No, Your Ticket Will Probably Not Be Dismissed

I’m probably not going to get your ticket dismissed.  I’m sorry.  It’s just not likely.  If that makes you not want to hire me, cool.  But whoever you end up hiring probably isn’t going to get it dismissed either, and if they’re promising to do so, that’s a whole new problem entirely.

I don’t mean to be a jerk, I just want to be honest about your expectations.  Every case is a little different, and maybe, just maybe, there are facts surrounding your ticket that could give the ADA reason to dismiss your ticket.  But if you want honest, straight-forward, no BS advice from years of experience handling thousands of tickets, you are probably not going to get it dismissed.   It’s the exception, not the rule.

Speeding in NC is a strict liability offense.  That means that if you’re speeding, then you’re guilty.  Having an explanation doesn’t make you not guilty, it just serves as a confession that you were, in fact, speeding.  “But I was just trying to pass someone!”  I know, I know.  But if you go faster than what the limit is, that’s speeding.

But to turn this into a positive post (maybe it’s too late for that), let’s talk about what I CAN do…

There’s an excellent chance I can get it dismissed so as to reduce – or maybe eliminate – insurance points.  But that depends on your charge, your record, the county, and your facts.  If you want to know, call and talk to me about it.  But I’ll go ahead and tell you it probably ain’t getting dismissed, so don’t ask.

 

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Legal Advice and Where You Should Get It

Everyone thinks they know how a traffic ticket should be resolved. Everyone thinks they know what a personal injury claim is worth.

The key word in those statements is, “thinks.”

Every day I talk to people about these two subjects, and every day I have to dispel myths and and correct misinformation on these topics.  It’s frustrating that people propound this nonsense as gospel, but frankly I find it even more frustrating that people choose to believe it.

Some really good advice that I can give you is this:  Don’t take legal advice from anyone just because they have a mouth. I busted my @$$ for three years in law school and for three months studying for the Bar exam so I could legally give advice on the law.  And right after the bar, I knew a lot, but I didn’t really know anything because I hadn’t actually practiced law yet.  After more than a decade and a half of practice, after handling thousands of speeding tickets and hundreds of injury claims, I feel pretty confident that the advice I give is hard-earned and accurate.

To make this easier for you, I’ve broken this down into two lists:

 

PEOPLE FROM WHOM YOU SHOULD TAKE LEGAL ADVICE

  • Attorneys licensed to practice law in the state in which your legal matter is situated (even better, attorneys who work primarily in that area of practice!)
  • Literally, no one else

 

PEOPLE FROM WHOM YOU SHOULD NOT TAKE LEGAL ADVICE

  • the officer writing your ticket
  • anyone who had a ticket before
  • jail house lawyers
  • law students (seriously…I will beat your a$$3$ if I catch you)
  • your uncle who stubbed his toe in Wal-Mart and says he got $3.5 million (spoiler alert: he’s full of $#!^)
  • anyone who uses the acronym, “PFJ”
  • your mechanic who says if he writes a note that your speedometer was off the DA will always dismiss your ticket
  • anyone who says that an injury claim should settle for at least 3 times the medical bills (I might fight you if I hear you say this to someone)
  • attorneys who do not practice law in NC talking about NC things
  • (I reserve the right to add to this list)

In summary, call me if you want some accurate and reliable legal advice on traffic tickets in my region of this fine state or on injury claims throughout North Carolina.  If I give you advice on anything else you can tell me to STFU.

 

 

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From Out of State, but Accident in NC

This kind of scenario can get wacky.  You’re visiting our fine state of North Carolina, and BOOM, you’re in a car wreck.  Whose insurance does what? How does this all work?

It can get really complicated.  In fact, I can’t even really begin to cover all of the different variables in a short blog post, but here are some things to think about:

  1. Address your health care needs and worry about who is going to pay for it later.
  2. Make sure law enforcement creates an accident report.  You might not get it on the scene, but you should at least get a drivers’ exchange form so you know who all was involved.
  3. Consider whether you have PIP coverage in your state.  That might make a big difference in how you handle this.  You should seek counsel in NC, and maybe from your home state, too.
  4. Generally speaking, if you have health insurance, use that for your EMS, hospital visit (unless you have PIP, maybe!)
  5. You should probably make a claim against the at-fault party’s insurance, assuming they are an NC insured.  But consider whether you want to seek legal counsel before you make any statements

There are a ton of moving parts here, and some potential pitfalls.  As always, it’s probably smart to talk to a lawyer as soon as possible.  So call me. 919-929-2992

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How NOT to value your Injury Claim

I have to have this talk AAAAALLLLLLLLLLL the time.

There are many, many things that go into valuing a personal injury claim: Diagnoses, objective/subjective injuries, medical expenses, length of recovery, permanency, scarring, lost wages are some, but not all, of what I might consider to value your claim.

But people have an extremely hard time understanding what does NOT go into valuing their claim: Namely, the amount of damage done to their vehicle, and the bad driving of the defendant.

Just because your car was totaled doesn’t mean your case is automatically worth their liability limits.  As I argue with adjusters all day, property damage does not always correlate with personal damage.  In other words, what’s important about your property damage isn’t its breadth, but its corroboration with your reported injuries.  If your car isn’t damaged but for the windshield that you smashed with your head, netting you a traumatic brain injury, THAT’S important info.  But just because there’s minimal damage doesn’t mean you have a minimal injury.  And on the other end, if you roll your car 7 times but walk away with nary a scratch, I don’t care if you totaled a $200,000 Bentley, your injury claim isn’t going to be worth a lot.

And bad driving on the part of the defendant is a necessity to having a good injury claim.  But really bad driving doesn’t necessarily make your case worth more.  Yes, you have to prove negligence, or you can’t get to even talk about your damages, whatever they might be.  But the relative “badness” of that negligence doesn’t make a chiropractic sore neck case worth a ton more.  The exception to this rule is in cases where you can argue for punitive damages due to reckless and wanton conduct.  But this is the exception, NOT the rule.

So when you’re thinking about what you case is worth, don’t confuse damage to your vehicle with damage to your body.  And don’t confuse bad driving with automatic pay days.  More importantly, listen to your attorney.  There is a good chance he knows what he’s talking about, especially if he’s me.

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Auto Accident Property Damage

Virtually every time someone hires me for an auto accident injury claim, there is a discussion about the property damage aspect of their claim.  The upshot of that conversation is that I can probably help a lot with your injury claim, but you don’t really need me for the property damage claim.

For the injury claim, I add value in a few ways: I present the legitimate threat of trial to the insurance company, I help you avoid making mistakes that damage your claim, I help you make decisions that can add value to your claim, and I help to present your claim in such a way as to maximize that value.

For the property damage claim, I can’t really add value!  If your car needs repairing, they’ll pay to get it repaired.  If you need a rental, they’ll probably do that up front, or we might be able to get you reimbursed if necessary.  If your car is totaled, they will pay you the fair market value-ish.  I can coach you up on how best to calculate that value (it’s a moving target) but I’ll do that for nothing.  All you’re doing here is making phone calls and doing a little internet stuff.  You don’t need me for this.

The exception to that is when you have a diminished value claim.  That’s when your car is relatively new and then the damage/repairs reduces that value significantly.  I CAN help you with that, so if that’s your situation, let me know!

Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Orange and Chatham Co. Traffic Court Dates

Traffic Attorney

Hiring an attorney for your traffic ticket makes a TON of sense, most of the time.   You can avoid going to court yourself – which is normally worth the price all by itself – plus you can rely on their knowledge and experience to get you the best plea deal available to help you avoid further consequences.

But if you get an attorney to handle an Orange or Chatham County traffic ticket you should know this: The court date on your ticket is NOT the court date the case will be handled.  Each of these districts have attorneys’ days that they make us use, and it’s on THOSE dates that we’ll handle your ticket.

In Orange, the attorneys’ day is the third Wednesday of the month (if your attorney is one of the mass-mailing folks, they have a separate day that you can ask them about).  I go every other month to Orange just to keep costs down (that helps you).

In Chatham, the attorneys’ day is the second Thursday of the month.  I go every month there, because Chatham is a little less easy to move things around in (just a little).

Just remember, if you hire an attorney for your Orange or Chatham County speeding ticket the court date it will be handled on will almost certainly NOT be the date on your ticket.  If you have any questions, ask your attorney!

919-929-2992.

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What’s a personal injury case worth?

I’ll be the first to say that personal injury cases aren’t all about money.  They are about trying to make victims whole after their lives have been painfully disrupted due to no fault of their own.

Having said that, there are few remedies available under the law to make someone whole other than a monetary award.  So that begs the question: What is a personal injury case worth?

Some people will come up with an artificial goal.  They’ll make up something like, “My Uncle Fred got $1 gazillion for his broken pinky case,” or “I want to get at least $3500 because that’s what my rims were worth.”  It’s good to have a goal, but that’s probably not the best way to go about it.

Bodily injury claim values should be rooted in things that have to do with your bodily injury.  While many people do look at the BI claim as a way to soften the blow of a not-so-great property damage settlement, they aren’t necessarily linked.

There’s a great movie quote where a guy asks what comes with his purchase and he says, “You get a gold plated Rolls Royce, as long as you pay for it.”  This is a good demonstration of the concept of quid pro quo. That simply means, “this for that.” In other words, in order to get this, you have to exchange it for that.   What I try to do is compare each case and its resultant offers (with the math) to what the average case looks like, and I judge it from there.
The reality is that there’s no 100% definite way to define case value, but I use my 16+ years of experience in this field, as well as talking to other attorneys, to come up with estimates as to what I think adjusters/juries will do in these cases, and I’m normally fairly accurate.  But that doesn’t mean you have no input in the goal I set for your case.    Remember, I want you to get as much as possible, as I get paid a percentage of your settlement, so more is better for me!
What I am trying to say is that your goal should be more based in expert advice and data than in other, less related, metrics.  Once again, it doesn’t mean I won’t try to get you as much as I can.  I just mean that I want you to keep your expectations realistic.  Listen to your attorney.  You’re paying for his/her expert advice in these matters, and it is probably worth every penny.
Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Paying Off Speeding Tickets

Traffic Attorney

I get a version of this call about once every fortnight:

“My license is revoked and I don’t know why.  I just paid off a ticket I got recently, but I don’t understand why my license is revoked.”

Ugh.

Please don’t just pay off a speeding ticket UNTIL you speak to an attorney about what the effects might be.  Most of the time paying off a ticket is going to at minimum increase your insurance rates for three years.  Often it doubles them for 3 years!  Most of the time in NC, if you have a ticket that is going to revoke your license, they won’t allow you to mail in a check to simply plead guilty/pay it off, but they’ll make you come to court or get an attorney.  In other states, though, sometimes you can just pay it, which can end up in disaster for you and your driver’s license.

The upshot is this:  If you get a speeding ticket, be it in NC or any other state, call an attorney in your license-issuing state to find out how a plea might affect your license and insurance rates.  You’ll be glad you did.

Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Auto Accidents and Health Insurance

Do you use your health insurance for auto accident injuries? Yes!

So many times I have clients with auto accident claims who think for some reason they should not use their health insurance for treatment of auto accident-related injuries.

This is wrong.  I totally understand why you might think that it’s right, but it’s just not.

In some states, auto insurance will pay for victims’ ongoing health expenses.  North Carolina is NOT one of those states.  In NC, auto accident victims bear sole responsibility for their treatment expenses until they prove that someone else should.  It’s an all or nothing thing here, and there is no slow drip of medical costs.  In other words, there is no pay as you go.  So if you don’t use your health insurance you will have bills accumulating, and then soon you’ll have debt collectors hounding you.

Help me to help you avoid that!  Use your health insurance (unless there’s a REALLY good reason not to)!

Call me at 919-929-2992.

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The Hardest Part of Handling Auto Accident Claims

Do you know what the hardest part of handling auto accident claims is?  It’s not what you think!

It’s not knowing and understanding the law.  It’s not dealing with jaded, unsympathetic insurance adjusters.  It’s not playing Dr. Phil to injured clients.  You know what it is?  It’s getting the #$%^&^%$%^&* medical records and bills for my clients.  Yes.  Getting medical records and medical bills related to the accident and associated injuries is the hardest part of handling auto accident claims!

Isn’t that surprising?  Isn’t that a shame?

I’ve rationalized it to myself by saying that most health care providers didn’t go into medical school or whatever in order to administer their practices effectively and promptly provide attorneys with medical bills and records.  Their priority is providing good health care, at least I hope it is, and I can get behind that. But man, it sure is frustrating trying to get these things from these folks.

You would think it would be easy.  They keep records.  I send a letter with a legally valid release.   They print the stuff out or send it on a disc.  Voila.  Right?  Should be easy, but man, I tell you it ain’t.  Often times with small offices these requests are given LAST priority, so they get to them when they get to them.  And when they are handled, they are handled by the person with the least seniority and training, so there’s no telling what you’ll get or when you’ll get it.  Then you get some high-minded nutjobs who have attended a webinar so they think they are the world’s foremost authority on HIPAA and HITECH and as such they pass judgment on your medical release.  In bigger institutions, they have entire offices set aside for these requests, but EITHER they are understaffed so it takes them 2 months to respond OR they take the position that unless you send the request three times you don’t really mean it.  And then you have places that outsource this service, and in that case, you’re probably totally #$%^&.

Look, in the end, I’m a lawyer.  I’m not a ninja.  I’m not a mafioso.  What I CAN do is send a valid request and release to your health care providers – the way they ask me to! – and then follow up and ask that they follow through with that request.  I CANNOT subpoena these things without a lawsuit being filed.  I CANNOT go over there (in most instances) and give them the stink eye until they comply, or sneak in at night and steal the crap.  I CANNOT spend my entire day repeatedly calling these knuckleheads asking them to do their job.

So if you’re frustrated with how long it’s taking your attorney to get your medical records, please don’t blame him or her.  Blame the health care provider who can’t press “print” and lick a stamp.   Blame the health care provider who shirks responsibility for this aspect of their practice and outsources it.  Blame the health care provider who changes their procedures for these requests every three and a half months and expects all of us to just know this by our inherent telepathic powers.  Blame whoever you want, but don’t blame your attorney.  I’m doing what I can.

P.S. This post has nothing to do with chiropractors.  Those offices almost always have their $#!^ together and get me everything that I need promptly and professionally.

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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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