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Frequently Asked Questions

We Understand

Since we work in the field everyday, we find a lot of the complex legal issues easy to understand and we understand that most of our clients may have a few questions before arriving at our office. Below, we have provided a list of the most frequently asked questions to assist you along the way. Covering an array of topics from personal injury to abestosis. But, if you do not find the answer you are looking for, please contact our office and we will find the answer for you. 

We look forward to speaking with you soon. 

FAQ's


Personal Injury / Car / Motorcycle Accidents

How do I know if I have a personal injury case?

Generally, in order to be entitled to a recovery against another, you must have 1) suffered an injury to your person or property, and 2) your injury must have resulted from someone else's negligence or an intentional act.  

An insurance adjuster has offered me a settlement. How do I know if it’s fair?

This answer depends heavily on the specific facts of your case.  You may be entitled to recover all or some of the following:

  • Property damage
  • Medical expenses (past & future)
  • Lost wages (past & future)
  • Lost earning capacity
  • Scarring / Permanent injuries
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of consortium
  • Punitive damages

If death, recovery can include expenses for care, treatment and hospitalization; compensation for pain and suffering of the decedent; reasonable funeral expenses; compensation to the others based on net income of decedent; services, protection, care and assistance of the decedent; loss of society, companionship, comfort, guidance, and advice; and/or punitive or nominal damages.

An attorney cannot advise on the damages you are entitled to without knowing the facts of your claim.  

Why would I need a lawyer to represent me?

A lawyer will investigate all sources of insurance coverage and all avenues of recovery.  You may need to make a claim with your own insurance carrier for Med Pay coverage, or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.  It is your lawyer’s job to look out for you and your family’s best interests, and to make sure you are treated fairly during this stressful process.

How long will it take to settle my claim?

Each personal injury case is unique, so the length of time to settle will vary depending on the circumstances surrounding your case. Typically, the more complex the case and injury, the longer it will take to settle.  If you hire an attorney, it is his/her obligation to keep you informed about the status of your case every step of the way.

How much will you charge to represent me?

Wallace & Graham, PA works on a “contingency-fee” basis, meaning our firm gets paid a percentage of the total settlement of your case.

How long do I have to file a claim?

Each State has “statute of limitation” laws which place limits on how long one can wait to file a personal injury lawsuit.  Each type of lawsuit (wrongful death, personal injury, medical malpractice, product liability, etc.) has different statute of limitations that applies.  These SOLs can range from 2 years to 10 years!  Generally, personal injury actions must be brought within three (3) years of the date when the bodily harm was or should have been apparent.  A wrongful death action must be brought within two years of the date of death.  You should contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn how long you have to file your claim.

I was in a car accident. What should I do?

The facts of each case are different; however, you should: 

  1. Report the accident to the highway patrol or local police.
  2. As soon as possible, write down your recollection of what happened.   
  3. Do your own investigation!  Take photographs of the accident site, talk to any witness, writing down their names and statements; collect and preserve evidence.
  4. If you were injured, seek medical attention.
  5. Ask for the police report for your accident.
What are the signs of physical abuse?

Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained injuries, bruises, broken bones, broken eyeglasses, and signs of being restrained such as rope marks.

Also, abuse can result from the use of unnecessary medical procedures performed in order to claim reimbursement from insurance or Medicare. 

What are the signs of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse of an elder can often be more difficult to spot than physical abuse.  The signs include negative behavior by caregiver toward the patient in your presence, and withdrawn behaviors on the part of the patient. 

What are the signs of financial abuse?

There have also been reported cases of financial abuse and of caregivers taking advantage of a patient’s financial situation.  Examples of this can include forging the patient’s signature, having donations made to phony charities, and having the patient participate in phony raffles.  Look for suspicious financial activity, missed bill payments, and sudden changes in financial condition. 

What are the signs of sexual abuse?

Evidence of sexual abuse can include bleeding or bruising around sex organs, unexplained sexual disease, and torn or stained underclothing. 

Mesothelioma & Asbestosis

What diseases does asbestos cause?

Asbestos is a mineral that can get into the lungs and cause lung disease and cancer.  When asbestos scars the inside of the lungs, the disease is called “asbestosis”.  It is incurable.  It may get worse over time and can be fatal.  Asbestos also causes cancer.  Mesothelioma is a type of cancer that is caused only by asbestos exposure.  In addition, asbestos may cause various types of cancer including lung, esophagus, larynx, stomach and colon, as well as other diseases.

How do I know if my cancer or disease was caused by my employment?

Some diseases are easily traceable to the employment.  However, some diseases are not so easily traced to the employment.  The only way to know for sure if your disease or cancer was caused by the employment is to seek the opinion of a medical expert.

What is Mesothelioma?

In basic medical terms, mesothelioma is a rare cancer in which the cells of the mesothelium (a membrane that covers and protect most of the internal organs of the body) become abnormal and malignant.

How rare is the disease?

About 2,000 new cases of mesothelioma are diagnosed in the United States each year. Mesothelioma is a rare disease that is almost always linked to asbestos fiber and dust exposure.

Which type of mesothelioma or asbestos cancer have you been diagnosed with?

Although it is technically a single membrane, parts of the mesothelium have been given different names in relation to the internal organs they surround. For instance, the part surrounding the lungs and lines the wall of the chest cavity is called the pleura; the membrane surrounding the abdominal cavity is the peritoneum and the part of the membrane that covers and protects the heart is known as the pericardium.

Mesothelioma cancers associated with these parts of the membrane include:

 

What are the medical options for treatment?

Treatment of mesothelioma may vary depending on the type, its aggressiveness and other factors. However, a combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy is used in most cases. Duke University Medical Center in Durham North Carolina is a leading Medical Center helping victims of this disease caused by asbestos exposure.

For a free case evaluation, please call our law offices directly or contact us online. An experienced attorney will be available to discuss your potential lawsuit, answer your questions and address any other concerns you or your family may have.

Is asbestos exposure the cause of Mesothelioma?

Currently in North America, asbestos exposure is believed to be the only known cause of mesothelioma. No other causes have definitively been linked to the disease as yet.  Mesothelioma victims either worked directly with asbestos-laden products in their occupation; worked in an environment such as a shipyard, textile industry, other industrial environments or worked as pipefitters, welders, papermakers, asbestos product manufacturer’s and where asbestos exposure is likely; or they lived with someone who carried asbestos fibers into the home on their work clothing.

While many are aware of the dangers posed by the widespread use of asbestos in American industries during the 20th century and the exposure risk for workers, few people realize the dangers of secondary exposure to bystanders and those who are exposed in the home to the harmful asbestos dust from the their family who worked in or around asbestos dust.

Even the simple act of taking the family car to work, sweeping the laundry room floor or bringing contaminated work clothes home to be washed can expose family members, friends and others to asbestos. Secondary exposure poses the same risks as primary exposure, including asbestos lung cancer and mesothelioma.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is actually a term that has been given to a group of six different, naturally occurring mineral fibers. The natural resistance this group of Asbestos fibers has to both heat and fire, and their reluctance to conduct electricity — made asbestos one of the mostly widely used commercial substances of the 20th century.

The problem is that asbestos fibers separate from one another easily and are hundreds of times thinner than human hairs. As a result, they become airborne easily and are inhaled into the lungs of anyone who happens to be nearby.

How does asbestos affect the human body?

When asbestos fibers are inhaled, ingested or in rare cases, absorbed through the skin, they can become lodged in airways, lung tissue or the mesothelium membrane. Over time non-cancerous forms of asbestos-related disease such as asbestosis, or the more deadly asbestos cancers such as pleural mesothelioma may result.

How is there asbestos exposure in the workplace or your home?

People who were routinely exposed to deadly asbestos fibers in the workplace during the product's most widespread period and whose family may also have been exposed by secondary exposure from these high-risk workers include:

 

  • Construction/Remodeling workers
  • Electricians
  • Welders
  • Roofers
  • Plumbers and pipe fitters
  • Shipyard employees
  • Railroad employees
  • Papermakers and Paper Mill workers
  • Auto Mechanics
  • Maintenance Workers
  • Boiler Mechanics
  • Insulations Installers
  • Chemical Plant Workers
  • Factory Workers
  • Military personnel and defense contractor employees
  • Refinery workers
  • Chemical plant employees
  • Foundry workers
  • Mechanics
  • Boilermakers
  • Valve and Pump Repairmen
  • Others
What are the signs of physical abuse?

Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained injuries, bruises, broken bones, broken eyeglasses, and signs of being restrained such as rope marks.

Also, abuse can result from the use of unnecessary medical procedures performed in order to claim reimbursement from insurance or Medicare. 

What are the signs of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse of an elder can often be more difficult to spot than physical abuse.  The signs include negative behavior by caregiver toward the patient in your presence, and withdrawn behaviors on the part of the patient. 

What are the signs of financial abuse?

There have also been reported cases of financial abuse and of caregivers taking advantage of a patient’s financial situation.  Examples of this can include forging the patient’s signature, having donations made to phony charities, and having the patient participate in phony raffles.  Look for suspicious financial activity, missed bill payments, and sudden changes in financial condition. 

What are the signs of sexual abuse?

Evidence of sexual abuse can include bleeding or bruising around sex organs, unexplained sexual disease, and torn or stained underclothing. 

North Carolina Workers Compensation Lawyer

How do I file a workers’ compensation claim?

First, you must immediately report your injury to a supervisor or manager, orally; and within 30 days, you should report your injury in writing.  Second, you must fill out and mail in an official Notice of Injury (Form 18) with the NC Industrial Commission.  This should be completed no later than 2 years from your date of injury or diagnosis.  To learn who your employer’s insurance carrier is visit the Insurance Coverage Search System.  

Will my employer fire me if I hire an attorney?

This question worries many injured workers.  Under the Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (REDA), an employer is not permitted by law to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim.  Many employers have written policies for termination.  We encourage injured workers who are worried about being terminated to contact an attorney for a free consultation.

How do I know if I need an attorney?

Denied claim

If you have been advised by an insurance adjuster that your claim has been denied, and you think your claim should have been accepted, you may want to run your injury facts by an attorney

Accepted claim

If your claim has been accepted as compensable; however, you are unsure what benefits you are entitled to; whether your adjuster or employer is treating you fairly; whether you are entitled to additional medical treatment/opinions; or whether a settlement offered to you is a fair one, you may want to contact an attorney for advice.  

How much does an attorney charge?

Wallace & Graham works on a “contingency-fee” basis, meaning our firm gets paid a percentage of the total settlement of your case, as well as recovery of costs.  The benefit of a contingency-fee to you is that if there is no recovery, there is no fee.

What benefits am I entitled to under workers’ compensation?

This answer depends heavily on the facts of your case.  Generally, you are entitled to compensation for lost earnings, permanent disability to a body part or organ, medical bills related to your injury (past and future), and mileage to and from medical appointments (over 20 miles round trip).  Lost earnings can include 2/3rds of your weekly pay while you are unable to work or 2/3rds the difference between your wages before and after the injury. To be certain you are receiving all benefits you are entitled to, you should run your injury facts by an attorney.

How long does a workers’ compensation claim take to pursue?

Workers’ compensation claims can take a few weeks to a few years to complete.  The time it will take to resolve a workers’ compensation claim depends on many factors.  If the employer accepts the claim as compensable, then you can get benefits relatively quickly.  If the claim is denied but the parties can settle without a hearing, the claim may take a few months.  If, however, the claim is denied and a hearing is necessary, the claim may not resolve for a couple of years or more.   Fortunately, most claims don’t require hearings and appeals.

Does the fact I receive Social Security Disability Benefits affect my ability to file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits?

No.  You may still file a workers’ compensation claim even if you receive Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits.  However, depending on the reason you receive SSD benefits, your entitlement to certain benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act may be limited.  Further, your SSD benefits may be reduced if you receive workers’ compensation benefits either through settlement or an award by the NC Industrial Commission.  To find out what affect if any your SSD benefits would have on a potential workers’ compensation claim, you should contact an attorney.  

Chemical Related Cancers or Diseases

Does exposure to chemicals or solvents in the workplace cause cancer?

Unfortunately, cancer can develop without a known reason or cause.  There are many chemicals and solvents used in industrial settings and most of them do not cause any harm or disease.  Some chemicals and solvents, however, have been associated with certain cancers.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of substances NIOSH considers to be potential occupational carcinogens.  For example, benzene and certain products that contain benzene have been causally associated with the development of leukemia.  Ethylene oxide has also been associated with leukemia.  Workers exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and coal tar pitch in the aluminum production and coal gasification industries have been associated with bladder cancer, kidney, lung cancers, and others.  If you worked with or around chemicals or solvents in the workplace and believe those chemicals or solvents may have caused your cancer, you should contact an attorney to get more information.    

What options do I have if I was exposed to harmful chemicals or solvents in the workplace?

That depends on what types of chemicals and solvents you were exposed to and whether those substances have been causally associated with causing disease or cancer.  Generally speaking, if your disease or cancer was caused by occupational exposures, you may have a couple of options.  The first may be to file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer or former employer where the occupational exposures occurred.  A second option may be to file a civil lawsuit against the manufactures of the substances to which you were exposed.  Whether either option is a possibility depends on the facts and circumstances in your particular case.  To find out whether you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim or civil lawsuit, you should consult with an attorney. 

Class Actions & Consumer Rights

What is arbitration?

Arbitration works like this: let's say your bank overcharges you $500.  If you have an arbitration contract, then you cannot sue and have your claim decided by a jury.  Instead, your claim will be heard by a single individual who will decide all issues of fact and law. 

Consumer rights advocates have claimed that often the arbitration agencies and arbitrators can be biased because they receive so much of their business from big companies.  Also, if the claim is for a small amount of money, it may cost more money to arbitrate the claim than the claim is worth.

Other problems that people have pointed out with arbitration include:

You have no jury in an arbitration.  The fate of your claim rests only with an arbitrator, and not with a jury of local citizens

The arbitrator may have a concern that if he rules against the company, the company may not hire the arbitrator for more cases in the future.  Often it is the company who pays the arbitrator for his time.

The company may have a lawyer to help it, but you may not be able to afford a lawyer if your claim is small.

The arbitrator's decision may not be explained or published. 

The arbitrator’s decision may only be overturned by the court if you can go to the time and expense of proving extreme misconduct on his part. 

Depending on the terms of the particular arbitration clause, there could be a risk that you may have to pay the arbitrator and the corporation's attorneys. 

See also this article in Bloomberg Businessweek.

In addition, virtually all arbitration clauses also include a ban on bringing or participating in any form of class action.  In the above example, it might be possible for you to get legal representation if you could show that many, many other people were also overcharged - the sum of all your claims together would be enough to warrant hiring an attorney.  Arbitration clauses with class bans take away this option, forcing individual customers who have been wronged to face behemoth companies alone.

Often, customers never even know these provisions exist because they do not read the agreements.  Customers are rarely asked to agree to all terms before opening their accounts, and the arbitration agreements are mailed later. 

Most people who do take the time to read their contracts lack the legal knowledge necessary to truly understand how arbitration works and what they are giving up.  Even attorneys with full knowledge of these clauses often agree to them, simply because they have no other choice.  Bank accounts, credit cards, and mobile phones are necessary in today's world, and you cannot get any of those without signing on the line and agreeing to the terms presented.

Also, many times a person may agree to a contract by clicking a button on an internet website.  By clicking the button they have agreed to be bound by a long list of terms and conditions that they have never read.  This could include an arbitration clause.

What is a payday loan?

A payday loan is a loan for typically between $100 and $5000 with a very high rate of interest or a high fee.  Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to make someone a personal loan of less than $25,000 at an interest rate greater than 16% per year.

What is an internet loan?

An internet loan is a small loan offered over the internet which comes with a high interest rate or a high fee.  North Carolina limits the amount of interest and fees that a lender can charge.   

Has arbitration worked?

Consumer groups have argued that the arbitration system is more prone to injustice than the system of judges and juries.  In fact, there is evidence to show that injustice has occurred.  The National Arbitration Forum (NAF), then one of the major arbitration companies in the U.S., was (Minnesota Attorney General lawsuit complaint against NAF) sued in 2009 by the Minnesota Attorney General on the grounds that it defrauded customers into believing that it was an impartial dispute resolution forum, when (National Arbitration Forum biased - Web article) in fact the NAF was biased heavily toward its corporate customers.   (See also this article in Bloomberg Businessweek.) 

One retired Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, who worked briefly for the NAF as an arbitrator, was quoted as having described the company as "professionals in squeezing small sums of money out of desperately poor people."  Other former arbitrators have reported that they were no longer given cases if they rendered decisions against the corporations that hired NAF. 

Such abuses do not necessarily extend to all cases and all companies, of course, but the secrecy and structure of arbitration make injustice very difficult to detect.

In the NAF matter, the NAF agreed to shut down its consumer arbitration business as a result of the Attorney General’s lawsuit.

Is there any way to avoid arbitration?

Sometimes a good and knowledgeable attorney can successfully argue that an arbitration clause should not be enforced, or can make a deal with a defendant to arbitrate on favorable terms or before an arbitrator whom the attorney believes is fair.  From time to time, courts have refused to enforce an arbitration agreement.

In certain cases, a party can successfully argue that the agreement to arbitrate was invalid for different reasons. 

These could include:

The arbitration agreement has language in it that is very unfair to the consumer, for example by requiring the consumer to pay a heavy fee if they want to arbitrate.

The agreement is unfair because it says only the company gets to pick the arbitrator.

The agreement is unfair because it would make the consumer travel thousands of miles to the arbitration.

The agreement was never included in the contract but instead the company tried to add it later.

The customer never signed the agreement.

Sometimes, courts have found that an arbitration agreement was “unconscionable” -- so unfair to the consumer agreeing to it as to "shock the conscience." 

An experienced law firm is vital in pursuing any potential class claim against a corporate defendant.  The class action attorneys at Wallace & Graham have years of experience fighting arbitration clauses and many other issues involved in class actions, and have successfully obtained class action or class arbitration status for several cases that involved arbitration clauses. 

For free consultation call (800) 849 - 5291 or email us, today! 

I think I might have a claim. Can I call you and see what you think?

Of course!  If you think you might have a legal claim, one of our attorneys would be happy to talk to you, and there is no charge for the consultation. Please call Wallace & Graham at (800) 849 - 5291 or email us. 

If I call you, is it going to cost me anything?

The consultation is free.  During the call, we will try to determine whether you have a legal claim and whether you have the evidence to pursue it in court.  If you do, we will then talk to you about the next steps.

What can I expect if I hire you?

We always work on a contingent-fee basis.  We will go over the details of this arrangement before you hire us, but the main points are: you only owe us money if your case wins.  We front the expenses and put in all the time on your case.  If you win, we recover our expenses and a fee for our time from your judgment or settlement.  If you don't recover, you don't owe us anything.                            

Typical consumer protection cases are for relatively small amounts of money, which means they are only viable claims if they can be brought as a class action.  During a free consultation, our attorneys will be happy to explain the criteria for bringing a class action and help you determine whether you qualify.

I got a payday loan. How much do I have to pay back?

Nothing.  The law in North Carolina is that it is a crime for a payday lender to collect even the principal amount of the loan.  However, before you refuse to pay any asserted debt, it is a good idea to get an opinion from a lawyer about the legality of the debt.  You can always call Wallace & Graham’s predatory lending attorneys at (800) 849 - 5291 for a free consultation.  You can also contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (877) 566-7226 or (919) 716-6000 to get a second opinion.

The lender says that the payday loan I got is legal because the lender is an Indian Tribe or is located in another state. Are they right?

Call Wallace & Graham for a free consultation and we can help you figure this out.  If the loan was made in North Carolina, it is not legal.  Some lenders claim to be immune from being sued for their criminal conduct because of Indian Tribal immunity, but that is not sufficient as an argument that the loan is legal.  You can always call Wallace & Graham’s predatory lending attorneys at (704) 633-5244 for a free consultation.  You can also contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (877) 566-7226 or (919) 716-6000 to get a second opinion.

I got a payday loan, and then I couldn’t pay, and now I’m getting phone calls all the time from people threatening to sue me, have me arrested, and garnish my wages. What should I do?

It’s not a crime to just owe somebody money, so you can’t be arrested for it.

It is illegal for someone who is calling you to collect a debt to do any of the following:

  1. Harass, oppress, or abuse you by threatening violence, using foul language, or repeatedly using the phone to harass you such as by calling late at night or repeatedly during the same day
  2. Call you at work after you have informed the caller that you are not allowed to receive personal calls at work
  3. Claim to be an attorney or government representative (unless they are actually an attorney)
    • To our knowledge, the FBI and NSA never call anyone to collect a debt.  If someone calling you claims to be from the FBI or NSA trying to collect a debt, they are almost certainly lying.  Demand proof, and if you’re still not sure, call the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the Federal Trade Commission.
  4. Falsely claim that you have committed a crime
  5. Tell you that they will garnish your wages or seize your property, unless they are allowed by law to do so and intend to do so (typically, this means only if they have already sued you and won)
  6. Other behaviors prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), or Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

The laws prohibiting these behaviors are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  If you are receiving harassing calls, report the callers to the FTC and the FCC.

Whenever you receive a debt collection phone call that you suspect may violate the FDCPA, FCRA, or TCPA, demand, write down, and refuse to identify yourself or answer any questions until the caller has given you the following information:

  1. the caller’s name or identification number,
  2. the physical location of the caller,
  3. the name of the company they work for and the state wherein it is incorporated
    • (note that all real company names end in something like LLC, Co., Inc., Ltd., or something along those lines – make the caller give you the real name of the company they work for),
  4. the name of the company on behalf of which they are calling and the state wherein it is incorporated,
  5. the address you would use to serve legal documents on the company making the call,
  6. the address you would use to serve legal documents on the company on behalf of which they are calling,
  7. the physical address of the company making the call,
  8. the physical address of the company on behalf of which they are calling, and
  9. their phone number.
  10. also, write down the date and time of the call, and anything the caller says during the call that you believe is illegal.

It’s just common courtesy for a caller to identify himself or herself first.  Insist on it, and do not let the caller weasel out by hiding behind fictitious names.  Get the full legal name of not only the caller, but the company the caller is calling on behalf of.

If you are experiencing illegal debt collection phone calls, and you can identify both the entity calling you and the creditor, please call the predatory lending attorneys at Wallace & Graham at (800) 849-5291 for a free consultation.  It may be possible to bring a class action lawsuit against the debt collector or the creditor for illegal debt collection practices.

I stopped making payments on a payday loan and now they’re reporting it on my credit. What can I do?

If the loan was a payday loan made in North Carolina, then it was illegal and there is no debt.  Therefore it does not belong on your credit report.  Ask the credit reporting agency about their dispute procedures.

If you need help determining whether the loan was legal, feel free to call Wallace & Graham at (704) 633-5244 for a free consultation.

Social Security Disability

How do I quality for Social Security Disability?

To qualify for Disability benefits, you must have some physical or mental condition(s) which keeps or will keep you from attaining gainful employment for a period of at least 12 months.  What constitutes suitable employment depends on your age and other factors.

I applied for Social Security Disability and was denied. What do I do now?

It is very common for claims to be dismissed at the initial review.  This is why it is important for an attorney experienced in handling Social Security Disability claims to help guide you through the process, which often results in an in-person hearing before an Administrative Law Judge of the Social Security Administration.  

What is the difference between Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits?

SSD benefits are for individuals who have worked and paid Social Security taxes throughout their working lives and have built up “credits” to qualify for disability benefits.  SSI, on the other hand, is a needs-based benefit for individuals who are disabled under the same SSD guidelines but who have not paid Social Security taxes or otherwise not built up sufficient credits to qualify for full disability benefits.

How much will it cost to retain an attorney to represent me?

It will cost you nothing to retain a lawyer as your Social Security Disability attorney.  The attorney fee allowed is set by law.  An attorney will get NO FEE unless you win.  If you are awarded benefits and receive any “back pay,” the attorney fee is a percentage of that (25%, capped at $6,000) and is paid directly to the lawyer by Social Security.  

If I am awarded benefits, how much will my monthly benefit be?

An estimate of this figure can be seen on your Social Security benefits statement, which can be easily obtained online.  An attorney can help you retrieve this information.

How soon can I get Medicare coverage after I am awarded Social Security Disability benefits?

Generally, there is a 29-month waiting period from the “established onset date,” which is the date that Social Security determines you first became disabled.  For example, if you appeal Social Security’s initial denial of benefits and you win at hearing and are found to have been disabled dating back to January 1, 2012, you would be eligible for Medicare starting June 1, 2014.  

What are the most common SSD claims?

As we continue through our working lives and as we age, there are many kinds of infirmities and medical conditions that can lead to serious disability.  Some of the common medical conditions and illnesses that may result in a Social Security Disability benefits claim include:

  • Arthritis
  • Back pain
  • Heart disease, Cardiovascular disease
  • Cancer, Leukemia, Neoplasms
  • Depression, Mental disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Musculoskeletal/Connective tissue diseases
  • Nervous system related illnesses
  • Injury and poisoning
  • Circulatory diseases
  • Disabling Injuries

For more information on Social Security Disability claims, call Wallace & Graham toll-free at 800-849-5291.

Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect

What are the signs of physical abuse?

Signs of physical abuse can include unexplained injuries, bruises, broken bones, broken eyeglasses, and signs of being restrained such as rope marks.

Also, abuse can result from the use of unnecessary medical procedures performed in order to claim reimbursement from insurance or Medicare. 

What are the signs of emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse of an elder can often be more difficult to spot than physical abuse.  The signs include negative behavior by caregiver toward the patient in your presence, and withdrawn behaviors on the part of the patient. 

What are the signs of financial abuse?

There have also been reported cases of financial abuse and of caregivers taking advantage of a patient’s financial situation.  Examples of this can include forging the patient’s signature, having donations made to phony charities, and having the patient participate in phony raffles.  Look for suspicious financial activity, missed bill payments, and sudden changes in financial condition. 

What are the signs of sexual abuse?

Evidence of sexual abuse can include bleeding or bruising around sex organs, unexplained sexual disease, and torn or stained underclothing. 

Pay Day Lending

What is a payday loan?

A payday loan is a loan for typically between $100 and $5000 with a very high rate of interest or a high fee.  Under North Carolina law, it is illegal to make someone a personal loan of less than $25,000 at an interest rate greater than 16% per year.

What is an internet loan?

An internet loan is a small loan offered over the internet which comes with a high interest rate or a high fee.  North Carolina limits the amount of interest and fees that a lender can charge.   

I think I might have a claim. Can I call you and see what you think?

Of course!  If you think you might have a legal claim, one of our attorneys would be happy to talk to you, and there is no charge for the consultation. Please call Wallace & Graham at (800) 849 - 5291 or email us. 

If I call you, is it going to cost me anything?

The consultation is free.  During the call, we will try to determine whether you have a legal claim and whether you have the evidence to pursue it in court.  If you do, we will then talk to you about the next steps.

What can I expect if I hire you?

We always work on a contingent-fee basis.  We will go over the details of this arrangement before you hire us, but the main points are: you only owe us money if your case wins.  We front the expenses and put in all the time on your case.  If you win, we recover our expenses and a fee for our time from your judgment or settlement.  If you don't recover, you don't owe us anything.                            

Typical consumer protection cases are for relatively small amounts of money, which means they are only viable claims if they can be brought as a class action.  During a free consultation, our attorneys will be happy to explain the criteria for bringing a class action and help you determine whether you qualify.

I got a payday loan. How much do I have to pay back?

Nothing.  The law in North Carolina is that it is a crime for a payday lender to collect even the principal amount of the loan.  However, before you refuse to pay any asserted debt, it is a good idea to get an opinion from a lawyer about the legality of the debt.  You can always call Wallace & Graham’s predatory lending attorneys at (800) 849 - 5291 for a free consultation.  You can also contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (877) 566-7226 or (919) 716-6000 to get a second opinion.

The lender says that the payday loan I got is legal because the lender is an Indian Tribe or is located in another state. Are they right?

Call Wallace & Graham for a free consultation and we can help you figure this out.  If the loan was made in North Carolina, it is not legal.  Some lenders claim to be immune from being sued for their criminal conduct because of Indian Tribal immunity, but that is not sufficient as an argument that the loan is legal.  You can always call Wallace & Graham’s predatory lending attorneys at (704) 633-5244 for a free consultation.  You can also contact the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at (877) 566-7226 or (919) 716-6000 to get a second opinion.

I got a payday loan, and then I couldn’t pay, and now I’m getting phone calls all the time from people threatening to sue me, have me arrested, and garnish my wages. What should I do?

It’s not a crime to just owe somebody money, so you can’t be arrested for it.

It is illegal for someone who is calling you to collect a debt to do any of the following:

  1. Harass, oppress, or abuse you by threatening violence, using foul language, or repeatedly using the phone to harass you such as by calling late at night or repeatedly during the same day
  2. Call you at work after you have informed the caller that you are not allowed to receive personal calls at work
  3. Claim to be an attorney or government representative (unless they are actually an attorney)
    • To our knowledge, the FBI and NSA never call anyone to collect a debt.  If someone calling you claims to be from the FBI or NSA trying to collect a debt, they are almost certainly lying.  Demand proof, and if you’re still not sure, call the North Carolina Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division and the Federal Trade Commission.
  4. Falsely claim that you have committed a crime
  5. Tell you that they will garnish your wages or seize your property, unless they are allowed by law to do so and intend to do so (typically, this means only if they have already sued you and won)
  6. Other behaviors prohibited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), or Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

The laws prohibiting these behaviors are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  If you are receiving harassing calls, report the callers to the FTC and the FCC.

Whenever you receive a debt collection phone call that you suspect may violate the FDCPA, FCRA, or TCPA, demand, write down, and refuse to identify yourself or answer any questions until the caller has given you the following information:

  1. the caller’s name or identification number,
  2. the physical location of the caller,
  3. the name of the company they work for and the state wherein it is incorporated
    • (note that all real company names end in something like LLC, Co., Inc., Ltd., or something along those lines – make the caller give you the real name of the company they work for),
  4. the name of the company on behalf of which they are calling and the state wherein it is incorporated,
  5. the address you would use to serve legal documents on the company making the call,
  6. the address you would use to serve legal documents on the company on behalf of which they are calling,
  7. the physical address of the company making the call,
  8. the physical address of the company on behalf of which they are calling, and
  9. their phone number.
  10. also, write down the date and time of the call, and anything the caller says during the call that you believe is illegal.

It’s just common courtesy for a caller to identify himself or herself first.  Insist on it, and do not let the caller weasel out by hiding behind fictitious names.  Get the full legal name of not only the caller, but the company the caller is calling on behalf of.

If you are experiencing illegal debt collection phone calls, and you can identify both the entity calling you and the creditor, please call the predatory lending attorneys at Wallace & Graham at (800) 849-5291 for a free consultation.  It may be possible to bring a class action lawsuit against the debt collector or the creditor for illegal debt collection practices.

I stopped making payments on a payday loan and now they’re reporting it on my credit. What can I do?

If the loan was a payday loan made in North Carolina, then it was illegal and there is no debt.  Therefore it does not belong on your credit report.  Ask the credit reporting agency about their dispute procedures.

If you need help determining whether the loan was legal, feel free to call Wallace & Graham at (704) 633-5244 for a free consultation.

Occupational Disease

What if I am a recipient of Medicare/Medicaid benefits?

If you receive benefits from Medicare or Medicaid, by law, both programs may be entitled to be reimbursed for payments they made for medical treatment related to your claim for benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act

Therefore, if you receive workers’ compensation benefits, and Medicare or Medicaid paid some or all of the medical treatment costs related to your workers’ compensation claim, you will be required to repay Medicare or Medicaid. 

However, the amount of repayment depends on facts and circumstances in your case.  Your attorney can negotiate with Medicare or Medicaid to reduce the amount of reimbursement or seek an appeal of Medicare’s claims for reimbursement.  

Does exposure to chemicals or solvents in the workplace cause cancer?

Unfortunately, cancer can develop without a known reason or cause.  There are many chemicals and solvents used in industrial settings and most of them do not cause any harm or disease.  Some chemicals and solvents, however, have been associated with certain cancers. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides a list of substances that the US Government “NIOSH” agency considers to be potential occupational carcinogens.  For example, benzene and certain products that contain benzene have been causally associated with the development of leukemia. 

Ethylene oxide has also been associated with leukemia.  Workers exposed to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and coal tar pitch in the aluminum production and coal gasification industries have been associated with bladder cancer, kidney, lung cancers, and others. 

If you worked with or around chemicals or solvents in the workplace and believe those chemicals or solvents may have caused your cancer, you should contact an attorney to get more information.   

What options do I have if I was exposed to harmful chemicals or solvents in the workplace?

That depends on what types of chemicals and solvents you were exposed to and whether those substances have been causally associated with causing disease or cancer.  Generally speaking, if your disease or cancer was caused by occupational exposures, you may have a couple of options. 

The first may be to file a workers’ compensation claim against your employer or former employer where the occupational exposures occurred.  A second option may be to file a civil lawsuit against the manufactures of the substances to which you were exposed. 

Whether either option is a possibility depends on the facts and circumstances in your particular case.  To find out whether you have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim or civil lawsuit, you should consult with an attorney.

Does the fact I receive Social Security Disability Benefits affect my ability to file a claim for worker’s compensation benefits?

No.  You may still file a workers’ compensation claim even if you receive Social Security Disability (SSD) Benefits.  However, depending on the reason you receive SSD benefits, your entitlement to certain benefits under the Workers’ Compensation Act may be limited. 

Further, your SSD benefits may be reduced if you receive workers’ compensation benefits either through settlement or an award by the NC Industrial Commission

To find out what affect if any your SSD benefits would have on a potential workers’ compensation claim, you should contact an attorney.  

Arbitration Clauses

What is arbitration?

Arbitration works like this: let's say your bank overcharges you $500.  If you have an arbitration contract, then you cannot sue and have your claim decided by a jury.  Instead, your claim will be heard by a single individual who will decide all issues of fact and law. 

Consumer rights advocates have claimed that often the arbitration agencies and arbitrators can be biased because they receive so much of their business from big companies.  Also, if the claim is for a small amount of money, it may cost more money to arbitrate the claim than the claim is worth.

Other problems that people have pointed out with arbitration include:

You have no jury in an arbitration.  The fate of your claim rests only with an arbitrator, and not with a jury of local citizens

The arbitrator may have a concern that if he rules against the company, the company may not hire the arbitrator for more cases in the future.  Often it is the company who pays the arbitrator for his time.

The company may have a lawyer to help it, but you may not be able to afford a lawyer if your claim is small.

The arbitrator's decision may not be explained or published. 

The arbitrator’s decision may only be overturned by the court if you can go to the time and expense of proving extreme misconduct on his part. 

Depending on the terms of the particular arbitration clause, there could be a risk that you may have to pay the arbitrator and the corporation's attorneys. 

See also this article in Bloomberg Businessweek.

In addition, virtually all arbitration clauses also include a ban on bringing or participating in any form of class action.  In the above example, it might be possible for you to get legal representation if you could show that many, many other people were also overcharged - the sum of all your claims together would be enough to warrant hiring an attorney.  Arbitration clauses with class bans take away this option, forcing individual customers who have been wronged to face behemoth companies alone.

Often, customers never even know these provisions exist because they do not read the agreements.  Customers are rarely asked to agree to all terms before opening their accounts, and the arbitration agreements are mailed later. 

Most people who do take the time to read their contracts lack the legal knowledge necessary to truly understand how arbitration works and what they are giving up.  Even attorneys with full knowledge of these clauses often agree to them, simply because they have no other choice.  Bank accounts, credit cards, and mobile phones are necessary in today's world, and you cannot get any of those without signing on the line and agreeing to the terms presented.

Also, many times a person may agree to a contract by clicking a button on an internet website.  By clicking the button they have agreed to be bound by a long list of terms and conditions that they have never read.  This could include an arbitration clause.

Has arbitration worked?

Consumer groups have argued that the arbitration system is more prone to injustice than the system of judges and juries.  In fact, there is evidence to show that injustice has occurred.  The National Arbitration Forum (NAF), then one of the major arbitration companies in the U.S., was (Minnesota Attorney General lawsuit complaint against NAF) sued in 2009 by the Minnesota Attorney General on the grounds that it defrauded customers into believing that it was an impartial dispute resolution forum, when (National Arbitration Forum biased - Web article) in fact the NAF was biased heavily toward its corporate customers.   (See also this article in Bloomberg Businessweek.) 

One retired Chief Justice of the West Virginia Supreme Court, who worked briefly for the NAF as an arbitrator, was quoted as having described the company as "professionals in squeezing small sums of money out of desperately poor people."  Other former arbitrators have reported that they were no longer given cases if they rendered decisions against the corporations that hired NAF. 

Such abuses do not necessarily extend to all cases and all companies, of course, but the secrecy and structure of arbitration make injustice very difficult to detect.

In the NAF matter, the NAF agreed to shut down its consumer arbitration business as a result of the Attorney General’s lawsuit.

Is there any way to avoid arbitration?

Sometimes a good and knowledgeable attorney can successfully argue that an arbitration clause should not be enforced, or can make a deal with a defendant to arbitrate on favorable terms or before an arbitrator whom the attorney believes is fair.  From time to time, courts have refused to enforce an arbitration agreement.

In certain cases, a party can successfully argue that the agreement to arbitrate was invalid for different reasons. 

These could include:

The arbitration agreement has language in it that is very unfair to the consumer, for example by requiring the consumer to pay a heavy fee if they want to arbitrate.

The agreement is unfair because it says only the company gets to pick the arbitrator.

The agreement is unfair because it would make the consumer travel thousands of miles to the arbitration.

The agreement was never included in the contract but instead the company tried to add it later.

The customer never signed the agreement.

Sometimes, courts have found that an arbitration agreement was “unconscionable” -- so unfair to the consumer agreeing to it as to "shock the conscience." 

An experienced law firm is vital in pursuing any potential class claim against a corporate defendant.  The class action attorneys at Wallace & Graham have years of experience fighting arbitration clauses and many other issues involved in class actions, and have successfully obtained class action or class arbitration status for several cases that involved arbitration clauses. 

For free consultation call (800) 849 - 5291 or email us, today! 

Benzene Exposure Attorneys

What is Benzene?

Benzene is used primarily to make other chemicals that are in turn used to make plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers. Benzene is also an important ingredient in some rubbers, lubricants, dyes, detergents, pesticides, and petroleum.  

It also is used, though with decreasing frequency, in paints, solvents, thinners, inks, and adhesives.  Although benzene’s use in paints and solvents is becoming less common, traces of it may still be present as a contaminant.

Who might be exposed to Benzene?

Persons most likely exposed to benzene include workers who work in plants that manufacture benzene, workers who work in plants that use benzene, workers who work in industries that produce or utilize materials containing benzene, and people who live near plants or factories that produce or use benzene.

Some examples include: solvent producers, paint and varnish producers, laboratory technicians, chemical workers, painters, and those engaged in degreasing operations.

If you or your loved one has been exposed to these environments and has developed aplastic anemia or leukemia as a result, consult a benzene exposure lawyer at Wallace & Graham to learn about the possible compensation.

 

How might someone be exposed to Benzene?

Exposure to benzene occurs in several ways. It can be inhaled, ingested through contaminated food or water, or absorbed through the skin.

In the workplace, the most likely sources of exposure are inhalation of vapors or by contact with the skin. When working with benzene or products containing benzene, workers should use personal protection equipment such as safety glasses and gloves and work in well-ventilated areas.

What are the health risks associated with over-exposure to Benzene?

Breathing benzene at high levels can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches, and unconsciousness.

Long-term exposure to high levels of benzene can cause more serious illnesses, such as aplastic anemia, a rare blood disorder marked by a reduction in white blood cells, myelofibrosis, a disorder that affects that body’s ability to form healthy blood cells, and acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a cancer of the blood forming organs resulting in the body’s failure to produce enough blood cells.

In many cases, it is recommended that you file a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the particular state, your personal injury lawyer might have to file this suit very soon to comply with the state’s statutes of limitations. However, a personal injury lawsuit is not always necessary as sometimes sizeable compensation can be secured without the need for a lawsuit.    

Please call Wallace & Graham at (800) 849-5291, for more information regarding the possibility of obtaining compensation for your injuries.