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Rental Car Insurance: Everything You Need to Know

A car accident may be the furthest thing from your mind when you’re researching rental cars. But the rental car agent will most certainly bring it up when you pick up your vehicle. That’s because they’ll offer you additional insurance coverage. Do you know what coverage to accept and what to turn down? It’s so important to research and find out what your own insurance and credit card cover way before you reach the rental car counter. Otherwise, if you do get into a car accident with your rental, you could be looking at some major problems. Keep in mind, this information applies only to passenger vehicles rented in the United States from traditional car rental companies. If you are renting a car for business purposes, odds are that your personal auto insurance will not cover your rental. First, let’s look at the five most common rental car company coverage choices: Loss/Collision Damage Waiver – The rental car company won’t charge you if the vehicle is damaged or stolen. This also covers what’s deemed “loss of use charges” if the car has to go into a shop to be repaired, causing it to be out of the rental car company’s fleet for any period of time. Liability Coverage – Protects you if you injure someone or damage property due to a car accident. Personal Accident Insurance – Covers medical bills for the driver and any passengers in the rental vehicle. Sometimes ambulance expenses are covered as well. Personal Effects Coverage – Coverage for personal belongings stolen or damaged while in the rental. Roadside Assistance – Most rental car companies offer roadside assistance– at a fee. This protects you from additional charges for problems that may arise, such as running out of gas, lost keys or a dead battery. Note, flat tire services are not always covered or may only be offered separately, adding on yet another fee. Rental car agents often employ scare tactics when they offer you additional insurance coverage. That’s because they’re not service employees, they’re salespeople. You might be surprised to learn that they make commissions on every extra they can tack onto to your rental car bill, hence the hard sell. It’s so important to research and find out what your own insurance and credit card cover way before you reach the rental car counter. Are any of the car rental company’s added coverages worth buying? A lot will depend on your individual circumstances. You certainly don’t want to waste money and pay for the same coverage twice, but you don’t want to be on the hook for thousands of dollars in bills either. There are some situations where the choice is more obvious. YES: You currently don’t have car insurance – You must have some sort of insurance before you get behind the wheel. If you have homeowner’s, renter’s or health insurance, check to see if and what rental car coverage they offer. If they don’t cover your rental, check with your credit card company. If they only offer secondary coverage, which is more common, you’ll need to take at least part of the rental car company’s coverage. See below for an explanation of what your credit card will cover. You’re not confident behind the wheel or driving in a new city – If you’re nervous about driving in a new city and/or a new, unfamiliar vehicle, you may want to add their collision coverage for added peace of mind. MAYBE: Your own auto insurance policy has a high deductible and/or minimum liability coverage – If you only carry your state’s minimum in coverage and you’re involved in a major accident, your policy may not cover all of the damages. You’ll have to pay the difference. That can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. You may also have to pay a large deductible. You have homeowner’s or renter’s insurance that covers your personal belongings –Some consumers want to avoid filing a claim through their own insurance because they’re afraid their premiums will go up. If that’s your situation, go ahead and add personal effects coverage. It’s one of the lower priced add-ons so it doesn’t add much to your rental car bill anyway. Of course, check to see how much the daily charges add up to before you do. NO: You are covered by your own personal auto insurance – Consumers who are fully covered and have high liability limits on their personal insurance policies can usually decline any extra coverage from the car rental company. Your health insurance company offers personal accident insurance – You can probably decline this coverage. Check with your health insurance provider to make sure. Some rental car companies also offer wrongful death coverage. If you have life insurance, you may already have coverage. Some health insurance companies offer it as well. Check to see if that’s the case. You already have roadside assistance – If you have roadside assistance, either through an organization, your insurance or your credit card, you can waive this coverage. Double check with them to make sure they cover rental vehicles. For consumers who haven’t rented a car in a while, note that the days of free roadside assistance are pretty much gone. The majority of rental car companies now charge for the service and that can really add to your final bill. Won’t my credit card cover car rental insurance? That depends. First some requirements. In order to have any insurance coverage through your credit card, you must: Use that card to book your vehicle. The person behind the wheel at the time of the accident must match the name on the credit card used to book the reservation. You must decline collision coverage from the rental car company when you pick up your vehicle. If you can tick off all three of these, then it depends on whether your credit card offers primary or secondary coverage. Primary Coverage – If you have primary coverage, you’re covered in an accident. In fact, your auto insurance company will not be involved at all. The problem is that not too many credit cards offer primary coverage. Secondary Coverage – Most credit cards only offer secondary coverage. That means your personal auto insurance pays out on the claim first. It only kicks in after your own coverage has been exhausted. An example would be to reimburse you for any deductible paid. What can I do to avoid any surprises at the end of my rental? Inspect the vehicle at pick up – One of the most important things you can do at pick up is to inspect the car thoroughly with the agent present. Take your time doing this. Don’t be afraid to point out anything that looks like a scratch or a dent. Videotape or take photos as you inspect it. Don’t forget the interior as well. Sit inside the car. Lower and raise the windows and make sure everything else is in working order. Rushing things may cause you to overlook a scratch or dent. That can end up costing you hundreds of dollars when you return the car. Inspect it again when you drop it off – When you bring it back, videotape or photograph the vehicle again, especially if no rental agent is present. Ask questions – Don’t be shy. Ask questions regarding the actual rental paperwork. If there’s a fee you don’t understand, ask what it’s for. There are cheaper car rental insurance options out there. Through online booking services – If you rented your car through an online travel service, you can purchase additional coverage directly through their site. Most offer the same rental car insurance for considerably less than what the rental car companies charge. You need to add it at the time of booking. Third party car rental insurance providers – Another lower priced choice is car rental insurance through a third-party provider. Again, you’ll have to plan in advance. These policies are offered by several established insurance companies at up to 1/3 less than what the rental car companies are charging. What happens if I do get into an accident with my rental car? Getting into an accident with a rental car is a little more complicated than with your own car. There’s a third party involved: the car rental company. Here’s how they’re likely to proceed. The rental car company doesn’t really care who’s at fault. When you rent a vehicle, you promise to return it in the exact same condition it was in when you were handed the keys, whether you caused the accident or not. That is clearly spelled out in the paperwork you sign on the day that you pick up the vehicle. The state of their vehicle is their main concern. The rental car company will tap your insurance even if you didn’t cause the accident. The rental car company will want their vehicle back in circulation as soon as possible. They will go through the insurance you used when you booked your reservation to make sure they’re covered, whether you are at fault for the accident or not. As for any deductible, generally, you’ll have to pay that directly to the rental car company. Again, it doesn’t matter if you were at fault for the accident or not. They may charge a “loss of use” fee for each day the rental vehicle is in the shop being repaired. Depending on your insurance coverage, you could potentially be billed for rental charges while the vehicle is being repaired. This is called ‘loss of use”. If it takes a week to get the car fixed and back into the rental car company’s fleet, you might be on the hook for an additional week’s rent. If you have loss of use coverage, but the time the vehicle is in the shop exceeds the limits of your coverage, you’ll be billed for the difference. All that aside, you should consider contesting this controversial fee. Many consumers have successfully challenged it through their insurance companies. What about the other driver and you? If you are at fault – If you have complete personal coverage, your insurance will cover all expenses. However, your insurance rates could go up as well. If you are at fault but don’t have sufficient coverage, you will be liable for any property and personal damages due to the accident. The other party may also come after you for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If you are not at fault – If you’re injured in a car accident, you should pursue legal action against the at-fault party to recoup any damages, deductibles, medical bills and lost wages incurred. It’s important to call a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident. A good personal injury attorney will have experience dealing with accidents involving rental cars. You have the facts, now the final decision is yours. Deciding what coverage to accept and turn down is a highly personal one. For some, a $1,000 deductible is not a big deal, for others it absolutely is. Then there’s the question of how much liability you want to expose yourself to. That all depends on what you’re comfortable with. You might be the type of person who wants a stress-free rental and doesn’t mind spending extra for that. Or you may be willing to take a chance to save some money. The bottom line is: Know what your personal insurance and credit card cover before you reach the rental car counter. Hopefully, you’ll have an incident-free rental. But if you are injured in a car accident and were not at fault, you’ll want an experienced car accident attorney by your side. At Wilshire Law Firm we know the complexities that accidents involving a rental car can present. Our attorneys will fight to make sure you obtain a fair and just settlement. We have your best interests at heart and are ready to assist you every step of the way. Contact us today at 1-800-522-7274. For further reading and information, visit: DMV: When to buy rental car insurance Consumer Affairs: Car rental insurance tip sheet Department of Insurance: Things to know about car insurance and rental cars before starting your road trip

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Motorcycle Safety in All Types of Weather

May is National Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month. While that usually means warmer weather, the month kicked off with an uncharacteristically cool and gloomy day in Southern California. Of course, this being the Golden State warm sunny days are on the horizon, just in time for the weekend. Given this generally great weather, it’s no surprise to learn that California has the highest number of registered motorcycles in the country.[1] One would think that with all of those motorcycles, California motorists would be much more careful when sharing the road with them. That, unfortunately, is not always the case. That lack of awareness coupled with unexpectedly slick roads can lead to an uptick in motorcycle accidents. Here are some safe riding tips for different weather conditions: Riding Your Motorcycle In rain, wind, drizzle and fog: Slow down! Jokes about California drivers and rain aside, some rainy-day accidents are due to road conditions themselves. That’s because Southern California roads don’t receive much rain. When they do, all of that motor oil and other vehicles fluids come to the surface making for some very slick roadways. Roads are slickest when the rain first starts. If you can avoid going out on your motorcycle during the first hour of that rainfall, you should. If you’re out riding and heavy rain starts falling, there’s nothing wrong with taking cover. It’s always a good idea to slow down in the rain, no matter where you are, but it’s especially important in Southern California. But Don’t Go Too Slow Safety first, but common sense is important too. If you’re riding your motorcycle too slowly, impatient motorists can cause an accident attempting to pass you. Avoid Standing Water Because Southern California doesn’t get lots of rain, there’s a greater danger of flash flooding and its aftermath, standing water. Avoid standing water as much as possible and always look for higher ground. You don’t want to experience water anywhere near your engine and there can be deep, hidden potholes under that water as well. Don’t Tense Up in Windy Conditions Wind is unavoidable if you ride a motorcycle. What can be daunting to any rider, but more so to the novice, are heavy crosswinds. These are more common when crossing a bridge or on winding mountain roads. Many riders tense up and tighten their grips, which makes it harder to steer. Instead, stay loose and continually adjust your steering to continue forward in a straight line. But if wind conditions become too dangerous, again, take cover if you can. Riding Your Motorcycle in Warm or Hot Conditions: The beauty of living in California is that you can experience the beaches of Orange County in the morning then be out in Palm Springs in the afternoon. While that can be exhilarating, it’s important to make sure your bike and you make the transition from cool to hot smoothly. Tire Pressure and Baking Hot Asphalt Your tires should be inflated to the proper air pressure specifications. Road temperatures can easily soar into triple digits, even on a warm day. Baking hot asphalt and under-inflated tires can result in a blowout. The risk becomes greater if your motorcycle is heavier because of a passenger and/or any gear. Hot Weather Gear If you’re riding in the desert, don’t wear leather. Mesh textile clothing is the way to go. As tempting as it may be, don’t go sleeveless or wear shorts. Exposed skin can easily burn in the sun and wind. Also, if you get into an accident, you don’t want your bare skin making contact with the pavement. And don’t forget to cover or put sunscreen on the back of your neck! Many riders forget about this area with painful results. Ride with a Buddy A breakdown or accident in the desert can quickly become a dangerous situation. Ideally, don’t ride alone. If that’s unavoidable, make sure you carry extra hydration and some sort of covering. You could end up stranded in an area with no shade. Solo riders should also let those closest to them know their general trip itinerary. May all of your motorcycle riding be filled with beautiful sunny days. But if they’re not, be ready for it and stay safe! Sources: [1] worldatlas.com

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Where Do Car Accidents Happen Most?

Car accidents are, by nature, unpredictable. There is no exact science to forecasting or preventing them. However, there are evident patterns in when and where crashes occur – and knowing these patterns can help reduce the risk of an incident. In this article, we cover a few common accident scenarios and what you can do in these situations to avoid becoming a statistic. Neighborhoods It may sound surprising, but the majority of car accidents happen close to home. In fact, a Progressive Insurance study from 2004 found that approximately 52% of all accidents occur within just five miles from a person’s home. Generally, we’re more likely to crash in our own neighborhoods than anywhere else. This can be explained by our brain’s propensity for going on autopilot when we’re driving familiar routes. If you’ve ever arrived at a destination only to realize that you were in a trance-like state the entire drive, then you know this phenomenon. When we drive in familiar places, we tend to rely more on muscle memory than on our vigilance and active driving skills (dulling our ability to react to unexpected occurrences). The two most important things you can and should do every time you drive is buckling up and stay alert. As long as you keep your mental faculties fully active, you will be a better, safer driver on the road. Parking Lots When you combine lots of cars in a compact space with stressed-out drivers all vying for limited parking spaces, you get a hotbed for accidents. Parking lots are arguably the place where most low-speed collisions occur. Common parking lot accidents include vehicles backing up into each other, vehicles backing up and getting clipped by passing vehicles, vehicles sideswiping other vehicles as they park, etc. While accidents at these sites very rarely result in significant injuries, the vehicle damages that often result can be expensive to repair. Daily Commutes In large sprawling metropolitan cities like Los Angeles, commuters spend hours each day stuck in traffic. Many commuters multitask behind the wheel, putting on makeup, fiddling with the radio, eating food, shaving, and even brushing their teeth. Additionally, people may feel physically exhausted or mentally frazzled from getting up early or from having a hard day at work. When you take all of these factors into consideration, it’s not hard to see why many crashes occur during rush hour. What should you do if you’ve been injured in a car accident? If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident caused by another party, please don’t hesitate to contact the experienced car accident lawyers at Wilshire Law Firm for immediate legal assistance. We can help you get compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more. For a FREE comprehensive case evaluation, call us today at 1-800-52-CRASH.

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Dealing with Insurance After an Accident

Drivers are taught to exchange information with other drivers when an accident occurs. But after a car accident, how should you deal with insurance companies? If you don’t know, that’s okay! You’re not alone. Traffic accidents are chaotic, and dealing with insurance companies can be confusing, even for the most experienced drivers. Take a moment to collect yourself after a traffic accident, document the scene, and then take out your cellphone. There will be a few phone calls you’ll want to make. What should you do if you’re not at-fault for an accident? Typically, if someone hits you with their vehicle, you’ll want to call your own insurance company and avoid speaking to the other person’s insurance company, whenever possible. Of course, it’s never as simple as all that. Here are a few steps that can make the process of handling insurance companies easier. Call the police: Ask police officers to come down to the accident scene. You will especially want to do this if you’re not at-fault for an accident. Call your insurance company: When someone hits your car, you should call your own insurance company. Tell them that there’s been an accident. Be prepared to give your insurance company information: Once you have contacted your insurance adjuster, provide them with the information you received from the other driver(s) involved, which police department handled your case; and the location, time, and date of an accident. Do not contact the other driver’s insurance company: Wait until you have spoken to a lawyer about your case before speaking to the other driver’s insurance company. Dealing with insurance can be stressful, but by speaking to the right people and avoiding others, you can set up a strong foundation for your personal injury case. Reasons some people don’t report accidents Some people may be worried about reporting an accident to their adjuster out of fear that their premiums will go up. It is unlikely your rates will increase after a collision if you’re not the at fault party. Insurance companies use many different factors to determine whether or not your rates will increase. Adjusters take into account the severity of your accident, such as your driving history, whether you’re the at-fault party, and the value you have to your insurance company.1 Others may be worried about this accident showing up on their record. Calling an officer to the scene can help prevent this. Every accident reported to the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will show up on your record, unless an officer’s report says you were not the at-fault motorist. Although this is not a guarantee, it can help. By not calling an officer, you risk the chance of an accident staying on your record anywhere from three to five years. How should you handle the other driver’s insurance adjuster? After an accident, the other party’s insurance company will most likely attempt to contact you. You don’t have to speak to them! In fact, it is better not to talk to the other driver’s adjuster when you have been injured in a collision, period. Instead, you should find a car accident lawyer to handle you claim. Your lawyer and your insurance adjuster should do the talking for you. This is for your own protection because insurance adjusters are trained to use manipulation and other tricks to fish out information in an attempt to hurt your claim and the amount of compensation your case may be worth. On the off chance you do need to speak to the other driver’s adjuster, you must be careful. Keep the following in mind so you’re not tricked into giving out too much information: Do not discuss what condition you may be in. An adjuster may ask you how you’re doing, pretending they care about your well-being. In reality, they’re trying to find information that may point to your injuries not being as serious as you claim. Anything you say can be used against you. This is why you should never offer up any additional information that could be potentially construed in their favor. Never agree when they ask if they can record your conversation. Recordings of your conversations can be used as evidence against you! California is a “two-party” state, meaning both parties must agree to be recorded.2 An adjuster cannot legally record you if you say no. Avoid speculating. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say you don’t know. Never attempt to guess an answer.3 If the other company’s adjuster calls you, ask if you can have your own adjuster on the line with you or send them your adjuster’s or lawyer’s information so they can contact them. Remember: the goal is to never speak to the other company’s adjuster, if possible. Dealing with insurance can be stressful, but you don’t have to go through it alone. Our car accident lawyer from Wilshire Law Firm will fight the other driver’s insurance company on your behalf so you can receive the maximum compensation for your claim possible. Contact us today and schedule your free consultation at 1-800-522-7274. Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to serve as legal advice, nor does it constitute a guarantee or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter. Sources: The Department of Motor Vehicles, “How Auto Claims Affect Auto Insurance Rates,” https://www.dmv.org/insurance/how-auto-claims-affect-auto-insurance-rates.php Digital Media Law Project, “California Recording Law,” http://www.dmlp.org/legal-guide/california-recording-law Nolo, “Insurance Adjusters: First Discussions,” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/insurance-adjusters-first-discussions-29752.html

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Can a Volunteer Sue For Wrongful Termination?

California is considered an “at-will” state, meaning you can be fired for any reason except for those listed under the California Fair Housing and Employment Act (FEHA). It is due to FEHA that an unpaid volunteer and intern may sue their employer if they were unlawfully terminated because of discrimination or as a form of retaliation. Volunteer Discrimination Law FEHA’s protection extends beyond paid employment. It also serves to protect those in unpaid positions as well. According to FEHA’s Unpaid Interns and Volunteers section, it is unlawful for an employer to: “Discriminate against a person serving an unpaid internship or other program providing unpaid work experience in the selection, termination, training, or other terms of treatment of that person on any protected basis (section 11009)(e).); or Subject unpaid interns and volunteers to unlawful harassment (section 11019(b).)” An employer can terminate you for anything except for race, color, ancestry, national origin, religion, creed, age (over 40), mental disability, physical disability, sex, gender, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, and military/veteran status. Furthermore, if you receive an “employment benefit” while working as an intern or volunteer, your case may be under the purview as an employee, strengthening your claim. An employee benefit could include gratuity and bonuses while on the job. There are laws to protect you regardless of your working status, but not all employers follow these laws. When this is the case, contact an attorney with details about your case. When you can and can’t sue As dictated above, an employer is allowed to fire their volunteers and interns for almost any reason. You could be lawfully terminated because an employer does not like your personality, but they can’t terminate you for discriminatory or retaliatory reasons. But how do you know if you were terminated because of discrimination, especially since discrimination is not always apparent? If you are a member of a protected class and you experienced any of these adverse actions while working, you may have a case on your hands: Employers giving you work tasks that are impossible to complete successfully Employers giving you work tasks that are consistently less than other volunteers You were subjected to demeaning conversations Tones are harsh or belittling Discriminatory jokes Offensive comments These are only a few examples of discrimination a volunteer or unpaid intern can face and is nowhere near an all-inclusive list. Not sure you were wrongfully terminated? Talk to an employment lawyer about your case. A lawyer can better guide you through what to do next and offer invaluable representation. What should you do next? Discrimination and wrongful termination should never be allowed to stand. If you don’t fight employers and companies who implement such practices, even for jobs that are voluntary, whose to say they won’t do the exact same thing to another worker? You can fight to change this. Filing a strong lawsuit requires evidence. The more evidence you obtain, the better. Unfortunately, finding physical pieces of evidence, like a letter or memo detailing discrimination, is difficult. A simple method to document discrimination is to write it down in a journal. Include a summary of what happened, date, and time. A journal may not be enough, though. You’ll also want to have the following for your claim: Witnesses Personnel file, if one is available An employee handbook or company policies regarding discrimination Discriminatory/retaliatory emails and text messages The firing process is another opportunity for you to gather evidence of discrimination. When terminated, ask your employer to put it down into writing as to why you were terminated. Keep evidence in a safe place and bring it to an employment lawyer. It may seem like a hassle to get a lawyer involved, but if you strongly believe you were wrongfully terminated from your volunteer or unpaid internship, you should discuss your case with an employment lawyer as soon as possible. On principal, no matter if it’s an unpaid or paid job, employers who engaging in discriminatory practices should be brought to justice. Call an employment lawyer at Wilshire Law Firm today to discuss your case at 1-800-522-7274. Disclaimer: The information provided is not meant to serve as legal advice, nor does it constitute a guarantee or prediction regarding the outcome of your legal matter.

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