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Do you have a legal question? Lewis & Keller can provide accurate answers to your legal questions.

Please call our head office at 877-890-0851, or simply ask Mike and Lea in the “Free Case Review” form and we’ll be happy to help answer your inquiry.

I slipped in the parking lot of my workplace. My neck and back are killing me. I can’t sit at my desk without pain. I haven’t told my manager, yet. I think I need to go to the emergency room. What do I do? No one saw me fall. Can I file for workers’ compensation?

You need to tell your manager about the injury right away. Failing to give your employer notice within 30 days of the date of the injury can cause major headaches in obtaining workers’ compensation benefits. When you do give notice, though, make sure you are very specific about the details surrounding the slip and fall in the parking lot. However, I must warn you that slipping in the parking lot of your workplace does not necessarily mean it rises to a compensable claim for workers’ compensation benefits. There are very specific rules for such accidents and there are not enough details in your question to address whether or not any of them are applicable. Please feel free to contact us for a further evaluation.

I was helping another worker on the line and lifted a large spool of tubing. I felt a sharp pain in my shoulder and couldn’t use it. My supervisor sent me home. What happens next? I’m still at home and I’m starting to worry I’ll lose my job.

If your shoulder problems still persist then you need to request that your employer direct you to a treating physician so that you can receive proper medical care. Following initial treatment, your doctor may end up writing you out of work for a period of time or giving you temporary work restrictions. In the case that your employer refuses to send you to a doctor then you have to seriously consider bringing a workers’ compensation claim in order to collect benefits that you deserve. Please call me if you need further assistance.

I am a nursing home nurse assistant. I lifted a patient and felt something snap in my back. I stayed out of work for a week and it isn’t any better. I told my supervisor. Is that all I have to do? Should I file workers’ compensation? I have an MRI scheduled tomorrow.

Immediately notifying your employer about a workplace injury is a great first step! However, making sure that you are getting the appropriate care and compensation is detrimental. Insurance carriers in these types of claims are the ones who direct treatment and sometimes they do not like the recommendations that your doctors make so they give you the runaround. Also, when you are finally released from medical care and have permanent injuries, insurance carriers often offer less money than you otherwise deserve. Depending on the seriousness of your injury, this can be an extremely frustrating and confusing process.

Ultimately, whether you want or need to file a workers’ compensation claim is up to you. However, we are always happy to give you a free consultation about your claim at 877-947-4112.

I was rear-ended by a woman who was texting. I damaged 2 vertebra in my neck. She says the light was green and I was just sitting there. I was texting also. Who is at fault?

It’s hard to determine fault without knowing more of the facts and circumstances. Normally, if you are rear-ended, it is extremely likely that it was the other driver’s fault. This is especially true if the other driver was distracted by texting.

However, N.C. is one of only 4 states that still follow a horrible rule called “contributory negligence.” Under this rule, if the defendant can show that you were even 1% at fault, you would not recover anything, not even your medical bills!

[In the other 46 states, if you were 1% at fault, you would still be able to recover 99% of what you should normally get. NC is a really bad place to get hurt!]

So, if you were texting and didn’t pay attention to the green light in your direction, there is a very good chance the defense would claim you were at least partially to blame by not paying attention for your own safety. You should consult with an experienced attorney to help you determine if you do have a valid claim.

I fell through the rotted boards in my apartment building. I’ve been asking them to repair them, but they haven’t. I broke my hip and have no insurance. What can I do?

In North Carolina, you must prove negligence, that is, the failure to do what a reasonable and prudent person would do, if your claim is going to be successful. The good news is that NC does place a statutory responsibility on landlords to exercise reasonable care for its tenants.

Thus, in order to win, you must be able to prove that the property owner i.e., your landlord) was at fault. Just because you fell on your landlord’s property does not mean that the landlord was negligent. The landlord had to have caused (or failed to prevent) the dangerous condition in some manner.

Further, simply because your landlord’s premises might have been in an unsafe condition does not automatically mean that the landlord was at fault under NC law. You have to show that your landlord knew or should reasonably have known that the premises were in an unsafe condition.

The bad news is that NC is one of only 4 states that still follow a terrible rule known as “contributory negligence.” Under that rule, if the landlord can show that you were even 1% at fault in causing your injuries, you recover absolutely nothing, not even your medical bills! They would certainly claim that you should have known that the boards were dangerous. In short, you should consult with an experienced attorney to determine if you have a viable case based on the particular facts of your fall.

I was walking to work. I was in the office parking lot when I was hit by a car. I have a broken arm and leg and am out of work. Can I recover for my injuries?

North Carolina law is not generally favorable if you are injured in your employer’s parking lot, but there are some exceptions. First, the parking lot must be owned, possessed or controlled by your employer and not some other person or company.

And second, you must be injured in the “course and scope of your employment,” that is, you must be doing some part of your job.

In 2010, the NC Court of Appeals held that a person who slipped and fell on ice 3 feet from the back door of the office was not entitled to benefits because she had not yet reached the door!

If you fall in your office parking lot, you should consult with an experienced workers compensation attorney to find out if your fall would be covered.

What are my chances of winning my disability case and how long will it take to get a disability hearing?

Disability hearings take quite a while to be heard and your odds of winning have decreased in the last few years in North Carolina. Many clients find hiring an attorney to fight for them may help increase the odds of winning their case. A skilled Social Security attorney will help you understand the rules and present your case to the judge in the most favorable light.

The current statistics show that the North Carolina average chance for winning a disability hearing is 48%. Cases are primarily won at a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The average hearing wait time for North Carolina is 22.1 months. This is the average length of time it takes to receive a hearing date in front of an Administrative Law Judge. The actual decision on your case then takes several more months. You will receive a notice from the Social Security office to let you know the status of your case. Should you win, it may take several more months to receive your award.

I can’t work because a couple weeks ago I got hurt. Workers Comp was denied quickly because I hurt myself while on vacation. I slipped and tumbled while hiking, and am waiting for my injuries to heal. I think my injury is temporary, doctors said it was mostly serious sprains and a fractured ankle, but nothing broken. Despite this, my doctor told me to stay off my feet for at least six weeks and let my wrists heal up. I am also on pain meds that make me feel off-balance. I work in a warehouse loading and unloading trucks. I have to be on my feet all day, move quickly, and have to pick up stuff all day. I can’t do my job right now with my injuries and my employer doesn’t have a temporary sitting job for me to do while my injuries heal. I applied for short term disability from my employer and was denied a week ago. I am surprised that I was denied because I can’t do my job until my injuries heal. What should I do?

I am sorry for your recent injury and hope that your injuries heal soon. My recommendation would be to give us a call so we can discuss in more detail. When you have a denial of short-term or long-term disability benefits that are employer supplied, then you have 180 days to file an appeal. However, once you file the appeal, the private insurer must generally make a decision within 45 days. Unfortunately, the insurer will often make the decision without obtaining all the records. You want to make sure that you understand why the insurer denied your claim and you want to shore up your case before filing your appeal. An experienced disability attorney can maximize your chances of recovery by building up your case and utilizing favorable case law.

I have 3 acres of property that has been in my family for years. The government is taking my land to build a new hospital. I don’t want to sell my property. Is there anything I can do to stop them?

I’m so sorry to hear this is happening to you. I know many times there is an emotional value that owners place on their property. Unfortunately, the government doesn’t take this issue into consideration. In short, the answer to your question is, “No,” but you do have a constitutional right to receive “just compensation” for what is being taken. You may do better by hiring an attorney to guide you through the process and help you receive fair compensation for your property.

It is very unlikely you will be able to prevent the government from taking your land. [The policy reason behind that law is that if it were easy to stop the government from taking your land, we would never get any public projects build.]

I was in a car accident and settled with the other driver’s insurance company. I have already received my check and signed a release. I recently fell down the steps at my home and reinjured my back. Can I collect from the same insurance company after they have already settled my automobile claim?

Unfortunately, no. You’ve already signed a full release, meaning the insurance company has no further responsibility.

I was charged with a DWI on July 31st, 2010. My case has been continued 15 times! When I hired my attorney, she stated “we have a very good case” – i.e. trooper did not follow procedures, etc. Now, she stated there is nothing she can do to reduce/dismiss charge because DWI is “policy”. Due to so many continuances, I have lost pay from work…not to mention the mental stress of having this case not yet behind me! Several times my attorney just didn’t show up for court, never contacted me, and so much more! Even the judge showed compassion for me the last time I appeared in court!

Thank you for your inquiry. The pace of the criminal justice process can certainly be frustrating, especially considering your experience of having your case continued fifteen times, which does seem excessive. Unfortunately, criminal defense is not one of our firm’s practice areas, so we are unable to provide guidance as to your potential legal rights concerning the progress of your case.

A woman ran a red light while on the cell phone and I hit her. The police charged her. I was injured and went to the hospital. Now her insurance company wants to put after- market parts on my 2004 Lexus that had 47,000miles on it. Can I make them put new Lexus parts on it? They say I can’t

Thank you for your inquiry. Unfortunately, in North Carolina, liability insurance carriers are not required to repair vehicle damage with Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. If you choose to use original Lexus parts when repairing your vehicle, you can certainly do so. However, the insurance company will likely only pay an amount for repair that includes after-market parts. This means that you would likely be required to pay out of pocket for the remainder of the repair costs.

If you have any further questions or concerns regarding this auto accident, you are welcome to contact me directly, at 336-714-2887.

I saw your advertisement on asking questions, and I have two. We were in an accident a week ago and I wanted to know what the standard law is about replacement of a totaled vehicle at equal value? The problem is our vehicle was a 2006 with low mileage in great shape and is impossible to get equal value (mileage) etc. at the NADA value. That leaves us with expenses. The vehicle was paid for. Also, as far as pain and suffering is the 3x the medical bills or losses still accepted during settlement?

Unfortunately, N.C. law does not fully protect the innocent party whose car has been damaged. Recovery is limited to the Fair Market Value of the vehicle immediately before the wreck. Sometimes, as in your situation, the insurance companies want to rely on the NADA book value since it is less than what your vehicle was worth.

NADA value is not conclusively determinative of the Fair Market Value, but it is evidence that a jury would be allowed to consider in deciding what amount you should recover. The main difficulty for you is that unless there is a huge difference between what NADA says and what an independent appraiser would say is the value, it is probably not worth the time and effort to fight with the insurance company.

So, here’s what I would suggest: you can either go to the dealer who sold you the car and see if they will give you a written opinion of the enhanced value, or contact an appraiser, e.g., Lane Murray (336-314-6760) of Carolina Claims Associates, who can help you document that you would be losing money for an accident that was not your fault.

As far as payment for pain and suffering, there is no specific formula for the amount of the award. When I first started practicing law over 40 years ago, it was typical that insurance companies would often pay 2-3 times the amount of the medical bills in soft-tissue injury cases. That is no longer the case. Due to tort reform measures, including one that went into effect in North Carolina on October 1 of last year, insurance companies are far stricter in deciding how much they will pay.

By the same token, there are many types of injuries and claims where the pain and suffering component should be much more than 3X the amount of the bills. An experienced personal injury attorney should be able to help you evaluate the value of your claim. Please call us at 877-970-4447. We’d be delighted to help.

My wife has been hospitalized since March 20th. Last Tuesday, the hospital said she could be discharged on Wednesday. On Wednesday they said they could not release her because her balance was bad and she was dangerous to herself. Suddenly this week, the social worker at the hospital said the doctor wants to discharge her today. In between, they found I had Legal Guardianship of her. She has been diagnosed with bi-polar illness and depression since 1992. What’s up with letting her go now, but not last week? They were concerned last week about her being alone at home while I was working, now it’s not? Help!

Thank you for your inquiry. It sounds like you and your wife have been going through a very difficult time. Based on the information you provided in your email message, it is my impression that your wife has been hospitalized for psychiatric disorders as well as potential Huntington’s disease. If that is the case, it is possible that your wife’s condition has stabilized in the past week, and the concerns the doctors had concerning her ability to be home alone have abated. My suggestion would be to speak with your wife’s doctors and/or social worker to discuss the change in plan and their reasoning for the change. In any event, unfortunately, I don’t believe this is a situation in which we could provide legal assistance for you. Guardianship issues fall under family law, which is not one of our firm’s practice areas. You may want to contact a family law attorney for his or her opinion on the situation.

There are several family law practices in the Winston-Salem area that we recommend. Gatto Law Offices can be reached at 336-768-2345; Stroud and Panetti can be reached at 336-724-2600; and Morrow Porter Vermitsky and Fowler can be reached at 336-413-9115. Alternatively, you may call the North Carolina State Bar Attorney Referral Service at 800-662-7660 – to obtain contact information for family law practices in your area.

My 11 weeks old puppy got soap in her eyes yesterday. We flushed it out and patted dry. We checked the bottle and there was no emergency number, no warning, and no instructions for in-case of emergencies. We tried the number on the bottle and they are just an office that is closed in the weekends. Her eye continued to swell and get extremely red and her eye was rolling back. We ended up taking her to the Pet Supermarket we bought the shampoo at and they just told us to use Visine. I wanted a second opinion so I took her to a Pet E.R. and had a nurse look at her and the nurse advised me to use another eye product called Genteal. She hasn’t gotten much better since this occurred yesterday. We called the office of the product and told them all what happened and the owner said that there are strong oils in the product and only offered to refund our purchase. Also, when I asked her about a warning label and an emergency number she said she would consider it, which to me should be a definite yes to putting a label on the bottle.

Good afternoon,

Thank you for your inquiry. As an animal lover myself, I can certainly understand your concerns regarding your puppy’s eye injury. If your puppy’s eye does not improve, you may want to consider taking her to her regular vet for examination. As you are in Florida and laws differ considerably from state to state, you may wish to contact the lawyer referral service provided by the Florida Bar, at 800-342-8011, to obtain contact information for attorneys in your area who may be able to assist you.

On Saturday, I had my son strapped into his car seat in a cart at a home improvement store. I loaded several bags of gravel into the cart and it didn’t show any signs of distress. I started to push the cart, it flipped forward and threw my son, still in his car seat, at least 10 feet forward. Somehow, luckily, he was not injured. However, the store representatives did not offer to have him checked and did not report the incident to a manager. There are no signs stating to not load the gravel into the cart, there was no weight limit on the cart and the cart did not say to not put a child seat into the holder. My son is OK, I however, am still a mess over the incident. I ran to check him, just knowing he would be dead. He rolled at least 2 times, but I think it was 3. I’m notifying the car seat company of the great job the seat did in keeping him safe. I’m not looking to get rich, but I feel that the store is liable for not properly displaying warnings for me or any other parent. I know I am not the only one who loaded gravel into the cart, and I fear that without their being held accountable, someone else’s child may not be as lucky as mine. If there is no legal recourse, I will be notifying media outlets of the dangers of the shopping carts.

Thanks for your inquiry. We are glad your son is uninjured. One of the essential elements of a basic legal case is “damages.” Some examples are physical injuries, mental distress, lost work time and wages, medical expenses, and the like. Some proof of these damages is also required. Here, thankfully your son was not injured. Further, while you indicate that you are “still a mess over the incident,” there is no indication that you have sought treatment or counseling for the incident or that you have been diagnosed with a psychological condition related to the incident. Put another way, there is no indication from your email that you or your child suffered any damages. So it looks like your case lacks this essential element. All this aside, your desire to keep this from happening to others is commendable. We hope you find this information helpful.

If I trade in my vehicle, will it hurt my personal injury case? The accident date was September of 2011.

Thanks for your inquiry. Unless the physical damage to the car is well documented and preserved by pictures, police reports, repair bills, etc. you may be trading away potential evidence in your case. So you may want to think twice about this. On the other hand if the damage is well documented and preserved. There may not be a problem. Hope this helps. Our experienced auto accident attorneys would be glad to talk with you about this.

I work for the post office and was delivering a package in June. I was bitten by a dog which caused me to fall and break my wrist. The Post office, Dept. of Labor will not sue dog owner unless I sign over all rights. I need help.

Thank you for your inquiry. Based on the information you provided in your email, it appears that you may have 2 potential claims related to your injury. First, as your injury occurred while you were on the job, you may have a worker’s compensation claim. Second, because your injury happened as the result of an intervening act by another party’s animal, you may have a third-party personal injury claim as well. These two cases may very well be inter-related, as the worker’s compensation carrier may have a right to be reimbursed out of any personal injury recovery you receive for medical bills it has paid. However, with that being said, worker’s compensation claims for federal employees are a special sub-type of case, requiring the assistance of a federal worker’s compensation attorney. Unfortunately, our office does not handle federal worker’s compensation claims, so we would be unable to provide guidance in relation to your particular situation. There are two attorneys that we are aware of who handle federal worker’s compensation claims: Dan Read and Martin Kaplan, both of whom are located in the Raleigh-Durham area. Mr. Read may be contacted at 919-683-1900 and Mr. Kaplan may be reached at 919-247-6051.

I was rear ended by a careless driver while I was at a complete stop, which caused me to hit another driver in front of me. I’ve been to the doctor and have whiplash. I’ve already settled my property damage claim. Do I have a claim for my injuries?

Thank you for your inquiry. Yes, you may have a bodily injury claim against the driver who was at fault for the accident. I would recommend that you preserve any evidence related to the accident by taking pictures of your injuries and the damage to your vehicle. It is all right to settle your property damage claim before your bodily injury claim. However, you must be careful not to sign and documents which say “release of all claims” or “release of bodily injury claim.” If you are unsure about a document the insurance company has sent you, please ask an attorney to review it with you. I would like to evaluate your situation in more detail to see if our office can assist you with your bodily injury claim. Please contact me at 336-714-2851 at your convenience.

I need an attorney for a civil lawsuit to include wrongful termination, defamation of character, lost wages and pain and suffering. Does your firm handle this type of cases and if not, who would you recommend? I have a very strong case that will be won and I want the best attorney to represent me. Thanks.

Thank you for contacting our office to discuss possible legal representation. I am sorry to hear you have experienced problems with your employer. Unfortunately, our office does not handle employment law matters. I would recommend that you contact Gray Newell, LLP in Greensboro. Their firm practices employment law and their contact number is 336-724-0330. Again, thank you for calling our office. Should you ever need help in the area of personal injury, on-the-job injury (workers’ compensation), Social Security disability or bankruptcy, please feel free to contact our firm. Thanks for asking Mike Lewis.

I was driving my car and another car ran a stop sign and hit me. I have neck, back, side, leg and ankle injuries. Can you help me?

Thank you for contacting our office. I am sorry to hear that you were involved in an automobile accident and sustained injuries. I would be happy to meet with you to discuss if it may benefit you to have an attorney represent you in your claim. There is no charge for the consultation. Remember not to sign a release or give a recorded statement until you speak with an attorney. Please call my direct line at 336-714-2851. I look forward to meeting with you.

I developed a terrible infection in my toe from a pedicure at local nail salon. I recently found out the salon does not have professional insurance that would cover medical bills. What can I do?

I am so sorry to hear about the problems you’ve had visiting a local nail salon. If the nail salon does not have insurance, you can first request that they reimburse you directly for any medical bills you’ve had to pay. They may be willing to do this for you. If they are not willing to pay for your medical expenses, another option would be to file a claim against them in small claims court. The number to the small claims division of Forsyth County Courthouse is 336-779-6319. They will have information about filing fees and forms you would need. If you decide you need to go that route, I would recommend getting copies of all of your medical records and expenses as well as any photos you have of your injuries. Please call me at 336-714-2851 if you have any questions. Thanks for asking Mike Lewis.

I was awarded a judgment in a civil action against the defendant to the amount of over $25,000. As of now, I have not received any payment from the defendant. What action can be taken in order for me to receive payment?

Thank you for contacting our office about possible legal representation. Our law firm primarily focuses in the areas of personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability. Unfortunately, I would not be able to advise you about how to proceed to collect on the award against this defendant. I would recommend you contact the North Carolina Bar Referral Service at 800-662-7660. They should be able to provide you with the names and contact information for attorneys in this area that could help you. Again, thank you for contacting our office. Please do not hesitate to contact us in the future if you think you could benefit from our services.

On a vacation with my family, we went to a shopping center. While browsing through the store, one of the wooden boards on the floor broke as I stepped on it causing my whole leg to go through it, twisting my knee. I went to a doctor, was on crutches for a few days and off of work for an entire week. I have bruising and internal inflammation. The company has yet to contact me as they said they would. Is there anything that you can do to help me?

I am sorry to hear that your vacation was interrupted by your injury at this shopping center. You may have a claim against the owners of the shopping center for your injuries and the time you had to miss from work. I believe our office can assist you. If you have not done so, please make sure you fill out an incident report with the shopping center. It is important for you to follow up with the treatment your doctor has recommended so that he can determine the extent of your injuries. If you were able to get any pictures of the place where you fell, please make sure you save them and bring them to our office. We can schedule a consult at your convenience. There is no charge for the consultation. I look forward to meeting you.

I was rear-ended while stopped at a stoplight. My car was totaled and the insurance company paid for it. They only want to pay $5000 over original medical costs but I still do not have enough for treatment. Can you help?

Thank you for contacting our office about possible legal representation. I would be happy to speak with you at your convenience about your claim. After getting some additional information from you, I’ll be able to let you know if I think you would benefit from hiring an attorney to assist you with your claim. Since you are not satisfied with the insurance company’s offer, please do not sign a Release of All Claims or General Release until you have talked with an attorney. Please call my direct line at 336-714-2851. I look forward to speaking with you.

I received a letter denying my Social Security last week. I think I need help to appeal. Can you help me?

Thank you for contacting our office. We may be able to help you with your Social Security claim. We are often able to help our clients file an appeal after they are denied Social Security benefits. It is important to look at the date on your denial letter. You will have 60 days from the date of your denial letter to file an appeal. If you miss that deadline, you will most likely have to start the process over with a new application. An appeal can be filed at your local Social Security office, online at www.ssa.gov or over the telephone 800-772-1213. I would like to speak with you to determine if we can help you with your appeal. There is no fee for the consultation. I look forward to hearing from you.

I have depression and PTSD. Would I be able to receive Social Security Disability?

You can collect Social Security Disability (SSD) or Social Security Income (SSI) benefits for mental health conditions as well as physical conditions. Eligibility for Social Security benefits depends on a number of factors. Our Social Security department would need to speak with you and gather information about your work history and medical treatment to determine if you may be eligible for benefits. Please call our office at 877-970-4447 for a free case evaluation. Thanks for asking Mike Lewis!

What is med-pay coverage and how do I know if I have it? Is it important?

Yes, medical payments coverage is very important and economical. You will be glad that you have chosen to take this type of additional coverage if you are ever in an auto accident.

Medical payments coverage is optional insurance coverage in North Carolina you can purchase as part of your automobile insurance policy. It is designed to reimburse you and your passengers for medical expenses resulting from an accident in your vehicle, and in some cases for an accident when you are in another vehicle, regardless of who was at fault. Medical payments coverage typically comes in amounts of $1,000, $2,000, or $5,000. You can find out if you have medical payments coverage by contacting your insurance agent. Your agent should be able to help you file a claim and collect your medical payments coverage. Do keep in mind you can only recover medical payments coverage up to the amount of your actual expenses. If you have any further questions, please contact our office at 877-970-4447.

Is Depression a disability?

Depression is a condition that qualifies for disability benefits under the Social Security Act. As with nearly all medical conditions that the Social Security Administration considers in determining disability, the primary issue is how it limits an individual’s ability to function. Social Security primarily looks at it in terms of the effect on a person’s ability to understand and carry out instructions, to interact with others, and to attend and concentrate. Other factors include fatigue and loss of interest in doing things, i.e., caring for yourself, leaving your home, or any activity that would affect your work performance.

I hope this helps. If you have any further questions, please contact our office at 877-970-4447.

I was in a car accident recently that was partly my fault. I looked down to send a text to my mom and rear ended the car in front. The car that was behind me then rear ended me also and did damage to my car. Is there any way I can recover damages done to my car?

Yes, if you have collision coverage on your auto insurance policy you can make a claim with your insurance company to get your vehicle fixed. If the accident has not been reported to your insurance company, then you will need to call their claims department and make a claim. You will have an adjuster that is assigned to work on resolving your claim. It usually takes a couple of weeks to get a property damage claim resolved. Make sure to follow up with the adjuster frequently about your claim.