North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Blog

Articles Posted in Car Accidents

There is a pervasive belief that hands-free cell phones are safer than handheld cell phones when driving. smallheadphones.jpg

It’s an erroneous assertion, but it’s underscored in the many state statutes across the country that allow exceptions for cell phone conversations by a driver who is using a wireless headset, dashboard system or speakerphone instead of a handheld device.

Now, the MythBusters has debunked this myth.
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The case of Purscell v. Tico Ins. Co. is at once sad and strange.
The legal questions it asks are intriguing.

It involves the excess liability incurred by a driver who was apparently trying to be a friend to a co-worker, a young woman who was impaired and clearly troubled. The problem is that their actions collectively resulted in the death of that young woman, as well as serious and permanent injuries to another man and other injuries to that man’s wife.

Sorting through the question of who should pay became complicated.
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In many personal injury cases, there is the potential for action against numerous defendants. speedometer1.jpg

Car accident cases are no different, and it’s important for an experienced injury lawyer to carefully examine the facts and evidence in your case to identify all potential defendants.

In the case of Navarrette v. Meyer, plaintiffs sued not only the driver of the vehicle, but also the passenger of the vehicle, who had encouraged the driver to speed down a dark, hilly road with the intention of “getting air.”

Instead, what happened was the driver lost control of the vehicle at 70 miles-per-hour and slammed into a father loading his young child into a car seat. The father was killed instantly.
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Police chases may be exciting to watch on reality television, but for the innocent motorists and bystanders caught in the midst of one, the reality can turn tragic.
In these cases, where innocent people are injured as a result, those injured or survivors of those killed may be able to recover damages from the city/police agency involved – but it’s not easy. In North Carolina, it’s necessary to prove police officer(s) acted with gross negligence in their pursuit of a criminal. N.C. Gen. Stat. 20-145 states regular speed limits don’t apply to police in pursuit of suspected criminals, and authorities are often given great latitude of discretion in determining what is reasonable.

However, an officer who acts with “reckless disregard for the safety others” may be found to have committed gross negligence, and thus may be liable.
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If a defendant in a personal injury case admits liability, one might think that would be the end of the case, with victory handed to plaintiff.
But that’s only really part of the story. In fact, a defendant may admit liability and the case could still very well go to trial. The reason is because proving fault is only half of what must be proven in an ordinary negligence case. By no means is it an indication that you will receive any compensation.

That’s because there are four elements in most injury cases that must proven. Those elements are:

  • Duty
  • Breach
  • Causation
  • Damages

A defendant who concedes liability is admitting he owed plaintiff a duty of care and breached that duty. But he is not conceding that his actions caused plaintiff’s asserted injuries or that those injuries resulted in damages.

The element of causation can refer to either the cause of the accident or the cause of the injury. if a defendant admits liability for the accident, he is only admitting he caused the accident. He is not, however, admitting the accident caused your injuries.
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According to a recent report form News 12, South Carolina State Representative Bill Clyburn was involved in an auto accident. Authorities say Clyburn had attended the funeral of a former South Carolina representative in the Williamsburg area.

748825_crash_car.jpgClyburn and his wife were in their vehicle when they were allegedly rear-ended by another driver. First responders arrived at the accident scene shortly following the crash and provided immediate medical attention to Clyburn. EMTs then transported Clyburn to a local hospital. A member of Clyburn’s staff said he was taken to the hospital solely out of an abundance of caution, as any injuries as a result of the car accident are not believed to be life-threatening or serious in nature. Authorities are continuing to investigate the cause of what is being descried as a minor car accident, and it should be noted there have been no reports of anyone being cited with a moving violation in connection with this rear-end collision.
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In recent months, we have seen several incidents of passenger trains hitting cars and trucks, resulting in serious personal injury and death to people in the cars and people on the trains in the case of a derailment. Although, it should be noted, in one of these recent train accidents, authorities alleged people in the car intentionally parked it on the tracks in attempt to cause an accident for which they later planned on filing an insurance claim.

railway-crossing-1444336-m.jpgAccording to a recent news article from The Washington Times, two people were taken to the hospital with serious but not life-threatening injuries after an Amtrak train collided into the car in which they were riding.
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In any injury case, establishing the negligence of the other party is often a key issue in obtaining compensation. But one cannot overlook the requirement to prove the injuries alleged were proximately caused by the defendant, or at least substantially worsened as a result of defendant’s negligent actions.
This is especially important for plaintiff’s who have pre-existing health problems or who have endured a subsequent injurious accident, as defendant will almost certainly argue against proximate cause.

That was the case in Golnick v. Callender, an injury lawsuit before the Nebraska Supreme Court. Here, defendant actually admitted negligence in causing a head-on collision with plaintiff’s vehicle, though he denied the assertion that he had been texting when he crossed the center line to avoid stopped traffic ahead. However, defendant still prevailed in this case because plaintiff was unsuccessful in proving his injuries were proximately caused or substantially worsened as a result of this particular crash.
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Uninsured motorist coverage in North Carolina provides a way to recover damages sustained in an auto accident when the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance. (In cases where the driver does have insurance, but it’s not enough to cover the damages, the type of coverage sought is underinsured motorist coverage.)
These policies do cover hit-and-run accidents, where one vehicle strikes another and the at-fault driver is never identified or located. However, “phantom” vehicle situations are tougher.

These are cases in which one driver causes another to leave the roadway, but there is never an actual impact and the at-fault driver does not stop. It is not necessary for the unidentified vehicle to make contact with yours in order to collect coverage. However, it’s likely the insurance company will challenge your claim to coverage, particularly if there were no other witnesses to the incident.
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Seeking immediate medical attention right after a car accident is a smart thing to do not only for the benefit of ensuring your health, but also because it could preserve your personal injury claim.
Failure to at least get a check-up following a crash opens the door to a successful defense assertion that some other incident or condition is the cause of injury, as opposed to the crash. Injuries sustained in motor vehicle accidents aren’t always immediately apparent, so if they do crop up later, it’s important to have as much documentation as possible.

This was shown recently in the North Carolina Court of Appeals case of Powell v. Christopherson, involving a distracted driver who blew through a red light and slammed into plaintiff’s vehicle as she proceeded through an intersection.
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