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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Use Your Auto Insurance!

“But the accident wasn’t my fault!  Why should I use MY insurance?!”  I get this question  probably once a week.

I understand why you feel like you shouldn’t have to use your insurance, and I get that you think your rates will increase.  But here is why sometimes using your own auto coverage is the best thing.

When someone else causes an accident you’re in, ideally their coverage gets right on the ball.  They inspect your vehicle for damage, arrange for repairs, get you a rental, etc.  If that’s happening, super cool!  No need to bother your carrier.  But what if it’s not happening?

When that stuff you need is not coming fast enough, you really don’t have a lot of leverage to use against the other guy’s insurance to move things along.  Remember, they owe their client a duty to protect their interests, and they don’t really owe you anything.  So if you have rental/collision coverage, it only makes sense to use it.

First, this is EXACTLY why you’re paying for it.  Remember, you’re paying EXTRA for this coverage, as this is over and above the mandatory coverage you have to have to be driving legally.  So why not get what you pay for?

Second, in NC you have a duty to mitigate your damages.  That means that when you have a way to lessen your losses, you have to do that.  You can’t claim the other party’s insurance delays caused you more harm and expect to get paid for it when you could have avoided that extra harm by simply triggering your own coverage.

Third, I know you’re worried about your deductible, but your carrier will almost certainly get it back from the bad guys, and they may not even charge you!

Fourth, I know you’re worried about insurance points/rate increases, but when an accident isn’t your fault, you don’t get insurance points, so there are no rate increases for that!

You’ve paid extra for this coverage, and now you need it, so use it!  And remember, having an attorney to help guide you with this, ESPECIALLY if you’re badly injured, will only help!

Call me!  919-929-2992

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Bike Accident Injury Verdict $39 Million

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/article/Family-of-firefighter-killed-in-bike-crash-wins-11119621.php

 

$39 million.  That’s a lot of money.  But it doesn’t replace the father and husband that was lost.

From a legal standpoint, this presents an interesting question.  If you read the article you’ll note that this award is based on the defendant’s 69% fault.  This means that the state where this verdict was rendered is a comparative negligence state, as opposed to a contributory negligence state (like NC).  That means that the jury found that while the plaintiff was 31% at fault, the defendant was 69% at fault, and they awarded that percentage of the damages to the family.  In NC, the family would have gotten $0 even if the jury only found the victim 1% at fault.

While a tragedy for the family, this is a great example of the inequity of contributory negligence and shows why we should join the overwhelming majority of states in our union and adopt comparative negligence.  Of course, we arguably have bigger fish to fry these days, like getting our legislature to treat all humans equally and avoid being the laughing stock of America.  But maybe one day we’ll get there.

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Auto Accidents, Property Damage, and Diminished Value

Once again, I have chosen a topic too grand for a mere blog post.  But let’s touch on some key points:

When you have an auto accident, you will almost certainly have a property damage claim.  That just means that your car is busted and it needs to be fixed, OR it could be a total loss.  If you have collision coverage on your auto policy, then you can have your carrier handle that part of your claim.  I prefer this because you’re paying these folks and they owe you a duty to treat you fairly, so you have a bit more leverage with them than you do with the at-fault or liability carrier.  But if you don’t have collision coverage, you’re stuck with the liability folks.  Just pester them a lot and this part of the claim will generally take care of itself.  But sometimes it doesn’t.  Most attorneys don’t handle property damage claims, but if you have a bodily injury claim, they’ll happily help you deal with these shenanigans if you hire them for the bodily injury claim.

Your car is deemed a total loss if the cost of the repairs exceed 75% of the value of the car.  Sometimes this is good, sometimes it’s not, but we only have so much control over these numbers.  When a vehicle is repaired, remember that the initial estimate is almost never accurate or enough to cover the repairs.  And that’s OK!  Just get the process started, and the body shop will ask for a supplement (or several) to cover things they find as they break the car down.  This is normally not a problem.

If your car is NOT a total loss, was fairly new, and sustained a significant amount of damage, you might want to pursue a diminished value claim.  In other words, under the right circumstances, the bad guys might have to fix your car AND pay you something for the value that it lost as a result of the damage/repairs.  This can be tricky, and is worth talking to a lawyer about.  There are some confusing nuances and deadlines that run quickly on DV claims, so consult an attorney ASAP if you think you want to do this.

Property damage claims can be confusing.  And if you’re hurt, it’s all the more reason to get an attorney to help you deal with the nonsense.

Call me.  919-929-2992

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Head Injuries and Auto Accidents

So you’re having head aches, dizziness, nausea, blurry vision, ringing in your ears, getting lost in conversations, and/or are unusually forgetful after  your recent auto accident?

I’m not a doc, but you might have a concussion.  And if these symptoms go on long enough, you might be diagnosed with post concussion syndrome.  This is a potentially life-altering injury and you need help.

Nobody wants that, and nobody wants that for you.  But if you sustained this type of injury as the result of an automobile accident, you should be compensated for the suffering you’ve endured, and for the – perhaps long term/permanent – changes you’ve had in your life as a result.

Sadly, what I often see is this type of injury going un-diagnosed and un-treated for months after the injury.  And when it’s not documented, or at least not documented early enough, it makes it almost impossible to get fair treatment from an automobile insurance company.  Trust me, it’s hard enough to get the right money on cases where everything is clear, you don’t need anything else making it more difficult.

So if you have ANY symptoms that you think could be tied to a head injury following an automobile accident, it’s vital that you complain early and often about them to your health care providers.  Get your condition diagnosed quickly and get the treatment (if any) that is available to help manage your symptoms.  Even if you don’t get treatment, at least getting the diagnosis early can be critical in the resolution of your claim.

Head injuries often happen from auto accidents, but if you don’t handle them correctly and quickly, your claim can be even more of a mess than it already has to be.  Call an attorney for advice ASAP.

Call me.  919-929-2992.

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“Automatic” Reckless Driving

Traffic Attorney

I get lots of calls on traffic tickets.  Many times when someone gets charged with a relatively high speed, they assume that they are also charged with reckless driving.  This is not a thing.

If you’re actually charged with reckless driving (there are two statutes that we refer to in short hand as “careless and reckless”, or “C&R”) then that is something that must be dealt with.  BUT, just because you have a high speed ticket, it doesn’t mean that you automatically are charged with C&R.

In fact, the officer should not charge you with C&R based solely on your speed.  It’s not C&R to drive too fast, it’s just speeding.  It IS C&R if your speed combined with other factors (such as weather, road conditions, heavy traffic, etc.) create the circumstances required by the C&R statutes.

So remember, just because you’re going fast doesn’t mean you’re being statutorily reckless.  And just because you’re charged with reckless driving doesn’t mean you’re guilty of reckless driving.

Talk to an attorney and get some help.  Call me.  919-929-2992

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Negotiating Your Personal Injury Claim in NC

Whew!  Once again, I’ve chosen a topic that really deserves a book, or at minimum a very long pamphlet.  It’s really impossible to tell you everything about this in one little blog post.

So I guess I have to focus on one aspect.  Let’s focus on this tidbit:

What is the most important thing about the negotiation of your personal injury claim?  That’s right!  The outcome!

None of this effort means anything if you don’t get an outcome that you can feel OK about.  Note that I write “feel OK” not “feel wonderful.”  I’ll elaborate on that in another post.  Still, the whole point is to get what you want (or at least close to it).  That begs the question: What do you want?

Here’s the best advice I can give you on this topic: Get an idea as to what you think is an acceptable outcome and work towards it.  It is generally SOOOOO much more difficult to try to negotiate blindly.  In order to get where you want to be, you have to know where “where” is.  If you’re represented by counsel, make sure your attorney knows what your goals are.

I hope you have help.  If you don’t, call me!  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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