Unfair Value, Unfair Result

When your vehicle is totalled in an accident you want and deserve fair value for the vehicle.  Too often insurance companies nickel and dime the consumer leading to frustration and, in some cases, throwing in the towel and accepting less than what is deserved.  Here a local news station intervened and assisted a consumer get increased value for their crash-damaged vehicle.

If you find yourself in a similar situation you should contact an attorney for a consultation.  Honestly, there are occasions when the amount of money involved is too small for an attorney to be able to cost-effectively assist the consumer.  On such occasions the consumer can either seek a non-lawyer vehicle expert (click here and here for examples) or file a lawsuit.  However you decide to proceed I wish you success in obtaining a fair resolution of your vehicle value claim.

Lawyering the Lawyers and Protecting the Consumers

Debt collectors and their reps……….be warned.  The Feds are coming.  Too often debtors and consumers feel overwhelmed and as if they have no rights.  Well, we just received more confirmation that consumers do have rights and rules still apply when debts are being collected.  The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau last month filed its first lawsuit against a debt-collection firm, Marietta, Ga.-based Frederick J. Hanna & Associates, accusing it of violating federal consumer-protection laws.  You can read the lawsuit here.

Lawyers on trial?Allegations in the case include having non-lawyers determine if lawsuits v consumers were “worthy”, having non-lawyers review the vital case information, and filing suits versus the wrong parties.  This case could unearth some nefarious practices or problematic approaches taken by law firms that seek to recover debts.

In fairness, there are many law firms and collectors who follow the spirit and the letter of the law and they should be commended for such.  However, as with any proverbial bunch of apples there are a few whose flaws threaten to spoil the entire bunch.  Let’s hope the CFPB lawsuit is a wake-up call to law firms and collectors to play by the rules.

If you believe you are being treated illegally or unfairly in the collection of a debt contact an experienced consumer lawyer for a consultation.

Class of a Class: A Reunion Recap

For those of you who are not part of the New Bern High School Class of 1989, I can only hope your class has half of the chemistry, character, and charisma of my class. With the tagline “living life to the fullest” my class spent this past weekend (August 15-17) reflecting on and celebrating 25 years since we crossed the stage on a Monday night in June 1989.

Some classmates have passed on and others were unable to attend for various reasons. Those who did attend the Reunion had (more…)

The Before and After of How I Can Help You

Let’s get right down to business, shall we?

Before means preventive measures.  Trying to avoid your need for legal services, liability, and/or cost in the future.  Before includes:


Free Information Center—includes tips on buying a vehicle, selecting a contractor, dealing with debt collectors, devising strategies to protect you and/or your small business from liability……..and many other resources

Drafting a contract or other document(s) to establish legal rights and liabilities

Protecting your small business from a liability or litigation nightmare
Attorney John O'Neal

After means reacting to something that has already happened.  You have been sued or you are in the midst of a legal situation and are in need of fairly immediate help or representation.  After includes:

Handling a traffic ticket

What to do in the case of a personal injury or wrongful death

Figuring out your options on a vehicle transaction gone wrong

Determining if you have defenses or counterclaims when sued on a debt, contract, or other civil matter

NOTE:  If you have a potential case, please read “What You Need To Have” so you can be prepared for an initial consultation

If you need me either before or after something happens, contact me.  Thanks for your ongoing support and I look forward to serving you if appropriate.


Is Small Claims Court too Large for You?

In 2013 the North Carolina General Assembly increased small claims court jurisdiction from $5,000.00 to $10,000.00.  This now means many more cases should be filed (and in some cases MUST be filed) in small claims court.  It can be an effective forum for having a dispute heard and decided sooner rather than later.

In some respects small claims court, or Magistrate Court as it is sometimes called, looks like (more…)

Weekend Plans? Reunioning with Some Bears

Happy Friday to you.  I hope you are slated for a good or at least restful weekend.  As for me I am off to my 25-year high school class reunion in New Bern.  This is one of those once-in-a-lifetime events.  It is a blessing to be able to attend and I was humbled to have the opportunity to serve on the planning committee for the Reunion.

The New Bern Senior High School Class of 1989 had under 400 graduates but a mountain of talent and chemistry.  In my class are professionals, parents, veterans, entrepreneurs, elected officials, community leaders, clergy, and many other folks doing really meaningful and cool things.  I am constantly amazed at the gifts amassed within our class.  Many of these gifts and the resultant energy have coalesced to put together what promises to be an outstanding weekend of events.

Unfortunately we have lost several classmates over the years including one within the last month.  We remember them and honor them this weekend as we reunite and share some quality time and make memories.  For those of you who were unable to attend we will miss you.  And for those who will be taking the time and making the trip to attend I will see you there………travel safe……and, always……Go Bears!

Debt Collection from A to Z: F is for Fair Debt Collection Practices Act

Many people have heard of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.  The FDCPA protects debtors from certain conduct by collectors.  Note I said “collectors” and not creditors.  This is an important distinction.  Follow this… (more…)

Debt Collection A to Z: E is for Emotional Distress

Dealing with debt can be stressful.  Finding the money to pay, prioritizing payments, and developing a plan for eventual payoff require some forethought.  Undoubtedly there are times when folks get behind on their debts and obligations.

Even when a person is delinquent on a debt there are rules in place to (more…)

The Verdict on Debt Settlement Companies

Our economy is challenged…this may be an understatement but you get the drift.  I have people contact me seeking “debt settlement services” and I also have people contact me who have had bad experience with debt settlement companies.

As to my impression of debt settlement companies, I will say this:  I do not fully understand how they propose to help and actually help consumers but I have heard a significant number of stories of “I paid money to a debt settlement company and my bills debts went unpaid even longer.”  And in a few of these situations the consumer reported to me that they were sued on at least some of the debts that they provided to the debt settlement company.  Just reporting my information and experience on this topic; as limited as it is.  For more info in debt settlement companies visit the Federal Trade Commission webpage.

If you find yourself in a position where you want or need some help in figuring out how to resolve your overall debt/financial picture you should probably consult an experienced bankruptcy attorney.  I do not handle bankruptcy cases but for those of you in the Charlotte area and Western North Carolina contact my colleague Rashad Blossom.  For those of you in the Greensboro and Triad area contact my colleagues Ken Johnson, Kenneth Love, and Aleta Kiser.  And for those of you in the Raleigh area and Eastern North Carolina contact Robert Lewis.

If you intend to contact a debt settlement company be diligent. Read reviews about the company and check the Better Business Bureau and Attorney Generals Office for information. Before you agree to employ the company read the proposed Agreement or contract very closely so you will understand what services are to be provided and at what cost. After you employ the company and the debt is “being handled” you should request periodic updates—preferably in writing—as to the status of your “account” and it may not hurt to check your credit report to ensure that the debt settlement company is following through on promises especially regarding payments on your debts.

Whatever you do make sure you get competent help and all significant promises in writing.  Best of success to you.

Debt Collection A to Z: D is for Deadbeat List

Deadbeat lists are lists of persons who owe money to a creditor.  One simple rule:  do not use them!  While there are some instances where a debtor’s debt and delinquency on the debt can be made publicly known (ex:  liens) these instances are few and somewhat far between.

One motivation for publishing a deadbeat list is to nudge a debtor to pay up or at least make some arrangement to pay up.  In addition to the fact that this nudge thumbs down for deadbeat lists...don't do it!may not work, the publishing of the deadbeat list is a really bad idea because (more…)