In this video, Justin Lawrence describes and defines Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage as it relates to Kentucky drivers, and talks about the types of bills that PIP should cover after a motor vehicle accident. Justin also describes the process for receiving PIP benefits, and talks about warning signs that your automobile insurance carrier may be ready to cut off your ability to access this important, post-injury coverage.
Attorney Justin Lawrence writes here about the liability for drunk drivers who cause automobile accidents when the drunk driver gets behind the wheel immediately after a work event. Kentucky law has a surprising loophole for employers that allow their employees to get drunk at company functions and drive home.
If you’ve been in a car accident with a drunk driver, get the facts to know your rights. Call the experienced attorneys at Lawrence & Associates for a free consultation to determine whether you should sue.
Check out this article written by Justin Lawrence, in which he discusses how an injured person can preserve their claim when the person who hurt them files for bankruptcy. Many lawyers cannot practice in both bankruptcy and in injury areas of practice (such as personal injury, workers’ compensation, and social security disability). Lawrence & Associates has experience in each of these areas of practice, which gives our attorneys a unique and comprehensive perspective when these worlds collide.
Justin Lawrence recently wrote an article for an attorney publication called the Advocate. In this article, Justin teaches other attorneys how jurors think of testifying experts and the best way to conduct a personal injury trial (such as a motor vehicle accident or a products liability case) when the opposing expert is a biased, paid witness with no interest in justice or the truth.
Justin Lawrence has a great deal of experience helping clients who have suffered injuries in motor vehicle accidents or by using defective products, and you can find out more about the results he has achieved for his clients on the Verdicts & Settlements page of our website.
Click the image below to read his article in the Advocate.
Attorney Justin Lawrence, founder of Lawrence & Associates, recently wrote an Amicus (or “Friend of the Court”) brief for the Kentucky AFL-CIO at the Kentucky Supreme Court. The brief concerned a Workers’ Compensation case in which the injured worker demanded full compensation for his injury and for lost income benefits stemming from the fact that his employer brought him back on a limited basis and then fired him. Lawrence & Associates is particularly happy that the Supreme Court adopted Justin’s argument that the employer bears the burden of proving why an employee is fired, rather than the prior rule of thumb which placed that burden on the employee, even if the employee was never told why he was fired!
John Fuertes, Appellant v. Ford Motor Co.; Honorable James Kerr, Administrative Law Judge; and Workers’ Compensation Board, Appellees.
Decided: February 18, 2016
COUNSEL FOR APPELLANT, JOHN FUERTES: Charles E. Jennings COUNSEL FOR APPELLEE, FORD MOTOR CO.: Peter J. Glauber, Philip J. Reverman, Jr., Elizabeth M. Hahn COUNSEL FOR AMICUS CURIAE, THE KENTUCKY CHAPTER OF AMERICAN FEDERATION OF LABOR AND CONGRESS OF INDUSTRIAL ORGANIZATIONS: Justin Lee Lawrence
OPINION OF THE COURT
Appellant, John Fuertes, appeals a Court of Appeals decision which affirmed the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) finding that his workers’ compensation award should not be enhanced by the two multiplier pursuant to KRS 342.730(1)(c)2. Because of this Court’s decision in Livingood v. Transfreight, LLC, 467 S.W.3d 249 (Ky.2015), we reverse the Court of Appeals and remand this matter for further proceedings.
Fuertes suffered a work-related accident while employed by Appellee, Ford Motor Company, on October 30, 2003. He filed for workers’ compensation. Before his claim could be resolved, Fuertes was fired by Ford for “performance related issues.” Fuertes contends that he was fired because of his work-related injuries. Specifically, Fuertes states that he missed a lot of work to undergo rehabilitation or physical therapy. He also was under work restrictions which limited his ability to perform his job.
After a review of the evidence, the ALJ found that Fuertes suffered a work-related injury to his right shoulder, right knee and neck.1 Workers’ compensation was awarded accordingly. The ALJ declined to apply a multiplier to Fuertes’s award. He stated that “[t]here is no evidence that [Fuertes’s] cessation of employment was the result of his work-related injury.” See Chrysalis House, Inc. v. Tackett, 283 S.W.3d 671 (Ky.2009). However, the ALJ failed to specifically address the application of KRS 342.730(1)(c)2, the two multiplier. Fuertes filed a petition for reconsideration asking the ALJ to reconsider his finding that there was no evidence to indicate his termination was the result of his work-related injury and that the ALJ make a determination as to the reason Fuertes was fired. The petition for reconsideration was denied.
Fuertes appealed to the Workers’ Compensation Board (“Board”). The Board issued an opinion affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding. The Board found that the ALJ did not address Fuertes’s request in his petition for reconsideration for a determination as to the reason why he was terminated from Ford. Fuertes then appealed to the Court of Appeals requesting a remand to the ALJ for findings regarding his entitlement to the two multiplier per KRS 342.730(1)(c)2. The Court of Appeals found that the ALJ did address the applicability of the two multiplier, but remanded the matter to the Board for consideration of whether the ALJ erred in finding that substantial evidence did not support application of the multiplier. On remand, the Board stated that, “the evidence did not compel a finding Fuertes was entitled to enhancement by the two multiplier at the time of the ALJ’s decision.” The Board further stated that Fuertes’ speculative testimony did not compel the ALJ to find that the work-related injury led to his termination. Fuertes again appealed to the Court of Appeals which affirmed the Board. This appeal followed.
The Board’s review in this matter was limited to determining whether the evidence is sufficient to support the ALJ’s findings, or if the evidence compels a different result. W. Baptist Hosp. v. Kelly, 827 S.W.2d 685, 687 (Ky.1992). Further, the function of the Court of Appeals is to “correct the Board only where the Court perceives the Board has overlooked or misconstrued controlling statutes or precedent, or committed an error in assessing the evidence so flagrant as to cause gross injustice.” Id. at 687–88. Finally, review by this Court “is to address new or novel questions of statutory construction, or to reconsider precedent when such appears necessary, or to review a question of constitutional magnitude.” Id. The ALJ, as fact-finder, has the sole discretion to judge the credibility of testimony and weight of evidence. Paramount Foods, Inc. v. Burkhardt, 695 S.W.2d 418 (Ky.1985).
Fuertes argues that the Board and Court of Appeals erred by usurping the ALJ’s role as fact finder and interpreter of the evidence concerning application of the two multiplier to his award. Fuertes also contends that the ALJ erred when he found that there was no evidence the termination was related to the work-related injury. However, we need not address the merits of Fuertes’s arguments because this matter must be remanded for further fact finding.
Since the ALJ issued the opinion and order on remand and the opinion and order on reconsideration, this Court has reversed the portion of Chrysalis House, 283 S.W.3d 671, which held that the claimant’s failure to earn the same or greater wages must be related to the work-related injury before the two multiplier may be awarded. Livingood, 467 S.W.3d at 249. Instead this Court now holds that “KRS 342.730(1)(c)2 permits a double income benefit during any period that employment at the same or a greater wage ceases for any reason, with or without cause,’ except where the reason is the employee’s conduct shown to have been an intentional, deliberate action with a reckless disregard of the consequences either to himself or to another.” Id. at 259
In this matter, no finding has been made whether Fuertes’s conduct at Ford satisfies this new standard so as to justify the denial of the application of the two multiplier. On remand, the ALJ should make a finding of whether Fuertes engaged in conduct as outlined in Livingood that led to the reduction of hours he worked and ultimate termination. We note that this is a high standard and basic bad behavior will not bar application of the two multiplier. If Fuertes did not engage in such conduct, the two multiplier may be applied to his award.
Fuertes has additionally requested that this Court decide whether the claimant or employer has the burden of proof to show the employee was fired due to the type of misconduct as described in Livingood. To prove that the claimant was fired because he committed that type of misconduct, evidence must be provided which supports the conclusion the claimant acted inappropriately. Obviously it is unlikely that the claimant would admit to misconduct. Because of this, and since proving that type of misconduct occurred is a defense against application of the two multiplier, the burden of proof is upon the employer to show the claimant’s termination was caused by the type of behavior described in Livingood.
Thus, we reverse the decision of the Court of Appeals and remand the matter to the ALJ for proceedings consistent with this opinion.
1. Fuertes later was found to have suffered work-related hearing loss and he was awarded workers’ compensation.
The American Association for Justice creates Trial Magazine, which discusses best practices for trial attorneys and their clients. A recent article on the use of social media by litigants gave ten excellent pointers.
For years, judges have allowed defense attorneys to look at social media accounts. Although this may not seem like a big deal at first (don’t teenagers allow everyone to see what they are doing on social media, all the time?), it can get very invasive. For example, let’s say you have a Facebook account that is set to private so no one can see what you post unless they are a friend. Then let’s say you were hurt in a car accident, and you sent instant messages to a friend on Facebook about the accident, but did not post about the accident on your wall. American case law says defense attorneys can force you to turn over the password for your entire Facebook account, and that the defense attorney can look through every instant message in the account and at every post you ever made to your wall, even if they have nothing to do with the car accident!
By comparison, when police enter a criminal’s home they are only allowed to look in the exact areas that a judge has specified in a subpoena – if the allegation is that they make meth in their basement, the police can go to the basement but may not be able to go through the bedroom drawers. In other words, Facebook users in a car accident have less of a right to online privacy from defense attorneys than meth manufacturers do from the police.
With that in mind, here are ten tips from the American Association for Justice to preserve your online privacy and still have a shot at getting justice in a lawsuit:
Archive the contents of your current accounts – don’t just delete things; make sure there is a backup. Most social media sites will give you directions on how to do this.
Deactivate or stop using your social media accounts. If you can’t deactivate, then after you archive you should delete any information about your injury.
Turn on the highest privacy settings – make sure only your friends can see your information.
Know who your friends are! Make lists of close friends and, if you are going to post during your lawsuit, only post to those close friends. Also, don’t accept random friend requests from people you don’t know.
Become invisible by selecting “only friends” under the “search visibility” option in Facebook. Google Plus has a similar feature by unchecking the box for “Public Search Listing”.
Remove all photos of yourself that are not head shots. Defense lawyers will use your private photos at trial!
Anything you write can be used against you. What seems like a funny joke on Facebook might not seem too funny in a courtroom, and sarcasm doesn’t always come through! Think before you post.
Keep all computers, tablets, or cell phones until the trial is over, even if you get a new one. Defense lawyers sometimes accuse you of destroying evidence if you don’t keep these.
Don’t send messages about the case through instant messenger. Ever.
Don’t join websites or web chat groups, even if they are about the law. Defense lawyers are allowed to troll these sites to try to pick up damaging information about you!
Lawrence & Associates – A Tech Savvy Law Firm
Lawrence & Associates is up to date on technological advances, and as a result we offer better protection from intrusive defense attorneys to our clients than many other firms. If you or someone you know had an accident in Kentucky but lives elsewhere, please do not hesitate to contact Lawrence & Associates for more information and assistance. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we can help!
Tens of thousands of people visit Kentucky every day. Some are traveling through on the way to somewhere else, some have come here to work from neighboring states, and some are here for vacation. It is inevitable that some of those people will get into car crashes or somehow get hurt while in Kentucky. The Northern Kentucky attorneys at Lawrence & Associates have helped many injured people recover compensation for their injuries while keeping travel back to Kentucky at a minimum. Filing and resolving a claim without traveling back to Kentucky isn’t inevitable, but it is possible.
Here are some recent examples of people we helped from outside Kentucky:
Lawrence & Associates helped a man who used to work in Kentucky, but who now lives in South Carolina, file his Workers’ Compensation claim. He successfully recovered full benefits.
Lawrence & Associates helped a family of five who were hit by a negligent driver while driving through Kentucky on a family vacation. Despite living in Michigan, the family was able to recover for their injuries without having to travel back to Kentucky.
Lawrence & Associates filed a bankruptcy for a young woman who had recently moved to Indiana for a new job, only to lose the new job and find herself out of a paycheck and a home. Bankruptcy rules required her to file in Kentucky, and we made sure she only had to travel back one time.
Lawrence & Associates helped several people file disability claims in Cincinnati despite having administrative law judges in Montana, New York, and Florida. We arranged for all hearings to be held by teleconference in downtown Cincinnati so our clients did not have to travel far from home.
Long Distance Representation is Easy with the Right Attorney
Lawrence & Associates represents so many clients from so many parts of the state because we use technology to make long distances disappear. We process the case paperlessly but sending documents to you via email or Dropbox. (Only two documents cannot be handled this way: our contract and the HIPAA authorization for injured people. Those must be snail mailed so we can get the originals.) Important meetings can be Skyped when necessary. With good communication, Lawrence & Associates’ attorneys can speak with you, gather information, and resolve your claim remotely, for maximum convenience to you.
Our comfort with technology comes by design. Lawrence & Associates stays on the cutting edge of changes in technology so we can provide our clients with an easier and more efficient experience.
The law moves slowly, but we make every effort to handle matters quickly so all our clients have a minimum of disruption in their lives. Lawrence & Associates has a tremendous amount of experience at working with medical providers to gather medical records and bills. Whether you went to a local hospital, like St. Elizabeth Medical Center, or you are treating with your own doctor at home, we can work with your provider to ensure that we receive accurate, timely copies of your medical records and bills. This is important; unsophisticated attorneys sometimes unintentionally create delays at the end of a case because they have not kept up with updates on medical records and bills. At Lawrence & Associates, your attorney will be ready to move forward when your treatment is done.
Further, Lawrence & Associates has a good relationship with local adjusters. Although we are adversaries, we are not antagonistic. This is good for the out of state client because we can set up teleconference calls for adjusters that need a statement. An injured person should never give a statement without his or her attorney present, but it is unnecessary for the injured person and his or her attorney to be in the same room. Modern technology has removed the necessity of traveling in order to make a recorded statement.
Lawrence & Associates Stands By Your Side
If a lawsuit needs to be filed, our attorneys will ensure that you do not need to attend most hearings in court, so that you miss a few days from work as possible and have as little travel time as possible. Getting skilled legal counsel increases the chances that you can receive compensation for your injuries with minimum effort on your part (beyond treating for your injuries, of course) and with maximum potential for your fair recovery.
As recent tractor-traileraccidents in Northern Kentucky show, everyone is at risk, even if just traveling through our state. If you or someone you know had an accident in Kentucky but lives elsewhere, please do not hesitate to contact Lawrence & Associates for more information and assistance. We are Working Hard for the Working Class, and we can help!
Posted on Wednesday, December 9th, 2015 at 8:24 am
Rumor has it that tort reform will be on the legislative agenda in Kentucky in 2016, based on leaks from Matt Bevin’s transition team meetings. Tort reform is great for insurance companies, but hurts average state citizens. To get an idea of how much it can hurt an average citizen, Lawrence & Associates is going to share a current case study (with the identifying data removed or rounded) that compares how an injured person can be compensated in Ohio for medical bills, and in Kentucky for the same medical bills.
Lawrence & Associates’ Client, His Injuries, and His Medical Bills
Our client, Mr. W, was injured while driving his car. He had a leg amputated and a hip fractured, and had extensive therapy so he could re-learn how to walk. After a thorough police investigation, the other driver was found to be at fault. Fortunately, the other driver had excellent automobile insurance, with policy limits high enough to cover all of Mr. W’s medical bills.
Mr. W has over $850,000.00 in medical bills. He had health insurance that paid about $100,000.00 of the medical bills, leaving the other $750,000.00 to be written off. In Ohio, they have enacted tort reform. As part of that tort reform, Ohio’s case law Robinson v. Bates states that the automobile insurance policy for the at-fault driver only has to pay the $100,000.00 that was paid by the health insurance company. In Kentucky, there is no tort reform. Kentucky’s case, Baptist Healthcare v. Miller, says that the at-fault driver has to pay the full $850,000.00 in medical bills. (Bear in mind that, in any event, there is enough insurance coverage to pay all the medical bills, so the driver himself would not be on the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars). What happens to the $750,000.00 when you cross the border from Kentucky to Ohio is the essence of tort reform.
Who Profits from Tort Reform?
How can two neighboring states reach such totally different positions on such a simple issue? It would seem obvious that the medical bills should be paid by the insurance policy. That is, after all, why we have insurance. However, years of lobbying dollars by insurance companies has muddled that logic and created a huge windfall for these multi-billion dollar businesses.
Kentucky adheres to the “common law,” developed over the centuries from the founding of America, while Ohio uses statutes passed within the last decade. In Kentucky, the logic of the common law is that someone that does something wrong should have to pay to fix what they did wrong. Thus, someone that causes $850,000.00 in medical bills should have to pay the full amount. If the injured person has health insurance that takes care of the medical bills, then the injured person gets the benefit of both policies. If there is a windfall, then Kentucky says Mr. W should get the windfall as part of his compensation for losing his leg.
Ohio’s statutes, on the other hand, were passed with the goal of limiting anyone’s right to recover in court, and most especially seriously injured people like Mr. W. Ohio says that the person who did something wrong only has to pay for that wrong to the extent that the injured person has to re-pay his or her insurance company to cover the bill. So if Mr. W’s insurance policy covers $100,000.00 and Mr. W has to pay that back, then automobile insurance company for the person who hurt Mr. W only has to pay $100,000.00. In Ohio, the windfall goes to the insurance company that has cleverly avoided paying $750,000.00 in damages.
Is Tort Reform Right for Kentucky?
All of us who drive on the road have the potential to be Mr. W. That is an ugly fact, but a true one, so we all must ask ourselves whether Kentucky or Ohio is right. When one person hurts another person, does the first person have the duty to pay the second person for the full amount of the damages? Put another way, should the other driver’s automobile insurance company have paid for all the medical bills Mr. W received when he lost his leg? Tort reform says no, that the car insurance company should keep the money. At Lawrence & Associates, we respectfully suggest that everyone in Kentucky should call their state legislator and express serious concern about Mr. W’s case happening again and again, right here in Kentucky.
If you have been involved in an accident, please contact us. We’ve helped thousands of people recover for their injuries, and our testimonials reflect the quality of our work. We are working hard for the working class, and we want to work for you. Call today!
Posted on Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 at 10:24 am
Lawrence & Associates sees many clients after a car wreck, and we see many misconceptions about how insurance coverage should pay medical bills and repayments for lost wages. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer injuries in a motor vehicle accident, you’ll want to know what insurance to use and when to use it. Using insurance incorrectly – or wrongful denials by the insurance company – delay treatment and impede recovery. Make sure all the premiums you have paid count for something! Use your insurance wisely and get all the benefit you deserve.
Priority of Insurance Coverage
Insurance contracts and state law determine the order in which insurance policies have to pay. After a car accident, most insurance policies pay benefits in the following order:
PIP or Med Pay coverage from your own car insurance policy
PIP or Med Pay coverage from the car insurance policy of the owner of the car you were in when hurt
Health Insurance coverage
Liability policy of the at-fault driver
Underinsured motorist coverage from your own car insurance policy
We’ve discussed PIP insurance several times in the past. PIP is car insurance that covers medical bills and a certain amount of lost wages. Med Pay coverage is similar, but covers only medical bills. Generally Kentucky drivers get PIP and Ohio drivers get Med Pay.
It is important to get a PIP or Med Pay claim number immediately after an accident by filling out an application for PIP benefits! These benefits are no fault, so they should not raise your premium. This claim number should be presented to each and every medical provider until the PIP or Med Pay benefits are exhausted. You’ll be glad you did this instead of using regular health insurance right off the bat, because regular health insurance is far harder to deal with when you are getting money from the liability policy of the at-fault driver.
The Other Driver’s Policy Does Not Pay First!
Every once in a while, we see Northern Kentucky car accident victims that are convinced that the at-fault driver’s automobile insurance policy should pay their medical bills or lost wages as they go through treatment. These people send bills to the liability carrier as the bills come in, expecting them to be paid. This is not how car insurance works, and if you do this the bills will go unpaid! Unpaid medical bills often go to collections and result in lawsuits against you. Don’t add to your problems by failing to get medical bills paid on time!
Although the at-fault driver’s liability insurance policy is ultimately responsible to pay these bills, this insurance company is allowed to wait until all the medical treatment is finished to determine the full amount it may have to pay. This is allowed because the at-fault driver’s policy pays more than just medical bills and lost wages; it also pays for pain and suffering and for loss of consortium, as well as the loss of your car’s value and other damages. The other driver’s liability insurance can – and will – wait until the end to resolve a claim.
Your insurance coverage, whether auto insurance or health insurance, is there to pay these medical bills or lost wages as they come in. Neither they nor you are getting cheated by using the coverage for its intended purpose. Further, your insurance companies are multi-billion dollar enterprises with teams of lawyers in their employ. They know how to get their money back from the liability policy, and they will take care of that on their own.
Make Your Insurance Work for YOU
The attorneys at Lawrence & Associates are well versed in insurance law, and we love helping people just like you get the full benefit of your insurance. If your Med Pay or PIP coverage is denying treatment, or if the at-fault driver’s liability policy is refusing to reasonably resolve your claim, we can help. Our attorneys have won millions in damages for our clients related to car accidents, and we’d be proud to work for you. Lawrence & Associates is Working Hard for the Working Class. Call us today!
Our previous two blog posts talked about automobile insurance and homeowner’s insurance, but there is another very important type of insurance that every injured person’s attorney should be looking for. An umbrella policy can provide valuable coverage for the most serious injuries, whether they occur on the road, at home, or somewhere else.
An umbrella policy is “excess coverage,” which means that it only kicks in after some other kind of insurance coverage has been exhausted. It doesn’t matter what the other kind of insurance is, and if there is no other insurance that covers then the umbrella policy will typically kick in. A typical situation would be a very serious car accident, where the injuries as a result of the accident are in the millions of dollars. The automobile insurance policy for the at-fault driver might have only $100,000 limit, but the driver’s umbrella policy might be as high as five million dollars. Although the injured driver will have to receive the entire policy limits from the automobile policy first, once that happens the entire umbrella policy is available to pay any damages the injured driver can prove.
How Can a Lawyer Help Me?
Most people do not have umbrella policies, so many attorneys don’t think to check for one. This is why an experienced personal injury attorney, such as those at Lawrence & Associates, should be contacted for serious injuries. The worst thing an injured person can do is settle an insurance claim for an amount of money much smaller than the total damages under the mistaken belief that there is nothing out there beyond the automobile or homeowner’s insurance policy. Remember that the insurance company is not required to tell you about the existence of an umbrella policy. You have to figure that out for yourself!
Our experienced personal injury attorneys can examine the insurance coverage related to any injury and make sure you take advantage of each and every insurance policy with coverage. We help injured Northern Kentucky residents every day. If you have questions about your insurance policy, please call today! Lawrence & Associates is Working Hard for the Working Class, and we want to work for you!
A man was injured when a piece of construction equipment collided with his vehicle and crushed him.
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“Our home of 25 years was in foreclosure and we were devastated. We didn’t know what to do. Someone told us about Justin Lawrence. He began to work on getting...”
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“Not only did Justin Lawrence do a great job on handling my case, he is a great guy as well. A very good lawyer!”
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“I contacted Justin Lawrence and his firm when my uncle needed help getting social security. Mr. Lawrence and his staff were professional and kind, always asking how my uncle was...”
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“Great Attorney and staff – fabulous to work with!”
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“The service provided by Mr. Lawrence and his firm was rendered professionally, timely, and with complete concern towards my situation. I would use their services again.”
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“I am happy with Justin Lawrence’s hard work on my case. I send out a big thank-you to his staff also.”
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“I went to Lawrence & Associates with a problem and within 1 week Justin Lawrence had some money coming to me that was rightfully mine. And soon after that he...”