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Who Should Handle Your Med Pay Coverage?

Paramedics and a fireman strapping a wounded woman with a neck brace on a stretcher

Let’s start with what Med Pay is first. Med Pay is short for Medical Payments coverage. This is EXTRA, no-fault coverage you are paying extra dollars for on your auto policy. It covers you when you’re hurt in an auto accident, regardless of fault and has NO NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES FOR ITS USE. So if you’re in an accident that is not your fault and you have Med Pay, this extra coverage can help supplement your recovery and help mitigate the costs of treatment.

Sometimes health care providers want to bill your med pay directly (especially when you don’t have health insurance). I get it. They want some sort of guarantee of payment. I totally understand that and it’s not necessarily a bad thing; sometimes I even prefer it! But in situations where you have more than one health care provider that’s going to want to get paid from your settlement, then you should be careful about this.

The safest strategy, with a few exceptions, is to let your attorney handle the Med Pay. We know whom to pay, when, and how much, so we’re protecting your recovery while following the law. Health care providers – bless them, for sure – will be more concerned about paying their bill than making sure all of your validly perfected liens are addressed.

So, in short, if you have Med Pay, use it! But make sure you use it wisely and have someone who knows what they’re doing help you out with it. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Getting Your Lost Wages Reimbursed in an Injury Claim

Most people who are in an accident lose time from work, and if that happens, you probably lost money. But if you can’t document it correctly for the insurance carrier, you’re not likely to get them to voluntarily pay you back. So how do you best document it?

First, document the justification of your absence from work.  If you have a doctor’s note for the time period?  That’s best.  The law doesn’t require one exactly but if you’re arguing to a jury, it would be helpful to show that you missing work was due to more than you just not feeling like going.  Of course, not feeling like going to work can be a legitimate reason; who would feel like going to work after breaking a leg? Why would you need a note?  But in these situations, more is better, so if you can get a doctor’s note, that’s best.

Second, you have to show precisely what the loss was.  The gold standard for doing this is to have your employer provide a note indicating BOTH a) how much time was lost, AND b) what that time was worth. 

**It is absolutely critical that we have BOTH of those parts of the equation…the amount of time and the value of that time. Having one without the other is absolutely #$%^&*&^%$%^ useless.**

For example, if you missed 5 hours and make $20/hour, you’ll want the letter to state BOTH of those two things. Anyone can do the math once those variables are provided, so it doesn’t have to complete the equation.  But you HAVE TO HAVE BOTH OF THOSE VARIABLES!

If you can’t provide all of that documentation, you still might be able to get some or all of your lost income reimbursed.  If you provide tax info, pay stubs, and a doctor’s note (or maybe no note in the case of short time periods) then we still might be able to extrapolate the value of the loss.  But the more documentation, and from the more independent sources, the better, so don’t count on this method if you don’t have to.

I’m often asked about situations where you didn’t lose money, but you lost vacation/sick time. That’s still a loss in my book, so you should still be able to recover the value. However, you’ll still obviously need to document it, and the best way is that employer letter mentioned above.

If you’re self-employed this whole process is more difficult because there is no independent third party to provide documentation.  You might be able to do the tax/pay stub method, but sometimes this doesn’t work quite as well for the self-employed.  Impossible?  No.  But this complicates things a bit and may need some expert assistance.

And even if you do all of that, nothing is guaranteed in this business. Generally, though, the more thorough your documentation, the better your chances. As always, ask me questions about this and I’ll do my best to help. 919-929-2992.

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Record-Setting $8.235 Million Verdict by Local Firm

I’ll be the first to say that law enforcement officers have one of the toughest jobs out there. Having said that, there’s protecting yourself and then there’s crossing a line.

In this sad set of circumstances, the victim was on his own property doing donuts in his truck. For no other reason than the deputy was offended by this, the victim was shot and permanently injured. The superb attorneys at obtained a massive verdict to help compensate this man for his injuries. Kudos to them!

Look, no one really “wins” when this sort of thing happens. Would you trade permanent physical disability for money? If you really think about it, you probably wouldn’t want to make that trade. But in the end, as many of my clients have often said, this isn’t about the money, it’s about what’s right.

I hope you’re never injured due to the actions of another. I really do. But if you are, the only thing you can do to make things right is to talk to an attorney. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Delivery Dude Dog Bite Cases

With so many people out there making deliveries in the gig-economy, dog bites are becoming more and more common. What can you do?

North Carolina is purportedly a “strict liability” state, meaning that if your animal causes harm, you’re responsible for it. Period. However, in practice this has not proven to be absolutely true. The way the law has developed dog owners essentially get one free pass, which is referred to as the “one free bite rule.” The way this is interpreted now is that once an owner is on notice of their dog’s “dangerous propensities” then they will be strictly liable. But if they have no reason to believe their dog is dangerous, then until then, they may not be on the hook.

However, this isn’t altogether clear. What does “dangerous propensities” mean anyway? It essentially means that the animal exhibits behavior that a reasonable person would see might result in injury. Let’s say you have the sweetest dog in the world, but he weighs 100 lbs and loves to stand up and paw and visitors. Doesn’t bite or mouth or do anything with his teeth. But then grandma comes over to visit. Big Sweetums hops up on her and she falls. Well, a reasonable person would see that this sort of behavior might result in injury, so they’re on the hook. But you still have to prove that the owner new beforehand of this.

This is less of an issue when you have a dog that has a history. In many jurisdictions, once a dog has been reported to bite someone, there may be a judicial process that begins to move to label the dog as dangerous. If this happens, then you have very powerful evidence that the dog’s owners were aware of the dog’s dangerous propensities, so if anything happens again, they’ll be in trouble.

So let’s say you’re working for Door Dash or whatever, you go to a home to make a delivery, and a dog gets out and bites you. What can you do?

Well, the first thing you might think of is a worker’s comp claim. It happened while you were working, right?! But in NC, if you aren’t an employee then you aren’t covered by worker’s comp; most gig-economy positions are considered independent contractors, but there is some interesting litigation going on in California which may change things…we’ll see. For now, though, if you’re doing an app gig, you’re probably not an employee and therefore probably not eligible for worker’s compensation.

However, you may have a good old normal civil claim against the dog owner. This is when we get back to the whole “one free bite” thing. Were they aware of their dog’s dangerous propensities? If so, can you prove it?

Even if you can’t prove that, you’re not out of it altogether. What if you went away from the whole “strict liability” argument and just went for straight negligence? Should they have secured the dog before they opened the door? You betcha! So in that case, it was their negligence that caused the injury, not the mere ownership of the dog. Or what if it wasn’t a friendly old Fido, but a breed that is known for its aggression? Would they then be “constructively” aware of its potential dangerous propensities? There are cases out there that support that.

Dog bite claims might seem simple, but they’re far from it. If you get bitten by a dog in NC, call me. 919-929-2992. I hope I can help.

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Injury Claims – Who is at fault?

People are hurt every day, all the time, 24/7. Sometimes it’s someone else’s fault. Sometimes it’s the victim’s fault. Sometimes it’s a mix.

How do you prove who is at fault in an injury claim? And what if it isn’t clear?

First, let’s talk about what it is to “prove” fault. In most instances we are dealing with negligence claims. That means the defendant (the person whom the victim is saying caused the accident) is alleged to have failed to act in a proper way, as opposed to an intentional claim, where the allegation is the defendant acted with the purpose of harming the victim in mind. In negligence claims you have to show 4 things: Duty, Breach, Causation, and Damages.

This post is more about the Duty issue. Everyone in North Carolina has a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the safety of others and themselves. A plaintiff (the hurt side…that’s us!) has to show that this duty existed (and it almost always does) AND that the defendant breached that duty by failing to “act as a reasonably prudent person would in the same or similar circumstances.”

Back to the question…how do you “prove” that? Guess what? It’s totally a matter of opinion. Luckily, there are some acts that are defined as per se negligence, meaning that if you do them, you’re negligent, period, no proof or opinion needed. Violating safety statutes often will get you this per se negligence instruction, but not necessarily always. So the problem is having enough evidence to make the insurance representative, or if you’re really unlucky, the jurors, feel like it’s obvious that the defendant acted improperly.

In North Carolina, we have an extra hurdle here that most states don’t have. We have – solely because of the maleficent influence of the insurance lobby – maintained a vestigial remnant of English Common Law known as Contributory Negligence. “Contrib” as we call it in the business essentially means that if the victim is shown to be even 1% at fault, they can recover NOTHING from the defendant. Remember up there where I mentioned that everyone has a duty to exercise reasonable care? Guess what? This includes accident victims. So if there is evidence that an accident victim ALSO acted unreasonably and that act (or failure to act) was a proximate cause of the injury, then that victim might face a tough time getting treated fairly by an insurance company or a jury.

Injury law is complicated. If you have an injury claim, chances are there is too much at stake for you to risk muddling through this dangerous and complicated process all on your own. Don’t be silly. Talk to an attorney. Talk to me. 919-929-2992.

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Covid-19 Negligence Claims…They are coming

Thankfully, North Carolina hasn’t seen catastrophic numbers of Covid-19 cases. Knock wood. However, we aren’t out of the wood yet. From a legal perspective, this brings up an interesting question: Will there be claims made against entities for Covid-19 cases? I think the answer is most certainly yes, but they can and will take many forms.

What I will be on the lookout for are situations where an entity’s decision was the proximate cause for someone catching Covid-19. For example, let’s say a person goes to the grocery store and the store doesn’t require employees to wear masks. The person gets sneezed on by what is later learned to be a Covid-19 positive employee and then this person develops the sickness herself. Would she win a claim against the store?

Maybe. It sounds to me like a negligence claim. Did the store act in a reasonably prudent manner to protect the safety of its customers? I think under these circumstances requiring a face mask would be reasonable, so I think you could prove a breach of their duty. To me, though, the question would be proving the causation. Did the store’s negligence cause the victim to develop Covid-19? Seems likely. But how do you prove it was that exposure, and not another? We would have to have better contact tracing than we do now to make an easy time of proving that exposure. This also brings up the North Carolina-specific problem of Contributory Negligence. This might be a very possible defense to this sort of claim. Still, these are very plausible claims and it will be interesting to see what develops.

I think we’ll also be seeing way more Workers’ Compensation claims involving Covid-19. I think it should be possible to prove that under these circumstances Covid-19 would be an industrial disease. I don’t have a crystal ball, but I bet these cases are going to be popping up like mushrooms in the next 12 months.

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Get an attorney for your traffic ticket! Especially NOW!

You’re one of the few people out and about, and BAM! You get a ticket. Are you going to go to court and handle it?

Why bother!? First, why risk further exposure with the Covid-19 crises still looming? Second, it’s almost always a good idea to have an attorney help with a ticket because we know the best ways to help you reduce the many negative impacts that can result from traffic tickets. It’s a no-brainer. Especially now.

So if you have a ticket and are on the fence about getting an attorney to help. Get off the fence. Call me (or an attorney in the appropriate area) at 919-929-2992.

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Who should pay for your property damage after an auto accident?

After you’ve been in an auto accident there are tons of questions. Clearly, your health is the most important issue, but sometimes the damage to your car is a close second.

So who pays for the damage done to your car when YOU didn’t cause the accident? That’s a trick question. As with many questions in the law, the answer is, “It depends.”

Ideally, the person who caused the accident should pay for your property damage. In a liability state like North Carolina, that normally means the at-fault party’s liability insurance should pay for your property damage. Sometimes this runs smoothly.

Sometimes it doesn’t. In various circumstances you might be stuck waiting on the liability carrier to figure out what they’re doing. There could be many reasons for this, but there’s no need to go over them. So what do you do?

THIS IS WHY YOU HAVE INSURANCE! If you have collision coverage on your auto policy and are tired of waiting around on the liability carrier MAKE A CLAIM ON YOUR POLICY! It’s a no-fault claim, so your rates shouldn’t increase. AND your company owes you a higher duty since you’re their customer, so there’s a good chance (depending on the company) that it will go more quickly (and maybe successfully) if you use your own carrier.

“But what about my deductible?!” Yes, I know. Normally, your carrier won’t make you pay your deductible in this situation. Sometimes (depending on the company) they will, BUT they will get it back from the at-fault company for you at some point (hopefully not too long down the road).

So if you are in an accident that wasn’t your fault and the liability carrier is dragging their feet in getting your car fixed, call your own insurance company! You’ll be glad you did.

Of course, with all injury claim matters, call me at 919-929-2992.

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3 Reasons You Need a Worker’s Comp Attorney Now More Than Ever

Depending on your situation, it always made at least some sense to have some guidance from an attorney if you had a Worker’s Compensation claim.

But now with the Covid-19 issues and associated quarantine, Worker’s Comp claims can be even more crucial to your financial survival and your family’s future, so the help of a knowledgeable attorney is even more important. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t be on the fence about hiring Worker’s Comp attorney for your claim now, more than ever.

  1. You have less bandwidth now: If you are out of work due to your injury, you probably spend some amount of time at home trying to figure out how best to handle your claim. But now with the quarantine you’re adding kids, homeschooling, pets, neighbors, and other distractions to the equation. And let’s face it: Trying to take yourself to internet law school is NOT the best way to handle a Worker’s Comp claim. What it took me three years in law school and nearly 20 years of practice to learn IS NOT ON A WEBSITE! The reality is that you simply don’t have extra time/energy these days to figure out how to do my job. So don’t bother trying…call a Worker’s Comp lawyer!
  2. You have less patience now: You were already stressed out. You suffered a nasty injury from work, you’re worried about your health, your future, your ability to provide for your family. Now there’s a global pandemic threatening our very way of life! How in the world are you going to have the patience to deal with an obstinate and adversarial worker’s compensation insurance system rigged in the favor of employers? Do you really want to run the risk of losing your temper and scuttling your claim, thereby putting your future in jeopardy? Or what if you just can’t take it all and want to give up? You’ve got too much to carry. Call a lawyer now!
  3. There is too much at stake: Every dollar makes a difference. Now more so than ever. We are all going to suffer financially as a result of Covid-19; I don’t think any of us will come out of this unscathed. So why risk getting everything you’re entitled to under the Workers’ Compensation Act by letting an amateur (that would be you) handle your claim? Why risk potentially thousands of dollars and important benefits NOW of all times? If you’re looking for risk, get into the stock market. If you’re looking for help, call a Worker’s Comp lawyer!

You’ve just got too much on your mind now, so why risk your claim? Call an experienced Worker’s Comp attorney and get the help you need now. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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3 Reasons You Need a Personal Injury Attorney More Than Ever

Personal injury attorneys have, since the beginning of civilization if I may be so bold to say, been useful. We’ve done the work that others didn’t want to do, or couldn’t do for themselves. Even in the absence of a national health crisis, we are a pretty useful bunch.

But now with the Covid-19 issues and associated quarantine, personal injury attorneys are even more vital. Here are three reasons why you shouldn’t be on the fence about hiring an injury attorney for your claim now, more than ever.

  1. You have less bandwidth now: If you’re lucky, you’re working from home. That means you’re trying to replicate in your home what was already not an easy task in your office, which was set up specifically for that task. And you’re adding kids, homeschooling, pets, neighbors, snacks, and all kinds of other distractions to the equation. Something that at the office would take you an hour now takes you 3 hours at home. If you’re not lucky, you’re out of work, which means you’re probably spending your time looking for work. Either way, you don’t have extra time/energy these days to figure out how to do my job. So don’t bother trying…call a lawyer!
  2. You have less patience now: These are stressful times. You’re worried about your health, your family’s health, trying to work from home, trying to take over your kids’ education. You’re worried about your future. How in the world are you going to have the patience to deal with an obstinate and adversarial insurance adjuster? Do you really want to run the risk of losing your temper and scuttling your settlement? Or just getting fed up and giving in? Call a lawyer now!
  3. There is too much at stake: Every. Penny. Counts. Now more than ever. We are all going to suffer financially as a result of Covid-19; I don’t think any of us will come out of this unscathed. So why risk getting less from your injury claim settlement by letting an amateur (that’s you!) handle your injury claim? Why risk potentially thousands of dollars NOW of all times? If you’re looking for risk, get into the stock market. If you’re looking for help, call a lawyer!

You’re doing more with less, you’re as stressed out as you’ve ever been, and every dollar makes a difference, so why risk your claim? Call an experienced attorney – I know one right here – and get the help you need now. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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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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