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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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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atomiumIn a recent North Carolina wrongful death case, a decedent’s estate appealed from a summary judgment in favor of a building company. The decedent was an employee of a steel company that had subcontracted with a building company to install structural steel at a construction project.

The steel company’s employees left a 700-pound beam of tube steel on steel pads or saddles that were welded onto vertical steel columns. The employees attached the beam to a center mounting tab situated on the columns. However, the workers didn’t weld the ends of the beams to the saddles. The steel company’s employees loosened the center bolts, causing the beam to fall 12-15 feet. The beam crashed into machinery, bounced off the concrete, and hit the decedent in his head, neck, and upper back.

Ambulances arrived at the construction site, and the decedent told the emergency responders that the lower half of his body was numb. The emergency responders took him to the ER, where he was diagnosed with an acute, serious injury to his spine. He was paralyzed below the neck and suffered severe pain. In spite of several surgeries to remove the shattered bone from the decedent, he eventually died.

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pregnancyIn a North Carolina wrongful death decision, the plaintiffs were the parents of a pregnant woman who died. The decedent found she was pregnant with her first kid in 2012. She became a patient of the defendant, a member of an alliance of providers providing obstetrical care. The defendant entity had five physicians who were involved in treating the patient.

The doctors diagnosed her with lupus during the prenatal period. In her third trimester, she complained of cramping, and the doctors found her blood pressure was elevated, and her urine contained protein. She was sent to a medical center to be evaluated for potential preeclampsia. Her doctor at the medical center conducted tests that showed she was suffering from severe thrombocytopenia, hemolysis, and elevated lactate dehydrogenase.

The medical center doctor consulted with the woman’s obstetrician, and they agreed they should induce labor and deliver the baby once her platelets stabilized. She gave birth to a son without complications. That morning, another doctor took over and diagnosed the patient with HELLP syndrome. A transfusion of red blood cells was ordered. The patient’s blood pressure rose, and another transfusion was ordered. A third one was ordered later.

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