Frequently Asked Questions

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  • What does Statute 51 of the FELA actually mean?

    45 U.S. Code § 51 states:

    Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories...shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in such commerce...for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment. "Any employee of a carrier, any part of whose duties as such employee shall be the furtherance of interstate or foreign commerce; or shall, in any way directly or closely and substantially, affect such commerce as above set forth shall, for the purposes of this chapter, be considered as being employed by such carrier in such commerce and shall be considered as entitled to the benefits of this chapter.

    Translated into everyday English, the law sets out the scope of the protections provided by the Federal Employers Liability Act, or FELA. This law applies to railroad corporations that are engaged in interstate commerce, and it makes them responsible for employees who are injured due to the negligence of other railroad's employees, "defects" in its equipment or workplace.




  • Will the insurance company make a payout on uninsured motorist and medpay claims?

    Yes but they will dig for evidence that the accident was the pedestrian's fault, such as you stepped in front of the biker. Working with a skilled personal injury attorney can make the claims process easier.




  • What Is Negligence in a North Carolina Personal Injury Lawsuit?

    If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by the carelessness or recklessness of another party, North Carolina law allows you to take legal action against that party or parties in order to obtain financial compensation for losses that your injuries have caused you. Some of these losses can include medical expenses for treatment of your injuries, as well as any ongoing medical care you may need, lost wages if you were unable to work while you recovered, pain and suffering, emotional anguish, and more. In order to be successful in a personal injury lawsuit, a victim must prove negligence by the party they allege is responsible for the accident and their injuries.

    This is one reason why victims should consult with a North Carolina personal injury attorney to represent them. The legal definition of negligence that is required to be successful in a personal injury claim may be different than what a layperson thinks the definition is.

    In order to prove negligence in an accident lawsuit, there are four elements that must be proven. These elements are:

    1. The alleged at-fault party owed the victim a duty of care. This means they had a legal obligation to act in a certain way towards the victim. For example, a landlord has a duty of care to keep their property free of any hazards that are preventable. A driver has a duty of care to other drivers to operate in a safe manner and obey all traffic laws. A doctor has a duty of care to provide their patients with professional medical care.
    2. The alleged at-fault party breached that duty of care. This means that whatever obligation the at-fault party had to the victim, they failed to uphold.
    3. The breach of that duty of care caused the victim’s injuries. There are two types of causation that can be cited in this element. The first, cause-in-fact, means that if it weren’t for the at-fault party’s actions or behavior, the victim would not have been injured. The second type, proximate cause, means that the injury is related to the event in such a way that the court rules the injury would not have occurred if not for the event.
    4. The victim suffered damages (losses) as a result of the alleged at-fault party’s actions. In order to receive financial compensation for losses, there must be an actual loss.

    Let Our Personal Injury Law Firm Help

    If you or a loved one has suffered an injury in an accident caused by another party, contact a North Carolina personal injury attorney to find out what type of legal recourse you may have. Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be entitled to medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more.

    The Carolinas personal injury lawyers at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn have successfully advocated for many clients who suffered brain injuries in obtaining the financial compensation they deserved for their injuries, including a record-setting mild brain injury verdict for $60 million, which was settled while on appeal. Call us today for a free case evaluation.




  • Should I Believe What the Railroad Tells Me About Filing a FELA Claim?

    When the railroad sends you a pamphlet saying it will fairly compensate you for your work injury and arguing that hiring your own lawyer will accomplish nothing but costing you a fortune, do not trust that the company is telling you the whole story.

    For instance, no lawyer who advises and represents injured railroad workers is looking to cheat thier client. By law and the ethics of the profession, your lawyer must present you a written agreement that details all legal fees, which are typically taken as a percentage of the recovery. You will almost definitely not to pay anything upfront. And f you do not secure a settlement or win a lawsuit, you should not need to pay anything at all.

    What the railroads never tell you, is they are having their lawyers figure out ways to defeat your claim while you deal with the claim agent, and vital evidence that you own lawyer would acquire is not being acquired on your behalf.  But, if you have permanent injuries not hiring a lawyer is even worse.  

    The railroad claims agent will never get reports from your doctors about the permanent injuries you have suffered in order to decide to pay you more for permanent consequences of your injury.  The claim agent will totally ignore the future consequences.  And, the claim agent will never tell you whether the railroad is aware that it violated a safety regulation or was negligent, which is a condition that you must prove in order to recover under the Federal Employers Liability Act.  

    In summary, you should seek a free confidential consultation from an experienced railroad attorney no matter what scary stories your employer tells you.



  • Does the fact I was hurt while working for a railroad automatically qualify me for benefits under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?


    FELA is not a workers' compensation law that automatically covers employees who suffer injuries on the job. Rather, FELA is a negligence-based law, which means the employee must prove some type of negligence on the part of the railroad contributed in any way, "even in the slightest", to the injury suffered by the employee. 

    Although FELA does not provide automatic coverage to employees injured while working for the railroad, the U.S. Supreme Court has directed courts handling FELA cases to keep in mind the congressional intent of the stature, protection of railroad employees and to apply the protection of the laws liberally.  With this direction in mind, courts have interpreted FELA to require a railroad to provide employees with a reasonably safe place to work, reasonably safe and suitable tools, and adequate assistance.  These general protections for railroad workers are in addition to safety regulations such as the Locomotive Inspection Act and Safety Appliance Act.




  • What Are Safety Tips When Driving Near Tractor-Trailers?

    Driving in the vicinity of a tractor-trailer can be intimidating – downright scary – especially when they are loaded up with cargo. These are massive vehicles and their total weight, especially with a full load, can result in catastrophic injuries and death in trucking accidents. Every driver should be aware of the following important safety tips and understand the limitations that commercial trucks and the drivers who operate them have. If you or a loved one have been injured in a truck accident, contact our office to speak with a North Carolina truck accident attorney.

    Factors to Remember

    When you are driving near a large tractor-trailer or other commercial truck, the following factors are crucial to remember in order to stay safe:

    • Watch out and avoid the truck’s blind spots: The length and height of a large truck often create blind spots for the truck driver in different areas of the vehicle. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), vehicle drivers should remember that if they can’t see the truck driver in the truck’s side mirror, then assume that the truck driver cannot see your vehicle. Always try to remain visible to the truck driver and never stay in a blind spot when you are attempting to pass the truck.
    • Be ready for wide turns: Commercial trucks are massive vehicles, and this makes them much more difficult to operate than passenger vehicles. This is also quite evident when a truck driver is attempting to make a turn with the vehicle. Because of their size, trucks often make wide turns and another vehicle should never attempt to get between the truck and the curb to try to pass. A vehicle driver should also never attempt to cross intersection lines when a truck is turning because the truck driver often uses those lines to help navigate the turn.
    • Give the truck extra room: While it is important to make sure you are visible to a truck driver, it is also important to give that vehicle the extra room it needs. Trucks take longer to stop than other vehicles, so make sure to allow enough space between your vehicle and the truck. Never tailgate a truck. If the driver should come to a sudden stop, a vehicle tailgating could end up under the truck and the results fatal. It also takes trucks longer to complete a lane change so make sure you give the truck driver the space they need.

    Contact a Carolinas Injury Attorney for Assistance

    Because of their size and weight, the injuries sustained from a tractor-trailer accident are often much more severe than accidents that happen with smaller vehicles. Not only truck accidents more catastrophic than car accidents, the process for pursuing damages is also more complex. Unlike car accidents, where there is usually only one other at-fault party – the driver – truck accidents often involve multiple parties that can be liable. When a truck driver causes a crash, the trucking company the driver works for is legally responsible for that driver’s actions.

    If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, you are no doubt facing exorbitant medical bills, loss of income, and multiple other losses. A North Carolina truck accident attorney can evaluate your case and determine how much financial compensation you may be entitled to for your injuries.

    The legal team at Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has been successfully advocating for accident victims for more than three decades and will use all available resources to get you the compensation you deserve.



  • What Are the Signs of Elder Abuse and Neglect?

    Elder abuse is defined as the intentional or negligent actions by a caregiver or other trusted individual that causes pain and suffering in an elderly person. There are several categories of elder abuse, including physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and financial exploitation. While it is not always easy to detect, there are red flags that can signal that this crime is occurring. If you suspect an elderly loved one is a victim of elderly abuse, contact a Virginia nursing home abuse attorney from Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to find out what legal recourse you may have.

    Identifying Elder Neglect

    Many seniors reach the point in their lives that they are no longer physically or mentally be able to live on their own and take care of themselves. When this happens, many families turn to nursing homes or assisted living facilities and entrust them the care of their loved ones. Tragically, many of these facilities fail to provide adequate attention and care seniors need and this neglect affects the physical and emotional health of the resident. The facility may fail to provide a proper diet or needed medical treatment to the resident or fail to provide safe living conditions. Signs that every family should watch for and take immediate action to protect the resident include:

    • The resident is having trouble sleeping
    • The resident is left in their bed for extended periods of time with no supervision
    • The resident is losing weight
    • The resident is missing needed medical aids (i.e. glasses, hearing aids, walkers)
    • The resident is not dressed properly for the current weather conditions
    • The resident suffers recurring bedsores
    • There is a lack of basic hygiene for the resident

    Identifying Physical or Sexual Abuse

    Families should also look for signs of physical or sexual abuse, as well. When a resident is being abused, there are often changes in their mood, appearance, and body language. Unexplained physical injuries, such as bruises or broken bones, sexually transmitted diseases, or torn clothing, are also signs that your loved one may be a victim of abuse.

    Identifying Financial Exploitation

    While this type of abuse is more prevalent with seniors who live on their own, it is becoming more and more common for elders who live in nursing homes or assisted care facilities. These are the most common signs:

    • Missing bank statements
    • Suspected forged signatures on checks
    • Financial payments from the resident to a caregiver
    • The resident is missing cash
    • The resident is missing jewelry or other valuable items

    Let a Skilled Virginia Nursing Home Abuse Attorney Help

    If your elderly loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, contact a Virginia nursing home abuse attorney to find out what legal recourse your family may have. At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, we have been aggressively advocating for victims for more than three decades and have helped many nursing home abuse victims receive compensation for their injuries, as well as hold the perpetrators who committed the abuse responsible.

    Contact our office today to set up a free and confidential consultation with one of our dedicated nursing home abuse attorneys today.




  • What is uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, and why should I think about having it?

    These two types of coverage protect you from injuries in cases where the other driver was either underinsured or uninsured. In North Carolina, and many other states, uninsured and underinsured car insurance coverage is mandatory but the amounts that you maintain on your policy are optional over the minimal coverage.

    Underinsured motorist coverage pays for medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages when you or your passengers are hurt in an accident caused by a driver with auto insurance coverage too small to pay the bills. Your insurer will make up the difference between the negligent driver’s coverage and the maximum of your own policy.

    Uninsured motorist coverage operates the same way, except that instead of making up the difference between the negligent driver’s coverage and your own policy limits, your insurance company will be responsible for all of your bills. 




  • What Are Three Factors Common in Car Accidents

    Car accidents are complex events, often involving multiple factors that act as contributing causes. In investigating your claim, our N.C. car accident attorney will thoroughly review witness statements, traffic videotape monitoring, the accident scene, and police reports, gathering the evidence needed to show the other driver was to blame. While the following are three common factors that make crashes and collisions more likely to occur, the fact is it is still generally the other driver’s reckless or negligent behavior that is ultimately to blame.

    1. Adverse Weather Conditions

    The Federal Highway Administration (FHA) reports that of the close to six million car accidents that occur each year in the United States, nearly a quarter involve rain, fog, icy roads, heavy winds, and other adverse weather conditions. While North Carolina may not get the snow and frequent freezing temperatures other areas deal with during the winter months, rain and wet conditions can be even more dangerous.

    Wet roads decrease tire traction and increase the amount of time needed to stop your vehicle, while fog or even a slight rain can impact a driver’s visibility. Drivers are encouraged to slow down when the weather is inclement, as speeding or driving too fast for conditions makes motor vehicle accidents more likely to occur.

    2. Road Construction

    Based on statistics collected by the Department of Transportation, the FHA reports that road construction-related car accidents occur roughly once every five minutes, resulting in close to 26,000 injuries and over 600 deaths each year. While road workers face significant risks, the majority of those injured or killed in these accidents are drivers and their passengers.

    Anyone who has driven through construction in Kitty Hawk or the surrounding areas knows how dangerous reduced speeds, changing lanes, and sudden stops can be, particularly if you are not paying attention. Rear-end collisions are the most common type of car accidents that occur in construction zones, and distracted driving is often the underlying factor.

    3. Heavy Traffic Conditions

    North Carolina drivers are no strangers to traffic tie-ups. Sitting in congestion on your way to or from work or when out on the weekends can easily get on your nerves. Instead of taking deep breathes, listening to music, and taking other steps to remain calm, some drivers end up letting their impatience and irritation get the best of them.

    Aggressive driving behaviors, such as tailgating, failure to yield, and laying on your horn, do nothing other than to make the situation tenser and increase your car accident risks. Sideswipe accidents and rear-end collisions are common in these scenarios, and while drivers may not be going fast, serious injuries can still result.

    Let a Carolinas Car Accident Attorney Help

    If you have been injured in a car accident, not only to you have to deal with the physical and emotional effects of the accident, but you are likely dealing with the financial consequences, as well. Injured victims often have high medical bills as a result of the treatments their injuries require. Depending on how serious those injuries are, recovery typically includes staying out of work until the injuries have healed. This means no weekly paycheck for many victims.

    If the crash was caused by another party who behaved recklessly or negligently, North Carolina allows victims to take legal action in order to be financially compensated for all of these financial expenses. Victims can also pursue damages for losses that are not economic, such as pain and suffering, scarring emotional anguish, and more.

    If you would like to discuss your situation, contact our office to speak with a seasoned North Carolina accident attorney. Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn has been advocating for accident victims for more than three decades and will work diligently to get you the compensation you deserve.




  • Protecting Yourself Against Injuries in Large Crowds

    Anytime large groups of people are assembled together, whether inside auditoriums or sports arenas or outdoors at festivals or public street events, there is the chance for conditions that make personal injuries more likely to occur. Space may be at a premium, unexpected accidents can occur, and fights can break out, causing pandemonium and chaos. Knowing what to do and how to handle yourself in a crowd can help to ensure your safety. Follow these tips to protect yourself and others who are with you. 

    If you do become injured, you may be entitled to financial compensation for any losses your injuries have caused. Contact Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn to meet with one of our Virginia personal injury attorneys to find out what legal options you may have to pursue for damages.

    Preparing Yourself for Crowded Events

    Pushing, shoving, and being crushed between objects or under people are all concerns in large crowds, as are slips, trips and falls and injuries due to dangerous conditions such as fires, electrical problems, adverse weather conditions, and acts of violence by others. Places where these types of issues may occur include sporting events, concerts, street festivals, and social or political protests.

    Consider the circumstances surrounding the event you are attending in advance, the venue at which it will be held, and the ways you can prevent being caught up in the types of situations that make accidents and injuries more likely to happen. Common types of injuries suffered at these events include:

    • Soft tissue injuries due to slips and falls
    • Broken bones and dislocated joints
    • Severe cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds
    • Serious burns and heat stroke or dehydration
    • Crushing injuries, causing damage to limbs and body organs
    • Back and neck injuries, such as slipped or herniated discs
    • Head injuries, including concussion and traumatic brain injuries

    What to Do at an Event

    Facility owners and event coordinators or hosts do have an obligation to ensure the safety of guests and attendees and should take the necessary precautions to prevent accidents and injuries from occurring. For example, many organizations advise their event planners to take the following actions:

    • Identify the type of crowd the event is likely to attract, what their needs might be and the specific behaviors which could be an issue
    • Have easily identifiable volunteers and security to assist with crowd control and any problems that do arise
    • Make sure the facility is large enough and has the necessary accommodations
    • Make sure to have an evacuation plan in place

    Protect yourself when you go to an event by making note of the exits and entrances and avoid places that are roped off or otherwise prohibited. If it is an outdoor event, make sure to take plenty of water and sunscreen. If you get an anxious feeling and notice the behavior of the crowd changing, play it safe, and move to a location where you can make a quick escape.

    Contact a Virginia Injury Attorney

    If you or a family member has been injured at an event where there were large crowds, contact a seasoned Virginia premises liability attorney to discuss what legal recourse you may have. Even if it is not entirely clear who is the at-fault party, a Va. injury attorney will be able to determine which party or parties are liable. At Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn, our injury attorneys have successfully represented numerous accident victims and have the legal expertise to handle these complex cases with positive results. Call 800-752-0042 for a free case evaluation.