Get Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions about Auto Injury Claims, Workers Compensation Claims, and Divorce & Custody Cases.

Questions about an injury claim, workers compensation claim or a divorce or custody issue?  We want you to call us and ask your questions at (910) 341-7570.  There is almost always a lawyer available to speak with you.  The call is free and there is no obligation.  If you prefer, you can gather more information on this site before you call. We answer many of the most frequently asked questions here.  The site is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice.  It is designed to give you the information you need to get started and to be knowledgable about the process as you search for the best injury lawyer, the best workers compensation lawyer, or the best divorce lawyer for you.

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  • After divorce, are fathers forgotten?

         Our grandmothers were homemakers.  They were cooked, cleaned and cared for children.  Men worked.  After a long day they Custody in the old days.sat down, put their feet up and read the paper. They watched the news and played golf on Saturdays.

         Our parents’ generation was different.  Many women went to work.  Still, they had a larger share of the responsibility in the family home.  After work, many women would cook, clean and care for children while men watched the news and played golf on Saturdays.

         Things have changed.  Many women work just as hard as men do in order to provide for their children.  The role of a father is different, as well.

          Playing with kidsAs fathers today, we get our kids up, get them dressed and get them to school.  We read stories, find lost teddy bears and kiss boo-boos.  We go to soccer games, practices and clinics.  We talk, and we listen.  We hug, snuggle and kiss. We examine report cards and participate in parent-teacher conferences.  We praise.  We discipline. We inform about the dangers of strangers, cars and rattle snakes.  We regulate the consumption of broccoli and frozen yogurt. We race across grocery stores whispering words of encouragement in search of potties.  We are not perfect, but we are there.  We are involved.  We are trying. We are parents.

          Yet, after divorce we are forgotten.  The mother gets primary custody.  The father gets limited visitation.  We can see our children every other week-end, half of holidays and a few weeks out of the summer.

         Judge in a child custody caseThis is so not because of bad law.  The law gives no presumption to the value of either parent.  This is so because the courts have misconceptions about out level of involvement North Carolina judges are smart, knowledgeable and fair, but they need accurate information.

         Identifying injustice is the easy part.  What can we do about it?

         Child custody lawyers in Wilmington NCWe can prove it.  We can use technology, creativity and effort to prove to our judges that we have positive relationships with our children.  We can show that our children deserve to have real relationships with their fathers.  We can demonstrate that real relationships require adequate access.  Call (910) 341-7570 to discover what Ashley Smith at Speaks Law Firm can do to help you prove your importance, protect your access and promote your relationship with your children.

  • My marriage is over. I’m meeting with my divorce lawyer for the first time in a couple days. How should I prepare?

    First of all, relax. Meeting with a North Carolina divorce attorney isn’t going to be a stressful occasion. We admit it’s not going to be a happy occasion by any means—you are, after all, going to be talking about the end of your marriage, and that’s a serious topic. But divorce attorneys are known for their sympathetic nature. They won’t hurt you.

    Trust us, this isn’t comparable to a trip to a dentist for root canal surgery, or a trip to the doctor for a report about a suspicious lump under your skin. This consultation will be solemn, but not grim.

    We can’t be 100 percent sure what your divorce lawyer will expect from you. What we can do is tell you a little bit about how Speaks Law Firm attorneys handle their first appointments with divorce clients.

    Four critical areas to be considered

    We generally start by outlining the process of divorce in North Carolina courts. We’ll get information from you about where you and your spouse live, because that may influence the filing process. We then explain the typical time frame for divorce proceedings.

    There are four important issues that will need to be examined in every North Carolina divorce action:

    • Division of marital property and debts
    • Alimony, or cash payments from one spouse to support the other
    • Child custody, if you and your spouse have children together
    • Child support, if you and your spouse have children together

    If you and your spouse have been able to come to a mutual understanding on one or more of these issues, that's great. Your agreement will become the basis of the court’s final divorce orders. Even if you have an incomplete agreement, we will tell you how we can negotiate with your spouse’s attorney to get a deal.

    Any area in which you cannot get an agreement with your spouse will have to be decided by the judge, with appropriate arguments from each side. If that’s the case, we can begin working almost immediately on a persuasive presentation that will serve your best interests. To do that effectively, we will need access to copies of your financial records for the past several years. We don’t expect you to bring in all these documents at your first visit, but you can save a lot of time making sure that these records are available to you:

    • Tax returns. State and federal income tax returns, plus any other taxes that you, your spouse, or your family have paid
    • Statements from the financial advisers serving you and your spouse
    • Accounting reports from any business you or your spouse may own, or that you own together
    • Bank records. We would want statements for any bank or credit union account that is personally owned by you, your spouse, both of you jointly, and any accounts in your children’s names
    • Investment property records
    • Stockbroker records for any investment accounts
    • Records for pensions and retirement savings plans owned by you or your spouse.

    These are just the most common records that we will require. After talking with you about your specific financial situation, we may need additional documents, or we may be able to pare down this list considerably.

    Moving forward together

    Above all, the initial meeting is a chance for you and your new attorney to get a feel for working with each other. It should be a sympathetic and respectful relationship. You should be able to leave that first meeting with a sense that you have chosen to hire the North Carolina divorce lawyer who is the best suited for your personality and your specific needs.

    If you don’t feel that way—if you find you are uncomfortable discussing your personal information or financial data, for example—then you may wish to continue searching for a lawyer you can trust.

    We’re sorry to hear that your marriage is ending, and we hope that the lawyer you have chosen is a great match for you. If we can be of any help in the future, you can reach the Wilmington family law attorneys at Speaks Law Firm by calling 910-341-7570 locally or 877-593-4233 toll-free from anywhere in North Carolina.

  • I had surgery seven years ago to correct a pinched nerve in my back. Last fall, I was involved in an auto accident just outside Wilmington, and I am again having serious back pain. Does the other driver—who caused the accident—have to pay my medical bills, even though I had a previous spine problem?

    If the other driver acted with negligence or malice to cause your New Hanover County car accident, then he potentially has legal liability for the consequences. That means that if other people suffer losses due to his behavior, he has a duty to set them right: to restore them (as much as possible) to the condition they enjoyed before the accident.

    The legal system recognizes that this is often impossible to accomplish in a literal sense. A negligent driver can’t make a fractured bone become whole or make a scar disappear. Instead, our society demands that the responsible driver pay money to cover the costs of any property losses and the expenses of medical care. We ask a jury to calculate the equivalent cash value of suffering and pain, and we award that amount to the injured party, too.

    Now, as far as your specific case, there are at least three reasons why your previous medical history should not be a barrier to you recovering full compensation for your North Carolina auto accident injuries:

    • It’s ancient history. Your spine problem was resolved seven years ago. In a sense, your history of a pinched nerve is irrelevant: you were not suffering from back pain before the accident, and now, you are. If the accident caused your back pain, then the negligent driver has a duty to compensate you.
    • It’s a different injury. You don’t know yet whether your current back pain has any relationship at all with the pinched nerve you suffered in the past. Perhaps your current pain signals a different type of back injury. Perhaps there is another pinched nerve, but in a different location. Until additional medical tests can provide a complete diagnosis, you should not assume you have merely re-injured an old wound.
    • The negligent driver doesn’t get his pick of North Carolina traffic injury victims. Insurance companies and car accident defendants have to address the losses of the victims as they find them. Insurance company lawyers, in particular, are quick to blame preexisting conditions for new pain, but that claim can be refuted by solid medical evidence and testimony. Even if your previous injury made you more vulnerable to being hurt in a car accident, it remains true that the accident was the single necessary element that led to your losses.

    For a deeper analysis of your case, we encourage you to contact one of our experienced Wilmington car accident lawyers today to schedule a free consultation. Speaks Law Firm can be reached locally at 910-341-7570 or toll-free from anywhere across the state at 1-877-593-4233. You can also learn a lot about what you may face by reading The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, our law firm’s manual for prospective clients; if you ask for it, we’ll send you a FREE copy when you call us for your appointment.

  • My husband and I have been married for four years, and now I have suspicions that he’s been cheating on me. Do I confront him about his actions?

    Confronting him may seem like a satisfying way to vent your anger, but it’s not usually a helpful approach. You admit now that you have “suspicions,” but perhaps no real proof. What will you do if he denies your accusations? What happens if he comes up with a plausible explanation for any evidence you have gathered?

    What you really need to do right now is decide what actions you want to take if your suspicions turn out to be true. Would you want marriage counseling, ideally leading to reconciliation? Do you want a separation—and, if so, what kind of separation? Or do you know that you want a divorce?

    Unfortunately, you’re too emotionally invested in the outcome to make such a decision dispassionately. Your best option might be to schedule an appointment with a North Carolina adultery attorney who can guide you through your options based on your specific personal circumstances.

    Some of our clients choose to hire a private investigator to confirm or deny their suspicions. You may wish to do that, too, if it’s affordable for you. Your attorney may be able to recommend a skilled and reliable investigator if you need one.

    As you may be aware, adultery is grounds for a divorce from bed and board—the North Carolina term for a legal separation. In turn, a divorce from bed and board can be a precursor for a full divorce—called absolute divorce in our state—a year later. Marital misbehavior such as adultery may also be a critical factor for a judge who is dividing the property of the marriage equitably, and adultery could also influence the court’s child custody decisions.

    A spouse’s adultery, then, may have profound implications for your marital and financial future. The degree of the influence will depend on your specific situation.

    For a deeper understanding, we encourage you to contact the Speaks Law Firm at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233 to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled Wilmington divorce lawyers in the near future.

  • I was hurt in a Wilmington car crash a few weeks ago. The insurance claims adjuster says I don’t need to hire a North Carolina auto accident lawyer because the police report found the other driver to be at fault. Is that okay?

    No, it is not okay. It’s the exact opposite of okay.

    We’ve warned you before about listening to insurance adjusters. To summarize yet again: the insurance adjuster is not your buddy. He doesn’t work for you, he works for the insurance company—and that means his pay is linked to the company’s profits. The company maximizes profits by collecting insurance premiums, not by paying generous settlements. It’s more likely than not that the adjuster gets an annual bonuses based on the amount of money he saves getting accident victims in North Carolina to agree to small settlements.

    An even briefer summary: You’re being played.

    What’s a police report for?

    It’s best to think of a police report as a rough draft at explaining what occurred during a North Carolina traffic accident. Often, this “first draft” is the only explanation the local police or sheriff’s office needs for its records. The report will describe the sequence of the accident as the investigating officer understands it. That reconstruction isn’t necessarily complete or correct.

    A police report may say, for instance, that vehicle A collided with vehicle B. That may be enough for the investigating officer to conclude that the driver of vehicle A was at fault. A thorough investigation might refine this conclusion, by finding that:

    • The driver of vehicle A lost control of his car due to a sudden crumbling of the pavement that a recent road crew had improperly repaired.
    • Vehicle A’s power steering system failed at a crucial time, causing the collision, because a mechanic had installed defective replacement parts.
    • Vehicle A is part of the corporate fleet belonging to the driver’s employer, and the driver was operating the vehicle as part of his work duties—even though he was never adequately trained for manual transmission cars.

    Because each of these disclosures changes who may be legally liable for injuries caused by the accident, it’s important that you don’t stop at the police report. Only a Wilmington auto accident lawyer who will investigate beyond the police report can get the answers you need about who is really to blame for your injuries.

    Seeking a fair recovery for your losses

    The Speaks Law Firm publishes a free guidebook, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, that explains why the services of an attorney are vital in the investigation of your accident. You can’t trust that the police report got every detail right, and you can’t trust that the insurance adjuster is giving you an unbiased summary of the police report. Hiring a lawyer to make an independent investigation will best protect your interests. You can then make a reasoned decision about pursuing a recovery.

    For more information about the biggest mistakes people make in auto injury cases that cost them thousands and the most effective ways to avoid these mistakes please call (877) 593-4233 to request a free copy of my book, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, 20 Secrets to Maximize your Claim or to speak with an experienced professional about your case.

     

     

  • I am 20 weeks pregnant with my first baby. My boyfriend left me a few days ago, saying he wants nothing more to do with me or the baby. What are my legal rights? I can’t afford to pay for all the stuff the baby will need.

    There’s no reason why you should have to take on this burden alone. It takes two people to make a baby, and both of them are legally responsible for the child’s wellbeing. Your ex-boyfriend no longer has the chance to “opt out” of parenthood.

    The fact that you aren’t married will not penalize your unborn child in any way. You, on the other hand, will not have the same legal rights in dealing with your turncoat boyfriend as you would have had if you were married; for instance, you can’t ask the court to award you spousal support after your breakup.

    Establishing paternity

    The first step in getting your baby what she needs is establishing paternity. The easiest way would involve your ex-boyfriend admitting that he is the father by being present when the baby is born and completing the necessary paperwork, or else later filing an affidavit—a legal document that expresses someone’s sworn statement. From what you have told us, it doesn’t seem like this guy is going to step forward in that way.

    The alternative, then, is for you to file a civil paternity action in North Carolina court. The judge will order genetic tests for you, the baby, and your former boyfriend. If the blood tests indicate a likelihood of 97 percent or more that your ex-boyfriend is indeed the father, then by law “the alleged parent is presumed to be the father and the results are admitted as evidence by the court.”

    Paternity establishes rights

    Once your baby’s paternity has been proven, you will be able to ask the court to demand reasonable child support payments from the father. The North Carolina family court judge will assign your ex-boyfriend a monthly sum of money he must pay you to help meet his child’s needs. As your child ages, you can even ask the court to change the amount of child support to reflect the greater needs and expenses of a growing child. In most cases, the obligation for child support ends at age 18 or when your child gets married.

    Once paternity is determined, your child also gains the rights to inherit money from her father.

    We should also note that the father gains some rights by the paternity suit. He gains the right to ask the court for custody and visitation schedules (sometimes called “parenting time”). From your description, it sounds unlikely that he will try to exercise these rights now, but he may want to connect with his child sometime in the future.

    Do you have the ability to handle this yourself?

    Taking your former boyfriend to court over paternity issues is probably something outside your normal range of skills and comfort (even if you weren’t five weeks pregnant). When you can’t handle something this important on your own, it’s time to call in the trustworthy and friendly North Carolina child support lawyers from Speaks Law Firm in Wilmington. Call us today toll-free at 877-593-4233 to learn how we can help you give your developing child the best start in life she can get.

  • I was rear-ended by a student driver while waiting at a stop sign in Wilmington. Nobody was seriously injured, and my car only has a minor ding and a few scratches. Is it worthwhile contacting a lawyer?

    You say that you weren’t seriously injured. How can you know that? If you think your injuries were unimportant, you probably haven’t gone to the emergency room or even your family doctor to get checked out. Our concern is that serious—even life-threatening—injuries can mask themselves for days or weeks after an accident … and then reveal themselves to be critical injuries requiring urgent treatment. You need to get your condition evaluated immediately.

    Whiplash is one of the more common results of a North Carolina rear-end collision. This type of injury can worsen over time, leading to pain months after the initial trauma. If it turns out that you have whiplash or another subtle injury, do you really think it’s fair that you might shoulder the costs of your medical treatment when someone else was responsible for the accident that harmed you?

    The second reason for you to take legal action

    Fairness is another reason why you ought to contact a Wilmington personal injury law firm soon. Most injury lawyers in North Carolina offer free first-time consultations for potential clients, so you can learn if you have a case and meet the attorney who can represent you. Basically, there is no risk to you in asking an attorney to look at your situation, so we can’t understand why anyone would not want to get in touch with a lawyer.

    But maybe you’re shy, or maybe you really think you would be profiting at the expense of someone else. We can respect that, but let us suggest that there is another reason why you should consider a lawsuit: civic duty. The streets of North Carolina are less safe if there is a driving instructor or a driving school that is doing a bad job training student drivers. If the accident—minor accident—that happened to you is due to poor instruction techniques or negligent instructor supervision, this driving school may be turning out hundreds of dangerous drivers every year.

    Don’t you have an obligation to your fellow citizens to call attention to this hazard? Wouldn’t a lawsuit be an effective way to let the driving school know they will be held accountable for turning out poorly trained young drivers?

    Get your questions answered

    It’s true that we’ve responded to your question with just more questions of our own. That’s because the biggest question of all—Do I want to move forward to see that my legal rights are protected?—is something only you can answer.

    For more information about the biggest mistakes people make in auto injury cases that cost them thousands and the most effective ways to avoid these mistakes please call (877) 593-4233 to request a free copy of my book, The North Carolina Auto Injury Book, 20 Secrets to Maximize your Claim or to speak with an experienced professional about your case.

     

  • After my divorce is final, can I move away from North Carolina? Frankly, I’d like to get away from my ex-wife.

    Maybe.

    Before your divorce, as you may recall, you had to fulfill the residency requirements for a North Carolina divorce. That means either you or your wife must have lived in the state for at least six months before the divorce petition was filed.

    After the divorce is final, though, the only thing that may infringe on your freedom to live where you want is the final court order for your divorce. If you and your ex-wife have children together, and if you are the primary custodian or joint custodian of the kids, then you may well face restrictions on moving with your children. It’s common that the custodial parent is forbidden to move to another residence significantly farther away because this would create a hardship for the other parent who wants to visit the kids.

    Your very first step, if you are determined to move away, is to contact your divorce attorney in North Carolina. He will be able to review your divorce judgment and let you know if there are restrictions on your rights to live where you want. Note that such restrictions don’t only apply to moving across state lines—some divorce orders forbid moving your household even 100 miles away.

    If the divorce decree contains a clause forbidding you to move, then you would have to apply to the court for a modification of the final divorce orders. Your lawyer can file that motion on your behalf and can represent you in the hearing that will follow. Of course, your ex-wife will also be notified of the date and purpose of the hearing, and she may try to have the court reaffirm its original order that prevents you from moving.

    It can be helpful if you can negotiate with your ex-wife directly (or through your respective attorneys) to reach an agreement before the hearing. The court almost always will go along with an agreement between the two parties. This may require you to think of creative ways to maintain a close relationship between your kids and their mother despite the distance separating them.

    The wrong reason to move away

    We have known some clients to relocate to another state in an attempt to evade their responsibilities to pay child support or alimony (spousal support) as required by a North Carolina divorce order. If this is your motive, we say: forget it.

    Your legal obligations for child support and spousal support are not changed by where you live. Enough people have tried to skip out on their duties that federal and state laws are in place to handle these defections. You will be tracked down and possibly arrested. Your pay will be garnished. You may have licenses revoked, including your driver’s license or business license. You may even be risking jail time.

    Connect to Speaks Law Firm today

    If you need an alteration of your divorce orders, our family law attorneys stand ready to assist you. Give us a call today at 910-341-7570 or toll-free at 877-593-4233. We provide confidential and discreet service.

  • I was injured in a Wilmington truck accident almost a year ago. It’s pretty clear that the trucker—who had been working too many hours without enough sleep—was responsible for the crash. Will my case go to trial? How long does this usually take before the case is concluded?

    You have two questions there. Let’s address them in the order you give them.

    “Will my case go to trial?”

    Probably not, although we can’t say with absolute certainty. A North Carolina personal injury lawsuit, such as your truck accident case, will usually be settled out of court without a trial. A settlement means that the defendant—the truck driver or his employer—offers the plaintiff—you—a sum of money to drop the case. Generally, the person actually offering the settlement is a representative of the insurance company for the plaintiff, and the offer will be made to your attorney.

    If you accept the offer (which may be the latest of several offers), then the trial will be canceled. In exchange for the money you receive, you will have to sign a document giving up your right to sue over your injuries.

    A settlement avoids the costs of a trial, and also avoids uncertainty about the verdict.

    If, as you suggest, the trucker has admitted he was drowsy when the accident occurred, or if there was other strong evidence to demonstrate he was negligent while driving, then it is even more likely that the case will be settled out of court. On the other hand, the more severe your injuries from your North Carolina traffic accident, the greater the amount of money that is potentially at stake—and thus, the greater the chance the insurance company will force you to go through a trial.

    “How long does this usually take before the case is concluded?”

    Longer than you would like—but that’s really a good thing. After all, once you have accepted a settlement or received a jury award for damages, you have no chance to ask for more compensation in the future. It would be a disaster to get a certain award only to find, a few weeks later, that you had further medical complications from your injury that will require much greater health care expenses than your award covers.

    It’s typical, then, for your case to be filed but not actually brought to trial until the full scope of your injuries and medical expenses can be assessed. That can mean months or even a couple years of waiting.

    Waiting patiently serves your interests, because it allows the most precise estimate of what your future medical and rehabilitation needs, and so allows your attorney to demand a specific sum for your compensation. But a delay also serves the interests of the insurance company opposing you. Their lawyers understand that, the longer the process takes, the more likely that you will be tempted to settle for a lower amount in order to begin paying your mountain of accumulated bills.

    If you have other questions about your case, you should be having a regular dialogue with the attorney representing you. If you have not yet hired attorney for your Wilmington truck injury case, call Speaks Law Firm at 877-593-4233, and ask for a free consultation with a North Carolina personal injury lawyer. Our legal team emphasizes the importance of keeping open lines of communication between client and attorney so you can get answers whenever you need them.

  • What is involved in a North Carolina federal criminal appeal?

    Appeal

    After your sentencing hearing, you have the legal right to appeal but you must file a Notice of Appeal within a short period of time.  If you signed a plea agreement, you may have severely limited your appeal rights.  That may have been a very good decision.  You should have already discussed the waiver and how you are affected by it with your lawyer.  If you elect to appeal your sentence, tell your lawyer immediately so that he or she can take the steps necessary to begin that process.  If you fail to exercise you right to appeal within the time limitations, you may not be able to pursue an appeal later.