Articles Posted in Motor Vehicle Accidents

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carAn interesting unpublished 2013 appellate decision related to contributory negligence arising out of a rear-end car accident.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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dump truckIn a recent unpublished North Carolina appellate decision, the plaintiff appealed the dismissal of an insurer in his motorcycle accident case. The case arose while he was operating the motorcycle on a state road, and a large truck going too fast around a curve in the road swerved and dumped gravel around him. The spray of debris hit the plaintiff, who lost control of the vehicle and crashed it. The truck didn’t stop, and they couldn’t identify either the driver or the truck’s owner. The plaintiff was injured.

At the time of the accident, the motorcyclist was insured under an automobile policy with Progressive and another one with USAA General. He sued both insurers, seeking uninsured motorist coverage. The claims were denied. Progressive claimed that uninsured motorist coverage wasn’t triggered because there was no physical contact between the plaintiff and the uninsured vehicle or the dump truck and the plaintiff. The insurer claimed that the object that hit the plaintiff had to be part of the equipment on the hit and run vehicle in order for uninsured motorist coverage to be triggered.

The plaintiff sued Progressive and USAA General, asserting numerous claims, including breach of contract and bad faith. He submitted an eyewitness’ affidavit, stating that she saw the debris from the dump truck make direct contact with the plaintiff and his motorcycle, which would other wise not have crashed. She also stated that it appeared there was nothing the plaintiff could have done to avoid the accident.

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i-haul-1450942-2-e1490314702756In February of 2017, a man was killed in an accident involving two tractor-trailers and a car on North Carolina 11 between Pink Hill and Deep Run. The accident happened just after 1:00 pm. Investigators determined that a tractor-trailer driver tried to enter the highway when he hit another tractor-trailer traveling north on 11. The trailer that was hit drove off the road and hit a passenger car that was stopped on a nearby road. The car spun out, and the trailer overturned onto it.

A 68-year-old man sitting as a passenger inside the car was killed while the car’s driver was injured and taken to a medical center. The drivers of the tractor-trailers were also taken to the hospital. The tractor-trailer driver who caused the accident was charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle.

The criminal charges brought against a tractor-trailer driver who causes an accident are independent of any civil charges that may be brought by the accident victim or his family if he dies. There is a higher burden of proof for criminal cases. Guilt must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in criminal cases, while liability must be established by a preponderance of the evidence in a civil suit. Liability in the civil suit is expressed through money, whereas guilt in a criminal case can subject the defendant to imprisonment, fines, or other penalties.

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bicycle-1443865-1-e1490129796451Recently, a 55-year-old bicyclist was killed when he rode through a red light in Raleigh before 7 a.m.. He was struck by a North Carolina police officer who was driving a marked SUV.

The bicyclist was bicycling southbound at about 23 mph and trying to cross the street against a red light. The police officer wasn’t injured in the accident, and he wasn’t cited.

All bicyclists in North Carolina are required to follow traffic signals, including red lights. They are also subject to other laws that are exclusively applied to bicyclists. For example, bicyclists must have both a front and rear light when riding in the dark, and these lights need to be visible from 300 feet. In some cases, reflective clothing may be worn instead.

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that-hurt-1450455-1-e1489534365557A recent North Carolina appellate case considered the effect of a workers’ compensation claim on an employee’s recovery in a lawsuit against a third party. The plaintiff was hurt in a car crash while driving in a company truck on a highway. The defendant rear-ended him, and the force caused the truck to hit another vehicle. The plaintiff’s neck was seriously injured.

The unnamed defendants, the employer, and its workers’ compensation insurer accepted the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim and paid him $7,432.13 in workers’ compensation medical benefits and indemnity payments.

He sued the defendant, claiming that the defendant negligently caused the accident. At the trial, evidence was presented on the issue of the workers’ compensation benefits paid to the plaintiff. The judge reduced the recovery by the benefits so that judgment against the at-fault party was $3,576.87 plus interest. This judgment was in compliance with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-10.2(e). However, the judge entered an amended final judgment providing for a judgment in favor of the employer in the amount of $7,423.13. In the first judgment, the amount of benefits was deducted from the plaintiff’s recovery, but in the second, a sum was specifically awarded to the employer. The plaintiff’s damages stayed the same.

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carRepresenting yourself in a car accident lawsuit is rarely a good idea. Often, personal injury law and insurance law have nuances that laypeople may not know, and you can harm your chances of recovery by going it alone.

In a recent North Carolina appellate case, the court considered an accident in which the defendant drove a car into the plaintiff while he stood in the driveway, causing him to suffer serious injuries. The State charged her with crimes, and she pled guilty to Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle and Driving Left of Center. She was sentenced to 16-29 months in prison. However, once she’d served the mandatory minimum, she was released.

The car owner’s insurer, United Services Automobile Association (USAA), offered the plaintiff a $30,000 settlement based on the policy terms. The plaintiff was disappointed by the settlement offer and the release of the defendant, and he sued. He and his wife represented themselves.

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carInsurance coverage can be a significant issue in car accident lawsuits. In a recent North Carolina appellate case, an insurer appealed from the trial court’s order dismissing its complaint. The insurer was authorized and licensed to issue insurance policies in North Carolina. Its insured was insured under a business auto policy. This policy had a limit of $100,000.00 in uninsured motorist (“UM”) and underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage through an endorsement. There was also another insured person listed.

The insured was riding as a passenger inside the car owned by the other insured when another driver’s vehicle crossed the center line and crashed into the car. After this, a third vehicle hit the car. Both of the insured people were hurt in the collision and sought medical care. The passenger asserted her medical expenses were more than $58,000, while the driver claimed medical expenses of more than $104,000.00. Five others were also hurt in the accident, but they weren’t involved in the lawsuit.

When the accident happened, the other car was insured under an auto liability insurance policy issued by Integon/GMAC. The policy limits for that policy were $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident.

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