Understanding your accident report

Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

If you’ve ever been in an accident, you might have had to read your accident report that follows. It can seem like a daunting document, especially if you’re not versed in the lingo of traffic reports.

You might have some questions about accident reports, and hopefully, we have some answers for you right here.

First, you must understand that the report really contains two documents. It is all contained in the NC DMV-349. It contains a code form which explains all of the numbers in each little box along with another form listing parties, description of wreck and diagram of the occurrence.

Who is at-fault? Is anyone at-fault?

In most cases, you’ll see on the accident report a listing of which driver was at fault, even if no one received a citation. Sometimes, though rarely, the officer cannot determine who caused the accident, so he or she will place the blame on both drivers – or none of the drivers.

If an officer does not determine fault, it can be bad news for both drivers. If you only have liability coverage on your vehicle, then your insurance company won’t cover the costs of the property damage.

Contributing factors

This part of the accident report will list which factors caused the crash. It can either be listed in the form of a number or a written explanation:

  • In many instances, if you have a “0”or nothing in the box that lists the contributing factors, then you didn’t do anything that caused the accident.
  • If there’s anything other than a “0” or nothing at all, then you likely played some part, if not all parts, in causing the crash.
  • Contributing factors help to determine liability if citations aren’t issued at the scene.

Where are citations found in the report?

The citations section of the accident report will list and describe any tickets — or citations — that were given in connection with the crash. This can be done with a citation code or a written explanation – or sometimes both. If you were given a citation but don’t believe you were at fault, you can fight the ticket in traffic court or consult with an experienced attorney to handle your case.

Is your name listed on the accident report?

The drivers of the vehicles involved in the crash will be listed high up on the accident report, but if you are a passenger, your name might not show up until much later in the report – or sometimes not at all.

This is one of many reasons why it’s so important to get a copy of the accident report as soon as it is available. Make sure all passengers in the vehicle are listed on the accident report. If anything on the report is incorrect, or if there are names missing, you’ll need to talk with the police department to try to get your accident report amended.

Accident reports are critical documents that insurance companies and personal injury attorneys use to build their cases. If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today.


10 Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Injury Claims

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Negotiating personal injury claims is a very tricky business that’s typically best left to an experienced personal injury lawyer.

But even if you have an attorney — and you should! — there are some things you need to be aware of when it comes to negotiating with insurance companies.

Here are 10 mistakes that could hurt you in the end:

1. Giving a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company — This is something you should never do, unless you have your lawyer with you when you give a statement. It might seem like an innocuous task, especially if you weren’t at fault, but insurance adjusters are trained to interview you in a manner that might make you say something to negatively impact your claim.

2. Lying to the insurance company — This also sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to note. You should always be completely honest when you give information to both your insurance company and the insurance company of the other party.

3. Giving the other party your insurance records too early in the claims process — A good lawyer will advise you not to release your medical records before you are almost done with your medical treatment. This is because your injuries could get worse or change over time, and you don’t want the claims adjustor to have an incomplete file when it comes to your medical problems.

4. Exaggerating your injuries — If you are injured and you have someone helping you with the claims process, then you will get the award you deserve without having to stretch the truth on the extent of your injuries.

5. Talking about pre-existing conditions or injuries with the insurance company

6. Trying to answer every question, even if you don’t necessarily know the right answer.

7. Letting claims adjusters get informal with you — No matter how innocent it seems, you should never have “off-the-record” conversations with a claims adjuster. It’s called “letting your guard down,” and it’s exactly what they want you to do.

8. Using red-flag terms with adjusters — Be very careful when choosing which words you use with the insurance company. Words to avoid include whiplash and other medical terms. Don’t use them without a proper medical diagnosis. Also, don’t talk about complex legal terms like negligence if you are not a licensed attorney.

9. Giving out your social security number or contact information for friends and family to an insurance adjuster.

10. Assuming your claim will be accepted without a lawsuit — Sometimes, a claim can be settled without having to file a lawsuit. But often, that’s not the case.

This is why it’s so crucial to have a solid personal injury attorney on your side. If you or someone you love has been in an accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.




Your Rights as a Passenger in a Car Accident

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Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, at-fault or not-at-fault, car accidents are never fun. There is good news, however, for the passengers in a vehicle that has crashed.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident as a passenger, your case is typically less complicated than a driver or other personal injury case. Why, you ask? Because as a passenger, you don’t bear any responsibility for how the wreck occurred. That’s for the drivers and their lawyers and insurance companies to figure out.

Often, as an injured passenger, you have more rights than the injured driver.

How do you file a passenger injury claim?

First things first. If you were injured in a car accident as a passenger, you need to make sure you get insurance information for all the drivers involved before you leave the scene, if possible.

Second, you need to document everything that happened, from the moments leading up to the crash to the aftermath of the accident. Take pictures and detailed notes.

Then, you need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case.

It’s important to remember the following if you’re a passenger:

  • It’s possible that you will be able to recover the full amount of damages, even in a comparative negligence state that determines damage awards based on a percentage of fault with all parties involved.
  • You will likely be able to potentially file claims against the insurance policies of all drivers, thus havins two liability policies come in to cover the event.

What if the insurance policies don’t cover all of your expenses?

In some cases, your injuries might exceed the coverage of the insurance companies you’re filing claims against. This happens when people keep the minimum insurance requirements, or sometimes it can happen when there are multiple people who are injured in a crash. When either of these things happen, you have the following options:

  • You can try to tap into uninsured/underinsured motorist policies for the host driver involved.
  • You can file a claim against your own insurance policy for the amount that is not covered by the drivers’ insurance policies.

As you can see, accidents involving passengers are very complicated matters, but you have many rights and avenues you can pursue in getting the amount of money you deserve.

If you or someone you love was an injured passenger in a car accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today for help.





June National Safety Month

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June is National Safety Month, according to the National Safety Council, which makes it a perfect time to talk about road safety topics that often lead to personal injury cases for lawyers.

What are the dangers of impaired driving?

Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is not only illegal, it’s extremely dangerous. If you are in an accident and it is discovered that you are impaired, the consequences can be very serious.

Here are some statistics about drunk driving:

  • Someone who has a blood alcohol concentration, also known as BAC, of .10 or higher is seven times more likely to cause a fatal car crash than a driver who is sober. That number increases to 25 times more likely if the driver has a BAC of .15 or more.
  • If you drink two beers and weigh about 160 pounds, your BAC will be somewhere around .04. That’s lower than the legal limit for drinking and driving, but you are still 1.4 times more likely to cause an accident than someone who had zero beers.
  • Studies have shown that people begin to lose their ability to see moving objects properly with as little as a .02 BAC.
  • If you are arrested and convicted on a drunk driving charge, you can expect to pay anywhere between $9,000 and $24,000 before it’s all said and done, and that doesn’t include damages to people you have injured in a crash.

How can you avoid distracted driving?

As smartphones continue to rise in popularity, so do the number of accidents that are caused by distracted driving. Here are some tips to help you stay focused when you’re behind the wheel:

  • Limit cell phone use to ONLY emergency situations: The only time you should pick up your cell phone while you’re driving is if it’s an emergency. Otherwise, keep it out of sight and out of mind until you get to where you’re going.
  • Don’t drive when you’re tired: Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and there’s no reason for you to push forward when your eyes start to droop. Pull over and rest until you’re fresh enough to hit the highway and stay alert.
  • Try not to fill your car with passengers and loud music: Having a car full of people can distract you from the obstacles at hand while driving. Try to limit the number of people in your car. And turn the blaring music down!

Tips for avoiding car accidents

We all know that accidents can happen. That is, after all, why they are called accidents.

But there are some things you can do while driving to avoid them. Here are some tips:

  • Try to stay away from the “fast lane” – Often, if you are driving in the far left lane and something happens, you have fewer options for avoiding the obstacle or swerving into another lane to miss being hit.
  • Be aware of blind spots  – You can’t put all of your faith into rear and sideview mirrors. Always turn and look into the lane you are trying to enter.
  • Maintain your vehicle – Bad tires, old belts and other car ailments can equal disasters on the road if they’re not taken care of. Don’t let yourself become a statistic because you waited too long to buy new tires or take care of other problems with your vehicle.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today for help.

Why Medical Care is Necessary After a Car Accident

Why Medical Care is Necessary After a Car Accident Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Oftentimes, when you are in an automobile accident, your adrenaline starts flowing immediately after the crash. When that happens, it’s hard to determine whether you have injuries, because the symptoms of serious injuries are not visible at the time of the accident.

That’s why it is so important to see a doctor as soon as possible after an accident.

There are two main reasons for needing to seek medical attention immediately:

  • The longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to prove definitively that your injuries were caused by the vehicle accident.
  • If you don’t seek medical attention immediately, you are putting your health and wellness at risk.

What are the symptoms of serious injury after a crash?

Although injuries are not always immediately felt after an accident, there are some symptoms that can occur right after a crash — or several days or weeks later. Here are a few signs that you might be seriously hurt:

  • Severe pain
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Dizziness

What should you do before you see the doctor?

Here are some things you should do while you’re in the waiting room of the hospital or doctor’s office, if you’re able to:

  • Take pictures of scratches, cuts, gashes, bruises or other wounds that are visible.
  • Write down the pain and symptoms you’re feeling and write down your best account of what happened and what caused the accident.

What should you do after you see your doctor?

After you see your doctor, it’s imperative that you do the following things:

  • Properly document the medical expenses you incur.
  • Continue to document those expenses if there are more doctor’s visits to come.
  • Ask your doctor for copies of your medical records.
  • Seek an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your case.

Reviewing your medical records

When you obtain copies of your medical records, you should review them thoroughly and make sure the following things are completely accurate:

  • Your doctor’s description of the car accident. Make sure all of the details are factually correct.
  • Your doctor’s listing of your symptoms. Did he include them all? Did he explain them well?
  • Your medical history.

Why are these things so important? Insurance companies and defense attorneys will comb through these details over and over, looking for any inconsistencies that they can use to attack your credibility and not pay you the award to which you are entitled.

If you find any errors while you are reviewing your records, make sure your doctor corrects them and gives you new copies of the corrected records.

Car accidents are a huge pain in more ways than one. That’s why it’s so crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to counsel you and ensure you get the monetary compensation you deserve.

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



What to do if you’re hit by an Uber or Lyft driver

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What happens if you get into a car accident for someone who is driving for Uber, Lyft, or a similar car service? Who can you make a claim against? Will any insurance coverage come into play?

Uber and Lyft are relatively new car services that compete with taxis and other car services in several major cities. Uber and Lyft are similar to many taxi services in that they do not own, operate, or control their cars, and do not hire their drivers. Rather, their drivers contract with them to pick up passengers on behalf of the companies. The major differences between Uber and Lyft, on the one hand, and taxis and traditional car services, on the other hand, is their pricing structure and how customers get an Uber or Lyft driver.

Unlike taxis, customers cannot hail an Uber or Lyft driver on the street. Rather, customers download the Uber or Lyft app to their smartphone and arrange for a driver through the app. Pricing for a ride can vary. Some rides can be cheaper than a standard taxi, and other rides can be more expensive than a standard taxi. One unusual aspect to Lyft’s operation is that passengers do not technically pay for their ride. Instead, the drivers are supposed to receive “donations” from their passengers.

Who is Liable If You are Hit by an Uber or Lyft Driver?

As in any car accident case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to win the case: liability (who was at fault for the accident) and damages (how badly the plaintiff was injured). If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be able to prove that someone was negligent in order to have a claim.

The primary defendant will of course be the Uber or Lyft driver. Your most straightforward legal case will be against that person, and it would proceed just like any car accident claim. You would find out who the driver’s insurer is, and then make a claim with the insurer. 

The other potential defendant, if you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, would be Uber or Lyft themselves. However, one problem in suing these companies is that they are so new that their legal liability for their drivers’ actions is still being sorted out in the courts.

Another problem is that Uber and Lyft expressly disclaim any liability for their drivers’ behavior, contending that their drivers are independent contractors, and that the companies do not control the drivers in any way.

That may well be true, but one potential claim against Uber and Lyft is their selection process for their drivers. To the extent that their selection and vetting process of potential drivers is at all inadequate, a person hit by an Uber or Lyft driver may be able to maintain a claim against the company for negligently permitting a driver to operate a car on its behalf.

Is There Insurance to Cover My Claim?

Insurance coverage is another potential problem in a claim against an Uber or Lyft driver. Although Uber and Lyft require their drivers to have car insurance (which is not necessarily meaningful because almost every state requires drivers to have car insurance) and the companies themselves provide some additional coverage for their drivers, there still may be some significant gaps in the drivers’ coverage.

This is because not all private car insurance provides coverage for accidents that occurred while the car was being operated for hire. So, an Uber or Lyft driver’s car insurer may disclaim coverage for any accidents that occurred while the driver was on call.

Again, Uber and Lyft are so new that the legal aspects of their service are still being worked out in the courts. If you are hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you should certainly contact a lawyer in your state as soon as possible for sound advice on the driver’s potential liability under your state’s laws.

Learn more about car accidents and car insurance coverage.

What to Do After the Accident — Gathering Evidence

The first thing that you should do after any car accident is get the names and contact information of all of the witnesses to the accident. The second thing that you should do is take pictures immediately. If you have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved in the accident as you can, from as many angles as you can, before you leave the scene. If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, ask if anyone else has a camera and is willing to email you the pictures. Otherwise, have a friend or relative take pictures as soon as possible.

You should also call the police from the accident scene. Many states have a law requiring the police to be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or more than minor property damage, but, in an accident with a taxicab or Uber/Lyft driver, you will generally want the accident to be officially recorded as soon as possible. Insist that all drivers stay around until the police arrive.


Understanding Settlement and Release Agreements

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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

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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.


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.

Why you should have uninsured motorist coverage

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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.