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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Use the Privacy Settings. If you insist on posting make full use of the privacy settings.
- 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.
- 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.
Increasingly, parties to a lawsuit or claim are demanding confidentiality clauses in NC personal injury and workers’ comp cases, as well as breach of contract, discrimination claims and even divorce actions. Many employers now require a separate “resignation and release” as a condition of settling a NC workers’ compensation claim, and these agreements often include a confidentiality clause. The reason is pretty straightforward — employers and businesses are reluctant for their employees and competitors to know what they have paid on a claim. My own view is that in the vast majority of cases nobody except the parties much cares what is paid, and its better to not have any remaining post-settlement obligations between the parties. But defendants frequently feel differently.
Recently, the breach of a confidentiality provision cost an age discrimination claimant his $80,000 settlement. Patrick Snay, the former Head of School at Gulliver Preparatory Academy Miami, Florida, filed an age discrimination claim against his employer after his 2010-11 contract was not renewed. The case settled for the payment of $10,000 in back pay plus $80,000. Unfortunately, Snay apparently told his teenage daughter about the deal and she could not resist posting the result on Facebook, advising her 1200 Facebook followers that “Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT.” Needless to say, word of the the post got back to Gulliver officials, who promptly advised Snay that he had broken the confidentiality agreement and would not be receiving his settlement. The Third District Court of Appeal for the State of Florida sided with the school, holding that Snay’s disclosure of the settlement to his daughter violated the confidentiality clause.
Of even greater concern is the potential tax liability associated with including confidentiality clauses in NC personal injury and workers’ compensation cases. 26 U.S.C.A. section 104(a)(2) provides that “gross income does not include the amount of any damages (other than punitive damages) received (whether by suit or agreement and whether as lump sum or as periodic payments) on account of personal physical injuries or physical sickness.” So in general, workers’ compensation and personal injury proceeds are not taxed. However in 2003 the IRS ruled that money paid to secure a confidentiality clause is not compensation for personal injuries or physical sickness and so is taxable. Amos v. Commissioner, 2003 Tax Ct. Memo, LEXIS 330 (2003). (We have Dennis Rodman to thank for that. Look it up if you don’t believe me.) So if you have to sign a confidentiality agreement in your NC personal injury or NC workers’ compensation case consider assigning a specific amount of the settlement to that provision, and plan on paying taxes on that amount.
Finally, here are a few tips if you are considering entering into a confidentiality clause along with your personal injury or workers comp case:
- Raise the issue of any confidentiality agreement during settlement discussions.
- Be sure you are allowed to discuss the settlement as required to receive tax and legal advice, meet any obligations to business partners or insurers, or and to comply with any future court orders.
- Know exactly what is confidential. Does the non-disclosure apply to the terms of the settlement, the nature of the dispute itself, information exchanged between the parties?
- Understand the consequences of any breach of the confidentiality agreement. Most confidentiality agreements contain a “liquidated damages” clause, setting specific amount of money as the damages for breach of the clause.
Please call or email if you would like to discuss confidentiality clauses in NC personal injury and workers’ comp cases in North Carolina.
Starting in June, the mystery shrouding hospital billing in North Carolina will be lessened. Laws passed by the General Assembly will force hospitals to bill their patients using simple, easy to understand language. These newly passed laws will help defend the public from misreading or overpaying hospitals for petty or unnecessary charges. The idea for increasing transparency in hospital billing came alive after the News and Observer and the Charlotte Observer released stories revealing several hospitals misuse of profits. After these scandals were uncovered, the power of the hospitals in the state began to diminish.
This past year, hospitals across the state took a financial hit due to the greatest Medicaid cuts in history. The General Assembly denied the expansion of Medicaid to hundreds of thousands of North Carolina residence this year under the Affordable Care Act. These cuts had the greatest impact on smaller hospitals located in the rural parts of the state where a large number of their patients rely on these federal programs. These severe cuts in funding forced hospitals across the state to look for new means of income. The North Carolina Hospital Association is said to have spent almost $1 million on advertisement in an attempt to boost business.
The main goal of N.C. hospitals was to fight a cap on sales tax refunds for non profit hospitals. The original proposal was to cap the refund at $100,000. This was quickly shot down by the House and the cap was adjusted to $2.85 million. To some of the larger hospitals this amount was startlingly small. Many politicians were disappointed and frustrated by the outcome of a $45 million dollar cap on sales tax refunds. This should not affect any hospitals this year, but hospital lobbyists fear that if the issue is reevaluated in the future, the cap will be set lower.
The most important section of the bill to the public is the more ‘user friendly’ billing system. Patients will now be more aware of hospital pricing and the cost of all of the services healthcare providers and hospitals provide. Hospitals now have to post the reimbursements for patients from Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance providers as well as for patients who are not insured. These have to be posted in plain view both in the hospitals and on their website. This allows patients to really feel more in control of the care they receive.
This will help NC personal injury and car accident claimants by making the bills easier to understand, especially where the medical provided may have to be reimbursed.
If you have been injured in an auto accident or on the job in NC and have questions about your personal injury claim or NC workman’s comp case please call or email for your free consultation with a North Carolina Personal Injury lawyer.
How do I pay for my medical treatment if I am hurt in a NC car accident?
In general, you should not let the fact that you were injured by someone else’s carelessness affect how you pay your medical expenses or what treatment you receive after a NC car accident. If you have health insurance have your doctor submit the bills for your medical treatment to your health insurer. Remember that your health insurance insures you and that you pay the premiums and you should get the benefit of that coverage no matter how you were injured. By billing your health insurance you get the treatment you need, when you need it, from a doctor you choose.
Health insurance policies issues in North Carolina are prohibited from denying treatment just because it relates to an automobile accident. They are also prohibited from seeking a refund for payments they make for injuries that arise out of a NC car accident. There are a few important distinctions however.
Certain self-funded health plans that qualify under federal ERISA laws may be entitled to recover money they pay for medical treatment that is later recovered by the injured party from an at-fault third party. Also, government funded plans including Medicare, Medicaid, and the State Health Plan (which covers state employees in North Carolina) are generally entitled to reimbursement for amounts paid that are later recovered from an at-fault third party.
The laws determining whether and to what extent these health plans can recover or “subrogate” their payments are complex. Properly determining reimbursement amounts, if any, can be critical to a fair recovery in a NC car accident claim. In each case there are limits to what the plan can recover. If you are injured in an automobile accident in NC and you think you may have to reimburse a health plan you should contact a NC car accident attorney.
Even if you have to reimburse your health plan for some of the benefits it pays you should still file all of your bills related to a NC car accident with the plan. The reason is that way you get to take advantage of the health plan’s discount with the health provider. For example, the provider may have agreed to accept a 40% discount for x-rays. And you get the benefit of that discount when you pay your provider back.
For more information about nc car accident law contact Cary Attorney Kevin Bunn.
Automobile Accidents in North Carolina – Auto Accident Lawyer Cary NC
Automobile accidents are a type of personal injury or “negligence” case. Negligence is the failure of someone to comply with a duty imposed by law. For example the law imposes a duty to stop at a stop sign. If a driver fails to comply with that duty and as a result someone is injured, the injured party may recover money damages from the person at fault. The person who was injured is called the “plaintiff” and the person or organization at fault is called the “defendant.” Unfortunately, these common cases are among the most complex and frustrating to resolve.
Every vehicle registered in North Carolina must be insured with at least $30,000 in bodily injury liability coverage for one injured party, $60,000 in coverage for two injured parties, and $25,000 in property damage liability coverage. This means that if you are in an automobile accident you will be dealing with a trained and experienced insurance adjuster whose job it is to pay as little as possible to settle the claim.
If you are in an auto accident in NC call the police even if you are not hurt. The responding officer will interview each party and any witnesses, examine the accident scene and prepare an accident report. This report will be filed with the Division of Motor Vehicles and is a public record. The officer will also see to it that the parties exchange insurance information and may charge the party he or she determines to be at fault. The law requires that you provide the officer your name, address, license number and the registration number of the vehicle you were driving. Please free to contact 0ur office for more NC automobile accident information.
Kevin Bunn is an Automobile Accident Lawyer in Cary, North Carolina. His office is off Interstate 40, convenient to Raleigh, Apex, Holly Springs, and Fuquay-Varina. If you have been injured in an automobile accident in North Carolina, please call or email for your free consultation with an experienced NC automobile accident attorney.