Car accidents are the leading cause of death for teenagers. When teen drivers have other passengers in the car, the risk of a fatal car crash doubles. And teenagers are more prone to have a collision during the first months of licensure. Now, North Carolina roads may see an influx of teen drivers who have not even had a road test.
New Law Puts Untested Teen Drivers on NC Roads
Governor Roy Cooper recently signed a bill that allows teen drivers to get their limited driver’s license without a road test during the coronavirus pandemic. House Bill 158 permits the NC Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to temporarily waive the requirement of a road test for young drivers attempting to obtain a Level 2 limited provisional license. The road test will now be administered after 6 months of violation-free driving with their provisional license. According to the NC DMV the road test will be waived provided that the teen drivers meet the following criteria:
Be 16 or 17 years old
Have their Level 1 Limited Learner Permit for at least 12 months
Have completed at least 60 hours of supervised driving, including time at night
Have no moving violations or seat belt/cell phone violations within the last six months
Have coverage under a liability insurance policy
Rules of Level 2 Limited Provisional License
If the above criteria are met, the teen driver will be able to get their Level 2 Limited Provisional License. However, there are still several regulations that drivers must abide by, including:
Drivers must be at least 16 years old, but less than 18.
Drivers may drive without supervision from 5 a.m. until 9 p.m. and at any time when driving directly to or from work or any volunteer fire, rescue, or EMS activities.
Supervising driver must be seated beside the driver during restricted times.
Only one passenger under the age of 21 is allowed in a motor vehicle when the driver is the holder of a Level 2 license.
There is no limit on passengers under the age of 21 if all passengers in the vehicle are members of the driver’s immediate family or members of the same household as the driver.
If there is a supervising driver in the car, the passenger restriction/limit does not apply.
As mentioned above, parents have a stake in ensuring their teens are qualified to be on the road, because they can be sued directly if an accident occurs. Parental liability is created under the doctrine of negligent entrustment, which says a parent can be liable when their teen causes a car accident if the parent knew, or should have known, that the teen driver was a danger to others on the road.
With driving road tests being waived, this exposes many parents to liability. For example, if you give your teen driver minimal highway driving experience and then allowed them to drive on the highway with the level 2 license, and they cause an accident. In this situation, the parents are potentially liable for any damages resulting from the accident.
Parents can also be on the hook for an accident their child caused through the legal doctrine of vicarious liability. Through vicarious liability, the parent will be liable for the wrongdoing of their teen driver if the driver is acting under direction and authority of the parent. In North Carolina, under vicarious liability, parents can be held liable if their teen driver causes a car accident while fulfilling any family “purpose” or “use.” This purpose can be almost anything, as long as the parent has control over the teen driver’s use of the car.
For instance, if a parent asks the teen driver to go to the gas station to fill up the car, the parent could be liable if the teen were to cause an accident during that drive.
NC Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate Your Case FREE
If you are injured in an accident caused by a teen driver, you may be entitled to compensation. As you can tell, getting in an accident with a teen driver can be a very complicated legal situation. That’s where we can help. Here at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we have experienced North Carolina car accident attorneys who know how to navigate complicated legal problems like these. For a FREE case evaluation, call us today at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online and chat with a live representative.
Nicholas Tessener, personal injury attorney at James Scott Farrin, shared his hopes and expectations for the House Select Committee on Community Relations, Law Enforcement, and Justice in its inaugural meeting on Wednesday, September 2, 2020. Nicholas is one of the members of the public chosen to contribute to this committee’s goals as it examines North Carolina’s criminal justice system and proposes methods for improving police training and relations between law enforcement and its communities.
Listen to Nicholas by clicking here:
“Good morning, my name is Nicholas Tessener.
I appreciate the opportunity to serve on this committee, and I believe that we have a unique and special opportunity to make some changes with our community.
Some small background on me – I’m from Raleigh; I left after high school. I graduated from Millbrook High School. I was gone for about ten years and lived in five different states.
I came back to go to Campbell Law, right down the road here. I got to spend some time with some great professors studying in different countries, [with] different justice systems, [such as] Africa and Scotland, [in addition to] here, [so] I hope to be able to bring some of that experience [along with me.] What I hope for this committee to be able to do is to be the voice of the community that we haven’t had.
I think a lot of times we get one side of the story and we make that [snap] judgement. But one of my favorite professors from Scotland told me: “No matter how thin the pancake, there are always two sides.”
And I think that’s our job as this committee; to listen to both of those sides so that we can listen with open hearts and open minds and really mend this community.
It is a Monday morning. Everyone is coming off the weekend – some are eager to start the week, speeding along. Others are overtired and distracted, not quite giving their full attention to the road. Some are running late, rushing and careless. All of these scenarios have the potential to lead to the same result: a car accident.
While distracted, fatigued, or careless drivers are bad enough, there are intersections that pose a statistically higher risk as well.
Intersections are naturally a high-risk area and, as the statistics show, some intersections are worse than others. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), more than 50 percent of the combined total of fatal and injury crashes occur at or near intersections. As such, drivers should take note of the most dangerous intersections in North Carolina.
The Top 10 Most Dangerous Intersections in North Carolina
Based on the 2019 HISP data, the intersections in North Carolina with the highest number of crashes were as follows:
US 29 at NC 24 (Mecklenburg County – 272 collisions)
NC 49 at SR 2827 (Mecklenburg County – 215 collisions)
US 17 at SR 1309 (Craven County – 180 collisions)
US 17 at US 17 Bus (Craven County – 162)
US 64 WB Couplet at US 25 Bus (Henderson County – 162)
US 1 at SR 3977 (Wake County – 151)
NC 160 at SR 5901 (Mecklenburg County – 141)
Corporation at New Hope (MP 3.60) (Wake County – 131)
NC 53 at SR 1308 (Onslow County – 129)
Corporation at New Hope (MP 3.76) (Wake County – 121)
Highway Safety Program and its Initiative to Help Drivers Stay Safe
The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) pioneered the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) to provide precisely this type of data, with the hope of “addressing specific traffic safety concerns throughout the state.”
Through HISP, NCDOT compiled the above data from the potentially hazardous intersection locations in each county. From that, we gathered the 10 most dangerous intersections overall across the state. While this data reflects where crashes are occurring, we are still left with one glaring question: why?
Factors Contributing to Intersection Crashes
According to a 2010 study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are several factors that contribute to intersection crashes – both related to the crashes themselves (such as traffic control, weather conditions, and pre-crash events) and the drivers.
So what can you do to avoid a crash? The study found that drivers’ errors were critical causes in 96% of crashes at intersections. The most frequent reasons (in order from most prevalent to least) were inattentive driving, making a false assumption of other’s action, turning with an obstructed view, performing an illegal maneuver, distraction, and misjudgment of other’s speed. As such, exercising safe, attentive driving is critical.
The study also found the following characteristics to be particularly distinguishable:
Age: Specific driving errors were most commonly found in certain age groups. For example, intersection crashes involving those 24 and younger are most often attributed to distraction, false assumption of other’s action, or aggressive driving. Crashes involving drivers ranging in age from 25-54, on the other hand, are likely due to physical impairment (for example: sleeping, heart attack, etc.), illegal maneuvers, inattention and aggressive driving. Finally, crashes involving drivers 55 and older are often caused by inattentive driving and misjudgment of other’s speed.
Gender: 1% of crashes involving female drivers were at intersections, while 32.2% of crashes involving male drivers were at intersections. Furthermore, intersection crashes involving female drivers are often attributed to inattention and internal or external distractions. In contrast, crashes involving male drivers are most likely caused by illegal maneuvers, aggressive driving, or physical impairment.
North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers
If you find yourself in a car accident – anywhere in North Carolina, intersection or not – The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is ready to help you. We will evaluate your case for free, and we do not collect an attorney’s fee unless we get compensation for you.2
If you are like most North Carolinians, you count down the days until you can be relaxing on a beach or lake having fun in the sun. What most people don’t dream of is being involved in a boating accident caused by alcohol. The unfortunate reality is that these happen far more frequently than anyone would hope. Luckily, by following our list of safety tips below, you may be able to prevent a tragedy.
Summer can be broken up into three major holidays: Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. North Carolina Law Enforcement has labeled these holidays the three most dangerous and busy weekends of the summer. Pairing with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD), they are conducting their 10th annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign to help raise awareness and keep everyone safe.
MADD, Boating, and NC Law Enforcement Sobriety Checkpoints
Founded in 1980, MADD is a nonprofit organization grounded in their passion to put a stop to drunk driving, wherever it might happen. This year marks the 10th annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign hosted by MADD, The NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and State Highway Patrol. North Carolina law enforcement plays an essential part of this campaign by conducting sobriety checkpoints.
These checkpoints will look very similar to a standard traffic stop. If you are out on the water, a police or sheriff boat will flash their lights and slowly approach your boat. They may ask for your license and registration. During this interaction, they will be on the lookout for obvious signs of alcohol in the driver: glassy eyes, slurred speech, slow motor skills, etc. They will also take inventory of the other passengers on the boat. If someone seems to be in need of medical help, the officer may order the driver to take them to shore or summon aid.
Are North Carolina Laws Regarding Drinking and Driving Different on a Boat than in a Car?
NC laws regarding alcohol consumption behind the wheel are focused on one number: 0.08. Similar to driving a car, a boat driver cannot have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at or above 0.08.
What about the other passengers? With the exception of liquor, it is legal to have an open container on a boat. In contrast, if you were to have an open container in a car, you could be facing a suspended license or jail time. On a boat, it’s perfectly fine.
Does this increased flexibility mean that driving a boat is easier than driving a car? Absolutely not. On the road, drivers can quickly brake or change lanes. On a boat, there are no brakes, only neutral. Sometimes, especially if the current is guiding the boats together, there is no way to stop an accident from happening. Adding alcohol to this situation slows drivers’ reaction times and impairs judgement, further increasing the chances of an accident. This is why it is crucial for drivers to yield, keep their distance, and stay sober.
How to Prevent Alcohol Related Boating Accidents
The risk of encountering a drunk driver on the water shouldn’t ruin your holiday plans. Follow these strategies to make the most of your time while staying safe.
Don’t let anyone drive your boat if they have been drinking.
Keep an eye on other drivers to see if they may be driving under the influence. Such behaviors can include: driving very slow or very fast, having no regard for the boats/people around them, cutting off other drivers, and many more.
Be aware that you may go through a sobriety checkpoint. Be polite and accommodating.
Yield to other boats, watercraft, and swimmers.
Know the number of your local police, the Coast Guard, and local boat services to call if you believe there may be an unsafe driver on the water.
North Carolina Personal Injury Attorneys Evaluate Your Claim Free
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident on the water, don’t hesitate to call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys is ready to help, and we’re here to answer your calls 24/7.
Being involved in a car accident is stressful enough, and when your child is also in the car, the situation can be even scarier.
We all want to protect our children from danger, but in a car accident, their wellbeing can be out of our control. When put in that terrible situation, we all want to ensure that our children are okay – both physically and emotionally – but it can be hard to know what to do.
Here are some steps you can take after your child is involved in a car accident.
Seeking Medical Attention is Essential!
Seeking medical attention as soon as possible is vital after a car accident. Regardless of the severity of the accident, it is important that you seek medical attention for your child: both for the child’s safety, and to ensure that you have complete documentation if you choose to file an insurance claim. However, you can evaluate the severity of the accident to decide whether an ER trip or pediatrician visit is more appropriate.
If your child is unconscious after the accident or has serious injuries, take them to the ER immediately. However, if your child does not have serious injuries and the car accident was minor, consider taking your child to their pediatrician instead. If you’re unable to get a last-minute appointment at your child’s pediatrician, take your child to an urgent care clinic, as it could ensure that your child receives medical attention quickly without having to go to the ER.
If you were also involved in the accident, make sure to seek medical attention for yourself as well. Even though your child feels like your first priority, you could have also incurred injuries in the accident, and your child is much better off when their parent is healthy.
Is your child reacting to the car accident in a normal way?
Directly after the crash, do you notice your child crying? Believe it or not, after an accident, hearing your child cry is a good thing. Crying does not necessarily mean that your child is in pain, but it does immediately signal that they have not lost consciousness and were not stunned by the crash.
In the days following the accident, keep an eye on your child’s emotional reaction to the crash. Even if they experienced little or no physical injuries, their psychological health is also vital, so it is important to pay attention to their behavior and try to understand how they are responding. Depending on their age, the child will respond differently, so keep that in mind when trying to figure out if their response to the crash is normal. According to the State Insurance Regulatory Authority,
A normal response from a child between the ages of 0-6 might include:
reverting to behavior from an earlier developmental period
If your child is between the ages of 6-12, a normal response might include:
avoiding talking about the crash
Acting more combative towards parents
worrying about their family’s wellbeing more than usual
For a child between the ages of 13-18, a normal response might include:
having a hard time sleeping and focusing on schoolwork
experiencing mood swings
avoiding social events
experiencing a change in school performance
overanalyzing their reaction to the crash
If you notice that your child is reacting to the accident in a way that does not correspond to the normal responses for their age range, be sure to discuss their reactions with a medical professional.
It’s also important to remember that you are probably feeling just as shaken up as your child, so make sure to take care of yourself and monitor your own response to the accident. Your child is happier and safer when you are also doing well.
These Physical Symptoms Could Indicate Injury in your Child
After seeking medical attention, you’ll want to make sure your child is healthy, or begins recovering. According to NBC News’s Today.com, there are specific symptoms to look out for in a child after a car accident, and if your child experiences more than two, you should contact a medical professional again. These symptoms include:
Loss of consciousness
Lack of appetite
Lack of interest in toys
Bleeding from nose, mouth, or ears
Lack of strength
Five Things You Can Do to Help Your Child Return to Normal Life
Do these five things to help your child readjust to normal life:
Talk about the accident, but keep it in the past. Make it clear to your child that they are safe now.
Remember to focus on the positives when talking to your child about the accident. Instead of pointing out what went wrong, discuss how well they reacted and praise them for other positive behavior to make sure they don’t dwell on the negative aspects of the crash.
Keep to your normal routine, as this will bring your child comfort and help them feel safe and secure.
Do activities with your child. Spend time with them and do fun things with them, like completing a puzzle, going for a walk, or watching a movie.
Don’t be overprotective with your child. This could cause more harm than good – your child needs to know that they are safe now and that the danger has passed.
Don’t Forget about Car Seats!
If you experienced a minor accident, replacing their car seat might not be necessary. However, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an accident is only minor if:
the car seat does not seem damaged
no one involved in the accident was hurt
the airbags did not deploy
you were able to drive the vehicle away
the door nearest the car seat was not damaged
If your accident does not fit these criteria, replace your child’s car seat with a new one for their safety.
Seek Legal Help from the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we know how hard it is to recover from a traumatic car accident, especially when children are involved. You don’t have to go through this alone, and we’re here to help.
You or your child could be entitled to compensation for your injuries, so after taking the necessary steps to ensure your safety, contact an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer. We’re ready to help you fight for the compensation you may deserve.
If you or your child were injured in an auto accident, don’t hesitate to call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free case evaluation at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online.
Are you driving through some of the deadliest highways and intersections in the Triangle and don’t know it? What areas do you need to be driving defensively?
The Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area, also known as “The Triangle,” continues to experience a population growth. Over the past 10 years, Wake County’s population has grown by 26%. Compared to other counties in the U.S. at the last census, Wake County is only second to Austin, Texas in terms of top fastest growing counties with 1,000,000+ residents. Between 2010 to 2015, Raleigh’s population grew by 14%!
Unfortunately, this rapid growth meant more people are driving on the roads, and more car accidents have occurred as a result. However, car accidents are occurring at a disproportionate rate — about a 45% increase overall, according to WRAL.
The Most Dangerous Intersections in Raleigh
Based on reports from the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), there are dozens of intersections where crash rates are higher than those in the area. As you may suspect If you drive through them frequently, you may already suspect high-volume roads like Wake Forest Road, Capital Boulevard, and Western Boulevard are on the list.
According to the most recent reports from the NCDOT, below are the top 5 areas in Raleigh where the most accidents have occurred between 2014 to 2018:
Capital Boulevard/I-440 interchange in north Raleigh
Wake Forest Road/I-440 interchange
Interstate 40 at South Saunders Street in south Raleigh
New Bern Avenue/I-440 interchange in east Raleigh
Glenwood Avenue/I-440 interchange near Crabtree Valley Mall (the intersection of Blue Ridge Road and Glenwood Avenue also take first place with the most frequent crashes occurring there)
In contrast, below are the areas in Raleigh where the crashes have been most severe between 2014 to 2018:
The intersection of Corporation Parkway and New Hope Road in east Raleigh
Dawson Street at South Street downtown
Falls of Neuse Road at Common Oaks Drive in north Raleigh
The Most Dangerous Intersections in Durham
In Durham, the most crash-prone intersections between 2014 to 2018 are listed below:
I-40/Fayetteville Road near Southpoint Mall
Roxboro St/Durham Freeway
I-85/N. Roxboro Road
Wake Forest Highway/Holloway St
When traffic engineers identify where crashes are most severe, they are able to provide crash mitigation efforts like adding red light cameras, making stop lights more visible to drivers, and restricting turn lanes to help reduce crash rates. Click here for a map of where NCDOT Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP) projects can be found.
8 Tips on How to Drive Defensively if You Are in a High-Crash Volume Area
If you frequent these intersections and areas in the Triangle, driving defensively is key to ensuring your and others’ safety. Practice the following tips below:
FOCUS! That text or call can wait. Minimize being on your phone or fiddling with the air conditioning or the radio especially when you’re at one of these dangerous areas.
Expect other drivers to drive badly.
Follow the speed limit.
Yield to other drivers if you are in doubt as to who should go.
Don’t try to race the yellow light. Slow down.
Always use your blinkers.
Do not tailgate other drivers.
North Carolina Triangle Car Crash Lawyers
The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is ready to help you if you were injured by another driver’s negligence. We may be able to help you get compensation. We’ll evaluate your case for free, and we don’t collect an attorney’s fee unless we get compensation for you. If you’ve been in an auto accident in North Carolina, call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us here.
Did you know that in North Carolina, the deck is sometimes stacked against people who have been injured – through no fault of their own – by negligent drivers? It’s a fairly complex nuance to our state’s laws that many people wouldn’t know unless they have experience with it or are a lawyer themselves. That’s why it’s so important for people who have been injured in North Carolina to seek out an experienced personal injury lawyer if they were injured by another’s negligence.
Insurance Companies Can Play Hide and Seek Against a Jury
One example of the deck being stacked is the state’s evidentiary rule that allows liability insurance companies to essentially “hide” from juries at trial. Specifically, in North Carolina, a jury is not allowed to know that an insurance company has an applicable insurance policy that could cover the money being sought by the injured party in trial. Rule 411 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence reads as follows:
Evidence that a person was or was not insured against liability is not admissible upon the issue whether he acted negligently or otherwise wrongfully. This rule does not require the exclusion of evidence of insurance against liability when offered for another purpose, such as proof of agency, ownership, or control, or bias or prejudice of a witness. (1983, c. 701, s. 1.)
The stated rationale for this rule is that juries could be convinced to award higher damages to the plaintiff if they know that the defendant’s insurance company is “on the hook” for it, rather than the actual defendant for causing the injury.
NC Juries May Not Know Just How Much Insurance Companies Control
The truth is that in the vast majority of cases, there is liability insurance coverage involved. This means that the insurance company is responsible for paying any awards within the policy limit, and they are also responsible for deciding whether or not to settle the case out of court or to take the case to trial. It is also the insurance company who hires the lawyer who represents the defendant in court. In other words, they call the shots on behalf of the defendant.
The fact of the matter is that the liability insurance company controls every aspect of the case from the defendant’s side — and yet an insurance company cannot be named as part of a lawsuit or referenced in a trial? That’s extremely unfair to the plaintiff and all injured parties.
Effects of Withholding Liability Insurance Information on Juries
Granted, this rule may make sense under certain situations, but it has a significantly pro-defendant effect on juries, and in my opinion, has resulted in many unfair jury awards to plaintiffs who have been seriously injured, especially when a juror is made to believe that the defendant may have to pay the award out of his or her own pocket. And while at the conclusion of the trial, the judge will give the jury an instruction to not consider the defendant’s ability or inability to pay any award reached, in reality, I believe this is always a factor that a jury will consider.
What about when the defendant is a close friend or family member of the plaintiff? The friend or family member certainly does not control whether the insurance company treats the plaintiff fairly. So when the insurance company refuses to fairly negotiate a settlement, your attorney has no other choice but to name that close friend or family member in a lawsuit.
Now who has the upper hand? The insurance company just forced the plaintiff to sue a friend or a relative in court, and that never looks good to a jury. The insurance company is very aware of this tactic, and will not be afraid to use it.
A Real-World Example
About few years ago, there was a case that received national attention when a New York woman sued her twelve-year-old nephew (who was eight at the time of the incident) over a badly fractured wrist she had sustained when he accidentally knocked her over and caused her to try to catch herself with her wrist.
The backlash she received from the public was brutal as they could not understand why she was suing her twelve-year-old nephew for $127,000. How in the world could the boy ever be able to pay that much money? The jury came back and awarded the plaintiff nothing on her claim.
The truth of the matter is that the plaintiff was never seeking any money from her own nephew. She was seeking to get her existing medical bills covered by the applicable homeowner’s insurance policy. Prior to trial, the insurance company offered a measly $1 to settle her case.
Even though plaintiff’s dispute was with the insurance company and not the nephew, New York has a similar rule to North Carolina’s, where the insurance company could not be named as a party to the suit nor could there be any mention of liability insurance.
If the jury were to have been made aware of the full details of this woman’s claim, is there any doubt that there would have been a different result?
North Carolina Personal Injury Cases Can Be Complex – Call a Personal Injury Attorney for Help
If nothing else, this blog should illustrate just one of many complexities of a personal injury lawsuit in North Carolina, as well as why it can be critically important to have an experienced personal injury attorney to guide you through the process.
And while the deck may be stacked against personal injury plaintiffs in the state, there are usually exceptions to many of the rules – depending on the facts and circumstances of your particular case. An experienced personal injury attorney can help level the playing field by identifying those exceptions that may tend to benefit your case and protect you against the insurance company’s tactics.
Please call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at
1-866-900-7078, chat with us, or contact us here for a free case evaluation. We don’t recoup an attorney’s fee if we don’t get you compensation.
When you’re hurt in a car accident in North Carolina, many people think hiring an attorney to represent you implies that you’ll be in a court at some point. But how often do car accident injury cases really end up in court, and what does a personal injury attorney do when that happens? Here’s how it works.
What Does a Trial for a Car Accident Lawsuit Look Like in NC?
Most of the time, your personal injury attorney won’t even need to file a lawsuit. The vast majority of claims made to insurance companies are settled. If you are looking at the prospect of having to file a lawsuit against someone in a personal injury matter, it likely means one of two things. Either the person’s insurance company has denied their insured is legally responsible for your injuries, or there is a significant disagreement as to the value of your case. Don’t fret as there is good news.
Of the cases when a lawsuit is actually filed, U.S. Government statistics show that only about 5% of personal injury cases go to trial. The other 95% tend to settle at some point between the filing of a complaint with the court and the actual jury trial. While experienced trial lawyers enjoy the litigation process, to the average personal injury plaintiff, the process can be best described as long.
It takes, on average, between twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months for a case to reach the trial stage depending on your jurisdiction. The purpose of this blog is to introduce you to the various stages of the litigation process. These are 1) Pleadings Stage 2) Discovery Stage 3) Mediation Stage and 4) The Trial.
Pleadings – Stating a Claim
This is how a lawsuit starts. The Plaintiff’s attorney files the Complaint with the Court. Then it’s served to the Defendant. The Complaint itself is a rather formal document in language and format, setting forth the legal and factual basis for the lawsuit.
The Complaint will tell the Defendant why they are being sued through a series of allegations that the Plaintiff’s attorney believes they will be able to prove through evidence at trial. The Complaint needs to state any reasons why the Defendant is liable for your injuries so that the Defendant can respond to them.
Once the Defendant has been served with the Complaint, most commonly by the Sheriff’s office or by certified mail return receipt requested, the Defendant(s) has 30 days to respond. This is usually done via a document called an Answer. It’s not unusual for the Defendant to request, and be granted, an extension of 30 days in which to formally respond to the Complaint.
Like the Complaint, the Answer is a formal legal document both in its language and format. Within the Answer, the Defendant will usually respond to each and every allegation of the Complaint by admitting or denying each allegation made. Additionally, the Defendant will state reasons why he or she does not believe they are legally responsible for Plaintiff’s injuries. It may even assert its own claims against the Plaintiff, called counter-claims, which the Plaintiff would have to formally respond to as well.
Discovery – Making the Case
Discovery is the pre-trial stage in a lawsuit when each party investigates and tries to establish the facts of the case. This is done through the rules of civil procedure. Both sides obtain evidence from the opposing party and wherever else it can be found. This is accomplished using “discovery devices.” That’s a fancy name for “asking for things.” A few examples are requests for answers to interrogatories, requests to production of documents and things, requests for admissions as well as depositions.
Typically, each party will serve discovery requests on the opposing party with the initial pleadings referenced above. Occasionally, these requests will be sent shortly thereafter. Each party will generally have thirty (30) days to respond, but as a matter of course will request and be granted an extension of thirty (30) additional days in which to respond.
During that time, the Plaintiff and Defendant will meet with their counsel to provide answers and documents to respond to the various requests. The attorney will then finalize those answers and provide to opposing counsel in a timely manner. The terminology gets a little complicated if you’re not an attorney, but here are some terms you’re likely to hear and what they mean.
Interrogatories are open-ended, written questions to the opposing side. They’re used to gain information regarding the case. For example, one may ask the other party to identify any and all evidence they will rely upon in support of their claim or defenses. Interrogatories can become very complex with multiple sub-parts, so most jurisdictions limit the number of interrogatories either party can ask of the other.
Requests for production are arguably the most useful of the discovery tools. They allow one party to ask the other to provide documents or other tangible evidence, even electronically stored information. In addition, a request for production allows you to seek similar information from non- parties (people other than the Plaintiff and Defendant) by way of subpoena.
Requests for admissions ask another party to admit or deny certain carefully worded questions. For example, one party may ask the other to admit certain facts related to an automobile wreck that may tend to prove that party’s liability or responsibility. These questions are used to narrow down the issues of fact truly in dispute in the matter.
Once the written discovery is complete, the parties will schedule depositions. Depositions are the process of taking live testimony from witnesses and parties before a trial. The witness or party is required to appear (usually in their own attorney’s office) and testify under oath before a court reporter, who records the entire proceeding. While the testimony and questioning are governed by the rules of evidence, there is no judge present and counsel will note any objections for the record to be dealt with at such time the testimony seeks to be introduced at trial. An experienced personal injury attorney will prepare you for your testimony ahead of time to make sure you are comfortable and prepared for any questions you may receive.
Mediation – Can We Come to Terms?
A mediation is when the parties to a lawsuit and their attorneys sit down with a neutral third party, called a mediator, and work towards resolving the case, if possible. Also present at the mediation is the insurance adjuster.
The mediation occurs after the facts of the case are largely established but prior to trial. This is really one of the last times that the Plaintiff will have an opportunity to choose how his or her case will be decided.
The mediator is almost always an attorney who typically doesn’t know anything about the case. The format is simple. The mediator will do a brief introduction of the parties and participants, explain his or her role, and establish how the mediation will proceed.
As the Plaintiff, your attorney will give a presentation to the mediator and the other side regarding the strengths of your case. The insurance company’s defense attorney will do the same from his or her clients’ perspective. Expect for the opposing side to make statements that you will strongly disagree with. It will happen.
After each side makes its opening presentation, the parties will separate with one party moving to another room. The mediator will then meet with each party privately to learn more about each party’s case and find a way to help the parties reach some sort of compromise. The mediator will use the information he or she has learned from each party, except any information received in confidence, to help each side to see something about their own case, whether good or bad, they have not yet seen or appreciated.
This back and forth by the mediator continues while the parties negotiate and feed, through the mediator, information, arguments and offers to the opposing side until the matter is settled or until an impasse is reached. Occasionally, a case may require the parties to reconvene for a second session. If a settlement is reached, the parties will sign a binding document advising the court that the case has been resolved and what the terms are. If an impasse is reached, the mediator will notify the court and the parties will make final preparations for the trial.
The Trial – Your Day in Court
The trial is the culmination of all of the work done on your case. The very first thing that happens on the first day of trial are pre-trial motions, or motions in limine. These are motions by either side seeking to either exclude certain testimony or to limit the issues for the jury to decide. A common motion by the insurance defense attorney would to exclude any references to liability insurance in the presence of the jury.
After the motions in limine, there may be any number of housekeeping matters the judge may want to discuss with the attorneys, including checking once more to see if the parties can reach an amicable settlement prior to trial.
The next order of business is picking a jury. This is also called the voir dire (pronounced vwar DEER). Voir dire is where both attorneys, as well as the judge, will question members of the jury pool to determine whether they are suitable to serve as jurors on this particular case. Each side has a certain number of potential jurors they can remove for various reasons. For example, an experienced trial attorney would likely not want a jury member who is an insurance adjuster. Conversely, the insurance defense attorney would likely not want someone on the jury who had been injured by a negligent driver and had to resort to filing a lawsuit. Once the jury (usually 12 people and an alternate) is chosen, the judge will give instructions regarding how to govern themselves throughout the course of the trial.
Next come the opening statements. The opening statements are when the attorneys outline for the jurors what the case is about and forecast what they believe the evidence will be. Typically, the Plaintiff’s attorney goes first, as he or she has the burden of proving his or her case to the jury.
Once both sides give opening statements, the Plaintiff’s side will call its witnesses. During this phase of the trial, the Plaintiff’s attorney will question each witness to solicit testimonial evidence used to support the case that is being made. The testimonial evidence is also used as the foundation to introduce documents and other exhibits to the jury as well. This is called the direct examination of a witness.
After the Plaintiff’s attorney completes his or her examination of each witness, the Defense attorney will get to cross-examine each witness. An example of a list of witnesses that may be offered by the Plaintiff would be: the Plaintiff, police officer, any witnesses to the collision, Plaintiff’s doctor(s) and maybe a friend or family member of the Plaintiff who may testify about the Plaintiff’s injuries and how they may have impacted him or her.
Once the Plaintiff has finished questioning witnesses and introducing evidence, the Defense has an opportunity to examine witnesses and introduce evidence if they choose to do so, and counsel for the Plaintiff will have an opportunity for cross-examination. Throughout the questioning of witnesses and introduction of evidence, the lawyers may occasionally object to a question or a response or a particular document and the judge will need to rule on whether the material objected to can be considered by the jury. Under some circumstances, certain objections to evidence (testimonial or otherwise) will need to be argued outside of the presence of the jury.
Once both sides have concluded examinations of all witnesses, the jury will usually take a break and return to the jury room while the judge and attorneys conference to determine what jury instructions are appropriate based on the admitted evidence received during the course of the trial. Once completed, the jury is returned to the courtroom and closing arguments begin.
The closing arguments are speeches made at trial after all the evidence has been presented. Each side reviews and summarizes the evidence presented at trial in the light most favorable to the side making the argument. This is the last time the attorneys will be able to speak to the jury prior to a verdict, so they are a pretty big deal. During the closing arguments, an experienced personal injury lawyer will passionately and persuasively explain why the verdict should be in favor of the Plaintiff.
Following the closing arguments, the judge will instruct the jurors on the questions that need to be answered as well as the applicable law that will govern their deliberations. Once complete, the jurors will return to the jury room, choose a foreperson and begin deliberations. Deliberation times vary. They can be as short as maybe 30 minutes or as long as several days depending on the magnitude and the complexities of the case, as well as the level of disagreements between the various jurors. The verdict must be unanimous.
When a verdict is reached, the foreperson informs the Bailiff, who informs the judge, who will then notify the parties. Once the parties are seated in the courtroom along with the judge, the jury members will return to their seats. The judge confirms that a verdict has been reached, and the clerk will publish the verdict by reading aloud. With the verdict published, the jurors are thanked and dismissed. The verdict essentially ends the lawsuit, except in the rare case where the losing party wishes to, and has legal grounds for, an appeal.
An Experienced North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney Willing to Go the Distance
When you’ve been injured in accident, you have to understand that the insurance company wants to give you as little as possible – that’s how they make a profit. It’s not personal to them. For you, who could be in a lot of pain, with mounting worry and medical bills, it IS personal.
You want an attorney who is ready and willing to fight for you, including going to trial. If you’ve been injured, our attorneys are willing to go the distance. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078. We’ll listen to you, evaluate your case, and explain your options free of charge. Tell them you mean business!
So, what happens if you’re injured in an accident during, or caused by, severe weather conditions? For a skilled analysis, we’ve asked James Scott Farrin shareholder and litigation attorney Hoyt Tessener for his perspective. His answers may surprise you.
The Weather, the Road and Personal Injury
Can the weather be at fault for an accident while I’m driving?
Yes. The weather can be at fault for a wreck but only under unusual circumstances. For example, the road could be poorly constructed. The weather can also be a contributing factor if for example the vehicle goes into a defective guard rail.
If another driver is involved, how important is it to determine fault, and how is it determined?
It is very important to determine fault. Initially, fault is determined from the crash report that is prepared by the investigating law enforcement officer. It is always important to call the police whenever there is a wreck. However, the law enforcement officers may make a mistake or enter the wrong codes. Fault is ultimately determined in a negligence case by what a jury of twelve people decide.
Can’t it even be the weather’s fault?
If the weather is at fault, it is an accident.
Does it matter if there are severe weather warnings? Does that make me more responsible for my choice to drive in that weather or does it matter?
If you are driving during severe weather, you may be contributory negligent. If the weather comes upon you suddenly or upon somebody else suddenly, then it can be what is described as a sudden emergency. A sudden emergency is a heightened standard of care. Basically we all have an obligation to drive and operate a vehicle as a reasonable person would in the same or similar circumstances. If you are hit with sudden adverse weather, the standard becomes driving as a reasonable person would in those same or similar circumstances – the adverse weather.
Let’s say a storm knocks out power to an intersection and the traffic signals are out. What happens if I get hit and injured while going through that intersection?
The rules of the road always apply. If traffic signals are out, then you have to follow the rules of the road as if there is an intersection with no traffic lights and all roads have stop signs. Everyone is expected to come to a complete stop at the intersection. The vehicle that arrives first goes first and then you circle around counterclockwise. A vehicle turning yields to a vehicle going straight.
What happens if my child is on a school bus during severe weather and is injured in an accident?
A child on a school bus is injured due to severe weather, it is an accident. However, if the bus driver and/or another person is at fault, for example for running a stop light, and your child was injured as a result of the collision, then your child would have a claim.
The Takeaways: While storms can contribute to an accident, injury caused directly from weather conditions is an act of God. And you can’t sure God. If your actions or reactions cause an accident, you are likely to be at fault just as in normal weather. If someone else’s action or reactions cause you injury, you may have a claim. And, in certain cases, a weather-related accident may be worsened by a defect, such as a bad road or a faulty guardrail. In those case, you may have a claim.
Contributory Negligence Defined Contributory negligence: n. a doctrine of common law that if a person was injured in part due to his/her own negligence (his/her negligence “contributed” to the accident), the injured party would not be entitled to collect any damages (money) from another party who supposedly caused the accident. Under this rule, a badly injured person who was only slightly negligent could not win in court against a very negligent defendant. NOTE: Some exceptions or exclusions can apply, which is why it is always advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.
Storms, Wind and Who Pays if You Get Hurt
I’ll get a bit more specific. What if I’m hurt by an actual tornado while driving? They’re freak storms, after all.
If you are driving during a tornado and injured as a result, you would not be entitled to any recovery.
What if a tree from a yard along the street gets blown over and hits my car, injuring me. Does that homeowner have to pay for my injuries?
A tree that is blown over by a storm would only create liability if the tree owner knew the tree was weak or damaged and should have been removed or replaced.
What if that tree is already in the road when I hit it and get injured?
If you hit a tree in the road and are injured, you have no recovery unless someone was chopping down the tree expecting it to fall in a different direction and instead it fell on you as you were driving by.
Let’s say I’m driving on the highway and high winds blow a tractor trailer over, causing me to crash. That’s not my fault, right?
When a Storm Blows Over… a Truck
The University of Kansas Department of Engineering performed a study in 2009 to determine the effects of wind on motorists. Full tractor trailers were found vulnerable to being blown off the road in winds of 60mph or more. Empty tractor trailers, on the other hand, were adversely affected in crosswinds of just 15-20mph.
The Takeaways: Storms that have high winds pose numerous risks, but the vast majority of their effects are acts of God. There is little chance that someone is going to be at fault – other than you. The lesson here is not to drive during wind storms. Got off the road!
Water Hazards, From Above and Below
Water is dangerous as well, especially over the road. Let’s say I drive into water that’s covering the road and get hurt. Does it make any difference if there’s a flash flood watch?
If water pools on the road due to a defective road design or maintenance, you may have a claim. If you just drive into standing water, you are responsible for your own actions and would not have a claim. If you have decided to drive during a flash flood watch and you are in an area that is known to flood, you would have no claim.
What if I hit someone trying to avoid the water? Or they hit me trying to avoid it?
If you hit someone while driving, regardless of the reason, it is likely that you are going to be at fault. The same applies for them.
Half a Million Injuries a Year Occur on Wet Roads
According to the U.S Department of Transportation, the seemingly innocuous wet road is one of the most dangerous places to drive. Each year, about 75% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet roads, and nearly half occur while it’s raining. Wet road crashes account for more than 5,000 fatalities and more than 540,000 injuries. Roadway flooding was said to be the greatest source of fatalities.
The Takeaways: Water on the road is a tricky issue. If you choose to drive during heavy rain when there are flood watches and warnings, you could be seen as contributing to the accident – contributory negligence. If the flooding happens due to poor road design, you may have a claim. As always, you are responsible for your choices and actions. A court and a jury will hold you to the standard of what a reasonable person would do in your specific circumstance. And reasonable people do not often drive during flood warnings!
Most people don’t think much about their auto insurance until they need it. There’s a reason that personal injury attorneys exist. Sometimes, even with all the insurance, you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to receive fair compensation. Where does that compensation come from?
If you’re injured in an accident in North Carolina, there are generally four (4) types of automobile insurance coverages that may come into play. These four coverages are liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage (UM), underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) and medical payments coverage. Both liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage are mandatory coverages for all drivers under the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act. The others are optional.
What Is Liability Insurance and What Does It Do?
Liability Insurance covers your liability, or fault, in an automobile wreck as it relates to other parties’ bodily injury or property damage. Conversely, if you are the victim of a negligent driver, then their liability coverage covers any damages you may have which may include, but are not limited to medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, as well as damage to your automobile.
In North Carolina, the law requires that the owner of a registered and operated motor vehicle must carry the following minimum amounts of insurance coverage: a minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident and $25,000 property damage.
In certain situations, when the injuries are serious, an injured party can collect liability coverage from multiple policies. The most common way this occurs is when the at-fault driver is driving someone else’s vehicle yet owns an insured vehicle himself. Under this scenario, the injured party can collect from the liability policy covering the at-fault vehicle actually involved in the wreck, and also from the liability policy of the at-fault driver’s own vehicle that was not involved assuming the total damages exceeded the coverage of the at-fault vehicle.
If We All Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage, There Are No Uninsured Motorists, Right?
Not quite. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM), as defined by North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, is coverage that “will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual.” It also provides property damage coverage.
Sadly, not all vehicles are insured. An uninsured vehicle may be a vehicle where the owner has failed to carry insurance on the vehicle in violation of State law. It can also be a stolen vehicle being driven by the perpetrator or any other person without expressed or implied consent by the owner to be operating the vehicle. An uninsured vehicle can also be a vehicle whereby the owner has purchased the requisite insurance policy, but for one of various reasons the insurance company has denied coverage for a particular loss.
An example of such a situation would be if there were a material misrepresentation made on an insurance application that the insurance company later finds out about, like the applicant representing the car being used by an accident-free 50 year old to go to and from work when the vehicle is really being used by his 16 year old son. That may cause the insurance carrier to deny coverage for a particular loss.
Finally, uninsured coverage may be necessary if you are the victim of a hit and run are not able to ascertain the identity of the perpetrator or whether the at-fault vehicle is insured. Please note, however, because of North Carolina’s “No Contact Rule” for uninsured accident claims, if the hit-and-run vehicle (phantom vehicle) does not make contact with your vehicle, uninsured motorist coverage will not apply. An example of this may be a phantom vehicle running a motorcycle or another vehicle off the road yet the vehicles never made contact.
When Enough Is Not Enough: Underinsured Motorist Coverage
Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) is coverage, as defined by the North Carolina Department of insurance as coverage that “will provide protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not enough to cover the losses of the people the underinsured driver injured.” Unlike liability and uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is optional. Therefore, you must inform your agent that you wish to purchase this additional coverage.
An underinsured motorist claimant can be a driver or passenger in the faultless vehicle. Both are considered insureds under that vehicle’s underinsured motorist coverage, so long as the UIM coverage in the faultless vehicle exceeds the available liability coverage(s) applicable to their at-fault vehicle(s). In other words, the coverage kicks in if there’s not enough insurance on the vehicle at-fault.
A common rule when analyzing insurance coverages is that “the insurance follows the vehicle.” In the context of underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), one can also present a UIM claim if that person is injured and has damages that exceed the liability coverage(s) available to the at-fault driver(s) and either owns a vehicle or resides with a family member (also known as “resident relative”) who owns a vehicle that carries UIM coverage that is greater than the available liability coverage(s). Sounds complicated, but it just means that, if you’re injured and the at-fault driver’s coverage isn’t enough, you may have a claim if you have UIM on your car or live with a family member who does.
A family member has been interpreted by our courts as “a person related to the [named insured] by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of the [named insured’s] household.” Resident has been interpreted by our courts to mean anything from “a place of abode for more than a temporary period of time” to “a permanent and established home.” Obviously, a child of a named insured would certainly be deemed as a relative resident.
What about a situation where the person seeking UIM coverage lives primarily with his mother who does not have UIM coverage on her car, but his father, who he lives with every other weekend or during the summer, does have this coverage on his vehicle? Or what about a college student who is off at college, yet she still comes home for breaks and during the summer? Is she deemed a “resident” of her parents’ home while away at college so as to fall under her parents’ UIM coverage?
Our courts have said yes to both of those scenarios, but there are often many other facts and circumstances that require an experienced personal injury lawyer. You also may be able to collect UIM coverage under multiple policies (referred to as “stacking”). An experienced personal injury attorney can also advise if this is applicable to your situation.
Bodily Injury: Medical Payments Coverage and How It Works
The final insurance coverage to be discussed in the context of an automobile wreck is Medical PaymentsCoverage or Med Pay. Med Pay coverage is an optional, first party coverage that can be purchased to cover your own vehicle. It reimburses you or a covered insured for reasonable and necessary medical expenses and funeral expenses resulting from a motor vehicle collision. It pays for any other injury on or about the vehicle covered under the policy, regardless of fault.
Determining whether someone is covered under the Med Pay coverage of a policy uses a very similar analysis to the UIM coverage discussed above in terms of 1) being in a covered vehicle, 2) whether you own a covered vehicle, or 3) whether you are a resident relative to someone who owns a covered vehicle. The limit to the coverage is determined by the amount of coverage purchased by the named insured.
The normal increments you will find for purchase are generally $1,000/$2000/$5,000/$10,000. Med Pay coverage can also be “stacked” under certain situations. That can be determined by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer. As Med Pay is not a fault-based coverage, you are entitled to coverage even if you were at fault.
Conversely, if you are the victim in an automobile wreck, you are entitled to have all of your damages covered by the at-fault driver’s liability coverage and you are also entitled to coverage under your Med Pay coverage, subject to certain limitations that can be explained to you by an experienced personal injury attorney.
If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident, Don’t Hesitate to Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
Just because someone has a lot of insurance doesn’t mean the insurance company is simply going to pay the maximum benefit. They’re likely going to work to reduce what they pay, and that may not be enough to cover your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.