January 27, 2019, Hobbs News-Sun
Auto accidents happen and people without fault get hurt.
The father and son team at Stout and Stout Attorneys recommend uninsured motorist insurance, seat belts and avoiding texting as the top three ways to survive the unexpected.
During a recent Hobbs Chamber of Commerce “Lunch and Learn” event, hosted by the law firm, Mark and Drew Stout outlined the before, during and after actions to take in a session titled “Auto Accidents and Insurance 101.”
Before an accident
“The best advice we have is to get uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage on your vehicle,” Drew Stout said. “If you can afford it, it’s better to have more coverage. You buy that insurance to protect yourself if the other guy is uninsured or underinsured, so you’re not left holding the bag.”
Mark Stout pointed out the uninsured motorist insurance is “stackable,” meaning a family with four cars and a $100,000 policy on each actually has $400,000 available in the event one of the cars is involved in an accident.
And it doesn’t matter what car you’re driving when the accident occurs, even somebody else’s.
“If I give you the keys to my car … and you hit somebody, my uninsured motorist cover- age is going to cover you, then your uninsured motorist coverage is going to come in on top of that, so you’ve got extra protection,” he said, noting if the accident is your fault, your insurance premiums likely will increase.
“After practicing law for 40 years, on our cars I make sure I have as much uninsured motorist coverage as I can on all my vehicles because we can stack them up,” he said.
Drew Stout addressed a family’s desire to teach responsibility to children who turn 18 or 21 and believe they should buy their own insurance.
“It’s better to keep all your family on one policy. If you want your kid to pay you, that’s fine,” he said. “It’s good to teach your kid financial responsibility, but it’s better to keep him on your policy so you can stack it.”
Medical payments (MedPay) is another aspect of insurance the Stouts urged the audience to consider, covering medical costs of an accident for every occupant of an accident-involved vehicle.
When used, assuming no fault of the policyholder, usage of neither the uninsured motorist nor the MedPay feature result in a premium increase, Mark Stout said.
When an accident happens
“The best thing if you or the other guy is hurt is call 911,” Drew Stout said. “You might not realize you’re hurt until you wake up the next morning. It’s best to call 911 for two rea- sons. One, somebody’s hurt and may need the EMS. Two, the police will write a report.”
Mark Stout interjected, “Insurance companies require documentation. The adjusters have to justify their settlement recommendations to their supervisors who want to see the reports.”
Police provide a third-party objective investigation report that satisfies those requirements.
Drew Stout also suggested taking as many pictures as possible, but not just up close shots of the dent in the fender.
“Take them from as many angles as you can,” he said. “If you can get back and see both cars, it would be a better picture. If you can see skid marks on the ground or gouge marks, the more pictures the better.”
After the accident
Drew Stout said there are two types of insurance claims, the property damage claim and the bodily injury claim.
For the property damage claim, he suggested not waiting for the other driver’s insurance to pay.
“Sometimes it’s just faster to file on your own insurance. If it’s not your fault, your premiums are not going to go up,” he said. “You’re also more than welcome to file it on the other guy’s insurance.”
Insurance companies will pay only the value of the car, not its replacement cost, in the event it is “totaled.”
“They’re not going to pay $25,000 to fix a $5,000 car,” Drew Stout noted while considering an older model.
As far as a bodily injury claim goes, Drew Stout said, “When they pay, they’re going to pay way down the road. You get one bite of the apple.”
“If you’re hurt, go see the doc- tor. If you’re hurt really bad, get in the ambulance and go to the hospital,” he added. “A lot of times, with these muscle injuries, you won’t know until the next morning when you wake up how sore you really are. … Having medical records is the best way to create evidence.”
He strongly suggested not taking the bills to the auto insurance company as they come in.
“The best thing to do … so you don’t get bills piling up is put it on your health insurance,” he said. “Then, at the very end, when it’s all said and done, if you get a settlement, you can pay back that money that you were out of pocket. The other driver’s insurance will pay at some point.”
Take your health insurance card with you to the doctor or hospital.
“(MedPay is) something I always tell people you use in conjunction with your health insurance,” Drew Stout said. “It always pays your deductible. … It’s better to wait until you get the bill to see what your (health) insurance company does and then use your MedPay to fill in the gaps.”
Auto Accidents and Insurance 101 experts
The Stout and Stout Lawyers firm is located at 3319A N. Grimes St. The firm dates back to 1952 when Lowell Stout, Mark’s father, started it.
Drew Stout said, “A lot of what we do is free consultation. We’d rather you have more information and make an informed decision that just shoot from the hip. Stout and Stout has been here in one form or another and worked for the citizens of Hobbs for 67 years.”
“We say we’re born here, raised here and still working for the people here. We hope you don’t have to call a lawyer, but if you do, there are more than just us here. We hope you call a local lawyer, rather than somebody from out of state.”
He concluded, “The best advice I can give you is buy uninsured motorist coverage and wear your seat belt. Oh, and don’t text.”
Curtis C. Wynne may be contacted at reporter3@hobbsnews. com.