Peter W. Summerill

Utah Trial Attorney

Bragging, Right?

Finally got around to hanging the brags at the new office. Honored to once again be recognized by peers as Utah Legal Elite and Superlawyer. But, see if you can guess which I consider to be the best award yet. (Hint: it's not a plaque, suitable for framing, or printed on parchment).

Moving On

After six years with the law firm D/K/O/W Pete Summerill is proud to announce his association as of-counsel with the law firm Lowrance Lundell Lofgren. Pete will continue to represent individuals and families harmed by faulty and defective products, medical negligence or auto/trucking crashes. Pete's association with the firm Lowrance Lundell Lofgren puts him in a unique position in his career, one where he can better serve the individual needs of each client with hands-on attention and highly focused work on each case by avoiding the usual crush that many personal attorneys experience, i.e. too many cases and too little time. Pete will be dedicated to each case and will only be taking those cases where he feels his more than 20 years of experience can return the highest and best result for each client.

The Right Auto Insurance Coverage

Coverage for Injury Or Death In Car Crashes

Often people buy auto insurance coverage thinking that the amount of coverage is only in case they cause a crash. But, making sure you have the right coverage on your policy actually benefits YOU. When it comes to personal injury or death because of a car crash, there are several coverages on your insurance policy that you need to think about, before the crash happens. First, the liability coverage protects you against claims when you cause the crash. But, what if somebody who crashes into you has only the bare minimum, or worse, no coverage at all? In Utah the minimum liability coverage is $25,000. That amount can quickly be used up in a case of a severe crash and, if there are passengers in your vehicle, the total available insurance from the negligent driver might be a paltry $50,000…. for everyone in your vehicle. Imagine you, your family members or friends, get t-boned by a drunk at an intersection and all of you end up in the hospital. That $50,000 will go away in a hurry and might not even cover your medical expenses, let alone your pain and suffering and lost wages.

Uninsured and Underinsured Coverage for Personal Injury or Death in a Car Crash.

Thankfully, Utah law requires that all auto insurance have minimum Underinsured (often called UI) and Uninsured (often called UIM) coverages that equal your liability coverage amount. UM/UIM coverages pay you for damages (including medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost income and wrongful death among other things). To make sure you have that coverage:

  • Make sure you do not sign a waiver when you get your auto insurance that eliminates the coverage. If you already signed a waiver, get with your insurance company and get it reinstated.
  • Next, make sure that you have the maximum available. By law, the UM/UIM coverage must be equal to your liability coverage. But, the bare minimum liability coverage in Utah for personal injury is $25,000. So, you'll want to step up to as much coverage as you can afford and is available. Typically this amount is $300,000 per person and $500,000 per accident.

Personal Injury Protection in a Car Crash

Some insurance agents and insurance companies may try to sell you higher limits for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) which is sometimes called No-Fault protection. The minimum under Utah law is $3,000. That amount covers your medical expenses/lost income without regard to fault and operates almost automatically. However, it is best to NOT increase your PIP coverage. Although PIP pays if even if you are at fault, ti also pays when you are not at fault and is considered primary coverage. Trouble begins when there are high amounts of PIP coverage and your own insurance company starts questioning whether the treatments and care recommended by your doctor are really necessary. Auto insurance companies that provide high PIP coverage to their insureds may even require you to go through a so-called "independent" medical exam by a doctor of their choosing. The sole goal of that examination is to set up a case to stop payment of PIP coverage. This also works against you if you bring a claim against the other driver who caused the crash and all of your injuries and lost income. Now, there is an exam from a so-called "independent" medical examiner that says you really aren't hurt that bad after all. Not a good position to be in when you try to bring a claim against the other car that caused the whole mess. It is much better to use the minimum PIP coverage and let your health insurance cover anything over the $3,000 PIP payment.

In summary, to make sure you are adequately protected for harm, pain, suffering, lost income and medical expenses in a car crash, max out your Liability/UM/UIM coverages and keep your PIP coverage at the minimum.

Too Soon

How quickly they grow (up)! Soon he'll be able to work the copy machine, send out demand letters and draft up complaints. If I can get him to speak, maybe even take a few depositions!

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Hard Cases

When Children Die

I once asked a pathologist (you know, the doc who performs autopsies) what were some of the more difficult cases she had worked on. I intended 'difficult' in the sense of figuring out what happened to the victim. She replied "The hardest cases involve children." As an attorney, I should really know how to ask better questions. But, the answer didn't surprise me. Having worked on many (some high profile) cases involving the death of young children over the years it is true: the hardest wrongful death cases involve children. Regardless of whether you are a parent, hearing about the loss of a young life under any circumstance is a gut punch, can't catch your breath thing. When children die because somebody was being careless, it gets that much harder to grasp. We take particular care to protect children, flagging our school crossings and slowing speed limits during school, putting "Baby on Board" in our car windows, making sure the kid has his helmet on before he goes biking. So, when someone carelessly, negligently, takes the life of a child it's all that much more offensive. The hardest cases involve the loss of a life taken far too soon, before the first school girl/boy crush, before the first kiss, before high school graduation, before they get to chase a dream. On my first child death case, I tried to be clinical, objective, and just-the-facts ma'am in my lawyering. It failed about half way into the case. Even while focusing on the law and theory that would provide justice to the parents, the hard case leaks through and cannot be ignored. So, yes, the lawyering part matters. But equally or perhaps more important was the time spent learning the story of a young life gone and the horrendous toll it took on the family. And, yes, that meant I was often very sad. Years later, when the unexpected answer came from the pathologist, I asked the follow-up question "How do you handle the hardest case, how do you deal with that emotion?" "I take solace in my work of trying to tell the story of why." She, like me, had come to the same conclusion. Her job was to be clinical, apply medicine, do the forensic work, but, also, learn and tell the story of the child in the hope that we could learn and perhaps avoid future mistakes.