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Tien Law Firm, PLLC
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Fatal Drunk Driving Accident

On January 19, 2015, a Wake County motorcyclist was killed in a #DWIAccident  caused by a woman who was allegedly speeding.  Police state that the drunk driver struck the victim while traveling an estimated 113 miles per hour on I-440.  The drunk driver faces criminal charges for possession of an open container of alcohol in the passenger area, driving left of center, failure to burn headlamps, driving while impaired (DWI), failure to reduce speed, expired/no inspection, driving while license revoked (DWLR), no operators license, expired registration card/tag, operate a vehicle with no insurance, and aggravated felony death by vehicle.  The drunk driver was convicted of a DWI in June 2012 and had another 2013 DWI charge pending in Pitt County when the wreck occurred.  The woman accused of the fatal DWI is currently in Wake County jail with no bond.

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Do I Need to See a Doctor After an Automobile Accident?

As a NC #PersonalInjuryLawFirm , we know that it is crucial to seek medical treatment following an automobile accident. Even if you do not feel hurt, you need to get checked out. It is extremely common to not feel any pain for the first few days after the car accident, only for the pain to set in at a later point. If you did not get checked immediately after the accident, the insurance company may argue that you injured yourself after the accident or that your injuries are not serious because you waited to seek medical attention. Our fragile bodies are not designed to handle the impact and force that most automobile accidents can generate. Even low-speed impact cases can cause serious damage to you neck and back. In very stressful situations, our bodies can release potent chemicals to cope with the shock and stress that may mask the pain. That is why is it extremely important to get checked out immediately following the accident.

>Should I Visit the Urgent Care, the ER, or a Primary Care Doctor?

We think it best to be seen at the ER first before following up with a primary care doctor. Both Urgent Care and primary care doctors usually lack the technology to perform x-rays and CT scans, and often they will refer patients to the ER for further testing. CT scans and x-rays are important to evaluate what cannot be seen merely by looking at the areas which sustained trauma. That is why we recommend being seen at the ER first, so that the necessary tests can be performed as soon as possible after the accident.

>Failure to Seek Immediate Medical Treatment Could Become a Legal Issue

Some experience pain and restrictions of movement immediately after the accident, but for others, it can take a few days for the pain and stiffness to occur. Many individuals defer getting medical treatment until the pain kicks in, but this can be a big mistake. We have seen where insurance try to devalue claims and argue that individuals are not seriously hurt because they waited several days or a week to get medical treatment.

Insurance companies use standard criteria to evaluate claims, and one of those criteria is how quickly you sought medical treatment after the accident. Insurance companies frequently argue that the more time that passes between the #AutoAccident and the medical treatment, the more likely that the individual is not really hurt or is exaggerating the extent of their injuries. When an individual waits a few days before seeking their initial treatment, insurance adjusters like to argue that the individual most likely hurt themselves at work or home after the accident occurred. For example, if you were involved in a car accident on Saturday, but wait until Wednesday to seek medical treatment, the insurance company may argue that you hurt yourself at home by over-exerting yourself rather than sustaining injuries in the #CarAccident , and it may be impossible for you to prove that you did not hurt yourself on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday at home. At least if you get medical treatment immediately following the accident, the insurance company cannot argue that you hurt yourself in some event that took place in between the #AutomobileAccident   and when you sought treatment.

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Property Damage Claims vs. Personal Injury Claims

For many car accidents, there will be a property damage claim and a personal injury claim. The property damage claim includes the cost of repair to your vehicle or the actual cash value of your vehicle prior to the accident if the car is beyond repair. The property damage claim also includes rental car charges, as well as towing and storage fees. Your personal injury claim is for your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering that you endured as a result of the collision. Almost always, the property damage claim will conclude first.

>Property Damage Release

You will likely be able to settle your #PropertyDamage claim on your own without affecting your #PersonalInjury claim . It is important to note that when you settle your property damage claim, you will be asked to sign a Property Damage Release. Read this document in its entirety. Make sure that the release is for “Property Damage Only.” If there is mention of “bodily injury” or “personal injury,” make sure your attorney reads the release before you sign it to make sure that you are not signing away your right to recover damages for your personal injury claim. If you have any questions, contact us–you do not want to sign away your right to receive compensation for your injuries without knowing.

>If your car cannot be repaired:

If the cost of repairs plus any supplemental claims (such as towing, storage fees, and rental car expenses) equals or exceeds 75% of the vehicle’s fair market value prior to the accident, then the insurance company will be required to pay you the actual cash value of your car less any liens against the vehicle.

>If your car can be repaired:

The insurance company is responsible for the reasonable cost of repairs to your vehicle. This may be a lower amount than the estimate that you receive from the repair facility of your choice. If your repair facility gives you a higher estimate than the amount that the insurance company is willing to pay, have the repair facility contact the property damage directly before staring the repairs to try to work out the difference.

Many times, a repair facility can submit an additional bill to the insurance company if the repair exceed the estimate and the insurance company will usually pay for the extra charges.

We highly recommend that you use one of the insurance companies’ preferred body shops. Therefore, if you have any problems with the repair shop, you can contact the insurance company to step it. If you choose a repair facility that is not preferred by the insurance company, you may have little remedy if the repair shop does not complete the repairs on time or does a poor repair job.

Once your vehicle is repaired, you can make a diminution in value claim against the insurance company. This is intended to compensate you for the decreased value that your car is worth after the accident versus what it would have been worth if you sold it prior to the accident. Note that if you car was previously involved in an accident, insurance companies will frequently cite the previous accident as the cause in the decreased value of your car versus the current accident.

If you have questions about your #PropertyDamageClaim or #PersonalInjuryClaim , contact our #PersonalInjuryAttorney .

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#Immigration  Update: Obama’s New Law to Expand Eligibility for Lawful Status

On November 20, 2014, President Obama expanded the category of individuals who are eligible for #LawfulStatus  by signing an executive order that will protect more than 4 million individuals from #Deportation . Beginning Spring 2015, #Undocumented  individuals will be able to apply for lawful status if they have a U.S. citizen child or lawful permanent resident child and have lived in the United States for more than 5 years. This new legislation is aimed at protecting families from being separated and shifting the focus of immigration enforcement. The executive order also removed the age cap for deferred action participants, which will allow a greater number of individuals to apply for #DeferredAction  or #DACA .

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Will the Insurance Company Pay for a Rental Car if My Vehicle Was Totaled?

If your vehicle is totaled, the insurance company is required to pay for your rental vehicle from the time of the collision until you receive an offer for the totaled vehicle. Assuming that a reasonable offer is made, the insurance company is not required to pay for a rental car after making their offer to you. Sometimes, the insurance company will authorize you to keep the #RentalCar  for a few days after the offer is made. This can be accomplished by asking the property damage adjuster to extend the return date on your rental car. If the adjuster refuses to grant you an extension on the rental car, you may ask to speak to their supervisor. The adjuster’s supervisor may have the authority to grant an extension for the return date of the rental car.

Generally, the rental vehicle provided to you should be comparable to the vehicle that was damaged, but the rental company’s inventory at the time is usually taken into account. Before obtaining the rental car, it is wise to first contact the insurance company to ensure that they will pay for the cost of the rental car. Usually, insurance companies can quickly make a rental car reservation for you.

If My Vehicle Was Not Totaled, Can I Get a Rental Car While My Vehicle is Being Repaired?

Generally, if your vehicle cannot be driven, you are entitled to a rental vehicle from the time of the collision until the repairs are finished. If, however, the repairs take an unusually long time to complete, the insurance company may argue that they are only obligated to pay for “reasonable rental expenses” and thus, they may give you a return date for your rental car before your repairs are completed. If your vehicle can be driven, you are entitled to a rental vehicle from the time your vehicle goes into the repair shop until the time it is repaired. Again, if the repairs take an unusually long time to complete, the insurance company may argue that they are only obligated to pay for “reasonable rental expenses” and thus, they may give you a return date for your rental car before your repairs are completed.

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After an Automobile Accident Who Pays for Towing and Storage Costs?

After an automobile accident, the #Towing  and #StorgaeFees  can be significant. A vehicle may need to be towed multiple times, with each tow adding to the total costs. For example, many times a damaged vehicle will be towed from the site of the accident to a storage facility until further arrangements are made, and then the damaged vehicle will need to be towed from the storage facility to the repair shop that the client chooses. Often clients ask who will be responsible to pay these costs.

The liability insurance company will be responsible for all reasonable towing and storage charges until three days after the owner and storage facility are notified in writing that the insurer will no longer reimburse the owner or storage facility for storage charges. It is important to ensure that your claim is being properly managed because the insurance company will only pay “reasonable towing and storage charges,” and usually storage fees accrue daily. Therefore if a car is left in a storage facility for a lengthy amount of time, without proper arrangements for repair or removal of the vehicle, the property owner may become liable to share some of the storage fees after the insurance company stops paying the bill. Notification that the insurance company will no longer pay the towing and storage fees is required to include the name, address, and telephone number of the facility where the vehicle is being stored. Additionally, notification to the storage facility that the insurance company intends to stop paying the accruing fees is required to include the name, address, and, if available, telephone number of the owner.

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NC Property Damage Law - Who Gets the Total Loss Check?

The total loss check will be issued to the owner of the totaled vehicle if the car has been paid off and the owner holds the title, meaning that there is no remaining loan payment for the car. If, however, the vehicle is being financed, the insurance company will have to determine the pay off amount of the vehicle. If the  #TotalLoss #Settlement exceeds the pay off value, the insurance company will generally issue one check for the amount of the remaining loan to the finance company, and a second check to the owner for the difference. But if the total loss check does not exceed the pay off amount, the insurance company will issue the check to the financing company, and the owner will owe the remaining balance to the finance company unless the owner purchased “gap insurance” or “gap coverage.” #GapInsurance or #GapCoverage is intended to protect automobile owners from being upside down on their loan when their vehicle is unexpectedly totaled and they owe more on the loan than their car is worth. This happens frequently, especially when the vehicle is financed for a longer term, such as five, six, or seven years. Usually, gap insurance or gap coverage is purchased at the time that you purchase the vehicle. If you are unsure about whether you have gap coverage, you may be able to find out by calling the car dealer where you purchased your vehicle. Another kind of optional insurance that you may have purchased to protect against owing on a #TotaledCar when the loan exceeds the value of the car at the time of the accident is called “repair or replacement” coverage. If you have repair or replacement coverage, it requires your automobile insurance company to pay either the reasonable #CostOfRepairs or the cost of a replacement vehicle, whichever is less.

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𝑾𝒉𝒆𝒏 𝑰𝒔 𝒂 𝑽𝒆𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒍𝒆 𝒂 𝑻𝒐𝒕𝒂𝒍 𝑳𝒐𝒔𝒔?

A motor vehicle is considered a #TotalLoss if the cost of repairs plus any supplemental claims (such as towing, storage fees, and rental car expenses) equals or exceeds 75% of the vehicle's fair market value prior to the accident.

𝑯𝒐𝒘 𝑴𝒖𝒄𝒉 𝑺𝒉𝒐𝒖𝒍𝒅 𝑰 𝑮𝒆𝒕 𝒇𝒐𝒓 𝑴𝒚 𝑻𝒐𝒕𝒂𝒍𝒆𝒅 𝑽𝒆𝒉𝒊𝒄𝒍𝒆?

If the vehicle is determined to be a total loss, the insurance carrier is required to pay the owner of the vehicle the fair market value of the vehicle prior to the accident. In order to determine the fair market value, adjusters generally base their offer on the book value of the vehicle for the particular geographic area. Adjusters may have some negotiation room to adjust their offer based on the condition of the vehicle and recent maintenance or repairs. Before you negotiate about the value of your #TotaledVehicle , be sure to check the values for the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) as well as the Kelly Blue Book values. But keep in mind that the values listed for your vehicle should only be used as a guide. If there was preexisting damage to the #Totaled vehicle, often, adjusters will takes this into account and discount their offer accordingly.

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𝑾𝒉What to Do About Damage to Your Vehicle After an Accident: Where to Begin𝒂𝒕 𝒕

If you were involved in a car accident or automobile wreck that was not your fault, you should contact the insurance company of the at-fault driver to report a claim. You may also have insurance coverage that you can collect under, and therefore you should report the claim to your insurance company as well.

Contact Information for the At-fault Driver’s Insurance Company

Whether your automobile accident was investigated by the Police Department or NC State Highway Patrol, the investigating officer should have provided you with a Driver Exchange Form. The Driver Exchange Form will list the other driver’s insurance company and policy number. Often, you can conduct an online search for the phone number to report a claim with the other driver’s insurance. Tien Law Firm, PLLC can also assist you with locating the correct insurance company and finding the correct phone number.

What if I Do Not Know the Name of the Other Person’s Insurance Company or They Have No Insurance?

If you did not receive a Driver Exchange Form, if you are unable to find the name of the other driver’s insurance company, of if you have been informed that the other driver does not have valid automobile insurance, Tien Law Firm, PLLC can assist you with conducting and in-depth search for the information.

Is It Okay to Speak with the Other Driver’s Insurance Company?

Generally, you should have your attorney speak with the other driver’s insurance company in order to protect your interests. Too often, I have seen clients ruin their claims by making simple statement to the other insurance company before they hire a law firm. If you do not have an attorney it can be extremely beneficial for you to hire an #AutomobileAccidentAttorney just for this purpose to serve as a filter between you and the insurance company. If you intend to hire an attorney to assist with your claim and help you maximize any potential settlement, the sooner that they are retained, the more assistance that they can provide. If you choose to speak with the other insurance company, it is important to remember to DISCUSS ONLY PROPERTY DAMAGE, and never answer questions regarding your injuries. But even when you are extremely careful, insurance companies can use your statements against you to deny liability. If the insurance company asks for a recorded statement or wishes to discuss your injuries, politely refuse and contact an attorney as soon as possible.
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