Articles Posted in Civil Litigation

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Being called upon to give a deposition either as a witness or party can be  a nerve-racking experience. Here are 10 tips from our experienced attorneys to help you prepare:

1. Listen to the question- Take your time. Make sure you understand before you answer. If there is any part of the question do not understand, say so.

2. Answer the question – Not some other question, just the question you are asked. Say no more than is necessary to answer the question. Do not volunteer extra information or explanations.

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By :Douglas A. Petho

Effective October 1, 2011 and applying to all actions occurring after that date, Rule 414 the North Carolina Evidence Code limits evidence offered to prove past medical expenses to evidence of the amounts actually paid to satisfy the bills that have been satisfied, regardless of the source of the payment, and evidence of the amounts actually necessary to satisfy the bills that have been incurred but not yet satisfied. this rule represents a dramatic change for both plaintiffs in personal injury attorneys not only in presenting cases at trial but also in negotiating settlements.

To understand this change is necessary to first understand the law as it existed prior to October 1, 2011. Under North Carolina’s “Collateral Source Rule”, evidence of payments made by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid were not admissible in trial and were not to be considered by a jury in determining damages for medical expenses. The rationale being that these collateral payments for which the plaintiff often paid the premiums to receive the benefit, should not operate to reduce the liability of the defendant for the plaintiff’s medical bills. Under this scenario a plaintiff would be allowed to reap the rewards having their own insurance.

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By :Douglas A. Petho

Most people don’t look for a lawyer until they need a lawyer. Unexpected events such as automobile accidents, on-the-job accidents or other injuries lead many people to seek out the best attorney they can find to represent them. Although there is no shortage of attorneys, figuring out who to hire can be a challenge. Television advertisements and junk mail solicitations are certainly one way to decide. A better method would be to evaluate the qualifications of the attorney you are considering before signing any paperwork.

#1 How long have you been licensed to practice law?

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By :Douglas A. Petho

Contributory negligence is a common law doctrine that may be used as a defense against a claim of negligence. Under the doctrine of contributory negligence, if a plaintiff is at fault by any degree in causing their injuries or damages, the plaintiff is barred from recovery from the defendant. There are only five remaining states that still recognizes the doctrine of contributory negligence. They are North Carolina, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia. All are considered pure contributory negligence states, in that even the slightest degree of fault will bar a plaintiff’s claim.

In contrast, some states such as South Carolina are comparative negligence states. Fault on the part of a plaintiff is not a complete bar, rather it is considered by a jury when determining the damage award. Only when a plaintiff’s negligence exceeds 50% would it operate to bar the plaintiffs claim.

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By :Douglas A. Petho

Unless you are fortunate enough to have a videotape of an accident, a great deal of effort is often spent trying to reconstruct the facts of a collision. Usually, despite doing the best investigation, questions remain exactly how or why a crash occurs. Answers to many of these questions will soon be available from data of contained from the “event data recorders” otherwise known as “EDT’s”.

EDt’s are nothing new. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimated that about 64 percent of 2005 model passenger vehicles had the devices. By 2005, General Motors, Ford, Isuzu, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Suzuki were all voluntarily equipping all of their vehicles with EDRs, According to NHTSA, these devices are standard equipment from manufacturers including Chevrolet, Ford, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Subaru, General Motors, Isuzu, and Suzuki. The problem has been being able to gain access, understand, and use this information. With no standardized format, proprietary software and a wide variation in the types of information that were actually recorded, their usefulness has been limited.

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By :Douglas A. Petho

Chances are if you’ve ever had to make an insurance claim it was settled without the necessity of a lawsuit. The vast majority of all insurance claims are resolved through negotiations between insurance adjusters, the claimant or their attorney. Unfortunately the number of claims that find their way into the courtroom has increased. Presumably as a result of the recent economic downturn, insurance companies are under greater pressure to reduce the amount of money paid to satisfy claims. Coupled with a trend of conservative jury verdicts in many parts of the state, insurance companies are more often willing to” roll the dice” at trial then to voluntarily pay more. The purpose of this article however, is not to analyze why claims end up in court, but rather to provide a general understanding of the procedure once a lawsuit is filed.

In North Carolina, a lawsuit filed for injuries and damages caused by the negligence of another must be brought against the tortfeasor himself. He or she becomes the defendant. Even though an insurance company may ultimately be responsible for any damage award, jurors deciding the case will not know the identity of the insurance company involved, the amount of the policy or whether the defendant is even covered by insurance.