The Mathematics of Filing Suit

My job is to try to make insurance companies treat accident victims fairly.  “Fair,” of course, is in the eye of the beholder.  So what happens when you can’t come to a settlement agreement with the insurance company after an accident?  Well, you have to file suit.  But is that always a good idea?

One of the biggest mistakes I think people can make in handling their claims is making a business decision based on emotion.  A business decision?  What do you mean, Jeff?  I mean that this is a business transaction, like it or not.  And that means you should do your best to put emotion behind you and look at the numbers.

If you have competent representation, they’ll have a pretty reasonable idea as to what seems fair for your case.  That will be based on similar cases your attorney has handled or seen, and it’s often based on discussions with other attorneys (we talk a lot about cases together). So while there’s no set-in-stone value for each case, we can generally come up with what we think is a reasonable range of value.  That of course takes into consideration the strengths AND the weaknesses of your case.  This is the first place where emotion will cause you trouble: If you’re emotional about your case, you’re likely thinking ONLY of the strengths and not giving enough consideration to the weaknesses of your case, and that can doom you.

So maybe you are getting good advice as to what your case should be worth.  But the insurance company just isn’t giving that.  Maybe you have to file suit.  But at what cost?

Here is the second place where emotion will cause you even more trouble:  You have to look at the math!  Take this example:

You have a case where you think you should walk with about $2000.  The current offer will net you $1500.

To file suit, you’ll spend $200, not to mention the ancillary costs of service and lay depositions ($500-$1000?). You’ll need to depose an expert witness to get a causation opinion (depending on the witness, you’re looking at $2000 and up, with higher MD specialties approaching and eclipsing 5 figures sometimes…).  There’s a mandatory mediation where you’re responsible for 1/2 of the mediator’s fee ($400?).  All told, you’re looking at a minimum of $1100 even WITHOUT your expert witness.

Best case scenario, you spend that money and get what you want, which is that extra $500.  Hooray.  You just spent $1100 to do that.  What if it didn’t work out for you and you didn’t get that extra $500 but were stuck with what they were offering you?  All of your take-home was just eaten by costs.  Even worse, what if you were awarded less?  And what are your odds?  50%? $80%? 10%?  Does that sort of gamble make any financial sense?

You get the picture.  Of course, the higher the potential value of your case, the more this makes sense.  If you have a case you think should net you $100,000, then spending $5000 to go after it seems far less insane.  If you have catastrophic injuries, the potential reward for what you spend to get that is far greater, so that sort of gamble makes sense.  But with those lower odds, it often doesn’t make any sense.

Does that mean you never file suit on lower value cases?  No, not at all.  It just means you shouldn’t make that sort of decision based on emotion.  If you feel that it’s the right thing to do, and you’re OK with the risk, then that’s fine.  Attorneys and clients make that decision together every day.  But you just need to make sure you’re taking into consideration the mathematical realities of litigation, and above all listen to your attorney!  This is why you hired one in the first place.

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Attorneys and Traffic Tickets

Traffic Attorney

Just like anything else, EVERYONE seems to have an opinion as to whether or not you need an attorney when you get a traffic ticket.  Like everything else, most of these opinions are far too black and white and ignore the nuances that one should consider in this issue.

Should you hire an attorney for your traffic ticket?  I don’t know for sure, but here are some things you should consider in making that decision:

  • What’s the cost of hiring an attorney v. missing time from work (more likely than not at least 1/2 a day, and maybe more)?
  • Is it even feasible for you to get to the courthouse?  Is it in your hometown, or is it 300 miles away?
  • Do you understand what you’re charged with?  Do you understand what the ADA would have to prove in order for you to be found guilty? Do you understand what “prove” means in the context of criminal court?
  • If you’re interested in a plea deal where you plead to a lesser offense, do you understand what that plea will do to you?  Do you understand what that looks like in comparison to what a guilty plea on the actual charge would do to you?
  • If you’re thinking of a PJC, do you know what PJC stands for?  Do you know the effect a PJC has on a plea?  Do you know if you and/or your household has a limit on PJCs used?  Do you know if DMV and insurance companies see PJCs differently?  If you don’t know a great answer for each of those questions, you have no business using a PJC.

Don’t get me wrong:  There are certain circumstances in which it makes total sense for you to represent yourself on a traffic ticket, or even just pay it off.  But unless you are really, truly confident in that decision, meaning you can answer all of those questions satisfactorily and in a way that supports your decision, then maybe you should reconsider.

If you get a ticket, call a lawyer you trust and get some qualified advice.  Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Public Service Announcement

It’s election season, and I know you’re probably sick of hearing about it.  But I thought I would give you a little advice if you have any doubts about the way you intend to vote.

Since the Republicans took over the NC legislature around 2011, I’ve seen a lot of legislation that has been passed specifically to tip the scales in favor of the insurance companies in injury claims.  That’s right.  New and exciting laws have been passed by your elected representatives that help gigantic, billion-dollar corporations in their never-ending struggle to screw you.

This isn’t a matter of opinion, this is absolute, unassailable fact.

In Worker’s Comp, they limited permanent and total disability benefits to 10 years, instead of lifetime.  So if you are permanently unable to work due to an on-the-job injury, the Republicans took money from you to help insurance companies save money.  Thanks, y’all!

In the Personal Injury arena, they passed a new rule regarding the introduction of evidence.  The at-fault party gets to talk about how you got a discount on your health care due to your good fortune in having health insurance; but if you even mention that they’re covered by an automobile liability insurance policy, you get thrown out of court.  Once again, thanks, y’all!

I don’t know about you, but I like people better than I like companies, particularly insurance companies.  So if you agree with me in that respect, you might want to consider voting Democrat.

And that’s just one of many reasons to do so.

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What I do in my law practice

I’ve focused on 3 practice areas since 2001, and I still get questions like,”What services do you offer?”  “Don’t you do family law?”  “You’re a malpractice lawyer, aren’t you?”

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not mad.  I’m clearly just not doing a good enough job of clarifying what my law practice handles.  So let me lay it out for you:

My practice is built upon three practice areas:  Personal Injury, Worker’s Compensation, and Traffic Tickets

Personal Injury – I represent victims with injuries caused by the negligence of another.  The vast majority of these are automobile accidents, but I also handle dog bite claims and the occasional slip and fall.  The way I help these victims is to try to make sure they get the compensation that the law says they’re entitled to receive, and more importantly, to handle this process in the least impactful way possible so as to help them focus on what’s really important – their health.

Worker’s Compensation – In some instances when you suffer an injury at work you are entitled to a certain set of defined and limited benefits.  My job is to help those injured at work to obtain those benefits.

Traffic Tickets – I help people with traffic tickets in Orange, Alamance, Chatham, Durham, and Wake Counties.  When I’m hired for this purpose, I go to court so you don’t have to, and I try to get you the best deal possible so as to minimize (or maybe eliminate) insurance premium increases you would otherwise face due to those tickets.  In other words, I try to help you save time and money after you get a speeding ticket.

That’s it!  That’s what I do.  Tell your mom!  Tell your kids!  Tell everyone you know, and if anyone needs the type of help I offer, tell ’em to call me.  919-929-2992.

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Why am I bugging you during your recovery?


If you hire me to represent you on a personal injury claim, you’ll get periodic emails from me asking how you’re doing.  These tend to come every 2 weeks-ish.  Why am I bugging you with such frequency?  I’m bugging you because I need to know what’s going on in your recovery in order to do the best job that I can do on your case.

What is it I need to know, exactly?  I really need to know the trajectory of your recovery.  Are you getting better?  Are you getting worse?  Have you returned to work?  Do you have work restrictions?  Have you made health care provider changes?  All of that is important.

I have had many clients choose to ignore those requests, or to give me very minimal responses, and almost always to their detriment.  I need to know what’s going on with you!  If I don’t know how your recovery is going, I can’t manage your case well!

So if you have another attorney on your case, or me, please respond to your attorney’s requests for updates.  If everything is the same, just say so.  If ANYTHING has changed – new providers that we don’t know about? new diagnostic? new diagnosis? another accident? – PLEASE inform us.  Knowledge is power, so keep us informed!


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Lawyer Ads…What’s Next?

Most people don’t like lawyer ads.  I am like most people in that.  But I’m also a lawyer, and I have to do something to market my practice.

That’s why I made this ad.  Check it out.  Let me know what you think and share it with your friends…


What should my new ad look like?

This is me debating with myself about what my new ad should look like. In the end, maybe less is more…you be the judge.

Posted by Jeffrey Allen Howard, Attorney at Law, PLLC on Thursday, September 20, 2018

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Driving School Option – Street Safe

Traffic Attorney

Sometimes when you have a traffic ticket the DA will ask you to do a driving school to get the best outcome.  Street Safe is one that is often accepted by the DA in some counties that I go to.

If you’re asked to do this, click on the Traffic Court Driving program.  It’s about a 5 hour course, so plan to be busy that day.  After the course, you should get me your certificate of completion immediately to ensure the prompt resolution of your ticket.

If I ask you to do this, it’s really important for the best resolution of your ticket, so make sure you get it done and get me the certificate.  Let me know if you have any questions.


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Losing Your License Due to a Ticket

Traffic Attorney

Yep.  That happens.  You get a ticket, you think it’s not a big deal, you pay it off or plead guilty, and boom, you get a letter from DMV saying your driver license is revoked.  What do you do?

First, you get in your Way-Back machine and hire a lawyer to help sort that out, then you don’t have any problems!

Barring time travel options, you may have a hard row to hoe in order to get yourself out of this mess.

Most of the time when someone loses their license due to a ticket, it’s because either a) the speed was 16 mph or more over the limit, or b) the conviction was for speeding greater than 55 mph and you already had a conviction for that OR reckless driving within 12 months of the latest one.  In those situations, sometimes you can hire an attorney to file what’s called a Motion for Appropriate Relief.  That essentially says, “Hey, this person acted without the advice of counsel, got burned, and could really use a do-over.”  Depending on the facts of the conviction and the county, you might be able to get an attorney to get that done.

But once again, the best advice is to NOT handle your own ticket and to get advice before you make more trouble for yourself.  Call me!  919-929-2992.

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When NOT to hire a personal injury attorney

Let’s face it:  Most attorney blog posts are written from the perspective of the attorney trying to lure you into his/her office so they can get your case.  This post is a little different.  Herein I will state when you shouldn’t hire an attorney, or more specifically, when you shouldn’t hire me as your injury attorney.

You’re annoyed/angry that the accident happen.  You’re not hurt.  Or you’re a little sore but you have no real need/desire to get any sort of treatment to help get you better or look after your future health.  You just want the case to be over quickly and/or you want to see how much money you can get out of it as quickly as you can.

Under those facts, or facts close to those, I really don’t want your case.  It just isn’t a good fit for me and what I do.  Why not?  There’s not enough for me to work with.  Injury claims are built on pain and suffering.  And if you aren’t hurt, it’s hard to have a lot of pain and suffering.  If you’re hurt just a smidge and don’t need/want treatment, then there’s not a lot of pain and suffering I can demonstrate.  You’re hiring a gardener but you don’t have a yard.  What’s the point?

But what am I looking for in a client’s claim?

I’m looking to help people who are legitimately injured as the result of the negligence of someone else.  These people are injured enough that the injuries are impacting them on a day-to-day basis, they need treatment to help ameliorate those injuries and associated symptoms, and their ability to deal with the claims process is therefore diminished.  In other words, they have real problems and they need real help.  Those are the clients I can help and want to help.

So, if you fit under that first set of facts, I’m not your guy.  But if you’re more like the second set of facts, call me and we’ll see what I can do to make this easier for you.

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Speeding ticket? Can you handle it yourself?

Traffic Attorney

People often ask, “Do I need an attorney to handle this ticket, or should I do it myself?”

The choice is yours, and I can’t make it for you.

But I can offer you this to help you think through the problem of how you should handle it:

How much money/time/profitability will you lose from missing work for at least a half-day if you go to court on your own? 

Will you have your driving record with you?  Do you know how to get it? 

What are you going to ask for?  Why?  Do you know how that outcome will affect you?  Do you know how previous convictions might affect THAT outcome?

Are you intimidated by the court process?  Do you know with whom to speak?  Who is more important in this process – the ADA or the Judge?  Do you know the roles each play? 

Are you one of those people who think a PJC can be had anywhere, anytime, and will fix all of your problems anytime you voice those three letters together? 

If any of those questions confound you, then that might lead you to hiring an attorney.  The bottom line is hiring an attorney for a speeding ticket is generally the way to save yourself time and money in the long run.  But only you can make that decision.

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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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