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Unfortunately, car accidents happen for many reasons.  Drivers may be distracted.  Bad weather can make visibility difficult and stopping even harder.  Perhaps the other car ran a red light and struck you.  Another, less frequent cause for car collisions is what Ohio law calls a “sudden medical emergency.”  It’s important to know what is (and is not) a sudden medical emergency (“SME”) because the condition may excuse the driver who suffered one from paying for injuries or damages he or she caused.

Ohio first recognized “sudden medical emergency” as an excuse (or legal defense) for automotive negligence in 1956.  In Lehman v. Haynam, the Ohio Supreme Court described SME as an instance, “where the driver of an automobile is suddenly stricken by a period of unconsciousness which he had no reason to anticipate and which renders it impossible for him to control the car he is driving. . . .”  But does this mean that a driver who fell asleep behind the wheel and hit you is not liable for injuries he/she caused?  No, not at all.  Continue reading

Bicycle riding is a wonderful sport.  I ride between 2-3,000 miles per year, often commuting the 13 miles from my home to the law offices of Rubin Guttman & Associates.  Bicycle riding on our city streets always calls for great care and following the big three Rules of the Road: 1) Be careful; 2) Be lawful (obey the traffic laws); and 3) Be well lit (use lights on the front of your bike, on the back of your bike, and on your helmet).

These rules apply all year, but are even more important during the winter months when, according to Bikewinter.org  whose slogan is “Every day is a Great day to ride a bike,” you’ve got to make a special effort to know your hazards.  Avoid streets with chuckholes to the extent possible, ride carefully and predictably and remember, under Ohio law, you have all the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle.  Bicycle riders have a right to the road.  Check out the Ohio Department of Transportation’s Cycling Smarter Guide for the whole legal picture. Bikeradar.com, a British and American bike riding  site cautions against black ice on winter roads, something we know all to much about in Cleveland and Northern Ohio.  Apply your brakes equally and in a measured way. Take it easy and don’t focus on speed in the winter.

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Insuring your car may feel expensive.  As a car owner, you must buy  liability coverage (if you strike another’s car).  You can also select coverages to pay for repairs to your car, to cover towing charges, for medical expenses, and even the costs of a temporary rental car.  A handy buying guide, “Insurance 101,” is available from the Ohio Department of Insurance.  Ohio law requires that each driver carry minimum liability coverage of $25,000 per person; $50,000 per accident (25/50).  But with all the choices and charges, you may be confused about whether to purchase uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverages too.

From our perspective, the answer is a strong “YES”.  Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage protects you and others in your car when another driver injures you but their insurance is insufficient to compensate you for your injuries, medical expenses, lost wages, and other losses.  Continue reading

There’s no doubt that distracted driving is responsible for many car accidents.  Everything from texting, changing the entertainment source on the car radio, trying to calm a frazzled toddler, or even enjoying a sip of that drink from the drive-through lane can take a driver’s attention from where it belongs — on surrounding traffic and safely operating a car.  AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests that each year 5,000 fatal car crashes can be attributed to driver distraction.

Now it seems that automobile insurance giant, Allstate, wants to peak over your shoulder and into your car to see whether you are driving while distracted.  And Allstate isn’t watching just because you have insurance with that company, Allstate may be tracking your driving behavior from sensors on the vehicle next to you or behind you in traffic.  Continue reading

As a Social Security disability attorney with Rubin Guttman & Associates, I sometimes hear frustrated clients report that a neighbor, a distant relative, or an acquaintance is collecting disability benefits from a phony claim.  Maybe the “disabled” person claims serious back injuries and chronic pain but is seen doing heavy yard work.  Other times I hear about people who are addicts or just unwilling to work like the rest of us.  Still other supposedly disabled individuals are described as double dipping  —  they collect disability benefits while working nearly full time or under the table!  The underlying feeling is, “it’s just not fair.”  And our clients are right, it’s not fair for a person who is not entitled to Social Security disability benefits to defraud the government and collect benefits.  Help may be on the way.

According to an October article in The Fiscal Times, Congress is moving forward to enact laws which will crack down on Social Security disability fraud.  The new laws include strong criminal and civil penalties for violators.  The proposed laws could impact the roughly 11 million disabled beneficiaries of the Social Security disability program.  Continue reading

According to the Ohio Department of Insurance Guide to Automobile Insurance, automobile liability insurance (which pays the other party if you are at fault) may only cover the “named insured” under the policy or coverage may extend to family members who are resident in your household. The question of whether the insurance will follow the driver to another vehicle may depend on whether that car is a substitute for your car which is identified in the policy. Whether that substitute car is available for your regular use, may well determine whether you are insured when you drive it. If it is and it is not listed on your policy, then you may not be covered while driving that car. But if it is a car which you are only able to use by borrowing it from someone else or it is a rental, then your liability insurance should protect you in the event of an accident .

If you borrow a car for an extended period of time because your car cannot be driven due to mechanical issues, then your friend’s car may qualify as a substitute and you will be covered under the policy.

People are often surprised and disappointed to learn that under Ohio law an insurance company may sell you a liability policy which does not apply if you accidentally cause injury to another member of your family. Continue reading