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Category: Personal Injury

What is Your Health Insurance Worth to Negligent Drivers?

Personal Injury

The NC General Assembly has done it this time. Under the guise of “reform,” House Bill 542 has passed, and it gives a bailout to auto insurance companies and their negligent drivers. Safe drivers are the losers.

If you’re involved in a traffic accident, the NC General Assembly has changed long-standing NC law to allow negligent drivers to benefit from their victims’ coverage. This is how the sleight of hand works: a negligent driver spends all night drinking at his local establishment. He decides to drive and hits you with his vehicle, causing you injury. But he no longer has to be responsible for your medical bills. He would continue to be responsible for what a provider is paid, but the negligent driver gets to benefit from YOUR insurance by not paying the full medical bill — your coverage now bails him out of complete responsibility.

Is this what the NC legislative leadership considers reform? Apparently so. In a not-so-veiled attempt to stick it to personal injury lawyers, the new law continues a trend in our state toward limiting NC citizens access to the court system. And this really harms one group — injury victims. Injury victims already have so many challenges to take their case before a jury: the cost of litigation (when you have lost so much already), the poisoning of jury pools by inaccurate perception of “frivolous” lawsuits and the attribution that our economic suffering is due to needless business expenses dedicated to defending excessive litigation. In fact, your attorney cannot even ask about the defendant’s automobile insurance policy when the case goes to trial because the defenders of insurance companies have persuaded NC legislators that such knowledge in the hands of a jury would be unfair to negligent drivers.

Do you see why this recent legislation is a further blow to good, law-abiding citizens of North Carolina and a lobbying win only for big insurance companies? If you have health insurance or coverage of any nature, the defendant cannot be made to pay you any of the money or benefit that you receive through your health care plan.

Let your representative know that you are saddened by their choice of big business insurance — over your safety. Click on the bill to view its contents: SB542, SB586 (new effective date).

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

Guess Who Benefits from Medical Malpractice Reform

Personal Injury

Governor Perdue vetoed it, but the NC House overturned it. Senate Bill 33 has passed. (You can read the bill in full here.) Many times in a case involving a client who was the victim of medical malpractice, we have called into court records the testimony of an expert in the field. While this professional was not directly involved in the incident, he or she knows the Standards of Practice that medical workers in that industry must work within. But now the Standards of Practice have been lowered — there are changes in the levels of misconduct and intent required to prove negligence. And the expert testimony can only be based on evidence and information in the actual case at hand — there can be no reference to other occurrences or hypothetical situations.

Here’s another part of the “reform” bill — the maximum amount of money recovered for non-economic damages has been set at $250,000. That’s a lifetime maximum of a quarter million dollars but what’s the price to pay for causing pain, suffering, stress and physical impairment to a person? Economic damages such as a loss of income or medical charges are simple to pinpoint, based on past history and dollar amounts. But now there’s a cap on the price to be paid for pain.

One other change that the bill invokes is for judges to determine if the payment of an award is to be completed in one lump sum or if it can be paid to the defendant in periodic payments. Medical malpractice victims may now receive their award amounts on a payment plan — in installments. It’s as though they had received their emotional stress and pain only in installments. Ridiculous doesn’t even cover it.

Surely only the medical industry benefits from these changes in malpractice liability and award payments.

This article was written by Chip Permar

Nursing Home/Facility Negligence

Personal Injury

What should you do when a person you cherish is injured while in a hospital or nursing home and you believe the facility and its employees to be at fault?

If you suspect that your loved one has been the victim of below standard care, consider investigating the facility. Evidence of continual dehydration, bed sores or pressure sores, repeated falls, weight loss and complaints of pain can be signs of a problem. But you need intervention by a professional. Go to the Division of Health Service Regulation website, also known as the Division of Facilities Services, for our state where you will find information on how to file a complaint. As noted on their website, all claims should be filed within a year of the incident. They will evaluate and review the records of the hospital or nursing home and begin an investigation if they find it is necessary. Our law firm will also review your case for a potential claim and help determine next steps. Hospitals, nursing home and even home health care workers can be neglectful, have too many patients and not enough licensed, certified staff to care for each of them. We’ll work together to determine what can be done.

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

Investigating Your Personal Injury Case

Personal Injury

I often wonder how much of a potential recovery is left on the table or never discovered by an injury victim. If you’re injured in a car accident and the driver of the other automobile was at fault, you can seek compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company. Most people understand that is the purpose of liability coverage. And the North Carolina legislature understands it, too, because they require liability coverage as a condition to drive in North Carolina. But what happens if you have significant injuries and that driver has only minimal liability coverage, which in North Carolina is $30,000? As the injured party, $30,000 may be your maximum reimbursement, no matter how seriously you’re hurt. But sometimes there’s more.

A thorough investigation of available automobile insurance coverages should include your own policy and policies of others. In one recent case, our client was told by her original attorney that she could, at the most, receive the North Carolina minimum limit of the negligent driver’s insurance policy. She came to us because she felt she deserved more, and frankly so did we. After a thorough evaluation and search, we did find her more . . . much more. Although this client had moved a number of times in the year prior to the collision, because she was living at her parents’ home at the time of the collision, she could argue for coverage from her parent’s underinsured motorist policy. After a battle with that insurance company, our client ultimately received over 200% more than the original attorney suggested she accept. She had no idea that this additional coverage was available to her. And why should she. Isn’t that our job as attorneys to advise her of her options?

When everything was settled, our client was thrilled that she had taken the time to get a second opinion from us. We did our job by maximizing the insurance coverage available to her. It was a long road to search and find all the options, but in the end, it was a great victory.

This article was written by Chip Permar

Hot Coffee Documentary: Telling the Whole Story

Personal Injury

You’ve heard about the McDonald’s coffee burn lawsuit and you’ve read our comments (see the April 11, 2010 blog below). Now there’s a documentary that gives you more insight. “Hot Coffee,” compiled by Susan Saladoff, discusses how the public is being manipulated by the media and by corporations to believe that frivolous lawsuits are everywhere. Saladoff, a former attorney, states that corporations want you to think that the system is broken so that they can push through monetary caps on damages and interfere with the public’s ability to have access to the court system.

If you’re interested in hearing more, click here for the Hot Coffee website.

This article was written by Chip Permar

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