Ocracoke Observer features article by Robert Zaytoun discussing the rights of individuals and businesses affected by the Outer Banks power outage.

Posted by Ocracoke Observer Aug. 17, 2017:

A lawyer’s perspective on the power outage claims

The normally packed summer streets of Ocracoke were quiet Aug. 1 during the week-long visitor evacuation July 28 to Aug. 4. Photo: C. Leinbach

Editor’s note: Robert Zaytoun of the Zaytoun Law Firm, Raleigh, contacted the Ocracoke Observer recently about the aftermath of the power outage that occurred July 27 when PCL Construction crews building the new Bonner Bridge accidentally damaged the main electrical transmission cables for Hatteras and Ocracoke.  Mr. Zaytoun responds to some of the comments made by Hyde County officials in stories published Aug. 4 and 15 regarding the county’s working with PCL, and provides his perspective on why engaging an attorney may be in the interests of those who have suffered economic loss. 

By Robert Zaytoun
Zaytoun Law Firm, PLLC

As an attorney for 40 years and a graduate of UNC and UNC School of Law, I take great pride in my profession and professionalism. We do not advertise for clients, but in this instance feel we must speak out for the citizens of Ocracoke and Hatteras Island. Attorney Steve Lacy of Vandemere, my co-counsel, has strong ties to Ocracoke Island. He was married on Ocracoke. It was Mr. Lacy’s personal friends who called him to come over to Ocracoke and assist them in understanding their full legal rights.

My family spent many vacations on Ocracoke with my young children riding their bikes safely around the island and buying candy and soft drinks at the Community Store. We stayed often with Raleigh’s former longtime Mayor Charles Meeker’s family at the “gateway house” to Silver Lake.

The civil justice system should be open to all persons who are confronted by powerful corporations and their insurance companies and law firms. Class Actions are not evil legal devices but a vital part of our jurisprudence.

I am proud to be a lawyer and ethically represent the citizens of Ocracoke and Hatteras Island who have engaged our law firm along with Mr. Lacy’s firm. We intend to seek fair and full compensation through the class action we have initiated on their behalf.

Ten things you are not being told about your power outage claims

  1. To date, PCL has not acknowledged liability and/or responsibility for damage claims arising out of the power outage.
  2. Contrary to earlier reports, PCL and Hyde County officials are not working together to resolve damage claims.  PCL has not approached Hyde County for this purpose, and PCL is not working under any type of agreement for Hyde County to serve as a claims “liaison” for citizens or businesses who suffered damages.
  3. Hyde County is not allowed under the law to represent claimants and the county cannot negotiate with or act as a legal liaison to PCL on a claimant’s damages claims.
  4. The online claim form information posted by PCL has been set up to send damage claims information to Crawford and Company. Crawford and Company describes itself on its website as the world’s largest insurance adjusting firm. They are working for PCL as an insurance claims company; they do not work for individual claimants. The online claim forms posted by PCL ask claimants to make binding promises and legal certifications under the penalty of perjury.  In addition, the forms even threaten “fines” and “imprisonment” by state and federal law enforcement against claimants who make inaccurate submissions.  Lastly, the forms do not ask claimants to send information to PCL.  The fine print actually requires claimants to send their private information to a Crawford and Company email insurance company address (email: PCL.OuterBanks@us.crawco.com.
  5. You may be entitled to compensation for damages beyond “out-of-pocket” or economic losses, and need the advice of an attorney representing you, not the insurance claims company working for PCL. The online claim form published by PCL and Crawford and Company does not ask claimants to document their non-economic/inconvenience damages, and it does not indicate or advise that claimants may submit claims for damages beyond out-of-pocket expenses.
  6. Filing a claim for damages without the assistance of an attorney working on your behalf may lead to a loss of monetary damages to which you may be entitled.  Working alone through an insurance adjusting company opens the possibility for a monetary reduction for damages claimed.
  7. Merely submitting a claim for settlement does not insure that you will be paid for the damages that you have claimed.  Your claim should be fairly and promptly handled by an attorney working on your behalf.
  8. It may not be in your best interest to try and negotiate alone with an insurance adjuster in an attempt to be fairly compensated for your damages.  Zaytoun Law Firm, PLLC is fully-trained and has extensive experience and success in settling claims in its clients’ best interest, in and out of the courtroom.
  9. If you settle with PCL and Crawford and Company, they will require you to sign a legal “Release of Claims.” This release may require you to sign away all rights you have to seek further damages or compensation from any party, including even future entities that are also found to share legal responsibility for causing the power outage disaster.
  10. You have the right to engage an attorney to represent you and a class action lawsuit may offset the power and financial clout of the insurance carrier and its adjusting company, thereby allowing you to be fully and fairly compensated for your losses.

Class action litigation exists under your legal system as a way for individuals to join together as one to level the playing field against large corporations, their insurance adjusters and their corporate legal teams.

For any citizens or business owners who have questions about their legal rights to seek full compensation for their losses, including the stress, anxiety, and inconvenience caused by the power outage, Zaytoun Law Firm will soon hold an informational meeting on Ocracoke open to the public.  You may also contact our law firm at 919-832-6690 to discuss your legal rights and remedies.  Both the public meeting and/or telephone call are without obligation on your behalf.  Details as to the time and location of the meeting will be announced soon.

Full article available here: https://ocracokeobserver.com/2017/08/17/a-lawyers-perspective-on-the-power-outage-claims/