According to the National Safety Council (NSC), injuries are the leading cause of death for Americans ages 1 to 44 and the leading cause of disability for Americans of all age groups. In 2010 alone, an estimated 126,000 people died from accidental injuries. Many of those disabilities and deaths are preventable, which is reason enough to take a few extra safety precautions each day in order to avoid a life-altering injury.
The days and weeks after you first sustain a personal injury can be confusing and stressful: In addition to needing medical treatment for your injuries, you may be wondering what to do next and what your legal options are if you were injured due to someone else’s negligent behavior.
“Tort Reform” in Action
Although “tort reform” is a popular political talking point for many public officials — especially during an election year such as this one — few people really understand what proposed tort reform measures mean for actual personal injury victims when put into practice. One particular law that passed several years ago in North Carolina continues to exemplify how so-called “tort reform” measures can deny justice to injury victims.
Chapter 97 of the North Carolina General Statutes is the Workers’ Compensation Act. This law controls all aspects of workers’ compensation claims. When an employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury and the injury was caused by a third-party, the injured employee may have a claim against the third-party in addition to a workers’ compensation claim. The “third party” is a person who is not associated with the employee’s job. One of the most common on-the-job injuries that are caused by a third party occurs when the employee is injured by someone else’s negligent driving. This is a brief overview of the laws governing the interplay of third-party claims when there is a workers’ compensation claim.
When a negligent driver causes a motor vehicle collision by wrecking another car, the innocent victims suffer many losses. One of these losses is a loss suffered by the owner of the vehicle: the loss in the value of the automobile. This claim is called a diminution in value claim and North Carolina law allows for compensation for the loss. For newer cars especially, these claims can be important. The negligent driver’s insurance company is not going to remind the owner/victim about this claim, so it must be brought to their attention.
A few weeks ago I posted about Medicare Liens and what people who suffer an injury as the result of someone else’s negligence need to be on the lookout for if they have Medicare. Similar to Medicare, if a person has Medicaid and suffers an injury, Medicaid may be entitled to a lien on any proceeds received by the person. This lien extends to payments for medical expenses that Medicaid has made on behalf of the person for medical services related to the injury.
When a person suffers a personal injury, such as a car accident, that was caused by the negligence of someone else, the injured person may be entitled to collect monetary compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, or other losses. Settling an injury claim has never been more difficult. Over the past several years, various entities have begun claiming liens or rights of reimbursement on injury settlements or recoveries. These entities will not do anything to assist in the recovery of the funds. Instead, they want the injured person or his/her attorney to do all the work and then pay them back in the end. These various entities can include Medicare, Medicaid, or even the person’s health insurance company. Over the next few weeks, we will look at these different entities and why it is important to be aware of them when settling or receiving compensation for a personal injury claim.
I recently had a conversation with some colleagues about whether lost wages that are collected in a personal injury case are taxable as income. The answer is that they are not taxable and are excluded from a person’s gross income. The IRS excludes from gross income all funds received as compensatory damages when a person has suffered a personal injury or sickness. The IRS has had a long-standing policy that such damages should not be taxed.