Archive for the ‘Personal Injury’ Category

How to Talk to Your Doctor

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how to talk to your doctorYou’ve been injured, and you’re in pain so you go to the doctor. But once you’re there, you feel like the doctor isn’t saying or doing much. Or the doctor is using words or terminology you don’t understand.

It can be frustrating to feel like you’re not being heard or that you don’t understand what your diagnosis or treatment is. Some patients might not feel comfortable asking questions or questioning their doctor. But the ability to effectively talk with your doctor means he or she will be better able to help you.

Effective communication is a two-way street. There’s a lot of information about how doctors can better communicate with their patients. Some of that information discusses how doctors don’t have as much time to spend with each patient as they like. One study showed doctors spend on average about 15 minutes with each patient. When you think about it, that’s not a lot of time for the doctor to learn everything about your symptoms, your history, physically examine you, make a diagnosis and come up with a treatment plan.

So how can you make the most of that 15 minutes? Start by being prepared with a list of your symptoms and your medications, and even your questions. Having your list with you will help you remember everything rather than you trying to rely on your memory when you’re in pain. When you’ve been injured in a car wreck, you probably hurt all over. However, that might not be detailed enough information for the doctor.

Describe in detail how your injury occurred

If you were in a wreck, tell the doctor how it happened. Was it a T-bone wreck or head on? How fast were you going when you were hit? Did your car spin after impact? Did the airbags deploy?

If you fell off a dock at work and now have elbow pain, show the doctor how you landed and use your hands to show how high up the dock is.

Describe your symptoms

Because doctors can’t “see” pain, they only know what you’re telling them about your pain. Try to be descriptive about what’s happening.

For example, is your lower back pain sharp or dull? Is it worse in the morning or at night or with certain activities such as bending over to tie your shoes or sitting at a desk all day? Does the back pain seem to go down your leg?

If you have shoulder pain, does it hurt when you try to put on a jacket? Does it hurt in the front, back or top of your shoulder? Be sure to point to the specific areas that hurt. For instance if you say your lower back hurts, but you’re pointing to your hip, the doctor knows to look there.

Describe how the injury has affected you

Your doctor may or may not know what you were physically capable of doing prior to your injury, so try to share examples. For instance, if prior to your injury, you picked up extra shifts as a CNA, but now you can’t because your legs give out when trying to lift a patient, that’s important information to give your doctor.

Or perhaps you had no trouble working on spreadsheets on a computer all day, but now you’re having trouble concentrating and are making mistakes. Even describing common tasks that you can no longer do such as getting a gallon of milk out of the refrigerator or vacuuming or mowing the yard will be helpful information to your doctor.

Ask questions

If you injured your back lifting heavy equipment at work and the doctor mentions spondylosis or medial branch blocks, you may not know what he or she is referring to. Don’t be afraid to ask. Many doctors may even show you on a chart or a model of a spine what they are suggesting.

Most importantly, don’t wait for the doctor to ask you questions. Most doctors will ask lots of questions, but don’t mistakenly assume that because your doctor didn’t ask, there’s no need to volunteer the information or it must not be important. You best know your body, your job and your home life, so be sure to share the information you have so that the doctor can do the best job to help you recover.

Visit this link for more tips on how to talk to your doctor and how to understand your doctor.

What you need to know about ride sharing services and the law

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ride sharing services and the law

When the transportation app Uber was officially launched in 2011, it was both praised for providing consumers with easier and less expensive transportation options and criticized as unfair competition and dangerous.

Fans of the service, and the similar app Lyft, immediately liked the cheaper fares and the ease of using their smartphone to arrange pick-ups. Some praised it for allowing individuals to make extra money using their cars.

Uber has since grown into a $40-billion company. It didn’t take long after the launch for some cracks to appear in this transportation revolution. Several media outlets and consumer safety groups started questioning the business practices of Uber, such as the screening process and qualifications for drivers. Questions also arose about whether those drivers are employees of Uber or independent contractors.

This new type of transportation arrangement also presented legal issues regarding who is responsible when something goes wrong.

These types of companies are referred to by lawmakers as Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

Taxicab companies are often highly regulated by state laws requiring training of drivers and proof of liability insurance. But Uber contended that it was only providing a platform in the new “sharing economy.” In other words, Uber was only providing a way for people who need a service to connect with people who provide a service, and therefore Uber couldn’t be held responsible or legally liable for the actions of the individuals using the platform.

Uber argued they were exempt from many of the regulations imposed by the states where they conducted business. In response, Uber faced heavy opposition and was even banned in some states and cities. State lawmakers struggled with the tension between innovation demanded by consumers and regulation of commercial activity that protects those same consumers. Uber then actively lobbied for laws more favorable to them.

These transportation companies also found themselves at odds with insurers, who have been quite clear that “personal automobile insurance is not intended to cover people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes,” according to an article in Insurance Journal.

A highly publicized fatal wreck involving an Uber driver and a 6-year old pedestrian in California brought into focus the issue of who caries liability insurance in a sharing economy.

At the time of the wreck, the Uber driver didn’t have a passenger but he was logged into the Uber app between rides. Uber had a liability policy providing up to $1 million in coverage but said they were not liable since the driver didn’t have a passenger.

That would mean the driver’s policy, which likely carried much less coverage, was the only policy from which the family of the little girl could recover. However, standard personal automobile insurance policies exclude coverage for people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes, meaning there would be no policy from which the family could recover.

Responding to negative publicity after the accident, Uber eventually backpedaled on its policy and said it would cover drivers with the app activated but not yet carrying a passenger.

The girls’ family settled a lawsuit against Uber in 2015. Terms were not disclosed.

North Carolina lawmakers addressed this issue in 2015 when they passed legislation requiring drivers transporting individuals via a Transportation Network Company, such as Uber and Lyft, to carry $1.5 million per accident in bodily injury coverage.

If the TNC driver is logged in to the app but not providing service, there must be $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident coverage. The law further stated that the coverage could be maintained by the TNC driver, the TNC or any combination of the driver and company. The new law also says that “a TNC driver is an independent contractor and not an employee,” which would impact a drivers’ ability to make a workers’ compensation claim.

In a future blog post, one of my colleagues will talk about how workers’ compensation laws apply to Uber and Lyft drivers.

As our economy changes and new technology and services emerge, new legal issues arise.

Do you  traditional taxicabs be replaced by Uber and other ride-sharing services? As the sharing economy grows and changes, what other novel legal issues will lawmakers be called upon to address? We’d love to know your thoughts.


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

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social media and injury cases“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

N.C. Senate Bill 648 would make it harder for injured people to sue the companies responsible for their injuries

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Yet another bill aimed at limiting the rights of injured people is under consideration in the N.C. General Assembly.

N.C. Senate Bill 648, sponsored by Sen. Brent Jackson, R-Sampson, but most likely influenced by the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council, would make it harder for people who been injured by a defective product to sue. 

The bill’s sponsors say SB 648 is meant to reign in so-called frivolous lawsuits. But, as we’ve reported before, the whole notion of the “frivolous lawsuit” is a myth created by big business and the insurance industry to protect their profits at the expense of people who have been seriously and severely injured by defective products and corporate negligence.

The documentary “Hot Coffee,” which is about the infamous McDonald’s coffee lawsuit is an eye-opening look at several such “frivolous lawsuit.” The McDonald’s victim, Stella Liebeck was severely burned and required multiple surgeries because of her injuries, and McDonald’s had ignored hundreds of complaints that its coffee was hot enough to cause scalding, third-degree burns. Her lawsuit was anything but frivolous, even though she became a national punchline.

Senate Bill 648 is yet another example of legislators putting business interests ahead of people. If this legislation passes and becomes law, it will be a terrible injustice to North Carolinians. An injured person’s right to justice and access to the civil court system would be severely limited under this proposed law.

As WRAL reports:


The bill would limit a company’s liability if it developed a product under government-approved guidelines. Jackson gave the example of a drug given approval by the FDA.

Sen. Tamara Barringer, R-Wake, said the FDA instance might be a good example, but she said she believed the bill would apply to any number of products.

“I think the bill is far broader,” she said.

 Jackson acknowledged it was.

 “We did make the bill broad to cover as many industries as possible,” he said.

He argued that, if the government oversaw the development and design of a product, a company should not be held liable for abiding to those standards.

 “That should grant them some type of immunity from frivolous lawsuits,” Jackson said.

 Barringer replied, however, that this would also limit lawsuits when there might be a product recall or some instance that the government had not authorized.

“This would also prohibit regular lawsuits – lawsuits that would be meritorious,” she said.

 The bill also would impose a six-month waiting period for any lawsuits involving exposure to asbestos or silica dust, both of which cause life-threatening lung diseases. Most plaintiffs in these types of lawsuits are extremely ill, and many would not survive the six-month waiting period.

 Senate Bill 648 has been referred to Judiciary I and the Finance committees of the N.C. Senate. Please reach out to members of these committees and tell them to vote against Senate Bill 648.

You can find contact information for Judiciary I committee here.

You can find contact information for the Finance committee here.

I also encourage you to contact the bill’s sponors, Sen. Brent Jackson, Sen. Wesley Meredith, Sen. Jim Davis and Sen. Jerry W. Tillman.   


Tribute to Todd Martinez

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I wanted to take a moment today to pay tribute to High Point Firefighter Todd Martinez who died last weekend after a hit-and-run bicycle crash.

Anytime I hear of a death like this, I am saddened because accidents like these don’t have to happen if only drivers would share the road and give cyclists the respect they deserve. But Martinez was more than a name on the news for us here at Deuterman Law Group.

He was one of the first responders who joined us a few years ago in our fight against the bad workers’ comp reform bills. He was even featured in one of our television ads for Protect N.C. Workers.

I am still grateful to Martinez and the other first responders who stood with us in fighting that bad series of bills. They were instrumental in defeating the worst provisions of the proposed legislation.

We are heartbroken over the loss of a hero like Todd Martinez. From our own experience with him and what we have learned after his death, we know Martinez was a leader, a professional, a hero, a family man, a loving husband and father of four, a true friend and a giver, even after death. (Martinez was an organ donor, and through this tragedy, he will help others.) He was also committed to educating teen drivers about dangerous and deadly behaviors, like texting while driving.

As High Point Fire Chief Reid said in an interview, “He is going to be sorely missed.”

Martinez and his wife Melanie were riding their bikes Sunday on Scalesville Road near their home in Summerfield, enjoying the unexpected springlike weather, I’m sure. A red truck struck Martinez from behind, then left the scene.

Police have charged Andrew B. Barham, 19, with felony hit-and-run.

Chief Reid described Martinez as “passionate about life.”

In the time that the Deuterman Law Group worked with Martinez on the Protect N.C. Workers campaign, we also witnessed his professionalism and his passion for promoting and protecting worker safety.

His death is a great loss, foremost for his family, friends and fellow firefighters, but also for our community. We lost a man who devoted his life to protecting people and standing up for others.

I can’t write about Todd Martinez’s tragic — and preventable death — without remembering another friend and local cyclist who died in much the same way. Cyclist David Sherman, whose wife was a teacher at our children’s school, died in 2009 after a motorist struck him on North Church Street. She also left the scene.

Martinez and Sherman are among six bicycle fatalities in Guilford County since 2009. Nationwide 800 cyclists are killed ever year and 43,000 are injured every year in collisions with motorists.

For Martinez and Sherman and the other cyclists who have lost their lives, we must learn to share the roads. Cyclists have as much right to be there as we do in our cars and trucks and SUVs.

If you are a driver or a cyclist, heed safety so we can share the road without more tragedies.

Do it for Todd Martinez. Please.

If you’d like to honor Martinez in another way, I encourage you to make a donation to VIP for a VIP, a program to teach students about fatal accidents involving teens. His family has asked for donations to the Todd Martinez Texting & Driving Fund, 2406 Farm Gate Road, Browns Summit, NC 27214.





Penalties for Texting While Driving

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risks of texting while drivingA 13-month-old North Carolina girl was killed in a Christmas day car wreck that police originally thought was caused by texting and driving.

Originally, police in Wadesboro charged the girl’s father with texting and driving, alleging he sent a text message saying “Merry Christmas” just moments before the crash that killed his daughter and seriously injured his wife and two others.

Later, the police investigation revealed the father did not send a text message, though he did receive one near the time of the crash. There’s no evidence he looked at the message while driving.

When news of the charges first broke, many people took to social media and said the police were too harsh in charging the grieving father in the accident that took his daughter’s life.

We want to know what you think about the legal consequences and penalties for texting while driving.

Scientific students — and countless fatal accidents — have proven that texting (and even talking on the phone) distracts drivers’ attention. In fact, some studies show texting while driving is as dangerous as drinking while driving.

North Carolina is one of 41 states (and the District of Columbia) with laws against texting while driving.

Depending on the state and the severity of the infraction, the penalties for texting while driving range from a ticket or fine to jail time.

  • Monetary fines- these can range from as low as $20 up to $500 depending on the state
  • Criminal charges- in some states texting while driving can result in criminal misdemeanor charges (Class B or C)
  • Jail or prison time- if the offense has resulted in bodily injury to another driver, jail or prison time may be imposed

Source: LegalMatch

In N.C. you can be fined from $25 to $100 for texting while driving, depending on your age. Bus drivers who are caught texting while driving face a $100 fine and a Class 2 misdemeanor charge. However, you won’t get points on your license or face increased insurance premiums for texting while driving violations.

Given the serious danger texting while driving presents to motorists and those who share the roads with them, do you think the penalties for texting while driving are severe enough?

Should penalties for texting while driving match those for driving under the influence?

In N.C., DUI penalities are much stricter and include loss of driving privileges, fines ranging from $200 to $10,000, jail time and substance abuse assessment and treatment.


Another McDonald’s Hot Coffee Lawsuit

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A second hot coffee lawsuit against McDonald’s?


Another woman has sued McDonald’s after she suffered serious burns when scalding hot coffee from the fast food chain spilled on her lap.

In a case that is eerily similar to what happened to Stella Liebeck, Joan Fino, an elderly California woman, ordered two cups of coffee at a McDonald’s drive-thru in California. The top wasn’t secure on one of the cups of coffee and it spilled in her lap, causing Fino to suffer severe burns to her groin area.

The same thing happened to Liebeck 21 years ago, and she became a national punchline and poster child for so-called “frivolous” lawsuits. The public is finally getting the real story about what happened to Liebeck thanks to the documentary “Hot Coffee.”

The latest case in California seems to indicate that McDonald’s is still serving coffee at dangerous temperatures, despite more than 1,000 complaints and numerous injuries suffered by Liebeck and others.

Nicholas Wagner, an attorney for Fino told the Huffington Post McDonald’s is sacrificing customer safety so its coffee will taste fresh for longer.

Wagner claims that McDonald’s keeps its coffee at dangerously high temperatures so that it tastes fresh for longer periods of time and less coffee is wasted.

“Despite over 1,000 complaints from customers about being burned by the coffee, McDonald’s still continues to brew the coffee at such an exceptionally high temperature,” Wagner said. “They are saving more in production costs in brewing coffee and serving at such high temperature than it costs them to settle the cases with these people who have been injured.”

This is a case that bears watching.

We certainly hope that Ms. Fino’s injuries are taken seriously by the public and that she’s not subjected to the same type of ridicule Ms. Liebeck suffered. But we also know big business and the insurance industry have huge financial incentives to perpetuate the myth of the frivolous lawsuit.

Labor Day Travel Safety Tips

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This weekend is Labor Day, the holiday that celebrates workers.

We hope you have fun plans for the end-of-summer hurrah. And we also hope you’ll stay safe over the holiday weekend.

With so many people traveling, spending time at the pool, beach or lake and grilling out, Labor Day can be a prime time for injuries.

The National Safety Council estimates nearly 400 people will die in automobile accidents over the Labor Day weekend, and some 42,000 people will suffer injuries requiring medical treatment.

Wearing your seatbelt — and making sure others in the car with you buckle up, too — is one of the smartest safety measures you can take this weekend.

The National Safety Council estimates that seatbelts will save 143 lives this weekend. And if everyone buckled up, the number of Labor Day traffic fatalities would be reduced by 100.

“NSC issues fatality estimates for major holiday periods to draw attention to the need for drivers to exercise safe driving practices, especially when a significant number of drivers are expected to be on our nation’s roads,” said Janet Froetscher, NSC president and CEO.

Thanks to lower gas prices and an improving economy, AAA Carolinas estimates a 5 percent increase in Labor Day travel this weekend by North Carolinians.

An expected 972,600 North Carolina residents will travel more than 50 miles from home during the five-day holiday travel period, which ends Monday.

To ensure a safe Labor Day holiday weekend, NSC recommends drivers:

  • Establish and enforce a distraction-free zone, especially in cars equipped with electronic devices including cell phones, global positioning systems and other in-vehicle technology (We’ve warned about distracted driving before.)
  • Make sure all passengers are buckled up and children are in safety seats appropriate for their age and size
  • Allow plenty of travel time to avoid frustration and diminish the impulse to speed
  • Drive defensively and exercise caution, especially during inclement weather
  • Designate a non-drinking driver or plan for alternative transportation, such as a taxi

The American Red Cross also suggests that drivers carry an emergency supply kit in their trunk. It’s also a good idea to let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive.

Roadways aren’t the only place where you need to exercise caution this weekend.

Swimming pools, lakes, beaches and backyard barbecues also pose risks.

Follow these Labor Day safety tips from the American Red Cross to ensure that your holiday celebrations remain fun and safe.

Tips for Safe Swimming

  • Check weather and water conditions beforehand and throughout the day.
  • Always swim with a buddy in a designated swimming area supervised by a lifeguard.
  • Provide constant supervision to children in or near the water and always stay within arm’s reach of young children and inexperienced swimmers while they are in the water.
  • Young children and inexperienced swimmers should wear U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jackets.

Tips for Safe Grilling

  • Keep the grill away from the house, tree branches, or anything that could catch fire.
  • Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Keep children and pets away from the grill.
  • Never add charcoal starter fluid when coals have already been ignited.


Risky Driving: Hands-Free Devices Don’t Make You Safer on the Road

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A new AAA study of distracted driving confirms that using hands-free devices to make phone calls or send text messages while driving isn’t safe at all.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind, AAA found that using these devices contributes to drivers’ mental distraction and inattention to the roadway, causing them to have slowed reaction time and to miss things like traffic signs, other vehicles and pedestrians on the roadway.

According to coverage in USA Today, this form of distracted driving is as dangerous as texting while driving, a behavior we’ve warned you about before: 

“The increasingly popular voice-activated, in-car technologies that allow drivers to text, talk on the phone or even use Facebook while driving still allow for dangerous mental distraction, according to a study.

In the most comprehensive study of its kind to look at drivers’ mental distraction, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that as mental workload and distractions increase, reaction time slows, brain function is compromised, and drivers scan the road less and miss visual clues, researchers say. This could potentially result in drivers being unable to see items right in front of them, such as stop signs or pedestrians.”

If you use Siri on the iPhone, a bluetooth headset or a built-in device in your car to make phone calls, send text messages or even check and post to Facebook, please reconsider.

Engaging in other activities while driving can have deadly consequences.

AAA distracted driving risks

Illustration via AAA

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers in 2011, and an estimated 387,000 more were injured.
  • 10 percent of fatal crashes and 17 percent of injury crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
  • 11 Percent of all drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatalcrashes werereported as “distracted” at the time of the crash; this age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted. 
  • Drivers text messaging behind the wheel are eight times as likely to be in a crash or near crash as drivers who are not texting.
  • When conversing on mobile devices, either hand-held or hands-free, drivers increase their risk of a crash two to four times 

The best solution is to turn off your phone while you’re in the car — or put it well out of reach. Those calls and messages can wait until you’re not behind the wheel.



“Hot Coffee” filmmaker coming to Greensboro for free screening

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Have you heard the one about the lady who spilled hot coffee in her lap and sued McDonald’s for millions?

Chances are you have, but like most people, you probably don’t know the real story of what happened to 79-year-old Stella Liebeck.

Instead of receiving the sympathy and compassion her severe injuries merited, Liebeck became a national punch line. She became emblematic of the so-called “frivolous lawsuit,” and the McDonald’s hot coffee lawsuit became a rallying cry for tort reform.

The documentary “Hot Coffee” by director Susan Saladoff tells the real story of what happened to Stella Liebeck. It also examines the great injustice that has been done to the American civil justice system over the last 25 years at the hands of big business interests.

The Deuterman Law Group is happy to bring this important film to Greensboro. We are sponsoring a free public viewing of the documentary at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 at the Carolina Theatre, followed by a discussion about the movie with the filmmaker Saladoff. Admission is free, and the first will receive a free tote bag and other goodies and knowledge they can take to the polls on Nov. 6.

Thanks to a long-running and well-funded public relations campaign, financed by the tobacco, pharmaceutical and insurance companies, many Americans believe our civil justice system is broken and that so-called “tort reform” is the only thing that can fix it.

They have convinced the public “we have out-of-control juries, too many frivolous lawsuits and a civil justice system that needs reforming,” according to the filmmakers. “They have used anecdotes, half-truths and sometimes out-and-out lies in their efforts, for one purpose – to put limits on people’s access to the court system, the one and only place where an average citizen can go toe to toe with those with money and power and still have a shot at justice.

“Because of the success of the public relations campaigns…our civil justice system is not impartial. Jurors have been led to believe that a large verdict will affect their pocketbooks. Voters believe that we have a court system out of control that needs reforming. Although there are consumer advocacy groups who have attempted to set the story straight, there has yet to be enough money to launch the kind of public relations campaign for consumers that can even begin to combat and challenge the public relations campaigns of pro-business and tort reform groups.”

Documentaries and independent films, like “Hot Coffee” are helping to set the record straight.

“Hot Coffee” uses Liebeck’s story and three others to educate viewers about the realities of tort reform. The film also addresses the issues of caps on medical damages and mandatory arbitration in civil lawsuits.

It is truly eye opening. We want people in our community to have the opportunity to have all the facts so they can make up their own minds about these important issues.

We invite you to be our guest at the movies on Oct. 9.

If you’re not able to make it to the public screening, consider hosting a “Hot Coffee” viewing party at home. You can find more information at, under the Take Action tab.

Want to go?
What: Free public screening of the documentary, “Hot Coffee: Is Justice Being Served?”
When: 7 p.m. Oct. 9
Where: Carolina Theatre, 310 S. Greene St., Greensboro
Admission: Free; the first 500 people also receive a free tote bag and other goodies

What Really Happened to Stella Liebeck
The documentary goes into specific detail, but here are the facts, in brief, of Stella Lieback’s injuries and the court case.

• In February 1992, the 79-year-old woman was sitting in the passenger seat of her grandson’s car after purchasing a cup of McDonald’s coffee. After the car stopped, she tried to hold the cup securely between her knees while removing the lid. However, the cup tipped over, pouring scalding hot coffee onto her lap.
• Liebeck received third-degree burns over 16 percent of her body, requiring an eight-day hospitalization, whirlpool treatment for debridement of her wounds, skin grafting, scarring and disability for more than two years.
• Despite these extensive injuries, Liebeck offered to settle with McDonald’s for $20,000. However, McDonald’s refused to settle for this small amount and, in fact, never offered more than $800.
• The jury awarded Liebeck $200,000 in compensatory damages — reduced to $160,000 because the jury found her 20 percent at fault — and $2.7 million in punitive damages for McDonald’s callous conduct. The trial judge reduced the punitive damages to $480,000, but did state that McDonald’s had engaged in “willful, wanton, and reckless” behavior.
• Liebeck and McDonald’s eventually settled for a confidential amount.
• By corporate specifications, McDonald’s sells its coffee at 180 to 190 degrees Fahrenheit. Coffee at that temperature, if spilled, causes third-degree burns in two to seven seconds.
• McDonald’s admitted it had known about the risk of serious burns from its scalding hot coffee for more than 10 years. The risk was brought to its attention through numerous other claims and lawsuits. In fact, from 1982 to 1992, McDonald’s coffee burned more than 700 people.
• McDonald’s admitted it did not warn customers of the nature and extent of this risk of burns.
• Liebeck’s treating physician testified her injury was one of the worst scald burns he had ever seen.

Source: “Hot Coffee,” the Center for Justice & Democracy and Liebeck’s attorney.

Elections and Tort Reform

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Yesterday, we wrote about the grassroots effort afoot to educate people about the realities of so-called “tort reform” through viewings of the documentary, “Hot Coffee.”

Here are some concrete things you can do to take action. It starts by being an informed voter and voicing your opinions to your elected officials and those running for office.


“Hot Coffee” Viewing Parties

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We’ve written here before about “Hot Coffee,” the documentary that tells the real story of the McDonald’s coffee lawsuit brought by Stella Liebeck and the real cost of so-called tort reform.

The McDonald’s case became a rallying cry for advocates of so-called “tort reform,” and general public opinion is that Liebeck’s was a frivolous lawsuit, when in fact, she suffered extremely serious burns requiring multiple operations and skin grafts. And she wasn’t the first person to be hurt by McDonald’s scalding hot coffee; the fast food chain had received more than 700 complaints about the temperature of its coffee before Liebeck was burned. 

The producers of the documentary, “Hot Coffee,” not only want to set the record straight about Liebeck’s lawsuit, but they also want to educate people about how “tort reform” poses a dire threat to our civil justice system — and the ability of injured people, like Liebeck, to fight back against huge corporations, like McDonald’s, that do them legitimate harm.

“Hot Coffee” has screened for audiences around the country, and it’s also in regular rotation on HBO. Now, the producers are encouraging people to host their own viewing parties of the documentary to get the truth about tort reform out before the November elections.

We’re full into the 2012 Election Cycle. We have learned that change happens at the local level, one person at a time. We each have the ability to make change if we take action. We’ve seen evidence of the grassroots at work this year with businesses and organizations leaving ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Counci) in droves, and with Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in every town and city. Let’s make Hot Coffee part of that conversation, and together let’s take our rights back. The 2012 elections are littered with pro-tort reform candidates (like Pat McCrory in North Carolina, who are catering to business and insurance interests and care little about the rights of disabled and injured people), ballot measures, and highly-financed judicial elections. Let your representatives on the state and national level know that we are aware of these issues. That we will not stand for threats to our civil justice system in the guise of caps on damages, medical malpractice restrictions, hidden mandatory arbitration rules, or any laws that restrict our access to the courts be it in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Alabama, Minnesota or all across the U.S. The Civil Justice system is your right; don’t let anyone take it away from you.

You can sign up here to host a “HOT COFFEE” the Movie Pay it Forward DVD House Party. If you host a party, we’d love to help you spread the word about it. Email [email protected] with details about your “Hot Coffee” house party. 

Please feel free to share photos and details of your event on the Deuterman Law Facebook page.