How the Changing Workforce is Affecting Workers’ Compensation Claims

Posted on Tuesday, August 7th, 2018 at 8:33 am    

According to the Claims Journal, more and more older workers are continuing to work well past retirement age. While older workers bring a lot of skills and experience to their jobs, old age is a factor in people becoming injured. The Journal story cites data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics for 2017 which shows that the 65 and older work category is likely to grow faster than any other age group through 2024.

Another Claims Journal article cited that senior employment (65 and older) increased 101 % between 1997 and 2007. Employment of seniors 75 and older grew by 172% during this time. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2020 25%of Americans will be older than 55.

Workers between 25 and 54 are not expected to grow as much as older workers in part due to declining birth rates.

Why seniors are still working

Some of the reasons seniors are working longer are seniors are living longer because of better medical care, financial need, and the lack of good workers. Another factor is the desire of older workers to be productive.

A major concern about older workers isn’t so much that their get hurt more – it’s that their injuries tend to me more severely injured when they do have an accident. Many older workers who suffer a workplace accident do die. As an example, nearly 3,200 workers 55 or older were killed in vehicle accidents between 1992 and 2002. 22% of these accidents were work-related. Falls are another cause of fatal accidents for the elderly.

Older workers, according to Department of Labor statistics, are more likely to develop disabilities. Seniors are at increased risk for diabetes and obesity. While these conditions don’t automatically qualify a worker for work benefits, if another cause (such as a fall) causes injury – these conditions can make the recovery time much longer. Other pre-existing conditions can also extend the recovery time.

Older workers are also more likely to experience sprains and strains if they do manual labor work. The Claims Journal stories also indicate that older workers can have more mental challenges processing information which can lead to more accidents.

Practical suggestions

The Department of Labor recommends that employers consider these programs to help reduce injuries to older workers:

  • Wellness programs
  • Ergonomic and workplace design changes
  • Other adjustments to help keep older workers functioning at their peak

The NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) recently started the National Center for Productive Aging and Work. This a “virtual center,” specifically created to help understand how to make older workers productive. The Center’s Director, John Howard, M.D., said that the Center hopes to continue its research to create a safe environment for aging workers.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) also suggests that employers consider the following workplace changes:

  • There needs to be more flexibility. Flexibility includes making adjustments in schedules, assigned tasks, and work locations.
  • Work environments should include some movement. It’s generally not good for workers including older workers to sit all day. Work areas should include work stations where the employee can sit and stand. Work assignments should encourage some physical movement
  • Protections should be in place to minimize the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Railings should be installed. Floors should be examined for broken tiles and carpet tears. Aisles should be cleared of equipment and merchandise. Even though there is no need to prove fault in a North Carolina workers’ compensation case, employees should use some of the fall protection safeguards that property owners use to protect their customers.
  • Teams should be used to solve workplace problems and help workers coordinate tasks with other workers
  • Health lifestyles should be promoted. Simple things like providing better nutrition at the workplace should be encouraged. Workers should be encouraged, not discouraged, to treat with their doctors and specialists.

Concerns about the changing workforce

The Claims Journal raised several other concerns about elder workers:

Experienced workers are being replaced by millennials as well as many less skilled workers. Many baby boomers are retiring when they reach 65. The combination of less skilled workers and senior workers affects how work is done. Less skilled workers require expensive training which many employers can’t afford. More safety designs for older workers can add to employer expenses too. Without the necessary training and safety expenses, more accidents are likely.

Unfortunately, one of the problems is that the health of the average American worker seems to be declining. This is true of older workers too. According to the Claims Journal stories, “When an injured worker has at least one chronic condition, the workers’ compensation claim cost doubles. If they have two or more, the cost of the work comp claim goes up fivefold.”

Another change in the workplace is the increased use of opioids to treat chronic pain, although this, in turn, has been affected by the new regulations with respect to opioids.

This is nothing new to our firm. We have always tended to represent a higher percentage of older workers because frankly, when an older worker is injured, it is less likely that he or she will recover sufficiently to be able to return to pre-injury employment. And this translates into a higher potential settlement.

 

More Hispanic workers

Hispanics also are changing the everyday work forces. According to BLS, about 23 million Hispanic or Latino workers comprised 15% of the country’s workforce in 2011. That number is expected to rise to 19% by 2020.

Because the Latino population is rising, it is important to hire workers who understand Spanish and English and workers who understand other languages. We have seen this create problems, particularly in the area of construction. Workers who cannot understand each other while working at heights is a recipe for disaster and serious injury.

Learning each other’s language also helps workers culturally connect. It also helps employers who want to develop relationships with foreign businesses. Even insurance companies understand the need to hire insurance adjusters and nurse case managers who are speak Spanish. Insurance companies that establish language lines also helps employees who are injured.

Talk with an Experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney today

Workers’ compensation attorney Joe Miller Esq., represents injured workers of any age, although more often than not, our clients tend to be over 50.  He fights for workers who work in construction, manufacturing, shipping, healthcare, telecommunications, firefighting, law enforcement, and any type of job. He understands the injuries that are unique to your  profession and the ones that are common to many professions. He’ll fight to get you all the wage compensation loss you deserve plus all the medical payments you need to get better. For help from a highly respected lawyer, please phone Joe Miller Law at the Work Injury Center at (888) 694-1671 or fill out my contact form to schedule an appointment.

Do Not Quit Your Job

Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 at 12:30 pm    

Lately, we have been coming across cases where we haven’t been able to help an injured worker because they have quit their job after being hurt.

We understand how frustrating it is when an employer or insurance company will not cooperate, or you are sent to a company doctor who will not listen to you. You are hurt and the doctor is sending you back to work when you know you are really in severe pain and you have no business working. So in frustration, you just quit your job and hope for the best.

But injured workers need to understand that just because they are hearing the job numbers in the U.S. are up and there is low unemployment, that does not mean the worker can “have his cake and eat it too,” by simply quitting his job after a serious injury. When the injured worker quits, he does irreparable damage to his chances of obtaining a fair recovery for his workers compensation claim.

You simply cannot quit the job you were hurt on and then expect to have a decent workers compensation claim.

In this video, workers compensation attorney Joe Miller explains why you should NEVER quit your job after an on-the-job injury.

If you or a loved one were hurt on the job in either Virginia or North Carolina, please call us at 888-694-1671 or use our online form.

Why Car Accidents and Injuries to Workers in North Carolina and Virginia Construction Zones Are So Common

Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 at 10:58 am    

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were close to 100,000 vehicle accidents across the United States in construction work areas in 2015. This represents a 7.8% increase from the year before. North Carolina has had its own issues with construction workers getting injured on the job. The FHWA data showed that the accidents broke down as follows:

  • Fatal crashes. 642
  • One person or more injured:  25, 485
  • Some property damage:  70, 499

These numbers are similar to crashes in non-work zone areas.

According to the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 590 people died in construction zone areas in 2011, 617 died in 2012, 579 more in 2013, and 669 in 2014.

Some of the leading factors for work zone deaths are:

  • Not using a seatbelt
  • A driver was under the influence of alcohol
  • 65% of crashes happened during the daytime
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays were the worst days for fatal construction zone accident
  • The summer was the worst season of the year for construction zone accidents
  • Urban interstates accounted for 23% of fatal work zone accidents
  • Urban arterials accounted for 20%
  • Urban areas accounted for 43% of fatal construction zone deaths even though they account for just five percent of the roadway network
  • 41% of the fatal accidents were rear-end accidents which indicates the driver was likely going very fast

North Carolina has 17 Interstate Highways including I-26, I-40, I-85 and I-95. Other main roads include State Highways & Routes 1, 13, 17, 21, 168, 158, 301, 321, 401, and many other roads. There are numerous highways and roads throughout the state that are in constant need of repair and maintenance. Virginia has similar highways, many of which continue from Virginia into North Carolina, particularly the North -South I-85, I-95 corridor. Once upon a time, State Routes 17 and 301 were the primary North-South ways to drive the east coast, before the Federal System.

Construction is done for many reasons:

  • To build new roads
  • To increase the lanes of travel
  • To improve safety
  • To repair existing roads
  • To widen roads
  • To allow for access to new buildings and communities

A great example of road improvement is Route 17 between Chesapeake, VA and Elizabeth City. Many folks remember when it was just one lane in each direction, especially on the Virginia side. It was the sight of many fatal motor vehicle accidents, particularly where the road abuts the dismal swamp canal and it was particularly dark at night.

Now the road is four lanes all the way down, the road was moved east to open farm land, away from the dismal swamp, and there is a new high rise 4 lane toll bridge on the Chesapeake side. The road is now much safer and provides a faster route between the two cities.

Similar to this are the massive improvements made to Route 168, now a toll road in Virginia known as the Chesapeake Expressway. As locals know, this road continues south of the Virginia Border to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Once a pitifully difficult one-lane-each-way trip to the Outer Banks, improvements on both sides have now substantially lessened travel time, even though the road remains bumper-to-bumper on the weekends in the summer. Once can now travel from Moyock, N.C. to downtown Norfolk, VA, in about 30 minutes, making Moyock a bedroom community for many who work in Norfolk.

Why construction accident accidents happen

Some of the common reasons accidents happen at construction zones are:

  • The lanes of traffic weren’t correctly marked. There wasn’t clarity as to which lanes could be used and which ones couldn’t.
  • It wasn’t clear when and where cars should merge if the lanes of traffic were reduced
  • Drivers didn’t have advance warning through overhead signs, other signs, or roadway staff – that they were getting close to a construction site work zone
  • The speed limits weren’t reduced at the area approaching the work zone
  • There weren’t appropriate indicators that road surfaces were uneven, that the surfaces were being stripped, or that the surface of the road had changed from asphalt to some other material
  • There weren’t road crews telling drivers to slow down or to stop. Road crews should also be able to indicate what detour routes are available.
  • The altered lanes appeared to create a safe area for a driver to stop, when in fact it is not safe at all.
  • Cranes, bulldozers, large trucks, and other vehicles were blocking the driver’s views
  • Road debris such as limbs from trees, loose gravel, and other hazards weren’t cleared away
  • Traffic cones weren’t used or weren’t properly used

Who is responsible for car accidents at North Carolina construction sites?

Our lawyers work with investigators and witnesses to determine what happened. If we are unable to settle the case, we may have to move into litigation and take depositions and ask written questions to analyze what the defendant’s version of events is. We have worked with traffic safety engineers to review whether industry standards were met. In some circumstances, we may have to show whether federal and North Carolina regulations, construction codes, and laws weren’t followed.  We also need to determine all the parties involved in the construction work, assuming that the layout or other hazards contributed to the collision.  

Many different people, companies, and entities may be liable for a work zone accident. An investigation usually begins with determining who initiated the construction site work. We review whether the roads were federal roads, state roads, county roads, or even private roads. We work to understand why the work was being done. Was fixing the road the primary task? Or was the need to do work related to some other purposes such as clearing trees from electric lines, raising a new building in a city, or any area, or some other reason?

Some of the possible defendants when a car accident in a construction zone causes injury or death are:

  • Government entities. This includes North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, cities counties and towns. Government entities are normally responsible for the design, repair, and maintenance of the roads. There are specific conditions for holding them liable that a respected North Carolina car accident lawyer understands:
    • There are notice requirements that must be met
    • There are statute of limitation deadlines
    • There must generally be a showing that the state had notice (actual or constructive) of a problem and that it failed to do something about it. For example, if the North Carolina Department of Transportation knew that numerous deaths had occurred at a specific intersection, the NCDOT should have, at least, conducted an investigation into why so many deaths happened and if so, corrected the issue if possible.
  • The construction business that was retained to do fix the road, building, trees, utility lines, or other public or private improvement
  • All the subcontractors

Architects, civil engineers, and maintenance crews may also be liable for injuries and deaths when North Carolina construction accidents happen.

Time is critical in construction site accidents. It’s important to have investigators and experts go the accident site, take pictures and videos, speak with witnesses, examine the damage to any personal vehicles, and examine the damage to any construction vehicles or equipment. Construction sites change rapidly. The whole idea behind construction work is to complete the work as soon as possible which makes it hard to verify what the conditions were when the accident happened.

Get Justice. Speak with an Experienced North Carolina and Virginia car accident and highway construction injury attorney today

At the North Carolina Law office of Joe Miller Esq., we have the experience and resources to investigate car accidents, including at construction sites. Once we know how the accident happened, we are skilled at bringing personal injury claims against the responsible parties. Of course, we also assist injured highway construction workers, as well as injured drivers who may have been travelling for work purposes, through both the North Carolina and Virginia Workers Compensation Systems. Attorney Joe Miller has been helping personal injury victims for more than 30 years. He understands how to examine the facts and argue the law. He’ll work to prove liability and to show all your pain and suffering. For help , please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

Wrongful Death in North Carolina

Car accidents take numerous lives. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, in 2016:

  • 1,441 people were killed in vehicle accidents
  • 14.20 people died for every 100,000 persons
  • Nearly 1/3 of all highway deaths were related to speeding
  • 15 bicyclists died
  • 151 motorcycle riders died
  • 198 pedestrians were killed
  • 31% of children between 0 and 4 who died weren’t wearing a seatbelt

Wrongful death generally means that the defendant’s negligence caused the fatality. Driver negligence usually includes one or more of the following:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving while distracted by a cellphone, GPS system, electronic device, passengers, or other reasons
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Noncompliance with the state traffic laws
  • Failing to follow reasonable and safe driving practices.

When drivers are liable, the owners of the vehicle (if different than the driver) may also be accountable. Car parts manufacturers, North Carolina governmental agencies or subdivisions, and sellers of alcohol may also be liable. There is no requirement to show there was any criminal conduct on the part of the wrongdoer. Wrongful death cases are civil cases. This is distinguished from a driver being injured while on the job. In workers compensation cases, we do not really care so much about fault, as long as the worker was engaged in the business of the employer at the time of the accident. Still, if the work car accident was someone else’s fault, the deceased driver’s family would be entitled to make two claims: Once against the at-fault driver and another for a death claim under the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act.

Who are the beneficiaries of wrongful death lawsuits in North Carolina?

The right of family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is governed by North Carolina Statutes section 28A-18-2 Generally, the personal representative of the person who dies files the wrongful death claim. The personal representative is normally the executor named in the decedent’s will. If there was no will, then there are rules for who can apply to be the administrator/personal representative of the estate.

There are strict timelines for bringing wrongful death claims an experienced North Carolina car accident lawyer can explain. The key thing to remember is that it is always good to consult with a respected personal injury trial lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident causes someone to die. It’s also important to show that that the deceased did not contribute to the accident in any way. We aggressively fight to show the responsible defendants are fully responsible for the tragedies they caused.

The personal representative brings the wrongful death claim on behalf of the following survivors:

  • A spouse
  • The children of the decedent
  • Anyone entitled to benefits under the intestate succession laws of North Carolina.

The damage award is not part of the Estate though. This means the funds go directly to the beneficiaries and not creditors. If any beneficiary is under 18, then it may be necessary to appoint a guardian for the child or place the funds in a trust. Normally, the co-parent will handle the funds for the child until he/she reaches 18.

The state statute essentially combines the following two claims:

  • The claim for any damages based on the survival of the decedent after the accident. Some victims don’t die immediately. They may die days, weeks, or even months after the accident date. The wrongful death claim includes the victim’s physical pain and emotional suffering between the date of the accident and death. It also includes all medical during this time and any lost wages or income during this difficult time. Medical bills include hospital surgeries, doctor visits, therapy, medical devices, and medications.
  • The claim for damages based on the death of the car accident victim. Damages can be awarded, according to the statute, for the following:
    • Reasonable costs for the funeral and burial
    • Lost income
    • The loss of the care, assistance, protection, and services, the deceased would have provided each beneficiary
    • The loss of the guidance, advise, comfort, companionship, and society each beneficiary would have received had the decedent lived

The North Carolina wrongful death statute also authorizes a punitive damage award if the facts merit it. Punitive damages are generally designed to punish the wrongdoer to deter him/her from similar wrongful conduct. Punitive damage awards are also meant to send a message to others might act “with malice or willful or wanton conduct.” Punitive damages may be awarded, if for example, a driver drove his car while intoxicated or drove a car that he/she knew needed safety-related repairs.

Generally, all awards are adjusted to reflect the current monetary value of the damages. Generally, a respected North Carolina car accident lawyer charges a contingent fee in wrongful death cases. This means the lawyer does not get paid his fee unless the case settles or there is a jury verdict. The lawyer does get a percentage of any recovery plus reimbursement for fees that were advanced.

Experienced personal injury lawyers understand what is required to prove fault for the car accident. They also understand how to prove damages. Some damages are easier to place a dollar amount on than others. In wrongful death cases, we often work with professionals who can assess the value of intangible losses such as loss of guidance and support or loss of care and assistance.

At the end of the day, though, the primary thing that determines the value of a wrongful death claim is going to be insurance coverage. The minimum limits in North Carolina are $30,000.00. The more valuable cases are those involving commercial vehicles, which routinely carry policies of $1Million. With larger companies, there may also be excess coverage.

Get help now! Make the call to a respected North Carolina wrongful death lawyer today

No amount of money will ever replace the loss of a loved one. The aim of wrongful death cases is to hold the drivers and other responsible parties liable for their actions. Families are entitled to be paid every dollar the law does allow, whether it is due to the fault of another or for a workers compensation recovery. Attorney Joe Miller has helped thousands of injured victims get justice. He has the resources and experience to help you get justice for the loss of a loved one. To schedule an appointment, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

Issues to Consider If Your Employer Wants you to Return to Work

Posted on Thursday, July 26th, 2018 at 8:29 am    

Many injured workers can never return to work. A traumatic brain injury, spinal cord injury, paralysis, or other disorder may make the worker permanently disabled. Some workers can return to work but with medical restrictions. Many employees need to be retrained so they can learn a new job.

Employees should work with their doctor and their workers’ compensation lawyer so that they understand their medical needs and legal rights. Employers often try to force workers back to their job or a job before the worker is really ready.

Most workers are happy to return to work if they can do the job. Workers’ compensation generally just pays about 2/3rds of the worker’s wages. It’s nice to get 100% of your pay. With work comes the reward of helping your company and your community. Workers who can’t return to work shouldn’t be rushed. You do have the right to contest efforts to make you return to a job before you’re physically ready.

Medical issues to consider

First, you do have the right to have your treating doctor evaluate your ability to perform the tasks needed to do your job. You should explain to your doctor all the tasks that are required. This includes

  • How many hours you need to stand
  • Whether you can lift, push, pull, or carry heavy items
  • The type of skills you need to do job
  • The job ratings used to judge your work performance
  • How often you can take breaks
  • The hours you need to work
  • How often you interact with the public
  • Many other requirements needed to do your job

Your doctor will generally make one of the following evaluations

  • You cannot return to work at the current time
  • You can return to work but with work restrictions (light duty)
  • You can return to work without any restrictions (full duty)

Once a medical evaluation has been made, an employee should review these options with an experienced North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation attorney. If you think you’re just not physically or mentally ready, the lawyer may seek an independent medical evaluation.

There are differences as to how this is accomplished as between North Carolina and Virginia. North Carolina has a statutory method for obtaining an independent medical evaluation (IME) at the defendants’ expense. Attempting to see a doctor outside of this permissible scenario will likely not accomplish anything, as the treatment or evaluation was not authorized.

Virginia has no such method for an IME; however, in Virginia there are really no restrictions on you seeing a doctor on your own, assuming you can pay for it. It must also be remembered that the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission will generally side with the opinion of the authorized treating doctor as opposed to someone you chose on your own. The exception is if the treating doctor has released you and stated that he or she has nothing more to offer you insofar as treatment is concerned. In those cases, you may be entitled to move for a change in treating physicians.  

Return to work outcomes

Possible return to work scenarios include:

  • Trying to work and succeeding. If there is legitimate reason you can return to work, then most employees are encouraged to give the return a work. Caution should be used. You should review your concerns with your employer. If you can return to work, the employer’s insurance carrier will seek to terminate your wage benefits. You still are entitled to medical care provided the care is helping you improve your medical condition – or is helping you to avoid any regression.
  • Doing different types of work. Some workers can return to the same company but at a less stressful level. Some workers can shift to administrative work instead of manual labor. Workers may even be required to look for work with a different employer if they can’t do their old job or their old job is no longer available. When this happens, we call it “accommodation” of the employee’s work restrictions. Unfortunately, this can be potentially very damaging to your case.
  • Trying to work and failing. If the employer the authorized treating physician both agree that you’re not ready to work on a regular basis, then you should be able to reassert your demand for wage benefits until your medical condition improves. If the employer believes you can work but you think the pain is unbearable, then you must have doctor’s opinion supporting your right to remain out of work, or you could be fired for cause for failing to follow the treating physician’s advice, and then your case would pretty much be over.

 

Working with restrictions.

Often, doctors will say you can return to work with restrictions. Examples of restrictions include:

  • Being allowed regular rest breaks
  • Not lifting in excess of 10 pounds
  • Being allowed to sit/stand as needed. There may be limit such as being allowed to sit after standing for two hours.

The doctor should prepare detailed written restrictions. The restrictions, in turn, should be given to your attorney if you have one, and he will disseminate those restrictions to your employer and/or opposing counsel.  If an employer doesn’t respect these restrictions, you do have the right to complain to your doctor. You should take written notes of every time an employer forces you to work beyond these restrictions and you should make sure you tell your doctor precisely which duties are causing you severe pain.

Employees who work with restrictions whose employers cannot accommodate those restrictions may still be entitled to their temporary total disability checks, assuming the worker has an accepted claim in North Carolina or is under an Award in Virginia. If the worker returns to light duty at a lower wage, then the worker would be entitled to 2/3rds of the difference between the pre-injury wage and the light duty wage. This is called “temporary partial disability”. This category of worker usually earns less money than they earned before the accident or occupational illness.

For example, take John who was making $900 a week before his injury. After his injury, he only earns $600 a week. John is entitled to his $600 pay. He is also entitled to 2/3 of the difference between the pre-injury and light duty pay.  Since the difference is $300, John is entitled to claim a $200-per-week temporary total disability payment on top of the $600 weekly wage.

The worker continues to be entitled to payment for all reasonable medical bills, treatments, medical devices, and medications while working with restrictions. Workers with restrictions often continue to treat with physical therapists. Many take prescription medications.

Additional return to work considerations

Just because you return to work, doesn’t mean you reached your maximum medical improvement. Many employees continue with medical treatments while they’re doing light duty work. It is only when the employee reaches MMI that an evaluation can be made as to whether the employee has a permanent disability, a partial permanent disability, or no disability. Long-term settlements in workers’ compensation cases may be possible when maximum medical improvement is achieved.

Workers who can’t return to the same job with or without restrictions may be entitled to vocational training. This training ideally allows the worker to learn new skills so he/she can get a new job. It is sometime used, for example, when a worker who did manual labor is retrained to do clerical work.

But one should be extremely cautious with the vocational rehabilitation counselors. Although they are supposed to help the worker find a job, their real mission is usually to torpedo and sink your case by claiming that you failed to comply with their often ridiculous job search requirements.

Understand your right to return to work only when you’re able to

At the North Carolina and Virginia Law offices of Joe Miller Law and the Work Injury Center, we have been fighting for injured workers for more than 30 years. Joe Miller has helped thousands of injured workers get the workers’ compensation benefits they fully deserve. Joe  Miller works with your doctors to understand you medical problems and when you can competently do your job. For help , please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

What is light duty?

Posted on Wednesday, June 20th, 2018 at 8:46 am    

What happens when a doctor releases you on “light duty.”

What are the Stages of a Car Accident Case?

Posted on Friday, June 15th, 2018 at 10:13 am    

Car accident cases aren’t simply a matter of “here’s what happened, pay me a large sum of money.” Experienced Virginia car accident lawyers are skilled at each phase of the trial from the initial client consultation through a trial before a jury. Once your medical diagnosis is clear, the lawyer will work to try to settle your case. To get the best results, the lawyer prepares your case as if it is going to go to trial.

Since car accident lawyers usually take your case on a contingency fee basis, the client does not need to rush to make a quick settlement. Contingency fee means the car accident lawyer only gets paid if your case settles or if you obtain a jury verdict. So you will not have to stroke a check to hire the attorney.

There are several steps a car accident victim should take before speaking with an attorney. For more detailed information on what to do and what not to do if you’ve been in a car accident, please download my book 23 Simple Rules to Follow if You’ve Been in a Car Accident, or call our office for a hard-bound copy. Also, remember that if you were on the job at the time of your accident, there will be a Workers’ Compensation element to your claim as well which we can handle for you.

  • The first step is to get an immediate medical evaluation. Even if accident victims feel well immediately after the accident, they should still go to the emergency room or see their family doctor. Some injuries like traumatic brain injury, concussions, or whiplash take a day or more to show symptoms. The sooner you see a doctor, even when pain is not immediate, the better care you should get. Early diagnosis and early treatment helps you get better faster and with stronger results. Additionally, if you wait to see your physician, the insurance companies may argue that you weren’t really hurt.
  • The second step is to contact the police if anyone was hurt or if there was property damage. The police will get everyone’s contact and insurance information. The officers will write a report which details the accident site including lanes of travel, traffic signals and signs, and other information. The police will work to secure the area so that nobody else is hurt. They’ll physical also arrange for any ambulance or EMT services. They will also charge anyone they feel violated any laws, such as failure to yield, running a red light, etc. This helps to determine who was at fault for the accident, and if that person pre-pays the fine, then they have admitted guilt in your case.
  • The next step is to make sure you take or get someone to take numerous photos of any damage to the vehicle you were occupying at the time of the accident, before the vehicle is repaired. This can easily be done with most smartphones today. In addition, if you have any bruises  lacerations, or seatbelt burn, etc. from the accident, you should get someone to photograph them extensively and as clearly as possible before they heal.
  • The third step is to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The attorney will advise you how to document your pain and suffering. He’ll explain how the litigation process works. An experienced car crash lawyer will explain that you shouldn’t think about a settlement until you fully understand your injuries and what your long-term prognosis is. He’ll speak with the insurance adjusters for you have signed documents to allow him to represent you.
  • Vehicle owners are required to notify their own insurance carrier about the accident. You should never admit fault even to your own company.  You should give the facts about what happened. Normally, the insurance company will want to inspect the car to see what repairs may be necessary or to determine if the car was totaled.
  • Vehicle accident victims are not required to speak with the insurance adjuster for the people who were at fault, i.e. the defendant. If an insurance company, other than yours, wants to speak with you, you have every right to say that you want them to speak with your lawyer. If your lawyer thinks it prudent, he will set up a recorded statement and prepare you for it, and do a three-way telephone interview so that he is on the phone during the statement. He will also prepare you before the statement as to how to conduct yourself.

 

Victims should also understand that both Virginia and North Carolina have a strict contributory negligence laws. This means if a jury finds that the other driver was 90% at fault and you were just 10% at fault, then you get nothing. You don’t get 90%. You don’t get 50%. You get zero. So, admitting or implying fault in any way can cause you to lose your case.

Now if you were on the job at the time of your accident, generally, fault does not affect workers comp entitlement, unless you were grossly negligent, or failed to follow a company safety rule. For instance, if company safety rules require that you wear a seatbelt, and you were not wearing one and this increased your injuries, you would not be entitled to workers comp coverage.

The stages of your case once you a hire a lawyer

  • Consultation. The attorney will begin by reviewing what happened and your medical complaints. The more he understands what happened, the better he can analyze who was responsible and why.
  • Investigation. In the old days, the attorney would routinely send investigators to the accident site to take pictures and/or video of the site, but today, for most locations, you can view just about every angle of the scene using Google Earth and save the shots you want.  If skid marks or sight distance are important, then an investigator with appropriate training will be sent to take measurements. This can prove critical in close cases. The investigators may also examine your vehicle. The damage to all the vehicles (what parts of the car and how severe) is another piece of evidence to help determine fault.
  • Determination and Estimation of Coverage. Your own insurance policy should have a portion called Underinsured Motorist Coverage.  (UIM). It is very important to find the declaration page of your policy. This will display what your coverage is. It is usually expressed as policy limits, with two numbers and a slash line. For instance it may say $100,000/$300,000.00. The first number is the per person limit and the second number is the total coverage in the event that more than one person was hurt. The reason the amounts are important is because the minimum coverage required in Virginia is $25,000.00, and in North Carolina, $30,000.00. So no matter how bad your injuries are, if both you and the defendant have the minimum coverage, that is all you will be entitled to. Unfortunately, we are not entitled to know the amount of the defendant’s coverage without filing a lawsuit. Most of the time, you can get an idea based on the year, make and model of the defendant’s car. So if they are driving a 1980 Honda that is barely holding together, you can bet their coverage is very different from someone driving a brand new Mercedes.
  • Photos of the damage to the vehicle and any severe injuries.  As noted above, it is very important to get photos of the vehicle damage. Particularly in a nasty wreck, a picture is worth a thousand words. If you have to go to trial, nothing conveys what you have been through better than a mangled mass of twisted metal.
  • Medical care and gathering of records and bills. The attorney will review your medical injuries and the treatment you’ve received so far. The lawyer may suggest that your see other doctors, psychologists, therapists, and other health care providers. During your case, the lawyer will obtain medical reports which explain your medical condition, your prognosis, the loss of any long-term function, the pain and suffering that usually accompanies the type of injury you have, and any problems that are unique to your situation.
  • When to negotiate. Insurance companies for the people who hit your car want to settle your case as quickly as possible for as little as possible. Experienced Virginia car accident lawyers understand that delay is not your friend. Many doctors will defer payment until your case is resolved, but they are not required to do so. Therefore, your own health insurance company should pay for your medical care until the case settles or there is a verdict.

While some injuries such as a broken arm are treated and then heal in a few months, there are often exceptions. When your arm heals, you may lose some range of motion. There still may be a persistent pain. If you settle too early, you can’t come back and ask for more money. That’s why it’s good to wait until your medical condition has stabilized.

  • Demand Letter-Once all the bills and records regarding your related treatment are received, and you have reached maximum medical improvement,  your attorney will prepare a demand letter, which will set forth the facts of the claim, and recite, in detail, the entirety of your medical treatment related to the accident. If you had any prior injuries to the same body parts, this would also need to be discussed and dealt with. You attorney will also attach all the relevant medical records and bills and tally them up to compute an appropriate amount to ask for settlement from the insurance company. The amount asked for is typically not the amount your attorney expects the case to settle for, but is merely a place to begin negotiations. The attorney will also attach any relevant photos of the vehicle damage, photos of your visible bodily injuries, and a copy of the accident report.
  • How to negotiate. An experienced car accident lawyer understands how much your case is worth. He understands the strengths and weakness of your case and the defendant’s case. He understands the art of negotiation – how much to ask to start in order to get the settlement you deserve. The lawyer also understands when a settlement offer just isn’t fair and that you should proceed to a jury trial. Often times, the best settlement offer comes right before the jury trial date.
  • Watch out if you have a worker’s comp case. One thing many folks ignore is the situation where they may have a worker’s compensation case as well because you were on the job at the time of your accident. Generally, the law does not allow a double recovery. This first means that you cannot settle your case against the other driver without the permission of the workers comp adjuster. If you do, that is the automatic end of your comp case. Also, the money paid out by workers comp will create a lien against your injury case. That being said, these amounts are usually reduced and worked out at the time of settlement. The main take-away is NEVER settle your injury case before your workers comp case or you will be in for a rough ride.
  • Figuring how much the case is worth. For more detail on this subject, please download my free book, How Much is My Case Worth?  Your lawyer should understand how to value and how to prove each of the following damage items:
    • Your past and future medical bills. This includes hospital visits, doctor exams, work with physical therapists, and time with other medical professionals and healthcare providers.
    • All medical prescription costs. Often, a car accident victim needs to take medications during the healing process. Some patients may need to take medications for the rest of their lives.
    • The cost of any medical devices. Prosthetics, walkers, canes, and other devices cost money. They may need to be replaced over time. These expenses should be calculated.
    • Lost income. This includes all the money you lost because you couldn’t work up through the date of the trial. It also includes any lost wages or income that you will lose because you have a partial or complete disability or until your injuries heal. Lost income is generally proved, with the preparation of legal counsel, by evaluating your tax returns, statements from your employers, and profit and lost summaries. In some cases, we work with accountants, vocational experts, and other financial professions to detail how much lost income the accident cost you.
    • Property damage. This is typically the cost to fix your car or to replace it if the cost to repair it is nearly as much as the cost to buy a new one. It should be noted that typically your personal injury attorney will not deal with this at all, and it will be handled early on by you, and not by your attorney. This is because there is little leeway in negotiating vehicle damage amounts. You are entitled to recover the blue book value of the car and nothing more. While occasionally, there may be some add-ons for new items on the vehicle or other property damaged in the accident, it is usually fairly set in stone and there is little an attorney can do to change what you are entitled to. So unless the claim was completely denied, property damage is usually not part of your lawsuit.
    • Pain and suffering. Each day, you have to live with physical aches, pain, and discomfort. The pain may get worse when you move or perform simple tasks. Pain can prevent you from sleeping, enjoying family, doing your job, and engaging in simple tasks like eating and walking. Pain can include itching, swelling, vision loss, and a range of agonies.

 

Along with the physical pain is the emotional worry about when and if your injuries will heal. You worry that you’ve become a burden to your family. Physical pain is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, fear, and other emotions.

 

Your doctors can summarize some of your pain and suffering. Family members can testify as to your sadness, your crying, and other symptoms. Often, the best witness for showing pain is you, the victim. An experienced lawyer will usually value the pain and suffering part of your claim based on his experience and knowledge of the jury pool and what other juries have awarded in the past.

  • Scarring and disfigurement. Car accident victims who have scars, especially facial scars, or who lost a limb or body part because of the accident or an amputation – are generally entitled to additional damages.
  • Loss of consortium. In North Carolina, (but not in Virginia) a spouse of an accident victim may be entitled to damages because they have lost the ability to enjoy their spouse’s companionship, guidance, and intimacy. This element only becomes significant in the most severe injury cases.

 

How long will all of this Take?

So, this sounds like an awful lot to do. You may ask how long all of this will take? And this really depends on how long your treatment takes and many other factors that are too numerous to get into here. I suggest you download the book How Long Will My Case Take? where attorney Joe Miller provides the detailed answers to that question.

 

  • Filing of the claim in Court. If your attorney cannot reach an agreeable settlement with the insurance company, then a lawsuit should be filed before the statute of limitations runs. In both Virginia and North Carolina, that is two years after an accident. The complaint will identify who you are. It will also identify the defendants who caused you injuries. The complaint typically sets forth the theories of liability,  typically negligence, and there may be a plea for punitive damages, if warranted. Once the complaint is filed, we can then formally conduct discovery and prepare your case for trial.

 

  • Formal discovery. Discovery is the phase where each of the parties has the right to ask questions about what the other side knows.
    • Defense questions. Defense lawyers will ask victims to state what happened, what their injuries are, and what treatments they’ve received. The defense lawyers will explore anything that might show the victim was partially at fault for the car accident. The defense attorneys will also try to minimize your injuries by exploring if you had any prior accidents or if there were other events that may be the cause of your pain.

 

    • Plaintiff questions. Your lawyer will seek to determine which defendants owned the car. If the driver was different than the owner, we’ll seek to determine if the driver had permission to use the car. We’ll ask the driver where he/she was coming from and where they were going and get into all the details of the accident, particularly if liability or fault is contested. Many questions will vary depending on how the accident happened.
    • Discovery has three basic parts to it:
      • Interrogatories. These are written questions, sometimes 50 or even 100, about the events surrounding the car accident and the injuries
      • Depositions. These are oral questions under oath that one lawyer asks the opposing party. All of your responses are taken down by a court reporter. This also includes depositions of your doctors.
      • Requests for production of documents. These are written request to produce things such as medical bills, medical reports, proof of insurance, traffic citations, and other documents.
  • The trial. Cases that can’t be settled should be tried before a jury. Depending on the amount we are trying to claim, some cases can be tried in lower Court by a judge. For instance, in Virginia, a district court case has a $25,000.00 limit. So if you know for a fact that there is only $25,000.00 in coverage, this may be the way to go. It does save a lot of money on doctor’s fees, deposition costs, etc.
  • But on the higher value cases, plaintiff’s lawyers always ask to have a jury decide the case. The main parts of a jury trial include:
    • Voir dire. The selection of the jury
    • Opening statements. Each side presents its version of what happened
    • The presentation of evidence. Each side calls witnesses to testify. The opposing side can cross-examine those witnesses. The victim’s lawyer will generally call the victim/plaintiff, the family members, and any witnesses to the accident, if liability is contested. The employer and co-workers may be called. Doctors may also be called unless the parties agree that medical reports or video depositions can be used. Depending on the type of claim, economic experts may be called to testify about future wage loss and even vocational experts, if the plaintiff is unable to return to work due to his or her injuries.
    • Closing statements. Each side summarizes the evidence and argues why its side should win.
    • Instruction to the jury. The judge instructs the jury on how to properly review the case.
    • Jury deliberation. The jury reviews the evidence and decides who is responsible. If the defendants are responsible, the jury decides how much damage to award the car accident victim.
    • The verdict. The jury informs the judge what decision it has made. The judge then reads the verdict to the parties.
  • Appeal. The losing side may appeal the verdict to a higher court. Appeals are usually based on some legal or judicial error during the trial phase.

 

Speak with an Experienced Virginia car accident lawyer now

Car accident victims shouldn’t wait to speak with a lawyer. Memories fade. Evidence such as skid marks can disappear. Injuries usually worsen if you don’t see your doctor. As a respected car accident lawyer, Joe Miller will guide you through each phase of your case. He has been fighting for injury victims for over a quarter century. To make an appointment, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

 

The Dangers of Distracted Driving and Driving While Tired

Posted on Tuesday, May 22nd, 2018 at 12:22 pm    

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 9 people are killed and 1,000 people injured by a distracted driver – each day. Distracted driving is dangerous for three fundamental reasons:

  • Distracted drivers aren’t looking the road in front of them
  • Distracted drivers don’t have their hands on the steering wheel. This makes it tough to respond to emergencies. Careful drivers have both hands on the wheel.
  • Distracted drivers aren’t thinking about how to respond to dangers such as by braking, steering into a different lane, slowing down, or taking other safety measures.

Types of distracted driving

Common examples of distracted driving including

  • Texting while driving
  • Speaking on a smartphone or cell phone
  • Using a GPS system
  • Eating while driving
  • Adjusting the radio
  • Looking at a video
  • Conversing with passengers especially those in the back seat
  • Personal grooming
  • Drinking a beverage such as coffee or soda
  • Smoking

Drivers who are tired or who are under the influence of alcohol are also unable to anticipate, control, and respond to emergencies.

A momentary lapse of even a second can be fatal or cause catastrophic injuries. A car travelling at 60mph is travelling 88 feet per second – which is about 4-5 car lengths.

The CDC reports that teenagers have an especially high likelihood of driving while distracted:

  • Drivers less than 20 years of age have the highest rate of distraction-related fatal accidents
  • In 2015, nearly two in five high-school students said that they sent an email or text while driving in the previous 30 days. Many of these young drivers also admitted that they didn’t wear a seat-belt while they were sending these emails and texts.

Texting while driving laws in North Carolina

North Carolina enacted a strong texting while driving ban that applies to all drivers though it is especially tough on novice drivers. The law provides that adult drivers can speak on their cell phones while behind the wheel but they can NOT text while the car is in motion. The texting while driving ban applies to reading, sending, or composing a text message. It is not illegal to text if the car is stopped or is parked. Violators can be stopped by a police officer and ticketed even if they haven’t committed another traffic offense.

Drivers under the age of 18 (novice drivers) can’t text while driving. They also can’t use a cell-phone (even a hands-free phone). Novice drivers can also be stopped if they haven’t committed another traffic offense.

Bus drivers are also banned from using a cell phone while their bus is in motion – in addition to the texting while driving fan.

Texting while driving in Virginia

In Virginia, it is unlawful for any person to operate a moving motor vehicle on the highways in the Commonwealth while using any handheld personal communications device to:

  1. Manually enter multiple letters or text in the device as a means of communicating with another person; or
  2. Read any email or text message transmitted to the device or stored within the device, provided that this prohibition shall not apply to any name or number stored within the device nor to any caller identification information.

Fines are $125.00 for the first offense and $250.00 thereafter.

The dangers of driving while tired

Nearly 20 percent of all fatal car crashes are caused by a driver who is too tired – as reported by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, The foundation also found that young drivers, those between 19 and 24, were the most likely to drive while fatigued. While nearly all drivers understand the dangers of driving drowsy, most drivers still drive – even though it puts their lives, the lives of passengers, the lives of other car occupants, and the lives of pedestrians at risk.

Indicators a driver is drowsy

Drivers and occupants of the cars need to know when they need to avoid getting into the car if they’re tired or when to get off the ride if they’re getting sleepy. They’re no reason to risk a life to get somewhere a little faster. Drivers should plan to take regular rest stops. They should know where the hotels are where they can stop and sleep. Some of the signs of drowsy driving include:

  • Yawning constantly
  • Not remembering the most recent leg of a journey
  • An inability to focus
  • Shifting into other lanes of traffic
  • Tailgating or getting too close to other drivers
  • Near misses
  • Traveling too fast
  • Going through red lights
  • Failing to stop for stop signs

Some recommendations for sleepy drivers include:

  • Making regular rest stops for every 100 miles or for every several hours of driving time
  • Get plenty of sleep before you plan a long drive
  • Keep your sleep/awake patterns
  • Try to have another driver so you can take turns
  • Avoid medications that might make you sleepy
  • Avoid relying on caffeine to keep you awake
  • Don’t trust that having the radio on will keep you from getting drowsy
  • Avoid using cruise control

Some automakers who are aware of the dangers of drowsy driving are working to install technology that senses when a driver is tired. The cars sound alarms and even force the car to stop. Alas, that technology does not currently exist with any reliability. All drivers are responsible for any deaths or injuries they cause due to drowsy driving.

Talk with a respected North Carolina car accident lawyer as soon as possible

In many cases, when a teenager or young driver causes death or injury, the young driver is not the owner of the vehicle. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. can explain when you can also sue the owners of the vehicle in North Carolina under the “Family Purpose Doctrine.”  The car owners are generally the people who have liability insurance to pay for all your damages if the driver caused your injuries or the death of a loved one. If there is not enough insurance to cover you claim, you may be entitled to payment for your pain and suffering and economic losses from your own uninsured or underinsurance policy.

In addition, if you were on-the-clock for your employer or your travel was connected to a business trip at the time of your accident, we can, of course, handle any Workers Compensation aspects to the claim as that is also a specialty of our firm. To make an appointment with an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney, please phone (888) 694-1671 or fill out the contact form.

Some Common Types of Car Crash Injuries

Posted on Friday, May 18th, 2018 at 8:07 am    

Drivers and passengers suffer many different types of injuries. In the worst cases, the car occupants die. In severe cases, victims may suffer catastrophic injuries such as a traumatic brain injury or a in injury to their spine. Spinal cord damage may result in partial or full paralysis. Catastrophic injuries can change the quality of accident victim’s life forever. Many victims suffer broken bones, nerve damage, cuts from windshield glass, and burns. Some victims suffer amputations, disfigurement, and scarring.

Most injuries are due to the car driver or passenger being thrown around the vehicle. Occupants may strike the windshield, the dashboard, or the steering wheel. Many car crash victims collide with other car passengers. Some victims are thrown from the vehicle. Occupants may also be hurt when their air bag inflates.

Depending on what type of injuries the driver or passenger suffered, victims need to get medical help from many different types of doctors. North Carolina and Virginia car accident lawyer Joe Miller works with the following type of physicians:

  • Neurosurgeons and neurologists
  • General surgeons
  • Orthopedic doctors
  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists
  • Cardiologists
  • Physical therapists
  • Neuropsychologists
  • Neuropsychiatrists
  • Pain management doctors
  • Occupational therapists
  • Physiatrists
  • Chiropractors
  • Nurse Practitioners
  • Physician’s Assistants
  • Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Doctors
  • Your family Doctor
  • Many other medical specialists

Some patients may need a medical device such as a prosthetic or wheelchair. Most car accident victims need to take prescription medications

Two common types of injuries are internal damage and whiplash.

Victims who suffer or think they might have internal damage are usually transported by ambulance or by emergency medical care to the closest emergency room. There, the doctors will conduct a battery of imaging tests, a physical exam, and an oral exam to help make a medical diagnosis.

Examples of internal injuries include:

  • Broken ribs. Broken ribs often take months to heal. The pain is often unbearable. Sometimes, the broken ribs don’t heal 100% leaving the victim in a lot of chronic pain. If ribs are injured, it’s also likely that internal organs such as kidneys, lungs, and the spleen may be damaged.
  • An abdominal aorta aneurysm. This type of rupture is extremely dangerous and often deadly.
  • Internal bleeding. Doctors should be on the lookout for this condition. While external bleeding is fairly easy to spot (just look for the red blood), internal bleeding requires a more thorough examination. Internal bleeding can affect the head, brain, spine, heart, abdomen, joints, and muscles.  Some of the ways physicians look for internal bleeding are by conducting CT-scans, blood tests, an ultrasound, or an angiography. Symptoms doctors look for are lightheadedness, vomiting, difficulty breathing, blood clots, and examining your urine for signs of blood. Internal bleeding can also affect tissues and organs. Internal bleeding occurs when damage to a vein or artery causes the blood to leak into other parts of the car accident victim’s body
  • Organ damage. If the kidney, lungs, or other internal organs fail to function, surgery may be required. Extensive organ damage, particularly to the liver,  is often fatal.
  • A ruptured spleen. Doctors normally need to repair a ruptured spleen by performing a surgery. Internal bleeding usually accompanies a ruptured spleen.
  • Pneumothorax. This is a fancy way of saying you have a collapsed lung. It occurs when air gets into part of area between the lung and the chest wall. It often requires surgery to correct the damage.

Many patients with internal injuries often have to cope with internal bruises.

Whiplash Injuries

Most whiplash injuries occur when a front car is struck in the rear by a distracted or careless driver. It is often made fun of comedically in TV sketches; however, it can actually be a serious, and in some instances, permanent injury. Whiplash involves a tearing of the muscles and ligaments that surround the cervical spine.

The symptoms of a whiplash can take a day or few days to appear. So, anyone in a rear-end collision should avoid saying they feel fine until they’ve waited to see if they do have a whiplash. Most often, you will feel it when you wake up the next day. Common symptoms include:

  • A stiff neck
  • Reduce range of motion
  • Neck pain
  • Back pain and shoulder pain
  • Headaches
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Dizziness
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Ear ringing

A whiplash injury happens when the neck and head suddenly move backwards and then forward. (Hyperextension). This unusual motion puts a great deal of stress on the cervical/neck spine. Some car accident whiplash victims may even lose their memory due to the brain being slammed up against the interior of the skull. Whiplash injuries damage the muscles, discs, nerves, joints, and bones around the neck.

Physicians will conduct an oral exam and a physical examination. In addition to listening to you explain your symptoms, the doctor will feel or palpate your neck to see if there is muscle spasm.  The doctor will see if anything isn’t aligned properly and determine your range of motion. The doctors may analyze your reflexes and how strong or weak your neck muscles and nerves exiting the spinal column in that area are.

Imaging tests include CT scans, MRI exams, and X-Rays – especially if they suspect a fracture. Whiplash injuries are graded depending on their severity. One of the most common effects of whiplash is a straightening of the spine or cervical lordosis. This can actually be seen on X-ray, and in some cases, digital motion x-ray. This happens when the muscle spasm is so severe it pulls the neck out of it’s normal curvature, and into a straight, “beanpole” configuration, where there is no curvature at all.

Self-help whiplash treatments include:

  • Rest
  • Heat and ice treatments
  • Over-the-counter medications such as Motrin, Advil, and Tylenol

Cervical collars used to be a standard recommendation for whiplash but now there is some thought that these collars may actually weaken neck muscles.

Doctors may recommend the following treatments:

  • Injections
  • Pain medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Yoga
  • Acupuncture
  • Chiropractic manipulation
  • Radiofrequency neurotomy

Most patients with just whiplash return to reasonably normal lives in a few months.  In severe cases, some car accident victims may have a lifetime of chronic pain due to the scar tissue left over from the whiplash. Older victims usually have a more difficult time fully recovering than younger victims because the tissue is not as resilient. Women are also more prone to long-term whiplash damage than men.

Make the call to an experienced North Carolina and Virginia car accident lawyer

Both North Carolina and Virginia are fault-car accident states. This means injured victims need to prove that another driver or another responsible party caused your injuries. Victims who can prove fault are entitled to payment of their reasonable medical bills, lost wages and pain and suffering. Proving fault and getting a just recovery requires the help of a respected lawyer. And of course, we know car accidents also occur while people are ‘on-the-clock’ for their employer. Because we also specialize in workers compensation in both Virginia and North Carolina, we can help with that portion of your claim as well. Joe Miller Esq. has been helping injury victims get justice for more than 30 years. To arrange a free consultation, please phone (888) 694-1671 or fill out my contact form.

Major Steps to Take after a Virginia or North Carolina Accident Occurs

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2018 at 10:48 am    

Car crashes can be frightening. It’s hard to know who to call, what information you need, what evidence is needed, or how to care for the injured. Certainly, nobody wants to get into an accident – but it helps to have a plan in case a crash does occur. Almost everyone will have an accident in their lifetime.

The best plan is to contact an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. The attorney will explain your rights and guide you through each stage of the claims and litigation process. A second plan is to make sure you have your cellphone with you. The phone should be charged and should have access to the Internet. With your smartphone, you can review our blog for general suggestions.

Key things to consider and be ready for if an accident happens

  • Stay at the accident scene. If you drive away from the accident site and anyone is injured, you can be cited for a hit and run offense. If someone is hurt (either a passenger or the occupant of another car), that person needs medical help. You should either call the police or a local hospital or doctor’s office and ask for assistance. You can reach the police by dialing 911. If you leave the accident site, even if it is not a hit and run case, your flight may used against you. Jurors and insurance companies may believe you wouldn’t have left the scene if you didn’t cause the accident. You should get to where it’s safe. For starters, this means getting off the center of the road and off to the sidewalk or another safe place. Make sure the engine is turned off. Turn on the hazard lights.
  • Determine if anyone was hurt. Nobody expects you to b a doctor. But most people understand the signs of being hurt. Victims may bleed. They may faint. If they can talk, they will tell you themselves that they are in pain. Normally, the police or a hospital will arrange for an ambulance or a first-aid service to come to the accident site and render assistance. Most victims are taken to a local emergency room for treatment. If you suspect that you yourself were hurt in any way, you should arrange to go to the local emergency room. Early treatment can help your recovery process. If you delay getting medical attention, the insurance company may claim you weren’t seriously injured. You should also follow up with your family doctor as soon as you can.
  • Exchange relevant information. It’s generally a good policy to exchange basic information. It may even be a requirement of law. Your lawyer can tell you what information you must disclose. Typically, drivers should exchange:
    • Their name
    • Their insurance information
    • The make, model, and year of the cars
    • Their driver’s license numbers

When you speak with your lawyer, he can explain what information is not required to be exchanged. Generally, drivers shouldn’t discuss how the accident happened. NEVER admit any fault, or say you are “sorry,” even it sounds nice. That will be determined later. As a general rule, it’s not necessary to give your address and phone number, unless asked for by the police.

  • Take pictures. Another good reason for having a charged cellphone is so that you can take photographs. You should take pictures of the following:
    • The damage to the cars – make sure to take pictures of all the vehicles
    • The traffic site – this includes any traffic signals and the lanes of traffic. Pictures should note street names, any obstructions, and anything unusual about the location
    • The witnesses, drivers, and passengers – if they don’t object. Don’t be afraid to show the cuts, bruises, and injuries – while being respectful.
    • Any skid marks or debris.
    • Evidence of intoxication of defendant drivers-especially if they are stumbling or slurring their speech-video them!
  • Talk with a trusted North Carolina or Virginia car accident lawyer. The lawyer will help calm you down. The lawyer will explain any legal answers and questions. He’ll also review all practical steps you need to take to put your case in the best possible light.
  • Cooperate with the police. Standard police procedure is to:
    • Determine if anyone is injured and help them get medical care
    • Get the relevant information such as driver’s license and registration information
    • Clear the accident site so that nobody else runs the risk of getting hurt
    • Speak with any witnesses
    • Prepare a police report which your lawyer will review so that he knows how to start the litigation process and who is at fault
  • Call your own insurance company. You should let your own insurance company know about the accident. They may want to send someone to the accident site. They will almost certainly want to inspect the damage to your vehicle when they get the chance. Your insurance company will help arrange a tow for your car to a local repair shop.

There are other precautions and plans drivers should consider. The car should be stocked with different items to handle different situations. A car should include:

  • Blankets
  • Flashlights
  • Some way to keep warm if the car heater doesn’t work
  • Some non-perishable food

When you get home, you should note the time and date of the accident and what the weather conditions were. Try to remember how fast each car was going and which directions they were going.

Proper planning helps determine who caused the accident. Planning helps verify your damages which include:

  • All reasonable medical bills including hospital surgeries, doctor visits, physical therapy, rehabilitation costs, medical equipment, and medications.
  • Your daily physical pain and emotional suffering
  • Payment for any scarring or disfigurement
  • Lost income and the inability to work
  • Property damage
  • Other relevant damages

Talk to a respected North Carolina or Virginia car crash lawyer as soon as the accident happens

Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for the injured for more than 30 years. He’s helped thousands of people get justice in both Virginia and North Carolina He’ll fight to get you the damage award you deserve through a strong settlement or a jury verdict.  For hep now, please phone (888) 694-1671 or complete the contact form.

Experienced North Carolina and Virginia Counsel for Every Type of Car Accident

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2018 at 10:20 am    

Every car accident happens in a different way. How the crash happens is a strong indicator of which driver was at fault. For example, almost all read-end collisions happen because one car was struck in the rear by another driver who wasn’t paying attention. How the accident occurred also indicates what injuries are likely. Again, in a rear-end collision, the occupants of the car that is struck usually suffer whiplash and other soft-tissue injuries.

Attorney Joe Miller works with the police and investigators to determine how the crash occurred. If necessary, his team speaks to all relevant witnesses including the passengers in any cars and any bystanders. The good news is that in most circumstances, the rear-end collision scenario requires little investigation. Some of the other kinds may require more intensive investigation. What is most important is that you do not say something early on that you do not realize implicates you in some level of fault. In Virginia and North Carolina, that could mean the end of your case.

Common kinds of car crashes

Most car crashes fall into one of the following categories:

  • Rear-end collisions. Most rear-end crashes happen when one car is stopped waiting for a traffic light to turn or waiting their turn to proceed through a stop sign. The car behind the stopped car is usually traveling too fast and fails to stop in time. Often, the failure is because they are distracted because the driver is too tired, looking at the scenery, texting while driving, or for other reasons. The bumper and rear of the car in front usually require repairs. The front and hood of the second car (the one that causes the crash) may also require maintenance. Whiplash, soft-tissue damage to the neck, is a common injury to the driver and passengers in the front car.
  • Head-on crashes. This type of accident usually happens because one driver is in the wrong lane of traffic. Drunkenness can cause a driver to veer into an oncoming lane. Driver distraction can also cause a driver to swerve into the other lane. Some drivers get confused and go the wrong way. Head-on collisions often cause death and serious injuries to the occupants of both cars. When cars strike head on, the impact is worse than most types of accidents because the speed of the cars is combined. For example, if you are going 30mph and the car in the wrong is going 20mph towards you – the crash is comparable to one car striking another going 50mph. If anyone is killed in this type of crash, we file a wrongful-death claim on behalf of the family members of the deceased.
  • T-bone collisions. These crashes, also called broadsides and side-impact crashes, involve the front of one car striking the side of another car. These crashes often happen at intersections when one driver runs through a red light or through a red or yellow traffic signal or stop sign. The person in the struck vehicle often suffers catastrophic injuries or dies because the side of the car offers little protection. The driver in the car where the front is damaged can suffer serious injuries, too. Generally, the car that strikes the car in the side is the one that caused the accident. T-bone collisions are dangerous because both cars may spin out of control causing havoc on the road for all nearby drivers.
  • Sideswipes. Sometimes the side of one car strikes the side of another car. This often happens if one car passes too closely to another car. It can also happen when two cars are merging and neither driver waits for the other driver to slow down. The danger in sideswipe accidents is that one or both cars can then veer into other lanes of traffic striking other cars. Determining fault in sideswipe accidents often depends on who was passing and which car had the right of way during the merge. Typically, the passenger side of one car strikes the driver side of the other car. Two cars can also collide with each other if they are going in opposite directions and both aren’t driving in the center of their lanes.
  • Car rollovers. Some cars like SUVs and jeeps have a different center of gravity than standard vehicles. Flips generally occur if a car is going too fast while the car is in a turn. If a car rolls over, the crushed hood and other vehicle damage can kill the occupants. Survivors often suffer severe injuries including traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, and paralysis. Cars can also roll over if they strike an object in the road such as a large pothole or a dead animal. In some cases, if the impact from a rear-end collision is severe enough and occurs at high speed, it can cause the struck vehicle to roll over. We have seen drivers and passengers actually ejected from vehicles due to the impact and rollover.
  • Single-vehicle collisions. Many deadly and serious accidents happen because a driver was distracted, was speeding, or was driving recklessly. Single-vehicle accidents include striking a traffic pole or other object, veering off the road, and rolling over. Typically, the driver is the one at fault. Any passengers in the single car should have a claim against the driver and the owners of the vehicle. Even if the driver is uninsured, if the passenger has uninsured motorist coverage on his or her vehicle, even though it was not involved in the accident, that coverage sticks to the passenger like glue and will cover the passenger for the accident.
  • Crashes involving multiple cars. These are very difficult cases which require the experience and resources of a respected North Carolina and Virginia car accident lawyer. They can happen for different reasons: One car may driver into the lane of traffic of other cars. A car may flip over. A truck may spill its cargo causing all cars around the truck to change their traffic patterns. In addition to the initial car or truck that caused the accident, other drivers may be liable too. In multi-vehicle crashes, people often die or suffer permanent injuries. We recently settled a case involving two vehicles and 10 (ten) injured people. We represented five occupants of one of the cars.

Accidents happen for many other reasons:

  • One driver is usually violating a traffic law
  • A driver may be intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol-depending on the facts, this may result in higher damages, and punitive damages against the drunk driver
  • Many drivers are texting while they drive.
  • Drivers may hit you and then run instead of having the decency to identify themselves.

In many car accidents, more than one person may be responsible. The owners of the car can be held liable if someone else used their car with their permission. In North Carolina, a Bar may be responsible if they served alcohol to someone they knew or should have known was intoxicated and who then caused an accident due to drunk driving.

Speak with a strong North Carolina or Virginia car accident lawyer today

Delay can hurt your case. It’s best to inspect the accident scene and speak to witnesses as soon as possible. Attorney Joe Miller Esq. has been fighting for injured residents for more than 25 years. He understands how to prove fault. He’ll demand the right amount of damages for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages. For help now, please call (888) 694-1671 or fill out the contact form.

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