North Carolina Appellate Court Upholds Summary Judgment for Defendant in Pedestrian Accident Case Involving Contributory Negligence Allegations

Car accidents can arise in a wide variety of circumstances. One of the most common issues in a pedestrian accident case is whether the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. As seasoned North Carolina pedestrian accident attorneys, the lawyers at Maurer Law are prepared to help you evaluate your potential claim and to assist you with protecting your right to compensation.

A recent appellate decision discussed whether the driver of a vehicle that struck a tree lying across the roadway on which the plaintiff was standing was liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. The plaintiff was driving a truck near Asheville in an evening during October 2015. The plaintiff’s father was a passenger in the vehicle. While driving toward their home, they observed a tree branch that had fallen across the roadway and was hanging off the ground. The plaintiff’s father told the plaintiff to slow down, and they pulled over to remove the branch. They turned on the vehicle’s traffic lights, and the plaintiff’s father contacted his wife to ask her to bring a chainsaw to their location. The plaintiff climbed onto the tree so that he could get across and attempt to wave down any passing cars while waiting for the chainsaw. A vehicle approached, and the plaintiff started waving his arms to get the vehicle operator’s attention. The plaintiff’s father testified later that the plaintiff had been goofing around while on the tree and that he did not get down from the tree as the vehicle approached because they thought it was going to stop.

The driver of the approaching vehicle testified that the sun was shining into his windshield immediately before the incident, making it difficult for him to see the plaintiff on the tree. The oncoming car collided with the tree, and on impact a branch struck the plaintiff in the head and threw him onto the adjacent roadway. The plaintiff was airlifted to the hospital and required serious medical attention.

The plaintiff filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver of the approaching vehicle, alleging that the defendant was negligent and responsible for the plaintiff’s medical expenses and damages. The defendant refuted these allegations and asserted a number of affirmative defenses, including a defense alleging that the plaintiff was contributorily negligent. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, which the lower court granted. The plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court first rejected the plaintiff’s contention that his lower IQ rendered him unable to appreciate the danger of standing on the tree lying across the roadway. In reaching this conclusion, the court pointed to a lack of evidence in the record evidencing the plaintiff’s alleged mental incapacitation. Instead, the record showed that he had a valid driver’s license and that he had obtained a high school diploma in addition to a mechanics internship. The court also concluded that the plaintiff’s failure to yield the right of way to the defendant constituted contributory negligence. Under North Carolina law, a plaintiff who is deemed contributorily negligent is barred from recovering compensation from the defendant. Accordingly, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s grant of the defendant’s motion for summary judgment.

If you have been injured in a car accident, you may be entitled to compensation. The seasoned North Carolina pedestrian accident lawyers at Maurer Law have handled a wide variety of claims in the areas around Raleigh, Charlotte, Greensboro, and Winston-Salem. To schedule your free consultation, call us now at 888-258-1087 or contact us online.

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