When Do I Hire an Attorney vs. Handling It Myself?

Through various avenues and referral sources, I often times get some interesting questions about "potential" cases. Lately, I have been looking over my shoulder for the hidden camera or wondering which one of my friends in playing a joke on me. I'm not sure it's a result of our litigous nature, the dying art of customer service, or people just dont have time to properly deal with issues that arise.

So enter my quick 3 step process to determine if you need a lawyer.

1) Are you dealing with an insurance company or adjuster?

     - YES, you need a lawyer.  Insurance companies make money off of the money they don't pay out in claims. You obviously have a claim and they want to minimize the payout to you regardless of how nice they may initially seem. 

     -Just ask yourself this: "Would you listen to the devil on how to get to Heaven? Then why would you listen to the insurance adjuster about how to settle a claim against them?"--Trey  Mills

2) Are you dealing with a rude employee, disgruntled employee, or frontline of a company?

      -Probably Not. You need to make sure you document whatever the situation may be. Then reach out to the next level of management or ownership. If the wrong, or negligent act, that has been committed on you is not addressed by the next level of management or ownership then you need to determine the damages you have incurred. If those damages are simply hurt feelings and/or pride you don't need a lawyer. If those damages are monetary and amount to more than a few thousand dollars then you may need a lawyer. If those damages are less than a few thousand dollars you may have alternative routes such as Magistrate Court, or Small Claims court. (Charleston County has online FAQs) You do not need a laywer to represent you in Magistrate Court in South Carolina, or most states. Think Judge Judy but less dramatic, not on television, and not as timely. 

3) Are you trying to pursue a wrong from a company or person that has no assets, money, or insurance because "it just ain't right?" 

    -Probably not. You have certainly heard of the term, "You can't get blood out of a turnip." If not click on the previous link and don't tell anyone you didnt know that. When I question the viability of a case or know that there is little to be gained from it, I request a retainer fee. That fee may very depending upon the case but it is usually at least $2,500.00. Are you willing to spend that much money to pursue your case? If not, then you don't need a lawyer. 

When you have performed this quick 3 step analysis and determined you need a lawyer, reach out to one. We don't bite.

We represent clients  that have been injured at work, in wrecks, dog bites, slip and falls, nursing home abuse cases, and product liability claims arising out of South Carolina and Georgia.  Call us toll free at 1-800-483-0880, contact us on Facebook, Twitter, or just stop by. We offer free consultations to determine if we can assist with your legal needs. 

Injured on the Job? Too 'Job Scared' to File a Workers' Compensation Claim?

Many times we see potential clients fail to follow through with a Workers’ Compensation claim because they are “job scared.”  Some of the individuals may have a promising but new career with their employer, other times the individual has been employed with the same company for 20+ years and fear losing a good job.  If you have been injured on the job and are job scared, please read this before deciding NOT to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim.

It is illegal in South Carolina for an employer to fire an employee for initiating a Workers’ Compensation claim.  S.C. Code Ann. § 41-1-80 states:
 
 “no employer may discharge or demote any employee because the employee has instituted [in good faith]. . .” a Workers’ Compensation claim.
 
If you are legitimately injured while on the job and file a Workers’ Compensation claim against your employer, your employer can not terminate you for that reason
 
However, the law cited above does state that while you are pursuing a claim, your employer can fire you for other reasons, most commonly:
 
a) intoxication on the job;
b) destruction of the employer’s property;
c) habitual tardiness or absence from work;
        d) failure to meet established employer work standards;
        e) malingering; or
        f)  embezzlement.
 
If you do decide to pursue a Workers’ Compensation claim, while still working, we inform our clients to ALWAYS report to work on time and stay on their best behavior while on the clock. If your employer is attempting to fire you while under a Workers’ Compensation claim, they will try and find a justifiable reason to terminate you that is unrelated to your job injury.    
 
If you are injured on the job but afraid of being terminated for pursuing your rights under the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation laws, it is always advisable to speak with an attorney first.  We offer free consultations, so do not hesitate to call Ernie Trammell or Roy Trammell at the Trammell & Mills Law Firm, LLC located in upstate South Carolina as soon as possible after your work injury.  
 
 
THIS ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN BY ROY TRAMMELL, a Workers' Compensation attorney
Call and let Roy handle your case today, 864-231-7171 or trammellandmills.com 
 

Workers' Compensation Reform Horrible for Workers in South Carolina

 A recent article by NPR illustrates what is wrong with any legislation put forth in the name of "reform". This article provides quantitative evidence and examples of why the workers' compensation system is broken. Our very own Ernie Trammell has provided articles about South Carolina Workers' Compensation issues writing, "Injured at Work in South Carolina? What you need to know. (Part 1)" & "Injured at Work in South Carolina? What you need to know. (Part 2)"  . 

For an in depth analysis, historic background on the intent, and current state of workers' compensation laws, you should educate yourself with this article. More importantly, you should arm yourself with an attorney if you have a workers' compensation claim:

Injured Workers Suffer As 'Reforms' Limit Workers' Compensation Benefits

 

 

Why Is the Insurance Adjuster Telling Me I Don't Need a Lawyer?

New clients often convey to me that the insurance adjuster has told them they do not need an attorney to resolve their case. I always laugh at that statement because it reminds me of an analogy I use a good bit here in South Carolina:

Would you listen to the devil on how to get to Heaven? Then why would you listen to an insurance adjuster about how to settle your claim AGAINST them?---Trey Mills

Of course the insurance adjuster that is employed by the insurance company that has to pay money out on an insurance claim would try and contain the amount of money that is paid out on claims. Do you think adjusters are given raises and/or bonuses at the end of the year for paying out lots of money on claims or for keeping payouts on claims low? That's right your interest in resolving the claim and their interest in resolving claim are at opposite ends. The insurance adjuster does not have your best interest in mind.

When you hire an attorney on a contingency fee basis, meaning a percentage of the settlement amount-most commonly 33.33% or 1/3, your interest are aligned with the attorney's interest. At the most basic level your interest and the attorney's interest are symbiotic because of the mutual benefit in resolving for a higher value. However, if an attorney just works for money and doesn't want to build upon a relationship with having you as a client to brag about them to your circle of influence, that attorney's success will be limited.

Remember insurance adjusters cannot provide you with legal advice. All they can do is better their interest and the interest of their employer (insurance company) by saving money.  If they are saving money, then you are losing money. It's just that simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Collateral Source Rule: Why Your Personal Injury Settlement is Not Valued on Co-Pays

Inevitably I will have clients that  make the poor decision to try and work things out with the at fault party's insurance adjuster, thinking the at fault insurance company would "do the right thing."

As I have written in the past on "How Do Insurance Companies Make Money?" & since copyrighted my favorite quote:

"Would you listen to the devil on how to get to Heaven? Then why do you listen to insurance companies on how to settle claims against them?" -Trey Mills

Having only practiced close to seven (7) years doing 100% personal injury,  it is hard not to be cynical and disbelieving of anything insurance companies do or say. As an attorney I am held to a higher standard legally and ethically but for some reason the insurance adjuster can dispense false "legal advice" with no consequences. Most times what you say, can not be proven. Always ask for what the insurance adjusters tell you in writing.

Therefore, when the insurance company offers to pay your medical bills at what you paid in co-pays or reduced costs because you are fortunate to have health or supplemental insurance THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF YOU.  

In South Carolina the law states: The collateral source rule provides "that compensation received by an injured party from a source wholly independent of the wrongdoer will not reduce the damages owed by the wrongdoer." Citizens and S. Natl. Bank of South Carolina v. Gregory, 320 S.C. 90, 92, 463 S.E.2d 317, 318 (1995).  A tortfeasor (at fault party) cannot "take advantage of a contract between an injured party and a third person, no matter whether the source of the funds received is `an insurance company, an employer, a family member, or other source.'" Pustaver v. Gooden, 350 S.C. 409, 413, 566 S.E.2d 199, 201 (Ct.App.2002) (citations omitted). 

Stop being scammed by the insurance companies and start seeking out legal advice from lawyers. It costs you nothing to sit down and talk with most personal injury lawyers about your issues. Yes, if they take the case it will most times be taken on a contingency fee basis whereby they receive a percentage of the settlement they achieve for you. It's a symbiotic relationship.

Do yourself a favor and ask these two questions before you settle your insurance claim:

  1. Would you rather have someone working for you, ie attorney, or someone working against you, ie insurance adjuster?
  2. Do you think the insurance adjuster gets paid a bonus and/or receives a raise at the end of the year for paying out more money on claims, or paying out less money in claims?

To ensure the value of your settlement is reasonable and commensurate with your losses and harms, or damages, please consult with a personal injury attorney. You can contact us or find out more about us on Facebook.

Accidents Happen But Insurance Companies are Created

I have always enjoyed reading, watching, and listening to various recounts of historical information on a wide range of topics. Wikipedia is a scary resource given the ease of access and also in creating of the history online. However, for broad strokes and a general overview it has proven quite resourceful.

  • Did you know that insurance has been around in some form since humans have gathered together in communities, or societies?
  • The form of insurance as we know it culminated as a result of the mercantile trade along treacherous rivers and oceans where the chance of loss was great, thus if a merchant received a loan on the shipment they would pay the lender additional monies to cancel the loan if the shipment was lost or stolen. 
  • Did you know the first insurance company in America  was created here in Charleston, South Carolina?

I won't bore you anymore with history but just as we have advanced as humans, so to have our societies (at least in most parts of the world), and thus our businesses, or economies. 

As stated in one of many lessons learned in Sun Tzu's, Art of War

It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperilled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperilled in every single battle.

Therefore, I try to learn as much as I can about insurance companies and convey that knowledge the best I can to clients that come in with questions.  Those questions mainly consist of:

  • trying to understand how their insurance company can treat them so poorly after they have religiously paid their premiums without ever having an insurance claim;
  • trying to understand how the insurance company of the negligent, ignorant, or omitting party, will not provide them a fair amount for the injuries, troubles, and ordeals they have experienced through no fault of their own; and/or
  • why the insurance company will not call them back or appreciate what they have had to experience and instead treats them disrespectfully or with disdain.

Well, it is very simple. It's about money. The money insurance companies want to save by minimizing the payout on your injury, property, and/or life insurance claim. Simply stated insurance companies make money two ways:

  1. Through underwriting, the process by which insurers select the risks to insure and decide how much in premiums to charge for accepting those risks;
  2. By investing the premiums they collect from insured parties.

The whole insurance business model is summed up succinctly as such:

 to collect more in premium and investment income than is paid out in losses

Your injury, or insurance, claim is the loss being referred to above. What the at fault party's insurance company pays you cuts directly into their bottom line and therefore the less they can get out of paying your claim, the more they can invest in those really complicated structured asset backed securities, or CDO's. You remember the recession was caused by ____? Greed.

And that greed can work both ways, on your extreme valuation or consideration of the fair amount to be paid and the insurance company's extremely low valuation of your claim-regardless of facts.  Thankfully, advocates and plaintiffs' attorneys exist to assist you in this eternal struggle of good vs evil. If you had to pay a plaintiff's attorney the hourly wage the insurance company pays the defense attorneys, or advocates, I doubt you would ever be able to fight a fair battle.

Again we learn from Sun Tzu's, Art of War:

Thus, what is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy's strategy.

Please consider disrupting the strategy of insurance companies to make profit off of your injuries by low balling, denying, delaying, and defending against what you know is wrong. Just because insurance coverage has almost been made mandatory doesnt mean those same insurance companies have to make millions in profits off of your backs. Rise up and fight, now is your time! 

Would You Take Advice from the Devil on How to Get to Heaven?: Insurance Company Lies

This analogy came about through my initial consultations with new clients and their constant reference to the at fault party's insurance company making statements similar to this:

Well the insurance company adjuster for the negligent party said I could not do this or go get treatment for my injuries because they would not pay.

The game I refer to as the "Insurance Game" befuddles many but the dynamics are the same. You have one side playing offense and another side playing defense.  Why are you going to listen to a representative of an insurance company that eventually will have to pay you money based upon many factors but the largest factor being the amount of medical treatment and bills you have incurred since the negligent act that caused your injury?

Instead of seeking out a free initial consultation with a personal injury attorney you will listen to the advice of the negligent party's insurance company that is trying to minimize the amount of money paid out on your claim. Makes no sense. I don't care that I am jaded by being a personal injury attorney but I follow my own advice when it comes to real estate closings, I know nothing about. I seek assistance from a real estate attorney. I don't trust that the landowner I am purchasing from will take care of my best interest. I trust the attorney I am paying will protect my interest.

If you are playing a game against the opposing team, would you trust the advice of the opposing coach on how to best beat them? Sure the insurance company adjuster will be very kind and pleasant on the phone initially. However, their intentions are not to provide you with the best result but for their result to be beneficial for their employer, the insurance company.

Remember, or re-read, Aesop's fable about the Horse and Groom:

A GROOM used to spend whole days in curry-combing and rubbing down his Horse, but at the same time stole his oats, and sold them for his own profit. "Alas!" said the Horse, "if you really wish me to be in good condition, you should groom me less, and feed me more."

Don't let the kind words and warm reassurances from the at fault insurance company "groom" you into believing your health, wealth, and welfare are at the forefront of their minds. Rather try and gain the substance that will get you better and protect you down the road.