Justin Lovely: Hey everyone, welcome to the Carolina Justice Report video cast, brought to you by the Lovely Law Firm and South Carolina Law TV.
Justin Lovely: I’m going to be one of your hosts, attorney Justin Lovely, you know me here at the Lovely Law Firm with my partner and wife Amy Lawrence-Lovely. She goes by Amy Lawrence. It’s really Lawrence-Lovely. You’ve been getting our e-newsletter for years now with my current and past clients, and I also send the hard newsletter.
Justin Lovely: That’s still going to be coming, but we wanted to start something different with the podcast and the video cast to get current with the times and give some more stuff to our current and hopefully future clients and to help the Myrtle Beach community.
Justin Lovely: So we’re going to pick a topic each session that we do this, and hopefully give you a brief overview of that, and maybe go into some deep dives depending on what topic we choose. But we’re going to start off talking about what is a bread and butter topic here in our office, and that’s auto accidents.
Justin Lovely: So Amy, take it away.
Amy Lawrence: Yeah, absolutely. I know a lot of times people, whether it’s at boot camp or church or wherever, they’re always asking certain questions that always come up. They’re the theme that flows through life, and so we really wanted to talk about some of those things. And Justin, this is your jam, this is what you concentrate on.
Amy Lawrence: So let’s talk about personal injury, let’s talk about automobile accidents. So one of the first things people ask us is, I know you can do a lot of accidents. So what do we do when we get into an accident? What should be our first thought?
Justin Lovely: Yeah, and of course, nobody understands what to do because hopefully you’ve never been in an accident before. It’s what we do day in and day out, and there’s always some certain tips that you need to follow.
Justin Lovely: And the one thing we always preach to everyone is take as many pictures as possible, and I know your adrenaline is going to be pumping, you may not be really paying attention to it at the time. But if you’re in an accident or you’re with a family member, take as many pics as you can, try to remember as many things as you can.
Justin Lovely: If there are some witnesses out there, if you can stop and get their names so we can secure that later on when we begin our investigation. And then most importantly, obviously, if you’re injured at all, even the slightest injury, go to the doctor. Don’t deny the ambulance trip, take off, go to the ER, get checked out.
Justin Lovely: Because again, like I just said, your adrenaline is pumping if you’ve been in an accident, and we always in life, we try to be tough; so go get checked out. And then after all that, after that’s all settled down, get us involved in the process if you need to.
Amy Lawrence: One of the things everybody always asks is, “When do we talk to our insurance? When do we put them on notice? Do we call them, what do we do?”
Justin Lovely: Down here in our area, either the Myrtle Beach police or the Highway Patrol is going to respond to your accident. They’re going to give you what’s called an FR-10 form. If you’re taken to the hospital, they’ll come to the hospital and bring this form to you.
Justin Lovely: That’s a preliminary accident report, and it will kind of give their brief, everybody’s insurance information, it’ll have your information on it, driver’s license numbers. It’ll also give a preliminary determination of who was at fault and who was not at fault, and if any citations were given.
Justin Lovely: So by law, you need to tell that, our financial responsibility law in South Carolina, we have to turn that over to your insurance company. So we would always recommend, and we do this for you obviously if we get retained early on in the process. A lot of times, obviously as you know Amy, we’re not retained until the insurance company starts jerking them around.
Justin Lovely: But yeah, you need to go ahead and turn that over to your insurance policy, and then we would get the, once we take over we’d get the claim started.
Amy Lawrence: What happens when the other insurance company comes a-calling at fault? What do we do?
Justin Lovely: So everybody makes this mistake, and this is one of my cardinal sins that I always preach to everybody who will listen to me is, do not give a statement to the other party’s insurance. Because remember, what are they-
Amy Lawrence: Never, they’re just going to [crosstalk] it around, right.
Justin Lovely: What are they trying to do? They’re trying to deny liability, delay a claim, put the blame on you, put partial blame on you, that’s the new thing. They’ll arbitrarily say, “Hey, my client was 80% at fault, but you were 20% at fault.” Where are they coming up with these numbers, it’s ridiculous. So just don’t give a statement at all.
Justin Lovely: And once we take over the claim, if they’re demanding a statement, we’ll say, “Okay, well we’re going to go ahead and file a lawsuit. You can depose my client.” and then that really changes their tone real quick.
Justin Lovely: Now on caveat though, for your first-party insurance. If you have any kind of first-party coverage that may come into play, a lot of time there is a duty to give a statement. But what we do in that event is, you’ll be in my office, in my conference room with either myself, Amy, with you or one of our other attorneys here. And we give those statements for settlement purposes only-
Amy Lawrence: First party means your insurance.
Justin Lovely: Right, not the guy who hit you, not the at-fault party, your policy that you bought. And again, we give those for settlement purposes only, that way they’re not going to spin or anything like that. And if they try to, we can go down a rabbit hole with potential bad faith issues. But usually that gets that nipped in the bud, and we get that under control.
Amy Lawrence: Okay, let’s talk about insurance coverage because now we’ve got into insurance. What kind of insurance coverage should people have? We have an absorbent amount of insurance, because we’re funny, we want to make sure if we ever hurt somebody we want to take care of them and do the right thing. So what should an average person, let’s say in South Carolina, what kind of insurance coverage should they have?
Justin Lovely: Some people don’t even understand this, because they’re just calling Geico, watching these stupid commercials. Geico, what’s the next one? Safe Auto, State Farm, they’re watching all these commercials and they’re just calling and buying the cheapest thing and thinking they’re fully protected.
Justin Lovely: In South Carolina-
Amy Lawrence: That’s the worst choice you could make, right?
Justin Lovely: Yeah, it’s the worst choice. They’re out there to make a profit and make a sale, they’re not there to protect you or see if you have any gaps in your coverage to protect your assets and your family and your kids so no.
Justin Lovely: But the minimum coverage in South Carolina for an auto accident is 25,000/50,000. What that means is, if anyone is hurt, one person can recover up to $25,000 and the whole wreck, they will pay $50,000 on that wreck and that’s it.
Justin Lovely: So we have cases where if there’s a family in a car and they get hit, and they all go to the emergency room. Well that $50,000 for that whole wreck is up real quick.
Amy Lawrence: It’s eat up real quick.
Justin Lovely: Yeah, and that’s all that’s mandated in South Carolina, it’s ridiculous. North Carolina has a little bit of higher limits, they’ve got 30/60 limits. Florida’s a little lower, but most states right now are 25,000/50,000 for coverage.
Justin Lovely: Uninsured coverage is required, and that’s again state minimum, 25,000 so it’s not much. So again, and I preach this to everybody, you’ve heard me say this 100 times. You can never count on the at-fault driver to have adequate coverage, okay. You’ve got to protect yourself, and the way to do that is to get your under insured motorist coverage.
Justin Lovely: We can do a deep dive into that, but I always, we talk to people and I always tell them come to our office and we’ll do a free policy review for them.
Amy Lawrence: And you don’t even have to really come into the office, if you’ll just call in, you could snap a picture of it, email it to us, text it to us, whatever. We don’t mind looking at it, getting on the phone and telling you where-
Justin Lovely: Yeah, just comment right now, and we can reach out to you if you want us to. And I’ll always say, hey, I’ll talk to you and I’ll say, “Hey, you’re covered here, you’re not covered here.” Because the classic line, again, going back to saying the classic line we hear every day in our office is, I’ve got full coverage. I’m covered.
Amy Lawrence: If I hear that one more time. Yeah, yeah, yeah. [crosstalk] and they’re just completely screwed.
Justin Lovely: What was that?
Amy Lawrence: I said, it’s pitiful because they think they have full coverage and then we get their policy, and they’ve got a catastrophic injury and then all we can give is the 25,000. It just breaks your heart.
Justin Lovely: Yeah, or they might be, here’s another big issue that even if you’re not really hurt that bad but your car’s messed up. You can’t get to work if you don’t have rental coverage, or you don’t have the property coverage. Because again remember, 25,000/50,000, and it could be a liability only policy and then you’re screwed. It could take a couple of weeks to determine liability.
Amy Lawrence: Yeah, when you talk about that rental car, it reminds me of so many times, because the insurance companies are always trying to jerk us around. And even when we know it’s 100%, they’re at fault, the whole shebang, these insurance companies do not want to pay for rental cars. So then we’ve got a client who can’t get to the doctor, can’t get to work, whatever it may be, can’t take their kids to wherever they need to go. And they’re sitting there with no rental car, because they don’t have rental coverage on their own policy.
Justin Lovely: Yeah. And here’s the deal, even if we turn our whole team loose on those cases, which we do, it could take a week or longer for us to even get that setup. Because remember, what they’re going to do, they’re going to say, “Well, we’ve got to get a statement from our insured,” or, “we got to talk to this witness.” Well, then they dodge us on the phone, then we got to send some nasty letters. Then, oh well, I got to get an adjuster to look at the car and it’s just a bunch of bullshit that everybody’s got to go through to get the claim started.
Amy Lawrence: That’s exactly what it is.
Justin Lovely: Whereas you could just pay a couple more bucks on your policy, and then you’re covered, you’re protected and people don’t understand that. Again, they’re calling, give me the cheapest rate, give me the cheapest policy. Well wouldn’t you rather pay five, 10, 50 more bucks a month and know that you’re 100% protected and wouldn’t have to go through this. So you’ll hear me preach about that all the time.
Justin Lovely: Again, call us, comment below, we’ll look at your policy anytime free of charge. I’m not going to charge you to do that for you, I want you to be protected. And hopefully you’ll never have to use your insurance, but you need to have it in the event you’re in an accident.
Amy Lawrence: Yeah, I don’t think most people realize that just from going from 25,000, $50,000 coverage to 100, 300 is really not, it’s really nominal when we talk about the cost per month. You’re talking about paying maybe an extra 20 or $30 a month, and it gives you all the coverage, all the under insured, all the uninsured. And it ups that policy, that way everybody’s covered.
Justin Lovely: Yeah. And if you got 10 points on your driver’s license, you’ve been in 20 wrecks in your life, that’s going to be a different story. But if you’re the average driver, you got a clean record, it’s going to be a nominal increase based on what kind of coverage you’re going to get. You’re absolutely right.
Amy Lawrence: Okay. So people ask us all the time. Should I get hurt in an accident, what is insurance supposed to pay? And insurance is broad here, because I don’t think anybody really understands the difference between … I think they understand the concept of the difference between health insurance, car insurance, under insured, all those things, umbrella policies. Let’s talk about that. What is insurance supposed to be paying for?
Justin Lovely: Right. If you have health insurance, so let’s take it in an auto accident context. If you have health insurance, what I’m going to tell you when you meet with us is, I’m going to say, “Get your health insurance to pay for everything.”
Justin Lovely: And the reason I want you to do that is, health insurance providers have contracted rates with all these different medical providers.
Justin Lovely: So if you go to the ER bill, and your ER bill is $10,000, well Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Medicare, whatever, they might be paying 20 cents on the dollar on that $10,000 bill. You might have a copay and all that, but in the big scheme of things, it’s better for your health insurance to pay.
Justin Lovely: We have what’s called the collateral source rule in South Carolina. So when you are done treating, and I go to try to settle your claim, they can’t take into account that your health insurance only paid that 20 cents on the dollar, I get to present that full $10,000 bill. So that puts more money in the client’s pocket.
Justin Lovely: So we always primarily want to put it on- God bless the collateral source rule.
Amy Lawrence: Yes.
Justin Lovely: Yeah. All right, so we want to put everything on the health insurance. Now the flip-side is in North Carolina, they got bills paid, which is totally screwed. Torte reform has screwed up North Carolina.
Justin Lovely: And the difference in that is, let’s say that same $10,000 bill and insurance paid 20 cents on the dollar or whatever and you’ve got to pay two grand left, is what’s left on that 10 grand bill. Well as the attorney in North Carolina, you can only present that two grand as evidence at a trial, so that really guts those car insurance claims.
Justin Lovely: That’s why you see all the North Carolina lawyers, they’re getting into worker’s comp now because they just can’t really help anybody, because torte reform has screwed up the auto accidents and personal injury practices up there. Unless it’s a catastrophic claim obviously. [crosstalk]
Amy Lawrence: Torte reform is, no one’s insurance went down with torte reform. No one’s insurance premiums went down, just their coverage went down.
Justin Lovely: Absolutely, and big business made money, insurance companies still making money on them. But getting back to it, so let’s say your health insurance. So then when you’re done treating, we’re going to submit a claim, and that’s going to be against the at-fault party’s liability limits. And that may be a minimum limit policy, again 25/50, we would claim against that. If your damages exceed that coverage, we would then hopefully claim on your under insured motorist coverage.
Amy Lawrence: Right.
Justin Lovely: And under insured motorist coverage, this is not required in South Carolina, but your insurance company is required to make you what’s called a meaningful offer of this coverage.
Justin Lovely: Now this coverage would essentially, it’s first-party coverage like we spoke about earlier but it essentially steps into the shoes of the at-fault party. So that’s why we always tell everyone, up your UIM, up your UIM, you can’t count on this at-fault driver who hit you to have adequate coverage to pay for your medical bills and your pain and suffering.
Amy Lawrence: The average car in South Carolina is running around, if they have insurance at all, they’re running around with the minimum coverage.
Justin Lovely: Right. So if you get your UIM though, you’re protected. Another thing, we might be able to stack your policies. And basically, that’s where we’re able to take a UIM policy, you’ve got four vehicles on the policy and stack it to make a larger policy out of it. And we can go deep diving into that, that’s for another episode.
Justin Lovely: But bottom line is, you got to up your UIM, you got to make sure you have health insurance. If you’re not going to do it for yourself, do it for your wife, do it for your kids because it’s scary out there. You never know when somebody’s going to hit you. And down here in Myrtle Beach, we got all these tourists down here, they don’t know the roads, they flood the town for six months out of the year and it’s crazy. It’s in the news every day, somebody’s getting popped.
Amy Lawrence: I was just thinking about, there’s one thing that we didn’t talk about was PIP, med pay. A lot of people don’t even know about med pay.
Justin Lovely: Yeah. Believe it or not, we always have clients, they bought it, they didn’t even know they bought it and we’re able to get them some money. Like, wow, this is great. But what that is personal injury protection, PIP coverage is basically a no-fault portion of your policy.
Justin Lovely: Again, it’s optional coverage. Sometimes we see it usually, 1,000, $5,000 limits. But what that does is, when we get the first bill, we can get that paid to them and we don’t charge a fee on PIP recoveries or med pay recoveries.
Justin Lovely: We get that done for the client. We usually get that done early on in the process. But again, it’s no-fault, so even if you were at fault, you’d be able to claim if you have that coverage. And going back to recommending, when we do a policy-
Amy Lawrence: A lot of times, it’s that PIP that gives you that little bit of bridge between your rental car being able to come through, or them accepting liability and all those other things. So it’s that little bit of money that’ll keep you going.
Justin Lovely: Because if you miss a couple months of work and you’re living paycheck to paycheck, yeah that can definitely help them out and our clients love it when we do that for them. I always recommend that with your health insurance, if you have a deductible, say it’s a $1,000 deductible or $5,000 deductible.
Justin Lovely: Well, if you’re ever going to have to use your health insurance, it’s probably going to be in an auto accident. So have your PIP coverage or med pay coverage equal your health insurance deductible, that way you’re never out-of-pocket for anything if you do have a catastrophic injury.
Amy Lawrence: Okay, so …
Justin Lovely: I’m giving all the tips out today.
Amy Lawrence: I know, giving them all, giving all the little goodies. So let’s talk about what can a lawyer do. Why is a lawyer important to get involved early in the process or in the process at all?
Justin Lovely: Well this is what we do. So again, I doubt you’re a career auto accident victim, right? This is probably a one-time shot in your life and you have no idea what’s going on. We do this every day here in the office, and we’ve been helping people for 10 years coming up in November, that’s 10 years of the Lovely Law Firm and this is what we’ve hung our hat on.
Justin Lovely: We don’t practice everything, we practice a few areas of the law, and want to do a few areas of the law very well and that’s what we do here. But yeah, so we handle it all. We handle the claim, we get the property setup, we do the investigations and we get our investigators out there to look, file your police report for you, file your claims for you, get the actual report back from the DMV, get your medical treatment setup, make sure your health insurance is being billed correctly as primary, handle any liens you may have with your health insurance or any other providers.
Justin Lovely: If you don’t have health insurance, and this is a big thing because some people won’t treat because they say, “Oh, I can’t afford it.” We have a network of providers that we’ve developed over the years, that will treat on what’s called letter of protection. And what that means is, these doctors understand you may not have health insurance, but you have an injury claim and you weren’t at fault.
Justin Lovely: So we agree to get repaid back out of the settlement proceeds. And that way, you’re able to get to feeling better, get your treatment, build your cases up. And then once you’re done treating, we settle your case, actually we would get your medical records and your bills, then we’d attempt to settle your case.
Justin Lovely: And then if we can’t settle your case, obviously we file a lawsuit and take it all the way to the courthouse steps if we have to. But we handle all that, there’s a lot to it. People think, “Oh, I can just go to the doctor, and they’re going to take care of me. State Farm and Geico’s going to take care of me.” No, no. You need representation.
Amy Lawrence: This reminds me, so many times people like our clients will come in, and they’ll say, “I’ve had State Farm, I’ve had Allstate for 20 years, they’re going to be good to me.” And then, what they say is, “I thought they were going to be good to me.” And then six months down the road, they come in and they’re devastated because the people that they thought were going to take care of them didn’t. And so then, we have to get involved and it’s a lot easier if we get involved early in the process, because the ultimate goal is to get you better, to heal your body, to make you feel better because we don’t want you to carry this with you for the rest of your life.
Justin Lovely: Right, right. And remember, the insurance companies, they’re there to represent their shareholders, and they’re going to hire a defense attorney to represent their shareholders and their insured. You need an attorney, if you’re hurt, to represent you and your interests. It’s as simple as that.
Amy Lawrence: Absolutely, absolutely. So a lot of times people ask us, what are the factors that go into determining the value of the personal injury case?
Justin Lovely: Right, this is a question we get. How much can I get? What’s this worth?
Amy Lawrence: What’s the value of my case?
Justin Lovely: Yeah, is it worth the time here?
Amy Lawrence: Yeah.
Justin Lovely: Ethically, we can never guarantee anything with a case, but the way to answer this question is, “It depends.” And I know nobody ever wants to hear that from a lawyer, but it really does depend. I could probably count 100 factors if I sit down with a pen and a paper.
Justin Lovely: Just briefly, what kind of accident was it? Was it a rear-ender? Was it a T-bone? Did the air bags deploy? Were you wearing your seatbelt? How much property damage was there? Was the frame bent in the property damage? Did you ride the ambulance to the emergency room? Which emergency room did you go to, because some of these emergency rooms are notorious over-billers?” And they’ll devalue a claim based on that, thinking you’re not really hurt even if they treat you, work up a trauma team or whatever. How long is your treatment? Were there any gaps in treatment? And which lawyer’s handling the case? Are they a lawyer that’s just goin to run a settlement mill and close it out quick, or are they willing to file a lawsuit if they have to? All those are different factors.
Justin Lovely: Generally, the worse off you are, the better your claim is believe it or not. That’s a sick thing to say, but that’s just the truth of the matter. And the higher your medical bills, generally the higher the claim’s going to be. What was that?
Amy Lawrence: I said well, that’s the way it should be. If you have an injury, then it should be, a major injury.
Justin Lovely: What I was saying is it’s tied to the medical bills. Even if you have one ER visit and nothing else, you could still have a catastrophic injury, so that’s not really correlated 100%. But they’re going to use their little computer systems and try to low ball a claim, but we kind of know and we can see what’s documented. And once we get the final doctor’s report, we have a good range of what a case would be worth.
Justin Lovely: And we sit down with the client at that point in time, when they’re done treating and we have everything in front of us, and we can see, “Hey, this is the full slate. This is the full deck of cards. What hand have we been dealt, what are we going to play with?” And so, we can go from there and then we’ll know if it’s a good settlement or not. And of course, we go over line item with the clients when it’s settlement time.
Amy Lawrence: How many times have you went all the way to the courthouse steps, and they give you policy limits? I’ve seen that happen many times.
Justin Lovely: Right, [crosstalk] they’ll try to delay it, delay the claim and then they’ll eventually pay it and sometimes they will pay it. Every case is different.
Amy Lawrence: Okay. So let’s talk about this. So people all the time will call in and they’ll say, “How much does a lawyer cost for a car wreck case, a personal injury case, obviously I’ve been in an accident, but I don’t have any money?”
Amy Lawrence: And I always smile, I wonder if they can hear me smiling almost, if they can feel me smile. I say, “Ma’am, it absolutely doesn’t cost a thing.” And kind of go through that, tell them about does it cost anything, does it not? Explain.
Justin Lovely: Okay, so for injury cases, we handle these cases on what’s called a contingency fee. And what that means is, we will charge our fee based on what we can recover for the client. And if we don’t recover anything for the client, the client doesn’t owe us any money, so we assume all the risk.
Justin Lovely: We investigate the claim, work it up and guide the client through their course of care and everything so we know that they’re doing the right thing to maximize their potential recovery. So they’re not going to have to come out-of-pocket starting out. That is something people are scared of, they think, “Wow! I’m hurt. I can’t do anything for myself, I don’t have money for a lawyer.” No, we handle these on a contingency.
Justin Lovely: Now, we front the costs, and we get repaid back the costs if we have any copy fees, expert witness fees, accident scene reconstructionist, things like that. Those get paid back at settlement time. So the client only has to worry about getting to feeling better. There’s nothing they have to do other than go to the doctor, follow the doctor’s orders and then stay in contact with our staff and let us know when they’re done treating so we can work their claim up.
Amy Lawrence: Nobody has to write a check to hire us.
Justin Lovely: No.
Amy Lawrence: That’s what people fear. Okay. Justin, how can people get ahold of us?
Justin Lovely: Like us on Facebook if you’re watching this, and you can call us, 843-839-4111. Again, this is the Carolina Justice Report. We can be found on the web justiceislovely.com, and you can read our blog.
Amy Lawrence: Best website name ever.
Justin Lovely: Yeah, you can’t beat it. And then, we’ve moved into our new office at 1053 London Street, here in Myrtle Beach and just like us and follow us and watch us, and we’ll be sending out the hard newsletter, but now you’re going to get this video newsletter. Stay tuned for the podcast that’ll be coming out on iTunes soon, and just keep watching.
Amy Lawrence: Sounds good. Thank you so much everybody for watching and we’ll see you soon.