North Carolina and South Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog

One of two events may take place whenever the VA pays a veteran more than it should, either an Overpayment or an Administrative Error/Error in Judgement. An overpayment is when the veteran or veteran’s dependent receives more money than allowed because of an action or lack of action of the veteran or dependent. This can include under-reporting income, not reporting a change in family status, or defaulting on a VA-guaranteed loan. This can also include failing to report Social Security back-pay while receiving VA Pension. In contrast, an Administrative Error/Error in Judgement occurs when the VA erroneously overpays a veteran or dependent through no fault of the beneficiary. This can include when the VA fails to provide clear notice of a specific reporting requirement, and there is no evidence that the veteran or dependent has reason to believe that he or she is not entitled to the extra compensation.

What Are Your Options?

When presented with a potential Overpayment, the alleged debtor may dispute the validity or amount of the debt, request a waiver of collection of the debt, offer a settlement amount to satisfy the debt, or any combination of the three simultaneously. There is no deadline to dispute the validity or amount of the debt, however if the alleged debtor submits a dispute within thirty (30) days of receiving the Notice of Overpayment (NOO) the VA will stay collection by offsetting other VA benefits. Unlike a dispute, there is a one-hundred and eighty (180) day deadline from the NOO to request a waiver of recovery of a debt.

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If you are one of the growing number of adults in North Carolina or South Carolina who ride a bicycle for commuting, exercise or pleasure riding, you might be surprised to know that you are in one of the worst states in the country for the number of bicyclist fatalities in motor vehicle accidents.

North Carolina ranked 9th among U.S. states for “pedal cyclist” fatalities involving motor vehicles in 2013, and South Carolina ranked 11th, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Pedal cyclists, as defined by the NHTSA, are bicyclists and other cyclists, including riders of two-wheel, non-motorized vehicles, tricycles, and unicycles powered solely by pedals.

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Closeup of man fastening seat belt in car

It is well understood that wearing a seat belt is the best step you can take to protect yourself in case of a car accident.

North Carolina requires all passengers age 16 and older to wear seat belts and addresses children less than age 16 with the NC child passenger safety law. South Carolina requires all passengers age 17 and younger to wear set belts.

Still, many people do not regularly wear seat belts. A recent report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says the national seat belt use rate in 2013 was 87 percent, up slightly from 86 percent in 2012. This, says the NHTSA, is a substantial increase from 58 percent in 1994.

Despite the statistical increase in seatbelt use, far too many people are still not buckling up.

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The Fourth of July may be over, but the use of fireworks by people on vacation continues in the summer months. If you shrugged off warnings before the Fourth of July about the danger of fireworks and their potential to cause serious injury, you might be interested in a couple of post-holiday news items.

We refer, of course, to reports about two NFL stars who suffered disfiguring injuries in fireworks accidents over the holiday weekend: C.J. Wilson, a North Carolina native who plays with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and New York Giants defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul.

Wilson, who is from Lincoln County and played at N.C. State University, lost the index and middle fingers on one hand, and Pierre-Paul had his right index finger amputated and suffered fractures to his right thumb.

These are two pro athletes, which means they have great reflexes and physical instincts and are strong and physically fit.

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When turning left:

Treat this, stoplight

Like this:yield sign


If you are turning left, the signal light on the left is really the same as the sign on the right. I know that seems like an obvious statement. Most people don’t need a lawyer’s advice for Driver’s Education 101, but I thought this was worth talking about. In my work as a motor vehicle injury lawyer, I see more injuries from this mistake than I do from running red lights or missing stop signs.

I often talk to people who are injured because a driver turning left on a green light did not yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. The injured driver will say, “They just turned right in front of me and there was nothing I could do.” Or sometimes the passenger will say, “There was a car coming but my driver just turned right in front of it, and it was too late.” If the turning driver has a passenger, that person is in an especially bad position because the oncoming car will hit their side in a T-bone type crash. The bad driver always says, “But I had a GREEEEEEEENNN light!” The problem is the oncoming car also had a GREEEEEEEENNN light and they were going straight.

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The Takata airbag recall has been highly publicized and is considered one of the most massive vehicle recalls in recent history. It involves 34 million vehicles across multiple manufacturers and brands, but it is just the tip of the iceberg on auto product recalls. Countless recalls have been issued on all types of auto products capable of causing serious or fatal car accidents and injuries.

According to Forbes and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), auto-related recalls went up to 22 million in 2013, a 25 percent increase from the previous year, making it the industry’s highest rate since 2004. CNN Money reports 2014 recall numbers hit a new record with more than 74.2 million vehicle recalls. In total, close to 100 million vehicles have been recalled in the past year and a half alone. What makes this statistic so frightening is the majority of the cars affected by these recalls have yet to be repaired. Continue Reading

Backyard barbecues are a summer staple in American society. As soon as the weather warms, people in the Upstate area head outside to fire up those grills and cook a feast for family and friends. Many people, young and old, have fond memories of picnics around their backyard barbecues.

Fun can be had at these outings, but safety must remain a top concern. Fire and burn injuries are common when propane and charcoal grills are not handled correctly. Inexperience, distractions, alcohol and a wide range of other factors can contribute to serious or fatal burn injuries.

Grill Fire and Injury Statistics

  • According to statistics from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA): Grilling is responsible for an average of 8,800 home fires each year.
  • Approximately 16 percent of these fires are caused when the barbecue is lit and result from an item or object being close enough to catch on fire.
  • One in five grill fires stems from either a leak or broken piece of equipment.
  • In one recent year, 16,900 people were treated in emergency departments for burn injuries associated with grills.
  • Close to half of all burn injuries involving grills are a result of individuals sustaining thermal burns. Continue Reading

Many times our attorneys at Grimes Teich Anderson LLP speak to potential clients who have applied for Social Security disability benefits but are not receiving regular care for their disabling conditions. The reasons for not seek regular medical care vary from case to case. If you are not seeking regular treatment for your symptoms, Social Security may conclude that your conditions are not as severe as you say they are. In addition, if you are seeking medical treatment but are not following your doctors recommendations, for example, not taking prescribed medication; deciding not to have a recommended surgery; or failing to use a nebulizer, wheel chair or cane as prescribed, Social Security may conclude that your statements regarding your condition are not credible or that you are not doing everything you can to improve your disabling condition. Continue Reading

I will never forget the first time I renewed my car insurance after I finished law school. Going to law school I was a typical poor student. My approach to car insurance was to get as little and spend as little money on insurance as possible. I did not want to pay for any extra bells and whistles; I just wanted to be legal. Many people take this approach. Underinsured coverage always felt like something I didn’t need because I did not understand it. Only at the end of law school at the beginning of my legal career handling car accident cases did I come to appreciate the importance of underinsured motorist coverage. I want to address how underinsured motorist coverage applies in car accident cases. Uninsured motorist coverage is a different type of coverage and will be discussed in another blog.

Underinsured coverage only comes into play when the driver who caused the accident does not have enough insurance. For example, you could easily be involved in an accident with a driver that does not have enough insurance. In North Carolina, the mandatory minimum amount of liability insurance is $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident. This means that in minimum coverage insurance situations, an at-fault driver has $30,000 payable to any one person, and $60,000 in coverage payable on any one accident, regardless of the number of injured claimants. In South Carolina, it’s even less: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. If another driver with minimum limits fails to slow down and hits you hard in the rear, you will likely have EMS expenses, emergency room bills, doctors’ bills and physical therapy. If you have an MRI or CT scan, and then consider your pain and suffering, your claim is very likely to exceed the minimum coverage available. If the at-fault driver doesn’t have enough car insurance to cover your claim, the next place you have to look is your own underinsured coverage.

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Blank dog tags on American flag with focus on tags - Shallow dof

Sometimes it is easy to determine if someone is a veteran, but other times it can be pretty difficult. This brief article will shed some light on the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (“VA”) definition of “veteran” regarding benefit entitlement.

The pertinent statutes and regulations define “veteran” as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable” (38 U.S.C. § 101(2) and 38 C.F.R. § 3.1(d)). The three major elements of this definition are: (1) Service, (2) Active Duty, and (3) Discharge or Release.

It is important to note that the pertinent statutes and regulations do not require service in the armed forces. Rather, it states service in the military, naval, or air services. Including the word “or” in the definition means that the service does not need to be military. Including the broad word “services” greatly expands the scope of “veteran.” In addition to service in the traditional military, the VA includes service in the following as qualifying service:

• Public Health Service
• National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
• Environmental Science Services Administration
• Coast and Geodetic Survey
• Service in the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps
• WWII Service in the Merchant Marine
• Secret Intelligence Element of the Office of Strategic Services
• Wake Island Defenders from Guam
• Service of certain civilians supporting operations during periods of armed conflict

Active duty includes any full-time duty in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, or Coast Guard, with the exception of “active duty for training.” Usually the military will designate if a member of the National Guard or Reserves is active duty for training purposes only. The VA can override the military’s designation for a member of the Reserves if the VA determines that such service in the Reserves was actually for operational or support purposes even if the military designates it as for training purpose only. The VA does not have this same authority regarding the National Guard. Attendance as a Cadet or Midshipman at a U.S. Military, Air Force, Naval, or Coast Guard Academy, or attendance at a preparatory school for the above mentioned academies, qualifies as active duty. In order to be considered active duty in the Public Health Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Environmental Science Services Administration, and the Coast and Geodetic Survey, a person needs to have served full-time as a commissioned officer. Authorized travel to and from the prior mentioned active duty types also qualifies as active duty. It is important to note that active duty in the National Guard only qualifies a person as a veteran if that active duty was “Federal.” The activation of the National Guard for service to the individual state as opposed to service for the federal government does not qualify the person as a veteran. For example, if the National Guard is activated by a Governor to quell a state prison riot or urban looting, the service would not qualify the Guard members as veterans.

Finally, the veteran’s discharge must be under conditions other than dishonorable. There are multiple statutory and regulatory bars to VA benefits relating to the events that bring about someone’s discharge or dismissal. These are all very fact specific and could fill an entire treatise. However, there are three basic assumptions that the VA usually makes when reviewing a discharge: (1) an Honorable Discharge is always given under conditions other than dishonorable, (2) an Administrative Discharge (entry level separation, void enlistment, etc.) is always given under conditions other than dishonorable, and (3) a Dishonorable Discharge or Dismissal is always given under dishonorable conditions. Any other discharge usually requires some sort of extra determination by the VA. The general Statutory and regulatory bars to VA benefits based on discharge are as follows:

  • discharge as a conscientious objector who refused to perform military duty or refused to wear the uniform or otherwise refused to comply with lawful orders of a competent military authority,
  • discharge or dismissal by reason of a sentence of a general court-martial,
  • an officer resigning for the good of the service,
  • desertion
  • discharge as an alien during a time of hostility,
  • discharge under other than honorable conditions issued as a result of absence without official leave (“AWOL”) for at least 180 continuous days (some exceptions apply),
  • accepting an undesirable discharge or discharge under other than honorable conditions to escape a trial by general court-martial,
  • mutiny or spying
  • an offense involving moral turpitude, and
  • willful and persistent misconduct.

In the general public, the term “Veteran” is used rather loosely in certain circumstances. In other circumstances it is used rather rigidly. The VA considers the term “Veteran” to be a well-defined term of art that serves as a gatekeeper to its benefits. Knowing what the term means and who falls under its definition is key to any successful claim before the VA.

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