Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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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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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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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cement truckRecently, a concrete truck driven by a 43-year-old man from Charlotte crushed a van in a North Carolina truck accident, trapping four people inside at the intersection of N.C. 49 and Zion Church Road at around 8:30 a.m.

The concrete truck was fully loaded and driving north on N.C. 49. When the driver turned right, he went too fast and lost control of the vehicle. He crashed into the van, which was stopped in the left turn lane of the road. There were three 13-year-olds and one 44-year-old adult woman in the van at the time. The Fire Department responded to rescue the victims. A crane and two heavy-duty wreckers were used.

Two of the victims were able to be rescued and taken to the hospital quickly. Rescue workers needed to get the concrete truck lifted off the van in order to remove the other two victims. It took an hour and 15 minutes to free them. Over 25 firemen helped with the rescue. A 13-year-old was airlifted to the hospital.

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wagon trainRecently, there was an accident in North Carolina in which one person was killed, two were injured, a horse had to be put down, and another horse was sent for veterinary care. A pickup hit a wagon train, and a witness said it sounded like a bomb exploded. The wagon train was run by a group of hobbyists, and it crossed the county every Labor Day weekend. There were 18 wagons and 20 horses in the wagon train. Due to the accident, Labor Day events were canceled.

If a loved one is killed in an accident, you may be able to bring a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit. Each state defines wrongful death slightly differently and has its own rules about who can bring this type of lawsuit. Under North Carolina law, a wrongful death is one that’s caused by somebody else’s wrongful act, default, or neglect. In this way, it’s like a personal injury claim, but the injured person isn’t able to bring the case himself or herself. The decedent’s estate can sue for damages.

The wrongful death lawsuit is separate from any criminal charges that may be brought. While the personal representative of the decedent’s estate files the wrongful death lawsuit, a prosecutor files a criminal case. Both can proceed at the same time, and they can have different outcomes, due to the differing burdens of proof in each. The burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means a criminal case can be defeated by simply raising a doubt about guilt in the minds of the jurors. In contrast, the burden of proof in a civil case is merely “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the plaintiff needs to show their version of events is more likely true than not true.

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carAn interesting unpublished 2013 appellate decision related to contributory negligence arising out of a rear-end car accident. The plaintiff sued the defendants, arguing that the accident happened as a direct result of their negligence. She voluntarily dismissed one of the defendants but took the other defendant to trial.

The case arose when the plaintiff and the defendant were driving southbound when the defendant rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff had been driving at about 35 mph when she signaled to make a left turn. She was starting the turn when she was hit on the rear passenger side of her car. The defendant had been following the plaintiff and felt aggravated by the slow speed of the plaintiff, and she said that there was no turn signal when the plaintiff suddenly stopped. The defendant braked and turned right to try to avoid hitting the plaintiff.

After the crash, the plaintiff’s car went to the right of her driveway and moved through her yard before hitting trees and a deck and landing on its side. The impact resulted in the deployment of the airbags. The windshield shattered. The plaintiff’s body was pushed back, while her head moved forward, and she had to be taken out of the car by firemen. She suffered injuries to her neck and back and had medical bills of about $12,500. However, when the accident happened, her driver’s license had been revoked, and she didn’t have a license to operate a car.

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airbagMany drivers feel secure because they believe that if there is a serious accident, their airbag will deploy and possibly save them from catastrophic or fatal injuries. Many North Carolina residents who suffer from injuries arising out of a car crash point out, “My airbag never went off.” They have this reaction even when it would have made no difference to their injuries. However, airbags aren’t designed to go off in every crash and situation.

Back in 1999, the federal government changed the standards for airbags, noting that airbag deployment sometimes caused serious injuries or even death. Those at particular risk were kids, small adults, and sometimes occupants who weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Due to the change in standards, car manufacturers developed sensors that evaluate different data points including deceleration and make a determination about whether to deploy the airbags. Some sensors exist outside the car and react to an object hitting the car, while others are inside and relate to the occupants’ weight and size. Airbags can sometimes deploy when the bottom of the vehicle hits a low object on the road.

In some cases, an airbag can kill or injure someone, although such injuries and fatalities are rare. If your airbag didn’t go off when you thought it should have, as a plaintiff you’d have to show what’s called an “enhanced injury” as a result of the failure. This means you’ll have to show your injuries were worsened or exacerbated because of the failure. In most cases, this is hard to do and viable only in cases involving catastrophic injuries or a wrongful death.

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truckIn a recent North Carolina appellate case, a woman appealed from an order in favor of several defendants, including a contractor and a seafood company. A driver of a rollback commercial truck had delivered a propeller in Virginia on his way to a newspaper company. On the same day, a driver of a pickup truck who was employed by a seafood company drove for his employer to the newspaper company. The driver of the rollback met up with him for the purpose of taking possession of a scallop dredge and getting a crane to load it onto the commercial truck.

Neither the driver of the rollback nor the driver of the pickup operated the crane. Once the crane left the dredge and was put on the commercial truck, the dredge was strapped down by the defendant and the driver of the rollback. The two decided the rollback driver would drive the pickup truck back, and the defendant would drive the commercial truck with the dredge.

About five minutes later, the defendant began backing out of the gate and felt the dredge shift. He pulled over. The rollback driver got out of the pickup and went over to his truck. They made sure the straps were fastened, but when the defendant got next to him, the dredge crushed the rollback driver, killing him.

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