Don’t Be Taken Advantage of — Why You Need An Injury Attorney

I recall reading a story last year on yahoo about the government’s efforts to condemn (purchase) land on the US-Mexico border for construction of the border wall.  It follows the story of Teofilo Flores, who accepted the government’s $1,650 offer for a slice of his backyard.  Mr. Flores thought that he had gotten a good deal until he learned that a neighbor had received 40 times that amount for a similar piece of property and that another nearby farmer had received almost $1 million in exchange for his cooperation.

I won’t bore you with the details of the story, but the general theme was that those who retained attorneys to represent them in the negotiations received significantly more in the process than those without attorneys.  A group of landowners joined together and hired a trial lawyer (those of us who argue cases before a judge or jury) and their cases received settlement checks that were on average 1,200 percent more than the original offers.

It immediately struck me that this is virtually identical to what happens in personal injury cases.  People think they’re saving themselves money by not hiring an attorney to pursue their claims.  But that’s a mistake.  Even insurance company studies prove that injured persons who retain lawyers recover more than those who are not represented.

And there are good reasons for that.  People don’t know the ins and outs of making a claim, what the fair value of a claim might be, and how to best present the claim.  Even if lay people study up on those issues, they still don’t have the hammer necessary to force insurance companies to take them seriously.  In our cases, if the insurance company isn’t being reasonable, we’ll file a lawsuit and take it to trial, if necessary.  That’s the biggest bargaining tool we have.

However, insurance companies know that unrepresented people don’t know the process, don’t know the fair value of the claim, and know that if they don’t treat an unrepresented person fairly, there’s not a lot that person can do if the person isn’t willing to hire a lawyer.  And because insurance companies know this, you can rest assured that they’ll take advantage of you.

If you or a loved one is injured, don’t try to resolve the claim yourself.  At least talk to a lawyer first.  You don’t want to find yourself in poor Mr. Flores’s shoes, settling your case and only learning later that you’ve been taken advantage of.

If you have any questions on this topic, please contact Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. at 800-208-6409.

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Car Wrecks: What Should I Bring To My First Meeting With A Lawyer?

You should bring everything you think is relevant, and probably more. We always want too much information rather than not enough. In an automobile accident claim, you should consider bringing the following:

1. ACCIDENT REPORT. In most car wreck cases, you’ll have either the short exchange of information form filled out by the parties at the scene or the full accident report from the investigating officer. Whatever you have, bring it.

2. PHOTOS/VIDEOS. If you have photos or video of the accident scene, the other parties, or your injuries, then bring those in. Photos can be priceless in helping tell your story.

3. A LIST OF DOCTORS/MEDICAL PROVIDERS. Prior to your consultation, you should prepare a list of doctors and medical providers who you have seen for the wreck We’re going to ask you for that in the meeting. Instead of you being put on the spot and trying to think of those items off the top of your head, try to prepare the list in advance. I’ve found that clients who prepare the list in advance (without the stress or being rushed) do a much better job of naming everyone that needs to be on the list.

4. MEDICAL RECORDS AND BILLS. If you have any medical records or bills, bring those to the initial meeting.

5. YOUR HEALTH INSURANCE POLICY/MEDICARE or MEDICAID INFORMATION. It might not occur to you, but it helps to have your health insurance policy. Because of subrogation principles, your health insurance is probably going to be asked to be reimbursed for any medical expenses it pays on your behalf. The same is true for Medicare, Medicaid, VA Benefits and any number of other groups that pay for your medical care. To help us prepare for your subrogation claims, please gather your health insurance policy, Medicare or Medicaid records, or any additional information that you think might help us pursue those subrogation claims.

6. YOUR AUTOMOBILE INSURANCE POLICY. Again, you might not think about this, but we want your automobile insurance policy. We’ll need that policy to help you determine whether you have Medical Payments Coverage or Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM), which may help you with your claim.

7. CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE INSURANCE COMPANY/DEFENDANT. If you have already started receiving communication from the insurance company or the other side, we’ll want to know about that. Please bring that information to the first meeting.

As the case goes on, we’ll need more information, but this is a good starting list. If you have any other information that you think we will need, feel free to bring that as well.  If you have any questions about this topic, please contact Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. at 1-800-208-6409.

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Car Wrecks: Dangers of Cheap Auto Insurance

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I was scrolling through Yahoo News recently and a story about the Hidden Dangers of Cheap Auto Insurance caught my eye.

The dangers listed are:

1.  You’re probably not getting the coverage you need.

2. Your low-priced deductible could lead to higher costs.

3. Bad customer service is bad, even if your policy is cheap.

4. Friends may not be covered by a cheap policy.

5.  You need to watch out for cheap insurance scams.

I see a couple of these issues on a daily basis.  The most common complaint I have falls under item #1 — you might not have the coverage you need.   If you are a regular reader of my website, you know that I’m a strong believer in purchasing uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage as part of your own auto insurance.  These coverages protect you from other drivers.  You spend a lot of money protecting others with your liability policy; don’t get cheap when it’s time to protect you and your family.  Spend the few extra dollars to purchase UM/UIM coverage.

I also see danger #3 arise.  Obviously, if you’re making a claim on your policy, you want the insurance company to treat you fairly.  But if you get in an accident, you want the insurance company to treat the other party fairly also.  After all, if you cause a wreck and your insurance company doesn’t treat the other party fairly, you’re the one who is going to be sued and forced to participate in the case, which may include being asked to participate in discovery, give a deposition, and even attend a trial.  It’s much easier to make sure you have a reputable company that’s going to treat all involved fairly.

A more prominent and problematic danger is danger #4.  In the past, insurance policies covered anyone who drove your car unless that person was specifically excluded under the policy.  That means that if a friend or family member borrowed your car and was in a wreck, the insurance company would cover the wreck as long as the person was not specifically excluded from the policy.  It was very rare to have a person excluded.

But now, many low-cost North Carolina insurance companies are writing policies that exclude a number of people, or worse,  only provide coverage for drivers who are specifically identified on the policy.  This may result in a cheaper policy, but it also greatly reduces the protection that you’re supposed to be getting with insurance.

Don’t be a victim of one of these dangers when you purchase your auto insurance.  Make sure that you’re informed and that you’re getting the coverage that protects you and your loved ones.

For more information on this topic, please contact Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. at 1-800-208-6409.

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Auto Accident & Workplace Injuries: Herniated Discs

We have seen a rash of clients who have experienced herniated discs as a result of an auto accident. As a result, I thought I’d take this opportunity to let you know a little more about the injuries.

WHAT IS A HERNIATED DISC? As you may remember from high school science, our spinal cord goes down our spine protected by our vertebrae, the bones that make up our spine. In between each bone is a disc, a small, jelly-like substance that buffers the vertebrae. Unfortunately, in many accidents, the disc is damaged, and the disk material leaks out of its space. This can cause a number of problems. The disk material itself may impinge (or squeeze) the nerve, causing significant pain. Additionally, the center of the disc contains material (nucleus pulposus) that may also leak. These chemicals may themselves irritate the spinal nerves and cause pain.

SYMPTOMS OF HERNIATED DISC A herniated disc that affects a nerve is often quite painful. It may also be accompanied by radiating pain, pain that travels down your back or even into your legs. Depending on which vertebrae has the problem, you may also get tingling in your fingers, hands or feet. Again, depending on the location of the injury, you may experience weakness and even bladder issues. If you have these symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment. A herniated disc is a serious injury.

TREATMENT Many physicians will start with a conservative course of treatment, which may include physical therapy or strengthening exercises. If the conservative care doesn’t help, then your physician may suggest the use of steroid injections. While steroid injections don’t “fix” the problem, they may help with pain relief. Some of our clients get significant relief from the use of injections, and others get relief that only lasts a day or two. If conservative treatment and steroid injections don’t provide significant relief, then many patients and clients require surgery.

For more information, please contact Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. at 1-800-208-6409.

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Resolving The Personal Injury Claims Of Minors

Many of our clients are minors who have been injured.  And those cases (at least in North Carolina) are treated a little bit differently.

The first difference is how the case is settled.  For an adult’s claim, the adult simply agrees to the settlement and signs the settlement agreement.  The lawsuit, if any, is then dismissed.

But minors can’t sign contracts.  To remedy that, the Courts have long used the guardian ad litem and friendly suit process.  In some cases, lawsuits are already on file, but if not, the parties would file a “friendly suit,” a lawsuit between the parties solely to get in front of the judge.  At that point, the judge appoints a guardian ad litem, who is a lawyer tasked solely with looking out for the interests of the minor.  The guardian ad litem would do some initial investigation, which includes reviewing the facts of the incident, reviewing medical records or other documents relating to the minor’s injuries, and talking to the minor’s parents to get a feel for the minor’s condition.  The parties would then have a “prove-up” hearing.  At the hearing, the minor’s parent or guardian tells the judge about the incident, the harm to the minor, and the minor’s prognosis.  The guardian ad litem then reports to the judge on whether the the guardian ad litem approves or disapproves of the settlement.  The judge then makes a decision to approve or disapprove of the proposed settlement.

Because this is a long (and sometimes expensive) process, insurance companies sometimes try to circumvent it.  Instead of going through the hearing, they will ask for a settlement that includes the parents’ indemnification for future claims.  What does that mean?  Without the prove-up process, the minor maintains the right to sue because minors can’t enter into contracts.  In order to protect themselves, insurance companies ask the minor’s parents to sign an agreement saying that the parents are settling the case and that, in exchange for settling the case, the parents agree that if the minor comes back at a later time and sues the defendant or the insurance company, then the parents will reimburse the insurance company and the defendant for attorneys’ fees, costs of court and for any amounts the companies had to pay.  Thus, the case is over, but the parents are taking the risk that the child later chooses to sue.

The other way personal injury cases for minors are different is determining where the money goes.  In a typical case with an adult, we’ll get settlement proceeds and simply write a check to the adult.  That doesn’t happen in cases with minors.

If the minor’s personal injury case goes through the lawsuit/prove-up process, the money can be deposited in the Clerk of Court, and the minor can’t withdraw it until the minor turns 18.  Alternatively, the money can be used to purchase a structured settlement — an annuity that pays the minor in periodic payments after the minor’s 18th birthday.  If economically feasible, most clients prefer a structured settlement.  The return on the investment is usually a little higher, but more importantly, some parents just don’t think it’s a good idea to give a child a reasonable chunk of money on their 18th birthday.

If the insurance company settles outside the lawsuit/prove-up process, then the lawyer needs to make clear to the parents that the money belongs to the minor and should be kept in an a separtae account for the minor.

For more information on this topic, please contact Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. at 1-800-208-6409.

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Car Wrecks: What Do I Do If The Other Driver’s Insurance Isn’t Working In Good Faith To Settle My Property Claim?

Generally, property damage claims are resolved fairly quickly and easily.  But every now and then, you’ll get an issue where the you aren’t satisfied with the way the other driver’s insurance is handling your property damage claim.  For example, you may not trust their repair estimate or you may not agree with their decision to total (or not total) your vehicle.

If you have property damage coverage on your car, the best way to deal with this is to go through your insurance company.  At a minimum, you can have your insurance company send an adjuster out, and you can see if your company’s adjuster agrees with the other driver’s insurance company.

If they agree, then maybe you feel confident enough to proceed using the other driver’s insurance.  But if they don’t agree (or you don’t have confidence in the other company), then you can make a claim on your own policy.  Yes, you’ll be out your deductible.  But when your insurance company tries to recover its payment from the other insurance company, your insurance company will also recover your deductible for you.

For more information on this topic, please contact Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. at 1-800-208-6409.

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My Beloved Sport: Another Lawsuit Filed Against The NFL Related To Concussions & Painkillers

A dozen former National Football League players have filed a personal injury suit against the NFL and others for allegedly overusing the painkiller Toradol.  The lawsuit alleges that teams and trainers were regularly dispensing the medication, which made it difficult to know when players had sustained serious injuries, including concussions.  The emphasis is on concussions and the long-term effects of concussions on the league’s players.  The specific allegations are that the players have residual concussion symptoms, including anxiety, depression, memory loss, severe headaches, sleeplessness, and dizziness.

This story serves as a reminder for several lessons.  First, it is again a reminder that in sports there are many injuries that aren’t just accidents.  While some injuries are unavoidable, teams owe duties to players to take reasonable precautions to make sure the players are safe.  That means not overly medicating them, not forcing them to practice in unreasonably hot or dangerous conditions, etc.

Additionally, the story is a reminder about the danger of concussions.  Car wreck and other injury victims need to be on the lookout for symptoms of concussions.  They are sometimes difficult to diagnose, but they can have long-term health consequences.

If you or a loved one have suffered a concussion in an accident caused by the negligence of others, please give Wilson Williams Law, PLLC. a call, and we’ll do our best to help you out.

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