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

What Happens if You Can’t Recover From an On-the-Job Injury?

When you’re injured on the job, getting better becomes your job. What happens, though, if you can’t recover fully? Following medical treatment due to a work injury, a medical provider or physician will release an injured worker from treatment once he or she believes that they have reached “maximum medical improvement” or MMI. Basically, the worker is “as good as he or she can get.”

What Happens if I Reach MMI?

Often, despite this release from treatment, an injured worker has not necessarily made a full recovery and continues to suffer from some permanent partial impairment or disability. A medical provider will assign a percentage of impairment to the injured body part once the worker has reached MMI.

Previously, an injured worker could only recover a specified amount if the injury to their particular body part was listed in the WC statutes – and that was their only remedy. This was and is referred to as a “scheduled injury.”

This changed more than 30 years ago, and now, an injured worker may elect the most beneficial remedy available to them, depending on whether it makes more sense to either recover for the scheduled injury or receive partial or total disability benefits. The choice between recovering for the injury and the disability benefits is an important one to consider. For this reason, it is important to consult an attorney to make sure an injured worker is receiving the best outcome for their situation.

What Happens if I am Disfigured, or Have Permanent Scarring?

Sometimes there are instances of serious facial or head disfigurement or serious bodily disfigurement as a result of the work injury. The workers’ compensation law allows certain benefits to be “stacked” or combined.

For example, if an injured worker is assigned an impairment percentage rating to their arm following a surgical procedure, but the arm has permanent disfigurement due to surgical scarring, then he or she may be able to recover not only for the percentage that was assigned by their doctor upon reaching MMI, but also due to the disfigurement. The two benefits stack.

Here’s another example. Let’s say a worker sustains serious burn injuries to their leg, resulting in permanent impairment of the leg. That leg is also permanently disfigured due to the scars from the burns. In this case, he or she may be able to recover for the scheduled injury and percentage of disability that was assigned by their doctor in addition to recovery for disfigurement.

Who Decides How Am I Compensated for Being Disfigured?

Compensation for serious bodily disfigurement is discretionary. Prior case law has defined serious bodily disfigurement as “an outward or external, observable blemish, blot, scar, or mutilation” that is permanent and mars the appearance to the extent it is repulsive to others and it may reasonably impair that person’s ability to secure future employment considering their past work experience, age, and other factors.

There is wide discretion for the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) to determine awards for serious bodily disfigurement and no present loss of wages is required. Compensation for serious facial or head disfigurement, on the other hand, is not discretionary and it is mandatory.

Under the law, the determination of whether an injured worker has sustained serious facial or head disfigurement is a question of fact to be decided by the NCIC. The definition of facial disfigurement is similar to the previous definition for bodily disfigurement but it is slightly different with regard to the ability to obtain future employment. Under the law, the Industrial Commission may award proper and equitable one-time distribution not to exceed $20,000 for serious facial or head disfigurement or an amount not to exceed $10,000 in the case of serious bodily disfigurement.

When Is Permanent Disability Certain?

With regard to permanent disability, under the law, the loss of both hands, or both feet, or both legs, or both eyes, or any two thereof shall constitute total and permanent disability. Regarding vision loss, where there is 85% or more loss of vision in any eye, then this is deemed “industrial blindness” and the injured worker will be compensated for the total loss of vision of that eye.

If You’ve Been Injured at Work, Consult an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney

Being hurt on the job is tough situation, and some injuries can be truly life-altering. It’s important to know you’re getting the benefits to which you’re entitled, especially if your injury has long term effects. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation by calling 1-866-900-7078, or you can reach us online.

How Do Various Types of Insurance Coverages Work Together After an Automobile Collision in NC?

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

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

What Is Liability Insurance and What Does It Do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When Enough Is Not Enough: Underinsured Motorist Coverage

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bodily Injury: Medical Payments Coverage and How It Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is There a Comprehensive List of Impairments That Social Security Considers Disabling?

Many people with serious medical conditions find themselves wondering, “What does it take for me to get approved for disability benefits?” Unfortunately, there is no quick answer. When the Social Security Administration (SSA) reviews disability claims, they look at many factors of the claim before making a decision.

The SSA will look at your age, your education level, your prior work history, your medical conditions and how your medical conditions affect you. Once they view the full picture, the SSA will make a determination as to whether they think your medical conditions stop you from working.

Because the SSA will look at factors other than your medical condition when determining if you are disabled, there is no exhaustive list of medical conditions that SSA considers disabling. However, there are some conditions that the SSA recognizes as severe. The disability claims containing those recognized severe conditions may receive special consideration while the disability claim is being processed.

The (Non-Comprehensive) Listing of Impairments and How It’s Used

The SSA does have a Listing of Impairments, also called the Blue Book, which contains a list of severe medical conditions that can be considered disabling and can qualify someone for disability. The Listing of Impairments establishes the criteria that need to be met for someone to qualify under the listing. Because the listing is utilized to quickly identify disabling conditions, the criteria can be extensive and hard to meet. To assess the strength of your claim compared to a listed condition, you can look to see if your condition matches the listing.

If your medical condition is included in the Listing of Impairments, you will want to carefully review the specific medical listing and the criteria to see what medical evidence the SSA will need to determine that your condition matches, or “meets” the medical listing. The criteria can be anything from lab results, procedures done by your medical team, the duration of time that you’ve had the condition and how the condition affects you day-to-day.

If you are not sure if you meet the listing, you can ask your medical provider to review it with you to see if all the criteria have been met. If you do not meet all of the criteria, you may be able to get approved if the SSA believes that your condition “equals” the listing.

Equal Versus Meet on the List of Impairments

Meeting the listing criteria means you have all of the evidence you need to prove you have the listed impairment. Equaling the listing means you may not have all of the evidence the criteria require, but are functionally the same.

Arguing that you equal the listing, or have medical equivalence, means that your medical condition has the same severity level of the listing criteria even if it does not meet the exact listing criteria. The SSA understands that the criteria are rigid and that someone may have the same condition at the same severity level but not check all the boxes. To evaluate your condition, the SSA may have a medical provider examine you to see if your conditions are severe enough to be equivalent to the medical listing.

Reviewing the List of Impairments and the Compassionate Allowances

Take a few minutes to review the Listing of Impairments on the SSA’s website. The medical conditions will be separated by type of illness. For example, if you have Asthma, you will want to look at Listing 3.00 for Respiratory Conditions or if you had a Stroke you will want to look at Listing 11.00 for Neurological Conditions.

Remember, the Listing of Impairments covers a broad range of conditions and it is possible to have more than one Listing condition. Take the time to review the Listings thoroughly. The Listings are found here: https://www.ssa.gov/disability/professionals/bluebook/AdultListings.htm

Separate from the Listing of Impairments is a shorter, more specific list of conditions that the SSA has developed to easily identify conditions that are considered to be automatically disabling. The Compassionate Allowances list is a list of extremely severe conditions that are clearly disabling, and therefore require less evidence to process the claim.

A lot of terminal illnesses and cancers are on the Compassionate Allowances list. These conditions qualify for expedited claims where people can be approved for disability within a couple weeks. If you would like to see if your medical condition qualifies for a faster, Compassionate Allowance claim, you can view the Compassionate Allowances list here: https://www.ssa.gov/compassionateallowances/conditions.htm

Make Your Claim, and Speak to an Experienced Social Security Disability Attorney if You Have Questions

Remember that the SSA will look at your entire application when deciding on your disability claim. So if you do not meet or equal a Listing condition or qualify for a compassionate allowances claim, you can still be approved for disability.

The process can be confusing, and claims are often denied. Don’t be discouraged. Contact an experienced Social Security Disability attorney at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online. We have a NC State Bar Board Certified Specialist in Social Security Disability Law and several people with experience working in the Social Security system. We’ll listen to you, review your information, and help you understand what to do next.

No Female Crash Test Dummies = Women at a Greater Risk for Injury or Death

Did you know that the first attempts to study car crash impact used cadavers, live animals, and even live humans as recently as the late 60s? They were the precursors to the crash test dummies of today, which are human-like versions of an average man. But therein lies the problem. The average size, weight, and shape of a man in the 1960s was representative of many of the drivers at the time, but as time went on, the “average driver” evolved — but the crash test dummies evolved much slower.

The standard crash test dummy is a 171-pound, 5’9” androgynous, faceless dummy, modeled after an average male in the 60s and 70s. This means the safety statistics you see when researching car safety are likely based on studies conducted on an outdated dummy.

Now consider these recent statistics:

Car Crash Research Initially Left Out Women

Leaps and bounds have been made in improving car safety technology since the 70s, when the auto industry started using crash test dummies that had been originally developed to test ejection seats in jet planes.

The automotive and research industries were male-dominated fields when car crash dummies were first used. The idea behind it, of course, was to reduce fatalities in the event of a car crash. It was highly successful, as cars were developed with the results of those studies built into the design. And the NHTSA agrees that newer cars are safer cars.

But safer for whom?

Men are surviving automobile crashes, but women are still getting injured and dying at a higher rate, simply because the impact of an automobile accident on women isn’t as thoroughly studied. Regulators asked the NHTSA to create a female dummy in the 1980s. That is to say, this is not a novel issue that’s recently come to light.

There are crash test dummies now for pets and obese people, but the female crash test dummy still represents the smallest 5% of American women back in the 1970s.

Female Crash Test Dummies: A Recent Development

You may or may not be surprised to learn that it wasn’t until 2003 that the NHTSA finally put female crash test dummies in a car to conduct research on a car’s safety. Even then, she still rides as a passenger or doesn’t ride at all.

Perhaps even more surprising? She’s just a smaller version of the male dummy. At five feet tall, 110 pounds, she can also double as a 12 or 13-year old child. According to the Center for Disease Control, the average woman today is 5’3” and 170.5 pounds. Moreover, the female dummy doesn’t take into account the biomechanics of the female anatomy.

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), women account for about 50% of the drivers on the road.

Women’s Bodies React Differently to a Car Crash

A wide variety of factors affect women that don’t affect men, and vice versa. Lynda Tran, a spokesperson for the NHTSA told a Washington Post reporter in 2012, “Studies show that women, having smaller bones and lower bone density, are at greater risk than men of suffering injury or death in crashes. Their less muscular necks make them more vulnerable to whiplash. In general, smaller people cannot tolerate crash forces as well as can full-sized men.” More here.

Jason Forman, a scientist at UVA’s Center for Applied Biomechanics and the principal researcher for the study mentioned earlier in this blog, said in an interview with CityLab, “’We obviously know a lot of ways that men and women are different bio-mechanically,’ he says, in terms of both body size and shape. Female pelvises, for example, are generally wider and shallower than those of males, and fat is distributed differently. Females typically have more tissue concentrated around the waist and thighs, while in males it’s more concentrated around the belly.”

Safercar.gov, a website powered by the NHTSA, lists the safety rating for cars on the road, if you’re interested in seeing how your vehicle rates. Note that two out of the three tests assume the driver is male, and those are the results that are reflected there. In the third test, a female driver crashes from the side into a pole.

Whatever the case may be, the safety rating of a car is certainly something to consider with your next vehicle purchase or lease.

North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer: We’re Here to Help if You’ve Been in a Car Crash

We’ve been in the business of fighting insurance companies and protecting North Carolinians harmed by negligent parties since 1997, and we’ve helped recover more than $1 billion for over 43,000 clients since then.*

We’ll evaluate your case for free, and we don’t collect an attorney’s fee unless we get compensation for you. If you’ve been in an auto accident in North Carolina, call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us here.

Tell your insurance company you mean business.

 

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

Categories: Posts

The Rules of the Road: How Failing to Maintain or Repair a Vehicle Can Spell Negligence in Court

We’ve all seen them. Those cars on the road that we look at and wonder, how is that thing still moving? How did it pass inspection? Who would drive a vehicle that’s in that condition? They’re idle thoughts, but there is a very real threat. A poorly maintained or malfunctioning vehicle is more prone to failure. Crashes follow.

Notice, I do not say accident. Any crash caused by a driver’s failure to maintain a vehicle or affect repairs to critical systems is not an accident – it’s a choice. And, if the court sees it that way, a negligent driver may be on the hook for thousands in damages or more.

The Basics: What North Carolina Law Requires in Regards to Vehicle Condition

As every driver in North Carolina knows, a vehicle has to pass a yearly safety inspection in order to have its registration renewed and be legal to operate. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but let’s focus on the vast majority of cars on the road that must pass inspection.

The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles requires the annual safety inspection to be completed no more than 90 days prior to the renewal of the vehicle’s registration. It’s a simple but thorough inspection by a licensed mechanic, who uses a checklist established by the state to ensure the vehicle is safe to operate. In addition to safety, 22 counties also require an emissions inspection at the same time.

The safety inspection covers:
* Lights and signals
* Braking systems
* Steering systems
* Tires
* Horn
* Mirrors
* Windshield wipers
* Exhaust system
* Window tint

If something does not pass the safety inspection, the driver will be notified and the vehicle will require repair or maintenance in order to pass the inspection and be registerable to drive.

Consequences on the Road – and in the Courtroom

People who drive vehicles with critical components in poor condition are asking for trouble, on the road and beyond. Operating a vehicle in such a way is negligent, and if that can be proven, insurance may not cover the damages incurred in an accident.

Bear in mind, an accident with property damage is bad enough. What if someone is injured or worse? These consequences rarely come to mind at the time, but they’re very real.

The case law is cautionary.

Lights Lights Lights

You have to have sufficient light on your vehicle for driving conditions. It’s not just so you can see the road – other drivers have to see you. Whether we’re talking headlights, tail lights, brake lights, or turn signals, make sure they’re all working.

The precedential case law comes from the 60s here. In White v. Mote, a town was sued because its employees failed to have lights on their work vehicle. Perhaps the court in Scarborough v. Ingram said it best: “The statutes prescribing lighting devices to be used by motor vehicles operating at night (G.S. §§ 20-129 and 129.1) were enacted in the interest of public safety. A violation of these statutes constitutes negligence as a matter of law.”

In other words, if you operate a vehicle without proper lighting equipment, you’re acting negligently. And in case you’re wondering, according to Bigelow v. Johnson, strapping a flashlight to a vehicle does not meet legal requirements.

Bad Tires Are a Bad Decision

Take for example the case of Scott v Clark. In this case, two pickup trucks were approaching each other on a highway. One of the trucks suffered a blowout of the front left tire, causing the driver to lose control, swerve into the oncoming lane, and strike the other truck killing its driver.

It was found that the driver of the truck that suffered the blowout was driving on a used mobile home tire on the left front corner of the vehicle. The tire was specifically labeled as such. Furthermore, it had only 15-20% of its tread remaining, and numerous holes. The tube inside the tire was satisfactory, but the tire was entirely unsafe. (This was in the 60s, and some automotive tires still used tubes at the time.)

The state requires tires to be in good condition. Check your tires every so often – not just yearly at the inspection!

Steering Away From Danger

It seems pretty simple to most people that if your vehicle has a steering issue, you should have it towed – not drive it. The law basically says the vehicle must be equipped so that a driver can safely operate it.

This should not be confused with a failure of the steering parts while in operation. The law does not expect us all to be mechanics. However, when we are aware of a problem with our steering mechanisms, we’re expected to cease operation of the vehicle and have the issue remedied.

So, if a state inspection finds that there are steering parts in need of replacement and you continue to operate the vehicle without doing so, you risk an accident and may be held liable for negligence!

Stopping Power

Brakes may be the most ignored part of vehicle safety systems. It’s not usually easy to tell when the brake pads, drums or rotors are worn. With lights and tires, a visual inspection is simple. Modern brakes will make noise when they’re at the end of their life, and changes in braking performance should alert drivers to the need for inspection.

If you knowingly operate, or allow to be operated, a vehicle with faulty brakes as in Wilcox v. Motors Co, the law will hold you negligent. Unexpected failures, such as the one in Mann v. Knight, are not negligent.

In Other Words…

Much of the case law that informs the idea of operator negligence in vehicles depends on what someone knowingly did. If you did not know or could not reasonably know of a defect, you cannot be held negligent. A vehicle inspection is a record of information.

Insurers and Negligently Poor Vehicle Condition

Let’s start with this: Because the other driver can always argue that they were not on notice of the poor condition of the vehicle, insurers usually have a basis to fight negligence in these cases.

Of course, every North Carolina driver is required to have some form of car insurance. The driver at fault usually bears the brunt of the claims – through the insurance company that’s covering them. If a driver is proven to be negligent by operating an unsafe vehicle, the insurance company is going to fight hard to avoid paying claims.

This is because most of the insurance policies, if you bother to read them, are agreements on both sides. The insurance company agrees to cover the driver, but the driver agrees to be responsible for how they conduct the task of driving, and that includes the condition of the vehicle.

For example, let’s say a driver knows his car has a problem that reduces its safety on the road – in this example, let’s say his vehicle inspection revealed a leak in his brake lines. He chooses to drive the car in that condition for the next few weeks, never quite finding the time to have it repaired. Then, he rear-ends someone during a commute, totaling both vehicles and injuring the other driver. His insurance company could very well fight any payout because he was driving the car knowing the brakes were bad, and surmising that the rear-end collision was the result of ineffective braking equipment.

This could cost the driver tens of thousands of dollars. First, the other driver’s insurance company isn’t going to want to pay for their insured’s medical bills or car. The faulted driver’s insurance isn’t either. He could be left holding the bag. He’ll surely be sued for those damages. The uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on the victim’s policy may engage, but it may be well short of the amount necessary to make the victim whole. The rest is coming from the faulted driver’s pocket.

Makes a few hundred dollars’ worth of repairs seem like a real deal, doesn’t it?

If You’ve Been Hurt in a Crash That Was Not Your Fault, We’re Here to Help

Being injured in accident means you’re in pain, adds stress, and may make it difficult to work and earn a living. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we understand. Let us handle your case so you can focus on getting better. For a free case evaluation, call us at 1-866-900-7078 or click here.

Vaping Illnesses Strike Teens as Number of Lawsuits Grow

The Latest From the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control have been researching vaping-related illnesses throughout the country. Progress is finally being made on what they term EVALI (E-cigarette/Vaping Associated Lung Illness). More can be expected.

It has been determined that vaping products containing THC, specifically those from unofficial sources like friends, family, or in-person/online dealers, are linked to most EVALI cases and play a major role in the outbreak. THC vaping oils contains an additive called Vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is strongly linked to the EVALI outbreak and, in 82% of EVALI cases, victims vaped THC-containing liquids.

Alarming Risks to Teens

Daniel Ament never dreamed he would have a double-lung transplant at the age of 17, but it was necessary in order to save his life. Like many of his friends, Daniel vaped e-cigarettes and occasionally THC. Unlike his peers, Daniel ended up in the hospital with a severe, life-threatening illness due to vaping. The transplant saved his life, but he will forever feel the effects. After graduating high school, he planned to enlist in the military, but that option is no longer possible. With these horrifying events behind him, Daniel now advocates to stop teen vaping.

Christy D'Ambrosio has taken on a similar quest to stop teen vaping. Her son, Ricky, was 21 when he was admitted to the hospital for respiratory failure and eventually a medically induced coma. She went to the media with pleas for prayers and support to save her young son’s life. Christy, like many other parents, was unaware of the extent of her son’s vaping – that it had been going on for five years and had gotten to the point of an addiction. Doctors struggled to find explanations for Ricky’s symptoms. It wasn’t until they learned he’d been vaping that they determined the cause and were able to save his life. When Christy went to Facebook with a picture of her son in the hospital, she captioned the post with a plea for everyone to stop vaping, tell others to stop, tell everyone to stop. Her post was shared more than four thousand times.

At the end of 2019, the youngest patient to die from EVALI was reported – a teenager only 15 years old. Before that, the youngest was a 17-year-old from New York. The teen was hospitalized twice previously for symptoms related to vaping. His death was the first in the state of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo made a public announcement regarding the boy’s death and made a plea to both parents and teenagers to recognize the risk: “You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff,” said Cuomo.

Everyone should be fully aware of the risks and effects of vaping. No substance is worth altering someone’s entire life. Just because something is easily obtained doesn’t make it safe. Parents should be aware of their children’s possible e-cigarette use and warn them of the risks.

Delivery Drivers and Insurance: Who Takes the Hit in an Accident During a Delivery?

Someone taps to order some food from their favorite delivery service app. The driver gets the order and heads to pick up the meal and to deliver it. Somewhere along the way, that driver is in an accident. What happens next?

The question seems simple enough, but due to the nature of these delivery apps, it’s more complex than you think, and depends greatly on your perspective. Let’s dig in.

Car Insurance Complications for Food App Delivery Drivers

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft require their drivers to have car insurance, and then cover them further with a liability policy. Many states have adopted rules and insurers have created new products to cover the rapidly evolving share economy. What many do not know is that ordinary car insurance does not cover a driver working as a rideshare service.

If you read your insurance policy, for example, you’re likely to find a section that deals with “livery” or “commercial use” of your vehicle. Specifically, the policy excludes such uses from its umbrella of coverage. Drivers may be delivering food instead of people, but the underlying principle is the same.

These types of uses involve different risks to vehicle drivers and owners, and as such, their coverages will differ. This matters when a driver is not carrying the correct type of insurance for the work they’re performing. As a whole, a study by the Insurance Information Institute found that 13% of all drivers were underinsured. Given the confusion about policies and terms of service, one can safely assume that drivers working for delivery services could have a higher rate of underinsurance.

None of this matters until the driver is at fault in an accident. If you’re injured by that driver’s error, it certainly matters to you.

The Order of Insurance

When an accident happens and insurance coverage is triggered, it is triggered in a certain order. The insurance on the vehicle comes first, even if it’s not driven by the owner. So, if you’re driving your mother’s car for example, the insurance she has on her car would be primary. Your insurance, as the driver, would be secondary. Any other insurance would only come into play after those policies. If you are driving your own car, then your insurance as the driver and the vehicle’s insurance are one and the same. In the examples to follow, “driver’s insurance” assumes the driver owns the vehicle being driven.

If Delivery Driver Is at Fault in an Accident, How Are They Covered?

In this scenario, someone who is hit and/or injured in an accident when the delivery driver is at fault has a few options. The quest for compensation begins with the vehicle’s insurance. As previously noted, this may not be much help if the driver was underinsured or did not carry the correct type of coverage for the activity in which he or she was engaged.

However, most of the different services and apps seem to offer additional coverage for their drivers, though they are not created equal. And in some states, such as New York, the rules are entirely different. Generally speaking, though, here is what you can expect.

DoorDash

DoorDash provides its drivers with a $1m contingent liability policy. However, the policy only covers drivers “in possession of goods to be delivered.” In other words, they’re covered when they’ve picked up an order to deliver it – not when they are on their way to a restaurant or leaving a delivery. Additionally, the policy only kicks in after the driver’s personal policy is exhausted.

GrubHub

Drivers for GrubHub receive no additional insurance whatsoever.

Amazon Flex

Drivers for Amazon Flex have $1m in primary liability coverage including contingent comprehensive and collision coverage, and $1m in underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. This policy covers drivers as they “deliver packages, pick up packages and return undelivered packages back to a designated location.” Some of this coverage requires a driver to have certain personal insurance in order to qualify for the benefit.

Postmates

Similar to DoorDash, Postmates offers its drivers $1m in contingent liability coverage. Again, this is only used once the driver’s own auto insurance coverage is exhausted. They also include a similar policy for deliverers who work on foot or ride bicycles.

Uber Eats

Uber Eats is a subsidiary of Uber, which is run through a company called Portier LLC. They have a commercial liability policy that covers drivers “from the moment a driver accepts the request to deliver meals or goods to the time the delivery is complete.” They also provide contingent comprehensive and collision coverage, and liability coverage for drivers who are between trips.

Why Does This Matter to You?

Well, if you’re injured in an accident and the delivery driver is at fault, you need to know how you could be compensated for the damage done to your property and your medical bills. The primary case would be with the vehicle’s insurance. The company’s policies would possibly kick in if the vehicle and driver’s insurance were insufficient.

Now, in the case that there was some sort of corporate negligence, that would enable you to go after their corporate policy without relying on that of the driver. For example, if the company was negligent in its screening of drivers, or allowed drivers to work more than a certain number of hours, that could be considered negligent.

The bottom line for you, if you’re injured by one of these drivers, is that there might be more insurance available than the delivery driver’s policy, but it can be a confusing process to try and figure out what might be available. Be aware that there is data available on the driver’s app that might show how long the driver has been driving (in case fatigue was the cause of the wreck), GPS, speed, along with other pertinent data. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to obtain and preserve such evidence.

What if I am a Delivery Driver?

You’re in a risky business. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, delivery and other sales jobs involving driving were the 5th most dangerous job in 2018. When you go to work for these delivery services, you’ll be handed a contract, and if you read it carefully, you’ll find out you’re probably not an employee. You’re in independent contractor.

As an independent contractor, you’re on your own in a great many ways. Foremost is that you’re using your vehicle for the purposes of the delivery service. As stated above, most personal auto insurance policies specifically exclude such uses for purposes of coverage. You should contact your insurer and ask them what would be required to obtain coverage for the use you intend. The delivery service you’re working for will deny liability, because you are not an employee unless they specifically provide coverage.

If you’re in an accident and you’re relying on your regular auto insurance coverage, your claims are going to be denied. Do not expect the company to validate that you have the right kind of insurance, either. That’s entirely up to you.

And if you try to hide what you were doing, an insurance investigator is going to dig up the truth – which means you’re then on the hook for the damages AND insurance fraud. It’s not worth it. Get the right insurance!

What if I’m Driving for a Delivery Service and I’m Injured by Someone Else?

Then you’re going to go after that person’s insurance. It likely will not matter to your insurer at that point, depending on the insurance rules of your state. In North Carolina, the at-fault driver’s insurance will be the one who pays, with additional liability for uninsured and underinsured drivers kicking in as necessary.

If I’m Delivering and I Get Injured, Can I Apply for Workers’ Compensation?

The answer is probably no if you’re an independent contractor. As an independent contractor and not an employee, you’re not covered by workers’ compensation benefits in the state of North Carolina. The independent contractor agreement you sign with all of these services means you’re, essentially, self-employed.

If You’re Injured in an Accident Through No Fault of Your Own, Contact an Experienced Attorney

Let someone with the right tools and experience navigate through the maze of insurance on your behalf. Focus on getting better, and let us fight for you. The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin work hard for clients just like you. If you or someone you know needs our help, call the HurtLine 24/7 at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

Vaping-related illness and death increasing, answers are not

As reported in February 2020, the number of vaping-related illnesses in the United States have topped 2,800 with deaths reaching nearly 70.

The Centers for Disease Control is working around the clock to identify the cause of this seemingly sudden outbreak in vaping-related illnesses. The ongoing investigation provides regular updates on the CDC website regarding those affected and what they know:

  • Investigation spans almost all states, more than 2,000 patients, and a wide variety of brands, substances, and e-cigarette/vaping products
  • 2,290 cases of E-cigarette/Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) have been reported to the CDC from 49 states
  • 47 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia
    • Median age of deceased patients is 53, ranges from 17 to 75
  • Of the studied illnesses:
    • 68% were male
    • 77% were under 35 years old, the youngest being 13

Symptoms of Vaping-Related Illness

Reports continue to fill the news regarding individuals getting sick from vaping. What exactly is happening? And should you be concerned? In short, yes. Among the growing list of health problems attributed to vaping, some symptoms include:

  • Coughing, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, fever, or weight loss

Contact a medical professional immediately if you regularly use e-cigarettes or vaping devices and experience any of the above symptoms.

The damage being done to lungs is extensive. Some individuals are admitted to the hospital with minor symptoms and are released. They continue to use e-cigarettes and are later readmitted. Some of the known cases of vaping-related illnesses have found the following damage to their lungs:

  • Inflammation
  • Damage that resembled exposure to inhaled toxic substances, like from a chemical spill
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (fluid in the lungs that impedes oxygen getting to the body)
  • Pneumonia-like symptoms and illness

Possible Causes

The numbers of deaths and illnesses related to vaping continue to rise. So do the questions, but not the answers. The common factor in these illnesses is vaping. Beyond that, there is only speculation about what else could be the cause.

The CDC found one common denominator in vaping illnesses – the additive vitamin E acetate. The vaping-related illnesses are seen in individuals vaping THC, tobacco, or a combination of the two, but most illnesses (83%) come from vaping products containing THC. Vitamin E acetate is an additive specific to THC vaping and has been found in the diseased lungs of those studied by the CDC.

There are also concerns regarding those looking to save money by purchasing “off-brands” and buying products online from unverified sources. Some of these online products are acquired illegally and have not been verified by the FDA. The CDC has stated: “The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.”

The severity of illnesses related to vaping has driven the American Medical Association (AMA) to call for a ban on all e-cigarette and vaping products that have not been approved by the FDA for use supporting those attempting to quit smoking traditional tobacco products.

The dangers of e-cigarette use are very real. Many, as we are seeing, are still alarmingly unknown. Individuals continue to become ill and even die due to a product previously deemed “safe.”

Parents Are Taking Back Control of their Kids’ Health by Suing Vaping Companies over Deceptive Marketing

With the rise of vaping and e-cigarette use in the country, we are seeing the long-lasting health effects of prolonged use for teens and young adults.

Many parents are now fighting back by suing vaping companies, like Juul, for targeting their teens.

“Are vaping or e-cigarettes a good alternative to smoking?”

The answer is a resounding NO!

In the past (and maybe until now), e-cigarette companies have advertised their product as something that can help people quit smoking. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) warns that vaping and e-cigarettes should not be promoted as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. In fact, here are a few reasons from the AHA website about why vaping and e-cigarettes are not a better alternative to smoking:

  • Most e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing brains of teens, kids and fetuses in women who vape while pregnant. Some types expose users to even more nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
  • In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette vapor includes potentially harmful substances such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to a serious lung disease), cancer-causing chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. Users breathe in these toxic contaminants, and non-users nearby risk secondhand exposure.
  • The liquid used in e-cigarettes can be dangerous, even apart from its intended use. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing the liquid through their skin or eyes.
  • E-cigarettes have been linked to thousands of cases of serious lung injury, some resulting in death. While the exact cause is still not confirmed, the CDC recommends against use of e-cigarettes.

Click here for more information from the American Heart Association.

Teens and e-Cigarettes/Vaping: Companies Get Richer, While Our Kids Get Sicker

On any given day, you’ll find articles in the media about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. Most of them are saying the same thing: that illnesses, diseases, and deaths connected to the use of such products continue to climb, especially in high schools and on college campuses. This should come as no surprise, because “Juul-ing,” “vaping,” and the like are marketed as cool, sleek, and offer flavored products that tend to appeal to a younger demographic. Not to mention their ability to be disguised from parents and teachers (see subsequent section on “What Is Juul?”).

As a result, courts all over the U.S. are seeing an increase in lawsuits being filed against some of the major companies manufacturing and distributing these products. In October 2019 , e-cigarette company Juul Labs (JUUL) was sued for allegedly deceptive marketing of its products to teenagers. The case was settled, and JUUL was handed specific restrictions on how, where and when it can advertise to teens and adolescents. Recent legislation banned the sale of some — but not all  — flavored vaping products, attributing fruit, mint, and dessert flavors as a source of appeal to younger demographics. Menthol- and tobacco-flavored products were the exception.

Yet the number of teenagers using vape products continues to increase. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS ) from 2019, teen cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, but e-cigarette use is increasing. The NYTS found that 5 million youth report having used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, with nearly one million reporting daily use.

Take a look at the numbers from the 2019 report:

Infographic describing the results of the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which surveys middle and high school students focusing on patterns of tobacco use.

What Is JUUL?

As mentioned in the above infographic, JUUL is the most popular e-cigarette brand for teens. JUUL  is shaped like a USB flash drive, enabling the product to be used right under parents’ and teachers’ noses (no pun intended).

The device itself heats a liquid (aka “vape juice”) that is turned into aerosol and subsequently inhaled by the user. Bystanders can also inhale this aerosol when the user exhales it into the air. The liquid contains nicotine, but with JUUL products the nicotine comes in the form of a salt. Nicotine salts allow a higher dosage of nicotine per puff.

What is perhaps most alarming is only one-third of JUUL users aged 15-24 know that JUUL always contains nicotine, and not just harmless “water vapor” according to CDC findings. Moreover, secondhand vapor can be harmful to others.

What Teens Are Saying About Vaping

In October 2019, a survey was conducted at Buffalo High School near Minneapolis, Minnesota (read  . The following are direct quotes from the high school students there about why they vape. We hope these can shed some light as to why vaping has become such a widespread epidemic in this particular demographic:

  • “I didn't want to be left out and miss out on the fun.”
  • “I think it was supposed to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. That's, like, not the case anymore.”
  • “Your friends do it, so why would you be that one person who doesn't do it?”
  • “People just assume it's good because you're not blowing smoke out of your mouth, you're blowing vapor.”

Help for Parents on How to Start a Conversation With Their Teenager

From this survey, you can get a sense of how teens feel some peer pressure and influence on their decision to start vaping. Perhaps part of the appeal of vaping is also the forbidden aspect of these devices. With e-cigarette and vaping devices being banned in schools, airplanes, public gathering spaces, and more, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon of creating vaping devices that are disguised as something else, such as hoodie straps, backpacks, smart watches, and phone cases, according to Healthline. The point is that vaping devices can be masked as anything these days, which can appeal to the younger generation.

If you are a concerned parent of a teenager, the first step is usually having an open, non-judgmental conversation about it with him or her. The CDC provides a parent tip sheet on how to broach this topic in ways that keep communication lines open; you can find it here.

While the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is not actively pursuing these cases, we hope you have found this information helpful.

Should you or someone you know need legal guidance in North Carolina:

Please do not hesitate to call us at 1-866-900-7078, or click here to contact us.

Contact Information

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Asheville, NC 28806
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Goldsboro, NC 27534
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Greenville, NC 27858
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Henderson, NC 27536
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Morganton, NC 28655
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New Bern, NC 28562
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Raleigh, NC 27607
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Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
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Rocky Mount, NC 27804
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Sanford, NC 27330
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Wilson, North Carolina 27896
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