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With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat ruling the digital world, posting about our “current situation” has become second nature to many, especially young adults.  Some share every detail of their lives, from their breakfast menu to health care concerns, without a second thought.  Doing so is not without risk, as it can subject a person to scams and other perils.  However, the risks are extremely high for a person who intends to pursue a lawsuit of any kind.  Good lawyers today mine social media for dirt on the opposing party.  For that reason, it is essential that you take steps to protect yourself.
Photos Can Mislead
Clients often say: “I have nothing to hide.  Why should I worry about what I post?”  The problem is that social media rarely reflect reality, and this fact can easily be exploited by insurance company attorneys.  Most people want to put their best foot forward on social media, posting pictures of themselves enjoying the good life far more frequently than photos showing life’s daily difficulties.  A person who is injured will probably not want to post pictures of themselves in pain; he or she will instead likely post a picture smiling after a nice meal out.  Perhaps the person is in constant pain, but managed a smile for the camera.  Of course, the picture is not absolute proof that the person is not actually suffering.  But for a jury, it may well create a false impression of a happiness that does not exist, which will likely result in less than full and fair compensation.
Details Can Be Exploited
In the old days (say 2003), defense attorneys had to go to great lengths to find out information about the plaintiff.  In addition to sending detailed discovery requests and taking lengthy depositions, they often had to rely on private investigators to learn useful information.  While those options are still available, defense attorneys frequently unearth their most valuable “secrets” from the plaintiff’s public social media postings.  Your hobbies, family, friends, work background are easily available.  While a social media presence has an essentially infallible memory, you do not, and a clever defense attorney can make it appear that you are intentionally lying by contrasting your testimony with details you have posted on social media.
Solutions
As soon as it becomes clear you will be pursuing an injury claim, you should immediately set all social media accounts to “private.”  At least until your claim is resolved, we recommend not posting new material on social media.  You should also be aware that harmful content, once posted, cannot be deleted or you risk a claim of spoliation of evidence.  For that reason, it is far better not to post such content in the first place.  Be sure to consult with your attorney to ensure your settings are truly private and to ensure all appropriate steps have been taken to protect your online presence from prying eyes.
Frank A. Wright, Jr., Esquire
 
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When should you see an attorney after your automobile accident?  How can you keep up with your own personal injury case?  When is it time to follow up with your attorney about your case?  These are all questions you may be pondering after your accident. You are not alone.
If you have just been injured in an accident, the first thing you should be thinking of is immediate medical attention.  But a close second is meeting with your attorney.  There are several reasons for this, but chief among these is that your attorney can help you sort out all the issues involved.   For example, you need to know whether the other driver was charged, and if so, what the charge was and where the charge was made.   You also need to know what to say, and more importantly, what not to say, to the other driver’s insurance company.  And “yes,” they will call.  You may have questions about whether your own policy affords you any relief in this situation.  Your personal injury attorney can help you with all of these issues by serving as your representative and finding answers for you when you need the answers the most.
How can you keep up with and manage your personal injury case?  Though it may seem obvious, progress in your case is largely up to you.  You will need to follow your doctors’ orders.  If treatment is prescribed, you need to follow through with it.  If you are given a referral to physical therapy or chiropractic care, you need to make the call and set up the first appointment.  If you are ordered to miss work for recovery purposes, you need to do so.  What you want to avoid are long periods of time where no accident-related treatment is taking place.  You will also want to keep up with all your medical bills, making sure that they are paid and current.
Third and finally, when should you contact your attorney during your case?  The answer is EARLY and OFTEN.  Do not be afraid to initiate the contact.  Communication between you and your attorney is of utmost importance.  And chances are, if you think you need to contact your attorney, then you are probably right.  You will want to let your attorney know anything that he or she may not otherwise know.  Examples of updates that you will want to bring to the attention of your attorney include referral to a new doctor, release from treatment by one of your doctors, discussion of permanency or impairment ratings with a doctor, or even simple questions relating to a lien notice or collection notice that you received in the mail.
Always remember that your personal injury attorney is there for you and that your case should be a team effort.
 
Samuel F. Vance, IV, Esquire
 
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The Law
Virginia Code Section 46.2-833 states:  “Steady amber indicates that a change is about to be made in the direction of the moving of traffic. When the amber signal is shown, traffic which has not already entered the intersection, including the crosswalks, shall stop if it is not reasonably safe to continue, but traffic which has already entered the intersection shall continue to move until the intersection has been cleared.”
The Stop Line
The white line your car crosses when entering an intersection is the stop line.  That line is so named in the motor vehicle handbook because you are to stop behind that line if the light turns yellow.
What If I Have Crossed the Stop Line?
If you cross the stop line before the light turns yellow, then you may continue to make your turn or other manuever.  When you cross the stop line before the light changes then the law states that you have lawfully entered the intersection.
Can I Ever Cross That Stop Line If the Light Is Yellow?
The code does make an exception for situations where it is reasonably safe to continue into the intersection when the light has changed to yellow.  But who gets to decide when your manuever was reasonably safe?  Aye, but there’s the rub.  In your opinion it may be safe to enter the intersection under the yellow light, wait for oncoming traffic to clear, and then turn left.  I have done that myself, albeit without much thought for the consequences.  But when you get to court, the trooper who wrote you a ticket may tell the judge that he, the trooper, considered your actions unsafe.  You can testify that you considered it reasonably safe, and, yes, the standard for conviction is supposed to be beyond a reasonable doubt, but that trooper has more credibility with the judge than you.
What If I Get Trapped Under the Light?
Assume you are making a left turn.  The light changes to yellow just as you come to the stop line and there is only one car in sight coming toward you.  You get delayed in the intersection so you wait for that oncoming car to come past you on your left and then you will turn.  Sounds reasonably safe.  You begin to turn left and a car suddenly shows up coming straight at you from the oncoming lane.  Where did that car come from?  Out of a driveway or business?  Was it hidden behind a building, parked vehicle, or a curve? Or did you just not see it before?  Or did it just enter the intersection late after you started your turn?  Whatever the reason, brace for impact!
I Just Got Injured, Who Pays
You braced for the impact, but both you and the oncoming driver were transported to the hospital.  The good news is you were not badly hurt.  The bad news is that you are going to be sued by the oncoming driver.  Why?  Because that person’s lawyer will argue that you entered into the intersection when it was not reasonably safe to do so, and then failed to yield the right of way.  A jury will have to decide whether or not to award damages to the oncoming driver.  What a pickle!
This Lawyer Just Decided to Be More Cautious Under the Caution
Wow!  While writing this I just realized what a reckless driver I have been!  Yes, I have been a yellow light offender in the past.  I just called my insurance agent and confessed. (I have heard that confession is good for the soul.  However, that only applies when talking to your priest, not to the police.)  He said he would not raise my rates this time.  Whew!
If You Want to Know More
If you are not exhausted after reading this and would like more answers to frequently asked questions, check our website at Overbeylaw.com.  Join us for a friendly chat.  (However unlikely that sounds, you can have a friendly chat with a lawyer).
David Hawkins, Esquire
Overbey, Hawkins, & Wright, PLLC
Lynchburg and Rustburg, Virginia
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You may have seen the news 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
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With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat ruling the digital world, posting about our “current situation” has become second nature to many, especially young adults.  Some share every detail of their lives, from their breakfast menu to health care concerns, without a second thought.  Doing so is not without risk, as it can subject a person to scams and other perils.  However, the risks are extremely high for a person who intends to pursue a lawsuit of any kind.  Good lawyers today mine social media for dirt on the opposing party.  For that reason, it is essential that you take steps to protect yourself.
Photos Can Mislead
Clients often say: “I have nothing to hide.  Why should I worry about what I post?”  The problem is that social media rarely reflect reality, and this fact can easily be exploited by insurance company attorneys.  Most people want to put their best foot forward on social media, posting pictures of themselves enjoying the good life far more frequently than photos showing life’s daily difficulties.  A person who is injured will probably not want to post pictures of themselves in pain; he or she will instead likely post a picture smiling after a nice meal out.  Perhaps the person is in constant pain, but managed a smile for the camera.  Of course, the picture is not absolute proof that the person is not actually suffering.  But for a jury, it may well create a false impression of a happiness that does not exist, which will likely result in less than full and fair compensation.
Details Can Be Exploited
In the old days (say 2003), defense attorneys had to go to great lengths to find out information about the plaintiff.  In addition to sending detailed discovery requests and taking lengthy depositions, they often had to rely on private investigators to learn useful information.  While those options are still available, defense attorneys frequently unearth their most valuable “secrets” from the plaintiff’s public social media postings.  Your hobbies, family, friends, work background are easily available.  While a social media presence has an essentially infallible memory, you do not, and a clever defense attorney can make it appear that you are intentionally lying by contrasting your testimony with details you have posted on social media.
Solutions
As soon as it becomes clear you will be pursuing an injury claim, you should immediately set all social media accounts to “private.”  At least until your claim is resolved, we recommend not posting new material on social media.  You should also be aware that harmful content, once posted, cannot be deleted or you risk a claim of spoliation of evidence.  For that reason, it is far better not to post such content in the first place.  Be sure to consult with your attorney to ensure your settings are truly private and to ensure all appropriate steps have been taken to protect your online presence from prying eyes.
Frank A. Wright, Jr., Esquire
 
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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Social Media Can Sink Your Lawsuit

With Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat ruling the digital world, posting about our “current situation” has become second nature to many, especially young adults.  Some share every detail of their lives, from their breakfast menu to health care concerns, without a second thought.

Continue Reading >
Monday, January 15, 2018

Managing Your Personal Injury Case

How can you keep up with your own personal injury case? When is it time to follow up with your attorney about your case?  These are all questions you may be pondering after your accident. You are not alone.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Yellow Light: What Should I Do?

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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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