BLUE LIGHTS – EMPTY WALLETS

IF YOU USE A CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING IN NORTH CAROLINA

A bill has been introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly to make it a crime to use your cell phone while driving.  House Bill 144 would outlaw “distracted driving” and impose penalties that increase with subsequent offenses.  Beginning December 1, 2019, the police will have reason to pull over drivers who use their hands to engage in distracted behavior that impairs their operation of a motor vehicle.  The definition includes the use of a handheld mobile telephone or handheld electronic device.  If you receive one of these tickets, then be prepared to spend a pretty penny because the infraction carries a $100 fine in addition to the costs of court which boosts the total cost of a citation to nearly $300.  If you receive a second offense, then the fine goes up as well as carrying insurance points which will also cost you more money.  If you don’t learn a lesson from the previous two tickets, then you can expect a $200 fine, court costs, and 2 insurance points for another offense within 3 years.

The 7th Amendment, is a tool designed by our founding fathers to ensure that the powerful and the weak, the rich and the poor, the politically connected and the unknown are equal in their ability to share their story with a jury.  Making sure these rights are forever retained by the citizens, helps protect us from tyranny.  This changed in the early 80’s when a handful of Supreme Court decisions incorrectly applied the Federal Arbitration Act to consumers and employees instead of leaving it between merchants as it was intended. It was a voluntary way merchants (equal power) could resolve disputes quickly and cheaply without having to go through the court system for contract disputes. The Supreme Court has allowed the Arbitration Act to be applied to individuals and enforced even when state law has voided them. This irrational reasoning was again the foundation of a 5 to 4 Supreme Court decision last year in Epic Systems Case, which allowed enforcement of arbitration clauses preventing employees from banding together to hold employers breaking the law accountable. When Wells Fargo cheated its customers by creating and charging for extra accounts, it protected itself with the forced arbitration clauses consumers did not know they had signed when they opened accounts. You find these forced arbitration clauses in all kinds of unusual places like nursing home agreements, cell phone contracts, banking agreements etc. It protects big business by preventing the harmed individual from having his or her day in court. The arbitration process limits discovery of information does not apply the rules of civil procedure, they frequently require secrecy of the results and are subject to the whim of a private arbitrator without the ability to appeal.

The US House of Representatives has passed H.R. 1423 to repeal mandatory forced arbitration. Call your senator and tell them to support the “Forced Arbitration Injustice Repeal Act”. Every citizen deserves their right, assured to them under the Constitution to have a trial by jury. This is not a Republican versus Democrat or Conservative versus Liberal issue, it is as necessary to protect the right to a trial as it is to protect freedom of speech, the right to keep and bear arms, freedom of religion or any other right afforded us by the Constitution. Be heard and fight for what is yours as an American, YOUR RIGHTS.

 

 

Voir Dire, the Art of Jury Selection

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I have picked a handful of juries over the years and I must tell you that it can be one of the hardest parts of a trial for a lawyer. First off, we really do not pick the jury. The court sends out random notices to citizens that they have been selected for jury duty and tells them where and when to show up or what number to call to find out about having to show up. Then, they all go to a room and watch a video, and some get randomly called by a clerk to go to a particular court room. Perhaps more than one trial is going on in the court house. Then those random folks sit in a court room and the clerk randomly selects (in most cases) twelve of the group to get in the jury box. Frequently the judge will ask several questions and he may excuse some of those folks only to have the clerk randomly select replacements. Then, finally, the lawyers in some jurisdictions get to ask questions and strike some of those potential jurors only to have them randomly replaced by others in the room. In our question asking process we are trying to learn enough about each juror to determine if he or she has any natural biases that would negatively impact our client or benefit the other side. Since both sides of the case participate in the process, in the end we should have in theory a fairly neutral jury. Let me give you some examples of the biases we often deal with when picking a jury. I try a good many motorcycle injury related cases. Some folks think motorcyclists get what they deserve (translation= you ride you are partly at fault) when they have been injured by another motorist because motorcycles are inherently more dangerous than a car. Perhaps some of the potential jurors have had experiences not seeing motorcycles on the road and identify with the defendant and hesitate to hold the negligent driver accountable. Some folks think all motorcyclist are bad people (translation= they deserve it), like these believers have watched way to many TV shows. The same type of concern happens to the defense when you represent someone who has been injured by a large commercial truck. The fear they have is that the jurors will have a natural bias against big commercial trucks (because it makes them nervous on the road) and the bigger truck can cause serious harm (translation= they are dangerous) and it is a corporation (translation= they can afford to pay for their mistakes). It is not easy to get potential jurors to open up to you about their beliefs, particularly those beliefs that may be biases. Too, they just met you, you are a stranger, they are in front of other strangers in a place they are uncomfortable and not accustomed to. Jury selection is an art, some lawyers are naturally better communicators than others but like all things, preparation, practice and experience makes us all better.  When I talk to jurors about bias, I talk about the bias I have for a sausage biscuit over a ham biscuit. I would want to be fair if I was randomly selected to decide the winner of a breakfast biscuit contest, but if one was sausage and one was ham, as fair as I might want to be, my bias/favoritism means the sausage biscuit  is going to win, and the contestants need to know of that bias. I would be a better judge or juror for a different kind of biscuit/trial. Often if we can put our legal questions in everyday scenarios, we can learn a lot about our juries and perhaps win our clients trial.

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Liability Insurance: A Necessary Evil

Let’s face it, just about nobody likes auto insurance.  For most people, it’s a cost you’re forced to pay for something you never get anything from.  Making matters worse, most people have no idea about what coverage they are paying for or what kind of options they really have.  For many, the only thing that matters is the cost.  However, if you are involved in a collision, having the right types and amount of insurance can make all the difference.  This post will address one of those types, liability insurance.

Liability Insurance

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Chances are that you have encountered driving through a city that has placed red light cameras at intersections.  The stated purpose is to increase safety at intersections by imposing a penalty for those drivers who run red lights.   The penalty fine varies from place to place but is typically $50 or $100 for a violation.  If not paid timely, then the fine amount doubles in most locations.

The Good.  When driving through an intersection, it is nice to know that other drivers may be less likely to run a red light if they fear being fined for that bad driving habit.  We know that 40% of the roughly 6 million car crashes that occur in the United States every year are intersection-related crashes.  Various surveys and data collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warn us that intersections can be dangerous places.  If red light cameras cause drivers to be more careful not to enter an intersection on a red light, then that should be a good thing for all of us.

The Bad.  While red light cameras may make drivers more reluctant to enter an intersection on a red light, they can create situations where drivers slam on their brakes to avoid getting a ticket resulting in rear end collisions near these red light camera equipped intersections.  A review of studies on the topic by the Federal Highway Administration supports the conclusion that red light cameras reduce the number of right angle (T-bone) crashes, but also increase the number of rear-end collisions.  As a result of the conflicting safety data, many cities have removed previously placed red light cameras and at least 9 states have banned them altogether from being used.

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Choose Wisely…Your Insurance Company Matters

It seems like any time you turn on a television, radio or computer these days, you can’t escape a commercial from an insurance company.  Think about.  I bet you can hum the jingle or say the catchphrase from half a dozen insurance companies without even thinking hard.  That’s not a coincidence.  There are a handful of insurance companies that flood the airwaves with commercials and have done so for years.  I’ll admit, some of these are pretty clever.   Whether it is a talking amphibian, a guy constantly causing chaos or an athlete giving neighborly advice, the goal is always the same: to sell you insurance.  And you know what, it works!  The biggest advertisers have the most insureds in the United States.

So you may be thinking, so what, who cares how much these companies advertise?  Here’s the thing: The top advertisers are also the most difficult insurance companies to deal with from a settlement perspective.  It’s my opinion that the biggest advertisers make up for all of those advertising fees by paying less on insurance claims.  How a claim is handled, varies greatly one from insurer to the next, yet the top advertisers are almost all the most stingy when it comes to paying claims.  I don’t think that is a coincidence.

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As a personal injury attorney in North Carolina, I hear this from clients all the time.  Unfortunately, in most cases, it is not true.  At the very least, it is not what they believe it to be.  In North Carolina, as in most states, you are required to purchase auto insurance to legally be allowed to drive on public roadways.  Each state sets its own requirement as to the minimum amount of insurance and type of insurance that you must purchase to be a legal driver.  The primary purpose of these requirements is to protect innocent persons from your negligent driving.  In North Carolina it is called the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act and can be found at NCGS §20-279.21.

North Carolina requires that all drivers carry at least $30,000 in liability insurance.  This is sometimes referred to as “minimum limits” or a “30/60” policy.  That means that you only carry the minimum amount of auto liability coverage required by law in North Carolina.  Under a minimum limits policy, the most any one injured claimant can collect is $30,000 and there is only $60,000 in available liability coverage for all the claimants involved in an accident.  For example, if you, your spouse and your children are involved in a car accident and spouse and children of the at-fault driver are in the other vehicle, there is a total of $60,000 in available liability coverage for all seven claimants (assuming two children in each car).  With the costs of health care rising, if all seven claimants are transported by ambulance and get checked out at the hospital, you can easily see how quickly that $60,000 is exhausted, let alone if there are any serious injuries or follow up visits are needed, or worse, if someone dies as a result of the accident.  None of those factors change the amount of money available to the claimants in a minimum limits policy.

As such, it is highly recommended that you carry as much auto liability coverage as you can afford.  There are two reasons for this.  One is that most people do not go out and intend to cause a collision.  They generally the result of negligence.  Think of all the things people have to distract them, even momentarily, the radio, the weather, the other cars on the road, GPS, eating or drinking, texting, talking on the phone, children, the list goes on and on.  As such, if you have assets that you want to protect, you should carry higher liability limits so that claimants can focus on your insurance coverage instead of trying to get money from you directly.  The second reason is that, in general, you have to carry higher liability coverage in order to purchase higher Uninsured (does not have insurance) or Under-insured Motorist Coverage (does not have enough insurance to fully compensate you for your damages), both of which help to protect YOU and your family.

At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, we are proud to participate in various community events throughout the year (especially if they involve motorcycles!). We sincerely believe that one good deed can change the world, which is why we strive to support the residents of North Carolina and South Carolina both in and out of the courtroom. Our team is always looking to partake in new and exciting events and charities that support people in need. Despite the rainy and chilly weather, our staff participated in 5 wonderful charity events this December!

28th Annual Conover School Toy Run

December 1, 2018

If you sustain an injury at work, you may not know what to do. Most employers have to provide workers compensation. But the entire process can be overwhelming and confusing. Take the steps in this post to and it will help you get the best possible outcome.

Immediately Tell Your Employer

The first step to take is reporting your accident to your employer. Most states have statutes of limitations for reporting an accident. This means a report must be made within a certain time period. In many cases, this time period is fairly short.

Being injured while on the job can be devastating both physically and emotionally. After you seek medical attention and notify your employer, it’s important to also remember that you need to take the correct steps when filing your workers’ compensation claim. While this can be a very overwhelming time for you, you don’t have to go through it alone. Our workers’ compensation attorneys are here to make sure you know just what to do.

Following these steps when filling out your workers’ compensation claim is essential in making sure you receive the maximum amount of financial compensation for your injuries.

Filing with NC Industrial Commission

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