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John Griffin Watts
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John Watts’s Answers

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  • Dr went in to perform a l5/s1 anterior fusion. After 13 days of insisting I had no feeling in my leg and being ignored I went

    To the Hospital for a ct which showed a screw 5mm into the nerve root on the back side. He did emergency surgery the next morning, said feeling would be back immediately, NOT! He lied and did not disclose his knowledge of issues in first surgery(n...

    John’s Answer

    Short answer is get with a lawyer in Alabama asap. There are not many lawyers that are skilled in malpractice -- feel free to get with me and I'll give you some recommendations. I try cases in federal court but malpractice is not my area of expertise.

    Longer answer is medical malpractice in Alabama is tough -- because of our special laws and in general our juries tend to be sympathetic with doctors (and to a lesser extent hospitals/nurses). You have 2 years to file suit but I would not delay. You need to connect right now with the right lawyer to figure out your options. Its been a few years since I have handled a med mal case but they tend to be very expensive -- 100k or so to prepare -- so lawyers are very very selective in what they will take. It will be helpful for you to start looking now for a lawyer.

    I'm sorry this happened to you and I hope that you are able to fully recover physically and then you also get the financial compensation you deserve.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • What legally/financially am I responsible for with my 19 and 22 year old stepchildren regarding medical bills on my insurance?

    Last year I hesitantly added my two stepchildren to my employer insurance benefits. The oldest listed my husband and I as responsible for their psych visits. She has accrued multiple ER visits, ICU stays, therapy sessions, etc. I will need to div...

    John’s Answer

    Everything depends on exactly what documents were signed but as a general rule just because someone is on your policy does not mean you are responsible for the deductibles, co-pays, etc.

    As the previous answer suggests, gather up all of your bills and information and then sit down with someone -- an attorney or a health care advocate.

    You may want to make it clear to your adult step children that they should not list you as being responsible for their bills unless you agree to this.

    I know this is frustrating dealing with medical billing -- but just get started with compiling everything and then meet with someone to figure up your options.

    John Watts

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  • Question about Va Benefit, living trust and selling of home.

    Hi, my mother is in an assistive living center with alzheimers. She receives aid and attendence through the va. She also has a living trust which includes her home. As DPOA if I sell her home is the money considered income by the VA? I tried to ge...

    John’s Answer

    The other answers are right -- selling the home will not be income but will be an increase in assets which could push your mother over the asset limit and cut off her Aid and Attendance benefits.

    One thing to keep in mind is that you also need to consider Medicaid if she ever needs to go on Medicaid.

    The general rule is that if there is no gift -- but instead a fair market value transfer -- then Medicaid normally doesn't have a problem (at least in Alabama). So get with an elder law lawyer in your state to evaluate both the implications of the sale of the home on VA benefits but also on what it might do with Medicaid benefits if she ever needs them.

    Best wishes and you were very smart to raise this question -- so often people take action without knowing the right way to go and it becomes more difficult (and frankly more expensive) to fix the problem after the fact.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can my Mothers vehicle be reclaimed in order to pay Medicaid benefits paid to nursing home if the vehicle is put in my name.

    My Mother has been covered on Medicaid for many years but is now about to enter a nursing home facility. She has one vehicle in her name but she signed it over to me several months ago, so that in the event of her death I could send the title in a...

    John’s Answer

    As pointed out in the other answers -- you need to get with a Medicaid Planning (Elder Law) lawyer asap. Simple things like gifts can have terrible consequences for families and your state may (or may not) allow the return of gifts to avoid a penalty period.

    I'm a bit unclear -- you say she is on Medicaid. Do you mean Medicare? If she has already qualified under Medicaid, then this might not be as big of an issue but you still need to get with a lawyer to find out. Often we can make mistakes by not checking with an expert in our state.

    Best wishes as you are having to deal with this tough situation.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Is it possible to do a chapter 7 when your laywer only corresponds with me through the mail?

    i have only seen my lawyer once. she sends me letters telling me what she needs and i take a package with all the documents that she requests to the lady at the front desk of her office. she never returns my calls. the last corresponence i reciev...

    John’s Answer

    The other answers nail the issue -- you should be able to meet with your lawyer. Sometimes as lawyers we may not make our clients come see us if they live far away or have medical or other issues that prevent them from coming to see us.

    But as a general rule I want to meet my clients. I want to see them face to face.

    My suggestion is write your lawyer -- explain your concerns -- and ask her to meet with you to solve the problem.

    A good lawyer will do this and often times there is simply a misunderstanding that gets resolved easily. If it doesn't, then you need to decide if you want to move forward with your lawyer -- your advisor and counselor -- being someone you can't even meet with....

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can anyone help me with my student loan rehabilitation conflict?

    I am in a rehabilitation program for a student loan, that was suppose to be up in nine months. I made 16 monthly payments and never got out of the program. To make things worse my automatic rehabilitation agreement ran out and they stopped taking ...

    John’s Answer

    I assume you have a federal student loan and you did the rehabilitation. It can be a frustrating experience and sorry you are dealing with this.

    First step is to know whether you were dealing with the guarantor or with a collection agency. If collection agency, then you should get with a consumer lawyer who deals with FDCPA (Fair Debt Collection Practices Act) as there are often lies told by collection agencies related to rehabilitation.

    Another suggestion is start documenting your experiences in writing. Write to whoever you were dealing with and any company that is being blamed (Sallie Mae, AES, etc) and ask them why this has happened. Document that you made 16 payments when only 9 were needed, that the auto draft stopped without notice, etc.

    Ask them to explain, in writing, why this happened and why you need to start over. Again, if a collection agency, they have a tendency to lie about the process as the commissions can be substantial for them.

    Bottom line is get very organized (sounds like you are) and sit down with a consumer lawyer in your state to see your options.

    Best wishes -- I know this can be frustrating....

    John Watts

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  • My aunt was in a nursing home, hospital, and released to my home because she had no insurance. Awaiting Medicaid approval.

    She has a son who did not sign her admission papers to the Nursing Home she was initially discharged to from her first hospital visit. The nursing home accepted co-payment of $750 and after about 10 days stated she had a GI bleed and sent her to ...

    John’s Answer

    Unfortunately some nursing homes will make up bogus reasons to not accept Medicaid patients. I've never heard of this reason before.

    As someone else suggested, look into a different nursing home.

    The son may be concerned he will be personally liable -- he should not be so it may be best to sit down with an elder law attorney in Birmingham and with the son to have a frank discussion of what needs to happen.

    Sounds like you are doing the right thing -- the honorable thing -- and I hope you will be successful getting your aunt the care she needs.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • I have supposed lawyer firm/collection agency calling saying I owe a payday loan. They have all my information.

    The account they have on file is a prepaid card account and the only deposits you can make is through direct deposit from an employer or to go to a local store and buy a reload card so I have never had money from a payday loan loaded to this acco...

    John’s Answer

    This is a growing problem. About half of the calls to my firm relate to scam debt collectors.

    Here's the very simple solution: Tell them you know there are a lot of scams out there and you want something mailed to you.

    Not emailed -- they will say they only email.

    Not faxed -- they will say they will only fax you.

    You tell them you want a good old fashioned letter sent through the United States Postal System with a stamp on it.

    This freaks them out (the reasons aren't important).

    A real lawfirm . . . a real collection agency . . . will be happy to send you a letter in the mail as they want to get paid.

    The scam places won't -- they are terrified of mailing through the US mail.

    They will start saying "This will violate our right to privacy" or "It is illegal to mail you" or "We can't mail you again" etc.

    I've given this advice to hundreds of people and no one has ever had the collector continue to collect except the day of the call requesting the letter, the agency may call you multiple times. But if it is a scam -- and this sounds like one -- they will move on to easier "targets" who will immediately turn over their bank account information.

    I'm putting a link below to an article/video about foreign collectors -- same thing with American collectors. In the last year good ole Americans have gotten deep into this particular scam also....

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • Can money be garnished from my account that my 30 year old son owes? He has a job ,married and has his own account?

    My son is on my account for emergency purposes only..The money is mine and they took it out without my knowledge for a garnishment he owes. He is married and has not lived in my home for about 7 years has a job and his own account!!

    John’s Answer

    As indicated in the other answers, the general rule is when a family member (or anyone else) is on a bank account with you, then that other person owns the money also. This can be helpful when we need a family member to be able to access the money (although a power of attorney will work also) but it is a problem when that family member has a judgment against them.

    Who received the judgment against your son?

    What kind of money is in your bank account? Is it social security money? If so, it may be "exempt" from garnishment and the money may have to be put back in.

    Unfortunately the creditor can go after any bank account -- I assume yours was the one with the money and your son's other account may not have been.

    If you want to discuss this, feel free to give us a call and we can walk through your options.

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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  • A collection company for cashtime money loan company states I wrote a bad check to them back in 2009,

    I have an account with the same bank and I can write checks and they say they can sue me...I'm in the state of Alabama I don't no what state. I just don't remember but they have my social

    John’s Answer

    The other responses are good responses -- you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and you need to be aware of the large number of scams related to cash advance/pay day loan type collections.

    This sounds so simple but this gets rid of 99% of the bogus collectors -- tell them you know there are a lot of scams and you want a real letter with a real stamp on it sent to you. They will say they can't do this -- they only can email or fax -- but insist on a real letter.

    Normally the scam guys go away -- they simply have a type of credit report of yours and are picking out old accounts on there and threatening you.

    If this is legitimate, they will gladly send you a letter and then you can decide what to do next.

    Best wishes

    John Watts
    Birmingham, Alabama

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