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Insurance policies could impose time limit for reporting accident

Florida law and most insurance policies set time limits for filing claims after car accidents. A civil statute of limitations will establish the time period in which someone can file a lawsuit to pursue damages. As for insurance benefits, the terms of the policy likely specify the time period for filing claims.

The filing deadlines within insurance policies might not be readily apparent. The time periods also vary among policies. A policyholder should read a policy carefully and ask an insurance agent for clarification.

How new tax laws may impact estate planning

Florida residents should routinely check on their estate plan to ensure that it meets their needs. Ideally, an individual will conduct a review every three years or so. Scheduling an estate plan review may be especially important in the aftermath of the new tax reform bill recently passed by Congress. One of the larger changes to the tax law has to do with the estate tax. Previously, individuals with estates up to $5.6 million were exempt from paying federal estate tax.

Now, that exemption is increased to $11.2 million for individuals and $22.4 million for married couples. However, it may be worth asking an estate planner how the changes may impact estate taxes at the state level. In some cases, exemption amounts may increase while they stay the same in others. Furthermore, married couples should make sure that steps have been taken to invoke portability as exemptions are not ported automatically.

Car accident lawsuits that involve ride-sharing companies

Florida residents are likely aware that ride-sharing services provided by companies like Lyft and Uber have become extremely popular in recent years. Many people, however, may not realize that the way these businesses are structured shields them from litigation when their drivers act negligently and cause other road users injury, loss or damage. This is the case because Lyft and Uber drivers are considered to be independent contractors rather than employees, which places a legal barrier before accident victims that can be difficult to overcome.

Uber used the legal distinctions between employees and independent contractors in 2014 when the parents of a 6-year-old girl who was killed by one of their drivers sued the company. The ride-sharing company's argument was a strong one because the driver involved was not carrying a fare or traveling to pick up a passenger when the girl lost her life. If he had been, the girl's parents could have filed a claim under an insurance policy that both Lyft and Uber carry that pays out benefits of up to $1 million in liability cases.

Mistakes to avoid when creating an estate plan

Creating estate plan documents may make it possible to exercise greater control over where assets go after passing on. Florida residents and others who fail to do so may have their assets distributed according to state law. Therefore, it is less likely that assets will be distributed in a manner that is in accordance with the wishes of the deceased person. However, it is important to note that simply creating estate plan documents may not be enough.

Life events may make it necessary to change beneficiary designations or opt for a different person to act as the executor of the estate. Changes to tax laws over time may make an estate plan more or less effective over time. By reviewing plan documents on a regular basis, it may be possible to make changes that help to strengthen an existing estate plan.

Many different causes lead to motor vehicle accidents

Every year, there are approximately 6 million car accidents on roadways in Florida and across the United States. In 2015, the number of fatalities due to car crashes increased by 8 percent, the largest increase in 50 years. In 2016, the number of fatalities increased again; more than 40,000 people died in crashes on American roadways that year. Thanks to an increased focus on the factors that lead to motor vehicle accidents, it is possible to discuss the most common types.

Many accidents happen when a driver makes a rolling right turn at a red light. Turning right on red is legal in most areas, but a full stop is required, and there are many cases in which a driver looks left for approaching traffic and then finds a pedestrian or bicyclist in his or her path when turning back to the right again. This type of crash accounts for 6 percent of pedestrian fatalities.

The benefits of a complete estate plan

Florida residents may not be able to fulfill the goals of their estate plan if it is not fully thought out. In some cases, a married couple may create a plan assuming that one spouse will outlive the other. Plans may also assume that a healthy spouse will outlive one who is incapacitated. However, if this doesn't happen, a home or other assets may have to go through probate.

When assets are placed in joint tenancy with survivorship rights, a surviving spouse now owns those assets in his or her name. It is now necessary to determine how assets would be transferred after the second spouse dies. This may be done by writing a will that specifies who is to receive the property. It may also be possible to do nothing and let state law determine who gets an asset or assets.

Study finds that roundabouts reduce fatal crashes by 86 percent

Replacing traditional intersections with roundabouts could dramatically reduce the number of deadly accidents in Florida and around the country, according to a recent study from the Minnesota Department of Transportation. MnDot researchers looked at accident data from 144 roundabouts in the North Star State, and they discovered that fatal crashes fell by 86 percent after the roundabouts were built. However, the report also reveals that minor accidents increase sharply when motorists are faced with a roundabout rather than an intersection.

According to the report, roundabouts reduce serious accidents by forcing drivers to slow down. Motorists can run through red lights without braking, but entering a roundabout is more like taking a sharp turn. Roundabouts also eliminate T-bone type accidents where one vehicle strikes the side of another. The report says that another benefit of roundabouts is that they force all of the traffic using them to move in the same direction.

President Trump calls for action to combat drunk driving

Florida residents are likely aware that intoxicated drivers are a major concern for law enforcement agencies during the holiday season, and President Trump has brought additional attention to the issue by designating December 2017 as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month. In a Nov. 30 proclamation, he lamented the number of road users killed each year in accidents involving drunk drivers, and he pledged to provide additional resources to the nation's police departments to help them combat the problem.

Alcohol was once a factor in about two-thirds of all fatal car accidents, but a combination of rigorous law enforcement, growing awareness and powerful public information campaigns helped to reduce the annual death toll significantly. However, drunk driving deaths have now increased alarmingly for two consecutive years, and the president feels that a similar coordinated effort is needed once again. According to government figures, accidents involving alcohol impaired drivers claimed more than 10,000 lives on America's roads in 2016.

Managing online accounts after death

Many people living in Florida are diligent about estate planning. They've written wills, completed end-of-life planning and updated the beneficiaries on their insurance policies and investment accounts. However, there may be a group of assets that they've neglected to provide for.

Floridians who are active online should consider what they want to happen to their online accounts after they die. Photographs, documents, social media content and email will remain on the internet unless someone takes action to remove or archive it. Since this is a relatively new area of law, it is not always clear what rights an executor or heir may have over this content.

Special needs trusts for family members with disabilities

Floridians who have family members with disabilities may want to consider setting up special needs trusts for their benefit. These are specialized types of trusts that help to provide care for disabled people after their loved ones have died.

Parents who have children with special needs can set up special needs trusts for them. The trusts do not interfere with their ability to receive disability benefits from the Social Security Administration or from Medicaid. The money that is held in these trusts can be used to directly pay for the person's housing costs, utility costs, food costs, dental costs, transportation expenses and other costs that are not paid for by SSDI or Medicaid. The money cannot be paid directly to the beneficiary, however, or it may interfere with their disability and medical benefits.

VanNess & VanNess, P.A.