Category: Insurance

Video: The Pennington Law Difference

In this episode we sit down with Mike Thomas of Pennington Law’s Tallahassee office. We discuss Pennington Law and a bit about what makes them qualified to represent transportation companies and insurance companies.

Video Transcript

John Davis: All right, today I am interviewing Mike Thomas with Pennington Law Firm in Tallahassee, Florida, and we’re going to talk a little bit about trucking defense and some best practices with trucking. I wanted to start off a little bit just tell us a little bit about Pennington. Do you have some offices around the state of Florida?

Mike Thomas: We do. Our primary office is in Tallahassee where we have about 25 to 30 lawyers. We also have two lobbyists there in our branch in Tallahassee. We also have a location in Tampa, seven or eight lawyers down there. Also a office in Miami where we’ve got, I believe, two lawyers down there.

John Davis: Okay, great. And your firm does insurance defense type work, is that correct?

Mike Thomas: Primarily, we like to describe ourself as a full-service firm. Having said that, we primarily do insurance defense type of work, we don’t do any criminal defense, white collar defense, anything like that. No white collar criminal, no criminal defense actually at all. It’s all primarily general civil litigation with … Actually, now we’ve got a family law lawyer as well. So it’s administrative, it’s civil litigation, it’s regulatory, it’s, again, full service certainly.

John Davis: Okay. In the past we have talked about some of the things that are going on in the trucking world as a … does with litigation and defending trucking companies, and working with their insurance companies, and those kind of things. And, you know, there are some hot topics right now and some of those, you know, ELDs are really big right now, the electronic logging devices. I’m seeing some interesting cases come down the pike on some of these things about …

John Davis: You know, I was talking to a Miami client recently and they had a case where a truck was in the right lane, going down the interstate. It was within the speed limit, the driver was not on his phone, wasn’t doing anything wrong, and another car ran into them. And the interesting thing that happened with the trial, the plaintiff’s attorney was to get in the electronic log device and see that the truck driver was speeding about 30 minutes before. What happened is they were able to get that into evidence and the trucking company actually lost. That insurance company lost that case because of that evidence.

John Davis: So one of the things I wanted to ask you about is so you’re defending that case and you’re representing the insurance company for that trucking company. What are some of the things you would do to try to eliminate that, because the electronic log device, they have a whole bunch of different things they’re looking at?

Mike Thomas: Right. Well, I think one of the first things I would do is move in limine, file a motion in limine to prevent that testimony ever seeing the light of the courthouse. And why is that? It’s just not relevant in my eyes, and in order to preserve certain things on appeal, you’re going to have to file the appropriate motions. So what I would do before trial, months before trial, maybe early on in the litigation process, once I appreciated this information was out there and the plaintiffs were trying to use it against my insurance company, my trucking company, I would immediately move in limine to exclude that evidence from trial, and ultimately have a hearing on it. And if the judge granted the motion it would be excluded and I would win. If the judge excludes it, he or she already has it … If the judge denies my motion and that testimony is admissible, they at least have a heads up going forward before trial as to why I don’t think it should be admissible or certainly considered at court or during a trial.

Mike Thomas: At trial, again, to preserve that I would object based on relevance. And, if at that point in time, the judge denies it again, I can appeal the denial of my motion of limine and the trial denial as well. So I’ve got two grounds, if you will, that have been preserved with respect to that issue. And my argument in that case would be, where does this end?

Mike Thomas: Can I also say the plaintiff is the cause of this accident? Or is comparatively negligent because of let’s look at what he or she did 30 minutes before. If they had taken a different route or had been going slower or faster. Maybe they could have avoided this accident, Your Honor, does that make sense that we should bring that up and do we also look at what happened, where my driver was 45 minutes, an hour before? Maybe he was going slower than the speed limit, maybe it’s a wash. I would do whatever I could, in short, to move in limine to exclude that testimony if it was denied at trial. Make a contemporaneous objection and if the trial went bad you’ve got an appellate issue built in and I would like my argument on the relevance of that issue.

John Davis: So that’s a very interesting point there. This issue is more of an evidence issue versus the driver driving the truck did anything wrong or the relevance of the driver being in that spot. So it all has to do with the evidence versus facts.

Mike Thomas: 100% accurate. The facts are what they are. It’s the lawyer’s job to convey to the judge as to why that is not relevant.

John Davis: But that is the importance of the defense lawyer is to know that and to go after the evidence versus the fact that this other attorney said, “Well, they were speeding 30 minutes before.”

Mike Thomas: And that’s why it’s important early on to file this motion of limine to put the court on notice. And they may hold that in abeyance, they may say, “Well, it’s a little early, but thanks for giving me a heads up. I’m not going to rule on that motion.” And then at trial when that information is elicited you object to it and have a sidebar and say, “Your Honor, remember my motion of limine, you held that in abeyance. This is what I’m talking about, it can’t be relevant what my driver was doing 30 minutes before with respect to speed.”

John Davis: And you made a whole point there, too, is well, what was the other driver doing 30 minutes before?

Mike Thomas: Right. Should that be relevant?

John Davis: Yeah, absolutely.

Mike Thomas: They could have avoided this had they’d only woken up 30 minutes earlier.

John Davis: Right, or didn’t stop at Starbucks or whatever, you know? They just … I see what you’re saying. So in that case that I heard about, it was interesting that that’s what happened. So it’s an evidence thing.

Mike Thomas: And look, we try a lot of cases and you’re going to get different judges and they’re not all going to rule the same way on these issues related to relevance. That’s why it’s important to preserve the record, so you can appeal something. You may not know that … If you don’t object to that at trial, you’ve waived that on appeal. So if you don’t make the appropriate objection at trial, you’ve waived it. That’s why I kept saying, “Do the motion of limine first and then object at trial.” And then, you can even object again before the jury gets the case. The fact is you’re preserving the record for appeal. If you don’t do that, you’ve waived it.

John Davis: Right, right.

 

Filed under: Insurance, Legal

Report All Claims Within 24 Hours

[Problem]

The conditions of your automobile liability insurance policy state that you should report all claims in a timely manner. So, what does that mean? Should you report claims when you get all the information? Report them when you feel like it? No, you should report any claim the same day it occurs and no later than 24 hours from the time of the accident. Late reporting of claims is something that your insurance company tracks in their reporting system. If you are trying to obtain new insurance or renewing insurance and there is late reporting of previous claims, the insurance company may hold that against you when evaluating your company. The insurance company equates late reporting to increased claim costs. Don’t put yourself in this situation. Remember, you want your company to be in the best position to obtain the best insurance rates.

 

[Solution]

So, what should you do to train your employees to report claims timely? To start, have a written post-accident policy stating that all claims should be reported to management the same day an accident occurs. Any claim reported more than 24 hours late will result in disciplinary action. Be sure to have your employees sign and date this policy. Having a reminder of this policy in your accident kit may help them remember to report claims timely.

 

You should train your employees to obtain contact information of the other party involved in the accident and any witnesses. This should include names, telephone numbers, and email addresses of all potential parties of the claim. This is critical information for the claim and generally the hardest to obtain. The simple solution is to provide blank index cards in every accident kit. That way, your employee can quickly hand those to any potential witnesses and ask them to put their names, telephone numbers, and addresses directly on the cards.

 

After your employee has obtained witness information, they should write a personal statement of what happened and send it to management within 24-hours. This statement should include the weather conditions, location, law enforcement contact, statements made by the adverse party, and the mechanics of what happened.

 

Once you receive the information, do not delay in reporting the claim to your insurance company. You should always have the insurance company’s contact information handy. Additionally, you should report the claim to your insurance agent, since they may be able to assist you with investigation and reporting.

Filed under: Insurance, Transportation Companies