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Common Questions

What Does it Mean to Be a Board Certified Specialist?

What is a board certified specialist? It used to be that a lawyer was expected to do everything, from handle your traffic ticket to handle your real estate closing, but not any more.

What is the difference between property damage and bodily injury?

Property damage involves the actual physical damage done to your vehicle. This claim is generally handled by a different adjuster than the one we will deal with for your bodily injuries. The property damage claim involves the possibility of receiving a rental car while your vehicle is being fixed. However, there are times when it easier to go through your own insurance company and let them subrogate with the defendant’s company.

We do not generally get involved with the property damage claim. Generally speaking, since this negotiation is all based on market value of your vehicle, there is little additional help that we can offer. Also, we find it is easier for the property damage adjuster to be able to schedule the work directly with you, since you know your schedule best. However, if the property damage adjuster ever asks about your injuries, you may immediately refer them to our firm, by simply stating, “ I am represented by counsel for my injury claim”. Obtaining a rental car is also handled through the property damage adjuster.

A bodily injury claim is your personal injury claim for damages against the driver or negligent defendant. This claim includes pain and suffering, medical expenses, scarring and disfigurement, as well as any permanent injury you suffered.

How long is this going to take?

While it is true that the wheels of justice grind slowly, they do move. At our law firm, we pride ourselves in our ability to move your case efficiently and expeditiously. The time a case takes to resolve is directly dependent on the complexity of the case, whether liability is challenged or not, and the overall congestion in our judicial system. Some counties in North Carolina can set a case for trial months after it is filed, while others can take over a year to schedule a trial date. A good rule of thumb is that a lawsuit takes 12-18 months before a jury returns a verdict.

Why is the insurance company asking me to pay for the rental?

If you do not have full coverage on your own vehicle, the rental company will require you pay for it on the rental car. This is their policy and we cannot alter it.

Can you advance me part of my settlement or loan me some money?

Absolutely not. It is unethical for an attorney or law firm to loan or advance settlement funds to a client. Our firm takes pride not only in fighting as hard as possible for our clients, but doing so within the confines of our professional ethics.

Can you give updates about my case to someone else?

We can only communicate the status of a file with you, the client. If you would like us to communicate the status of your legal matter with someone else, please put that authorization in writing and supply it to us so we may put it in your file.

What if I move or change my contact information?

No problem. We’ve represented clients from as far as away as Alaska to as close as down the block. But please, don’t forget to update us. If we cannot reach you, it makes resolving your claim extremely difficult and we may have to discontinue representation if we cannot locate you reliably.

What is a “lien” and how does it affect my personal injury claim?

Strictly speaking, a “lien” is a power to sell. For example, when you purchase a house with money borrowed from the bank, and you fail to pay the mortgage payment, the bank can sell the house because they are its “lien-holder”. A personal injury lien results in the following: some portion of any proceeds you recover as compensation for your injuries must be paid back to the lien-holder before you can collect your share. Failure to repay the lien-holder can in some situations lead to civil liability against you, as well as other serious punishments, like being kicked off of coverage from your employer sponsored health insurance plan.

Unfortunately, many over aggressive insurance companies routinely try to settle your injury claim with you directly, without providing the proper repayment to the lien-holder. Leaving you on the hook without even letting you know. Many months later, you may find out that since the lien-holder wasn’t repaid, you no longer have health insurance and you owe the health insurance provider thousands of dollars.

Verifying liens and negotiating with the lien-holders is a part of our job. This keeps you focused on your medical rehabilitation, and keeps the insurance companies honest.

Examples of liens in personal injury cases, i.e., those created by statute, include: Medicare, TriCare (the insurance plan for military service members), Medicaid, the State Employees Health Plan, Medical Provider liens, and several others.

Examples of subrogation interests, or rights of contract, which are not liens, but operate the same way, include: ERISA (in certain situ- ations), property damage subrogation clauses, and several others.

Who is able to claim a lien?

Any entity having a statutory or contractual right to repayment of personal injury funds can claim a lien. If you are a Medicare, Medicaid, or Tricare recipient, these entities need not even “claim” the lien, but by virtue of paying for the medical care that you are seeking compensation for, their lien is already protected by statute.

Similarly, North Carolina law protects doctors, hospitals, and other medical care providers with a lien statute. If they treat you, and you do not make arrangements to have the bill for your treatment paid, they can claim a lien up to the amount of the bills left unpaid by you which you later recover.

Finally, certain types of health insurance plans have either lien interests or contractual rights of repayment that allow for recovery of costs that they pay for your health care to be repaid to them in the event of a lawsuit or personal injury claim.

In short, any entity involved in the payment of medical care over which you are suing or claiming a recovery on, can assert a lien in your personal injury settlement. That’s why we make sure these entities are identified early on, and we take steps to negotiate with them the amount they are seeking to recover.

What if I don’t want to pay these liens? 

You can be sued. You can be kicked off your health plan. All sorts of bad things can happen if you haven’t properly identified lien holders and repaid them the amounts they are lawfully owed. At our law firm, we do that for you, and we negotiate the amounts they are seeking to collect down if possible. Saving you the hassle and worry, and also adding to your recovery as a result.

Lawyer Cary