as unexpected and emotional as losing your home or business to a fire. When an apartment or rental property is damaged by a fire one question that is often overlooked is who is responsible. In many cases, the fire was caused or worsened by the landlord’s neglect. In many cases, an apartment fire could have been prevented had the landlord taken basic precautions. A fire can cause millions of dollars in damage quickly. For renters, the out-of-pocket costs from a fire can be steep. Not only are you burdened with the cost of replacing your lost possessions, but you are also stuck with having to find a new place to rent. Even worse, you may have been injured from the fire and are now facing a long road to recovery.  Landlords owe duties to their tenets to maintain properties in a safe condition free of defects. Many landlords carry insurance covering the damages caused by their negligence. The purpose of this insurance is to ensure tenants have an avenue to be made whole in the event of a serious loss. WHAT CAUSED THE FIRE? The first step to understanding if you have a good case is to understand what caused the fire. Obviously, a landlord is not responsible for damages caused solely by a tenant’s negligence. A common example of this may be a tenant who caused knocked over a candle of forgot to turn the stove off. These are actions that are most likely out of the landlord’s control. Some common examples of landlord negligence include: Poorly maintained or faulty wiring Old or faulty appliances Old or faulty lighting fixtures Faulty or poorly maintained smoke alarms Lack of smoke detectors Lack of fire extinguishers Gas leaks Use of flammable materials Improper installation of electrical devices Building code violations Lack of fire exits Blocked fire exits Even if the landlord’s negligence did not cause the fire, he or she still owes a duty to ensure there are properly working smoke alarms on the property. In many cases, tenants have been seriously injured because they were not adequately warned of a fire.  WHAT DUTIES ARE OWED BY A LANDLORD A landlord owes tenants a duty of reasonable care. This means the landlord owes an obligation to take reasonable precautions to avoid a fire. Negligence does not mean that the landlord disregarded your personal safety or knowingly acted carelessly. Rather, evidence that he departed from what was reasonable under the circumstances is sufficient. Further, a landlord is obligated to comply with all ordinances, codes, and regulations aimed at avoiding the threat of fire. Evidence that a landlord failed to comply with such requirements can help prove your case. The law also requires landlords to provide a number of important assurances and warranties to tenants. For example, a landlord has an absolute duty to ensure that the property is free from defects and is fit for its customary or intended use. Under most leases, the landlord is responsible for all structural elements of the property, such as the electrical, appliances, fixtures, and other items that often cause fires. If a landlord’s failure to maintain the property, tenants who have been harmed have a viable claim for damages.  HOW TO PROVE YOUR CASE Proving landlord negligence cases are not always easy. A skilled attorney will investigate the fire and engage experts to help prove that your landlord breached a duty that was owed to you. If you are considering hiring an attorney for an apartment or rental property fire, you should understand your attorney’s strategy for handling your case.  FAULTY WIRING Faulty wiring is one of the most common examples of landlord negligence and the most common cause of electrical fires in the United States. In structures that are a few decades old, the wiring has not been updated to comply with current building codes. Older properties often have ungrounded wiring making it more likely to experience power surges. Similarly, some properties still have aluminum wiring that is a known fire hazard. The property may also have an outdated electrical system that may not be able to handle modern electrical appliances. Unfortunately, many landlords are so focused on profits that they cut corners by hiring individuals to do shoddy work or ignoring obvious problems with the electrical system. Some common signs that your landlord breached his duty of care to ensure that the electrical system was up-to-date and properly maintained include:  Outlets that do not work Breaker boxes that often flip Blown fuses Mild Electrical shocks Dimmed or flickering lights Outlets that work sporadically Power surges Burning smells Hot fixtures or switches Soot around switches or outlets Although faulty wiring is perhaps the most common example of apartment fires caused by negligence, a full investigation of the cause of the fire may reveal other causes of the fire. DAMAGES THAT CAN BE COLLECTED First, most landlords maintain some form of liability insurance to pay clams cased by their negligence. Damages that are commonly collected in property damage cases include: Cost to replace lost or damaged personal property  Cost to restore personal property  Relocation expenses  Additional living expenses General damages for mental anguish Punitive damages INJURED IN AN APARTMENT FIRE Structure fires can cause serious or deadly injuries. In the event you suffered personal injuries, you may be entitled to damages for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. In catastrophic burn injury cases, the assistance of a life care planner may be necessary to fully compensate you for long-term medical problems. In the case of wrongful death, loved ones may be able to receive compensation for the loss. If you have been injured in a fire, the landlord may claim that the fire is not his responsibility or push you to his insurance company to negotiate a quick settlement.  If you have been the victim of an apartment fire, you deserve to speak with an experienced professional dedicated to maximizing your recovery. Our team is here 24/7 to take...

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TX Life Insurance – Two-Year Incontestability Clause

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A life insurance policy is a contract between your insurance company and you, the policyholder. While the benefits of life insurance are clear, there is always a risk that a claim is denied because the information is omitted from an insurance application. To offset this risk, the Texas Legislature and most other states have enacted a law requiring all life insurance policies to contain an incontestability clause. See Texas Insurance Code, Section 1131.104. This law states that your insurance company cannot contest the validity of your life insurance policy after it has been in force for two years from its date of issue. The purpose of an incontestability requirement is to protect you from a challenge to the validity of your policy long after the policy has been issued. The idea behind this requirement is that a life insurer has a duty to investigate the medical history of its policyholders and must take affirmative steps to void a policy or readjust a premium within the first two years that the policy was issued.  However, a life insurer can refuse to pay a claim after the two-year incontestability period if it can prove that the insured made intentional misrepresentations in the insurance application. Texas Insurance Code, Section 705.104 Additionally, Texas Insurance Code, Section 1131.104 says that a statement you made relating to your insurability can’t be used against you in a suit contesting the validity of your policy, provided that your policy has been in effect for two years or more. However, your insurance company can use a written statement against you after the two-year incontestability period to try to prove that you made a material misrepresentation in your life insurance application. If your life insurance company tries to challenge the validity of your life insurance policy, you should contact a Texas insurance lawyer as soon as possible. How Does an Incontestability Clause Help You? When you purchase a life insurance policy, the clock begins running on the incontestability clause’s effective date. If your insurance company has not found an error in your application within two years of the date of the issue, it cannot cancel your policy unless one of a handful of exceptions is met. In other words, the insurance company has two-years to contest the information in the insurance policy.  If applicable, your beneficiaries will receive their benefits due to your policy even if your insurance company claims that misrepresentation in your application made the policy invalid. A Texas insurance lawyer can help you understand how the incontestability clause in your life insurance policy can help you. What Are Some Exceptions to Incontestability Clauses? Nevertheless, insurance companies can often cancel or modify your life insurance policy in a few circumstances. Misstated Age or Gender First, if you misstated your age or gender on your application, your insurance company may modify your insurance benefits to reflect your true age and gender. This is because many insurance policies contain a “misstatement of age” provision that specifies the insurance benefits will be adjuster based on the insured’s actual age.  Death during the Application Process Second, if you die before the incontestability clause expires, your insurance company may be able to cancel your policy if the applicant made any misrepresentations in the policy application. Importantly, the misrepresentations do not have to necessarily be material or intentional. Any misrepresentation or omission, even slight, can normally be used to cancel a policy before the expiration of the incontestability period. However, if the applicant did not make any misrepresentations or omissions in the policy application, and subsequently dies within two years after the policy was issued, the life insurance company is obligated to pay the claim.     Nonpayment of Premiums The life insurance company can always cancel a policy for failure to pay premiums regardless if it occurred before or after the two-year contestability period.   Insurance Fraud: Intentional Misrepresentations Your insurance company may also void your policy and refuse to pay if they can prove that the applicant engaged in insurance fraud. Insurance fraud occurs when you make deliberate misrepresentations to obtain benefits you’re not entitled to. The issue of fraudulent misrepresentations versus negligent omissions is the key source of conflict in many life insurance disputes. For example, a life insurance company may claim that an applicant’s failure to disclose a medical condition on the application is evidence of fraudulent intent. However, in most cases, that is not true. Many applicants innocently omit certain details about their medical history on a life insurance application. Think about all of the times you have been to the doctor and consider if you can recall every medical condition or diagnosis you have had. Many life insurance companies will seize upon an innocent omission to try to deny the claim. If your life insurance claim has been denied due to an alleged misrepresentation in the policy application, do not be dismayed. Insurance companies make money by denying legitimate claims. However, a Texas insurance lawyer can advise you as to whether one or more of these exceptions might apply to your case. What About Misrepresentations Caused by an Agent’s Negligence? One issue that comes up often is a misrepresentation or omission in the insurance application that was not the applicant’s fault. Instead, it was the fault of the insurance agent. Most of the time when you apply for life insurance your agent will walk you through the application and write down your information. In fact, it is not uncommon for the application to take place over the phone. We recently had a deposition in a case where the insurance agent admitted that he never asked questions as they actually read on the insurance policy. Think about that. How can you provide honest responses in an insurance application when the agent does not even ask you the correct questions.  Sometimes courts will impute the agent’s negligence onto the insurance company. This means that any misrepresentations or omissions in the application are the faults of the insurance company and the policy cannot be...

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Appealing Your Long-Term Disability Denial

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Having your long-term disability claim denied can be stressful and confusing. If this is an issue you are dealing with, you should take heart in the fact that most long-term disability claims are denied. This should not be surprising. Insurance companies make money by denying claims. What Is the Next Step? You are likely required to file an administrative appeal. Appealing a denied long-term disability claim is not easy. However, a long-term disability appeal is a lot like a redo. You get a second chance to compile and present medical and vocational evidence to try to have your claim accepted. For many, the assistance of an experienced disability insurance attorney to navigate the process is essential. ERISA Versus Non-ERISA Policies The Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ERISA”) governs many employer benefits including disability insurance. If your disability benefits are provided by your employer, ERISA likely applies. ERISA regulates most aspects of how disability claims are processed. This includes the timeframes for making a claim determination. Under ERISA, when a claim is denied, an employee must appeal in accordance with the administrative appeals process. A policyholder cannot file a lawsuit for wrongful denial of the claim until the administrative appeals process has played out. The process of filing an administrative appeal can be time-consuming. In most cases, a policyholder will have 180 days from the date the claim has been denied to appeal. Only after the administrative appeal is denied can a policyholder file a lawsuit. Non-ERISA disability policies are governed by state contract law similar to most other insurance policies. There is no administrative appeal process. If your claim is denied, you can file a lawsuit. Steps to Making Your Disability Claim Even though you may have already received short-term disability benefits, this has little to do with whether you qualify for long-term disability benefits. For long term disability claims, your medical history and medical records are critically important. A policyholder must establish that he or she has a disabling condition. It is the policyholder’s burden to establish within a reasonable medical degree of certainty that a disabling condition exists and that the policyholder’s ability to work and earn wages has been impaired. Long-term disability policies tend to either be “own occupation” and “any occupation” policies.  Under “own occupation” policies, a policyholder is considered disabled when, due to an illness or accidental injury, he or she is unable to perform their current job. With this type of policy, the policyholder can qualify for benefits even if he or she can perform a job or occupation that is different from their “own occupation.” This differs sharply from “any occupation” policy in which an applicant is disabled when he or she is unable to work any type of job. For example, under any occupation policy, a contractor whose disability does not prevent him from working a light-duty job could not recover long-term-disability benefits. Many long-term disability claims involve significant potential recoveries and it is not uncommon for insurance companies to aggressively litigate claims. Experts often take on a significant role in disability claims. If your claim is disputed, you need a qualified team of experts to help establish that you are disabled. Establishing a Condition That is Consider Disabling Disability claims first and foremost are driven by medical opinion. A policyholder seeking benefits has the burden of establishing that he or she has a medical or psychological condition that is disabling. As a rule of thumb, the condition needs to be objectively serious. If your condition is insignificant or ill-defined, you probably will not qualify. Further, your physicians or medical experts need to help establish that your condition impacts your ability to work. This issue can be tricky depending on whether you have an “any occupation” or “own occupation” policy. Vocational evidence often comes into play in long-term disability claims. Vocational evidence is simply evidence related to your education, work experience, and ability to earn a living. In many cases, the insurance company may hire an expert to state that you can work your regular job, or, in the case of an “any occupation” policy, a different job. Similarly, an experienced disability attorney should retain a vocation expert to establish that the client is disabled within the meaning of the policy. The strength of a vocational expert’s opinion regarding disability largely depends on your objective medical evidence. If you have not been evaluated by the correct specialists to establish a disability, your claim will probably not be approved. This is why having an experienced long term disability attorney to assist you can be instrumental.   Why are claims denied? In many cases, disability claims are wrongfully delayed or denied, causing hardship and stress to the policyholder. However, sometimes claims are denied simply because the policyholder did not present enough evidence with their initial claim. It is the policyholder’s burden to establish the existence of a disabling condition. Most disability claims are denied due to a supposed lack of supporting medical or vocational evidence. For example, a policyholder may present evidence that they have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia but provide no further information as to how it impacts their ability to work. While fibromyalgia may, in reality, be a disabling condition, the fact the policyholder did not link their condition to vocational status may prevent their claim from being approved.  On the flip side, the insurance company is working hard with a team of experts to deny your claim. Most insurance companies have a list of preferred medical experts who they routinely send disability claimants to for evaluation. The insurance company’s experts will often differ sharply from your treating physicians and will almost always conclude that you are not medically disabled. While this is not fair, it is the way the disability process works. If you feel the insurance company is stacking the deck against you, you should consult with a disability insurance attorney.  What to Do After a Disability Claim is Denied? When a claim is denied, the policyholder should be provided...

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What is a Life Insurance Interpleader Action?

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You are hanging around your house when a process server knocks on your door and serves you with a Complaint for Interpleader. You may ask: What is this? What must I do next? Will this just go away? It will not just go away. The good news, you have been named as a party because you may be owed a large sum of money. The bad news, you have to make your claim in court.  Definition of Life Insurance Interpleader Action An interpleader is a very different type of legal case. Unlike a typical lawsuit in which a plaintiff sues a defendant, an interpleader is filed by a party referred to as a stakeholder who is holding some type of property – probably money – that may be owed to multiple people. The stakeholder initiates the interpleader action because it is concerned that it may give the property or money to the wrong person. Rather than be exposed to double liability, the stakeholder will force all parties with a claim to the property into court to make their claims. That way, the stakeholder avoids the potential liability of giving the property to the wrong party.  Life insurance interpleaders arise when people have competing claims for life insurance proceeds. An insurer will often deposit the money into the registry of the court and file an interpleader action forcing the claimants to work out their claims in court. That way, it will ultimately be up to the court system to determine who is entitled to the money. In essence, the insurance company puts up the money, wipes its hands, and walks away.  INTERPLEADER ACTION FAQ What Should You Do Once You Have Been Served?  First, we recommend that you contact an experienced life insurance attorney to discuss your options. Now that you have been forced into this situation, you need to expect the other person claiming the life insurance proceeds will have competent legal counsel. If you truly believe you are entitled to the life insurance proceeds, you need to assert your claim in court or risk losing.  You Need to Act Fast If the interpleader has been filed in federal court, you have 21 days to file your response. Failure to provide a timely response could lead to default and you losing your claim without even making an appearance in the case.  Federal or State Jurisdiction  Rule 22 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure permits an interpleader action to be filed in federal court as long as the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the case. Subject matter jurisdiction exists either because there is a federal question, i.e. a federal law that is implicated, or because their parties have diverse citizenships.  If your life insurance policy was issued through your employment, then there will probably be federal question jurisdiction because ERISA governs employer-sponsored benefits. There are also life insurance benefit programs for federal government workers that are also subject to federal question jurisdiction.  Diversity jurisdiction applies when the claim’s value exceeds $75,000.00 and the parties are citizens of different states.   Insurance carriers tend to prefer to file interpleader actions in federal court.  INTERPLEADER ACTION FAQ How Do You Make Competing Claims?  The reason an insurer files the interpleader is that there are multiple or competing claims for life insurance proceeds or to other property. To make a claim, you will need to file an answer to the interpleader action. It is also common to file a cross-claim against other claimants named in the complaint.   It is common for the insurer that filed the interpleader to seek leave of court to be dismissed from the case. It is normally the insurer’s position that they had fulfilled their duty by depositing the funds into the registry of the court and allowing the parties’ to make their claims. Sometimes the claimants may have separate claims against the insurance company. For instance, if the insurance company knew a person is the rightful beneficiary but proceeded to file an interpleader action anyways, the insurance company may be liable for penalties and attorney’s fees under a variety of prompt payment and bad faith claim handling laws.  Once you have filed a response, you will have the opportunity to discover evidence, hire experts, take depositions, and proceed to trial to prove that you are entitled to the life insurance proceeds.  There are a number of different case types that we tend to see more often with life insurance interpleaders. One: Lack of Capacity to Change Beneficiary We see a lot of cases where the insured changed the primary beneficiary later in life when the insured arguably lacks the mental capacity to understand that he was making the change. Along the same lines, we also see situations where people close to the insured may attempt to use undue influence, force, or duress to change the beneficiary. In these types of cases, objective medical evidence that the insured lacked capacity certainly helps challenge the change. In these situations, there are often nefarious actors with past history of wrongdoing involved with the insured. We have worked on multiple cases where a former felon released from prison suddenly becomes the insured’s caretaker. These cases can be difficult to prove and often rely on a combination of medical evidence and testimony to invalidate a beneficiary change.  Second: Divorce Many states will void an ex-spouse’s interest as a life insurance beneficiary in the event of divorce. Of course, there are numerous other exceptions to this rule. For instance, sometimes a property separation agreement will stipulate that a spouse is entitled to certain insurance benefits. Other times, an insured may list or re-inscribe the ex-spouse after the divorce.  Third: ERISA Preemption While most states will invalidate an ex-spouse’s beneficiary designation, life insurance policies that are governed by ERISA – a federal statute, do not follow a similar path. Under ERISA policies, the insured must change the beneficiary. If they do not, then the ex-spouse may be entitled to life insurance benefits.  Fourth: Homicide  Most...

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Examination Under Oath

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Most insurance policies allow the insurance company to require a policyholder to answer questions under oath and to produce documents and other information so the insurance company can investigate an insurance claim. This formal legal proceeding is called an examination under oath. The examination part of this process is requiring the policyholder to answer questions that are asked by a representative of the insurance company. In most cases, the insurance company’s representative is an attorney who has been hired to investigate the policyholder and provide the insurance company with advice about how to handle the claim. The examination normally takes place at a court reporter or attorney’s office. In most cases, an examination will last for at least a few hours and will be recorded by a court reporter. Under oath means the policyholder must swear to answer the questions truthfully. For many, an examination under oath can be highly stressful. To be completely upfront, an examination under oath is not common. They are often requested when the insurance company suspects the policyholder has done something wrong or has attempted to deceive the insurance company. Other times, the insurance believes there is a reason it can deny the insurance claim. Regardless, an examination under oath is an important event in an insurance claim that a policyholder needs to take seriously. Preparation is key to a successful outcome. In addition, refusing or failing to submit to an examination under oath can result in the denial of your insurance claim. Why Does an Insurance Company Want to Take My Examination Under Oath? Below are some common issues insurance companies often want to investigate during an examination under oath: The policyholder misrepresented the cause of the damage. The policyholder made misrepresentations in the policy application. The policyholder committed a crime related to the insurance policy. The policyholder committed fraud. The policyholder is seeking significantly more money than what the insurance company believes is owed. The policyholder has not answered the insurance company’s requests for information about the claim. The policyholder has hired a contractor, adjuster, or other experts who have a bad history with the insurance company or has a history of red flags. The insurance company believes the policy does not cover the claim. The insurance company believes there is a policy exclusion that applies.   These are not small or insignificant issues. However, it is important to remember that the mere fact that an insurance company wants to conduct an in-depth investigation of an insured does not mean it has a reasonable basis to deny an insurance claim. On the contrary, insurance policies are interpreted broadly by courts in favor of expanding insurance coverage as much as possible. Still, it is important for an insured who has had an examination requested to consult with an experienced insurance attorney to ensure he or she is adequately prepared for the examination. What Does Your Insurance Policy Require You to Do? Insurance companies tend to treat policyholders in a very abrasive and demanding manner when requesting an examination. This is especially the case when the policyholder is not represented by its own attorney. It is not uncommon for the insurance company to out of the blue give a policyholder a day and time to appear at a location to be questioned under oath. These demands normally include an extensive list of documents the insurance company insists that are brought to the examination or produced ahead of time. The insurance company may even claim that if the policyholder does not comply, he or she may be in violation of its duty to cooperate with the investigation.  For one, a policyholder does not have to appear for an examination on the day or time demanded by an insurance company. Policyholders have lives – jobs, children, and responsibilities. The most important thing a policyholder should do is stay in active communications with the insurance company. When it comes to scheduling the examination, we recommend first retaining an attorney to walk you through the specifics of your claim and communicate with the insurance company on your behalf. However, at a minimum, you should schedule your examination well enough into the future to gather the documents requested by the insurance company and review everything you need to be familiar with the claim. I’m often asked why does an insurance company gets to take an examination under oath? The right to take an examination under oath stems from the language in an insurance policy, which is a binding contract. Courts have repeatedly upheld an insurance company’s right to take an examination under oath as a contractual right that the policyholder agreed-to. The terms and conditions in the insurance policy must govern the relations between the insurer and the insured. Because an examination under oath is based on a contractual obligation, courts have ruled that the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not apply and that an insured must respond to questions that may implicate the insured in criminal activity. If the insured refuses to answer questions, the insurance claim may be denied. Most insurance policies contain a provision stating that an insurance company can take the examination under oath of the policyholder to investigate a claim. Some policies may require the insured to have others with knowledge of the claim to also submit to an examination. Examples of others who may have knowledge of a claim contractor, public adjusters, and residents. From the insurance company’s standpoint, these individuals may have knowledge about certain aspects of the claim. However, the policyholder ultimately can’t force someone else to sit for an examination and many insurance companies use this as a tactic to intimidate policyholders. Indeed, many insurers think the policyholder will cave in if the insurance company begins a wide-reaching investigation. It is very much likely that the insurance company is investigating the claim so aggressively because the case has tremendous value and this is how the insurance company can leverage you into taking a lowball settlement. Courts have struggled...

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