Orange County and Chatham County Speeding Tickets

Traffic Attorney

I get calls all the time asking if I’m a “traffic ticket lawyer,” and while I don’t like to label myself, it is very true that amongst the many services that I offer is assisting people with traffic tickets in Orange and Chatham Counties in North Carolina. So, if you insist, that might make me a “traffic ticket lawyer.” Fine.

Call me what you want, but it makes A LOT of sense to get a lawyer if you have a traffic ticket. Speeding tickets can do so much harm to you if you aren’t careful. If the speed is high enough you might lose your license, and that’s not even counting what they might do to your insurance rates (doubling over the next three years sound fun?).

It’s not worth the risk. If you get a speeding ticket in Orange County or Chatham County, NC, call me to get some help. 919-929-2992

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Diminished Value Appraisals…Are They Worth the $$$?

If your vehicle is damaged and repaired after an accident, you may have what’s called a diminished value claim, meaning your car might be worth less than it was before the accident and you might be entitled to compensation for that. So how do you know?

As with most things in this business, you never really know. You might have certain factors that strengthen or weaken your claim, but you never really know for sure. So let’s talk about how these claims work.

First, I will say that in my experience, if your car is older than 5 years and/or has greater than 50k miles on it, you’re probably putting good money after bad trying to pursue a DV claim. Can it work? Maybe. But are you more likely than not just spinning your wheels? I think so. But having said that, there’s more to it…

The main thing you should know is these claims are expert-driven, which means that your ability to prevail is very much dependent on what your nominated expert says as to the lost in value to your vehicle. Who is your expert? Is it you? Is it your uncle who is a used car salesman? Is it Carmax? Is it a licensed appraiser? Who is saying what you’ve lost makes a HUGE difference in these claims.

The gold standard for DV claims is having a licensed appraiser document in writing what their opinion as to the loss of value is. People ask me all the time if the appraisals are worth it and the thing is, I can never answer that before the claim is resolved. I really can’t say for sure. But what I can say for sure is that you’re FAR more likely to get some sort of semi-reasonable offer WITH such an appraisal than you are without. So in that sense, I think they’re worth it. But that would also be affected by the inherent strength of your claim (see the age/mileage note above). Another way to state this is that if you just show a Carmax offer to buy your car and you say, “Hey, that’s less than I thought it was!” then you probably won’t be taken as seriously as you would be if you paid for an appraisal.

Of course, there are other factors to consider. Was your car just off the lot? That actually hurts, because new cars always drop in value immediately, so while you have an argument there, it’s a little weaker than it would be if your car was about a year off the lot. That’s kind of the sweet spot for these claims. Did you have another accident a few weeks after this one? That’s probably a killer there. Was the car a salvaged vehicle? Good luck with that. Was it just a bumper replacement? That’s a tough argument.

As with lots of stuff, it’s complicated. I can’t always say that a DV appraisal will be worth it, but in the right circumstances it can take an arguable claim to a very solid one. Talk to a trustworthy attorney about your facts and get some good advice. Talk to me. 919-929-2992.

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How to Pay Your Bills After An Auto Accident

Having medical bills pile up following an auto accident in North Carolina is one of the biggest stressors that comes from having a personal injury claim. And there’s a great deal of confusion – even after I write blog post after blog post! – about who is responsible for victims’ bills immediately following an accident. Here is the low-down:

Who is responsible for paying my medical bills after an auto accident I didn’t cause? Sadly, you are. That’s not the answer anyone wants to hear, but it’s how our system works. Don’t get me wrong, with the right facts a good personal injury attorney (wink wink) has a great chance of getting you paid back for your medical expenses and then some. But at the beginning, your bills are your bills and no one else’s. If you want to avoid collections, you have to deal with them.

How do I deal with my medical bills after an auto accident I didn’t cause? First step is USE YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE. They are still on the hook, regardless of the event giving rise to your need for medical care. So make sure they’re being billed! The next step is to SET UP A PAYMENT PLAN if necessary. You can avoid being sent to collections (and have a lot of headache and credit damage) simply by offering to pay $10/month toward your bills. At the end of the case, we can hope to pay all of that off plus pay you back what you paid out. But this is how you handle it at the beginning.

This hits a lot of people hard. When you’re hurt due to the negligence of another, it really seems weird that you’re on the hook for your own treatment. But the fact is that’s just how our system is built currently. Once again, with the right facts you might have a legal claim against the at-fault party that may allow you to recover your medical expenses as well as other losses, but that’s the next step. The first step is addressing the medical expenses up front to avoid damage down the road. Follow my advice and you should be OK. And remember, call an attorney – call me – if you’re in this situation. 919-929-2992.

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Medicare Advantage Plans and you NC Injury Claim

This is what you’re going to hear from me when you tell me that – in addition to your Medicare coverage – you have a Medicare Advantage Plan.

 It appears you have a Medicare Advantage plan that in some way supplements your Medicare coverage.  Many of these plans have what’s called a “right of reimbursement” or “subrogation” claim.  That means that in a situation where we obtain for you payment in compensation for incurred medical expenses from an at-fault party, then your health plan may have a right to get paid back what they paid out.  Normally if this is the case, they or a company they hire, reach out to you to investigate this.  To date, I’ve not been apprised that this has happened.  I can’t effectively investigate this with your plan.  It would be most wise for you to contact your health plan, make this inquiry – does the plan have a right of reimbursement for third party claims? – and let me know the response.  Failure to do so can leave you owing them after your settlement money is gone, and can impact your coverage as well.  Please let me know what you discover.

Why is that important? Well, if they have the right to get paid back from your settlement and we don’t do it, then that can jeopardize your coverage and create legal troubles for you. That’s no bueno.

Why do I ask you to do it? It’s the simplest way to get it done. They won’t speak with me if they don’t have a release on file. And these different companies have their own (sometimes asinine) interpretations of HIPAA law so I can’t guarantee they’ll accept a release I send them. So the safest bet is for you, the insured, to reach out and get the answer we’re looking for. They have to tell you, and if they don’t, then document it and it’s their fault.

This stuff is needlessly complicated. Welcome to America!

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Don’t Be the Tough-Guy…Get Treatment If You Need It

One of the biggest pitfalls of personal injury claims is failing to seek treatment in a timely manner. Why is that such a big deal? Let me explain…

The liability insurance company will be judging the facts of your case to determine what amount of money (if any) they’re going to offer you to resolve your claim and reimburse you for your losses. When making that evaluation, you better believe they are going to take advantage of every single deficit, every little thing that will help them get away with paying you less. One of those things is what they call a “gap in treatment.”

This gap in treatment phrase refers to time that passes between the alleged injury and seeking treatment for that injury. Jurors can often be convinced that if you were “really hurt” you would seek treatment immediately, therefore drawing the erroneous (though plausible) conclusion that if you don’t seek treatment immediately (or at least in a timely manner) then you weren’t really hurt. This isn’t necessarily true, obviously, but it is believable. And remember, as the plaintiff, it’s OUR burden to prove our damages. All the bad guys have to do is throw some doubt on our damages, and that’s a far easier thing to do than prove them.

By delaying treatment you’re giving the defense some doubt to give to the jurors, which in turn makes the insurance company feel more confident in being stingy.

Don’t play tough. Don’t act like you’re not hurt. Don’t hope it will go away on its own. If you’re hurt, go get it checked out ASAP. Worst case scenario you burn some time and a few bucks in the Urgent Care. Best case scenario you help to lock up your claim in a way that makes it really hard for the insurance company to stiff you. Which sounds better to you?

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Waiting Too Long to Hire an Attorney

I see this about once a month…

Person is involved in an auto accident. Doesn’t want to “make a big deal out of it” so they avoid calling a personal injury attorney for advice and assistance. The accident victim starts experiencing memory loss, head ache, ringing in their ears, dizziness, cognitive slowing, or any combination of these symptoms. In short, they had a concussion, probably have post-concussion syndrome, but because of the nature of the injury itself, they aren’t correlating those symptoms to their accident! Which means they aren’t getting diagnosed or treated, which means they are suffering more and maybe not getting better. Which in turn means these symptoms won’t be taken into consideration when it comes time to value their claim. Everyone loses EXCEPT the insurance company!

Seriously. I see this about once a month. This happens ALL the time. You would think you’d have your wits about you and know that if you’re acting funny after an accident it’s probably because of the accident and you should see a doctor. But that’s the problem with concussions; you’re not your normal clever self, so it’s hard to make those connections and cognitive leaps. This is a tragedy for your health, but it’s also a tragedy for your claim.

By making a simple call to a personal injury attorney, such as myself, a thorough intake would reveal these symptoms and their timing, and you’d get a strong nudge to get to your doc to get checked out, and then you’d be on the right path. You see, attorney’s don’t just yell at the other side to make them do things, they give you advice so things will go better for you. Remember, we’re “counselors” at law, too!

As I’m always saying, after an accident, call an attorney. Call me. You won’t regret it. But there’s a really good chance you’ll regret it if you don’t.

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Still Thinking About Handling Your Own Injury Claim?

I’ve been at this job for over two decades now and I’m still amazed when I hear of people wanting to handle their own personal injury claim.

Is there a time when this makes sense? For sure! Sometimes there are just really straight-forward claims where your chances of recovery are high enough relative to your chances of screwing things up. But that is NOT always the case. Here’s the best metaphor I’ve been able to think of on this subject:

Let’s say you’re interested in building a home. They way you go about it is you get an architect to draw up the plans and a contractor to arrange and supervise the build-out. Right? You get professionals to do their work so the thing doesn’t come crashing down on your head when you walk into it. The way you DON’T go about it is plan it on your Etch-a-Sketch, go to Lowes and get some 2x4s and some quickcrete and then have at it. You DON’T approach it with the idea of, “I’ll just hobble along and do what I can and if it gets really messy THEN I’ll get a contractor.” No way! At that point it’s too late. The contractor will have to knock down everything you’ve done and then start from scratch.

This is a great metaphor, and it only fails at the end when you’re talking about a contractor fixing the mess you’ve made. If we bring this back to personal injury claims, there often is no way to fix the mess you’ve made. Once you’ve made certain critical errors, they are made and there’s no going back. There is no “raze the whole thing and start over” option. Once the damage is done, it’s done.

I think that people still think of this as an option mostly because they misunderstand what attorneys do in these claims. Everyone has seen the lawyer shows and the court room drama and all that. That’s the more visible and memorable work that attorneys do, for sure. But arguably the more important, though less visible, work that they so is immediately after they sign up your claim. Our presence keeps the insurance companies from interrogating you and tricking you into torpedoing your own claim. Our investigations help to shore up your liability argument as well as to make sure we’re exhausting all potential coverages out there. Our analysis of your particular facts helps you to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your claim so you know where to concentrate your energy and what might trip you up later. If you don’t let us do that at the beginning, then it may be too late to get it done at all. And I’ll tell you this for nothing: It’s one thing to take on a case that needs a trial because it needs a trial, but it’s a totally different and way less attractive proposition to take on a case that needs a trial because of all the screw ups that were allowed along the way.

Don’t fall into this trap! If you have an injury claim, call a lawyer! Call several. I’ve told countless people that they didn’t need me and they could and should handle their own claim. I may not speak for all of us, but I’m not going to sign up your case unless I think I can do a better job on it than you can! None of us can make guarantees, but I think you’ll feel better about whatever decision you make after you talk to some professionals in this business. So if you have an injury claim, call an attorney. Call me. 919-929-2992.

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Event Data Recorder: Your Vehicle’s “Black Box”

I remember seeing coverage of airplane crashes on the evening news when I was kid and they were always talking about looking for the “black box” to help them understand what happened. Nowadays, most vehicles have one of these things, too. So when you have an auto accident there’s a good chance that your EDR (Event Data Recorder) will have a lot of information to help us understand what happened in your crash.

You might automatically assume that you should get that data when you have an injury claim. And you might be right. But you might also be wrong. How do you make this decision?

Like with a lot of aspects of these claims, it’s a tactical decision that may be influenced by several factors. The first thing you should look at is the cost. You’re likely to spend at least $1000 of your money, up front, to get this information from your vehicle. So how does that impact your decision? Well, if you’ve got a chiropractic case that’s probably worth under $10,000, then you may not want to spend $1000 up front, as it may not give you any information that will be necessary (or even helpful) to pursue your claim. On the other hand, the more significant injuries and treatment you’re enduring, the more incentive you have to get that data.

But what will it show? A lot. Here’s a list I blatantly borrowed from another blog post (https://www.devaughnjames.com/blog/can-your-cars-event-data-recorder-black-box-help-your-accident-claim/):

  • Pre-crash vehicle operational dynamics such as the speed, use of accelerator, engine RPM, use of steering wheel.
  • Crash force, both forward and lateral.
  • Crash duration.
  • Application of brakes and activation of antilock brake.
  • Change in speed after impact.
  • Activation of fault codes or warning signals.
  • Engagement of stability control.
  • Vehicle roll angle.
  • Number of ignition attempts after the accident.
  • Use of restraint and engagement of pretension and force-limiter for front seat occupants.
  • Position of front seats.
  • Size (weight) of front seat occupants.
  • Number of impacts.
  • Deployment of airbags, speed of deployment and faults, if any.
  • Activation of the automatic collision notification system.

That could be a lot of help. Or it could hurt your claim. A fair amount of thought should go into the decision to get this information. This is all the more reason you should have an attorney to help guide you if you’re in a serious automobile accident. Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Communication and Your Injury Claim

Trucking Accident Attorney

Being on top of Communication regarding your accident claim is critical to its success. What do I mean by that? A couple of things: First, DON’T talk to people you shouldn’t be talking to about your claim. Second, DO talk to your lawyer. That’s it.

Would that it were so simple for everyone to follow these brief instructions.

After your injury claim, you have to be aware that you are in an adversarial relationship with an insurance company whose sole goal is to minimize their exposure in your claim. I often tell clients to think of it like an arrest: Everything you say CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU by the insurance company. So what do you do? More like, what DON’T you do…

  • Don’t talk to the insurance adjuster about your injuries. Talk about property damage if you must, but NOT about your injuries, treatment, recovery, etc. Don’t even answer the question, “How are you doing?” Just don’t.
  • Don’t go on social media about your claim or your injuries. It might seem innocuous, but there’s a great saying in this business: When you’re explaining, you’re losing. Don’t give yourself anything you have to explain away. Just don’t.
  • Don’t threaten to, much less actually, “go to the media” about how the insurance company is treating you. It’s not a good look and will likely only end up doing you harm. Just don’t.

But affirmative communication is also important. What does that mean?

  • Talk to your attorney any time s/he writes, emails, calls, or whatever form of communication you guys agree to (I personally won’t text clients unless it’s absolutely necessary, but whatever). Making sure your attorney knows what’s going on with your health and recovery is critical to planning for the best strategy in your claim.
  • This is worth two bullet points…ANSWER the questions your attorney asks you. I can’t tell you how many cases have atrophied because my clients couldn’t be bothered to tell me something about their care and recovery when I asked about it, or couldn’t see fit to follow directions I gave them.
  • Be open to your healthcare providers about conditions you relate to this accident. If you hit your head and think you have a concussion, 6 months after the accident isn’t the time to bring it up. When you seek care following your accident, talk to your providers about EVERYTHING that seems to have changed since the accident. The sooner you get things checked out, the more likely we’ll be able to causally link them to your accident.
  • If you’ve been told to keep a pain journal – do that. I always tell clients to write at least about three things: What hurts? How badly? How is it affecting your day to day life? If you can get that in every day until you’re better, you’ll have an amazingly impactful journal.

Essentially, this is a know when to talk and when not to talk question. The easy answer is be very open with healthcare providers and your attorney, but don’t talk to the insurance company at all if you can avoid it. It’s only likely to go poorly if you do.

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Why does your injury claim take so long?

Clients ask me all the time, “How long is this claim going to take?” And I have a cheeky answer: “How long is it going to take you to get better?” I think that’s informative, but my clients sometimes just think I’m a smart@$$.

I get it. Injury claim victims really want to know what they’re in for. Who wouldn’t? But the thing is, claims are so varied in so many aspects it’s really hard to tell how long each claim is going to take.

My cheeky answer above is informative in that the longest part of most claims is going to be the recovery. We can’t really evaluate your claim’s value until your treatment is done (or at least plateaued), which doesn’t happen until you reach maximum medical improvement.

I can’t tell you how long your claim is going to take. But I can tell you a much closer estimate after you’re done with treatment.

Of course, there are lots of different points of your claim process. The treatment stage is normally the longest bit. But as time goes on, the documentation stage is becoming more and more prolonged. That is the stage where we amass all of the documents we need to prove what you’ve lost as a result of your claim. For most claims this is mainly the collection of treatment records and bills from health care providers. The tricky bit about this is that EVERY facility has their own rules about how you request materials. Some places want you to get records from them but bills from somewhere else. Some places want you to get bills from them but records from somewhere else. Some places don’t want you to talk to them at all. Some times you go to a place and get billed by two or three different places. Some will tell you where they do want you to request stuff from. Some places will tell you to send them the request and then ignore it until you send it again and then CALL them. And the thing is, you don’t know this stuff until you deal with that particular health care provider. And even then, they change this stuff at whim, and have NO obligation to tell you about it.

If you’re reading this, it’s probably because you’re frustrated with the time it’s taking to get your claim done. Lots of things can make your claim take a long time, but I’ll be willing to bet that your documentation phase is going to be your main source of frustration here. It is NOT as easy as calling up your doc and saying, “Send me the stuff,” and then badda bing, badda boom you get it. Most of the time, it takes weeks, if not months, to get records and bills from all of the various facilities that have given you care or charged you for care related to your injury. I wish that was not the case, but it just is. I do my best to make all aspects of your claim move quickly, but I can’t control places I don’t run, and I don’t run the hospitals or doctor’s offices or PT places. And remember, I don’t get paid until I get your case resolved, so you know I have ZERO interest in delaying it, if for no other reason than that.

These things take time. More time than we like. But we do our best.

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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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