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Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin 1-866-900-7078

My Workers’ Comp Adjuster Won’t Return Calls or Authorize Medical Treatment. What Should I Do?

I cannot begin to tell you how many times I've gotten a call from an injured worker who needed a lawyer because the insurance company adjuster would not return phone calls or simply seemed to stop all forms of communication.

Not only is this offensive, but it's just plain rude.

There's one story in our free booklet, Insurance Companies (and others) Behaving Badly about an insurance adjuster who waited months before responding to an injured worker. When we got involved and reached the adjuster, she made light of the fact that she had ignored our client, and said she would make a decision in two weeks. Two weeks?*

In workers' comp, we trade stories like this all the time. In our experience, some adjusters will sit on cases just to keep our clients waiting, hoping to wear them out. Unfortunately, this type of "avoid and delay" approach does wear some people out until they just give up. And that's why some insurance companies do it.

Here at our firm, we know their approach. We'll fight that approach.

These injured workers are usually people in need of medical treatment or disability payments. Payments they may be entitled to. Payments that may make a huge difference between deciding to pay their rent or pay their utilities, or even whether to buy food in some cases. Or payments that may mean the difference in continuing to get the medical care they need.

Injured workers can too often experience unnecessary pain and financial hardships just because some adjusters ignoring their pleas for help!

What to Do If an Insurance Adjuster Won't Return Your Calls

My professional observation over the 23+ years I've been an attorney is that insurance companies do not hire enough adjusters to manage the number of cases they have.

Sadly, the reason they don't, in my opinion, is likely related to money. Most insurance companies are for-profit businesses. The less people they hire, the less money they have to spend. And as we've seen day in and day out, it seems that some insurance companies hope that the injured workers will just give up and go away. Many of them do go away. But this type of treatment is not fair or appropriate under our workers compensation laws.

If you find yourself in a situation in which the adjuster won't return your calls, here's what I suggest.

  • Sometimes, it's simply a function of the "squeaky wheel gets the grease." Call the adjuster often and leave messages every day reminding them that you need medical treatment in order to return to work, or that you need your disability check so that you can pay your bills.
  • Call the adjuster's supervisor as frequently as you feel you need to. While frustrating, we have found that this approach often works.
  • If you need follow-up medical care, try calling the doctor's office that the carrier sent you to and ask them to schedule an appointment and ask that they get approval from the adjuster.
  • In other words, be a pest.

But if you don't want to go through all that rigmarole, or if you don't have the time to follow up every day with letters and phone calls, hire an experienced workers' comp attorney from the start.

North Carolina Workers' Comp Lawyers Can Help You...

  • Communicate with the adjuster and others
  • Try to get your payments started, or continued in some cases
  • Keep your case moving along
  • Try to negotiate a higher settlement than you may be able to on your own
  • Try to obtain medical benefits the insurance company is denying
  • Fight for a measure of job security if, for example, the insurance company forces you to go back to a made up job, which may be disguised as "light duty," "modified duty," or "restrictive" employment. (These jobs are sometimes eliminated later.)
  • Give you added peace of mind knowing you have someone who is championing your rights

And many other things, depending on your situation. Think you can't afford legal help? Think again. Most workers' comp attorneys work on a contingency fee basis set by the state of North Carolina. The standard fee is 25%, and it usually comes out of any payments your attorney helps you collect from the insurance company. This 25% set rate affords you the peace of mind of not having to worry about a particular lawyer or law firm being "too expensive." And it allows you to choose a law firm you feel is best suited for your situation - without having to worry about fees.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from North Carolina Workers' Comp Attorneys

If you feel you're getting the run-around, or that your insurance company may not have your best interests at heart, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

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.

* This is a specific example of an experience we had with an insurance company and adjuster. This does not necessarily represent any industry as a whole. The description of events are based upon the recollections of individual staff members.

The Top 6 Questions About Medical Care after Car Accidents (Answered by a Nurse-Attorney)

Medical care after an accident is important. Important enough for us to find and hire an attorney who's also a Johns Hopkins-trained registered nurse.

Attorney Naa Atsoi Adu-Antoh leads our firm's medical review team. This team, we believe, is fundamentally important in our efforts to try to provide clients added value by offering the unique perspective of a highly trained and experienced medical professional who analyzes clients' medical issues within the context of their legal cases.

Attorney Adu-Antoh is a valued resource on a wide variety of medical issues and often our "go to" professional when we have a hunch there might be that needle in a haystack hidden in a client's medical files.

Q&A With Johns Hopkins Registered Nurse & Attorney Adu-Antoh

We thought it would be worthwhile to sit down with Attorney Adu-Antoh and ask her some of the questions our clients often have about how their medical treatment can affect their case.

Here are 6 of the most common questions she hears.

1. Why do I need to seek immediate medical care after an injury? What if I don't feel much pain?

I believe there are two important reasons.

First, you should have a medical professional evaluate you to see if there are any potential issues you may not be aware of.

Second, you want to make sure a licensed physician documents your injuries immediately after an accident. If your condition worsens and you have to make a medical claim, this initial documentation is largely what insurance companies use to determine the extent of your injuries. It is very important.

When you're in a car accident there's a lot going on in your body, and sometimes you may not feel pain right away - especially with soft tissue injuries, like whiplash. Your body is reacting on adrenaline, and adrenaline helps keep pain away - for a while. Your brain activity tends to focus on other things rather than your pain. You may be thinking, "I have to get to the day care to pick up my daughter before it closes," or "I have to be at that 9:00 presentation at work."

Or maybe you're like many of us and are just too busy to go to the doctor for what you think is just a bruised knee. That bruised knee could turn into something else when you start overcompensating for it.

And sometimes the pain may not seem like much at first. Maybe a 1 on a scale of 10. But the moment you feel pain or discomfort, that's a red flag. It's your body's way of telling you something is off. Something is wrong. You hurt something in your body. You may not feel any pain right away, but it can kick in later. Maybe even one or two days later.

The longer you wait to go to the doctor about your pain, the more you could be hurting your recovery and your legal case.

2. Why is it so important what I tell the treating doctor?

Whatever you tell the doctor is what they will write in your records.

You need to be specific and focus on your present injuries and exactly where you feel pain. Is your knee making a clicking or popping sound? Is there a dull ache or a stabbing burning pain? Does it give out? What is your pain level on a scale of 1 to 10? Don't try to "tough it out" and minimize your pain to the doctor. This information is what the doctor will use to determine your diagnosis and the treatment he thinks will help you recover. It is your responsibility to tell the doctor what you are feeling.

This is also the information the insurance company will pay very careful attention to. I've been doing this long enough to know some insurance companies may look for something from your records that they can use to try to minimize payment. And based on my experience, that initial meeting with your doctor is where they have tended to focus their efforts.

Be honest, but don't volunteer unnecessary information. What you say in your first few evaluations actually can count more than what you say seven months later. The insurance company may go back to the first day when you said "I have a little bit of pain." You know your mind was on something else - picking up your daughter or getting to that meeting, and you didn't even think of what you were saying. Regardless, the insurance company may use it anyway. I've seen this happen.

3. Why do I need to keep up consistent medical care?

Whether you were injured in a car wreck, hurt on the job, or have a Social Security Disability claim, one of the most important things you can do to help your case is keep up your medical care. Doing this will not only put you on the path to recovery, but you will have legitimate and accepted documentation that you are injured and undergoing treatment for your injuries.

Medical treatment is what helps bring value to your case. We rely on your treatments, medical records, and medical bills to help give value to your claim. If you don't have medical bills because you have not been to your treatments, that makes your claim all the more difficult.

The things we try to collect for are medical expenses, lost wages, and sometimes pain and suffering. But the majority comes from medical treatments. That is one of the reasons people come to us for help. They can't pay their medical bills after a car wreck or work injury. Your medical records show the issues you suffered and how much you paid for treatment.

If a doctor prescribes treatment for any length of time and you don't abide by your doctor's orders, the insurance company may view this as negligence on your part and possibly claim you are impeding the healing process. And they may not want to pay you as much or at all.

4. Why can't I see my chiropractor first if I only have a soft tissue injury, like whiplash?

If you are severely injured you should go directly to the ER. Otherwise, go to your primary care doctor immediately. Urgent care would be a last resort just because they don't know your history and they generally don't treat patients long term.

For a variety of reasons you want to make sure you initially see a licensed medical provider, such as your primary care doctor, a physician's assistant, a nurse practitioner, or other licensed medical providers of this nature.

First, a primary care provider can prescribe you medicine for pain and inflammation, etc.

Second, as I mentioned earlier, your primary care provider will evaluate you, determine what they think is wrong, and develop a treatment plan to help you recover. That may or may not involve going to a chiropractor for adjustments. The doctor may feel your recovery plan should involve physical therapy instead of chiropractic treatment. But it is your treating doctor who should be the one managing and monitoring you and your treatment plan with any other medical professionals.

Finally, records from a primary care provider who has prescribed a sound treatment plan tend to hold more weight with the insurance companies than injured patients who self diagnose or come up with their own recovery plan. In the insurance company's eyes, having a medical doctor advising you carries more weight and can potentially help your case.

5. Why can't I be in charge of my own medical treatment plan?

From the insurance company's perspective, having a licensed physician at the helm of your overall treatment plan is the best course of action for your recovery. It is the most credible evidence we can present to try to get them to pay your medical bills. Plus, a doctor should know what is best to help you try to get back to the state you were in before your injury.

Because we have dealt with insurance companies for so long, we know what they need to possibly pay your claims.

6. Why is my lawyer and paralegal so concerned with my medical care?

We act as our clients' advocate in so many ways. Without someone advocating for your medical treatments with the goal of helping you get better and trying to get compensation from the insurance company for you, we have seen some unfortunate situations.

Let me tell you a story.

We had a client come to us complaining of back, hip, and pelvic pain after a car accident. Our client had already been seeing a doctor who previously ordered an MRI of his back and hip.

For some reason, our client went back to the doctor's office just prior to the MRI and saw the physician's assistant (PA). (It is generally ordinary procedure to see the PA after the doctor has evaluated you first.) We don't know what transpired during that visit, but whatever it was led the PA to cancel the MRI. Our client went back and forth in pain, seeing the PA for months.

When he hired us, we looked hard through all his medical records back to day one. We finally uncovered that the doctor had never given him an official diagnosis! That is very likely why he ordered the MRI - it would have potentially given the doctor an image of where the injury had occurred and what the client's treatment plan might have been going forward. He had been treating for back pain all this time, yet he was having hip and pelvic pain. That test could have been the lynchpin our client needed to show the insurance company why he kept going back and forth to the doctor for all those months, and the documentation he needed to get them to pay for his medical bills.

Our first concern was, how are we going to try to help our client get better? If we try to get the doctor to order an MRI months later, insurance is not going to pay for it because there was no initial diagnosis! And this poor man had no health insurance. Without an MRI, how can we say his pain was from an injury he had sustained in the car accident that happened so long ago?

At the end of the day he did not get treatment he needed because he did not have someone like us, to advocate on his behalf from the beginning. By the time we stepped in to put all the puzzle pieces together, it was too late for him to get the MRI that could have helped show what was wrong. While we were able to collect from insurance*, sadly, he is still in pain.

It all goes back to initial communication, evaluation, and documentation from the doctor and having someone like a good lawyer advocate on your behalf sooner rather than later.

We do a lot of advocating here. A lot. Most people just don't realize how important these things are to their recovery efforts.

In my opinion, this is an area where I think our people have really added value above and beyond. As advocates, we are essentially helping to encourage you to communicate what is necessary, follow up, and try to keep all your appointments. And we collect all that documentation to show the insurance company the evidence and proof they may need to calculate a potential compensation amount.

At the end of the day it's hard to argue with well documented facts.

NC Personal Injury Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

If you've been injured in an accident and need an advocate in your corner, click here to ask someone if our firm may be able to help. Or call us at 1-866-900-7078.

 

* 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. Client identity has been removed or changed to protect privacy.

What Is My Workers’ Comp Case Worth?

Many people considering a workers' compensation claim want to know "How much is my case worth?"

It's a complex question, and can sometimes depend on who's holding the calculator. Here are three primary factors that will affect how much you're paid.

Click here to get a free professional opinion on how much your workers' comp case may be worth. No strings attached.

3 Factors That Can Determine Your Workers' Comp Benefits

Three key elements go into determining the value of a workers' comp case:

  1. Impairment rating
  2. Indemnity benefits
  3. Future medical treatment

1. Impairment Rating

Once you have reached what is known as Maximum Medical Improvement (when you've healed as much as possible) but you're still not the same as you were before your injury, your doctor should assign an impairment rating to the part of the body that was injured.

An impairment rating is worth a certain amount depending on your compensation rate at your job and the part of the body that was injured. Your compensation rate is 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the 52 weeks prior to your injury. The part of the body that was injured and the rating is significant in this formula because the North Carolina Industrial Commission has determined that specific body parts are worth a certain number of weeks of your compensation rate.

For example:

Spine = 300 weeks
Leg = 200 weeks
Arm = 240 weeks

Let's say you injured your left arm at work and your authorized treating physician has assigned a 10% impairment rating to that left arm. Your compensation rate is $350, based on the following formula:

10% of 240 weeks = 24 weeks
24 weeks x $350 salary = $8,400
You would be entitled to $8,400 for that rating

Unfortunately, that means if you have low wages, and therefore a low compensation rate, your impairment rating will not be worth as much as another employee with a large compensation rate. Based on the above scenario, if your compensation rate is $100, that same 10% rating would only equal $2,400.

That's why making sure your compensation rate is calculated accurately is extremely important. We've found additional money for lots of clients by looking more closely at their compensation rate and sometimes finding that overtime pay or additional work days had not been factored into their compensation rate.*

We can help you try to get a second opinion on your impairment rating.

2. Indemnity Benefits - or Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

Another factor taken into consideration when determining the value of your workers' comp case is how much the insurance company may have to end up paying in indemnity benefits (disability benefits). Indemnity benefits are the weekly payments the workers' comp insurance company makes to you when your authorized treating physician has written you out of work or has assigned work restrictions your employer cannot accommodate. This is also known as Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.

Our firm has been representing injured workers for a long time. And one of the many things we've seen is that insurance companies don't want to have to write these checks to you for any longer than they have to.

Many factors affect how long you may be entitled to these checks. Whether they continue to pay you TTD or try to settle your case is a numbers game to them to try to ensure they pay you as little as possible. Here are some of the factors they consider when deciding how much and how long to pay you.

Date of Your Work Injury Affects TTD Benefits

  • If you were injured on or after 6/24/11, you can receive a maximum of 500 weeks of TTD.
  • If you were injured prior to 6/24/11, you could potentially receive TTD for the rest of your life.

Work Restrictions a Factor in Workers' Comp Settlement Amount

We may be able to help you maximize your indemnity benefits by working to prevent you from returning to work in a job that is outside of your work restrictions.

If you have temporary light duty restrictions with minimal medical treatment, and are expected to be able to go back to your regular job performing the same duties as before your injury, the insurance company may be less likely to pay a large sum to settle your case. However, if you have permanent restrictions that prevent you from returning to your pre-injury employment or other work, the insurance company may have more incentive to settle your case as soon as possible, rather than potentially paying you years of TTD.

While we cannot tell your treating physician what restrictions to assign you, we can try to make sure your doctors are aware of what your job entails and fight on your behalf to get reasonable restrictions - or a second opinion from another doctor.

As is the case with impairment ratings, your compensation rate plays a big factor in determining how much money the insurance company may have to pay you for being out of work.

Salary a Factor in Workers' Comp Settlement Amount

If you have a compensation rate of $350, the insurance company knows that if they have to pay you for being out of work for a year they'll spend $18,200. However, if your compensation rate is only $100, even if you are out of work for a year, the insurance company only has to pay you $5,200. They may be more likely to settle earlier on if it they believe it might cost them more to continue paying you TTD.

Pain and Suffering NOT a Factor in Workers' Comp Cases

Many of our workers' comp clients are surprised to find out that pain and suffering are not taken into account in workers' comp. No matter how much frustration and suffering your work injury has caused.

3. Future Medical Treatment

Your claim will also be more valuable if your authorized medical physician recommends significant medical treatment for your workers' comp injury than if there are few or no medical recommendations.

If you have a shoulder injury, for example, and your physician recommends a rotator cuff repair surgery, the insurance company may be more inclined to pay you more to settle your claim quickly so they don't have to pay for that surgery. On the other hand, if you have a shoulder injury and your physician says you only need some physical therapy, the insurance company may likely be more motivated to simply pay for your physical therapy instead of paying you more to settle your claim.

As you can see, there are many nuances in workers' compensation law. Thousands and thousands of legal pages have been written to explain these nuances. It can take an experienced workers' comp attorney to understand and interpret these laws to help you try to maximize these factors to your advantage.

We can help you try to ensure your physician knows the full extent of your injuries. And we can help monitor your progress with the doctor and the insurance company. 

A good workers' comp attorney can do more than that! They can help you try to get a second opinion on your impairment rating if the first rating is too low, based on your injury. They may be able to help you maximize your indemnity benefits by working to prevent you from returning to work in a job that is outside of your work restrictions. And while they cannot tell your treating physician what restrictions to assign you, they can make sure your doctors are aware of what your job entails and fight on your behalf to get reasonable restrictions - or a second opinion from another doctor.

Choosing a Workers' Comp Lawyer

You're reading this blog for a reason. Are you getting the run-around from your insurance company? Are you confused by the rating and compensation process (you're not alone)? Is your insurance company trying to force you to settle? Are they withholding checks?

If you're struggling with your workers' comp situation and you think you may need an attorney, download this booklet: How to Choose a Lawyer for Your Workers' Compensation Claim. We think you'll find it valuable - particularly the interview questions to ask attorneys, which we made into its own separate printable.

If you follow the tips in this booklet, we believe you'll find a good attorney for your case. Of course, we believe our attorneys embody the qualifications and ideals you should seek when looking for a workers' compensation attorney. Six of our attorneys are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in Workers' Compensation Law. (Very few attorneys in in North Carolina can make that claim.) We're committed to helping you understand your options and arming you with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision that's right for you.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From Our North Carolina Workers' Comp Attorneys

Contact us anytime or give us a call at 1-866-900-7078 if you have questions or concerns about your workers' comp case. We're available to you 24/7.

 

* 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.

 

How Can I Appeal a Denied WC Claim?

You were clearly injured at work. You file a workers' compensation claim with your employer's workers' comp insurance carrier.

You're denied.

Now what?

How Can You Be Denied Workers' Comp If You Were Clearly Injured at Work?

There's no shortage of reasons behind this often-asked question. Sometimes claims are denied because the employer alleges the injury was not an accident or because it occurred as a result of a normal work routine. Sometimes not reporting the injury right away could result in denial. Sometimes the employer might simply lie and say you weren't injured on the job.

Bottom line is this, I've seen some of the very entities that are supposed to protect my clients in the event of injury try to protect their bottom line instead. And if that means doing everything in their power to deny benefits, then the injured worker could be up the creek without a paddle.

That's because the insurance companies, third-party administrators, and even employers have all sorts of "legal" loopholes they can pull to try and avoid paying. The workers' comp system in North Carolina has become more and more obscure and can sometimes take even our best talent and legal resources (and we have many!) to sort through their entangled rules, guidelines, and processes.

What You Should Do After You're Injured on the Job

First, seek medical assistance. Then provide written notice to your employer immediately after the injury. This can be in the form of a text, email, letter - just make sure it is in writing so they cannot come back and say they were never notified.  Notice should also be filed with the Industrial Commission (the workers' comp "court") within 30 days on a Form 18, which you can access by clicking here.

Yet what happens when you've followed those steps, but you're still being denied benefits?

What Should You Do If You're Denied Workers' Comp?

If you've been denied workers' compensation benefits, you're going to need the NC Industrial Commission to force the insurance company's hand.

If your employer and/or insurance company denies your claim, you can file a request for hearing on a Form 33, which you can access by clicking here.

But be careful. How you present your case during this hearing will have a huge effect on how much (if any) workers' comp benefits you're able to collect. You really have two options. You can present your case without an attorney or with an attorney.

Denial Hearings - Without an Attorney

When you file Form 33 without an attorney, a hearing will be scheduled before a judge - the Deputy Commissioner. The role of North Carolina Deputy Commissioner is something I am very familiar with. I held that position for 10 years. I can tell you from experience that it is very difficult for an injured employee to win without legal representation.

For example, here is what your hearing might look like when representing yourself:

Your hearing will usually be scheduled within 90 days after you file Form 33.  At your hearing, you and any witnesses you present will be allowed to testify.

Typically you will need an expert medical witness in order to prove your case. These witnesses typically do not come cheap. Physicians are not required to appear at the hearing. So you may not be able to get one to testify (they are very busy and expensive to boot).

What many people do not realize is that if you represent yourself, the judge is more limited in how he or she can receive the testimony of any physicians involved, and this can cause delay with the decision on your case.

Denial Hearings - With an Attorney

We advise that you secure an attorney before you file Form 33. If an attorney is involved, the North Carolina Industrial Commission will allow physicians to testify by deposition and will, in most cases, require your employer and/or the insurance company to pay for the costs of up to two physician depositions who can testify on your behalf.

Furthermore, if you secure an attorney, the Commission will order your employer and/or the insurance company to meet with you and your attorney to discuss settling your case.

If you have a strong case, the employer and/or insurance company may be willing to settle for a reasonable amount at this meeting.

But let me emphasize an important point:

We will not take your case unless we believe we can get a better result
for you than you could get for yourself 1.

Get a FREE Evaluation From NC Workers' Comp Lawyers

When you contact us for a free case evaluation, we'll tell you point blank if we think we can help you more than you could help yourself1. And if we can't, click here for our booklet which outlines information you can use to attempt to go through this process on your own.

If you decide to choose us to represent your rights, you'll have the collective experience and knowledge of several experienced workers' comp attorneys (some of whom previously represented the "other side"), as well as paralegals and others who have previous experience working for the insurance companies. Seven of our attorneys are NC Board Certified Specialists in workers' compensation law. (This is the highest level of specialization available in NC, and only a small percentage2 of NC attorneys can make that claim. Very small.) And in 2017 our firm received the highest ranking possible by U.S. News - Best Lawyers® "Best Law Firms" for workers' compensation law in the greater Raleigh area3.

Click here for a free case evaluation or call us today at 1-866-900-7078.

 

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.

Based on figures provided by the N.C. State Bar as of December 31, 2015.

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

How to Drive in the Snow in North Carolina (And Other Safety Tips for Wintry Road Conditions)

Nick says there could be up to six inches of snow the first weekend in January 2017. When the weatherman utters the S word, area neighbors look to Nick. He hasn't been wrong in years.

By the way, Nick is 12. And he's gotten it right every time since the ripe old age of 9. (We don't know how he does it!)

One thing Nick cannot tell us though is how to manage a two-ton vehicle as it is sliding sideways into another two-ton vehicle. Nick thinks that's cool. We don't.

There's a reason North Carolina's schools and businesses close at even the tiniest hint of snow in the forecast! With NC's topsy-turvy weather, snow often melts and refreezes, turning roads into ice-skating ponds that even our northern transplant drivers have trouble navigating.

And even if you're as experienced in winter-weather driving as Santa, keep in mind that may not be true for everyone else on the road. Here are some guidelines to go by when driving in winter weather.

Don't Underestimate Freezing Temperatures and Roads

Think...

  • Is my trip so urgent that I need to put myself and others in potential jeopardy?
  • Is my car prepared to handle the conditions I may face on the roads?
  • Is there another way for me to handle the task, or can I wait until conditions improve?

Preparing for Driving in the Snow

If you decide to travel out into the winter weather, the best way to keep yourself out of harm's way is to prepare yourself and your vehicle as best as possible.

  • Check weather conditions in advance.
  • Have communication Charge your cell phone in case you need to communicate with authorities or others (but don't communicate while driving). Let your friends and family know you will be going out and let them know when to expect you. Fill up your gas tank.
  • Test your heating and defrost Have your battery and antifreeze levels checked and don't forget to fill your windshield wiper levels. All that roadway salt and sand can obscure your vision quickly and often.
  • Check your brakes and make sure your tire pressure is inflated according to what the owner's manual suggests for driving in snow.
  • Check tire tread depth. Tires.com suggests you should have at least 5/32 of an inch tread to maintain good mobility on snowy roads. To easily check to see how much tread you have, place a quarter into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Washington's head is covered by the tread, you have more than 4/32" of tread depth remaining.
  • Keep a winter emergency supply kit in your car. This can include a variety of things, from a blanket and gloves to a flashlight and batteries, or a candle to keep warm in case you get stranded, and cat litter, sand, or salt in case you get stuck. Click here for a list of other potential items.

Driving Safely in Snow and Ice

  • Excessive speed is the main cause of crashes during winter weather. Maintain a safe distance and drive slower than usual.
  • Clear as much snow and ice from your car as you can. And don't forget your headlights and tail lights and the roof of your car - you don't want snow blowing in your windshield or someone else's.
  • Drive smoothly and avoid sudden accelerating, braking, and turning.
  • Do not use your cruise control.
  • When driving over bridges and overpasses, be particularly careful. They ice up first since they're not connected to the soil and the ice may be hard to see. Don't apply brakes while on a bridge. The recent icy rain in Raleigh just a few weeks ago saw most of the accidents on bridges and overpasses.
  • When intersection traffic lights are not working, proceed as a four-way stop.

What to Do if Your Car Skids in Snow

  • Try to remain calm.
  • Don't brake unless you have to. Then brake gently.
  • Anti-lock brakes: apply steady gentle pressure
  • Standard non-ABS brakes: pump your brake pedal gently
  • Don't accelerate until your vehicle slows down enough to regain some traction with the road. Then gently accelerate.
  • In general, if you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas and turn the steering wheel in the direction of the slide. Braking will cause you to further lose control of your vehicle.
  • Rear-wheel skids. Turn the steering wheel in the direction your rear wheels are headed.
  • Front-wheel skids. Shift into neutral and don't try to steer immediately. When your vehicle begins to slow down, steer in the direction that you want your vehicle to go. Then, put the vehicle into gear and gently accelerate.

What to Do If Your Car Gets Stuck in the Snow

  • Pushing the gas pedal and spinning your tires will only dig you in deeper. Turn them from side to side to help clear snow, and then turn the steering wheel so the tires are as straight as possible.
  • Use a shovel to clear the snow in front of and behind your tires.
  • Spread cat litter, sand, or salt in the cleared areas around your drive wheels.
  • NCDOT suggests that you might try rocking the vehicle back and forth, but cautions you to check your owner's manual first; as some vehicle transmissions might be damaged by this. Shift from forward to reverse and back again, using a light touch on the gas pedal. Again, don't spin your wheels.

AAA offers very thorough tips which build on this information and so does the NCDOT. Click here to access the AAA page and here for NCDOT's website.

North Carolina Car Wreck Lawyers

If, despite Nick's prediction, you decide to venture out and you are injured by someone else in a car wreck, contact us.

  • Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer received 3.5 times1more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own.
  • We are one of the largest personal injury law firms in North Carolina and have vast resources to draw from.
  • We have recovered over $600 million2 total for more than 30,000 clients since 1997.
  • We have more than 150 staff members, including over 35 attorneys.
  • Several of our lawyers have achieved peer- and client-reviewed designations including Best Lawyers Best Lawyers in America 20173 and Lawyer of the Year 20174; Super Lawyers Rising Star 20165 and Super Lawyer 20166.

  See for yourself some of the things clients have to say about us.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Lawyers

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.

 

P.S. Click here if you want your teen driver to learn hands-on defensive driving techniques under simulated hazardous conditions. There's a non-profit organization in NC that offers instruction around NC and the U.S. It's free (donations) and taught by former race car drivers, police, professional stunt drivers, and other professional drivers.

 

 

1  Insurance Research Council 1999.

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

3  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. Over 52,000 leading attorneys cast more than 5.5 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

4 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 information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.bestlawyers.com.

5 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 information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com.

6 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 information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com.

Am I in Danger of Being Deported If I’m in a Car Wreck But I Am Not a U.S. Citizen? (And 10 Other Things Undocumented People Want to Know)

Car accidents are terrifying. And sometimes they're even scarier if you're worried about discrimination or even fear being deported. We understand.

Don't let that fear cause you to make bad choices. If someone is negligent and injures you, you're supposed to be given the same care and respect as any U.S. citizen.

"Supposed to" is key. As a non-U.S. citizen, you may have to take extra steps to try to make sure you're treated fairly.

That's what this blog is about, but click here
if you want to skip reading and talk to someone right away.

 

Why You Have to Be Careful After an Accident If You're Not a U.S. Citizen

I and many of my James Scott Farrin colleagues do a lot of community work - particularly in the Spanish-speaking community. One question I hear a lot from our Latino neighbors is: "What should I do if I'm injured in a car accident but don't have papers or a driver's license?" They're understandably afraid.

North Carolina accident laws are designed to try to help protect anyone who is injured in the state - documented, undocumented, U.S. citizens, and citizens of other countries.

Yet sadly, oftentimes we see adversarial behavior toward our non-citizen clients, especially Latinos, by some insurance companies and others. We have seen some of them try to intimidate these clients just because they don't speak English, don't have a driver's license or proper documentation, or they're not a U.S. citizen.

The Insurance Company Believes You Won't Go to Court - Blatant Discrimination?

In our booklet Insurance Companies Behaving Badly, one employee recounted a story about an insurance adjuster who said they had a video contradicting what our client said about how she got her injuries. In mediation, we proved it wasn't our client on the video, but the defense continued to deny the claim.

In response, we launched discovery into the insurance company's treatment of Hispanic clients. They ended up settling the case for six figures*.

When you mess with our clients, you mess with us. We'll play hardball. We do not appreciate bad behavior.

My Best Advice: Get Free Advice from an Attorney

A large portion of the cases I resolve in any given year are for non-U.S. and undocumented residents. Every time I think I've seen it all, an insurance company will come along and surprise me again.

My advice when you're injured in an accident is to call an attorney right away. There are just too many ways insurance companies can affect your claim. Most attorneys will do an initial consultation for free, and if you ultimately choose to hire them you could potentially end up getting more for your claim.

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

And if you think you cannot afford an attorney, think again. At our firm, you pay nothing upfront. We work on a contingency basis, which means if we don't get you compensation, you don't pay any attorney's fees!

What to Do After an Accident If You Are Undocumented

When undocumented people call me after an accident and ask what to do, I tell them their initial steps are the same things anyone should do after an accident.

If you or someone else is injured, call 9-1-1. If your injury is serious, you may not have time to collect all the facts, and that's OK. Your health comes first.

Don't be Afraid to Report the Accident to the Police

In order to make a claim for your damages and your injuries, you must be able to prove the accident happened. You should call the police. Don't be afraid. The purpose of calling is so the responding police officer will conduct an investigation and make an official report of the accident.

Never trust the at fault driver to report it on his own. He may later deny the accident ever occurred. By then it will be too late to contact the police, and you could be stuck paying for the crash yourself.

Suppose I got a ticket for no U.S. driver's license? Will this affect my claim?

No. You should not ignore your ticket, as it may have other legal ramifications, but you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries and any damages to your vehicle, whether you have a license or not.

Will I be in danger of being deported if I have no drivers' license and make a claim?

Generally, you will not likely be deported simply because you make an insurance claim after an accident where you received a ticket for driving without a license.

Gather Facts

Get as much information as you can while you are still at the scene, or immediately thereafter. Write down:

  • Date and time of the accident
  • Location of the accident
  • Other driver's name and license plate number
  • Police report number
  • Investigating officer's name
  • Witnesses names and their contact information, including phone number

Take Pictures

With your cell phone, someone else's cell phone, or a camera, take pictures of:

  • All vehicles involved
  • Any property damaged by the wreck
  • Any visible injuries
  • Tire marks and debris in the roadway

Seek Medical Attention

Even if you feel fine, you should probably see a doctor. It's not uncommon for people feel fine in the minutes and hours immediately after a crash, when adrenaline is high. Many people don't start to feel the effects of a wreck until hours or even a few days later.

But if you don't see a doctor and something starts to feel worse, you won't have any documentation that your injuries are related to your accident and an insurance company may deny your claim.

 

10 Things Most Non-U.S. Citizens Want to Know After a Car Wreck

As I mentioned previously, a large number of my cases are non-citizens. Here are the top things most want to know.

1. I don't have health insurance, can I go to the doctor?

If you are injured, you should seek immediate medical attention. There are options for those without health insurance.

2. Will the adjuster send me to a doctor?

No, it is your responsibility to obtain medical treatment. The adjuster does not direct treatment, or work directly with any specific doctors.

3. My injuries seem minor; can I just wait and see if they go away?

While your injuries may seem minor, only a medical doctor can confirm this. Sometimes injuries left untreated become worse or even permanent. If you do not seek medical attention in a timely manner, the insurance company may try to deny compensation for your injuries and related medical bills.

4. My car is not drivable, how can I go to the doctor?

It is your responsibility to obtain medical treatment, with or without transportation. Ask a friend or family member to give you a ride or take the bus. If you don't get yourself to the doctor, you could prolong your pain. Without medical treatment, the insurance company will conclude you were not injured in the wreck, no matter how much pain you are feeling.

5. Should I call my insurance company?

Even if the accident is not your fault, you should contact your own insurance company to let them know you have been in a car wreck. You may have coverage available on your own policy that you can use without affecting your rates. If you are the owner of the vehicle involved in the crash, you should open a claim with the at-fault insurance company for your property damage. Do not go into detail about your injuries or treatment. It is enough to tell them you are injured and under a doctor's care.

It is not wise to sign anything without first speaking to an experienced attorney; you may be signing away your entire case!

6. The adjuster said he needs my Social Security number, but I don't have one. Can I still make a claim?

Yes, if you are injured in a car accident, you may have a right to compensation, regardless of your citizenship status.

7. The adjuster wants a recorded statement, should I give one?

Probably not. The insurance company knows how to protect their own interests. You may think there is no harm in telling your story, but liability laws are complicated and you could do irreparable damage to your case.

8. I am not fluent in English, how can I communicate with the adjuster?

Most insurance companies have Spanish-speaking staff, and if not, have translators available. Request to be contacted by a Spanish-speaking adjuster, or a translator.

9. The adjuster said the other driver has no insurance, what can I do?

There may be other types of coverage available to you to cover your losses. Inform your own insurance company the at-fault driver was uninsured.

10. The adjuster says he will pay for everything, so I don't need an attorney, right?

No! You have no guarantee the adjuster will pay even a portion of your bills. Often at the end of the case the adjuster will offer to pay only a few of your expenses. You should decide for yourself if you need an attorney in your case. Don't let the adjuster make this decision for you.

The insurance company has adjusters and attorneys working for them to make sure they come out on top. Sometimes an adjuster will give you misleading information, or try to scare you out of pursuing your rights. Each case is unique, and while you may not hire an attorney, it is a good idea to speak to an experienced attorney to discuss the nuances and issues or your particular case, and find out what your options are.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation by Experienced NC Car Crash Attorneys
We're always here for you to try to help you protect your rights - documented or undocumented. Contact us anytime for a FREE case evaluation or call at 1-866-900-7078.

We have both Spanish-speaking staff and attorneys available to help you.

 

*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 cannon be predicated upon a lawyer's or law firms past results. These are specific examples of experiences we have had with some insurance companies, adjusters, or others. These stories do not necessarily represent any industry as a whole. These descriptions of events are based upon the recollections of individual staff members. Client identities have been removed or changed to protect their privacy.

**Insurance Research Council, 1999

Road Rage Rages During the Holidays (Tips on How You Can Steer Clear)

For many North Carolina residents there's no avoiding travel during the holidays. Shopping. Visiting. Parties. And the usual commutes to work, kids' games and practices. Time is tight. People are stressed.

And road rage rages.

Just in the past couple of months:

A man pulled a gun on another driver while at Concord intersection during a road rage incident.

A Hoke County man was shot and killed when an enraged driver plowed into his car, pulled out a gun and shot him.

At UNC Greensboro two cars tried to block another car that was carrying a young passenger. One of the drivers pulled out a gun.

What in the world is going on?

I'll tell you what is going on.

More Stress + More Cars + Less Time = ROAD RAGE

People are stressed. Some are impaired by alcohol or drugs (including prescription drugs). Many are in a hurry. And some are just plain rude.

An article in Psychiatry MMC, published on the National Institutes of Health website, offers this:

"Up to one-third of community participants report being perpetrators of road rage, indicating that various forms of road rage are relatively commonplace. ...The most common offenders appear to be young and male. A number of factors may contribute to road rage, including environmental factors (e.g., greater number of miles driven per day, traffic density), nonspecific psychological factors (e.g., displaced aggression, attribution of blame to others), and ... alcohol and substance misuse. ... Some reasons include borderline and antisocial personality disorders."

Why Is Road Rage Higher During the Holidays?

Why is road rage on the rise during the holidays? We've been representing accident victims since 1997, and here's what we've observed:

  • Traffic. This one almost goes without saying: the more traffic, the more likely it is for drivers to get frustrated and angry. With tens of thousands of extra cars on the road, the holidays become a breeding ground for road rage, especially during peak travel and shopping times.
  • Unfamiliarity. Thanks to our mild climate in North Carolina, we see a lot of friends and relatives coming from out of state for the holidays. Unfortunately, that means there are many more drivers on the road who don't know our roads well.
  • Unsafe maneuvers. One reason out-of-state drivers are disproportionately likely to cause road rage accidents is that they may potentially make unsafe maneuvers because they are not familiar with the roads. And tailgating, switching lanes, and making turns without signaling can all lead to road rage. Even something as simple as slowing down to try to read street signs can trigger rage.
  • Shopping and parking. Parking lots are some of the most common places road rage can happen any time of year. When the holiday shopping season hits, the parking lots at the Tanger outlets in Mebane and even your local Walmart can become a mob scene. Too many cars vying for limited parking spaces can turn ugly fast.
  • Seasonal stress. The stress of coordinating guests and celebrations, shopping, planning, decorating and all of the other tasks that come with the holidays can lead to an increase in stress on the roads.
  • Celebrations. Motorists who go out of their way to enjoy the holidays may be at risk of road rage. Holiday parties can lead to late nights out, and lack of sleep can contribute to road rage. Likewise, drug and alcohol use can cause drivers to become aggressive and impatient with others.
  • Winter weather. Winters in North Carolina generally aren't bad, but we all remember the ice storm of January 2015. Even a little snow or sleet can contribute to road rage.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) lists even more reasons you might find worth reading.

What to Do If You Are Confronted By an Enraged Driver

If you are confronted by an enraged driver, DMV.org suggests being the bigger person and showing remorse by:

  • Waving to the other driver
  • Mouthing that you're sorry
  • Allowing plenty of room for them to pass you
  • If it gets out of hand, call 911 as soon as it is safe to. And don't get out of your car if someone confronts you.

How to Keep Road Rage in Check

You can't control other drivers' behavior, but you can take steps to try to keep yourself safe from aggressive drivers. Here are a few ways to avoid being hurt in a road rage accident:

  • Make sure you're OK to drive. Be conscientious of whether you're too stressed, frustrated, or tired to get behind the wheel. If your safety is at risk, consider if those errands can wait.
  • Plan ahead. Just know there will be heavy traffic and give yourself enough time to get your tasks done. Plan your shopping trips and other errands before you leave home. If it's possible to arrange your schedule to go during off-peak hours, you'll be much safer.
  • Avoid distractions. Distracted driving can lead to missed green lights, failure to signal, and other maneuvers that could trigger road rage.
  • Stay calm, no matter what. If you witness road rage, the absolute safest thing you can do is not respond. Don't make eye contact, and certainly don't hit your horn, tailgate, or antagonize the other driver.

If you feel yourself getting stressed because of another driver, Psychology Today suggests you practice stress breathing in your car: inhale for a count of four, hold for count of four, exhale for a count of four, hold for a count of four, and repeat as many times as necessary to help bring your pulse rate and blood pressure back to normal levels.

The article goes on to suggest that you keep your perspective. You cannot control, coerce, or fix the other driver. But you can control you. Focus on being "relentlessly positive" and practice kindness, starting with you first.

Like my grandmother used to say, "You catch more flies with honey than vinegar."

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Car Wreck Lawyers

If you or someone you love has been injured by an aggressive driver in a road rage incident in North Carolina, contact us now for a free case evaluation or call us at 1-866-900-7078.

How Do You Choose a Workers’ Comp Attorney? FREE Resource Can Help.

It's bad enough you were injured at work. Now you're having problems with your workers' compensation insurance company or your employer - or both?

So you decide you need to hire an attorney. Hiring an attorney is a major decision in its own right. But now you need to narrow down your choices from the thousands of workers' compensation lawyers in North Carolina.

Enough already! We have a tool that can potentially help you cut through the jargon and marketing-speak to decide who might be best for you.

FREE Resource Can Help You Choose a NC Workers' Comp Lawyer

Because we heard from so many clients how difficult and time consuming it was for them to wade through all the websites for workers' comp attorneys, TV ads, etc., we developed something to help cut through the noise.

How to Choose a Lawyer for Your Workers' Compensation Claim is an online resource FREE to anyone.

It not only highlights certain qualities you might want to consider in a workers' comp attorney, it includes a handful of important questions every potential client should consider asking a lawyer before hiring. So we also turned it into a printable sheet of interview questions for potential clients.

First, we suggest narrowing your initial choices to a manageable number - much as you might do when hiring a home contractor. Once that's decided, contact each one by phone to set up about 15 minutes to ask the questions on this checklist.

You may have more questions of your own, but we believe this is a good starting point.

And remember to read "between the lines." Listen for answers, of course, but also listen for a genuine concern for your issues and willingness to represent you.

Need Help?

If you have additional questions others may not be able to answer, feel free to contact us or call us at 1-866-900-7078. We'll do our best to try to help you find the answers you need.

Holiday Party Hosts Better Watch Out - You Could Be Liable for Injuries Drunken Guests Cause. (10 Things You Need to Know)

If you plan on being the holiday host or hostess with the mostest this season, here's something you should know.

If your mostest includes alcohol and your guests overindulge, you could potentially be on the hook if they wreck their car and kill or injure someone. As a matter of fact, you could be held liable if they trip over a tree root while stumbling home and chip a tooth.

In North Carolina you can be held responsible for whatever happens to your drunken guests after they leave your party. If it's bad enough, you could find yourself ringing in the New Year with unwanted legal fees and court costs.

You might think your friend wouldn't sue you over their own drunken negligence. Perhaps not. But those they injure sure could - especially if they had a good North Carolina personal injury lawyer. If my client was seriously injured because of the negligence of another, I'd go after each and every negligent party I could find.

Whether it's a holiday party, Super Bowl party, or a back-yard brunch, you don't want to be held liable because your guest caused personal injury. I've seen these types of situations ruin lives in certain instances.

How Is a Party Host Liable in NC?

Liability extends to anyone who provides alcohol to guests. North Carolina law says that when an intoxicated guest causes an injury or accident, the injured person may be able to seek damages from the host if they:

  • Provided or served alcohol
  • Knew or even should have known the person served was drunk
  • Knew the person would be driving after drinking alcohol served at the party

Let's say, for example, you had a holiday open house at your new home in Winston-Salem. A guest who lives in Greensboro is among the first to arrive and the last to leave. You really haven't paid much attention to how many times you've refilled his glass. When he's ready to drive home, it doesn't occur to you that he may be impaired, because he seems coherent and alert. And besides, you assume that he's responsible enough to sober up before driving back to Greensboro. On his drive home he crosses over the center line of Route 421 at Willow Bend and crashes head on with a mini van carrying a young family. Thankfully no one is killed, but all of them sustained significant injuries. The driver was blinded by the airbag chemicals, the mom broke her back in three places, and one of the three children in the backseat sustained a severe concussion from which she will never recover.

Don't think for one minute that family isn't going to get a good North Carolina personal injury lawyer to try to sue him and you for everything they could possibly get. With all the medical bills they'll have to pay - and significant time out of work for mom and dad for their injuries - they'll need every penny that's potentially coming to them.

Do you really want that responsibility on your shoulders? Unless you have a whopping umbrella policy, you could possibly lose just about everything you own. Life for everyone - including you - will never be the same.

It's just not worth the risk.

If you're planning a holiday party this season, here's a list you'll want to check twice before your guests enjoy that first glass of holiday cheer.

10 Ways to Minimize Your Liability When Hosting a Holiday Party

  1. Consider using a professional bartender who is used to recognizing early signs of
  2. Serve food with proteins and fats which can help absorb the effects of alcohol.
  3. Offer a variety of soft drinks, coffee, tea, and water in addition to alcohol.
  4. Stop serving alcohol at least an hour before you expect guests to begin leaving.
  5. Have an Uber, Lyft, taxi number, or app handy or at least one or more designated driver services throughout North Carolina (some will even take the guest's car home). Why not provide a designated driver for them if your guests live close by?
  6. Ask one or two of your guests to monitor the crowd for potential problems and to take the initiative to offer rides to those who seem to need it.
  7. Make sure your guests know you want them to have fun, but to act responsibly.
  8. If you see a guest that's suspect, take their keys if you have to. (Remember friends don't let friends drive drunk.)
  9. Encourage your guests to wear their seatbelts while driving home. If they're involved in a car crash, they'll be better protected.
  10. Be open to overnight stays if an intoxicated guest cannot get a ride home. An air mattress is cheaper than a lawsuit.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident as a result of a drunk driver - or any driver - contact us or call 1-866-900-7078.

 

P.S. 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 own*.

 

*Insurance Research Council, 1999.

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.

Contact Information

Raleigh Law Office

5848-100 Faringdon Place
Raleigh, NC 27609
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

517 Owen Drive
Fayetteville, NC 28304
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

201 McCullough Drive, Suite 220
Charlotte, NC 28262
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Greenville Law Office

702 G Cromwell Dr.
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

214 South William Street, Suite 3
Goldsboro, NC 27530
Phone: (919)-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

3202 Sunset Avenue, Suite B
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078