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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Your Injury Claim in the Covid 19 Lockdown Era

Now that many municipalities are on a “stay-in-place” or lockdown order for who knows how long how would you get help with your personal injury claim?

Well, the good news on that front is not a lot has changed. I’m still available via phone. You can call me anytime at 919-929-2992. If you want a meeting that more closely resembles a face-to-face sort of thing, then we can zoom or use whatever software you’re most comfortable with. Documents can easily be emailed or mailed as requested, and you can still get the help you need without leaving your home.

So whether you have an auto accident, worker’s compensation claim, a dog bite, or a slip and fall, you still have access to legal help despite our current unfortunate circumstances.

If you have questions, please call 919-929-2992 and we can get started immediately.

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Worker’s Comp and Covid 19

It’s only a matter of time before someone catches Covid 19 while working and then raises the question of whether or not they’re entitled to Worker’s Comp benefits.

Right now, I don’t think anyone has a definitive answer on that. There are certainly opinions, some more strongly held than others. But let’s talk about the law and see what we can see…

For a disease to be covered by Worker’s Comp, it has to be an “occupational disease.” There are essentially two kinds: First, there are some specific medical conditions/diseases, which are recognized to be commonly associated with workplace exposures, are specifically identified in North Carolina General Statute § 97-53. Suffice it to say that Covid 19 ain’t one of ’em.

Second, though, is the catchall category. North Carolina General Statute § 97-53(13) is a “catch-all” provision which grants Comp coverage for any disease “which is proven to be due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, but excluding all ordinary diseases of life to which the general public is equally exposed outside of the employment.”  The most common of these are carpal tunnel and tendinitis.

To qualify for the catchall provision, there are two elements:   The worker must show 1) that the employment placed them at an increased risk as compared to the general public for developing the occupational disease; 2) that the employment in fact substantially contributed to the occupational disease.

Personally, I think you could come up with a scenario where this argument passes muster. Let’s say we are, as a state, on a “shelter in place” order (I hear this is imminent at the time of this writing). That means if you aren’t deemed an “essential worker” then you are to stay home and not work. Which, conversely, means that if you are an essential worker, you are to get your @$$ out there and do your job…which means you are putting yourself at increased risk of exposure due to your employment AND your employment substantially contributed to the disease.

For example, let’s say you work for UPS, and delivery personnel are deemed essential. You’re out there going into ALL of the office buildings, ALL of the stores, ALL of the front porches, touching EVERYONE’S boxes. I think it’s obvious that you’re at an increased risk. And were it not for your employment, you wouldn’t be; you’d be at home eating bon bons and watching Tiger Joe (or whatever drivel is available on Netflix).

Now, what you get if it is deemed an occupational disease is for another post, so I’ll leave you here for now. If you have any questions about any workplace injury/disease, or any injury claim whatsoever for that matter, please call me at 919-929-2992.

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Cost Plus Plans are Full of $#!^

That’s right. I said it.

It’s no news that our health care system is a shambles in this country, and health insurance is only part (maybe a huge part, but that’s another post) of the problem. One of the more complex and frustrating situations is the Cost Plus plan and how it (claims to) interact with your personal injury claim.

North Carolina is an anti-subrogation state, meaning that your health plan CANNOT come back to you and ask you to pay them back what they paid out UNLESS they have some specific law that allows it. The most common exceptions to this are Medicaid, the State Employee Health Plan, Medicare, ERISA plans, and Tricare. These are either government-sponsored plans and/or set up under State/Federal Law that specifically allows for a “right of reimbursement” (NOT subrogation, but once again, the difference between those two is another blog post).

The Cost Plus plan is NOT one of the above. But the argument that administrators of Cost Plus plans make is that the statute that gives them life states “The administration of any cost plus plans as herein provided shall not be subject to regulation or supervision by the Commissioner of Insurance”. 

But the key word is “administration.” The word “administration” obviously doesn’t apply to plan benefits, but rather to the operation and management of the plan.  Anyone can see that under the plain meaning of the words in the statute, the Cost Plus plan’s collection efforts should be prohibited by NC anti-subrogation law.

The Plans argue that N.C. Gen. Stat 58-65-1, “Regulation and definitions; application of other laws; profit and foreign corporations prohibited”, states: “[The plan] shall be exempt from all other provisions of the insurance laws of this State, unless otherwise provided” exempts them from the anti-subrogation rule. But clearly, the statement “all other provisions” implies that it is subject to at least some provisions.

The NC Insurance Commissioner is given regulatory power over the contracts of the Cost Plus plans according to N.C.G.S 58-65-40, “Supervision of Commissioner of Insurance; Form of Contract with Subscribers; Schedule of Rates”. The statute states:

There are some more arguments against the Plans’ points, but it’s a little “inside baseball” for a blog post. Suffice it to say that the claim by Cost Plus plans that they have a right of reimbursement is not settled law and should always be questioned.

Like I always say, this stuff can get complicated, so why try to figure it out on your own? Let a pro handle it. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Corona Virus and Your Court Date

As of right now, Orange and Chatham County Courts are being pretty understanding about continuing cases when defendants believe they are in danger of infecting others.

But why bother? If you have a traffic ticket, do you really want to worry with trying to get a continuance, or going to court and standing in line with 500 people? All the more reason to hire an attorney if you have a speeding ticket in Orange or Chatham County.

Give me a call. 919-929-2992. Let me deal with it.

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Lien on Me: What’s a “lien” anyway?

Let’s start with a definition:

Lien: a right to keep possession of property belonging to another person until a debt owed by that person is discharged.

Notice that it’s a “right.” It’s not a document. It’s not a thing you sign. It’s a right, which has to therefore be enshrined in a statute.

This comes up a lot when health care providers are getting ancy about getting their bills paid after an auto accident. Sometimes the staff will say, “HE SIGNED A LIEN!” To which I have to respond, with the above definition and explanation. A lien is a right, it’s not a document.

Of course, while it is NOT a document, it is still a thing, but how does this thing exist? More importantly, when does it exist? In this context, the statutes that gives this right are North Carolina General Statutes §§ 44-49 and 44-50. But it doesn’t just exist because the provider wants it to; they have to jump through some hoops to “perfect” the lien.

First, the provider has to provide records AND bills FREE OF CHARGE when requested by the patient. Second, they have to assert the lien; that’s as simple as stamping the word “lien” on the paperwork they send free of charge. But they do have to do BOTH of those things to have a lien.

Remember that. There is no lien just because the provider wills it. The provider HAS to do BOTH of those things above for their to be a valid lien on your injury settlement.

Of course, mechanics liens and the like are different, but they are also created by statute and have hoops! They don’t just exist! They can’t bill summoned into being at will.

As with many things personal injury, this can be complicated and frustrating, which is all the more reason to consult an attorney. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Medical Payments Coverage – USE IT, DAMN IT.

In North Carolina auto insurance, you have an option to purchase extra, no-fault coverage called Medical Payments coverage, or “Med Pay” as we generally call it in the biz. It’s like a tiny, limited health insurance policy for use with treatment of injuries associated with an auto accident. It comes in various increments, but normally we see $500, $1000, $2000, $5000, and sometimes $10,000, but you can have much more.

As mentioned, this is no-fault coverage. You can use it whether the accident is your fault or not. Where I tend to have frustrating conversations about this coverage is when a victim comes to me with an injury claim and they have Med Pay but don’t want to use it. Here’s the deal:

If you have Med Pay, you’ve PAID for it. It’s yours. The only trigger to get to it is suffering an injury by auto accident that requires treatment. It has nothing to do with fault, as it’s no-fault coverage. So using it WILL NOT trigger an automatic rate increase on your auto policy. If you are paying for it and have the opportunity to use it and refuse to, then I can only assume you think that your auto insurance company is a charity in need of donations because that’s EXACTLY what you’re doing. You’re giving them money for nothing in return. If you’re not going to use it, just cancel the coverage because there’s no point giving away that money for nothing. Or you could take my advice and use the product that you’ve already purchased.

Think about it this way: Let’s say you’ve had the same policy for 5 years, and let’s assume your $500 Med Pay costs you $50 every 6 months. At that point, you’ve paid $500 for your Med Pay. When you are in an accident, you can get that $500 back now and there’s no reason you shouldn’t. You’ve paid it in, and now the coverage is triggered. You’re entitled to it. Choosing not to use that coverage only benefits your insurance company. And trust me, they don’t need your help.

Call me if you need any guidance on this or any other personal injury issue. 919-929-2992.

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Did your car lose value after your accident?

When you’re in a car accident, you suffer a lot of losses. You get hurt, you lose time from work, you incur medical expenses, you have to get your car fixed.

And most of the time your car becomes worth less than it was prior to the accident, regardless of how well it’s repaired. Can you expect to get paid back for that when the accident isn’t your fault? Maybe.

First, there’s nothing written in stone here. Every claim is different, and tons of stuff can impact evaluations here. But for me, the rule of thumb is 5 years/50,000 miles. If you car exceeds either of those, you’re going to have a really hard time getting compensated for the diminished value of that car. The argument is essentially it was already old and losing value. And that’s a hard argument to beat.

But if you want to try it, you’ll be best served if you go into battle armed with an appraisal from a qualified DV appraiser. Yes, they cost money, but you tend to get a more quality expert opinion to make your argument with. It’s a heck of a lot better than, “But I just know it!”

Of course, like a lot of things in this world, it’s a bit of a gamble. Those appraisals cost money. You’ll spend between $100 and $400. So you probably want to make sure that you’ll at least get that back if you make this argument, which is all the more reason to make sure your car is on the good side of my 5/50k rule.

If you have a claim like this, seek the advice of an attorney. Most injury attorneys will handle your DV claim along with your injury claim, so get some quality advice and you’re more likely to have a better outcome. Call me if you like: 919-929-2992

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Two Injury Claims = Zero Injury Claims

There is some craziness in the universe that makes things happen in bunches. You might go your whole life without an auto accident and then BAM/BAM you have TWO within a few months of each other.

If you have injury claims related to both impacts, you are in for a world of hurt. Each of the accidents can be used by the other insurance company as a red herring to detract from your claim value. The first folks will say the second one cut off their liability, and the second one will say your injuries were related to the first one! It just sucks.

Depending on the facts, we might be able to help minimize the negative impact of having two claims so close together. But we can’t if you don’t let us!

If you are in this situation, get the advice of an experienced attorney. 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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