Don’t Kill Your Case with Social Media Posts!

  1. Don’t post comments that could harm your claim or your credibility

The actual facts of your case are crucial, so don’t muddle them up with a post. A client of mine recently posted on Facebook that she had fallen while riding her horse. She was already making a claim for a shoulder injury that occurred at work when she fell off the horse. In the horse incident, she bruised her hand on the other side of her body from the shoulder injury, and did not hurt her shoulder. The insurance adjuster sent her for an IME with a doctor to check out her shoulder, and told the doctor that the woman had fallen off her horse. The doctor concluded that she hurt her shoulder falling off the horse, not at work, even though he had no evidence to support this notion except for her Facebook post that she had fallen off her horse. This IME report has now complicated her case a great deal.

  1. Don’t post photos on social media that could harm your claim or your credibility

Your credibility as a witness is extremely important in a workers’ comp case. A couple years ago a client of mine who was claiming a disabling back injury had a photo on his Facebook page of himself jumping off a picnic table, jumping up and over his girlfriend’s head, as she was standing on the ground at the end of the picnic table. The photo was undated. It was posted AFTER he got hurt at work. We had to track down the friend who had snapped the photo to try to get the digital photo EXIF data to show that the photo was taken BEFORE he got hurt at work. The insurance company claimed that the photo was taken after he got hurt, and that it proved he was not hurt as badly as he claimed. The only way to defeat that bogus defense was to find the friend who took the photo and get the proof of exactly when the photo was taken.

  1. Don’t let your friends or family post things on their pages that could hurt your case or your credibility

You can keep your own page clean but if your social media friends are posting stuff on their pages that can hurt your claim, then the fact that it is not on your page is not really a defense. Pictures in particular are very compelling and persuasive. So try to monitor what your friends are posting about you, and ask them immediately to take down anything that may harm your claim or your credibility. A “tagged photo” can cost you a lot of money–A client with a knee injury once allowed the defense to find out he had been to the beach, playing touch football, the weekend before his mediated settlement conference. This tidbit of information cost him a lot of money in his settlement. If you are not sure about a post or photo, consult with a workers’ comp lawyer about it.

The Bollinger Law Firm, PC, is based in Charlotte, but takes workers’ compensation cases across North Carolina. Founded in 1999, the firm has a strong reputation as a law firm of advocates for injured and disabled people.

Debt Collection A to Z: P is for Publication

Hear ye! Hear ye! Now hear this….be careful what you publish and how you publish. This maxim definitely applies to debt collectors.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (applies only to debt collectors; not original creditors) and the North Carolina Debt Collection Act (applies to ALL species of debt collectors including individuals collecting on their own debt) when you are making phone calls, sending letters, posting notices, and otherwise engaging in debt collection be conscious of how you do it. One illegal tactic used by some collectors is the “deadbeat list” in which the names of debtors and the amounts owed (and often other information) is posted in a place for third parties to see. Presumably the goal of the deadbeat list is to shame the debtor into making arrangements to pay the debt. While it may be effective it is illegal.

Homeowners associations, condo associations, and similar entities often employ deadbeat lists. In one case I worked on a community in the Triad area posted a deadbeat list of the names, unit numbers, and monetary amounts owed by homeowners who allegedly owed for homeowner dues, assessments, and other monetary amounts. North Carolina law on publication of debts (N.C.G.S. § 75‑53) states the following:

No debt collector shall unreasonably publicize information regarding a consumer’s debt. Such unreasonable publication includes, but is not limited to, the following:

… (2) Using any form of communication which ordinarily would be seen or heard by any person other than the consumer that displays or conveys any information about the alleged debt other than the name, address and phone number of the debt collector except as otherwise provided in this Article.

Suffice it to say that publication of a debt may not be a good strategy for the debt collector. In some cases it could wind up making the debt collector the debtor when the actual debtor has counterclaims and significant monetary damages from the nature and/or quantity of the publication. Feel free to publish this blog post to your social media, links, favorites, family, and friends. If you believe your debt has been illegally published contact an experienced attorney for a consultation.

John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney with the O’Neal Law Office in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues and Debt Defense Lemon Law), and various types of Civil Litigation handling cases across North Carolina. A long-time NCAJ member, he is a former Chair of the NCAJ Consumer Areas of Practice Section and a two-time Ebby Award winner.

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation – A Guide for Injured Workers – Time Limits for Filing the Claim

If you are injured at work in North Carolina, or while working anywhere in the country for a North Carolina employer, then you need to take prompt action to report your injury to your employer.

You should first give your employer verbal notice of your accident and your injury. If you have an occupational disease, which is a condition such as carpal tunnel that develops over time, then you should give your employer verbal notice of the condition as soon as you learn about it. In an accident situation, you need to get medical attention as required by the injury. Don’t hesitate to call 911 for an emergency; reporting the incident to the employer can wait until you are done at the emergency room!

Under NC law you are also required to give your employer written notice of the incident that hurt you. You need to provide this written notice within 30 calendar days of when it happened. You need to describe how you were hurt–the accident or incident itself–and you need to disclose the nature of your injury as well. The North Carolina Industrial Commission has a form designed for this purpose–the Form 18 Claim form, which can be filled out online at the Commission’s web site and then sent to both the Commission and the employer. However, if you plan to do this yourself, it is advisable to first contact a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Specialist Attorney for a free consultation in order to learn how to fill out this form properly. Using the wrong word or not giving enough detail about how you were hurt can result in a denial of your claim that may take months to overturn.

If you fail to give this written notice within 30 calendar days, then the employer and its insurance carrier have a defense to your workers’ compensation claim. The law provides that notice given to the employer is deemed to be notice to the insurance carrier, so you do not need to worry about notifying the insurance carrier separately. The employer has a contractual duty to notify the carrier promptly when the employer learns of your claim.

There are some exceptions to this 30 day notice rule, but the better practice is to always file the written notice with the employer within 30 days, and not risk your claim on an exception to the rule. You have two (2) years to file this notice of claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, so getting the notice to the employer on time should be your first consideration after the initial emergency medical care is received.

North Carolina workers’ compensation law is complex and it changes a bit every month when our appellate courts release a new decision. In 2011, our General Assembly passed a reform bill that made large and far-reaching changes to the law. If you are injured at work in North Carolina, it makes sense for you to contact a North Carolina Board Certified Specialist in Workers’ Compensation Law for a free initial consultation before you start filing legal papers to begin your claim. Doing it right the first time is much easier than doing it incorrectly and then having to hire a lawyer to help you fix it later.

The Bollinger Law Firm, PC, is based in Charlotte, but takes workers’ compensation cases across North Carolina. Founded in 1999, the firm has a strong reputation as a law firm of advocates for injured and disabled people.

Consumer Debtors: Learn Your Rights

In the world of debt collection sometimes things get out of control but how do you know when? Take a few moments to learn some basic rights when dealing with debt collectors. If you believe a debt collector has violated your rights do not try to handle it yourself. Consult an experienced legal professional. It could save you time and money and possibly even earn you some money.

John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney with the O’Neal Law Office in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues and Debt Defense Lemon Law), and various types of Civil Litigation handling cases across North Carolina. A long-time NCAJ member, he is a former Chair of the NCAJ Consumer Areas of Practice Section and a two-time Ebby Award winner. 

Top Bicycle Safety Tips, from Someone Who Has Seen Too Many Injuries

Bicycling is fun…healthy…and a great way to spend time outdoors with friends and family. But when bicycles share the road with motor vehicles, this sport can be dangerous, as well.

Every year, more than half a million people end up in a hospital emergency room after a bicycle injury—usually minor cuts and scrapes, but a serious injury can result a broken bone, brain injury, or even death. Last year, nearly 800 bicyclists died from injuries sustained during a ride.

While you can’t prevent every accident on the road, there are definitely things you can do to improve your odds of coming home save after a day of cycling.

Here are five top cycling safety tips:

  1. Be visible.

The sad truth is that most motor vehicle drivers don’t watch for cyclists on the road. And if they can’t see you, there’s a higher risk of being hit, sideswiped, or crowded off the side of the road. To make yourself and your bike as visible as possible.

  • Put reflectors or reflective tape on the bike frame and wheels.
  • Wear brightly colored clothing.
  • If you ride at night or in low-visibility conditions (such as at dawn or dusk, or in the rain or fog), make sure your bike has a light, and wear clothing and a helmet with reflective tape.
  • For low-profile bikes, or for added visibility, consider using a bright orange bike flag.
  1. Wear a helmet.

Most states mandate helmet use for people under age 18. North Carolina state law requires helmets only until age 16. There are many different types of helmets, depending on the person and the type of use: There are helmets for different ages, for road use or commuter use, for mountain, BMX, downhill, and racing bikes. To learn more about helmets, visit the website for the Bicycle Helmet Safety Institute at http://www.bhsi.org/.  Then, once you read the basics, visit a bike shop that can help fit you with the best helmet for you and your cycling needs.

  1. Obey standard traffic rules.

Do everything you would typically do as a motor vehicle driver…without “cheating the rules” just because you’re on a bicycle. That means no “rolling stops” at stop signs, no “left on red,” and no riding against traffic. And even though a bike doesn’t have turn signals, you should always use hand signals to indicate turns.

  1. Stay hyper-aware of your surroundings.

Use all your senses to know all the potential hazards around you: Be on the lookout for less-than-optimal road conditions, such as sand, gravel, glass, snow, ice, or slush. Watch also for potholes, sewer grates, debris, and crumbling concrete. Notice parked cars and remember that people may open car doors directly into your path. Remember, too, that not all drivers are civil to cyclists—that car coming up behind you may resent having to share the road and could try to scare you by swerving close to your bike or by loudly blowing their horn as they pass. If you are aware of the road and other vehicles, you can adjust your riding style and stay safe no matter what comes up.

  1. Maintain your bike in good mechanical condition.
  • Check the condition of the tires to make sure the rubber is pliable and not cracking.
  • Also, make sure the tires are properly inflated to a proper PSI. How do you know what that is? Look on the side of the tire. Most bike pumps now have a pressure gauge built into them, so you don’t have to buy a separate one.
  • Make sure the brake pads are in good condition. Examine the pads to make sure they are not excessively worn down. No metal should show from the bottom of the pads, and the rubber shouldn’t be cracked or look brittle. If you see any of those signs, then it is time replace them.
  • Make sure that your gears, shifters, and brakes are working properly. That means taking it for a short test ride before heading out on the road.
  • Anyone who has biked more than just a few miles knows the displeasure of having a flat tire. Always take a spare tire tube and changing tool with you so you can fix the flat and get back on the road quickly.

Safety depends on you, your equipment, road conditions, the weather, other drivers, and many other factors. Some things you can control, and some you can’t. If you at least keep these five bicycling safety tips in mind, you’ll ride safely for a long time to come.

To learn more health and safety tips, visit HensonFuerst’s website at http://lawmed.com/. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.  To see their YouTube video about bicycle safety, click here:  http://youtu.be/_96khrZTvcA

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation — A Guide for Injured Workers — The “Recorded Statement”

When an injured worker files a workers’ compensation claim in North Carolina, one of the first critical events that will happen is a phone call from the insurance adjuster requesting a “recorded statement.”

The adjusters are always nice about it, but the process of giving an adjuster a recorded statement is full of traps for the unwary injured worker. The adjusters are looking for reasons to NOT pay the claim, and are not usually looking for a reason to pay your medical bills and lost wages. And, consider this legal fact: Some on the job injuries are not covered by workers’ compensation because of the way the injury occurred. In order to have a “compensable” injury, one must be injured by accident, or by a “specific traumatic incident” or injured over time due to an “occupational disease.” If you do not describe how you got hurt in enough detail in this recorded statement, then the insurance company will deny your claim. Each of these three types of compensable injuries has it own set of key details that need to be disclosed in the recorded statement.

Most people hire a lawyer to help them after their claim is denied–and after they have given a recorded statement that can be used to discredit them in the hearing to review the denial. I have seen many recorded statements that failed to disclose all of the details of the incident that caused the injury, and the injured worker was denied medical benefits and wage loss benefits as a result. We can request a hearing on these denials, but it takes months to get through that litigation process. And if the recorded statement leaves out crucial details then the injured worker’s more detailed testimony in court may be viewed as “not credible” simply because those details were left out in the recording.

So, if you are hurt at work, how do you avoid this potential problem? Well, it is pretty easy. Before you take that risk, you should get a free legal consultation from a Board Certified Specialist in NC Workers’ Compensation law BEFORE you talk to the adjuster in that recorded conversation. That lawyer can go through the facts with you and make sure you know what is important before you put yourself on record with the insurance company.

As soon as you can after your injury, contact a Certified Specialist for some free legal advice. All workers’ compensation lawyers will give you a free legal consultation, but make sure you contact the best lawyer for the task. In North Carolina, you should look for a lawyer who is Board Certified in Workers’ Compensation Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. A directory of those lawyers across the state can be found on the Specialization website. The link is down below.

NC State Bar Specialist Directory

The Bollinger Law Firm, PC, is based in Charlotte, but takes workers’ compensation cases across North Carolina.  Founded in 1999, The Bollinger Law Firm has a strong reputation as a law firm of advocates for injured and disabled people.

Brain Doc Suggests Concussion Prevention

HensonFuerst frequently write blogs about concussion, but Dr. Robert Cantu, neurologist and medical director of the Nation Center for Catastrophic Sports and Injury Research in Boston, has a new set of recommendations for parents and sports coaches.

Because a child’s brain isn’t fully developed, any trauma has the potential to be more damaging than trauma to an adult brain. In addition, Dr. Cantu says children tend to lack the neck strength to reduce the acceleration forces the brain will receive. As a result, he said, children who play youth sports may be at more risk than adults realize.

According to an article from U-T San Diego, Dr. Cantu’s recommendations are:

• No heading in soccer until age 14.
• Require chin straps in baseball; ban the headfirst slide.
• No bodychecking in youth hockey before 14.
• No full-contact football until age 14.
• Eliminate head-to-head hitting in Pop Warner (youth football).
• Reduce the contact allowed in football practice.
• Have children perform exercises to strengthen neck muscles.
• Require helmets in field hockey and girls lacrosse.

These guidelines may change the way youth sports are played, but that’s better than having to watch the outcomes of concussions.

For more information about concussions and other traumatic brain injury, visit HensonFuert’s dedicated web page at lawmed.com/braininjury/. If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.