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Hit By Someone With No Auto Insurance?

Insurance

This is an unfortunate but common scenario that many individuals are faced with after an accident.

Under North Carolina law, you should file a claim against any policies covering the at-fault vehicle first, as their insurance is considered primary. If the vehicle was not covered under any auto insurance policies, then you would look to see if the driver of the car had a separate insurance policy.  If neither the driver nor the vehicle where insured at the time, then you have the option of filing for uninsured motorist coverage under your own auto policy.

After an accident, remember to obtain these three things from the other driver:

  1. The vehicle’s insurance information/card; and
  2. The vehicle’s registration information/card; and
  3. If the driver is not the owner of the vehicle, make sure you obtain insurance information for both the driver and the vehicle

If the police respond, they will usually obtain all the information you need and include it on the police report. However, if the parties do not involve law enforcement, then you must obtain this information yourself.

After an accident, the driver will most likely provide you the insurance information for the vehicle involved in the accident. While it is not common for the driver to show you the vehicle’s registration card, you want to look at it to determine if the driver is also the owner. If the driver is the owner, then you have obtained all information you need to file a claim against the vehicle.

If the driver is not the owner, then the driver may still be covered under the vehicle’s policy if they had permission to use the vehicle. However, if the driver did not have permission to use the vehicle or if that vehicle was not insured, then the insurance company will deny your claim.

Your next option is to file a claim against the driver.  Therefore, it is highly recommended you also obtain the driver’s information at the accident scene.  This can be accomplished by taking a picture of the driver’s license or writing down the information.  If the driver was covered under a different auto policy, then you can pursue a claim against them for the damage to your car and any medical bills you may have.

To find out if the driver had a separate policy, you will need to contact your own insurance company. You will need to provide them a copy of the denial letter you received from the vehicle’s insurance company and a copy of the driver’s information. They will set-up a claim and search to see whether the driver had any other policies. If they locate a policy, they will usually provide you with this information so you can file a claim. If the driver had a policy that was in full force and effect, that insurance company most likely will cover the repairs to your car and medical bills resulting from any injuries you sustained from the accident.

North Carolina law requires all auto insurance policies to include uninsured motorist coverage.  Most people do not even realize they have this protection. Uninsured motorist coverage is something you carry on your own auto insurance policy to “step-in” in situations where neither the driver or the at-fault vehicle had insurance. This coverage will help take care of the repairs to your vehicle and in most cases your medical bills if you were injured in the accident. Your insurance premiums should not go up and you should not be dropped for using this coverage.

As explained above, you have options even when you’re hit by someone without auto insurance. Although this article explains what steps to take, finding applicable insurance can be a complicated and frustrating experience. If you find yourself in this situation and need assistance, we are ready to help provide authentic and effective representation for you. Contact us today to see how we can help.


Can My Employer Fire Me While I’m On Workers’ Compensation?

You’ve been seriously injured at work. You are dealing with spending time in the hospital or taking multiple trips to the doctor. Stress is at an all-time high. The injury wasn’t your fault, so you shouldn’t have to worry about losing your job. Right? I mean, your employer can’t fire you while you’re on workers’ compensation anyway…right?

Suffering a workplace injury is never easy and no hardworking individual should ever lose their job because they reported an injury to their employer. However, the reality is that often times, especially in certain industries, it is common practice to terminate injured employees.

Harman Law is somewhat unique in that, not only do we represent injured workers in their workers’ compensation claims, but we also represent employees who have been wrongfully terminated. We are often asked by our workers’ compensation clients whether or not they have to worry about the company terminating their employment once they’ve filed a workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Just because you’re on workers’ compensation, you are not protected from being fired or laid off. For example, if you were going to be fired due to poor performance prior to the injury, or you were going to be laid off due to a larger reduction-in-force, simply filing a workers’ compensation claim does not shield you from termination.

With that being said, your employer cannot fire you because you filed, or even inquired about, a workers’ compensation claim. Under the North Carolina Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (“REDA”), it is illegal to fire, suspend, demote, relocate, or take other adverse actions against an employee who participates in certain protected activities. Those activities include, but are not limited to, filing a workers’ compensation complaint.

In order to bring a REDA complaint, the employee (called the “complainant”) must file the complaint with the North Carolina Employment Discrimination Bureau within 180 days of the last retaliatory or discriminatory act. The complaint must detail the alleged act, and why you believe it was taken. After the complaint is filed, the Employment Discrimination Bureau will begin an investigation, in which it contacts both you and the employer. If the employer is found to have willfully violated REDA, the court can triple the amount awarded for lost compensation and wages, or other economic damages caused by the violation. The court can also order that the complainant’s legal and attorneys’ fees be paid by the employer.

Unfortunately, it is very difficult to prove the exact reason why you were fired, and your employer will most likely not admit that workers compensation was the reason. You don’t always need the “smoking gun” type of evidence, such as a supervisor telling you they are firing you because you were injured or filed the claim, but you will have to find solid evidence that the termination was retaliatory. If your employer has another reason that was stated publicly, try to collect documentation or evidence that demonstrates why that reason is unconvincing.

If there’s any good news, it’s that regardless of the reason why your employment is terminated, any workers’ compensation benefits you were receiving before the termination will continue after the termination. Still, many workers are reluctant to pursue a claim out of fear of losing their jobs and choose to use their own health insurance or avoid getting any treatment at all. Although that fear is not completely unjustified, when you have been injured at work, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits and should not be afraid of taking advantage of that right.

At Harman Law, we are committed to helping injured workers get the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve, while also making sure they are compensated in the event that they become victims of retaliatory termination.


I Could Never

I could never

I Could Never

by Jeff Nischwitz

 

How often do you say some version of “I could never ….?” I know that I hear it regularly. I just completed my annual trip with my Dad – this time it was for 9 days out west and included an Amtrak train ride, 2,500 miles of and five states. I was sharing some of our experiences with a friend, and she asked, “Did you have hotel reservations made in advance?” If you know me, you know the answer was no, and in response, my friend said, “I could never go on a trip without having my hotel reservations made in advance.”

Hmm, “I could never.” What are some of the other “I could never” statements that we make or hear every day?

I could never run a marathon (or even a 5k).

I could never be a vegetarian.

I could never give up coffee.

I could never be really honest with a close friend.

I could never speak up with a new idea in a meeting when most of the group is supporting one idea.

I could never travel alone.

I could never take a vacation without working.

I could never go an hour without checking my emails and cell phone.

I could never ask for what I want.

I could never start my own business

I could never ….

Are you getting the idea?

Somehow, we have come to believe that it’s okay to say, “I could never,” but the truth is that when you say that phrase or others like it you have closed off the possibilities and likely blocked your own way to change. I get it – “I could never” feels safe and comfortable – but the truth is that none of us really know what is truly an “I could never” situation.

However, that’s not what leaders say or do. As a leader, I encourage you to eliminate “I could never” from your vocabulary and to embrace either “I will” or at least “I might be able to.” This shift will certainly change your perspective, your situation, and your possibility, and that’s what leaders do.


VALENTINE’S DAY, LOVE, AND MONEY

VALENTINE

Money may not buy you love, but on Valentine’s Day it can buy a lot of flowers, candy, and jewelry. Americans last year spent $18.9 billion on Valentine’s Day, with the average person paying $142.93—$96.63 on their spouse or significant other, and the rest going to gifts for family members, co-workers, teachers, and others.

Men spent more than women—an average of $190.53, compared to $96.58. Almost 52 percent of men bought candy for their partners, 61 percent went for flowers, and 21 percent splurged on jewelry.

But Valentine’s Day doesn’t have to break the bank.

Try these ideas for a sweet time together without spending exorbitant amounts of money:

  • Read a story together. Buy two copies of your favorite book or story (or borrow them from your library) and spend the evening discussing it. You may both learn things you didn’t know about the story (and each other).
  • Team up on a new recipe. Instead of going out to a restaurant, delve into your cookbooks and find a meal to collaborate on. Choose something different and challenging, and enjoy the results.
  • Visit a museum. Your town probably has a museum (or two) that you’ve never been to. Or a landmark you haven’t seen yet. Select someplace new and check it out together.
  • Go ice skating. If you live in a cold climate, find an ice rink nearby and go out for an hour or two of gliding—or falling—around together. Most rinks will rent skates for a minimal fee.

Attorney Michael Harman Listed as 2019 North Carolina Super Lawyer

Harman Law, PLLC is pleased to announce that attorney Michael Harman was recognized as a North Carolina Super Lawyers Rising Stars by Super Lawyers Magazine for 2019.

Super Lawyers recognizes attorneys who have distinguished themselves in their legal practice. Attorneys are chosen for this honor through a statewide nomination process, peer review by practice area and independent research on candidates. The rigorous process is designed to identify lawyers who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Only five percent of attorneys in the state of North Carolina are selected for inclusion in Super Lawyers.

The selection process for the Rising Stars list is the same as the Super Lawyers selection process, with one exception: to be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. While up to five percent of the lawyers in the state are named to Super Lawyers, no more than 2.5 percent are named to the Rising Stars list.

About Super Lawyers
Super Lawyers Magazine features the list and profiles of selected attorneys and is distributed to attorneys in the state or region and the ABA-accredited law school libraries. Super Lawyers is also published as a special section in leading city and regional magazines across the country. In the United States, Super Lawyers Magazine is published in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., reaching more than 13 million readers.


The Process of Obtaining Unemployment Benefits in North Carolina

If you have lost your job for reasons beyond your control, you may be entitled to North Carolina unemployment insurance benefits. Unfortunately, the appeals process for unemployment can be time consuming, burdensome and complex. I’ve provided a breakdown below of the process of obtaining unemployment benefits in North Carolina. Harman Law, PLLC can help you at whatever stage you find yourself in.

The Initial Determination                   

When you initially apply for unemployment, an Adjudicator takes the information you provide, along with information provided by your employer to make a determination of whether you qualify for unemployment. It takes several weeks to receive this determination.

If the Adjudicator determines that you are disqualified from receiving benefits, then you can appeal that decision simply by writing “I appeal” on the determination and submitting it to the Division of Employment Security at the address/fax/email provided on the determination, or by dropping it off at your local office. Of course, if the Adjudicator finds in your favor, the employer also has the opportunity to appeal.

There will be a date on the determination by which you have to submit your appeal. If you fail to submit it by the date listed, it is very possible that your appeal will be denied.

Appeal from the Determination (Lower Authority Review)

If you appeal the Adjudicator’s determination (or if the Employer appeals), you will be scheduled for an appeals hearing. Again, it will take several weeks before you get notice of the hearing date/time. During this time, you should continue to file your weekly certifications – even though you may not be receiving benefits.

These hearings typically take place over the phone, although you or the employer may request to have the hearing in-person at the local office. During the hearing, you and your employer will be given the opportunity to explain to the Appeals Referee the events leading to your separation of employment. Both parties may call witnesses and cross-examine the other party.

It is important to remember that this hearing will likely be your only opportunity to present evidence. Any future appeals (discussed below) will be limited to a review of the hearing. So, it is important that you present all evidence relevant and important for your case.

This is also the best point to retain an attorney.

Appeal from Appeals Referee’s Decision (Higher Authority Review)

After your hearing, the Appeals Referee will issue a decision in writing. This typically takes 1-2 weeks. If the decision is not in your favor, you have the opportunity to appeal the decision for Higher Authority Review, which is conducted by the DES Assistant Secretary, Board of Review or their designees. To do this, you must submit a written appeal within 10 days of the date the decision was mailed. It is not enough to simply write “I appeal” as with the initial determination. You must list a specific, legal-reason(s) for the appeal.

Once you appeal, the DES will review the recording of your hearing and all paperwork that is part of the record. The purpose of the review is to determine whether they believe the Appeals Referee made any errors in the decision, given the evidence presented at the hearing and/or in the record.

It can take anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 months to get the decision back from this appeal. Although it does happen, it is much less common that decisions of the Appeals Referee are overturned. Once the decision has been made, it will be mailed to you.

Appeal from the Higher Authority Review (Judicial Review)

If the decision of the Higher Authority Review is still not in your favor, you can ask for post-decision relief within 10 days of the date the decision was mailed. This rarely changes the outcome. You can also file a Petition for Judicial Review within 30 days. If you get to this point, you will definitely want to consider retaining an attorney.

The PJR is filed in state court in the county in which you reside. There is a $200 filing fee. Once the PJR is filed, it will be placed on the court calendar. This can take a few months, depending on the county. Once it is calendared, your attorney goes before the Superior Court Judge and presents an argument that the Appeals Referee made an error in their decision given the evidence presented in the hearing. An attorney from the DES will be there to argue the opposite. Once the judge reviews the record, he/she will make a decision.

If the Superior Court Judge does not find in your favor, you can appeal their decision to the NC Court of Appeals and potentially even to the North Carolina Supreme Court after that. These appeals become very costly and time intensive, so you should consider consulting with an attorney before attempting these appeals on your own.

When losing your job, these unemployment benefits can be crucial to your survival while seeking subsequent employment. After being denied benefits, retaining an attorney will drastically increase your likelihood of getting the benefits you deserve. The unemployment compensation attorneys of Harman Law can help you at any stage in this process. Contact us today to see how we can help.


Is My Car Accident Case Worth Pursuing?

Do I have a good case? How much should I expect to recover from my car accident? Should I even take the time to pursue a claim?

These are common questions people have after being involved in a car accident. Although every car accident case in North Carolina is unique and it is impossible to answer that question in detail without knowing more about a specific case, there are some basic questions you can ask yourself to determine whether your case is worth pursuing.

Question 1. Who’s fault was it?

To even be able to recover anything in a car accident case, you must show that you are not the party at fault. To determine who was at fault, you may simply be able to ask yourself “did someone else cause this accident?” If the answer is yes, then you should be good to proceed to the second question. However, liability is not always so clear. Under the law, people are expected to exercise reasonable care around other people. When someone is careless or negligent, the injured party can sue the negligent party for the resulting damages. Sometimes it is hard to tell who is at fault in a car accident, especially when there are multiple cars involved. As long as you were not the person at fault, then that’s all that matters.

If you believe someone else caused your injuries, then you may have a case worth pursuing.

Question 2. Was I injured?

Even if you were involved in a very bad accident and it is clear that someone else is at fault, you may not have a case worth pursuing if you are not physically and/or financially harmed. In North Carolina, injured victims of personal injury are entitled to recover for physical, emotional and financial harm, including past and future medical bills, property damage to their vehicle, past and future lost wages, physical and emotional pain and any other reasonable out-of-pocket expenses.

No one wants to be injured in an accident and hopefully if you were involved in an accident, you weren’t injured. However, if you were injured and you believe someone else caused your injuries, then you may have a case worth pursuing.

Question 3 – How am I going to get paid?

This is a question you may not have the answer to, but it is still worth asking. After determining who is at fault in the accident, you then have to determine whether that party has insurance coverage. When you bring a claim for personal injuries against the at-fault party, it is their insurance carrier that pays on their behalf. Unfortunately, not everyone that is driving on our roads in North Carolina has active insurance coverage. If there is not coverage available, then you have the option to proceed through your own insurance carrier (assuming you have uninsured motorist coverage). However, if neither you nor the at-fault party have active coverage, you may be forced to seek recovery of your damages from the at-fault party personally. If that person does not have funds or assets to cover your damages, you may be out of luck.

Even if the at-fault party has active insurance coverage, you also have to determine how much coverage they have. Although many people carry higher coverage limits, North Carolina only requires that individuals carry insurance with policy limits of $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident. In other words, the most the insurance carrier will pay out to any single individual is $30,000, regardless of how badly they were injured. If you were badly injured, or if there were multiple people injured in the accident, you may not be able to recover enough to cover your expenses.

In these cases, individuals usually have more success in their claims when they hire an attorney who is familiar with the different types of insurance policies and coverages available to assist when the primary at-fault party’s insurance may not be sufficient.

If there is coverage in place to fully compensate you for your injuries, either through the at-fault party’s or another’s insurance carrier, you may have a case worth pursuing.

Question 4 – How much money will I get in the end?

Television shows and fabricated stories of friends and family members have made this the most difficult topic for attorneys to discuss with their clients. Many people believe that once they retain an attorney to represent them in their minor accident, where they sustained minor injuries, they are going to recover thousands and thousands of dollars. Unfortunately, that is not usually the case. In fact, the majority of cases that involve minor damages usually settle for less than $10,000. But even that number can be misleading.

One good thing about personal injury cases for individuals is that they typically are not out any money up-front, even when they retain an attorney. Most attorneys (including Harman Law, PLLC) take personal injury cases on a contingency basis – meaning the client does not have to pay anything until money is recovered from the other party. However, because of this, most people get very excited when they hear the total settlement amount they have been offered, without taking into account the expenses that need to be deducted from that amount before the client receives their portion. Usually one-third of the total amount is paid to the attorney. Medical expenses as well as any out-of-pocket expenses the attorney fronted also have to be deducted. So, with the total settlement amount of $7,500, the client may only end up getting $2,000 – $3,000 in the end.

Certainly, there are cases that result in much higher settlement amounts, with more coming to the client in the end. And usually having an attorney leaves the client with a better end result, even after paying the attorney their fee. However, these are important thoughts to consider in determining whether you have a case worth pursuing.  

If you have questions about an accident you were involved in and want to know if we can help, contact us today for a free and honest assessment by one of the auto accident and personal injury attorneys of Harman Law.


Happy New Year! Check Out These Traditions From Countries Around The World

Happy New Year

Here are a few symbols and traditions of celebrating the new year across the globe …

The baby and the crone have been symbols of the new and old year since the time of the ancient Greeks. Here are a few more symbols and traditions of celebrating the new year across the globe:

• In Spain and Portugal, celebrants gather with 12 grapes in their hands. As the clock strikes midnight announcing the New Year, a grape is eaten for each strike of the clock.

• In Greece, a special New Year’s bread called vasilopita is baked with a lucky coin or charm hidden inside. The bread is served at midnight and whoever gets the charm will have good luck all year.

• Many Europeans eat cabbage or other greens to ensure prosperity for the coming year.

• In Asia, people eat dumplings, noodles, and rice cakes whose names and appearances symbolize long life, happiness, wealth, and good fortune.

• Neapolitans throw pots and pans—and sometimes furniture—out their windows into the streets to celebrate.

• Puerto Rican children throw pails of water out windows to rid their houses of evil spirits.

• The Swiss let a drop of cream hit the floor on New Year’s Day.

• Romanians wish their farm animals New Year’s wishes, and then listen to see if their animals talk back.


Make New Year’s Resolutions You’ll Keep

Happy New Year

Follow these steps to setting and achieving your goals in 2019:

Will the coming year be the one when you achieve all your New Year’s resolutions? It could be, if you follow these steps to setting and achieving your goals:

• Write down your resolutions. Make them specific; make sure you can measure the goals. Track your progress to that goal.

• Establish the benefits. Write down why you want to achieve the goal. List all the ways you will personally benefit from achieving the goal.

• Identify needed resources. Write down what you’ll need to invest to achieve your goal. Whether it’s time, money or something else, know what reaching this goal could “cost” you.

• Survey your knowledge. Determine what you need to learn in order to reach the goal. Will you need to take classes to learn a new skill? And what kind of information do you need access to?

• Seek assistance. Identify all the people who can serve as your support group. This may also include organizations that can help you.

• Develop a game plan. Set deadlines for achieving your goals. List specific dates on which you want to complete the various steps of the plan.

Very professional and responsive

“Best attorneys – Craig and his associate, Bret Stanley – Great experience. Hurricane Harvey – He represented me against my own insurance company when they tried to take my car away from me for minor flood damage after Hurricane Harvey – took great care of the case and won a fair settlement and I was able to keep my car!!!”

Posted by Laura Protz

“Have worked with Craig for several years and am very impressed his patience and leadership”

Posted by Clifford Lane

“Very nice people. Good at their jobs.”

Posted by Tammy Capps

“Great guy with lots of experience. Settled my case quickly and efficiently.”

Posted by Julie