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You may have seen the new story and been angered:  the lady who spills coffee on her lap and sues McDonalds for millions of dollars.  It sounds absolutely ridiculous, and the news media loved reporting on it.  But the media did not tell the whole story, instead sensationalizing details to further its narrative of runaway suits filed by greedy people and their lawyers.  As it turns out, there were many facts about the case that the media ignored, one of many ways they lie to the public about the legal system.

Ad Damnum Exaggeration

Of course, it sells newspapers to report on a $1,000,000 lawsuit, particularly when the injury seems minor.  However, it is important to understand that the amount sued for (called the ad damnum) is often much higher than the actual claim for a very good reason.  In many states, including Virginia, the plaintiff cannot recover more than the amount sued for, and frequently the value of the claim is not fully known when the lawyer files suit.  For instance, $10,000 in medical bills at the time suit is filed might easily increase to $100,000 due to an unexpected surgery.  If the lawyer only sued for $10,000, the client could not recover all of their medical bills.  For this reason, all good lawyers recommend that the ad damnum amount be far more than they could ever expect to recover for their client.  The amount the plaintiff asks for at trial is the real amount of the claim.

Misleading on Injuries

Everyone occasionally burns their tongue on a drink that is a bit too hot.  Based on that experience, a burn from coffee sounds like such a minor injury that no medical treatment would be necessary.  The media used that assumption in the McDonalds coffee cup case to make the claim seem even more ridiculous – a suit for millions of dollars when the plaintiff, Stella Liebeck, only had a burn from coffee.  But the plaintiff’s injuries were unquestionably serious:  she had 3rd degree burns over 16 percent of her body, including her inner thighs and genitals.  In places, the scalding coffee burned Ms. Liebeck’s skin away to the layers of muscle and fatty tissue.  She spent 8 days in the hospital, receiving numerous skin grafts, and never completely recovered.

The Story Doesn’t End Where You Think It Does

It may surprise you to learn that Ms. Liebeck did not actually receive $2.7 million, the amount of the original jury verdict so gleefully reported by the media.  In fact, the judge later reduced her jury award to $600,000 through a process called remittitur.  While the matter was being appealed, the parties settled out of court, likely for far less than $600,000.  Our system has layers of review built in to minimize the risk of outlier decisions, but the media often reports the decisions that make for a good sound bite while never following up to let you know how the case actually ended.

Our legal system is not perfect, but overall does a decent job of producing reasonable outcomes.  If you’re looking to get rich for nothing, a lawsuit is not usually the way.  If you simply want fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries, give us a call.

Frank A. Wright, Jr.

 
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Why do we need uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, also known as UM/UIM?  What is it?  Am I being sold something that I do not need?  These are questions you may be asking when you look at your insurance bill.  Or, these are question you may have asked when you are contracting for automobile insurance coverage with your insurance agent.  But if you are not asking these questions, maybe you should.

Uninsured motorist coverage is coverage that protects you when the driver that hits you is driving an uninsured vehicle.  So in other words, you have coverage in a wreck where you are hit by an uninsured vehicle.  Similarly, underinsured motorist coverage is coverage that protects you when you are in a bad accident and the driver that hits you is driving a vehicle with minimal coverage.

Consider this true story:  our client comes in after an awful wreck.  She was hit by a crazy driver who was raging up the road.  Our client is severely injured and ends up with substantial hospital and medical bills.  The crazy driver was uninsured, driving an uninsured vehicle.  Our client told us that she had “good insurance.”  We had her to bring in her declaration sheet and policy.  As it turns out, she had good insurance coverage for her ($300,000), however, she had recently reduced her UM/UIM coverage from $300,000 to $25,000, in order to save a few hundred dollars in car insurance per year.  It is this latter coverage that applies in this case.  Unfortunately, she made this change just a couple of months before the accident.  So this change may have cost her up to $275,000 worth of coverage for medical bills, pain and suffering, and other compensation!

In contrast, and in that same wreck, was a passenger who had good insurance but never reduced the UM/UIM coverage.   She is now stands in a much better position to recover, both from a health standpoint and financially.

When you are purchasing car insurance you should consider this real world story and ask yourself whether you are really covered by your policy.

Samuel F. Vance, IV
                    [post_title] => Why You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage
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If your car is damaged by the fault of another driver, you are entitled under the law to a rental vehicle for a reasonable time.  The code sets out the conditions for a rental as follows:
  • 8.01-66. Recovery of damages for loss of use of vehicle
  1. Whenever any person is entitled to recover for damage to or destruction of a motor vehicle, he shall, in addition to any other damages to which he may be legally entitled, be entitled to recover the reasonable cost which was actually incurred in hiring a comparable substitute vehicle for the period of time during which such person is deprived of the use of his motor vehicle. However, such rental period shall not exceed a reasonable period of time for such repairs to be made or if the original vehicle is a total loss, a reasonable time to purchase a new vehicle. Nothing herein contained shall relieve the claimant of the duty to mitigate damages.
What is a reasonable time? The key phrase here is “a reasonable time.” What is reasonable to you and me may not be to an insurance company.  That last sentence about duty to mitigate damages means that you have a duty to do everything necessary to expedite the repair of your car. Will the insurance company front the cost of a rental? The insurance company for the person that is at fault in the accident will pay the rental cost up front for you if there is no issue about how the accident happened.  However, those companies love to use the threat of taking your rental car if you do not do their bidding.  Then, they want to tell you that you are only entitled to a set period.  Clients come in and tell me the company said “in Virginia you are only entitled to a rental for 10 days”.  Well, that is not the law.  You are entitled to the rental for a reasonable time for the repairs to be made. What if my vehicle is a total loss? If your vehicle is a total loss, then you must take reasonable steps to replace it in a timely manner, but how long is that?  Once again, there is likely to be a difference of opinion between the insurance company and you.  What is reasonable is in the eye of the beholder. What are my rights if the insurance company takes the rental back? The insurance company may threaten to take the vehicle back after some period of time.  You have the right to continue to rent the vehicle, but you then must pay out of your own pocket.  Then you can sue the insurance company and a judge will decide if you or the insurance company was correct in what was a reasonable time.  Most people do not have the resources to do that so the insurance company can call it any way it pleases. How can a lawyer help with my rental car? A lawyer can help you find your way through this maze.  Call an experienced accident lawyer early in the process and get the help you need. A. David Hawkins, Esquire [post_title] => I Gotta Drive: Rental Car Woes [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => i-gotta-drive-rental-car-woes [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-11-10 23:56:59 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-11-10 23:56:59 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://overbeylaw.com/?post_type=news&p=1694 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => news [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1681 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2017-08-08 17:07:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-08-08 17:07:01 [post_content] => Imagine your income stops, and at the same time you are racking up thousands of dollars in medical bills.  Though it seems like a horrible nightmare, for many who are the victims of car wrecks or other accidents this is a reality.  How do you survive financially when faced with the financial equivalent of the Perfect Storm?  Unfortunately, there are no easy answers since settling your case can take months or even years.  However, you do have options in the meantime. Payment Plans One of the greatest challenges you may face after your accident are the medical bills.  Even if you have health insurance, co-payments alone for surgeries, physical therapy, hospitalizations, medication and more can be huge.  For those without access to health insurance, the costs may be far worse.  If you cannot pay, you will be unable to get the treatment you need to fully recover.  Fortunately, many medical care providers are willing to work out payment plans if you simply ask.  In some cases, you may be eligible for forgiveness of medical bills, or financial assistance in the form of Medicaid.  Your attorney may be able to recommend treatment providers who are willing to treat you with the expectation of getting paid when you settle your claim. Financial Assistance Another option is to borrow money with the idea of paying it back when the case settles.  Your lawyer cannot loan you money due to ethics rules, but there are other sources of funds.  A home equity loan or even an unsecured loan is often the best option, though these may be impossible to obtain if you are unable to work due to your injuries or have bad credit.  Another choice is borrowing from friends or relatives, though this is not available to everyone.  There are also loan companies which specialize in lending money with an understanding they will only be paid back if you receive a settlement.  However, this source should be a last resort since this type of company nearly always charges interest rates that are in the stratosphere. Bankruptcy When all else fails, filing bankruptcy may be necessary.  A bankruptcy petition creates an “automatic stay,” which prevents your creditors from attempting to collect on your debt except through the bankruptcy court.  Ultimately, some debts may be discharged through this process, meaning you do not have to pay them back.  However, bankruptcy will negatively affect your credit for years to come and may require selling many of your assets.  In addition, discharge of your medical bills will likely prevent you from recovering for those bills as part of your personal injury claim.  There are other technical effects of bankruptcy which can endanger your personal injury claim, so you need to consult with your personal injury attorney before filing to ensure this does not occur. Financial stress is just one of the many ways that an injury can change your life and make it more difficult.  Hiring an attorney early in the process, can help minimize the difficulties you face. Frank A. Wright, Jr., Esquire   [post_title] => The Perfect Storm: Financial Chaos [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-perfect-storm-financial-chaos [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-08-11 18:32:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-08-11 18:32:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://overbeylaw.com/?post_type=news&p=1681 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => news [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1575 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2017-07-10 17:21:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-10 17:21:09 [post_content] => No one likes having to go to the doctor.  Doctors are busy, and getting in to see them often requires a long stay in the waiting room.  With health insurance covering less and less, the out of pocket cost to patients keeps going up.  As a result, most of us avoid going to the doctor like the plague.  When you have a personal injury claim, however, failing to follow up with your doctor can be a mistake with tremendous consequences for your case.  Here’s why you don’t want to fall into that trap. Doctors Help Us Get Better With all the healthcare bureaucracy, it’s easy to forget that your doctor’s primary goal is to help you heal.  When you fail to follow up for necessary treatment, the doctor has no way to accomplish that goal.  Doctors tend to assume if they do not see a patient that the medical problems have resolved.  Typically, doctors also prefer a conservative approach, moving to more aggressive treatments only when necessary.  If you don’t go to the doctor to report continuing problems, he or she will never know that more aggressive treatment is necessary to heal you.  In addition, jurors will be unlikely to believe you were really having problems since the insurance company lawyers will argue that you “didn’t bother” to go to the doctor. Doctors Prove the Injuries In a personal injury case, a doctor is an essential witness to proving the nature of your injuries, regardless of their severity.  For more serious injuries, such as broken bones or damage to internal organs, your doctor will need to testify to explain the results of x-rays or other diagnostic testing to the jurors.  For more common injuries, such as a strained neck or back with no broken bones, the doctor’s testimony can be even more important.  There is often no visible evidence of this type of soft tissue injury, which frequently cannot be confirmed by diagnostic testing.  Your doctor’s expertise can be critical in convincing jurors that the injuries are real and significant. Doctors Document the Symptoms Your court case may not settle or go to trial for years after the initial injury.  Although the symptoms are foremost in your mind while you are recovering, they are easy to forget by the time you need to testify about how your injuries affected you.  You may remember some of the worst symptoms, while forgetting others.  Without evidence of what you experienced, obtaining fair and complete compensation is impossible.  Doctors, however, generally keep careful records of your symptoms.  We obtain copies of these records as part of our representation, which can help prove all the ways you were affected.  Not only that, the records will help refresh your recollection as to symptoms you may have forgotten. The bottom line is that your doctor is one of your most important allies in recovering from your injuries.  Cooperate with the doctor and follow their recommendations to the letter to maximize your chances of complete physical and financial recovery. Frank A. Wright, Jr., Esquire     [post_title] => Your Doctor is Crucial in an Auto Accident Case [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => your-doctor-is-crucial-in-an-auto-accident-case [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-09-11 16:09:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-09-11 16:09:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://overbeylaw.com/?post_type=news&p=1575 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => news [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) ) [post_count] => 5 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 1707 [post_author] => 4 [post_date] => 2017-11-30 19:26:30 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-11-30 19:26:30 [post_content] => You may have seen the new story and been angered:  the lady who spills coffee on her lap and sues McDonalds for millions of dollars.  It sounds absolutely ridiculous, and the news media loved reporting on it.  But the media did not tell the whole story, instead sensationalizing details to further its narrative of runaway suits filed by greedy people and their lawyers.  As it turns out, there were many facts about the case that the media ignored, one of many ways they lie to the public about the legal system. Ad Damnum Exaggeration Of course, it sells newspapers to report on a $1,000,000 lawsuit, particularly when the injury seems minor.  However, it is important to understand that the amount sued for (called the ad damnum) is often much higher than the actual claim for a very good reason.  In many states, including Virginia, the plaintiff cannot recover more than the amount sued for, and frequently the value of the claim is not fully known when the lawyer files suit.  For instance, $10,000 in medical bills at the time suit is filed might easily increase to $100,000 due to an unexpected surgery.  If the lawyer only sued for $10,000, the client could not recover all of their medical bills.  For this reason, all good lawyers recommend that the ad damnum amount be far more than they could ever expect to recover for their client.  The amount the plaintiff asks for at trial is the real amount of the claim. Misleading on Injuries Everyone occasionally burns their tongue on a drink that is a bit too hot.  Based on that experience, a burn from coffee sounds like such a minor injury that no medical treatment would be necessary.  The media used that assumption in the McDonalds coffee cup case to make the claim seem even more ridiculous – a suit for millions of dollars when the plaintiff, Stella Liebeck, only had a burn from coffee.  But the plaintiff’s injuries were unquestionably serious:  she had 3rd degree burns over 16 percent of her body, including her inner thighs and genitals.  In places, the scalding coffee burned Ms. Liebeck’s skin away to the layers of muscle and fatty tissue.  She spent 8 days in the hospital, receiving numerous skin grafts, and never completely recovered. The Story Doesn’t End Where You Think It Does It may surprise you to learn that Ms. Liebeck did not actually receive $2.7 million, the amount of the original jury verdict so gleefully reported by the media.  In fact, the judge later reduced her jury award to $600,000 through a process called remittitur.  While the matter was being appealed, the parties settled out of court, likely for far less than $600,000.  Our system has layers of review built in to minimize the risk of outlier decisions, but the media often reports the decisions that make for a good sound bite while never following up to let you know how the case actually ended. Our legal system is not perfect, but overall does a decent job of producing reasonable outcomes.  If you’re looking to get rich for nothing, a lawsuit is not usually the way.  If you simply want fair and reasonable compensation for your injuries, give us a call. Frank A. Wright, Jr.   [post_title] => The Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Lie [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => closed [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => the-multi-million-dollar-lawsuit-lie [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-30 19:35:02 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-30 19:35:02 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://overbeylaw.com/?post_type=news&p=1707 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => news [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw ) [comment_count] => 0 [current_comment] => -1 [found_posts] => 37 [max_num_pages] => 8 [max_num_comment_pages] => 0 [is_single] => [is_preview] => [is_page] => [is_archive] => 1 [is_date] => [is_year] => [is_month] => [is_day] => [is_time] => [is_author] => [is_category] => [is_tag] => [is_tax] => [is_search] => [is_feed] => [is_comment_feed] => [is_trackback] => [is_home] => [is_404] => [is_embed] => [is_paged] => [is_admin] => [is_attachment] => [is_singular] => [is_robots] => [is_posts_page] => [is_post_type_archive] => 1 [query_vars_hash:WP_Query:private] => 5d0142b45f185b37fae4fa5e4d276be5 [query_vars_changed:WP_Query:private] => [thumbnails_cached] => [stopwords:WP_Query:private] => [compat_fields:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => query_vars_hash [1] => query_vars_changed ) [compat_methods:WP_Query:private] => Array ( [0] => init_query_flags [1] => parse_tax_query ) )
Thursday, November 30, 2017

The Multi-Million Dollar Lawsuit Lie

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Why You Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage

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Monday, October 23, 2017

I Gotta Drive: Rental Car Woes

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Perfect Storm: Financial Chaos

Dealing with the financial stress of bills while personal injury claim is pending? Here are some tips & advice from our attorneys on how to handle them.

attorney advice for personal injury medical bills financial crisis
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Monday, July 10, 2017

Your Doctor is Crucial in an Auto Accident Case

Your Doctor is Crucial in an Auto Accident Case

No one likes having to go to the doctor.  Doctors are busy, and getting in to see them often requires a long stay in the waiting room.  With health insurance covering less and less, the out of pocket cost to patients keeps going up.  As a result, most of us avoid going to the doctor like the plague.  When you have a personal injury claim, however, failing to follow up with your doctor can be a mistake with tremendous consequences for your case.  Here’s why you don’t want to fall into that trap.

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