December 17, 2014

North Carolina v. Roberts - Reporting Suspected Drunk Drivers


Over the holidays, Santa isn't the only one who makes a naughty list.
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During the last holiday season in North Carolina, law enforcement officers throughout the state arrested 3,164 people for drunk driving during the annual holiday "Booze It & Loose It" campaign, which ran from Dec. 13, 2013 - Jan. 5, 2014. There were additionally 11,6,500 traffic and criminal citations issued statewide during that time, including 32,700 speeding violations and 4,050 drug charges.

When police agencies engage in these kind of enforcement actions, it's a form of proactively attacking the drinking and driving issue - known to be especially prevalent over the holidays. It's not only up to police to take action on this problem. Of course, people should never drink and drive. But they do. And when that happens, it's on the citizens of North Carolina to report it.

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December 14, 2014

Mohr v. Matthews - North Carolina Appeals Court Tackles Social Host Liability


The death of a teenager due to a drunk driving crash left one North Carolina family devastated - and seeking justice. They sought to do so through North Carolina's Social Host Liability law.
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State courts recognize under general negligence principles of common law, a social host may be liable for injuries caused by intoxicated guests. This was established in the 1992 North Carolina Supreme Court decision in Hart v. Ivey. Although Hart concerned injuries caused by intoxicated minors, the court's language indicates liability could also result from injuries caused by intoxicated adult guests.

(Dram shop laws may also result in liability for establishments that provide alcohol, though circumstances are limited and damages capped at $500,000.) The law specifically holds licensees are not liable for injuries sustained by a voluntarily intoxicated person.

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December 12, 2014

Uber Car Accidents: Who is Liable?


The rise of Uber and other ride-sharing apps and opportunities is a testament to changing times and an increased interest in alternative transportation options. In addition to providing an alternative to drinking and driving, Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing applications cut down on gas mileage and are better for the environment. While there is still a lot of hype, one of the criticisms of Uber is that drivers are not adequately covered by insurance. Riders throughout North and South Carolina should be aware of the potential risks of getting in a vehicle and their options for taking legal action in the event of an accident.

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According to the Uber website, consumers who choose to solicit a ride through the mobile application should understand that they will be riding in a personal vehicle, not a company car. In the state of North Carolina, personal automobile policies exclude coverage for liability when the vehicle is "being used as a public or livery conveyance." This can create significant complications for victims of Uber accidents, pedestrians, and others injured by an Uber driver.

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December 9, 2014

Four Teens Killed in Crash, Guns Found in Wreckage


Every accident that results in serious injuries or fatalities will be investigated by law enforcement officers. Items found at the accident scene can be helpful in recreating the events to determine the cause. Sometimes, items found in the vehicle or at the scene can raise more questions than answers. In a recent case, four teens were killed after a vehicle ran head-on into a school bus. After an initial investigation of the accident scene, officers were working to piece together the case, and make sense of four guns that were found in the wreckage of the vehicle.

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According to reports, there were four victims killed in the accident. The teens were aged 19, 18, 16 and 15 years old. Police reports indicated that the 16-year-old driver was traveling at 80 miles per hour when he approached a curve and ran head-on into a school bus. Fortunately, the bus was not carrying any children; however, the mechanic who was driving the bus in for repairs and service suffered serious injuries in the collision. Prior to the accident, another driver had called in the vehicle as "suspicious" and followed it before witnessing the tragic crash.

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December 7, 2014

Father's Last Texts Never Read by Son Killed in Accident


No parent is prepared for the news that they have lost their child in a deadly car accident. After a tragic North Carolina accident, a father tried to reach his son through text messages, but they were never received. While a father warned his son of a major accident on the road, he didn't realize that his son had been traveling in the backseat. According to state troopers investigating the accident, a 16-year-old was driving recklessly and carelessly when he was involved in a collision that also killed two of his friends and injured another.

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Accident reports indicated that the 16-year-old driver was transporting several of his friends home from school when he lost control of the vehicle and struck several trees before the car overturned. Two of the victims were pronounced dead at the scene while the driver and another passenger were rushed to the hospital. The father of one of the victims heard about the accident and began to text his son. The first text asked simply, "Where are you?" The following texts became more desperate, as the father had gotten word of the wreck less than a mile from the family home.

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December 6, 2014

Deputy Killed in Tractor-Trailer Rollover


Police officers traveling on state highways, on the interstate, or responding to accidents are often at risk of injury or death. In a tragic case, a Union County, North Carolina Sheriff's deputy was killed in an accident involving a tractor-trailer. According to reports, the 54-year-old officer was traveling Highway 74 in Monroe when a tractor-trailer rolled over onto the deputy's patrol car that was at a stop. Emergency responders arrived at the scene and officers initiated an immediate investigation. Police reports indicated that the driver of the truck has been charged with misdemeanor death by vehicle and is being treated at the hospital.

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This is a tragic incident that resulted in the death of a well-respected and experienced officer. The victim is survived by his wife, two daughters, and five grandchildren. Immediately after the incident, the highway was blocked off by the North Carolina Highway Patrol. An accident reconstruction team worked for hours to piece together the events leading up to the collision and to determine who was at fault.

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December 3, 2014

NCDOT Preparing Trucks and Motorists for Winter Weather


All motorists should be concerned about highway safety and winter travel, especially around the holidays. While drivers and passengers in small vehicles, SUVs, and trucks must take precaution, the North Carolina Department of Transportation is taking extra effort to ensure that commercial semi-trucks and accompanying equipment are safe for use. The NCDOT performs a thorough check-up on these trucks to determine whether they are ready for the roads during winter weather. According to maintenance officials, it is important for all trucks to be in proper working condition and repaired now, before the most dangerous winter storms.

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The DOT is also responsible for ensuring that roads are safe for motorists throughout the winter. The agency has expanded its ability to salt the roads before a storm and have an increased capacity for storing and carrying 15,000 gallons of the salt-water mixture used to de-ice state and interstate highways. In addition to prepping equipment and emergency responder crews, the DOT is also asking for residents to be prepared for storms. According to the agency, the majority of winter storm fatalities are caused by indirect accidents, including car collisions, fallen trees, broken power lines, fires, and carbon monoxide poisoning.

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December 1, 2014

Motorcycle Safety Tips for Fringe Weather Riding


Even though motorcycling can be more dangerous during the winter months, it doesn't mean you need to put your favorite toy back in storage. In North and South Carolina, riders can enjoy their motorcycles year-round, but they must also consider the various safety risks posed in colder temperatures. In addition to staying warm and making sure that riding is comfortable, you should also make sure that your bike is properly maintained and that you are trained for winter riding conditions.

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Whether you are heading north or the temperatures dip in your hometown, here are some tips to keep you safe for motorcycling this winter:

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November 29, 2014

Graciano v. Mercury General Corp. - Elements of Bad Faith Insurance Claim


Car accident victims, particularly those who have suffered debilitating injuries or survivors of a wrongful death, should never agree to negotiate directly with an insurance company. The reason is it is standard practice for these firms to low-ball claimants, when they don't outright deny legitimate claims.
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In some instances, there may be opportunity for plaintiff to obtain compensation in an amount higher than policy limits. This is particularly true if there is a successful assertion of a bad faith on the part of the insurer.

Some examples of bad faith actions by auto insurers include:


  • An insurer delays, discounts or denies payment of legitimate claim without reasonable basis for the delay, reduction or denial.

  • Failure to acknowledge or reply promptly upon notification of a covered claim.

  • Failure to pay a covered claim due to failure to initiate a proper, prompt and thorough investigation as to reasonable liability based on available information.

  • Failure to affirm or deny coverage within a reasonable time frame.

  • Failure to offer or attempt to offer prompt, reasonable and fair evaluation of damages and equitable settlements in an appropriate time frame where liability is reasonably clear.

  • Insurer tries to settle for less than the amount to which a reasonable person would know they are entitled, requiring insured/injured party to initiate litigation.

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November 26, 2014

N. Pac. Ins. Co. v. Stucky - Loss of Consortium Claims After Crash


Courts have long recognized the rights of husbands to take action for actions or omissions resulting in injury to a wife that deprives the husband of loss of marital services. This is termed "loss of consortium."
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It wasn't until 1950 women were also granted the right to claim damages for loss of consortium relating to loss of spousal services. Since then, it's been expanded in some jurisdictions to allow for additional recovery for children and parents - even when the children are no longer minors. A claim for loss of consortium cannot be filed on its own, as it is a derivative action of an underlying claim of injury or death due to negligence.

North Carolina is not one of those states that has yet recognized the rights of other family members, aside from spouses, to claim loss of consortium (i.e., loss of parental guidance or a child's companionship). Current case law (Nicholson v. Hugh Catham Memorial Hospital, Inc., decided by the state supreme court in 1980) holds that when defendant causes injury to a married claimant, the claimant's spouse can sue for loss of consortium.

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November 23, 2014

DeLauter v. Seneca Ins. Co. - Drunk Driver Not the Only Liable One in Crash


Drunk driving is a serious problem in North Carolina, causing an estimated 61,000 crashes each year, resulting in 22,000 injuries and nearly 530 deaths. These crashes cost taxpayers in this state an estimated $4.7 billion every year, with the average fatality costing society $4.9 million. Injured survivors incur average costs of $150,000 each.
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Generally, we hold the drunk driver responsible for his or her actions. This is where criminal courts will place blame. Civil courts are reticent, too to extend responsibility to third parties. However, there are numerous circumstances under which other parties may be held liable for injuries caused by drunk drivers.

Some examples include: Liquor stores that sell to minors, employers of intoxicated drivers, parents of impaired minors, bars that sell to clearly intoxicated patrons they know will be driving and even, in some cases, the owner of the car (if different from driver) for negligent entrustment of that vehicle.

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November 20, 2014

Motorcyclists Still Face Serious Risks in NC, SC


Motorcyclists face some of the most dangerous conditions on the road, and any collision has the potential to be severely injurious, even deadly. South Carolina has one of the highest accident rates in the nation and riders must be especially cautious when traveling through cities, along state highways, or along the interstate. Fortunately, the number of motorcycle accident deaths is down, according to the state Department of Public Safety. The reduction in accidents has been linked to raised safety awareness, education, and more skilled ridership among South Carolina residents.

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An analysis of preliminary data indicates that fatality rates are down from 117 by November 9th, 2013 to 76 on November 9, 2014. Authorities reported that they are seeing fewer deaths occurring by motorcycle accidents involving failure to yield right of way. These types of accidents can often be fatal for motorcyclists. A South Carolina motorcycle safety task force representative stated that one particular change has helped with reducing accidents.

Last year, riders were only required to renew their permits without taking a skills test. The state Department of Motor Vehicles estimated that as many as 30% of individuals who operated one of the 112,000 motorcycles registered in the state held only beginners' permits. According to the agency, many motorcyclists are riding with beginner's permits rather than licenses. Motorcycle experts also report that bikes and models change over the years so it is important for riders to have the skills and ability to handle a motorcycle. Now the DMV requires those who want to renew a permit must take a skills test to receive their license. Riders who do not pass the skills test are now unable to renew their permit.

Other changes are also helping to build awareness and improve safety among the South Carolina riding community. The Motorcycle Awareness Alliance is one organization that is helping to keep riders informed and up-to-date to prevent motorcycle accident fatalities. The state Department of Transportation is also creating public awareness campaigns to remind drivers to be more aware of motorcyclists when sharing the road. According to reports, there were "share the road" and "Target Zero" campaign billboards placed in the 15 counties with the highest rate of motorcycle fatalities.

Motorcyclists often face a stigma of being "high-risk" or "dangerous," though evidence shows that they face additional risks, including physical vulnerability on the road as well as invisibility to other motorists. When involved in an accident, it is important to consult with an experienced legal representative to help protect your rights. You may be entitled to significant compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, future care taking needs, and other personal losses. Families who have lost a loved one may be entitled to compensation for wrongful death.

Our Asheville motorcycle injury attorneys are experienced with all aspects of civil litigation and can help you protect your rights to recovery.

Though the number of fatalities has decreased, motorcyclists continue to face threats on South Carolina highways and byways. Drivers should be aware of motorcyclists on the road and riders should be properly trained and experienced to ensure proper handling of a bike and compliance with road rules and regulations.

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November 17, 2014

Toddler Killed, Father Charged in Fatal Accident


Impaired driving is one of the leading causes of accidents on the road. Drinking and driving, distracted driving, drowsy driving, or driving while under the influence of marijuana or pharmaceutical drugs can slow reaction times or lead to erratic driving patterns. In the event of a collision, investigators will always seek to determine whether a driver was impaired. In a recent South Carolina tragedy, a 26-year-old man was criminally charged after a deadly accident killed his 2-year-old daughter and injured two other children.

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According to reports, defendant was driving north on White Plains Road when he veered off the left side of the road and smashed into a street sign and a garbage can before slamming into a tree.

Police indicated that the 2-year-old was riding in a booster car seat in the rear seat. Immediately after the accident, emergency responders arrived at the scene and worked to save the life of the child. She was transported by ambulance to a nearby hospital where she was pronounced dead. The father was charged with reckless homicide after a solicitor told the judge that he tested positive for marijuana and admitted to smoking before the accident. It was estimated that the driver was traveling at 65 or 70 miles per hour at the time of the collision, even though the posted speed limit was 45.

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November 15, 2014

SC Coach Charged in Felony DUI


Drunk driving is a threat to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists sharing the road. When a driver chooses to get behind the wheel after too much to drink, he or she puts others at risk of serious injury or death. In a recent tragic case, an upstate South Carolina assistant baseball coach was criminally charged after being accused of causing a drunk driving accident that killed three people near Anderson University. In addition to those who lost their lives, there were several others injured as a result of the collision.

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According to reports, the 24-year-old coach was charged with three counts of felony DUI that resulted in death and three counts of felony DUI with great bodily harm. Bond was denied after he was arrested and charged for the accident, which occurred on a Saturday night in early November. The criminal charges could result in serious penalties upon conviction. In addition to the criminal charges, the defendant is likely to face a civil investigation and civil lawsuits filed by the victims and their families.

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November 12, 2014

NC Appeals Court: Child Awarded UM Coverage Under Grandfather's Policy


When it comes to uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage, almost all auto insurance policies limit coverage to resident family members. That means that in order for someone other than the policyholder to stake a claim to coverage, he or she must be family member (by blood, marriage, adoption, etc.) and must also reside in the same household.
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These may seem like relatively straightforward criteria, but they have proved to be sticking points in a number of car accident lawsuits. The case of North Carolina Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company, Inc. v. Paschal et al. heard by the North Carolina Court of Appeals earlier this year is one example.

UM coverage is allowable for situations where the at-fault driver either doesn't have insurance or the insurance policy liability limits do not cover the full extent of damages suffered by injured party.

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