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Signing a Release of Claims Too Soon


What many people do, and they very much end up regretting doing so, is signing a release for an insurance company right after a motor vehicle collision. A lot of insurance companies for the people that cause a collision will come to you immediately and offer you money to end the case. It usually happens within a week to two weeks after the motor vehicle collision happened. At that point, a lot of people feel that they are a little sore, but they will get better. Obviously, it is nice to have money in your pocket. Therefore, they end up accepting the money and signing a release for all potential bodily injury claims that may occur as a result of the motor vehicle collision.

Unfortunately, what happens a lot of the time is those injuries do not go away. It turns out when your doctor does a more serious test such MRI, CT Scan, or some other type of testing, they find a very serious problem. It can involve anything up to surgery. When people hear that, they say they have no idea how hurt they were, and the insurance company should give them additional money for their injuries. Unfortunately, that is not the law in the State of Delaware.

If you knew you sustained an injury as a result of the motor vehicle collision, and you accept money, you are not allowed to go back after the person that struck you or their insurance company for additional money if it turns out the injury is more severe than you expected. The rationale the courts have used is, “you know you were injured”. Once you know you are injured and accept money, it is not the insurance company’s fault if you are more injured than you believe.

I realize a lot of people do not want to pay attorney’s fees in a motor vehicle case. However, I can honestly say in 35 years of doing this, I have never seen a person end up with less money by hiring an attorney. In very minor cases, it may only be a few dollars. In other cases, it can be a lot more money.

What I tell every client that walks through my door is you only have on body. Money is going to come and go. You need to do what is necessary to get the body healthy, but you are also entitled to fair compensation, no more, for what injuries you sustained. Until you feel better, or some doctor says you will not feel better, you do not know that answer.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Minor’s Settlements in Delaware


Delaware Courts have recently modified the rule for settling cases involving minors. The old rule was you needed to go to the Superior Court, and have that Court accept the settlement. After that, you then needed to go to the Delaware Chancery Court to file the appropriate papers to make sure it gets put into an account that neither the minor nor the guardian can touch until the minor reaches 18 years of age. At 18 years of age, it is the minor’s money. Occasionally, the money can be used for very exceptional circumstances before the minor turned 18.

The problem with doing it that way is it can become quite expensive going into two different Courts. Within the last year, the courts in Delaware have modified the rule to a certain extent. If the settlement is $25,000.00 or less, you only need to go through the Superior Court to approve the settlement. If the settlement is approve, within sixty (60) days, the guardian must take the money they received for the child and put it in what they call a Minor’s Account. Almost every bank has a Minor’s Account.

The same rules hold true as it was previously. In other words, no one can touch the money in the account until the minor reaches 18 years of age, absent court approval.

If the amount is over $25,000.00 then you still need to go through both the Superior Court and the Court of Chancery to get everything done correctly. The only time that would not occur is if you ended up having what is called a structured settlement. A structured settlement is generally when you are paid a certain amount of money up front, but the remainder is put into what they call an annuity. That means the minor will be paid a certain amount of money over a period of time which can be an extensive period of time depending on how much money you end up receiving as a result of settling the case.

Happily, most cases are less than $25,000.00. I say happily, because it means the injuries can be painful, but not horrible for someone who is under the age of 18 years of age. Therefore, the amendment to the rule does allow it to be done much easier and cheaper than it was previously.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Falling After Snow Storms

Woman Slipped And Injured Back On Icy Street

Among fellow trial lawyers in Delaware is something all people should understand. Many people have fallen after snow storms after coming in or out of department stores or any other place of business. In Delaware, there is a doctrine called “The Continuous Storm Doctrine”. What that means is the courts in Delaware have held that there is no duty for the owner of land of a commercial establishment to clear either snow or ice while the storm is continuing. Furthermore, the courts also seem to suggest if they try to do it an proper fashion during the storm, they still may not be held responsible.

It comes up more than you would think. If there was snow for hours and then changes to rain and a person thinks it is ok to venture out, a person gets out of the car and slips on the snow or ice. Generally someone thinks because it is now raining, someone should have cleared the snow that was on the ground. However, with the doctrine I stated above, most probably the place where you fell is not going to be responsible for injuries.

Also, most times the court will give an establishment time in which to clear. In other words, once the weather clears, they do not have to do it immediately. It can vary from half a day to a full day for business owners to make sidewalks and parking lots decent for people to walk back and forth without hurting themselves.

The moral of the story is to be very careful if you are venturing out, for your own sake, while there is bad weather going in on your area. Obviously, you do not want to hurt yourself, and if you do, you are not going to be able to hold the place where you are shopping responsible for your injury.

Changes in Underinsured Motorist Coverage in Delaware

car wreck

In the last few years Delaware trial lawyers have been able to get the Delaware legislature to amend how to apply what is called underinsured motorist coverage. The result of doing that has been very much of a help to people who have been severely injured as a result of a motor vehicle collision.

For a long period of time, the law was you needed to have more underinsured motorist coverage than the person that struck you had in the way of insurance for causing a collision. Underinsured simply means that you have insurance if your injuries are greater than the amount of insurance for the person that caused the collision.

However, until three years ago, the courts have held that you must have a higher level of underinsured motorist coverage than the person had in the way of coverage for causing a collision in order to go after your own underinsured motorist coverage. An example would be, is if the person that struck you had $25,000.00 in insurance for causing a collision, and you had $15,000.00 or $25,000.00 of underinsured motorist coverage. Up until very recently you would not be able to go after your own underinsured motorist coverage for that $15,000.00 or $25,000.00 because you did not have more insurance than the person that struck you. Thanks to the legislature with the help of Delaware trial lawyers, that has now changed.

Under the same situation that I stated above, if you had $25,000.00 of underinsured and the other person had $25,000.00 of insurance for causing the collision, you would be able to get the $25,000.00 from the person that struck you. Furthermore, if your injuries are worth more than $25,000.00 you would now be able to go after you own underinsured motorist coverage for $25,000.00. Therefore, you would have $50,000.00 of insurance as opposed to $25,000.0 under the law as it was up until three years ago.

Of one note, try to get as much uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage that you can afford. The minimum limits in Delaware are $15,000.00 if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and to go up to $25,000.00 or higher is not that much more. You should always ask your agent or insurance company how much it would be for $25,000.00, $50,000.00, $75,000.00 or $100,000.00 of uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you can not afford it then you can not do it. If you can, it just takes one person’s failure to follow the rules of the road that you cause you a lot of problems.

Slip and Fall

Slip and FallIn a slip and fall situation it is vitally important that you report it to the management of the place you fell as soon as it occurred. Many times people call me and say that they had a slip and fall at a supermarket, department store, or any other type of commercial establishment. They did not feel that hurt at the time, and continued on with their business. They did not report it to anyone. Later on, they started developing very severe symptoms as a result of the fall.

If you do fall and feel any type of personal injury, or even if you do not, you should report it immediately to the management of the place where you fell. If you fell because of some type of defect such as water, other type of substance on the floor, by doing so you will protect anyone else that is shopping or working in the store.

For your own protection, it documents what happened at the time in which it did happen. In other words, the management can come and see that there was water or another substance on the floor that caused you the fall. Most establishments will do some type of incident report that will detail exactly what they saw and what you have to say. It becomes part of the record of the store. If you sustained an injury or end up having feeling pain within a few days thereafter, it is already documented.

Furthermore, a lot of establishments as we well know, have cameras. However, cameras do not keep what happened forever. If you report it, then the camera can show exactly what occurred. Most times that will be to your advantage.

If you do not report it until days or weeks later, you lost the effectiveness of having the management see exactly why you fell. Furthermore, if the camera has been erased, you lost the ability for everyone to see exactly what did occur. It is just essential that if you do fall for both your sake and for everyone that is there in the establishment or will be in the establishment, to report it immediately.

What to Expect from Your Insurance Company after a Personal Injury

In the aftermath of a personal injury, you may be unable to work or have substantial medical expenses. It’s natural to turn to your insurance provider for coverage and assistance, but you will often encounter delaying tactics, denials of legitimate claims, or efforts to get you to take less than you need and deserve. The insurance claims process can be confusing and intimidating, so it’s always to your benefit to have an experienced lawyer to represent your interests. Here’s some information about the process to help you work with your attorney to get the best result.,/p>

The Different Types of Claims

In general, you’ll file one of two types of claims—first party claims and/or third party claims.
A first party claim is filed with your insurance provider. Under no-fault laws, your insurance carrier will reimburse you for certain types of losses—medical expenses, lost wages and income—up to a limit specified in your policy. Your insurer will then seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer through a process known as subrogation. No-fault policies are customarily limited to automobile insurance.

A third party claim is filed with someone else’s insurance company. If you are a passenger in a motor vehicle and suffer an injury, you may seek reimbursement of medical expenses from the driver’s insurer. If you suffer injury in a slip and fall, or because of the malfunction of a product, you will need to seek compensation from the property owner’s insurer or the company’s general liability provider.

The Denial of Your Claim—Not the End of the Line

It’s not uncommon for legitimate insurance claims to be initially denied, but there is an appeals process. If you have received notification that your claim has been wrongfully denied, you’ll want to look at your policy to determine the precise process for overturning the denial. Again, that’s when you want to have an experienced attorney acting on your behalf.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Your Right to the Payment of Medical Bills after a Car Accident

When you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident, your first step if typically to notify your insurance company. But you can have a wide range of losses and have little understanding of which insurance company will pay for which losses. Do all medical claims have to be filed with your health insurance provider? What losses will your auto insurance company cover?
The answer, unfortunately, is that it depends on a number of factors, including the type of accident, the type of insurance you have and the state where you reside.

Medical Bills

There is no requirement that the person who caused the accident pay your medical expenses. In most instances, that happens, but not on an ongoing basis. Typically, you’ll file a lawsuit and your medical expenses will be covered in a settlement or verdict. However, don’t expect the at-fault driver to pay medical expenses as they are incurred.

If you live in a state with “no-fault” insurance, your motor vehicle insurance provider will customarily pay your medical expenses, regardless of who was at fault. Be careful, though, as there may be a limit on the amount that the insurance company will pay for the whole claim—that amount is frequently $10,000 or less. You can purchase additional coverage, with an additional premium.
When your insurance company pays the costs of medical care, but you were not at fault, the company will typically seek reimbursement from the at-fault party’s insurer through a legal process called subrogation. In that process, the insurance companies typically negotiate or litigate how much each will pay.

A word of caution—don’t expect your insurance company to be real cooperative when you have been hurt in a car accident. Insurance companies make their money by minimizing payouts on claims. You can expect delays, denials and attempts to diminish the value of your claim. That’s why it’s so important to have an attorney representing you at all times.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation,
contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Medical Malpractice and Inadequate Prenatal Screening

Doctor taking notesWhen you are pregnant, one of the most important steps you can take is to engage in regular testing and prenatal screening. If the tests indicate that your child may be prone to, or will have, a congenital disease or defect, you can either prepare yourself financially for the challenges to come, or you may elect to terminate the pregnancy. Of course, as a lay person, you’ll have to rely on medical advice to know what types of screening you need and when you need them. When your doctor fails to properly conduct appropriate prenatal screening, or when there are errors in detecting birth defects or other health problems, you may have a claim for “wrongful birth.”

The types of screening generally fall into two categories—invasive and non-invasive tests. Generally, you’ll start with non-invasive tests—an ultrasound, blood or genetic tests or what is known as a nuchal translucency test. If those tests indicate abnormalities or concerns, you may want to have one of the more demanding and conclusive procedures, such as an amniocentesis or a chorionic villi sampling. With the amniocentesis, a small puncture is made to your placenta, so that amniotic fluid (which surrounds and protects your child) can be withdrawn and tested. With the chorionic villi sampling, technicians will take a sample of your chorionic tissue for analysis.

As with most things, the earlier you can have prenatal screening or test, the better. The sooner you identify potential problems, the sooner doctors can take remedial measures or the sooner you can decide to end the pregnancy.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Determining Financial Losses in a Medical Malpractice Case

Doctor reading notesWhen you seek medical treatment for an injury or illness, you may not expect a complete recovery. But you don’t anticipate that your condition will worsen because of the carelessness or negligence of medical professionals. When that happens, though, you have a right to seek compensation for your losses. But how do you determine exactly what your losses were?

In any type of personal injury claim, there are what are known as economic losses and what are called non-economic losses. Economic losses are generally those that are easy to identify and calculate, frequently limited to the loss of earning capacity or specific property. Non-economic losses cover less tangible injuries, including pain and suffering, loss of companionship or consortium, or infliction of emotional distress.

When looking at losses sustained because of medical malpractice, you have to break down your damages into three categories—those immediately caused by the negligence, those that will be long-term losses, and those that represent lost opportunities.

With medical malpractice, the immediate losses can include a wide range of effects. You may not be able to work because of your injury or illness. You may require special equipment, need in-home care, require drugs or medication, of have costs of transportation because you can’t drive.

Some of your longer term losses may look similar to immediate losses. Your injury may prevent you from ever returning to your job. You may require physical therapy, rehabilitation or some other long-term medical treatment. You may be forced into early retirement.

Finally, there’s the opportunity cost. You may no longer be able to engage in athletic activities or other things that have given you joy or pleasure. You may have to pass up a job promotion or change because of the consequences of the malpractice.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.

Examples of Strong Medical Malpractice Cases

Sitting doctorAs personal injury cases go, medical malpractice can be one of the most difficult to prove and to win. Often, expert witness testimony is critical to the success or failure of a med mal claim. What are some of the key components of the best medical malpractice claims?

Let’s start by identify what types of cases are not strong ones:

  • Cases where there may be injury, but there are no losses—You may be able to show that a medical professional acted carelessly or negligently, but you won’t have a claim unless you can show some loss. For example, a doctor may have prescribed the wrong medication, but if you did not suffer any physical, emotional or financial loss because of the mistake, there’s little to be gained by filing a lawsuit.
  • Cases where the medical professional did not abide by the commonly accepted standard, but there was no injury. A doctor may have negligently failed to conduct prenatal testing or monitoring, but if your child is born healthy, there is no malpractice.

Conversely, a strong medical malpractice case starts with a clear injury (stemming from the malpractice), as well as specifically identifiable losses. If you can show that a doctor operated on the wrong body part, that’s a clear demonstration of an injury. In addition, though, you need to show that you suffered loss as a result. If you were unable to return to work, or if you had to pay out of your pocket for medication or other procedures, you would likely have a strong case—clear liability and identifiable losses.

Contact the Law Office of Michael J. Hood

At the law office of Michael J. Hood, in Wilmington, we bring more than 30 years of experience to personal injury victims in Delaware and Pennsylvania. For a free initial consultation, contact us online or call our office at 302-777-1000 for an appointment.