Making Sense of Airbnb’s Binding Arbitration Terms

On May 19, 2016, Airbnb demanded all of its U.S. users to agree to its new Airbnb Terms of Service.

If you click “I disagree” instead of “I agree,” you can no longer have access to Airbnb.

disagree

So, if you want to use the tool that disrupted the hotel industry, be aware of some significant changes to your rights and protections.

1. No More Airbnb Host Protection Insurance

Airbnb no longer offers its Airbnb Host Protection Insurance Plan of $1 million in coverage.

Whether you are a host or a guest, you now need your own insurance if you want to be insured against damage claims.  Scope of coverage will be subject to your home or renter’s insurer’s policy and exclusions.

2. No Access To Courts, Only Binding Arbitration

If you have a dispute with Airbnb, you must use arbitration with the American Arbitration Association (AAA) to try to resolve your claim.

AAA for arbitration is becoming somewhat like what AAA (American Automobile Association) roadside service is for cars, but for businesses.  It is a form of insurance against a headache – here, rather than avoiding being left stranded with a flat tire, it is avoiding going to court or defending against class action lawsuits.

Arbitration is an expedited dispute resolution procedure where a neutral appointed lawyer or retired judge review submitted evidence and make a binding decision that will be court-enforced.

AAA for arbitration was initially a place for business to business disputes, but over the past decade, businesses are starting to demands consumers use the process, as well.

If you, as the host or guest, have a claim against Airbnb, you will have to send in a notice of demand for arbitration to Airbnb and AAA.  There is a $200 filing fee, which Airbnb says it will cover in certain circumstances.

Arbitration is intended to be a simple, quick and hopefully fair alternative to the court procedure.  Here is how Airbnb approaches AAA arbitration:

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Green Light for Self-Driving Cars!

Technology IS The Driver

Technology has been driving innovation and advancements in our lifestyle the past two decades.  And earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) affirmed this.  It stated that under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS),  Google’s self-driving system (SDS) that controls the operation of its self-driving cars is considered the “driver.”  Therefore, Google’s self-driving cars (SDC) may be produced without steering wheels or brake pedals.  This is ground-breaking progress driving us toward realizing the dream of safer roadways
and greater mobility.

 

 

 

 

 

In its February 4, 2016 letter to Google, the NHTSA defines “driver” not as a human occupant of a vehicle

“but rather it is more reasonable to identify the driver as whatever (as opposed to whoever) is doing the driving.  In this instance, an item of motor vehicle equipment, the SDS, is actually driving the vehicle.”

Federal Regulation is Passive 

The NHTSA’s responsibility as a regulatory agency is to ensure that all vehicle manufactures self-certify their compliance with existing FMVSS on the date of manufacture.  Federal Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said Wednesday, “The burden remains on self-driving car manufacturers to prove that their vehicles meet rigorous federal safety standards.”  NHTSA does not test or certify for the manufactures.  Rather, it creates standards to improve safety.

Exemptions Rather Than Compliance May Be Best 

NHTSA acknowledged that federal regulatory rulemaking process is slow and possibly ineffective for technology advances:

the time it takes to conduct rulemakings may, in some instances, make such proceedings ill-suited as first-line regulatory mechanisms to address rapidly-evolving vehicle technologies

Consequently, it suggests that Google seek exemptions from various provisions of the FMVSS.

TED Talk Convinces

If you are still skeptical of the self-driving car, or, if you are a big supporter, I encourage you to watch Chris Urmson’s TEDTalk.  Mr. Urmson is the Director of Google’s Self-Driving Cars.  He shared that Google self-driving cars drive 3 million simulated miles daily – daily!

During Mr. Urmson’s talk, the data and images speak for themselves.  The shock and awe starts at about minute 8:33.

The Google self-driving car anticipates possible collisions and avoids them.

It will be exciting to see what more we will see from Google this year and its SDC.

Copyright 2016 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

Self-Driving Car Protects Us From Our Distraction

Google’s Self-Driving Car (“SDC”)

California is considering mandating that a driver sit in the SDC as a back-up “driver.”   Specifically, CA is interested in amending the CA Senate Bill 1298 to include additional regulations.

Learn more about the evolution of the SDC:

It looks like CA is — and it is very rare for me to say this — trying to over-regulate something it does not understand.

When I teach Intro to Law, I ask students: is law reactive or preventative? Which is better? They all say preventative. But then when we start talking about technology, they realize the law just can’t keep up.  And that that is a bad thing.

Until, I have to argue, the SDC.   I appreciate California’s good intentions, but in this situation, it may hinder the SDC’s needed freedom to properly evolve and build customer trust.

When the ATM was introduced, was there a human inside the machine dispensing the cash?

When the dishwasher hit the marketplace, was there a law promulgated that mandated a human supervise the machine during its entire cycle?

When you try to “trick” the washing machine to be able to open it to throw in more clothes, does the machine cooperate, or are does it ignore you and leave you frazzled as it proceeds to wash your clothes?

If society allows the button-pushing, impatient, already very distracted people in a SDC to interfere with Google’s heavily-researched and coded network, it may lead to more accidents.

SDC Facts:

Google SDC has driven over 1,000,000 miles, including mountain roads, highways, city streets, and Lombard Drive in San Francisco.  No accident has been caused by a SDC while in autonomous mode.  See Google’s SDC Project Monthly Report.  In fact, the main cause of SDC “accidents” are distracted drivers rear-ending them.

Collisions caused by humans

In 2014, there were 9,967 fatalities in motor vehicle traffic crashes involving a driver with a BAC of .08 g/dL or higher; this was 31 percent of total traffic fatalities for the year. See National Highway Traffic & Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Society is already tolerating teens to senior citizens, to sit behind the wheel in whatever mental and physical condition, driving a machine weighing 1-2 tons upwards to 85mph+ without pause.

So why the fear with the SDC?

Because it is new.  Unfamiliar.

Yet, the law is trying to regulate something it does not fully understand.  Furthermore, the local government may profit from this new area of regulation.  Charging for an autonomous vehicle operator certificate at DMV’s in CA, for example.  What about a training course fee?  Exam fee?  Renewal fee? Etc.

We already are all passing through life with our heads bent down looking at screens.  Distracted driving is already a big cause of injury and fatality collisions.  Society might as well protect us in our distracted state and provide for SDC to operate, as programmed.

Copyright 2016 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

Can Seattle Beat Traffic for $50 Million?

Paul Allen and the U.S. Department of Transportation are posingSmartCity challenge to mid-sized cities. The city with the best solution to reducing gridlock will receive $50 million.

Last year Forbes listed Seattle as 8th U.S. city most traffic-jammed.

So, C’mon Seattle, you got this challenge!

Since the geography of Seattle is just not conducive to high volume traffic, we have to lessen the load.  My suggestions go beyond just technology and a transportation task-force, they require society to modify its habits and expectations, such as:

1. Puget Sound area workplaces cut 9am-5pm desk occupancy by 50% by the year 2020. This will decrease the number of coffee-craving commuters – alleviating gridlock, increasing family time, sleep time and happiness levels.

Well, how do employers do this? Focus on employee performance not attendance. After all, the annual review considers the person’s performance, and not their ability to look busy. Many companies are remote working already.

For those employees who must be at the office building, consider offering them hours during off-peak commute times. Obviously my 50% occupancy suggestion does not apply to every workplace, e.g., hospitals, Boeing plant and schools, but it does apply to a majority of the workforce.

2. City Council regulates when semi-trucks and large deliveries can pass through the City’s I-5 section, and city streets, which in turn avoids freight congestion.

3. Convert dying retail stores and malls to inventory warehouses of online retailers.

4. Make most college and graduate courses available online, and in-class attendance optional.  This will reflect the workplace in which the future graduates will work in; best prepare them before graduation.

5. Add more Sounder train times for commuters from South and North Puget Sound.

6. Get walking. Yes, in the rain, and the cold. Seattle is very walkable.  A 45-minute walk beats sitting in gridlock and then hunting for $20 parking. Plus, you enjoy endorphins, see things you usually would miss when sitting in your car (including people – who you can acknowledge and have an exchange of words!), avoid a monthly gym membership, walk past dozens of cars stopped at a green light, and not feel the pressure of “having to beat traffic” because no one is blocking your sidewalk.

To encourage more walking, the city can create “pedestrian only” sections of the city. A start would be a 1-2 block radius around Pike Place Market.

7. City Council prohibits the introduction of another large corporate office in downtown Seattle, unless it is a 100% remote-working office.

8. Create parking garages that time when you exit. This will absolve the need for cops to direct exiting traffic, and the paralyzed line of cars waiting in the garage to leave.

9. Eliminate carpool and bus-only lane designations. How many times have you crawled along an empty “Bus Only” lane or a wide open HOV lane?

10.  Embrace self-driving cars and the sharing economy.

These are just some suggestions that, at a minimum, could really improve work/life balance for thousands and the daily flow of the Seattle area.

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2015 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

Surprises In Healthcare Coverage For 2016

This past Sunday’s Parade article, 12 Tips to Get Your Best Healthcare in 2016, provided surprising news about where and how to get the best healthcare.  The suggestions consisted of employers encouraging you to go overseas for surgery, going to a corporate hospital or paying yourself.

For example, if you work for Lowe’s or Wal-Mart, then the corporation may have relations with particular hospitals where procedures can be covered, or discounted.

Some employers may incentivize you to engage in what is called “medical tourism,” where Americans travel to developing countries for procedures, stay in luxury hotels and end up paying a fraction of what they would have for just the procedure in the U.S.

Lastly, in the event you are priced out by the changes in plans and premiums and coverage (because the health insurance companies retained that power and are unrelated by State Commissioners), you may have to take a self-insured or Health Savings Account route to cover your care in the U.S.

For those residing in Washington state, here are two resources to use in comparing healthcare insurance options:

  1. Washington Health Plan Finder
  2. Washington Health Benefits Exchange

Copyright 2015 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

Ride the Ducks v. Bus Tragedy for Many In Seattle – Call For Change?

Tragedy hit Aurora Bridge in Seattle this morning, when Seattle’s iconic Ride the Ducks amphibious tour malfunctioned and t-boned, at full speed, a charter bus of international students, many from Asia.

Personally, I lived for years just blocks from the collision.  I ran my law practice from Queen Anne neighborhood.  I hosted international exchange students.  I went on a Ride the Duck tour.  This news hits, very literally, close to home.

This news is tragic and my heart goes out to all those suffering from what transpired this morning.

In watching KiroTV’s thorough investigation, and reading various articles online about Ride the Ducks and its history of tragic collision, it raises the question:  why?  Why is the tour operator permitted to still operate as is?  How many permanent injuries and losses are required before the greater interest of the public outweighs the business’ interest?

While Ride the Ducks is a fun concept, in practice, it is a party on wheels – and the party is being led by the driver of a vehicle not suited for lengthy commutes on public roadways.

The abrnormal, obtruse size of the vehicle, makes it difficult for the entertaining driver to see other users of the roadway.  And, it’s historic, heavy structure, necessitates special equipment and maintenance.  The latter seem to have been what potentially were neglected, or defective (possible tire defect following multiple eye witness reports of the front driver’s side tire being bent at up to a 45 degree angle, smoking and spewing a red liquid).

While the shock has not yet perhaps dissipated for many, the National Transportation Safety Board is coming to Seattle to conduct an investigation as the cause of the Ride the Ducks collision.

If you were injured in the Ride the Ducks v. Bus collision on Aurora bridge and would like a free consultation, feel free to contact me directly by completing the below form, held in strict confidence:

Copyright 2015 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

 

7 Truths About VW and U.S. Emission Standards

As a satisfied VW owner the past 6 years, it is incumbent for me to make sense of the frenzy surrounding VW’s “CleanDiesel” vehicles and the EPA’s findings of its emissions.

1.  Yes, VW programmed its diesel cars to cheat at emissions testing. In 2014, university scientists hired by the International Council for Clean Transportation tested three diesel vehicles for their nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions: VW Passat, VW Jetta and BMW X5.  Only BMW was below the U.S. standard.  The VW vehicles produced up to 40 times more than the national standard.  The scientists discovered VW’s software triggered a valve to filter the pollutants at the tailpipe only during emissions tests.

The valve interferes with fuel efficiency, which likely is the greater motivator for a consumer in its car purchase decision-making process.  ICCT reported its findings to the Environmental Protection Agency in 2014.

2. EPA cites VW violated U.S. Clean Air Act. This month, EPA issued a release of its verified findings that VW’s “cleandiesel” vehicles perform 40x below the national standard.   EPA has also issued a Notive of Violation to VW of its violations of the U.S. Clean Air Act.

The following VW diesel models may be affected by the software trigger: Jetta (MY 2009 – 2015), Jetta Sportwagen (MY 2009-2014), Beetle (MY 2012 – 2015), Beetle Convertible (MY 2012-2015), Audi A3 (MY 2010 – 2015), Golf (MY 2010 – 2015), Golf Sportwagen (MY 2015), Passat (MY 2012-2015)

3. Nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions are bad, but cars contribute only 5% to total NOx emissions.

Source: Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2013.

U.S. Nitrogen Oxide Emissions, By Source

NOx is the emission of particulates the can cause harm to human health and the earth’s ozone layer.

4. VW diesel owners love the mileage and quality of the vehicle.  

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Government Tries To Help Students Select A College

The U.S. government has launched a database of colleges operating within the country to help students researching colleges.  The Department of Education launched the U.S. college database, which offers a type of scorecard.  It provides information so that the student can compare colleges more efficiently and make a decision on where to go for a higher education.

Most prospective students consult the infamous U.S. News and World Report College Rankings.  However, this database, is not about rankings.

It is about data.  And the decision is up to the consumer, the student.

 

The database features:

  • College Scorecard
  • Net Price Calculator Center
  • College Navigator
  • CATC
  • 90/10 Information
  • State Spending Charts

Through utilizing the database, the student may find that other variables, other than ranking, may influence their decision: such as affordabilityjob placement data and statistics upon graduation, etc.

Copyright 2015 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

 

 

Auto Insurance Favors Marriage

Need another reason to tie the knot with your special someone? How about lower auto insurance rates?

According to a study done by the Consumer Federation of America, marital status plays a significant factor in determining a driver’s auto insurance premium.

While this does not seem fair, and perhaps, even discriminatory, the auto insurance industry says its study finds that married couples are overall more responsible than single people, or, how it should be stated more accurately, unmarried people.

However, the logic here seems flawed, as a married couple, with two on the insurance, and good odds of a kids or future kids,  the automobile would get more use: from the couple or family running errands, taking the kids to after-school activities, etc.

Auto insurance is state-mandated.  In WA, a driver must carry a policy of at least $25,000 liability.  The New York Times argues that since state laws regulate auto insurance, auto insurers should be more transparent with how they determine their rates.

Becoming widowed or divorced, having a lower credit score, not having any club memberships (e.g., alumni associations or AAA), or living in a high-risk or car-dense zip code will affect your auto insurance rate, but you won’t know by how much.

Therefore, shop around, getting at least three quotes.  Based on these quotes you should be able to find the best deal on auto insurance for your circumstances.

Copyright 2015 The Filutowski Law Firm, PLLC. Disclaimer: This page is intended for general information purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinions on any specific facts or circumstances. An attorney-client relationship is not created or continued.

How To Fight High Medical Bills

Whether insured or uninsured, you likely have received a medical bill that has shocked you.   You feel blind-sided and want answers.  Yet, you cannot readily find them.  You are given just a summary statement of what number “you owe” or else you will be sent to collections.  You are not alone in your agony over medical bills, but you are alone in the fight.  Unless you are at the poverty-level and get Medicaid or Medicare coverage, then you will have to fight to preserve your financial independence from egregious medical bills.  A good place to start is to read this 5-Step Guide on How To Negotiate Your Medical Bills:

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