Personal Injury

When you or a family member is injured, there are many difficult questions to answer.  The North Carolina personal injury lawyers at Hendren & Malone have significant experience working with victims of unfortunate accidents.

Why should I hire an attorney for my personal injury case?

If you have been injured in an accident, you may benefit greatly from the services of a personal injury lawyer. First and foremost, a personal injury lawyer can determine whether or not you have a case. Your attorney will be able to determine who was at fault for your accident and inform you of whether you have a strong basis for a personal injury lawsuit.

A personal injury attorney can help ensure that you do not lose your right to bring your claim by making sure you file your personal injury lawsuit before the statute of limitations has run. For most cases in North Carolina, you have 3 years from your accident to bring a lawsuit.

By hiring a personal injury attorney, you are also taking the first step towards receiving fair compensation for your injuries. If your accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, then you may be entitled to compensation for both your physical and emotional injuries.

You’re also ensuring that the person responsible for your accident is held accountable for their actions, which reduces the chances that someone else will be a victim of their negligence in the future.

The other driver’s insurance company keeps calling me.  Should I talk to them?

NO!  Not only should you not take there call, but you are not required to speak to them, in order to make a claim with them.  The only thing the insurance adjuster wants to do is to get you to accept a very, very small offer in order to make you go away.  The adjuster wants to get you on the phone and befriend you so you trust that that adjuster is on your side and is acting in your best interest.  That could not be any further from the truth!

The fact is, there is nothing good that can come out of speaking to the insurance company for the driver who caused your injuries.  It is at least worth your time to speak to a lawyer about your case, before you start speaking with the adjuster who really does not care about you at all, but rather, only cares about getting rid of you on the cheap!

Can I fire my personal injury lawyer if I am unhappy with the representation?

Absolutely.  The attorney/client relationship is based on a mutual and voluntary contractual relationship.  The client can exit the relationship at any time.  In fact, you are allowed to fire your North Carolina personal lawyer at any time and you don’t even need a reason for doing so.

I find that many people who call me and are interested in changing lawyers are doing so because they feel their lawyer is not communicating with them.  If your lawyer is not calling you back and/or not keeping you updated on your case, you have the right to change lawyers.  You may, however, be responsible for paying the first lawyer back the expenses the lawyer put into the case. In most situations, your previous lawyer will agree to help transition your case to your new lawyer. The first lawyer may be entitled to a portion of the legal fees that are ultimately recovered in the case.

The insurance adjuster won’t call me back.  What should I do?

Ah yes, the frustration of dealing with insurance adjusters.  Most of them are dealing with hundreds of files, and your case is just another file.

The best way to reach an adjuster who is not calling you back is to reach out to the adjuster’s supervisor.  That almost always works, and is your best option for reaching an unresponsive adjuster.

If your case is not in litigation, your file then does not get much attention from an insurance company.  But, as soon as a lawsuit is filed, you will find that suddenly the adjuster takes you, and your case much more seriously.  Once that occurs, you can expect to receive more responsiveness from the adjuster.

How long do I have to sue in North Carolina for injuries from a car accident?

Generally, you have three years from the date of the accident to bring a lawsuit in North Carolina for injuries sustained in an accident.  There are exceptions however, such as a two year statute of limitations for claims stemming from accidents resulting in a wrongful death.

Also, if you live in North Carolina and your auto accident was in a different state, then that state’s laws apply.  Not all states have a three year statute of limitations like North Carolina.

I was injured in a car accident in North Carolina that was caused by a drunk driver.  What are my rights?

If a drunk driver causes a North Carolina auto accident, the injury victim can bring claims against multiple parties.  Obviously, a claim can be brought against the drunk driver’s insurance company.  But, there are also less obvious parties that may be held responsible.  For example, if the drunk driver was over-served at a bar, club, restaurant, or even private party, then a dram shop case may be possible against the establishment, and the people, that over-served the drunk driver.

These cases are very fact-intensive because you need to show that whoever over-served the drunk driver knew or should have known that he/she was visibly intoxicated, and continued to serve that person, before they can be held liable.

Often, many depositions have to be taken in order to establish fault in these cases, apart from the fault of the driver who caused the accident.

I was hurt while riding as a passenger in a car.  Does that change my rights?

If you have had this misfortune, here is some information that you need to know about.

Passengers involved in North Carolina auto accidents face two main issues.  First, is there no-fault insurance to pay medical bills? Passengers who are involved in North Carolina auto accidents will often be able to collect for the cost of their medical bills under an insurance coverage called Medical Payments. You must look at the Medical Payments insurance coverage for the car you were riding in and on your own insurance policy to see whether you can collect this money (YES, I said your own policy. Believe it or not, you may be collect money even though your car was not involved in the wreck). In many cases, this money is paid early in your case and does not affect the value of your claim against the at-fault party. Be careful though, as the money you recover under the Medical Payments coverage may be subject to attack by medical lien holders as discussed above.

The second issue is how to pursue a bodily injury claim.  This claim will be made against the driver who was at fault for the accident.  If the driver of the vehicle in which you were a passenger caused the accident, then you would make your bodily injury claim against his/her policy.

Attorneys Fees – How much do personal injury lawyers charge?

Generally, lawyers who take on auto accident, slip and fall, dog bite, and other personal injury cases charge a fee of 1/3 of the recovery. Very seldom does a lawyer who represents personal injury victims charge by the hour.

What the 1/3 percentage fee means is that if the lawyer obtains a settlement, or verdict for the client, the lawyer will take 1/3 of the recovery, plus the expenses the lawyer advanced.  Some lawyers charge a lower percentage, some charge a higher percentage than 1/3.  Some lawyers will charge a fixed percent, but if the case is put into litigation, the percentage fee may increase.  It all depends on the lawyer and how he or she structures their contingent fee schedules.

Finally, some lawyers are willing to negotiate the percentage of the fee with prospective clients. At Hendren & Malone, we prefer to give our clients options as to how they wish to structure the attorneys’ fees. Yes, you can choose how much you wish to pay us provided that choice is made at the beginning of our representation.

I received letters about medical liens and liens for my health insurance.  What does this mean?

If you are injured in an accident due to the fault of someone else, you are entitled to recover the value of your medical bills as part of your recovery – whether by settlement or trial. Unfortunately, getting your settlement does not always mean the money is all yours. In many cases, there are claims, often called liens, against your money made by medical care providers and health insurance companies.

Whenever you seek medical care after an accident, we hope that you have health insurance to pay your medical bills. Depending on the type of health insurance, your health insurance provider may be legally entitled to assert a claim against any money you recover for your injuries. For instance, in 2004 the NC legislature enacted a law allowing the State to recover for any medical expenses paid by the North Carolina Teachers and Employees Health Plan. Not every health insurance plan is allowed to assert such a claim which is also called a lien or a right of subrogation.

If you were injured while at work but the injury was due to somebody else’s fault, you can still recover against the at-fault party. Since you were injured on the job, your company’s worker’s compensation insurance is probably paying your medical bills. In most cases, the worker’s compensation insurance company will be able to assert a claim against your personal injury claim for the medical bills they have paid.

If Medicaid or Medicare has paid for medical services that are the result of a car accident or workers compensation claim, Medicaid and Medicare are entitled, by law, to be repaid from any personal injury settlement.  North Carolina also allows most health care providers to assert a medical lien against the proceeds of any recovery received by their patients. The lien is creature of statute and is capped at 50% of what you recover after you pay attorneys fees.

Sorting out whether your health insurance company can assert such a claim can be very complicated even after you have resolved your case. We have helped many people sort out the complicated maze of liens after an injury.

Read more about what medical bills must be paid from a North Carolina accident settlement.

Important things to do following a personal injury accident

  • Get the names, telephone numbers and addresses of all parties
  • Get the names, telephone and addresses of all witnesses
  • Call an ambulance and the police, if necessary
  • Get the insurance information, if possible, for all parties
  • Photograph the scene of the accident and all vehicles involved as soon as possible
  • Keep all important information such as receipts, accident reports, etc.
  • Don’t speak to any insurance company before you first speak with an attorney about your rights.

Why insurance companies love when you don’t have an attorney

  • They know you won’t sue since you don’t have a lawyer representing you
  • They know that if you sue them, you will probably lose as the insurance companies have attorneys protecting their interests, and they know you are not a trained attorney who knows how to practice law
  • They are well trained negotiators and know that they likely have more negotiation experience than you do
  • They would rather get rid of you with a small offer than have to pay you a fair and reasonable amount a lawyer could get for you
  • They care about maximizing corporate profits, and that is made easier by dealing with injury victims who do not have representation

Making a claim for underinsured motorist benefits in North Carolina

If you have been injured in an auto accident in North Carolina, there is always the possibility of making an underinsured motorist claim.  If the driver who caused your personal injuries does not have enough bodily injury (BI) coverage to cover the cost of your injuries, then you need to look to your auto insurance carrier for underinsured motorist benefits.  You may also look to any insurance for family members living within your household.

Underinsured motorist coverage is typically inexpensive compared to the overall premium for your insurance policy. This coverage provides a safety net should you be seriously injured by a driver who does not carry enough insurance.

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