Drivers in the U.S. logged 3.2 trillion miles last year – a record that rounds out the fifth straight year in mileage increases nationally. That’s according to the Federal Highway Administration, which underscored the demands facing America’s roads and bridges, reaffirming the need for updates and investment in infrastructure. highway

This coincides with rising car accident rates across the country. Early estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on 2015 total crashes reveal 6.3 million police-reported accidents that year, resulting in 35,100 deaths and 2.45 million injuries. That is one fatality every 15 minutes, or a total of 96 daily. While the highest-severity crashes declined about 17 percent from 2006 to 2015, there was a seven percent hike in the number of fatal crashes from 2014 to 2015. There was also a four percent uptick in the number of non-fatal injury crashes and a 3.7 percent increase in the number of property damage-only crashes that same year. The overall number of police-reported crashes climbed by nearly four percent. The federal agency notes this is a statistically significant increase.

The estimated economic cost (including lost productivity, medical costs, emergency services, insurance administration costs, congestion costs, legal expenses, and societal harm) of car accidents as of 2010 was $836 billion. This is astronomical. Individuals and families directly affected by these losses absorb the brunt of this burden.

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A truck accident on one February morning in 2015 caused serious injuries to a Virginia-based trucker, who is now suing a North Carolina truck company and its driver for negligence. truck

The West Virginia Record reports the personal injury lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia, alleges the North Carolina driver was careless in the operation of his logging truck, causing several logs to eject from the trailer and spill onto the travel lanes. One of those logs was struck by the plaintiff, who says the logging trucker was speeding. He further alleges the trucking company that employed him was negligent in its failure to educate, train, audit, and supervise the driver operating its truck.

Large truck accidents are a problem everywhere in this country, and North Carolina is no exception. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a report detailing crash statistics from coast-to-coast involving large trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more. In looking at 2015 figures (the latest final numbers available), federal officials say there was a four percent uptick in large truck crashes that year as compared to 2014.

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A motorcyclist who was critically injured in a construction zone crash recently received $18.5 million in a settlement against a state department of transportation, its contractor and a dump truck driver who was involved. motorcyclist

According to The Chronicle, the Washington State crash involved some facts that were “hotly disputed” by the parties. However, it seems in the end the motorcyclist made a strong case for both liability and damages even prior to trial, as the parties were willing to settle for this sizable sum before the case could even reach a jury. That suggests defendants recognized they could have lost even bigger at trial.

Motorcyclist, who must now use a motorized wheelchair, has suffered permanent and debilitating injuries.  Continue reading

A woman in Iowa who was injured in a drunk driving accident after an allegedly impaired driver crashed into a motorcycle on which she was a passenger is now suing the bar that served the drunk driver. bar sign

If you are unfamiliar, this type of case involves something called, “dram shop liability.” In essence, the idea is to hold purveyors of alcohol (i.e., restaurants, bars, clubs, etc.) liable when they negligently serve alcohol to patrons, who in turn get behind the wheel drunk and injure themselves or someone else. The term “dram” refers to a liquid measurement once used to serve alcohol.

Dram shop liability laws vary widely from state-to-state. Some states make it very difficult to bring such claims against an establishment, while others have rules that are more relaxed. In North Carolina, we fall somewhere in between. North Carolina General Statutes section 18B-121 limits claims against a permitted alcohol sales establishment only if that business negligently sold or furnished drinks to a minor under the age of 21. Even then, plaintiffs would need to show the consumption of the alcoholic beverage caused or contributed – in whole or in part – to the underage driver being impaired at the time of the injury and further that the injury was proximately caused by an under-aged driver’s negligent operation of the vehicle while so impaired.  Continue reading

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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