car crashIn a recent North Carolina car accident case, an insurer appealed from a judgment confirming an arbitration award in favor of a plaintiff in a motor vehicle collision. The case arose from a 2013 motor vehicle collision. The insurer was the plaintiff’s uninsured motorist insurer. Under his policy, it was to pay the plaintiff compensatory damages if the plaintiff was hurt by a driver who was at fault but had insufficiently high liability coverage.

After the collision, the plaintiff settled with the defendant’s insurer and was advanced $35,000, which included the maximum medical payment and the liability limits. However, the insurer and the plaintiff couldn’t settle on the total amount of damages, so the plaintiff asked for arbitration under the policy provisions.

A panel of arbitrators awarded $110,000. This didn’t consider interest or costs in determining the award. The plaintiff moved the trial court to confirm the award. The lower court entered judgment for $110,000 plus pre-award interest and post-award interest. The insurer appealed.

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park with pondIn a recent North Carolina car accident decision, a plaintiff filed a claim for damages against the North Carolina Department of Transportation under the Tort Claims Act. He asked for damages of more than $1 million. He claimed that the DOT’s employees were negligent in maintaining, designing, and installing the right safety mechanisms or warnings and speed limits in a curve on a road next to a pond.

The Deputy Commission entered a denial of the plaintiff’s claims. The plaintiff appealed, and the Commission amended its decision. However, a majority of the commission affirmed the denial.

The case arose when the plaintiff was bringing firewood to a home at the end of a two-lane residential road in a rural area. There was a short straight section at the start of the road with a double curve around the pond. At the time, there weren’t warning signs for the double curve or the 90-degree turn.

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barCharlotte, North Carolina is the county seat of Mecklenburg County. In “Operation Safe Streets,” the county’s law enforcement is visiting the parking lots of bars in an effort to stop drunken people from getting behind the wheel and causing a North Carolina drunk driving accident. The officers are in unmarked cars and look at who comes out. They approach people who seem drunk as they go to their cars and ask if it’s a good idea to drive home. They don’t arrest or write tickets as long as the drinker admits he or she shouldn’t drive home and gets a ride home. The program was started to try to think of a way to get drunken people off the streets.

If a driver can’t afford a safe ride home, the county will provide them with the money for an Uber. In the first year of the program, more than 600 drunken people have been intercepted. There are still checkpoints for DUIs around the county.

If you are injured as a result of a drunk driver’s negligent driving, you can hold the drunk driver liable for damages. You will need to show:  (1) the driver owed you a duty of care, (2) the driver breached his duty of care, (3) the breach was the legal cause of the accident, and (4) actual damages resulted. If a driver was cited or charged, you may be able to sue him or her under a theory of negligence per se (negligence as a matter of law).

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car crashIn a North Carolina car crash decision, the plaintiff appealed from a trial court’s judgment that permitted the defendant’s motion for credits and setoffs against the tort judgment received by the plaintiff through their underinsured motorist coverage insurer. The trial court found that the insurer had waived its right to subrogation and didn’t have any further duty.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the trial court shouldn’t have permitted the credit, and it was an abuse of discretion not to let the plaintiff depose the defendant’s insurer, among others.

The case arose when the plaintiff sued the defendant, trying to obtain damages after a car crash. The jury found that the defendant’s negligence caused the plaintiff’s injuries, and the damages were $263,000. The defendant filed a motion for setoffs and credits against this judgment. The trial court reduced the award to $230,000.00 after making a finding that the defendant was entitled to credits or setoffs that totaled $33,000.00, based on the defendant’s motion. It found setoffs and credits would need to be applied so that the judgment would be $230,000.00. The order found that the parties had disagreed about whether the defendant should get a credit for what the plaintiff had gotten from their underinsured motorist coverage insurer.

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dogThree kids were bitten by a dog in south Charlotte in September. The kids were playing on the road one evening when a two-year-old Labrador retriever mix that was off leash began chasing them and bit them. The owner of the dog had been doing yard work and left the yard open. Kids inside the home opened a door to the backyard to let the dog out, and it escaped through an open gate. One of the kids was taken to the Children’s Hospital. The dog was surrendered to animal control for a rabies quarantine.

In North Carolina, someone bitten by a dog has multiple different theories under which he or she can sue for damages. The first is the North Carolina dog bite statutes. A dog owner can be held strictly liable for a dog bite to a person if he willfully, knowingly, and intentionally violates the rule against dogs running at large under North Carolina General Statutes section 67-12. This rule applies only to a dog that is unaccompanied by the owner or another family member or person and that is running at large.

When this law doesn’t apply, a dog owner might be held strictly liable under section 67-4.4. The issue in that case is whether the injuries were inflicted by a dangerous dog. A dangerous dog is defined as one that is at least six months old and running at large at night, that previously hurt or killed others, or that was previously declared dangerous or potentially dangerous by officials.

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carA 44-year-old woman was involved in a Charlotte car accident that resulted in the death of another driver. The accident happened at night on Freedom Drive. A man was making a U-turn on Freedom Drive when the woman’s white Chevy Silverado hit the passenger side of his car and sent it into the outbound lanes. He was taken to the hospital and was later pronounced dead. The woman and the passenger in her car weren’t injured.

The woman was speeding, and after she hit the decedent’s vehicle, she drove off the road and hit a utility pole. Power lines fell, and the pole split. The woman was charged with involuntary manslaughter, careless driving, reckless driving, and speeding.

If a loved one is involved in a car accident caused by someone else that results in his or her death, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Wrongful deaths in North Carolina are those caused by someone else’s fault, neglect, or wrongful act. The decedent must have had the right to sue for his own injuries had he survived. A wrongful death lawsuit is brought to put the surviving members of the decedent’s family into the same financial position in which they would have been if the decedent hadn’t died. It is wholly separate from a criminal proceeding for manslaughter or murder that may also be brought by a prosecutor.

football fieldIn a recent North Carolina car crash decision, the plaintiff appealed from a trial court order dismissing his lawsuit. His lawsuit alleged negligent infliction of emotional distress against a county board of education and two others. The issue was whether it was reasonably foreseeable that the plaintiff would suffer severe emotional distress based on the defendant’s negligence, which led to his friend’s death.

One of the defendants was a teacher and varsity football coach at a high school. The plaintiff and another defendant were football team members. The team had access to equipment, including a motorized vehicle. The teacher had authorized the team’s use of the vehicle, even though the team was made up of minors, and nobody had trained them on safely operating the vehicle.

The complaint alleged that the plaintiff, his defendant teammate, and other team players were scrimmaging and doing drills. The defendant teacher told another defendant to use the motorized vehicle to move coolers across the field. The defendant driver traveled at a dangerous and excessive speed across the field. The plaintiff and other players were approaching him, but when they saw him driving straight at them, they moved. However, the defendant driver turned to the right and hit one of the players, trapping him with the hood. The player’s head hit the running track, and he was run over. He was brain injured and only partly responded when people tried to communicate with him at the scene.

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school busRecently, a county school bus was involved in a crash in Greensboro. It was headed to a middle school. A car involved in the crash overturned, and somebody inside was trapped and then taken to the hospital. The bus was full of kids, and one person was moved by stretcher out of the bus, but it wasn’t clear at the time whether the person being moved was a child or adult.

Sometimes North Carolina school bus accidents are results of mechanical problems or defects, but most are results of driver negligence — either the school bus driver’s or somebody else’s. Another reason for crashes is driver fatigue. A driver may be sleepy while driving, particularly on early morning drives. Some accidents happen because of driver mistakes. A bus driver may fail to slow for a yellow light, or a driver in another vehicle may fail to stop and wait when the bus displays flashing red lights. Often, drivers try to go around a stopped school bus, which endangers the kids who are being picked up or dropped off.

It can be challenging to recover damages after your child is injured in a school bus accident. If the bus is owned by a private company, you may be able to sue the driver and the company for negligence. This means you would need to show that the defendant owed you a duty of care, breached it, and thereby caused injuries. Under the doctrine of vicarious liability, the company could be held indirectly liable for the driver’s negligent acts. The company could also be held directly liable if it failed to use due care while hiring or supervising the driver. For example, if a driver had multiple DUIs, but the company hired him without conducting a background check, and then the accident occurred because of the driver’s drunk driving, the company could be held directly liable for negligent hiring.

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aquariumIn a recent North Carolina trip and fall case, the plaintiff had sued after falling at an aquarium. She visited the aquarium in 2011, and after parking she was walking to the aquarium in a crowd. At a wooden bridge, she fell and fractured her hip, which necessitated hip replacement surgery and physical and occupational therapy. Her medical bills were $22,691.71.

She claimed that the aquarium, through its director, had been negligent in maintaining the aquarium’s common areas and failing to provide warnings about the dangerous condition. She claimed damages of $250,000. When it answered, the defendant denied the negligence claims. It argued that the plaintiff had been contributorily negligent. When a plaintiff is found contributorily negligent in North Carolina, she is barred from recovering any damages.

A deputy commissioner issued an order that found the defendant had breached its duty of care to the plaintiff and that she was not contributorily negligent. She was awarded more than $72,000 for medical bills and pain and suffering damages. The defendant appealed to the Full Commission. The Commission found that the plaintiff was 88 and owned a beauty salon, where she worked more than 40 hours per week until she was injured. She had no prior medical conditions affecting her walking ability, although she’d had an ulcer on her leg in 2011.

open roadIn a recent North Carolina wrongful death case, the defendant appealed after a jury awarded the plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages for his wife’s wrongful death. The defendant was driving on a two-lane road early one morning when she lost control of the car, crossed over into an oncoming lane of traffic, and hit the plaintiff’s wife, who was a pedestrian on the other shoulder of the road. The wife was seriously injured, and a few days later, she died.

During the first half of the trial, the jury considered compensatory damages, and in the second half of trial, the jury addressed punitive damages. The husband put on evidence about his actual damages, including the proof he’d suffered harm before her death. The jury awarded the husband $4.25 million in compensatory damages. In the punitive damages phase, the jury listened to evidence that the defendant was a student who worked part-time, that she drank alcohol early that morning, and that she had a BAC above the legal limit two hours after the accident happened. $45,000 in punitive damages was awarded.

The defendant moved for a new trial, but the lower court denied the motion. She argued that the plaintiff’s questioning of the jury had violated her due process right to a bifurcated trial because the questions involved issues relevant only to the punitive damages claim. The appellate court explained punitive damages can’t be recovered when a defendant isn’t found liable for compensatory damages under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1D-15. To make sure the jury doesn’t award compensatory damages based on issues relevant only to punitive damages, the North Carolina legislature has granted defendants the right to bifurcated trials that will allow liability issues to be tried separately from the amount of punitive damages. During the trial, the plaintiff isn’t permitted to introduce evidence about punitive damages during the phase of compensatory damages.

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