Select Page

Yes: organic traffic is sustainable, free (except for the time and money involved to write the articles), and can be done for any website in any industry.

Here's a screenshot of our our Google Analytics page for the period covering 2018.  

 

You can clearly see that out of the 612K unique visitors we had, about 93% of those came organically, mostly from first page search engine results for keywords such as “dwi new york”, “speeding ticket hawaii”, “dui washington”, etc etc.

Before going straight to a discussion about organic traffic, I'd like to give you some context about how all of this came about, back to the beginnings of our journey with BernieSez 5 year ago, and how we came to know that long-form informational content is the most sustainable type of website traffic, bar none. 

In the age of iPhones, why do we still receive a giant flood of letters in the mail from lawyers whenever we get a speeding ticket?

That's the question that Terence—pictured above—had more than 6 years ago that led him to start BernieSez, That was back in November of 2012.  That single question led Terence—a criminal lawyer in Raleigh—on a hunt to find someone to help him build a speeding ticket app to replace all those generic and often really ugly letters you get in the mail from lawyers. Terence's idea was simple: take a picture of your speeding ticket, enter a few details, and show it to lawyers who then would make offers to the user to take the case.

Terence first reached out to Lee Lloyd, who runs CourtLogic, a court data mailing service and pitched his traffic ticket app idea to him.

Lee blew him off

Note: It's ironic and kind of funny that Lee is now pissed off at him for building BernieSez.  And Lee is pissed off at me too. I've never even met the handlebar-mustached guy.

Then Terence reached out to Chris Heivly, famous for creating MapQuest and then the Startup Factory, which funded some startups but has since closed its doors.

Chris blew him off too

From what Terence told me, Chris's attitude during the meeting was sort of like “why am I wasting my time with this guy” kind of meeting.

Then Terence reached out to Merrill Mason, a standup guy who suggested he contact Bill Spruill, who happened to be my mentor at the time. Sidenote: Bill is a class act kind of guy.  If you have a chance to meet him, do so.

Our first designs

I met Terence in February 2013 and listened to his idea.  Surely someone had already built this traffic ticket app idea.  Alas, nothing like what Terence had in mind existed other than TicketVoid—which lacked the picture taking aspect he had in mind.

After deciding to team up and build this app idea together, I started rendering some screens using Balsamiq, a pretty awesome low-fidelity wireframing tool. Here's an early rendering of the ticket upload screen, completed on February 19, 2013.

Take a look at the URL in the above wireframe: TicketRid.com  That was a placeholder domain name that I had come up with during the initial design concepts. You can probably also tell from the above wireframe that BernieSez was designed back when desktop visits dominated, and were about double the volume of mobile visits.

TicketRid or BernieSez?  What does BernieSez mean, anyway?

After showing these screens to Terence, we started discussing the name of the app.  He mentioned that he had purchased the domain name berniesez.com  I asked him what that meant, since that didn't sound at all like what the app was intended to do: get rid of your speeding tickets.  Terence proceeded to tell me about a jazz tune called My Attorney Bernie.  So I looked up that song, and we listened to a rendition played by Blossom Dearie.

Well, it only took reading the lyrics of that song to understand the genius behind picking BernieSez for the name of the app. Just read them for yourself.  …”Bernie tells me what to do…Bernie says we sue, we sue…Bernie says we sign, we sign…”  And hence the words “Bernie says” came into being “Bernie sez” and then “berniesez”.

Being different

The name of our app doesn't sound serious, legalese, or “attorney-like”. It sounds more cartoonish, with some levity and less seriousness  Yea, true…but so what?  After getting a bunch of shit from people about our app name, I wrote an article about why our name is what it is, and about being different, something that is concisely summarized by Youngme Moon, a Harvard professor that I had the privilege of seeing on stage at the Business of Software conference a few years ago.  Here's a 3-min video from Youngme Moon that had a lasting impact on me and is core to BernieSez.

I still get goosebumps every single time I watch this video.  It represents the core of BernieSez, about being different from everyone else, different from TicketVoid, OffTheRecord, Tikd, TicketPay, LegalMatch and the slew of other legal-sounding apps available today.

We all talk about being different, but are we really?

In our case, we had quite a few people advise us—even in 2018—to change our name or else it would never work.  That BernieSez was a stupid name, that it doesn't sound serious or legal enough, or connote what the app does.  Well, if that's the case, then what the hell does Apple connote?  Computers?  What about Starbucks?  Does that mean coffee in Esperanto?  And what about Firestone?  Well, fire and stones are things your car tires should avoid.

So we stuck to our guns, ignored all these “gurus” that poo-pooed our app name, and moved onto more important things, like picking a cartoon character to represent Bernie.

A cartoon character: definitely different

Here's the first rendering of the guy that became our spokesperson.  Bernie, the attorney.  He looks like a mild-mannered, meek lawyer from the Bronx.  But he's foul-mouthed and tough in the courtroom.  Someone you don't want to go up against.  I”m not saying you should pick a cartoon character for a logo, but if you do, you then have the freedom to do all sorts of fun things with your character and logo.  Like poke fun at ourselves and at the legal industry.  No one else does that really.  They are all super serious and use super serious legal symbols, like balances and gavels.   That isn't different.  It's more of the same.  A sea of sameness.  Except for us.  Take a look at some of the different poses we have dressed Bernie with.

3 marketing things that didn't work for BernieSez

Some things that we tried but didn't work out well enough for BernieSez:

1. Radio ads

Yea we did this in 2014.  Spent a substantial budget on radio including a very popular talk show.  Yes, it drove traffic ticket case uploads and brand awareness. But the cost to acquire a user—about $30 each—was huge and unsustainable.

2. Boosted (paid) Facebook posts, Google AdWords, and other ad platforms like Taboola

Ads obviously work or else these platforms would die.  But the user acquisition cost—about $20/user—was also too high for BernieSez, and the timing was wrong.  We were doing all of this in the very early days of BernieSez, basically throwing mud on the wall and seeing what would stick.

3. Social media

Social media works, but it's  A LOT of work.  And it's fleeting: except for viral posts, a media post will get some level of activity, only to die off over the next few days. It's a blip, basically.  Not to mention that getting someone to click the “like” button doesn't mean shit most of the time.  What I've seen is that a lot of people will tap on the thumbs-up icon, but will not actually read the article…they will make the decision to thumbs-up something only by the heading they read.  And what the hell is that worth, if they don't actually visit your website at all?  It's more of a worthless vanity metric really.

The one sustainable marketing thing that has worked well: organic traffic

The one thing that has worked very well for BernieSez is organic traffic.  That is, basically free traffic from Google search results for keywords like “speeding ticket [insert a state name here]”.

To illustrate the impact that organic traffic has had for BernieSez, take a look at the charts below (you can zoom in and view more detail if by clicking on the image).

By any measure, organic traffic to the BernieSez website is impressive.  50K visitors per month every month, and growing, is nothing to sneeze at.

I remember back around 2016 a local Raleigh company called WedPics (which is no longer in business BTW) was pulling in roughly the same web traffic that BernieSez drives now.  But with a HUGE difference: WedPics paid Facebook over $40,000 per month for that traffic. More than what their monthly payroll nut was at the time,   We pay $0 for that same volume of highly targeted traffic.  Zero, zilch, nada, ni un coño.

Organic traffic = write a lot and then wait for a loooooong time

When BernieSez was just getting started, Terence wrote a huge pile of articles.  He kept on writing, and writing, and writing.  Eventually he got burned out from writing articles, so we bartered with and paid a few local lawyers to write more articles.  18 months went by with minimal improvement in web traffic and case uploads.  That's a full year and a half of writing articles and seeing virtually zero results.

Half the battle is showing up and then not giving up

Most people would quit long before spending 1 and a half years doing something and not seeing any results whatsoever.  But if you are persistent, have enough tenacity to stick with it, wait long enough, and just keep on writing solid articles, Google will reward you for that effort.  Take a look at the screenshot below, which is from Google Analytics, a free tool, for web traffic to BernieSez in January 2019.  Out of nearly 50K visitors we had in January 2019, 46K came at a cost of $0 from organic traffic.

And here's a screenshot of the last 28 days of organic search data, according to Google Search Console, yet another free and mostly underutilized tool.

In the last 28 days (January 2019), Google has displayed BernieSez pages on their search results 851,000 times, which were clicked and tapped on almost 39,000 times by humans!  Take a look at the Position column on the far right middle of the screen.  This is the position where Google placed our articles in the search results page for the queries humans entered into the Google search bar.  Position 1 is basically the top of page 1.  There are 10 positions per Google search results page, so a position of 5 means that your page was in the middle of page 1 of Googles search results page.

Whenever someone nowadays tells me that the name BernieSez is stupid, I just tell them to Google “speeding ticket hawaii” or “dwi new york”.  Then I send them this data and tell them that Google doesn't think the name is stupid.  In fact, Google likes the Bernie content so much that it has actually scraped some of our articles and used it for position zero.  For example, if you Google “speeding ticket alabama” you will see our article in position 0.  You can't get any better than that!  Here's a screenshot.

How long does it take for pages to rank?

It depends a lot on the competitiveness of the keyword, and the volume of searches being done for that keyword.  Think of it this way:

  • When Google has a giant roomful of really good articles it can display to someone that searches for “cereal”, then when you write an article about cereal it will take a really really long time to show up on page 1, and your article may never show up there. On the other hand, Google probably doesn't have a lot of articles it can present to a user that searches for “organic cereal made with kale and spinach”.  So if you write an article about organic cereal made with kale and spinach, it's much more likely that your article will eventually show up on page 1 when someone searches for exactly that.  But you have to be patient.  It doesn't happen overnight.  It takes months, and sometimes years.

In my experience with BernieSez, the time it has taken Google to rank our content on page 1 of Google search results pages has depended on the keywords targeted in the article, as follows:

  • missed court date: 3-4 months
  • traffic tickets: 6 months
  • DUIs and DWIs: 2 years
  • personal injuries: unknown (but we will find out soon enough)

Can this organic traffic stuff work for any site?

Yes of course.  I'm applying lessons learned with BernieSez to my XForms.co website.  I know it takes many many months to rank, but I'm doing the legwork now, knowing that in a few months the results will appear.  You have to think about this stuff the same way you would think about getting back in shape physically.  You are not going to have a killer body if you go run and lift some weights once or twice.  It takes hard work over a long period of time.

Make your content informative and super long-form

There's plenty of articles about how to write content, so I'm not going to repeat it here.  Just 2 things you need to do:

  • Write looong articles.  At least 1K words.  Preferably 2K words or more.  And break up the text into short blocks, with images, headings, bullets, etc.  Basically you want people to continue scrolling down instead of tapping on the browser back arrow.
  • Make your articles informative, not “salesy”.  Actually try to help the visitor with their problem.  If you don't do that, they will click the back arrow of death quickly, and this is how Google learns how to rank your page.  I wrote an article about that that you can read here.

*** BONUS *** Don't take advice given to you by “gurus” too seriously

Some people we've met along the way—like Bill Spruill, John Rosar, Jason Widen, Jason Caplain, and John Austin—have been great supporters and believers in us.  Others, however, treated us like a couple of older, tech-unsavvy, uncultured idiots with a really dumb idea and an even worse name.  I still remember hearing a well-respected angel investor say, under his breath, that we might as well put a fork in it and go home when he found out that my background was geology.  WTF? 

I'm not going to name any names here (hint: you can see some comments from some of these people in the “accolades” block of our home page) of the people that dissed us.  But our dumb-ass BernieSez website and app are still here, with organic website visits growing slow and steady, while PredictifyMe, WedPics, and a large list of startups funded by NCIDEA and The Startup Factory are not. 

But will BernieSez survive?

Our latest experiment is to charge lawyers a fee to send them a lead.  The jury is out whether this new idea will actually generate enough revenue and scale, but—for the time being at least—I think we have proven that maybe us 2 older dudes have the tenacity, wherewithal to continue experimenting, frugalness, and cojones to keep on hanging tough, something that a whole slew of young tatted and bearded dudes with silver tongues did not.

A typical scenario…

It's an unseasonably warm Friday afternoon in June, and you actually got off of work early for a change. You're all packed, the car is gassed up and ready to go, and you hit Highway 99, the Sea to Sky Highway, north of Vancouver. You've got some friends waiting up at Brunswick Beach, and you can't wait to get the weekend started.

As the highway unrolls before you, you take in the beautiful shoreline of Howe Bay and crank up the radio. You roll the window down and feel the ocean breeze on your face as you pick up speed. Not a car in sight, the sun shining brightly and you feel like you are the only one in this picturesque world. Except for the RCMP car that just passed you going the other way. WTF!

Sure enough, he flips the car around and catches up to you quickly as you pull over to the shoulder. Looks like you're getting a speeding ticket and your lovely drive along the coast is screwed. Do you want to know what happens next? Then read on.

The MVA, ICBC and RCMP all have something to say about your speeding ticket

When you get a speeding ticket in British Columbia, you're going to be dealing with some official-sounding Canadian initialisms like the ones above, so let's see who we're dealing with:

  1. MVA is the Motor Vehicle Act and governs the roadways across British Columbia. They make the rules which we'll get to in a minute.
  2. ICBC is the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia and is the organization that regulates and provides auto insurance across the province. They make even more rules and, along with the Provincial Court, work together to make your wallet a little lighter.
  3. RCMP is the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and they're the organization that pulled you out of “la la land” and gave you the speeding ticket. (No, they had a car, not a horse.)

Now that you know who's who let's see how they affect what comes next.

You had me at “License and registration, please”

Here's what you need to know right away about your speeding ticket. Paying the violation ticket, in full or in part, is considered a guilty plea to the offence described on the front of the speeding ticket.

The total amount includes the fine plus a victim surcharge. (If you're wondering who the “victim” is in these cases, you're not alone. All we know is that it's going to feel like it's you!) Understand that you'll get penalty points with your speeding ticket and they will be added to your record as a conviction.

Here's the good news: For most tickets, you can pay your ticket within 30 days to have it reduced by $25. Or you can dispute the offence within the same 30 days by bringing your ticket in person to a driver licensing office or provincial court registry.

Here's the bad news: When you start adding up all the fines and other costs of a speeding ticket in British Columbia, in the most severe situations, you could end up paying $28,800 or more!

No, that's not a typo. Keep reading to find out how the complex world of traffic violations in British Columbia can cost you more than your last three cars combined.

Speeding in British Columbia: A story of penalties, points, and premiums

Let's start with some speeding violations basics and the consequences. The following speeding offences all carry a three-point penalty on a driver's record.

  • Speed in/outside municipality – $138-$196
  • Speed against highway sign – $138-$196
  • Speed against area sign – $138-$196
  • Speed against municipal sign – $138-$196
  • Speed on municipal line – $138
  • Speed in a school zone – $196-$253
  • Speed in a playground zone – $196-$253

If not otherwise posted, the speed limit inside a municipality is 50km/h and outside it is 80km/h. In child zones (schools and playgrounds) the limit is 30km/h during the appropriate hours. At this lower end of the scale, the financial consequences of speeding, and the corresponding points seem somewhat reasonable.

But throw in a little excess here and some aggravating factors there, and you could be looking at some high-dollar fines and fees.

Excessive speeding

A great place to start to show how quickly costs can escalate is with excessive speeding. Excessive speeding is defined in the Motor Vehicle Act as driving at a speed greater than 40 km/h over the speed limit.

  1. Exceeding the driving limit by more than 40 km/h— $368 fine plus three penalty points on your driving record
  2. Exceeding the driving limit by more than 60 km/h — $483 fine plus three penalty points on your driving record and you'll have your car Impounded.
  • First offence – $368 fine plus a seven-day impoundment, towing fees, and storage costs which can easily cost several hundred more dollars.
  • Second offence within a two-year period – standard fine plus a 30-day impoundment, towing, and storage which can cost around $700
  • Third offence within a two-year period – standard fine plus a 60-day impoundment, towing, and storage which can cost in excess of $1200

“Show me the money!”

Still thinking about that $28,800 we mentioned earlier? Hang tight; we're getting there.

Driver Risk Premium

For some offences such as excessive speeding and distracted driving, a Driver Risk Premium may apply in addition to fines and points. You'll pay a Driver Risk Premium if you rack up even one of the following offences:

  • One or more driving-related Criminal Code convictions. Think of offences like impaired driving or negligence.
  • One or more 10-point Motor Vehicle Act convictions such as driving without a license.
  • One or more excessive speeding convictions.
  • Two or more roadside suspensions/prohibitions
  • Two or more convictions over a three-year period for using an electronic device while driving

Here's how the Driver Risk Premium (DRP) is calculated:

  1. Each year just prior to your assessment date (which is usually your date of birth) your driving record is reviewed for offences for the previous three years.
  2. You receive only one DRP invoice per year, but each driving offence may create DRP billings more frequently, depending on the rest of your driving record in a three-year period.

The Driver Risk Premium (DRP), like Driver Penalty Points (DPP), is separate from ICBC insurance premiums. They are billed even if you don't own or insure a vehicle.

Driver Penalty Point Premium

Driver Penalty Points are the collective points for various driving offences. Every year, your driving record is reviewed for the previous 12-month period, known as an “assessment period.”

  • If you compile more than three points on your driving record during the assessment period, you'll pay a Driver Penalty Point premium.
  • The DPP premium ranges from $210 for four points to $28,800 (there it is!) for 50 or more points.

Some offences or convictions, such as excessive speeding, may apply to both the Driver Penalty Point program and the Driver Risk Premium. You will be billed once per year under the program that results in the higher premium.

Hopefully, your speeding ticket is a one-time offence, and you can pay it off without breaking the bank. Just keep in mind that in British Columbia, the faster you go, and the more often you speed, the more you pay!

Fines and points is complicated

When you get a speeding ticket in Quebec, you better be good at math or have a calculator handy because the associated fines and points can be complicated. The points and correlating fines are broken down in this handy guide which covers what seems to be every possible scenario for speeding violations. The consequences of being caught speeding in Quebec aren't so much about high fines as they are about how quickly you can lose your license for certain infractions and the accumulation of points.

For example, zones where the posted speed limit is 60 km/h or less have their own category of fines and points ranging from speeding at 11 km/hr in a 10 km/hr zone to 99 km/hr in a 60 km/hr zone. The points, known as demerit points, in this category range from 0 to 3 and the fines run from $15 to $155. So far, not so bad.

In addition to the “standard” fines and demerit points, the under 60 km/hr zones also include a breakdown of excessive speeding scenarios. These excessive speeds range from speeding at 50 km/hr or more in a 10 km/hr zone to 100 km/hr or more in a 60 km/hr zone. They run from $350 to $2,995, depending upon a variety of factors such as previous convictions, and the demerit points range from 6 to the maximum of 36. Get into this category, and you're starting to look at some big bucks and lots of points.

The fines and points chart goes on to cover speeding in a 60 km/hr to no more than 90 km/hr zone and a third category for zones with a posted speed limit of 100 km/hr or more. And they all include additional excessive speed categories. See, we told you it was complicated. The only simple math here is that you only have to double any fines for speeding in a work zone!

But wait, there's more!

Demerit points, brackets, and complicated calculations

A demerit point may sound like something you'd get in school for talking during class, but they have a lot more impact when it comes to speeding in Quebec. These points are used to determine how much it costs to renew your license, how much you pay for insurance, and whether you get to keep your license or not. Understanding how these points are calculated and how they determine the consequences are not for the faint of heart!

While demerit points don't typically result in recurring insurance premium hikes in the traditional sense, the penalties and fines associated with these points can quickly compound. A single speeding ticket may not be that big of a deal, but get another ticket, and you could easily incur significant one-time costs, loss of your licence, and other consequences.

To add to the already complicated calculations, demerit points are further broken down by the age/experience of drivers into four brackets:

1. 4-POINT BRACKET
Applies to holders of a learner's licence or probationary licence
Applies to holders of a Class 6D (moped or scooter) or Class 8 (tractor) driver's licence who have held their licence for fewer than 5 years.
Applies to individuals who do not hold a licence
(Individuals without a licence who reach or exceed the 4-point threshold will have their right to obtain a licence suspended for a period of 3, 6 or 12 months, depending on the number of points on record.)

2. 8-POINT BRACKET
Applies to driver's licence holders under age 23

3. 12-POINT BRACKET
Applies to driver's licence holders age 23 or 24

4. 15-POINT BRACKET
Applies to driver's licence holders age 25 or older
Certain offences can result in more demerit points than you are allowed to accumulate. For example, excessive speeding can lead to more than 30 demerit points with a single conviction!

License revocation

Demerit points that aren't related to excess speed remain on your driving record for 2 years following the date of your conviction. Once you have reached or exceeded the threshold of your bracket, you will receive a notice informing you that your licence has been revoked. The licence revocation lasts a minimum of 3. 6, or 12 months depending on:

● The demerit point bracket that applies to you
● The number of points accumulated
● The duration of the most recent penalty imposed within the previous 2 years

Because Quebec maintains a public automobile insurance fund for all drivers under the Automobile Insurance Act, all drivers are required to contribute a specified amount when they renew their license or register a vehicle. Depending on how many demerit points you have, you could end up paying several hundred dollars when you register a vehicle or renew your licence.

Excessive speeding, accumulated points, and even more math!

It's the accumulation of demerit points and excessive speeding that can lead to some pretty hefty costs and/or losing your license. Excessive speeding is clearly defined in the guide mentioned above and results in the following:

● Your license is immediately suspended for 7,30, or 60 days.
● Your vehicle can be seized and impounded for 30 days or more.
● Your current number of demerit points is doubled.
● The amount of the fine is doubled or tripled depending on other offences within the last 10 years.
● If convicted, the demerit points remain on your license for 10 years.
● The cost of renewing your licence could cost up to around $400.

Putting it all together

When you get a speeding ticket in Quebec, and it's your only infraction, the costs of simply paying the ticket are pretty low and don't adversely affect how much your insurance contributions will increase. Keeping in mind that Quebec has about a 99% conviction rate when it comes to speeding tickets, your best option (if its your only infraction) is probably to just pay off the ticket and let it fall off of your driving record in two years.

If you already have demerit points on your licence or previous infractions for excessive speeding, then getting a speeding ticket in Quebec can lead to some costly consequences. Certain individual offences can result in enough demerit points to exceed the maximum allowed, and excessive speeding can lead to more than 30 demerit points with a single conviction!

When you combine the extensive breakdown of speeding categories, the demerit point brackets, and the very limited chance of winning a speeding case in court, anything more than a single infraction is going to require the expertise of an experienced traffic attorney with a calculator. A reputable traffic lawyer can undoubtedly help you limit the financial consequences of a speeding ticket, help reduce demerit points, and make your case as least painful as possible.

Is driving safer in Canada?

We all know that driving can be dangerous, from motorists using their smartphones to speeders and drunk drivers. So is it any safer driving in Canada compared to the United States and similar countries? YES! In ratio, Canada has about 40% fewer vehicle fatalities than their southern neighbor. For the last few decades, Canada has steadily reduced their national vehicle fatalities rate, in part because of their national campaign for safer roads. In contrast, the U.S. has become a pretty damn dangerous country for drivers!

That’s good news for Canadians as long as they avoid any tourists from the States. But even though Canada is far safer for drivers, the country still has its share of car accidents resulting in personal injuries. If you get in a car wreck because some idiot is yarning on their cell phone or had a couple of mickeys, and suffer a personal injury, here is what you need to know to cover your ass.

In British Columbia, The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) rules the roads

In the United States car insurance can be purchased from many different sources, but in British Columbia, the ICBC is the only source for getting certain auto insurance. Under the ICBC, all motorists are required to purchase a Basic Autoplan at a minimum.

The ICBC Basic Autoplan covers five areas:

  1. Third-party liability insurance covers both bodily injury and property damage up to $200,000.
  2. Underinsured motorist protection covers your medical bills if the other vehicle involved in the accident had no insurance or didn’t have enough coverage, up to $1 million per person.
  3. Medical coverage up to $150,000 per person.
  4. Hit-and-run coverage up to $200,000.
  5. Inverse liability coverage: If you’re in an accident where the local laws don't let you make a claim against the at-fault party, you’re covered under the inverse liability coverage(in Canada and the U.S).

The ICBC mandatory coverage doesn’t cover vehicle replacement and repair because the program is designed to cover personal injury. If you want to protect your car, then you will need some additional coverage. In British Columbia, you can turn to private insurance companies for this coverage, but you will always have to have at least the minimum plan through the ICBC.

How personal injuries from an automobile accident work in British Columbia

If you are injured in a car wreck in British Columbia, the ICBC will probably be handling your personal injury situation with two types of compensation:

  • No-fault accident benefits:The ICBC offers compensation called “accident benefits” to any covered parties injured in an accident. Because the coverage is “no-fault” insurance, even if you caused the accident, the ICBC will pay the accident benefits. The compensation from the accident benefits will cover lost wages, medical and rehabilitation benefits, and other financial losses.
  • Damages:This is often referred to as a tort claim. Unless you are found to be completely at fault, you can receive compensation for as pain and suffering, lost wages both past and future, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

It’s wise not to settle a personal injury claim until your injuries have stabilized and your doctor can determine when your injuries will most likely be resolved. Since it’s difficult to know if your injuries will continue or worsen, or if you will suffer from effects that you haven’t discovered yet, it’s best to consult an experienced personal injury attorney before making this very important decision.

Once you file a claim with the ICBC, they will offer a settlement and you can either accept the offer or seek other recourse. Keep in mind that once you settle your claim, you can’t make any further requests for compensation related to that accident.

Making a claim with the ICBC

An auto accident should be reported to the ICBC as soon as possible. You report the accident and start your claim by calling the ICBC’s Dial-A-Claim at 604.520.8222 in the lower mainland and 1.800.910.4222 elsewhere in British Columbia. You also have the option of reporting and filing online. Since filing a claim and receiving adequate compensation can depend on so many factors, some drivers will contact a personal injury lawyer before contacting the ICBC. The ICBC will accept a claim through a licensed attorney, so you may want to let your lawyer handle the claim from the start.

After your claim has been received, an ICBC adjuster will investigate the accident, talk to any passengers, other drivers, and witnesses to determine who is at fault. This same adjuster will later review your medical information regarding treatment, etc. and review any out-of-pocket expenses and other financial losses related to your injury.

Once you have filed a claim, you should consult a doctor right away. The quicker you learn the extent of your injuries, not only will you get the medical treatment needed immediately, you will be better able to estimate how your personal injury will affect you later. It’s important to keep detailed documentation of all medical care because the ICBC adjuster will continue to review your treatment and progress to determine how much the ICBC will reimburse you.

What to do if you disagree with the ICBC’s decisions

If you disagree with the ICBC’s investigation, determinations, or settlement offer, then you will need to contact a personal injury lawyer if you haven’t already. If your attorney can’t reach an acceptable agreement with the ICBC, you can resort to the ICBC’s appeal process. You have the right to appeal any decisions regarding fault, denial of claims, and settlement offers. The ICBC also offers what they call a Fairness Process for resolving other issues that fall outside the realm of the appeal process.

If you still aren’t satisfied, then you can sue the owner/drivers of other vehicles involved in the wreck. It’s important to know that the ICBC’s decision regarding fault or the compensation offered isn’t legally binding. A court can conduct their own investigation and determine fault, fair compensation, and more.

Where and when you can file claims and lawsuits

If you decide to file a lawsuit, you must file the suit within 2 years from the accident date, or you could lose any rights to recover damages. If you received any no-fault benefits, then the 2-year deadline to sue runs from the date of the last benefit payment instead of the date of the accident. Also, if you were under the age of 19 at the time of the accident, the 2-year deadline to file a suit doesn't start until you turn 19.

In British Columbia, where you file your lawsuit depends on the amount you are suing to recover. If the amount is $5,000 or less, then you will file through the Civil Resolution Tribunal. For amounts over $5,000 but under $35,000, you will file through Small Claims Court. If your suit is seeking damages that exceed $35,000, then you will have to take your case to the B.C. Supreme Court. Regardless of the amount you are seeking, it’s always wise to consult a personal injury attorney.

So there you have it. If you drive in British Columbia, then you’re going to be dealing with the ICBC every mile of the way! But now that you know how things work, if you’re ever injured in a car accident, you can rest a little easier knowing what to expect and what to do.

You will have 4 wrecks in your life, on average

You could be the most careful driver in the Tarheel State, but if you've been driving long enough, the odds are against you. According to some auto insurance industry reports, the average driver will be involved in a car accident once every 18 years. This means 4 wrecks over the course of a lifetime. Sooner or later, no matter how careful you are, some idiot is going to run a red light or change lanes without any warning.

While North Carolina ranks somewhere in the middle of all states when it comes to auto accidents and personal injury, statistics don't mean much when it's you that gets hurt. If you travel in one of the major cities like Charlotte or Raleigh, the congested highways and roads packed full of drivers who are often distracted and in a hurry put you at risk. If you drive in some of the rural areas, then you have to contend with two-lane roads that can be harder to maneuver and often have higher speed limits than around town.

Here are some things you'll want to know if you are (inevitably!) involved in a car accident and suffer a personal injury. Let's start with what you need to do immediately after an accident to cover your ass.

What you do right after an accident sets the stage for personal injury cases

Assuming you are able, here is a list of what you should do to protect yourself after any car accident.

Pull over. If you are involved in a car crash, North Carolina requires that you avoid obstructing traffic by pulling over to the side of the road. Law or not, this is good advice. Just think of all those YouTube clips of car wrecks where other drivers just keep plowing into cars that have already been in a wreck, and you'll understand why this is a good idea.

Call the police. This is another great idea and another requirement in North Carolina. Drivers involved in car accidents are required to notify local law enforcement by the quickest means possible. This isn't a requirement if the accident doesn't involve property damage, personal injury or death. But it's still a good idea. You will want an official report of who is at fault to protect yourself.

Get those statements. Another auto accident law in North Carolina requires that each driver involved provide other drivers involved their name, address, license number, and vehicle registration information. It's not mandatory, but exchanging auto insurance information is always a good idea too.

Watch your mouth! It's a good to cooperate with the police and provide some basic facts, but remember what we learned from watching SVU and CSI: ANYTHING YOU SAY ABOUT THE ACCIDENT, VERBALLY OR IN WRITING, CAN BE USED AGAINST YOU! We know you're going to be shaken up, but always try to keep this in mind.

Can I get a witness? Try to get the name, telephone number and address of any witnesses who might have information about the accident. Regardless of how sure you are that the other drive is obviously at fault (more on that later), you should try to get as many sides of the story as possible.

Keep notes. From the accident and diagram report you fill out at the scene of the car accident to the ensuing doctor's visits, you need to keep notes throughout the process. Get out that phone and take your own pictures of the accident and continue to document your side of the story for future use.

See a doctor. Even if you don't think you were seriously injured, you should always see a doctor as soon as possible. Injuries can show up days or even longer after the accident. When you visit the doctor, explain that the car accident caused your injuries.

Call the insurance companies. Report the accident to your insurance company and get all the details about your coverage. And don't count on the other driver to contact their insurance company. Call them too and notify them of the accident. Just like before, watch what you say. You aren't required to give them any information or your opinion of the accident.

Know the rules

Who's at fault? North Carolina is a “fault” state, which means that if you are injured in an auto accident, you can recover damages from the driver who is “at fault.”

If you get hurt in a car crash in North Carolina, you can receive compensation for your personal injuries from:

  • Your own insurance provider, who will then seek reimbursement from the at fault driver’s insurance company
  • The at-fault driver by filing a lawsuit for personal injuries
  • The at-fault driver’s insurance company in a third-party claim

Be aware that the at-fault driver may not always be the driver of another car in the accident. If the driver of the car where you are a passenger is at fault, then you may have a case against them.

But…

North Carolina also follows a “modified comparative negligence rule.” This means that the amount of compensation you're entitled to receive will be reduced by whatever percentage you are found to be at fault. If the court finds that you are more than 50 percent at fault, then you are shit out of luck. You won't be able to collect a dime.

What about insurance?

North Carolina requires motorists to carry the following minimum automobile insurance amounts:

• $25,000 per single person claim for injury or death
• $60,000 maximum coverage amount per incident
• $25,000 for claims of property damage

UM and UIM coverage is required

North Carolina also requires drivers to carry uninsured motorist (UM) and under-insured motorist (UIM) coverage. UM coverage allows you to file a claim with your own insurance company if you are injured in a car crash and the at-fault driver doesn't have insurance. UIM allows you to file a claim when the at-fault driver doesn't have enough insurance. These mandatory types of coverage protect you and your insurance company.

How long do I have to file a personal injury lawsuit?

Regardless of the circumstances, you have a specific window of opportunity to file a personal injury claim. Known as the statute of limitations, this North Carolina law says that you have three years from the date of the car accident to file a lawsuit.  Miss this window and you forfeit any chance of getting compensation for your injuries.

Is there a limit to how much I can get for my personal injuries?

In North Carolina, you are entitled to recover compensation for any actual damages. This means that you can recover the amount of money it would take to fully compensate you for any losses such as medical care, property damage, car rental expenses, and loss of earnings. You can also receive compensation for pain and suffering, mental and emotional suffering, physical impairment, inconvenience, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment of life, and more.

So there you have it. Sooner or later, you will probably be in a wreck. We hope it's just a fender-bender, but if you are unfortunate enough to be injured, you'll know what to do to protect yourself and what you'll need to know for a personal injury claim.

Need to find a personal injury lawyer in NC?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

DUIs = the most common crime in the USA

Driving under the influence or DUI is probably the most common crime in the United States. The penalties for it are often harsh depending on the state, but if it’s your first time getting arrested for the crime and it’s a simple DUI at that, you can consider yourself fortunate because things could have been worse. You could have been charged with aggravated DUI.

An aggravated DUI arrest will send you into in a much deeper hole than a regular DUI because it’s a felony in most states. And if you get arrested in states that actually have aggravated DUI in their laws, you will be thankful if all you will have to defend in court is a simple DUI case.

Aggravating factors

As with a simple DUI, anyone caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08% will be booked initially for DUI, which could then be elevated to a more serious charge if officers of the law discover the existence of aggravating factors.

So what would cause a person to be on the receiving end of an aggravated DUI charge?

1. Driving without a valid license

A person is already in enough trouble if he or she is caught driving with a BAC above the legal limit, or while impaired by other substances. However, if the authorities discover that he or she was actually driving with a license that has been suspended, canceled, revoked, refused, or restricted, the charges against that person will most likely be upgraded to an aggravated DUI.

2. Prior DUI convictions

If the driver has multiple prior convictions for DUI, he or she will likely be charged with a felony DUI in most states, particularly when the latest DUI arrest takes place within a given number of years from the last conviction. The number of prior convictions and the specified time period to justify an aggravated DUI charge may vary from state to state. Some states put it at two convictions and seven years, while some states, like New York, for example, only require one prior conviction within the past 10 years to charge a person with aggravated DUI.

3. The absence of Ignition Interlock Device despite a court order

If the accused has been previously ordered to install an Ignition Interlock Device but didn’t, then that would be another factor that would justify the filing of an aggravated DUI case against that person. An Ignition Interlock Device or IID is a tool that functions like a breathalyzer, but one that prevents a car from starting if it detects a pre-programmed amount of alcohol in a driver’s system. They are usually part of sentences handed down to DUI offenders, with varying durations.

4. Children in the vehicle

A drunk driver’s night could turn for the worse if he or she is arrested on suspicion of DUI, then found to have a passenger below a certain age set by the state. In Arizona, which has a reputation for having some of the nation’s strictest DUI laws, drunk drivers with a passenger below the age of 15 will be hit with an Aggravated DUI – Class 6 Felony charge, which carries penalties harsher than your usual DUI.

5. Injury to a person or damage to property

A drunk driver will be facing an aggravated DUI charge if he or she causes property damage or injures another party while driving under the influence.

Penalties for aggravated DUI

A regular DUI, which is typically a misdemeanor in most states, carries penalties which many would already find serious. Aggravated DUI, on the other hand, is considered by many as a felony, and as such, the consequences are far more severe depending on the state. Typically, the maximum penalties for a person convicted of Class 4 Felony Aggravated DUI include prison time of up to 3.75 years, fines of up to $150,000 plus surcharges, and supervised probation that could last up to 10 years.

The minimum penalties, on the other hand, could include 120 days in prison, a $750.00 fine, the installation of an IID for 24 consecutive months, the revocation of your driving privileges for three years, and screening, counseling and treatment for alcohol abuse.

The penalties increase dramatically if a person is convicted of a Class 6 Felony Aggravated DUI. A person convicted of a 1st Time Class 6 Aggravated DUI Sentence may spend up to two years in prison, pay up to $4,700 in fines and fees, have their driver’s license revoked, and install an Ignition Interlock Device for two years, among other things.

Long-term consequences

If you lose an aggravated DUI case, then you automatically become a convicted felon, and this permanent black mark on your record can have long-lasting consequences on your life.

You can lose your job or have a tough time finding one, for one thing. Your car insurance rates will likely double or triple as well because an aggravated DUI conviction makes you a “high-risk” driver in the eyes of insurance firms. Your insurance company may even drop your coverage if they so choose.

If you’re still a student hoping to get a scholarship to a reputable school, know that an aggravated DUI conviction means schools won’t likely accept you. If you have a scholarship, don’t be surprised if the people or institutions behind it pull it because they don't want to be associated with a convicted felon.

What to do if you’re facing aggravated DUI charges

Facing an aggravated DUI charge is a tough situation to be in, but as long as you’re being represented by a good lawyer, your chances of beating the felony DUI charges against you will be better. However, you don’t just pick out the best criminal defense attorney available. For an aggravated DUI case, you must pick out a criminal defense attorney that specializes in DUI defense. With a highly skilled and experienced DUI defense lawyer by your side, you have a decent shot at getting the best possible result from your aggravated DUI case.

Need to find a DUI defense lawyer pronto?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

Buckle up. Drive safe. Be careful.

We've all heard this advice from friends and family as we get in our cars and drive away. While these adages may be so commonplace that most of us don't give them a second thought, that is still some damn good advice to keep in mind as we drive. And this advice is especially good if you are driving around Atlanta, Georgia. That's because Georgia has reported the fifth highest increase in vehicular deaths in recent years, and that rate is twice the national average. [The Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

In 2016, 1,500 people died in motor vehicle accidents in Georgia, predominately caused by speeding, drinking while driving, and distracted driving. No big surprise there. The interstate that surrounds Georgia's capital of Atlanta, Interstate 285, holds the dubious distinction of being the most fatal Interstate in the United States. WTF! That makes driving around Atlanta one hell of a risk!

Overall, the state is ranked the seventh-worst in the U.S. for fatal car accidents. So if you live in Georgia, and especially Atlanta, or are just traveling in these areas, then you need to know that you are more at risk for a serious automobile accident than you may realize. If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a car wreck and suffer a personal injury, here's what you need to know.

The four factors involved in a personal injury claim in Georgia

Some of the most common types of accidents that result in personal injury claims involve auto accidents. But not all injuries from a car wreck meet the requirements to file a personal injury claim in Georgia. To file a claim after an accident, you’ll need to be able to establish the following four factors:

Duty of care – A duty of care is the legal responsibility of another driver to avoid any behaviors that could reasonably be foreseen to cause harm to you or others. Examples would be some jerk cutting you off in traffic or some other irresponsible and dangerous behavior.

Breach of duty – When you file a claim for personal injury, you’ll also have to show that the other party intentionally acted in a way that somehow breached their duty of care. Examples would be a drunk driver or some asshole kid going too fast in his new Mustang. This breach of duty is commonly called negligence.

Causation – Next, you’ll have to prove that the other driver's negligence was the specific cause of your injuries. Establishing a breach of duty or negligence is not enough to receive damages. There must also be a direct cause-and-effect between specific injuries and specific negligence.

Damages – Lastly, you must prove identifiable and measurable damages. These damages would include non-economic losses like physical injury, economic losses like lost wages and property repairs and replacement.

Understanding comparative negligence in Georgia

In any personal injury case, one of the most critical elements that affect how damages are awarded is proving the degree of negligence. Georgia is one of 12 states that currently use the Modified Comparative Fault rule. This means that a driver who is found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the car accident can't file a personal injury suit against the other driver for any amount of damages. If you were 49 percent or less at fault for a car accident, you are eligible to recover damages.

It's important to know that how much you are found to be at fault will directly affect the amount of damages you can recover. The other driver's attorney will do everything they can to find evidence to increase your share of negligence. You will also have to contend with the insurer of the other driver doing their best to find this type of evidence as well. This determination of who is at fault and by how much will involve witnesses, expert testimony and other parts of the investigation.

In Georgia, your percentage of fault reduces the amount of damages you can recover by a 1:1 ratio. So, if the court determines that you were 30 percent at fault, this determination reduces the amount you can recover by 30 percent. The amount you recover in a personal injury case could affect you for the rest of your life. So this comparative negligence element is one that requires the skill and experience of a good personal injury attorney to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.

Statute of limitations and types of damages in Georgia

In the state of Georgia, a time limit, or a “statute of limitations”, applies to personal injury cases that result from automobile accidents. You have two years from the date of the accident to file a personal injury suit in court. For personal injury claims related to an accident involving a county or city-owned vehicle, you only have six months to file a lawsuit.

Georgia is not one of those bullshit “no-fault” states, so you can sue the other driver for all losses. These losses include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and any other financial losses directly resulting from the car accident. The damages you can recover in Georgia for personal injury fall into three categories:

Economic Damages – Economic damages are pretty easy to determine because they involve financial losses that can be measured in dollars. These include the following:

  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Loss of income
  • Property damage costs
  • Any other out-of-pocket expenses that are a direct result of the personal injury

Non-economic Damages – These types of damages are more difficult to calculate than economic damages because they involve things like “loss of consortium,” “pain and suffering,” and other factors that can't be measured. These intangibles are why non-economic damage awards can vary so greatly. In many ways, the amount of compensation is a result of opinions, rather than hard facts.

In essence, your future well being is determined by how much each juror thinks a potentially debilitating injury will affect you in the future, how much weight they attribute to your ability to recover, and many other factors based on their opinion. The final outcome involves some often complicated calculations involving degree of injuries, multipliers, professional opinions and even per-diems related to your earning capacity.

Punitive Damages – Punitive damages in Georgia are designed to punish the offending driver for behavior that is considered reckless or highly irresponsible. These damages are rarely awarded and are capped by law at $250,000. Since these awards are meant as a punishment for the offending driver, and not as an award for the injured driver, 75% of these awards are paid to the state treasury. Sounds like bullshit to us too! Punitive damages must also be sought in the initial suit to be considered.

Hopefully, all this newfound knowledge will never come in handy. But if you are injured in an auto accident in Georgia, you can be confident that you at least know what to expect if you file a personal injury lawsuit. So buckle your ass up and stay safe!

Need to find a personal injury lawyer pronto?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

One morning, a driver was making their way along a secondary road near Scranton, PA headed to work. As he came to an intersection, he pulled into the left turn lane just as you were approaching the intersection coming from the opposite direction. Before you even have time to react, the other driver made his turn and you plowed into the side of his car. That's a pretty straightforward case of the other driver being at fault, right? After all, you were just driving down the road, and a car turned in front of you, case closed. Not so fast. Please read on to see why the obvious may not always be the conclusion when it comes to auto accidents in Pennsylvania.

It's three weeks after the accident, and you have sustained some pretty serious injuries. In fact, the total damages you have suffered combined with the damage to your car total up to around $80,000! Once the police investigation was completed, it was determined that the other driver failed to yield. BUT. A witness said they saw you texting at the time the accident happened. Not only do you not get compensated for the whole $80,000, but you also get a ticket for using a mobile device while driving!
Confused? Keep reading, and we'll explain how this happened and what else you need to know if you are ever injured in a car wreck in Pennsylvania.

Comparative Negligence Law in Pennsylvania

So what the heck happened in the above scenario? Comparative negligence, that's what. Also known as the “51% Rule,” comparative negligence is just one of many state laws in Pennsylvania regarding personal injury. Under comparative negligence law, a court can assign a percentage of fault in personal injury cases. In the scenario above, the court ended up assigning the other driver 80% of the fault and 20% to you for being on your phone! So all things being equal, you would end up getting $64,000 ($80,000 – 20% = $64,000.)

Ouch. Just be glad the jury didn't find you 51% or more at fault. Then you wouldn't have seen a penny of compensation. If the jury found that the other driver's negligence equaled 49% of the accident, and yours equaled 51%, the jury would be barred by law from awarding you any compensation for the damages. If that all sounds a little unfair, we promise we didn't make any of that up. Well, we made up the story, but not the rules! For your reading pleasure and reference, you can check out the laws that played a part in our story above.

Comparative Negligence: Section 42-71-7102
Right of Way: Section 75-33-3322
Drivers and Mobile Electronic Devices: Section 75-33-3316

How Is fault determined in Pennsylvania personal injury cases?

To see how the above scenario played out the way it did, you have to know something about how fault is determined in Pennsylvania when it comes to personal injury cases. To be able to collect any compensation for your personal injuries, Pennsylvania law requires that you prove another party was negligent, at least to a certain degree. It's not enough to just prove that the other driver turned in front of you, you have to prove certain things to the court.

To prove another party is negligent in your personal injury case, Pennsylvania says there are specific requirements that must be met. And remember, under that “51% Rule,” you better be able to prove that at least half of the negligence can be attributed to the other driver.

  • The party causing your injuries had a responsibility not to injure you and failed to live up to that responsibility
  • There is a connection between the other party's lack of responsibility and your injury
  • You suffered personal damages or financial loss as a result of your accident

So assuming you can prove the other driver was negligent, then you can receive compensation, at least partially, for the following:

  • Medical bills for treatment related to your injuries
  • Permanent disability and disfigurement
  • Emotional distress
  • Repair or replacement of any property damaged, such as your car
  • Lost wages that are a direct result of your personal injury accident
  • Costs of hiring assistance for tasks you can no longer perform because of your injuries

But what about insurance?

Just like in other states, Pennsylvania has laws regarding financial responsibility with minimum limits of car insurance. The Keystone State requires that every motor vehicle must be covered by an insurance policy that provides liability coverage for all damages that may result from an automobile accident.

  • At least $15,000 per person
  • At least $30,000 for two or more people
  • $5,000 per occurrence for property damage

Pretty straightforward, right? Again, not so fast! Pennsylvania is also a “no-fault” state, and all drivers are required to carry this type of insurance. No fault insurance, also called “personal injury protection,” or PIP, is an optional type of car insurance that allows someone to file a claim with their own insurance provider for certain damages.

States like Pennsylvania typically enact PIP laws to limit the number of lawsuits filed against at-fault drivers while offering protection for drivers who are injured an auto accident. PIP covers the insured driver and their passengers, regardless of who is at fault. While this type of insurance is designed to protect the insured party, it doesn't cover damage regarded as “pain and suffering” and can often fall short of providing adequate compensation.

You can circumvent the no-fault law and file a liability claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries meet the “serious injury” criteria outlined by Pennsylvania State law. The state defines “serious injury” as “A personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function or permanent serious disfigurement.” Considering the limitations of PIP insurance and the difficulty in determining the longevity and degree of injuries, this is a part of the personal injury process often worth pursuing to protect injured parties now and in the future.

Where and when to file a personal injury claim in Pennsylvania

Like most states, Pennsylvania limits the amount of time between a car accident and the date to file a lawsuit. Called the statute of limitations, this Pennsylvania law requires that any lawsuit for personal injury or property damage be filed within two years of the date of the accident. This means that if a driver, passenger, or passerby is injured or incurs property damage due to a negligent driver, the injured party must file a lawsuit within the two year period or they are not entitled to any compensation at all.

For Pennsylvania personal injury claims seeking more than $8,000, you would file your lawsuit in the appropriate Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas. If your personal injury accident claim is for less than $8,000 ($10,000 for the Philadelphia municipal court), you would file your case in the Pennsylvania District Court or Justice Court (or the municipal court for cases in Philadelphia) that has jurisdiction.

Hopefully, the story at the beginning remains just that, a story. But if you ever find that you are the victim of a personal injury in a car accident in Pennsylvania, you now know what to expect. Drive safe!

Need to find a personal injury lawyer pronto?

Find one with BernieSez.  It's a free service, so what do you have to lose, other than a coupe of minutes of time?  Click/tap below to post your case.

It's late afternoon on a Friday, and you are cruising down Highway 55 in New York, headed for Poughkeepsie. You knocked off work a little early so you could get your big weekend off to a good start and you can almost taste all those Hudson Valley wines you'll be sampling at the vineyard. As you pull off the exit, you can see the Hudson River off the side of the road, and you come up to a four-way stop.

As you come to a stop, you pull out your phone to double check the directions. The windows are down, and the sun is in your eyes as you try to make out the directions on your phone. Satisfied you're heading in the right direction, you put the phone down and pull out into the intersection and immediately hear the screech of brakes. Before you can even react, a pickup truck plows into the passenger side, knocking your car out of the intersection and onto the shoulder.

Auto accidents and personal injury law in New York

If that's you in the above scenario, you probably think that it's a pretty cut-and-dried case of who was at fault. After all, you stopped at the four-way-stop and looked before you took off down the road, right?

Or did you? And then you remember that there are some rules about four-way-stops and who has the right away, isn't there? Either way, the truck must have gone right through the stop sign because you have the wrecked car and injured arm to prove it. Right?

That's a lot of questions already. Even if you think there's no way any of this could be your fault, there are a lot more questions that will have to be answered under New York State personal injury law.

  • Who was at fault and to what degree?
  • How much should your insurance company pay?
  • How much should the other driver's insurance company pay?
  • How injured are you?
  • How will your injury affect different areas of your life?

These and other questions, and more importantly the answers, will determine how much compensation you will receive in your personal injury case. Under New York State personal injury laws regarding auto accidents, there are several key points you will come across in your case. These laws can be quite complicated, so it's always a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury lawyer to help you handle your situation.

Personal injury and auto insurance in New York

The first thing you need to know is how car insurance affects drivers involved in an accident in New York. State law requires motorists to carry certain minimums of coverage:

  • $25,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to all persons
  • $10,000 for property damage per accident
  • $50,000 of “no-fault” insurance

No-fault insurance is a type of car insurance coverage that pays for your and your passengers' medical bills when there is a personal injury in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. Also known as personal injury protection (PIP), this no-fault law means that if you're injured in a car accident in New York, your options to recover compensation could be limited. In the event of an accident, you must turn first (and often exclusively) to your own insurance company for compensation for losses.

You can circumvent the rules of no-fault and file a liability claim or personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault driver if your injuries meet the severe injury criteria outlined by New York State law. Determining “serious injury” can often be a complicated process and includes the following:

  • Significant disfigurement
  • Bone fracture
  • Permanent limited use of an organ or limb
  • Significantly limited use of a bodily function or system
  • Substantial complete disability for 90 days or more

If your personal injuries meet these requirements, you can hold the at-fault driver liable. These “serious injuries” mean that you can file a suit for compensation for all losses, including pain and suffering and other non-economic damages that wouldn't be covered under a no-fault claim.

Contributory negligence in New York

A common legal term used to determine the degree of fault of all drivers in an auto accident, contributory negligence has a significant impact on compensation. This state law establishes compensation awards according to how much “negligence” was involved regarding each driver. If the court finds that you share in any responsibility for the accident, the total compensation will be adjusted proportionately.

Negligence is determined by considering what a “reasonably prudent person” did, or didn't do, to contribute to the accident or personal injury of someone involved. That's a pretty broad term, and it can lead to a lot of contention and confusion in many cases. Taking our scenario at the beginning of this post as an example, the court will try to determine if you looked before proceeding, if the other driver stopped or not, did you actually witness the other driver run the stop sign, and many other factors.

Four elements to proving negligence

There are four elements to proving negligence, both in the plaintiff's and the defendant's actions:

  1. Duty of Care – Was the defendant responsible for ensuring the plaintiff's safety during the injuring incident?
  2. Breach of Duty – Did the defendant breach their duty of care?
  3. Causation – Was the breach of duty responsible for the plaintiff's injuries? Were the injuries within the reasonable scope of the defendant's duty to prevent?
  4. Damages – Do the injuries represent actual damages such as medical treatment bills that can be compensated?

As if all of the above isn't confusing enough, there are still some things that you will have to know before you have a good picture of how your personal injury case will play out.

The “collateral source” rule and statutes of limitations

In New York State, if you are injured in a car wreck and filing a personal injury claim against another driver, their attorney will request records of any compensation you have already received. This compensation is often made by your auto insurance company or your medical insurance for losses under no-fault rulings. The defendant's attorney will use these records to reduce the amount of compensation you are awarded if your case is successful.

Three years to file

All states have what's called a statute of limitations which defines the amount of time you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. It may seem like a long time, but the three years that New York allows from the date of the accident to hear a claim can go by quickly. Significant injuries requiring expert assessment and other complicated factors of presenting your case take more time than you may realize. So it's always best to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as quickly as possible. These types of cases can be complicated and are often long, drawn-out affairs requiring a lot of investigation, planning, and strategy.

So there you have it. Now you know what to expect if you ever end up on the wrong side of an auto accident in New York State. You'll know what to do when to do it, and how things will most likely unfold.

Need to find a personal injury lawyer pronto?

Find one on BernieSez.  It's quick, easy, and a free service to locate a PI lawyer in your area.  Give it a try.  Click/tap below to post your case.

Texas. 10-gallon hats, wide open spaces, and second only to Alaska in total area, the Lonestar State is proud of their slogan that everything is bigger in Texas. Heck, the King Ranch in Texas is bigger than the state of Rhode Island! There's no doubt that it's a big state, full of ranches, people, and with 303,176 miles of public roads, by far more roads than any other state.

So with all those roadways and all those drivers, are your chances of being injured in a car wreck “bigger” in Texas? The state consistently ranks in the top 10 for the number of auto accidents and the highest percentage of deaths from drunk driving of any state at 40%. While no research says you have a higher chance of being injured in an auto accident in Texas than other states, with all those miles of roads and almost 14 million licensed drivers, odds are not on your side.

Add in the surge of drivers using mobile devices while driving, and it's easy to see that the risk of getting into an auto accident in Texas is pretty high. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, 20% of all car wrecks involve driver distraction. For better or worse, there are no statewide laws banning cell phone use, but cities have enacted specific bans on using mobile devices while driving. So be on the defensive when you're driving in Texas and learn what to expect if you are ever injured in an accident.

Car Insurance Requirements in Texas

Texas is a “fault” state, which means that insurance companies will determine fault in an accident before they determine damages and coverage. In “no-fault” states, insurance companies will automatically cover both parties, regardless of who is at fault. Under Texas’ fault law, drivers are required to carry a minimum of insurance coverage:

  • $30,000 per person for bodily injury
  • $60,000 per accident for bodily injury
  • $25,000 for property damage

These minimums are designed to pay for the other party’s medical bills and property damage if you are at fault for an accident. The other driver's minimum insurance will pay for your losses if they were at fault. It's important to keep in mind that these are minimum coverage amounts and there is the risk that they won't be sufficient for some accidents.

Unfortunately, you may be in a car wreck and find that the other driver is either underinsured or uninsured. Fortunately, Texas law also requires insurance companies to offer Personal Injury Protection (PIP). Most policies will include PIP automatically, but a policyholder can decline it. PIP coverage most often includes increments of $2,500, $5,000, or $10,000.The amount of coverage covers each party in your car in case of an accident and pays out regardless of fault.

Modified Comparative Fault Laws in Texas

In Texas, it's not just a matter of who is at fault, but also by how much. Comparative fault laws take into account how much each driver is at fault in an auto accident. Texas law states that you can recover damages only if it is determined that you were less than 50% at fault. The court will determine the percentage of fault after the car accident investigation is complete. The court then reduces the claimant’s compensation by a percentage that matches the claimant’s amount of fault.

For example, the court says you are 20% at fault for having a broken turn signal, but the other driver is 80% at fault for speeding. If the total award amount were $40,000, you would be awarded $32,000, which is the adjusted amount under comparative fault laws. Texas’ comparative fault laws are called “modified” because of the compensation adjustment at 50%. Pure comparative fault states let injured parties receive compensation at any percentage of fault below 100%.

Types of Damages Considered Under Texas Personal Injury Law

Economic damages

This type of compensation covers actual financial losses. Medical expenses, both current and future, are considered economic damages. These expenses are often the most significant and result in the majority of damages awarded. Other economic damages are a loss of past earning capacity, the losses incurred since the injury occurred, and loss of future earning capacity. While the calculation of past lost wages is relatively easy to determine, calculating future lost wages involves a variety of factors from estimating how long recovery will take to the likelihood of injuries being permanent.

Non-economic damages

These damages refer to pain, suffering, mental anguish, scarring, disfigurement, and any other losses that aren't considered financial. Because these damages are hard to quantify, the awards for these damages vary greatly. Non-economic damages include pain and suffering, mental anguish, physical impairment, disfigurement, and loss of consortium (how the injury affects the relationship between the injured party and their spouse or children).

Exemplary damages

Also called punitive damages, these damages are meant to punish the at-fault party for particularly reckless or negligent conduct. In Texas, punitive damages are defined and regulated by Chapter 41 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code: (5) “Exemplary damages” means any damages awarded as a penalty or by way of punishment but not for compensatory purposes. Punitive damages are limited to the value of two times the amount the jury awards for economic damages plus an amount equal to what the jury awards for non-economic damages (up to $750,000).

Texas Statute of Limitations

In Texas, the statute of limitations for most car accident lawsuits is the same timeframe that applies to any personal injury case. According to Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003, any claim for injury, whether filed by a driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian, must be filed within two years of the date of the accident. The same two-year deadline applies if you are filing a lawsuit over vehicle damage. A claim against a government entity, such as a public bus, has a shorter timeframe of 60 to 90 days after the accident. If you don't discover your injuries until some time after the accident, keep in mind that the statute of limitations begins with the discovery of injuries.

Collecting your settlement

Being represented by an experienced personal injury lawyer in Texas ensures that you will receive fair compensation for your injuries, financial losses, and any other harmful effects of the accident. Your attorney will make sure that the process unfolds as quickly and efficiently as possible. Once a settlement agreement is reached, your attorney will assist with factors such as settling liens against your settlement, disbursing funds to the appropriate parties and even guide you through the tax implications of the award.

Your attorney will be able to give you an approximation of the settlement amount prior to settlement, but the result will vary depending upon how the trial unfolds. For a reference point, the average car accident settlement in Texas amounted to about $15,440 in 2013, according to the Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association. While that is an average, it should give some idea of what to expect from your settlement.

So if you're going to be driving in the big state of Texas, be aware of all those other distracted drivers. In the unfortunate instance where you may be injured in a car wreck, at least you know how personal injury laws work and how to get started on receiving the compensation you are entitled to for your injuries and losses.

Need a Personal Injury Lawyer?

Let Bernie find a PI lawyer for you.  It's a quick and easy process, and a free service to boot.  Click/tap on the button below to get started.