What Should I Say to the Insurance Adjuster After My Accident?
I speak with clients all the time who have received calls from the insurance adjuster after their accident. They have already given a recorded statement about their accident and injuries before they have called us. These recorded statements are hazardous because the adjuster, who has done these interviews hundreds of times knows just what questions to ask, is always looking for a reason to deny coverage or get you to agree to something that may not be true, or to something that is even damaging to your case.
What you say in an unguarded moment may literally turn a good case into a denial. My message to anyone who has been injured by the negligence of another is to consult a lawyer before speaking to an insurance adjuster. We know what questions are going to be asked and can prepare you for these conversations and help you avoid saying anything that could potentially undermine your claim.
Regardless of what kind of injury you have sustained, I recommend declining to speak with the adjuster until you have spoken with an attorney who has helped you go over the questions that will be asked.
Don’t risk your claim being denied because of what you said in a vulnerable moment. If you have been injured in an accident give Oxner + Permar a call for a free consultation before you speak with an adjuster.
What Is Considered Contributory Negligence?
North Carolina is one of the few states in the US that still uses contributory negligence as a way of deciding whether or not an injured party can earn a settlement. The court will look at whether or not your negligence caused your accident. If your negligence contributed to your accident in any way, you could lose your settlement.
Let’s say you’ve been injured in a car accident. Any observer of this accident would agree that it was the other person’s fault. However, what was less easy to observe was the fact that you were speeding. When this case goes to court, they will look at whether or not your speeding caused your accident in any way.
The court determines that if you hadn’t been speeding, there’s a possibility the crash wouldn’t have occurred. Because of this, the court will be unable to award you any money in your settlement. This is because your speeding is considered contributory negligence.
However, if the court had determined that the crash would have happened regardless of whether or not you were speeding, then it would not be considered contributory negligence. In this case, the court would be able to grant you a settlement if they saw fit.
Usually a defense attorney will do everything in their power to show your contributory negligence, which is why it’s always a good idea to have an experienced attorney on your side when dealing with a personal injury case.
If you’ve been injured, don’t hesitate to contact Oxner + Permar. We can help you stand up for your rights and get you the benefits you deserve.
Binding Arbitration: When Not to Go to Court
I find that many clients assume the best way to win their case is to take it to court and make sure that it is heard by a judge and jury. The truth of the matter is that a trial isn’t always the best (or fastest) way to go about it.
For instance, I recently worked with a client who was injured by an uninsured driver and made a claim for underinsured motorist coverage. Our first step was to submit a demand to the insurance companies. They made an offer of $20,000. That might seem like a fair amount of money, but the reality of the situation was that it only covered the medical bills.
Rather than taking the matter to court, we demanded arbitration with the insurance carriers. They agreed to meet for voluntary mediation. During the mediation, the insurance carriers upped their offer to $30,000. However, they refused to negotiate any further.
I knew that my client deserved more than this, so we went to binding arbitration. Binding arbitration is like a very informal, mini trial in which the rules of evidence don’t apply. Instead, an impartial third party is brought in to hear both sides and decide on a ruling. In this case, the arbitrators came back with an award of $50,000 — $20,000 more than the insurance companies had offered us!
It just goes to show that sometimes the best course of action is to utilize binding arbitration when it is allowed. This kind of hearing can be efficient for settling claims and can result in rewards that are substantially higher than the original offers.
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully injured, be sure to contact an experienced lawyer at Oxner + Permar. With more than $275 million in awards and settlements, we know how to make wrongs, right.
What Qualifies as “Public Use” in North Carolina?
The U.S. Constitution is generally very careful about what the government can and can’t do. The Founding Fathers outlined a government that would not have the same tyrannical power as a monarchy like the U.K. So when the government is given power by the Constitution, it’s usually for something that would benefit the greater good. One such instance is that of “public use.”
The Constitution states that property may be taken away from individuals by the government for public use provided that the government pays a fair compensation. Traditionally this has been used to create public goods such as parks, highways, or schools. The general consensus is that this is a fair use of government power.
However, in 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court went a very different direction with what is considered public use. They ruled that a decision that encourages economic development is protected under public use. Therefore, if the city could gain a higher tax value by taking a woman’s home and allowing Wal-Mart to build on the property, they could do so under public use.
As you might imagine, this was a very divisive decision, and many people felt that it was an abuse of government power. As a result, many states decided to enact legislation that would strengthen their laws regarding eminent domain to combat this decision. Many states, such as South Carolina, have elected to exclude economic development as a basis for taking property. North Carolina on the other hand, has not enacted laws to strengthen property right protections.
Litigation Concerning the Map Act Continues
A recent hot topic of the eminent domain world has been the “Map Act,” and as such it has been the topic of our last few eminent domain posts. A quick refresher: the Map Act was a law in North Carolina that allowed city governments to stake claim on land that they were planning on using for infrastructure without having to put any money towards that claim. Recently the Court of Appeals ruled that the Map Act was improper as it caused the value of the land claimed by the government to plummet. The Supreme Court upheld the Court of Appeals’ ruling.
Excellent! The ruling has been upheld, which is great news. Unfortunately, this process is not complete just yet, however. The next step is for the initial trial court to implement the Supreme Court’s decision. Superior Court Judge Joe Craig’s ruling on the case outlined a list of requirements that the state must follow. One such requirement was that the state begins hiring appraisers to value the properties and set aside the appraised value of that property for compensation. The state has 90 days to evaluate and deposit the money for the 9 properties that were brought into question during the case.
Even with this ruling, there are still some uncertainties. For instance, it is unknown whether this is a complete taking or not. In other words, does the state have to buy the property in full? Or is it just compensation for the decreased value of the property that the state has to pay? It’s going to take additional litigation and time to resolve these issues. In the meantime, homeowners will face additional hardship and uncertainty, and the state will owe more money. We’ll be sure to keep you informed as things progress. If you have any questions about eminent domain and your own property, don’t hesitate to contact us.