Posts Tagged ‘chapel hill lawyer’

Slip and Fall Claims in NC and why they aren’t easy

I probably have this conversation once a month, and while I have documented it in my super sweet Video Library (, it’s worth writing about again. And again.

Injury claims in NC can be tricky. After all, we have Contributory Negligence (, one of 4 states that still has that nonsense on the books (Yay for backwards NC!). So any time of injury claim based on negligence can be subject to this defense, even when it’s seemingly inappropriate. Slip and fall claims, or Premises Liability claims as we refer to them generally, can be extra tricky because of how the law has been shaped over time in this field.

For maybe the millionth time in my career, I’ll tell you that just because you’re hurt on someone’s property doesn’t mean that the owner of that property is responsible for your injury. That’s just not how it works here. you have to show that their negligence lead to your injury. Specifically, you have to show that by the exercise of reasonable care, they should have discovered the dangerous condition that caused your injury AND should have (at the minimum) warned you about it or taken action to address it. “Reasonable care” can vary depending on the situation. What’s reasonable for a 75 employee mega-store might not be reasonable for a picture framing shop.

Let’s step back to contributory negligence, what it means, and how it interacts with what I’ve described above. Contributory negligence (“contrib” in the business) is the doctrine that if you’re even 1% at fault in causing your accident/injury, you can’t recover anything from the person that’s 99% at fault. The idea is that you have a duty to exercise “reasonable care” (there’s that phrase again) to look out for your own safety.

Here’s where contrib and premises liability theory clash to the great detriment of plaintiffs in NC. If you can successfully show that there was a dangerous condition that caused your injury, and it was so bloody obvious and dangerous that the owners should have seen it and done something about it, you’re probably helping them to prove that it was so bloody obvious that YOU should have seen it and exercised “reasonable care” to keep yourself away from it. It is a kind of Catch-22.

Don’t get me wrong. It is possible to have a very viable slip and fall or premises liability claim in North Carolina. You just have to have the right facts. It helps if you have an attorney to guide you through this, so call me at 919-929-2992.

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Med Pay and Your Liability Policy

Sometimes we have to make a liability claim against our own liability policy. This happens most often in inter-family claims where, perhaps, hubby was driving, screws up, causes a wreck, and wife is injured. Well, that’s what you have liability insurance for, so there’s no need to be shy. Make the claim!

But there is a little surprise lurking in that process for people who have opted to pay extra for medical payments coverage, or “med pay” as we call it in the business.

Let’s say your overall claim was worth $6000. Cool. Let’s also say that you have $2000 in Med Pay. That means your policy will pay out your $2000 in Med Pay, and your liability policy will then cover the remaining $4000. In other words, the liability policy gets a credit for Med Pay! But you’ve paid extra for that! Is that fair?

Well, it depends on your perspective. It’s allowed, so we’re stuck with it, so fair doesn’t really matter. But from the POV of the insurance companies, the claim is “worth” $6000, so why should they pay more? From our POV, though, they should pay the $6000 because that’s what the liability policy is on the hook for, and they should pay the $2000 because you’ve paid for it.

The current rule for the credit stands as of this writing. However, it is worth noting that if the liability policy pays out its limits, then it does not get a credit for Med Pay, in which case you’d get the limits PLUS the Med Pay. So there’s that.

This stuff is wacky, and you probably don’t have time to figure it all out, which is precisely why you should call me. If you have an injury claim call me at 919-929-2992.

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What does Worker’s Comp do?

I probably use this joke too much, but I often say that the “comp” in worker’s comp doesn’t stand for “compensation,” but for compromise.

In North Carolina Worker’s Comp was created as a compromise to help injured workers get the support necessary to get back to work, but to also not hold employers accountable for things they may not have caused.

Worker’s Compensation claims can be “comp” – licated too. It is a separate body of law unto itself and there’s a lot of weird stuff in there. But if you want to know what worker’s comp is supposed to do, in essence, here it is boiled down for you:

  1. They should pay you for your time out of work. Granted, it’s only 66% of your average weekly wage, but it’s something.
  2. They should pay for your treatment related to your injury. Yes, they get to choose the doctor, which can have a huge impact on the type and quality of care you get, but still, it’s something.
  3. To the extent you have permanent impairment, you should get money for that. How much? Ask an attorney.

Worker’s Comp claims are wacky. Save yourself a lot of time and heart ache. Get an attorney. 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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Personal Injury Claim Depositions

Part of the dirty work of litigation is having to go through depositions.  As I explain that to my daughter, a deposition is a meeting where attorneys try to catch other attorney’s clients in telling lies or not knowing what they’re talking about while their attorney watches and tries to stop them.  It’s really dumb!

But it’s part of what we do.  When my clients are deposed, generally I give them the following guidelines to help them understand how to respond.


Tell the truth

Answer ONLY the question you are ASKED

  • Do not volunteer extras; just answer what you are asked
  • Think before you speak. A short pause to gather your thoughts and make sure you understand the question and your answer is fine

Answer ONLY when you understand the question

  • Make sure you understand what they are asking for, and then answer ONLY what you are asked

You can only testify to what you know

  • “I don’t know” is a completely acceptable answer
  • If you don’t know, don’t guess or try to be helpful in a response

Be careful how you answer

  • Simple answers are best: “Yes”, “No”, “I don’t know.” Are the best answers
  • Characterizing your answer with words like “honestly,” or “to tell the truth” are NOT acceptable
  • Don’t adopt the questioner’s opinion; listen to how the question is asked
  • When you have finished the answer, be quiet. DON’T feel the need to fill in silence
  • Watch compound questions

Documents…be careful

  • If you are asked about a document, don’t comment on it until you read it, then answer carefully

Breaks are fine

  • If you need a break for any reason, you can ask for one

I can go off the record/you cannot

  • Lawyers may chat, and that doesn’t necessarily mean anything
  • EVERYTHING you say can be used against you

If I object, stop talking until I give you instructions

  • Objections are for lawyers. Just hang out until I tell you to talk again

No one is perfect

  • They will get some points…it’s fine
  • If you are caught in an inconsistency don’t collapse. Just deal with questions one by one
  • Everyone makes mistakes. Don’t get upset

As I think about it, these guidelines aren’t a crazy way to answer any questions from people that aren’t your friends.  Try it out in real life and see how it works.

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Got a Speeding Ticket?

Traffic Attorney

It happens to the best of us.  You’re driving down the road, rocking out to your 1980’s playlist, and then “WOOOP WOOP” you hear that horrifying siren and see the flashing lights in your rear view mirror.  Doh!

So what do you do now?  You have a few options:

With some tickets, you can just pay them off.  THIS IS ALMOST ALWAYS A TERRIBLE IDEA!  Paying off a ticket is pleading guilty, and that gets you a conviction, and a conviction can have dramatic consequences; I can’t tell you how many times someone has called me about being surprised that their license was revoked after they paid off a ticket.  Yep, that happens.  Even if it doesn’t, a lot of these charges will raise your insurance rates, sometimes nearly doubling it for three years!  You should talk to an attorney before you do this.

You might also want to appear in court on your own and try to work it out.  Good luck.  Law school took me three years, and when I first started practicing I still had no idea how to handle speeding tickets.  After a year or so of handling them, I felt more comfortable.   Maybe after you get about 75 tickets you’ll figure it out.

…or you could just hire an attorney!  Do that.  For a reasonable fee, you don’t have to waste your time in court for a full work day, AND you’ll probably get an outcome that wouldn’t have been as bad as had you done it on your own.  Spending a few bucks now can save you a lot of money and hassle later.

If you get a ticket, talk to an attorney.  It’s the smart thing to do.


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Hit & Run Auto Accident Claims

It’s already tough enough being in an auto accident.  You’re hurt, you have a busted up car, and life is harder than it needs to be.  What makes it even worse is when the knucklehead who caused the accident flees the scene.  What do you do then?

Obviously, the most important thing is your health and safety, and the health and safety of everyone involved.  Check to make sure you’re taking care of that stuff first, then worry about the knucklehead.

After that, see if you can get any identifying info.  Take a picture before s/he runs? Of the person, the car, the tag?  Get any witness statements that you can.  Don’t forget their names and contact info.

Of course, you want to call law enforcement if that’s not already done.  Depending on the situation, they might be able to catch the person quickly, or at least track them down eventually.

What gets really frustrating is when the owner of the hit and run vehicle reports their vehicle stolen shortly after the accident.  This often occurs when abysmally unscrupulous people try to avoid consequences for their negligence, hoping that someone will believe their tale.  Sadly, it sometimes works.  But if you get law enforcement involved, and you’re luckier than you have been so far, that theory can be sunk.  Were the keys in the car?  That’s prima facie evidence of permission to drive.  Is the owner of the car mysteriously injured, kind of like they were just involved in an auto accident?  Any witnesses?

Whether or not you can put the right person in the bad guy’s car can really affect your insurance coverage situation.  Is this a liability claim, or did it just become an uninsured motorist claim?  We’ll have to see…

Injury claims are hard enough to deal with.  When you’re dealing with knuckleheads who lie, it only makes matters worse.  Get an attorney to help.  Get me to help.

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Medicare and Your Auto Accident Injury Claim


In general, the way auto injury claims work in North Carolina is that they hit you, you get treatment, then their insurance pays you for your losses.  Easy peasy, right?  Well, it’s not that simple, and if you have Medicare, it’s way more complicated.

When you have Medicare, they should pay for your treatment.  Don’t let the hospital tell you they can’t/won’t bill them.  They should take your health insurance, whether it’s Medicare or not!

But it gets even more complicated.  When negotiating the settlement of you claim, you need to take into account what Medicare is going to want back.  That’s right, you’re going to have to pay something out of your settlement to Medicare after you settle the claim.

Early in your claim, you should (or your attorney should) send a letter to Medicare asking them for a Conditional Payment amount.  This can take months, so the sooner you ask the better.  This is the amount you use for negotiation purposes to determine what you’ll have to pay them back from the settlement.

This will sound backwards, I know, but bear with me.  AFTER you settle the case, yes, AFTER you settle the case, you THEN ask Medicare for their Final Payment amount, which is the amount they really do want back.  It’s normally less than the Conditional Payment number, but doesn’t have to be.  Medicare does take into account the cost of recovery (attorney’s fees, etc.), so that helps.

In a nutshell, it’s complicated, which is why you should seek competent legal representation.  Call a personal injury lawyer. Heck, 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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