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“I’m Afraid My Child’s Father/Mother Will Take the Money from Their Accident Settlement”

At our firm, many of us are parents. We understand that your child being hurt in an accident is the worst thing that can happen to you.

Since cases involving minors are often more complicated and so much is at stake, we recommend all parents reach out to an experienced personal injury attorney for advice. (Click here to talk to one.)

But many parents have initially been afraid of involving an attorney because they believe their child’s absentee mom or deadbeat dad might suddenly appear once they hear their child might be entitled to a settlement. Those fears are often well-founded, but the right attorney can help try to make sure funds go where they’re really needed.

Two Circumstances Which Can Immediately Exclude the Other Parent

We’ve seen our share of cases where the parent handling the case does not want the other parent involved. Oftentimes it takes some compromise, but there are two legal scenarios we’ve utilized to keep the other parent out of the equation:

  1. A parent must be on the birth certificate in order to be involved in the case. If the other parent is not on that document, then he or she cannot be involved – period. That is why we would advise you to give a copy of the birth certificate to your attorney as soon as possible.
  2. A Court document granting the signing parent sole custody. This means that a judge previously signed an order after a hearing, and determined that the legal and physical custody of the minor belongs solely to one parent. A copy of this documentation should also be given immediately to your attorney.

If neither situation exists, then the insurance company can legally require the other parent to be involved or sign off prior to completion of the settlement. But there are ways to reduce the risk that a parent will affect a minor’s personal injury claim.

Keeping the Other Parent Out of Decisions – Guardian ad Litem

If you can’t provide legal documentation of custody, but still don’t want participation from the other parent, you may be able to ask your attorney to hire a “Guardian ad Litem.”

A Guardian ad Litem is either a trained community volunteer or, more likely, a licensed attorney, without interest in the outcome of the case. This person is appointed by the Courts to investigate and determine the best interests of any child who is the subject of a Court case.

A Guardian ad Litem’s opinion is generally weighted more heavily because he or she is a neutral party with no investment in the outcome of the case.

This is a good option for parents who are both involved in their child’s life, but cannot agree with one another on how to proceed. In this situation, it would be best for both parents to agree that a neutral third party, i.e., a Guardian ad Litem, be appointed to handle the matter.

However in the case of an absentee parent, such as an incarcerated or transient parent, you will likely have to show documentation that the parent has generally had no interest or role in the minor child’s life.

How North Carolina Laws Protect Your Child’s Settlement

Most parents in these situations fear the other parent will try to siphon money from the minor’s settlement proceeds. Fortunately, North Carolina courts have considered this possibility.

To protect a minor’s settlement, the State requires that settlements for minors, over a certain amount, be placed with the Clerk of Court to be held in trust for the benefit of the minor until the minor turns 18 years of age. The settlement may also, if large enough, be invested and form a structured settlement with the Court’s approval. If the minor’s settlement is approved by the Court, then the minor’s portion of that settlement is placed with the Clerk of Court until age 18. At that time the minor can request that the Court release his or her settlement proceeds after showing valid identification, proof of address, and allowing the Court time to process the request.

Reimbursing You for Medical Expenses

A parent has no claim to the settlement proceeds of a minor with the exception of out of pocket medical expenses paid by that parent. A parent may request at the Court approval hearing that a judge order reimbursement to that parent by showing proof of payment of such expenses. It is ultimately the judge’s decision as to whether the parent is reimbursed and for what amount.

A parent’s claim for expenses is not a separate claim and will come directly from the minor’s portion of the settlement. Because there is no separate pot of money with which to reimburse a parent for a minor’s medical expenses, a judge will not make this decision lightly and will weigh all factors available, including, but not limited to, the minor’s injuries, age, permanent impairment, future medical needs, as well as the amount of the settlement.

Insurance Company May Use Your Situation Against You

We have seen some insurance companies try to use the fact that another parent is involved to delay settlement or settlement negotiations, especially if the insurance company is contacted by the other parent directly, or the other parent hired an attorney.

However, your attorney can try to help you overcome these obstacles in several ways, including hiring a neutral Guardian ad Litem, and/or by working directly with counsel hired by the other parent to protect the child’s best interests.

Either way, your attorney should not let an insurance company prejudice your child’s rights by delaying settlement negotiations or refusing to settle due to the involvement of another parent.

North Carolina Car Wreck Attorneys

We’re attorneys, but we’re also parents. We understand that sometimes you have to fight tooth and nail for your child’s best interests – and we’d like to do that on your behalf.

If we have to fight to keep the other parent at bay, we will pull out the tools in our legal toolkit to try to make that happen.

If you need help to try to ensure the best outcome for your child’s accident recovery and future click here for a FREE case evaluation or give us a call at 1-866-900-7078. We’re here for you 24/7/365.

How Much Can I Recover After My Car Accident?

After you’re injured in a car wreck, it’s bad enough you have to suffer as a result of your injuries. But the suffering gets even worse once the bills start pouring in – the ER visit, car repairs, X-rays, physical therapy, you name it.

Little wonder a common question we often hear is: “How much will I receive from the insurance company for my accident?”

While each case is specific to its own particulars, understanding a bit about how insurance policy limits work in North Carolina can offer valuable information in your financial recovery efforts.

Tip! Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer received 3.5 times* more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own.


How North Carolina’s “Fault” System Affects Your Bottom Line
After a car accident in North Carolina, authorities will assign fault to one or more drivers.

These drivers (and their insurance companies) bear liability for damages or injuries their actions caused. In other words, they may be responsible for paying medical bills, car repairs, time out of work, pain and suffering, and physical damages of those who were not at fault.

Some states assign percentages of blame, such as, say, 80% to one driver and 20% to the other. Everyone pays according to their percentage of fault.

Not so under North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule. This rule says that if you’re found to be even 1% at fault, you could be barred from recovering anything, even if the other driver was 99% at fault! (North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still has this rule on the books.)

Tip! If you think you may have contributed to your accident even the slightest bit (speeding, jaywalking, texting, etc.), it would be prudent to talk with a personal injury representative right away.


Policy Limits in North Carolina

Who pays and how much gets paid can depend on what the at-fault driver’s policy limits are. All North Carolina drivers are required to carry a certain amount of auto insurance coverage. This coverage has maximum and minimum policy limits, which are used to cover damages.

So, for example, if you’re passing through an intersection and someone runs a red light and hits you (“their fault” scenario), their insurance company is responsible for paying your damages within the policy limits – but not one cent over.

What If My Damages are Greater Than the Policy Limits?
If your damages are greater than the limits on the policy of the at-fault driver, you do have options – options we highly recommend utilizing an experienced auto accident lawyer for. Some of those options include:

  • Collect Through Uninsured and Underinsured (UM/UIM) Motorist Coverage. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required in North Carolina. This coverage protects you if another driver is at fault but does not have insurance, or have enough insurance to pay for your damages. Simply stated, UM/UIM coverage provides you with an additional means to collect damages for your injuries and other expenses incurred.
  • Sue the defendant.
  • Recover under an umbrella policy (an additional liability coverage many people have).

What if the other driver’s insurer claims that you contributed to the auto accident, even if you believe you didn’t? Or what if you suffered serious injuries, but the insurer is contesting the extent or costs of your medical treatment? What if you actually did contribute to the accident? No matter the scenario, it is prudent to let an experienced personal injury lawyer evaluate your situation.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers May Be Able to Help Collect

  • In 2015, alone, we recovered over $75 million (gross) for over 2,700 clients1
  • We have recovered over $600 million (gross) for over 30,000 clients since 19971
  • These numbers don’t include the $1.25 billion we helped recover against the U.S. government for 18,400 claimants in a historic class action case1
  • We’ve done this because we have quality professionals – many who’ve worked on the “other side” (insurance companies). Over 30 attorneys. Over 100 staff. Seven attorneys board certified in North Carolina in their fields – a differentiator that fewer than 4%2 of North Carolina attorneys can claim

Don’t leave your settlement to chance – or to the insurance companies. Click here to contact us right now or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE over the phone or online  – 24/7.

 

* Insurance Research Council 1999

1 Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin led a team of firms to recover $1.25 billion for African-American farmers from the U. S. government for discrimination.

2 Percentage calculated from figures supplied by the North Carolina State Bar, through December 31, 2015.

How Many Beers Can You Drink in an Hour and Still Drive?

You’ve seen the ads: “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving.” You’ve heard the DWI statistics. But unless you have personally felt the effects of drunk driving or you work as a personal injury lawyer representing actual people whose lives have been ripped apart by the real devastation a drunk driver can cause, it probably doesn’t hit home.

But home is exactly where drunk drivers hit – and hit hard.

Families shattered. Children and teens’ lives cut short. Or left permanently disabled, severely disfigured. Brain damaged.

I’ll never forget one case in particular. It haunts me to this day.

A man was in his vehicle, stopped in traffic. The other driver – the drunk driver – had skipped out of work early and started drinking with his buddies. He was so drunk when he got behind the wheel that he plowed right into my client’s car, hitting him so hard, the man was ejected from the vehicle and killed. The man had a wife and young children, and was a pillar in his community. This one irresponsible, irreversible event plunged his family into a downward spiral.

While we could not help this poor family’s emotional burden, our team went into overdrive to get that family everything we could to help ease their financial burden. We left no stone unturned to get them a settlement that would help pay for therapy, loss of financial support, funeral expenses, and punitive damages, among other things*.

Drunk Driving: The Facts

So here are those statistics again.  Read them. But this time read them knowing that each statistic represents a real person. Real people just like you and me.

NHTSA Traffic Safety Facts reported that in 2013, every 52 minutes a death occurred as a result of a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 or higher.

That’s 10,076 deaths.

A BAC level of .08 g/dL, is about four standard drinks in one hour for a 170-lb. man or three drinks in an hour for a 140-lb. woman.

Among those fatalities, 68% were in crashes in which at least one driver in the crash had a BAC of .15 g/dL or higher – or roughly six to eight drinks in an hour.

Those 10,076 deaths represented 31% of all traffic fatalities for that year! Simply put, drunk drivers were behind a third of all traffic deaths!

The rate of alcohol impairment among drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2013 was nearly four times higher at night than during the day.

The highest rates of drunk driving occur among drivers aged 21-24. This age group makes up 35% of alcohol-impaired drivers involved in fatal collisions.

 

We all know what alcohol does to the body and brain – slowing our reactions, blurring our vision, making us brave, making us take unnecessary risks. Here are some links worth sharing with friends, family and others – especially teens and twenty-somethings.

Drunk Driving Links Worth Sharing

And, it bears repeating, if you’ve been drinking, call a cab, or Uber or Lyft. Contact a sober friend or relative. Use public transportation. Use your head – DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE!

*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.

Car Crash Deaths Trending Higher – Here’s Why

After trending lower for over 10 years, crash fatalities rose in the first six months of 2015 when compared to the same period in 2014. What gives?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), driver error is a leading cause of the rise in roadway fatalities – 94%. This research is based upon a weighted sample of 5,470 crashes over a period of roughly two years.

NHTSA crash data for 2014 shows:

  • Crashes involving a drunk driver accounted for almost one-third of motor vehicle deaths in the United States
  • Nearly half (49%) of those who died were not wearing seat belts
  • Distracted driving accounted for approximately 10% of all crash fatalities
  • Drowsy driving accounted for 2.6% of all crash fatalities
  • The number of motorcyclists killed was much higher in states without strong helmet laws
  • Cyclist deaths declined by 2.3%
  • Pedestrian deaths rose by 3.1%

What Caused the Rise in Car Crash Fatalities from 2014 to 2015?
From about 2012 through 2014, crash deaths had been on a downward trend. But the NHTSA preliminary crash data from 2015 shows there were a lot more deadly crashes in the first six months of 2015 than there were during the same period in the year prior. Understanding why is important so changes can be made going forward.

Why the sudden uptick?

One possible explanation is that people were able to drive more due to improved economic conditions, like lower gas prices and lower unemployment.

However, the way the NHTSA measures fatality rates clarifies a potential misunderstanding in this viewpoint. It looks at how many people died per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. According to the NHTSA, this method helps illuminate whether the increase was because people drove more or because they weren’t driving as safely.

During the first six months of 2015 there was an 8.1% increase in overall fatalities and a 4.4% increase in the rate per 100 million miles. This means that even after accounting for increased traffic, there were still more fatal collisions. Driver safety, therefore, played a significant role in the overall increased cause of deaths.

To determine how much North Carolina drivers contributed to the added risk, National Safety Council (NSC) data from the first six mon­­ths of 2014 to the first six months 2015 in North Carolina were compared. Their data shows that 19% more people died on North Carolina’s highways in 2015 as a result of driver error.

What’s the Solution to Try to Reverse the Rise in Traffic Fatalities?
The NHTSA has launched a series of safety initiatives. These initiatives address such issues as the risks of driving while intoxicated, drowsy driving, using electronic devices while operating a motor vehicle, and failure to utilize readily available safety features like seat belts and car seats. Other initiatives are also being designed specifically to protect non-motorists who share the roads, such as pedestrians and cyclists.

As both local and federal government agencies continue to increase their focus on policy decisions that can potentially make our roads safer, each of us can also do our part to help ensure our own safety and those around us by committing to be more careful.

No drinking and driving. No distracted driving – no texting, no applying makeup on the freeway, no reaching in the back seat to pick up your toddler’s sippy cup. You get the picture.

North Carolina Auto Accident Attorneys
If you are hurt by a distracted driver in North Carolina, contact us now for a free consultation to see if we can help. Call us at 1-866-900-7078. We’re here for you 24/7/365.

 

Could I Potentially Get More After Trial Than if I Settle?

It’s a common misconception that your personal injury case will be worth more if you “take it to trial” rather than through settlement negotiations. Whether a case can get more after a trial depends on the circumstances of your case. There is a chance that you could get more, but there’s also the chance you could get less – even nothing. It all depends on what is discovered as you prepare for litigation.

We Endeavor to Get the Most for You – Trial or No Trial
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we evaluate each case individually and advise litigation only if we believe it will result in the greatest financial return for our clients. Our lawyers will not take your case to court if they do not feel a jury would award the case’s fair value.

Before we take a case to trial we evaluate a number of factors. Here are three important factors we consider.

  1. Is there enough evidence to obtain fair value?
    Our primary objective for your case is to try to get the highest fair value for your circumstances. Fair value is based on evidence. For example, in cases with muscle-related injuries, such as sprains and strains like whiplash, medical treatment that lasted under four to six months, and medical expenses, fair settlement would be an offer that covers all those bills plus pain and suffering.
  2. Did the insurance company offer that much less than what a jury may potentially award?
    We may also consider whether there might be a large enough discrepancy between what the insurance company offers and what we think a potential jury might award. If the settlement offer includes your bills and considers your inconvenience for medical treatment, then your attorney will let you know what is reasonable versus what you would expect to get from a jury.

    A jury trial is not always the answer.A jury verdict is influenced by more than simply the facts of your case. It is influenced by the jury’s demographic makeup, the geographic region where you live (i.e., what is typically seen in similar cases in your hometown court), any preconceived prejudices the jurors may have. Let’s say, for example, juror #4 thinks all motorcycle drivers are reckless – especially the under-40 crowd. If you were the one injured through no fault of your own, yet you were driving a motorcycle and you happen to be under the age of 40, that juror may not be very sympathetic to your situation.

  3. Is trial worth the financial and emotional stress on you?
    We will also weigh the benefits of the financial and emotional stress you may experience by going in front of a jury. We consider how costly and lengthy a trial might become, and whether it may potentially cause you undue hardship versus the financial benefits you may potentially derive. Because trials can be expensive, we don’t want a trial to eat away at your potential gains.

Free Case Evaluation from a North Carolina Auto Accident Law Firm
If you have been injured in a car wreck, don’t wait to call us. Sometimes, the sooner we get involved the less involved your case can potentially become.

Our Personal Injury Department has more than 150 years of combined legal experience. Several of our attorneys have at least 15 years’ experience, and some were formerly defense attorneys for the insurance industry – so they’ve seen the law from both sides.

Call us at 1-866-900-7078 for a FREE case review, or click on the live chat option to speak with someone right now.

How Does Mediation Work?

When injured in an accident that isn’t your fault, it’s probably safe to assume that you, like most people, simply want to be paid what’s fair. While obtaining fair payment may seem like a simple and straightforward process, it can quickly become complicated and confusing.

When negotiations with the insurance adjuster fail, then options exist to try to ensure that your compensation is fair and just. From offer to counteroffer, court filings, mediations, to trial, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin has experienced professionals on staff to counsel you at all levels of civil litigation – including mediation.

Will My Case Require Me to Go to Mediation?

Mediation is not the same thing as settlement negotiations, which occur at the beginning of your case, and mediation is only undertaken after settlement negotiations fail and you file a lawsuit. After settlement negotiations fail, you would begin your lawsuit by filing your case in civil court.

Whether or not you proceed to mediation depends on whether you file in superior court or district court. For the purposes of this blog, the primary difference between superior court and district court is the amount of money you seek in your lawsuit.

If your case involves more than $25,000, you must file it in superior court, and mediation is required. Superior court rarely allows you to skip mediation and go straight to trial.

If your damages are $25,000 or less, then you must file in district court where mediation is not required.

What Happens in Mediation?

Let’s say you are headed to mediation. Here’s what it might look like.

Mediation takes place outside the court, typically at an office. There is no judge. No facts will be decided. The point of mediation is to reach a settlement. The people who attend mediation are:

  • The plaintiff (that’s you – the person filing a claim for damages). You must attend mediation, because you have final settlement authority. In other words, you are the only one who can determine if the terms the other party is offering are acceptable, and thereby end the mediation.
  • Your attorney, who will negotiate on your behalf
  • The attorney from the defendant’s insurance company
  • The mediator, who is a neutral third party

The defendant doesn’t necessarily need to attend. Your lawyer has the option of excusing him or her.

Mediation vs. Trial

Mediation may potentially benefit you by eliminating the costs of going to court. For example, you will likely not have to pay an expert witness (such as an accident reconstructionist) to testify on your behalf. Moreover, going to court involves additional costs that can chip away at the final dollar amount you may receive.

Headed to Mediation?

The best advice when headed to mediation is to arm yourself with an experienced legal team who has researched your case, talked with you about the value of your case, and knows what your case may really be worth.

Combined, our attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin have handled countless mediations. We can prepare you for mediation, attend mediation with you, counsel you on the reasonableness of the defendant’s offers and counteroffers, and advise whether to accept your settlement or proceed to trial.

If you’ve been injured in an accident that wasn’t your fault, call us 24/7 at 1-866-900-7078 or click here for a free case evaluation.

The Money the Insurance Company Offered Seems Fair. Should I Settle?

You might be surprised – even relieved – when an adjuster offers you a settlement for your injuries within a few days of your accident. But be forewarned.  If you’re still hurting or injured, you should not accept a settlement from the adjuster – even if it sounds like a good offer.

Even if you feel like you’ve recovered from your injuries, it’s still prudent to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney to help gain a better understanding of your legal options.

Why Shouldn’t I Settle as Soon as Possible?

Once you accept a settlement from the insurance company, your case is closed. Period. That means you release the insurance company from all future claims pertaining to that accident. Their responsibility for your medical treatment or anything else related to the accident is finished.

Moreover, the beginning of your case is usually too early to assign a value to your injury claims. Most people don’t know the full extent of their injuries and treatment plan until time has passed. Severe bruising, for example, could turn into a blood clot, which could travel to your lungs. A slight head injury might seem benign at first, but could lead to swelling on the brain or a concussion. You just don’t know, and only time and medical treatment can tell.

Why Shouldn’t I Sign a Scheduled Release?

You might encounter what we refer to as a “scheduled release.” This is when the adjuster offers to keep your claim “open” for a certain number of days to cover medical bills up to a specified amount within that time period. The problem with a scheduled release is that – again – you can’t predict how your medical condition will progress or regress. What happens if you don’t get better during that time period and you need further treatment? What happens if you get worse – when that headache slowly turns into double vision? If you sign a scheduled release – you’re out of luck.

Insurance Company Tactics to Try to Pay You Less

I’ve found that these and other quick offers can be a common practice among some insurance companies. Experience in dealing with personal injury matters has taught me that most injured people do not know their rights and how the law works. Unfortunately, some insurance companies can use this to their advantage. Remember, their objective is often to pay you the least amount possible on your claim, and the adjuster’s objective may be to get you to accept the least amount sooner rather than later.

Why Do I Need to Get Medical Care Immediately?

The importance of obtaining medical treatment cannot be stressed enough. If you aren’t getting treatment, there’s no documentation or proof that you were injured. There are any number of issues related to treatment that you might be unaware of that could have a detrimental effect on your case. Poor treatment, overtreatment, and gaps in treatment, for example, can effect compensation and create difficulties when trying to negotiate maximum compensation.

Our job as attorneys is not to direct medical treatment. However, we can let you know the effects and various outcomes that different treatment situations may potentially have on your compensation at the end of your case. In general, you should receive the necessary treatment for recovery, follow your doctor’s recommendations, avoid large gaps of time with no treatment, and meet all your scheduled appointments.

Once treatment is complete and you are no longer considered injured, we are in a much better position to properly evaluate the value of your claim.

Will an Attorney be Able to Get Me More Money?

Compensation varies case by case. The overall goal of representation is to increase the amount of your recovery and put you in a better financial position – even after fees. That is why, if you are injured, it’s important that you contact an attorney as soon as possible.

If you have questions, or want to see if we can help, contact us or give us a call at 1-866-900-7078.  After your free evaluation, we can let you know whether or not representation might possibly add value to your claim.

I Was Injured in a Car Wreck. Will I Have to Go to Court?

You’ve been hurt in a car wreck. The insurance company fails to negotiate a fair settlement. Even mediation didn’t nudge the insurance company to offer enough for your medical bills. In this situation and others that are similar, it may be in your best interest to go to court.

When Trial May be Necessary

Most car accident cases don’t require that you go to court. The majority of them settle through negotiations – the back-and-forth process of your attorney’s demand and the insurance company’s counteroffer. This back-and-forth continues until both parties agree on a dollar amount to settle the insurance claim.

But when negotiations fail, and the parties cannot come to a settlement agreement, the next option is to file a civil lawsuit in court.

You may need to file a lawsuit if your insurance company continues to:

  • Question liability (they insist their client wasn’t at fault and deny your claim)
  • Undervalue your case or give you a low offer

What Happens After Filing a Lawsuit?

No one wants to file a lawsuit and then have to appear in court. It’s time-consuming and bureaucratic. If you do find it necessary to file a lawsuit, here is what you can expect.

Step 1 – Discovery. The first step would be the discovery phase in which you exchange written questions called interrogatories.

Step 2 – Depositions. After interrogatories, each side takes depositions. Depositions are done in an office setting outside the courtroom. A deposition is a process whereby you are questioned about the specifics of the incident, and the questions and your answers are recorded and transcribed.

Step 3 – Mediation. If both parties still have not reached an agreement, mediation is the next step. Mediation is a negotiation process, also done in an office, whereby your attorney and the insurance company’s attorney will try to come to a settlement you are satisfied with. You will be present to agree or disagree with the terms, and a mediator will be present to guide the process.

Step 4 – Final prep for trial. If mediation is not satisfactory and court is your last option, then your lawyers will begin final prep for trial. This often includes special depositions of treating doctors, which are videotaped and shown at the trial.

Sometimes, during each of these processes, both sides reach a settlement agreement. If that is the case, then you don’t have to go to court. If not, and the case goes to trial, then you will have to appear because you are the primary witness for your case.

Attorneys and Staff with Extensive Experience

Our attorneys have argued many cases in courtrooms all across North Carolina. While the majority of personal injury or car accident cases can settle without going to court, it can be important to have an experienced legal team on your side before you ever speak to the insurance company. This can help protect your case from potential pitfalls in the event that a trial is needed.

Experience in the courtroom and beyond has taught me that the insurance company is working to protect their assets – not yours. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we always evaluate each case individually and advise litigation only if we believe it can potentially result in the greatest financial return for our clients. If your case does go to trial, we have an entire department dedicated to litigation.

Several of our firm’s more than 35 attorneys have won awards and authored or co-authored publications. Some are involved in teaching law-related courses from time to time – one is an adjunct professor at a university.

Moreover, several of our staff members have worked for insurance companies – giving us additional knowledge about how the “other side” operates.

Take advantage of our knowledge and experience. If you’ve been injured, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078. Click here to have one of our attorneys review your case for free. You won’t pay an attorney’s fee unless we recover compensation for your claim.

Why Do I Need Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance?

No one wants to be involved in a car wreck. Believe me, as a personal injury attorney I’ve seen my share of injured clients. And while the physical injuries are difficult enough for my clients to deal with, I’ve witnessed financial hardships accident victims have gone through who received little or no financial compensation. Why? Because they didn’t carry uninsured motorist insurance (UM) or underinsured motorist insurance (UIM).

What Can Happen if I Don’t Carry UM or UIM?

First of all, if your car is insured in North Carolina under a personal policy, you automatically have UM. That’s because in 2009, it became mandatory for all insured drivers in the state to carry uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage is just what its name implies – it covers you if you are injured by an uninsured driver.

When you or your passengers are involved in a car wreck – whether you’re a driver, a pedestrian, riding a bike, etc., – the “at fault” driver (or their insurance company) is typically responsible for paying your medical bills and other related expenses. Even though medical bills can potentially reach tens of thousands of dollars, North Carolina only requires a minimum of $30,000/$60,000 in auto insurance:

  • $30,000 is the maximum insurance will pay to one individual
  • $60,000 is the maximum amount it will pay to all injured victims. In other words, no matter how many people are hurt, the insurance company will pay out no more than $60,000 divided among them, whether that amount covers their bills or not.

Roughly One of Every 11 NC-Licensed Drivers is Not Insured

Although car insurance is mandatory in North Carolina, the latest statistics (2012) from the Insurance Information Institute show that 9.1% of North Carolina drivers do not have car insurance. That means roughly one of every 11 NC drivers you might encounter along I-40 have no insurance to help pay medical and other bills if they sideswipe you – maybe while texting!

Here are three primary situations to be aware of where underinsured or uninsured drivers can make your life miserable if you don’t have UM or UIM:

  1. Driver is not insured at all (the 9.1%)
  2. Driver flees the scene in a hit and run
  3. Driver does not have enough auto insurance

Let’s look at a couple of scenarios to see how the three situations above would play out with and without UM or UIM.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM)

Driver 1 is not paying attention and rear-ends your car. Driver 1 is cooperative, but has no insurance. You could take her to court, but there is a decent chance she is judgment proof. Being judgment proof in North Carolina means you may not be able to go after a bank account or other property to collect. Depending on the circumstances, this means you could sue her and even win, but you may never see any of the money you “won” from the lawsuit. If you have UM, you can file an uninsured motorist claim with your own insurance company. And since you were not at fault, you have an opportunity to be compensated fairly without your rates going up.

Now let’s assume Driver 2 runs into you as you’re walking on the sidewalk. He flees the scene, and the police are not able to catch him. If there’s no driver, there’s no one to go after for your medical bills. UM coverage may also help you in this scenario, by potentially allowing you to recover money – without your rates going up.

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM)

Unlike uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is optional in North Carolina. That being said, UIM is fairly cheap and can save you a lot of money and headache if you’re seriously injured. As the name implies, underinsured motorist coverage applies when a driver is underinsured, meaning they do not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills or damages.

Here’s how it might play out. When you are injured by a negligent driver, you first collect from their insurance company. If the driver does not have enough insurance to cover your medical bills and other expenses, then you could potentially be stuck paying those bills yourself – unless you have underinsured motorist coverage. As discussed earlier, the person who hit you may be judgment proof, and you may never collect the full amount due, even if you get a successful verdict in the lawsuit. So to get the money you need for bills, you may be able to file an underinsured motorist claim. This may potentially cover the difference from what the other guy’s insurance pays and the bills you owe.

As an example, let’s assume Driver 3 injures you and your claim is worth $80,000. Driver 3 admits fault, but only has the $30,000 minimum insurance required in North Carolina. This means his insurance company would only be required to pay you $30,000. After collecting the full $30,000 from his insurance company, you still have $50,000 in bills. If you have underinsured motorist coverage, and depending on the amount of your policy, your insurance company may cover the difference.

These scenarios – which our law firm deals with far too often – represent why I emphasize the need for UM and UIM. Each can be a financial life saver. And filing a claim with your UM or UIM shouldn’t make your rates go up.

Do I Need an Attorney for UM or UIM Claims?

Based on my experience, typically the answer is YES. Even though you are dealing with your own insurance company, experience has taught me that they may try to pay you the least amount of money possible. That’s why it can be important to have someone fighting for you who knows the system. You may have had nothing but good experiences with your agent or a customer service rep in the past, but all that love can potentially change when money is on the table. If you find yourself in one of these or other unfortunate scenarios, contact one of our personal injury attorneys by clicking here or call 1-866-900-7078.

 

How Can I Negotiate With the Insurance Company for a Better Offer for My Car?

Car Accident_06082014_smIn a car accident, the at-fault insurance company may accept responsibility for the damage to your vehicle and make an offer to settle the property damage claim. You will almost always deal with the at-fault driver’s insurance company through its adjuster. An adjuster is the person the insurance company hired to review and negotiate your claim. Typically, part of the adjuster’s job is to try to minimize your claim in order to control costs for the company. When the insurance company accepts fault, and makes an offer, this will either result in repair of your vehicle, or they will decide the vehicle was a total loss and pay you for the vehicle’s value.

If you are satisfied with the insurance company’s first offer, then it is fine to accept it. However, what should you do if you do not believe the offer is fair? If you are not satisfied with the insurance company’s offer, then you should arm yourself with information to negotiate with the insurance adjuster.

Offers to Repair

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

The pre-accident cash value is sometimes called the “fair market value.” Fair market value is the price a willing buyer would pay a willing seller, when neither is being compelled to buy and/or sell, and both have reasonable knowledge about the relevant facts. When calculating repair costs versus value, insurance adjusters may use the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) publication, the “Official Used Car Guide,” to determine the fair market value. The NADA is published monthly. It is available online at www.nadaguides.com.

While the insurance company may use the NADA book value to determine fair market value, the book is only a guide. There is more room to negotiate based on the actual condition of your vehicle.

You should get estimates for the amount of repairs your vehicle will need. After you get the estimates, and provide them to the insurance company, the insurance adjuster may make an offer over the telephone. If you do not agree with the telephone offer and the adjuster has never seen the damaged vehicle, then you can require the adjuster or the insurance company’s appraiser to personally inspect your damaged vehicle.

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

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

Offers to Pay Cash Value for a Total Loss

Car Accident_07312014_SMA vehicle is legally considered a total loss if the cost of repairs and supplemental claims equal or exceed 75% of the fair market value. If this is the case, the liability insurance carrier is required to pay fair market value for the vehicle.

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

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

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


Complaints About the Insurance Company

Claims Adjustor_06132014_SMIf you have a complaint about an insurance company and the way they are handling your claim, you may call or write the Consumer Insurance Information Division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance. The toll-free telephone number is 855-408-1212. The mailing address is: North Carolina Department of Insurance, Consumers Services Division, 1201 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699.

The Consumer Services Division will take information from you and then an analyst from the Division will request information from the insurance company, agent or adjuster. If the analyst finds that there is just cause for the complaint then a recommendation will be made to both sides as to how to settle the situation. If this does not resolve the problem, a deputy commissioner may arrange a conference with the insurance company involved to resolve the problem. If the conference does not resolve the disputed issue, then the deputy commissioner may recommend to the commissioner that appropriate legal action be taken including a public hearing (filing a lawsuit).

Our Recommendation:  No Need For an Attorney Unless You Were Hurt

At our firm, we recommend you handle most property damage claims yourself. This can save you both time and money—you do not want to unnecessarily delay the property damage aspect of your claim, and it is often not cost effective to hire an attorney to pursue property damage.

However, if we represent you on a bodily injury claim related to the accident,

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