Yearly Archives: 2016

What Should I Do After a Car Wreck?

Personal Injury

Victims of car accidents are often in situations that they don’t understand or know how to deal with. In addition there may be medical issues or insurance questions. To protect your rights, you need to know what to do after an accident.

The personal injury attorneys at Oxner Permar + Richardson have decades of experience helping accident victims get fair compensation for their injuries. Here are a few tips about what to do if you are in a car wreck.

  • 1. Gather Information:
    • a. At the accident: Get, or ask someone else to get, pictures of the scene and the vehicles involved. Get the names and phone numbers of people who saw the accident.
    • b. A few days later: Get a copy of the police officer’s accident report. This report typically includes what each person said, any witness comments, and a picture showing the vehicles positions. The report may be available online within a few days after the accident. The accident reports are helpful but sometimes incomplete or not quite accurate.
  • 2. Document your injuries: If you go to the hospital be sure to tell your doctors everywhere you hurt. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and make sure that your doctor understands exactly what your problems are. It is important to know that the other driver’s insurance company is not going to pay your medical bills, or pay you anything, until your case settles. So, if you have health insurance – use it! Using your health insurance will allow you to get medical care when you need it and keep your medical providers from sending your bills to collection agents.
  • 3. Expect a phone call: You may also receive a telephone call a day or two after the accident from an insurance adjuster who represents the other vehicle’s driver. Adjusters typically ask detailed questions about how the accident happened, the extent that your vehicle was damaged, and the nature of your injuries, if any. Be aware, however, that some of the questions asked by the adjuster are designed to determine whether you may have done anything that would indicate that you were at fault. For this reason you may wish to decline speaking to the adjuster beyond telling the adjuster that you were injured, you need a rental vehicle, and/or that you need to have your vehicle repaired, until you have the chance to speak with an attorney.
  • 4. Call your insurance company. Ask your insurance agent if you have “Medical Payments” coverage on your policy. This type of insurance may pay $1,000, $2,000, $5,000 or more towards your medical bills. That money can help you to pay for deductibles and co-pays that begin piling up after an accident.

Don’t worry! Now you know what to do if you’re the victim of a car accident. We hope it never happens to you but if it does you can always give us a call to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Living the High Life on Disability

Social Security Disability

Afternoon naps, limited household chores, and unscheduled days lounging around the house. Looking from the outside, being a Social Security Disability (SSD) recipient seems a like a great deal. Receive income without working? Fantastic!

What some people do not know is that those afternoon naps may be required because of chronic fatigue or negative side-effects of a prescribed medication. Household chores are limited because the disabled person is physically unable to bend/stoop/push/pull/lift without excruciating pain. Lastly, staying at home may be the only option if driving causes intense pain or being in social situations induces paralyzing panic attacks.

Some people believe the current SSD program encourages able-bodied people to stay out of work. While this dream-world might be true for a very small percentage of cases, if we look a little closer, a different picture begins to appear.

As of November 2015, the average monthly benefit for a Disability recipient was $1,165.76. That makes for a yearly income of $13,989.12, which is only $2,219.12 above the 2015 Poverty Guideline for a one-person household. Looking at these numbers, it becomes clear that Disability payments do not provide for luxury goods.

Just in case you’re curious – in 2014 the average able-bodied American’s salary was $46,481.52 a year.

Aside from the limited financial aspects, it is also important to remember that the majority of individuals receiving Disability payments are battling severe medical problems. Health dominates their thoughts, controls their actions, and affects their relationships with family, friends, and loved ones.

Lastly, did you know that 1 out of every 5 males and 1 out of every 7 females on Disability will die within 5 years of getting approved? This dire statistic supports the idea that those individuals would not have been active within the workforce, regardless of if they were on disability or not.

The Social Security Administration’s Monthly Statistical Snapshot can be found at: http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/

Winter Weather Got you Down?

Personal Injury

Slip and fall claims related to winter weather are typically tough to win.

The law states that a property owner is not the “guarantor” of a customer’s safety. Rather, the landlord has the duty to keep the premises reasonably safe and warn customers of any risks that are not apparent upon reasonable inspection.

North Carolina’s contributory negligence law says that a claim can be barred, even if the landlord is at fault, if the customer did not use “reasonable care” to protect himself from injury.

The technical laws are all well and good but how do they play out in real life?

A customer who falls on snow or ice in a parking lot cannot prevail if the winter weather is visible or could be seen by a reasonable person. In addition, we must be able to show what the customer fell in – simply slipping and falling is not enough. There must be some defect, such as water on a shiny floor, that cannot be seen. There are a few exceptions to this rule, like when a customer was distracted by an advertisement and tripped over something that he could have seen, had he not been distracted. But you should know that those cases are very few and far between. A good rule of thumb is that if you did, or should have, seen the hazard and you tripped on it anyway, you have no claim.

The type of cases that are typically most successful are those where the defect was hidden. One of Paul Daniels’ clients was walking down the steps at an apartment complex when a concrete step gave way. The client tore his rotator cuff while trying to maintain balance on the hand rail. After an investigation we discovered the apartment owner knew the steps needed repair – and had even marked some to be replaced. Importantly, the step that had collapsed had not been marked and that staircase was the only way to get to the client’s apartment. Paul Daniels obtained a six-figure settlement for the client.

Social Security Disability and Unemployment

Social Security Disability

When we speak with new clients my office goes through a list of questions that, at first glance, seem unrelated to a disability claim. Have you received unemployment? What is your education level? What do you do on a typical day? We don’t do this boring version of the “20 Questions Game” to be nosy or wastea client’s time. Instead, the answers to these questions can sometimes make or break a claim.

Unemployment:

Receiving unemployment benefits after the date you say you became disabled (“alleged onset date”) can be big issue. There is a conflict between saying “I am disabled” while certifying for unemployment. In order to receive Unemployment benefits the worker has to be *able* to work and *actively seek new employment.* Certifying that those statements are true for Unemployment while alleging, at the same time, that a person is disabled and *unable to work* doesn’t always add up.

There are long delays associated with disability applications and appeals; how are claimants supposed to survive when they cannot work? This is a tough question the Social Security Administration does not clearly address. In 2006 the SSA’s Chief Administrative Law Judge, Honorable Frank Cristaudo, issued a memorandum that stated that receiving Unemployment benefits did not make a aclaimant ineligible for SSD benefits. However, in 2011, a federal court case, Roberts v. Astrue, affirmed that a Judge was correct in using an application for Unemployment against the claimant.

Social Security judges are not consistent with how they approach unemployment. Some do not focus on the issue and leave it up to the State of North Carolina. Others will not award benefits for the time period when a claimant received unemployment; an amended onset date may be required.  Changing the onset date may impact the amount of retroactive benefits (“back-pay”) and the date of Medicare eligibility.

In short, when it comes to Unemployment, honesty is the best policy. If you decide to apply for Unemployment be truthful about your Disability application status. Also be sure your SSA Disability representative knows if you received unemployment benefits.

Social Security Disability and Activities of Daily Life

Social Security Disability

“Trying to get Disability is like going out to dinner with a nosy person who asks rude questions. It gives me the creeps!” My client called after receiving a package from the Social Security Administration (SSA) questioning her daily activities, pets, eating habits, and chores. In my client’s mind the SSA had gone too far. They already knew her age, weight, and personal medical details. Why did they need to know what she had for lunch?

At the initial and reconsideration stages the SSA often mails lengthy questionnaires (“Adult Function Report”) to both the claimant and the claimant’s contact person. While it is unlikely that the intent of these questionnaires is to be sneaky the SSA does consider the claimant’s answers to get information not always directly asked.

My experience is that the SSA is not looking at if the claimant had a chicken salad sandwich versus pizza for lunch. What the SSA is looking at is if the claimant regularly chops, stirs, and stands for three hours slaving over a tricky recipe. Does the claimant say he cannot walk more than five minutes but takes his Labrador for a 20 minute job every day? Or, does the claimant say she cannot be around people but is an active member of her church or local Girl Scout troop?

The best way to answer the questionnaires is truthfully. Did you dust the living room but then spent the next three days in bed? If you go to the store once a week but your son carries all the groceries to and from the car, tell the SSA! If, on the bad days you can’t get out of bed, but on the good days you might eat dinner with your family, let the SSA know! It is important to not exaggerate your problems – but it is equally important to not put on a falsely brave face. The Social Security Administration can only make a fair decision if they know the whole story.