The Hard Truth About Getting Reimbursed for Hurricane Damages

Of all recorded weather disasters in U.S. history, hurricanes have caused the most deaths and destruction. Property damage is catastrophic, and homeowners and business owners alike suffer.

When Hurricanes Florence and Michael swept through North Carolina less than a month apart in 2018, many Tar Heels were devastated, with home, business, farm, and auto damages totaling billions of dollars.

ABC11 reported that 185,000 claims related to Hurricane Florence were filed with the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and FEMA received 80,000 claims.

Following Hurricane Michael was Hurricane Dorian in 2019 with billion dollar damage estimates. In Florida, nearly 4,000 insurance claims were submitted, though the state escaped the brunt of the storm as it barreled down on South and North Carolina.

If you are among those filing hurricane damage claims, you may discover that some insurance companies may not be as willing to help as you assumed.

While insurance companies may want you to think they have your best interests at heart, history shows that’s not always true.

Insurance adjuster in a white hard hat inspecting a water damaged wall in a house.

Same Old Story: Insurance Delays, Denials, and Coverage Issues

Two years after Hurricane Matthew damaged one Goldsboro homeowner’s home in 2016, the homeowner was ready to give up. The insurance covered “just enough for a contractor to gut the home and replace a tiny portion of her ruined contents,” according to a WRAL news report.

Meanwhile, the flooring, walls, and the remainder of her belongings were damaged to an unlivable condition, forcing her to live in an apartment while continuing to pay her mortgage. As eastern North Carolina residents, like the Goldsboro homeowner, were still trying to pick up the pieces from Matthew, Hurricane Florence slammed into the NC coast two years later, damaging property further. While FEMA rejected her initial buyout application, she hopes this second round of damage will qualify her for relief.

Why Might Some Insurance Companies Try to Delay and Deny Claims?

Time after time, some insurance companies seem to deny claims unfairly and underestimate hurricane property damages. Others seem to be deliberately trying to slow the processing of claims, sometimes requiring multiple submissions of the same documentation or taking a long time to contact and follow up with claimants.

With roughly half a trillion dollars in cash reserves, why have some insurers forced hurricane victims to put up such a fight to get what they need to repair their homes, businesses, and cars?

The stark reality is that most insurance companies are for-profit businesses. That is not wrong, it is just business. At the end of the day, like most for-profit businesses, they are looking out for their bottom line – even at the expense of unwitting policyholders.

An Ugly Trend in Hurricane Damage Claims: Undervaluing Damages

Undervaluing hurricane damage claims is not new to some insurance companies. In fact, this trend seems to have become the new normal.

“Homeowners whose properties were affected by a hurricane should act as quickly as feasible to take stock of the extent and likely cause of any harm,” said Amy Bach, the executive director of United Policyholders, a nonprofit organization that advocates for consumers.

Bach goes on to note that insurers have increasingly shifted more risk to policyholders by taking steps like setting higher deductibles, increasing how much customers must pay out-of-pocket.

“And after a major storm,” Ms. Bach added, “insurers may also hire contractors for help in assessing the large number of claims submitted, and those firms may not have time to do thorough reviews.”

In addition to undervaluing damages and raising deductibles, insurance companies may not take into account the real cost to repair and replace the damage or the current realities of workforce and supply demands to the areas affected by the storm.

Limiting Their Exposure While Increasing Your Costs: The Hurricane Deductible

Insurers in certain states have instituted percentage hurricane deductibles rather than flat rate dollar deductibles to limit their exposure to large losses from hurricanes. Hurricane deductibles are based on a percentage of your home’s insured value. For example:

  • Dollar Deductible: With a $500 standard deductible, you would pay the first $500 of the property damage claim out of pocket.
  • Percentage Deductible: With a 5% hurricane percentage deductible and a home value of $200,000, you would pay the first $10,000 of the property damage out of pocket.

Like any deductible, a hurricane deductible will affect the bottom line of any insurance payout. If you have a high hurricane deductible, consider putting aside the additional money you may need to rebuild your home. To be fully prepared, review your insurance policies carefully before a storm hits.

These 19 states have hurricane deductibles:

  • Alabama
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Mississippi
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia

What Are Some Insurance Companies Tactics to Be Aware of?

Here are some of the things to watch out for when dealing with an insurance adjuster after a hurricane:

  • Claims that the damage was pre-existing
  • Claims that the damage was made worse because you did not maintain your property
  • Claims that you did not secure your property or make necessary precautions
  • Delays in the processing of your claim
  • Denials that your policy covers damage from the storm
  • Claims that damage was done by flood versus wind
  • Claims that you failed to alleviate the damages to your property after the loss
  • Claims that you failed to properly document the loss and repairs needed to restore your home
  • Inaccurate statements about what your policy covers
  • Low-ball settlement offers
  • Pressure to sign a release of supplemental claims in order to receive your settlement

If you experience these common tactics, reach out to an experienced hurricane damage attorney for guidance.

How Should I Deal With the Insurance Company When Filing a Hurricane Claim?

Remember these four rules of thumb when filing a hurricane claim with the insurance company:

Rule #1 – Don’t wait.
Contact the insurance company immediately and start documenting damages as soon as possible.

Rule #2 – Don’t assume anything.
You must be proactive after a hurricane. Hurricanes often affect large numbers of people, and this puts a lot of stress on the insurance claims adjusters who are responsible for assessing damages. Do not assume that they are going to follow up with you – you need to reach out often and demand answers and assistance.

Remember: Most insurance companies are for-profit companies. 

Rule #3 – Don’t tackle it alone.
An attorney can help you understand your insurance policies and can also help you fight for maximum compensation for the various types of damages you’ve incurred. Sometimes, adjusters may be more upfront and less inclined to delay or deny a claim when an attorney is involved in compensation discussions.

Rule #4 – Don’t skip steps.
Be deliberate and thorough when filing a hurricane insurance claim. And find an attorney you can rely on to help you every step of the way.

If you think the insurance adjuster is giving you a low-ball offer or is ignoring you, contact us or call us at 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. If we think you don’t need our help, we’ll tell you that. And if you decide to work with us, we’ll fight to try to get you compensated for your losses.

Past Hurricanes and Reports of Unfair Insurance Practices

Unfortunately reports of denied claims, delayed compensation, and even unfair insurance company practices seem to surround hurricanes.

“Be vigilant,” warned Insurance Director of the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) J. Robert Hunter, “or you run the risk of being shortchanged.”

 Hurricane Dorian Insurance Claims (2019)

Dorian made landfall on the Outer Banks of North Carolina on September 6, 2019 as a category 1 hurricane and intensified to a category 5 storm. Dorian tied the record for maximum sustained wind speed for a landfalling hurricane in the Atlantic (at 185 miles per hour).

It was estimated that nearly $10 million in property insurance claims were filed in Florida for Hurricane Dorian even as insurance companies still had thousands of open claims from Hurricane Michael. The storm left an estimated $1.2 billion in damages in the Carolinas.

Homeowners complained of delays and denials as some insurance carriers tried to mitigate the losses from the storm as much as possible by playing hardball with their policy owners and looking for any reason to pay out less or deny claims altogether.

Hurricane Michael Insurance Claims (2018)

Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida on October 10, 2018 as a category 5, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour, causing at least 45 deaths and widespread devastation across the Panhandle, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia.

Stories of denied and outstanding property claims surfaced months later. The Tampa Bay Times reported on a couple who tore down their house due to structural damage caused by Michael and are still living in a trailer on their property because their insurance companies have only paid 30% of the estimated cost to rebuild.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported that 14% of the 101,932 residential insurance claims were still without payment two years later. These numbers do not highlight the unsatisfied customers who were denied or received disappointing settlement offers.

Hurricane Michael Insurance Claims Data

Total Claims Reported Open Claims Without Payment Closed Claims Without Payment

Residential

101,932 530 14,039
Commercial 11,873 434 2,765
Total 113,805 964 16,804

Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 11/2/2020

Hurricane Florence Insurance Claims (2018)

Florence made landfall near Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, on September 14, 2018 and became one of the deadliest and costliest hurricanes to ever impact the Carolinas. It caused at least 51 deaths and record flooding.

In 2017 and 2018, some insurance companies found a loophole and denied claims for “flood and groundwater overflow” rather than providing the coverage property owners anticipated.

Hurricane Irma Insurance Claims (2017)

After Hurricane Irma left a swath of devastation in the Caribbean and Florida in 2017, some insurance companies left homeowners far short financially of what they needed to repair holes in their roofs and water damage in walls, reported Florida’s WINK News.

The Florida Office of Insurance Regulation reported that 34% of the residential and commercial insurance claims were still without payment three years later. Note that the figures in the following chart may include people who were denied or received unsatisfactory settlement offers.

Hurricane Irma Insurance Claims Data

Total Claims Reported Open Claims Without Payment Closed Claims Without Payment

Residential

955,852 17,164 293,136
Commercial 62,949 1,655 30,733
Total 1,018,801 18,819 323,869

Source: Florida Office of Insurance Regulation, 11/9/2020

Hurricane Matthew Insurance Claims (2016)

In October 2016, Hurricane Matthew caused widespread destruction in the Caribbean and up the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. In North Carolina, at least 26 people lost their lives, and 100,000 homes, businesses, and government buildings sustained damage estimated at $4.8 billion. Approximately 88,000 homes were damaged and 4,424 were completely destroyed.

CBS News reported that insurance companies have been “steadily increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles and imposing other policy limitations” on homeowners and predicted that some policy holders may be told that some wind damages (such as a roof being blown off or shattered windows) may be their responsibility and not their insurer’s.

Hurricane Irene Insurance Claims (2011) and Superstorm Sandy Insurance Claims (2012)

Nine insurance companies were accused of wrongfully denying claims and misinterpreting terms following Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012. In their attempts to manage claims, some insurance companies interpreted the policies’ definitions of ground floors and basements in ways that surprised their policyholders.

A review after Superstorm Sandy found nearly $700 million in additional payments were due to property owners as supplemental claim payments.

Hurricane Katrina Insurance Claims (2005)

After Hurricane Katrina all but wiped out much of New Orleans in 2005, policyholders who believed they were treated unfairly by their insurance companies complained to the Louisiana Department of Insurance at the rate of twenty thousand complaints a month during the first six months after the storm. Thousands of policyholders sued their insurance companies, with more than 6,600 suits filed in federal court in New Orleans alone.

The New York Times reported on one victim that was offered just $41,000 of the expected $100,000 in damages. Another was offered only $16,000 to cover damage that he anticipated totaling $300,000 – less than 5% of what he needed.

The New York Times described the behavior of insurance companies two years after Katrina:
“Insurance companies may have paid out $11 billion to Louisianans in the two years since Hurricane Katrina, but they have also become a new villain in the tales people tell about the slow recovery here. Every neighborhood is full of horror stories about insurance companies that reneged on their promises, offered only pennies on the dollar in settlements, dribbled out payments, low-balled the costs of repairs, dropped long-time customers and sharply increased the price of coverage.”

Need Help Seeking Reimbursement for Hurricane Damages? Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin

If you have suffered hurricane damage to your home, business, or farm, you don’t have to go through the fight alone to try to recover damages.

Our law firm has fought insurance companies for our clients since 1997. Moreover, we have many employees who previously worked for insurance companies, and they are highly familiar with insurance company tactics. We have seen, firsthand, many ways they can try to delay or deny claims.

If you or a loved one has been affected by a hurricane or other natural disaster, you deserve a team that will fight for you in an effort to try to get you the maximum amount you are entitled to under the law. Call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us for a free case evaluation.

Text UsText Us

You were just in a car wreck, but thankfully, no one was hurt. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for your car, which is a total loss. So what now?

In situations where you’ve suffered injuries, the next best step once you’ve received immediate medical attention is clear: find a car accident lawyer who will fight for you. But what if you just want to make sure the insurance company fully compensates you for the loss of your vehicle? It may be time to negotiate.

You had a working vehicle when you started your journey. Whoever is at-fault for the accident that damaged or even destroyed your vehicle should make you whole – or rather, unless they were uninsured or underinsured, their insurance company should. Here’s how to try to make sure that happens.

Claims and Offers and Adjusters, Oh My

In a car accident, the at-fault insurance company may accept responsibility for the damage to your vehicle and make an offer to settle the property damage claim. If the insurance company does not accept responsibility for their insured and refuses to compensate you, hiring an attorney is probably the smart move.

You will almost always deal with the at-fault driver’s insurance company through its adjuster in the insurance claim process. An adjuster works for the insurance company, and will review and negotiate your claim. Typically, part of the adjuster’s job is to try to minimize potential compensation for your claim in order to control costs for the company.

When the insurance company accepts fault, and makes an offer, this will either go towards the repair of your vehicle, or they may decide the vehicle was a total loss and pay you for the vehicle’s value.

Potential Issues When Dealing With Insurance Companies

We deal with insurance companies on a daily basis. Here are three common tactics some insurance companies may use as you seek fair compensation for your vehicle.

Delay

Insurance companies may not be in a hurry to pay you. In fact, you may not hear from them for days, weeks, or even months! And when they get in touch, they may ask for some documentation or evidence that they should already have. Keep calm and be patient. Delay tactics can cause people to settle for less than they deserve to “get it over with.” It can also put you in a real financial bind if the car isn’t drivable and you’re stuck without a way to work, or if your car is racking up storage fees at a tow lot and you can’t afford to get it out.

Denial

In a few cases, some insurance companies may outright deny your claim. This can be a strong-arm tactic, and may be the result of a perceived weakness in you or your claim. Some insurance companies may argue almost anything you do makes the accident your fault – even something miniscule like an officer thinking you were doing 1 mph over the speed limit. Don’t give up! If their insured was at-fault in the accident, they should compensate you. Refer back to the accident report, and press your claim.

Quick, Lowball Settlement Offers

On the opposite side of the spectrum from the first two tactics is when an insurance company tries to get you to take a low settlement offer immediately, despite that fact that it doesn’t cover your losses. This is more likely to be a problem in cases where the damage is light. The insurance company may be betting you’ll pocket the cash rather than fix the car. Don’t fall for it, especially if they claim it is “take it or leave it.” Take the time to get multiple estimates if your car is repairable – or find comparable cars for sale locally if it is totaled – to give you a basis to negotiate fairly. Often, the best bet is to have the insurance company pay the repair shop you’ve chosen directly.

Should You Take the Insurance Company’s First Offer to Repair or Total Your Vehicle?

That’s a judgment call. Most people don’t really know the value of their cars and therefore how much they’re owed if it’s a total loss. If you did not recently purchase it, you probably don’t know the market for it. However, you would know if it had a lot of problems, damage, mechanical issues, and so on. If you are well-informed, and satisfied with the insurance company’s first offer, then accepting it can be the right decision.

However, if you are not satisfied with the insurance company’s offer, you should arm yourself with information to negotiate with the insurance adjuster.

How Do Insurance Companies Value Your Vehicle?

To negotiate with the insurance company, you need to know how they work. They’re concerned with the pre-accident cash value of your car, sometimes called the “fair market value.” Fair market value is the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, when neither is being compelled to buy and/or sell, and both have reasonable knowledge about the relevant facts. When the insurance company accepts liability, this is the number they use to decide whether to offer to repair the vehicle or to total it.

When calculating repair costs versus value, insurance adjusters may use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) publication, the “Official Used Car Guide,” to determine the fair market value. The NADA is published monthly and is available online at www.nadaguides.com.

Am I Able to Negotiate With the Insurance Company?

Absolutely. The foundations for any good negotiation are a fair idea of what your car or its repairs will cost and patience. Be a good-faith negotiator. Document everything, and ask for documents in return. If the insurance company refuses to be fair or realistic in their offers to you, you may consider filing suit in a civil court – and remember, just because you file a lawsuit does not mean you’ll end up spending time in a courtroom.

Trying to Negotiate for More, Point 1: Fair Market Value

While the insurance company may use the value from a service like ValueScope to determine fair market value, you can negotiate with your own sources, such as the NADA guide. There is typically room to negotiate based on the actual condition and mileage of your vehicle, and adjustments by region if applicable.

How to Negotiate When the Insurance Company Offers to Repair Your Vehicle

An insurance company may offer to repair a vehicle if the cost of repairs plus supplemental claims equals less than 75% of the vehicle’s pre-accident cash value. “Supplemental claims” include things like the projected rental vehicle costs during the repair period.

You should get multiple estimates for the amount of repairs your vehicle will need. You can look for highly-regarded repair shops and get their opinions and estimates. After you get the estimates and provide them to the insurance company, the insurance adjuster may make an offer.

If you don’t agree with the offer and the adjuster has never seen the damaged vehicle, then you can require the adjuster or the insurance company’s appraiser to personally inspect your damaged vehicle.

Where Can I Get My Car Repaired?

An adjuster may tell you they want you to take your car to a particular garage – typically, a garage with which they get a volume discount. However, you have the right to take your vehicle to any repair shop of your choosing.

Trying to Negotiate for More, Point 2: Repair Versus Total

If you believe that your car cannot be adequately repaired, there is typically some room to negotiate. This is tied directly to fair market value – that number is driving everything that comes after. It may be difficult to get an insurance company to change its mind here, but it is worth trying if you believe you will not be left with a safe, functional, reliable vehicle after repairs are completed. Pursuing a diminished value claim may put you over the top.

How to Try to Negotiate a Better Settlement When the Insurance Company Totals Your Vehicle

Insurance agent working during on site car accident claim processThe total loss negotiation process is straightforward. A vehicle is legally considered a total loss if the cost of repairs and supplemental claims equal or exceed 75% of the fair market value – which, again, can typically be negotiated. If your car is a total loss, and the insurance carrier accepts liability, they are required to pay fair market value for the vehicle.

In addition to using the NADA information, fair market value is often determined via a local market survey. Local fair market value must be determined by using either the local market price of comparable vehicles or, if no comparable vehicles can be found, quotes from at least two qualified dealers within the local market area. If your vehicle was in better-than-average condition prior to the collision, the adjuster is required to give due consideration to this fact when determining value.

The insurance company is not obligated to pay the full balance of an existing lien on the vehicle. If you owe more on the car than it is worth at the time of loss, all the insurance company has to pay is fair market value, not the payoff amount.

If you do not agree with the settlement offered by the adjuster, you have the right to request that the adjuster send to you in writing the amount of the offer along with the specific policy provisions or legal basis the adjuster is relying on in support of the offer.

You should always require the adjuster to give you a written statement along with the total loss payment offer. This statement should include estimates, evaluations, and deductions used in calculating the payment, as well as stating the source of these values.

Trying to Negotiate for More, Point 3: Local Market Prices

It’s a good idea to do your own research into pricing of cars similar to yours in your local market. You may find examples that the insurance company did not consider. The closer the example to your own car, the more leverage it may provide. If the insurance company is choosing base model vehicles, for example, and your vehicle had many options, you likely have a good argument for a higher price.

How to File a Complaint Against the Insurance Company

Insurance agent working on car accident claim process with accident victim

If negotiations aren’t going well, you have options. If you have a complaint about an insurance company and the way they are handling your claim, you may call or write the Consumer Insurance Information Division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

The toll-free telephone number is:
855-408-1212

The mailing address is:
North Carolina Department of Insurance
Consumer Services Division
1201 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699

The Consumer Services Division will take information from you, and then an analyst from the Division will request information from the insurance company, agent, or adjuster. If the analyst finds that there is just cause for the complaint, they will then make a recommendation to both sides as to how to settle the situation.

If this does not resolve the problem, a deputy commissioner may arrange a conference with the insurance company involved to resolve the problem. If the conference does not resolve the disputed issue, then the deputy commissioner may recommend to the commissioner to take appropriate legal action, including a public hearing (filing a lawsuit).

Our Recommendation: Generally No Need for an Attorney Unless You Were Hurt or Insurance Co. Isn’t Fair

At our firm, we recommend you handle most property damage claims yourself. This can save you both time and money. You do not want to unnecessarily delay the property damage aspect of your claim, and property damage claims typically are too low to justify hiring an attorney. If the insurance company just isn’t being fair, then consider involving an attorney.

However, if we represent you on a bodily injury claim related to the accident, we can handle any diminished value claim you may have.

Whatever the size of your case, our goal is the best representation and service we can provide. If you have questions, or want to see if we can help, give us a call at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online.

5 Things Your Insurance Adjuster Doesn’t Want You to Know (But We Do!)

People who have been injured will often come to us after they have tried to deal with the insurance companies themselves.

They may be frustrated with the lack of timely response from insurance adjusters. Some tell us the insurance company will not offer them enough to cover their medical expenses and other damages. Sometimes people are simply overwhelmed by the amount of phone calls, paperwork, follow-up, and bureaucracy just to try to get the insurance company to cover damages.

We know how they feel. We have many people here who play paper chase with the insurance companies every day.

There are some statements we often hear from people who call us for help. These are people who have never dealt with insurance adjusters and claims-filing entities. We work with these types every day. (Some of us used to work on the other side!) Here are five statements we hear and the accompanying things the “friendly” insurance adjuster and “good neighbor” insurance company may not want you to know.

1. The Insurance Adjuster Handling My Case Seems Very Nice and Is Even Willing to Settle as Soon as Possible. But the Settlement Amount Is So Low.

You should never rely on the adjuster or the insurance company as your friends. Most insurance companies are in business to make money. The less money the adjuster offers you to pay your damages, the more money insurance companies keep for themselves. Fact is, it is part of an insurance adjuster’s job description to offer you as little as possible. Adjusters may seem pleasant and sympathetic to your circumstances. Perhaps they are. But the bottom line is you are not signing their paychecks.

Adjusters go through intensive training programs to learn the art of negotiation. They can get very detailed, even covering the psychological aspects of negotiating in many instances.

Most insurance companies have auditing systems that show how much their adjusters paid out to claimants, based on the medical reports and what they can mitigate in their claimants’ files. Sometimes the adjuster’s pay can be tied to whether or not they meet the criteria the company has devised as “best practices” for payouts.

2. My Adjuster Said a Lawyer Won’t Do Anything More for Me Other Than Drag My Case On and On.

An insurance company may say that because they do not want you to hire a lawyer. If you hire a lawyer, they know they may potentially have to pay you more money. They know we know information that can help you. Insurance companies may sometimes call us ambulance chasers, sharks, greedy, and all kinds of names to try to prevent you from getting legal advice.

And they are unlikely to want to go to court to try your case in front of a jury. Insurance companies do not like uncertainty. And juries are by their very nature an uncertainty. We will go to court in a heartbeat if we think it will help you get the compensation you may deserve. Is that something the insurance companies want to hear?

3. My Pre-Existing Shoulder Condition Prohibits Them From Paying Me for the Full Extent of My Shoulder, Neck, and Back Injuries.

Ah! The pre-existing condition. That’s an oldie goldie. Some of our employees used to be insurance adjusters. Here’s what one of them had to say about this tactic:

“As a former insurance adjuster, our job was to gather the evidence and point out all the potential negatives to try to reduce the payout. If a claimant had a prior neck problem, and the wreck caused an injury to their neck, we would argue that they may have caused aggravation to the neck so we would not offer 100%. Same with degenerative issues. We would focus on that to reduce payout.”

The reality is a pre-existing condition may have no bearing on your new injury at all.

4. My Adjuster Told Me That After I Pay an Attorney’s Fee, I Would Probably Get Less Than Their Offer.

An insurance adjuster might try to get you to buy into all kinds of assumptions. They are highly trained professional negotiators. They might challenge you to take them to court. “You just wait and see,” they might say, acting like they welcome the chance. They might play the “take it or leave it” or “that’s my final offer” card. They might try to confuse you with all kinds of data and analyses and algorithms their statisticians have determined are “reasonable and fair” based on your medical bills and circumstances.

The list of deny and delay tactics is long. Yet it is effective in many instances! We don’t scare. (And we understand their algorithms.) If it’s in your best interest, we don’t back down.

5. The Insurance Company Said To Go Ahead and Take Them To Court. Facts Are Facts, and in My Case, the Facts Are Against Me.

Court is expensive. That is among the main reasons insurance companies typically want to settle your case quickly. Yet they may not let on that they would rather settle than go to court in most cases. Even so, they may still discount the amount they potentially owe you for damages. They may be assuming that you have no idea what you are potentially owed. They may try to make you believe they can only compensate you for medical expenses and not other damages, which may include the following:

  • mileage to and from your medical appointments
  • lost time from work
  • prescriptions
  • loss of the use of your vehicle
  • and sometimes pain and suffering

You aren’t likely to hear those options voluntarily from the adjuster. But you will from us. And then some.

Insurance Companies Keep Millions by Limiting Payouts

The bottom line is that many insurance companies are all about their bottom line. They hold millions, and in some cases billions, of dollars in reserves and earn interest and dividends on these assets. Many also have shareholders to answer to – large major shareholders like investment banks and mutual fund firms. Shareholders like to keep investing in profitable companies.

Sadly, it boils down to this. The insurance company is taking care of the shareholder and investor. The adjuster is taking care of the insurance company who gives them a consistent paycheck. Who is taking care of you?

You need to take care of you. We can help. Make sure you take care of your interests by consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney who knows how to deal with these issues.

Why Choose James Scott Farrin for Personal Injury, Workers’ Comp, or Social Security Disability Claims?

It starts with great people. We have over 50 accomplished attorneys, many of whom have won awards for their service and advocacy inside and outside the courtroom, including Best Lawyers “Best Lawyers in America,” 2021 list,3 “Lawyer of the Year” from Best Lawyers for 2017,“Super Lawyer” 20215 list by Super Lawyers, and Business North Carolina’s “Legal Elite” list for 2021.6

They’ve authored books, spoken at seminars for other attorneys, and some are sought by the media for their legal expertise. All are advocates dedicated to fighting tooth and nail for each and every client.

We’ve gone to great lengths to help make sure we know how the “other side” operates by hiring attorneys who’ve represented insurance companies and large major corporations.

We also have attorneys who are bilingual (as are many of our paralegals and staff).

Experienced Accident Attorneys Evaluate Your Case FREE

If you’re getting the run-around from your insurance adjuster or feel your best interests are not being considered, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

 

Related Resource:

What Should You Not Say to An Insurance Adjuster

3, 4 For more information about rules for inclusion visit www.bestlawyers.com

5 For more information about rules for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com

6 For more information about rules for inclusion visit businessnc.com

Will My Health Insurance Continue if I File for Workers’ Comp?

Many people wonder how filing a workers’ compensation claim might affect their employment status and their benefits – especially their health insurance.

It’s important to understand that your employment relationship with your employer should remain the same even though you have filed a workers’ compensation claim for an on-the-job injury. Although you are pursuing a claim, you are still an employee of this employer and you should continue to receive benefits just as you always have. You should pay the same health insurance premiums, if any, that you are normally required to. Your employer should continue to pay their portion of your health insurance as they have been doing.

While you are out on disability, talk to your employer about how to maintain your health insurance.

What Happens to My Health Insurance if I Go Out of Work While On Workers’ Compensation?

If your authorized treating provider writes you entirely out of work or your employer is unable to accommodate your work restrictions, you will be placed out of work. You will stop receiving your regular paycheck and you should begin receiving weekly workers’ compensation checks from the workers’ compensation insurance company that services your employer.

This is called temporary total disability or TTD. While you are out on TTD it is important to talk to your employer about how workers’ compensation and health insurance coverage interact.

If you usually contribute to your health insurance premium through payroll deduction, your employer may not automatically notify you that you need to continue making these contributions to maintain your health insurance.

Do not assume your regular health insurance contributions are coming out of your TTD check!

If your employer continues to make health insurance payments for you, but you are not paying your usual health insurance premiums while on workers’ comp, your health insurance may end up being canceled before you ever realize you owe anything. Talk to your employer, and find out if you need to send in a check each pay period to keep your health insurance coverage current.

What Happens to My Health Insurance if I’m Fired After Filing For Workers’ Comp?

Unfortunately, it is still possible for you to be fired by your employer even if you have an open workers’ compensation case. If you are terminated, you can expect your health insurance benefits to end the same way that they would for any terminated employee.

You have the option of temporarily continuing your health insurance under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA). Your health plan administrator must give you a notice stating your right to choose to continue benefits provided by the plan. You then have 60 days to accept coverage or lose all rights to those benefits.

If you elect to continue coverage through COBRA you will have to pay the full cost of the coverage plus a 2% administrative charge. If your employer was paying the bulk of your health insurance expense before your termination, you can expect that health insurance through COBRA will likely be much more expensive than you are used to.

COBRA generally applies to all group health plans maintained by private-sector employers (with at least 20 full-time employees) or by state and local governments. Check with your state to see what kind of state continuation program is in place. Either way, you may want to shop around and consider other insurance companies to find your best options for obtaining private insurance.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from Workers’ Comp Attorneys

If you are concerned that your employment status or your right to health insurance benefits may have been unduly affected by your workers’ compensation case, contact one of our workers’ compensation lawyers right away. There is a lot at stake, and if you are trying to negotiate on your own against a big powerful insurance company, you are likely at a huge disadvantage.

There is no charge to call us for an initial case evaluation. It is completely FREE to you.

Contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

Most people don’t think much about their auto insurance until they need it. There’s a reason that personal injury attorneys exist. Sometimes, even with all the insurance, you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to receive fair compensation. Where does that compensation come from?

If you’re injured in an accident in North Carolina, there are generally four (4) types of automobile insurance coverages that may come into play. These four coverages are liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage (UM), underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) and medical payments coverage. Both liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage are mandatory coverages for all drivers under the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act. The others are optional.

What Is Liability Insurance and What Does It Do?

Liability Insurance covers your liability, or fault, in an automobile wreck as it relates to other parties’ bodily injury or property damage. Conversely, if you are the victim of a negligent driver, then their liability coverage covers any damages you may have which may include, but are not limited to medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, as well as damage to your automobile.

In North Carolina, the law requires that the owner of a registered and operated motor vehicle must carry the following minimum amounts of insurance coverage: a minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident and $25,000 property damage.

In certain situations, when the injuries are serious, an injured party can collect liability coverage from multiple policies. The most common way this occurs is when the at-fault driver is driving someone else’s vehicle yet owns an insured vehicle himself. Under this scenario, the injured party can collect from the liability policy covering the at-fault vehicle actually involved in the wreck, and also from the liability policy of the at-fault driver’s own vehicle that was not involved assuming the total damages exceeded the coverage of the at-fault vehicle.

If We All Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage, There Are No Uninsured Motorists, Right?

Not quite. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM), as defined by North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, is coverage that “will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual.” It also provides property damage coverage.

Sadly, not all vehicles are insured. An uninsured vehicle may be a vehicle where the owner has failed to carry insurance on the vehicle in violation of State law. It can also be a stolen vehicle being driven by the perpetrator or any other person without expressed or implied consent by the owner to be operating the vehicle. An uninsured vehicle can also be a vehicle whereby the owner has purchased the requisite insurance policy, but for one of various reasons the insurance company has denied coverage for a particular loss.

An example of such a situation would be if there were a material misrepresentation made on an insurance application that the insurance company later finds out about, like the applicant representing the car being used by an accident-free 50 year old to go to and from work when the vehicle is really being used by his 16 year old son. That may cause the insurance carrier to deny coverage for a particular loss.

Finally, uninsured coverage may be necessary if you are the victim of a hit and run are not able to ascertain the identity of the perpetrator or whether the at-fault vehicle is insured. Please note, however, because of North Carolina’s “No Contact Rule” for uninsured accident claims, if the hit-and-run vehicle (phantom vehicle) does not make contact with your vehicle, uninsured motorist coverage will not apply. An example of this may be a phantom vehicle running a motorcycle or another vehicle off the road yet the vehicles never made contact.

A red and a yellow umbrella representing multiple insurance coverages.

When Enough Is Not Enough: Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) is coverage, as defined by the North Carolina Department of insurance as coverage that “will provide protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not enough to cover the losses of the people the underinsured driver injured.” Unlike liability and uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is optional. Therefore, you must inform your agent that you wish to purchase this additional coverage.

An underinsured motorist claimant can be a driver or passenger in the faultless vehicle. Both are considered insureds under that vehicle’s underinsured motorist coverage, so long as the UIM coverage in the faultless vehicle exceeds the available liability coverage(s) applicable to their at-fault vehicle(s). In other words, the coverage kicks in if there’s not enough insurance on the vehicle at-fault.

A common rule when analyzing insurance coverages is that “the insurance follows the vehicle.” In the context of underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), one can also present a UIM claim if that person is injured and has damages that exceed the liability coverage(s) available to the at-fault driver(s) and either owns a vehicle or resides with a family member (also known as “resident relative”) who owns a vehicle that carries UIM coverage that is greater than the available liability coverage(s). Sounds complicated, but it just means that, if you’re injured and the at-fault driver’s coverage isn’t enough, you may have a claim if you have UIM on your car or live with a family member who does.

A family member has been interpreted by our courts as “a person related to the [named insured] by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of the [named insured’s] household.” Resident has been interpreted by our courts to mean anything from “a place of abode for more than a temporary period of time” to “a permanent and established home.” Obviously, a child of a named insured would certainly be deemed as a relative resident.

What about a situation where the person seeking UIM coverage lives primarily with his mother who does not have UIM coverage on her car, but his father, who he lives with every other weekend or during the summer, does have this coverage on his vehicle? Or what about a college student who is off at college, yet she still comes home for breaks and during the summer? Is she deemed a “resident” of her parents’ home while away at college so as to fall under her parents’ UIM coverage?

Our courts have said yes to both of those scenarios, but there are often many other facts and circumstances that require an experienced personal injury lawyer. You also may be able to collect UIM coverage under multiple policies (referred to as “stacking”). An experienced personal injury attorney can also advise if this is applicable to your situation.

Bodily Injury: Medical Payments Coverage and How It Works

The final insurance coverage to be discussed in the context of an automobile wreck is Medical Payments Coverage or Med Pay. Med Pay coverage is an optional, first party coverage that can be purchased to cover your own vehicle. It reimburses you or a covered insured for reasonable and necessary medical expenses and funeral expenses resulting from a motor vehicle collision. It pays for any other injury on or about the vehicle covered under the policy, regardless of fault.

Determining whether someone is covered under the Med Pay coverage of a policy uses a very similar analysis to the UIM coverage discussed above in terms of 1) being in a covered vehicle, 2) whether you own a covered vehicle, or 3) whether you are a resident relative to someone who owns a covered vehicle. The limit to the coverage is determined by the amount of coverage purchased by the named insured.

The normal increments you will find for purchase are generally $1,000/$2000/$5,000/$10,000. Med Pay coverage can also be “stacked” under certain situations. That can be determined by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer. As Med Pay is not a fault-based coverage, you are entitled to coverage even if you were at fault.

Conversely, if you are the victim in an automobile wreck, you are entitled to have all of your damages covered by the at-fault driver’s liability coverage and you are also entitled to coverage under your Med Pay coverage, subject to certain limitations that can be explained to you by an experienced personal injury attorney.

If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident, Don’t Hesitate to Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Just because someone has a lot of insurance doesn’t mean the insurance company is simply going to pay the maximum benefit. They’re likely going to work to reduce what they pay, and that may not be enough to cover your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

Don’t Let Insurance Take Advantage of You With a Swoop and Settle Offer

Imagine you’ve been in a car accident – nothing serious, but your injuries are enough to send you to the hospital to get checked out. You have head, neck, and back pain. The doctors note some whiplash and send you home with pain medication and a caveat that you may feel worse the next few days. A few days later the at-fault driver’s insurance company calls and offers you a settlement for your hospital bills and an additional $500 to settle your case. You think, cool…an extra $500. And they want to settle so quickly. You’re busy and you’d just as soon put this all behind you. So you accept the offer and cash the $500 check.

Life is good. Or so you thought.

dmv.org urges those injured to always hire an attorneyA month later you begin to get consistent migraines and you have tingling down your left leg that has gotten progressively worse. You go back to the doctor and learn that you have a concussion and a slipped disk, which will require an operation and weeks of rehab and treatment. The doc notes that these secondary issues likely stemmed from your car accident.

What do you do? You might as well cry. When you cashed that $500 insurance check, you settled with the insurance company whether you were aware of it or not.

The insurance company duped you into falling for what is known as the  “swoop and settle.”

By cashing that check, you absolved them of any further liability. And now you’re on the hook for your own medical bills. We’ve seen this rush to settle to be a favorite ploy among some insurance companies to try to trick injury victims into settling prematurely in an effort to pay them as little as possible.

The “Swoop and Settle” Insurance Tactic

Here is how swoop and settle typically works. An insurance company representative contacts you very soon after a wreck and makes you a lowball settlement offer. They know you have a lot going on, you’re probably in pain, have no car to drive, and could be missing work. And the insurance company may try to settle before any “secondary” injuries manifest.

This is a confusing time for victims, and the insurance company may try to take advantage of your confusion to get you to settle for way less than your case is worth, and to give up your rights before you know how badly you are hurt or before you have had time to talk to a lawyer to learn about the many rights you have to fight for more money. The idea is to get you to quickly settle for a miniscule amount before you even know the full extent of your injuries. To many people, this quick cash seems too good to be true. But you know what they say about that – too good to be true usually is.

Sadly, we’ve seen a lot of our non-English-speaking clients (especially Hispanic clients) become victims of “swoop and settle.” When one of our paralegals had called to make initial contact with a new client, he said his insurance company sent him a check and that he cashed it that morning. It was money in the mail and he didn’t think twice – so he took it to the bank. The insurance company didn’t give him a chance, but what’s worse is the check was only for $500.

We also represented a client who had an adjuster come into the client’s house, make an offer and sit on the couch, refusing to leave until someone accepted his offer. The client didn’t know what to do.

These are just two of dozens of examples of insurance company tactics we feature in our free downloadable booklet Insurance Companies (and others) Behaving Badly. Read it if you dare. It’s a real shocker.

Beware the Recorded Statement

As part of any accident protocol, the insurance company will likely call you as soon as possible for a “recorded statement.” What you say to the insurance representative and the words you choose on this recorded statement are extremely important to your settlement. (Here are five things not to say on a recorded statement.)

The recorded statement is so important, I advise my clients not to give one unless they have consulted with me first, or I am on the phone with them during that statement.

We’ve seen it time and time again. The representative may likely ask you leading questions that may get you to admit partial fault, or answer in such a way that your own words may be used against you in court, if it comes to that. Even something as simple as “How are you doing today,” needs to be dealt with carefully. If you respond, “Oh, I’m fine, thank you,” some insurance companies may try to interpret that to mean you are indeed fine from a medical perspective. When all the while, you were speaking rhetorically.

Other Insurance Tactics to Try to Pay You Less

Most insurance companies are for-profit companies. Their profit, not yours. And many of them have a variety of methods to try to keep as much of their money as possible. Learn some surprising ways some insurance companies have devised to keep money you potentially deserve out of your hands.

Why Insurance Companies Don’t Want You to Get a Lawyer

The real reason insurance companies don’t want you to get a lawyer? Insurance industry studies show that, on average, car accident victims who handled claims on their own received 3.5X LESS compensation for their loss than they would have if they hired a personal injury lawyer.3

What Can an Accident Lawyer Do for You?

We will deal with the insurance company and your medical bills for you. All you have to do is follow your doctor’s orders and heal up as quickly as possible. While you’re healing, we’ll do all the heavy lifting to try to:

  • Prove damages
  • Determine fault
  • Prevent and deflect insurance stalling tactics
  • Investigate claims
  • Secure evidence
  • Negotiate a fair settlement

You may have a right to maximum compensation for:

  • Medical and rehabilitation bills
  • Lost time from work
  • Cost of vehicle repairs
  • Diminished earning capacity for permanent injuries

Not only do we offer a free case evaluation, but you pay us nothing upfront and no attorney’s fee if we don’t recover for you.

Right to maximum compensation for medical and rehab bills, lost work time, vehicle repairs & more

NC Car Wreck Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation

If you see a check in the mail or are offered a settlement too soon, that is a red flag. If you cash that check, you just may be cashing in your financial future. Take your time and talk to an experienced car accident attorney before settling your case.

Contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

 

3Insurance Research Council, 1999.

 

Imagine que ha estado en un accidente de auto – nada grave, pero sus heridas son suficientes para enviarle al hospital para ser evaluado. Tiene dolor de cabeza, cuello, y espalda. Los doctores mencionan latigazo cervical y le despachan a la casa con medicamentos para el dolor y la advertencia de que se podrá sentir peor en los próximos días. Unos días después, el seguro del conductor culpable le llama y le ofrece una transacción  cubriendo sus facturas del hospital y unos $500 adicionales para resolver su caso. Usted piensa, bien… $500 extra. Y ellos quieren resolver tan rápido. Usted está ocupado y quiere dejar todo esto en el pasado. Así que usted acepta la oferta y cambia el cheque por $500 en efectivo.

Todo está bien. O eso pensó.

Un mes después, empieza a tener migrañas consistentes y siente hormigueo por su pierna izquierda que progresivamente ha empeorado. Usted regresa al doctor y se entera que tiene una concusión y una vértebra dislocada, que requiere una operación y semanas de rehabilitación y tratamiento. El doctor dice que estos problemas secundarios probablemente surgieron por su accidente de auto.

¿Qué hace usted? Más le vale llorar. Cuando cambió el cheque del seguro por los $500, usted resolvió el reclamo, sabiéndolo o sin darse cuenta.

La compañía de seguro le engañó  usando lo que se llama el “Precipitarse & Resolver.”

Cambiando el cheque, usted los libró de responsabilidad adicional. Y ahora usted es responsable por sus facturas médicas. Hemos visto esta prisa por llegar a un acuerdo como la estrategia favorita de algunas compañías de seguro para intentar  engañar a víctimas de lesiones y transigir prematuramente  para pagar lo menos posible.

La Estrategia “Precipitarse y Resolver” del Seguro

La técnica de “Precipitarse y Resolver” típicamente funciona así : un representante de la compañía de seguro le contacta poco después del choque y le hace una oferta muy baja. Ellos saben que usted tiene muchas cosas que hacer, probablemente siente dolor, no tiene un carro para manejar, y puede estar faltando al trabajo. Y la compañía de seguro va a intentar resolver antes de que otras lesiones “secundarias” se manifiesten.

Este es un tiempo confuso para víctimas, y la compañía de seguro puede intentar aprovecharse de su confusión para que usted termine resolviendo el reclamo por mucho menos de lo que vale su caso, y que renuncie a sus derechos antes de que usted sepa cuan herido usted está o antes de que tenga la oportunidad de hablar con un abogado para aprender sobre los varios derechos que usted tiene para luchar por más dinero. El objetivo es tratar de que usted acepte una minúscula oferta antes de que usted sepa la magnitud de sus lesiones. Para muchas personas, este dinero rápido parece demasiado bueno para ser verdad. Pero usted sabe lo que dicen sobre eso – demasiado bueno para ser verdad usualmente lo es.

Tristemente, hemos visto a muchos de nuestros clientes que no hablan inglés (en especial clientes hispanos) convertirse en victimas del “Precipitarse y Resolver.” Cuando uno de nuestros paralegales llamó a un cliente nuevo por primera vez, él dijo que la compañía de seguro le envió un cheque y que lo había cambiado en efectivo esa mañana. Fue dinero en el correo, y no lo pensó dos veces – así que lo llevó al banco. La compañía de seguro no le dio oportunidad, y lo peor es que el cheque solo fue por $500.

Nosotros también representabamos a un cliente que tuvo a un ajustador de la compañía de seguro que fue a la casa del cliente, hizo una oferta y se sentó en el sofá, y se negó a irse hasta que alguien le aceptara la oferta. El cliente no supo que hacer.

Estos son solo dos, de docenas de ejemplos, de las estrategias de las compañías de seguro que tenemos en nuestro folleto gratis Compañías de Seguro (y otros) Comportándose Mal que usted puede descargar de nuestra página web. Léalo si se anima. Es realmente impactante.

Cuidado con la Declaración Grabada

Como parte de cualquier protocolo de accidente, la compañía de seguro probablemente le llamara lo más pronto posible para obtener una “declaración grabada.” Lo que usted diga al representante del seguro y las palabras que usted escoja son extremadamente importantes para la transacciónde su reclamación. (Haga click aqui por cinco cosas que no debe decir en una declaración grabada.)

La declaración grabada es tan importante, que yo le aconsejo a mis clientes que no provean una antes de consultarlo conmigo primero, o solo si yo estoy incluido en la llamada telefónica durante la declaración.

Lo hemos visto una y otra  vez. El representante probablemente le hará preguntas para dirigirlo, que pueden hacer que usted admita culpa parcial, o que responda en tal manera que sus propias palabras pueden ser usadas en su contra en la corte, si llega a esto. Algo tan simple como “¿Cómo te sientes hoy?” requiere ser manejado con mucho cuidado. Si usted responde, “oh, yo estoy bien, gracias” algunas compañías de seguro pueden tratar de interpretar que eso significa que usted está bien desde la perspectiva médica, aunque usted solo respondió retóricamente.

¿Qué puede hacer un Abogado de Accidentes por Usted?

Nos ocuparemos de la compañía de seguro y sus facturas médicas por usted. Lo único que usted debe hacer es seguir las órdenes de su doctor y recuperarse lo más rápido posible. Mientras usted se recupera, nosotros haremos lo difícil e intentaremos:

  • Probar daños
  • Determinar la culpa
  • Prevenir y bloquear tácticas evasivas de los seguros
  • Investigar el reclamo
  • Proteger la evidencia
  • Negociar un acuerdo justo

Usted puede tener derecho a la compensación máxima por:

  • Facturas médicas y de rehabilitación
  • Tiempo faltado al trabajo
  • El costo de reparaciones a su vehículo
  • La disminución de la capacidad de generar ingresos por daños permanentes

No solo ofrecemos una evaluación gratuita para su caso, usted no paga nada por adelantado, y no paga los honorarios de abogado si no obtenemos compensación para usted.

Abogados de Choque en NC ofrecen Evaluación Gratuita de su Caso

Si usted ve un cheque en el correo, o le ofrecen un acuerdo demasiado pronto, eso es una señal de peligro. Si usted deposita o cambia el cheque, usted puede estar intercambiando su futuro financiero. Tome su tiempo y hable con un abogado de accidentes de auto con experiencia antes de llegar a un acuerdo.

Contáctenos o llame 1-800-968-5342 por una evaluación gratuita de su caso.

 

Will My Case Settle or Go to Trial?

If you’re like most of my clients, you probably would like to avoid going to court. The good news is most cases don’t. They’re settled out of court instead.

But sometimes, if it’s in our clients’ best interests to tell their story to a judge and jury because the insurance company and the defendant aren’t playing nice and won’t give them a fair offer, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

One question clients often ask us is: How do we decide whether to settle or go to court?

Insurance Companies Don’t Want to Go to Court Any More than You Do

The vast majority of personal injury cases settle. Some of the most appealing reasons for both sides to want to reach a settlement are:

  • Jury uncertainty – You can pick a jury, but you cannot control them once they are seated in the juror’s box.
  • Compensation assurance – Settling allows you to eliminate the variable of not knowing how much a court may or may not award the plaintiff (you).
  • Public image – Who knows what ripple effects the jury’s decision could potentially have on how the plaintiff is portrayed by the insurance company’s lawyers?
  • Most insurance companies are for-profit businesses – Jury trial expenses can add up fast. Likewise, the plaintiff’s court expenses are paid out of any settlement money.

With that said, the insurance company should know your attorney is 100% willing and able to take your case to trial.

The willingness to take cases to trial affords us the ability to try to negotiate your case from a position of power. If the insurance company is under the impression that you and your attorney have any hesitation about presenting a strong case to a jury and judge, they might feel they have the upper hand and withhold some of the compensation you may deserve.

Understanding Your Options for Settlement or Trial

Whether it’s in your best interest to try to settle or go to court, we do our homework. And from day one, we involve each and every client in their case. We try to keep you informed and we ask that you do the same with your legal team.

We ask a lot of questions. We want to know what happened, who was involved, and how you were impacted. We research how the law applies. If necessary, we speak with doctors, insurance companies, state agencies, witnesses, and experts to try to determine all the facts of your case, not just what may be favorable to you. We’re not looking for quick easy answers. Our goal is to try to obtain the most compensation that our clients may deserve. The more we know, the better we can represent you.

As we said, insurance companies typically don’t want to go to court any more than you do. But if we feel they are not being fair, and we believe a jury trial is in your best interest, we won’t hesitate to go.

While most of our cases are settled out of court, if your case does go to court, we will try to prepare you every step of the way.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers

Our law firm is one of the largest personal injury firms in North Carolina. And we have vast resources to draw from. Some of our best resources, in my opinion, are our paralegals, administrators, and others who work “behind the scenes” with our lawyers to help research and prepare your case – for a possible settlement or trial.

Some of our staff members previously worked for the very same insurance companies we deal with day in and day out. So they know their negotiation tactics.

When there’s no doubt on the insurance company’s part that we are ready, willing, and able to challenge them in court, often a settlement may look very good to them. Whatever the course, we are with you all the way.

If you were involved in a car wreck, don’t worry about whether your case will settle or go to court. Let our experienced car accident lawyers discuss this with you once we have the facts.

Contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE and let you know if we think we can help you.

 

Road Debris – Who Pays for Your Damages?

A colleague of mine was hauling one of those large plastic toddler playhouses in the back of her truck recently, when suddenly the roof of the house blew off right onto the roadway, causing traffic behind her to swerve into other lanes to avoid crashing into the roof. She pulled over and retrieved the runaway roof, thankfully avoiding injury to herself or other drivers.

The incident prompted a conversation about injuries and accidents from escaping debris. Who is responsible? What role does insurance play? And just what would have been the legal consequences to my colleague if that roof had caused an accident and injury in North Carolina? Points on her license? A fine? Traffic court? Jail?

Road Debris Causes Numerous Crashes Says AAA

A AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study in 2016 found that unsecured loads falling off cars and trucks have been blamed for more than 200,000 crashes on U.S. roads between 2011 and 2014. There were 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths from those incidents during that time.

More than a third of those deaths occurred because drivers swerved to avoid the debris.

Roadway debris can be a serious matter. One of our clients was severely injured in a life-altering way because of roadway debris.

What NC Law Says About Debris on NC Roads

Drivers responsible for creating road debris can face fines in every U.S state. All 50 states have laws that make unsecured loads illegal, according to AAA, with fines that range from $10 to $5,000. North Carolina’s fines are capped at $100.

North Carolina says you must properly secure all items on a vehicle. If you don’t and you cause an accident, you may be held liable. Specifically, NC law states:

“No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is constructed and loaded to prevent any of its load from falling, blowing, dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping therefrom, and the vehicle shall not contain any holes, cracks, or openings through which any of its load may escape.”

Legal penalties for infractions are determined by the degree of the infraction. It could be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the degree of willful negligence.

Will Auto Insurance Cover Road Debris Accidents?

But what about auto insurance? Will it pay for your damages or injuries if you crash as a result of running into or trying to swerve from road debris? In many instances, yes.

Crashing Into an Object

If your vehicle is damaged from running into or running over an object in the road, then your collision coverage should most likely pay for repairs.

Flying Objects That Land on Your Car

If the object flies through the air and hits your car, then your comprehensive coverage may come into play.

Personal Injury

If you or a passenger are injured, personal injury protection or medical payments would likely pay for treatment of injuries.

Getting the At-Fault Driver to Pay

If the accident was the result of someone failing to secure a load, you may be able to make a claim against the other driver’s liability insurance.

It’s always prudent to file a police report, which can help establish the facts for your insurance claim.

Road debris safety tips including hit the debris instead of swerving

Road Debris Safety Tips

If You Are Driving

  • Try to look farther than two or three cars ahead, so you potentially have time to change lanes before you reach a hazard.
  •  In many instances it can be safer to hit the debris than to swerve to try to avoid it. (Remember that more than a third of road debris deaths occurred from swerving.)
  • If you’re on a roadway at night (and it’s not foggy and there’s no traffic), drive with your high beams on so you can potentially spot debris in the road.
  • Call 911 to report hazards in the roadway.

If You Are Carrying a Load

  • Properly secure the load on your vehicle. Test your cargo before you leave. If it moves, secure it better.
  • If you lose something, pull to the side of the road where it is safe and call 911. Keep your seatbelt fastened until help arrives.

Get Free Advice From Experienced NC Road Debris Lawyers

Proving liability can be tricky because North Carolina laws on road debris can be vague and leave lots of room for interpretation. Based on our experience in fighting the insurance companies for compensation for damages and injuries, we strongly advise getting an experienced roadway debris lawyer.

If you have been injured by roadway debris, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. Our experienced auto accident lawyers will evaluate your case for FREE.

#1 Killer of Teens is Car Accidents — Could Defensive Driving Courses Help?

You never forget your first one.

Your first driver’s license, that is.

Remember when you first got your driver’s license and you couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of your mother’s station wagon? Funny how many things we’d eagerly volunteer to “go get” for our moms. Windows down, radio blaring, checking ourselves out in the rearview mirror, looking to see who sees us. (Never mind that you’re driving a mom mobile.)

The carefree days of teenage driving. It’s a rite of passage.

For today’s teens, it’s a rite that is fraught with responsibilities, distractions, and hazards many times over what we faced. Are your teen drivers prepared? Really prepared?

Car Accidents #1 Killer of Teens

Nationally, car accidents are the #1 killer among teens – and texting while driving is the #1 reason for those highway deaths, WRAL reported. Just in the first three months of 2016, nearly half as many teens have died in car accidents on North Carolina’s roads than in all of 2015, according to WRAL.

Put that on your Twitter page and tweet it (but not while driving).

To the Rescue! Defensive Driving Schools for Teen Drivers

To help teens become better prepared for today’s increasingly perilous driving environment a number of defensive driving schools and courses have been popping up nationwide, many here in North Carolina. This is not your father’s Driver’s Ed 101. It’s Driver’s Ed on steroids. Teens get up close and personal with roadway hazards by getting behind the wheel with a professional instructor to learn how to maneuver in an effort to avoid hazardous situations.

Car attempting to drive through flood waters.Here is a statistic from one such school – Charlotte-based B.R.A.K.E.S (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe). This statistic is so alarming, even your over-confident teen driver may stop Snapchatting long enough to pay attention.

There’s an 89.2% chance a teen driver will be in a car accident during the first three years of driving.

The laws of rounding indicate that’s nearly a 100% chance. But don’t take away the keys just yet.

According to B.R.A.K.E.S, teens who have completed the free* four-hour B.R.A.K.E.S. training are 64% less likely to be in a car crash in the first three years of driving.

B.R.A.K.E.S is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization offering behind-the-wheel training in advanced safety maneuvers for teens. All of the instructors have backgrounds in various professional driving instruction, including racing, law enforcement, or stunt driving in movies. The school is AAA-approved, endorsed by the National Coalition for Safer Roads, and Consumer Reports listed the organization among its preferred list of defensive driving schools. KIA sponsors them by supplying the cars that the teens drive in the program.

The good news for North Carolina teens (and parents!) is that, although B.R.A.K.E.S offers training throughout the U.S., it is headquartered in Charlotte and offers monthly training courses at the Zmax Dragway at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as well as periodically in the Raleigh area. Here are some of the defensive skills they teach new teen drivers, according to their website.

Accident Avoidance/Slalom Exercise

The accident avoidance and slalom course is a two part course that forces students to make a split- second reaction to negotiate a quick, evasive lane change without losing control. This part of the course is designed to simulate an animal or object jumping out in front of a car. The second part of the course is a coned slalom course where students must negotiate their vehicle around cones while focusing on weight transfer, hand positioning, and eye scanning.

Drop Wheel/Off Road Recovery Exercise

The drop wheel recovery course teaches students how to effectively recover from a drop wheel situation by regaining control of the car and safely returning to the roadway. Drop wheel accidents are among the highest causes of injuries and deaths across the U.S.

Distraction Exercise

The distraction course forces a driver to negotiate a tightly coned course while being distracted by the instructor. The course is designed to demonstrate just how dangerous cell phones, text messaging, music, traffic, and friends in the car can be.

Panic Stop Exercise

The panic stop course is designed to teach students the proper technique to stop a vehicle in the shortest distance while maintaining control. Students experience first-hand the effects of an A.B.S. (Anti-Lock Braking System) and its ability to keep the wheels from locking while pulsating brake pressure.

Car Control and Recovery Exercise

The skid pad course is designed to prepare students how to drive in bad weather situations and not to lose grip (control). The students are taught how to properly recover from both over-steer (rear wheel) and under-steer (front wheel) skids.

A dad’s testimonial about putontheBRAKES.org

“My son and I attended BRAKES at the LA County Fairgrounds on April 26th. Yesterday, he was alone driving home from a high school baseball game approaching an intersection, on a green light about 45 mph. At the very last second, a car turned left in front of him. My son hit the brakes hard, engaging the abs, and steered away from the car as he stayed hard in the brakes, narrowly avoiding a collision. He attributed his reaction and collision avoidance to everything he learned at BRAKES. He described how, during the incident, he had anticipated the other driver turning in front of him and he knew the ABS engaged because of the feel and knew to stay on them as he steered away. The scenario was virtually identical to what he experienced at the school. Your school paid for itself 1000 times over last night. Thank you so much.”

North Carolina Defensive Driving Training

Here is a list of some of the defensive driving courses in NC as of May 2016:

The last thing we want is your teen in an accident. Many of us are parents and we understand how much is at stake. If you’re in that unfortunate situation, let us help with the legal issues. Contact us online to contact us 24/7, or call 1-866-900-7078.We will evaluate your situation for FREE over the phone or online.

 

*B.R.A.K.E.S training asks for a $99 refundable deposit to hold your reservation. If you choose to leave your deposit, it will turn into a donation, which is tax deductible.