Articles Posted in General Advice

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You were involved in a car wreck or other incident that has left you injured. You are wondering whether you should hire a Georgia Personal Injury Lawyer or handle the negotiations with the insurance company yourself. Short answer: Hire an attorney, you will be better off in the long run and you will realize a larger recovery in your pocket than trying to negotiate a settlement on your own. Doubt this advice? Then you do so at your own peril. Studies show that insurance companies and insurance adjusters treat claims that are being handled by lawyers more fairly and do not try some of the tricks that they might be willing to pull on those who are not represented. This, in almost all cases, puts more money in your pocket.

If you have ever dealt with insurance adjusters directly, you know some of the “questionable” tactics that they employ. They frequently will drag out claims for as long as they can, and then eventually deny the claim shortly before the statute of limitations for the claim runs. To be sure, if you are not represented by a lawyer, you are more likely to be taken advantage of by an insurance company (or at least they will try to do this). They will often ask you to sign a bunch of documents, medical releases, employment releases, sign recorded statements, etc. with no real intent of settling your claims. The real goal is to stonewall you for as long as possible before denying the claim.

In addition, dishonest insurance adjusters will frequently ask injured potential clients many questions that are not relevant to the claims such as whether you have health insurance that will cover the medical bills (this is in violation of the collateral source rule in Georgia), whether you have spoken with an attorney about the case, or whether you have been injured before. This is especially true of third-party adjusters who are hired by insurance companies to adjust claims on an ad-hoc basis. These adjusters are especially aggressive as their goal is to settle your case for pennies on the dollar so that they can get more business in the future from that particular insurance company. Instead of trying to fairly resolve the claim, their goal is to delay your case for as long as possible, and then offer you as little as possible in order to make them look good to the home office insurance company. A good lawyer will not stand for this.

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A law firm recently attempted to obtain court audio tapes. After the firm requested the audio recordings, the Court told the requesting attorney and her law partner husband, that they could come to court and listen to them, but they could not record them. This prompted the firm to file a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court demanding that the Court turn over copies of the audio tapes. But a judge dismissed the case, prompting the appeal to the Supreme Court of Georgia.

On Tuesday, Justice Nels Peterson, writing for a unanimous Supreme Court, said the firm should have used a court procedure known as Rule 21, which grants the public access to court records in criminal and civil cases. The firm also could have appealed Emerson’s order; it should not have filed suit, Justice Peterson wrote.

The Supreme Court did not squarely answer the most pressing issue in the case: whether the public has a right to inspect and copy a stenographer’s audio recording. As to that issue, Peterson gave somewhat mixed signals.

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Life in prison

Yes, he was a convicted felon and yes he had committed numerous crimes throughout Atlanta, however, the College Park citizen who represented himself in Cobb County this week was in for a rude awakening. According to the AJC and the Cobb County District Attorney’s office, the convicted felon who represented himself at the trial received the maximum sentence of life without parole plus 75 years after he was found guilty of carjacking two Cobb County car salesmen while on test drives in 2015.

Many people feel that they can go it alone, and not hire an attorney when they’re involved in a number of different types of legal disputes. However, many types of claims and many types of law are more complicated than they appear to a lay person. The old adage: “he who represents himself has a fool for a client” may not be appropriate for every single situation, but many times it really is true.

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A light post this time. I noticed that lawyers run the gamut as to what disclaimers they attach to emails and other communications. Today, I’ll focus on email disclaimers and I will share some I have noticed recently. Of course, first I will end this section with my disclaimer.

NOTICE:  This message is from a law firm, Katz Wright Fleming Dodson & Mildenhall LLC (KWFDM). This message is intended only for the use of the individual to which it is addressed and may contain information that is privileged, confidential and exempt from disclosure under applicable law.  If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify this office immediately by telephone, delete the e-mail from your computer and do not copy or disclose it to anyone else.  Return the original message to the address listed via U.S. Postal Service.  If you are not an existing client of KWFDM  do not construe anything in this e-mail to make you a client.  Do not disclose anything to KWFDM in reply that you expect to be held in confidence until you have retained the services of KWFDM   If you are a client, co-counsel or retained expert of KWFDM  you should maintain the contents of this email in confidence in order to preserve the attorney-client or work product privilege that may be available to protect confidentiality.  This email is covered by the Electronic Communications Privacy Act, 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510 – 2521 and is legally privileged

Now, from another lawyer in my firm.

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Lawsuits have been filed in the Atlanta area and elsewhere against several home warranty companies claiming that the companies unlawfully reject claims. Such companies offer extended warranties with maintenance agreements to keep household appliances and other mechanical devices working.

Retailers, such as Best Buy, Home Depot, Sears, and Wal-Mart offer customers the option of purchasing an extended warranty to insure coverage on their purchases after the usual one-year manufacturers warranty expires. However, the retailer doesn’t handle the extended warranty. The retailer only offers it at the time that the product is bought. Third party administrators (TPA) provide the services that are outlined in the extended warranty.

Home warranty or maintenance agreements usually cover such items as central air conditioners, dishwashers, garbage disposals, heating systems, ovens, refrigerators, and washers and dryers. However, additional coverage can be bought on pools, spas, and other mechanical devices.

The maintenance agreements cover damages caused by normal wear and tear. They do not cover pre–existing problems, misuse, or owner neglect. They simply extend beyond the manufacturers warranty. They do not overlap that warranty. Such warranties are provided by 2-10 Home Buyers Warranty, American Home Shield, Cross Century Home Services, Fidelity National Home Warranty, and Old Republic Home Protection.
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Finding a competent attorney in Atlanta is a lot more difficult than turning on your television and choosing one from the countless commercials on morning television. When searching for an attorney, don’t expect to find one simply by reading an advertisement or looking one up in the Yellow Pages. And don’t assume that the best lawyers are the most popular. Selecting an attorney is not a popularity contest. Nevertheless, there are sound ways of choosing one that best suits your specific needs.

Always verify a malpractice attorney’s credentials to ensure that he/she has a good reputation. The Better Business Bureau can inform you of any complaints filed against an attorney and if and when the complaint was resolved. Ask for the names of previous clients from the lawyer you’re considering hiring. They will give you good insight as to what the attorney in question is really like. Then again, the most reliable recommendations are usually from your family members and friends.

Prior to your first meeting with a prospective attorney, make a note of important facts pertaining to your case to share with him or her. Include the names, addresses and phone numbers of every person linked to the case. Moreover, bring all papers associated with the case. Some lawyers may want to review these papers before meeting with you. And make sure to inquire about cases that the attorney has handled that are comparable to yours.

Find an attorney that you can trust. For that reason, be patient in trying to get to know as many different lawyers as you can. Ideally, you’d like the personality of the attorney you choose to be well–suited with your own personality. And though you may never attain the perfect client – attorney relationship, his/her ease of access, proficiency, and ability to understand you are most important.

Lawyer referral services are another source of information. Some lawyer referral services carefully screen attorneys and only list the ones that have particular qualifications and experience. However, before choosing a lawyer referral service it is important to know what they’re qualifications are for an attorney to be included and how carefully they screen their lawyers.

You also can seek help through the Atlanta Bar Association. Tell them why you are looking for an attorney. They can help you find a lawyer that concentrates in your area of need. For example, you wouldn’t want an immigration lawyer to handle your personal injury case. It doesn’t matter how skillful they are in one area, it won’t qualify them in another area. Lawyers specialize in certain areas for a reason. Therefore, choose the one with the most experience and training in the area that you need.
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Today was an especially difficult day for me. I met with a potential new client who drove from Columbus, Ga to meet with me in Atlanta. She had been clearly mistreated and hurt by security guards at a hospital in Columbus. I could tell after meeting with her for almost two hours and reviewing all of her medical records, that this incident greatly affected her physically and emotionally. This woman explained to me that she was “searching for one of the best lawyers in Atlanta” to handle her case. The case is currently in litigation in federal court in the Middle District of Georgia and her former lawyer died. She needs a lawyer to step in, conduct pre-trial discovery, prepare the case for trial and try the case. Due to a number of concerns, including how the case had been handled up to this point, I had to make the difficult decision that we could not take on this case.

As an Atlanta Injury Lawyer, I meet with many potential new clients. Often, they have been seriously injured or have lost a family member due to someone else’s negligence. I have successfully handled cases involving all types of catastrophic injuries, including blindness, loss of a baby and death due to medical malpractice; permanent numbness, disfigurement and nerve injuries due to dental malpractice; and brain injuries, herniated discs, and other severe spinal cord injuries due to automobile accidents. Many of these injured victims are unable to work and came to me in physical, emotional and financial distress. I have always taken great pride in being able to help these clients in times of need.

These are challenging situations, to say the least. The opportunity to help injured people in these situations makes being a lawyer exciting and rewarding. Trust me when I tell you this: the injuries and losses suffered by these accident victims transcends the physical injuries and affects almost every part of their lives. That is why I am a personal injury lawyer. That is why I represent plaintiffs. I can’t turn back the clock. I can’t heal their injuries. But I can help get their lives back on track. I can get them the money and resources they need to cope with their injuries and losses. They soon learn that I am more than “just another Atlanta personal injury lawyer.” They soon learn that I genuinely care about them and that I can play a large role in helping them recover and move on with their lives. Many times, my clients become close friends and we stay in touch over the years. To me, that is what makes personal injury law worthwhile.

So why the tough day. Well, as a lawyer, all I have is my time. We only have so much time and so many resources. As I explained, I practice law as a profession, not a business. I want to help those in need. Unfortunately, potential clients come to us seeking representation and they are severely injured. However, their case lacks merit in some important aspects. Because of this, we cannot take the case. This is frustrating and disappointing to me personally.
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Many patients who are being treated for personal injuries are finding that a co-pay is no longer sufficient to visit the doctor’s office. In a new trend, doctors’ offices are demanding full payments up to the deductible amounts, often before the doctor will see the patient. An industry analyst says that, as insurance companies and employers have started requiring consumers to pay more of the costs of care, doctors’ offices have shifted their fee recovery to consumers. Read Full Article.

One of the most important concerns for accident victims in Georgia is being able to pay for and receive the proper medical care needed to recover from the accident. If you are seriously injured in an car accident, for example, and suffer a back injury (herniated disc or bulging disc in the back) which requires surgery, your medical bills pile up quickly. This new approach by the medical providers could cause problems. I advise clients to utilize the medical payments coverage that comes with their car insurance policy and then to use health care coverage.

Robert J. Fleming has successfully represented many clients in Atlanta and the surrounding areas who have been injured due to the negligence of others in many different types of accidents. One of the first things we do when you hire us to represent you is to determine which methods you have available to pay for the medical treatment you need to recover from the accident. If you have been in a bad wreck, you likely will not be in the best emotional position to make these determinations. However, this is what we do for our client every day. We can sit down with you and, in any orderly fashion, figure out your best course of action to make arrangements to pay your medical bills. We also take great care to determine responsible parties and all available insurance to pay for the damages that you have sustained in the car accident or other type of accident. If you have been seriously injured in a car accident, slip and fall on commercial premises, or some other type of accident that was not your fault and would like to discuss your case in complete confidence, contact us today for a free initial consultation to discuss the specific facts of your case.

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I get many calls from potential clients who have recently been involved in wrecks in the Atlanta, Georgia area. While each case is different, here are some general suggestions that can help during a very stressful time when you might be injured or not thinking clearly due to be involved in a wreck.

CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED ATTORNEY

Obvious advice coming from a law office, right? While many people resist hiring an attorney because they feel they can “do better” without one, this simply is not the case. Many times, an experienced and qualified attorney is needed to evaluate the case, timely gather and preserve critical evidence, interview potential witnesses, identify potentially liable defendants (many of whom may not be readily apparent), identify available sources of insurance coverage, comply with statutory notice requirements and properly present your case to the insurance companies for prompt settlement or trial. With that said, here are some other nuggets of wisdom that I have gleaned over the years that should prove helpful in protecting your rights and maximizing your recovery:

DO NOT TALK TO ANYONE UNTIL YOU TALK TO YOUR LAWYER FIRST
Generally speaking, you should not talk to anyone about the accident except your lawyer and their staff. Obviously, you must cooperate with the police investigation. In addition, you are required to talk to your own insurance company, but your lawyer is entitled to be present. Do not talk about your injuries or the accident with the other party’s investigators, lawyers or insurance adjusters. Trust me: nothing you say will help you; anything you say will be used against you. If you doubt this, ask yourself a simple question: Whose interests are these people working to protect? Answer: Not yours. They are working hard to build a case against you, to make sure you get nothing, or very little, certainly less than you deserve. Do not help them.

POLICE REPORT / WITNESSES

As soon after the wreck as possible, you should obtain a copy of the police report and forward this to your attorney. If you know of any witnesses to the incident, please write their name, address and telephone numbers down and provide your attorney with a copy without delay. You would be amazed at how quickly witnesses disappear, memories fade, addresses change, telephone numbers are disconnected and the like. It is your attorneys’ job to quickly gather witness information and preserve it for settlement or trial preparation.

DIARY A LIST OF PROBLEMS CAUSED BY YOU BEING INVOLVED IN THE WRECK

Please keep a diary of problems that you confront because of your injuries. This should include when you are experiencing pain and suffering, activities that you are not able to perform or are able to perform, but must do so with pain and other problems. Be honest and truthful but don’t short change yourself either. When journaling, write out exactly how you feel both physcially and emotionally. In most cases, this will include worry and fear that you are experiencing because of being involved in the wreck. Not only is this process helpful to documents the pain and suffering that you are experiencing, but many clients find this to be theurapuetic and it seems to help them deal with the situation in the most positive light. After all, that is what you want: to get better, resolved your lawsuit as quickly as possible, and move on with your life.

LOST WAGES

Be certain that you have the name and addresses of all employers from which you lost wages due to the wreck. If you are self-employed, try to obtain records that will show your wage loss. Keep an accurate record of all days lost from work due to the incident and/or your injuries. Similarly, if you are self employed you will want to keep track of all job opportunities/lost income that you sustained due to you inability to work after the wreck.

DAMAGE TO YOUR AUTOMOBILE AND PERSONAL PROPERTY

They say, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Please take pictures of all damages to your car, and to the other vehicles involved in the wreck. Err on the side of caution and take a lot of pictures to ensure that you capture the full visual impact of the damage to the vehicles. Also, keep copies of repair bills and estimates. If you are disfigured in any way due to the wreck, you will certainly want to take pictures of this as well. In most cases, pictures taken of you right after surgery are very helpful. So are pictures of you shortly after the wreck which show bleeding, swelling, or other types of painful conditions that you sustained as a result of the wreck.

DOCTOR VISITS

The most important thing is for you to get well and to hopefully fully recover from your injuries. This is what you should concentrate on after the wreck and the lawsuits will be handled by your attorney. Therefore, follow your doctors’ advice and continue being treated by your doctor and subsequent doctors that you are referred to until you are well. This is equally applicable to any physical therapy to which you have been referred. Many times, physical therapy is a long and tedious process. However, you must complete the program to reap the benefits. If you are patient and follow the program, most times your condition improves. Remember, the most important concern is your health and recovery.You should be aware that insurance companies and defendants look very closely at medical records and try to allege that the plaintiff did not follow doctors’ advice and that is why the injury is so bad. Do not give them this opportunity. Follow your doctors’ advice.

HOSPITAL, MEDICAL AND DRUG BILLS

Obtain and keep receipts and records of all these expenses.Your are entitled to recover for these as part of your damages. Many times, bills while you are in the hospital after a wreck are sent by many different health care providers, not just the hospital that you were being treated at. For instance, if you are inolved in a car accident and are taken to the Emory Hospital Emergency department and then transferred to Emory Hospital for care after the ER visit, you might get billed separately from Emory ER, Emory Hospital, the doctors’ group who provided the ER care, the radiologist who conducted the x-rays and any number of other health care providers. The point is: don’t assume the hospital bill contains all of your medical bills while you were hospitalized. In most cases, it doesn’t.

PHYSICAL EVIDENCE

If your injury requires a cast, brace, traction, or other medical device, please save it. As discussed above, if you have pictures or other physical evidence, give them to your attorney. They may be used as evidence down the road. Once again, err on the side of caution and let your attorney decide what is worth preserving. Many times, some issues that were never being contested become issues way down the road.

TRAFFIC COURT

If you receive notice of a traffic court date for the other driver, attend and testify regarding who was at fault. If you receive a subpoena, you must attend. Many times a guilty conviction can be used against the other party at the trial of your case. If you don’t show up at the traffic court trial, you run the risk of the other driver’s ticket being dismissed, which will not help your case.

CALL YOUR LAWYERS OFFICE WITH ANY QUESTIONS

You hired your attorney to help you and that is exactly what they want to do. If you are not sure of something, call. It is better to communicate and get a clear understanding of what you are wondering about, rather than guess and make a mistake. In school they always said, “the only stupid question is the one that was not asked.” The same applies here when you are being represented by a law firm due to a serious car accident or other injury.
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