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EP 40: Hiring a Lawyer for a Workers Comp Case Following a Catastrophic Event (Part 3 w/ Jeff Watson)

What legal recourse do you have after suffering a catastrophic event? Today’s guest is Jeff Watson, Senior Managing Attorney at Speaks Law Firm, and together we’re going to provide you with an idea of what to do as you move forward if legal recourse is a possibility for your situation. By knowing what to expect, it can ease some of the uncertainty and anxiety that comes along with these situations.

The third part of our conversation will help explain the importance of having a legal team representing you during a worker’s compensation claim. Many times these companies will act quickly and try to get everything settled efficiently, and that makes many people feel like they have no need for an attorney. But we’ll share examples of cases where having that representation is extremely important and why you want to find an attorney as soon as you can.

Here’s some of what we discuss in this episode:
0:00 – Intro
2:31 – When do you need a lawyer?
6:30 – Securing evidence
9:11 – What the insurance company is doing while you wait
11:22 – A case we recently resolved

Featured Keyword & Other Tags

Catastrophic injury, financial claims, recovery, damages, third party, legal team, insurance, workers comp

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Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Welcome back, I'm continuing my conversation with Jeff. Jeff Watson, managing attorney at Speex law firm. Jeff, we were talking about these catastrophic cases, and specifically cases that involve both workers compensation and third party liability. You know, we were talking about when somebody is injured in a catastrophic case, a lot of times workers comp is very quick off the, off the ball and they're, they're, you know, aggressive about getting that treatment. But over time, they start peeling that back, peeling that back. And, and so what happens is people get in these sort of situations where they, they feel like, okay, well, I'm being taken care of, I don't need to call a lawyer, you know. And so, let me ask you, under those circumstances, you know, should a person call a lawyer immediately? Or should they wait and see how it goes?

Well, from a workers compensation perspective, you really want to call the lawyer early, so they can get involved to make sure you're getting the right care, you're getting to the right specialist, you know, that your wages are being paid, sometimes we'll see that they'll pay for medical care, but then they're not sending the weekly checks. So there's different things that

don't make sure that the right forms are filed, the right the forms are filled out correctly allotted, you're getting the right amount of money, because a lot of times we see that they don't, they're not getting the right amount of money. And those have to be in their time limitations on these different forms that have to be filled, the employees have to be noticed, they have to be noticed properly. Right?

Correct. And the employees may not know what those forms are, that they even have a duty to file and or when they're supposed to file. How would they Yeah. So you know, that's important to get involved early. And also, when you have an experienced attorney, and the workers compensation carrier knows that you have an experienced attorney, they deal with Speex Law Firm A lot. So they know that we know what we're doing. So that matters, because a lot of times they'll that sort of heads off problems down the road, they know, hey, we can't peel this layer back. Because if we do, it's because law firms gonna go crate like they're not gonna let us do that. So it's sort of it's, it fixes problems before they occur. A lot of times, from a third party perspective, it's important because evidence disappears. You know, you have this accident, and they fix the bulldozer, and they clean up the site, and all the videos erased. And now there's no even images of what happened. All the you know, witnesses have been fired, they move on, you know, all of the evidence that you would have to make this third party case against somebody that was at fault is gone. And so if you wait, it's, it's too late, all

that you're left with under those circumstances, is a company that where somebody was catastrophically hurt, and they performed an investigation, all the evidence is gone, you have no ability to perform an investigation, all you're left with is their assessment of what happened in that circumstance, that sort of thing. So to me, that is why is so critical, that and people don't want to do that they wanted to, they just don't want to make those kinds of decisions they want to, they want to be able to focus on themselves and their families. And it's understandable, it's absolutely understandable, who wants to engage in the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out who's got the nicest billboard, or the nicest TV commercial, or the whatever the best reviews, and nobody wants to try to figure that out when they're dealing with something that's fundamental to their identity to their family to their future. But it's necessary, right?

It is necessary, because if you don't do that, it could affect your, you know, your future. I had a call this week from a mother grieving from the death of her daughter. Somebody else was at fault, in that in that case, and she called us and the statue limitations that already run she waited several years to do anything about it. And, you know, unfortunately, the news was, we can't help you because the statute, you know, you waited too long to call us, you know, when we really would have liked to been involved from day one, and gathering all that evidence and getting some recovery for this grieving mother. And, you know, it's just it's, it's sad to see the circumstances. So we really want people to get us in early.

We see it in cases, I'm thinking of a case that we resolve recently, catastrophic case. Factory situation, if you'll remember the factory was not set up in a safe way. And it was a hallway in a construction situate situation in a big plant. And at the time, there were images that mean the scene was there boxes on the house always there, this equipment didn't work, the equipment was in the wrong place. And then after the accident, their team comes into place, deletes all the photos off of everyone's phone, cleans up that hallway, two or three years later, we get these photos back. And the hallway looks like a operating, you know, research, hospital, clean, safe, everything's in its place, just a completely different. And so now you got to go back and demonstrate the difference in the condition of the hallway, as it was on that day, as compared to it appears in these photos, you know, and so that's a difficult thing to do. If you don't have the if you don't have the evidence, fortunately, in our case, we were able to secure the evidence, secure the witnesses and those kinds of things. But that's one of the that's why it's so important that those things happen. Rain, I mean, just just I mean, waiting a week, the rain contains tire tracks, tire impressions, footprints, you know, and, and so we'll talk in a few minutes about x Reconstructionist. And the role they play. But But imagine, you know, or imagine a scenario where that person has to investigate a year later, when they don't have you know, what are they going to investigate?

Yeah, sometimes vehicles get crushed, they get hauled off the black box with the data about how fast that car was going and where they're when they break and all that that's gone. And there's the tire impressions on the ground are gone. The the tree that was knocked over by a car is cut and moved away. And the scene looks completely different. Well,

so that's, that's, that's a problem for us. Is it a problem for the insurance company to or not so much?

Well, not if the if the changes in it helped them out their burden

of proof, right? So it's up to us to prove all this stuff. So if that stuff goes away, plus there, let me ask you this, let me ask this question a different way. A person who's catastrophic ly injured, they're in the hospital, they don't want to have to make this decision, they just want to deal with it be with their family and not think about it for a little while, they know they're gonna have to make a decision about what to do about this. And in the future, they're going to have to talk with somebody, they're going to have the director of their family to talk to their wife, their husband, their child, or their brother, or somebody, go find somebody or help me find somebody or whatever, but they're putting it off. What's the insurance company doing that time?

Well, they're getting statements, they're doing investigations, you know, evidence may be gone, disappear, you know, they're building their case, 100% for if you do come after them, they're ready. And now you don't have the stuff you need to go after them. Well, they

know that you're eventually coming after them, right. And so they are doing the things that they have to do to cover their, their themselves themselves. And they are doing the things that they have to do to limit their liability to create a scenario where it demonstrates that you were partially at fault, if not completely at fault. And, and then they are also doing the things that they can do to try to minimize their exposure. And then that which means minimize the money they pay you and maximize the money that they save. Can you Is there are there any other examples that you can think of that demonstrate how important it is for people to contact a, a, an experienced legal professional quickly after something like that happens?

Yeah, I mean, there's we've seen situations where commercial Viet commercial trucks will, we'll run into one of our clients and you know, the car is mangled, serious injuries, that commercial truck has a camera inside of it that captured the entire video. One of the things the first things we're going to do is write a letter to them with a spoil ation letter that says do not get rid of this evidence, you know, hold on to all of it and preserve it. And they've got a duty to do that. And if they get rid of that evidence, we can use that against them in court that in front of a jury that says hey, they had a camera, but they deleted this video. But if we don't spend send that letter than what happens, then they can just get rid of it.

So Jeff, let me ask you this. I'm thinking of a case that we resolved in the last month or two where the call came in to us a couple of years ago. This is a parent and child the hit by a commercial vehicle. The collision report that was generated by the investigating officer basically showed that the driver the parent, kind of pulled out in front of the truck. This is a situation where they call us early in a day or two of the accident. Maybe yeah I can't remember very quickly, and we are able to go, you know, get the get to get the collision report and go out and do an investigation. And we were able to see that the evidence did not support the officer, the officers investigation in his mean in his report. Can you tell us a little bit without divulging any client confidences? Can you tell us a little bit about that scenario?

Yeah, in that situation, you know, vehicle pulls out in front of a commercial truck, it looks like the vehicle point out that didn't have the right away is is at fault. And in North Carolina, if you are at fault, you contribute to an accident, you don't recover nothing. 00 Not a thing. And, you know, we had doesn't

necessarily apply to that doesn't apply to the passenger, but it's still it's still, the way the guy had the investigating officer had drawn up, it look like it was all all the driver, the child's father's fault. Yeah,

we had a child in the car that pulled out in front of the truck and the child, you know, if that driver of that core is at fault, and it's not the commercial trucks fault, then the child can only recover against the vehicles policy that the child was in this case, it was a minimum policy of $30,000. And they touch this kids injuries, catastrophic injuries, medical bills, surgery, potential permanent injury, hundreds of 1000s, if not millions, of dollars worth of medical stuff. And so this 30,000, our policy would have been nothing, it would have been disastrous for this child for the rest of their life. So we were able to because they called us early, we were able to get in, quickly do an investigation, get experts involved, save, you know, the evidence, and we were able to prove this commercial truck was actually at fault as well. And so the commercial truck ended up, you know, paying, you know, a large sum of money to this child, we were able to recover for him. And it's life changing.

If you'll remember in that, in that case, the we went to the scene, and you could see from the tire tracks in the in the directional, the direction of the tire tracks, that it was clear that the driver had started to pull out, didn't pull out all the way. And in the in the commercial driver, who was going to fast loss control, and then hit this person before they pull it all the way out. And then those tire tracks proved our theory of that case, without those tire tracks if those first people waited a week, or a month, you know, or maybe even a couple of days and the person the owner of that property had repaired those tire tracks, we wouldn't have the same outcome, would we

not at all. The police report made it look like the vehicles all the way out in the lane. That

wasn't accurate. It wasn't asking me nothing against the investigating officer. He's doing the best he can. But that wasn't everybody makes mistakes. And that was a mistake on his part. And because those guys called us in early time, we were able to, to, to prove that commercial vehicle was at least partially at fault for that accident. And also, hey, there was also an extra Reconstructionist that we used in that case. And we were able to and that guy that Reconstructionist was able to find the black box that you remember, was that helpful in this situation? Oh,

yeah. You know, it shows the speeds that they're going that they're going too fast over the speed limit. And it can actually show when they braked and how fast they break and just show if they were paying attention or or you know, whether they tried to decrease speed or just lost control. It gives you all that information.

Thank you, Jeff. We'll continue our conversation in the next episode. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

Transcript

Welcome to the catastrophic comeback podcast with American Injury Lawyer Clark speaks, helping you find hope, purpose and joy after a catastrophic injury.

Welcome back, I'm continuing my conversation with Jeff. Jeff Watson, managing attorney at Speex law firm. Jeff, we were talking about these catastrophic cases, and specifically cases that involve both workers compensation and third party liability. You know, we were talking about when somebody is injured in a catastrophic case, a lot of times workers comp is very quick off the, off the ball and they're, they're, you know, aggressive about getting that treatment. But over time, they start peeling that back, peeling that back. And, and so what happens is people get in these sort of situations where they, they feel like, okay, well, I'm being taken care of, I don't need to call a lawyer, you know. And so, let me ask you, under those circumstances, you know, should a person call a lawyer immediately? Or should they wait and see how it goes?

Well, from a workers compensation perspective, you really want to call the lawyer early, so they can get involved to make sure you're getting the right care, you're getting to the right specialist, you know, that your wages are being paid, sometimes we'll see that they'll pay for medical care, but then they're not sending the weekly checks. So there's different things that

don't make sure that the right forms are filed, the right the forms are filled out correctly allotted, you're getting the right amount of money, because a lot of times we see that they don't, they're not getting the right amount of money. And those have to be in their time limitations on these different forms that have to be filled, the employees have to be noticed, they have to be noticed properly. Right?

Correct. And the employees may not know what those forms are, that they even have a duty to file and or when they're supposed to file. How would they Yeah. So you know, that's important to get involved early. And also, when you have an experienced attorney, and the workers compensation carrier knows that you have an experienced attorney, they deal with Speex Law Firm A lot. So they know that we know what we're doing. So that matters, because a lot of times they'll that sort of heads off problems down the road, they know, hey, we can't peel this layer back. Because if we do, it's because law firms gonna go crate like they're not gonna let us do that. So it's sort of it's, it fixes problems before they occur. A lot of times, from a third party perspective, it's important because evidence disappears. You know, you have this accident, and they fix the bulldozer, and they clean up the site, and all the videos erased. And now there's no even images of what happened. All the you know, witnesses have been fired, they move on, you know, all of the evidence that you would have to make this third party case against somebody that was at fault is gone. And so if you wait, it's, it's too late, all

that you're left with under those circumstances, is a company that where somebody was catastrophically hurt, and they performed an investigation, all the evidence is gone, you have no ability to perform an investigation, all you're left with is their assessment of what happened in that circumstance, that sort of thing. So to me, that is why is so critical, that and people don't want to do that they wanted to, they just don't want to make those kinds of decisions they want to, they want to be able to focus on themselves and their families. And it's understandable, it's absolutely understandable, who wants to engage in the mental gymnastics of trying to figure out who's got the nicest billboard, or the nicest TV commercial, or the whatever the best reviews, and nobody wants to try to figure that out when they're dealing with something that's fundamental to their identity to their family to their future. But it's necessary, right?

It is necessary, because if you don't do that, it could affect your, you know, your future. I had a call this week from a mother grieving from the death of her daughter. Somebody else was at fault, in that in that case, and she called us and the statue limitations that already run she waited several years to do anything about it. And, you know, unfortunately, the news was, we can't help you because the statute, you know, you waited too long to call us, you know, when we really would have liked to been involved from day one, and gathering all that evidence and getting some recovery for this grieving mother. And, you know, it's just it's, it's sad to see the circumstances. So we really want people to get us in early.

We see it in cases, I'm thinking of a case that we resolve recently, catastrophic case. Factory situation, if you'll remember the factory was not set up in a safe way. And it was a hallway in a construction situate situation in a big plant. And at the time, there were images that mean the scene was there boxes on the house always there, this equipment didn't work, the equipment was in the wrong place. And then after the accident, their team comes into place, deletes all the photos off of everyone's phone, cleans up that hallway, two or three years later, we get these photos back. And the hallway looks like a operating, you know, research, hospital, clean, safe, everything's in its place, just a completely different. And so now you got to go back and demonstrate the difference in the condition of the hallway, as it was on that day, as compared to it appears in these photos, you know, and so that's a difficult thing to do. If you don't have the if you don't have the evidence, fortunately, in our case, we were able to secure the evidence, secure the witnesses and those kinds of things. But that's one of the that's why it's so important that those things happen. Rain, I mean, just just I mean, waiting a week, the rain contains tire tracks, tire impressions, footprints, you know, and, and so we'll talk in a few minutes about x Reconstructionist. And the role they play. But But imagine, you know, or imagine a scenario where that person has to investigate a year later, when they don't have you know, what are they going to investigate?

Yeah, sometimes vehicles get crushed, they get hauled off the black box with the data about how fast that car was going and where they're when they break and all that that's gone. And there's the tire impressions on the ground are gone. The the tree that was knocked over by a car is cut and moved away. And the scene looks completely different. Well,

so that's, that's, that's a problem for us. Is it a problem for the insurance company to or not so much?

Well, not if the if the changes in it helped them out their burden

of proof, right? So it's up to us to prove all this stuff. So if that stuff goes away, plus there, let me ask you this, let me ask this question a different way. A person who's catastrophic ly injured, they're in the hospital, they don't want to have to make this decision, they just want to deal with it be with their family and not think about it for a little while, they know they're gonna have to make a decision about what to do about this. And in the future, they're going to have to talk with somebody, they're going to have the director of their family to talk to their wife, their husband, their child, or their brother, or somebody, go find somebody or help me find somebody or whatever, but they're putting it off. What's the insurance company doing that time?

Well, they're getting statements, they're doing investigations, you know, evidence may be gone, disappear, you know, they're building their case, 100% for if you do come after them, they're ready. And now you don't have the stuff you need to go after them. Well, they

know that you're eventually coming after them, right. And so they are doing the things that they have to do to cover their, their themselves themselves. And they are doing the things that they have to do to limit their liability to create a scenario where it demonstrates that you were partially at fault, if not completely at fault. And, and then they are also doing the things that they can do to try to minimize their exposure. And then that which means minimize the money they pay you and maximize the money that they save. Can you Is there are there any other examples that you can think of that demonstrate how important it is for people to contact a, a, an experienced legal professional quickly after something like that happens?

Yeah, I mean, there's we've seen situations where commercial Viet commercial trucks will, we'll run into one of our clients and you know, the car is mangled, serious injuries, that commercial truck has a camera inside of it that captured the entire video. One of the things the first things we're going to do is write a letter to them with a spoil ation letter that says do not get rid of this evidence, you know, hold on to all of it and preserve it. And they've got a duty to do that. And if they get rid of that evidence, we can use that against them in court that in front of a jury that says hey, they had a camera, but they deleted this video. But if we don't spend send that letter than what happens, then they can just get rid of it.

So Jeff, let me ask you this. I'm thinking of a case that we resolved in the last month or two where the call came in to us a couple of years ago. This is a parent and child the hit by a commercial vehicle. The collision report that was generated by the investigating officer basically showed that the driver the parent, kind of pulled out in front of the truck. This is a situation where they call us early in a day or two of the accident. Maybe yeah I can't remember very quickly, and we are able to go, you know, get the get to get the collision report and go out and do an investigation. And we were able to see that the evidence did not support the officer, the officers investigation in his mean in his report. Can you tell us a little bit without divulging any client confidences? Can you tell us a little bit about that scenario?

Yeah, in that situation, you know, vehicle pulls out in front of a commercial truck, it looks like the vehicle point out that didn't have the right away is is at fault. And in North Carolina, if you are at fault, you contribute to an accident, you don't recover nothing. 00 Not a thing. And, you know, we had doesn't

necessarily apply to that doesn't apply to the passenger, but it's still it's still, the way the guy had the investigating officer had drawn up, it look like it was all all the driver, the child's father's fault. Yeah,

we had a child in the car that pulled out in front of the truck and the child, you know, if that driver of that core is at fault, and it's not the commercial trucks fault, then the child can only recover against the vehicles policy that the child was in this case, it was a minimum policy of $30,000. And they touch this kids injuries, catastrophic injuries, medical bills, surgery, potential permanent injury, hundreds of 1000s, if not millions, of dollars worth of medical stuff. And so this 30,000, our policy would have been nothing, it would have been disastrous for this child for the rest of their life. So we were able to because they called us early, we were able to get in, quickly do an investigation, get experts involved, save, you know, the evidence, and we were able to prove this commercial truck was actually at fault as well. And so the commercial truck ended up, you know, paying, you know, a large sum of money to this child, we were able to recover for him. And it's life changing.

If you'll remember in that, in that case, the we went to the scene, and you could see from the tire tracks in the in the directional, the direction of the tire tracks, that it was clear that the driver had started to pull out, didn't pull out all the way. And in the in the commercial driver, who was going to fast loss control, and then hit this person before they pull it all the way out. And then those tire tracks proved our theory of that case, without those tire tracks if those first people waited a week, or a month, you know, or maybe even a couple of days and the person the owner of that property had repaired those tire tracks, we wouldn't have the same outcome, would we

not at all. The police report made it look like the vehicles all the way out in the lane. That

wasn't accurate. It wasn't asking me nothing against the investigating officer. He's doing the best he can. But that wasn't everybody makes mistakes. And that was a mistake on his part. And because those guys called us in early time, we were able to, to, to prove that commercial vehicle was at least partially at fault for that accident. And also, hey, there was also an extra Reconstructionist that we used in that case. And we were able to and that guy that Reconstructionist was able to find the black box that you remember, was that helpful in this situation? Oh,

yeah. You know, it shows the speeds that they're going that they're going too fast over the speed limit. And it can actually show when they braked and how fast they break and just show if they were paying attention or or you know, whether they tried to decrease speed or just lost control. It gives you all that information.

Thank you, Jeff. We'll continue our conversation in the next episode. Thank you for joining us, and we'll see you next time.

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