March 17, 2015

Crusoe v. Davis - Hearsay in Motor Vehicle Accident Litigation

Courts are very particular about the kinds of evidence they will allow for consideration. Judges have to ensure the science being presented is solid, the arguments match the facts and that courts don't become a he-said-she-said war of words - even if sometimes, it comes down to which side you believe more.
One type of evidence courts seek to avoid is hearsay. This is information received from other people that can't be adequately substantiated. What surprises many people in car accident litigation is that many times, police reports - or at least significant portions of them - are considered hearsay. In many cases, even when the reporting officer is called to the stand, he or she can only attest to the information he or she personally observed - not what other people told them at the scene.

Because information-gathering from third parties is a lot of what officers do at the scene of a crash, that can mean big chunks of the crash report get excluded from evidence - both in criminal and civil cases.

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March 15, 2015

Hilyer v. Fortier - Truck Injury Default Judgment Reversed

A miscommunication between vehicle insurance agents resulted in a default judgment favoring the mother of a tractor-trailer crash victim for $550,000.
However, courts are generally loathe to issue default judgments because it usually means only one side of the case has been presented. Default judgments can survive in some cases, but generally, if a defendant can show he/she has a meritorious defense, the plaintiff won't be unfairly prejudiced by a reversal and it wasn't the result of defendant's culpable conduct, the court will set that ruling aside.

That was the unfortunate realty for plaintiff in Hilyer v. Fortier, who was no doubt hoping to put the entire matter behind them and move on as best as possible. However, now they will have to prepare for either settlement negotiations and/or trial.

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March 12, 2015

Miller v. Holloman - NC Appeals Court Affirms Crash Lawsuit Dismissal

A man who was injured by a hit-and-run driver in North Carolina several years ago has lost his bid to have the case heard before a civil court.
The dismissal was issued for a number of reasons, but primarily had to do with the fact plaintiff did not immediately report the crash, thus hindering collection of evidence that might have bolstered his case, and also a lack of preparation for trial, despite it being four years from the time of the crash and one year since he'd filed his case.

In Miller v. Holloman, the North Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed trial court's summary judgment favoring defendant, as well as denial of plaintiff's motion for reconsideration - effectively ending plaintiff's bid for $100,000 in compensatory damages.

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March 9, 2015

Fatal Greenville Crash Blamed on Wrong-Way Driver, Possibly Drunk

Authorities are investigating whether alcohol or drug impairment may have been to blame for a wrong-way wreck involving six vehicles on I85, which killed four people and injured several others in Spartanburg County.
All four killed were Spartanburg County residents, and one was the at-fault driver, though authorities have yet to identify that individual. A definitive finding won't be available until toxicology reports are returned, but troopers were aware of a wrong-way driver traveling at high speeds just minutes before the crash. They were unable to reach the vehicle in time to stop the collision.

Investigators say there are "signs" the wreck involved impairment by the driver.

Wrong-way accidents result in some of the most severe injuries because they often occur head-on and at higher rates of speed.

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March 6, 2015

Primas v. City of Milledgeville - Auto Accident Compensation Hinges on Sovereign Immunity Finding

One might think the concept of liability in a car accident case would be a straightforward matter.
But complications can arise depending on who was driving, who owned the vehicle, whether the at-fault person was working at the time and whether a defective vehicle part or poorly-maintained vehicle may have been to blame.

In the recent case of Primas v. City of Milledgeville, plaintiff argued before the Georgia Supreme Court that a city-owned van leased to a state prison system had poorly-maintained brakes, which caused a crash resulting in injury for which the city should pay.

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March 3, 2015

Back Seat Passengers No Safer Than Front Seat Passengers

South Carolina's seat belt law requires, with few exceptions, that every driver and every occupant of a motor vehicle being operated on a public street or highway be fastened into a safety belt.
However, there are many other states in which back seat passengers are not required to wear seat belts, or exceptions are made for those traveling in livery cabs or other public transport vehicles. This lends to the erroneous assumption that backseat passengers are somehow safer than those seated in the front.

For years, this was true. It's why the front passenger seat position was often referred to as the "death spot." Those in the front were simply closer to the impact of the crash, and often had few protections, whereas at least those in the back had the front seat to slow or stop their ejection.

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February 28, 2015

Winter Weather Road Conditions Spell Peril for North Carolina Motorists

A 19-year-old girl from Hertford County was killed after she reportedly lost control over vehicle after hitting a patch of ice on a recent Tuesday night.
The fatal crash prompted Gov. Pat McCrory to issue a warning to motorists regarding the dangerous winter weather road conditions.

Officials say the teen in this case was approaching a slight curve. She slid into oncoming traffic, and was struck by a pickup truck traveling the opposite direction. The other driver was unhurt.

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February 26, 2015

Piltch v. Ford Motor Co. - Injury Lawsuit Fails for Lack of Expert Witness

There are many car accident lawsuit that do not require the aid of an expert witness. The facts are straightforward enough that lay witnesses can describe the facts of the case to satisfy the legal standards of negligence and liability.
However, car accidents that result from product defects often do require the input of an expert witness, especially with regard to the issue of causation. The reason is that one must be able to prove first that the defect existed, and secondly that the claimant's injuries were caused or substantially worsened as a result of that defect.

These are not usually elements that can be legally satisfied absent the testimony of an expert.

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February 24, 2015

Combs v. NC Division of Motor Vehicles - DUI License Revocation Upheld, Even as Criminal Case Tossed

Drunk driving is a major problem nationally, but especially here in North Carolina. Mothers Against Drunk Driving estimates deaths related to drunk driving cost taxpayers nearly $2 billion each year, not to mention the personal emotional losses suffered by survivors and those injured.
Still, it can be tough to prosecute a drunk driving case in criminal court, and that makes it easier for offenders to skate by with few consequences and likely re-offend - putting everyone else on the road at risk.

The burden of proof in a civil negligence lawsuit is lower than what it would be in a criminal case, but such lawsuits are only filed once someone has been seriously injured or killed. There is, however, one civil avenue that state officials have to pursue action against DUI violators, even if the criminal case isn't successful. That's license revocation.

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February 22, 2015

Train Accidents Problematic in North Carolina, Nation

Investigators in New York are working to piece together what happened in a fatal Metro-North Railroad crash that killed six people and injured more than a dozen in a suburb of New York City when a train collided with a sport-utility vehicle on the tracks.
It was the deadliest train crash in the country recent memory, though it is far from the only one.

In December, an Amtrak passenger train in Mebane struck a minivan that was in its path, resulting in the death of the 80-year-old driver after the vehicle was pushed roughly two blocks before the train could stop. Witnesses said they saw the woman on the track and tried to get her to move her car, but she reportedly panicked and could not get the vehicle in motion fast enough. There had been two prior accidents at that very same crossing in the last three years.

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February 20, 2015

Rental Car Safety and Liability Questions

In 2014, there were a record 60 million automobiles recalled in the U.S., ranging from reported exploding air bags to faulty ignition switches to seat belt failures.
Consumers are taking the recalls seriously, and many have been flocking to dealerships in droves to have their faulty parts repaired or replaced.

What's unclear is how frequently commercial vehicle fleets are being repaired in compliance with this flood of recalls. Specifically: Rental car companies.

A recent report by USA Today indicates there is a huge whole in the consumer safety net, which was exposed following a 2004 crash that claimed the lives of two sisters.

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February 18, 2015

Harb v. City of Bakersfield - Alleged Improper Police Response to Crash Warrants New Trial

It would seem a man involved in a relatively minor, single-car crash precipitated by his own medical emergency might not have sufficient grounds to pursue litigation against anyone.
But in fact, he may have ample grounds for pursuing a claim against the city employer of police officers who responded to the scene and failed to immediately get him medical attention. Instead, the evidence presented in Harb v. City of Bakersfield tends to suggest officers early on determined driver was drunk, when in fact, he'd had a stroke and was suffering a continuing brain bleed while treatment was delayed. A paramedic called to the scene cleared the man medically, and left the scene without referring him for further care.

However, the driver, a pediatric intensive care doctor still in his scrubs, on his way home from a 12-hour shift, ultimately suffered serious brain damage. While he survived, is no longer able to care for himself.

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February 16, 2015

Moses v. Drake - Car Accident Injury to Pregnant Woman, Baby

Research has shown the immediate actions of an expectant mother following a car accident are key to ensuring the best overall outcome for both her and the unborn child. The increased risk of complications following a crash can be significant, which is why pregnant women should always seek immediate medical attention following a crash, no matter how seemingly minor. bellybump.jpg

If there is any evidence of injury to mother or child, it's imperative to consult soon after with an experienced civil litigation lawyer. The reason is adequate proof of causation regarding the baby's injuries (including premature birth) may require numerous expert witnesses. The law firm to handle such a claim should have not only extensive experience but ample resources.

This is important not only to cover the immediate costs (medical bills, lost wages, etc.) but also to accurately determine the full scope of the long-term impact.

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February 15, 2015

Miller v. Thibeaux - Father May Stake Claim in Child School Bus Accident

School buses are relatively safe forms of transportation with a generally low accident risk. However, when incidents do occur, children face high risk of injuries.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports from 2003 to 2012, there were 174 school children killed in school-transportation related crashes. Of those, 55 were occupants of school buses and 119 were pedestrians.

Of the 348,000 deadly motor vehicle crashes that occurred during that same time frame, 1,222 were classified as school-transportation related.

One of those was the decedent in Miller v. Thibeaux, a six-year-old boy who died tragically after his arm got trapped in a bus before he got himself dislodged and fell under a wheel.

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February 12, 2015

Vargas v. FMI, Inc. - Graves Amendment Protection Not Granted to Motor Carrier

The "Graves Amendment," 49 U.S.C. 30106(a) was passed by the federal legislature several years ago to protect owners of rental car companies from vicarious liability for negligence of their customer/drivers.
However, since it's introduction, many trucking companies have attempted to utilize the law for their own purposes. The structure of many motor carriers lends itself to this, as trucks or trailers owned by one company may be operated by another or even independent contractor drivers.

But many courts are rejecting this argument, finding it is not only against the intent of the legislature, but further that existing laws require commercial trucking companies and trailer owners to have control of and be responsible for such vehicles. This is specifically stated in 49 U.S.C. 14102, with the express purpose of protecting the public from negligent conduct "of the often judgement-proof truck lessor operations."

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