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Texting and Driving – Just as Addictive as Gambling or Drugs

We know better than to text, check Snapchat, like a Facebook post, or talk on the phone while driving.

We know better.

We’ve heard and read the heartbreaking stories of lives lost and ruined. But why do we do it anyway? For the same reason you can’t eat just one potato chip. Or you “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”

chipsDopamine, the Ping, and Addiction

Dopamine is partly to blame. It’s the chemical reaction in your brain that leads to addiction. The ping of your cell phone creates the same arousal response that activates your brain’s reward center. And it is a key transmitter in a highly complex chemical relationship that sometimes leads to addictive behaviors. Food. Gambling. Video gaming. Drugs and alcohol. Shopping.

And texting while driving.

When we hear the ping of a text message, social media update, or email, our brains get a hit of dopamine. Who’s it from? Who liked my post? What am I missing out on if I don’t read this? Experts are learning that this initial hit, interestingly, can lead to a higher rush of dopamine than reading the message itself. And it’s not just with cell phones. The internet can also prompt addictive behavior.

“Ha Ha. Made Ya Look!”

Dopamine is a large part of the reason we are drawn to the urge to give in to a pleasurable experience. And you can’t stop the dopamine reaction any more than you can stop adrenaline from making you jump when startled. It’s autonomic. It’s primal. It’s how we are wired. And some scientists say it’s much of the reason why our species has survived for millennia. Food equals life. Sex equals the procreation of mankind.

We humans are wired to want to give in to our pleasures and primal urges. And that, some researchers say, is why we have a very hard time ignoring the ping of a cell phone when we are maneuvering a two-ton vehicle at 65 miles per hour through three lanes of heavy traffic with our toddler in the back seat.

That ping elicits the same dopamine response as the potato chip you just have to have, or the slot machine lever you are compelled to pull for the umpteenth time. It makes you want to look.

How Cell Phones Are Similar to Slot Machines

David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and the research source behind AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign calls the smartphone the “smallest slot machine in the world.”

He compares the variable reinforcement of a text, email or social media hit to a slot machine’s potential rewards. You don’t know when you’ll get it. You don’t know what you’ll get. And you don’t know how good it will be. It’s the anticipation that generates the high.

In addition to the dopamine surge, there’s something else working against us in a different part of our brain, he explained in a CNN interview. The dopamine reaction causes a partial shut-down of our prefrontal cortex – where most of our judgment and reasoning occurs.

So now, we have two areas of our brain working against us as we hurtle down I-95 dodging other smartphone addicts. We have the dopamine devil urging us to “take a quick peek,” while our inner voice of reason, which should be slapping our hand, is instead rendered mute.

And most experts agree that the prefrontal reasoning center is not fully developed until around age 25, which explains why the situation is even worse with teens and twentysomethings. (Incidentally, car insurance companies figured this out long ago. Think of what age insurance rates generally drop: 25!)

This texting and driving epidemic is starting to make more sense now isn’t it?

While this chemistry lesson is quite fascinating, what can we do to stop this behavior the very next time we get behind the wheel?

EndDD.org reports that over 90% percent of drivers know cell phone distractions are dangerous and find it “unacceptable” to text or e-mail while driving. Yet, 35% of them do it anyway.

4 Easy Ways to Stop Using a Cell Phone While Driving

  1. Turn your phone on silent
  2. Completely turn your phone off
  3. Put your cell out of reach (in the trunk, glove box, or in a purse in the back seat)
  4. Download one of the many apps that helps prevent you from texting while driving (most are free). Some will silence notifications and message people trying to reach you that you are driving.

And by all means, if you are texting someone that you know is driving, stop texting them! If for no other reason, you could be liable for damages if that driver causes an accident because of your text. Some states are currently considering legislation of this nature.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

We have represented far too many clients who were injured – some severely – by distracted drivers. The stories are heartbreaking, and sadly, most could have been prevented.

If you or someone you know was injured by a distracted driver, please have them contact us  or call 1-866-900-7078. We are available 24/7 and will evaluate the situation for FREE and let you know if we think we can help.

P.S. Click here if you want your teen driver to learn what it’s really like to drive distracted (but experience it in the safety of a simulated environment). The non-profit Charlotte-based B.R.A.K.E.S (Be Responsible and Keep Everyone Safe) offers defensive maneuvering instruction around N.C. and the U.S. Students are taught by former race car drivers, policemen, and other professional drivers.

Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day – Most Dangerous Time to Drive

Before you go over the river and through the woods to grandma’s house this holiday season, make sure to be particularly cautious, attentive, and defensive on North Carolina’s highways.

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving through January 1st (including New Year’s day) are some of the most dangerous and deadly times to be on the roads. In fact, Thanksgiving eve has become THE most dangerous night of the year to drive, particularly in more urban areas, says SCRAM, makers of alcohol monitoring technology. Known as “Blackout Wednesday,” this holiday has surpassed New Year’s Eve and St. Patrick’s Day as the biggest drinking night of the year.

Add to this more traffic, more distractions, aggressive drivers, and more social occasions involving alcohol. It is up to each of us to:

  • Practice safe, defensive driving
  • Buckle up and make sure all passengers are buckled too.
  • Make sure you, or your driver, are fit to drive – not tipsy or drowsy. If you are a passenger, help minimize distractions and help the driver stay awake and alert.

In general: If you see something, say something. If you see someone who has had too much to drink trying to get behind the wheel, say something. If you’re at a party, tell the host to take their keys, or call a designated driver for them.

If you are the party host, pay particular attention to how much alcohol you serve guests. If they injure someone while driving home, you could be liable under North Carolina law.

Thanksgiving

AAA reported that in 2015 more than 1.2 million people drove throughout North Carolina to their Thanksgiving destinations. No surprise, this family holiday ranks as one of the busiest travel periods just about every year. More cars on the roads too often translates to more accidents. Add alcohol to the equation, and this holiday weekend can turn deadly.

Christmas

The Christmas holiday season can be stressful. Combine stress with busy roads and you can get aggressive drivers. A State Farm survey found that nearly one-third of drivers were more likely to show signs of aggression or road rage during the holidays.

New Year’s Day

A surprise to some, New Year’s Day (not New Year’s Eve) almost always ranks in the top five deadliest days of the year, and has been ranked the deadliest day. Alcohol – a primary culprit.

Alcohol Behind Nearly Half of Holiday Car Crash Deaths

There’s one thing each of these deadly days has in common: Drunk drivers. Over a 25-year period, according to a Forbes study that analyzed U.S. Department of Transportation data since 1982, nearly half the fatalities during these times were alcohol-related.

Tragic Consequences of North Carolina Drunk Driving

Here’s a tragic story the News & Observer reported on recently about a drunk driving collision which could result in the young 22-year-old driver spending 70 years in prison. He was charged with multiple felonies after a collision he caused in Raleigh, which led to three deaths and multiple injuries.

The crash happened at 2:30 on a Sunday morning. He was driving drunk and traveling about 50 mph in a 35-mph zone. He lost control of the car and it went off the road, struck a light pole, a street sign, and a tree before overturning.

There were seven people inside the car. One of the victims was sitting in the lap of the driver at the time of the accident. The victims were just 22, 21, and 18. Two of the victims were thrown from the vehicle.

The young driver, who is the son of a pastor, is accused of six felony charges which could potentially carry a prison sentence of nearly 70 years total. He faces 17 years for each death and seven years for each serious injury.

Three lives ended. Another potentially behind bars for life. This deadly and totally preventable collision is just one of many fatal accidents that occur throughout North Carolina. The three young people who died will never enjoy another holiday with their families. And sadly, neither will the driver who killed them. He will likely be behind bars because he made the wrong choice to drink and drive.

Most Traffic Fatalities Preventable

A different News & Observer article pointed out that of 793 deaths so far in 2016, all but two of them could have possibly been prevented! Consider this:

  • Alcohol was involved in 168 deaths
  • 368 of those killed weren’t wearing seat belts
  • Speeding proved a factor in 155 deaths
  • Distracted driving was a factor in 100 deaths

The story above checks every one of those boxes. Alcohol. Speed. Distracted driving. No seat belts.

Sadly, all were preventable.

Designate a Driver – It’s Easier Than Ever

As you head into the holiday party season, keep in mind there are many more options today than ever for a sober ride home. Uber, Lyft, a North Carolina Designated Driver service, a taxi – and of course, a sober companion. Many of these services are as convenient as clicking on an app, and some are more affordable than a taxi. Some will even drive you and your car home.

There are just no more excuses to get behind the wheel when you’ve been drinking.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Car Wreck Lawyers

If you do find yourself injured in an accident because of someone else’s negligence – whether during the holidays or any other time – contact an experienced car wreck lawyer. Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer to represent them received 3.5X more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own1.

If you have been injured, contact us now for a free case evaluation to see if we can help or call us at 1-866-900-7078.

 

P.S. Since the holiday season is also football season, click here for ways to tailgate safely.

1 Insurance Research Council 1999

Will My Case Settle or Go to Trial?

If you’re like most of my clients, you probably would like to avoid going to court. The good news is most cases don’t. They’re settled out of court instead.

But sometimes, if it’s in our clients’ best interests to tell their story to a judge and jury because the insurance company and the defendant aren’t playing nice and won’t give them a fair offer, that’s exactly what we’ll do.

One question clients often ask us is: How do we decide whether to settle or go to court?

Insurance Companies Don’t Want to Go to Court Any More than You Do

The vast majority of personal injury cases settle. Some of the most appealing reasons for both sides to want to reach a settlement are:

  • Jury uncertainty. You can pick a jury, but you cannot control them once they are seated in the juror’s box.
  • Compensation assurance. Settling allows you to eliminate the variable of not knowing how much a court may or may not award the plaintiff (you).
  • Public image. Who knows what ripple effects the jury’s decision could potentially have on how the plaintiff is portrayed by the insurance company’s lawyers?
  • Most insurance companies are for-profit businesses. And jury trial expenses can add up fast. Likewise, the plaintiff’s court expenses are paid out of any settlement money.

With that said, the insurance company should know your attorney is 100% willing and able to take your case to trial.

The willingness to take cases to trial affords us the ability to try to negotiate your case from a position of power. If the insurance company is under the impression that you and your attorney have any hesitation about presenting a strong case to a jury and judge, they might feel they have the upper hand and withhold some of the compensation you may deserve.

Understanding Your Options for Settlement or Trial

Whether it’s in your best interest to try to settle or go to court, we do our homework. And from day one, we involve each and every client in their case. We try to keep you informed and we ask that you do the same with your legal team.

We ask a lot of questions. We want to know what happened, who was involved, and how you were impacted. We research how the law applies. If necessary, we speak with doctors, insurance companies, state agencies, witnesses, and experts to try to determine all the facts of your case, not just what may be favorable to you. We’re not looking for quick easy answers. Our goal is to try to obtain the most compensation that our clients may deserve. The more we know, the better we can represent you.

As we said, insurance companies typically don’t want to go to court any more than you do. But if we feel they are not being fair, and we believe a jury trial is in your best interest, we won’t hesitate to go.

While most of our cases are settled out of court, if your case does go to court, we will try to prepare you every step of the way.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers

Our law firm is one of the largest personal injury firms in North Carolina. And we have vast resources to draw from. Some of our best resources, in my opinion, are our paralegals, administrators, and others who work “behind the scenes” with our lawyers to help research and prepare your case – for a possible settlement or trial.

Some of our staff members previously worked for the very same insurance companies we deal with day in and day out. So they know their negotiation tactics.

When there’s no doubt on the insurance company’s part that we are ready, willing, and able to challenge them in court, often a settlement may look very good to them. Whatever the course, we are with you all the way.

If you were involved in a car wreck, don’t worry about whether your case will settle or go to court. Let our experienced car accident lawyers discuss this with you once we have the facts.

Contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE and let you know if we think we can help you.

Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

How to Play it Safe With Pokemon Go

Stabbings, robberies, trespassing, a dead body? This is not the 6 o’clock news.

It’s the stark reality of the augmented reality game, Pokemon Go. Where players catch Pokemon by physically going to areas called PokeStops.

Hidden Dangers Playing Pokemon Go

Pokemon aren’t the only characters hiding at these PokeStops. Criminals are too. They’re lurking at PokeStops, and robbing and assaulting people who are looking for Pokemon.

Even getting to the PokeStops can cause hazards. Drivers are staring at their cell phones while driving in an attempt to catch Pokemon. And it’s causing car wrecks. Some have even stopped their cars in the middle of the road for a catch!

People have walked into streets, zombie-like, with their eyes glued to their phones and been hit by cars. They’ve wandered onto military firing ranges, crashed weddings and even funerals for a catch. Sadly, a teenaged boy was shot and killed while playing near Guatemala City late at night.

Worldwide Pokemania

Just like a real scavenger hunt, this virtual hunt can be delightfully addictive! Pokemon Go allows you to enter the world of augmented reality through an app that uses GPS and augmentation technology to enable players to search for nearby Pokemon. The object of the game is to “catch ‘em all.”

It also offers a way for gamers and screen jockeys – anyone, really – to get up, get out, and get moving.

Within the first two weeks of the game’s July 5, 2016 release, the app topped 15 million downloads, surpassing Facebook and Snapchat. Many churches and businesses have been promoting the app by becoming a PokeStop or by informing players of a Pokemon at their location in order to increase traffic and attention to their site.

pokemonGotta Catch ‘em All!

The app requires that you walk around to locate Pokemon, so the game has been described as a great way to explore points of interest in your town or other areas. And it has been described as a great way to meet people or get some exercise. By looking at your phone screen, you can see the character superimposed onto your actual surroundings – just like you see in the image here.

Our headquarters overlooks the Durham Bulls Baseball Stadium, and we got to see first-hand how addictive this game can be when they opened the stadium to the public and dozens of Pokemon seekers of all ages converged on the baseball field to catch Pokemon. And not all Pokemon were outside our building. In fact, one of our paralegals captured Pidgedy during her lunch break right inside our hallways.

Pokemon and Potential Hazards

Falling victim to a crime or stumbling upon a crime

Four teens in Missouri were arrested after committing numerous armed robberies by using the Pokemon Go app to lure their victims to secluded areas. Another teenager in Wyoming was on a quest to find a water Pokemon, when instead she found a dead body floating in the lake.

Injuring yourself

Risking your life is not the key to winning Pokemon Go. One Pokemon gamer was stabbed by a man after the gamer asked if the man wanted to “battle.” Obviously intending to battle on the app was not as clear to the attacker. After being stabbed, the gamer continued on his quest to find what he was looking for instead of immediately going to the hospital for medical treatment!

Accidents from distracted driving and walking

Pokemon can pop up anywhere any time. Whether you’re walking down the street and Jigglypuff pops up a block away or you’re driving and Charmander is at the corner store. Accidents can happen, even to the most attentive Pokemon player. People have gotten into accidents (even crashing into police cars) and have been hit by cars because they were distracted by the game instead of paying attention to their surroundings.

Trespassing

Trespassing has become epidemic since the release of Pokemon Go. Often Pokemon only appear at certain times, so players may hunt at varying hours of the night and early morning. The problem – some are located on private property, at businesses, or in city parks. Players can face criminal charges if they trespass on private property or at public places after allowed hours. Sadly, as we have seen, other players can face worse consequences by wandering out late at night in the wrong areas.

Pokemon Go – Playing it Safe

Be aware of your surroundings

Just because you see someone wandering around in the woods or staring at their phone – don’t assume they are playing Pokemon. Use caution when going into secluded areas and approaching strangers. While the game can be a great opportunity to meet other players, be sure they have the same intentions.

Don’t drive and catch

Do we really have to say this? Turn the game off and put the phone away. AAA Carolinas says playing Pokemon while driving is just as dangerous as texting and driving.

Distracted walking, too, can have dangerous consequences. Be vigilant and check your surroundings, particularly when crossing streets. Don’t risk your life just because you see Dragonite on the other side of the road. No Pokemon character is worth your life – not even Dragonite.

Respect your city’s curfew and business hours

If it’s 3:00 a.m. and a Pikachu pops up near the North Carolina Zoo in Asheboro, don’t go out to try to catch it. Only visit landmarks, businesses, private property, and historical sites during appropriate hours.

Put down the phone and enjoy the real life around you

While Pokemon Go can take you to attractions you’ve never been before, it defeats the purpose if you stare at your phone the whole time you’re there. A benefit of the game is that it compels you to get off the couch, go outside, and maybe even get a little exercise.

After you are drawn to a new museum, garden, historical site, or neighborhood park, take a moment to explore the area with your eyes instead of your phone. You may gain something more incredible than a new critter or points on a game. Allow the Pokemon app to enhance your actual reality in addition to your virtual reality.

North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyers Evaluate Pokemon Injury Cases FREE

Here’s something important to know about your right to compensation if you are injured playing the game. Unless you opt out of the game’s terms of service, you may be waiving your right to litigation in the event you are injured – or are blamed for injuring someone else. So be careful and be smart.

If you are injured by someone playing Pokemon Go or believe it is as a result of negligence on the part of Niantic (the company that developed Pokemon Go) contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. We offer more than 35 attorneys – many who are experienced in personal injury cases of all kinds.

And, unlike many of the Pokemon, you’ll catch us any time day or night.

Road Debris – Who Pays for Your Damages?

A colleague of mine was hauling one of those large plastic toddler play houses in the back of her truck recently, when suddenly the roof of the house blew off right onto the roadway, causing traffic behind her to swerve into other lanes to avoid crashing into the roof. She pulled over and retrieved the runaway roof, thankfully avoiding injury to herself or other drivers.

The incident prompted a conversation about injuries and accidents from escaping debris. Who is responsible? What role does insurance play? And just what would have been the legal consequences to my colleague if that roof had caused an accident and injury in North Carolina? Points on her license? A fine? Traffic court? Jail?

Road Debris Causes Numerous Crashes Says AAA

A recent AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that unsecured loads falling off cars and trucks have been blamed for more than 200,000 crashes on U.S. roads between 2011 and 2014. There were 39,000 injuries and more than 500 deaths from those incidents during that time.

More than a third of those deaths occurred because drivers swerved to avoid the debris.

Roadway debris can be a serious matter. One of our clients was severely injured in a life-altering way because of roadway debris.

What NC Law Says About Debris on NC Roads

Drivers responsible for creating road debris can face fines in every U.S state. All 50 states have laws that make unsecured loads illegal, according to AAA, with fines that range from $10 to $5,000. North Carolina’s fines are capped at $100.

North Carolina says you must properly secure all items on a vehicle. If you don’t and you cause an accident, you may be held liable. Specifically NC law states:

“No vehicle shall be driven or moved on any highway unless the vehicle is constructed and loaded to prevent any of its load from falling, blowing, dropping, sifting, leaking, or otherwise escaping therefrom, and the vehicle shall not contain any holes, cracks, or openings through which any of its load may escape.”

Legal penalties for infraction are determined by the degree of the infraction. It could be misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the degree of willful negligence.

Will Auto Insurance Cover Road Debris Accidents?

But what about auto insurance? Will it pay for your damages or injuries if you crash as a result of running into or trying to swerve from road debris? In many instances, yes.

Crashing Into an Object

If your vehicle is damaged from running into or running over an object in the road, then your collision coverage should most likely pay for repairs.

Flying Objects That Land on Your Car

If the object flies through the air and hits your car, then your comprehensive coverage may come into play.

Personal Injury

If you or a passenger are injured, personal injury protection or medical payments would likely pay for treatment of injuries.

Getting the At-Fault Driver to Pay

If the accident was the result of someone failing to secure a load, you may be able to make a claim against the other driver’s liability insurance.

It’s always prudent to file a police report, which can help establish the facts for your insurance claim.

Road Debris Safety Tips

If You Are Driving

  • Try to look farther than two or three cars ahead, so you potentially have time to change lanes before you reach a hazard.
  •  In many instances it can be safer to hit the debris than to swerve to try to avoid it. (Remember that more than a third of road debris deaths occurred from swerving.)
  • If you’re on a roadway at night (and it’s not foggy and there’s no traffic), drive with your high beams on so you can potentially spot debris in the road.
  • Call 911 to report hazards in the roadway.

If You Are Carrying a Load

  • Properly secure the load on your vehicle. Test your cargo before you leave. If it moves, secure it better.
  • If you lose something, pull to the side of the road where it is safe and call 911. Keep your seatbelt fastened until help arrives.

Get Free Advice From Experienced NC Road Debris Lawyers

Proving liability can be tricky because North Carolina laws on road debris can be vague and leave lots of room for interpretation. Based on our experience in fighting the insurance companies for compensation for damages and injuries, we strongly advise getting an experienced roadway debris lawyer.

If you have been injured by roadway debris, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078. Our experienced auto accident lawyers will evaluate your case for FREE.

How to Try to Avoid Hitting a Deer – 11 Tips!

The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission estimates our deer population this year is topping roughly a million. And those million or so deer are watching for two things – mates and hunters. Especially from October through December, which is their mating season and our deer hunting season.

With nearly 18,000 animal-related car crashes in North Carolina (90% of them deer) in 2104, these fleet footed beauties are not looking out for you or your car.

1912586_1Deer on the Move in Autumn

While deer can travel at any time, be particularly alert between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m. – and especially at dawn, and in areas where there’s development and where deer are being displaced. For example, for many years there has been a lot of construction and development in Wake County. And likely as a result, it has had the highest number of deer-related crashes 12 years in a row through 2015, according to the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

11 Tips to Try to Avoid Deer-Related Car Damage or Injury

Here’s what the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) and other roadway safety experts suggests to try to avoid colliding with a deer.

Preventative Measures

  1. Deer travel in groups. If you see one deer cross the road, others are likely nearby.
  2. Slow down in posted deer crossing areas and heavily wooded areas, especially during the late afternoon and evening.
  3. Always wear your seat belt. Most people injured in deer-related car crashes were not wearing their seat belt.
  4. Deer are most likely to travel near bridges, overpasses, railroad tracks, and streams and ditches, and this is where most deer crashes occur.
  5. Drive with high beams on when prudent, and watch for eyes reflecting in the headlights.
  6. Increase the distance between your vehicle and other cars, especially at night. If the car ahead of you hits a deer, you may also crash.
  7. Slow down and blow your horn with one long blast to frighten the deer away. Deer can be easily mesmerized by consistent light, so flashing your lights may also help scare the deer away.
  8. Do not swerve to avoid a collision with deer. This could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, flipping it over, veering it into oncoming traffic, or overcorrecting and running off the road, causing a more serious crash.
  9. Let off your brakes if you see you are about to collide. GEICO Insurance company suggests that you try to let off the brakes at the moment of impact. Braking through the impact could cause the hood of your vehicle to dip down, which can propel the animal through the windshield.
  10. Do not rely on deer-related devices such as deer whistles, deer fences, or reflectors to deter deer, as these devices have not proven to reduce deer-vehicle crashes.
  11. Do not touch the deer if you crash into it. A frightened and wounded deer can hurt you or further injure itself. Get your car safely off the road if possible, and call 911 to report the accident.

Get Evidence That a Deer Caused the Crash

Take a photo of any evidence that shows you hit a deer. (For insurance reasons. I’m not suggesting you should pull over and take a selfie.) If you see any animal skin, hair, or other parts on your car (in the grill perhaps), get it on camera up close.

Sounds insensitive and inhumane, I know. (I love deer and I wouldn’t like to do this, myself.) But the reality is if you report the accident to your insurance company or if someone is injured as a result, you will need proof that you faced a “sudden emergency.”

Proof You Were Not Negligent

In North Carolina (and many states) there is a legal principle called the “sudden emergency doctrine” that can be used to defend negligence on your part.  It provides a challenge to the standard of care for ordinary negligence in certain situations where you are faced with an emergency situation.  In other words, an action that might have otherwise been negligent, might not be so if you are confronted with a surprise emergency situation.

Proof for Insurance Company

Let’s say, for example, no one is injured (except the deer), but the front of your car is a mess. The insurance company will want proof that you actually did hit a deer. Or that you swerved to avoid the deer. Otherwise they could deny your claim. Or at the very least, if they cannot prove you hit a deer, they could raise your rates.

While our firm handles primarily personal injury cases (not auto damage claims), here is food for thought about how an insurance company may view your predicament if you are filing for auto damages.

The insurance company cannot recover damages from the deer. (We all know deer don’t pay insurance premiums.) And even though colliding with a deer or any wildlife is technically considered a collision, this particular type of collision is usually covered under your comprehensive policy. Usually with comprehensive, you don’t’ pay a deductible and your rates are not likely to go up.

If your insurance company doesn’t see “evidence” that you hit a deer, they might make you file your car damages claim under your collision policy, which means you will pay your deductible and they could increase your rates!

Deer-Related Accident? NC Auto Accident Attorneys Offer FREE Evaluation

If you do find yourself in a situation where you have been injured in any type of car wreck through no fault of your own, contact us  or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE.

Hurricane Matthew – What Do You Do If Your Car Hydroplanes? (And Other Road Hazard Tips)

If Hurricane Matthew sets its eye near North Carolina, the Category 3 storm is likely to cause quite a wave of car accidents if history is any guide.

Driving in heavy rain, high winds, or any type of inclement weather means you should take extra precautions for everyone’s safety – including your own.

Have an Evacuation Plan

The most important thing is to have an evacuation plan – especially if you are along the coast or in low-lying areas. If the state issues evacuations, heed them.

If you do get caught in hazardous road conditions, here are some tips to help you and others try to stay safe on slick, flooded, and windy roads.

Tips to Help You Drive Safer Despite Hurricane Matthew

Driving in Heavy Rain

Do not use cruise control. When you are not in cruise control and you lift your foot off the gas to brake, the front of your car starts to dip a bit, transferring some weight to the front. This gives the front tires more traction. In cruise control, the car doesn’t dip when you brake. Instead the speed remains constant so you lose that early weight transfer.

Watch for splashing from potholes and pools of water. If the roadway develops “ruts” where the heaviest traffic tracks, try to drive within them while remaining in your lane to avoid pools of water.

Never drive through high water. Cars can be swept off the road in only a foot of moving water, and roads covered by water can collapse. Driving through it may stall your engine, which can cause irreparable damage if you try to restart it. If you come upon a flooded street, take an alternate route. If you cannot, click here for tips from The Weather Network on how to proceed with caution.

And remember, never ever drive through water with a downed electrical line.

Be aware of skidding and hydroplaning.  If you feel the car begin to skid, remain calm and steer in the direction where you want the car to go. Don’t slam on the brakes as this will further upset the vehicle’s balance and make it harder to control.

When you hydroplane, your tires have very little to no contact with the road. Most hydroplane skids last for just a split second before your car regains traction. Waiting it out is the best way to handle the situation. Remain calm and don’t make sudden turns or motions. Just let off the gas and steer straight or slightly in the direction you are heading.  Keep a steady hand on the wheel and steer with small movements to correct your course.

Be aware that brakes can be affected by water. Wet drum type brakes are especially prone to decreased stopping power after driving through deep water. Occasionally pump your brakes gently to help dry them and make sure they work.

Turn on the defroster if the windshield fogs.

Driving in Windy Conditions

Expect gusts. Take special care when driving through areas prone to strong winds, such as wide open areas, bridges, and overpasses.

Be diligent near larger vehicles. Tractor-trailers and recreational vehicles are more susceptible to high winds, and drivers may have difficulty staying in their lanes.

Keep a firm grip on the wheel. Keep both hands on the wheel in case the wind begins to move your vehicle, especially if you are driving a large vehicle or towing a trailer. If the wind begins to move you, gently steer in the direction you want to go.

Driving Defensively in Hazardous Weather

Keep both hands on the wheel.

Slow down. Rule of thumb: reduce your speed by 10 mph each time you increase your windshield wiper speed. Driving slower reduces your risk of losing contact with the road and can possibly help keep you from hydroplaning.

Stay 5 seconds behind the car in front of you. Watch the car in front of you as it passes a fixed object, like a light or utility pole. Then count 5 seconds. If you reach your marker before 5 seconds, you may be too close for a sudden emergency.

Pay attention to the front, sides, and back of you. Be aware of falling or flying debris, electrical wires, mudslides, puddles, swerving cars, and anything that may cause you to lose control of your car.

Turn off cell phones and the radio. And don’t do anything that distracts you from driving. You need to be extra cautious and diligent while driving in slick windy conditions.

Turn on your headlights. Even in daylight. Besides, it’s the law in North Carolina. Remember: wipers on, lights on.

Prepare Your Car for a Hurricane

Tires should have proper inflation and the tread should have more than 2/32-inch. An easy way to check the tread depth is to insert a penny into each groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head (including his hair), you need new tires. Consult your car manual to check for the proper tire pressure for the recommended tires. NHTSA offers many other tire safety facts.

Rotate your tires. Goodyear recommends you rotate them every 3,000 to 6,000 miles to help keep the tread life and even wear.

Use a rain repellent on your windshield, side windows, and mirrors to clear standing raindrops.

Keep a car emergency kit. At the very least, have a flashlight, window breaker tool, and seatbelt cutter or Swiss army knife. The National Hurricane Center offers more information on hurricane safety kits.

North Carolina Car Accident Lawyers

If you do find yourself in a situation where you were injured on slick hazardous roadways or in any condition because of someone else’s negligence, contact us.

  • Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer received 3.5 times1more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own.
  • We are one of the largest personal injury law firms in North Carolina and have many resources to draw from.
  • We have recovered over $600 million2 total for more than 30,000 clients since 1997.
  • We have more than 150 staff members, including over 35 attorneys.
  • Several of our lawyers have achieved peer- and client-reviewed designations including Best Lawyers Best Lawyers in America 20173 and Lawyer of the Year 20174; Super Lawyers Rising Star 20165 and Super Lawyer 20166.

(See for yourself some of the things clients have to say about us.)

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From North Carolina Lawyers

If you are injured in a car crash, we strongly urge you to contact us  or call 1-866-900-7078. We will evaluate your situation for FREE and let you know if we think we can help.

 

P.S. Click here if you want your teen driver to learn hands-on defensive driving techniques under simulated hazardous conditions. There’s a non-profit organization in NC that offers instruction around NC and the U.S.

 

1  Insurance Research Council 1999.

2  Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

3  Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers® has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence. Best Lawyers is based on an exhaustive peer-review survey. Over 52,000 leading attorneys cast more than 5.5 million votes on the legal abilities of other lawyers in their practice areas. Lawyers are not required or allowed to pay a fee to be listed; therefore inclusion in Best Lawyers is considered a singular honor. Corporate Counsel Magazine has called Best Lawyers “the most respected referral list of attorneys in practice.” For information regarding standards for inclusion visit  www.bestlawyers.com.

4  Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated metropolitan area is honored as the Lawyer of the Year, making this accolade particularly significant. Lawyers being honored as “Lawyer of the Year” are selected based on particularly impressive voting averages received during the exhaustive peer-review assessments conducted with thousands of leading lawyers each year. Receiving this designation reflects the high level of respect a lawyer has earned among other leading lawyers in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism, and their integrity. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.bestlawyers.com.

5  To be eligible for inclusion in Rising Stars, a candidate must be either 40 years old or younger or in practice for 10 years or less. Rising Stars undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. While up to 5% of the lawyers in any state are named “Super Lawyers,” by  Super Lawyers magazine, no more than 2.5% are named to the Rising Stars list. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com.

6  Super Lawyers undergo a rigorous, multiphase process which combines peer nominations with third-party research. Each candidate is evaluated on 12 indicators of peer recognition and professional achievement. Selections are made annually on a state-by-state basis. For information regarding standards for inclusion visit www.superlawyers.com.

Why Are More Bikers Dying? 4 Main Reasons. And 4 Things You Can Do.

I love riding my motorcycle. Been riding for years. My dad had an old, ugly green Honda CB when I was a kid. My uncle airbrushed Harleys. Another uncle used to take me out jumping giant mounds of dirt on my grandfather’s tobacco farm down east. I was enthralled at a young age and got my first dirt bike, a Yamaha Mini Enduro, when I was only six years old. I got my first road bike as soon as I turned 16.

mj-bike-1My current bike, shown here, is an 1800cc beast of a machine.

When my wife announced she wanted to start riding together (on a motorcycle of her own), I was a bit surprised – but definitely up for it.

She, as usual, did the smart thing and enrolled both of us in a motorcycle safety class.

While I have always tried to be careful and prudent while enjoying the freedom of the open road, I had not taken a motorcycle safety course in many years. I am thankful my wife gave me a reason to. What I learned was that the roads today are a far cry from when I first started riding more than 30 years ago. The recent accident and death rates are alarming – particularly for “older” riders. So much so, that I felt compelled to do some additional research of my own. I’d like to share reasons I found behind the rise in motorcycle fatalities, and offer ways each of us can try to keep motorcycle safety in mind.

By the way, even if you do not own a motorcycle, you should be aware of some of the ways you may be unintentionally contributing to an unsafe environment for motorcyclists.

Increase in North Carolina Motorcycle Accident Fatalities

I was surprised to learn that a primary reason for the rising death toll in all motor vehicle accidents both in North Carolina and nationwide is due to an increase in motorcycle fatalities. Motorcyclist deaths in 2015 accounted for 13% of all vehicle fatalities in North Carolina, and were the highest in seven years both nationwide and in our state.

It got me to thinking. Why the uptick? What has changed? And more importantly, how can each of us help keep motorcyclists – and each other – safer on North Carolina’s roadways?

4 Likely Reasons for Increased Motorcycle Fatalities

  1. Nationally, fewer riders are wearing helmets. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) declares that having universal helmet laws is the single most effective way for states to save the lives of motorcyclists. In North Carolina about 80 lives are saved for each 100,000 licensed motorcycle drivers, according to an article in North Carolina Health News. Helmets are about 37% effective in preventing motorcyclist deaths and about 67% effective in preventing brain injuries, reports the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. In the 1970s, all but three states mandated helmets. Yet lobbying efforts by rider groups and “personal freedom” advocates slowly etched away at those mandates. By 2012, only 19 states still had mandatory helmet laws. North Carolina is one of them.
    Look, I get that most of us are on the road in part for the feeling of freedom that riding offers. But there are certain basics that increase safety. Airbags, seatbelts, staying sober, and using helmets all contribute to saving lives. I enjoy my freedom, and I encourage you to enjoy responsibly.
  2. Reduced gas prices means there are more cars and trucks crowding the roadways. Cars and trucks are larger and heavier than motorcycles. Common sense and the laws of physics dictate the motorcyclist is on the losing end in the event of a crash. The fatality rate for motorcycle riders is 26 times the rate of death for people in cars. This is partly because a motorcycle doesn’t provide the protection that a car would, such as seat belts, air bags, and a cage of metal armor.
  3. There is an alarming rise in distracted driving. According to the National Safety Council, 26% of car accidents are caused by cell phone use. In North Carolina more than 22% of accidents resulted from distracted driving. Distracted driving is not limited to texting while driving. It includes anything that distracts you from paying attention to the road.
  4. Alcohol and drug use has also been a factor in motorcyclist fatalities. This, sadly, is what the Governors Highway Safety Association reports. And more often than not, it was the biker who was drinking. Don’t be that biker.

4 Tips to Try to Keep Motorcyclists Safer – and Others Too

North Carolina offers so many scenic roadways, including the Blue Ridge Parkway, which is the longest scenic roadway in America. And don’t forget The Dragon, which attracts riders from all over the country. Many motorcyclists believe this drive is best experienced from a motorcycle. But safely. Here are some ways to maximize safety, whether you’re on a motorcycle or in a vehicle.

  1. Alcohol and drugs have no business being a part of any road trip – no matter what you are driving.
  2. Pay attention to the road. Especially when motorcycles are nearby. Look in both side mirrors if you hear a motorcycle. Be diligent. You are driving at least a two-ton vehicle. If you’re a motorcyclist, don’t serpentine between cars at the speed of light on the interstate. Many drivers will not being paying attention to their surroundings – and that includes you.
  3. If you’re a motorcyclist wear protective clothing and gear – the brighter the better. You want drivers to see you. As much as I believe in helmets, I also strongly believe in hi-viz. Only once do I recall getting a call from an injured motorcyclist who was wearing hi-viz clothing. I personally always wear a hi-viz helmet and jacket and follow the ATGATT rule: All The Gear, All The Time. You will always find me riding in boots, heavy-duty pants, leather or armored jacket, gloves, and a full-face helmet. And you’ll see me coming from a mile away.
  4. Helmet laws are mandatory in North Carolina. Wear them. We have represented too many motorcycle crash victims who did not obey this law. Some lived, some did not. Others’ lives were forever changed.

FREE Evaluation From Our North Carolina Motorcycle Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you know has been injured in a motorcycle accident, call a fellow biker. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin for a free and confidential case evaluation or call 1-866-900-7078.

If You Ignore a Recall and You’re Injured, Will Insurance Pay?

From the latest VW emissions cheating device scandal to GM ignition switch malfunctions to the Takata airbag recall (the largest recall ever), car and car parts recalls seem to have accelerated exponentially over the past several years.

Over the past 50 years, 400 million cars have been recalled – as many as could stretch around the earth’s equator almost 45 times! That’s a lot of recalls.

When a recall is issued, the manufacturer and/or the dealer, sends a notice to the owner outlining steps to fix the problem. But surprisingly many auto owners either don’t pay attention to the recall notices or ignore the issue when notified. If that happens, and an injury occurs to the owner or to others, who is liable for damages?

Here’s what attorney Mike Jordan had to say about this issue when interviewed on WNCT 9 On Your Side, Greenville.