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The Hard Truth About Getting Reimbursed for Hurricane Damages

By Christopher Bagley

With Hurricanes Florence and Michael sweeping through North Carolina less than a month apart in 2018, many Tar Heels have been devastated, with home, business, farm, and auto damages totaling billions of dollars.

ABC11 reports that 185,000 claims related to Hurricane Florence were filed with the North Carolina Department of Insurance, and FEMA received 80,000 claims.

If you are among those filing hurricane damage claims, you may discover that your insurance company is not as willing to help as you assumed.

While insurance companies may want you to think they have your best interests at heart, history shows that’s not always true.

Real People. Real Stories

Insurance Delays and Denials

Two years after Hurricane Matthew damaged one Goldsboro homeowner’s home in 2016, the homeowner is ready to give up. The insurance covered “just enough for a contractor to gut the home and replace a tiny portion of her ruined contents,” according to a WRAL news report.

Meanwhile, the flooring, walls, and the remainder of her belongings were damaged to an unlivable condition, forcing her to live in an apartment while continuing to pay her mortgage. As eastern North Carolina residents were still trying to pick up the pieces from Matthew, Hurricane Florence slammed into the NC coast two years later, damaging her property further. While FEMA rejected her initial buyout application, she hopes this second round of damage will qualify her for relief.

An Ugly Trend in Hurricane Damage Claims

Undervaluing hurricane damage claims is not new to some insurance companies. In fact, this trend seems to have become the new normal.

Hurricane Katrina

After Hurricane Katrina all but wiped out much of New Orleans in 2005, policyholders who believed they were treated unfairly by their insurance companies complained to the Louisiana Department of Insurance at the rate of twenty thousand complaints a month during the first six months after the storm. Thousands of policyholders sued their insurance companies, with more than 6,600 suits filed in federal court in New Orleans alone.

The New York Times reported on one victim that was offered just $41,000 of the expected $100,000 in damages. Another was offered only $16,000 to cover damage that he anticipated totaling $300,000 – less than 5% of what he needed.

The New York Times described the behavior of insurance companies two years after Katrina:

“Insurance companies may have paid out $11 billion to Louisianians in the two years since Hurricane Katrina, but they have also become a new villain in the tales people tell about the slow recovery here. Every neighborhood is full of horror stories about insurance companies that reneged on their promises, offered only pennies on the dollar in settlements, dribbled out payments, low-balled the costs of repairs, dropped long-time customers and sharply increased the price of coverage.”

Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy

Nine insurance companies were accused of wrongfully denying claims and misinterpreting terms following Hurricane Irene in 2011 and superstorm Sandy in 2012. In their attempts to underpay claims, some insurance companies interpreted the policies’ definitions of ground floors and basements in ways that surprised their policyholders.

Hurricane Irma

After Hurricane Irma left a swath of devastation in the Caribbean and Florida in 2017, some insurance companies left homeowners far short financially of what they needed to repair holes in their roofs and water damage in walls, reports Florida’s WINK News. One homeowner was particularly upset to see her “high accomplishment” investment of a home crumble with little support from her insurance company.

Why Do Some Insurance Companies Try to Delay and Deny Claims?

Time after time, some insurance companies have denied claims and underestimated hurricane property damages.

With roughly half a trillion dollars in cash reserves, why do some insurers force hurricane victims to put up such a fight to get what they need to repair their homes, businesses, and cars?

The stark reality is that most insurance companies are for-profit businesses. That is not wrong, it is just business. At the end of the day, like most for-profit businesses, they are looking out for their bottom line – even at the expense of unwitting policyholders.

Click here for shocking examples of some insurers that have tried to take advantage of policyholders in an effort to pad their own bottom lines.

Contact the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin

If you have suffered hurricane damage to your home, business, or farm, you don’t have to go through the fight alone to try to recover damages.

Our law firm has fought insurance companies for our clients since 1997. Moreover, we have many employees who previously worked for insurance companies, and they are uniquely familiar with insurance company tactics. We have seen, firsthand, so many ways they can try to delay or deny claims, we wrote a book of actual client stories called Insurance Companies (and others) Behaving Badly. You can download it free and read these stories, yourself.

If you have or a loved one has been affected by the hurricane or other natural disaster, you deserve a team that will fight for you in an effort to try to get you the maximum amount you are entitled to. Call us at 1-866-900-7078 or click here to contact us for a free case evaluation.

How to Drive Smart When School’s In Session

As auto accident lawyers we are often asked questions about “the rules” of the road. What is legal, what isn’t. One question I have found myself answering more than a few times is when to stop for a stopped school bus. (Click here for our easy-to-follow infographic.)

The better question to answer in my opinion is how to drive safely near schools and when school children are nearby.

When Do I Stop for a School Bus?

If you are unsure of exactly which situations require you to stop for a stopped school bus, you are not alone. During a one-day study conducted by the North Carolina School Bus Safety Web in 2013, more than 3,300 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses.

The penalty for not stopping carries a minimum fine of $500, as stated in House Bill 428 (Hasani N. Wesley Students’ School Bus Safety Act). Passing a stopped school bus is not only illegal but also dangerous for children who may be entering or exiting the bus.

As a rule of thumb, drivers behind the school bus should always stop, regardless of whether they are in the same lane as the bus or not.

With a couple of exceptions, drivers on the opposite side of the road must also stop for a stopped school bus. Traffic traveling in the opposite direction is not required to stop, ONLY if driving on a four-lane road with a median separation, divided highway, or center turning lane. However, four-lane roads without median separation or turning lanes, and all two-lane roads – with or without center turning lanes – require that all traffic on either side of the road come to a complete stop until the school bus resumes motion.

Driving Near School Busses

In addition to knowing when to stop for a stopped school bus, drivers should take additional precautions when sharing the road with school buses. The National Safety Council (NSC) recommends leaving a greater following distance behind buses than you would behind other cars, allowing you adequate time to stop when necessary.

The NSC also warns that “the area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children.” The organization recommends that drivers stop with a generous space between the bus and their vehicles to allow school children to enter and exit the bus as needed.

Keep in mind that because school buses are so large, drivers have limited visibility of surrounding cars and may not be able to see you. You should take this into consideration and yield to school buses when changing lanes and turning.

Look Out for Pedestrians

More than one-third of the children killed in school-transportation related crashes between 2006 and 2015 were pedestrians, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). In North Carolina drivers must yield to pedestrians at all intersections and driveways.

School-aged children may be unpredictable or may not know the specific rules of when to cross a street. Therefore, drivers should use extreme caution and be prepared to stop at any given time when traveling through school zones and surrounding areas and neighborhoods.

The only thing children should have to worry about on their journey to school is whether or not they will pass their algebra test!

NC Personal Injury Lawyers Offer Free Case Evaluation

Getting hurt on the way to school is something no one should have to go through alone. There can be extensive medical bills and issues with the insurance company. You want someone to fight for you to try to recover everything you are potentially due in damages.

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*.

If you or someone you know was involved in a school-transportation related accident, contact us or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

*Insurance Research Council, 1999.

How Safe Are You at the NC State Fair?

If you are thinking of going to the 2018 North Carolina State Fair you will, quite literally, be one in a million. Over one million guests are expected to line up at the fairgrounds during those 10 days. Many will get their fix of deep fried Oreos before getting tossed and turned upside down by one of the thrilling attractions the NC State Fair offers.

While this may be a family tradition for many, one mishap could quickly turn tragic.

How Safe Are You at the NC State Fair?

Though rare, injuries on carnival rides do occur, and the North Carolina State Fair has not been immune to mishaps.

  • In 2017, a 2-year-old boy was injured after falling off a ride due to user error, as reported by ABC11.
  • In 2013, five fairgoers were hospitalized after falling approximately 30 feet from “The Vortex” due to ride malfunctioning.
  • In 1998, three riders suffered injuries after a roller coaster’s cars collided.

NC State Fair employees, too, must deal with the uncertainty of the carnival rides they operate.

  • In 2013, a worker was taken to the ICU after a ride he was disassembling fell on top of him, WRAL
  • In 2009, a similar incident occurred with an employee attempting to break down the “Flying Bobs” ride, according to ABC11.
  • In 2004, a worker was struck and injured by a steel beam.
  • In 2002, a ride attendant was killed after being struck by the ride and thrown from his platform.

How to Have Fun & Try to Be Safe

A 2010 ABC report attributes the 7,000 annual emergency room visits due to carnival ride injuries in America primarily to three reasons: equipment malfunctions, varying inspection regulations, and user error.

The federal government oversees only the manufacturing of these rides – set-up and maintenance is left to state regulation. North Carolina requires semi-annual unannounced inspections of stationary rides, as well as inspections of mobile rides at the time of set-up.

As a preventative measure, fairgoers should strictly obey the safety guidelines provided by fair attendants. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) provides further recommendations when riding carnival rides:

  • Don’t try to cheat the system: follow the rider age, height, weight and health restrictions.
  • Keep all body parts inside the ride’s vehicle at all times.
  • Secure any loose items (wallets, change, sunglasses, cell phones, hats, etc.) before getting on the ride.
  • Use the safety equipment as it is intended to be used – don’t try to loosen or remove restraints even if they’re uncomfortable.
  • Never force anyone to ride attractions they’re hesitant or weary of.
  • Report any behavior or conditions you believe to be unsafe to authorities immediately.
  • Talk to your children to make sure they understand the importance of following these rules.

These attractions are meant to create an amusing, thrilling, and overall positive experience. The safety measures are incredibly important in order to maintain this light-hearted atmosphere, rather than turning it into a scene of fear and tragedy.

Thank Your NC State Fair Ride Attendants

Behind the scenes of the fun and games are employees who strive to ensure your NC State Fair experience is as safe and enjoyable as possible. When you think of jobs that put their employees’ lives on the line, a carnival ride attendant may not come to mind. However, if they lose control of their rides, they are potentially placed in a very dangerous situation.

Just as passengers cannot predict a ride malfunction, operators may not necessarily know if or when their machine will malfunction. Because of the close contact employees maintain with their rides, they face the same uncertain dangers riders do. They have a lot of responsibility to try to keep you safe. Thank them for helping to keep you safe and for an enjoyable experience.

Get a Free Case Evaluation from NC Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or someone you know was injured at the NC State Fair (or any NC carnival, water park, or similar attraction) contact us immediately or call 1-866-900-7078 for a free case evaluation.

Shocking Facts About Hit-And-Run Crashes

According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, more than one hit-and-run crash happens every minute on America's roads. As a matter of fact they have hit an all-time high – and they’re increasing, says a new AAA study.

It’s a trend going the wrong way and showing no signs of stopping or turning around any time soon.

Hit-and-runs occur when at least one person involved in the crash flees the scene before offering help or information to others involved. While hit-and-runs typically occur between two moving cars, they may also involve pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycles, parked cars, and other property.

Hit-and-runs are serious business and can increase the cost of medical care, including the severity of outcomes, given delays or total absence of medical attention for victims and for families who are looking for remediation and insurance support. Experts say staying to help the injured victim could save a life.

Not only have hit-and-runs become more common, they are increasing. Let’s see why.

Putting Hit & Runs in Perspective

Here’s what AAA’s study shows about the severity and frequency of hit-and-runs.

  • The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) says that there were 56 recorded hit-and-run crashes in 2017.
  • Nationally, hit-and-runs account for over 5% of traffic fatalities.
  • Nationally, there’s an average increase of 7.2% every year.
  • Fleeing drivers accounted for 20% of pedestrian crash fatalities.
  • Nearly 65% of people killed due to hit-and-runs are pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • In 2016, 2,049 people were killed in hit-and-runs, a 60% increase since 2009 and the highest number ever.

To put it in perspective, that’s almost six deaths per day and more than one hit-and-run every minute on US roadways.

What’s with the Trend?

No one knows exactly why there is an increase in hit-and-run collisions, but there are many theories, ranging from population increase to distracted drivers, including drivers who are on their cell phones while driving.

Population Growth

With a population of 292 million, the US is the third most populous country in the world. And the US Census anticipates the population to double during this century.

North Carolina’s population is 10.3 million. And with a birth every eight seconds, our state is ranked as the fifth fastest growing state in the nation.

So what does this mean for hit-and-runs? It means there are far more people on the road which increases the number of collisions, including the likelihood of hit-and-runs.

Strengthening Economy

When the economy is doing well, more people have money to buy gas and travel. Many can also afford their own cars, cell phones, Bluetooths, and other technological devices that may take their mind off driving and contribute to the spike of collisions.

Distracted Driving

Another theory for the increase of hit-and-runs centers on distracted driving, namely cell phone usage.

In many states, including North Carolina, texting and driving is illegal, meaning that a collision due to phone usage turns an accident into a criminal offense. This is something scary enough to send a driver fleeing the scene and creating a hit-and-run.

A new Zendrive study has revealed what many of us intuitively suspected. Americans use their phones nearly every single time they get behind the wheel. The study also found that drivers spend 3.5 minutes every hour on their phones while driving, even though a two-second distraction increases the chances of a crash by 20 times.

Drunk Driving

Driving a vehicle drunk or impaired is a crime. Like texting and driving, fear of that criminal charge on top of causing a collision could lead someone to flee the scene, effectively creating a whole new criminal charge.

Every day, nearly 30 people in the US die because of alcohol-related vehicle crashes – or, one person every 50 minutes in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

In North Carolina, alone, there was a 50% increase in driving while impaired cases from 2014 to 2015.

While these represent only a few theories on the hit-and-run increase, there is no definitive answer as to why hit-and-runs have continued to increase.

The Motivation to Run: Hit-and-Run Characteristics

Leaving the scene of a collision is illegal in every state and can lead to serious criminal charges. In North Carolina, even a misdemeanor hit-and-run (which would involve property damage or minor injury) carries a potential sentence of up to one year in jail as well as fines.

According to Jennifer Ryan, director of state relations at AAA, “While no one likes being involved in a crash, leaving the scene will significantly increase the penalties for drivers – whether they caused the crash or not.”

Yet, it happens over a thousand times a day.

Who Are Hit-and-Run Victims?

  • Fatally injured pedestrians under age six or over age 80 were half as likely to be victims of hit-and-runs as in any other age groups.
  • In crashes involving children, the driver is identified more than 60% of the time versus 39% for older victims.
  • Males make up around 70% of hit-and-run victims in crashes.

Who Are Hit-and-Run Drivers?

  • Drivers are likely to be young males with a history of prior DWI and license suspension.
  • Drivers tend to drive older model cars, suggesting a lower socioeconomic status.
  • Drivers frequently have positive blood alcohol content (BAC) at the time of arrest, and drivers who leave the scene are between two and nine times more likely to have been intoxicated at the time of the crash.
  • Drivers who flee crashes involving children ages 15 and younger or women are more likely to be identified later on.
  • Drivers are about twice as likely to be identified in hit-and-runs when they happen in locations other than the road or crosswalks.

What Factors Contribute to Hit-and-Runs?

  • Environmental factors tend to be associated with the likelihood of a hit-and-run crash. These factors may include lighting, roadway design, and location.
  • In general, the greater the visibility of a crash, the less likely it will turn into a hit-and-run. Visibility may include lighting conditions, but it can also involve the number of potential witnesses, such as on heavily trafficked roads.
  • Contrastingly, higher pedestrian traffic increases the chance of a hit-and-run, though these are half as likely to occur in the daylight as opposed to nighttime when lower visibility improves a driver’s chance to flee.
  • Hit-and-runs are almost 4.5 times more likely to occur between the hours of midnight and 4 a.m., compared to crashes between 8 a.m. and noon. Nighttime, in addition to increasing the chance to escape because of low visibility, typically involves more risky behaviors like driving without a license or driving while intoxicated (DWI) – crimes that could motivate someone to flee the scene.
  • Types of roadways may also affect the likelihood of a hit-and-run. For example, undivided roadways or roads with lower speed limits increase the chance of hit-and-runs mostly because they are the roads pedestrians are more likely to cross versus high-speed interstates with minimal exposure to pedestrians.
  • And, not surprisingly, urban areas have more hit-and-runs than low-population areas.

Countermeasures: What You Can Do

These statistics are alarming. What can you do to avoid being another victim of the increasing number of hit-and-runs?

When a Collision Happens

If you are in a vehicle and are the victim of a hit-and-run, follow these steps as you are able:

  1. Pull over to get out of traffic. Write down or take a picture of the license plate number of the other vehicle. Police say that many victims are tricked when the driver of the other vehicle appears to pull over but then takes off, leaving behind a very confused victim.
  2. Try to get a description of the vehicle and where it is heading as it speeds away.
  3. Contact law enforcement immediately and tell them everything you know about the driver and what happened.
  4. Photograph the damage.
  5. Stay This can be very difficult to do if you are the victim of a hit-and-run, but panicking largely decreases your chance of getting that viable information that can be used to find the person responsible.

Avoid a Hit-and-Run as a Pedestrian

A pedestrian hit-and-run can be a little more challenging. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind as a pedestrian to try to reduce the risk of being hit by a car.

  1. Wear bright colors or reflectors so you can be more visible to drivers. Colors that easily reflect light, like white or yellow, are good choices. Reflectors can make you visible in a car’s headlights up to 500 feet.
  2. Stay on the sidewalks and crosswalks, especially at night.
  3. Stay off roads without sidewalks, or walk against traffic if there are no sidewalks. Walking against traffic allows you to see oncoming cars that might not see you.
  4. Look where you are going. When crossing a street, look left, right, and then left again.
  5. Be alert. You can’t control what other people are doing, but by being alert, you can control what you’re doing and how you might need to react to a potential situation.

Of course, none of these things can guarantee safety, but by doing your best to stay safe, you are potentially reducing your risk.

Get a Free Case Evaluation from Experienced North Carolina Lawyers

If you or someone you know was the victim of a hit-and-run injury or fatality, contact us immediately or call 1-866-900-7078. Our North Carolina car accident lawyers offer a free case evaluation.

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

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

2915 Raeford Road, Suite 204
Fayetteville, NC 28303
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