Articles Posted in Car Accidents

A 44-year-old woman was involved in a Charlotte car accident that resulted in the death of another driver. The accident happened at night on Freedom Drive. A man was making a U-turn on Freedom Drive when the woman’s white Chevy Silverado hit the passenger side of his car and sent it into the outbound lanes. He was taken to the hospital and was later pronounced dead. The woman and the passenger in her car weren’t injured.

The woman was speeding, and after she hit the decedent’s vehicle, she drove off the road and hit a utility pole. Power lines fell, and the pole split. The woman was charged with involuntary manslaughter, careless driving, reckless driving, and speeding.

If a loved one is involved in a car accident caused by someone else that results in his or her death, you may be able to bring a wrongful death lawsuit against the at-fault driver. Wrongful deaths in North Carolina are those caused by someone else’s fault, neglect, or wrongful act. The decedent must have had the right to sue for his own injuries had he survived. A wrongful death lawsuit is brought to put the surviving members of the decedent’s family into the same financial position in which they would have been if the decedent hadn’t died. It is wholly separate from a criminal proceeding for manslaughter or murder that may also be brought by a prosecutor.

In a recent North Carolina wrongful death case, the defendant appealed after a jury awarded the plaintiff compensatory and punitive damages for his wife’s wrongful death. The defendant was driving on a two-lane road early one morning when she lost control of the car, crossed over into an oncoming lane of traffic, and hit the plaintiff’s wife, who was a pedestrian on the other shoulder of the road. The wife was seriously injured, and a few days later, she died.

During the first half of the trial, the jury considered compensatory damages, and in the second half of trial, the jury addressed punitive damages. The husband put on evidence about his actual damages, including the proof he’d suffered harm before her death. The jury awarded the husband $4.25 million in compensatory damages. In the punitive damages phase, the jury listened to evidence that the defendant was a student who worked part-time, that she drank alcohol early that morning, and that she had a BAC above the legal limit two hours after the accident happened. $45,000 in punitive damages was awarded.

The defendant moved for a new trial, but the lower court denied the motion. She argued that the plaintiff’s questioning of the jury had violated her due process right to a bifurcated trial because the questions involved issues relevant only to the punitive damages claim. The appellate court explained punitive damages can’t be recovered when a defendant isn’t found liable for compensatory damages under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1D-15. To make sure the jury doesn’t award compensatory damages based on issues relevant only to punitive damages, the North Carolina legislature has granted defendants the right to bifurcated trials that will allow liability issues to be tried separately from the amount of punitive damages. During the trial, the plaintiff isn’t permitted to introduce evidence about punitive damages during the phase of compensatory damages.

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Recently, there was an accident in North Carolina in which one person was killed, two were injured, a horse had to be put down, and another horse was sent for veterinary care. A pickup hit a wagon train, and a witness said it sounded like a bomb exploded. The wagon train was run by a group of hobbyists, and it crossed the county every Labor Day weekend. There were 18 wagons and 20 horses in the wagon train. Due to the accident, Labor Day events were canceled.

If a loved one is killed in an accident, you may be able to bring a North Carolina wrongful death lawsuit. Each state defines wrongful death slightly differently and has its own rules about who can bring this type of lawsuit. Under North Carolina law, a wrongful death is one that’s caused by somebody else’s wrongful act, default, or neglect. In this way, it’s like a personal injury claim, but the injured person isn’t able to bring the case himself or herself. The decedent’s estate can sue for damages.

The wrongful death lawsuit is separate from any criminal charges that may be brought. While the personal representative of the decedent’s estate files the wrongful death lawsuit, a prosecutor files a criminal case. Both can proceed at the same time, and they can have different outcomes, due to the differing burdens of proof in each. The burden of proof in a criminal case is “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means a criminal case can be defeated by simply raising a doubt about guilt in the minds of the jurors. In contrast, the burden of proof in a civil case is merely “preponderance of the evidence,” which means the plaintiff needs to show their version of events is more likely true than not true.

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An interesting unpublished 2013 appellate decision related to contributory negligence arising out of a rear-end car accident. The plaintiff sued the defendants, arguing that the accident happened as a direct result of their negligence. She voluntarily dismissed one of the defendants but took the other defendant to trial.

The case arose when the plaintiff and the defendant were driving southbound when the defendant rear-ended the plaintiff. The plaintiff had been driving at about 35 mph when she signaled to make a left turn. She was starting the turn when she was hit on the rear passenger side of her car. The defendant had been following the plaintiff and felt aggravated by the slow speed of the plaintiff, and she said that there was no turn signal when the plaintiff suddenly stopped. The defendant braked and turned right to try to avoid hitting the plaintiff.

After the crash, the plaintiff’s car went to the right of her driveway and moved through her yard before hitting trees and a deck and landing on its side. The impact resulted in the deployment of the airbags. The windshield shattered. The plaintiff’s body was pushed back, while her head moved forward, and she had to be taken out of the car by firemen. She suffered injuries to her neck and back and had medical bills of about $12,500. However, when the accident happened, her driver’s license had been revoked, and she didn’t have a license to operate a car.

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Many drivers feel secure because they believe that if there is a serious accident, their airbag will deploy and possibly save them from catastrophic or fatal injuries. Many North Carolina residents who suffer from injuries arising out of a car crash point out, “My airbag never went off.” They have this reaction even when it would have made no difference to their injuries. However, airbags aren’t designed to go off in every crash and situation.

Back in 1999, the federal government changed the standards for airbags, noting that airbag deployment sometimes caused serious injuries or even death. Those at particular risk were kids, small adults, and sometimes occupants who weren’t wearing a seatbelt. Due to the change in standards, car manufacturers developed sensors that evaluate different data points including deceleration and make a determination about whether to deploy the airbags. Some sensors exist outside the car and react to an object hitting the car, while others are inside and relate to the occupants’ weight and size. Airbags can sometimes deploy when the bottom of the vehicle hits a low object on the road.

In some cases, an airbag can kill or injure someone, although such injuries and fatalities are rare. If your airbag didn’t go off when you thought it should have, as a plaintiff you’d have to show what’s called an “enhanced injury” as a result of the failure. This means you’ll have to show your injuries were worsened or exacerbated because of the failure. In most cases, this is hard to do and viable only in cases involving catastrophic injuries or a wrongful death.

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A recent North Carolina appellate case considered the effect of a workers’ compensation claim on an employee’s recovery in a lawsuit against a third party. The plaintiff was hurt in a car crash while driving in a company truck on a highway. The defendant rear-ended him, and the force caused the truck to hit another vehicle. The plaintiff’s neck was seriously injured.

The unnamed defendants, the employer, and its workers’ compensation insurer accepted the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation claim and paid him $7,432.13 in workers’ compensation medical benefits and indemnity payments.

He sued the defendant, claiming that the defendant negligently caused the accident. At the trial, evidence was presented on the issue of the workers’ compensation benefits paid to the plaintiff. The judge reduced the recovery by the benefits so that judgment against the at-fault party was $3,576.87 plus interest. This judgment was in compliance with N.C. Gen. Stat. § 97-10.2(e). However, the judge entered an amended final judgment providing for a judgment in favor of the employer in the amount of $7,423.13. In the first judgment, the amount of benefits was deducted from the plaintiff’s recovery, but in the second, a sum was specifically awarded to the employer. The plaintiff’s damages stayed the same.

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Representing yourself in a car accident lawsuit is rarely a good idea. Often, personal injury law and insurance law have nuances that laypeople may not know, and you can harm your chances of recovery by going it alone.

In a recent North Carolina appellate case, the court considered an accident in which the defendant drove a car into the plaintiff while he stood in the driveway, causing him to suffer serious injuries. The State charged her with crimes, and she pled guilty to Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle and Driving Left of Center. She was sentenced to 16-29 months in prison. However, once she’d served the mandatory minimum, she was released.

The car owner’s insurer, United Services Automobile Association (USAA), offered the plaintiff a $30,000 settlement based on the policy terms. The plaintiff was disappointed by the settlement offer and the release of the defendant, and he sued. He and his wife represented themselves.

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Insurance coverage can be a significant issue in car accident lawsuits. In a recent North Carolina appellate case, an insurer appealed from the trial court’s order dismissing its complaint. The insurer was authorized and licensed to issue insurance policies in North Carolina. Its insured was insured under a business auto policy. This policy had a limit of $100,000.00 in uninsured motorist (“UM”) and underinsured motorist (“UIM”) coverage through an endorsement. There was also another insured person listed.

The insured was riding as a passenger inside the car owned by the other insured when another driver’s vehicle crossed the center line and crashed into the car. After this, a third vehicle hit the car. Both of the insured people were hurt in the collision and sought medical care. The passenger asserted her medical expenses were more than $58,000, while the driver claimed medical expenses of more than $104,000.00. Five others were also hurt in the accident, but they weren’t involved in the lawsuit.

When the accident happened, the other car was insured under an auto liability insurance policy issued by Integon/GMAC. The policy limits for that policy were $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident.

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In Daisy v. Yost, the plaintiff and the defendant got into a car crash in North Carolina. At trial, the evidence showed that the plaintiff came up to an intersection at the posted speed limit. He was planning to drive straight. The defendant came to the intersection from the opposite direction, planning to turn left across the plaintiff’s path.

When the plaintiff came to the intersection, the light had changed to yellow. The defendant’s light was changing from a flashing yellow arrow to a solid yellow arrow, and she was in the left turn lane. The plaintiff kept driving straight through the intersection, just as the defendant turned left. The defendant’s car hit the side of the plaintiff’s car so that the plaintiff’s car was pushed into a light post.

The plaintiff sued for his injuries and property damage and asked for a directed verdict on the issue of contributory negligence. His motion was denied, and the case was sent to a jury. The jury found that the defendant’s negligence was the legal cause of the crash, but the plaintiff bore some contributory negligence. Accordingly, the lower court entered judgment for the defendant. The plaintiff moved for judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial, but these motions were denied. He appealed.

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Insurance issues can come up in car accident cases in North Carolina. If your car is hit by someone who is underinsured or uninsured, or a hit and run driver, you may have to turn to your own uninsured motorist coverage. However, this means that you may have an adversarial relationship with your own insurance company.

In Bacon v. Universal Insurance Company, a North Carolina appellate court considered whether a driver’s insurance policy provided him with underinsured motorist coverage. The case arose when the insurer issued an auto insurance policy to the plaintiff, expressly providing liability coverage, as well as medical and uninsured motorist coverage from 2010-2011. The policy included an uninsured motorist coverage endorsement.

In 2011, during the policy period, the plaintiff was seriously hurt in a car accident in which the other driver was found at fault. The other driver’s insurance carrier paid the plaintiff $50,000, which was the full liability coverage available for the claim. After that, the plaintiff submitted an underinsured motorist claim to his own insurer on the ground that the other driver’s insurance was an underinsured motor vehicle under the policy terms. His insurer denied his underinsured motorist claim.

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