Understanding Settlement and Release Agreements

settlement agreements Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

You’ve finally come to the end of the long and drawn out litigation process, and it’s time to settle your claim once and for all.

The way that most cases are ended is not with a jury or a judge, but with a settlement agreement.

Although it sounds simple, it’s usually not. A settlement agreement is a critical and powerful piece of your case.

When should you use a settlement and release agreement?

You should pull out a settlement and release agreement when:

  • The defendant wants to settle outside of the courtroom.
  • The plaintiff in a lawsuit wants to state the terms in which he or she would settle out of court and end the lawsuit.

What should be included in a settlement and release agreement?

Settlement and release agreements should typically include the following:

  • The names and addresses of the parties involved – both the plaintiff and the defendant
  • A brief summary of the dispute and the nature of the claim
  • A statement describing in detail what the plaintiff is getting in exchange for ending the lawsuit or claim. A release is typically only valid if the plaintiff or person filing the claim is receiving something in return for ending the dispute or giving up the right to file a lawsuit. Usually, the “something” is money, and if so, you should state the amount of money. If it is not money, state what it is.
  • A sentence explaining that the release will end all current and any future litigation that could arise from this claim. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  • A clause that binds all people who might want to file a claim (like the plaintiff’s spouse or daughter) to the settlement, thus giving up their rights to file a lawsuit as well.
  • The date when the release is signed by both parties.
  • The signatures of all parties involved. This would seem obvious, but it’s important. Technically, only the person who’s releasing the lawsuit needs to sign it, but it’s a better move for all parties involved to sign the document.  
  • Have witnesses present when the agreement is signed. That’s not mandatory, but if you believe the person could come back and later say that he or she never signed the document, then it’s a smart idea to bring a witness or two with you when you are signing the document.

Depending on the nature of your claim, a judge or another officer of the court might have to sign off on the settlement agreement.

This is why it’s so important to hire an experienced attorney to handle your case from start to finish. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

 

5 tips for choosing the best personal injury lawyer

tips for choosing a personal injury lawyer Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Perhaps the most important task you have after an accident with injury is choosing the personal injury lawyer in North Carolina who is right for you. After all, so much depends on it.

Here are some tips for selecting the best personal injury attorney:

  • Experience – It may seem obvious, but it’s crucial that you choose an attorney who has ample experience in investigating and analyzing all aspects of your claim. He or she will know exactly what to look for, where to find it, and knows that the minute details can make or break your case. Robert Armstrong has 32 years of experience in personal injury cases.
  • Area of focus – Some personal injury lawyers may specialize in big rig accidents, while others may focus on motorcycle or other types of motor vehicle accidents. It’s important that you pick an attorney who’s well-versed in the type of accident for which you have a claim. It’s said that about 95 percent of personal injury claims are settled without a judge or jury, so it’s key that your lawyer understands the many factors at play. A family mortgage attorney or a corporate litigator won’t cut it for these types of cases. Robert Armstrong has handled only personal injury cases for his entire 32-year career.
  • Reputation – Is your attorney well-known, or is your lawyer infamous? Your attorney’s reputation will factor heavily into dealing with insurance companies, other lawyers, judges and court officials. Someone who has been kicked out of courtrooms for bad behavior or doesn’t play nice with others probably isn’t the best lawyer to handle your case. You need someone who is well-respected with a track record of getting fair settlements for his or her clients.
  • Disciplinary record – How many complaints does your potential lawyer have against him or her? Has he or she ever been disciplined for actions or behavior while practicing? Has your attorney ever been suspended? Disbarred? You can typically find all of this information online in a searchable database.
  • Personality – He or she might be the best lawyer out there, but if you and your attorney don’t mesh well or can’t get along, then you might want to find someone else. Also, you need an attorney who is willing to return your phone calls and answer specific questions about your case. You don’t need to be best friends with your attorney, but you do need to have a good working relationship.

Hiring a personal injury attorney is a key step in recovering all the money you deserve after an experience as traumatic as an accident. Be sure to follow these steps in selecting the right attorney for you. If you or someone you love has been in an accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

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Essential Motorcycle Insurance Coverage to Purchase In North Carolina

Essential Motorcycle Insurance Coverage to Purchase In North Carolina Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you own a motorcycle in North Carolina, you must have it insured, according to state law.

The minimum coverage you can have on your motorcycle in North Carolina is liability.

What are the mandatory motorcycle insurance coverage requirements in North Carolina?

Here are the mandatory insurance requirements for motorcycles in North Carolina:

  • $30,000 for bodily injuries or death to one person in a single accident.
  • $60,000 for bodily injuries or deaths to more than one person in a single accident.
  • $25,000 for property damage occurring in a single accident.

When you’re shopping for motorcycle insurance, remember that these requirements are the minimum coverage by law. You can add more coverage if you believe you need it.

What are the optional coverage options for motorcycles?

Aside from liability insurance, most insurance companies that write motorcycle policies will offer other types of optional coverage that will give you added protections for damages and injuries you might incur if you are ever in a motorcycle accident. These include:

  • Collision – This will cover damage to your motorcycle if you are in an accident and it is your fault. For damages to your motorcycle after and accident.
  • Comprehensive – This is for any damages to your motorcycle that could happen that are not related to an accident.
  • Medical payments – If you are ever in a motorcycle accident and it is your fault, this type of coverage will help to pay your medical bills if you’re injured. Please note that Medical payments is not an option in North Carolina for motorcycles.
  • Towing and labor – If your motorcycle breaks down on the side of the highway, this type of coverage will make sure you get roadside assistance.
  • UM/UIM – Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist coverage to protect you in the event that the other vehicle that caused the wreck either has NO insurance (UM) or is Underinsured (UIM). In that case you can make a claim on your own policy to get the compensation that you deserve. This is perhaps THE MOST IMPORTANT COVERAGE that a rider can buy. It will protect you!

Even though the state keeps track of whether you have insurance through insurance companies that notify the DMV if there’s a lapse in coverage, you are still required by law to show proof of insurance if asked by law enforcement. All you have to do is keep your current insurance card on you at all times.

What are the penalties if you fail to maintain proper insurance for your motorcycle?

Now that you know what kind of insurance coverage you need, what can happen to  you if you fail to keep proper insurance on your motorcycle?

Well, that depends:

  • First, your insurance company will let the DMV know that you don’t have current insurance.
  • Once that happens, a Form FS 6-7 notice will be sent to you.
  • If you did, in fact, have a lapse in your insurance coverage, you must show proof of your current coverage, pay the fine implemented by the DMV and mail it back to the department within a certain number of days of the date listed on the form.
  • If you fail to do the above, your license plates will likely be suspended for a month.
  • If that happens, you’ll have to wait the 30 days, then go to the DMV and clear things up, while likely paying a heftier fine.

If you or someone you love has been in a motorcycle accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

What is Contributory Negligence?

What is Contributory Negligence Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you are involved in a vehicle or other type of accident, the term contributory negligence might come up.

Contributory negligence is how the legal community describes the actions of an injured person who may have played a part in causing his or her own injury.

For example: if you are hit by a car while riding your bicycle, but you were riding on the wrong side of the road, then you could share in the blame for the accident, and your compensation could be affected.

Another example would be if you are dining in a restaurant and have a severe peanut allergy, but fail to notify the restaurant. If you eat something with peanuts and have an allergic reaction, it may be partially your fault for failing to tell the employees.

How does North Carolina’s contributory negligence law work?

North Carolina is one of only a handful of states that still abide by contributory negligence instead of comparative negligence, which is when the degree of fault is measured for each party, and then your compensation is based on that analysis.

In North Carolina, that’s not the case:

  • Even if you are only partially at fault in North Carolina, you cannot recover any compensation in your claim.
  • North Carolina does not have a comparative negligence law in place.
  • However, North Carolina does have legal doctrines which can overcome contributory negligence: If the defendant had the “last clear chance” to avoid the occurrence and injury, you may still recover; If the defendant acted intentionally or recklessly, you may still recover; or if you were faced with a “sudden emergency” you may still recover. All of the above exceptions are factors to consider.

Only Alabama, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., join North Carolina in the list of places that go by the contributory negligence law.

How is contributory negligence evaluated?

Contributory negligence is calculated by something called the “standard of care” provision:

  • Standard of care applies to what a reasonable person would have done in a similar situation.
  • To be considered contributory negligent, you must have done something that was negligent and caused the specific injury or damage that is at the center of the claim.
  • Just because you may have been negligent, it still must have caused or contributed to your injury in order to bar recovery.

What are the components of negligence?

Although laws vary from state to state, negligence, in general, is pretty standard across state lines. The following are considered elements of a negligence case:

  • The defendant had a responsibility to do a particular thing or refrain from doing said particular thing.
  • The defendant failed in that responsibility.
  • The defendant’s breach in responsibility caused injury to a person or damage to a thing.
  • The defendant’s actions or inactions were the reason why the plaintiff was injured or the property was damaged.  
  • The victim suffered actual damages that can be calculated, like lost wages from work, medical bills, etc.

If you or someone you love was in an accident, it’s important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney to work through the complexities of your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

Why you should have uninsured motorist coverage

uninsured motorists coverage Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Did you know that an estimated one out of every eight drivers on the road are driving without car insurance? In some states, the number is much higher – as many as one out of every four drivers going uninsured.

With those scary statistics, it’s smart – and required in some states – to have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on your insurance policy.

Even if you weren’t required to have it, if you don’t carry it then you put yourself at risk for footing the bill if an uninsured or underinsured motorist hits you. And as we all know, with car damage, physical injuries, lost wages and so many other factors in play, you don’t want to be stuck with the bill.

Which states have the highest number of uninsured motorists?

In 2012, some 29.7 million people drove around the country without car insurance. THe following states had the highest rates of uninsured motorists:

  • Florida: 23.8 percent
  • Mississippi: 22.9 percent
  • New Mexico: 21.6 percent
  • Michigan: 21.0 percent
  • Tennessee: 20.1 percent
  • Alabama: 19.6 percent
  • Rhode Island: 17.0 percent
  • Colorado: 16.2 percent
  • Washington: 16.1 percent
  • Texas: 13.5 percent
  • Oklahoma: 25.9 percent

What kind of insurance requirements exist in North Carolina?

Aside from uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, North Carolina drivers are also required to have the following minimum liability coverage, which will be paid by your insurance company if you are involved in an accident and it’s your fault:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability, per person per accident.
  • $60,000 of bodily injury liability total per accident.

What other insurance options are there in North Carolina?

Aside from the required liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance requirements in North Carolina, most insurance companies offer the following optional coverage as well (note: if you have a car financed or you’re leasing your car, your financial institution will require you to have collision and comprehensive coverage on your vehicle):

  • Collision – If you are in a crash and it’s your fault, this coverage means your insurance company will pay for the repairs. That only covers collisions with other moving vehicles.
  • Comprehensive – This will help if you hit a tree, or if someone throws a rock through your window, or other similar types of incidents.
  • Towing and labor
  • Rental car

If you’ve been involved in a vehicle accident, it’s important that you contact an experienced attorney to help with the complexities of insurance and other aspects of your case. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office for help.

 

The process of a personal injury claim

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If you’ve been in a car accident, there’s a long road ahead to settling the claim and getting what you are owed. It’s a complicated process, which is why one of the first things you should always do is contact an experienced personal injury attorney.

What happens when you meet with a personal injury attorney?

Here are a few things you can expect when you have your first encounter with an injury lawyer:

  • You might be asked to sign a form releasing your medical information so that your lawyer can access them. They’re important documents for building your case.  
  • You will probably be asked all about your insurance coverage, with lots of specifics on premiums and what kind of coverage you have.
  • Your lawyer will want to know what, if anything, you have said to insurance adjusters, and if you have given any recorded interviews or written statements.

What happens after you hire a lawyer?

Once you hire a lawyer, he or she will begin the process of filing a claim with the insurance company, or filing a suit in court.

Here are a few things to note about this stage:

  • This phase of the settlement is called discovery, and it’s the time when every little detail about your case will come to light. Keep in mind that it is very likely that anything and everything will come out at some point in the discovery process.
  • You’ve got to be totally and completely honest with your attorney. If you’re not, then it could impact the outcome of your case. There’s nothing worse than losing a case or losing out on money you’re owed because you lied.

What happens during the settlement phase?

The good news is that most personal injury claims don’t ever reach a courtroom. They are usually settled before it goes to court.

Here are some things to talk to your attorney about when it comes to the settlement phase:

  • How have settlement amounts and jury verdicts been for other cases that were similar to yours?
  • What are your chances of winning if you do go to trial?
  • Are there any special circumstances that make it harder to try your case in court?
  • What are the strengths and weaknesses of your case? How does the evidence hold up to your claims?
  • What are the strength and weaknesses of your opponent’s case?
  • What does your attorney think your claim is worth – talk specifics, including exact dollar amounts and how that amount compares to the amount you could receive if you went to trial.
  • What is the minimum amount of money you are willing to accept in an effort to avoid going to court?
  • What are the specifics of your opponent’s insurance policy? Are you seeking more than the insurance policy is able to pay out?
  • What about your opponent’s own personal financial resources? Is he or she able to compensate you out of pocket?

 

If there’s anything you learned from reading this, it’s that personal injury cases are very complex legal matters, and they should always be handled by an experienced injury lawyer. If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.

 

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New Trucker Regulations for 2017 May Help Improve Overall Safety

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It’s a new year and a new era of regulations for truck drivers in the United States.

The trucking industry is among the most regulated industries in the country, and this year there are even more rules to add to the long list. These rules are designed to make the roads safer for truck drivers and motorists alike.

What are the most important trucker regulations for 2017?

Here are some of the highlights of the proposed new regulations for the trucking industry:

 

  • More training for truck drivers – The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has proposed increased training for truckers. The uptick in training hours is expected to help retain truckers for the long-term, but it also has a big price tag attached. The same agency that implemented the new rule admits that it could cost more than $5 and-a-half billion over the next 10 years. It could make trucking companies implement in-house training programs, which will surely put a financial burden on the industry.
  • More environmental regulations – There are new regulations for truckers and the environment. The rules are designed to lower greenhouse gas emissions and make fuel economy better. It will be up to the trucking manufacturers to bring their products up to the increased environmental standards. That could mean higher costs for trucking companies to purchase the new parts, but the Environmental Protection Agency assures the industry that they will recover those additional costs within two years due to fuel savings.
  • Electronic logging devices – The electronic logging device (ELD) rule is aimed at helping to create a safer work environment for drivers and help to more quickly and accurately track, manage, and share records of duty status. Companies have until December 2017 to start using them, but they should start getting ready for them as soon as possible. An ELD works by syncing up with the truck’s engine to automatically record driving time.
  • Hours-of-service rule – The new regulations also will limit truck drivers to 73 hours of work for every seven days. That will be hard to get around with the new electronic logging devices, which will be able to tell how long the truck has been on the road. That means one thing for trucking companies: You have to comply. When the regulators say drive time, that doesn’t just mean the hours that trucks are driving. If you’re sitting idle and waiting for your next dispatch, or if you’re loading and unloading your cargo, both will count toward your hours of service.

 

All of these new regulations are expected to increase safety on the roads and major highways of America.

Accidents involving trucks are typically more serious than accidents involving other vehicles. That’s why it’s so important that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney if you’re involved in a wreck with a big rig.

Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

 

Why you should be careful what you tell insurance adjusters

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Anytime you’re in a vehicle accident that you didn’t cause, it’s very likely that you’ll be hearing from the insurance company of the driver who caused the wreck.

It’s very important to remember that insurance companies are for-profit businesses, and the less money they give you, the more money they keep. That means the insurance adjuster’s job is to pay you as little money as possible.

That’s why it’s crucial that you don’t say the wrong things to an insurance adjuster when he or she calls.

What should you NOT say to an insurance adjuster?

Here are some of the statements you should avoid when speaking with an insurance adjuster:

  • In my opinion” or “I think” – It’s best not to qualify any statements by guessing. If they ask you a question and you don’t know the answer, then it’s best to not say anything at all. The adjuster might try to rephrase the same question to try to get you to say something wrong. Again, silence is best in that situation.
  • “I’m sorry” -You shouldn’t let those words leave your mouth when speaking to an insurance adjuster. Also, apologizing for any part of the accident could later get twisted to make it seem like you were admitting fault.
  • “I’m fine” or “I’m not injured” – You might just be trying to be nice and/or cooperative. You might feel fine today, but when it comes to a car accident, it can take days or even weeks to get in to see a doctor and know the extent of your injuries. That’s why you should not tell an insurance adjuster that you don’t have any injuries. If you start to feel pain days later, make sure you see a doctor immediately and don’t sign any medical release forms without consulting with an attorney.
  • Never consent to a recorded statement – If you don’t want what you say to be taken out of context, then you should not consent to having the insurance adjuster record your statement.

Why do you need an experienced attorney to handle your car accident case?

Without an experienced personal injury attorney on your side, the insurance company handling your case is more likely to avoid paying what you deserve.

A good attorney can figure out how much money you need, based on the following factors:

  • Medical bills
  • Expenses you paid out of pocket
  • Lost employment wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future loss of quality of life

The first offer an insurance company gives you is likely much lower than what you are entitled to. That’s why it’s so important to contact an experienced car accident attorney.

If you’ve been in a car accident, contact Robert Artmstrong’s office today.

 

What damages can be sought after a wreck resulting in spinal injuries

spinal injuries Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you hurt your spinal cord in an accident, it’s very likely that your injury is much more serious than most other injuries. That’s because the spinal cord is not able to repair itself, unlike other parts of the body.

Often, spinal cord injuries involve a “sharp blow” that can sever your spinal cord, or even crush, dislocate, break or press the vertebrae around your spinal cord.

Spinal cord injuries can end in partial or full paralysis, and it is most often considered a life-changing injury.

Why do spinal cord injuries cause so much more physical damage?

The spinal cord is simply a group of nerves that connect your brain to your back and allow the brain to send messages to the rest of your body.

Spinal cord injuries get in the way of these messages from the brain to the body. There are two types of spinal cord injuries:

  • Complete spinal cord injury – no physical function left below the point of injury
  • Incomplete spinal cord injury – limited function below the point of injury

What kind of damages can you seek for a spinal cord injury?

One of first things you should do after a spinal cord injury in an accident is contact an experienced personal injury attorney. A good attorney will go after the following damages:

  • Medical Expenses: A spinal cord injury could mean a lot of treatments and surgeries, extended hospital stays, physical rehabilitation, long-term care at home, medical equipment, i.e. a wheelchair, and alterations to your home or car.
  • Lost Wages: Because surgeries, chronic pain and other treatments require you to take time off of work, spinal cord patients often find themselves behind in bills because of lost wages. If your loved one died from a spinal cord injury, a good attorney will seek full lost wages for the victim’s surviving family.
  • Vehicle Damage: If someone hit your vehicle and caused the spinal cord injury, you are entitled to recover the damages to your vehicle.
  • Decreased Quality of Life: If a spinal cord injury causes you to lose mobility or causes serious injury, it’s highly likely that your quality of life will be impacted. You are entitled to recover money for quality of life loss.
  • Pain and Suffering: Spinal cord injuries are very painful and difficult, and you deserve to be compensated for your pain and suffering.

If you’ve suffered a spinal cord injury because of an accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help. We’ll find the negligent party, and we’ll go after them to make sure you get what’s owed to you.

 

Brain Injuries: When Auto Accident Symptoms Do Not Improve

brain injury auto accident Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you’re in a serious automobile accident, it’s normal to feel a little out of focus and disoriented at first. But if those symptoms are severe and don’t improve quickly, you might have suffered a traumatic brain injury.

There are several ways traumatic brain injury can happen in a car accident, like if your head hits the steering wheel or windshield. You can also suffer a brain injury if you’re ejected and your head hits the pavement.

What types of brain injuries are there?

Generally, brain injuries can broken down into two categories: closed head injury and open head injury.

A closed head injury could include the following:

  • Concussions – This is a mild brain injury that involves slight swelling of the brain.  The brain is typically able to recover from a concussion, but not always, and sometimes the concussion can cause brain damage if it is severe.
  • Mass Lesions – This could include bruising (contusions), blood clots (hematoma), and bleeding of the brain (hemorrhaging). All of these put more pressure on your fragile brain.
  • Diffuse Injuries – Diffuse injuries are tiny injuries that are dispersed throughout your brain in different places. They’re often hard to find and can end with brain damage.  

What are the signs of a traumatic brain injury?

Your brain is responsible for the following functions, among several others:

  • Attention and concentration.
  • Processing and comprehending information.
  • Remembering things
  • Communicating with others
  • Planning, sorting, and putting things together
  • Reasoning skills, problem-solving, making decisions, and judgment.
  • Impulse control, patience

If you’ve suffered a brain injury, you might have issues with attention, concentration, talking, comprehending and remembering, or a host of other areas.  

Do you find yourself with any of the following problems?

  • Restlessness, unable to sit still
  • Easily distracted, unable to multitask or finish even one project
  • Issues with talking to people for long periods of time
  • Having trouble coming up with the right word
  • Trouble starting or following conversations or understanding what others say.
  • Rambling or straying off topic
  • Difficulty organizing your thoughts.
  • Trouble with nonverbal communication, unable to show facial expressions
  • Unable to understand or respond correctly to other people’s nonverbal communication.
  • Not understanding jokes or sarcastic remarks

If someone was negligent in causing your brain injury, you are entitled to compensation in several areas. A good personal injury attorney will go after the responsible party for the following, depending on the circumstances of your case:

  • Medical bills, both current and future
  • Rehabilitation and long-term medical care
  • Lost income and lowered earning capacity
  • Damage to your property
  • Pain and suffering

If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury because of an accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.