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October 2013 Archives

HIP attorneys volunteer at Citizenship Day

 
October 30, 2013 - HIP immigration attorneys Mary Beth Leeper and Meghan Kelly-Stallings volunteered this Saturday at Citizenship Day, a twice-yearly event organized by Washington New Americans, a collaboration between One America and the Washington membership of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
 
Mary Beth volunteered at the Des Moines site and helped prepare citizenship applications for those who attended.  Meghan was the AILA site coordinator for the Pasco cite and focused her efforts on recruiting and supervising volunteers.  The next Citizenship Day will be held in April 2014, with four sites located throughout the state.  For more information about this program and upcoming events, check out http://weareoneamerica.org/become-citizen.
 

Life After A Car Accident: 99 Problems But PIP Ain't One

 
October 25, 2013 - A few months into my personal injury practice, I found myself constantly wading through insurance policies; a veritable labyrinth of legal terms, definitions, and acronyms. Drudging on through these lifeless pages of text proved to be about as exhilarating as reading a dictionary in a foreign language. However, within time I began to understand the nuanced variations between UIM coverage (under-insured motorist) and UM coverage (uninsured motorist), the process of subrogation, and the stark realities of the inaptly named IME ("independent" medical evaluation). In practice, I also began to notice that my car accident clients with Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage typically were far better off in both the treatment and settlement phases of their cases. In fact, after working through a few cases with PIP coverage, I quickly got on the phone with my own insurance agent and added a PIP policy to my auto coverage. So, what made me a PIP believer?
 
PIP coverage is a benefit you can add to your auto policy that helps pay for medical bills, wage loss, loss of services (e.g. household maintenance), and funeral expenses arising from a car accident. In my experience, PIP policies are primarily used to help pay for the client's medical bills. Another interesting trait of PIP coverage is that it covers the insured regardless if the insured was at fault for the accident. As for medical treatment, PIP coverage applies to medical bills incurred within three years of the date of the collision; however, the medical bills must be reasonable in amount, medically necessary, and causally related to the auto accident.  Typically, PIP coverage extends to:
 
(1) the person(s) named on the policy;
(2) minor family members in the household;
(3) passengers in an insured vehicle; and
(4) pedestrians that are struck by an insured vehicle.
 
Most PIP policies I have come across have limits between $10,000 to $35,000. So, what are the real-life, practical applications that justify jumping on the PIP bandwagon?
 
First, Washington is a comparative fault state; meaning, insurance adjusters, judges or jurors who evaluate your case can delineate the fault into percentages. For example, someone can be deemed 20% at fault for an accident and the other person can be deemed 80% at fault. In this scenario, the predominantly at-fault party would only have to pay for 80% of the other party's medical bills. Since PIP coverage is "no-fault" insurance, the policy will help pay for your related medical bills, regardless of any breakdown of comparative fault.
 
Second, unbeknownst to most people (including myself when I started to practice law), when you are involved in a car accident, you are personally responsible/liable for your own treatment related to the accident. In other words, if a client is treating for injuries caused by the at-fault party, the client is financially on the hook for any doctors' visits, chiropractic adjustments or sessions of physical therapy. Failure of the client to timely pay their bills or enter into an amenable payment arrangement often leads to the client being sent to collections (thus damaging their credit). Strangely, the way our system is designed, the at-fault party reimburses the injured party for injuries sustained; which, ideally is at the end of treatment. However, the treatment duration for car accident injuries can subsist for weeks, months or even years! Sure, the at-fault insurance company might try to get the client to settle early, but who wants to sign a settlement agreement before they are aware of the extent of their injuries? This is why PIP coverage is so helpful. PIP coverage helps the client stay on top of their bills so that they are able to pursue the recommended treatment, maintain financial stability, and, ultimately, maximize the value of any settlement with the at-fault insurance carrier.
 
Lastly, a client is typically better off in the subrogation phase of their case when they have a PIP policy and an attorney. What is subrogation you may ask? Subrogation is the process where, after you have settled a case, your own insurance carrier(s) seeks reimbursement out of your settlement for any benefits they paid related to your car accident. Subrogation usually comes as a surprise to most people, because they believe that the insurance premiums they pay would keep their own insurance company from trying to recoup money from them. Unfortunately, in virtually every insurance contract, there is a subrogation clause that permits your insurance company to recoup all, or at least some, of the benefits paid when you receive a settlement. If you have an attorney, however, there are several favorable cases in Washington that require the subrogating insurance company to bear their fair share of their insured's attorneys' fees and costs when seeking reimbursement. This typically equates to an appreciable reduction in the subrogation amount. For example, if a client had their PIP policy pay $10,000 in medical bills, an attorney can typically negotiate the PIP subrogation down to $6,600 (i.e. an additional $3,400 in the client's pocket). Without an attorney, the client may be forced to pay the full $10,000 back to their insurance carrier.
 
In the end, I have found that a PIP policy cultivates a smoother environment for the client when they are treating their injuries and settling their auto accident claim. Now, that is not to say I have not had my difficulties with PIP policies (e.g. client's insurance company arguing about what treatment is and is not related to the accident), but my overall experiences have been quite positive. In any event, it is certainly worth a call to your insurance agent to see what a PIP policy would cost to add to your auto policy, before you become the victim of hindsight.
Erik R. Olsen is a Personal Injury and Criminal Defense attorney with Hanis Irvine Prothero, PLLC. For a free consultation regarding personal injury, criminal, or traffic infraction matters, please call 253-520-5000.

Why Do I Need An Estate Plan?

 
October 16, 2013 - "Why do I need an estate plan?"  An estate plan gives you peace that your affairs are in order, reduces stress and uncertainty for your loved ones, and insures that your wishes are followed. An Estate Plan typically includes the following:
 
WILL/TRUST
This document designates who you want to inherit your property, what they are to receive, and who you want to administer your estate.  Wills can also take care of other designations, such as burial requests. 
A Will is important for parents with children.  It can insure any funds a child inherits will be placed in trust until a certain age, while being used for living expenses.  It can also allow parents to designate their recommended guardian subject to court approval.   
 
POWER OF ATTORNEYS
The two most common types of Power of Attorney are Finances/Legal Matters and Health Care. These give authority to your designee to act on your behalf while you are alive. 
Power of Attorneys are Durable or Limited.  Durable gives your designee full control immediately.  Limited limits when the document is in effect (hence the name), typically when the designator is incapacitated, and can limit what authority your designee has. 
 
HEALTH CARE DIRECTIVES
This document gives direction about the type of medical treatment you want in certain circumstances.  It allows you to inform medical providers and loved ones of your desires in the event you are unable to do so at the time medical decisions are being made.  
 
COMMUNITY PROPERTY AGREEMENT
Typically, property a married couple acquires is considered community property, meaning each owns one-half of the property.  A Community Property Agreement converts all property to community property, unless specified otherwise.  It helps avoid a probate for a surviving spouse by passing all assets to the surviving spouse efficiently and inexpensively.   
Estate plans are important to insure that you are taken care of through your life and that your estate is handled as you wish.  At Hanis Irvine Prothero, we are committed to helping you prepare and understand these documents and other documents that may be beneficial to you and your loved ones as you plan for the future.
 
Estate Planning Attorney Patrick Hanis
phanis@hiplawfirm.com
253.520.5000
 

HIP celebrates grand opening of Centro Rendu

October 14, 2013 - Representatives from HIP's immigration and family law practice groups attended a celebration to mark the grand opening of Centro Rendu, a community outreach program of St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle/King County, located in Kent, Washington.  Centro Rendu offers a wide range of social services to the local Hispanic community, including literacy, ESL, computer, and citizenship classes as well as youth service and legal orientation programs.  HIP immigration attorneys volunteer twice monthly at Centro Rendu to provide free immigration legal consultations and orientations to the Hispanic community.  For more information about Centro Rendu, please see http://www.svdpseattle.org/centro-rendu/

Mark Prothero speaks at 2013 Renton High School "Wall of Honor" ceremony

HANIS IRVINE PROTHERO partner Mark Prothero was the guest speaker at the 2013 Renton High School Wall of Honor induction ceremony on October 5th at RHS.  Mark, RHS class of ’74, was among the first class of 23 inductees in 2011.  Mark spoke about the impact of his days at RHS building his foundation and teaching him the traits of hard work, taking pride in his work product, competitiveness, and giving back to the community.

Mary Beth on Univision TV news program!

October 11, 2013 - Mary Beth was on Univision TV news program last night at 6pm. She went with a new Kent organization called Centro Rendu which is part of St. Vincent de Paul as part of their new Hispanic outreach program.  Our department attorneys are providing free consultations at the center twice per month to assist their efforts with the local Hispanic community. The segment is about the opening of Centro Rendu and they invited Mary Beth to accompany them. Congratulations Mary Beth!