Archive for the ‘Auto, Truck and Motorcycle Accidents’ Category

I Was Injured As A Passenger In An Auto Accident, What Can I Do?

Posted on

As every driver knows, auto accidents happen. And you probably have a pretty good idea of what to do after an accident when you’re one of the drivers involved.

But what if you’re a passenger in one of the vehicles? What happens if you are injured? What happens if the driver of the car you were riding in was at fault?

As a passenger in a wreck in North Carolina you have the right to file an insurance claim against the driver who was at fault. Even if the at fault driver is a family member or a friend. An experienced attorney can help you succeed on your claim against the insurance company and make sure they aren’t wrongfully denying compensation to you. Your injuries may result in medical bills, missed time from work and pain and suffering.

Your insurance claim can cover these damages, and an attorney knows how to help you avoid any insurance traps and succeed on your claims. As you can see from the information below, resolving a claim when you’re the passenger involves knowing how insurance law operates in North Carolina and knowing how adjusters resolve claims.

How to file an insurance claim if you are a passenger in an accident

The process of filing an insurance claim as a passenger in a wreck is the same as if you were one of the drivers. Your first step is to obtain the insurance information of all drivers involved in the collision. This includes the driver of the vehicle you were in. (This checklist can help.)

If it is clear at the time which driver was at fault in the accident, you will file a claim with that person’s insurance company. If it is unclear which driver is responsible for the accident, it is best to file a claim with each driver’s insurance company. If multiple drivers are found to be partially at fault, their respective insurance companies will argue over and ultimately have to determine who is responsible for your damages in proportion to their policyholder’s fault.

How multiple victims affects your compensation

When there are multiple people injured in a wreck, the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will typically limit the amount of money that can be awarded. Per accident limits means each injured party will have to prove their damages in relation to the other parties damages and the carrier will have to determine how to split the available limits amongst everyone who was injured. (Learn more about how to read and understand an auto insurance policy here.)

For that reason, it’s possible the insurance payout you receive won’t sufficiently cover your losses or medical expenses because you will only receive a portion of the total amount available. In these cases, the guidance of an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer can help ensure that you receive your fair share of compensation for your injuries.

Your relationship to the driver of the vehicle matters

When you are a passenger of an at-fault driver involved in an accident, chances are you have some sort of relationship to the driver. They may be your parent, spouse, friend, neighbor, or someone else with whom you have a close relationship.

It might feel strange to make a claim against the insurance policy of someone you know and care for. But keep in mind that his or her policy is there to protect you when an accident happens. That policy may contain benefits meant for you, and you may be able to file a claim, even if you are listed on the insurance policy. You can learn more about those types of cases in this blog post I wrote.

Your actions may affect your chances of recovery

Your behavior leading up to the accident may affect your chances of recovery. For instance, if you were aware the driver of the vehicle you were a passenger of was intoxicated or otherwise impaired and chose to be a passenger regardless, you may have forfeited your right to compensation for your injuries. Further, if you engaged in any activity that contributed to the accident, such as grabbing the steering wheel or putting your hands over the driver’s eyes, it could affect your claim and your case.

An experienced auto accident attorney can help you sort through these challenges to ensure that you receive the compensation you’re entitled as an injured passenger. Please contact us to see how we can help.

What Are Your Options When You’re The Passenger In A Wreck?

Posted on

You are a passenger in a vehicle driven by your spouse, your child, or your friend, and they run a red light or hydroplane across a rainy highway causing a wreck. You are injured in the wreck. Medical bills from the ambulance, hospital and doctors are coming in the mail. Now what?

We often are asked by injured passengers in the at-fault vehicle whether they have a claim and if so, against who. If you are injured as a passenger in a wreck in North Carolina you have the right to file an insurance claim against the liability coverage of the driver who was at fault. Even if the at-fault driver is your spouse, your child or your friend. And even if you are listed on the insurance policy.

It might feel strange to make a claim against the insurance policy of someone you know and care for. But keep in mind that his or her policy is there to protect you when an accident happens. That policy may contain benefits meant for you.

Liability insurance is a type of insurance that pays for bodily injury and property damage for which any covered individual becomes legally responsible. A driver becomes legally responsible when they are negligent. Negligence means the driver was careless or failed to exercise reasonable care and his actions caused an injury. North Carolina mandates this type of insurance on every registered vehicle to protect people from the harmful and costly damages of negligence.

Your insurance claim can cover a wide array of damages including medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages from time taken off work to recover. A successful claim can prevent you from having to shoulder all of those costs.

As with many insurance claims, there are a number of variables that must be considered when filing a claim against the at-fault driver. These include your relationship to the driver, possible actions by you or others that may have contributed to the accident, and what other insurance benefits may be available to you. In order to protect yourself and your rights, you should contact an experienced North Carolina auto collision attorney who knows the law and can prevent the insurance company from denying your valid claim.

Unfortunately, we have learned of situations where a passenger didn’t timely seek counsel because they mistakenly thought being in the at-fault vehicle prohibited them from making a claim against the driver’s policy. Don’t let this happen to you. If you were injured in a wreck, call us immediately to talk about how we can assist you.

Tech Solutions to Prevent Texting & Other Distracted Driving

Posted on

There’s no getting around it: Texting while driving is dangerous, often deadly.

But with our constant need to check email and respond to messages, it’s also a hard habit to kick. Many of us are like Pavlov’s dogs when we hear that ping indicating we have a new message. We’re conditioned to look. And when we do, we take our eyes off the road.

That kind of distraction, even for just a second, can lead to an accident when you’re driving a car.

According to the National Safety Council, 3,000 people die in distracted driving crashes every year. Yet, 70 percent of drivers admit to using their phones while driving despite knowing the risk.

There are options to help limit your phone usage while driving:

  • If you have an iPhone and you’ve upgraded to the iOS 11 operating system, you can activate the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature to turn off texting and other distracting apps while you’re behind the wheel.

When the feature is enabled, the phone will prevent notifications when it connects to your car via Bluetooth or when it senses driving motion. Here’s how to set up the feature, according to Apple:

Go to Settings > Control Center > Customize Controls.
Tap Add control to Control Center next to Do Not Disturb While Driving.

While Do Not Disturb while Driving is activated, you will be able to use map and navigation apps, although you won’t be able to input a destination while in motion. Passengers who want to use their iPhone in the car can disable the feature by indicating you’re not driving.

  • If you have a teen driver, you can set up a restriction that prevents them from turning off the Do Not Disturb While Driving feature. Here’s how to do it:

On your child’s iPhone, go to Settings > General > Restrictions.

If you haven’t used Restrictions before, enter a new passcode. Remember this passcode for any future changes.

Under Allow Changes, tap Do Not Disturb While Driving.

Select Don’t Allow Changes.

  • You can also take a low-tech approach to distracted driving by turning off your phone when you get in the car or even putting it in the trunk. However, that can be problematic if you use your phone for navigation or if you need it to make an emergency call.
  • You can also sign a pledge to be an attentive driver and follow this checklist from End Distracted Driving whenever you get behind the wheel.
  1. Drive without reading or sending texts, snapchatting, using the internet, Facebook or social media of any kind.
  2. Call/text before I start driving to let parents, friends and others know when I’ll arrive.
  3. Wait to text or call others until they have stopped driving.
  4. Pull over to a safe location to check texts, social media, or listen to voice mail.
  5. Deputize my passenger when I am driving to text or make calls for me.
  6. When alone, turn my cell phone off before starting to drive.
  7. Stop texting, or end phone conversations with others once I learn they are driving.
  8. Pull over to a safe location or wait until I am finished driving to eat or apply make-up.
  9. Pull over to a safe location or wait until I am finished driving to adjust music on a phone or similar devices.
  10. When being driven by a distracted driver ask the driver to drive safer.
  11. As a passenger, share the responsibility for arriving safely with my driver and offer help so my driver does not drive distracted.

You can download a printable version of this checklist from End Distracted Driving

Car and phone manufacturers are recognizing the danger of distracted driving, including texting while driving, and they’re developing technology to block the practice. According to CNN, Nissan has proposed adding built-in boxes to its cars to that would block radio transmissions of any kind from reaching phones.

Technology to prevent texting while driving does exist. USA Today reviewed the best apps to prevent distracted driving, including one that lets you earn points you can cash in at the gas station and other retailers.



How Insurance Companies Determine If A Car Is A Total Loss

Posted on

Have you ever owned a vehicle you loved? What happens if that car is damaged in a wreck? You may be willing to do whatever it takes to repair the vehicle, despite the cost or time involved.

But the insurance company may declare a vehicle a “total loss,” even if the mechanic or body shop says it can be fixed.

What exactly is a “total loss” to insurance companies?

The term “total loss” has a different meaning in the insurance industry than it does to the average person or even a mechanic. When you’re told a car is a total loss, you may take that to mean the car is beyond repair and must be scrapped.

Total loss, as used by an insurance adjuster in a property damage claim, does not mean your car can’t be repaired. It means the expense of repairing the car exceeds the present day value of the car. This is an important distinction to understand, because the insurance company is only responsible for paying what your car was valued just prior to the wreck. If the repair costs are more than 75 percent of the total value of the car, the car is considered a total loss.

To determine whether the necessary repairs exceed this amount, the insurance company must assign a value to the vehicle. That’s part of what an insurance adjuster is doing when he or she examines your vehicle.

How do insurance companies determine if the car is a total loss?

Insurance companies base their payout amounts on “actual cash value,” or ACV.

Several different factors may be considered when determining ACV, including:

  • Make
  • Model
  • Mileage
  • Year
  • Condition

As you can see, the insurance company can’t evaluate the sentimental value of a car, because there’s no objective formula to determine it so the adjuster will stick to those factors listed above. The method of valuing a vehicle isn’t standard across the industry. One insurance company’s calculated ACV may differ significantly from the next.

These inconsistencies in calculating ACV give you some room to negotiate with the insurance company to increase the valuation of your vehicle. This could mean more money in your final insurance payout.

Negotiating actual cash value:

Start your negotiations with the insurance company by requesting a copy of the valuation report it used to determine ACV. The valuation report is an itemized list of the specifications of your vehicle — such as the make, model, and mileage — as well as an inventory of factory upgrades that may affect the overall value. Certain “extras” that increase the value of a vehicle, such as leather interior, airbags or a sunroof, may be missing from the report. If information is missing, alert the adjuster immediately.

The property damage adjuster may be willing to consider certain information you provide in the ACV. The Kelley Blue Book value, the value of similar vehicles in your area and upgrades (such as a state-of-the-art, after-market sound system) can all help to increase your ACV. Keep in mind that the adjuster will only consider the price of vehicles in your area and not nationwide.

If your vehicle has been deemed a total loss, the insurance company will offer the ACV to settle your property damage claim.

If you’re unhappy with the offer, you can have an independent appraisal performed at your expense to see if the appraiser values it higher.

If you agree with the ACV, then you need to decide if you want to surrender the car to the insurance company or keep the car and pay for the repairs yourself. Typically, the insurance company takes possession of a “total loss” car for its salvage value. If you want to keep the vehicle, the insurance company will pay you the actual cash value, minus the amount it would have received at a salvage yard and minus any applicable deductibles. From there, you can take the payout and have the repairs completed yourself.

If you’ve been injured in an auto accident, it’s important to understand your rights in North Carolina. An experienced North Carolina auto accident lawyer will help protect you from unfair insurance company practices and ensure you get maximum compensation.

For answers to other frequently asked questions about auto accident claims, visit our online news & learning center.


Understanding your auto insurance policy – Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Posted on

Today we’re sharing a guest post from the N.C. Advocates for Justice about the importance of having Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage as part of your auto insurance policy.

You can learn more about the different types of auto insurance coverage and understanding your policy in these articles:

Being involved in a wreck is a bad situation. Being involved in a wreck that is not your fault and where the other driver has no insurance is worse. Although N.C. law requires liability insurance, the reality is many drivers on the road lack liability insurance to pay for harm they may cause. Fortunately, since 2009 every policy of personal auto insurance issued in North Carolina requires coverage for this type of situation. That coverage is called Uninsured Motorist or “UM” coverage. This is not to be confused with Underinsured Motorist or “UIM” coverage, which applies when the at-fault driver has some insurance coverage, but not enough to cover the harm caused.

N.C. law requires that all policies have a minimum of $30,000 per person/$60,000 per accident of UM coverage for injury and $25,000 for property damage, with the option to select higher limits. This coverage pays for damage to your car, medical expenses, lost wages and other damages resulting from your injuries. In essence, the UM coverage on your policy steps into the shoes of the uninsured at-fault driver and pays damages that person could be held responsible for under the law, with a few exceptions.

One such exception is punitive damages. Punitive damages involving automobile are most often situations involving drunk driving, racing, or similar plainly dangerous and reckless behavior. Punitive damages are intended to punish the reckless driver for what he did and deter him or her (and others) from repeating that conduct in the future. While the law allows that claim against the reckless driver, your UM coverage would not pay punitive damages even if a jury allows them.

“Hit-and-run” situations also require a particular analysis in North Carolina. In order to have a valid UM claim in North Carolina in a hit-and-run situation, you must prove “contact.”

The “contact” rule does not require the hit-and-run motorist contact your car. As long as the hit-and-run motorist contacts some vehicle or object which contacts your car, then you can be covered under the UM coverage.

Two different scenarios can show how that plays out. Let’s say you are driving to Wednesday night church, and your pastor happens to be traveling behind you in his car. As you enter a curve, an oncoming car is over the center line and heading towards you. If that vehicle hits your car, but doesn’t stop and leaves the scene never to be identified, you have a valid UM claim for any injury. That’s because of the physical contact between the hit-and-run vehicle and your own.

Alternatively, if you swerve to avoid the car and there’s no contact, but you end up going off the road damaging your car or being hurt, there is no UM coverage. This is true even if your pastor would swear under oath that you did nothing wrong and had to swerve or be hit head on. This can leave you with medical expenses that still must be paid. For property damage to be covered under UM, contact along is not enough. A valid UM claim for property damage requires both contact and the identification of the hit-and-run or uninsured driver responsible.

Requiring contact for a valid UM claim is designed to prevent fraud, so a person can’t simply wreck their vehicle on their own and falsely claim another driver caused it. A trend in other states to combat potential fraud, but allow UM coverage, involves allowing a UM claim with no contact if there is an independent witness or other corroborating evidence. To date, North Carolina has not followed that trend and we remain a strict “contact” state.

Facts in specific situations can result in different answers, and this basic description of UM coverage does not cover all scenarios. If you find yourself in an unfortunate situation like the ones described, seek legal advice for your particular situation. And remember, to protect yourself against drivers who lack sufficient insurance you should review your current coverage with your agent and purchase protection such as Uninsured Motorist and Underinsured Motorist coverage in high enough limits to cover you and your family.

If you have been injured in an auto, truck or motorcycle accident, give us at call at (866) 373-1130 or contact us here If you have been involved in an automobile, truck or motorcycle accident that was somenoe else’s fault, you may be entitled to compensation for car repairs, pain and suffering, lost wages, medical expenses, permanent impairment, mileage to and from your doctors’ appointments, prescription costs and rental car fees.

What you need to know about ride sharing services and the law

Posted on

When the transportation app Uber was officially launched in 2011, it was both praised for providing consumers with easier and less expensive transportation options and criticized as unfair competition and dangerous.

Fans of the service, and the similar app Lyft, immediately liked the cheaper fares and the ease of using their smartphone to arrange pick-ups. Some praised it for allowing individuals to make extra money using their cars.

Uber has since grown into a $40-billion company. It didn’t take long after the launch for some cracks to appear in this transportation revolution. Several media outlets and consumer safety groups started questioning the business practices of Uber, such as the screening process and qualifications for drivers. Questions also arose about whether those drivers are employees of Uber or independent contractors.

This new type of transportation arrangement also presented legal issues regarding who is responsible when something goes wrong.

These types of companies are referred to by lawmakers as Transportation Network Companies (TNC).

Taxicab companies are often highly regulated by state laws requiring training of drivers and proof of liability insurance. But Uber contended that it was only providing a platform in the new “sharing economy.” In other words, Uber was only providing a way for people who need a service to connect with people who provide a service, and therefore Uber couldn’t be held responsible or legally liable for the actions of the individuals using the platform.

Uber argued they were exempt from many of the regulations imposed by the states where they conducted business. In response, Uber faced heavy opposition and was even banned in some states and cities. State lawmakers struggled with the tension between innovation demanded by consumers and regulation of commercial activity that protects those same consumers. Uber then actively lobbied for laws more favorable to them.

These transportation companies also found themselves at odds with insurers, who have been quite clear that “personal automobile insurance is not intended to cover people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes,” according to an article in Insurance Journal.

A highly publicized fatal wreck involving an Uber driver and a 6-year old pedestrian in California brought into focus the issue of who caries liability insurance in a sharing economy.

At the time of the wreck, the Uber driver didn’t have a passenger but he was logged into the Uber app between rides. Uber had a liability policy providing up to $1 million in coverage but said they were not liable since the driver didn’t have a passenger.

That would mean the driver’s policy, which likely carried much less coverage, was the only policy from which the family of the little girl could recover. However, standard personal automobile insurance policies exclude coverage for people who use their vehicles for commercial purposes, meaning there would be no policy from which the family could recover.

Responding to negative publicity after the accident, Uber eventually backpedaled on its policy and said it would cover drivers with the app activated but not yet carrying a passenger.

The girls’ family settled a lawsuit against Uber in 2015. Terms were not disclosed.

North Carolina lawmakers addressed this issue in 2015 when they passed legislation requiring drivers transporting individuals via a Transportation Network Company, such as Uber and Lyft, to carry $1.5 million per accident in bodily injury coverage.

If the TNC driver is logged in to the app but not providing service, there must be $50,000 per person, $100,000 per accident coverage. The law further stated that the coverage could be maintained by the TNC driver, the TNC or any combination of the driver and company. The new law also says that “a TNC driver is an independent contractor and not an employee,” which would impact a drivers’ ability to make a workers’ compensation claim.

In a future blog post, one of my colleagues will talk about how workers’ compensation laws apply to Uber and Lyft drivers.

As our economy changes and new technology and services emerge, new legal issues arise.

Do you  traditional taxicabs be replaced by Uber and other ride-sharing services? As the sharing economy grows and changes, what other novel legal issues will lawmakers be called upon to address? We’d love to know your thoughts.


Driverless Cars Raise Big Legal & Insurance Issues

Posted on

Driverless cars have the potential to make roads safer and save lives, according to the companies pursuing this cutting-edge technology. But when there’s no one at the wheel, big legal questions arise.

When a driverless can causes a crash, who is legally liable?

The Washington Post called that the “big question about driverless cars no one seems able to answer.”

At the Deuterman Law Group we’ve been watching this emerging market with particular interest as to how liability legislation will develop.

Google created a huge buzz when it first introduced the concept of driverless cars. More than 33,000 people are killed on the road every year, and 94 percent of those accidents are due to some type of human error, Chris Urmson, the technical director of Google’s self-driving car project told NPR.

“The good news is we can build software and hardware that can see the road and pay attention all the time and react more quickly and keep people safe on the road,” he said.

Now more and more companies are investing in this technology. Right now these vehicles are primarily in the testing phase in a very few cities, but it appears this may be the future of transportation.

In February, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration acknowledged that the software, and not the human passenger, is legally the driver in these new types of cars.

What does this mean for liability and insurance coverage for these types of vehicles when they become available for purchase?

There are no clear answer yet.

Automakers could be held liable when driverless cars fail and cause crashes.

“This is largely a matter of product liability, several auto and insurance analysts said, not personal insurance — though as a 2014 study from the Brookings Institution suggests, determining where one type of coverage ends and the other begins will be tricky,” the Washington Post reported. “Basically, victims of a collision could (directly or indirectly through their own insurers) try to seek damages from a driverless-car maker for manufacturing a vehicle that didn’t operate as it was supposed to.”

So what happens if you buy a driverless car? Would your car insurance policy or rate change? Possibly, but no one really knows yet what these policies would look like or how much they would cost.

These cars will have different levels of automation, so insurers likely won’t have a standard policy that applies to all driverless cars. And while the federal government has weighed in on these vehicles, many states have not. “And it’s their laws that really matter to insurance companies,” the Washington Post reported, based on an interview with Wayne McOwen, executive director of the District of Columbia Insurance Federation.”That’s because it’s the states that ultimately issue the drivers’ licenses that insurers use to evaluate risk.”

Indeed, there’s a lot to ponder about driverless cars. Will they make our roads safer? Who should be allowed to operate them? How should these types of vehicles be insured? Who should legally responsible when these cars are involved in crashes?

What do you think?

Your social media posts may impact your workers’ comp or injury case

Posted on

“Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.”

If you’ve watched any cop shows or movies, you’re probably familiar with those words. While Miranda rights only apply in criminal cases, those words are true even in civil cases.

What you say to the insurance adjuster, to your friends, coworkers and family members and even online on social media, can effect the outcome of your personal injury case or workers’ compensation claim. This applies to statements that seem to have little to do with your auto accident or injury.

The insurance company is looking for ways to discredit you and for reasons to deny your claim. Often, plaintiffs unwittingly give them the legal ammunition to do so with things they say off the cuff or online or without an attorney present.

Our advice is always that our clients should not talk to an insurance adjuster without an attorney present. Also, be careful about what you share online on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and other social networks, and also with whom you share that information.

A recent ruling by the North Carolina Court of Appeals sets a relatively low bar for authenticating information posted on social media.

The case in question, State v. Ford, was a criminal case, but what it says about social media evidence could also impact civil court cases, including workers’ compensation and auto accident claims.

The case involved a pit bull that attacked and killed a man living next door to the dog and its owner. Evidence was admitted in his criminal trial of a MySpace account that contained photos of the defendant and of the dog. Also admitted at trial were posts about the aggressive nature of the dog.

The defendant, who was the owner of the dog, was convicted, but appealed arguing the state had failed to prove he actually posted the photos and captions himself. His attorneys argued that the court should have provided additional evidence, such as the IP address where the photos and captions were posted. But the appeals court ruled the evidence presented was sufficient.

If you read the case, there was substantial other evidence conclusively linking the dog to the owner and the mauling, and the social media accounts were only one part of the prosecution’s case. But the gist of the ruling about social media is clear: The burden to authenticate social media is really low and can be based on purely circumstantial evidence.

So, anything posted on your account could be used against you.

We always warn our clients to be careful about postings on social media, and this ruling brings it home that a social media account can be incredibly harmful to your case.

In legal proceedings, information is power. If you start essentially giving that away by over sharing or publishing too many details of your life on social media, you are giving away the power you have in the case, to some degree.

Some things you should keep in mind if you have an ongoing workers’ comp or personal injury case:

  • When you talk to other people about your injury, they can be called to testify. Hearsay rules do not apply to statements made by plaintiffs in civil cases.
  • The only person who cannot be called to testify is your spouse. Coworkers, friends, neighbors, the guy at the convenience store and anyone else you talk to can be called to testify.
  • Quite often, coworkers are called to testify in workers’ compensation cases, and they will be asked not only about the accident but also about things you said the accident and your injury.

The Social Media Trap

Now let’s talk specifically about social media.

We live in a world where we’re constantly connected, and lots of people share many details of their lives on social media.

If you’re injured at work or in an accident that is someone else’s fault, you don’t have to unplug from social media. But you do need to be aware of how your posts, tweets and Instagram snapshots might be used in court against you. Even the hashtags you use or the places you check in via apps like Foursquare might come into play in your case.

I’ve seen it happen with my own clients.

One client, who had an injury claim, went out to a bar with friends one night and posted about it on social media. The other side tried to use that status as evidence that his injury wasn’t as serious as he claimed and didn’t affect his daily quality of life. The rationale was that if he could enjoy a night out with friends, then he must not really be hurt.

All because of a Facebook status.

We recommend that our clients use the highest privacy setting available on social media so the things you post are only viewable by close friends and family members. Even so, you need to remember that there’s no real privacy online.

It’s very likely the insurance company and their attorneys will see what you have posted, whether they find it on their own, someone shares it with them or we’re required by the court to provide it to them.

While we don’t expect you to stop using social media, be wise about it. If you have posted something you think could be misinterpreted or used against you in your case, let us know so we can make a plan for how to deal with it.

Don’t delete those posts. Even if they disappear from your Facebook wall or your Twitter feed, they haven’t really been erased. Plus, the N.C. Bar Association has issued some specific rules about deleting social media posts. Hitting delete may cause even more problems.

The lesson here is be careful what you say – and in many cases, it may be best not to say anything at all. The more information you put out in the world, the more likely it’s going to be used against you. #truth

Backup cameras will be required on new cars after 2018

Posted on No Comments

There’s a story out of Washington today that shows how civil lawsuits can help drive new legislation and regulations that make us all safer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced today that beginning in May 2018, all new cars, SUVs, and minivans, as well as some new small trucks and buses must be equipped with backup cameras.

Every year, 210 people are killed in backover accidents, about a third of them children. Many of these accidents happen in people’s driveways, and many times the deaths occur when a parent backs over their own child because they didn’t see him or her.

In 2008, a new law required the NHTSA to reduce backover deaths, but it has taken six years for the agency to make backup cameras mandatory. Several safety advocacy groups sued the government and asked a federal judge to require backup rules be adopted, according to CNN.

Rear facing cameras would prevent between 59 and 69 deaths a year, according to NHTSA estimates. It will cost automakers about $140 per vehicle to equip them with backup cameras, and less for those that already have in-dash displays, CNN reported.

This is just the latest examples of how civil litigation has resulted in improvements to auto safety. Seat belts, airbags and many other safety innovations resulted or became standard on vehicles after lawsuits. The American Association for Justice has a fascinating report called Driven to Safety about how cars are safer thanks to the civil justice system. I highly recommend it.


Tribute to Todd Martinez

Posted on 2 Comments

I wanted to take a moment today to pay tribute to High Point Firefighter Todd Martinez who died last weekend after a hit-and-run bicycle crash.

Anytime I hear of a death like this, I am saddened because accidents like these don’t have to happen if only drivers would share the road and give cyclists the respect they deserve. But Martinez was more than a name on the news for us here at Deuterman Law Group.

He was one of the first responders who joined us a few years ago in our fight against the bad workers’ comp reform bills. He was even featured in one of our television ads for Protect N.C. Workers.

I am still grateful to Martinez and the other first responders who stood with us in fighting that bad series of bills. They were instrumental in defeating the worst provisions of the proposed legislation.

We are heartbroken over the loss of a hero like Todd Martinez. From our own experience with him and what we have learned after his death, we know Martinez was a leader, a professional, a hero, a family man, a loving husband and father of four, a true friend and a giver, even after death. (Martinez was an organ donor, and through this tragedy, he will help others.) He was also committed to educating teen drivers about dangerous and deadly behaviors, like texting while driving.

As High Point Fire Chief Reid said in an interview, “He is going to be sorely missed.”

Martinez and his wife Melanie were riding their bikes Sunday on Scalesville Road near their home in Summerfield, enjoying the unexpected springlike weather, I’m sure. A red truck struck Martinez from behind, then left the scene.

Police have charged Andrew B. Barham, 19, with felony hit-and-run.

Chief Reid described Martinez as “passionate about life.”

In the time that the Deuterman Law Group worked with Martinez on the Protect N.C. Workers campaign, we also witnessed his professionalism and his passion for promoting and protecting worker safety.

His death is a great loss, foremost for his family, friends and fellow firefighters, but also for our community. We lost a man who devoted his life to protecting people and standing up for others.

I can’t write about Todd Martinez’s tragic — and preventable death — without remembering another friend and local cyclist who died in much the same way. Cyclist David Sherman, whose wife was a teacher at our children’s school, died in 2009 after a motorist struck him on North Church Street. She also left the scene.

Martinez and Sherman are among six bicycle fatalities in Guilford County since 2009. Nationwide 800 cyclists are killed ever year and 43,000 are injured every year in collisions with motorists.

For Martinez and Sherman and the other cyclists who have lost their lives, we must learn to share the roads. Cyclists have as much right to be there as we do in our cars and trucks and SUVs.

If you are a driver or a cyclist, heed safety so we can share the road without more tragedies.

Do it for Todd Martinez. Please.

If you’d like to honor Martinez in another way, I encourage you to make a donation to VIP for a VIP, a program to teach students about fatal accidents involving teens. His family has asked for donations to the Todd Martinez Texting & Driving Fund, 2406 Farm Gate Road, Browns Summit, NC 27214.





Penalties for Texting While Driving

Posted on 1 Comment

A 13-month-old North Carolina girl was killed in a Christmas day car wreck that police originally thought was caused by texting and driving.

Originally, police in Wadesboro charged the girl’s father with texting and driving, alleging he sent a text message saying “Merry Christmas” just moments before the crash that killed his daughter and seriously injured his wife and two others.

Later, the police investigation revealed the father did not send a text message, though he did receive one near the time of the crash. There’s no evidence he looked at the message while driving.

When news of the charges first broke, many people took to social media and said the police were too harsh in charging the grieving father in the accident that took his daughter’s life.

We want to know what you think about the legal consequences and penalties for texting while driving.

Scientific students — and countless fatal accidents — have proven that texting (and even talking on the phone) distracts drivers’ attention. In fact, some studies show texting while driving is as dangerous as drinking while driving.

North Carolina is one of 41 states (and the District of Columbia) with laws against texting while driving.

Depending on the state and the severity of the infraction, the penalties for texting while driving range from a ticket or fine to jail time.

  • Monetary fines- these can range from as low as $20 up to $500 depending on the state
  • Criminal charges- in some states texting while driving can result in criminal misdemeanor charges (Class B or C)
  • Jail or prison time- if the offense has resulted in bodily injury to another driver, jail or prison time may be imposed

Source: LegalMatch

In N.C. you can be fined from $25 to $100 for texting while driving, depending on your age. Bus drivers who are caught texting while driving face a $100 fine and a Class 2 misdemeanor charge. However, you won’t get points on your license or face increased insurance premiums for texting while driving violations.

Given the serious danger texting while driving presents to motorists and those who share the roads with them, do you think the penalties for texting while driving are severe enough?

Should penalties for texting while driving match those for driving under the influence?

In N.C., DUI penalities are much stricter and include loss of driving privileges, fines ranging from $200 to $10,000, jail time and substance abuse assessment and treatment.


Thanksgiving Safety Tips

Posted on No Comments

We hope you’re having a wonderful holiday week spending time with family and friends you hold dear.

However, the holidays can be a dangerous time with all the cooking, travel, Christmas decorating and Black Friday shopping.

More than 43 million Americans are expected to be on the roads this week. The National Safety Council estimates 436 people will die in traffic accidents over Thanksgiving holiday weekend and 46,600 people will be injured in car accidents.

The roadways aren’t the only danger this weekend.

Every year, 12,500 people wind up in hospital emergency rooms injuries, such as falls, cuts and shocks, related to holiday lights, decorations and Christmas trees, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC).

Candles start about 11,600 fires each year, resulting in 150 deaths, 1,200 injuries and $173 million in property loss. Christmas trees are involved in about 300 fires annually, resulting in 10 deaths, 30 injuries and an average of more than $10 million in property loss and damage, according to CSPC.

Every year, people are injured while shopping for Black Friday bargains by other overzealous bargain hunters.

Fierce winter weather this year has already caused 11 traffic deaths, half of them in Texas.

So, our message to you this Thanksgiving weekend is to be safe, as well as thankful.

Here are some Thankgiving travel tips from American Red Cross to ensure you arrive safely at your destination.

If traveling by car:

  • Listen to a NOAA Weather Radio or other local news channels before you get on the road. Avoid driving when conditions include sleet, freezing rain or drizzle, snow or dense fog. If travel is necessary, keep a disaster supplies kit in your vehicle.
  •  If winter weather is present, bring pets/companion animals inside before you leave the house.
  •  Make sure your vehicle is in good working order. Fill your gas tank, check the air pressure in your tires and make sure you have windshield fluid.
  •  Buckle up, slow down, don’t drink and drive, or text and drive.
  •  Make frequent stops on long trips. If you’re too tired to drive, stop and rest.
  •  If you have car trouble, pull off the road as far as possible.

If traveling by plane or by train:

  • It’s flu season. If you’ve been sick or been in contact with someone who is sick, consider postponing your trip. You could be contagious for a week before symptoms appear.
  • Remember that everything you touch has to be touched by someone else – luggage handlers, etc. Handle your own belongings as much as possible. Wash your hands often with soap and water.
  • Carry hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial wipes with you. You can use them to wash your hands or wipe down surfaces such as armrests.
  • Bring your own pillows and blankets – they can act as a shield against the seat itself.
  • Avoid touching your face or eyes. If you have to cough or sneeze, do so into a tissue or your sleeve.


If your holiday plans include decorating for Christmas, heed these safety tips from CPSC:

  • When purchasing an artificial tree, look for the label “Fire Resistant.” Although this label does not mean the tree won’t catch fire, it does indicate the tree will resist burning and should extinguish quickly.
  • When purchasing a live tree, check for freshness. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches and do not break when bent between your fingers. The trunk butt of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • When setting up a tree at home, place it away from fireplaces and radiators. Because heated rooms dry live trees out rapidly, be sure to keep the stand filled with water. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Indoors or outside, use only lights that have been tested for safety by a recognized testing laboratory, which indicates conformance with safety standards. Use only lights that have fused plugs.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections, and throw out damaged sets. Always replace burned-out bulbs promptly with the same wattage bulbs.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord. Make sure the extension cord is rated for the intended use.
  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Before using lights outdoors, check labels to be sure they have been certified for outdoor use.
  • Stay away from power or feeder lines leading from utility poles into older homes.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house walls, or other firm supports to protect the lights from wind damage. Use only insulated staples to hold strings in place, not nails or tacks. Or, run strings of lights through hooks (available at hardware stores).
  • Turn off all holiday lights when you go to bed or leave the house. The lights could short out and start a fire.
  • Use caution when removing outdoor holiday lights. Never pull or tug on lights – they could unravel and inadvertently wrap around power lines.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). Portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold. GFCIs can be installed permanently to household circuits by a qualified electrician.
  • Decorations:
  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials to trim a tree. Choose tinsel or artificial icicles of plastic or nonleaded metals. Leaded materials are hazardous if ingested by children.
  • Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.
  • In homes with small children, take special care to avoid decorations that are sharp or breakable, keep trimmings with small removable parts out of the reach of children to avoid the child swallowing or inhaling small pieces, and avoid trimmings that resemble candy or food that may tempt a child to eat them.
  • Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.

The National Crime Prevention cancel recommends the following strategies to avoid becoming a victim of crime while shopping on Black Friday:

  • Do not buy more than you can carry. Plan ahead by taking a friend with you or ask a store employee to help you carry your packages to the car.
  • Shop online with companies you know and trust. Check a company’s background if you are not familiar with it. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Save all receipts. Print and save all confirmations from your online purchases. Start a file folder to keep all receipts together and to help you verify credit card or bank statements as they come in.
  • Consider alternate options to pay for your merchandise, such as onetime or multiuse disposable credit cards or money orders, at online stores and auction sites.
  • Wait until asked before taking out your credit card or checkbook. An enterprising thief would love to shoulder surf to get your account information.
  • Deter pickpockets. Carry your purse close to your body or your wallet inside a coat or front trouser pocket.
  • Have your keys in hand when approaching your vehicle. Check the back seat and around the car before getting in.
  • Do not leave packages visible in your car windows. Lock them in the trunk or, if possible, take them directly home.
  • Tell a security guard or store employee if you see an unattended bag or package. The same applies if you are using mass transit.
  • If you are shopping with children, make a plan in case you get separated. Select a central meeting place and make sure they know they can ask mall personnel or store security employees if they need help

Signal 88, a personal security firm, also weighs in with these Black Friday shopping safety tips:

  • When you arrive at a crowded place, don’t ignore signs or barricades,
  • which are often placed to control a crowd.
  • Proceed with caution when stores’ doors open; avoid running or pushing.
  • Practice patience, as long lines can lead to short tempers. Expect to encounter potentially frustrating delays if you’re out on one of the major shopping days.
  • Rather than participating in a verbal or physical altercation over a desired item, know when to walk away.
  • Never leave your purse, wallet or shopping cart unattended.
  • Consider using your pockets instead of your purse. Keep valuables close
  • to your body.
  • Walking with a buddy, especially in a dark parking lot, can be a theft deterrent.
  • Lock purchases in the trunk of your car, where they’re out of view.
  • Make sure your doors are locked and your car alarm is activated.
  • If you find yourself in a dangerous situation, leave the area immediately.
  • Contact a store employee, law enforcement or a security officer if you feel unsafe or threatened.

Stay safe this Thanksgiving.