Articles Posted in Car Accidents

North Carolina has a strong legal foundation for the collateral source rule. This means a plaintiff’s receipt of benefits for his or her injury or disability from collateral sources (those other than the defendant) generally isn’t admissible. courtroom

Courts in this state have invoked the collateral source rule to exclude evidence of workers’ compensation benefits, medical expenses paid by an employer insurance benefit, and sick leave pay.

The idea is that jurors shouldn’t be swayed to award less just because the victim had insurance. Typically, the only way courts will allow collateral source evidence to be admitted in tort cases is when it is offered for a legitimate purpose. As the American Bar Association notes, North Carolina hasn’t taken a position on write-downs and write-offs. Each state has its own guidelines when it comes to the collateral source rule. The question in the recent Delaware Supreme Court case of Smith v. Mahoney was whether the collateral source rule is applicable when Medicaid pays for an injured party’s medical expenses.

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In personal injury law, establishing the reasonable value of medical care is an important factor in determining how much will actually be paid. seat buckleIn the recent Indiana Supreme Court case of Patchett v. Lee, the court was asked to determine whether discounted reimbursements negotiated between a plaintiff’s medical provider and their private health insurer could be considered in court, as long as the actual insurance isn’t noted. The court had previously held in 2009 that such information was worthy and relevant to measure the reasonable value of the medical care the plaintiff received. The specific issue in Patchett was whether this thinking was equally applicable to discounted reimbursements from government-backed insurers. The court held that it was.

According to court records, the defendant didn’t deny she negligently drove her vehicle into oncoming traffic one day four years ago. In so doing, she struck the plaintiff’s vehicle, causing injuries to the plaintiff that necessitated medical treatment. The defendant admitted she was responsible for the collision and generally agreed the plaintiff received medical treatment that was necessary for her crash-related injuries.

That meant the only issue here was the reasonable value of the plaintiff’s medical care. The ensuing trial was solely a matter of damages.

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When it comes to damages in any personal injury lawsuit, one of the most important items is medical bills. It may seem straightforward, but the issue becomes tricky when we consider that not all patients are billed the same way for the same services. doctor

In most states, hospital chargemasters follow complex systems that vary considerably. Managed care organizations will often restrict payments for the services of members, leading to an increase in prices for uninsured patients, who don’t benefit from a provider’s contracts with the plans that negotiate rate differentials. Back in the 1960s, everyone paid the same rate. Not so anymore. For example, a family could be stuck paying a $40,000 hospital bill over the course of a decade, while Medicaid reimburses just $6,000 for that same procedure. Commercial insurers might offer something in between.

So then the question, as outlined in the recent case of Moore v. Mercer, is whether defendants should have to pay more or less, based on the type of insurance the plaintiff has. Is it fair that two defendants liable for the same negligent act pay two vastly different prices? The California Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, delved into this issue in the Moore case.

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Motor vehicle accidents are the No. 1 cause of death among children in the U.S. More than 600 children under the age of 12 died, and more than 121,000 were injured in 2014, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Especially concerning is the fact that CDC research showed that in a single year, nearly 620,000 kids from infant to age 12 rode in vehicles without the use of either a child safety seat, a booster seat, or a seat belt “at least some of the time.” A third of the children who died in motor vehicle crashes weren’t buckled up at all.seat belt

Children are among the most vulnerable people on the road, and it’s imperative that parents, loved ones, and caregivers take car seat/restraint recommendations and guidelines seriously. That means:

  • Children need to be in the right size and type of car seat for their age and size;
  • The car seat needs to be installed correctly; and
  • The car seat needs to be registered so that parents and caregivers can be notified of possible recalls.

Now, a recent analysis by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that booster seat use among children between the ages of four and seven (the intended age group for this particular kind of restraint) is down.

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Three teenage sisters were in the car with their parents and 90-year-old grandmother on their way to a family reunion. Their oldest sister, in her 20s, had to work and couldn’t join them. In their Kia Sedona minivan, the family traveled along U.S. 67 in Texas. That’s when a man in a Pontiac Bonneville crossed the center line.

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Instantly, both parents and the grandmother were killed. The girls suffered serious physical injuries, although they did eventually recover. But the emotional scars will likely never heal, they say. Then came the questions. Specifically:  why didn’t the airbags in the van deploy? Numerous lawsuits have been filed due to faulty airbags, but that is not what is being alleged here.

The decedents had purchased the vehicle just a few weeks earlier, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. As they would later learn, that very same vehicle had problems with the airbag. The plaintiffs now believe that the dealership that sold the vehicle may have failed to put in the fuse or reconnect the airbag sensors while troubleshooting a problem with the previous owner’s complaint. That previous owner had made numerous complaints about the airbag light over the three-year period in which she owned the car. Even in spite of these chronic airbag warning light problems, the dealership accepted the vehicle as a trade, later selling it to the decedents.

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A spate of amusement park injuries has been reported in recent weeks as summer comes to a close.rollercoaster2

Most recently, it was reported that a 3-year-old boy in Pennsylvania was seriously injured after being thrown from a roller coaster that was not equipped with seat belts. According to local news affiliate WPXI, the child was at Idlewild & Soak Zone with his family. The ride is reportedly 27-feet high at its maximum height, but was built in 1938 without seat belts or other restraints. Young children who were at least 36-inches tall were allowed to ride, but only with an adult present. Riders 48 inches or taller could ride solo. The boy was reportedly riding with his 5-year-old brother. It is not clear why the rules of the ride were not being followed, or even if they had, what that might have done to have prevented the incident. The child was being treated at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The ride was shuttered immediately and will remain closed for the duration of the investigation. Officials did say the ride passed a private inspection a week before the accident, though that doesn’t necessarily mean the ride wasn’t defective or the operator wasn’t at-fault.  Continue reading

South Carolina senators voted 7-4 to reject medical marijuana legislation that would have made the drug available for those with debilitating or chronic illnesses. Calling it a “pathway to recreational use,” senators say the negatives outweigh the positives. marijuana1

However, this is unlikely to be the last we will hear of this issue in the Carolinas. And while the drug is still technically illegal, it’s still one of the most widely-used substances in the U.S. Further, even proponents of legalization for medical/ recreational purposes concede the drug is an intoxicating substance that can serve to impair drivers.

So what does this mean for those who share the road with marijuana users? In many ways, marijuana use is treated the same as alcohol use. That is, it is illegal to operate a vehicle while impaired. Specifically, S.C. Code Ann. 56-5-2930(A) prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol or any drugs that would impair a person’s normal faculties to the point it is unsafe to drive a vehicle.  Continue reading

It is expected by those who own or drive motor vehicles that they will occasionally require maintenance and service. But if a vehicle is not serviced or repaired correctly, it could result in serious safety hazards. mechanic1

Unfortunately, not every repair shop or mechanic exercise the care they should. A seemingly small oversight in vehicle repair or service can have devastating consequences. Some examples include:

  • Leaking fluids;
  • Brake failure;
  • Loss of control.

Those affected by negligent auto repair and maintenance may have grounds to proceed with claims for compensation against the repair shop.  Continue reading

Accidents and injuries occur all the time. In many cases, someone else is to blame. Our laws recognize the injustice of this and allows injured persons to seek remedy through the civil court system. driving8

There, plaintiffs have a chance to be compensated for their losses and their pain. But sometimes, even plaintiffs who prevail in their personal injury lawsuits may end up collecting less than what they are awarded. This often has to do with plaintiff’s health plan claiming all or some of it for reimbursement for money it spent on medical expenses.

There is nothing illegal about this, and the reasoning behind it is sound: If a person keeps the money intended for reimbursement of health care expenses, he or she is essentially being paid twice – once by having the health care expenses covered and then again by the defendant in the injury lawsuit.

The problem is sometimes there isn’t enough money to go around. The total compensation after legal expenses may not be enough to cover one’s loss of wages, pain and suffering, etc. – in addition to medical bills.  Continue reading

Government agencies – local, state and federal – have a duty to maintain roadway systems in a condition that is reasonably safe for public travel by drivers who are exercising ordinary care.

But does that extend to the edge of the road? The Ohio Supreme Court in Baker v. Wayne County ruled: No. road7

Of course, this doesn’t have any direct bearing on the courts in North and South Carolina, but it’s worth exploring how the court reached this conclusion, as state supreme courts often look to their sister courts for guidance on similar legal issues.

According to court records in this case, a 17-year-old student was driving down a two-lane country road. It was raining and the sun wasn’t yet up, as it was just before 6:30 a.m. As she was driving, one of her tires slipped off the road to her right. In her panic and inexperience, she over-corrected to the left. When the car got back onto the road, she over-corrected again to the right. As a result, her vehicle careened off the road, struck a statute of a deer and then a tree. After striking the tree, her car burst into flames. Engulfed in the fire, the girl died at the scene.  Continue reading

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