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Texting and Driving – Just as Addictive as Gambling or Drugs

We know better than to text, check Snapchat, like a Facebook post, or talk on the phone while driving.

We know better.

We’ve heard and read the heartbreaking stories of lives lost and ruined. But why do we do it anyway? For the same reason you can’t eat just one potato chip. Or you “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”

chipsDopamine, the Ping, and Addiction

Dopamine is partly to blame. It’s the chemical reaction in your brain that leads to addiction. The ping of your cell phone creates the same arousal response that activates your brain’s reward center. And it is a key transmitter in a highly complex chemical relationship that sometimes leads to addictive behaviors. Food. Gambling. Video gaming. Drugs and alcohol. Shopping.

And texting while driving.

When we hear the ping of a text message, social media update, or email, our brains get a hit of dopamine. Who’s it from? Who liked my post? What am I missing out on if I don’t read this? Experts are learning that this initial hit, interestingly, can lead to a higher rush of dopamine than reading the message itself. And it’s not just with cell phones. The internet can also prompt addictive behavior.

“Ha Ha. Made Ya Look!”

Dopamine is a large part of the reason we are drawn to the urge to give in to a pleasurable experience. And you can’t stop the dopamine reaction any more than you can stop adrenaline from making you jump when startled. It’s autonomic. It’s primal. It’s how we are wired. And some scientists say it’s much of the reason why our species has survived for millennia. Food equals life. Sex equals the procreation of mankind.

We humans are wired to want to give in to our pleasures and primal urges. And that, some researchers say, is why we have a very hard time ignoring the ping of a cell phone when we are maneuvering a two-ton vehicle at 65 miles per hour through three lanes of heavy traffic with our toddler in the back seat.

That ping elicits the same dopamine response as the potato chip you just have to have, or the slot machine lever you are compelled to pull for the umpteenth time. It makes you want to look.

How Cell Phones Are Similar to Slot Machines

David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and the research source behind AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign calls the smartphone the “smallest slot machine in the world.”

He compares the variable reinforcement of a text, email or social media hit to a slot machine’s potential rewards. You don’t know when you’ll get it. You don’t know what you’ll get. And you don’t know how good it will be. It’s the anticipation that generates the high.

In addition to the dopamine surge, there’s something else working against us in a different part of our brain, he explained in a CNN interview. The dopamine reaction causes a partial shut-down of our prefrontal cortex – where most of our judgment and reasoning occurs.

So now, we have two areas of our brain working against us as we hurtle down I-95 dodging other smartphone addicts. We have the dopamine devil urging us to “take a quick peek,” while our inner voice of reason, which should be slapping our hand, is instead rendered mute.

And most experts agree that the prefrontal reasoning center is not fully developed until around age 25, which explains why the situation is even worse with teens and twentysomethings. (Incidentally, car insurance companies figured this out long ago. Think of what age insurance rates generally drop: 25!)

This texting and driving epidemic is starting to make more sense now isn’t it?

While this chemistry lesson is quite fascinating, what can we do to stop this behavior the very next time we get behind the wheel?

EndDD.org reports that over 90% percent of drivers know cell phone distractions are dangerous and find it “unacceptable” to text or e-mail while driving. Yet, 35% of them do it anyway.

4 Easy Ways to Stop Using a Cell Phone While Driving

  1. Turn your phone on silent
  2. Completely turn your phone off
  3. Put your cell out of reach (in the trunk, glove box, or in a purse in the back seat)
  4. Download one of the many apps that helps prevent you from texting while driving (most are free). Some will silence notifications and message people trying to reach you that you are driving.

And by all means, if you are texting someone that you know is driving, stop texting them! If for no other reason, you could be liable for damages if that driver causes an accident because of your text. Some states are currently considering legislation of this nature.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

We have represented far too many clients who were injured – some severely – by distracted drivers. The stories are heartbreaking, and sadly, most could have been prevented.

If you or someone you know was injured by a distracted driver, please have them contact us  or call 1-866-900-7078. We are available 24/7 and will evaluate the situation for FREE and let you know if we think we can help.

P.S. Click here if you want your teen driver to learn what it’s really like to drive distracted (but experience it in the safety of a simulated environment). The non-profit Charlotte-based B.R.A.K.E.S (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) offers defensive maneuvering instruction around N.C. and the U.S. Students are taught by former race car drivers, policemen, and other professional drivers.

Can My Worker’s Compensation Insurance Company Force Me to Settle?

Clients often ask me if the insurance company can force them to settle. That’s a good question, and one that, like many involving workers’ comp, does not have a simple yes or no answer. But let me try to simplify the answers.

There are two parts to this answer because there are generally two types of settlements in workers’ compensation claims in North Carolina.

Two Types of Workers’ Comp Settlements in North Carolina

The two types of settlement payments in North Carolina’s workers’ compensation statues are:

  • Payment of permanent partial disability benefits
  • Payment of a settlement that will close your workers’ comp case

Settling Your Workers’ Comp Case – the Clincher Settlement

Payment to close your case in North Carolina is called a “clincher” settlement. This type of settlement generally resolves the entire case so that further workers’ compensation benefits are not going to be owed once the settlement is paid and finalized. Essentially you would receive one payment closing out your case once the settlement is reached and approved.

This type of settlement must be approved by the North Carolina Industrial Commission (the workers’ comp “court”). However, your employer cannot force you to accept the settlement or go to the Industrial Commission to try to have them force you to accept a settlement of your entire claim.

But they certainly can try to bully you and back you into a corner so you will feel pressured to settle. We’ve seen this happen – over and over.

We had a workers’ compensation client whose insurance company told him that if he didn’t settle his case for the amount they were offering, they would discontinue his weekly checks. When he contacted us, he’d gone two weeks without being paid, and we immediately called the adjuster. She said he “fell off the system” and that she would mail his check that day. After that, we got him a second opinion on his injuries and he needed surgery, which meant his case was worth a lot more than what the insurance company was offering1.

It’s sad, but we often see adjusters try to bully our clients into a settlement. Bullying is wrong. But it can work in the early stages, before a client gets a good attorney.

Payment of Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) Benefits

If you have been injured on the job and the injury is significant enough to cause permanent damage to a specific body part, you may be entitled to benefits for permanent partial disability (PPD). These benefits are provided under Section 97-31 of the North Carolina General Statutes, and are generally paid once your medical treatment is complete and you have been able to return back to work earning wages similar to those before your injury.

Your treating doctor will generally assign you a PPD rating if your injury warrants one. The insurance carrier will then likely contact you and want you to accept payment based on that rating to “settle” your case. If you do not agree to settle, the insurance carrier may attempt to force you to accept payment by asking the North Carolina Industrial Commission to approve the rating which allows them to pay you the rating benefit.

There’s a reason they may want you to accept this type of settlement sooner rather than later. Once you are paid PPD benefits, your right to other benefits only lasts two more years. If nothing changes in your case after payment during the two-year period, your right to further benefits for medical treatment or time out of work will end. And they’re off the hook.

When considering PPD benefits, it’s important to know that you have a right to a second opinion by the medical provider of your choice at the insurance carrier’s expense. So if your treating doctor says your knee is only 10% disabled, and you feel like it’s more like 30%, you can ask for a different doctor’s opinion.

PPD does not necessarily have to mean your case is closed. What many people don’t realize is that PPD may be only a fraction of many final workers’ compensation settlements you may potentially be due.

If you’re in a situation where you have been assigned an impairment rating and the insurance company is trying to make you accept a settlement payment, my experience suggests it is prudent to contact a workers’ compensation attorney who may be able to help you understand your legal rights in an effort to potentially obtain the best outcome for your unique situation.

At our firm, we do these kinds of initial evaluations for free – 1-866-900-7078.

2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms”

Here are just a handful of very good reasons we believe you should consider the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin to help you with your workers’ comp claim.

Our firm received the highest ranking by the 2016 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” for workers’ compensation in the greater Raleigh area2.

Our workers’ comp attorneys include seven North Carolina Board Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists. One is a former North Carolina state senator and former Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission. Others used to work for workers’ compensation defense firms for the insurance companies, and several of our paralegals and other administrative staff have worked for insurance companies, themselves.

Get a FREE Evaluation From North Carolina Workers’ Comp Attorneys

By having an experienced workers’ comp attorney fighting for you, we’ve seen these kinds of bullying tactics typically backfire. If you are in a situation where the insurance company is contacting you about settling your worker’s compensation claim, and you are confused or simply want an opinion about your options, contact us and we can evaluate your situation to try to help you determine your options. Call 1-866-900-7078 anytime 24/7.

 

1 Cases or matters referenced do not represent the law firm’s entire record. Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer’s or a law firm’s past results. This description of the event is based upon the recollection of individual staff members. This does not necessarily represent any industry or employer as a whole. Client identity has been removed or changed to protect their privacy.

2 Visit www.usnews.com for more information about criteria for inclusion.

What Does it Mean When You Hire an Attorney Who’s a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist?

There are about 28,000 North Carolina licensed attorneys1.

Less than 4% are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists, and eight of them practice right here at our firm1.

While N.C. board certification isn’t offered for personal injury/car accident practice areas (or many other types of practice areas), it is offered for workers’ comp and social security disability law.

N.C. State Bar Board Certification Explained

So what exactly does it mean to be board certified? It means you have an attorney who shows special knowledge and proficiency in their specific area of law, having undergone additional training (and other intense analysis) to become certified as a specialist.

It’s a little like commercial pilot training. Certain airports with particularly dangerous runways or topography require specialized pilot training and certification to fly into. Think Princess Juliana International Airport in St. Martin in the Caribbean.

Would you want a pilot without certified experience and specialized skill landing this plane?

Now unlike pilot certifications, a lack of specialization does not prevent an attorney from practicing, but it does indicate a certain level of expertise and accomplishment.

planeThe North Carolina State Bar puts it another way: “Certification of lawyers as specialists by an objective entity and according to objective criteria fulfills the mission of the State Bar to protect the public by providing relevant, truthful, and reliable information to consumers of legal services. Certification helps consumers to identify lawyers who have experience and skill in a certain area of practice. Certification also helps lawyers by encouraging them to improve their expertise in particular areas of practice and providing them with a legitimate way of informing the public and other lawyers of this expertise.”

North Carolina State Board Certification Requirements

North Carolina is one of only 18 states that offers a legal certification program. Although requirements vary from one specialty area to the next, to meet the minimum requirements, the applicant must:

  • Be licensed and in good standing to practice law in North Carolina
  • Be substantially involved in the practice area, usually for a minimum of five years
  • Take a certain number of continuing legal education credits in the specialty area during the three years prior to application
  • Be reviewed satisfactorily by their peers
  • Achieve a satisfactory score on a written examination in the practice area

8 N.C. Board Certified Specialists at James Scott Farrin

Workers’ Compensation Specialists

Doug Berger joined us in 2005 and is a shareholder of the firm. Mr. Berger is a former North Carolina Senator and also served as a Deputy Commissioner at the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) for 10 years.

Ryan Bliss joined the firm in 2012 after having been a worker’s compensation defense attorney representing insurance companies. This experience allowed him to see how Workers’ Compensation law is practiced from both sides.

Matt Harbin joined the firm in 2003 and became a shareholder in 2008. Mr. Harbin was appointed by (former) North Carolina Governor Bev Perdue to a two-and-a-half year term on the North Carolina Commission for Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services, which he recently completed.

Matthew Healey ran a workers’ compensation department at another N.C. firm prior to joining ours. He was selected to Best Lawyers in America’s2 annual list of workers’ compensation lawyers in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. North Carolina Super Lawyers listed him as a “Rising Star”3 in 2010 and a “Super Lawyer”4 in 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. Best Lawyers went a step further and named Mr. Healey as a workers’ compensation “Lawyer of the Year”5 for Raleigh in 2015 and 2017.

Barry Jennings joined us in 2006 and is a shareholder. Mr. Jennings has earned the designation of “Rising Star”3 by North Carolina Super Lawyers in 2011, 2012, and 2013. He was selected to Best Lawyers in America’s2 annual list of workers’ compensation lawyers in 2015, 2016 and 2017 and received the 2016 6Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ designation – the gold standard in attorney ratings.

Michael Mackay is head of the firm’s workers’ compensation department and a shareholder at the firm. He joined in 2001 after having worked for one of the largest insurance defense firms in North Carolina, resolving instead to try to protect the rights of individuals and their families instead of representing corporate interests.

Susan Vanderweert represented insurance companies and employers for more than 12 years before joining our firm. Ms. Vanderweert has received the 2016 6Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ designation – the gold standard in attorney ratings.

Social Security Disability Specialist at James Scott Farrin

Rick Fleming joined the firm in 2002 and is a shareholder and head of the firm’s Social Security Disability Department. He is admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the United States. Mr. Fleming is the Fourth and DC Circuits Representative for the National Organization of Social Security Claimants’ Representatives Board of Directors and serves on the Nominations and Elections Committee. He is also vice chair of the N.C. State Bar’s Social Security Disability Law Specialty Committee.

North Carolina Worker’s Comp and Social Security Disability Specialists

While you probably would not want these attorneys piloting your Airbus A340 as it approaches the St. Martin runway (nor would they!), these board certified specialists have been highly trained and vetted to try to guide clients through what can sometimes be a turbulent battle for just compensation.

FREE Case Evaluation

If you think you can’t afford them (or any of our attorneys), think again. All of our attorneys work on a contingency fee basis to try to help our clients navigate the best course of action for their specific situation.

Feel free to contact us by clicking here or calling us toll free at 1-866-900-7078. We’ll have an attorney evaluate your case for FREE.

 

1 Percentage as of December 31, 2015. Figures provided by the N.C. State Bar as of December 31, 2015.

2 Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey. For the 23rd edition of The Best Lawyers in America (2017) nearly 55,000 leading attorneys cast more than 7.3 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel Magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.” For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.bestlawyers.com.

3 To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. Rising Stars undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state by state basis. While up to 5% of the lawyers in any state are named “Super Lawyers,” by Super Lawyers magazine, no more than 2.5% are named to the Rising Stars list. For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.superlawyers.com.

4 Super Lawyers undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.superlawyers.com.

5 Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as the “Lawyer of the Year,” making this accolade particularly significant. Lawyers being honored as “Lawyer of the Year” are selected based on particularly impressive voting averages received during the exhaustive peer-review assessments conducted with thousands of leading lawyers each year. Receiving this designation reflects the high level of respect a lawyer has earned among other leading lawyers in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism, and their integrity. For more information regarding the standards for inclusion, visit www.bestlawyers.com.

6 For more information regarding the standards for peer review ratings, visit www.martindale.com.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day – Most Dangerous Time to Drive

Before you go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house this holiday season, make sure to be particularly cautious, attentive, and defensive on North Carolina’s highways.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving through January 1st (including New Year’s day) are some of the most dangerous and deadly times to be on the roads. In fact, Thanksgiving eve has become THE most dangerous night of the year to drive, particularly in more urban areas, says SCRAM, makers of alcohol monitoring technology. Known as “Blackout Wednesday,” this holiday has surpassed New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day as the biggest drinking night of the year.

Add to this more traffic, more distractions, aggressive drivers, and more social occasions involving alcohol. It is up to each of us to:

  • Practice safe, defensive driving
  • Buckle up and make sure all passengers are buckled too.
  • Make sure you, or your driver, are fit to drive – not tipsy or drowsy. If you are a passenger, help minimize distractions and help the driver stay awake and alert.

In general: If you see something, say something. If you see someone who has had too much to drink trying to get behind the wheel, say something. If you’re at a party, tell the host to take their keys, or call a designated driver for them.

If you are the party host, pay particular attention to how much alcohol you serve guests. If they injure someone while driving home, you could be liable under North Carolina law.

Thanksgiving

AAA reported that in 2015 more than 1.2 million people drove throughout North Carolina to their Thanksgiving destinations. No surprise, this family holiday ranks as one of the busiest travel periods just about every year. More cars on the roads too often translates to more accidents. Add alcohol to the equation, and this holiday weekend can turn deadly.

Christmas

The Christmas holiday season can be stressful. Combine stress with busy roads and you can get aggressive drivers. A State Farm survey found that nearly one-third of drivers were more likely to show signs of aggression or road rage during the holidays.

New Year’s Day

A surprise to some, New Year’s Day (not New Year’s Eve) almost always ranks in the top five deadliest days of the year, and has been ranked the deadliest day. Alcohol – a primary culprit.

Alcohol Behind Nearly Half of Holiday Car Crash Deaths

There’s one thing each of these deadly days has in common: Drunk drivers. Over a 25-year period, according to a Forbes study that analyzed U.S. Department of Transportation data since 1982, nearly half the fatalities during these times were alcohol-related.

Tragic Consequences of North Carolina Drunk Driving

Here’s a tragic story the News & Observer reported on recently about a drunk driving collision which could result in the young 22-year-old driver spending 70 years in prison. He was charged with multiple felonies after a collision he caused in Raleigh, which led to three deaths and multiple injuries.

The crash happened at 2:30 on a Sunday morning. He was driving drunk and traveling about 50 mph in a 35-mph zone. He lost control of the car and it went off the road, struck a light pole, a street sign, and a tree before overturning.

There were seven people inside the car. One of the victims was sitting in the lap of the driver at the time of the accident. The victims were just 22, 21, and 18. Two of the victims were thrown from the vehicle.

The young driver, who is the son of a pastor, is accused of six felony charges which could potentially carry a prison sentence of nearly 70 years total. He faces 17 years for each death and seven years for each serious injury.

Three lives ended. Another potentially behind bars for life. This deadly and totally preventable collision is just one of many fatal accidents that occur throughout North Carolina. The three young people who died will never enjoy another holiday with their families. And sadly, neither will the driver who killed them. He will likely be behind bars because he made the wrong choice to drink and drive.

Most Traffic Fatalities Preventable

A different News & Observer article pointed out that of 793 deaths so far in 2016, all but two of them could have possibly been prevented! Consider this:

  • Alcohol was involved in 168 deaths
  • 368 of those killed weren’t wearing seat belts
  • Speeding proved a factor in 155 deaths
  • Distracted driving was a factor in 100 deaths

The story above checks every one of those boxes. Alcohol. Speed. Distracted driving. No seat belts.

Sadly, all were preventable.

Designate a Driver – It’s Easier Than Ever

As you head into the holiday party season, keep in mind there are many more options today than ever for a sober ride home. Uber, Lyft, a North Carolina Designated Driver service, a taxi – and of course, a sober companion. Many of these services are as convenient as clicking on an app, and some are more affordable than a taxi. Some will even drive you and your car home.

There are just no more excuses to get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Car Wreck Lawyers

If you do find yourself injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence – whether during the holidays or any other time – contact an experienced car wreck lawyer. Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer to represent them received 3.5X more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own1.

If you have been injured, contact us now for a free case evaluation to see if we can help or call us at 1-866-900-7078.

 

P.S. Since the holiday season is also football season, click here for ways to tailgate safely.

1 Insurance Research Council 1999

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. And 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.

Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

Injured on the Job in NC? You are Probably Covered Under Workers’ Comp – No Matter What Your Employer Says

What should you do if you were injured on the job, and your boss says the company doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage?

I would strongly urge you to contact us. Immediately. Based on my experience, they’re probably lying.

As a worker’s compensation lawyer who fights for injured workers, I’ve seen companies:

  • Lie about the company not having workers’ comp insurance, when in fact they did
  • Cheat workers out of compensation and medical attention because the company didn’t report their injuries to their workers’ comp company
  • Steal their right to compensation by not carrying workers’ comp insurance, but should have under NC law
  • Sneak injured workers just enough hush money “under the table” to keep them quiet, so the employer would not have to report the injury to their workers’ comp carrier

Sadly, these are not isolated incidents. Fighting this type of bad behavior can be all in a day’s work in workers’ compensation law.

When it comes to a work-related injury, don’t take at face value what your employer claims they may or may not owe you. As we’ve seen, some will do whatever it takes to avoid paying. Even lie, cheat, and steal.

Providing Workers’ Comp Is the Law for Most NC Companies

North Carolina requires nearly all employers with three or more employees to carry workers’ compensation coverage. It is considered a crime if they don’t. According to a News & Observer article, in 2012 up to 30,000 employers in North Carolina were not covering their workers. And over 11,000 businesses canceled policies or let them lapse that year.

Since 2012, the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC), which is the workers’ comp “court,” has been taking names and numbers of companies who are falling short of North Carolina’s workers’ compensation laws. Progress has been made, but there’s still a long way to go.

File Form 18 With the NCIC No Matter What Your Employer Says

You can file a workers’ comp claim even if you don’t know whether or not your employer carries workers’ comp insurance. You don’t necessarily need information about insurance coverage to submit a claim to the NCIC. Just file an NCIC Form 18, and they will send you an acknowledgment letter with information about your employer’s insurance coverage.

Your employer could be guilty of insurance fraud if it turns out that they don’t have workers’ compensation coverage and the exemptions do not fall under one of the narrow legal exceptions.

TIP! To find out if your employer has workers’ comp coverage click here to do an online search through the NCIC’s website.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From NC Workers’ Comp Lawyers

You could do these things yourself, but I don’t recommend it. Workers’ compensation law is complicated and one mistake could be very costly. If you’ve been injured on the job, I encourage you to contact us right away.

We will try to make sure no stone is left unturned to help you fight for the compensation you may deserve. There is a lot to know about workers’ compensation law, and the system can be difficult to navigate on your own. And because we are paid on a contingency basis (meaning you pay us no attorney’s fee unless we get compensation for you), it costs you nothing more to hire us sooner rather than later.

No matter what your employer tells you or if you don’t know where the truth is, if you’ve been injured at work, click here to contact us right away. Or call 1-866-900-7078.  One of our workers’ comp attorneys  – six of whom are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in workers’ compensation law – will evaluate your situation for free!

Top 8 Questions Our Clients Ask Us Before Their Social Security Disability Hearings

We understand that going to a Social Security Disability hearing can be intimidating. More than two-thirds of those who file for Social Security Disability the first time are denied, according to the Social Security Administration. And 88% are denied a second time.

A lot is at stake.

Understandably, our clients have all kinds of questions before a hearing. Most of them are about paperwork and what they can do to get ready for their hearing.

There is really only one main thing we ask that our clients do themselves to help support their case. Keep up their medical treatments.

We can handle the paperwork side of things, since we know what the Social Security Administration is looking for in most instances.

Here are eight of the most common questions our clients ask us before we go into a hearing together*.

8 Common Questions Our Clients Ask Before Social Security Disability Hearings

 

1.     How long will it take for a decision to be issued and for benefits to be paid?

After the hearing, it often takes two to five months for a decision to be issued.

If approved

  • Current benefits: it can take a month or two for current benefits payments to begin.
  • Back due benefits: it can take from one to six months for all back benefits payouts to begin.

If denied

Your attorney will discuss the judge’s decision with you to help determine the next course of action.

2.     Do I need to get medical records or reports for my representative?

No.  You do not have to get any medical records or reports yourself unless your lawyer asks you to.

3.     But what if my doctor gives me a report?

If you happen to get something, such as a disability form, completed by your doctor for an insurance company, etc., be sure to forward a copy to your lawyer.

4.     What if the judge sends me a form that needs to be completed by my doctor?

Sometimes you may be sent a form to be completed by a doctor. If the judge sends you a form for your doctor to complete, call your attorney immediately so he or she can discuss and decide how to address this issue.

5.     Should I send my attorney the “acknowledgement” that comes with a Notice of Hearing?

No. There will be a document included with your Notice of Hearing that you must mark to let the judge’s office know you will attend the hearing. This document is called an Acknowledgement of Notice of Hearing. Ordinarily, this acknowledgement notice should be sent directly back to the judge. Your lawyer shouldn’t need a copy.

6.     Should I send anything else to the judge?

No. Your attorney is responsible for all evidence submission. You should talk with your attorney before submitting anything to ensure you’re not sending duplicates of what is already in your file.

7.     What will my attorney do to prepare for the hearing?

Your attorney has a lot to do on your behalf to prepare for your hearing. Much of it is working behind the scenes obtaining and reviewing your files and medical history. Your attorney will review your social security file and research the laws and facts of your case to plan what he or she believes is the best course of action to try to prove your case and potentially win your claim for benefits.

He or she will obtain necessary medical records and any other records needed, including reports from your doctors. Prior to your hearing, your attorney will speak with you to help prepare you to testify.

8.     What can I do to help get ready for my hearing?

The most important aspect of your case is medical evidence. No matter how severe your condition is, the Social Security Administration is required to have well-documented and current medical evidence on file. That is why we emphasize to our clients that they make every effort to maintain steady treatment with their doctors. This medical evidence is crucial to ensuring the potential for a successful outcome of their trial.

We understand maintaining medical treatment is sometimes difficult due to financial limitations and the cost of insurance. If our clients are having trouble paying for medical treatment, we ask them to contact us for a list of low-cost clinics in their area.

NC Social Security Disability Lawyers Give FREE Case Evaluations

We hope this information offers a bit of insight into how we endeavor to work together with our clients to try to present the best case possible at their hearing. If you are considering applying for Social Security Disability or if you’ve been denied, give us a call. We’ll give you a FREE case evaluation.

And don’t worry about paying us an attorney’s fee up front. We work on contingency, which means we do not get an attorney’s fee unless you receive benefits. Second – and very good news for our Social Security Disability clients – the federal government caps that fee. They know money is tight for people on Social Security Disability. That Social Security Disability fee is limited to 25% of back-due benefits, or $6,000, whichever is less.

Contact us right now or call 1-866-900-7078.

 

* Each case is unique, and this information may not be applicable in all situations.

How to Play it Safe With Pokemon Go

Stabbings, robberies, trespassing, a dead body? This is not the 6 o’clock news.

It’s the stark reality of the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go. Where players catch Pokemon by physically going to areas called PokeStops.

Hidden Dangers Playing Pokemon Go

Pokemon aren’t the only characters hiding at these PokeStops. Criminals are too. They’re lurking at PokeStops, and robbing and assaulting people who are looking for Pokemon.

Even getting to the PokeStops can cause hazards. Drivers are staring at their cell phones while driving in an attempt to catch Pokemon. And it’s causing car wrecks. Some have even stopped their cars in the middle of the road for a catch!

People have walked into streets, zombie-like, with their eyes glued to their phones and been hit by cars. They’ve wandered onto military firing ranges, crashed weddings and even funerals for a catch. Sadly, a teenaged boy was shot and killed while playing near Guatemala City late at night.

Worldwide Pokemania

Just like a real scavenger hunt, this virtual hunt can be delightfully addictive! Pokemon Go allows you to enter the world of augmented reality through an app that uses GPS and augmentation technology to enable players to search for nearby Pokemon. The object of the game is to “catch ‘em all.”

It also offers a way for gamers and screen jockeys – anyone, really – to get up, get out, and get moving.

Within the first two weeks of the game’s July 5, 2016 release, the app topped 15 million downloads, surpassing Facebook and Snapchat. Many churches and businesses have been promoting the app by becoming a PokeStop or by informing players of a Pokemon at their location in order to increase traffic and attention to their site.

pokemonGotta Catch ‘em All!

The app requires that you walk around to locate Pokemon, so the game has been described as a great way to explore points of interest in your town or other areas. And it has been described as a great way to meet people or get some exercise. By looking at your phone screen, you can see the character superimposed onto your actual surroundings – just like you see in the image here.

Our headquarters overlooks the Durham Bulls Baseball Stadium, and we got to see first-hand how addictive this game can be when they opened the stadium to the public and dozens of Pokemon seekers of all ages converged on the baseball field to catch Pokemon. And not all Pokemon were outside our building. In fact, one of our paralegals captured Pidgedy during her lunch break right inside our hallways.

Pokemon and Potential Hazards

Falling victim to a crime or stumbling upon a crime

Four teens in Missouri were arrested after committing numerous armed robberies by using the Pokemon Go app to lure their victims to secluded areas. Another teenager in Wyoming was on a quest to find a water Pokemon, when instead she found a dead body floating in the lake.

Injuring yourself

Risking your life is not the key to winning Pokemon Go. One Pokemon gamer was stabbed by a man after the gamer asked if the man wanted to “battle.” Obviously intending to battle on the app was not as clear to the attacker. After being stabbed, the gamer continued on his quest to find what he was looking for instead of immediately going to the hospital for medical treatment!

Accidents from distracted driving and walking

Pokemon can pop up anywhere any time. Whether you’re walking down the street and Jigglypuff pops up a block away or you’re driving and Charmander is at the corner store. Accidents can happen, even to the most attentive Pokemon player. People have gotten into accidents (even crashing into police cars) and have been hit by cars because they were distracted by the game instead of paying attention to their surroundings.

Trespassing

Trespassing has become epidemic since the release of Pokemon Go. Often Pokemon only appear at certain times, so players may hunt at varying hours of the night and early morning. The problem – some are located on private property, at businesses, or in city parks. Players can face criminal charges if they trespass on private property or at public places after allowed hours. Sadly, as we have seen, other players can face worse consequences by wandering out late at night in the wrong areas.

Pokemon Go – Playing it Safe

Be aware of your surroundings

Just because you see someone wandering around in the woods or staring at their phone – don’t assume they are playing Pokemon. Use caution when going into secluded areas and approaching strangers. While the game can be a great opportunity to meet other players, be sure they have the same intentions.

Don’t drive and catch

Do we really have to say this? Turn the game off and put the phone away. AAA Carolinas says playing Pokemon while driving is just as dangerous as texting and driving.

Distracted walking, too, can have dangerous consequences. Be vigilant and check your surroundings, particularly when crossing streets. Don’t risk your life just because you see Dragonite on the other side of the road. No Pokemon character is worth your life – not even Dragonite.

Respect your city’s curfew and business hours

If it’s 3:00 a.m. and a Pikachu pops up near the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, don’t go out to try to catch it. Only visit landmarks, businesses, private property, and historical sites during appropriate hours.

Put down the phone and enjoy the real life around you

While Pokemon Go can take you to attractions you’ve never been before, it defeats the purpose if you stare at your phone the whole time you’re there. A benefit of the game is that it compels you to get off the couch, go outside, and maybe even get a little exercise.

After you are drawn to a new museum, garden, historical site, or neighborhood park, take a moment to explore the area with your eyes instead of your phone. You may gain something more incredible than a new critter or points on a game. Allow the Pokemon app to enhance your actual reality in addition to your virtual reality.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate Pokemon Injury Cases FREE

Here’s something important to know about your right to compensation if you are injured playing the game. Unless you opt out of the game’s terms of service, you may be waiving your right to litigation in the event you are injured – or are blamed for injuring someone else. So be careful and be smart.

If you are injured by someone playing Pokemon Go or believe it is as a result of negligence on the part of Niantic (the company that developed Pokemon Go) contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We offer more than 35 attorneys – many who are experienced in personal injury cases of all kinds.

And, unlike many of the Pokemon, you’ll catch us any time day or night.

Trying to Get Workers’ Comp Payment for Secondary Injuries or Side Effects

wc-boxesLet’s say you are hurt on the job. You tear your shoulder while lifting a large box overhead.

Worker’s compensation doctors say you’ll need a shoulder operation and you should be good as new. Your company’s workers’ comp insurance agrees to pay for the operation, all medicines, medical treatments, and any therapy resulting from that shoulder injury.

You breathe a sigh of relief

But a few weeks later that sigh of relief is interrupted. You’re having trouble breathing. A lot of trouble. Your wife calls 911, and an ambulance rushes you to the hospital. There’s a blood clot in your lung. If the doctor determines this clot was likely the result of your shoulder surgery (a known risk of any surgery), workers’ compensation insurance is responsible for paying all medical expenses related to the blood clot too.

Seems black and white.

Yet unfortunately, these situations are not black and white. They can often be grey. Very grey. More often than not we’ve found that some insurance companies may deny payment of these common complications, which will leave you – the injured worker who just wants to heal and go back to work – in the red. Paying bills out of pocket or just not able to afford the care the doctor says you need.

Denials and Delays! Why You May Need a Workers’ Comp Lawyer

Proving that secondary injuries are the result of the initial workplace injury can be particularly tricky. Especially for someone who is not familiar with workers’ compensation law.

Some insurance companies may be more likely to question secondary injuries or delay payment. If they get their way, this strategy could potentially save them money.

Moreover, the law allows the workers’ comp insurance company to pick your doctors. If you’re not comfortable with that doctor’s diagnosis, you have the right to request a second opinion from a doctor you and the insurance company agree on. But sometimes we have had cases where we’ve had to fight tooth and nail for clients to exercise that right.

And then there have been cases where we’ve seen the insurance adjuster stand in the way of authorizing treatment. Sometimes treatment can be delayed or may not get paid on time or appropriately. Prescriptions may not be reimbursed, so some of our clients have had to pay for prescriptions or expensive equipment out-of-pocket. Some began to spiral into debt trying to keep up with medical bills. Until they hired us, many didn’t realize these secondary medical expenses, which were directly related to the initial workers’ compensation injury, should typically be covered by workers’ compensation.

Life can careen out of control quickly just trying to keep up with medical bills, let alone arguing with your insurance company day after day.

Let us do the arguing for you. It doesn’t matter what type of injury you have, we have probably dealt with it. As a matter of fact, these secondary issues have often been some of the most hotly contested litigation during my career in workers’ compensation law.

Can You Afford a North Carolina Job Injury Attorney?

Don’t worry if you think you may not be able to afford us. We work on contingency, which means that you don’t pay any attorney’s fee unless we get you compensation.

Click here to take the first step toward taking your life back. The link will take you to our short but empowering booklet, How to Take Control of Your NC Workers’ Comp Claim (before it controls you).

Get Your Case Evaluated for FREE by North Carolina Workers’ Comp Attorneys

Let one of our workers’ comp attorneys – six of whom are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in workers’ compensation law – evaluate your situation for free. Click here to contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We’re available 24/7 to try to get you the answers you need.