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Suffolk (631) 621-6183
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We’ve always focused our practice on fighting tenaciously for the personally injured with the utmost personal attention, drive and determination. We’re proud and active members in the Long Island community, passionate in devoting ourselves to causes that aid our community in the best ways possible (learn more about some of the community causes we participate in). It’s been 20 years since we established Palermo Law, P.L.L.C. Since then, we’ve expanded our practice, opening new offices throughout Long Island in order to better serve victims of personal injury.
We’ve had several clients with injuries so severe they simply couldn’t make it to our office. We’re always willing to visit clients wherever they are, whether they are in the hospital or at home, if they are unable to make it to one of our offices. We’re here to help our clients in every way possible. And we’re always on the move from office to office. Since our inception, we’ve opened offices in Hauppauge, Babylon, Huntington, and Garden City, serving both Suffolk County and Nassau County.
We’re proud to announce the brand-new opening of our Patchogue Office, conveniently located on Route 112. It’s an easily accessible, beautifully furnished new office and we couldn’t be happier. We go the extra mile to accommodate all of our clients, ensuring they have the most comfortable experience possible with easily accessible offices around Long Island and a highly-knowledgeable, warm and compassionate staff.
In a personal injury case, a “lien” gives an entity the right to a specific portion of a plaintiff’s settlement. A debt may sometimes be owed by the plaintiff to an entity, such as Medicaid, for benefits paid on behalf of the plaintiff. For personal injury attorneys, it’s imperative to investigate any potential outstanding liens placed on their clients. Lien claimants will recuperate the debt owed by the plaintiff for said services out of their final settlement. Generally, health insurers, Medicare and Medicaid require that their insured report any personal injury claims. Some personal injury attorneys will choose to let their clients handle the act of reporting on their own. Agencies that require reporting often program their computer systems to flag any payments made for medical treatment and may reach out to injury victims to ask if they have a personal injury claim. If they failed to report to said agencies, they risk losing their insurance. Practical personal injury attorneys will protect their clients by reporting their claims to these agencies.
In New York, liens may belong to physicians, Medicare and Medicaid agencies, certain disability policies, additional No-Fault benefits such as APIP or OBEL, workers’ compensation coverage, and private health insurance in certain instances. If a client’s health insurance does not cover their medical treatment, their physician may still treat them so long as they sign a lien, which gives the physician the right to recuperate the costs of their services from their settlement. This is a simple example of how liens work.
Personal injury attorneys have an obligation to investigate whether or not their clients have liens placed on them. If clients aren’t made aware of the liens placed on them and how they will affect their final settlement (especially before they accept a settlement offer), they’ll most definitely be confused and likely angry that they aren’t getting their full settlement check. A prudent personal injury attorney will calculate the amount their client owes in liens and fight for that additional amount. They can also negotiate with a lien claimant. Since lien claimants want compensation for their services, informing them that you will not take the case (unless they negotiate) can sometimes be a solid way to have them reduce debt owed. It’s also a good idea to keep in touch with lien claimants throughout the process of a personal injury case, giving them an idea of how the adjuster may be assessing the value of the case. The lien claimant may be much more willing to negotiate if they are kept in the loop.
Liens can become complicated in personal injury matters. It’s not recommended that victims of personal injury handle their own liens or try to get away without reporting to those agencies that require it.
We’ve discussed the importance of No-Fault coverage and how it can help individuals who are injured in a car accident, whether they are at fault or not, pay their medical bills and lost wages. But of late, there has been an outcry for repeal of the No-Fault law in states where the law makes car insurance premiums most costly (ie. New York, Michigan, New Jersey, and Florida).
The Bureau of Labor Statistics has shown an increase of 12% in costs for No-Fault, or Personal Injury Protection (PIP), which is generally correlated with rises in the costs of medical services. But No-Fault costs can also climb due to fraudulent claims. Individuals will stage car accidents and corroborate with physicians or healthcare workers in order to obtain No-Fault funds illegally. These fraudulent claims are especially abounding in Florida, where fraudulent auto claims increased by 275% between 2007 to 2012. One report cited that in 2012, these fraudulent claims costed the state over $1 billion. In order to make up for this lost money, insurance companies raise rates, which makes No-Fault coverage seem like an unnecessary additional cost.
Many drivers also consider No-Fault to be redundant, as they already have health insurance through their own private plan or Medicare/Medicaid. They feel it doesn’t make sense to pay out extra when they’re already covered.
Many individuals do not have some form of short-term disability insurance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics recorded that only 39% of private industry workers had short-term disability insurance in 2014. Repealing the No-Fault law could leave many individuals without coverage for disability if injured in an accident.
No-Fault was originally designed to provide individuals who have been injured an accident, whether they were at fault or not, the financial means to have their medical expenses and lost wages reimbursed. Say you are injured by someone else in an accident – the accident is their fault – but they have no insurance to cover your medical expenses. This is when your No-Fault coverage (and any additional No-Fault coverage you’ve purchased, such as “APIP” or “OBEL”) would become your safety net. Without No-Fault coverage, you would be in trouble.
Atop that, the court system would be flooded if the No-Fault law were repealed. Many individuals who are injured in car accidents get the full reimbursement they require through No-Fault coverage. Without it, they may very will be forced to file a personal injury claim (if they were not at fault for their accident). Even if their injuries aren’t severe, they’ll likely require medical treatment. Their private health insurance may not be enough to cover the costs of their medical treatment and they may have no disability coverage. Having the No-Fault laws in place allows court systems to focus on car accident cases of serious injury such as dismemberment or disfigurement, trying them faster and more efficiently.
Last April, the state House of Representatives of Florida were 89 to 29 for repealing the No-Fault law. But, the decision was stalled in the state senate. Efforts to repeal the law were also stalled in Michigan’s state legislature. New York could be the next to consider this due to high car insurance rates.
But if high costs are the root incentive for wanting to repeal the No-Fault law, shouldn’t we strategize ways to lower those costs before repealing the No-Fault law? Perhaps we should strategize a more efficient way to crack down harder on investigation into fraudulent PIP claims. We hope, for the sake of individuals who need No-Fault coverage, that this law is not threatened in the future. We do, however, believe the law deserves some reform. For instance, we believe the injury threshold set forth by legislation should be more transparent.
Recently, we discussed how a century old rule barring mention of liability insurance may actually create bias in a jury, favoring a defendant. Now, I’d like to talk about the “bifurcated trial system”, and how this system can actually create jury bias as well.
New York is divided into four judicial departments. Nassau County and Suffolk County fall into the Second Judicial Department. While the rules for conducting trials are generally the same in all departments, there are some important distinctions between each of the judicial departments. The most important difference between departments is the bifurcated trial system, which is utilized in the Second Department.
The concept of bifurcation is simple in personal injury cases. A case is divided into two separate and distinct parts for trial – liability and damages. Each part is tried independently of each other. First, there is a trial on liability (or fault). There are opening arguments, presentation of evidence, closing arguments, jury deliberations and a verdict.
Once a verdict is reached there could be a second trial on damages, but only if the verdict found that the defendant was at fault. If it was determined that the defendant was free of fault the case proceeds no further. If there was a finding of fault on the defendant there is a second trial on damages. Again, there are opening arguments, presentation of evidence, closing arguments, jury deliberations and a verdict.
The rationale for this system is to avoid the waste of judicial resources and cost. The damages portion of a trial can be lengthy. Why do it if there is no fault on the defendant? This system saves time and money.
However, there are some distinct disadvantages of this system for a plaintiff. First, the issue of injury is not allowed to be mentioned in the liability portion of the trial. So a jury will decide a plaintiff’s fate without even knowing the extent of their injuries. This can make a big difference in some cases.
After trying cases for approximately twenty years, I have found that most juries are sympathetic to the defendant in the liability portion of the trial. Often, they seem to be wondering, “Why did you need to drag us down here and take up our time to hear about this accident?” It’s not until after they decide fault that they hear about a plaintiff’s injuries. And that’s precisely when I notice a change in a jury’s demeanor.
The problem is that the jury may never get to hear about a plaintiff’s injuries because of the bifurcated trial system. A trial attorney’s biggest fear is that a jury will decide a case against a plaintiff in the liability phase because they surmise from looking at the plaintiff that he/she is not that hurt and feel bad for the defendant. Additionally, the inconvenience of time that the bifurcated trials can take may cause juries to make bias decisions.
A skilled plaintiff’s attorney can work around the bifurcated system and devise ways of indicating to a jury that the plaintiff’s injuries are in fact severe. Not all attorneys understand the nuances required to get that message across, though. And, if an attorney cannot accomplish this, their client is at a great disadvantage. The defendant’s attorney will certainly take advantage of the fact that Suffolk County and Nassau County juries are generally sympathetic to their clients during the liability phase of the trial.
I strongly feel that this bifurcated trial system presents an issue for plaintiffs in many cases. Yes, the rationale behind it may be sound. But, it’s up to a jury to decide a plaintiff’s fate. And in many instances, they may look at a plaintiff, deem them to be in good health, and take pity on a defendant before even having a chance to know the extent of a plaintiff’s injuries.