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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Facts v. Opinions in Claims Valuation

A fact is a thing that can be proven to be true.  An opinion is a thought.  Another way to look at it is a fact is history – it really happened, whereas an opinion is a fairy tale – it might be nice if it happened, but it didn’t.

This is an important concept to grasp when trying to figure out what your injury claim is worth.  I’ll be the first to say that there can ONLY be opinions with regards to claim valuations.  None of us has the power to say a claim is worth X and that be so.  Our system is based on the idea that 12 jurors should figure out the value of your case, but with the same information, different juries can easily value claims in different ways, so hard and fast claims values are a myth.

However,  there are opinions, and then there are opinions.

One type of opinion can be backed up by facts.  This is the type of opinion that I generate when I review a case.  I take into consideration all of the information surrounding a case – liability, severity of impact, medical opinions, diagnoses, treatment history, pre-existing injuries, documentation of damages, medical expenses, health insurance involvement, jurisdictional tendencies, recovery time, extent of recovery, permanency of injuries, just to name a few things – and I compare them with the knowledge of other cases I’ve amassed in nearly (as of this writing) two decades of practice in this area and I formulate the most objective and well-informed opinion that I can with regard to the value of a case.  In other words my case value opinions are based on facts.  My opinions are based on what I know about a particular case, actual outcomes of similar cases I and other attorneys have handled, as well as my experience in handling these cases over two decades.

There is another type of opinion which is based not on facts, but on something else.  Sometimes it’s want.  Sometimes it’s need.  Sometimes it’s one case that a person may have heard about that may or may not bear any actual factual similarity to the case at hand.  Sometimes it’s other things.  But this type of opinion that I’m discussing at this point is NOT based on facts.  It’s based on what a client might hope to happen, or what a client financially needs to happen, or some other thing that’s not based on an objective analysis of the facts of the case, relevant, historical events, legal training, and experience with that particular type of case.

I don’t know about you but if I was looking for advice on what my case was worth, I’d much rather rely on an expert’s opinion that is based on verifiable facts and experience, as opposed to a wish.

The moral of the story is this, kids:  Maybe you think your case is worth this or that.  But if you want to do yourself a favor, step back from your opinion for a minute and think about what that opinion is based on.  Is it based on facts?  Is it based on analysis of the various and sundry aspects of a claim that can affect its value?  Is it based on what previous cases settled for that bear similarity to your case?  Is it based on legal training and experience in that particular field with those types of cases?  If your opinion is not based on those things is it really worth believing?  Or is it simply what you want the case to be worth, or what you hope it to be worth?  It’s good to have hopes and dreams, but I’m here to tell you, injury claims are not lottery tickets.  Statistically, they do not result in great windfalls for accident victims.  More importantly, if you do have a really high value case, I feel horrible for you, because that means you have suffered horrible and life-altering injuries, and I wouldn’t wish that on you.  If you really want an idea as to what your case is worth, seek out an expert’s opinion and don’t rely on dreams.

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Do I have to go to court for my traffic ticket?

Traffic Attorney

In North Carolina, sometimes when you get a ticket the officer will say something along these lines, “You HAVE to appear in court for this.”

Is that altogether true?  Not exactly.

The law allows defendants to simply pay the fines/costs on certain low-level offenses.  In those cases, you do not have to appear in court; you can just mail in the appropriate payment in the appropriate form and you’re good to go. You may have consequences from that (another blog post) but you do not have to go to court.

For other more serious offenses (and serious is relative, so bear with me) you cannot just pay that off.  SOMEONE (not necessarily you) has to appear in court and deal with the charge.  What that means is either YOU OR YOUR ATTORNEY has to show up in court and deal with the ticket.  In the traffic ticket world, this is normally for misdemeanors, which generally come in the form of speeding 16 mph over the limit or more, or reckless driving.  But there are many more.

So what the officer should say is that SOMEONE has to appear in court for this and that you cannot just pay it off.  That’s more accurate.

If you get one of these, call me!  919-929-2992.

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Social Media and Your Injury Claim

 

It may not seem obvious to some, but it’s worth emphasizing:  You can do a lot of harm to your injury claim through social media.  Here’s a quick list of recommendations for you so you don’t step on your own feet:

  • DO contact your attorney (me!) to seek advice. This is what I do, and the earlier I get involved, the more help I can be, generally.
  • DON’T read other people’s reports about your accident.
  • DO change your privacy settings. This is something that will vary with every app, but figure it out.  Keeping friends and family as your exclusive content viewers will be best, and you can bet the other side will be social stalking you.
  • DON’T post pictures of your injuries.  Just don’t.
  • DO ask friends and family to remain mute about your injury. Their information could be helpful in litigation, but it gets a different patina when viewed through social media.
  • DON’T post updates about your accident claim or litigation.
  • DO know that anything you post can and will be used against you in your claim. This includes past posts!  Don’t go deleting old stuff, though.  Just avoid discussion of the claim, the injury, and view ANYTHING you post through the lens of the defense and how they might construe it.
  • DON’T contact other people in the case via social media. That’s for your lawyer, so back up.

And of course, you want to talk to me, too!  Call me at 919-929-2992.

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The Most Dangerous Intersections in Raleigh

I saw this on another lawyer’s blog and thought it was worth sharing…check out Hardison & Cochran’s blog here.

Anytime you have cars going in different directions, your chances of accidents increases.  So really, any intersection presents a danger, and the busier, the more dangerous.

From a legal perspective, intersection accident cases in NC are fraught with difficult.  Yes, if you have a green light, you have the right of way.  But just because someone runs a red light doesn’t mean you win on liability.  North Carolina’s antiquarian Contributory Negligence law makes it so that if you’re even a smidge at fault, you can’t get anything.  This law dates back to when people were dunked in ponds for witchcraft, but Republicans don’t seem to think of that as a problem.  Anyway, how that makes things complicated is that even if you have the green light, you have a duty to exercise reasonable care for your safety, so you have to be aware of knuckleheads running lights.  Yes, we live in a state with stupid laws.  What do you do?

Anyway, long story short, here are the intersections they listed as the most dangerous in Raleigh:

  • Poole and New Hope Road
  • Hammond Road at Tryon Road
  • South Wilmington St and East Davie Street
  • Edwards Mill Road and Wade Avenue, Wade Park Blvd.
  • Dawson Street and South Street
  • Millbrook Road and Old Wake Forest Road
  • Rock Quarry Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
  • Lumley Road and Brier Creek Parkway
  • Wake Forest Road, Ollie Street, and Ronald Drive
  • South Saunders Street and Ileagnes Drive
  • Tryon Road and Hammond Road

So watch yourself!  And call me if you have an accident!  919-929-2992.

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Useless Traffic Ticket Defenses

Traffic Attorney

This article might also be titled, “Silly excuses people give me for speeding tickets,” or “Why it’s OK for me to speed but not for anyone else.”

I hear these things almost on a daily basis, and I get it.  When you’re caught being even a little naughty, it’s human nature to rationalize, or to explain how our own particular situation was different so we should be judged differently.

With speeding tickets, sometimes you do have a valid excuse:  I’ve seen tickets dismissed for a woman in labor.  That’s legit.  And most of the time the DA isn’t heartless.  If you’re already going to pay a penalty (like being in an accident and having your insurance rates go up) there’s often little point in hitting you with a criminal conviction, too. So yes, there are reasons why your ticket might get tossed.  But the following are not, under any circumstances, valid reasons for speeding:

“I was going with the flow of traffic.”  OK.  That just means you were all speeding.  You’re just pissed the cop pulled you over and not everyone.  You were still speeding.

“I have to pee.”  So do I.  But I ain’t tryna kill anyone else to do it.

“But this other guy was going faster!”  Maybe true, but if you were speeding, you were speeding.

“I was just speeding so I could pass this truck.”  What’s the fourth word in that sentence?

“But this guy was on my tail!” Look, I’ve been here, too.  Just get out of his way and hope he gets pulled.  Don’t let a knucklehead decide how you drive.

Call me for advice on your ticket.  I’m happy to help.  Just please try to avoid giving me one of these excuses.

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What is my auto accident case worth?

 

Want to know what your case is worth?  I’m an attorney and I’m professionally incapable of giving simple answers.  But this brings up several issues that are worth discussing.

To be blunt, if this is your first concern, I might not be the best attorney for you.  Yes, of course, I want my clients to get compensated fairly.  And remember, I get paid a percentage of what I get for my clients, so of course I want to max that out.  But having said that, my best clients with the best cases are not primarily worried about what their case is worth.  They are worried about how they are going to get better, how they are going to pay their bills, how they are going to move on with their lives, simply how they are going to get through this.  In short, the value of your case is not the most important thing.

But at some point, it does become necessary to try to determine what your case is worth from a settlement standpoint.  That point is normally after you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, been released from care, and we have all of your records/bills, pain journal, lost wage documents, etc.  So we look at all of that, try to factor in some of the other issues – liability concerns, venue, some intangibles, etc. – and then go from there.

As I try to determine the value of your case, I look back to other cases I’ve had with similar facts/injuries to help me, and sometimes with the more wacky cases I’ll consult other attorneys to see what they think.

In short, there’s a way to figure out what your case is worth, but that shouldn’t be your main concern, especially at the beginning of the process.  Get some good advice from an attorney as soon as your accident happens, and the value thing should work itself out in the end.

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Insurance Premiums and Med Pay

Will filing for coverage under the Medical Payments (Med Pay) portion of your policy allow your insurance company to raise your auto insurance premiums?

In short, it should not!  But there’s more to that answer.

Med Pay is coverage that is optional and additional to any mandatory liability policy in North Carolina.  In other words, you don’t have to have it, but you can get it if you want to pay for it.  It simply offers to pay up to the limits of that Med Pay coverage (normally between $500 and $5000, but it can vary) for any medical expenses incurred as the result of an auto accident that involved an insured.  This is considered n0-fault coverage because it covers any insured in any auto accident regardless of fault, per the policy language.

In North Carolina, insurance carriers are only allowed to raise your individual rates in the even that an insured is convicted of a moving violation or causes an accident in which they have to pay damages.  You will note that filing for Med Pay coverage is not in that list, so this shouldn’t result in a rate increase for you.  Of course, insurance companies are generally in my experience just a step up from pirates, so might they find some nefarious way to charge you more?  Sure, it’s possible, but remember that you’re always free to change companies, too.  Moreover, I always tell people that while something might be illegal, that doesn’t always necessarily stop people from doing that thing.  As a result, I can never answer this question with a definitive “no,” only a qualified “no.”

Med Pay is extremely helpful to people in auto accidents who need immediate funding of their treatment.  So I always urge clients that have it to use it.  Otherwise, why are you paying extra for it?

If you have questions about this stuff, call me!  I’m super-available.  919-929-2992

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NC Seat Belt Tickets

Traffic Attorney

 

You got a seat belt ticket.  So what do you do?

If it’s just a seat belt ticket, pay it.  It will be cheaper, more than likely, to do that than to hire an attorney.  Moreover, it doesn’t count as a moving violation so there are no DMV or insurance points.  As such, most of the time the DA (at least in the counties I go to) don’t dismiss these unless there’s a REALLY good reason  So even if you did pay the big bucks to an attorney, s/he probably won’t get it dismissed and you’d end up paying the ticket anyway.

Of course, there are maybe some other counties out there that have different policies, so if you’re outside of my range (which is essentially Orange/Chatham) then call a local attorney there and you should get some good advice on what to do.

Good luck!

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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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