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5 Ways to Stay Safe on the Water During Busy Holiday Weekends to Avoid Drinking and Boating Accidents

If you are like most North Carolinians, you count down the days until you can be relaxing on a beach or lake having fun in the sun. What most people don’t dream of is being involved in a boating accident caused by alcohol. The unfortunate reality is that these happen far more frequently than anyone would hope. Luckily, by following our list of safety tips below, you may be able to prevent a tragedy.

Summer can be broken up into three major holidays:  Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day. North Carolina Law Enforcement has labeled these holidays the three most dangerous and busy weekends of the summer. Pairing with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MAAD), they are conducting their 10th annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign to help raise awareness and keep everyone safe.

MADD, Boating, and NC Law Enforcement Sobriety Checkpoints

Founded in 1980, MADD is a nonprofit organization grounded in their passion to put a stop to drunk driving, wherever it might happen. This year marks the 10th annual “On the Road, On the Water, Don’t Drink and Drive” campaign hosted by MADD, The NC Wildlife Resources Commission, and State Highway Patrol. North Carolina law enforcement plays an essential part of this campaign by conducting sobriety checkpoints.

These checkpoints will look very similar to a standard traffic stop. If you are out on the water, a police or sheriff boat will flash their lights and slowly approach your boat. They may ask for your license and registration. During this interaction, they will be on the lookout for obvious signs of alcohol in the driver: glassy eyes, slurred speech, slow motor skills, etc. They will also take inventory of the other passengers on the boat. If someone seems to be in need of medical help, the officer may order the driver to take them to shore or summon aid.

Are North Carolina Laws Regarding Drinking and Driving Different on a Boat than in a Car?

NC laws regarding alcohol consumption behind the wheel are focused on one number: 0.08. Similar to driving a car, a boat driver cannot have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) at or above 0.08.

What about the other passengers? With the exception of liquor, it is legal to have an open container on a boat. In contrast, if you were to have an open container in a car, you could be facing a suspended license or jail time. On a boat, it’s perfectly fine.

Does this increased flexibility mean that driving a boat is easier than driving a car? Absolutely not. On the road, drivers can quickly brake or change lanes. On a boat, there are no brakes, only neutral. Sometimes, especially if the current is guiding the boats together, there is no way to stop an accident from happening. Adding alcohol to this situation slows drivers’ reaction times and impairs judgement, further increasing the chances of an accident. This is why it is crucial for drivers to yield, keep their distance, and stay sober.

Women drinking on the water showing the unsafe ways of boating.

How to Prevent Alcohol Related Boating Accidents

The risk of encountering a drunk driver on the water shouldn’t ruin your holiday plans. Follow these strategies to make the most of your time while staying safe.

  1. Don’t let anyone drive your boat if they have been drinking.
  2. Keep an eye on other drivers to see if they may be driving under the influence. Such behaviors can include: driving very slow or very fast, having no regard for the boats/people around them, cutting off other drivers, and many more.
  3. Be aware that you may go through a sobriety checkpoint. Be polite and accommodating.
  4. Yield to other boats, watercraft, and swimmers.
  5. Know the number of your local police, the Coast Guard, and local boat services to call if you believe there may be an unsafe driver on the water.

North Carolina Personal Injury Attorneys Evaluate Your Claim Free

If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident on the water, don’t hesitate to call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online. Our team of experienced personal injury attorneys is ready to help, and we’re here to answer your calls 24/7.

Weather and Auto Accidents – Frequently Asked Questions (and Answers)

So, what happens if you’re injured in an accident during, or caused by, severe weather conditions? For a skilled analysis, we’ve asked James Scott Farrin shareholder and litigation attorney Hoyt Tessener for his perspective. His answers may surprise you.

The Weather, the Road and Personal Injury

  • Let’s get this one out of the way first. Can the weather be at fault for an accident while I’m driving?

Yes. The weather can be at fault for a wreck but only under unusual circumstances. For example, the road could be poorly constructed. The weather can also be a contributing factor if for example the vehicle goes into a defective guard rail. 

  • If another driver is involved, how important is it to determine fault, and how is it determined?

It is very important to determine fault. Initially, fault is determined from the crash report that is prepared by the investigating law enforcement officer. It is always important to call the police whenever there is a wreck. However, the law enforcement officers may make a mistake or enter the wrong codes. Fault is ultimately determined in a negligence case by what a jury of twelve people decide.

  • Can’t it even be the weather’s fault?

If the weather is at fault, it is an accident.

  • Does it matter if there are severe weather warnings? Does that make me more responsible for my choice to drive in that weather or does it matter?

If you are driving during severe weather, you may be contributory negligent. If the weather comes upon you suddenly or upon somebody else suddenly, then it can be what is described as a sudden emergency. A sudden emergency is a heightened standard of care. Basically we all have an obligation to drive and operate a vehicle as a reasonable person would in the same or similar circumstances. If you are hit with sudden adverse weather, the standard becomes  driving as a reasonable person would in those same or similar circumstances – the adverse weather.

  • Let’s say a storm knocks out power to an intersection and the traffic signals are out. What happens if I get hit and injured while going through that intersection?

The rules of the road always apply. If traffic signals are out, then you have to follow the rules of the road as if there is an intersection with no traffic lights and all roads have stop signs.  Everyone is expected to come to a complete stop at the intersection. The vehicle that arrives first goes first and then you circle around counterclockwise. A vehicle turning yields to a vehicle going straight.

  • What happens if my child is on a school bus during severe weather and is injured in an accident?

A child on a school bus is injured due to severe weather, it is an accident. However, if the bus driver and/or another person is at fault, for example for running a stop light, and your child was injured as a result of the collision, then your child would have a claim. 

The Takeaways: While storms can contribute to an accident, injury caused directly from weather conditions is an act of God. And you can’t sure God. If your actions or reactions cause an accident, you are likely to be at fault just as in normal weather. If someone else’s action or reactions cause you injury, you may have a claim. And, in certain cases, a weather-related accident may be worsened by a defect, such as a bad road or a faulty guardrail. In those case, you may have a claim.

Contributory Negligence Defined
contributory negligence: n. a doctrine of common law that if a person was injured in part due to his/her own negligence (his/her negligence "contributed" to the accident), the injured party would not be entitled to collect any damages (money) from another party who supposedly caused the accident. Under this rule, a badly injured person who was only slightly negligent could not win in court against a very negligent defendant. NOTE: Some exceptions or exclusions can apply, which is why it is always advisable to speak with an experienced personal injury attorney.

Storms, Wind and Who Pays if You Get Hurt

  • I’ll get a bit more specific. What if I’m hurt by an actual tornado while driving? They’re freak storms, after all.

If you are driving during a tornado and injured as a result, you would not be entitled to any recovery.

  • What if a tree from a yard along the street gets blown over and hits my car, injuring me. Does that homeowner have to pay for my injuries?

A tree that is blown over by a storm would only create liability if the tree owner knew the tree was weak or damaged and should have been removed or replaced.

  • What if that tree is already in the road when I hit it and get injured?

If you hit a tree in the road and are injured, you have no recovery unless someone was chopping down the tree expecting it to fall in a different direction and instead it fell on you as you were driving by.

  • Let’s say I’m driving on the highway and high winds blow a tractor trailer over, causing me to crash. That’s not my fault, right?

Right. 

When a Storm Blows Over… a Truck
The University of Kansas Department of Engineering performed a study in 2009 to determine the effects of wind on motorists. Full tractor trailers were found vulnerable to being blown off the road in winds of 60mph or more. Empty tractor trailers, on the other hand, were adversely affected in crosswinds of just 15-20mph.

The Takeaways: Storms that have high winds pose numerous risks, but the vast majority of their effects are acts of God. There is little chance that someone is going to be at fault – other than you. The lesson here is not to drive during wind storms. Got off the road!

Water Hazards, From Above and Below

  • Water is dangerous as well, especially over the road. Let’s say I drive into water that’s covering the road and get hurt. Does it make any difference if there’s a flash flood watch?

If water pools on the road due to a defective road design or maintenance, you may have a claim. If you just drive into standing water, you are responsible for your own actions and would not have a claim. If you have decided to drive during a flash flood watch and you are in an area that is known to flood, you would have no claim.

  • What if I hit someone trying to avoid the water? Or they hit me trying to avoid it?

If you hit someone while driving, regardless of the reason, it is likely that you are going to be at fault. The same applies for them.

Half a Million Injuries a Year Occur on Wet Roads
According to the U.S Department of Transportation, the seemingly innocuous wet road is one of the most dangerous places to drive. Each year, about 75% of weather-related vehicle crashes occur on wet roads, and nearly half occur while it’s raining. Wet road crashes account for more than 5,000 fatalities and more than 540,000 injuries. Roadway flooding was said to be the greatest source of fatalities.

The Takeaways: Water on the road is a tricky issue. If you choose to drive during heavy rain when there are flood watches and warnings, you could be seen as contributing to the accident – contributory negligence. If the flooding happens due to poor road design, you may have a claim. As always, you are responsible for your choices and actions. A court and a jury will hold you to the standard of what a reasonable person would do in your specific circumstance. And reasonable people do not often drive during flood warnings!

How Do Various Types of Insurance Coverages Work Together After an Automobile Collision in NC?

Most people don’t think much about their auto insurance until they need it. There’s a reason that personal injury attorneys exist. Sometimes, even with all the insurance, you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in order to receive fair compensation. Where does that compensation come from?

If you’re injured in an accident in North Carolina, there are generally four (4) types of automobile insurance coverages that may come into play. These four coverages are liability coverage, uninsured motorist coverage (UM), underinsured motorist coverage (UIM) and medical payments coverage. Both liability coverage and uninsured motorist coverage are mandatory coverages for all drivers under the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act. The others are optional.

What Is Liability Insurance and What Does It Do?

Liability Insurance covers your liability, or fault, in an automobile wreck as it relates to other parties’ bodily injury or property damage. Conversely, if you are the victim of a negligent driver, then their liability coverage covers any damages you may have which may include, but are not limited to medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering, as well as damage to your automobile.

In North Carolina, the law requires that the owner of a registered and operated motor vehicle must carry the following minimum amounts of insurance coverage: a minimum of $30,000 for bodily injury per person, $60,000 bodily injury per accident and $25,000 property damage.

In certain situations, when the injuries are serious, an injured party can collect liability coverage from multiple policies. The most common way this occurs is when the at-fault driver is driving someone else’s vehicle yet owns an insured vehicle himself. Under this scenario, the injured party can collect from the liability policy covering the at-fault vehicle actually involved in the wreck, and also from the liability policy of the at-fault driver’s own vehicle that was not involved assuming the total damages exceeded the coverage of the at-fault vehicle.

If We All Have Uninsured Motorist Coverage, There Are No Uninsured Motorists, Right?

Not quite. Uninsured Motorist Coverage (UM), as defined by North Carolina’s Department of Insurance, is coverage that “will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual.” It also provides property damage coverage.

Sadly, not all vehicles are insured. An uninsured vehicle may be a vehicle where the owner has failed to carry insurance on the vehicle in violation of State law. It can also be a stolen vehicle being driven by the perpetrator or any other person without expressed or implied consent by the owner to be operating the vehicle. An uninsured vehicle can also be a vehicle whereby the owner has purchased the requisite insurance policy, but for one of various reasons the insurance company has denied coverage for a particular loss.

An example of such a situation would be if there were a material misrepresentation made on an insurance application that the insurance company later finds out about, like the applicant representing the car being used by an accident-free 50 year old to go to and from work when the vehicle is really being used by his 16 year old son. That may cause the insurance carrier to deny coverage for a particular loss.

Finally, uninsured coverage may be necessary if you are the victim of a hit and run are not able to ascertain the identity of the perpetrator or whether the at-fault vehicle is insured. Please note, however, because of North Carolina’s “No Contact Rule” for uninsured accident claims, if the hit-and-run vehicle (phantom vehicle) does not make contact with your vehicle, uninsured motorist coverage will not apply. An example of this may be a phantom vehicle running a motorcycle or another vehicle off the road yet the vehicles never made contact.

When Enough Is Not Enough: Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UIM) is coverage, as defined by the North Carolina Department of insurance as coverage that “will provide protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not enough to cover the losses of the people the underinsured driver injured.” Unlike liability and uninsured motorist coverage, underinsured motorist coverage is optional. Therefore, you must inform your agent that you wish to purchase this additional coverage.

An underinsured motorist claimant can be a driver or passenger in the faultless vehicle. Both are considered insureds under that vehicle’s underinsured motorist coverage, so long as the UIM coverage in the faultless vehicle exceeds the available liability coverage(s) applicable to their at-fault vehicle(s). In other words, the coverage kicks in if there’s not enough insurance on the vehicle at-fault.

A common rule when analyzing insurance coverages is that “the insurance follows the vehicle.” In the context of underinsured motorist coverage (UIM), one can also present a UIM claim if that person is injured and has damages that exceed the liability coverage(s) available to the at-fault driver(s) and either owns a vehicle or resides with a family member (also known as “resident relative”) who owns a vehicle that carries UIM coverage that is greater than the available liability coverage(s). Sounds complicated, but it just means that, if you’re injured and the at-fault driver’s coverage isn’t enough, you may have a claim if you have UIM on your car or live with a family member who does.

A family member has been interpreted by our courts as “a person related to the [named insured] by blood, marriage or adoption who is a resident of the [named insured’s] household.” Resident has been interpreted by our courts to mean anything from “a place of abode for more than a temporary period of time” to “a permanent and established home.” Obviously, a child of a named insured would certainly be deemed as a relative resident.

What about a situation where the person seeking UIM coverage lives primarily with his mother who does not have UIM coverage on her car, but his father, who he lives with every other weekend or during the summer, does have this coverage on his vehicle? Or what about a college student who is off at college, yet she still comes home for breaks and during the summer? Is she deemed a “resident” of her parents’ home while away at college so as to fall under her parents’ UIM coverage?

Our courts have said yes to both of those scenarios, but there are often many other facts and circumstances that require an experienced personal injury lawyer. You also may be able to collect UIM coverage under multiple policies (referred to as “stacking”). An experienced personal injury attorney can also advise if this is applicable to your situation.

Bodily Injury: Medical Payments Coverage and How It Works

The final insurance coverage to be discussed in the context of an automobile wreck is Medical Payments Coverage or Med Pay. Med Pay coverage is an optional, first party coverage that can be purchased to cover your own vehicle. It reimburses you or a covered insured for reasonable and necessary medical expenses and funeral expenses resulting from a motor vehicle collision. It pays for any other injury on or about the vehicle covered under the policy, regardless of fault.

Determining whether someone is covered under the Med Pay coverage of a policy uses a very similar analysis to the UIM coverage discussed above in terms of 1) being in a covered vehicle, 2) whether you own a covered vehicle, or 3) whether you are a resident relative to someone who owns a covered vehicle. The limit to the coverage is determined by the amount of coverage purchased by the named insured.

The normal increments you will find for purchase are generally $1,000/$2000/$5,000/$10,000. Med Pay coverage can also be “stacked” under certain situations. That can be determined by speaking with an experienced personal injury lawyer. As Med Pay is not a fault-based coverage, you are entitled to coverage even if you were at fault.

Conversely, if you are the victim in an automobile wreck, you are entitled to have all of your damages covered by the at-fault driver’s liability coverage and you are also entitled to coverage under your Med Pay coverage, subject to certain limitations that can be explained to you by an experienced personal injury attorney.

If You’ve Been Injured in an Accident, Don’t Hesitate to Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney

Just because someone has a lot of insurance doesn’t mean the insurance company is simply going to pay the maximum benefit. They’re likely going to work to reduce what they pay, and that may not be enough to cover your injuries, medical bills, lost wages, pain, and suffering. Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

The Rules of the Road: How Failing to Maintain or Repair a Vehicle Can Spell Negligence in Court

We’ve all seen them. Those cars on the road that we look at and wonder, how is that thing still moving? How did it pass inspection? Who would drive a vehicle that’s in that condition? They’re idle thoughts, but there is a very real threat. A poorly maintained or malfunctioning vehicle is more prone to failure. Crashes follow.

Notice, I do not say accident. Any crash caused by a driver’s failure to maintain a vehicle or affect repairs to critical systems is not an accident – it’s a choice. And, if the court sees it that way, a negligent driver may be on the hook for thousands in damages or more.

The Basics: What North Carolina Law Requires in Regards to Vehicle Condition

As every driver in North Carolina knows, a vehicle has to pass a yearly safety inspection in order to have its registration renewed and be legal to operate. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but let’s focus on the vast majority of cars on the road that must pass inspection.

The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles requires the annual safety inspection to be completed no more than 90 days prior to the renewal of the vehicle’s registration. It’s a simple but thorough inspection by a licensed mechanic, who uses a checklist established by the state to ensure the vehicle is safe to operate. In addition to safety, 22 counties also require an emissions inspection at the same time.

The safety inspection covers:
* Lights and signals
* Braking systems
* Steering systems
* Tires
* Horn
* Mirrors
* Windshield wipers
* Exhaust system
* Window tint

If something does not pass the safety inspection, the driver will be notified and the vehicle will require repair or maintenance in order to pass the inspection and be registerable to drive.

Consequences on the Road – and in the Courtroom

People who drive vehicles with critical components in poor condition are asking for trouble, on the road and beyond. Operating a vehicle in such a way is negligent, and if that can be proven, insurance may not cover the damages incurred in an accident.

Bear in mind, an accident with property damage is bad enough. What if someone is injured or worse? These consequences rarely come to mind at the time, but they’re very real.

The case law is cautionary.

Lights Lights Lights

You have to have sufficient light on your vehicle for driving conditions. It’s not just so you can see the road – other drivers have to see you. Whether we’re talking headlights, tail lights, brake lights, or turn signals, make sure they’re all working.

The precedential case law comes from the 60s here. In White v. Mote, a town was sued because its employees failed to have lights on their work vehicle. Perhaps the court in Scarborough v. Ingram said it best: “The statutes prescribing lighting devices to be used by motor vehicles operating at night (G.S. §§ 20-129 and 129.1) were enacted in the interest of public safety. A violation of these statutes constitutes negligence as a matter of law.”

In other words, if you operate a vehicle without proper lighting equipment, you’re acting negligently. And in case you’re wondering, according to Bigelow v. Johnson, strapping a flashlight to a vehicle does not meet legal requirements.

Bad Tires Are a Bad Decision

Take for example the case of Scott v Clark. In this case, two pickup trucks were approaching each other on a highway. One of the trucks suffered a blowout of the front left tire, causing the driver to lose control, swerve into the oncoming lane, and strike the other truck killing its driver.

It was found that the driver of the truck that suffered the blowout was driving on a used mobile home tire on the left front corner of the vehicle. The tire was specifically labeled as such. Furthermore, it had only 15-20% of its tread remaining, and numerous holes. The tube inside the tire was satisfactory, but the tire was entirely unsafe. (This was in the 60s, and some automotive tires still used tubes at the time.)

The state requires tires to be in good condition. Check your tires every so often – not just yearly at the inspection!

Steering Away From Danger

It seems pretty simple to most people that if your vehicle has a steering issue, you should have it towed – not drive it. The law basically says the vehicle must be equipped so that a driver can safely operate it.

This should not be confused with a failure of the steering parts while in operation. The law does not expect us all to be mechanics. However, when we are aware of a problem with our steering mechanisms, we’re expected to cease operation of the vehicle and have the issue remedied.

So, if a state inspection finds that there are steering parts in need of replacement and you continue to operate the vehicle without doing so, you risk an accident and may be held liable for negligence!

Stopping Power

Brakes may be the most ignored part of vehicle safety systems. It’s not usually easy to tell when the brake pads, drums or rotors are worn. With lights and tires, a visual inspection is simple. Modern brakes will make noise when they’re at the end of their life, and changes in braking performance should alert drivers to the need for inspection.

If you knowingly operate, or allow to be operated, a vehicle with faulty brakes as in Wilcox v. Motors Co, the law will hold you negligent. Unexpected failures, such as the one in Mann v. Knight, are not negligent.

In Other Words…

Much of the case law that informs the idea of operator negligence in vehicles depends on what someone knowingly did. If you did not know or could not reasonably know of a defect, you cannot be held negligent. A vehicle inspection is a record of information.

Insurers and Negligently Poor Vehicle Condition

Let’s start with this: Because the other driver can always argue that they were not on notice of the poor condition of the vehicle, insurers usually have a basis to fight negligence in these cases.

Of course, every North Carolina driver is required to have some form of car insurance. The driver at fault usually bears the brunt of the claims – through the insurance company that’s covering them. If a driver is proven to be negligent by operating an unsafe vehicle, the insurance company is going to fight hard to avoid paying claims.

This is because most of the insurance policies, if you bother to read them, are agreements on both sides. The insurance company agrees to cover the driver, but the driver agrees to be responsible for how they conduct the task of driving, and that includes the condition of the vehicle.

For example, let’s say a driver knows his car has a problem that reduces its safety on the road – in this example, let’s say his vehicle inspection revealed a leak in his brake lines. He chooses to drive the car in that condition for the next few weeks, never quite finding the time to have it repaired. Then, he rear-ends someone during a commute, totaling both vehicles and injuring the other driver. His insurance company could very well fight any payout because he was driving the car knowing the brakes were bad, and surmising that the rear-end collision was the result of ineffective braking equipment.

This could cost the driver tens of thousands of dollars. First, the other driver’s insurance company isn’t going to want to pay for their insured’s medical bills or car. The faulted driver’s insurance isn’t either. He could be left holding the bag. He’ll surely be sued for those damages. The uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage on the victim’s policy may engage, but it may be well short of the amount necessary to make the victim whole. The rest is coming from the faulted driver’s pocket.

Makes a few hundred dollars’ worth of repairs seem like a real deal, doesn’t it?

If You’ve Been Hurt in a Crash That Was Not Your Fault, We’re Here to Help

Being injured in accident means you’re in pain, adds stress, and may make it difficult to work and earn a living. At the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin, we understand. Let us handle your case so you can focus on getting better. For a free case evaluation, call us at 1-866-900-7078 or click here.

COVID-19 Reduces Traffic, Increases Speeding – and Risk

Even though fewer drivers are on the roads during the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement agencies in some areas are seeing an alarming trend. Minnesota and Louisiana have recorded more traffic deaths during the coronavirus outbreak than for the same period in past years despite the reduced amount of traffic.

What’s driving the increase in traffic fatalities, even though the roads are clearer? In a word: speed.

Speeding: The Epidemic Within a Pandemic

When drivers see clear sailing, they seem to be putting the pedal down all across the country. Reports of increased speeding, higher average speed on roads, and increased rate of fatalities in accidents are not hard to come by.

  • In Pasco, Washington, police are noting speeders going 15 – 30 mph over the limit. The department even posted a warning on its social media page against street racing.
  • The Colorado State Patrol issued more citations for 20+ mph over and 40+ mph over the speed limit through March 2020 than it did in March 2019, despite reduced traffic volume.
  • For the one-month period starting on March 19 when California’s stay-at-home order was put in place, the California Highway Patrol reports it has issued 87% more citations for drivers exceeding 100mph than it did for the same period a year ago -2,493 statewide versus 1,335 a year ago – despite a 35% reduction in traffic volume (or perhaps because of it).
  • Police in Fairfax County, Virginia have cited drivers going 125mph and faster, and report that speed-related traffic fatalities have risen 47% since March 13, 2020.
  • In Connecticut, the number of drivers traveling 80 mph or greater has doubled overall – and in areas increased as much as eightfold. Meanwhile overall traffic volume has declined by half over the previous two-year average on certain major roads. The number of drivers traveling at 80 mph or more on those same roads has increased 94% over the previous two year average.
  • In response to a 30% increase in average speed for its drivers, Los Angeles modified its traffic signal programming to slow them down.
  • In Washington, D.C., a longtime traffic reporter saw two separate crashes requiring Medevac on the same stretch of I-270 within six hours of each other, with one car vaulting the median and landing in a tree. He said it was the first time in his decade of reporting that two such serious accidents happened on the same day, much less the same stretch of road.
  • In New York, automated speed cameras issued 24,765 speeding tickets on March 27, almost twice as many as the daily average a month before despite there being fewer cars on the road.

There are similar reports from nearly every tier of law enforcement nationwide. People are taking advantage of reduced congestion to increase their speed, sometimes to a ridiculous extent. A driver in Michigan was cited for doing 180 mph – a record for the state.

The Higher the Speed, the Bigger the Hurt

When most people speed their biggest worry, if there is one, is getting a speeding ticket. The fine and the possible effect on their insurance rates are the only things they seem concerned about, and those can be significant financial penalties. However, speed has another effect. It increases the likelihood of serious injuries or fatalities. Consider:

  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), an increase in average speed of just 1 kph – not even a single mile per hour – typically results in a 3% greater likelihood of a crash involving injury, and a 4-5% increase in the chance of a fatality.
  • The Institute for Road Safety Research has calculated that, if the average speed on a road decreased from 120 kph (74.5 mph) to 119 kph (73.9 mph), car accident fatalities could be reduced by 3.8% and serious road injuries could fall by 2.9%.
  • A University of Adelaide (Australia) study showed that the risk of an accident with serious injury doubled with every 5 kph a car was traveling above 60 kph. That’s every 3 mph over 37 mph for us here in the United States.

Where the Laws of Traffic and Physics Collide

If I told you that you were twice as likely to lose a limb for every 3 mph over 37 mph you traveled, would you slow down? I understand that’s a grisly and drastic example. Posted speed limits are there because the government considers those speeds reasonably safe to maintain, so let’s substitute the posted speed limit for 37 mph. So, if your risk of losing an arm or a leg doubled for every 3mph you were traveling over the speed limit, would you still be speeding?

Obviously not every car wreck results in a serious injury such as the loss of a limb, but the potential is there and the risk increases exponentially the faster you travel. Why? That’s simple: physics.

I won’t post a bunch of formulas here, but understand that you and your car, traveling at a certain speed, carry with you a certain amount of kinetic energy – the energy of motion. If your car were to suddenly stop traveling at that rate of speed, in an accident for example, that energy doesn’t just disappear. You can read up on the Law of Conservation of Energy here if you like. The point is, that kinetic energy doesn’t disappear; it has to be converted into some other form of energy.

Kinetic energy in a car accident is exerted/dissipated/dispersed in two ways. Because every action has an equal and opposite reaction, some of that kinetic injury doesn’t convert, it just goes the opposite direction. The car may be stopping in a hurry but you’re not part of the car so you keep traveling until you hit something -- hopefully a seat belt or an airbag. Those safety devices are designed to take on the “equal and opposite reaction” that would force you to absorb all of that kinetic energy from the crash.

The other way kinetic energy is dispersed is into potential energy. Energy can be stored in matter. Think of a spring. If you compress it, you’re turning your force on it into potential energy that’s released when it rebounds. This is basically what crumple zones in cars are. They’re kinetic energy sinks that transform the force of a crash into potential energy. They work extraordinarily well but they have a limit, and once that limit is reached you and other people become those crumple zones. Our bodies aren’t designed to do that, and that’s why serious injuries or deaths occur.

Slow Down, Stay Safe, and if Someone Causes an Accident and You’re Injured, Call Us

The temptation to floor it on the newly-clear roads is a trap. Not just a speed trap, it could be a death trap. Stick with the posted limits. Put away your distractions, and concentrate on getting where you’re going safely.

We can’t protect you on the road, but if some reckless soul does cause a wreck and you or someone you love is injured, contact an experienced personal injury attorney to protect your rights. Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin online or by calling 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. And drive safely!

The Case Against Distracted Driving: Facts, Statistics, and the Law

Numbers don’t lie – distracted driving increases the risk of accidents. Numerous studies have been conducted. So how much does the chance for an accident increase when drivers are distracted? How many people are using phones or otherwise distracted while driving? Is there a law against cell phone use while driving?

To spread the word during Distracted Driving Awareness Month and help answer those questions, we’ve compiled data from many different resources into easy-to-understand facts, and we’re presenting them as shareable graphics. Feel free to grab them and use them on social media or for presentations. Show them to your friends. The risk of being in an accident caused by a distracted driver is very, very real.

As experienced personal injury attorneys with many years working car accident injury cases, we mean business when we say: don’t drive distracted.

Beware iPhone Users

A survey of mobile device users by The Zebra revealed some stunning differences between respondents who used different mobile operating systems.



Cell Phones, Driving, and the Law Across the U.S.

As of 10/2019, 20 states and the District of Columbia banned handheld devices while driving, while 48 states plus D.C. have banned texting while driving with Montana having no ban, and Missouri having only a partial one. And 38 states, plus D.C., have enacted blanket bans on cell phone use while driving for younger drivers, though how they classify those drivers differs by state.

Police Aren’t Always Capturing the Real Cause of Distracted Driving Accidents

According to the National Safety Council, no state fully captures the data required to understand what actually causes crashes to enable safety organizations to effectively address the problem.

The crash reports used by police are plainly lacking. Here are some critical data points and the number of states which fail to track them on their accident reports:

The Gender Gap in Distracted Driving

According to data gathered in 2015, there are some interesting gaps in behavior regarding distracted driving between men and women:

Along for the Ride: How Passengers Say They Feel About Distracted Drivers

Driving while distracted is bad enough. Being a passenger and having your well-being in the hands of someone more interested in a text than the road? Most people aren’t having it:

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  .

Are Self-Driving Features Making the Roads More Dangerous?

Driver aids have been around for a long time. Designed to make the task of driving easier, automakers have steadily introduced convenience features with various levels of success. The feature we all know as “cruise control” was invented in the 1940s, and appeared first in Chrysler automobiles in 1958.  By 1960, it was standard equipment in all Cadillacs.

Fast forward to the modern era and you’ll find more robust versions of that original speed control system. Radar-guided cruise control is available in many cars, allowing the driver to set the desired speed, and to choose a “following distance” – the distance they want the system to maintain between their car and the car ahead. Automatic braking, lane departure warnings, and all manner of computer-controlled equipment combine to make driving easier and safer.

The Rise of Semi-Autonomy: “No, We Aren’t There Yet”

It’s only natural that these exponential advances in automobile technology have led to the idea of autonomous driving. According to techopedia.com, an autonomous car is a car that can guide itself without human conduction. Here’s the issue: as of December 2019, no such cars are available for purchase. Massive amounts of money are being invested in the technology by companies like Alphabet and its Waymo unit, Apple, GM, and Tesla, but true autonomous driving is not available.

Simply put, we’re not there. Yet.

That does not keep companies from adding semi-autonomous features to road-going products. General Motors offers SuperCruise in its Cadillac products, and Tesla offers the Autopilot system in all of its cars that are ordered online. Semi-autonomy, however, comes in forms as different as its makers – with surprising results.

The Many Roads to Autonomy, and the Dangers Along the Way

The different companies offering semi-autonomous features arrive at their results in very different ways. This leads to confusion about which systems do what. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has defined its own . Emerging technology often has competing definitions as companies seek to brand their semi-autonomous driving systems, and the methods for evaluating the technologies are in development as well. This lack of clarity becomes a safety issue at times.

The easiest example to cite is that of Tesla’s “Autopilot” system, though they are not alone when it comes to safety issues, confusing terminology or accidents involving their products.

Tesla and Autopilot – Problems by Design?

Tesla is as much a technology firm as an automaker, and as such, they collect and use massive amounts of data. The company tracks their cars and releases a quarterly vehicle safety report, which contains data on accidents involving their vehicles. Specifically, it covers accidents involving their Autopilot system. In Q3 of 2019, the company registered one accident for every 4.34 million miles of driving with Autopilot engaged, versus one accident for every 2.7 million miles without it. Both numbers include the other active safety features of the cars in use.

In this case, the numbers are impressive, but may hide a problem. It starts with how the Autopilot requires driver input, how it differs from other systems on the market, and how the company markets it.

Driver Involvement

Tesla specifically instructs drivers to maintain control of their vehicles, even when autopilot is engaged. The company uses steering wheel input to monitor driver engagement, not simply contact with the steering wheel, as is widely reported. That system, however, is more simplistic than competitors who use cameras to monitor drivers’ eyes and focus.

Road-Sensing Systems

Tesla relies on radar and a camera to sense road conditions. Other makers, including Ford, Waymo and others, use something called LIDAR. The difference in sensors is significant. Tesla’s system uses radar, the camera, and computer software to detect hazards. A road sign and a guard rail require different responses than a car in the lane ahead. But radar can be fooled, as has apparently happened in crashes over the last few years in Connecticut and Florida. In these and other cases, the system has failed to react to other vehicles blocking the road. And, in the Connecticut case, the driver was not even watching the road, but had turned to attend to a dog in the back seat. Also worth noting is that Tesla uses a single forward-facing camera. Stereo cameras would have detected the difference in at least one case, and have been tested to be nearly as accurate as the more expensive LIDAR sensors by researchers at Cornell University for much lower cost.

Marketing

Tesla does seem to contradict itself in how it markets its system versus how it instructs users to behave with it. On one hand, the system is actually called “Autopilot,” which implies that the piloting of the vehicle is automatic, and Tesla claims the vehicles have all the equipment necessary for future autonomous driving. Tesla founder Elon Musk even famously misused the system in a demonstration, and people may be more apt to copy the man who owns the company than to read pages of instructions. On the other hand, the company makes a point of explaining that the system requires driver attention. Even so, there are many owners who have thought up “hacks” to defeat the monitoring method that the car uses to prompt them to pay attention.

When It All Goes Wrong

Even with millions of miles of pre-market testing, the real world with real owners is a different animal for autonomous driving systems. How a company claims a product works may not be accurate to how users employ it, and even the most tested technology is sometimes flawed.

If you or someone you love is involved in an accident with a vehicle with autonomous driving features, here are some things to note.

  • If you are driving, your behavior behind the wheel is still your responsibility. These vehicles are packed with sensors. By definition, the car is watching you. Regardless of what you see online or how much confidence the system instills, use these systems in accordance with the owners’ manual. If an accident still occurs, you want to eliminate yourself as a possible cause, and therefore, a source of liability.
  • If you are a passenger, make sure to use all of the safety features available to you. If the driver wants to show you the autonomous driving features, ask that they be employed responsibly. Preventing a dangerous situation is preferable to a lawsuit or a life-changing injury.
  • If you are struck by an autonomous vehicle, try to record the conditions that led up to the accident. It may be important later on for your potential claims, depending on how the vehicle behaved during the accident.
  • If you are injured, regardless of your role, it may be wise to seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney as soon as you’re able. Because of the sense of confidence these autonomous driving systems create, it is easy for drivers to become careless.

Seek Representation From an Experienced 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 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 big cases.

Taking Your Aging Mom’s Car Keys: How to Steer the Conversation

An auto accident dumps enough problems on your life. But, if you are a senior citizen, its complexity grows when an accident triggers the dreaded question: Should you even be driving at your age?

And further, what determines whether you should or should not drive and who makes that determination?

What Determines if Your Aging Loved One Should Drive

According to experts, reports U.S. News & World Report, whether or not a senior citizen should continue driving should be determined by function – not necessarily age. Nuance can creep into these decisions.

For example, a senior’s personal decision to stop driving at night may be praiseworthy, but may also be a sign for concern. Or perhaps they’re not venturing out onto I-277 near downtown Charlotte during peak times when there are events at Bank of America Stadium, NASCAR Hall of Fame, or Spectrum Center. Or perhaps you notice that they begin to avoid certain busy and dangerous intersections like the following, which are rated the most dangerous in Charlotte:

  • Reagan Drive at Tom Hunter Road
  • John Kirk Drive at University City Boulevard
  • North Tryon Street at University Pointe Boulevard
  • East W.T. Harris Boulevard at North Tryon Street

The U.S. News article noted that doctors consider three areas that impact seniors’ driving abilities: vision, mobility, and thinking or cognition. Observing driving habits can help determine whether your aging loved one should consider giving up their driver’s license. Confusing the gas pedal for the brake is serious, for example, but riding the brake is perhaps less serious.

Perhaps you notice them driving too fast or too slow, struggling to change lanes. Their reaction time may be slower and they don’t seem to follow signals as they should. Hearing loss can cause some seniors to miss hearing horns and other sounds.

NC DMV Guidelines for Aging Drivers

The DMV will also help you determine whether your loved one may need to consider curbing their driving partially or fully. Remember that the process of aging impacts everyone differently and every state has its own rules. In North Carolina, licenses issued to adults 66 and older are valid for five years, according to the NC Department of Motor Vehicles.

In addition, the North Carolina DMV might not license an individual who suffers from a mental or physical condition that could keep them from driving safely. A person with a disability might be issued a restricted license, provided the condition does not keep them from driving safely.

If a DMV evaluation is needed, it can be recommended by a family member, police officer, or emergency medical technician. An authorized DMV officer would conduct the examination, which would include an interview and perhaps vision, written, and driving tests.

How to Talk With Your Mom or Dad About Giving Up Their License

As you consider whether your aging loved one should stop driving, think of how important your own independence is. But also keep in mind the safety of your loved one and that of others. It’s a tough decision.

To help dispel any defensive reaction, begin this conversation well before issues arise. Make it a casual conversation and use empathy and tact. Perhaps use the weather to slide into such a discussion by noting that heavy rain can be a bad time for driving – for anyone, not just seniors.

Have a plan in mind that includes perhaps keeping the senior behind the wheel but in a limited capacity like driving only during the day and only to familiar places. Engage a local senior center or council on aging. These facilities are typically equipped to help with rides and to help caregivers deal with the question of whether seniors should stop driving.

Also important is for family members, friends, and caregivers to remember that a senior’s ceasing to drive could result in additional responsibilities for them, like providing rides for the senior and spending more time with them. Help set up these alternatives for them.

Click here for more ways to try to help your loved one keep their freedom and independence even without their car.

To find transportation services in your area call 1-800-677-1116 or click on the links below to visit:

NC Car Wreck Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation

We are lawyers, but we are also sons and daughters of aging parents too. If your aging loved one has been injured in a car crash that is not their fault, contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. We’ll try to see to it that your loved one gets the maximum compensation they are potentially entitled to.

Deadly Cars in the Triangle: Which Car Models Should You Stay Away From?

Whether you’re buying used or brand new, purchasing a car can be an exciting time. Although, with so many makes and models to choose from, car shopping can often get overwhelming. In the midst of your confusion and stress about car buying, a car salesman swoops in and offers you an amazing deal. You don’t know much about the car, but they’ve “talked to their manager” about giving you a lower price, and now the price is right where you want it.

Convenient, right?

Before you sign on the dotted line, it is important to know which makes and models have a pattern of driver/passenger fatality in a collision, especially in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Research Triangle area. The car’s aesthetic and the latest electronics aren’t worth much if the car itself can’t save your and your passengers’ lives.

The Triangle’s Deadliest Vehicles

According to a study conducted by iSeeCars, an independent automotive research firm, occupant fatalities from collisions occurs at a higher rate in some vehicles than others.  In the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill Triangle, the top 5 cars with the highest occupant fatality rates are as follows:

  1. Nissan Versa
  2. Hyundai Accent
  3. Jeep Wrangler
  4. Ford Fiesta
  5. Ford Mustang

A majority of the cars that made the list are smaller cars. The CEO of iSeeCars inferred from the results that even with advancements in technology and safety, subcompact and sports cars still lack sufficient safety features. Additionally, subcompact cars perform at a below-average rate in crash safety tests. The only SUV that made the list, the Jeep Wrangler, is notorious for being an unsafe car. The Ford Mustang, a sports car, also made the list of deadliest cars.

In North Carolina, the Ford Mustang has the highest occupant fatality rate.

The Deadliest Cars in America

Across the U.S., the cars with the highest fatality rates per billion vehicle miles are:

The average fatality rate per billion vehicle miles was 2.6, and in comparing just metropolitan areas around the U.S., the Chevrolet Spark has the highest fatality rate amongst all makes and models included in the study.

Methodology Behind the Vehicle Fatality Study

According to iSeeCars, in order for them to get to the numbers behind the deadliest cars in America, they used the following method of research and analysis:

“The results above came from a study of data from the US Department of Transportation’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System as well as iSeeCars unique data. Only cars from 2013–2017 model years in crashes that resulted in occupant fatalities between 2012–2017 were included in the analysis. To adjust for exposure, the number of cars involved in a fatal crash were normalized by the total number of vehicle miles driven, which was estimated from iSeeCars’ data of over 25 million used car sales from model years 2013-2017 sold in 2013-2017. Heavy-duty trucks and vans, models not in production as of the 2019 model year or since the 2013/2014 model year, low-volume models, and models with fewer than 20 crashes with occupant fatalities were removed from further analysis.”

If you are interested in seeing the full report, please click here.

3 Quick Tips Before Buying a Car

Research:

When looking to buy a car, whether new or used, it’s imperative to thoroughly conduct research. One simple Google search will return websites and funded research, like iSeeCars, the NHTSA’s recalls page, Consumer Reports, and the Kelley Blue Book – among many, many others – which should help guide you to the best choice. Additionally, reading consumer reviews can make all the difference. Other consumers have valuable, honest information that car salesmen likely will not tell you.

Test Drive:

You should always test drive the car. Every car drives and handles differently. It is important that you purchase a car that you feel comfortable operating.  Pay special attention to things such as the car’s blind spots that may hinder your driving ability.

Second Opinion:

When buying a used car, it is important to take the car to a trusted mechanic. A mechanic will be able to look in closer detail at the car to make sure that nothing is out of place. Taking this extra precaution may save you from buying an unsafe car that could possibly result in an accident.

How the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Can Help

A collision can change your life in the blink of an eye. If you or a loved one has been injured in a collision, we can help take the stress and weight off your shoulders. Contact us or call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin’s 24/7 team at 1-866-900-7078.

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

301 S McDowell St, Suite 900
Charlotte, NC 28204
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