Settling your NC Workers’ Compensation Case?

Are you considering settling your North Carolina workers’ compensation case? Has an adjuster or an attorney representing the workers’ compensation insurance company asked you to settle or “clincher” your workers’ comp claim? If you are thinking about settling your NC workers’ comp case then there are a few very important things to consider. Unfortunately there is no workers’ compensation settlement calculator. Each case must be carefully evaluated based on a number of factors.

A workers’ comp settlement in North Carolina is often referred to as a workers’ compensation clincher agreement. A settlement or clincher resolves all of the issues in your North Carolina workers’ comp case. This includes all past, present and future wage replacement or disability benefits, as well as all medical treatment. After your workers’ comp case is settled the employer or its workers’ comp insurance company will pay no further benefits.

Not every workers’ compensation case in North Carolina should settle. In fact some cases should never settle. A badly injured worker who will never work again and will likely require ongoing medical treatment will often do better by letting the workers’ compensation insurance company pay ongoing disability and medical benefits. This may be especially true if the worker is not eligible for social security disability or has no way to get medical treatment other than workers’ comp. While it may be tempting to clincher your workers’ comp case, it might be a mistake in the long run.

The decision on whether to settle or not should include a careful evaluation of the benefits you are giving up. For this reason in most cases it is better to wait until you have received most or all of the required medical treatment, and reached the end of your healing period, which is called Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI), before looking at settling your NC workers’ comp case. Before your treatment is complete it is difficult to determine the cost of future medical needs, including doctor’s appointments, medicine, physical therapy and surgeries. You do not want to settle your case and then realize you need surgery and have no way to pay for it. So it is usually better to complete most treatment and the healing period before settling your workers’ comp case, especially in accepted cases, and where there are not other health coverage options.

In addition to medical benefits you should also consider the value of the disability, or wage replacement benefits you are giving up by settling. This should include any remaining Temporary Total Disability (TTD), Temporary Partial Disability (TPD), Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Permanent Total Disability (PTD). This requires an accurate calculation of the Average Weekly Wage.

An injured worker who is considering settling their NC workers’ comp case should also think about the effect on other benefits that may be available. This includes Medicare, Medicaid, private health insurance, Social Security disability, and private long term or short term disability policies.

A workers’ compensation settlement must take into account any interest Medicare may have in payment of future medical expenses related to the workers’ comp injury or condition. Medicare disapproves of an injured worker settling his or her workers’ comp case and then asking Medicare to pay for treatment related to the injury. In some cases it is best to carve out part of the settlement and place it into a special Medicare Set Aside arrangement. In other cases this is not necessary.

Social Security disability payments may be greatly affected by a workers’ compensation settlement. However the proper use of a Social Security disability offset may limit or even eliminate this problem. There are several methods for calculating Social Security disability offsets and the injured worker is allowed to pick the one that helps them the most. But you get one chance at it. Social Security will not recognize an amended agreement intended to correct a botched calculation.

As you can see many times the bad effects of a settlement on other benefits can be reduced or even eliminated through careful planning. But settling a workers’ compensation case in North Carolina without considering how it may affect other benefits is a serious mistake.

Finally, do not confuse the payment of a workers’ compensation disability rating with a settlement. Payment of a percentage rating does not automatically end your right to medical treatment. But it may start the clock ticking on the end of both wage replacement and medical benefits. Often it is not a good idea for an injured worker to accept the payment of a disability rating in a North Carolina workers’ comp case.

Whether to settle your workers’ comp case in North Carolina workers’ comp case is one of the most complicated question your will face in your case. If you are considering settling you should consult a Board Certified Expert in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. Please call or email for your free consultation with NC workers’ comp lawyer Kevin Bunn. Kevin practices workers’ compensation law in the Raleigh area.

NC Homeowner’s Insurance – You better shop around.

NC Homeowner’s Insurance – You better shop around.

WRAL in Raleigh has been breaking news on the “consent to rate” homeowner’s insurance issue in NC for some time now.  I am tempted to call this a scandal but that might be a little overly dramatic at point.

Anyway, some large NC insurance companies have been sending select policy holders “consent to rate” letters.  These letters seek consent from the insured for the insurer to raise the cost of their homeowners insurance above that allowed by NC law. Many believe these insurance companies are taking improper advantage of an old law designed to allow insurers to raise the rates for high risk homeowners so that they can provide insurance.  North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Wayne Goodwin certainly feels this way.

One thing homeowners can do is to shop their coverage around.  One Raleigh couple recently reported to WRAL that they had saved over 60 percent on their homeowners insurance by seeking other offers then allowing their own insurance company to beat it.  That, my friends, is a smart strategy.

As a Cary NC personal injury attorney I can tell you that homeowner’s insurance is much more than fire coverage.  One very important but often ignored aspect of homeowner’s insurance is the general liability provision.  This provides coverage for an insured’s non-automobile related negligence, like if your turkey fryer gets out of controls and burns your neighbor’s house down, or if your dog bites a traveling vacuum cleaner salesman. Many people that think carefully about their liability for personal injuries that can come from an automobile accident fail to think at all about other kinds of personal injury liability.

In addition many homeowner’s policies include “medical payments” or “medpay” coverage.  This is no-fault, no-deductible coverage for medical expenses that arise from the use of the home.   This is usually a small limits policy, typically somewhere between two and five thousand dollars. The coverage pays in addition to any other medical insurance.  Again, it is “no fault” which means it covers practically any injuries that occur in the insured home.  It is similar to automobile insurance medpay.

I also recommend that folks buy an umbrella policy that sits on top of their automobile and homeowner’s liability coverages.  A million dollar umbrella policy can cost just a couple hundred dollars a year.

As a NC personal injury lawyer I understand better than most the importance of having good protection against negligence lawsuits, including suitable general liability coverage in your homeowner’s insurance policy.  So, get the coverage, just don’t overpay for it.  Shop around every few years and you might find substantial savings.

As always, please call or email if you have a question about a Cary, NC, personal injury or workers’ comp issue. I am glad to offer a no fee consultation in my Cary NC law office.

Cary and Apex, NC, Avoid Most Dangerous Place to Drive List

Cary and Apex, NC, Avoid Most Dangerous Place to Drive List

According to a study by AAA reported in the Charlotte Observer three people die each day in automobile accidents in NC.  And some places are much more dangerous to drive than others.  But Cary and Apex, NC, don’t make the list.

Graham County, deep in the Appalachian mountains, is the most likely place to be in a fatal car accident in NC.  Pitt County, which includes Greenville, NC,  is the most likely place to be in any type of car crash in NC, and the second most likely for accidents that involve injury.  Warren County has the lead in highest ratio of pedestrian deaths.  New Hanover County, where Wilmington, NC, is located, is the third most likely location for an injury crash.  Bladen County is fourth for fatality crashes.  Wake County, where Raleigh, NC, Cary and Apex, NC, are located did not make the list for automobile accidents.

 The AAA rankings take into account the number of deaths and miles driven by county.

The article quotes David Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas, as saying that while accidents are decreasing, North Carolina still “ranks third behind Texas and California in the number of traffic deaths on noninterstate highways.”  “It’s great to see a decrease in road deaths, but it’s still a concern when you consider that more than three people still die every day on North Carolina roads,” Parsons said.

Data from the Charlotte Observer article:

All vehicles

All crashes: 1. Pitt; 2. New Hanover; 3. Vance; 4. Person; 5. Stanly.

Injury crashes: 1. Graham; 2. Pitt; 3. New Hanover; 4. Gaston; 5. Hoke.

Fatal crashes: 1. Graham; 2. Alleghany; 3. Alexander; 4. Bladen; 5. Vance.

Motorcycles

All crashes: 1. Graham; 2. Stokes; 3. Transylvania; 4. Swain; 5. Hoke.

Injury crashes: 1. Graham; 2. Stokes; 3. Transylvania; 4. Hoke; 5. Swain.

Fatal crashes: 1. Graham; 2. Pamlico; 3. Camden; 4. Dare; 5. Yancey.

Tractor-trailers

All crashes: 1. Anson; 2. Northampton; 3. Greene; 4. Bladen; 5. Hyde.

Injury crashes: 1. Anson; 2. Northampton; 3. Richmond; 4. Scotland; 5. Gates.

Fatal crashes: 1. Gates; 2. Hertford; 3. Ashe; 4. Cherokee; 5. Northampton.

 

Pedestrians

Fatalities: 1. Warren; 2. Yancey; 3. Currituck; 4. Pamlico; 5. Cherokee.

 

Safest

All crashes: 1. Polk; 2. Haywood; 3. Camden; 4. Jackson; 5. Swain.

Injury crashes: 1. Camden; 2. Tyrrell; 3. Currituck; 4. Swain; 5. Perquimans.

Fatal crashes: 1. Pasquotank; 2. Warren; 3. Washington; 4. Chowan; 5. Tyrrell.

 

Operation Medicine Drop

Operation Medicine Drop

I was surprised to learn recently that medications are the top cause of child poisoning.   According to Safe Kids Worldwide, in 2011, 67,700 kids were seen in emergency rooms for medication poisoning.

Many North Carolinians who have been injured in an automobile accident or have a NC workers’ comp case are prescribed medications.  These typically include muscle relaxers, pain killers and anti-inflammatories.  Most of the time the injured person is advised to take these medications as needed, and not all of the pills are used.  Frequently these leftover medications will sit around in a drawer or medicine cabinet for years.  This can be too tempting for a curious child, to whom the medicine may look like candy.

If you were injured in an automobile accident in NC, or if you have a NC workers’ comp claim, please make sure to properly dispose of your unused medications.  Fortunately, Insurance Commission Wayne Goodwin is helping to make this easy, through participation in Operation Medicine Drop.

Safe Kids Worldwide provides these additional tips for handling medications:

  • Put all medicines up and away and out of sight including your own. Make sure that all medicines and vitamins are stored out of reach and out of sight of children. In 3 out of 4 emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the child got into medicine belonging to a parent or grandparent.
  • Consider places where kids get into medicine. Kids get into medication in all sorts of places, like in purses and nightstands.  In 67% of emergency room visits for medicine poisoning, the medicine was left within reach of a child, such as in a purse, on a counter or dresser or on the ground.
  • Consider products you might not think about as medicines. Most parents store medicine up and away – or at least the products they consider to be medicine. They may not think about products such as diaper rash remedies, vitamins or eye drops as medicine, but they actually are and need to be stored safely.
  • Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine. Proper dosing is important, particularly for young children. Kitchen spoons aren’t all the same, and a teaspoon or tablespoon used for cooking won’t measure the same amount as the dosing device. Use the dosing device that comes with the medicine to prevent dosing errors.
  • Put the toll-free Poison Help Number into your home and cell phone: 1-800-222-1222. You can also put the number on your refrigerator or another place in your home where the babysitters and caregivers can see it. And remember, the poison help number is not just for emergencies, you can call with questions about how to take or give medicine.

 

 

Don’t Let Social Media Ruin Your Personal Injury Case

Don’t Let Social Media Ruin Your Personal Injury Case

 

Social media is now officially everywhere .  Literally billions of people everywhere share personal information on Facebook, Twitter and Google+, not to mention a dozen other sites mostly popular with young people.  Not surprisingly, insurance companies have put these sites to good use in defending Cary personal injury and workers’ compensation claims.

In my own practice, I have seen insurance companies use information found on Facebook:

  • to locate a workers’ comp claimant for the purpose of doing surveillance (ironically, the video surveillance was helpful to us at trial);
  • to impeach a potential witness;
  • and to attempt to show that an injured party was able to work.

I have also used information from social media sites against defendants in several cases, including one situation where the defendant in a Cary automobile accident bragged about using illegal drugs on his Facebook page. And then there is this massive kerfuffle.

If you file a claim because you are injured in an automobile accident in Cary or on the job then you should assume that the insurance company on the other side will at least comb the large social media sites for information about you. Expect them to look for pictures of you smiling to show you are not in pain, being active to show you are not injured, or simply cavorting around to undermine your credibility. Keep this in mind: their point here is not to get a full understanding of you. It’s to find a single photo, video or comment that will in some way impeach you. I represented a very nice lady whose mental disability claim was denied in part simply because she went to a birthday party.

So, what to do?  Here are a few tips so that will help you not wreck your personal injury or workers comp claim with your social media posts.

  1. Be honest. Be honest with your lawyer and while online.  Don’t tell your lawyer you are not working if you are, and don’t tell your friends online that you are working if you are not.
  2. Avoid Social Media. I would prefer you avoid social media entirely while your claim is pending. I know you will not do it, but I feel better having said it.
  3. Use the Privacy Settings. If you insist on posting make full use of the privacy settings.
  4. Limit your Posts.  Avoid pictures and video of you. Do not go on excessively about your awesome workout routine. And please do not post anything about your case or that your lawyer told you.
  5. Beware of Strangers. Do not accept friend requests from people you do not know.

 It’s a scary new social media world.  Be careful.  Don’t let social media ruin your Personal Injury case.

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