The driver of a charter bus involved in a deadly collision with a train was taking a detour, rather than following company directions. railroad

It’s plausible that any future bus accident lawsuits stemming from this case could point to this as a central issue in asserting negligence. The reason is that while the alternate route he found on a GPS setting for commercial vehicles may have been faster, it failed to take into account the difficulty in crossing the tracks. This issue proved fatal because the bus got stuck on the tracks as a train approached.

Already, two lawsuits have been filed by relatives of decedents killed in the crash. Their claims name as defendants:

  • The bus driver (for negligent operation of a commercial vehicle, including failure to follow traffic signs);
  • The bus driver’s employer (for vicarious liability, as well as direct liability for negligent hiring and negligent supervision);
  • The railroad company (for allowing an “ultra-hazardous condition” to exist at the crossing).

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In many types of personal injury claims – including car accidents – there may be grounds for a loss of consortium claim. This is a cause of action available to family members of a person injured or killed by the wrongful or negligent acts of someone else.sad

The question before the Mississippi Supreme Court in a recent motorcycle accident case was whether that loss of consortium claim could be claimed as a separate “per person limit” under an auto insurance policy. The that court reached answer: No.

The reason? It has to do with the fact that loss of consortium claims are reliant and contingent upon the injury or death of another. Unless the person claiming loss of consortium was also injured, he or she cannot claim a separate “per person limit.” Continue reading

An appellate court has ordered a partial re-trial of a wrongful death lawsuit stemming from a motorcycle accident caused by a negligent motorcyclist and a defective road. curve

The new trial shouldn’t result in any less damages for the plaintiff, but it could alter how much each defendant has to pay. That’s because the issue of apportionment was decided with the help of an alternate juror, who was a replacement for another juror removed by the trial court. The juror who was removed later said she was leaning toward finding that the state had lesser liability than the defendant driver. Appellate court justices ruled that the trial judge erred in removing the juror, and the error was prejudicial because the juror was inclined to favor the state.

The facts of the case, recently before California Court of Appeal, Second Appellate District, Division Six, are that two motorcyclists were involved in a crash on a two-lane highway. The speed limit on the road was 55 mph. The crash happened on a sharp, blind curve. The state installed a warning sign for motorists northbound to reduce their speed to 25 mph in order to safely negotiate the curve. However, there was no such sign for motorists traveling the other way. Defendant was traveling southbound. He did not reduce his speed. As a result, he lost control of his motorcycle as he turned the curve. He crossed over the center line, striking decedent head-on. Decedent died at the scene.  Continue reading

Some people are surprised to learn that compensation for car accident injuries and wrongful death does not always require a case to go to trial. In fact, some cases may not even require a lawsuit at all. car insurance

Although you should never accept an insurance company’s offer for pre-suit settlement without first discussing the matter with an experienced accident lawyer, there are some instances where your attorney can negotiate a fair deal with insurers without the time and expense of a lawsuit.

Recently, the Georgia Supreme Court considered a certified question from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit regarding whether it’s lawful to set certain conditions that require action – such as timely payment – in order for the agreement to be valid. The court ruled that nothing in state law prohibits a claimant from making conditions on a pre-suit offer.  Continue reading

When you file a North Carolina personal injury lawsuit against someone, the defendant could request an “independent medical examination.” This is not necessarily “independent,” since the physician or expert would be someone commissioned by the defense, but it will serve as a “second opinion” to the plaintiff’s stance on injury causation and scope. The right of a defendant to request an independent medical exam is well established in North Carolina law.gavel

However, the question of whether a defendant can compel a plaintiff to undergo an independent vocational exam may not be entirely settled. It’s not in California, where an appeals court ruled the issue is best left to the legislature.

A vocational exam is when a person trained and experienced in employment matters holds a personal interview with someone regarding their employment history, education, skills, training, and income. With that information, the vocational expert will issue a report speculating on the person’s income capabilities.

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Based on data from four years ago, we know that at least one in nine bridges nationally is structurally deficient, meaning it requires significant repairs or maintenance or should be replaced. That was partially predicated on the fact that the majority of American bridges were designed to last 50 years, and the average age of a bridge in America was 43 years. Today, that average age is 47, and we haven’t made any significant progress on this front. The average age of structurally deficient bridges is 65 years. An estimated 260 million trips are taking place daily over bridges that are deemed “deficient.” By 2023, it’s estimated one in every four of our bridges will be 65 or older. bridge

But people tend to think of this as a problem that exists primarily elsewhere. However, a new analysis by The Washington Post allows users to examine county-by-county the bridge deficiency crisis. Nationally, 9.4 percent of all bridges are structurally deficient.

Here in North Carolina, we’re doing a bit better, mostly because much of our infrastructure is younger than what we would find in northern states. Specifically in Mecklenburg County, 3.9 percent of our bridges are structurally deficient. However, nearly 15 percent – or 95 total – are functionally obsolete. Bridges classified as functionally obsolete can’t handle the required traffic needs.

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For the last decade, millions of Americans have been driving vehicles manufactured with defective airbags, produced by Japan-based firm Takata. Recently, the defective auto parts manufacturer entered a guilty plea in an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to resolve a federal investigation into the matter. That plea deal was accompanied by a promise to pay $1 billion in fines for deliberately failing to disclose the possible airbag defects. Only a fraction of that money will go to victims.driving sleepy

But that hasn’t resolved all of the issues. The latest civil lawsuit alleges five auto manufacturers knew that Takata airbags were defective and had the potential to injure and possibly kill motorists – but chose to continue buying and selling them. Why? Because they were cheaper.

The complaint alleges Toyota, Honda, Ford, Nissan, and BMW knew about these problems for more than a decade but didn’t issue a recall or even bother to seek another supplier. Takata not only produced cheaper airbags but also was able to meet the bulk demands that many other companies could not. But of course, the other companies were presumably ensuring their products met the high standards necessary for use in automobiles sold to the public, while Takata clearly was not.

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The sudden emergency doctrine is a defense that can be raised in North Carolina car accidents lawsuits. If proven, it lowers the duty of care a person owes, as long as the sudden emergency wasn’t caused by the driver’s own negligence. The North Carolina Court of Appeals outlined the applicability of the doctrine in the 1995 case of Holbrook v. Henleybus

In Henley, the court held that if a vehicle driver is suddenly placed in an emergency situation – not of his or her own negligence – and is compelled to act instantly to avoid a collision or injury, he or she won’t be liable for negligence if they are acting as a person with ordinary prudence would if placed in a similar situation. This offers a defense even if the choice ultimately made isn’t the wisest choice or one that would have been required in the exercise of ordinary care but for the emergency. In other words, a driver can’t be judged according to the standard of ordinary care. Instead, the reasonableness of the driver’s actions will be judged in light of the emergency.

In a recent case before the Utah Supreme Court, the incident in question was a bus crash that happened when a driver carrying a Utah high school band swerved off an Idaho interstate and crashed on its side. One teacher was killed, and numerous students were seriously injured. Two students were transported to a hospital by helicopter, another dozen by ambulance, and 30 by bus. The driver, who was also a school bus driver, was working at the time for a private motor carrier. No drugs or alcohol were found in her system, and she apparently suffered a medical emergency that caused her to “black out” behind the wheel.

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Crashes involving workers on the job are fairly common, given that so many people drive as part of their employment. People injured in such crashes need to seek immediate legal counsel because there may be multiple avenues of financial recovery, and a careful legal strategy is crucial.van

In one recent case before the California Court of Appeal for the Fifth Appellate District, a plaintiff was left empty-handed after a lengthy legal battle that involved both litigation and arbitration.

Here, the at-fault driver was operating a work van owned by her employer, which she used for both business and personal purposes. The trial court found that the employer wasn’t vicariously liable for the plaintiff’s injuries because the defendant was not acting in the course and scope of employment at the time of the crash. The plaintiff then went through the arbitration process with the defendant driver and was awarded $500,000. However, when the plaintiff sought payment of this amount from the defendant’s personal auto insurer, the insurer refused. The plaintiff then filed another lawsuit, this one against the insurer, alleging breach of contract and bad faith. However, since the insured/driver was allowed to use the van for both personal and business purposes, the court ruled her personal use of the van wasn’t a departure from the customary use of the vehicle, and therefore her personal insurer didn’t have to pay.

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According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, approximately 10 percent of all car crashes are caused by distracted driving. Approximately one in six crashes are caused by either distracted or drowsy driving. These driver errors are responsible for thousands of deaths annually, including hundreds on North Carolina and South Carolina roads. eye

Unfortunately, until every vehicle on the road is fully autonomous, we probably aren’t going to completely escape this problem. Competition from driver attention is everywhere – from smartphones to kids in the back seat to increasingly interactive dashboards. There is a lot of talk of beefing up anti-texting laws or ramping up enforcement, but the reality is these types of laws are difficult to widely enforce on a regular basis. Based on a National Safety Council survey, 55 percent of Americans concede to “occasionally” making a phone call while driving, and 32 percent said if there was no law against it, they would probably text and drive. (The reality is many of those still do, regardless of the law.)

Still, there is hope that technology might be helpful in curbing this serious problem after all – and perhaps sooner than anticipated. A new system has been introduced that uses embedded computer vision to determine when a driver is either drowsy or distracted. Using an infrared camera, the system follows the driver’s eyes, while the computer vision detects the driver’s state and conducts a real-time analysis.

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