Thursday, March 1, 2018

Uninsured Driver Leave Your “Worn” Car Damaged?

    As our cars get older, we are left with a decision - do we insure our cars for property damage.  Typically, the decision to remove this coverage gets easier as the car gets older - “the cost of insurance to protect the car outweighs its benefit.”  Inevitably, though, when you make the tough decision to relinquish this coverage, the unexpected happens - a car accident that was not your fault. Even worse, it is discovered the at-fault driver does not have any liability insurance.  Frustrated with this turn of events, you seek out the advice of a lawyer only to be told, it is cost prohibitive to hire a law firm to pursue damages in court for an old clunker.  What do you do?

    For a majority of states where liability insurance is mandatory, there is a little known administrative remedy that can be found through the state’s department issuing drivers licenses.  For example, in Alabama, the Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) is responsible for administering such a process.  By filing a claim form (ALEA Form SR-31 in Alabama) against the uninsured, at-fault driver with the responsible state agency, you are submitting a claim for damages, without the need for filing a lawsuit.  Upon receipt of the claim, the state agency will administer the claim and notify the uninsured at-fault driver of the claim. If the claim is not contested by the at-fault driver, his/her  license will be suspended until you receive the damages submitted in the claim form.  If the claim is contested by the uninsured driver, a hearing will be conducted wherein you can bring your evidence of damages suffered to the officer charged with making the decision.  Again, if the hearing officer awards you damages, the uninsured driver’s license is suspended until you are compensated.

    This low cost administrative process is very effective for collecting property damage against an uninsured driver.  Of course, this administrative proceeding is not effective against those whose driver’s licenses were suspended before/after your accident.  Again, remember this is an effective remedy for those who carry “liability only” on their vehicles.  Those who carry full automobile insurance coverage need to speak with their insurance carrier and/or a lawyer before pursing a claim against an uninsured driver as it may limit their ability to recover against their own policy.

Boteler Finley & Wolfe
3290 Dauphin Street, Ste. 505
Mobile, AL 36606


Friday, February 16, 2018



Under Alabama law when the cost of repair for a vehicle is 75% or more of its fair retail value the vehicle is deemed a total loss. [ Ala Code Sec. 32-8-87(d)].  In such a situation the insurance carrier buys the vehicle from the claimant for the fair retail value of the vehicle, not the replacement value, and then applies to the State’s department of motor vehicles for a Salvage Title.
    In a total loss situation some claimants find themselves owing more on the car than the fair retail value of the vehicle. This means they may still owe money on a car that they no longer have or can use.  Again, the insurance company for the at -fault driver is not responsible for money owed on a vehicle in excess  of  its  fair retail  value.  If  you  think  you  might  be  in  this  situation,  then immediately check  with  the bank or  finance  company  that  provided  the  car  loan  to  see  if  you purchased  GAP  Insurance  when  you  financed  the  vehicle.  GAP  Insurance  pays  the  difference between the fair retail value and the balance owed on the vehicle. The finance company can provide you with information and claim material for this type of claim.


If you think the adjuster’s valuation of your vehicle is low, ask the adjuster to provide you with the valuation report. Most reputable insurance companies will allow their adjusters to provide a copy of this report to claimants [typically, referred to as a CCC Valuation Report].  Review the valuation report to make sure information about  your vehicle was correctly  entered.  Mistakes in details such as mileage, options, transmission type, and/or engine size can make a difference in the reported fair retail value of your vehicle


GAP Insurance should be purchased if there is little or no equity in the vehicle; however, check with the dealer and/or finance company to make sure you can drop the GAP coverage once the equity and fair  retail value of the vehicle equals or exceeds the finance price. In other words once the “GAP” is gone there is no longer a need for GAP Insurance.

Additional Questions?

Boteler, Finley & Wolfe

550 Dauphin Street, Suite 505
Mobile, AL 36606

Wednesday, February 7, 2018


Alabama law makes a distinction between a “passenger” and a “guest.” This distinction becomes important if someone is injured or killed in an accident while riding in an automobile and the accident is the fault of the driver of the car occupied by the victim. Section 32-1-2 of the Alabama Code states: “The owner, operator or person responsible for the operation of a motor vehicle shall not be held liable for loss or damage arising from injuries to or death of a guest while being transported without payment therefor in or upon said motor vehicle, resulting from the operation thereof, unless such injury or death is caused by the willful or wanton misconduct of such operator, owner or person responsible for the operation of said motor vehicle.” Simply put, in Alabama a guest in a motor vehicle cannot recover against the owner and/or operator for damages suffered by the guest as a result of the operator’s negligence.

 Alabama law defines the term “guest” as one who is invited to enjoy the hospitality of a driver of an automobile only for his or her (the rider’s) benefit without making any payment or conferring any material or tangible benefit upon the driver. APJI 26.05. A passenger can recover from the owner and/or operator for the damages suffered as a result of the operator’s negligence. Alabama law defines a “passenger” as one who is carried in a vehicle for hire or reward or for the material benefit,present or anticipated, of either the driver or of both the driver and rider, which benefit arises out of the transportation provided. APJI 26.04. Alabama law recognizes two situations wherein a “guest” may become a “passenger” and thereby allowed to recover from the owner and/or operator for damages suffered as a result of the operator’s negligence:
 1. “A misrepresentation by the driver or another which induces one to become a rider in the automobile causes the rider to be a passenger and not a guest.” APJI 26.25.
2. Also, a guest’s protest against the operator’s driving can change the guest status to that of a passenger. APJI 26.26.

It is important to remember that the guest statute only prohibits a victim’s right of recovery from the owner and/ or operator for “negligence” of the operator. A victim can recover if the operator’s conduct was wanton and or willful or if the accident is caused by someone other than the owner. On this point, potential claims under Dram Shop or Product Liability theories should not be overlooked.

For More Information Contact:

Boteler, Finley& Wolfe

3290 Dauphin Street, Ste. 505
Mobile, AL 36606

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

BFW-Lawyers Files Complaint Against Access Ins. Co.

Last week, Boteler Finley & Wolfe (BFW-Lawyers) filed a complaint with the Alabama Department of Insurance against Access Ins. Co., an automobile insurer based in Atlanta, GA.  The complaint filing stemmed from the mishandling of vehicle damage claims in Alabama.  Over the course of the last several months, BFW found the vehicle damage claim practices of Access Ins. Co. to be untimely and burdensome on claimants. In most cases, a simple repair of a claimant's vehicle took over thirty (30) days to process.  While an investigation is on-going, it has been determined that Access Ins. Co. recommends all claimants email pictures of his/her property damage to its claims department.  From there, the photographs are to be forwarded to a company repair appraiser who makes a recommendation and, then, returns the file to an adjuster. Unfortunately, this recommended process takes at least thirty (30) days for processing.  At this point, it is not known whether the delays in processing is due to a staffing issue and/or deficiencies in the company's technology department.   Of course, if additional property damage is discovered that was not included in the emailed pictures, e.g. frame work damage, a claimant could expect additional delays from this company.  Since filing the complaint, BFW-Lawyers had attempted to reach out to Access Ins. Co. for an explanation regarding the delay in processing vehicle damage claims; to date, no telephone call has been returned. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Why Doesn't the Insurance Adjuster Believe Me?

It’s the Adjuster’s Job Not to Believe You!
Mark Wolfe - Personal Injury Attorney
251 433-7766

Having represented insurance claimants for over 30 years, I have received hundreds of calls from people who are upset because, “the adjuster just does not seem like he believes me.” They are angry and frustrated with the adjuster and feel they are being singled-out when they are simply “telling the truth.”  Guess what? It’s the insurance adjuster’s job not to believe you! It’s not that they are necessarily being mean or picking on you, they are simply following the law and they are trained to be skeptical about most claims.

The law requires insurance claimants to prove their claim. It’s not the insurance adjuster’s job to help you prove your claim nor do they have to “disprove” your assertion, but rather you have to prove all elements of your claim.  Let’s take a look at a common claim related to a personal injury claim: lost wages. According the Center for Disease Control (CDC) it is common for someone to miss about two weeks of work for a simple cervical strain suffered in a car accident. You cannot expect to receive compensation for your lost wages by simply telling the adjuster, “I missed two weeks of work and I make $17.50 per hour.” The adjuster is going to require you to produce documentation supporting your wage rate such as a pay stub or a note from your employer. The adjuster will also require you to produce a doctor’s excuse or a medical notation in the records that the time off of work was in fact required because of the injuries you suffered in the accident. They are simply making you prove the validity of your claim. That’s their job!

“But Mr. Wolfe, I’m not like those people who fake a claim or exaggerate an injury to get money they don’t deserve,” is another common statement I hear. Yes that may be true, but adjusters deal with lots of opportunistic fraud claims every day. In my opinion, this has desensitized them to legitimate claims and makes them very skeptical about all claims. This means not only must legitimate claimants meet the legal burden of proof for their claim, they also must overcome the “burden of doubt.” Claims adjusters have been trained to look for certain “red flags” signaling a potential opportunistic fraud claim. The problem is some of the “red flags” are so broad or discretionary they can get attached to a legitimate claim. Claimants are often given a veracity or truthfulness rating. This rating can have a negative or positive impact on the benefit determination for the claim. Yet most claimants, and surprisingly many personal injury attorneys, have no idea how the claimants perceived truthfulness can impact the benefits the insurance company is willing to pay. There are things that can be done to help emphasize the truthfulness of a claimant or overcome a “red flag” that may be associated with a claim. But again, the adjuster’s job is to be skeptical about a claim.

Meeting the “burden of proof” and overcoming the “burden of doubt” can make the claim process seem unfair and frustrating. While not every insurance claim requires or needs a lawyer,  all claimants should know their rights and understand the claim process. Our office provides free consultations to personal injury claimants and other insurance claimants. We also have numerous publications available to help claimants. These can be downloaded at no charge from our web site:

About the Author: Mark Wolfe is a highly rated personal injury attorney with over 30 years of experience prosecuting insurance claims on behalf of individuals and businesses. He has been a guest lecturer for doctors and lawyers about personal injury claims. He has published numerous articles concerning insurance claims, personal injury litigation and law office management in National and Regional law journals. Contact Mark for more information or to schedule your free consultation: or 251 433-7766.    

REQUIRED DISCLAIMERS: Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the services provided by other lawyers. The Mississippi Supreme Court advises that a decision on legal services is important and should not be based solely on advertisements. Free background information is available upon request to a Mississippi attorney. The listing of any area of practice by a Mississippi attorney does not indicate any certification of expertise therein. See Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(d), Rule 7.4(a), Rule 7.6(a) (1997). General Disclaimer: This information is posted for general information purposes to help those interested parties or persons with potential civil claims better understand their rights and potential causes of action. If readers are currently represented by an attorney on the subject matter of this post then they are encouraged to continue with said representation. No attorney-client relationship is established by this post.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Three Things We Know About PI Claims That You May Not Know

At Boteler, Finley & Wolfe we’ve been helping personal injury victims present and prosecute their insurance claims for 29 years. We’ve helped thousands of victims recover the full and complete compensation they are owed and most of these claims were settled without ever having to file a lawsuit! Why is that? Because we know and understand three very important factors for recovering full and complete compensation for personal injury claims. Those factors are: Reserves, Computers and Attitudes. Knowing and understanding these three factors allows us to insure our clients get the full and complete compensation they are entitled to!
RESERVES: In insurance jargon “reserves” is the amount of money an insurance adjuster estimates will be required to settle an injury claim. Because money held in reserve to pay claims is not invested in the stock market or bond market, adjusters are under a lot of pressure to keep reserves low so investment profits can be maximized by the insurance company. Yet if an adjuster has “under” reserved a claim, there’s a very good chance the claim will not settle for its true value. At Boteler, Finley & Wolfe, we understand how and when reserves are set and adjusted and we know what information is needed by the adjuster to adequately set the reserves for our clients’ claims.
COMPUTERS: Or more specifically computer assisted claim evaluation programs. Almost every major insurance company uses a computer program to “assist” with the claim evaluation process. Adjusters are required to input data known as “value drivers” into the program. These value drivers can push the “value” of the claim up (positive) or down (negative). Most insurance companies use similar programs and have similar value drivers and most have specific requirements as to when the adjuster can or should input a value driver. These input requirements can be technical and stringent.  This is especially true if the value driver adds value to the claim. Negative value drivers can be overridden or deleted if certain information is included with the claim material. Mark Wolfe at Boteler, Finley & Wolfe has been lecturing and teaching lawyers and medical providers about computer assisted claim evaluation programs for over 15 years! His expertise in this area allows us to make sure all positive value drivers are identified and included in the claim material for our clients and any negative value drivers are minimized or excluded.
ATTITUDES: Did you know insurance adjusters are trained to believe that almost all personal injury claimants are lying, faking or exaggerating their injuries simply to recover “undeserved” compensation? Adjusters go to classes and seminars on “opportunistic fraud” so they can learn how to identify these fraudulent claims. They are given factors to look for when handling a claim to rate the claimants “veracity.” This rating is then factored into the evaluation process. Obviously, if the adjuster thinks a claimant is not honest, the settlement offer will reflect that belief. The truth is many of these veracity factors are so open and vague, it allows adjusters to lump honest claimants in with the dishonest claimants. At Boteler, Finley & Wolfe we only want to represent honest claimants who are truly deserving of compensation for their injuries. To that end, our claim presentation protocol includes several things that accentuate the honesty and truthfulness of our clients and the legitimacy of their claim.
So there you have it! Three important factors that can be the difference between getting full and complete compensation for your injury claim and just taking what the insurance company offers. If you don’t have a lawyer who understands these factors and knows how to utilize and incorporate them into your claim, you may be shorting yourself of the full benefits you are owed. Call us today for a free consultation. 251 433-7766 or get more helpful information about personal injury claims from our web site: (Note: our new and improved web site is under construction. In the interim, please visit our old site.)

REQUIRED DISCLAIMERS: Alabama Rule of Professional Conduct 7.2: No representation is made that the quality of legal service to be performed is greater than the services provided by other lawyers. The Mississippi Supreme Court advises that a decision on legal services is important and should not be based solely on advertisements. Free background information is available upon request to a Mississippi attorney. The listing of any area of practice by a Mississippi attorney does not indicate any certification of expertise therein. See Mississippi Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 7.2(d), Rule 7.4(a), Rule 7.6(a) (1997). General Disclaimer: This information is posted for general information purposes to help those interested parties or persons with potential civil claims better understand their rights and potential causes of action. If readers are currently represented by an attorney on the subject matter of this post then they are encouraged to continue with said representation. No attorney-client relationship is established by this post.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Karlos Finley Addresses Issues Facing HD 97

Recently Karlos Finley a partner at BF&W and a candidate for House District 97 sat down with Reggie Copeland, Jr. of the South Alabama Trial Lawyers Association for an interview about his ongoing campaign for the open seat in House District 97. 

RC: On your campaign facebook page and at various forums and events, you have asked people and business owners in House District 97 about their concerns and what issues they feel need to be addressed. What has your inquiry revealed as the most important issue or concern and what will you do to address and fix that problem?
KFF: The overwhelming issues facing the citizens of our district are jobs and education. These issues are so interrelated its impossible to talk about one without the other. In order for our city grow in a healthy way, we must address economic development. Jobs and education are the key to this issue. We are all hoping for a bright future with Airbus coming to Brookley Field. I would like to also see some of the tier one and tier two suppliers located in some of the abandoned buildings on the north side of Downtown. There is good ingress and egress to these locations and the businesses would create jobs in our district as well as throughout Mobile. Also, that would help to rid the area of abandoned dilapidated properties. Bishop State Community College and Brookley Field Aviation College are excellent institutions for training skilled trades persons to fill the positions created by the new industry.

RC: In addition to the above issue or problem, what other issues and concerns did the people and business owners in House District 97 bring to your attention and what do you think can be done regarding those other issues?
KFF: In that the HD 97 is such a diverse district, there are many important issues facing us. Environmental issues such as water quality in the north and south of the district are important issues. The Dog River Watershed and the Three Mile and One Mile Creeks have pollution problems that need to be addressed. I attended a meeting of the Dog River Clearwater Revival and learned that they are testing a litter trap in order to catch debris running off into the river. There is a need to educate the people in our community and make them aware that many of the ditches and creeks that run throughout the city drain into the Dog River. As for the Three Mile and One Mile Creeks, there are environmental concerns with erosion to the cap that covers the old Hickory Street landfill/dump. This is an issue that must have continued monitoring. There is also the Mobile Gas, “Tar pit” located at the corner of MLK Ave. and Broad St. The area is fenced off, but we need in depth investigations in the nature of what contaminations are present there. Homeowners insurance has been an issue that many constituents have voiced major concerns about. I would urge all homeowners to take note of the recently passed Clarity Law and discuss it with their State Representative. Progress has been made in the area of insurance reform, but there is still a lot of work to do to make sure coverage is affordable and beneficial. Public safety is a real concern in the district. There are issues within some areas of the district regarding prostitution, drug infestation, theft and home invasions just to name a few. In response to these issues, I would like to work with community leaders to engage law enforcement to have more officers patrolling on foot and bicycles. This will foster a greater interaction and stronger relationships between patrol officers and residents in the community. Finally, the blighted properties across the district are also a significant problem. This issue encompasses both businesses and residential. This is a matter I would like to work with municipal and county officials to remedy. We could explore raising the minimum standards of the condition a property must be kept in.
Because of my experience in so many different areas, I believe as a representative of House District 97 I can help address these issues.

RC: A recent national poll showed that only about 25% of eligible voters participate in Statewide or local elections on a regular basis. Is this an important issue to you and what can be done to encourage more people to participate in the election process?
KFF: This is a very important issue to me! People have died and been maimed in order for our citizens to have the right to vote. I think the biggest thing that can be done to help is for public servants to act in ways that will restore confidence in the leadership. People want to feel that they can make a difference. We also need to educate our youth on the sacrifices that have been made for this right. For this reason, I have been a member of the League of Women Voters for the last three years. This organization does a tremendous amount of work toward educating the public regarding the election process as well as who the candidates are. We work from a non-partisan perspective in order to reach as many people as possible and try to help engage them in the political process. Each year League members come together for a strategic planning meeting in order to frame how we will address issues for the coming year. Greater participation in organizations like this will be an integral part of increasing voter participation.

To learn more about Mr. Finley and his campaign for House District 97, please click here. To read Mr. Finley's bio and qualifications, please click here.  Your vote can make a difference, please Vote Finley for House District 97 on Tuesday, February 26th!