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.
Will My Medical Malpractice Case Hold Up in Court?
When we visit the doctor, we’re putting our trust in them…counting on them to know what they’re doing and that they’re doing what’s best for us. After all, they’ve been to medical school and are trained to understand how the human body works and what we need when we’re sick or injured. However, doctors are human and as the saying goes: to err is human. So what happens when a doctor or other medical professional makes a mistake and you find yourself more injured in the process? Will an attorney take on your case?
This is one of those tricky situations in which I have to say “it depends.” Unfortunately, medical malpractice suits are often very complex and difficult. In 2014 of all the medical malpractice cases in North Carolina, only 147 of them received settlements. This means many attorneys can be very wary of these kinds of cases, and some won’t take them on at all.
It’s good to know that at Oxner + Permar we do take on medical malpractice cases. If you’ve been the victim of medical malpractice, we invite you to give us a call. That way we can assess whether or not your case will likely hold up in court. We have a lot of experience dealing with these kinds of cases, which means we know what we’re looking for. We won’t take on a case we know doesn’t stand a chance, but we can at least advise you on how to proceed. And in the case that you do have a court-worthy claim, we’re ready to stand up for you.
If you’ve been the victim of a medical malpractice case, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We offer free phone consultations so that we can assess your case.
Is It Possible to Obtain the Insurance Policy Limits from the Negligent Driver in My Case?
Knowing insurance policy limits can be a huge advantage when dealing with a case against a negligent driver and their insurance company. However, in North Carolina, insurance companies are not required to reveal how much insurance the at-fault driver has or what their policy limits are. As such, most insurance companies won’t reveal this information, as it would give you the upper hand when it comes to negotiating a settlement and could cause them to have to pay out more.
There is however a way to get insurance policy limits from an insurance company. North Carolina General Statute 58-3-33 allows you to request this information from an insurance company if you have been injured or incurred property damage at the fault of one of their clients. In order to receive this information, you have to send a request to the insurance company via certified mail.
- Provide medical record releases and allow the insurance company to obtain three years of prior medical records and any medical records pertaining to your injury.
- Consent to the mediation of the claim.
- Submit a copy of the accident report and a description of the accident that’s detailed enough to allow the adjuster to make a liability decision.
These three points must be outlined in your letter when you request the insurance coverage limits. The adjuster will have 30 days to respond with the insurance policy limits after receiving your letter.
Obtaining the insurance limits of the negligent driver in your case can make a huge difference in your settlement. Be sure to seek guidance from an experienced attorney if you have any questions.
Is Not Wearing a Seatbelt Considered Contributory Negligence?
In North Carolina, it’s illegal to not wear a seat belt. Regardless of age, or whether you’re the driver or a passenger, everyone is required to wear a seat belt. We’ve all seen the ad campaigns and the “click it or ticket” slogan to encourage drivers to wear their seatbelts, and hopefully this is a law that we all take very seriously. Seat belts save lives: they protect not just you, but other passengers in your car as well.
However, let’s say one day you forgot to put on your seatbelt. And while you were driving through an intersection, a car coming from the other direction runs the light and crashes into your car. Your car is damaged and you’ve sustained more injuries because you weren’t wearing a seat belt. The accident was in no way your fault. Apart from not wearing your seat belt, you were obeying the laws of the road. Would you still be able to claim insurance money? Or would your lack of seat belt be considered contributory negligence?
It is important to know that North Carolina rejects what is known as the “seatbelt defense.” A case in 1968 (Miller v. Miller) ruled that failure to wear a seat belt might mean that the amount paid out could be lessened because your injuries could have been less substantial had you been wearing a seat belt. Again, no matter what, please be safe on the roads, and buckle up.
Oxner + Permar encourages all drivers to wear a seatbelt. If you have any questions regarding what constitutes contributory negligence in the instance in which a driver is not wearing a seatbelt, be sure to contact an attorney.
What exactly is “Negligence Per Se”?
If you’ve been injured in a car accident, you may have heard the term “negligence per se” in regards to your case. Negligence per se is what is used to determine whether or not negligence directly resulted in your injury. This could include anything from texting while driving to speeding to reckless driving in hazardous weather conditions. In order to prove negligence per se you must be able to show that:
- The plaintiff broke the law.
- The law broken was written in order to prevent the type of injury you sustained.
- You are the type of person the law was intended to protect.
- Your injury is a direct result of the law being broken.
For instance, let’s say the defendant was texting while driving, which resulted in their drifting over the centerline and striking your car. If you broke your arm in the crash, it might be possible to prove negligence per se. This scenario fulfills all of these requirements.
First of all, the plaintiff broke the law by texting while driving. The second condition is fulfilled because the law against texting while driving is to prevent drivers from causing accidents because they are paying attention to their phone rather than the road. Third, other drivers fall under the category of people this law is designed to protect. And finally, breaking your arm in the crash is a direct result of their negligence.
It’s important to note that negligence per se can be used against you as the plaintiff as well. For example, if you were the one texting while driving when another vehicle struck you, they might be able to prove that your distraction was “contributory negligence.” In other words, your texting hindered your ability to react to the situation effectively, putting you at some degree of fault.
If you have any questions about how negligence per se could affect your personal injury case, don’t hesitate to contact one of our experienced attorneys at Oxner + Permar for a free 30-minute consultation.