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Is Lane Splitting Dangerous?

A new California bill that defines and regulates lane splitting in the state has prompted other states, including North Carolina, to consider renewing attention to this debate.

Lane splitting – aka lane sharing or white-lining – is when a motorcyclist or scooter cuts between lanes of slower-moving traffic, or pulls in front of stopped traffic at a red light.

It is currently illegal to split lanes in North Carolina and in every other state except California. If you have ever driven on the Hollywood Freeway in Los Angeles or the Oakland Bridge in San Francisco, you can at least understand why California allows lane splitting. Nothing moves because these and many other California roadways are often idling bumper to bumper. Sitting on a hot bike in bumper-to-bumper traffic can be a miserable experience.

Lane splitting is deemed by some to be safe, if done by experienced and safety-minded motorcyclists. Others disagree, insisting that there is too much potential for catastrophe.

When Andy W. was in a motorcycle wreck he learned the hard way that the insurance company was not on his side. Click here to read what led Andy to us, and to a settlement* he was very happy with.

Pros and Cons of Lane Splitting

A 2015 study by the University of California Berkeley found that the risks of lane splitting can be somewhat mitigated under certain circumstances. For example, the study found that splitting is safest at 50 mph and under and also if motorcyclists traveled at a speed difference no greater than 15 mph than surrounding traffic.

Advocates point out that lane-splitting can help prevent motorcycles from becoming a stationary target in the event of an accident, particularly rear end accidents. California does have slightly fewer fatalities from rear-end collisions per registered motorcycle than other states, although there is no research to support why.

Some say lane splitting can be good for drivers, too, because it can help to reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions from idling in traffic.

Opponents, on the other hand, make some worthwhile points about the potential dangers inherent in this practice – most of these dangers originating from other drivers.

  • Unexpected doors opening
  • Sudden lane changes from other vehicles
  • Vision impairment around large trucks
  • Collisions with turning vehicles
  • Too high of speed differentials when splitting lanes.

There’s one caveat to the Berkeley study that opponents emphasize. It found that of the motorcyclists involved in nearly 6,000 collisions in California, 17% had been lane splitting.

Consequences of Lane Splitting in North Carolina

The motorcycle accident rate nationally is significant when compared to cars — motorcyclists are 29 times more likely to be killed in a wreck, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Still, the California bill, in combination with the potential benefits of easing traffic congestion, has made lawmakers in other states, including ours, open to considering this practice.

One of the primary challenges of legalizing lane splitting in North Carolina is that drivers may not be prepared for the change. This could lead to an upsurge of motorcycle accidents, which could result in even more injuries and fatalities – at least initially.

There are legitimate arguments for and against this practice. On a personal note, about the only time I could see myself even considering lane splitting would be if traffic were at a complete standstill. Regardless of where you fall in this discussion, I hope you have safe and enjoyable ride!

What are your thoughts about lane splitting? Tell us on Facebook.

Get a Free Consultation From North Carolina Motorcycle Injury Lawyers

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

 

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

Get More from Insurance. Ask for Diminished Value for Your Wrecked Car

One of the benefits of being a plaintiff’s attorney is that I am able to advocate for the “little guy” against Big Insurance and Big Corporations. It’s quite humbling and rewarding to know I can help empower others to stand up to “the powers that be” to try to get what they may be potentially owed.

So in the interest of empowering the general public, I’d like to go on record to out a widespread tactic that some insurance companies use that prevents their claimants from recovering millions of dollars a year.

Non reimbursement for diminished value claims.

What Is a Diminished Value Claim?

Have you ever heard of a diminished value claim? I didn’t think so. That’s what some insurance companies may bank on. And they likely won’t bring it up to you. (That’s more money they get to keep, you see.) It is one of the insurance company’s dirty little secrets and it can be a real money maker for them – millions of dollars a year.

Diminished value claims allow you to recover the difference between the car’s pre-accident value and the value of the car after it has been repaired. Let’s say, for example, a car that has never been in a wreck may be worth $20,000 at resale, but worth thousands less if it had been in a car wreck and repaired. The difference in those two amounts would be the diminished value claim.

Although you pay for diminished value through your insurance premiums, the insurance company may not necessarily pay you for it after an accident. We have had clients come to us who have asked their insurance company to pay them diminished value, but were low-balled on the amount. They had to get us involved to try to recover what they were potentially rightfully owed – something they had paid for year after year in their premiums.

This is money the insurance companies often keep – money that might be yours!

ABC11 Talks to Hoyt Tessener About Diminished Value Claims

Senior Litigation Attorney, Hoyt Tessener, was featured in a news report on ABC11 about diminished value claims after a car crash. Click here to view Hoyt’s interview with ABC11.

As car wreck attorneys we see this money being left on the table A LOT. We almost always have to ask for diminished value reimbursement when demanding recovery for damages. If we take your NC car wreck injury case, we will evaluate whether you may have a diminished value claim. If so, we will negotiate with the insurance company to try to get them to pay for all the damages you are potentially due by law.

We think it is important for people to know that they may be entitled to diminished value payment if their vehicle has been wrecked due to an accident that was not their fault. (Diminished value claims are void if the accident was your fault.)

Get a Free Case Evaluation From NC Car Wreck Lawyers

If you have been injured in an NC auto crash and we accept your personal injury claim, we will try to determine if you may have a diminished value claim as well. Contact us, or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

PS… Click here for another relatively unknown secret some insurance companies may not admit to. This secret could put your life in jeopardy or potentially leave you liable for another person’s injuries.

Eating While Driving Increases Crash Probability 80%

Next time you pass someone on the road who is texting while driving, don’t be so quick to judge. At least, not if you have ever eaten a burger or sipped a soda while you were driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) claims that eating is more distracting while driving than using a cell phone to text or talk.

But… you justify to yourself. This goes against every soccer mom’s weekly routine. Every morning rush-hour commuter. Every family road trip. Every tired trucker.

Every American.

Eating on the go has become as American as apple pie. Thanks to the drive-thru, eating in our cars has become commonplace – routine, even. It is woven into the frenzied fabric of our everyday lives so intricately that we don’t think twice about it, let alone consider it a “distraction.” Yet many of us have never stopped to consider if we may be putting others (or ourselves and our passengers) in harm’s way as we careen down the I-40 in a minivan full of little sluggers, while we force down yet another McNugget.

How Bad Is Eating Behind the Wheel?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that eating and driving increases the likelihood of crashes by 80%. And a mindboggling 65% of near-miss crashes are caused by distracted drivers who are eating or drinking.

Yet eating on the go in our cars is pervasive. The fast-food drive-thru is so ingrained in American culture there’s even a national holiday celebrating it. July 24th every year. Here are some startling facts:

  • Over 40% of Americans visit a fast food restaurant every week and 20% visit twice a week.
  • There are over 160,000 fast food restaurants in the U.S.
  • These fast food restaurants serve roughly 50 million Americans every day and bring in $100 billion in annual revenues.
  • A Stanford University study says that over 20% of American’s meals are eaten in the car.

Why Eating Behind the Wheel Is So Distracting

There are a whole lot of reasons why eating and driving is so dangerous. One major reason is that when you eat behind the wheel you are multitasking big time. Click here for some surprising insight into just how little it takes for us to become unfocused while multitasking. (Spoiler alert. You’re not as good at it as you thought you were.)

Two Hands

Eating and driving almost always leads to driving without both hands on the steering wheel.  Drivers must unwrap fast food items, apply sauce packets and condiments, clean up spills and crumbs, throw away trash, and more – all while trying to steer the car.

Even if you bring your own food to eat in the car, you are most likely handling lunch boxes with zippers that get stuck or Tupperware with lids that won’t open. Your hands are busy. But not busy doing what they should be doing, which is driving.

Eyes Off the Road

If your hands are off the wheel when you’re eating, your eyes probably are too. What happens when a pickle falls off your burger? Our eyes (and hands) are trying to find that pickle instead of trying to stay on our side of the road. And chances are your mind is not on your driving at all at this point. It is on that pickle.

With your eyes off the road, you most likely will not notice changes in road patterns or road conditions, road signs and warning signs, or even other drivers who may be trying to find their own pickle while driving.

Slower Reaction Times

With your hands, eyes, and mind off the road your reaction time will naturally be much slower. This contributes to the potential for collisions as drivers cannot always react in time to make the necessary maneuvers to avoid car accidents.

One university study found that drivers’ reaction times when eating dropped by over 40% compared to their non-distracted counterparts.

Distracted driving, which includes eating while driving, also slowed down younger drivers’ reaction times to that of a 70-year-old.

Passengers With Food

We know that having rambunctious or loud passengers can result in distractions. But we don’t often think about how passengers who are eating can affect our ability to focus. Driving-Tests.org states:

“A backseat full of friends chowing down on burgers and fries can be just as distracting as enjoying some drive-thru fare yourself. The smells and sounds of passengers eating while you are attempting to concentrate on the important task of driving, not to mention offers of fries and ‘bites,’ can tempt you to turn around and take your eyes off the road.”

Car Clutter and Food Wrappers

Every time you pick up fast-food, you are left with a pile of paper bags, napkins, empty cups, straw wrappers, and more. Oftentimes, this trash is tossed to the floorboard to be picked up “later.” “Later” typically takes a while to come around, and slowly, the food wrappers and trash on your floorboards can create a hazardous cluttered environment. Have you ever had a water bottle roll around your car? That bottle could easily get caught between your brake pedal and the floorboard.

According to one insurance company:

  • Loose objects can fly through the air if you have to stop suddenly – creating 20X the punch they normally would, and this punch can cause injuries to you and your passengers.
  • Loose objects rolling around your car can be distracting all by themselves. Garbage from food or drink can pose health hazards, becoming home to nasty bacteria that generally increase in hot weather. This can lead to multiple health problems, including E.coli.

Even an odor (rotting food and trash) or sight (trash piling up and making your car an eyesore) can be distracting and take your mind and eyes off the road.

Tips to Try to Avoid Eating and Driving

Treating your vehicle like a dining room is asking for more than just a big mess. Here are some tips to avoid the mess – and the potential mess of dealing with car crash.

Eat Before You Leave

Wake up a few minutes earlier and eat your granola bar before getting in your car and heading to work. It may be slightly less convenient, but I can guarantee you it is way more convenient than dealing with a car wreck.

Make Your Car a Snack-Free Zone

Keep snacks like granola bars or fruit snacks out of your car. Some people keep snack foods in the glove compartment or center console. But if you don’t have food there, you won’t be tempted to eat it in a non-emergency setting like when you’re driving.

Eat in the Parking Lot or the Restaurant

Eating in a parking lot or in the restaurant – or even pulling off the road to eat a snack – could save a life (even yours) by keeping you focused on your driving.

The 10 Worst Foods to Eat Behind the Wheel

If you absolutely have to eat behind the wheel, try to make the situation less distracting by using more accessible containers, keeping your trash in check, and avoiding certain messy foods. Here’s a list of the 10 worst foods to eat while driving, as reported by Drive-safely.net.

Chocolate – It may not be as bad as other foods because it isn’t something you can spill. But chocolate can leave stains and fingerprints which tempt us to clean them up, which is another major distraction when driving.

Soda – Any drinks can be distracting because you risk a real mess if you spill. Soda, because of its sticky nature, may be one you want to avoid, especially opening the can. We’ve all gotten sprayed with Sprite or Diet Coke, and it is not something that we want to happen in our car.

Donuts – Jelly, cream-filled, or powered donuts can lead to a messy end-result. Use that willpower and resist the Krispy Kreme drive-thru on your next road trip.

Fried Chicken – Fried chicken is greasy. A driver eating it is likely going to be cleaning their fingers or trying to wipe grease off the steering wheel. Consider eating your KFC inside or in the parking lot before pulling back onto the interstate.

Barbecue – Like fried chicken, barbecue is extremely messy with its hot, dripping sauces. Getting it all over your hands, car, or clothing can be a major distraction.

Hamburgers – Hamburgers are hard to resist on a road trip. But burgers have many parts – pickles, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon – all of which can slide out of the bun and make a mess in your car. And no one wants ketchup on their Calvins.

Chili – Hot chili on your clothes, hands, and car can not only be distracting, but it can be painful. Don’t let yourself get burned or distracted by eating chili. A few years ago, a driver of a Metro bus in Cincinnati hit two pedestrians because he was looking down to throw away his cup of chili. One was killed, the other was injured.

Tacos – Tacos are hard enough to eat when you’re not driving. The mess will likely create an even bigger mess in your car. A driver crashed into two parked cars and flipped his own car onto its roof because he was eating a taco and brushing crumbs off his lap thus causing the collision.

Soups – Eating hot soup in your car is a bad idea. Period. It’s easy to spill, a mess to clean up, and depending on how hot it is, dangerous if you spill it on yourself.

Coffee – Who doesn’t drink coffee in their car? Everyone needs a pick-me-up from Starbucks or McCafe, but hot coffee can burn your mouth or your hands, which can certainly take your focus off the road.

A couple more things to keep in mind:

  • Most food-related car crashes happen in the morning during the rush to work. One driver was eating breakfast while driving 50 mph through an area already occupied by first responders. His breakfast distraction caused a second collision.
  • A car with a manual transmission doubles the chances of a distracted driving accident due to eating.

Are You Breaking the Law if You Eat and Drive?

No. In the United States, eating while driving is not prohibited by law. However, most distracted driving laws are interpretable, making it a very gray area.

One police officer put it this way, “Would I pull someone over if they have some French fries in their hands? No. But if someone is eating a sub, swerving all over the road? For sure. And I have."

Importantly, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, meaning you may be barred from compensation if you were in any way negligent in contributing to the accident.

For example, if you were in a car accident and it was found that eating or drinking contributed, you would likely be considered negligent and could potentially be denied compensation. Even worse, you could face legal action.

So, is eating and driving illegal? No, but it is certainly unsafe and you could potentially be held liable if you contributed to an accident even a little.

Now You Know – So What?

First, don’t be a distracted driver – of any kind. Try to find ways to avoid eating behind the wheel. It’s not as hard as you think. It could be as simple as setting your alarm five minutes earlier in the morning. It may not be convenient to you at first, but it could save your life or someone else’s.

Second, be a conscientious passenger. Help the driver keep his or her eyes on the road, even if food is involved.

And finally, encourage others not to eat behind the wheel. Approximately nine people are killed and 1,000 are injured every single day in the U.S. because of some form of distracted driving. Almost all of these tragedies are preventable.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

Far too many people are injured because of distracted drivers – including those eating while driving. If you or someone you know was injured by a distracted driver, please contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation. We are here for you 24/7.

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 throughout N.C. and the United States. Students are taught by former race car drivers, policemen, and other professional drivers.

If You’re Just 1% at Fault for Injuries, Insurance May Give You Nothing. What You Can Do.

North Carolina is one of the few states left known as a contributory negligence state. In insurance terms, that means that, aside from a few exceptions, if you are at fault for an accident or injury – even partially at fault – they may not have to compensate you for your injuries or damages. And you may even have to pay for damages caused from the accident or injury. So be careful what you say to your insurance adjuster as you may accidentally give yourself contributory negligence without realizing it.

What Does Contributory Negligence Mean?

Contributory negligence means you were partially at fault for the accident. How much is partially at fault? Even as little as 1% at fault could mean you get nothing in North Carolina. Some insurance companies have a field day with this outdated (and one-sided) law and that is one of the first things they may try to prove in an effort to try to avoid paying you damages.

You need to know something about contributory negligence. But I’m going to warn you. You’re not going to like it.

You probably engage in contributory negligence almost every day without realizing it.

Have you ridden in someone else’s car that you knew was not necessarily in the best operating condition? Have you ever ridden “just a few blocks” without your seatbelt? Have you ever interfered with a driver’s ability to operate the car?

If you were injured in an accident and found to be contributory, in many cases the insurance company could theoretically deny you any claim for damages.

That is where an experienced North Carolina accident attorney may be able to help you. Contributory negligence, as you can imagine, is a very gray area, and it may take an experienced North Carolina personal injury lawyer to argue a contributory negligence case with the insurance company.

Our state is one of only three states and the District of Columbia that still has these laws on the books.

Simply put, contributory negligence laws can sometimes unfairly favor those who caused harm while punishing victims. If you’re just a fraction at fault, you could get zero.

It is what it is. Yet we continue to fight against contributory negligence claims on a daily basis. What we have learned is that many of our clients who are accused of contributory negligence by the insurance company simply had no idea that they may have been contributing to their injuries.

How to Minimize Your Own Contributory Negligence

Here are some things to beware of to help minimize insurance company accusations that you contributed to your injuries.

Pay attention to your surroundings. If you are a pedestrian and you cross the street in front of a bus or truck without looking and you are struck by an oncoming vehicle, the insurance company may claim you did not look and therefore you are partially at fault.

Don’t ride in a car with a driver that you know has been drinking, is reckless, or sleepy.

When your Check Engine light comes on, have the engine checked ASAP. How long do you drive your car after the “check engine” light comes on? (Be truthful.) The mechanic who makes a report to the insurance company will note this, giving fodder to the insurance company to possibly try to deny your injury claim.

Don’t distract the driver.

If you are a motorcyclist or bicyclist, don’t filter through traffic. These vehicles are difficult enough to see normally. And make sure you wear a helmet. It’s the law in NC.

NC Personal Injury Lawyers Offer FREE Case Evaluation

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 own*.

This can ring particularly true for instances in which the insurance company is crying contributory negligence. If you have been injured in a car crash, contact us for a free case evaluation to see if we can try to help you recover damages for your injuries, or call us at 1-866-900-7078.

 

* Insurance Research Council 1999

What to Do When the At-Fault Driver Doesn’t Have Insurance

When involved in a car wreck, you might assume the other person has insurance to cover damages. (What is it they say about the word assume?)

Next time you’re sitting in traffic, count 10 cars around you. One in nine of those drivers does not have insurance coverage in North Carolina, according to carinsurance.com.

Viewed another way, North Carolina’s roads and highways carried 105 billion vehicle miles of travel in 2012 according to a 2014 NC Chamber Foundation report. That means uninsured drivers drove 9.45 billion miles across North Carolina’s highways.

So how does that affect you?

How Do Uninsured Drivers Hurt You?

Uninsured drivers affect all of us in a lot of ways. First, insurance rates for those of us who do have insurance tick up higher. Secondly if you are involved in a car wreck with an uninsured driver your uninsured motorist coverage doesn’t always protect you.

What Do I Do After an Accident Involving an Uninsured Driver?

Get as Much Information as You Can

Write down the driver’s name, contact information, driver’s license number, and license plate number whether they are insured or uninsured. Take pictures of your car, their car, and the scene of the wreck. It is important to have this information in order to show your side of the story, to have justification and liability on your side.

Call the police

Report the collision to the police, just as you would do in any other crash. Law enforcement officers will record that the motorist didn’t have insurance and cite them for breaking the law. This report will help your insurance claim later on.

Call Your Insurance Company

You must immediately report the accident to your insurance company. Some policies have time limits on when you can make a claim, so make sure to contact them immediately. Check your policy to see if you have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. (If you don’t have it, we highly advise that you get it.)

If you were at fault for the accident, your insurer should potentially cover your losses based on your collision coverage.

If you were not to blame and the uninsured or underinsured driver was, your insurer should potentially cover the losses based on either your uninsured or underinsured motorist’s coverage. The insurer will pay for your damages by standing in for the person who caused your crash and whose liability insurance should have paid.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance. Uninsured motorist insurance is designed to compensate you up to the policy limits for any injuries or damages that you sustain when the other party has no insurance.

Underinsured Motorist Insurance. Underinsured motorist insurance is designed to cover the difference up to the policy limits when the other party’s insurance coverage isn’t enough to cover the damages.

Other Insurance. Even if you do not have either of these insurance claims, you may still have coverage for your damages. Your collision and medical payments coverage may cover the damages to your car and medical bills. Your health insurance may also be used to cover the cost of medical treatment.

Click here for more ways to try to protect yourself after a car accident.

Will My Insurance Rates Go Up?

It is important to know that if you were not at fault for the crash and you make an uninsured or underinsured motorist claim, your insurance rates typically should not rise. This is because an accident caused by another motorist should not count as an accident on your own driving record. Keep in mind there are always exceptions.

In situations like these we strongly urge you to contact a North Carolina car wreck attorney to try to help you obtain the compensation you potentially deserve. Click here for questions to consider asking attorneys before you hire one that suits you.

Why Call the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Car Wreck Lawyers?

We have fought this fight for over 3,000 clients for whom we recovered over $100 million* in 2016 alone. Since 1997, over $700 million in gross has been recovered for over 30,000* clients. And these numbers don’t include the $1.25 billion* we helped recover against the U.S. government for 18,400 claimants in a historic class action case.

We’ve done this because we have lots of quality professionals. Nearly 200 staff including over 40 attorneys. Eight of these attorneys are North Carolina Board Certified Specialists in their fields (a distinction less than 4% of the 28,000 NC licensed attorneys can claim**).

North Carolina Personal Injury Attorneys Evaluate Your Claim For FREE

If you were involved in a North Carolina car wreck and the at-fault driver was uninsured or underinsured, or click here to contact us or call any time at 1-866-900-7078.

 

*Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. In Re Black Farmers Discrimination Litigation, the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin led a team of firms to recover $1.25 billion for African-American farmers from the U. S. government for discrimination.

**Figures from NC State Bar through December 2016.

How to Try to Be Safer on NC Highways

As economic recovery continues to lead to more vehicles and drivers on North Carolina roadways, the number of car accidents has also increased. And along with this increase follows an uptick in injuries and fatalities.

Data from the North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles shows an overall trend toward more crashes from 2014 and 2015. The number of motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians killed in car accidents has increased. The number of accidents involving teen drivers increased. And the number of accident fatalities has increased.

Certain Cars Offer Better Protection

Information from safety tests can help North Carolina drivers select a vehicle that will best protect them in an accident.

  • The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released data on fatality rates among vehicles in the 2014 model year and equivalent vehicles in the 2012–2015 model years. The 4-door minicars showed the highest overall death rate of 87, while 4-wheel-drive large luxury SUVs have the lowest with 6.

This data corroborates previous studies which have found that, overall, smaller cars are not as safe as some larger cars.

  • The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has examined the correlation between the age of the vehicle and the severity of injuries sustained in a collision. Not only were newer vehicles found to offer the best chances of survival in a fatal car accident, but the odds of survival decreased as the model years decreased. In fact, the driver of a car that was more than 18 years old was 71% more likely to be killed than the driver of a car that was three years old or newer. These studies indicate that newer vehicles are generally safer than older vehicles.

While it may seem as though we are stating the obvious, we are. You cannot emphasize enough the importance of being safe on the road.

Negligent Drivers, Responsibility, and Liability

North Carolina law prohibits specific behaviors in order to reduce driver negligence and potential car crashes. Some of these laws prohibit:

Every driver has a legal obligation to follow these and other safety guidelines. Besides, it is common courtesy. No matter what make, model, or year of car you are driving, each of us must accept personal responsibility for safe driving habits.

Sadly, when someone is negligent behind the wheel, not only could they potentially injure innocent victims, but they can also be injured themselves. Additionally, they may stand to lose a lot financially if found liable for the accident.

Get a Free Case Evaluation From NC Car Accident Lawyers

The experienced car accident attorneys at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin have decades of combined experience protecting the rights of accident victims in the Raleigh, Greensboro, Charlotte, Greenville – all areas across North Carolina. Truth be known, we are among the largest personal injury law firms in North Carolina.

If you were injured in a car accident, contact us right away or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

Studies have shown that, on average, car accident victims who hired a personal injury lawyer received 3.5 times more compensation for their loss than they would have on their own*.

* Insurance Research Council 1999

Hard Knocks Lawyer, Rosa Antunez, Knows How to Stand Up to Adversity for Clients

Personal injury attorney Rosa Antunez has been described as soft-spoken and even quiet at times. In a social setting she may come across as somewhat reserved. Don’t be fooled. She is anything but when fighting for her clients. Or when negotiating with insurance companies to try to get the maximum that her clients potentially deserve.

Rosa learned to fight for what she wanted early in life when her family was abruptly uprooted from their upper class Honduras lifestyle to relocate to America under much different circumstances.

Some people may have given up when faced with the obstacles Rosa has faced. Not Rosa – it is part of what has made her a highly effective attorney and tenacious client advocate. It is what has given her a heart to serve others – to try to bring justice to her clients who have been wronged.

We recently had an opportunity to sit down with Rosa to talk about what led her from Honduras to North Carolina, and what led her to want to become an attorney after working as a paralegal for many years.

What drove you to become an attorney?

I had worked as a paralegal since 2005, and it was so rewarding because you are in the trenches with the clients daily. You are doing much of the research, dealing with the medical providers and insurance companies. And you are a sounding board for injured people who really need a shoulder to lean on, sometimes to cry on.

I have a B.A. in psychology, and I grew up in a home with a mother who was a psychologist. Psychology was my first love, and to some extent still is. I've always loved to work with and help people try to overcome their struggles. Having that psychology background, I felt I was more equipped professionally to help people through their issues – which is a lot of what many paralegals I know face every day.

The more I worked with the attorneys, the more I realized how much of a difference I could make as an attorney with my unique background as a paralegal with a degree in psychology.

Once I began to go through law school, I understood the dynamics of why an attorney would make certain decisions that didn’t seem to make sense to me as a paralegal. It all started coming together in law school. Those puzzle pieces I was piecing together as a paralegal came together to give me the bigger picture as an attorney.

One of my professors in law school once confided, "Maybe we can't personally go out and change the laws as an attorney, but the way we change the entire system is by being an advocate for the people." As you're doing that, as you're actively taking these cases and advocating for them, fighting for them, then you're changing the system one client at a time rather than letting the system take them over.

I feel this is especially the case for women and immigrants. I immigrated from Honduras as a teenage girl, and I understand firsthand how the system can derail your plans.

What brought you to America from Honduras?

I loved growing up in Honduras. We had a very happy family life. My father owned a candy factory and my mother was a psychologist and full-time mom and she ran other businesses. Like many upper class families in Central America, we had live-in maids, chauffeurs, bodyguards. I never had to do chores! Although we did go down to my father’s candy factory to “help” wrap the candies – meaning we would wrap one, eat one.

In 1998, Hurricane Mitch tore through Honduras. It was one of the deadliest hurricanes in history and destroyed most the infrastructure of Honduras – the economy, and thousands of businesses. Within a couple of years, my father lost his candy factory as a result of the widespread economic struggles the hurricane set into motion, and we could not pay our bills.

I’ll never forget how my parents faced this life altering devastation. They knew they had lost everything. There was no choice for us but to pack up what little we had left and move to Florida near relatives to start a new life.

Life as we had known it was over.

My parents’ attitude was “this too shall pass.” That kind of strength was ingrained in me my entire life, but to see my parents live it in real time really had an effect on how I would live my life.

When we arrived in Florida, my formerly wealthy, highly educated parents cleaned houses to make ends meet. My father used to always do a little something extra for his candy customers in Honduras. My parents did the same when they cleaned houses in Florida.  My father would leave flowers behind and my mother would engage with the customers. The customers appreciated the effort my parents gave and the caring they showed. Word of mouth spread and within just a couple of months, they were able to start their own cleaning business, which is very successful today.

Those are two things that have been engrained in me – never despair or give up, and always give that extra effort. And I definitely try to do that with my clients – even talking to people who call in and do not become clients. I often find myself offering them legal advice. Who knows, maybe they will need us one day for another legal matter.

How were things different for you in the U.S.?

Very different. I was a junior in high school when I first moved here. Fortunately I knew English, so I was able to graduate high school. But even though my parents had the money to send me to college, I was not legally allowed to attend college in the U.S. at that time because I was considered an “overstayed visitor.”

I took some classes, got married, moved to North Carolina, and eventually attended undergrad at UNC, which is where I got my psychology degree. I worked during college, so it took me twice as long to get my degree.

With a psychology degree, how did your path evolve to becoming a lawyer?

It was a tough road. Although it didn’t start out that way.

I got a full scholarship to law school. Then I became pregnant with my daughter. Two very happy moments in my life! I maintained my grades, but my daughter was born prematurely in the middle of my spring semester. Unfortunately, she was in the NICU for three weeks.  Plus, I had to have a blood transfusion, which kept me in the hospital for a week. I lost the scholarship because I was away from school for about a month. Not too long afterward, my husband and I divorced.

I needed a job and had experience as a paralegal. So I applied here at James Scott Farrin. I was very blessed to be able to find this law firm. I worked as a paralegal and was able to go back to law school and finish my law degree. For the first time in my life, I feel as though I am where I was meant to be.

What are you to your clients? How do you connect?

I thrive off being a no-nonsense advocate for my clients. Especially when some insurance companies try to play semantics’ games, and belittle my client’s situation, as in this case I handled for a client injured by a drunk driver.

My client was hit by a drunk driver, but thankfully escaped with relatively minor injuries. The drunk driver was charged with a DUI. However, that driver was not convicted due to a technicality (despite being several times over the legal limit). As expected, the insurance adjuster low-balled my client on the recovery offer. While a low offer is expected, what got to me was that the adjuster had the unmitigated gall to laugh about my client’s injury claims. Actually laughed at the suffering of another human being! When I subsequently demanded policy limits because of the egregious behavior of the drunk driver, the defense attorney’s response was, “We all have bad days.” Suffice it to say that the defense attorney had a bad day, too – when I forced the insurance company’s hand to pay my client the policy limits*.

Don’t disrespect another human being. And don’t laugh at the expense of my client’s misfortune.

What are some encouraging words you have lived by?

My parents used to always tell us, “This too shall pass.” And that is what I try to impart to my clients. No matter how bad a situation they may find themselves in, it will eventually pass.

Who or what has influenced you most?

I would have to say my parents. They have taught me to always strive to do better. I am the third of four children. My parents have told me my whole life that ... their first kid was a girl, their second kid was a boy, so they were learning how to be parents with them. I'm the first one they really got to relax with and enjoy. I grew up being their sweetheart. But they were (and still are) very strict. They have always pushed me to do better. I would get A's, and I would get a 96, and my dad would say, "You could have gotten a 100." Not enough.

I watched them hold fast in the face of major adversity and disaster. They didn’t miss a beat. They just kept on faithfully believing that “this too shall pass.”

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

Shocking Stats About NC’s Pedestrian Accidents

I heard an interesting story from a colleague recently about an older pedestrian who was struck by a car traveling at 45 MPH while she was crossing the street. According to AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety if a car is going 46 MPH and strikes a pedestrian, there is a 90% chance the pedestrian will sustain a severe injury. The chance of death if struck by a car traveling 42 MPH is 50%.

The woman was in her 70s and was known in the area for her strict exercise regimen, which included lifting weights. Amazingly, she was only badly bruised and suffered no broken bones. Her doctor attributed this miracle to her weight lifting, which kept her bones strong.

This story got me to thinking about pedestrian accidents in North Carolina in general.

Speed Increases Likelihood of Severe Pedestrian Injury

AAA confirms what we all intuitively know – that speed is a major factor contributing to pedestrian accidents and injuries. In fact, increased speed can make a substantial impact on the chances a pedestrian will be killed or badly hurt when struck by a car. Here are the statistics of the potential for chances of serious injury as vehicle speed increases:

  • 16 MPH there is a 10% chance
  • 23 MPH, there is a 25% chance
  • 31 MPH, there is a 50% chance
  • 39 MPH, there is a 75% chance
  • 46 MPH, there is a 90% chance the pedestrian will be severely injured

Chances of Pedestrian Death Due to Speeding Cars

Here are the chances of the potential for death as vehicle speed increases:

  • 23 MPH, there is a 10% chance of death
  • 32 MPH, there is a 25% chance of death
  • 42 MPH, there is a 50% chance of death
  • 50 MPH, there is a 75% chance of death
  • 58 MPH, there is a 90% chance of death

NC Among the Least Safe States for Pedestrians

Over 3,000 pedestrians in North Carolina are hit by cars every year. In fact, North Carolina is one of the most unsafe states in the U.S. for pedestrians. On average, about 160 pedestrians are killed each year in North Carolina, representing about 15% of all traffic fatalities that occur on our roads.

Where Do Most Pedestrian Collisions Occur in NC?

According to a study by the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center, from 2008 through 2012, most pedestrian collisions, injuries, and deaths, occurred in our Piedmont region (where most people live), followed by the coastal regions and lastly, the mountain areas. (Although the city of Asheville had the most pedestrian collisions of any North Carolina city.)

More than two-thirds (71%) of North Carolina pedestrian collisions over the past ten years occurred within urban areas, and 29% in unincorporated areas.

Pedestrian Safety Tips

What can pedestrians do to try to stay safe? WatchformeNC.org offers these common-sense pedestrian safety tips:

  • Look for cars turning left or right before crossing the street. Don’t assume the driver will stop.
  • Before crossing multiple lanes, be sure each lane of traffic is clear before you cross.
  • Enhance your visibility at night. Walk in well-lighted areas, carry a flashlight, or wear something reflective, such as stickers or armbands.
  • PUT DOWN THE PHONE. Avoid distractions like texting and talking on your cell phone. This diminishes your ability to both hear and see.
  • Follow the rules of the road by obeying traffic signs and signals, including pedestrian traffic signals.
  • Watch for brake lights on a car, which means that a car is about to back up.
  • Cross the street where you have the best view of traffic.
  • At bus stops, cross behind the bus or at the nearest crosswalk.
  • Always walk on the sidewalk. If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from the roadway as you can.

What to Do if You Suffered a Pedestrian Injury

The most important thing is to seek immediate medical attention and follow doctor’s orders.

If you make a claim against the insurance company they will likely contact you to obtain a recorded statement of what happened at the scene. While this can be a necessary step in the investigative process, the recorded statement can sometimes be a trap. Insurance adjusters may try to use the recorded statement against you when it comes time to settle for monetary damages.

Your best course of action with regard to a recorded statement is to contact us first and see if we can help.

NC Pedestrian Accident Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation

If you or someone you love has been injured in a pedestrian accident, contact one of our personal injury attorneys as soon as possible. Click here to contact us right away (24/7) or call 1-866-900-7078.

Victim of a Drunk Driver? Let Us Help You Fight for Compensation.

Drunk driving accidents can often have tragic outcomes for victims as well as for the drunk driver.

Victims could suffer permanent and crippling injuries and potentially lose their lives. Drunk drivers who cause the accidents could have their lives derailed due to criminal charges. Even civil charges can have life-long and ruinous financial consequences.

One recent collision illustrates how tragic drunk driving accidents can be, and it underscores the importance of preventing drunk driving collisions.

If you do enjoy an adult beverage or two,
click here to contact one of North Carolina’s sober ride services.

They take you AND your car home.


Tragic Consequences for North Carolina Drunk Drivers

The News & Observer reported on an impaired driving collision which could result in the driver spending 70 years in prison. The driver, a Goldsboro resident, was charged with multiple felonies after a collision he caused in Raleigh led to six people injured and three deaths. The crash happened at approximately 2:30 a.m. on Highroads Boulevard in Raleigh.

The impaired driver was in a 1995 SUV traveling approximately 50 miles per hour. He lost control of the vehicle and struck a light pole, a street sign, and a tree before overturning.

Seven people were inside the SUV at the time of the collision – one of the victims who died was sitting in the driver’s lap at the time of the collision. The victims who were killed were just 22, 21, and 18. Two of the victims were thrown from the vehicle as a result of the force of the impact.

The driver, just 22-years-old, was convicted of three counts of aggravated felony serious injury by vehicle, as well as three counts of aggravated felony death by vehicle. Each felony could potentially carry a lengthy prison sentence, and he is facing 17 years in prison for each death and seven years for each serious injury if found guilty. His father, who is a pastor, indicated he would be paying for the victims and the families of the victims who were killed and injured in the accident.

When I read this story, I couldn’t help but wonder how the drunk driver’s father plans to pay for the victims who died and their families. Our attorneys and paralegals have dealt with hundreds of drunk driving cases. Believe me. We try to leave no stone unturned when it comes to compensation for injuries and deaths. There is not enough money in the world to compensate for the death of a child.

Tragic Endings for Victims and Families

Our firm handled a drunk driving claim for the family of a father and husband whose life was cut off in one instant because of a drunk driver. A negligent driver.

This father and husband was in his car, stopped in traffic. The drunk driver had left work early in the day to go drinking with his friends. He was so drunk that he didn’t even slow down when he plowed right into the rear of our client's car. The impact was so forceful the victim was ejected and killed on impact. The victim who was a pillar of his community left behind a devastated wife and young children. This one irresponsible, irreversible event plunged his family into a downward spiral.

We went after everything we could to help ease this family’s financial burden to try to get them a settlement that would help pay for therapy, loss of financial support, funeral expenses, and punitive damages, among other things*.

Getting behind the wheel after drinking is not only irresponsible, it is not worth it. Yet people do it anyway. A lot.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) Traffic Safety Facts reported that in 2013, every 52 minutes a death occurred as a result of a drunk driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.08 or higher. That equates to more than 10,000 children, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, grandparents, sisters, brothers – loved ones – whose lives were cut short. Those deaths represented one-third of all traffic deaths. One third!

What Does a BAC of 0.08 Mean?

In North Carolina a BAC of 0.08 is the legal limit of the amount of alcohol you can consume before you are considered too drunk to drive. That is about four standard drinks in one hour for a 170-lb. man or three drinks in an hour for a 140-lb. woman.

But why would anyone push the envelope with so many sober ride services throughout North Carolina, including Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, High Point, Fayetteville and surrounding communities.

Most of these sober ride services make it very convenient by taking you and your car home.

Get a FREE Case Evaluation From NC Personal Injury Lawyers

Drunk driving accidents are cases of negligence plain and simple, and we will try to pursue every avenue for compensation for you. If you or a loved one was injured by a drunk driver contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

Damages may include:

  • Medical costs, lost wages, disability, and pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages for reckless disregard for life
  • Liability of the bar, restaurant, or person that served an inebriated person
  • Liability of a party host who served alcohol, particularly to a minor

 

*Each case is unique and must be evaluated on its own merits. The outcome of a particular case cannot be predicated upon a lawyer's or a law firm's past results.

5 Common Reasons People Call Tow Trucks (And How to Avoid Them)

A colleague was sharing her recent experience of driving over a curb which lacerated her tire. She called AAA, and a tow truck driver towed her car to a repair shop.

While riding in the tow truck with the driver she shared an interesting conversation about how the majority of the calls the driver responds to are from stranded motorists who could have prevented their situation with a modicum of planning and foresight. And common sense.

Here are five things her tow truck driver said he wished all drivers would be mindful of to help them avoid the hassle of having to have their cars towed.

E does not mean Everywhere

When your fuel gauge is on E, stop and get gas. Better yet, he advised, get gas when you have a quarter of a tank left. First, running out of gas can be unsafe in today’s cars because when the engine quits so does your ability to steer the car. He added that running out of gas can be damaging to your engine too because the sediment that settles to the bottom of your gas tank can get sucked into the engine and possibly cause the fuel line to freeze. Fixing that is a lot more expensive than a tank of gas.

If your Check Engine light comes on…

…check your engine. The driver emphasized that this distress call represents the majority of calls he receives. He likened the Check Engine light to a toothache. If you ignore it, it can get worse, cause more problems, and potentially be more expensive to fix. This type of call could almost always have been avoided in the first place, he added. If your Check Engine lights illuminates, he advised, first pull over in a safe place and check to see if your gas cap is loose. (A loose cap sends an error message to the car's computer.) If the gas cap is loose tighten it and continue driving. The light should eventually go off. If it does not, get your engine checked by a qualified mechanic as soon as possible.

Locking your keys in the car

Who has not forgotten their keys, misplaced them, or locked them in the car? The tow truck driver offered what he referred to as a “no brainer” solution that costs less than $5.00. He suggests purchasing a magnetic key holder and affixing it underneath the rear bumper of your car. This simple device can save you the time and headache of having to call AAA, or the expense of summoning a locksmith.

Dead battery is easy to prevent

The tow truck driver said that when he tows cars with a dead battery, the owners will often seem surprised that the battery died. He said he usually askes them one question, “Have you noticed your car has been hard to crank or turn over lately?” That is the first sign that you need to replace your car battery. There are other signs too, but they may not always indicate a battery drawing its final few breaths. They are worth mentioning: an engine that cranks but won’t start; an engine that starts intermittently; an engine that has trouble starting in cold weather; having to have the car jumped frequently. If you see any of these signs, take your car to have the battery’s charge tested. If the voltage is low it’s time for a new battery.

Worn tires need replacing sooner than you think

If you have a penny you can ascertain whether your tires are worn or bald. Place your penny head first into some of the tread grooves on your tire. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are shallow and worn and probably need replacing. Bald tires are particularly dangerous because of the potential for shredding and blow outs, which can cause an accident. And they are more likely to hydroplane in wet weather. Additionally, when there is less tread there is less traction to grip the road when braking and in wintry weather. For less than $5.00 you can purchase a tire tread depth gauge to more accurately measure your tread. A tire is considered bald when one or more of the treads shows 2/32 of an inch. Interestingly, consumerreports.org considers tires unsafe before you can see the top of Lincoln’s head. They say that tires can give up a significant amount of grip even at the halfway point, and they suggest replacing your tires when the tread reaches 4/32 of an inch.

“Move over/slow down”

It’s the law in North Carolina to move over and slow down when you see an emergency vehicle with lights flashing on the side of the road. If you’re on a four-lane highway you are required to move to the inner most lane of that highway. If you’re on a two-lane, road you’re supposed to come to either a complete stop, go left of center, or reduce your speed. This tow truck driver had been a firefighter before he decided to drive a tow truck as a result of an injury he suffered while fighting a fire. He said sometimes being on the side of the road with cars and trucks whizzing by too closely can be more frightening than running into a burning building. At least there’s some predictability in fighting fires. With all the distracted drivers on the road, he said he never knows when someone might crash into him because they are distracted.

I hope you have learned as much as I did from this tow truck driver’s experiences and common-sense advice. While there will always be emergency situations that may call for a tow truck, at least these five non-emergency situations can sometimes be prevented with a little planning.

Contact Information

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
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

517 Owen Drive
Fayetteville, NC 28304
Phone: 910-488-0611
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

New Bern Law Office

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

Greenville Law Office

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

Greensboro Law Office

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

Goldsboro Law Office

214 South William Street, Suite 3
Goldsboro, NC 27530
Phone: (919)-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
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

3202 Sunset Avenue, Suite B
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