North Carolina Personal Injury Liability Distribution Discussed in Zito v. Advanced

States vary on how they determine liability in personal injury lawsuits. This is why it is so essential to have an experienced North Carolina injury attorney guiding you through the process in the wake of a serious accident.
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Determining who is liable for the damages of a North Carolina car accident is sometimes complicated because of the allocation of negligence. North Carolina negligence defenses are very similar to those in Louisiana. Thus, a recent Louisiana court discussed the different things that must be looked at when determining this liability in negligence actions. Zito v. Advanced Emergency Medical Services, Inc., No. 2011-C-2382 (La. May 8, 2012).

Negligence is a civil wrong that occurs because someone breached their required duty of care standard causing injury to another. Each state offers different defenses to negligence in order to allocate fault and liability. In North Carolina as in Louisiana, contributory negligence is a defense to negligence liability. Contributory negligence is asserted by the defendant where the plaintiff was also negligent, and this plaintiff’s negligence contributed to their injury.

In order to see the application of this negligence defense in personal injury cases, we look to this recent case. It all began in 2006 when an ambulance was having transmission problems and pulled over to the shoulder of a four lane highway. It was estimated that the ambulance had stopped about five feet from the white line of the right lane of the highway. This ambulance was owned by Advanced Emergency Medical Services, Inc. (Advanced). Advanced had placed reflective tape around the entire ambulance to make it visible from a far distance at nighttime.

As the ambulance was parked disabled on the side of the road, a pickup truck being driven by Jeryd Zito (Zito) was traveling on the same highway on the right traffic lane. At a speed of approximately 60 to 65 miles an hour, Zito smashed into the left rear corner of the ambulance. This impact was so strong, causing the ambulance to be dragged further to the right of the highway shoulder. Zito also suffered serious injuries.

After the accident, Zito claimed that despite the reflective tape, he did not see the ambulance disabled on the side of the road. Additionally, he claimed that the ambulance was parked with the left rear in the right highway lane. He argued that because the ambulance was negligently parked, the accident occurred and he obtained his injuries. Thus, Zito sued Advanced and Advanced’s insurer (collectively, “defendant’s”) for negligence.

The defendants asserted the negligence defense of contributory negligence and countered Zito’s contentions by stating that Zito had also been negligent thus he should be held contributory negligent.

To support this contention, the defendant’s offered evidence that Zito was under the influence of prescription narcotic medications at the time of the accident. Also, through Zito’s admission, he had been reaching for and playing with his cell phone right before he collided with the ambulance. There was also the testimony of others who had traveled on the road on that evening and they stated that they had seen the ambulance from a far distance. For the above listed reasons, the defendant’s argued that Zito was also negligent in causing the car accident.

The lower court found that because the ambulance was parked on the side of the road without its hazard lights on or cones placed behind it, the defendants should be held liable for the injuries the plaintiff suffered. However, upon an appeal it was found that where the plaintiff is also negligent, the liability distribution must be split.

Thus, plaintiff’s damage award was decreased because the plaintiff had also acted negligently. Where both partied negligence contributes to the accident, they must share the fault.

If you have been injured contact North Carolina injury attorneys at Lee Law Offices to schedule a free appointment today. Call 800-887-1965.

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