Posts

BREAKING NEWS: Increase in UIM Policy Limit Considered a ‘Purchase’ Requiring New Stacking Waiver

UIM Coverage

On February 5, 2018, the federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania ruled that an increase in Under Insured Motorist (UIM) benefits is a new purchase of insurance coverage.  As such, automobile insurance carriers are required to obtain a new waiver of the stacked benefits under the auto insurance policy.

Stacked benefits, in UIM coverage, means that a person who purchases automobile insurance on more than one vehicle under the same policy can elect to purchase up to double the UIM insurance coverage.  The Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law (“MVFRL”) requires an insurance carrier to offer stacked benefits to every policy holder who purchases insurance.  If the policy holder decides not to take advantage of the stacked benefits, the insurer must obtain a written waiver of those benefits.

For instance, if you insure two cars for $20,000.00 each, you are eligible for stacking benefits that would allow you claim up to $40,000.00 on each vehicle.  The MVFRL requires that the insurer offer this option to each and every insured.

If the insured declines, then the insurer must obtain an express written waiver of the option to purchase “stacked” benefits.

According to the Pennsylvania Eastern District Court in Barnard v Travelers, No. 17-00290, whenever an insured chooses to increase the amount of coverage under her UIM policy, the insurance carrier must obtain a new written waiver of stacked benefits as required by the MVFRL.

Background

Michelle Barnard, the Plaintiff in this case, held a UIM policy with The Travelers Home and Marine Insurance Company, the Defendant, since 2007.  When she initially secured the policy, she had UIM coverage limits of $50,000.00 for each of her two vehicles.

At the time of purchasing the initial insurance coverage, she signed a written waiver of stacked benefits under that policy, i.e., Ms. Barnard waived her right to stack UIM benefits under her policy.  With that, the maximum amount of UIM benefits that she could claim, and ultimately receive, under her policy was $50,000.00.

However, in May 2009, Ms. Barnard increased her third-party liability coverage limits under the policy from $50,000.00 to $100,000.00 on each insured vehicle.  So, this meant she would have been entitled to claim up to $200,000.00 on each car, as per her allowable stacked benefits.  Notably, Ms. Barnard did not sign any written waiver of her stacked benefits upon this increase in coverage.

Thereafter, when Ms. Barnard was injured in a car accident on June 17, 2016, she submitted a UIM claim under her policy with Travelers Insurance.  Travelers tendered $100,000.00 in UIM benefits to Ms. Barnard, assuming that she had waived her option to stack her UIM benefits in 2007.  Ms. Barnard, however, rejected this tender and, claiming that she was entitled to more than was tendered, she sued the Travelers.

Increase in UIM limit is a ‘Purchase’

Travelers argued before the Eastern District Court that, among other things, it had no duty to obtain a new waiver of stacked benefits under the policy, even after Ms. Barnard had increased her liability insurance coverage limits in 2009.  In other words, Travelers claimed that the initial 2007 waiver was still in operation and effective, despite the increased coverage purchased by Ms. Barnard in 2009.

The federal district court, however, rejected Travelers’ argument.  Judge Gerald McHugh held that the language of the MVFRL requires a renewed waiver of stacked benefits when liability coverage limits are increased and/or purchased.

According to Judge McHugh, because an increase in coverage under an existing policy requires that an insured pay a higher premium, an increase in coverage limits also qualifies as a “purchase” as defined by the MVFRL.  As a result, the court ruled that Travelers should have obtained a new waiver of UIM stacked benefits, in 2009, when Ms. Barnard increased her liability insurance limits.  Pursuant to the district court’s ruling, Travelers was responsible, and required, to pay Ms. Barnard up to $200,000.00 in UIM benefits under her policy.[1]

For questions relating to the MVFRL and Pennsylvania auto insurance coverages, please contact Matthew R. Zwick, partner of Zwick Law, at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a legal consultation.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[2]

 

[1] Note: Travelers filed an appeal of the district court’s decision to the United States Third Circuit Court of Appeals, which remains pending at the time of publication of this article.

[2] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

In Pennsylvania, Your Doctor Must Personally Obtain Your Informed Consent

 

What is “informed consent?”  Informed consent means that a physician must inform the patient of all material risks, complications, facts and benefits involved in any proposed, nonemergency surgical treatment, so that the patient can make an informed decision about whether to undergo surgical intervention.

Informed Consent

The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania recently decided that doctors in Pennsylvania have an affirmative duty to obtain their patients’ informed consent, and this affirmative duty is non-delegable.  As such, this duty is only discharged when the physician personally obtains the client’s consent. The Supreme Court issued this ruling in Shinal v Toms, 162 A.3d 429 (Pa. 2017).

Under Pennsylvania law, before a physician conducts any proposed, non-emergent treatment on a patient, the patient must receive information concerning the nature of the proposed procedure, as well as the expected, and the possibly unexpected, risks and results.  Generally speaking, in Pennsylvania, similar to the majority of other jurisdictions, a physician has an affirmative duty to advise a patient of the facts, risks, and complications of, and alternatives to, a procedure.  This duty is required under the Pennsylvania’s Medical Care Availability and Reduction of Error (“MCARE”) Act.  It is only with this information, that a patient can make an educated or “informed” decision regarding the available options and/or alternatives to medical procedures.

According to the majority opinion of the Supreme Court in Shinal, the aforesaid information must be given, and the consent obtained, by the physician personally (rather than by a physician assistant, nurse or medical aide).  In other words, unless the procedure-related information is provided to a patient by a treating physician, the duty to adequately inform is not discharged.

Background

Mrs. Shinal and her husband sued the defendant, Dr. Toms and Geisinger Clinic in a medical malpractice suit.  Mrs. Shinal, who had been diagnosed with a recurrent non-malignant tumor around her brain, alleged that Dr. Toms failed to properly inform her of the risks associated with a surgery to remove the tumor.

Dr. Toms, denying that he had breached his duty to inform Mrs. Shinal, countered that in a consultation he conducted with the Shinals on November 26, 2007, he had explained the risks of the different approaches to the surgery.  These risks included possible damage or injury to Ms. Shinal’s carotid artery and optic nerve.

According to Dr. Toms, he felt that Mrs. Shinal had understood the risks and wanted him to try and totally remove the tumor which, though risky, would give her a better shot at long-term survival.  Besides, Mrs. Shinal had a telephone conversation with Dr. Toms’ physician assistant (“PA”) on December 19, 2007, and the PA had gone through the risks of the procedure with her again at that time.

On January 31, 2008, Mrs. Shinal had an operation to remove the tumor, during which Dr. Toms perforated her carotid artery.  As a result of the perforation, Mrs. Shinal sustained a hemorrhage, stroke, brain injury and partial blindness.  This medical malpractice lawsuit ensued shortly thereafter.

Jury Instruction: Informed Consent

The Supreme Court was invited to overrule the decisions of the trial court and the Superior Court, both of which exonerated the Defendant.  The reasoning at the lower court and Superior Court had been that the Defendant was not obligated to personally inform the Plaintiff of all of the facts, risks, and complications of the procedure.  The Superior Court further ruled that the Defendant doctor could be assisted in this duty by his PA.

The trial court judge, before the finding of the jury, directed that the jury could consider any information provided to Mrs. Shinal by “any qualified person” working as an assistant to Dr. Toms.

However, the Supreme Court, with a majority of four justices concurring, held that a doctor was personally obligated to inform a patient of the risks and benefits of the procedure, as well as obtain her informed consent to proceed with the proposed treatment.  The case was, therefore, ordered to be retried because, as in the opinion of the Supreme Court, the trial court judge was wrong in his instructions to the jury.

The aggressive attorneys at Zwick Law are standing by to provide you with the legal advice and representation that you need and deserve.  We offer personalized attention and we work tirelessly to maximize the value of our clients’ injury claims.  Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys are always here to discuss your case and provide you with the peace of mind you desrve.

For questions relating to an medical malpractice issue, contact Matthew R Zwick, partner of Zwick Law, at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a legal consultation and free case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

What is Workers’ Compensation?

Have you been injured on the job? Maybe you twisted your ankle while rushing into the elevator for that meeting with the boss or sprained your wrist while trying to beat that deadline. If you have suffered a work-related injury, you may be entitled to benefits under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws.

workers' compensation

workers’ compensation

The Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) was enacted to provide no fault recourse for workers who suffer injuries in the workplace.  The Act ensures that no worker will go without some form of compensation for workplace-related injuries. The Act thus requires that all Pennsylvania employers register with an insurer for workers’ compensation coverage.

Every Pennsylvania worker is covered by the Act.  So, even if your employer has failed to procure workers’ compensation insurance coverage, you are still able to obtain compensation benefits under the Uninsured Employer Guaranty Fund.

What is workers’ compensation?

Workers’ compensation laws and regulations provide for you in the event of work-related injuries.  The Act provides financial, medical and other related benefits and support to workers who have been injured on the job.

The Act ensures that injured workers can obtain no-fault compensation for work-related injuries.  However, this “no-fault” insurance coverage comes with a compromise — your right to sue your employer for the injury.

What are some of the requirements to obtain workers’ compensation?

Before you can be eligible to receive benefits under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, you must fulfil some requirements

  1. There must be an employer/employee relationship.

While this is usually straightforward, there are some situations when it is difficult to determine whether the relationship is an employment relationship under the law. For instance, an independent contractor does not qualify as an employee. For the purpose of determining whether a person qualifies as an employee, four things are usually considered:

  • The right of the employee to select the employer;
  • The employer’s right to “sack” the employee;
  • The employer’s power to direct the manner of performing the job; and
  • The employer’s power to control the employee;

Even if you don’t qualify as an employee under these conditions, you may still be an employee under the definition of a “statutory employer”.  For instance, if you are an employee of a sub-contractor that has been hired by a general contractor for a construction-type job, you may be entitled to compensation for work-related injuries. Your employer in this case is a “statutory employer.”

  1. The injury must have occurred under Pennsylvania jurisdiction

If you are hired in Pennsylvania, but often have to work in other states, it won’t matter whether the work injury happen in Pennsylvania, or some other jurisdiction.

  1. You must have suffered the injury in the course of employment

Each situation is usually decided on its merits, on a case-by-case basis. You don’t have to be actively working when the injury occurs, though. You could be playing tennis as part of the company’s sports team or attending a party for the company and possibly still be covered. The important requirement is that you must have been furthering the interest of your employer.

What type of workers’ compensation are you entitled to receive?

Under the Act, you are generally compensated for any disability that occurs as a result of work-related injuries.

Disability, under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law, is defined by work loss. A disability may result in total disability, temporary total disability or temporary partial disability. It is total disability scenarios when you are completely unable to work because of the work injury.

The Act defines an “injury” to include any condition caused by an accident or activity at work. As such, injuries need not be caused by accidents alone. Injuries caused by having to do the same thing over and over, such as typing with your back bent or injuries cause by abnormal working conditions, would also qualify as an “injury.”

What benefits can you receive under the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law?

Depending on your injury, you may be entitled to any one or more of the following benefits:

  • Medical benefits. This would typically include the cost of obtaining medical treatment for the injury.
  • Wage benefits. You are generally entitled to compensation of up to two-thirds, sometimes more, of your average weekly wage. These benefits are not taxable.
  • Death benefits. This would be applicable only in the event of death caused by a wok-related injury. These benefits would be paid to the family or survivors of the employee.
  • Scarring benefits. This compensation is applicable in the event of disfigurement caused by work injury.
  • Specific loss benefits. If loss of limbs is involved, compensation would be payable for that specific loss. This does not mean that the whole limb must be lost though. It would suffice if it is shown that it has been made useless for the job.

How can you obtain workers’ compensation?

The Pennsylvania workers’ compensation law requires that workers who suffer any work-related injury must report the injury to their employer within 120 days – this period starts to run from the date of the injury.  You should always report a work-related injury to your employer, and make sure that an accident report is generated.

Your employer then either accepts or denies the claim. If the claim is denied, you can file a lawsuit to establish your work-related claim. You do this by filing a Claim Petition.

While there is no law that says you can’t fight for the claim on your own, it is generally a good idea to get in touch with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney from the moment you get injured.  The experienced worker’s compensation lawyers at Zwick Law understand how vital quality representation is to your claim.  We are prepared to review your situation and take over the time-consuming and stressful task of negotiating and fighting for you.

For questions relating to a work-related injury, contact Matthew R Zwick, partner of Zwick Law, at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a legal consultation and free case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

Zwick Law Develops New Pennsylvania Adverse Possession Law in Weible v. Wells, 156 A.3d 1220

By decision of the Pennsylvania Superior Court, Matthew R. Zwick, founding partner of Zwick Law, representing Elizabeth “Louise” Wells and her late husband, William Wells, prevailed on appeal, reversing the trial court’s decision regarding the application of the adverse possession doctrine in Pennsylvania.  The Weible v. Wells decision (reported at 156 A.3d 1220) establishes and creates clear legal principles and guidelines for applying the doctrine of adverse possession in Pennsylvania.

In this case, the Superior Court was tasked with deciding whether the statutorily prescribed period to adversely possess land in Pennsylvania is tolled (paused) or started anew (reset) when property is owned and used for a public purpose by political subdivisions (i.e., counties, townships, boroughs, etc.) during the 21-year statute of limitations for the title owner of the land to file an ejectment action against the adverse possessor.  The Superior Court, agreeing fully with Attorney Zwick, held that the 21-year statutory period was merely tolled, and did not completely reset, under the circumstances presented in this case.

Case Background

This civil case was commenced by Rodger Weible, Louise’s next door neighbor, in August 2009, when Weible filed a complaint in ejectment against Louise and her husband, arguing that the Wellses installed landscaping and a driveway that allegedly encroached upon a portion of Weible’s yard.

Louise and her husband purchased their home in Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, in August 1965. Thereafter, the Wellses caused landscaping and a driveway to be installed at their residence in 1974 and 1979, respectively.  The Wellses’ landscaping and driveway remained in substantially the same condition and configuration from the respective dates of installation through the time of trial in September 2015 (and as of the date of this article).

From May 30, 1995 through December 22, 1998, the property now owned by Weible was owned by Jefferson County and Clearfield County, political subdivisions of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, operating through the Clearfield-Jefferson Mental Health/Mental Retardation Program.  Weible purchased the property from Jefferson and Clearfield Counties by deed dated December 22, 1998.

The Wellses and Weible lived next to each other without incident until 2008.  In 2008, a tree fell and caused damage to powerlines surrounding the residential lots.  Louise and her husband offered to pay the Borough of Reynoldsville to repair the powerlines; however, they were informed that the fallen tree had come from Weible’s property and that they were not responsible for the cost of repairs.  After the Borough attempted to collect payment from Weible for the damage, Weible hired a local surveyor to survey his property to delineate the boundary line between his lot and the lot owned by the Wellses.  When Weible discovered that the Wellses’ landscaping and driveway appeared to encroach upon property that he believed he owned, Weible requested that the Wellses remove the landscaping.  The instant legal battle ensued.

The Trial Court Proceedings

Weible’s civil complaint was intended to eject, or remove, the Wellses and their landscaping and driveway from the disputed property.  The Wellses raised the defense of adverse possession and countersued Weible asserting ownership of the property in question by virtue of adverse possession.  After a non-jury trial on September 11, 2015, the trial court of Jefferson County, Pennsylvania, found that, because Weible had received his residential lot from a political subdivision (i.e., Jefferson and Clearfield Counties), the Wellses were required to establish their exclusive, adverse possession of the property for 21 years from the date of conveyance from the Counties to Weible in 1998.

As twenty-one (21) years had not passed when Weible filed suit against the Wellses in 2009, the trial court ordered the Wellses to be ejected from the property.  Louise Wells, represented by Zwick Law, appealed this decision by the lower court.

What is Adverse Possession?

The doctrine of adverse possession is a legal concept that allows a trespasser – sometimes a stranger, but more often a neighbor – to gain legal title over land that was once owned by someone else.  The doctrine has developed as a way to achieve a fair result when a land owner has neglected or forgotten about a piece or portion of land, while another has been in possession of and using the land for an extended period of time, such that forcing that person, i.e., the adverse possessor, to depart or vacate the land would create hardship and/or inequity.

Adverse possession in Pennsylvania is established based on the character of a trespasser’s possession and the length of time he possesses the land in question. Under Pennsylvania law, to sustain a claim for title to real property through adverse possession, a litigant must prove her actual, continuous, open, notorious, exclusive, distinct, hostile, and adverse possession of the property in dispute for a period in excess of twenty-one (21) years.

Adverse Possession

While actions in ejectment are commonly employed by the rightful owner of land to recover property from those who have unauthorized possession of the disputed land, the rightful owner must commence an action in ejection within 21 years from the initial date of the unauthorized use.

The Superior Court Appeal

On appeal, Attorney Zwick successfully briefed and argued that Louise and her husband had adversely possessed and exclusively used the disputed property for 21 continuous years without actual interruption by Weible or any of his predecessors-in-interest.  Upon review and oral argument, the Superior Court agreed and reversed the trial court’s decision, ruling that, although the disputed property had been owned by the Counties from 1995 through 1998, during which time the Counties would have been immune from claims of adverse possession themselves, the 21-year statutory period was merely tolled (or paused), rather than reset due to the Counties’ ownership.  The statutory clock began to run again once the disputed property returned to Weible’s private ownership.

Newly Established Law on Adverse Possession

Thus, because the landscaping and driveway that were installed by Louise and her husband in the mid- to late-1970s remained in the same place and configuration through the date of trial in 2015, the Wellses “adversely” possessed the disputed property for well over 21 years.  The Superior Court, therefore, reversed the trial court’s ruling and remanded the case for entry of an order vesting ownership of the disputed property in Louise Wells by virtue of adverse possession.

On behalf of its client, Zwick Law clarified and developed new adverse possession case law in Pennsylvania.  This case illustrates how important it is to have aggressive attorneys fighting for you.  The skilled litigation attorneys at Zwick Law are dedicated to preserving the legal rights of our clients. For a free consultation and case analysis, contact either our DuBois or Brookville office today.  At Zwick Law, we are always here for you.

Common Complaints Made Against the Executor of an Estate

The role of the executor of an estate is one of complete trust and supreme responsibility.  Whomever you choose to serve in this capacity will oversee your final wishes to ensure that the terms outlined in your estate plan are followed. In theory, the person who is the executor of your estate will have few problems with your beneficiaries. In reality, however, it is not unusual for your executor to be at odd with your heirs for a variety of reasons. Being aware of common complaints made against an executor will help you when the time comes to choose someone for that role and help that person prepare to manage your estate.

Conflict of Interest

A person with a small estate and limited beneficiaries will often name a person to execute his or her will, and that person also is commonly named as a beneficiary.  Typically, that is not an issue and the other heirs will understand that being named in a will does not automatically mean that you will not be a fair executor. There are times when an executor has abused that position of trust and your other heirs may grow concerned, if they believe that your executor is focusing on his or her own best interest at the expense of their interests and those of the estate.  Lack of trust may lead to claims of a conflict of interest, in an effort to disqualify your executor from continuing to operate in that capacity.

Mismanaging Funds of Estate

The assets of an estate must be managed properly during the probate process.  Securing all assets is one of the most important roles of the position and is vital if the estate has many assets or outstanding debts.  Transactions must be recorded throughout the process of paying debts, filing tax returns, and distributing bequests using the funds or property available.  Sometimes, heirs will believe that the executor is not properly managing the assets of the estate and may file a complaint out of concern for the security of what they expect to inherit.  While an executor is compensated for his or her time, the amount of compensation may seem nominal in comparison to the value of the estate, leading to unease from heirs who believe the executor will find other ways to be compensated.

Lack of Communication

One of the most time-consuming aspects of serving as an executor is communicating with everyone associated with the estate.  Contacting creditors, keeping the courts informed, and talking to the beneficiaries is not always easy.  Unfortunately, some beneficiaries may not be satisfied with the level of communication they are receiving from an executor.  If they believe that they have not been contacted on a regular basis regarding the status of the estate, then they may initiate a complaint or attempt to get your executor removed.

Talk to an Experienced Attorney a Zwick Law

Choosing an executor is just one of the many things that you must do in order to secure your legacy for your loved ones.  A qualified estate attorney at Zwick Law can guide you through the entire process, and help you decide who is best suited to manage your estate while seeing to your final wishes.  The attorneys at Zwick Law are here to provide you with the legal advice and peace of mind that you need and deserve.  Contact us today at 814-371-6400 to schedule an initial consultation at our DuBois or Brookville offices.[1]


[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

 

Tips for Handling a Workers’ Compensation Claim

Unfortunately, injuries can occur to anyone – at any time.  If you have been injured while on the job, you have a right to receive workers’ compensation benefits from your employer and its workers’ compensation insurance company.  Pennsylvania workers’ compensation laws were enacted to protect injured employees and their families through the provision of medical benefits, wage loss benefits, and other benefits, such as special loss, death, and funeral benefits.compensation

Knowing how to fully collect your workers’ compensation benefits under the law can sometimes be a daunting and complicated process.  In most situations, after a work-related accident occurs, employers (or, more likely, an employer’s insurance carrier) make obtaining fair and full compensation difficult, regardless of the circumstances, to avoid financial losses or other negative effects of losing an injury claim initiated by an employee.  For many employees and their families, dealing with and managing a workers’ compensation claim often becomes time-consuming, highly adversarial, and complex, as your employer’s insurance carrier attempts to reduce or completely deny your injury claim.

Whether a workers’ compensation claim is approved, contested, or even denied outright, often depends upon whether you were injured at work – and while working in the course and scope of your employment.  To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, you must show that: (1) you were employed at the time of your injury; (2) your injury occurred while you were on the job; and (3) your injury was related to and in furtherance of your employment.  Here are a few tips for handling a workers’ compensation claim, which will help to increase your chances of successfully navigating a potentially complicated process.

Record Names and Contact Information For All Witnesses

An aggressive claims adjuster will try to use every trick at their disposal to make it appear as though your work-related injury was an existing medical problem, or one that occurred while you were not working.  With that being said, identifying witnesses who can verify and confirm that your injury occurred while you were at work will carry a lot of weight in winning your case.  So, as soon as is practicably possible, obtain the names and current contact information for all persons who witnessed your incident.  Remember, you may be unable to return to your place of employment, so getting telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and even social media account details of witnesses is something that you should do as soon as possible after a work accident.  If you are physically unable to get the information yourself, you should ask a coworker or family member for assistance.

Be Consistent and Protect Your Interests

The manner in which you explain the work-related accident, your injuries and how the accident occurred – to your supervisors, coworkers, physicians, etc. – should always remain consistent.  Even the smallest discrepancy can be used to discredit your account of the accident and/or create a basis to devalue or deny your claim.  To avoid inconsistencies, document all relevant events in writing at your earliest opportunity and obtain copies (or take pictures) of any and all incident reports and other documents referring or related to the accident and your injuries.

Consult an Attorney as Soon as Possible After a Work-Related Incident

Unsurprisingly, an injured worker, who is eager to have medical bills paid, and to be compensated for time away from work, is also often eager to comply with all requests made by an employer’s insurance carrier.  While cooperation with your employer’s carrier is encouraged (and many times required), it is important that you protect your own rights and interests – remember that your employer, and its workers’ compensation insurance carrier, will always focus on and put their interests first.  If an insurance adjuster requests that you provide a recorded statement, do not do so without first consulting and experienced workers’ compensation attorney.  A statement that is recorded under what appears to be casual circumstances can, and likely will, be used against you later, usually when you least expect it.  Consulting an attorney to handle and manage your workers’ compensation claim, as early as possible, will reduce the amount and number of times that you have to communicate with a claims adjuster.

Talk to a Attorney – Call Zwick Law

Before attempting to handle your claim alone, consider consulting with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Zwick Law.  Our attorneys have experience dealing with employers and their insurance companies – Zwick Law will protect your interests while ensuring that you get the compensation that you deserve.

Our team at Zwick Law understands that a workplace injury can be life-altering, and we work on your behalf to obtain the full compensation you need and deserve.  For questions relating to a work-related injury claim, contact Matthew R Zwick, partner of Zwick Law, at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a legal consultation and free case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

Common Glitches When Buying A Home

Buying a home is one of the most exciting and stressful events in a new homeowner’s life.  The prospect of becoming the official owner of the house that you have chosen is highly anticipated, but one major oversight can turn a homeowner’s dream into a nightmare. Closing is usually the buyer’s final opportunity to request changes and verify that previously-agreed-upon conditions are met.  While most closings are concluded with limited trouble, there are a few property closing mistakes that can turn homeownership into a misfortune.  Zwick Law’s Real Estate Settlement Division ensures that our clients experience a stress-free closing process, while we guide them along the way, avoiding these common mistakes.

The Existence of “Hidden Liens”

The past owners of the property you are buying may have left you with multiple problems, if they did not pay their bills in a timely manner. In some instances, a homeowner who failed to pay their association dues, utility bills, or bills for other services, could find themselves on the receiving end of a lien. This property lien requires that the lien-creditor receives the money they are owed from the proceeds of the home sale. While liens typically show up prior to closing, some people have purchased a home; lived in the property for years; and only discovered the existence of a hidden lien when they later attempted to resell the property.

Skipping the Final Walkthrough

After visiting the property you plan to purchase multiple times throughout the last month, going to the house one last time before closing may seem unnecessary or inconvenient.  While completing a final walkthrough is not required, not checking your property one last time could cause trouble. No matter how comfortable you are with the seller, and how nice the home had appeared during your past inspections, major problems such as new property damage or missing appliances are sometimes discovered during the final walkthrough.  A final walkthrough should always be completed.

No Homeowner’s Insurance

Purchasing homeowner’s insurance for a property, in many instances, is taken for granted, since it is usually considered to be one of the easiest parts of the home buying process. It is true that most homeowners have no problem finding a company to insure their new property; however, occasionally a prospective home buyer finds himself in position where no one wants to insure the home. If the seller files a large claim immediately before you close on the home, another insurance company may refuse to cover the property. A person who is buying a property with cash may be able to complete the transaction, but owning a home with no insurance is a huge financial risk.

Get Advice – Contact Zwick Law’s Real Estate Settlement Division When Buying A Home

The process of buying a home is not something that you should go through alone. The help of a qualified real estate attorney can simplify the transaction and increase your chances of having a problem-free experience. The team at Zwick Law’s Real Estate Settlement Division understands how important homeownership is, and we take pride in providing our clients with the legal advice they need to make educated decisions. Contact us today to schedule a consultation at one of our conveniently located offices in DuBois or Brookville, so that we can begin giving you the representation you deserve.

Zwick Law’s Real Estate Settlement Division is directed by Carl A. Lias, a Pennsylvania Licensed Title Insurance Agent since 1999, who has over 19 years of experience in residential and commercial real estate transactions, including refinance transactions, as well as extensive knowledge of conventional, FHA, VA, USDA and PHFA mortgage loan products.  Zwick Law’s Real Estate Settlement Division is uniquely positioned – as a dedicated settlement service provider situated within the four corners of a law firm – to ensure our clients enjoy the security, professionalism and friendliness that they expect and deserve, all while paying less than they otherwise would at other regional firms and title companies.

Common Estate Planning Mistakes & How To Avoid The Pitfalls

Creating an estate plan is the best way to pass property and other assets to your loved ones in a manner that you believe is best suited for you and your family.  Unfortunately, the majority of adults in the United States do not have a will, and those who do often make serious mistakes that render the will invalid or impractical.  If you want to be sure that your final wishes are executed properly, you must spend time creating and updating an estate plan with an experienced attorney who can provide accurate and reliable legal advice.  If you attempt to create and implement such an important legal document, without the proper assistance, you increase your chances of making one of these four common estate planning mistakes.

Review Your Estate Plan to Ensure That it is Up to Date

The majority of people who invest time and money to create a last will and testament and other estate planning instruments do not properly review their estate plan to ensure that it is up to date and applicable to changed situations and circumstances.  It is possible that your last will and testament may not require changes over the years; however, it is very likely that major life events and changes in circumstances may be overlooked, which likely will create problems for your loved ones after you are gone. Those who neglect to update their estate plans throughout their lifetimes, often times accidentally omit after-born children and/or grandchildren; name people who predecease them; and/or choose a personal representative who they no longer trust.  The mere passage of time is reason enough to review your estate planning documents to ensure that these important documents remain applicable and coincide with your current intentions.

 Your Will Does Not Impact Non-Probate Assets, such as Life Insurance Policies

An asset that several folks maintain is a life insurance policy.  Life insurance policies ordinarily designate a primary beneficiary or beneficiaries – the person or persons who will receive all or some of a specified sum of money after the policyholder passes away – and a secondary beneficiary – in the event that the primary designee(s) predeceases the policyholder.  Typically, beneficiaries to these policies are spouses, children, siblings, and/or parents.  A person who has recently gotten divorced or who is estranged from a relative may no longer wish for that person to receive any part of a life insurance policy.  However, instead of updating the beneficiary designations with the life insurance company, and without consulting an experienced estate planning attorney, a policyholder sometimes names a recipient of the policy proceeds in their will.  Unbeknownst to some policyholders, life insurance companies are required to pay proceeds to the named beneficiary in the policy, even if the designation is contrary to the directives in one’s will.  So, while you need to update and review your last will and testament, you also need to review all non-probate assets, such as life insurance policies, annuities, and retirement accounts, to ensure that your beneficiary designations also remain applicable and coincide with your current intentions.

Keep a Detailed List of Your Assets with Your Important Estate Planning Documents

While leaving assets to family members and loved ones is thoughtful, if your loved ones do not know where these assets are located or how to find them, receiving an inheritance may turn into a nightmare.  Without a detailed list of information on your accounts, real and personal property, and other assets, your personal representative and beneficiaries likely will have to conduct their own search.  Not only is searching for assets very time consuming and often times frustrating, it also is possible that some assets will go undiscovered for years.  Keep a detailed list of your assets with your important estate planning documents, to ensure that all of your assets are passed on to your loved ones.

Name a Trustworthy and Reliable Personal Representative of Your Estate

The personal representative of your estate is the person who is responsible for paying your debts, filing your inheritance tax return, and distributing your assets to your named beneficiaries.  Being named an executor or executrix is considered an honor, but it also is a serious position that can be unbelievably time consuming.  Naming a child or relative simply because they are oldest, or perhaps the favorite, is not always the best idea.  If the person you name as the personal representative of your estate is disliked, not capable of doing the job, or not trusted by your beneficiaries and other loved ones, then your family could seek to have him or her removed from the position.  This is not only time consuming and expensive, it also can take its toll on your family for many years to come.

Get Answers to All of Your Questions – Contact Zwick Law

Estate planning is an important, proactive measure that you can take to preserve your legacy and ensure that your assets stay with and benefit your family after you are gone.  When you are ready to create or update your estate plan, consulting with an estate planning and estate administration attorney is highly beneficial.  The trusted attorneys at Zwick Law are available to help you determine the best ways to distribute your estate and protect your assets long into the future. Contact us today to schedule a free and confidential consultation at either our DuBois or Brookville office.

For questions relating to your estate planning needs, contact either C.J. Zwick or Matthew R. Zwick at (814) 371-6400.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.

 

LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD – TACTICS USED TO REDUCE OR DENY PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS

After the occurrence of an accident, which results in personal injuries to you or a loved one, it is not unusual for a claims adjuster from a liability insurance carrier to contact you to express sympathy and offer assistance in a time of need.  While the adjuster’s friendliness and solicitude may seem legitimate, the insurance adjuster’s primary function is to save his employer (i.e., the liability insurance company) money by reducing or greatly diminishing the settlement of your claim.  The tricks and tactics that insurance adjusters use to reduce or deny claims have affected hundreds of people throughout the years—which is why it is very important that all accident victims learn to recognize some of the most commonly utilized methods employed by insurance carriers and claims adjusters.

Becoming fully aware of commonly known tricks and tactics may help you or your loved ones avoid making an error that could prove extremely damaging to a personal injury claim.

Take it Slow – Don’t Rush into a Personal Injury Settlement

In many instances, accident victims require numerous doctor visits, medical and psychological treatment and extended time off of work before the scope and extent of their injuries are fully recognized and appreciated.  As the scope and extent of medical care and treatment increase, so does the potential settlement value of your case.  The first trick that many claims adjusters may utilize to reduce the payout on your case, is to rush the settlement process in order to close your claim before you receive all of the medical care that you need and deserve.

Ensure that You Receive Full Compensation – Don’t Accept Deliberate Underpayments

A claims adjuster also may intentionally send you less insurance money than your injuries and necessary treatment warrant.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, receiving and accepting payment from a liability insurance company means that you intend to enter a full and final settlement of your claims.  In other words, payment from an insurance company for injuries caused by its insured, often times represents full and complete payment on your injury claim.  After you have deposited or cashed the check, you will not be able to request additional compensation in the future—even if you later discover the amount you received is not enough to cover your medical bills and other accident-related expenses.

Take it Slow, But Not too Slow – When is the Right Time to Settle?

Many claims adjusters know that being out of work, while simultaneously accumulating medical debt, can be very stressful and intimidating.  Adjusters often develop various methods to stall the claims process, knowing—or at least hoping—that the longer the process takes, the more likely you are to accept a lesser amount of money to settle your claim.  In other cases, an adjuster also may hope that stalling or delaying a claim will cause an injured party to overlook a statute of limitation deadline, which could have the legal effect of barring a monetary recovery on your injury claim forever.

Level the Playing FieldContact Zwick Law

Almost all insurance companies and adjusters want injured parties to avoid consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney—an attorney who will recognize their deceiving tricks and tactics.  The primary objective of a claims adjuster is to settle claims as inexpensively as possible, or even deny the claim in its entirety.  Throughout the settlement process, many adjusters will discourage you from consulting with an attorney, all while providing you with hope that they will work with you to settle the situation fairly (and, untimely, at a value much lower than you deserve).

If you or someone close to you is involved in an accident, the best thing to do is to contact a personal injury attorney immediately.  An experienced attorney, who is dedicated to being your advocate, will ensure that your claim is handled professionally, fully and fairly throughout the entire process – from injury to absolute compensation.  At Zwick Law, our experienced team takes pride in representing our clients diligently and aggressively through every stage of a claim.

With offices conveniently located in DuBois and Brookville, Pennsylvania, we are standing by to provide you with the peace of mind you deserve.  For questions concerning a personal injury claim, contact Matthew R. Zwick at (814) 371-6400 or mrz@zwick-law.com, to schedule a free legal consultation and case analysis.  At Zwick Law, we’re always here for you.[1]

 

[1] Disclaimer: The use of the Internet, Facebook and/or any other form of social media communication with the firm or any individual member of the firm does not establish an attorney-client relationship.  Time-sensitive information should be directed immediately to the office of Zwick Law at (814) 371-6400.