Sunday, March 22, 2015

Crash test: Does driver deserve reimbursement for rental car costs?

"Thank goodness no one was hurt," was the first thing a reader said after reporting that her car was one of four vehicles hit by an oil truck earlier this month.

She learned of the accident after leaving work in the evening to walk to her car, parked on a city street. The car was gone. When she returning to the office, a receptionist told her about the accident. There were plenty of witnesses, so there was no question about who was at fault. No one was in any of the four cars when the oil truck slammed into them, causing varying levels of damage.

Instead of heading home, the reader walked to the closest police precinct to see where her car had been towed. Since it was after hours, she couldn't call her insurance company or local body shop until the following day. Police told her where her car had been taken, but their report wasn't ready yet, so she had to return for it the next day.

Because the reader's car had been hit by another insured vehicle, that vehicle's owner would be responsible for covering all the damage. Her insurance agent and body shop worker helped the reader figure out how to get the car from the tow lot to the body shop so it could be assessed and repaired. The body owner helped her arrange for a rental car.

The reader's insurance company agreed to cover up to $25 a day for a rental car. The rental company indicated this was adequate, but the reader later learned that the coverage would fall short by about $3 a day. Since her damaged car would be out of commission for 2-3 weeks, she would end paying between $50 and $75 out of pocket for the rental.

This was not a bad price for a rental car for that long, the reader figured, but then wondered why she should have to pay anything, given that the accident was not her fault. The oil truck company will be responsible for damage it caused, and because the reader wasn't at fault, she wouldn't have to pay the deductible on her insurance policy.

So what is the right thing to do? Should the reader let things lie, or see if the oil truck company will make up the difference on the cost of her rental car?

The right thing to do is first check with the rental car company to see if it will give her a break on the cost of the rental car, so she won't be out of pocket. The rental car company wasn't responsible for the accident, either, however, so it's reasonable to suspect it will hold to its price.

If there is a shortfall, the reader might not have any legal recourse after her insurance company and the oil truck company's insurance company settle on the cost of the repairs. But if she's out of pocket any cash at all, the right thing would be for the oil truck company to reimburse her for the difference, whether it's legally obligated to do so or not. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

All workers should pull their weight

February was a good month for jobs. The U.S. reported that 295,000 jobs were added that month, and the national unemployment rate fell to 5.5 percent. That's the lowest it's been since the economic downturn hit in 2008.

But while more people continue to be added to payrolls, wages don't seem to be increasing quite as well. In February, wages rose just 0.1 percent, less than the 0.5 percent they'd risen in January. Many workers still find themselves challenged to make ends meet on salaries that might not have caught up to where they were before the economic downturn began.

One of these workers is a reader in California. The professional firm where she works suffered greatly during the recession, cutting roughly 75 percent of its staff. The reader considers herself one of "the lucky ones" who survived, but notes that she and other remaining staff suffered major cuts to their salaries and benefits.

She's grateful that things seem to be on the upswing now, with her company hiring three new employees recently. However, salaries and benefits have not been restored to their pre-recession levels.

The reader is working hard for less money, as are many of her colleagues -- except for one "junior" employee who also survived the layoffs but is now "slacking off," she claims. He seems "to be having a hard time getting back into production mode. ... Every time I pass his desk, he has his eyes down on his smart phone."

The problem became even more apparent when the reader and her low-performing colleague were assigned to work on a project together.

"His non-participation negatively affected my work load and my patience," she writes. She alerted the worker's supervisor, who talked to him, but nothing has changed.

"He continues to waste hours every day looking down at that phone," the reader wrote.

She figures that the less efficient they are on the project adversely impacts the bottom line. And the less money the company makes, the longer it will take for salaries to be restored.

"I'm tired of making less than I was when he was in diapers," she writes. "Should I talk to him myself? Write him an email expressing my opinion? Take it to Human Resources, or speak to his supervisor again?"

If the reader's colleague is not pulling his wait, the right thing is to let his supervisor know. The reader might have tried talking to the employee before she reported him, but if he doesn't report to her, then she was right to go to his supervisor first. If his performance is still affecting her own work, she'd be right to talk to the supervisor again.

It's one thing to turn a blind eye to coworkers who occasionally check personal email or social media on work time. But when those workers' actions result in loss of productivity for everyone, the right thing is for coworkers to make clear that theirs is a culture that does not accept such behavior. If the slacker feels slighted by the criticism, he should find work elsewhere. Until then, he should do his job. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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Sunday, March 08, 2015

Does seeing spots obligate you to point them out?

How obligated are you to alert someone about your concern that they might have a health problem?

A.C., a reader from the Midwest, was vacationing at a resort in the Dominican Republic with her husband and another couple. Both of their friends were general practice physicians.

One day, as the couples were sitting on the beach, a young woman who appeared to be about 18 to 20 years old walked by them. The husband of the physician couple noticed that the woman had a large dark spot on her skin, about the size of a large screw head. He commented to the group "that you'd think someone with a spot like that might not want to be wearing such skimpy swimwear that exposed her skin to the sun even more."

A.C. asked his doctor friend if he thought the spot was cancerous. He didn't, but said that given the young woman's age and the location of the spot, he thought it was most likely pre-cancerous. His wife agreed with him, but said she wouldn't be able to make a clear diagnosis without examining the spot more closely.

Neither physician felt that they should approach the woman and share their concerns about her health. Instead, they went for a walk along the beach.

"I was willing to tell her," writes A.C., but when the young lady passed by again, she was with her family and no one in the group was speaking English.

"Given the fact that I didn't want to give the wrong impression and put them in a panic, I let it pass," A.C. writes. "They left by the time our friends got back and we never saw them again."

Her decision not to approach the young lady still bothers A.C.

"Did I do the right thing by not bringing the spot to her attention?" she asks. "It is possible she was already aware of the spot and is having it looked at, but my conscience doesn't know that."

Whether or not the young woman and members of her family were speaking English at the resort is beside the point, since they may also have been fluent in English. The prospect of a language barrier was not enough to warrant not speaking to the woman.

Not wanting to throw the family into a panic seems a more reasonable response, since A.C. was not a doctor and had no idea if the spot was a health risk. If the trained physicians who were with her didn't believe it was their medical responsibility to alert the young woman, then it seems reasonable for A.C. to refrain from alerting her, as well.

Approaching a stranger and telling her she should have a spot on her skin checked out when you're not qualified to make that determination doesn't seem helpful. The right thing was for A.C. to consult with those who knew more about any potential health threat, seek their counsel, and then let it the matter lie. 

Follow him on Twitter: @jseglin 

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