Montague, Pittman & Varnado, P.A.

MPV Law Blog

4 Reasons to Hire a Car Accident Lawyer After an Accident

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Imagine that you’re on your way to work when, out of the blue, a car runs a red light and plows right into you. Understandably, you’re a bit shaken and maybe hurting from it. While no one anticipates a car accident, unfortunately auto accidents happen every day. You not only have a damaged car, but insurance to deal with and possibly medical expenses. This can be time-consuming and certainly stressful.

The thought of hiring an attorney might come to mind but you may think that you don’t need one and you can fight the case on your own… or the idea of paying for one may not sit well, especially now that you have a damaged car. But hiring a Mississippi car accident lawyer carries many benefits:

It saves time

If you’re injured from your accident, the last thing you want to do is spend endless time on the phone speaking with insurance companies. Hiring a car accident lawyer takes the burden off of you so you can focus on yourself.

It’s convenient

Attorneys have your best interest in mind when working with you and want to make it as easy and hassle-free for you as possible. They will take care of all the paper work and important documents, such as requesting medical records and writing a settlement proposal for you.

They have experience with car insurance companies

It’s not every day that you deal with car insurance companies, but lawyers do. Dealing with the insurance company yourself is not only time-consuming but can be stressful. Lawyers know how to go about working with car insurance companies; they understand the process and the proper steps to take. They also have experience handling specific cases like yours and are aware of the type of settlement to expect. They will also work to make sure you get the best settlement for your situation.

Knowledge of the law and accident-related injuries

Of course, lawyers know of the particular laws that apply to your accident, but this is very helpful because they may find other opportunities for settlement that you didn’t think of. This is especially beneficial if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. In regards to injuries caused by the accident, an experienced attorney will be able to make suggestions for medical tests and the type of care you should seek. Car accident lawyers also understand the long term effects that a car accident can carry, which is important in determining if your settlement is fair.

By hiring a car accident lawyer in Mississippi, you can avoid dealing with insurance companies, worrying about important documents and whether or not you’ll receive a fair settlement. Car accident lawyers are trained and experienced in this area of law, so if you've been in an accident, save yourself the hassle and contact an experienced Mississippi car accident lawyer today.


Mississippi’s New Expungement Law: How To Clear Your Record

Monday, September 8, 2014

More often than not, a person may face obstacles in gaining employment due to past DUI offense.  Individuals charged or convicted of driving under the influence in Mississippi may now be able to permanently expunge ("clear") their records if he or she meets certain requirements.  On April 11, 2013, Mississippi House Bill 481 was signed into law.  The new law allows the expungement of DUI records for first time offenders if they meet certain requirements.  To successfully expunge your record, an offender must petition the court in which he or she received the conviction.  The offender must show the court in his or her petition that he or she has met certain requirements set out by the law.  The requirements are:

1)  All conditions of offender's sentence have been completed;
2)  The conviction did not consist of a refusal of breath or blood test;
3)  The offender's blood alcohol level ("BAC") was below .16%;
4)  The offender has not been convicted or charged with a subsequent DUI; and
5)  The offender has justification for the expungement.

The new law took effect on July 1, 2014.  Interestingly, this law is retroactive in effect.  This means that all first offense DUI’s (even prior to July 1) are able to be expunged if they meet the aforementioned criteria.

Navigating the expungement process requires the expertise of an experienced attorney.  Montague, Pittman, and Varnado is a firm with an excellent reputation dating back to 1953.   If you need to expunge your DUI conviction for employment reasons, licensure requirements, or any other valid reason, please contact Montague, Pittman, and Varnado today.

What You Need to Know About Wills and Estates

Monday, August 11, 2014

Many people ask the question whether they need a will or basic estate planning.  The answer is more often than not a resounding yes.  It is common for most people to put off drafting a will or discussing estate planning because it makes one think of passing away, but as it is often said, “the only things that are certain in life are death and taxes.”  It is extremely important for you and your loved ones that you have a will.

A will is an instrument that will direct a person (or sometimes an entity) how to dispose of your assets at the time of your death.  In Mississippi, if an individual dies without a will, he or she is said to die intestate.  In the case of intestacy, a person’s assets are passed down through the laws of intestate succession.  Therefore, your assets pass to children, grandchildren, your spouse, and other family members depending on who is alive at the time of your death.  There are several pitfalls to intestacy and intestate succession.  First, a majority, if not all, of your assets must pass through the probate process.  The probate process allows any creditors you may have at the time of your death to make a claim against your assets.  Next, intestate succession may cause your family to spend a larger sum of money to probate your estate.  Most importantly, intestate succession takes all decisions out of your hands as to which persons get which assets.  In the end, dying intestate will most likely decrease the size of your estate that is passed to your loved ones and strip of you any opportunity to determine the final distribution of your assets.

By drafting a will, you may avoid these problems.  A will allows an individual to dictate the proper disposal of her is or her assets making the probate process efficient and less expensive.  Furthermore, an individual may feel comfortable and confident that when he or she passes, all of his or her assets are transferred to the appropriate beneficiary. 

Some assets an individual possesses may also be structured to fully avoid the probate process which in turn evades creditors' reach.  Two assets in this category are land and financial accounts.  In the case of land, an individual may choose to deed the land to a family member (or any individual) and reserve a life estate.  The individual retains ownership of the land until the time of his death when it automatically passes to the intended individual.  The life estate method bypasses any probate proceedings.  Next, a bank account may be titled in such a way that it will also bypass a probate proceeding.  A person may choose to add a paid on death (POD) beneficiary to an account.  Much like the life estate, the amount in the bank account at death would pass straight to the beneficiary without being considered part of your estate.

If you are interested in discussing drafting a will or basic estate planning, please contact one of our experienced attorneys at Montague, Pittman & Varnado.  We can provide a free initial consultation to determine what you may need to protect your assets and provide the most for your loved ones when you pass away.

Did You Know: Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Insurance

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Do you have Uninsured Motorist Coverage or Underinsured Motorist Coverage?  If you do not, you should call your insurance carrier and ask for the coverage.  Here is why:  In many cases, a properly insured motorist is involved in a wreck with an uninsured or underinsured motorist at no fault of their own.  If the uninsured motorist is deemed at fault, the insured motorist may not have a way to recover from the other driver.  Uninsured Motorist Insurance provides protection to the insured motorist in that event by covering the damage to the vehicle and possibly any medical expenses and other damages to the driver. If your Uninsured Motorist Coverage exceeds the liability limits of the policy of the driver at fault, then your Uninsured Motorist Coverage becomes Underinsured Motorist Coverage, and you may recover part of your damage from your own company.

Example:  If Driver A, with a $25,000 limit on his liability insurance, causes an accident and Driver B’s damages including medical expenses, lost income and pain, are $100,000, Driver B may settle with Driver A’s insurance company for the full $25,000 liability limit and then receive $75,000 from his own company if he has Uninsured Motorist Coverage of at least $75,000.  Claims made under the Uninsured Motorist Coverage do not generally affect future premiums because the accident was not the fault of the insured making the Uninsured Motorist claim.

If you have protection against an uninsured or underinsured motorist, the attorneys here at Montague, Pittman, and Varnado will work with you to recover from your insurance company. 
An insured motorist must make a claim against his or her own insurance company to receive the monies from his or her Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage.  The insured motorist and his or her company may disagree on the fault of the driver or the amount of damages.  Additionally, insurance companies employ insurance adjusters who are professionally trained by the insurance company in the area of damage assessment.  The insurance adjuster will be working for the best interest of the insurance company.   Therefore, it is in the best interest of the insured motorist to seek an attorney to represent him or her in pursuing a claim against the insurance company to ensure the best possible result.

If you have a question about Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage, please contact an attorney at Montague, Pittman, and Varnado.  If you have a claim, we will work with you to determine your best course of action. 


What You Need to Know About Medical Malpractice Cases

Monday, May 19, 2014

At Montague, Pittman & Varnado, we handle a numerous cases involving medical malpractice.  However, there are also numerous medical malpractice cases we decide not to take due to the difficulty in proving that a doctor’s negligence caused substantial injury.

In a medical malpractice case a plaintiff must prove certain elements.  Those elements are:  1) the defendant had a duty to conform to a standard of care, 2) the defendant breached the standard of care, 3) the defendant's breach was the proximate cause of the plaintiff's injuries, and 4) the plaintiff was substantially injured as a result of the defendant's breach. 

Therefore, the plaintiff’s success turns on the fact of whether the defendant’s breach was a proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injuries.  In most cases, the plaintiff must use testimony from an expert to prove the proximate cause element.  

In Cates v Woods, the Mississippi Court of Appeals addressed the expert testimony issues in a dental malpractice case.  The plaintiff sued her dentist for injuries to her neck during a routine visit to have an impression made of her bottom teeth. During her visit, the plaintiff's head was jerked back and forth while the dentist attempted to remove the tray of the compound from her mouth.  The intense jerking back and forth caused the plaintiff to sustain various neck injuries.   During trial, the plaintiff produced medical records indicating the injuries to her neck as proof.  However, the plaintiff did not provide any expert testimony on the proximate cause of her injuries.

An expert’s testimony is required in a medical malpractice case to prove proximate cause of the injury and the other elements. (In a very few cases, the layman's exception may suffice).  In this particular case, the plaintiff failed to designate an expert witness to testify to the proximate cause of her injury.  This mistake was enough for the trial court to grant summary judgment to the defendant.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the case due to the absence of any expert testimony provided by the plaintiff. The appeals court stated, “Medical negligence may be established only by expert testimony, but there is an exception where a layman can observe and understand the negligence as a matter of common sense and practical experience.” 

As you can see, an expert opinion is almost always needed to prevail in a medical malpractice case.   At Montague, Pittman, and Varnado, one of our first considerations when representing you in a medical malpractice case is whether we would be able to produce an expert opinion on the proximate causes of your injury.  Our attorneys have years of experience in representing clients in medical malpractice cases.  Our experience assists us in giving you excellent advice and representation. 


Monday, May 5, 2014

When a person signs a Last Will and Testament in Mississippi they are presumed to understand the effects of signing such a document, and they are also presumed to be acting of their own free will and not being influenced by another person in making the Will.  These presumptions can be overcome by evidence to the contrary.  The validity of a Will may be challenged if the persons challenging the Will can prove that the person signing the Will (called the “Testator”) lacked the mental capacity to understand the significance of the document he or she was signing.  Proof of lack of mental capacity can be difficult in Mississippi because our courts have held that a person can sign a valid Will in a “lucid interval” even though they are usually not capable of understanding the significance of a Will.

Undue influence in the making of a Will can also invalidate a Will.  The party challenging the Will must prove that the Testator was influenced in making the Will by a person who exerted such financial or psychological control over the Testator so that the Testator was not acting on their own free will.  Typically this assertion involves a situation in which an older person was dependent on someone else to the point that independent free will could not be exercised when the other party exerted duress to compel the Testator to favor that party in the Will.

The Mississippi Court of Appeals recently decided a case which applied the legal principal of undue influence to signing of a Deed.  Conveyances of property can also be set aside if the court finds that the person signing a Deed did not do so of their own free will but was coerced into doing so by the person who obtained the title to the property in the Deed.

The attorneys at Montague, Pittman & Varnado are experienced and skilled in preparing Wills and Deeds and have represented parties in cases where undue influence or lack of capacity were alleged.


Friday, April 25, 2014

        Analysts of vehicle accidents have conducted numerous studies and surveys concerning the types of vehicles which are most frequently involved in accidents causing death and serious injury.  Several of these studies indicate that over the road trucks, usually known as “18-wheelers” and other commercial vehicles cause a disproportionate number of fatalities and serious injuries.

Annually almost 5000 people die in collisions involving large trucks.  Large commercial vehicles make up less than 5% of all passenger vehicles on U.S. roads, but approximately 12% of all accident fatalities involve commercial vehicles.  The reasons for this are two fold.  First, the tremendous weight of large commercial vehicles creates more impact in a collision.  Secondly, large commercial vehicles are more difficult to steer in certain circumstances, and their size limits the ability of the driver to avoid collisions.

The United States Department of Transportation has been charged by Congress with the responsibility of writing regulations for the safe operation of commercial vehicles.  The operators of commercial motor carriers must meet many government regulations concerning the vehicles and the drivers it employs.  Issues that are often involved in commercial truck litigation include: truck driver hours of services, truck driver distraction due to electronic devices, proper inspection of commercial vehicles, and training and licensing of truck drivers.

Most commercial vehicles carry large amounts of liability coverage, and therefore adequate compensation for a death or serious injury is more like to be available through an insurance carrier than if the party at fault is a private individual driving a noncommercial car or truck.  The attorneys at Montague, Pittman & Varnado have represented parties injured in all types of motor vehicle accidents for over thirty-five years.  We have the skill and resources, including contacts with expert accident reconstructionist, to handle significant personal injury or death claims caused by vehicle accidents.


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