How to Obtain Compensation After a Car Accident
The federal government is being sued by a motorcyclist from South Carolina for $1.7 million. He claims that he almost died on the Blue Ridge Parkway in an accident that occurred two years ago at Milepost 465, which falls around the southern end of the parkway near Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
A lawsuit was filed by Dallas Fisher in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, in which he said that he hit a bump on the parkway without warning, which caused multiple broken ribs, a punctured lung, and a broken finger.
According to the court document, Fisher and his friends were riding on the parkway, which had a speed limit of 45 mph. It was a sunny day and the road was free of any debris.
This is what Fisher wrote on the day of his accident while giving a statement, “I was going down mountain 40-45, right before I wrecked saw a bump in the road sign.” This statement is included in the lawsuit: “Hit bump and turn me off to the side. On front brake. Hit dirt and it was all over.”
According to him and the witnesses, after hitting the bump, his Harley Davidson turned over, the handlebars of the vehicle trampled his chest, and he fell with the bike’s weight on his right hand.
Fisher was carried to Mission hospital by a helicopter after the accident. He was there for nine days and he endured multiple severe injuries that included acute rib fractures, pleural effusion, pneumonia, acute dehydration, hydropneumothorax, and a fracture to his right middle phalanx. He had to get orthopedic surgery on his hand.
Later, Fisher was taken to Palmetto Health Baptist Parkridge Hospital where he was admitted for 10 days. Fisher mentions in the lawsuit that his dominant right hand is damaged permanently, and he has lost his grip strength.
The accident has cost him $500,000. Economic damages amount to $116,731. In addition, Cherie Fisher experienced a loss of consortium for which she has asked for $100,000.
According to the lawsuit, “the stress from the incident has been overwhelming. Ms. Fisher waited by Dallas’s side throughout his recovery. In the first three weeks, she worried that he might die. After he survived those weeks, she worried about his health and her family’s future – how they would survive emotionally and financially. Throughout this time, she had to miss work.
The Fishers accuse the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior of not installing proper traffic signs, not maintaining safe roads, and failing to warn of any unsafe elements of the roadways.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, standard warning signs regarding any discrepancy should be at least 100 feet from the hazard to warn drivers, but the “bump” in question had its warning sign only 25 feet in front of it.
This is what investigator Cody Skyler Marsh of National Park Service wrote, “My investigation revealed the bump in the parkway was the main contributing factor to the cause of the accident.” The report continues, “While responding to the accident and not knowing exactly where the crashed motorcycle was I happened to travel over the bump and even stated out loud after traveling over it, ‘I didn’t see that coming.’”
“I believe a contributing factor besides the imperfect road surface is the fact that the sign is very close to the bump itself, and blends in with other arrow signs of the same color pattern. It is possible that by the time an operator sees and reacts to the sign that they have traveled over the bump.”
Many accidents occur in this parkway, which was built in the 1930s, every year. According to Leesa Brandon, a Parkway spokesperson, 14 accidents led to death just last year. This year’s count is 6 so far. The lawsuit states that “multiple” other crashes have occurred near MP 465. It also mentions that after Fisher’s crash, more warning signs were put up.
North Carolina Laws on Distracted Driving
A study was conducted in 2006 taking into account actual-world driver manners, crash factors, and distractions. It revealed that around 80% of accidents resulted from some distraction like use of a cell phone, consuming food or beverages while driving. 2013 stats from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report show similar results, with drivers under 20 years of age having the maximum proportion of lethal distracted driving cases.
North Carolina has personal injury laws that protect riders in case they are injured in a car or motor accident when it is someone else’s fault, like a distracted driver. When a driver is negligent and at fault for your accident, he or she can be made to pay for the damage done to you and your vehicle.
The North Carolina Car Accident Statute of Limitations
North Carolina is an “At-Fault Car Insurance State.” When the fault has to be determined in a car accident, every state has either a no-fault or an at-fault policy. In case of no-fault auto insurance policies, one cannot sue for nonmonetary damages like pain and suffering.
A “statute of limitations” sets a time restriction on the victim’s right to file a lawsuit for compensation after an accident. These deadlines can differ depending on the type of damage suffered and/or the type of case one wishes to file.
North Carolina General Statute Section 1-52 states that a case for damage due to an accident should be filed within three years. That means if you were in a car accident, whether as a pedestrian, passenger, or driver of a car, motorcycle, or even a bicycle, then you must file a lawsuit against the at-fault parties within three years. The date starts from the day of the accident.
If an accident results in death and the family of the victim or a representative wish to file a wrongful death claim against the person who was at fault, the deadline for filing this case is two years. The countdown begins on the day the victim dies, which does not necessarily have to be the date of accident.
After reading all this you might ask, “What happens in case you file for compensation for your car accident after the deadline set by the statute of limitations?” In that case, the person you are filing the lawsuit against (the defendant) can file a motion to dismiss the lawsuit and there is a good possibility that the court will readily grant a dismissal (unless it is an exceptional case for which there has been an extension of the deadline). To avoid a situation like this, it is crucial to have knowledge of the statute of limitations and how it might function in your circumstance.
Lastly, it is a good idea to make sure to leave yourself time to file the lawsuit, regardless of your confidence in the case being resolved by a car insurance settlement. It is beneficial to have the maximum number of options available to you so that you can have more leverage when talking settlement. In case the deadline to file a case is near, it might be a good idea to consult an experienced car accident lawyer in the matter.
North Carolina’s “Contributory Negligence” Rule
A situation in which more than one party can be held responsible for an accident is referred to as “shared fault.” One of the few states that follow the doctrine of “contributory negligence” is North Carolina. According to this rule, which might seem unfair to some, if the victim contributed to the accident in any way, he or she cannot claim any compensation from the other party.
This rule not only binds the North Carolina court (in case you have filed a lawsuit) but also directs the car insurance claims adjuster who is handling and evaluating the case. An insurance claim adjuster makes decisions depending upon what could happen in court. If there is a sign that you share the fault, then the adjuster is not going to go easy during negotiating the settlement.
In case there is no empirical method (which in most cases there is not) of determining fault, any responsibility or liability will depend on your capability to negotiate with the insurance claim adjuster and/or convince the judge.
Here is an example to explain how the North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule applies. Let us assume that you were in an accident in which the other driver took a right turn directly in front of you, but you were also riding at 6 miles per hour over the speed limit. If the case goes to court the jury might find the other driver at 90% fault at you at 10% for speeding. According to the North Carolina contributory negligence rule, you may be legally barred from recovering from the other driver. Even if the other driver was found 99% guilty and you 1%, you may still be barred, unless a very narrow exception applies. If the other driver is not found 100% at fault, you can claim no compensation.
What if I am in a Car Accident?
If you are in an accident and you believe it to be the fault of the other driver, this is what you can do to help your claim:
Call 911 and File a Police Report: 911 should be contacted right after the accident and told of the situation. Do it yourself even if the driver offers to do it or wants to settle. If you choose to settle personally it automatically bars you from demanding any further compensation, in case you need it. This is how the police report will be helpful: it will give you the driver’s personal information, prove you were in an accident, provide some information regarding who may be at fault, and have details of the damage done to your property.
Take Pictures of the Damage: Take as many pictures of yourself and your vehicle after your statement regarding the accident is taken. This evidence of the scene of the accident will be important to show that your vehicle received actual damage because of the defendant. To get an idea of the compensation you deserve, get an estimate of the damage from an auto body shop.
Visit the Emergency Room or Your Healthcare Provider: Sometimes the injuries sustained in an accident are not immediately apparent. If you are not in need of immediate medical help after the accident, make sure to go to your healthcare provider for a checkup within a few days. Because some injuries take time to take effect. These are usually the injuries sustained in a motor accident:
- Back Strains,
- Bruises and Lacerations,
- Herniated or Bulging Disks,
- Internal Bleeding,
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder,
- Traumatic Brain Injuries, and
Bringing a Lawsuit Against a Negligent Driver
According to North Carolina’s statute of limitations, a person has three years to file a lawsuit against a negligent driver to recover damages (two years for wrongful death).
If you have sustained damage in an accident to yourself or your vehicle and you think you have a potentially strong case, file a lawsuit with the help of a firm experienced in handling such cases and do it as soon as possible because according to the laws in North Carolina there is a deadline for filing such cases.
Contact a Car Accident Lawyer
In North Carolina, if you are the victim of a car accident, you have the right to file a lawsuit to obtain compensation. In most cases, a car accident lawyer will determine what your case is worth and fight for your compensation in court. Getting in touch with a lawyer who is experienced in personal injury will strengthen your chances of receiving the compensation that you deserve. Contact the lawyers of Wallace Childers PLLC and find out what your case is potentially worth today. Call us at 704-626-2900, or fill out the free case evaluation online.