Author Archive

Attorneys and Traffic Tickets

Why do you hire an attorney when you get a ticket? There are reasons. But they may not be what you think.

Here’s why you you should hire an attorney:

On a simple speeding ticket, depending on the county, you generally don’t have to appear in court. That’s normally worth the fee all by itself.

We know the different outcomes that are likely to be available, but more importantly, we actually know what the effect of those outcomes might be on your license and your insurance rates. You guys and your interweb research normally don’t know that as well.

We know what PJC stands for, but more importantly, we know when to use it and when not to. It’s not the panacea you might have been told that it is.

These are NOT reasons to hire an attorney for your speeding ticket:

We don’t just make them go away. Most of us work above-board with ADAs in court that do the same, so you aren’t getting any special deal; we’re just using our knowledge and expertise to get you the best deal that we can under the circumstances.

We don’t do your homework for you. Sometimes the ADA wants you to jump through some hoops to earn a break. If that’s the case, you have to jump through the hoops. We don’t.

If you have a compliance type ticket (expired registration, no insurance, no inspection…) you have to take care of that and get us the documentation to prove it. That’s not something we can do.

If you have a ticket in Orange, Chatham, or Alamance Counties, please call me and I’ll tell you what I can do, what I can’t do, and what you might expect. Yes, I’ll do my best to help but you can also expect to have some responsibility on your part. Just keepin it real, y’all.

Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Why waiting to get help on your injury claim is a really bad idea

I see this way too often.  Someone gets hurt, and they decide that they’ll try to handle the claim on their own until they feel like they need an attorney.  Then it gets ugly, and 2.5 years down the road, they have 6 months left on their statute of limitations, a tangled mess of a claim, and they struggle to find an attorney willing to jump in at such late notice.

Why mess around? I guess I understand…people hear so much negativity about lawyers, particularly personal injury lawyers, and they assume the worst.  Injury victims feel like they might be victimized twice if they hire an attorney, when the truth is that they’re victimizing themselves by NOT hiring an attorney.

If you wanted to build a house, would you try to build it on your own until it was time to put up the sheet rock, and THEN try to get an architect and contractor to come and make sure it was all right?  What are the chances you’ll just have to tear it all down and start over?  Probably pretty high.  But you can’t just start over with your injury claim; once you’ve made a mess of it, it’s a mess.

Don’t make this mistake when there is so much help available out there.  Reduce your chances of making a bad situation worse.  If you’re hurt in an accident, call an attorney.  Call me 919-929-2992.

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Hurt on the Job in NC?


If you get hurt on the job in NC, your immediate thought might be that all of your losses will be covered by Workers’ Compensation.  But you might be wrong.

Workers’ Compensation claims (or comp claims, for short) can be super tricky in NC.  But they’ve become even more tricky since 2011 when the Republicans took over the legislature and sold their souls (did they have any to begin with, one wonders…) to insurance companies.  In short, just because you’re hurt at work doesn’t mean you have a comp claim.  And when you do have a comp claim, your rights are extremely limited.

Do yourself a favor: If you’re ever injured on the job (or anywhere, for that matter), reach out to a qualified attorney immediately.  You have a bad situation already, so try not to make it worse.  But in the meantime, consider a few points…

For a valid comp claim in NC, you have to have an injury by accident sustained in the course of and arising out of your employment with an employer subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act.  Each of those nouns is a way out for your employer.  Was it an accident?  If not, no comp.  Was it sustained in the course of your employment?  Did it arise out of your employment?  Was your employer subject to the Act?  If you don’t know what all of those mean, you might have a problem.

As soon as your accident happens, notify your employer in writing (a form 18 found here is a good way to do that).  And call an attorney asap.  There’s so much that can go wrong, so protect yourself.

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Triangle Snowpacalypse Tips – Auto Accidents in the Snow

As a born and bred Southerner, I can say this without fear of (great) retribution:  We are not the best snow drivers.  We just aren’t.  It makes sense because we generally don’t have any snow at all, and when we do have it, it’s maybe once a year, and even then, everything tends to shut down and we don’t get a chance to practice.  That’s OK.

But still, some of us either have to or choose to brave the elements and get out on the roads.  It can be dangerous no matter who you are or what you think you’re good at, but maybe even more so for those of us that really just aren’t used to it.  So here are some tips to help you survive out there:

  • Drive slowly: Always slow down when there is snow or ice on the road. Doing this allows you to more easily maintain control of your vehicle at all times, and gives you more time .
  • Leave a greater following distance: It takes longer to stop your vehicle when the road is wet and/or icy.  This is how I get the majority of my snow accident cases.
  • Avoid fast accelerations: When accelerating, do so in a slow and controlled manner.  “Gunning it” as they say will get you out of control really quickly.
  • Don’t tackle big hills: Avoid hills if you can.  Alternative routes are recommended.
  • Watch what’s happening around you: Watch out for the other guy.  What is he doing?  Is he going to fast?  Is he in control?  Are there sledders coming at you?  Be alert.

That’s right, the guy who makes money off of accidents is telling you how to avoid them.  Further proof that I’m a wonderful person.  So call me if you are in an accident.  919-929-2992.

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A Parable, by JAH


There once was a man who had never tasted beer.  Never.  One day a brewer came around his town, selling his craft.  The man decided to finally take a chance and try the beer, but before he did that, he said to the brewer, “I think this is going to taste like fruit…maybe lemons, maybe oranges, but certainly it’s going to be fruity.”

The brewer asked him why he thought that would be the case, as he had never tasted beer before, had never smelled it, and didn’t even know what the ingredients were.

The man said, “Well, it’s kind of yellowy/orange, which is a fruity color.  So I am sure it will taste like fruit.”

The brewer told him, “I made this beer, and I can tell you there is no fruit to be found in it.  It’s made from malted barley, hops, water, and yeast, none of which taste like fruit.  In fact, I can tell you – and this is my professional opinion as the person who made the beverage with my own hands and have done so countless times before – that this beer will taste like cold but sweet and bubbly grain broth with bitterness on top of all of that.  It will taste nothing like fruit.”

But the man was adamant, “I KNOW it will taste like fruit.  Give it to me and I’ll prove it.”  He drank and the beer tasted like cold but sweet and bubbly grain broth with bitterness on top of all of that, just like the brewer had said.

The man was surprised that the brewer had been right, and he said as much to the brewer.  The brewer asked him, “Why are you so surprised?  I told you what it would taste like.  I made the stuff and do so all the time.  If you’re going to believe anyone’s opinion on it, you should certainly have believed mine.”

The moral of the story is this:  You can have whatever opinion you want.  More power to you.  But if that opinion is countered by the opinion of a professional in that field, it’s probably worth listening to the professional.

What in the heck does that have to do with personal injury claims in North Carolina?

Everything.  It has everything to do with injury claims in North Carolina.

How do you value your injury claim?  Well, you can come up with whatever valuation you want.  You’re totally entitled to whatever opinion you would like to hold.  But when push comes to shove, don’t you think it makes sense to listen to someone who professionally deals with valuing personal injury claims in North Carolina every day?  In other words, which opinion of an injury claim value do you think is more likely to be accurate – the opinion of the person in the accident, or the opinion of a personal injury attorney with 20 years of experience handling injury claims in North Carolina?

I get it.  You’re the one who suffered.  You’re the one who has lost time and money.  You have a strong feeling about what your case is worth.  I totally get it.  But what you have to remember is that YOU CAN’T be on the jury trying your case!  Your jury will consist of 12 randos that don’t know you, don’t care about you, and are frankly probably put out that they have to be there to hear you complain about this in the first place.  You have to take that into consideration, as well as a myriad of other factors that you probably have never even thought of.  But guess who has thought of them?  An experienced personal injury attorney!  That’s who!

This is my job.  This is what I do for a living.  This is what I do to feed, clothe, and educate my children.  Don’t you think I take it very seriously?  Of course, I take into consideration your personal experience with your claim, but what you have to understand is that is NOT the driving factor of value in your claim.  There’s a ton to consider, and this is what you’re paying me to do.

You don’t have to listen to a professional’s opinion if you don’t want to.  But you ignore it to your peril.

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Personal Injury Claim Depositions

Part of the dirty work of litigation is having to go through depositions.  As I explain that to my daughter, a deposition is a meeting where attorneys try to catch other attorney’s clients in telling lies or not knowing what they’re talking about while their attorney watches and tries to stop them.  It’s really dumb!

But it’s part of what we do.  When my clients are deposed, generally I give them the following guidelines to help them understand how to respond.


Tell the truth

Answer ONLY the question you are ASKED

  • Do not volunteer extras; just answer what you are asked
  • Think before you speak. A short pause to gather your thoughts and make sure you understand the question and your answer is fine

Answer ONLY when you understand the question

  • Make sure you understand what they are asking for, and then answer ONLY what you are asked

You can only testify to what you know

  • “I don’t know” is a completely acceptable answer
  • If you don’t know, don’t guess or try to be helpful in a response

Be careful how you answer

  • Simple answers are best: “Yes”, “No”, “I don’t know.” Are the best answers
  • Characterizing your answer with words like “honestly,” or “to tell the truth” are NOT acceptable
  • Don’t adopt the questioner’s opinion; listen to how the question is asked
  • When you have finished the answer, be quiet. DON’T feel the need to fill in silence
  • Watch compound questions

Documents…be careful

  • If you are asked about a document, don’t comment on it until you read it, then answer carefully

Breaks are fine

  • If you need a break for any reason, you can ask for one

I can go off the record/you cannot

  • Lawyers may chat, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything
  • EVERYTHING you say can be used against you

If I object, stop talking until I give you instructions

  • Objections are for lawyers. Just hang out until I tell you to talk again

No one is perfect

  • They will get some points…it’s fine
  • If you are caught in an inconsistency don’t collapse. Just deal with questions one by one
  • Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t get upset

As I think about it, these guidelines aren’t a crazy way to answer any questions from people that aren’t your friends.  Try it out in real life and see how it works.

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Got a Speeding Ticket?

Traffic Attorney

It happens to the best of us.  You’re driving down the road, rocking out to your 1980’s playlist, and then “WOOOP WOOP” you hear that horrifying siren and see the flashing lights in your rear view mirror.  Doh!

So what do you do now?  You have a few options:

With some tickets, you can just pay them off.  THIS IS ALMOST ALWAYS A TERRIBLE IDEA!  Paying off a ticket is pleading guilty, and that gets you a conviction, and a conviction can have dramatic consequences; I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me about being surprised that their license was revoked after they paid off a ticket.  Yep, that happens.  Even if it doesn’t, a lot of these charges will raise your insurance rates, sometimes nearly doubling it for three years!  You should talk to an attorney before you do this.

You might also want to appear in court on your own and try to work it out.  Good luck.  Law school took me three years, and when I first started practicing I still had no idea how to handle speeding tickets.  After a year or so of handling them, I felt more comfortable.   Maybe after you get about 75 tickets you’ll figure it out.

…or you could just hire an attorney!  Do that.  For a reasonable fee, you don’t have to waste your time in court for a full work day, AND you’ll probably get an outcome that wouldn’t have been as bad as had you done it on your own.  Spending a few bucks now can save you a lot of money and hassle later.

If you get a ticket, talk to an attorney.  It’s the smart thing to do.


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Hit & Run Auto Accident Claims

It’s already tough enough being in an auto accident.  You’re hurt, you have a busted up car, and life is harder than it needs to be.  What makes it even worse is when the knucklehead who caused the accident flees the scene.  What do you do then?

Obviously, the most important thing is your health and safety, and the health and safety of everyone involved.  Check to make sure you’re taking care of that stuff first, then worry about the knucklehead.

After that, see if you can get any identifying info.  Take a picture before s/he runs? Of the person, the car, the tag?  Get any witness statements that you can.  Don’t forget their names and contact info.

Of course, you want to call law enforcement if that’s not already done.  Depending on the situation, they might be able to catch the person quickly, or at least track them down eventually.

What gets really frustrating is when the owner of the hit and run vehicle reports their vehicle stolen shortly after the accident.  This often occurs when abysmally unscrupulous people try to avoid consequences for their negligence, hoping that someone will believe their tale.  Sadly, it sometimes works.  But if you get law enforcement involved, and you’re luckier than you have been so far, that theory can be sunk.  Were the keys in the car?  That’s prima facie evidence of permission to drive.  Is the owner of the car mysteriously injured, kind of like they were just involved in an auto accident?  Any witnesses?

Whether or not you can put the right person in the bad guy’s car can really affect your insurance coverage situation.  Is this a liability claim, or did it just become an uninsured motorist claim?  We’ll have to see…

Injury claims are hard enough to deal with.  When you’re dealing with knuckleheads who lie, it only makes matters worse.  Get an attorney to help.  Get me to help.

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Medicare and Your Auto Accident Injury Claim


In general, the way auto injury claims work in North Carolina is that they hit you, you get treatment, then their insurance pays you for your losses.  Easy peasy, right?  Well, it’s not that simple, and if you have Medicare, it’s way more complicated.

When you have Medicare, they should pay for your treatment.  Don’t let the hospital tell you they can’t/won’t bill them.  They should take your health insurance, whether it’s Medicare or not!

But it gets even more complicated.  When negotiating the settlement of you claim, you need to take into account what Medicare is going to want back.  That’s right, you’re going to have to pay something out of your settlement to Medicare after you settle the claim.

Early in your claim, you should (or your attorney should) send a letter to Medicare asking them for a Conditional Payment amount.  This can take months, so the sooner you ask the better.  This is the amount you use for negotiation purposes to determine what you’ll have to pay them back from the settlement.

This will sound backwards, I know, but bear with me.  AFTER you settle the case, yes, AFTER you settle the case, you THEN ask Medicare for their Final Payment amount, which is the amount they really do want back.  It’s normally less than the Conditional Payment number, but doesn’t have to be.  Medicare does take into account the cost of recovery (attorney’s fees, etc.), so that helps.

In a nutshell, it’s complicated, which is why you should seek competent legal representation.  Call a personal injury lawyer. Heck, call me!  919-929-2992.

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Why you need to use your health insurance after an auto accident

Many people who suffer injuries after an automobile accident in North Carolina are under the mistaken belief that they shouldn’t use their health insurance to pay for their medical expenses.  This is absolutely incorrect.

USE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE!  I can’t say this enough.  And despite the fact that I say it all the time, especially to my own clients, it doesn’t quite seem to sink in.

Yes, eventually we’ll try to make the at-fault party’s auto insurance reimburse you for all of these expenses, but when the bill comes due, that’s not going to help you.  If you have health insurance, you should use it.  “Why?,” you ask…

  1. We are not a PIP state.  In PIP (personal injury protection) states the victim’s auto insurance is the primary payor for accident related medical expenses. In NC, YOU are the primary payor (or your health insurance if you have it!).  We can try to get all of that money back (and more?) from the adverse party’s insurance, but that normally doesn’t happen quickly.
  2. When you use your health insurance, you get a discount.  When you don’t, you don’t.  For example, if you go to the ED and the bill is $5000, your health insurance probably gets away with paying $2000, and you pay a $100 co-pay.  The $2900 balance is written off, meaning you don’t pay it.  If you rely on the auto liability carrier for the at-fault party to pay that bill, they get no discount, so you pay the $5000 out of your settlement, meaning you lose $2900!  That’s a big deal, right?
  3. Most cases involving prolonged treatment after an auto accident normally take about 6 months or so to resolve.  Who is paying your bills in the meantime? If your health insurance isn’t, and if you aren’t, then no one is!  The at-fault party, IF they’re going to pay (and that’s never guaranteed), then they’re ONLY going to pay in the form of a lump sum settlement to you AFTER you release them of future liability.  What happens in the meantime?  You get sent to collections, probably.  What does that do to your credit?  Not good things.

In summary, health insurance health insurance health insurance.  Use it for the love of all things holy please listen to me.  Use your damn health insurance.

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Contact Jeffrey

Jeffrey Allen Howard, Attorney at Law, PLLC
1829 E. Franklin St. - Bldg 600
Chapel Hill, NC 27514

(P) 919-929-2992
(F) 919-636-4779

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