Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury Law Answered By the Experienced Attorneys of Kurtz & Blum.
Automobile and Truck Accidents
I have just been in an automobile accident, what is the first thing I should do?
If you are injured in an accident, it is important to immediately
seek treatment.. Sometimes even serious injuries do not cause immediate
Who do I call to report the wreck?
Unless you are unable to remain at the scene for medical
reasons, report any wreck to the highway patrol or the local police and
let them investigate the scene prior to your departure. Report the wreck
to your insurance company as soon as practical thereafter.
Can't I just exchange insurance information with the other driver if the accident is not serious?
No, this can be a big mistake if a dispute arises over who caused the wreck.
Do I need a lawyer?
The best thing to do is to call an attorney for a free
consultation. Kurtz & Blum, PLLC can help you analyze the facts of
your case and the insurance company's handling of the accident.
If I hire an attorney, how much will I have to pay him or her?
Kurtz & Blum, PLLC takes accident cases on a contingent
basis. This means that you owe us nothing unless you are compensated for
Is a tractor-trailer accident the same as an automobile accident?
No. Just as the physical consequences can be more devastating in a
commercial vehicle injury, proving liability in a commercial vehicle
injury case can be more technical. Negligence law is the same, but there
are additional federally-mandated requirements for commercial carriers
and commercial licensees. An attorney who files a commercial trucking
case must be intimately familiar with the federal and state codes that
govern commercial traffic behavior. Treating this type of case like an
everyday automobile accident is a recipe for disaster – commercial
vehicle cases are more complex, more technical, and more demanding.
If the drivers have to be specially-trained, why are there still commercial vehicle accidents?
Good question, and one of the very things that researchers are looking
into. There are a variety of different reasons.
First, human error is
still a factor despite the specialized training. Commercial vehicle
operators are often required to drive during nighttime hours, when
research has shown that crashes are more likely. The drive for profit
may make some drivers falsify their records or fail to immediately
record and correct safety problems with their trucks, thinking that
they’ll fix the problem “at the next stop.” Carriers, too, can feel the
squeeze and respond by failing to adequately train drivers or carry out
the necessary background check on prospective employees. Declining
infrastructure can also contribute to accidents. Cash-strapped states
may choose to fund other projects, leaving repairs to dangerous
interchanges for another time. The vehicles themselves can be dangerous.
Huge blind spots, called no-zones and increased stopping distances are
an unfortunate side-effect of a large truck, bus or motor coach.
Finally, increasing commercial vehicle accidents may be an inevitable
consequence of enforcement playing catch-up to the problem. Our
economy’s demand for goods is strong and the projections show an
increase, rather than a decrease, of commercial vehicles on the roads.
Much of the research that is aimed at preventing accidents recognizes
that continued roadside inspections, while important, can never be
numerous enough to cover the enormous number of commercial vehicles on
the road. Researchers are looking into more sophisticated, computerized
tracking for the future.
Who makes sure that big trucks and trucking companies are following the rules?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, part of the U.S.
Department of Transportation, is in charge with promulgating regulations
to keep us safe on the road. The rules are expansive and cover all
aspects of commercial driving including the driver (e.g. training, drug
and alcohol testing and licensing), the vehicle (e.g. transportation of
hazardous materials, inspection and repair) and the carrier (e.g.
insurance, records and maintenance). In North Carolina, enforcement of
these regulations, and other state laws, falls to the State Highway
Patrol’s Motor Carrier Enforcement.
Do I need to hire a lawyer to assist me with my trucking accident claim?
Yes. A trucking accident case requires in-depth knowledge of the Federal
Motor Carrier Safety Act and other state and federal regulations.
Commercial trucking is heavily regulated. Proving liability necessitates
a proper and thorough accident reconstruction and review of all driver
and carrier documents. Only an experienced litigator who knows this
system can get you the maximum recovery for your case.
What is covered under workers’ comp?
The North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) governs workers’ compensation. Employees are generally entitled to benefits if they suffer:
- An injury by accident
- A specific traumatic incident such as a debilitating back injury
- An occupational disease such as asbestosis and silicosis.
These events must have occurred to the employee while carrying out activities for their employer. The employee must have been acting within the course and scope of their employment at the time of earning their injury in order to receive benefits.
Who is required to have workers’ comp insurance?
Any employer who has three or more employees must maintain workers’ comp insurance. An officer or executive is considered an employee for these purposes.
What should I do if I have been injured at work or on the job?
First, you should watch this video by Lynn Prather in which she details exactly what you should do if injured on the job, step by step. At the very least, if you have been injured, you need to report your injury in writing to your employer immediately or as soon as practicable within a 30-day period unless there are extenuating circumstances that can satisfy the Commission.
How do the payments work?
Compensation is typically delivered weekly, though the NCIC can authorize payments on a monthly basis. You will be paid 2/3 of your average weekly wage, but that amount cannot exceed an annually adjusted maximum per week. No compensation is awarded for the first seven days unless your disability exceeds 21 days of lost work. If your disability does exceed 21 days, you will also be paid for those first days. Your benefits will continue until you are able to return to work.
What if my employer doesn’t have workers’ comp insurance or doesn’t file the claim?
If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance and they were under a legal obligation to have such coverage, you need to notify NCIC’s Fraud Section. If you are injured, you should also file Form 18 and Form 33 with the Commission. If your employer does not acknowledge your claim, you need to file a Form 18 or Form 18B claim with the Commission within two years of the accident. You should absolutely seek counsel under these circumstances.
What happens when the employer refuses to acknowledge my claim?
If the employer refuses to acknowledge your claim, you, your attorney, NCIC, and all known healthcare providers will be notified of the reason that they asserted for denial through Form 61. If your claim is denied by the insurance company, you can request a hearing before the NCIC through Form 33.
You will only be billed by your medical and healthcare providers after it has been determined that your injury is not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
What constitutes legal malpractice?
Legal malpractice is the failure of an attorney to render competent services to a client in a manner that any other reasonable attorney would perform. The most common types of legal malpractice are:
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Breach of contract
- Missing a statute of limitations
How can I win a legal malpractice case?
You must show the following in order to win a legal malpractice case:
- Your attorney owed you a duty to provide competent representation
- Your attorney breached that duty by acting negligently, by making a mistake that a reasonable attorney would not have made, or by not following your agreement.
- The attorney’s breach caused you harm or injury by proving that the outcome of your case would likely have been different had your attorney acted properly.
- You suffered a financial loss as a result of your attorney’s behavior.
You essentially have to show that if your attorney had been competent and behaved like a reasonable lawyer, you would have prevailed in the underlying case. For this reason, legal malpractice lawsuits can be thought of as a case within a case.
Is filing a grievance with the State Bar the same as filing a legal malpractice claim?
No. A grievance or complaint to the North Carolina State Bar is not the same as filing a legal malpractice claim. The NC State Bar governs attorneys and may discipline your attorney in response to a bar complaint, but you will not receive any compensation as a result of the Bar’s findings. To receive damages for the harm you suffered by your attorney, you must file a legal malpractice lawsuit.
Can I fire my lawyer? How do I get a new lawyer?
Yes. You can fire your lawyer at any time during representation. Remember, your lawyer works for you, and they must follow your instructions so long as such instructions would not cause that lawyer to violate the rules of professional conduct or the law. Retaining a new lawyer simply requires that you find another attorney and hire them to undertake your representation. At that point, your new counsel can inform your previous attorney of your change in legal representation. When changing counsel, your new attorney will handle all necessary arrangements with your old counsel. Your previous attorney should forward all necessary documents to your new attorney and cease contact with you. However, keep in mind that you may still have financial obligations to your previous lawyer.
What if I want to dispute my lawyer’s use of my funds or the bill?
Your attorney is required to provide you documentation of your accounts with his or her office upon request. Lawyers have a fiduciary duty to act in their clients’ best interest when handling their property. If you have difficulty obtaining expense reports or other accounts with your attorney, you should contact the State Bar.
A dispute with an attorney over the amount of your legal fees does not fall under the umbrella of legal malpractice.
What if my lawyer is not communicating with me?
Attorneys are required to maintain contact with their clients in order to keep them informed. The biggest complaint to the Bar every year is that a lawyer failed to return a phone call. A failure to return a call is not likely to give rise to a legal malpractice claim, but it is unprofessional and may be considered a warning sign. Your attorney should be prompt about returning phone calls. Keep in mind that if your attorney is in trial or depositions that they might not be in a position to maintain constant contact with you. If you are uncomfortable with your attorney’s lack of effort in communication, you may want to consider hiring a new lawyer.
Our personal injury lawyers help people throughout North Carolina. We frequently handle cases arising out of the following counties: Durham, Wake, Person, Granville, Vance, Chatham, Alamance, Forsyth, Guilford, Harnett, Lee, Nash, Edgecombe, Cumberland, Johnston, Orange, Person, Vance and Wayne.
Of course, we also take on cases from the cities and towns in our own backyard of Wake County, North Carolina including: Wake Forest, Rolesville, Garner, Raleigh, New Hope, Cary, Zebulon, Wendell, Fuquay-Varina, Apex, Knightdale, Holly Springs and Morrisville.