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.

10 Simple Ways to Protect Your Loved One While in the Hospital

10 Simple Ways to Protect Your Loved One While in the Hospital

It is stressful and scary when a loved one is hospitalized for treatment of a serious injury or illness. It can be even scarier when you consider the potential for health care-associated infections and for medical errors.  Hospital patients are already vulnerable, and nobody want things to get worse.  So, with that in mind, here are 10 simple ways to protect your loved one while in the hospital.

  1. Be there and be aware.  The physical presence of a loved one with a patient means a lot. The vast majority of caregivers, including nurses and doctors, badly want to provide quality care. But they see many patients a day and it is easy to let quality lapse. Be attentive each and every time any medical provider walks in the room. Being present with watchful eyes is perhaps the most important thing you can do to help your loved one.
  2. Show somebody loves this patient. Fill the room with flowers, balloons and cards.  Encourage friends and family who can not visit to send a card or other reminder.  Make sure the patient always has clean clothes and a supply of personal items.  This will lift the spirits of the patient and, just as importantly, show the medical providers that this person is special and is being paid attention to.
  3. Ask questions. I can not emphasize this enough. Try to understand what is wrong with your loved one and what is being done to address it.  Ask for the names of medications when they are administered and ask why procedures are necessary before they are done. Be polite, but don’t be shy. If a medical provider seems to resent your questions, keep asking questions.
  4. Keep a notebook.  Document the medications your loved one is taking, upcoming procedures, the names of treating physicians, and other information. It’s easy to forget things especially with extended treatment.
  5. Research. Identify reliable sources of information on your loved one’s condition and learn about it.  The National Institute of Health, the Mayo Clinic, and the Centers for Disease Control are a good start.
  6. Monitor all visitors.  It is normal for people to want to visit and show support.  But be sure these visits do not interfere with the patient’s rest or cause unnecessary anxiety.  Make sure all visitors wash their hands with soap and water AND use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
  7. Delegate.  Ask someone in your church, neighborhood, family or other concerned groups to take charge of that group’s efforts. Encourage them to act as gate keeper and then support them in that role. You do not want ten people from the neighborhood calling to ask how things are going and what they can do.
  8. Help with housekeeping.  Keep the room clean and neat and free of obstacles that can trip the patient.  Take it upon yourself to clean doorknobs, bed rails and other frequently touched surfaces with bleach based cleaners.
  9. Stay positive.  Keep a positive attitude around the patient.  Listen to their complaints but respond with positive thoughts.
  10. Take care of yourself.  Try to share the burden with a trusted friend or loved one. Eat healthy, exercise, and try to sleep. Sometimes, you just have to go home and take a break.

If you have questions about an automobile accident or workers’ compensation claim, please feel free to call Cary Lawyer Kevin Bunn for your free consultation.

Older Drivers and Automobile Accidents

Older Drivers and Automobile Accidents

First the good news about older drivers and automobile accidents.  Older drivers are less likely to be killed or injured in a car crash today than twenty years ago according to a study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported in the Wall Street Journal. Older drivers are still significantly more likely to die in an automobile accident than younger drivers, but the gap is narrowing.

Fatality rates for drivers aged 70 to 74 fell 32%, while rates for drivers 80 and older fell a whopping 55%.  Fatality rates fell 26% for drivers between 35 and 54 while rates for drivers and passengers 25 to 29 rose 38%.

Overall, deaths for drivers and passengers have fallen across the board.  Drivers 80 years old and older have the highest fatality fates, followed by teens and drivers in their 20’s.

The Insurance Institute attributed the decline in fatalities to safer cars and more active and healthy older drivers.  Since the 1990’s side air bags, traction control and collision avoidance systems have all become more common.  All of these are likely helping older drivers survive.

Not surprisingly, teens are most likely to be involved in automobile accidents.  Drivers over 65 are second most likely.

All of this comes at a time when record numbers of older drivers are hitting the road.  By 2050, roughly 16% of the population of the United States, 64 million people, will be over 70.  The number of Americans over the age of 80 is expected to almost triple. The Insurance Institute found that a higher percentage of older Americans are keeping their license and are driving more miles.

So, what is the connection between older drivers and automobile accidents?  Why are older drivers more likely to cause accidents and to be seriously injured?  According to the National Institute on Aging, there are a number of factors at play.

  • Changes in the body, including stiff joints and muscle weakness;
  • Diminished eyesight, especially at night and when faced with glare;
  • Changes in hearing that make it more difficult to hear horns, sirens or other warning sounds;
  • Slower reflexes can make it more difficult to react quickly;
  • Other health problems such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, stroke and arthritis can interfere with driving;
  • Medicines, especially those that cause you to feel light-headed or drowsy.

Now that we know more about older drivers and automobile accidents, what can you do about it?

If you are injured an automobile accident in Raleigh, NC, or Cary, NC, Apex, NC, or elsewhere in North Carolina call Cary Automobile Accident Attorney Kevin Bunn for your free consultation.

ERISA Reimbursement in NC Auto Accidents

ERISA Reimbursement in NC Auto Accidents

Often the most difficult aspect of a NC automobile accident case has nothing to do with who was at fault in the accident, the nature of the injuries or how to find insurance to cover the claim.  Increasingly personal injury cases are dominated by efforts to ensure that the recovery goes to benefit the injured person and not to reimburse a third party health plan.  This article discusses the increasingly important issue of ERISA reimbursement in NC auto accidents.

In North Carolina, private health insurers are prohibited from seeking reimbursement for payments made for medical treatment when there is a recovery from the person who caused the injury.  Such reimbursement is called “subrogation.”  Insurers in North Carolina are also prohibited from denying payment for injuries that arise from another’s negligence, like an automobile accident.

Most large employers however provide their employees health benefits through self-funded health plans authorized under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA).  These self-funded plans are exempt from North Carolina’s anti-subrogation law and so are allowed to seek to recover a part, or even all, of any settlement or judgment recovered from an at-fault party.

So, for example, assume an IBM employee is injured in an automobile accident in Cary NC caused by a drunk driver.  The IBM employee gets medical treatment for his or her injures, and these medical bills are paid by IBM’s self funded ERISA health plan.  IBM will seek to recover the money it has paid in health expenses from the employee’s settlement or judgment with the drunk driver.

To have a right of subrogation an ERISA health plan must be self-funded, that is the employer must put its own money into the plan to pay health claims.  If the plan itself purchases health insurance to pay the employee’s medical claims then North Carolina’s anti-subrogation statute applies and the plan is denied a recovery.  Also, the plan language must meet certain highly technical guidelines and must plainly provide for subrogation.  The right of subrogation applies not only to the employee but to all the beneficiaries under the plan, including typically the employees family members.

When a valid right of subrogation exists it can dramatically affect the rights of the injured driver to recover for their NC automobile accident injuries. Typically, ERISA health plans provide that the plan is entitled to recover all of the money it has paid out before the injured party receives anything.  The right of subrogation attaches to the entire settlement, without regard to whether the money is for medical bills, pain and suffering or lost wages.

Plan documents typically allow the plan to file a lawsuit in federal court to recover the medical expenses it has paid that are later recovered from an at-fault party.  Additionally, the plans can deny payment on unrelated claims for the injured party as well as for other plan participants.

It is possible to negotiate the right of ERISA reimbursement in NC auto accidents.  Key factors in the negotiation will be the exact plan language, the amount of medical expenses paid, and whether the injured party is still covered under the plan.  An experienced NC automobile accident attorney will be able to help make sure the recovery benefits the injured party and not the self-funded ERISA health plan.

Med Pay in NC Automobile Accident Cases

Med Pay in NC Automobile Accident Cases

This blog discusses the role of Med Pay in NC Automobile Accident Cases.  Med Pay, or Medical Payments Coverage, is insurance coverage typically combined with an automobile policy.  The coverage is optional but most insurance agents include Med Pay coverage with automobile insurance plans.  Med Pay limits are relatively small — $1000, $2000 or $5000 – and the coverage is inexpensive.

Persons eligible to file a Med Pay claim on an automobile policy generally include:  1) any named insured on the automobile insurance policy; 2) the insured’s spouse; 3) the insured’s family; 4) any person occupying a vehicle insured under the policy; 5) any person occupying a vehicle driven by someone insured under the policy.   An insured who is a pedestrian may collect Med Pay benefits when struck by a vehicle.  There are a number of specific exclusions from Med Pay coverage so check the policy carefully to see if your particular situation is covered.

In order for Med Pay to apply an insured must sustain an injury requiring medical treatment arising out of the use of an automobile.  Med Pay pays the actual, reasonable medical expenses associated with injuries that arise out of the use of a covered automobile.  Occasionally an insurance company will deny payment of a medical bill which it judges to be excessive.

Medical treatment must be provided by a licensed medical provider, including a chiropractor.  Med pay is no-fault coverage, which means it does not matter who is at fault in causing the injury.  Med Pay will pay the entire amount of the medical bill, without regard to whether that same bill is paid by health insurance.  There is no deductible with Med Pay coverage and filing a Med Pay claim will not increase your insurance premium.  Med pay does not cover pain and suffering, disability, lost wages or anticipated future medical expenses.

If you are injured in an automobile accident in North Carolina, Medical Payments Coverage can provide important flexibility in dealing with medical expenses.  Med Pay in NC automobile accident cases can allow you to pay your medical expenses if you do not have health insurance and to collect a small cash benefit if you do.  If you have questions about Med Pay in NC automobile accident cases call Cary, NC, automobile accident lawyer Kevin Bunn.