If you have been injured due to someone else’s negligence – whether it was a car wreck, a slip and fall, or some other unfortunate incident – getting the medical treatment you need is of the utmost importance. You may need to be treated by a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, and any number of other specialists. As you are treated by these medical providers, they will advise you regarding what steps you should take for your health to improve. That advice could include the types of medications you should take, what follow-up treatments you should pursue, what exercises you should do on your own, and many other instructions.
It is, of course, important for your health and recovery that you follow the doctor’s orders. But it is also critical to your personal injury case that you follow the doctor’s instructions. If you fail to show up for an appointment or otherwise fail to follow your doctor’s instructions, you are giving the opposing party in your case ammunition to undermine your case. The opposing party will argue that you would have less pain and suffering *if* you had followed doctor’s orders. You would have healed faster *if* you had followed doctor’s orders.
There is logic to those arguments – and other similar ones – even if they don’t necessarily speak the truth in your specific case. If you follow your doctor’s orders perfectly, your opponent cannot make that argument and your case is that much tighter. So, for your health, recovery, and for the sake of your personal injury case, be sure to follow doctor’s orders.
If you or someone you know is injured due to another person’s negligence, call the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.
Most people know if they are involved an automobile collision caused by another driver and suffer some kind of loss as a result, they can sue the person who caused the collision. However, when I talk to people day to day, I find that many people are actually surprised to learn what they can recover. Under Georgia law, there are three kinds of “damages” you can recover for if you are involved in an automobile collision caused by another person which are called “special damages,” “general damages,” and “punitive damages.”
Special Damages, in the context of an automobile collision case, are monetary losses that are easily quantifiable. Special damages can include, but are not limited to, the cost of repairs for your vehicle (or the total value of your vehicle if it was a total loss), your medical bills, and any wages you lost as a result of the wreck.
General Damages are non-economic damages, or what you most commonly hear referred to as “pain and suffering.” A plaintiff in an automobile collision case can recover money for things such as the pain of broken bones, lacerations, bruising, and burns that are a direct result of the wreck. A plaintiff can also recover for future pain and suffering if there is proof that the injuries he or she sustained in the wreck will cause pain and discomfort in the future. Emotional stress, anxiety, depression, and loss of consortium that was a direct result of the automobile collision are also considered damages. Under Georgia law, there is no limit on the amount a jury can award a plaintiff for pain and suffering.
In certain cases, a plaintiff may be able to recover punitive damages as well. Punitive damages are money awarded to a plaintiff to punish the bad actions of a defendant, and to deter such future misconduct. One of the most common types of car accident cases in which punitive damages are awarded is when a drunk driver causes the collision.
Get sound, reliable advice and fully understand all of your options before trying to speak with insurance companies, bill collectors, and others. If you or someone you know has been involved in a car wreck, do not wait to reach out for help. Get medical attention immediately and call an experienced attorney at the DeWoskin Law Firm.
We often get calls from folks who have been contacted by phone about “their account,” or perhaps “the balance that they owe,” or attempts to deliver a certified document or summons that implies that if no return call is made in 48 hours, they will be in legal trouble. These calls may be for something that is completely bogus, an account they never had, a service they never applied for, an amount that was due, but is not collectible since 25 years have passed, or a host of other things that should cause them to be very suspicious. It could even be that family members are being called seeking information about your “so called” account.
The first and best step toward protecting against being scammed is to approach every single one of these phone calls as if it is a scam. For instance, this kind of jaded perspective can be very helpful. I am not suggesting that people immediately hang up on such callers (although I am not against such actions, either). What I am suggesting is that people who get these calls insist upon getting the first and last name of the caller, the company from which the person is calling, a good callback number, an account number, and an address. There is virtually no chance the caller will provide all this information.
Instead, expect the caller to deflect these questions and say something like, “Well, I need to get the last four of your social security number so I know I am talking to the right person.” When you hear this, tell them to only communicate in writing and hang up. I mean that. Hang up after that. Do not give them your address. If they say they need to confirm your address, or confirm anything at all, hang up the phone.
We hear routinely about how the caller already had so much information. This is precisely the problem. The caller has the person on the other end of the phone at a complete disadvantage. Essentially, a stranger has called, has some information on some alleged delinquent account, and is demanding more information from the person they are contacting. This is crazy. DO NOT give out information over the phone. Insist on written communications. This way, any information or account numbers can be verified.
Very little good comes from speaking with debt collectors on the phone. They record calls, which may include admissions to things at a time when the information available to the person calls is unavailable or perhaps even unobtainable. If it isn’t in writing, it did not happen and it is not worth discussing. This is generally a good rule of thumb when dealing with debt collection calls.
Surprisingly, we get collection calls on behalf of our clients that often begin with the caller demanding we confirm the last four digits of our client’s social security number. Bear in mind, these are not calls from lawyers on the other side, but debt collectors. Thus, we usually respond with, “Hey, buddy, you’re the one calling me.” We do not spend much time with these calls.
Many of these calls are, in fact, scams. These collectors often prey on the elderly and they are well aware that there are very, very limited resources for the government, state or federal, to take any action against them. Far too many people will grant them access to their bank information, including account numbers, along with other personal information, to address a claim for a delinquent account. I use the term claim because nobody is comfortable with the idea of owing someone else money. Just the allegation makes many people feel either ashamed or guilty, even if just long enough to stay on the phone, when they should have hung up from the first minute.
Remember, there is no law that says you must speak to a debt collector. There is no law against refusing to tell them your name or confirming your name. The best practice is to demand that they send you whatever they want to say in writing. Then hang up. If they don’t have your address, that’s a problem, but only for the caller.
You were driving down the road. Or perhaps you were sitting still in traffic. And suddenly, through no fault of your own, another vehicle barrels into yours. What should you do in the immediate aftermath?
The first obvious piece of advice is that you should do whatever is best for your health, whether that is to stay still, seek help, or go to a hospital.
That said, there are a number of steps you can take immediately following a collision that could preserve or strengthen your legal claim against the driver who hit you. If you cannot do these things yourself due to injury, ask a family member or friend to do them for you, if possible.
Following these simple steps can go a long way toward helping you receive the financial compensation you deserve for a wreck that wasn’t your fault. If you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile collision, call the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.
Some of you might have heard the expression “pleading nolo” in the context of a traffic or criminal case. Some of you might have never hear of such an expression. In the legal context, “nolo” is short for “nolo contendere” which is Latin for “no contest”. Simply put, it means someone charged with a crime or traffic offense is telling the Court that that person is NOT admitting guilt but will accept the punishment as if that person was in fact guilty.
Why plead “Nolo?” Pleading “nolo” can be helpful in several situations. In Georgia, being found guilty of any number of traffic offenses can put “points” on your license. Different traffic offenses carry different amounts of “points”, depending on the severity of the offense. Depending on the age of the driver, a certain amount of “points” on a Georgia driver’s license within a certain period of time will result in that individuals’ driver’s license being suspended. Additionally, any traffic offense that adds “points” to your license can be discovered by your car insurance company, which can result in your insurance rates increasing. However, by pleading “nolo” to these offenses, you will avoid points being assessed to your license, thus preventing insurance rates from increasing in most circumstances.
Being found guilty of certain offenses can also result in your license being suspended. For example, if someone is charged with driving on a suspended license, a guilty plea to that charge will often result in a further suspension of that individual’s license. By pleading “nolo” a person charged with driving on a suspended license can avoid further suspension.
When should I plead “Nolo?” The answer to the question “when should I plead nolo?” depends on a variety of factors and you should discuss that with an experienced attorney. Under Georgia law, one can only use a nolo plea once every five years. Also, a nolo plea is discretionary, meaning that a judge does not have to accept the nolo plea. Finally, your lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed, or amended to a different charge that would not require you to spend your nolo plea.
Some of the most difficult conversations we have with clients occur very soon after a horrible event has taken place. There are no words that can be said after the loss of a loved one that can replace what has been taken away. The void is often everlasting, even though time does help to heal some of the pain.
For us, the difficulty is in having these tough conversations at very sensitive times. We have an obligation to our clients to preserve evidence and ensure that the loss of a loved one in a car wreck is not made worse by a compromised investigation. In order for us to get a full understanding of what has been taken, it is vital for us to meet with the family and learn as much about everyone involved early on. From there, we continue to listen and learn so that when the time comes and we have all the information we need, we can advocate for the full measure of compensation for our clients.
When these clients come to us, their worlds have been turned upside down. In the very midst of their grieving, they are often not only making funeral arrangements, but scrambling to figure out how they will pay bills, continue to maintain a household for the kids and return to work, and respond to letters from insurance companies and others that fill their mailboxes.
Our job is relieve as much of this burden as we can. We access several different resources to provide knowledgeable counseling for our clients. We reach out to insurance companies and advise them that our clients are represented and work to coordinate all points of contact so that the letters and paperwork do not pile up and overwhelm grieving families. Although calling a lawyer immediately after losing a husband, wife, or partner can feel like it does not properly honor the loss, it helps to allow a period of quiet mourning while having the peace of mind that someone is, in fact, making sure that everything that needs to be done is getting done.
If you or someone you know has lost a loved one in a car wreck, do not wait to reach out for help. It is always best to have a clear mind and know all of your options before trying to speak with insurance companies, bill collectors, and others in the midst of a crisis. Having an experienced attorney can make dealing with a loss easier in the most difficult of times.
It’s easy to get a criminal record in Georgia. Unfortunately, it is far easier than most of us would like to think. Many people are charged with a variety of offenses, from minor misdemeanors to serious felonies, and, due to decisions to delay hiring qualified counsel or perhaps even due to poor representation, they make choices to enter pleas that have lasting and often permanent consequences.
Although none of us would like to think that any innocent person would ever enter a guilty plea, this happens extremely frequently. It may be because the cost of fighting a charge is too expensive in either money or time, or perhaps because the risk of what could happen in a loss at trial is too great. However, in Georgia, with few exceptions under the law, a conviction is permanent. This means that potential employers and other interested parties can easily access this information in a background check and cause problems long after the incident has been “resolved” as far as the courts are concerned.
It is far more difficult to get rid of a criminal record than it is to get one in the first place. Georgia law has provisions for record restriction, which at one time was referred to as expungement. Many people still believe that expungement is the correct term, but as of July 1, 2013, record restriction is not only the more legally accurate term, but the more factually accurate term. Criminal records are never completely destroyed or made to disappear. Instead, they are restricted as to who can access them and how.
When a record is properly restricted, criminal history printouts, commonly known as a GCIC report, will not display an arrest and certain negative entries can only be viewed by law enforcement. Thus, a background check for a job would not reveal the charge or arrest. Once again, the fact that a conviction took place 5 years ago, 10 years ago, or 40 years ago does not mean that the record can be restricted. We are often contacted by people who cannot recall the details of the charge or disposition due to the amount of time that has passed since the case was closed, and thus the first step in every situation with respect to record restriction is for the client to actually get a copy of his or her criminal history (GCIC). From there, we can pull records from the court as needed and provide all the necessary information to determine if a record can be restricted.
It is only natural for people to want to put what can be an embarrassing or difficult situation behind them quickly. For this reason, people will enter pleas in court to shoplifting charges, domestic violence charges, DUIs, or a host of other offenses without fully taking into consideration all of the ramifications of such a decision. Even when the rights they are waiving are expressed to them in court, in the absence of a discussion with a qualified attorney, the pressure on people can make it difficult for them to feel comfortable enough asking questions. Of course, the courts cannot give legal advice of any sort even if a defendant asks questions during a plea. However, such questions can alert the court that more time may be necessary for the defendant to communicate and/or hire counsel.
When someone is charged with a criminal offense, even minor offenses, it is always best to immediately contact a lawyer, or several lawyers, so that he or she can be properly advised of what the process will look like, what decisions will have to be made and when, what rights he or she has throughout, and what defenses are available to him or her. Do not find yourself asking about record restriction or expungement only at the time of applying for your dream job. You owe it to yourself to prevent causing permanent damage whenever it can be avoided.
What is the legal limit in Georgia for a DUI?
In Georgia, it is generally illegal for a person to operate or be in control of a motor vehicle when a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 grams or more by weight of alcohol at any time within three hours after driving.
Notice above I wrote that the legal limit is generally 0.08. There are a couple exceptions. If you are under the age of 21, the legal limit is 0.02. If you are driving a commercial vehicle, the legal limit is 0.04. Any DUI in which you are above the legal limit is considered to be a charge of DUI Per Se. However, it is also important to note that you can be convicted of DUI even if your BAC is not above 0.08. This would be a charge of DUI Less Safe. If you are deemed to be a less safe driver while under the influence of alcohol, even if your BAC is below 0.08, a jury would be authorized to convict.
How high your BAC is at any given moment is very difficult to determine. It depends on how much and what type of alcohol you have consumed, your body mass, and a variety of other factors. The State typically attempts to measure a person’s BAC by testing blood, breath, or urine. However, even if your BAC is over the legal limit there are still ways to fight a DUI charge. Perhaps the reason the officer pulled you over was unlawful. Perhaps the machine used by the officer to measure your BAC was not calibrated properly.
These are just two of a myriad of issues that can potentially undermine the State’s DUI case against you. If you have been charged with DUI, I encourage you to hire an experienced DUI attorney as quickly as possible. Call the DeWoskin Law Firm at 404-987-0026.
The HGN is an abbreviation for “Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test.” HGN is one of several tests, referred to as Standard Field Sobriety Tests (“SFSTs”) that officers perform on an individual that they believe is driving while impaired on alcohol or drugs.
Of the several SFSTs that some officers are trained to conduct, you may be surprised to learn that the HGN is the only “SFST” that is proven to have scientific backing – although there is also science that questions its accuracy as well. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicates that the HGN is 88 percent accurate in determining if an individual has a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) over .08, the legal limit for non-commercial drivers in Georgia.
When an officer is performing an HGN test on a suspected impaired driver, the officer is looking for “nystagmus” in the driver’s eyes. Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyes, which can be indicative of consumption of and impairment from alcohol and/or certain drugs.
However, it is important to remember that certain medical conditions can also cause nystagmus even when someone has not consumed any alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications. This is why if you are pulled over by an office and asked by the officer to perform SFSTs, you should inform the officer of any and all medical conditions you might have, as certain medical conditions can cause a “false positive” while the officer is performing the test. It is also important to note that the certain illicit drugs and prescription medications may cause impairment, but not show nystagmus.
It is also worth noting that you do not have to perform the HGN or any of the SFSTs just because an officer asks you to do so. You can politely decline, and the officer will continue conducting his or her investigation as he or she sees fit.
It is also important to note that an officer must be properly trained in administering HGN tests. If the test is not performed properly, the results may lead to a false positive. If you have been charged with DUI, you should hire an attorney experienced in DUI law who knows how the HGN test is supposed to be administered and who can challenge the results of an HGN test performed by an untrained or underqualified police officer.
If you have been charged with DUI, call the attorneys at the DeWoskin Law Firm, and make sure you are protected by experienced, knowledgeable attorneys.
After the date of charge off, American Express and Bank of America will usually file suit if collection efforts have failed to resolve the matter. Once these companies file suit, there are three very important steps to protect yourself as a consumer from suffering far more significant damage.
FIRST: Immediately upon being served, consider hiring counsel. Although these cases may be filed in magistrate court, which is considered (by some) to be faster and more user friendly, the rules of evidence can be tricky to understand and apply. Even when the courtroom is full of knowledgeable counsel, it can be challenging to ensure that the judge is applying the proper standard. Judges are people, and these judges have many, many cases to sort through. The fact that magistrate courts are not courts of record, meaning there are no court reporters, can make it more difficult for a consumer to properly ensure that due process is taking place and that no shortcuts are being taken. There may be little or no opportunity to accurately review what took place after the case is heard by the judge.
If the matter is filed in State or Superior Court, the advantage that the creditor has in having experienced counsel is now even greater. These attorneys are professionals and know what they are doing. They can gear their discovery and tactics to use the procedures that a consumer does not know against the consumer. We often hear that the consumers were waiting for a court date or a trial date. In State or Superior Court, this day may never come, and yet the case can be lost all the same on paper filings with the Court. If someone chooses to represent himself or herself, which a person is entitled to do, he or she is expected to know all of the same procedural rules and rules of evidence as an attorney, which can be overwhelming.
SECOND: Regardless of whether or not you can hire counsel, you must ensure that you file an Answer with all your defenses within 30 days of being served with the Complaint (the lawsuit). Should 30 days pass without an Answer being filed, the matter is in default. This means that the consumer has already lost. Any defenses that existed would be waived by the consumer. Furthermore, even though damages could still be challenged, other opportunities for the consumer to best position himself or herself for a favorable outcome have also been compromised. There is a way to pay costs and re-open the default for 15 days past the 30-day window to answer, but the best practice will always be to file a timely answer responding to each and every claim in the Complaint.
THIRD: Finally, take a moment to consider what American Express or Bank of America needs to prove in order to win the case. Sure, by filing they are asserting that money is owed to them. I have never met a consumer who knew the exact amount that was owed on his or her credit card at any given moment. It can be viewed, perhaps, on a credit report. It can also be viewed by logging into the account online. In any case, to ascertain whether or not it is correct would require the consumer to review all the charges, the payments, the credits, and any other entries that may or may not be appropriate and accurate.
Do not ever take a debt collector’s word about anything. It is not that law firms such as Zwicker & Associates or Cooling & Winter, LLC are actively trying to deceive consumers, but it is always in the consumer’s best interest to verify that the information and amounts are correct. This can and should be done when it comes to litigation. This may require subpoenas, discovery, motions, and/or depositions.
When a consumer takes no action upon being served with or advised that lawsuits are pending, it is the same as agreeing with every single allegation in the lawsuit. Owing a debt is not the same as being charged with a crime, but the principles at work in defending against a criminal charge should be observed in many of the same ways. Like a criminal defendant, a consumer should know his or her rights. He or she should be aware of what is required and expected of the person or company suing him or her. A consumer should not allow fear or unfamiliarity with the system to give American Express or Bank of America the advantage that it has come to expect over the course of filing thousands and thousands of lawsuits.