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Your social media posts may impact your workers’ comp or injury case

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“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

If you’ve watched any cop shows or movies, you’re probably familiar with those words. While Miranda rights only apply in criminal cases, those words are true even in civil cases.

What you say to the insurance adjuster, to your friends, coworkers and family members and even online on social media, can effect the outcome of your personal injury case or workers’ compensation claim. This applies to statements that seem to have little to do with your auto accident or injury.

The insurance company is looking for ways to discredit you and for reasons to deny your claim. Often, plaintiffs unwittingly give them the legal ammunition to do so with things they say off the cuff or online or without an attorney present.

Our advice is always that our clients should not talk to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. Also, be careful about what you share online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and other social networks, and also with whom you share that information.

A recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals sets a relatively low bar for authenticating information posted on social media.

The case in question, State v. Ford, was a criminal case, but what it says about social media evidence could also impact civil court cases, including workers’ compensation and auto accident claims.

The case involved a pit bull that attacked and killed a man living next door to the dog and its owner. Evidence was admitted in his criminal trial of a MySpace account that contained photos of the defendant and of the dog. Also admitted at trial were posts about the aggressive nature of the dog.

The defendant, who was the owner of the dog, was convicted, but appealed arguing the state had failed to prove he actually posted the photos and captions himself. His attorneys argued that the court should have provided additional evidence, such as the IP address where the photos and captions were posted. But the appeals court ruled the evidence presented was sufficient.

If you read the case, there was substantial other evidence conclusively linking the dog to the owner and the mauling, and the social media accounts were only one part of the prosecution’s case. But the gist of the ruling about social media is clear: The burden to authenticate social media is really low and can be based on purely circumstantial evidence.

So, anything posted on your account could be used against you.

We always warn our clients to be careful about postings on social media, and this ruling brings it home that a social media account can be incredibly harmful to your case.

In legal proceedings, information is power. If you start essentially giving that away by over sharing or publishing too many details of your life on social media, you are giving away the power you have in the case, to some degree.

Some things you should keep in mind if you have an ongoing workers’ comp or personal injury case:

  • When you talk to other people about your injury, they can be called to testify. Hearsay rules do not apply to statements made by plaintiffs in civil cases.
  • The only person who cannot be called to testify is your spouse. Coworkers, friends, neighbors, the guy at the convenience store and anyone else you talk to can be called to testify.
  • Quite often, coworkers are called to testify in workers’ compensation cases, and they will be asked not only about the accident but also about things you said the accident and your injury.

The Social Media Trap

Now let’s talk specifically about social media.

We live in a world where we’re constantly connected, and lots of people share many details of their lives on social media.

If you’re injured at work or in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you don’t have to unplug from social media. But you do need to be aware of how your posts, tweets and Instagram snapshots might be used in court against you. Even the hashtags you use or the places you check in via apps like Foursquare might come into play in your case.

I’ve seen it happen with my own clients.

One client, who had an injury claim, went out to a bar with friends one night and posted about it on social media. The other side tried to use that status as evidence that his injury wasn’t as serious as he claimed and didn’t affect his daily quality of life. The rationale was that if he could enjoy a night out with friends, then he must not really be hurt.

All because of a Facebook status.

We recommend that our clients use the highest privacy setting available on social media so the things you post are only viewable by close friends and family members. Even so, you need to remember that there’s no real privacy online.

It’s very likely the insurance company and their attorneys will see what you have posted, whether they find it on their own, someone shares it with them or we’re required by the court to provide it to them.

While we don’t expect you to stop using social media, be wise about it. If you have posted something you think could be misinterpreted or used against you in your case, let us know so we can make a plan for how to deal with it.

Don’t delete those posts. Even if they disappear from your Facebook wall or your Twitter feed, they haven’t really been erased. Plus, the N.C. Bar Association has issued some specific rules about deleting social media posts. Hitting delete may cause even more problems.

The lesson here is be careful what you say – and in many cases, it may be best not to say anything at all. The more information you put out in the world, the more likely it’s going to be used against you. #truth

VA to ask for more money for electronic veterans’ benefits claims processing

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An electronic, paperless filing and claims processing system that was supposed to eliminate the backlog for VA benefits by 2015 has whittled down the wait time for some disabled veterans. But the computer system that cost $1.3 billion to build still isn’t working as efficiently as promised, and the Department of Veterans Affairs plans to ask Congress for even more money to tweak it.

According to a report in Stars and Stripes, VA officials “told the House Committee on Veterans Affairs that it expects to request more money from Congress for its $1.3-billion electronic benefits management system, which has helped decrease a backlog of paper disability claims but also increased in cost by 122 percent since it was set up in 2009.”

he Veterans Benefits Management System “is still not functionally operational after six years — I’m sure that can be argued — but there is certainly going to be more money needed,” Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., chairman of the House panel, said.

As any veteran who has ever applied for VA benefits knows, the process is cumbersome, frustrating, bureaucratic and lengthy. Though the backlog has been reduced, it is still a problem. The backlog now stands at 75,000 veterans waiting more than 125 days for a decision on benefits, from a high point of 611,000 in 2013. Don’t let those numbers fool you, however. There are currently 433,000 outstanding appeals — so there remains lots of room for improvement in how VA benefits claims are processed and handled.

Many VA benefits claims are initially rejected, and the appeals process is years long.

Given the complexity of VA cases, it really helps to have an experienced attorney who is familiar with the process represent you and help you with your appeal.

We excited to have Gentry Hogan on our team. He is one of fewer than a dozen attorneys in the state focusing exclusively on veterans’ disability cases. Gentry, who is a Navy veteran, has a wealth of knowledge of the VA system that few other attorneys possess, resulting in positive outcomes for his veteran clients who have been previously denied benefits.

DLG Launches New VA Disability Practice

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When your business is helping injured people, it hurts when you have to turn anyone away.

That’s why we are launching a new practice today so we can help a very deserving group of injured people get the medical treatment and financial benefits they are guaranteed under the law.

I am proud and pleased to announce we will now be representing military veterans in their claims for VA benefits. We have hired attorney Gentry Hogan and a team of paralegals to handle these types of cases exclusively.

That’s a big deal. They won’t be splitting their time and attention on workers’ compensation or Social Security Disability. They will be working only on veterans’ cases.

Disabled veterans deserve that kind of focused attention, and until now, we’ve not been able to give them that. No one really does.

Navigating the VA system is very difficult because of the all the bureaucratic hurdles, red tape and delays. As a result, many veterans give up on their claims, and there are very few private-sector attorneys in North Carolina who have the experience or the willingness to help them.

The Veterans Administration, along with the IRS, pretty much invented the concept of red tape. Sadly, with VA disability claims, it doesn’t matter how good your claim is if it’s not packaged and presented in just the right way, the VA will not approve it.

It’s a reality thousands of disabled veterans know all too well.

In our work with Social Security Disability and workers’ compensation clients, we have often discovered that many were also eligible for VA benefits because of service to our country. We have tried to help those clients with their VA claims, but we’ve never had someone with Gentry’s experience leading those efforts.

Gentry, who is a Navy veteran with a service-connected disability, has personal and professional experience with VA disability claims. He probably knows the system better than any other attorney in North Carolina because he’s been representing soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen in their VA claims for nearly a decade.

And he’s passionate about it. He is quick to point out that military veterans signed a contract with our government and fulfilled their end of the bargain. It’s only right that the government do the same, by providing them medical care and financial compensation for the injuries they suffered in service of their country.

“It’s not a gift,” he says. “It’s the fulfillment of a contract.”

If you are a disabled military veteran or know someone who is, please contact us to discuss your VA benefits. We can help with initial claims, if you’ve been denied or if you’re seeking an increase in your VA rating.

It doesn’t matter how long ago you served or where you live in our region. Gentry is accredited to represent VA clients throughout North Carolina and Virginia.

Holiday Food Drive for Greensboro Urban Ministry

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The Deuterman Law Group will once again be collecting donations for Greensboro Urban Ministry food bank this holiday season.

You can drop off food donations at our offices in Greensboro (317 S. Greene St.) or Winston-Salem (514 S. Stratford Road)  or at one of these other convenient drop-off locations:

Carolina Theatre – 310 S. Greene St., Greensboro
Appletree Academy– 1917 Lendew St., Greensboro
Nouveau Salon – 5002 High Point Road, Suite G, Greensboro
9Round – 2002 New Garden Road, Greensboro

Urban Ministry collects and redistributes food to as many as 110 people a day. Last year, the food bank collected more than 1 million pounds of food and distributed 22,942 bags of groceries to hungry Greensboro residents.

Please help Urban Ministry feed hungry people in our community by bringing a donation of canned or non-perishable food to one of the drop-off locations. Please, no glass containers or opened packages, but please consider donating the following these items:

Protein Sources
• Tuna, Salmon, etc.
• Beef Stew, Spam, Corned Beef
• Peanut Butter, 18 oz.
Vegetables
• Greens, e.g. Turnip, Mixed Vegetables
• Peas (green)
• Tomatoes, Corn, Green Beans
Fruits
• Peaches, Pears, Fruit Cocktail, Applesauce
Other Items
• Soups
• Sugar, 2 lbs.
• Dry milk
• Oatmeal, 18 oz.
• Macaroni & cheese
• Bags of dry beans
• Rice, 1 lb. or larger bags
Infant and Baby Care
• Diapers, all sizes
• Formula
• Baby food
Dietary Supplements
• Ensure

We are also proud to sponsor the Carolina Classic Holiday Movie series at the Carolina Theatre. The theater will have collection boxes for Urban Ministry set up in its lobby. When you donate food, you will receive a free Deuterman law group holiday tote bag.

The Deuterman Law Group will once again be sponsoring the holiday movie series at the Carolina Theatre, 310 S. Greene St.

Make plans to attend one of these festive films this holiday season, and don’t forget your food donation for Urban Ministry:

Monday, Dec 14 at 7 p.m.: It’s a Wonderful Life
Tuesday, Dec 15 at 7 p.m.: Miracle on 34th Street
Wednesday, Dec 16 at 7 p.m.: Holiday Inn
Thursday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.: Scrooged
Monday, Dec. 21 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.: White Christmas
Tuesday, Dec. 22 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.: A Christmas Story
Wednesday, Dec. 23 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m.: It’s a Wonderful Life

Tickets are $7 for adults, $6 for students, seniors & military.

7th Annual Blood Drive

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Help save a life and donate blood at Deuterman Law Group’s 7th Annual Blood Drive.  Deuterman Law Group partners with the Carolina Theatre to host a blood drive on October 6th from 2:30-6:30pm. The blood drive will take place at the historic Carolina Theatre, 310 S Greene Street, Greensboro, NC 27401 directly across the street from our Greensboro office conveniently located in downtown Greensboro. Walk ins are welcome, or you can call Robin Henley at Deuterman Law Group (336-373-1130 ext 313) to schedule an appointment.

Spring 2014 Client Newsletter

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Have you received your copy of the Spring 2014 newsletter from the Deuterman Law Group?

If you didn’t receive a copy in the mail, you can download a printable version of our newsletter by clicking here.

In it, you will find articles about our endorsements for the May 6 N.C. primary; the Affordable Care Act; what you can do to protect your ongoing workers’ compensation benefits; and tips for sharing the road with cyclists, in tribute to our friend Todd Martinez.

We also introduce you to our bilingual staff and attorneys who work with our clients who don’t speak English.

Be sure you check out the Community News section of our newsletter for information about some fun upcoming events we’ll be a part of throughout the Triad. You’ll also learn about how our staff and attorneys are giving back to their local communities.

Download your copy of the newsletter here.

If you’d like to have future copies of our newsletter delivered to you, please call us at 1-866-373-1130 and ask to be added to our mailing list.

You can read back issues of our newsletter here.

Preventing Workplace Injuries

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We’re always interested in research and programs that are aimed at preventing workplace injuries before they happen.

Three such articles have caught our interest recently, beginning with a program at Boston University that has virtually eliminated repetitive motion shoulder injuries among custodians and reduced the the university’s workers’ comp costs by 85 percent over a three-year period.

Repetitive motion injuries result in an average of 23 days away from work – three times the number of days from other injuries. Shoulder injuries are the most common type of repetitive motion injury reported and the second most frequent injury experienced by janitors and custodial workers.

Julie Collins, a third-year doctor of physical therapy student at BU, set out to change this through education and equipment modification. Researchers studied how each university custodian performed their daily work duties, then developed ergonomics training programs aimed at reducing shoulder injuries. The university also provided custodians with step stools so they wouldn’t have to perform so much work overhead, putting their shoulders at risk for repetitive motion injuries.

“Injury prevention through education and workplace modifications is crucial to reduce the overwhelming expense of musculoskeletal injuries,” said BU faculty member Lee Marinko, who is also a practicing physical therapist at the Boston University Physical Therapy Center. “This project highlights how simple changes can have a significant impact, not only on cost but also on employee health and safety.”

Injury and Illness Prevention Programs — or IIPPs — like the one at Boston University, are becoming important tools in keeping workers safe.  In fact, 15 states now require IIPPs, according to Succeed Management Solutions.

Something as simple as daily stretching can be the key in preventing all types of workplace injuries. 

We found an interesting news release from Industrial Motions, a Raleigh-based company that specializes in workplace injury prevention.

Industrial Motions offers a wellness program called WorkDay Warm-Up that combines stretching exercises with simple strengthening exercises aimed at improving worker safety.

“This unique blend of stretching and strengthening for the workplace has evolved through feedback from the workers themselves,” Frank Murray, the CEO of Industrial Motions, said in a press release. “Traditional workplace exercise programs consist mainly of stretching. Workers and companies were requesting strengthening exercises as well.”

Out of the Garden Food Drive Dropoff Locations

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As we told you last week, we are organizing a food drive to benefit the Out of the Garden Project all this month.

You can drop off nonperishable food donations to our offices in Greensboro and Winston-Salem. All food will be donated to Out of the Garden to feed hungry Guilford County schoolchildren and their families. The need is great, especially at this time of the year.

Our employees have also been working with other organizations and businesses throughout the Triad to set up donation boxes to make it easy for you to donate food to Out of the Garden, no matter where you live.

In addition to our offices at 317 S. Greene St., Greensboro, and 514 S. Stratford Road, Winston-Salem, you may donate food at the following locations:

Abundant Life Church International, 2923 Pacific Ave., Greensboro

Williams Chiropractic, 3831 W Market St, Greensboro

MB-F, 620 Industrial Ave, Greensboro

Copier Specialists of the Triad

Adkins Business Products, 111 Pomona Dr, Greensboro

Sweet Josephine’s, 2209 N. Centennial St., High Point

Community One Bank at Friendly Center, 616 Green Valley Rd, Greensboro

Industries of the Blind, 914 W Lee St, Greensboro

Faithway Baptist Church, 610 E Lake Dr, Greensboro

Providence Baptist Church, 1984 Eden Rd., Stoneville

Christ Church Greensboro, 421 West Smith St., Greensboro

Crossfit Training Valley, 1001 Springwood Ave, Gibsonville

All Star Copying & Printing, 101 S Elm St # 220, Greensboro

Le Salon, 1707 Sykes St., Burlington 

New Covenant Fellowship Church, 1913 Rogers Road, Graham 

Salyer Chiropractic, 180 Brower’s Chapel Road, Asheboro

Trogdon’s Day Care, 329 Newbern Ave., Asheboro

First Steps Early Learning Center, 2511 S Fayetteville St., Asheboro

Fresh Cuts Butcher and Seafood, 1528 Zoo Parkway, Asheboro

We will continue to update this list with more donation locations.

We also want to thank New York & Co. and Lucky Brand Jeans at the Tanger Outlet Center in Mebane for participating in our Out of the Garden food drive. Their employees will be collecting food for the organization. These stores are not public drop-off locations.

 

Join us for classic holiday movies!

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Looking for something festive to do? 

We’re kicking off the holiday season on Dec. 7 with Christmas at the Carolina, a fun and free event for kids and adults at the Carolina Theatre. 

The theater will be screening the Jim Henson classic “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” at 10 a.m.

Enjoy a free movie, free soft drink and popcorn, visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus, sing-along to carols with the theatre’s historic pipe organ, PLUS have a chance to win a brand new bicycle.

Deuterman Law Group “elves” will be volunteering at this fun event, so be sure you come out and say hello to  your favorite attorneys, paralegals and legal support staff. 

Seating is limited for this free event, so come early! Doors open at 9:15 a.m. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Join us throughout December at the Carolina Theatre, right across the street from our office in downtown Greensboro, for the Carolina Classic Movie Series.

We’re excited to once again be a sponsor of this monthlong series of classic Christmas movies. 

  • Dec. 9 – Holiday Inn (7 p.m.): At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer.
  • Dec. 10 – The Santa Clause (7 p.m.): When a man inadvertently kills Santa on Christmas Eve, he finds himself magically recruited to take his place.
  • Dec. 11 – It’s a Wonderful Life (7 p.m.): An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.
  • Dec. 12 – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (7 p.m.): The Griswold family’s plans for a big family Christmas predictably turn into a big disaster.
  • Dec. 16 – Miracle on 34th Street (1 p.m. and 7 p.m.): A little girl discovers dreams do come true if you really believe. Six-year-old Susan has doubts about childhood’s most enduring miracle – Santa Claus. Her mother told her the “secret” about Santa a long time ago, so Susan doesn’t expect to receive the most important gifts on her Christmas list. But after meeting a special department store Santa who’s convinced he’s the real thing, Susan is given the most precious gift of all – something to believe in.
  • Dec. 17 – It’s a Wonderful Life (1 p.m. and 7 p.m.): An angel helps a compassionate but despairingly frustrated businessman by showing what life would have been like if he never existed.
  • Dec. 18 – White Christmas (1 p.m. and 7 p.m.): A successful song-and-dance team become romantically involved with a sister act and team up to save the failing Vermont inn of their former commanding general.

The Carolina Theatre will also be screening the classic, A Christmas Story, at 1 p.m and 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 as part of the Mixed Tape Series.