Bliven Law Firm, P.C.

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Serving all of Montana for over 25 years

Bliven Law Firm, P.C. is a Montana personal injury law firm located in Northwest Montana serving all of Montana. A group of experienced, dedicated professionals who care about their clients’ needs. Our Montana personal injury attorneys have over 25 years of experience in aggressively pursuing the goals of our clients.

TAG ARCHIVES: Drunk Driver Accident

Summertime In The Flathead Valley

Each year, summertime in the Flathead Valley draws millions of people from all over the world. It is not only the unparalleled beauty and grandeur of Glacier National Park that people come in droves to witness and experience, but also the small town charm of the nearby mountain towns like Bigfork, Whitefish, Lakeside, Polson, and our own Kalispell.

Kalispell has no shortage of summertime festivities. Thursday! Fest, Picnic in the Park, the Northwest Montana Fair and Rodeo, Arts in the Park, and farmers markets are just a handful of family-friendly activities tourists and residents alike look forward to attending. All of these events have one thing in common: They are a place to gather with family, friends, and neighbors to try new foods and sip on cold drinks while most likely listening to fantastic music by talented local artists.

More often than not, those attending these events will have a wonderful time and return home with full bellies, lighter wallets, and fond memories. Sadly, that is not always the case. Earlier this week, a Georgia couple were nearly fatally injured when an alleged drunk driver sped through heavy traffic and struck them with his car on a sunny evening on the main road in nearby Whitefish, Montana. The male victim was impaled on a willow tree branch 15 feet off the ground and his wife was found on the ground below the tree. They are both very fortunate to be alive, and it is incredible that the drunk driver injured only 2 people. The story could be much worse.

Alleged Drunk Driver Hits 2 Pedestrians In Downtown Whitefish

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. There is a dark side to the social entertainment the Valley and any town in America has to offer. Our quiet mountain towns become more populated and where there are more people, there are generally more negligent and careless people, and as a result, there are generally more accidents. Whether you are a visitor or a resident, is important to be aware of your surroundings and practice caution when you are enjoying time out in any one of the Valley’s towns.

  • Simple precautions can make a big difference.
  • Know your surroundings.
  • When you cross the street, look both ways and then look both ways again. There are more people drinking and driving in the summertime months and you are more likely to see them than they are to see you.
  • Do not walk off of sidewalks and stay on the streets.
  • Wear reflective clothing if you are walking after dark.
  • Drink responsibly and do not ever get behind the wheel of a vehicle if you even suspect you may have had too many drinks. Uber operates in the Flathead Valley.
  • Keep your children nearby, hold their hands, and don’t let them walk nearest the street while walking on the sidewalk.

Vacations and excursions out and about should never end in disaster or months or years of treatment for injuries. Obeying the rules of the road, both as a driver or as a pedestrian, and paying careful attention to your surroundings can make all the difference.

REPRESENTING THE INNOCENT INJURED – NOT THE INSURANCE COMPANIES AND MAYHEM

When your or a family member has been injured in a car wreck because someone else was negligent or worse – criminally reckless like a drunk driver – having a skilled, experienced, dedicated and caring attorney is key. Having a Montana accident injury attorney and law firm – a solid team – that only advocates for you and folks like you, and not the other side on the other days of the week, is also critically important. Getting in a car wreck in Montana, caused by someone acting like an idiot – can cause all kind of mayhem in your life – medical expenses, lost earnings, inability to engage in activities you enjoy, pain, not being able to sleep at night; it can get downright depressing. Yes, I have been through it as the injured person in the car wreck, the victim of negligence and the insurance company and their profit motives. My experience with the people from the company that advertises about their “good hands” and what happens with the mayhem – has helped make me the advocate for the injured and an attorney dedicated to fight those folks every day. We don’t work from the insurance companies and their minions – only the injured folks. Even before I was injured in a car wreck, and then had to hire my own personal injury attorney to deal with the insurance company, I knew the auto insurance companies were not all they claimed to be. My experience in reality was more bitter and educational than I would have liked, as the insurer denied responsibility, and I was compelled ultimately to file suit and proceed with litigation to get justice. However, once you have been run through the insurance company grist mill as they grind up injured people to increase their profits with the delay, deny, defend tactics – it becomes clear that many insurers are at war with the injured in order to increase profits.

The battle rages against justice by many of the big insurance companies, not just in each claim, but at the Legislature and in the courts. Insurance companies have lobbyists writing legislation to make it easier for them to make more money, deprive the injured of just compensation, and the benefit of the bargain in their insurance contracts. The Montana Supreme Court has to decided cases frequently to interpret the laws passed at the Legislature regarding auto insurance carriers. These insurer lobbyist created bills passed by the Legislature, including anti-stacking legislation, are designed to help the insurance companies make more money by paying less on claims. You will probably recognize the names of the insurance companies in these cases. We don’t take cases from the insurance companies to defend the wrong doers – just the injured people. We don’t defend the insurance companies. However, many of these lawyers that work for the insurance companies actually file lawsuits against the injured people. This is called a Declaratory Judgment action – where your own insurance company sues you. Can you believe it? You suffer a devastating injury in a motor vehicle wreck, or you get run over – literally – and your insurance company sues YOU! Yes, insurance companies can and do file lawsuits against their own insured customers to ask the Court to declare that they are not underinsured or are not covered! This is called a Declaratory Judgment action, and I have seen insurance companies sue injured folks – to ask the Court to declare there is no coverage. Can you imagine that – you get hurt and make a claim to recover for your losses under your policy, and the insurance company adds insult to injury by suing YOU. They do this so that they can not only deny payment, but to try to get the upper hand in the litigation they fight against you to try to prevent you getting the benefit of your insurance policy (that they wrote). We only represent the injured person and their family – not the insurance company. This sets us apart from some other local and Montana law firms that advertise on the internet to represent you in injury claims.

Experienced and skilled attorneys that represent (only) injured person – and who do not represent the insurance companies and defend them on the other days of the week and hours of the day – can help get your the results and fair treatment you deserve and have a dedication and commitment that cannot be matched by the fair weather injury attorneys. We identify with your concerns and problems, not those of the claims adjusters and the insurance companies that hire defense attorneys. When it comes the insurance companies and personal injury battles, an injured person is best served by an attorney that does not have a conflict of conscience about going after the insurance companies and holding them accountable. Consumers need a lawyer that works for consumers every day, not the insurance companies half the week and then represents the “other side” – the consumers and victims of the insurance companies on the other days.

At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., Kalispell Montana, we do not have divided loyalties, or conflicts regarding who we represent – we only represent the injured, sick, and the disabled. We represent consumers – not the insurance companies – or their customers that cause the wreck and hurt innocent people. Unlike some of our “competitors” who advertise for injury cases from consumers on attorney websites and lawyer websites to represent the injured – but also or usually take work from the insurance companies (and sometimes even advertise their experience working for the insurance companies as being useful experience) – we don’t work for insurance companies – ever. We find that to be contrary to our mission, which is to represent and assist innocent victims of motor vehicle wrecks, and other injuries caused by the negligence and bad acts of others. Can you imagine Darth Vader getting in a X-wing fighter and getting in formation to help Luke Skywalker attack the ‘Death Star’ known as Big Insurance Company? Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? In our opinion, lawyers that help insurance companies deprive injured folks of just compensation and defend the insurance companies (and or those who cause the injuries one day), and then say they are going to go all out for injured party in a different case are just as ridiculous. Make no mistake, insurance is big, big business in the United States, and the insurance companies have huge profits at stake – even in claims in Montana.

When injured because of someone else’s negligence, we urge you to hire a Trial Lawyer, not an insurance DEFENSE trial lawyer that works for insurance companies. Before you call an attorney about your injury case to get help, check out their website, phone book ad or other media presence to find out whether they believe in helping innocent victims of injuries, that they actually believe you should obtain just and fair compensation, as all injury victims should receive. If they do insurance defense work, we submit such lawyers are not the best choice to represent you and care for your needs when you are injured and suffer loss.

MONTANA AUTO INSURANCE COVERAGE – CRITICAL FACTS TV ADS DON’T TELL YOU

Television advertising for auto insurance is so frequent that it would be helpful if it contained more useful and helpful information. While saving you money is so frequently the theme, some commercials actually do talk about getting the right coverage, sometimes even discussing the help of an agent. How many of those ads discuss the need for good uninsured motorist coverage or underinsured motorist coverage? When was the last time you saw a commercial that discussed the need for underinsured motorist coverage? Have you ever seen one? When was the last ad you saw that talked about medical payments coverage? Again, have you ever seen one? Why is this?

Uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage are some of the most critical coverage a person can buy to protect their family, but it appears to be neglected in the advertising. It certainly appears that it not popular enough with customers or a big enough concern among consumers that the insurance companies find it worthy to advertise on the subject. Montana is a state with a small enough population, that the big companies do not seem to be worried about reaching out to Montana consumers in their ad campaigns, or even particularly concerned about running afoul of our law when it comes to advertising. Our Unfair Claims Practices statute – Montana Code Annotated 33-18-201 – as interpreted by the Montana Supreme Court – places burdens on insurers to make an effort to live up the advertising

http://leg.mt.gov/bills/mca/33/18/33-18-201.htm

33-18-201. Unfair claim settlement practices prohibited. A person may not, with such frequency as to indicate a general business practice, do any of the following:

(8) attempt to settle a claim for less than the amount to which a reasonable person would have believed the person was entitled by reference to written or printed advertising material accompanying or made part of an application

If you insurance company has not lived up to its advertising in how it has addressed or handled your injury claim (or your family) arising from a motor vehicle wreck, contacting a Montana attorney that emphasis personal injury law, notably insurance and motor vehicle injury cases is the right decision.

The time to find out that you do not have enough of the right kind of auto insurance is not after having a wreck where you or your family are injured because of the negligence or reckless conduct of an uninsured, or underinsured, drunk driver. Insurance coverage has to be in place before the crash, wreck or other loss. If you are injured in a car wreck and find out that the at fault driver has no insurance, or simply not enough to address the medical expenses and lost wages, much less other damages, it is like being injured all over again. As the Montana Supreme Court so eloquently stated in the Ridley decision:

One of the most significant obligations that innocent victims of automobile accidents incur and for which mandatory liability insurance laws were enacted, is the obligation to pay the costs of medical treatment. If the insurer has no obligation to pay those expenses in a timely fashion, even though liability is reasonably clear, then the protection provided by Montana’s mandatory liability laws would be of little value.

Medical expenses from even minor injuries can be devastating to a family of average income. The inability to pay them can damage credit and, as alleged in this case, sometimes preclude adequate treatment and recovery from the very injuries caused. Just as importantly, the financial stress of being unable to pay medical expenses can lead to the ill-advised settlement of other legitimate claims in order to secure a benefit to which an innocent victim of an automobile accident is clearly entitled. We conclude that this is not what was intended by the Montana Legislature when mandatory liability insurance laws and unfair claims practice laws were enacted.

Ridley v. Guaranty National Insurance Company, 951 P.2d 987 (Mont. 1997)

– See more at: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/mt-supreme-court/1453789.html#sthash.Doyr5aOV.dpuf

However, many people believe that they have “full coverage” and will have enough insurance for the loss. When folks come into the office after a car wreck and tell us they have “full coverage” the prudent response on our part is to ask them if they have a copy of the declaration sheet, the “dec page” that shows the coverages. While having collision and comprehensive coverage can be helpful and are certainly advisable on most policies – the bodily injury limits, medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist coverage, and underinsured motorist coverage ultimately often have more to do with a good outcome. This is because the ability to pay medical bills and recover for lost earnings are far more important in the longer term – and often the short term – than the coverage to pay to have a vehicle repaired.

If your agent did not properly advise you about under-insured or uninsured motorist coverage, did your agent live up to the advertising of the insurance company? Some large insurers run advertising, and have run advertising touting how helpful an agent is and the company is at making sure you the right coverage. They advertise that agents can help make sure you don’t have gaps in coverage or not enough coverage. If you suffered a loss and your agent did not do so, or if the insurance company changed your coverage without your permission or knowledge, contact us. We seek to hold insurers accountable and live up to their promises in their advertising to their insureds, the customers that pay the premiums.

WINTER DRIVING DANGERS – CONSIDERATIONS AND REMEDIES

We have recently had the usual dangerous winter driving conditions in Kalispell, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and other areas of Flathead County, Flathead valley, and surrounding areas, such as Lincoln County (Libby, Eureka), Lake County (Polson, Ronan, Mission Valley), Sanders County (Plains, Thompson Falls), Mineral County (St. Regis, Superior), and Glacier County (Browning, Cut Bank). The November ice rain, snow and ice gave way to December ice rain, snow, ice, fog and and other dangerous conditions -particularly in northwest Montana – as Flathead County sits on the west slope of the Swan Range of the Rocky Mountains. While one of the most beautiful places in the world, our weather can make driving more treacherous than it appears, even to local residents. The variable conditions can catch drivers off guard. Reference to local media shows us the dangers out on our roads, and sadly fatal car crashes are simply too common:

http://www.dailyinterlake.com/members/article_3610c362-87df-11e4-93b1-ebad69941f92.html?mode=jam

http://www.kpax.com/category/flathead-county-coverage/

http://www.nbcmontana.com/kcfw/news

In all of Montana we have many injuries in car wrecks. Factors that contribute to the high rate of injury crashes include a unique combination: high travel speeds, bad weather, challenging road conditions, and drunk driving – drunk driving that is unfortunately among the highest rates in the country. According to the latest statistics available in a recent article linked below, Montana ranks second worst,with only North Dakota, our neighbor to the east, with higher (worse) rates:

2. Montana
Drunk driving deaths per 100,000: 9.0
 Total DUI arrests: 4,418 (9th lowest)
 Beer consumption per capita: 41.0 gallons (3rd highest)
Pct. of minors consuming alcohol: 29.7% (7th highest)
pct. of binge drinkers: 19.2% (17th highest)

“Montana was among the states with the highest youth consumption of alcohol and the highest rates of binge drinking among underage residents. Sadly, for every 100,000 people in the state, 3.8 underage residents were killed in drunk driving accidents, second highest in the country. Montana residents, on average, drank 41 gallons of beer per capita, more than all but two other states — North Dakota and New Hampshire. Nearly 20% of minors said they engaged in binge drinking over the prior 30 days, sixth highest in the country. In total, 19.2% of state residents said they engaged in binge drinking over the previous month, among the highest percentages in the country.”

Read more: States With the Most Drunk Driving – 24/7 Wall St. http://247wallst.com/special-report/2014/04/25/states-with-the-most-drunk-driving/#ixzz3N9Vwi3gO

Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish and the other areas around Whitefish Mountain Resort (formerly known as Big Mountain, as it is still known to most local residents) and Glacier Park are beautiful and provide winter recreation second to none. However, local residents and visitors must always be mindful of the conditions and dangers on our roads. Many of the visitors to the area find our road system that has struggled to keep up with population growth continue to be a challenge. While we look forward to the completion of the US Highway 93 bypass, and we have had significant upgrades to our local infrastructure in the past few years, we still are behind in terms of the infrastructure to handle the amount of traffic as our population grows and the number of visitors to Glacier National Park continues to set records. This creates conditions that are dangerous for local residents and our visitors from other states – as well as Alberta, British Columbia, the rest of Canada. While many of our visitors are from states like Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, the Pacific Northwest and other regions that see much snow and ice, we also have a large number of visitors each year from places like Texas, Arizona and California that do not. Car wrecks that occur even at low speeds can result in serious injuries – despite what insurance claims adjusters – and the “biomechanics experts” and insurance defense attorneys they hire to defend their denials of fair compensation for these injuries say.

At this time of year, snow tires (whether with studs or similar), and careful driving are highly recommended. The use of seat belts at all times is also essential. The failure to utilize a seat belt and ejection from the vehicle are factors in many fatal car wrecks. Wearing a seat belt is a critical and well established way to reduce fatal injuries, regardless of the cause of motor vehicle crashes. Another factor to consider is the time of day or night – at this time of year in particular given holiday parties – staying off the roads after midnight and recognizing that between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. that a rather significant percentage of drivers on the road that have been drinking – makes staying at home (or at the hotel etc.) a good decision.

One winter driving danger that folks do not consider – in addition to driving without adequate or appropriate tires, awareness of conditions, not using seat belts – is driving (or being a passenger) without adequate insurance coverage.

We have a high rate of uninsured and underinsured drivers in Montana. “Defensive driving” as far as we concerned, also includes carrying substantial uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to protect your family and passengers from irresponsible drivers on the roads. Underinsured motors coverage is some of the least expensive, and most critical coverage one can purchase. I have seen underinsured motorist coverage of $100,000 for $21 per year. The most challenging part of underinsured motorist coverage is asking for it from your agent or the insurance company, and making sure everyone is covered under the policy you believe is covered under the policy. “Full coverage” means that you have enough insurance and kind of insurance to meet your needs. This includes having substantial med pay coverage, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. A good agent will strongly recommend adequate uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, even insist on it or require you to sign an acknowledgment and waiver if you decline it, or simply decline to write an inadequate policy. An agent should write the policy coverages and sell you a policy with adequate coverage that considers your potential expenses and potential lost earning capacity, among other factors. However, if buying a policy online or over the phone in a few minutes, it requires that the consumer be aware and seek the coverage, or even seek it from a different company if not offered. This is a lot to ask of the consumer, and buyer beware. Of the ways to save money on an auto policy, skipping underinsured motorist coverage is not the way. A better approach would be to increase the deductible for collision or comprehensive coverage. Please also make sure that everyone who lives in your home is listed on the insurance policy, family member or not, so that the insurance company does not have that as a basis to try to deny coverage.

At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., the attorneys are happy to answer questions about your auto insurance converge, including reviewing your policy, and we counsel clients about getting coverage that will address their situation and needs to help protect their family in the event of a motor vehicle crash that results in injuries.

At Bliven Law Firm, P.C., we emphasize representing the insured, sick and disabled. Whether a car wreck, other injury, workers’ compensation injury, or disability claim, we have the skill, experience and dedication to assist you and your family. We are located in Kalispell, Flathead County, Montana, in the heart of the Flathead Valley. We are a law firm the represents the innocent victims injured by the negligence and wrongful conduct of others. We do not represent the insurance companies – or the wrong doers. We are firmly rooted in the community, and we are here to serve you.

DOWNPOUR CAUSES 2 CAR ACCIDENT OUTSIDE OF MISSOULA

51ad03c61020e.preview-620Heavy rain and bald tires caused a two-car accident outside of Missoula A two-car crash caused by a heavy downpour and bald tires slowed westbound traffic on Interstate 90 early Monday afternoon.

Emergency crews responded to the accident near East Missoula at mile marker 108 at roughly 1:30 p.m.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Paul Pfau confirmed what witnesses said after the accident: The driver of the Nissan was going too fast for conditions.

“The car was going a little too fast for conditions with bald tires,” Pfau said. “It hydroplaned on the bridge deck, hit the bridge guardrail and bounced into traffic, where it was T-boned by another vehicle,” Pfau said.

Dave and Theresa Scott were traveling from Twin Falls, Idaho, to Spokane, Wash., when the accident occurred in front of them. The couple pulled over to see what they could do to help.

“We didn’t know if anyone was calling 9-1-1,” Scott said. “The rain was coming down pretty hard. We were one of the first who pulled over.”

Pfau said the driver of the Nissan was cited for driving too fast for conditions.

For more information click here

Our office has three Montana attorneys who practice personal injury law for injured Montanans. If you or someone you know has been injured in a Missoula car accident, contact the personal injury attorneys at Bliven Law Firm, P.C. for a free case evaluation.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or worse in a Montana or Missoula car accident, you may be entitled to advance payment of medical expenses, lost wages and other damages. Each case is different and depends on the facts. Our Kalispell lawyers aggressively represent and fight for the rights of innocent victims of car accidents in Montana.

KALISPELL CAR ACCIDENTS ARE ON THE RISE

Car Accidents in Kalispell have increased by 200 in the past year according to the Kalispell Police Department.

For more information, click here.

Kalispell Police Chief Roger Nassett said they can’t pin point a clear explanation, other than people just not paying attention. With winter just around the corner, Nassett said they’re concerned the number could go up even higher.

“People just are not attentive like they should be,” said Nassett. “They might also be hurrying more than they should be. Our town has grown. We’ve got a lot more stop lights than we used to, so people don’t account for the amount of time it’s going to take to get through town.

Bliven Law Firm, P.C., a Montana Law Firm located in Kalispell, has helped innocent victims of car accidents in Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Whitefish, Lakeside,  Libby, Helena, Missoula, Great Falls, Billings and throughout Montana for over 25 years. If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, our firm has the experience to help recover proceeds for your medical expenses and lost wages.

IF A DRUNK DRIVER HITS YOU, WILL YOU BE PROTECTED?

It’s hard not to ignore the flood of auto insurance commercials inundating television programming. Call one and save 15% in 15 minutes. Another offers a plethora of discounts. Another offers the “value plan.” While these slogans may seem catchy, they fail to disclose, what protection they offer the consumer. After all, isn’t the purpose of auto insurance to protect you, your family, and your property in the event you are involved in an accident?

The CDC reported that in 2009, there were almost 11,000 drunk-driving related fatalities. Approximately one third of all motor vehicle crash fatalities involve alcohol-impaired driving.

In 2010, an estimated 4 million U.S. adult respondents reported at least one episode of alcohol-impaired driving, for an estimated total of approximately 112 million alcohol-impaired driving episodes or 479 episodes per 1,000 adult population.

Those numbers are alarming and scary. At Bliven Law Firm, P.C. a Montana law firm, located in Kalispell, we help victims of drunk driving accidents recover compensation for their injuries and deaths of their loves ones. Through our experience, we have discovered that most Montana drunk driving crashes cause severe and permanent injuries or death to the innocent victims.

Montana Drunk Drivers often do not have significant assets or adequate insurance to cover all of the victim’s damages. Some people do not realize that medical expenses from a drunk driving accident may total hundreds of thousands of dollars. If the innocent victim has not purchased adequate underinsured and uninsured coverage, he or she could be personally responsible for the medical bills caused by the drunk driver.

Some consumers may be surprised to realize how affordable Uninsured and Underinsured coverage is, especially when substantially increasing the policy limits may only raise the annual policy premium by a few dollars a month. In addition, uninsured and underinsured coverage is personal and portable in Montana meaning that regardless of the vehicle you are in, whether it be your own, a relative’s, friend’s or co-workers, you should be protected with your own uninsured and underinsured coverage in Montana.

In addition to uninsured and underinsured coverage, many Montana drunk driving victims do not carry medical payments coverage. Med. Pay. coverage is designed to protect the insured regardless of who is at fault.

Insurance disputes, involving liability, underinsured and uninsured coverage may last months. If your bills are not promptly paid, some medical providers may quickly send your bills to collections, damaging your credit score. Most Med. Pay. coverage in Montana, will cover your medical expenses, if you are involved in a car accident, regardless of whose fault it is. Having adequate medical payment insurance means if you are injured in an accident, you can seek and receive medical treatment knowing the bills will be paid.

While it may be tempting to save $50 on auto insurance, isn’t it more important that auto insurance covers you and your loved ones in case you fall victim to one of the four million drunk drivers on the road ? Talk with an insurance professional to make sure you and your family are adequately covered in case you become the victim of a drunk driver accident in Montana.

If you have been hit by a drunk driver in Montana, contact our offices at Bliven Law Firm, P.C. We have been handling drunk driver accident cases in Whitefish, Kalispell, Columbia Falls, Lakeside, Billings, Sydney, Libby, Troy, Eureka, Flathead County, Lincoln County, Lake County and more for over 25 years. We are dedicated to helping innocent victims of drunk driving accidents in Montana.