Personal Injury Settlements and Taxes

“Is my settlement money taxable?”

I get this ALL the time. It’s mostly a simple question, but like anything with the IRS, and it can get complicated pretty darn quickly.

Here is your best reference for this question:
https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p4345.pdf

If you got a few grand out of a car accident, that’s not going to be taxable. That’s most of what I see in my practice so it’s an easy answer.

Of course, it can get more complicated. Remember, income is taxable. The IRS default is to think of income as any money you take in, but there are exceptions. For your personal injury award, that’s compensation for for what you lost, so it’s not viewed as income, per se, but more like replacement value, so in that sense it’s not income. It’s kind of the same when you’re getting money to pay back medical expenses you’ve paid or owed; in that instance you’re essentially breaking even, so that’s not income.

But if you’ll read that IRS publication above, you’ll note that if you’ve taken tax advantage from those losses above, then you’ll need to report that you’ve made them up. This almost NEVER comes up in the tiny medical expense scenario of the average auto accident claim. But it could come up with some more complicated injury/treatment scenarios. Also, if you’re getting compensation for wages you lost which would have been counted as income, that can count, too.

Is it terribly complicated? Nah. But is it smart to seek advice? For sure. If you have an injury claim, talk to an attorney. Talk to me. 919-929-2992.

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Emotional Distress Claims from Auto Accidents

Yes. That’s a thing. But like everything in this business, it’s tricky.

If you feel like you’ve suffered an emotional/psychological injury as the result of an automobile accident, it’s important that you get a diagnosis from an accredited healthcare professional. Psychiatrist? Yes. Psychologist? Yes. LCSW? Maybe. Your dad? Nope.

As with all aspects of your damages, you have the burden of proving your loss, so the better your proof, the more likely you’ll prevail.

You could probably use some guidance in this. Call me to discuss! 919-929-2992.

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Injured? Get Representation NOW!

I see this situation way too often: A person is injured in an automobile accident, a dog bite, or whatever, and they hope that things get better. They hope that things resolve nicely on their own. They rely on hope, instead of good advice and experience. And guess what that gets them?

When you don’t seek good advice, you don’t know what you’re doing. You don’t know what will help your claim, what will hurt you claim, who you can talk to, what you can say. You really don’t have any informed notion as to how to take care of your claim, which means you’re probably going to hurt it. Does that sound like a good way to handle things?

If you have a potential injury claim, it makes sense to talk to a personal injury attorney as soon as possible to make sure you’re doing everything you’re supposed to in order to not harm your claim.

Hoping that things will work out isn’t a plan. That’s just setting yourself up for a worst case scenario. If you’re hurt, don’t waste time seeking good advice. Call an attorney. Call me. 919-929-2992.

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How Long Should I Get Treatment For My Injury Claim (this is a trick question)?

I get this a lot, too.

If you haven’t been in an accident before, and haven’t gone through the claims process, you probably don’t really know how the process works. What’s worth, is you’ve probably heard a lot of nonsense that’s given you ideas about this process that aren’t really accurate. Thanks, media!

Anywho, clients sometimes ask me how long they should get treatment for their injury claim. Here’s my answer: I DON’T KNOW! I’m not that kind of doctor! I’m happy to talk with you about your injuries, your treatment options, and how your decisions about these affect your claim. But I can’t tell you how long you should get treatment, or what kind of treatment you should get. That’s not my gig, and it’s between you and your health care professionals to figure out that stuff. My job is to help you understand how your decisions and your particular situation will work inside of your claim.

So I don’t know how long you should get treatment. I just know that if you have an injury, it makes sense to get treatment, and then I’ll use that information to help make sure you’re treated fairly in your claim. Call me for help! 919-929-2992.

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Interested in Losing Your License?

You got a speeding ticket. Big deal. Maybe you want to just plead guilty and forget about it.

BE CAREFUL! Pleading to speeding tickets is a quick way to get your license revoked. If you’re going 16 or more MPH over the limit and greater than 55 MPH, you can get your license revoked for up to a year. This happens to people ALL the time when they’re trying to just simplify their lives. Don’t fall for it.

Call an attorney and get some quality advice. Sometimes it’s not necessarily a bad idea to pay off a ticket, but those times are few and far between. Talk to an attorney and get some good advice. Talk to me! 919-929-2992.

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Med Pay Coverage and Liens Trickiness

Some of you won’t know what Med Pay is, so we’ll start with that. You have to have liability insurance on your automobile, right? Well, you can purchase extra coverage, too. Some of us get collision coverage, which pays for your car damage. But you can also purchase medical payments coverage (the cool kids call it “Med Pay”) which can help pay for medical treatment necessitated by injuries sustained in an auto accident, whether it was your fault or not. It’s good stuff!

But you have to be careful when accessing it, and not for the reason you think. Med Pay is no-fault coverage, which is short hand for saying that making a Med Pay claim on an accident that wasn’t your fault won’t give you insurance points, and won’t raise your premiums. And it can be super handy in helping to pay for your treatment costs while you await your liability settlement.

As always, there can be problems. One problem I see is that when there are health insurance liens or claims for reimbursement that attach to your claim. There are some health insurance plans that allow for subrogation, meaning if they pay for your medical treatment, and then you get money for that same treatment, you have to pay them back. Some of those plans have a right of reimbursement over your Med Pay money, too. What that means is if you spend that Med Pay money when your health plan had a right to it, you could be jeopardizing your coverage.

This can be a bit complex for a short blog post; heck, it can be a bit complex for a long conversation. But this is all the more reason that you should have a personal injury attorney if you have an injury claim. This is exactly what we’re here for, so please call someone. Call me! 919-929-2992.

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Do I need an attorney?

I probably get this question maybe 28 times a minute. Here’s the thing: I don’t know! Maybe you do, maybe you don’t. I’m sure you get tired of attorney-speak, but every case is different, so the answer to the question, “Do I need an attorney?” can vary for every situation.

Having said that, there are a few things you can look at that will help steer you in the right direction:

If you aren’t hurt, you probably don’t need a lawyer.

Conversely, the more hurt you are (and the more treatment you need/the longer your recovery) the more likely it is that you need an attorney. With that much at stake, you don’t want to risk it, do you?

Do you feel confident in knowing what to ask for, or how to ask for it, or when to do so? If you don’t, then you probably need a lawyer.

If you can’t explain quickly and easily what these terms mean, you probably need an attorney:

contributory negligence, civil burden of proof, causation, pre-existing condition, lien, subrogation, UM/UIM

If you’re more worried about your health than you are the settlement you think you’re going to get, you probably could use an attorney. This one may not be intuitive, but think about it…the settlement doesn’t matter as much as your health. And if you want your health back, you should be able to focus on THAT, not on trying to figure out how to do my job.

If you’ve been hurt in an accident, particularly an auto accident, call me and let’s talk. Maybe I can help. 919-929-2992.

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Attorneys and Traffic Tickets

Why do you hire an attorney when you get a ticket? There are reasons. But they may not be what you think.

Here’s why you you should hire an attorney:

On a simple speeding ticket, depending on the county, you generally don’t have to appear in court. That’s normally worth the fee all by itself.

We know the different outcomes that are likely to be available, but more importantly, we actually know what the effect of those outcomes might be on your license and your insurance rates. You guys and your interweb research normally don’t know that as well.

We know what PJC stands for, but more importantly, we know when to use it and when not to. It’s not the panacea you might have been told that it is.

These are NOT reasons to hire an attorney for your speeding ticket:

We don’t just make them go away. Most of us work above-board with ADAs in court that do the same, so you aren’t getting any special deal; we’re just using our knowledge and expertise to get you the best deal that we can under the circumstances.

We don’t do your homework for you. Sometimes the ADA wants you to jump through some hoops to earn a break. If that’s the case, you have to jump through the hoops. We don’t.

If you have a compliance type ticket (expired registration, no insurance, no inspection…) you have to take care of that and get us the documentation to prove it. That’s not something we can do.

If you have a ticket in Orange, Chatham, or Alamance Counties, please call me and I’ll tell you what I can do, what I can’t do, and what you might expect. Yes, I’ll do my best to help but you can also expect to have some responsibility on your part. Just keepin it real, y’all.

Call me at 919-929-2992.

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Why waiting to get help on your injury claim is a really bad idea

I see this way too often.  Someone gets hurt, and they decide that they’ll try to handle the claim on their own until they feel like they need an attorney.  Then it gets ugly, and 2.5 years down the road, they have 6 months left on their statute of limitations, a tangled mess of a claim, and they struggle to find an attorney willing to jump in at such late notice.

Why mess around? I guess I understand…people hear so much negativity about lawyers, particularly personal injury lawyers, and they assume the worst.  Injury victims feel like they might be victimized twice if they hire an attorney, when the truth is that they’re victimizing themselves by NOT hiring an attorney.

If you wanted to build a house, would you try to build it on your own until it was time to put up the sheet rock, and THEN try to get an architect and contractor to come and make sure it was all right?  What are the chances you’ll just have to tear it all down and start over?  Probably pretty high.  But you can’t just start over with your injury claim; once you’ve made a mess of it, it’s a mess.

Don’t make this mistake when there is so much help available out there.  Reduce your chances of making a bad situation worse.  If you’re hurt in an accident, call an attorney.  Call me 919-929-2992.

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Hurt on the Job in NC?

 

If you get hurt on the job in NC, your immediate thought might be that all of your losses will be covered by Workers’ Compensation.  But you might be wrong.

Workers’ Compensation claims (or comp claims, for short) can be super tricky in NC.  But they’ve become even more tricky since 2011 when the Republicans took over the legislature and sold their souls (did they have any to begin with, one wonders…) to insurance companies.  In short, just because you’re hurt at work doesn’t mean you have a comp claim.  And when you do have a comp claim, your rights are extremely limited.

Do yourself a favor: If you’re ever injured on the job (or anywhere, for that matter), reach out to a qualified attorney immediately.  You have a bad situation already, so try not to make it worse.  But in the meantime, consider a few points…

For a valid comp claim in NC, you have to have an injury by accident sustained in the course of and arising out of your employment with an employer subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act.  Each of those nouns is a way out for your employer.  Was it an accident?  If not, no comp.  Was it sustained in the course of your employment?  Did it arise out of your employment?  Was your employer subject to the Act?  If you don’t know what all of those mean, you might have a problem.

As soon as your accident happens, notify your employer in writing (a form 18 found here is a good way to do that).  And call an attorney asap.  There’s so much that can go wrong, so protect yourself.

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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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