Today Attorney Don Marcari of Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban explains what we need to know if we or a loved one have been seriously injured as a result of an accident.

Don Marcari gained national attention when his exploits as a young defense attorney with the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General’s Corps became the basis for the motion picture “A Few Good Men.” He has been fighting for seriously injured people throughout North Carolina since 1985, concentrating on personal injury and civil litigation.

As a logical extension of his successful military career, he also handles veteran benefits claims and defends members of our military service in courts martial and administrative proceedings. Don has tried more than 200 jury trials, including cases against Ford, Firestone, American Honda, and Home Depot. He represented clients whose cases became the foundation for a movie, The Paula Coughlin Story, and a book, The Story of the U.S. Navy’s Tailhook Scandal.

Today, he is Senior Managing Partner of Marcari, Russotto, Spencer & Balaban with offices in Raleigh, where he serves his clients with the same fervor and enthusiasm that he exhibited when defending the Marines in the case that was the basis for A Few Good Men.

Don, thank you for taking the time to speak to us today. With all the legal advertising on TV it has been increasing difficult to understand when we need a lawyer and when we may not. And for those of us that have had the misfortune of suffering a serious injury or have been in an auto accident, the flood of letters offering us legal services can be both mind-boggling and confusing.

Can you please start with a few basics like the pros and cons of releasing information to an insurance company?

The answer is simple:  It is usually never a good idea to discuss an accident or your injuries with an insurance company adjuster or give them information. Adjusters work for the insurance company and have the the company’s best interest in mind. They may say they want to help you, but their goal, and their company’s goal, is to simply pay out the least amount of money possible.  I cannot begin to stress enough how important this is no matter how friendly they may seem to be.

So, it appears that you should seek legal representation versus negotiating with an insurance company yourself. Why is that?

You are at a disadvantage from the very beginning if you try to settle on your own. While I wish this were not the case, you need to keep in mind that the insurance company always has an experienced team of lawyers looking out for their best interest. You need to have your own experienced legal team as well. Look at it this way - You may only be in 1 or 2 accidents in your lifetime. On the other hand, a lawyer that has experience in these matters may have successfully negotiated thousands of personal injury claims. And studies consistently show that accident victims that hire a lawyer get 3 to 4 times more money than those who do not.

Don, when you look at it that way it makes very good sense. Earlier you said that the goal of insurance companies is to pay out the least amount of money possible. Why is that? Why can’t they just be fair to all those with valid claims?

Again, the answer here is relatively obviously if we stop and think about it. They need to make a profit year in and year out.

What if you have medical insurance that pays for treating your injuries? We understand that the medical insurer has the right to get reimbursed for the amount that they paid to treat your injuries out of any settlement you may receive. But these expenses can be substantial. If you have an attorney to handle your claim, do they also help negotiate what your medical insurer actually gets paid back?


This is an excellent question as many people do not realize that in many cases your medical insurer will get reimbursed out of any settlement you may receive. And yes, your attorney will discuss the facts of your case with the carrier and things like the likelihood of recovery, the costs and uncertainty of a trial and the law that can limit their recovery.   In many cases your attorney can reduce what you actually pay back and in some cases this can be substantial.

This is good to know because someone who negotiates on their own will most likely end up paying back the full cost of treatment. Another question we often hear about is “what is my case worth” which we believe has a lot to do with how much an insurer might offer to settle your claim based on its severity. Can you explain to us how this is calculated?

Unfortunately, there is no book or formula to go by. You’re entitled to be compensated for your medical bills that are reasonably and necessarily incurred, for your lost wages, lost earning capacity, physical pain, emotional suffering and diminished quality of life. Some of these factors such a medical bills and lost wages might be easier to calculate, but the others will almost always necessitate the services of an attorney that has done these things many times before.

Do health service providers have an automatic lien on any award for the value of the services they provided and therefore have a right to get reimbursed from any award?

This is a very complicated area of the law. Some have a lien that must be paid (An example would be to Medicare), some have a limited lien if they follow the law, some only have limited subrogation rights. An experienced attorney can explain the differences and assist you.

Don, we want to thank you for the time you have spent with us today and hopefully we better understand why we may need a lawyer and what the pitfalls may be if we try to negotiate a claim without the benefit of representation.