I was walking down 40th Street near my office, watching the cars go by, searching for ideas of value which I might share with my clients. I began to stare through the windshields of the cars whizzing by and observe the drivers. The topic of hazards came to mind.

1. INATTENTIVE DRIVERS. My informal visual survey of the drivers passing by on 40th Street revealed that about 1/3 of them were focused on their phone, not the road. Most of these inattentive drivers appeared to be in their 20’s and 30’s. None were elderly. That told me either older folks are safer drivers, or they don’t know how to use a smartphone! Watch out for inattentive drivers. They are everywhere. Keep your head up when using a crosswalk. While passing on the freeway, don’t assume the guy in the next lane sees you. Also, don’t text or surf the web while driving, unwrap food, shuffle papers, put on makeup, or other non-driving activities when you are supposed to be focused on driving. Save it for later and avoid an accident.

2. MISLEADING OFFERS. At least 5 clients have come to me in the last year and told me that they received an offer to settle their personal injury claim like this: “We’ll pay all of your medical bills and pay you X dollars on top.” Typically, the client, who has health insurance and is still treating, owes a few hundred dollars out-of-pocket patient responsibility. He has no idea what his actual medical charges are. The insurance company offers to pay him $750.00, and his out-of-pockets are also $750.00.

What might happen if the client accepts the offer? The company settles the claim by paying $1,500.00, utilizing the client’s health insurance to pay the rest. The client is unaware that (1) His actual charges for the hospital are $8,000.00, (2) His further treatment will cost $5,000.00, and (3) His claim’s value is based on actual charges, not the out-of-pockets. The carrier saves $18,500.00 or more at the client’s expense. The carrier pays $1,500.00 on a $20,000.00 claim, based on the medical bills of $13,000.00. What’s worse, the hospital, the doctor, and the health insurance company seek reimbursement because a third party is at fault. But the claim is settled, and the insurance company released. The client is on the hook. Luckily, each client with this problem called me before accepting any offer. You should too.

3. RELYING ON THE SPOKEN WORD. Following an injury accident, a client will tell me: “Don’t worry, he (the other driver) admitted fault,” or “The officer said it was his fault, not mine,” or “I went to the hospital for back pain from the accident.” Later, I learn: (1) The other driver changed his mind before he spoke to his insurance company, (2) The police report does not blame the other driver, and (3) The hospital records show “Back pain, unknown origin.” Document everything. Obtain written witness statements. Make sure medical providers know how you got hurt and write it down. Don’t let questionable motives or fading memories of others jeopardize your claim. Get it in writing.