Frequently Asked Questions
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Who pays for out-of-pocket expenses while my case is pending?
Out-of-pocket expenses are your responsibility. Attorneys are prohibited from paying for certain client expenses such as utility bills, rent or mortgage, and other non-case-related expenses. If you have absolutely no money, there are companies that offer loans to individuals who have cases pending in litigation, but we do not encourage our clients to take out these loans.
In the unusual event a claim results in no recovery whatsoever, it is still your responsibility to repay the money advanced by the firm that it advanced toward your claim. This is required under Rule 1.8 of the Virginia Rules of Professional Conduct (all lawyers must follow these rules).
An insurance adjuster offered to settle and they said that I do not need an attorney. What should I do?
Talk to a lawyer. It won't cost you anything to speak to an attorney about your case and what the adjuster is offering as a settlement. You may discover that the adjuster is trying to get you to agree to a lowball offer. Remember, the adjuster works for the insurance company; they are not on your side.
Do I really need to hire a lawyer to settle my case?
It depends on the facts of your potential case. To be honest, some people may not need a lawyer. If you or your loved one was hurt, but the injury wasn't catastrophic, you're able to return to work and there's no permanent affect from the accident, then you could probably deal with the insurance adjuster on your own. Our firm focuses on catastrophic, life-altering physical injuries where someone likely suffered extensive damages. This is because an insurance adjuster is more likely to drag their feet and attempt to minimize the exposure of the insurance company to a large claim. This is the situation where an experienced North Carolina personal injury attorney is most useful to you and your loved ones.
How much does it cost to talk to an attorney at your firm?
Absolutely nothing. You do not need to pay a big retainer or an hourly fee to speak with one of our attorneys about your potential case. Our firm provides no-cost, confidential consultations. Another distinguishing aspect to our consultations is that you'll speak to an actual lawyer. At some firms, you'll only get to talk to a Legal Assistant and never actually communicate with a lawyer. Our firm does it different. When you call our office or fill out a quick contact form, an actual attorney will respond within hours.
Can an individual with a traumatic brain injury be required to undergo an examination by an employer to whom they are applying for a job?
Not until the individual has been offered employment. Once a job has been offered, an individual may be required to undergo a medical examination if it is job related and relates to the activities of the business.
Are people with traumatic brain injuries required to disclose their disabilities to employers to whom they are applying for a job or with whom they have a job?
Employees only need to disclose a disability if they need an accommodation to perform an essential function of their job. Applicants don’t have to disclose a disability on an application or in an interview unless they need accommodation to assist them in the application or the interview.
What is a traumatic brain injury and what do the different grades of severity mean?
A "traumatic brain injury" is an injury to the brain that disrupts its function. The Brain Injury Association of America defines it as "an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology caused by an external force". A "mild" traumatic brain injury involves a brief or no loss of consciousness. The individual may seem dazed or confused at the time of the injury. Symptoms may include headache, irritability, sleep disturbance, fatigue, memory issues or depression. The symptoms may last for days or persist for extended periods. A "moderate" traumatic brain injury involves a loss of consciousness from a few minutes to a few hours. The individual may experience confusion which lasts for days to weeks. Impairments of behavior, cognition and physician abilities may last for months or become permanent. A "severe" traumatic brain injury typically involves extended periods of unconsciousness lasting days to weeks. Victims of severe traumatic brain injury may make some recovery, but they typically suffer significant permanent impairments.
If I'm injured while working for the railroad by a defective part of a locomotive or car, do I have to be able to prove the specific defect to have a case under the FELA, Locomotive Inspection Act or Safety Appliance Act?
The FELA is the general law which protects railroad workers who are hurt while working for a railroad. The Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) and Safety Appliance Act (SAA) are amendments to the FELA. Those regulations provide generally a railroad is strictly liable to an employee injured by a defective part or condition on a locomotive or railcar. This means if an employee establishes that such a defect caused his or her injury, any contributory negligence or lack of reasonable care on the part of the railroad are not essential to the claim. The claim focuses solely on the defective part or condition. There are two methods for an employee to establish a part of a locomotive or railcar was "defective" for LIA or SAA coverage. The first is through evidence of the cause of the defect in the equipment, such as a missing pin in a coupler. The second is through evidence the equipment did not "operate as intended" at the time of the injury, such a brake wheel which unexpectedly catches or releases. The employee's description of the failure of equipment may be enough to establish a case under these circumstances, but the more supporting evidence the better, particularly testimony from eyewitnesses to the failure of the equipment.
Does the fact I was hurt while working for a railroad automatically qualify me for benefits under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA)?
The FELA is not a workers' compensation law which automatically covers employees that are injured while working for a railroad. It 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 the 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 the FELA to require a railroad to provide employees with a reasonably safe place to work, reasonably safe and suitable tools, and well as adequate assistance. These general protections of railroad workers are in addition to safety regulations such as the Locomotive Inspection Act and Safety Appliance Act.
If I am hurt while working for the railroad do I need to file an accident/injury report with the company to have a case?
The short answer to this question is "No". A FELA case does not typically depend on whether an accident report was filed with the company, but failure to do so may have other consequences. Most railroads have internal rules that require the filing of an accident report by an injured employee (if they are physically able) prior to leaving duty on the day of the injury. Failure to comply with this rule may result in company-imposed discipline. Usually an accident report also helps in the investigation of a claim. It contains specific factual details about the injury such as the location and identity of the equipment involved in the incident. If any question arises whether such a report should be filed, it is a good idea to consult with union leaders to discuss the facts surrounding the specific incident. They are typically knowledgeable of the reporting requirements of the railroad. It is the rule of the particular railroad that require the filing of an accident report, not the FELA. So whether a case exists which we could provide help to an injured worker does not depend on the filing of an accident/injury report.