As I type the title to his blog post, I am reminded of Seth Godin’s comment that resolutions do not work but habits and systems do, so maybe the title should be: New Year’s Legal Habits. In essence, it boils down to the difference between writing something down on paper vs. actually doing what you have written down on paper. One is much harder than the other and then, of course, you must first know what you should be doing, so we thought we would help with that part, at least for the legal side of things. You can decide for yourself if you want to lose weight, write the great American novel or learn how to make fresh pasta.
While we write about this topic a lot, it still remains our number recommendation for the New Year for the simple reason that too many people still have not done it. Check your auto insurance policy to see if you have underinsured/uninsured motorist (UM/UIM) coverage. If you do not, call your agent and get it if you are financially able. This type of coverage is surprisingly affordable especially when you consider how valuable it is. In Tennessee, 1 in 5 drivers is completely uninsured and a large percentage of drivers carry only the bare minimum of coverage. If you are moderately or seriously injured in a wreck with an uninsured/underinsured driver, this coverage will be absolutely critical for you to recover your losses.
Resolutions #2 and #3
While you are looking at your insurance, check two more things: (1) do you have/need gap insurance? Like UM/UIM insurance discussed above, gap insurance is relatively inexpensive and protects you in the event your car is totaled in a wreck and the value of the vehicle (the insurance payout) is less than what you actually owe on your auto loan. Gap insurance covers that gap and will protect you from continuing to make loan payments on a car that is totalled and in the junk yard; (2) check to make sure your home insurance covers dog bites/attacks. This is especially true if you own a dog that is considered a “bully breed” by insurance companies. Insurance often excludes protection for German Shepherds, Dobermans, Pitbulls, etc., and you will need to purchase a separate policy for those types of dogs. If your dog bites or attacks someone, you want to make sure you are protected against claims and that the victim (which is often someone you know) receives compensation for their medical bills and injuries.
In 2019, it became illegal to hold your cellphone while you are driving in the State of Tennessee. Yet, if you sit near any roadway for any length of time, you will see drivers go by holding their cellphones and talking or texting, etc. For your New Year’s habit, install the Do Not Disturb feature on your cellphone so that you are not distracted by incoming texts, etc. If you have it and must talk on the phone, use the Bluetooth feature in your car. Set your navigation system before you start driving, etc. In short, put your phone down while driving.
Keep your car well-maintained. Remember, it is cheaper to maintain your existing car than to buy a new one, so make sure your tires have appropriate tread and are inflated to the right level. Make sure all your lights including turn signals are functioning properly. Make sure the brakes are in proper working order. Keep windshield wipers in good repair for necessary visibility in bad weather. Make sure your car is registered with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) so that you promptly receive recall notices. If you bought your car new, this was probably done for you by the dealership (but you should still double-check). If you bought your car used, you will probably have to do this yourself. Your car is a valuable asset so you want to make sure you treat it as such. And, these simple steps can help prevent an accident.
2020 has been a difficult year for everyone. The pandemic has affected us all – some much worse than others. Hopefully, we have learned something about ourselves and can find and enjoy the blessings that remain. As we start a new year, all of us at the Law Offices of John Day wish you and yours health and happiness. And, like always, we are here if you need us.