Personal Injury Lawyer
Office Locations
Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin
1-866-900-7078
Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin 1-866-900-7078

New Technology, New Laws: 6 Need-to-Know Legal Facts about Self-Driving Cars in North Carolina

It won’t be long before self-driving cars are on the streets of North Carolina. While there are not currently any vehicles for sale that are truly self-driving, the technology is getting closer. If you’ve ever been in a parking lot and watched a Tesla park itself, you know what we’re talking about.

That new technology brings up plenty of legal issues. What happens if that self-parking Tesla hits a pedestrian or another vehicle? Who is liable? Lawmakers are already wrestling with the answers to questions like these in preparation for the autonomous future. The Federal government, as of December 2019, has yet to pass any comprehensive legislation. States are left to fill that legal void, and North Carolina has passed a general statute (N.C.G.S. § 20-400—403 et seq.) to that end. Below we outline the things you should know about this law:

Six Takeaways for North Carolina Drivers According to NC State Law

  • The Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) must comply with existing laws and safety standards. Autonomous technology does not excuse the vehicle from having required safety features. If a driver were to get behind the wheel, the vehicle must be street legal. The law does not excuse passengers in AVs from not wearing seat belts – those rules still apply.
  • The AV must, like every other vehicle, be insured. The insurance industry will likely be developing new products to cover such vehicles, but in the meantime, the usual requirements for insurance apply.
  • Good citizen rules apply to AVs. That means, in the event of a crash, the vehicle must stop, alert authorities and emergency responders, and remain on scene until released. If you’re not aware, these rules apply to all drivers, no matter what kind of vehicle they may be driving.
  • AVs do not need driver’s licenses, and the passengers in them are not required to be licensed drivers – as long as the AV driving features are fully engaged. The vehicle must do the driving. If a non-licensed driver takes control of the vehicle at any time, this law is preempted by existing laws regarding unlicensed drivers.
  • No one under the age of 12 can travel alone in an AV. Passengers under the age of 12 must be accompanied by an adult 18 years or older.
  • Since it has no driver, the law has to determine who is responsible for the AV. That burden falls to the owner of the vehicle. While this may seem logical, it does raise interesting possibilities. For example, if an owner is halfway across the world and his or her AV causes an accident, the law considers that accident the AV owner’s responsibility.

More Considerations

The law made a number of other changes, though not directly related to the drivers, owners, or operation of AVs in the state. The law preempts local municipalities from passing laws that single out AVs for special treatment. The North Carolina law itself will likely take a back seat when Congress finally does pass Federal regulations on AVs. Recognizing the issue as complex and still-evolving, the North Carolina law established the “Fully Autonomous Vehicle Committee” within the North Carolina Department of Transportation to unpack the issues surrounding the technology moving forward.

Another area of concern is the data that is collected, stored, and used by AVs to do their work, and the privacy of that data. In a 2019 decision in Mobley v. State of Georgia, the data contained in a car’s computer required a warrant to obtain. Will Autonomous Vehicles be similarly protected, or is the nature of their systems enough for lawmakers to require their data to be immediately admissible? It may be the case that the AVs sensors are the only “witnesses” to a crash. Its computers may hold the key to unlocking the truth of a mysterious collision.

Whether you plan to own an AV or are simply a regular driver on the streets of North Carolina, it’s good to know how the law governs AVs. With recent fatalities involving cars with Semi-Autonomous Driving features, there are risks to be aware of.

Seek Representation from an Experienced NC Car Accident Attorney

At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we are advocates for those who are injured in North Carolina. If you or a loved one has been injured in a crash involving an autonomous vehicle, please call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us for a free case evaluation. We pride ourselves on fighting for victims, and working to try to ensure they receive the compensation they deserve. We’re not afraid to fight the  .

Learning From the Brier Creek Trench Collapse – a Workers’ Compensation Case

The trench collapse in Brier Creek, Durham, NC, on Wednesday, January, 15, 2020, was a tragedy in every sense of the word. The accident happened on a construction site where workers were digging for a new gas station. While the direct cause of the accident is unknown, the heartbreaking effects are. Two men were injured – one seriously. Another man lost his life.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to those who were injured, and especially to the loved ones of the man who was killed. Now, we want to understand the accident, the aftermath, and the actions they may be able to take.

What Happened in Brier Creek?

The construction company in charge of the project is D R Mozeley out of Charlotte. Their subcontractor, J Squared Plumbing out of Georgia, was performing the work. The company reported that workers were scheduled to be performing work in a three foot well, not a deeper trench. However, a worker on site stated that the hole they were working in was deeper. Durham Fire Chief Iannuzzi said he did not know how deep the trench was originally, but it was six- to eight-feet deep after the collapse.

A supervisor for a construction team that was not working on the site, but was nearby, mentioned that the recent period of rainfall made conditions more difficult, adding the weight of water to the earth being excavated.

Once the truth is known, more legal proceedings may come. One thing that is not in doubt, however, is that the workers involved need help.

What’s Next: Taking Care of Injured Workers

In the aftermath of a work-related accident, there are investigations and often the shifting of blame. In the meantime, the injured workers and their families are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. For the worker who lost his life, the process and benefits are slightly different.

For the injured workers, they’ll need to file a workers’ compensation claim. You can learn how to file and possible benefits by clicking here. There are time limits involved, and a specific order in which to do things.

For workers killed on the job, a wrongful death claim must be entered. You can learn more about wrongful death claims and survivor benefits by clicking here. There are still time limits involved, so it is important to act as soon as possible.

It’s worth noting that workers may also be able to file third party liability claim in addition to a workers’ compensation claim. Third party liability claims are levied against someone besides the employer whose negligence or recklessness may have contributed to the worker’s injury.

What Is Trenching and Who Makes the Safety Rules?

Construction work is one of the more dangerous day-to-day jobs. Opportunities for injury are present throughout the working day, from tools, to vehicles, to environmental hazards.

Construction sites have strict safety regulations and protocols in place to keep workers safe, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces those rules. There are specific safety rules for excavation and trenching. OSHA defines excavation as “any man-made cut, cavity, trench, or depression in the earth’s surface formed by earth removal. A trench is defined as a narrow underground excavation that is deeper than it is wide, and is no wider than 15 feet (4.5 meters).”

Federal regulations applicable to trenching and excavation operations are located in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR) States may have similar, stricter codes in place.

In the case of the Brier Creek trench collapse, an investigation will likely be conducted to see if proper safety protocols were followed, and if not, who was negligent in their omission.

Tragedies and Trends in Excavation Work

After a spike in trench-related construction deaths in the early 2000s, OSHA performed an investigation, which led to an emphasis campaign to highlight ways to trench safely. At the time, the study showed that proper protective systems were only used 24% of the time. In 68% of the accidents, environmental factors played a role, but in 86% of the accidents, the supervisor was not on-site at the time the accident occurred.

A report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that, between 2014 and 2016, trench-related deaths rose dramatically. In 2013, there were 13 deaths. In 2016, there were 36.

An additional complication for workers’ compensation claims in cases of trench collapse is that there are often multiple contractors or companies working the same site. This may complicate the workers’ compensation claim, but there also may be reason to file a third party liability claim. An experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney can analyze the facts and explain your options.

Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney

For victims of workplace injuries and their families, that weekly paycheck is a lifeline. Medical benefits can keep the bills from piling up as well. Some insurance companies may try to deny benefits when possible, so it’s important to have someone working for your best interest.

Call 1-866-900-7078 or contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin by clicking here. We’ll fight to protect your rights, your benefits, and try to help ensure you’re treated fairly.

Contact Information

Asheville Law Office

300 Ridgefield Court Suite 309
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-552-8215
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

1001 Morehead Square Drive, Suite 350
Charlotte, NC 28203
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

2915 Raeford Road, Suite 204
Fayetteville, NC 28303
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

1308 Wayne Memorial Drive, Suite B
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Phone: 919-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greenville Law Office

702 Cromwell Dr. Suite G
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Morganton Law Office

216 N. Sterling Street, Suite B
Morganton, NC 28655
Phone: 828-219-3080
Toll Free: 1-844-520-2894

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

144 Woodridge Court
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078