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  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 If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.  To see their YouTube video about bicycle safety, click here:

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 If you have questions, HensonFuerst has answers.

Bail, Bonds and Custody NC

Calculating credit for “Pre-Trial Confinement” can be a complicated process. When the accused has either been unable to secure his or her release due to financial hardships or in a matter where “NO BOND” has been set by court officials, “crediting” that time against an imposed judgment becomes an important consideration. § 15A-533. Right to pretrial release in capital and noncapital cases states,

(b) A defendant charged with a noncapital offense must have conditions of pretrial release determined, in accordance with G.S. 15A-534.

As such, a “Capital Offense” is the only type of charge where “conditions of pretrial release” do NOT need to be determined. At the same time, (c) A judge may determine in his discretion whether a defendant charged with a capital offense may be released before trial. If he determines release is warranted, the judge must authorize release of the defendant in accordance with G.S. 15A-534

North Carolina General Statutes set forth the procedure(s) for setting bonds. NCGS 15A-534

There are certain types of offenses or fact scenarios associated with offenses, by statute, where there is a “rebuttable presumption” that bond and/or conditions of release are not appropriate. In a big picture perspective, the Courts seek to determine, in a very general sense:

1. Will the Accused Return to Court? AND
2. Will Releasing the Accused Present a Danger to the Community. . .and possibility Present a Danger to Him/Herself.

A “rebuttable presumption” is something the Judicial Official “presumes” to be correct or otherwise appropriate; but, the Defendant (and his attorney) may attack the presumption in an effort to secure a condition or combination of conditions for release that would ensure s/he returns to face the charges AND would not present a danger to the community.

In effect, the North Carolina General Assembly directs the Court, “There is a presumption you will do or not do something. But, the accused may try to convince you to proceed otherwise.” As such, it would be the duty or the burden of the Defendant to overcome the presumption. In essence, the Defendant says, “I know normally this is what is done. Let me tell you why I’m different.”
At the same time, the Legislature also cautions for certain offenses: “Persons who are considered for bond under the provisions of subsections (d), (e), and (f) of this section may only be released by a district or superior court judge upon a finding that there is a reasonable assurance that the person will appear and release does not pose an unreasonable risk of harm to the community.” Determining “reasonable assurances” and “unreasonable risk of harm” can pose quite a difficult conundrum.

For an example and more on this topic, click here. The purpose of this article by PowersMcCartan is to provide background information on setting bail and bonds in North Carolina. If you have additional questions, please feel free to call the firm directly at 704-342-4357.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month: TBI Statistics

This month is recognized by various agencies and organizations as Brain Injury Awareness Month. It’s a good time to familiarize yourself with the nature of traumatic brain injury: how it can be caused, how prevalent it is, and what you can do to support a loved one who has sustained a brain injury. For the purpose of raising awareness, please consider the following statistics from the CDC:

• Of the leading causes of TBI, falls make up 40.5 percent, motor vehicle accidents 14.3 percent, struck by/against events 15.5 percent, and assault 10.7 percent
• In 2010, traumatic brain injury was involved in 50,000 deaths
• From the decade spanning 2001 to 2010, rates of brain injury related emergency room visits increased 70 percent
• Men are more likely to sustain a TBI than women
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of TBI-related fatalities among 5 to 24 year olds

Our experienced injury lawyers have represented many brain injury victims over the years. We see how these injuries strain the lives of the injured and their families. An inability to perform former job duties can severely affect the family’s livelihood, and this strain is only compounded by extensive medical bills. For a free case review, please call Ricci Law Firm, PA, at (855) 444-9764.

Life-altering injuries can have a catastrophic impact on your life and livelihood. Ricci Law Firm PA‘s workers’ compensation and personal injury attorneys are committed to fighting for injury victims and their families, and believe in holding responsible parties accountable for their actions. Serving Fayetteville, Greenville & Raleigh, NC.