Do you get a bigger settlement with an attorney?

Look. No one, not me, not an insurance company, not that uncle that knows everything that all of my clients seem to have, can tell you what your settlement might be with an attorney and what it might be without an attorney. I know you want to know, but it’s just impossible.

Still, there are things you can think about that can help you answer the question, though maybe not answering the exact question.

In 1995, Allstate produced a training manual for its claim adjusters [Allstate Insurance Co., Unrepresented Segment Training Manual, 15-30, July 1995]. This document stressed the importance of convincing claimants to represent themselves and not retain an attorney.  Why? Allstate explained its position with a number of telling statistics: With settlements under $15,000 injured claimants represented by an attorney averaged $7,450 in a total settlement. Those who represented themselves to Allstate averaged only $3,464.

With the insurance giant’s own data, the average of settlements they themselves were paying out tilted heavily in favor of victims represented by attorneys. That’s a big deal.

Now, will that always be the case? Who knows? But if you’re the type of person who generally believes past performance predicts future outcomes, then there ya go.

The other thing to look at is how you would come about obtaining that settlement. In the end, to me, the biggest difference is how much work YOU, as the injured person, have to put into the result. If you’re not represented, the answer is ALL of the work (not to mention the fact that you probably don’t know the best way to do all of that work). But if you’re represented by an attorney, THAT’S what you’re paying for. And you’re not even paying! In a contingency fee arrangement, the fee is a percentage of the recovery. Worst case scenario, maybe you could have gotten the same result (but see the first point above!), but even if that’s the case, with an attorney, you didn’t have to work to get it. Isn’t that worth something?

If you’re an accident victim, talk to an attorney. Call me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

You have the right to remain silent

Most people, thanks to the all-powerful television, know their Miranda rights when it comes to an interaction with law enforcement. “You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you…” You should also consider this as guidance when dealing with insurance companies.

Remember, adjusters and other investigators working for insurance companies are trained to ask questions in such a way as to elicit responses that are unfavorable to you. When beginning a conversation with an injury victim, they might ask (as we all might), “How are you today?” to which the victim with an injury might, by default, reply, “I’m fine, how are you?” Great. You just said you were “fine.” Your words. Not theirs. You done messed up.

That’s a silly example, but it illustrates the issue. Assume everything you say is being recorded. And let’s face it, you’re not trained to do this. You’re not trained to be suspicious of every question. In fact, most of us are hard-wired to try to work with others and get along and show that we aren’t hiding anything. Well guess that what gets you? It gets you problems.

If you’ve got a claim with an insurance company, especially an injury claim where there is so much riding on it, talk to an attorney before you speak too much to the insurance companies involved. You could save yourself a lot of trouble, time, and money. Call an attorney. Call me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

How soon should you get an attorney for your accident claim?

Trucking Accident Attorney

I’ll go ahead and say it: Some people prefer the wait and see approach. That is stupid.

The very minute your accident occurs, you are in an adversarial confrontation. The other driver’s insurance company doesn’t want to pay you anything, and if they have to pay you something, they want to pay you as little as possible. So you better believe that from that very moment of the accident forces will be working against you and your claim. How much damage can be done before you hire an attorney? You’d be surprised.

Insurance adjusters are trained to ask you questions in such a way as to elicit answers that will help them, not you. In North Carolina, we still have an ancient law called Contributory Negligence. If the adjuster can make you accept even 1% of responsibility for the accident occurring, they have a great reason to deny your claim – by your own admission?

And that’s just one of the ways they’ll look to trip you up.

If you want to protect yourself and your rights after an accident call a lawyer ASAP. Call me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

Back to Back Auto Accidents

Ugh.

Because of some weird law of the universe that is as of yet unexplained, clients often suffer two auto accidents within a few months of each other. This makes for a complicated claims scenario that no one wants, but we have to deal with it sometimes. So where to begin?

If you’re lucky (that being relative, of course), your accidents are completely distinct. If case one involves a neck injury and case two involves a foot injury, then that makes things infinitely more simple. But often times we’re faced with similar injuries, or possibly aggravation of the first injuries. That makes things way more difficult.

The onus will mainly lie with the health care providers to help you distinguish between your diagnoses and what caused what when. Having a health care provider who can confidently help you navigate that will be crucial to the successful presentation of your claim, so choose wisely!

If possible, create a cut-off between treatment for the two accidents. If you were close to wrapping up treatment on the first one and then the second one happens, you might as well call it quits on the first treatment period and move forward with trying to resolve that claim if possible. The first insurance carrier is going to give you grief about paying for anything that happens after the second date of injury, so this makes a lot of sense for both sides of the case.

It is hopeful that you’ve already handled your property damage claim from the first accident because if you haven’t, you’re in for a world of nonsense. Good luck!

All personal injury claims require tailored advice and solutions because they all have their own character and difficulties. These back to back cases are even more temperamental, so seek advice as soon as you can. Call an attorney. Call me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

When can I pay off my ticket in NC?

Traffic Attorney

“The cop told me I can just pay this ticket off? Is that a bad idea?”

Almost certainly, yes, that’s a bad idea.

Look, obviously I have some interest in you hiring me to handle your ticket for you, but hear me out: There are only VERY rare circumstances in which paying off your speeding ticket won’t hurt you from an insurance point perspective. So when is it OK to pay off a speeding ticket?

The ONLY time I think it’s reasonable to pay off a speeding ticket in NC is when you have ALL of the following circumstances:

  1. You’re charged with speeding 10 mph over the limit or less;
  2. You have not been convicted of any moving violation within the past 3 years;
  3. You haven’t been in an at-fault auto accident within the past 3 years.

If you have those exact circumstances, fine, pay it off if you want. But it’s still smart to call an attorney who handles tickets in that county to see if you might be able to do better. Paying a little extra up front might save you a lot of trouble later. You see, if you do get convicted of a moving violation within 3 years of paying off that ticket, you’ll get the points from the new ticket AND the points from the old one will be activated.

Like lots of legal stuff, it’s tricky. So get some quality advice before you act. Call me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

Personal Injury Settlements and Taxes

“Is my settlement money taxable?”

I get this ALL the time. It’s mostly a simple question, but like anything with the IRS, and it can get complicated pretty darn quickly.

Here is your best reference for this question:
https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4345.pdf

If you got a few grand out of a car accident, that’s not going to be taxable. That’s most of what I see in my practice so it’s an easy answer.

Of course, it can get more complicated. Remember, income is taxable. The IRS default is to think of income as any money you take in, but there are exceptions. For your personal injury award, that’s compensation for for what you lost, so it’s not viewed as income, per se, but more like replacement value, so in that sense it’s not income. It’s kind of the same when you’re getting money to pay back medical expenses you’ve paid or owed; in that instance you’re essentially breaking even, so that’s not income.

But if you’ll read that IRS publication above, you’ll note that if you’ve taken tax advantage from those losses above, then you’ll need to report that you’ve made them up. This almost NEVER comes up in the tiny medical expense scenario of the average auto accident claim. But it could come up with some more complicated injury/treatment scenarios. Also, if you’re getting compensation for wages you lost which would have been counted as income, that can count, too.

Is it terribly complicated? Nah. But is it smart to seek advice? For sure. If you have an injury claim, talk to an attorney. Talk to me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

Emotional Distress Claims from Auto Accidents

Yes. That’s a thing. But like everything in this business, it’s tricky.

If you feel like you’ve suffered an emotional/psychological injury as the result of an automobile accident, it’s important that you get a diagnosis from an accredited healthcare professional. Psychiatrist? Yes. Psychologist? Yes. LCSW? Maybe. Your dad? Nope.

As with all aspects of your damages, you have the burden of proving your loss, so the better your proof, the more likely you’ll prevail.

You could probably use some guidance in this. Call me to discuss! 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

Injured? Get Representation NOW!

I see this situation way too often: A person is injured in an automobile accident, a dog bite, or whatever, and they hope that things get better. They hope that things resolve nicely on their own. They rely on hope, instead of good advice and experience. And guess what that gets them?

When you don’t seek good advice, you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what will help your claim, what will hurt you claim, who you can talk to, what you can say. You really don’t have any informed notion as to how to take care of your claim, which means you’re probably going to hurt it. Does that sound like a good way to handle things?

If you have a potential injury claim, it makes sense to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to make sure you’re doing everything you’re supposed to in order to not harm your claim.

Hoping that things will work out isn’t a plan. That’s just setting yourself up for a worst case scenario. If you’re hurt, don’t waste time seeking good advice. Call an attorney. Call me. 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

How Long Should I Get Treatment For My Injury Claim (this is a trick question)?

I get this a lot, too.

If you haven’t been in an accident before, and haven’t gone through the claims process, you probably don’t really know how the process works. What’s worth, is you’ve probably heard a lot of nonsense that’s given you ideas about this process that aren’t really accurate. Thanks, media!

Anywho, clients sometimes ask me how long they should get treatment for their injury claim. Here’s my answer: I DON’T KNOW! I’m not that kind of doctor! I’m happy to talk with you about your injuries, your treatment options, and how your decisions about these affect your claim. But I can’t tell you how long you should get treatment, or what kind of treatment you should get. That’s not my gig, and it’s between you and your health care professionals to figure out that stuff. My job is to help you understand how your decisions and your particular situation will work inside of your claim.

So I don’t know how long you should get treatment. I just know that if you have an injury, it makes sense to get treatment, and then I’ll use that information to help make sure you’re treated fairly in your claim. Call me for help! 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

Interested in Losing Your License?

You got a speeding ticket. Big deal. Maybe you want to just plead guilty and forget about it.

BE CAREFUL! Pleading to speeding tickets is a quick way to get your license revoked. If you’re going 16 or more MPH over the limit and greater than 55 MPH, you can get your license revoked for up to a year. This happens to people ALL the time when they’re trying to just simplify their lives. Don’t fall for it.

Call an attorney and get some quality advice. Sometimes it’s not necessarily a bad idea to pay off a ticket, but those times are few and far between. Talk to an attorney and get some good advice. Talk to me! 919-929-2992.

Continue Reading No Comments

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

Address Doesn't Matter!

Quick Contact Form