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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Consequences on the Road – and in the Courtroom

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

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

The case law is cautionary.

Lights Lights Lights

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

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

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

Bad Tires Are a Bad Decision

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

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

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

Steering Away From Danger

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

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

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

Stopping Power

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

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

In Other Words…

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

Insurers and Negligently Poor Vehicle Condition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Vaping Illnesses Strike Teens as Number of Lawsuits Grow

The Latest From the CDC

The Centers for Disease Control have been researching vaping-related illnesses throughout the country. Progress is finally being made on what they term EVALI (E-cigarette/Vaping Associated Lung Illness). More can be expected.

It has been determined that vaping products containing THC, specifically those from unofficial sources like friends, family, or in-person/online dealers, are linked to most EVALI cases and play a major role in the outbreak. THC vaping oils contains an additive called Vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is strongly linked to the EVALI outbreak and, in 82% of EVALI cases, victims vaped THC-containing liquids.

Alarming Risks to Teens

Daniel Ament never dreamed he would have a double-lung transplant at the age of 17, but it was necessary in order to save his life. Like many of his friends, Daniel vaped e-cigarettes and occasionally THC. Unlike his peers, Daniel ended up in the hospital with a severe, life-threatening illness due to vaping. The transplant saved his life, but he will forever feel the effects. After graduating high school, he planned to enlist in the military, but that option is no longer possible. With these horrifying events behind him, Daniel now advocates to stop teen vaping.

Christy D'Ambrosio has taken on a similar quest to stop teen vaping. Her son, Ricky, was 21 when he was admitted to the hospital for respiratory failure and eventually a medically induced coma. She went to the media with pleas for prayers and support to save her young son’s life. Christy, like many other parents, was unaware of the extent of her son’s vaping – that it had been going on for five years and had gotten to the point of an addiction. Doctors struggled to find explanations for Ricky’s symptoms. It wasn’t until they learned he’d been vaping that they determined the cause and were able to save his life. When Christy went to Facebook with a picture of her son in the hospital, she captioned the post with a plea for everyone to stop vaping, tell others to stop, tell everyone to stop. Her post was shared more than four thousand times.

At the end of 2019, the youngest patient to die from EVALI was reported – a teenager only 15 years old. Before that, the youngest was a 17-year-old from New York. The teen was hospitalized twice previously for symptoms related to vaping. His death was the first in the state of New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo made a public announcement regarding the boy’s death and made a plea to both parents and teenagers to recognize the risk: “You are playing with your life when you play with this stuff,” said Cuomo.

Everyone should be fully aware of the risks and effects of vaping. No substance is worth altering someone’s entire life. Just because something is easily obtained doesn’t make it safe. Parents should be aware of their children’s possible e-cigarette use and warn them of the risks.

COVID-19 Reduces Traffic, Increases Speeding – and Risk

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

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

Speeding: The Epidemic Within a Pandemic

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

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

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

The Higher the Speed, the Bigger the Hurt

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

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

Where the Laws of Traffic and Physics Collide

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delivery Drivers and Insurance: Who Takes the Hit in an Accident During a Delivery?

Someone taps to order some food from their favorite delivery service app. The driver gets the order and heads to pick up the meal and to deliver it. Somewhere along the way, that driver is in an accident. What happens next?

The question seems simple enough, but due to the nature of these delivery apps, it’s more complex than you think, and depends greatly on your perspective. Let’s dig in.

Car Insurance Complications for Food App Delivery Drivers

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft require their drivers to have car insurance, and then cover them further with a liability policy. Many states have adopted rules and insurers have created new products to cover the rapidly evolving share economy. What many do not know is that ordinary car insurance does not cover a driver working as a rideshare service.

If you read your insurance policy, for example, you’re likely to find a section that deals with “livery” or “commercial use” of your vehicle. Specifically, the policy excludes such uses from its umbrella of coverage. Drivers may be delivering food instead of people, but the underlying principle is the same.

These types of uses involve different risks to vehicle drivers and owners, and as such, their coverages will differ. This matters when a driver is not carrying the correct type of insurance for the work they’re performing. As a whole, a study by the Insurance Information Institute found that 13% of all drivers were underinsured. Given the confusion about policies and terms of service, one can safely assume that drivers working for delivery services could have a higher rate of underinsurance.

None of this matters until the driver is at fault in an accident. If you’re injured by that driver’s error, it certainly matters to you.

The Order of Insurance

When an accident happens and insurance coverage is triggered, it is triggered in a certain order. The insurance on the vehicle comes first, even if it’s not driven by the owner. So, if you’re driving your mother’s car for example, the insurance she has on her car would be primary. Your insurance, as the driver, would be secondary. Any other insurance would only come into play after those policies. If you are driving your own car, then your insurance as the driver and the vehicle’s insurance are one and the same. In the examples to follow, “driver’s insurance” assumes the driver owns the vehicle being driven.

If Delivery Driver Is at Fault in an Accident, How Are They Covered?

In this scenario, someone who is hit and/or injured in an accident when the delivery driver is at fault has a few options. The quest for compensation begins with the vehicle’s insurance. As previously noted, this may not be much help if the driver was underinsured or did not carry the correct type of coverage for the activity in which he or she was engaged.

However, most of the different services and apps seem to offer additional coverage for their drivers, though they are not created equal. And in some states, such as New York, the rules are entirely different. Generally speaking, though, here is what you can expect.

DoorDash

DoorDash provides its drivers with a $1m contingent liability policy. However, the policy only covers drivers “in possession of goods to be delivered.” In other words, they’re covered when they’ve picked up an order to deliver it – not when they are on their way to a restaurant or leaving a delivery. Additionally, the policy only kicks in after the driver’s personal policy is exhausted.

GrubHub

Drivers for GrubHub receive no additional insurance whatsoever.

Amazon Flex

Drivers for Amazon Flex have $1m in primary liability coverage including contingent comprehensive and collision coverage, and $1m in underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. This policy covers drivers as they “deliver packages, pick up packages and return undelivered packages back to a designated location.” Some of this coverage requires a driver to have certain personal insurance in order to qualify for the benefit.

Postmates

Similar to DoorDash, Postmates offers its drivers $1m in contingent liability coverage. Again, this is only used once the driver’s own auto insurance coverage is exhausted. They also include a similar policy for deliverers who work on foot or ride bicycles.

Uber Eats

Uber Eats is a subsidiary of Uber, which is run through a company called Portier LLC. They have a commercial liability policy that covers drivers “from the moment a driver accepts the request to deliver meals or goods to the time the delivery is complete.” They also provide contingent comprehensive and collision coverage, and liability coverage for drivers who are between trips.

Why Does This Matter to You?

Well, if you’re injured in an accident and the delivery driver is at fault, you need to know how you could be compensated for the damage done to your property and your medical bills. The primary case would be with the vehicle’s insurance. The company’s policies would possibly kick in if the vehicle and driver’s insurance were insufficient.

Now, in the case that there was some sort of corporate negligence, that would enable you to go after their corporate policy without relying on that of the driver. For example, if the company was negligent in its screening of drivers, or allowed drivers to work more than a certain number of hours, that could be considered negligent.

The bottom line for you, if you’re injured by one of these drivers, is that there might be more insurance available than the delivery driver’s policy, but it can be a confusing process to try and figure out what might be available. Be aware that there is data available on the driver’s app that might show how long the driver has been driving (in case fatigue was the cause of the wreck), GPS, speed, along with other pertinent data. An experienced personal injury attorney will know how to obtain and preserve such evidence.

What if I am a Delivery Driver?

You’re in a risky business. In fact, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, delivery and other sales jobs involving driving were the 5th most dangerous job in 2018. When you go to work for these delivery services, you’ll be handed a contract, and if you read it carefully, you’ll find out you’re probably not an employee. You’re in independent contractor.

As an independent contractor, you’re on your own in a great many ways. Foremost is that you’re using your vehicle for the purposes of the delivery service. As stated above, most personal auto insurance policies specifically exclude such uses for purposes of coverage. You should contact your insurer and ask them what would be required to obtain coverage for the use you intend. The delivery service you’re working for will deny liability, because you are not an employee unless they specifically provide coverage.

If you’re in an accident and you’re relying on your regular auto insurance coverage, your claims are going to be denied. Do not expect the company to validate that you have the right kind of insurance, either. That’s entirely up to you.

And if you try to hide what you were doing, an insurance investigator is going to dig up the truth – which means you’re then on the hook for the damages AND insurance fraud. It’s not worth it. Get the right insurance!

What if I’m Driving for a Delivery Service and I’m Injured by Someone Else?

Then you’re going to go after that person’s insurance. It likely will not matter to your insurer at that point, depending on the insurance rules of your state. In North Carolina, the at-fault driver’s insurance will be the one who pays, with additional liability for uninsured and underinsured drivers kicking in as necessary.

If I’m Delivering and I Get Injured, Can I Apply for Workers’ Compensation?

The answer is probably no if you’re an independent contractor. As an independent contractor and not an employee, you’re not covered by workers’ compensation benefits in the state of North Carolina. The independent contractor agreement you sign with all of these services means you’re, essentially, self-employed.

If You’re Injured in an Accident Through No Fault of Your Own, Contact an Experienced Attorney

Let someone with the right tools and experience navigate through the maze of insurance on your behalf. Focus on getting better, and let us fight for you. The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin work hard for clients just like you. If you or someone you know needs our help, call the HurtLine 24/7 at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.

Vaping-related illness and death increasing, answers are not

As reported in February 2020, the number of vaping-related illnesses in the United States have topped 2,800 with deaths reaching nearly 70.

The Centers for Disease Control is working around the clock to identify the cause of this seemingly sudden outbreak in vaping-related illnesses. The ongoing investigation provides regular updates on the CDC website regarding those affected and what they know:

  • Investigation spans almost all states, more than 2,000 patients, and a wide variety of brands, substances, and e-cigarette/vaping products
  • 2,290 cases of E-cigarette/Vaping product use Associated Lung Injury (EVALI) have been reported to the CDC from 49 states
  • 47 deaths have been confirmed in 25 states and the District of Columbia
    • Median age of deceased patients is 53, ranges from 17 to 75
  • Of the studied illnesses:
    • 68% were male
    • 77% were under 35 years old, the youngest being 13

Symptoms of Vaping-Related Illness

Reports continue to fill the news regarding individuals getting sick from vaping. What exactly is happening? And should you be concerned? In short, yes. Among the growing list of health problems attributed to vaping, some symptoms include:

  • Coughing, shortness of breath, and/or chest pain
  • Nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Fatigue, fever, or weight loss

Contact a medical professional immediately if you regularly use e-cigarettes or vaping devices and experience any of the above symptoms.

The damage being done to lungs is extensive. Some individuals are admitted to the hospital with minor symptoms and are released. They continue to use e-cigarettes and are later readmitted. Some of the known cases of vaping-related illnesses have found the following damage to their lungs:

  • Inflammation
  • Damage that resembled exposure to inhaled toxic substances, like from a chemical spill
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome (fluid in the lungs that impedes oxygen getting to the body)
  • Pneumonia-like symptoms and illness

Possible Causes

The numbers of deaths and illnesses related to vaping continue to rise. So do the questions, but not the answers. The common factor in these illnesses is vaping. Beyond that, there is only speculation about what else could be the cause.

The CDC found one common denominator in vaping illnesses – the additive vitamin E acetate. The vaping-related illnesses are seen in individuals vaping THC, tobacco, or a combination of the two, but most illnesses (83%) come from vaping products containing THC. Vitamin E acetate is an additive specific to THC vaping and has been found in the diseased lungs of those studied by the CDC.

There are also concerns regarding those looking to save money by purchasing “off-brands” and buying products online from unverified sources. Some of these online products are acquired illegally and have not been verified by the FDA. The CDC has stated: “The latest national and state findings suggest products containing THC, particularly those obtained off the street or from other informal sources (e.g. friends, family members, illicit dealers), are linked to most of the cases and play a major role in the outbreak.”

The severity of illnesses related to vaping has driven the American Medical Association (AMA) to call for a ban on all e-cigarette and vaping products that have not been approved by the FDA for use supporting those attempting to quit smoking traditional tobacco products.

The dangers of e-cigarette use are very real. Many, as we are seeing, are still alarmingly unknown. Individuals continue to become ill and even die due to a product previously deemed “safe.”

Parents Are Taking Back Control of their Kids’ Health by Suing Vaping Companies over Deceptive Marketing

With the rise of vaping and e-cigarette use in the country, we are seeing the long-lasting health effects of prolonged use for teens and young adults.

Many parents are now fighting back by suing vaping companies, like Juul, for targeting their teens.

“Are vaping or e-cigarettes a good alternative to smoking?”

The answer is a resounding NO!

In the past (and maybe until now), e-cigarette companies have advertised their product as something that can help people quit smoking. However, the American Heart Association (AHA) warns that vaping and e-cigarettes should not be promoted as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco. In fact, here are a few reasons from the AHA website about why vaping and e-cigarettes are not a better alternative to smoking:

  • Most e-cigarettes deliver nicotine, which is highly addictive and can harm the developing brains of teens, kids and fetuses in women who vape while pregnant. Some types expose users to even more nicotine than traditional cigarettes.
  • In addition to nicotine, e-cigarette vapor includes potentially harmful substances such as diacetyl (a chemical linked to a serious lung disease), cancer-causing chemicals, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and heavy metals such as nickel, tin, and lead. Users breathe in these toxic contaminants, and non-users nearby risk secondhand exposure.
  • The liquid used in e-cigarettes can be dangerous, even apart from its intended use. Children and adults have been poisoned by swallowing, breathing or absorbing the liquid through their skin or eyes.
  • E-cigarettes have been linked to thousands of cases of serious lung injury, some resulting in death. While the exact cause is still not confirmed, the CDC recommends against use of e-cigarettes.

Click here for more information from the American Heart Association.

Teens and e-Cigarettes/Vaping: Companies Get Richer, While Our Kids Get Sicker

On any given day, you’ll find articles in the media about the dangers of e-cigarettes and vaping. Most of them are saying the same thing: that illnesses, diseases, and deaths connected to the use of such products continue to climb, especially in high schools and on college campuses. This should come as no surprise, because “Juul-ing,” “vaping,” and the like are marketed as cool, sleek, and offer flavored products that tend to appeal to a younger demographic. Not to mention their ability to be disguised from parents and teachers (see subsequent section on “What Is Juul?”).

As a result, courts all over the U.S. are seeing an increase in lawsuits being filed against some of the major companies manufacturing and distributing these products. In October 2019 , e-cigarette company Juul Labs (JUUL) was sued for allegedly deceptive marketing of its products to teenagers. The case was settled, and JUUL was handed specific restrictions on how, where and when it can advertise to teens and adolescents. Recent legislation banned the sale of some — but not all  — flavored vaping products, attributing fruit, mint, and dessert flavors as a source of appeal to younger demographics. Menthol- and tobacco-flavored products were the exception.

Yet the number of teenagers using vape products continues to increase. According to the National Youth Tobacco Survey (NYTS ) from 2019, teen cigarette smoking is at an all-time low, but e-cigarette use is increasing. The NYTS found that 5 million youth report having used e-cigarettes in the past 30 days, with nearly one million reporting daily use.

Take a look at the numbers from the 2019 report:

Infographic describing the results of the 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey, which surveys middle and high school students focusing on patterns of tobacco use.

What Is JUUL?

As mentioned in the above infographic, JUUL is the most popular e-cigarette brand for teens. JUUL  is shaped like a USB flash drive, enabling the product to be used right under parents’ and teachers’ noses (no pun intended).

The device itself heats a liquid (aka “vape juice”) that is turned into aerosol and subsequently inhaled by the user. Bystanders can also inhale this aerosol when the user exhales it into the air. The liquid contains nicotine, but with JUUL products the nicotine comes in the form of a salt. Nicotine salts allow a higher dosage of nicotine per puff.

What is perhaps most alarming is only one-third of JUUL users aged 15-24 know that JUUL always contains nicotine, and not just harmless “water vapor” according to CDC findings. Moreover, secondhand vapor can be harmful to others.

What Teens Are Saying About Vaping

In October 2019, a survey was conducted at Buffalo High School near Minneapolis, Minnesota (read  . The following are direct quotes from the high school students there about why they vape. We hope these can shed some light as to why vaping has become such a widespread epidemic in this particular demographic:

  • “I didn't want to be left out and miss out on the fun.”
  • “I think it was supposed to be a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. That's, like, not the case anymore.”
  • “Your friends do it, so why would you be that one person who doesn't do it?”
  • “People just assume it's good because you're not blowing smoke out of your mouth, you're blowing vapor.”

Help for Parents on How to Start a Conversation With Their Teenager

From this survey, you can get a sense of how teens feel some peer pressure and influence on their decision to start vaping. Perhaps part of the appeal of vaping is also the forbidden aspect of these devices. With e-cigarette and vaping devices being banned in schools, airplanes, public gathering spaces, and more, other companies have jumped on the bandwagon of creating vaping devices that are disguised as something else, such as hoodie straps, backpacks, smart watches, and phone cases, according to Healthline. The point is that vaping devices can be masked as anything these days, which can appeal to the younger generation.

If you are a concerned parent of a teenager, the first step is usually having an open, non-judgmental conversation about it with him or her. The CDC provides a parent tip sheet on how to broach this topic in ways that keep communication lines open; you can find it here.

While the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin is not actively pursuing these cases, we hope you have found this information helpful.

Should you or someone you know need legal guidance in North Carolina:

Please do not hesitate to call us at 1-866-900-7078, or click here to contact us.

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

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

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

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

Beware iPhone Users

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



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

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

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

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

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

The Gender Gap in Distracted Driving

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

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

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

Unemployment Availability Broadened Due to COVID-19: Governor Issues Executive Order

Thanks to an Executive Order signed by Governor Cooper, some eligibility requirements for Unemployment Benefits in NC have been waived for those filing for unemployment due to circumstances related to COVID-19, such as temporary layoffs, significant reduction in hours, business slowdowns and closings. Here is what you need to know:

  • You must apply for benefits either online at https://des.nc.gov/apply-unemployment or via phone at 888-737-0259.
  • If circumstances related to COVID-19 are your reason for applying, you must indicate that on the application.
  • Even if you are still working, but you have had your hours cut due to the effects of the COVID-19 restrictions, you may be eligible for Unemployment Benefits.
  • The standard one week waiting period for benefits is waived for those receiving benefits due to the effects of COVID-19 restrictions. There is still a 10-day period after the application during which your last employer is able to respond to your application.
  • The standard requirement to search for work is waived for those getting benefits as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. You will still have to do weekly certifications, but you are not required to look for work at this time.
  • The requirement that your unemployment or reduced hours is due to no fault of your own remains in place.
  • All standard eligibility requirements remain in place for those filing for unemployment for reasons other than circumstances related to COVID-19.
  • If you are receiving workers’ compensation checks and can’t return to work due to the impacts of COVID-19 on your workplace, learn if you can collect unemployment while on workers’ comp.

The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin Continue to Fight for Our Clients

We are still open, and are fighting for our clients as hard as ever. In addition, we are working to help disseminate useful information regarding the legal impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and containment measures.

Categories: Coronavirus

Cómo la Administración del Seguro Social está manejando el COVID-19

El COVID-19 ha forzado a gran parte del mundo a cambiar la manera en la que conduce sus negocios, y la Administración del Seguro Social (SSA por sus siglas en inglés) no es diferente. Para la mayoría de las personas que ya reciben beneficios, no habrá cambios a lo usual. Para aquellos que están solicitando beneficios del SSA, hay cambios importantes al proceso.

Las Oficinas del SSA están cerradas

  • A partir del martes 17 de marzo la Administración del Seguro Social cerró al público todas sus oficinas locales. Muchas están operando con personal mínimo para continuar procesando solicitudes, apelaciones y pagos. La única diferencia que los reclamantes pueden notar es que asuntos que anteriormente se realizaban en persona ahora tendrán que hacerse por teléfono o en línea. Por ejemplo, cuando se abra una reclamación, la SSA podrá enviar los documentos por correo en vez de solicitar firmas en persona.

Nota: Por favor consulte con su abogado/representante cuando reciba documentos por correo para asegurarse de que son auténticos. Pese a que no hay reportes de fraude, no se pierde nada con asegurarse que lo que usted está firmando y enviando es genuino y va al recipiente correcto.

  • La SSA tiene alguna de sus oficinas asistiendo otras áreas geográficas que han sido más afectadas por el COVID-19.
  • Los empleados del SSA están en lo que se llama una “Estación de Función Alterna,” lo que significa que se les han otorgado laptops y están trabajando remotamente o desde su casa, incluyendo los jueces.
  • La SSA espera que los reclamantes optaran por vistas telefónicas cuando sea posible, ya que esto ayudará a reducir la posibilidad de casos pendientes. A los abogados que representan reclamantes se les solicitó que les motivaran a aceptar vistas telefónicas, pero la decisión final queda en el reclamante.

UN APARTE: La SSA tiene una política de no llamar a las personas sin avisar. Por favor sepa, que si usted tiene una reclamación por incapacidad, nueva o pendiente, no es inusual que usted escuche de ellos. Esto no significa que usted debe bajar su guardia. La SSA tiene un protocolo de seguridad para asegurar que cuando usted les llame, o ellos le llamen a usted, ellos puedan verificar su identidad.

Por eso, usted debe saber que le harán al menos dos o más preguntas (tal como el apellido de su mamá o su lugar de nacimiento). Anticipe que le hagan estas preguntas ya que es su política. Para su seguridad, la SSA ha publicado una hoja de datos sobre como realizan sus conferencias telefónicas.

La Agencia de Determinación de Incapacidad continúa operando

  • Una vez la SSA ha aceptado una reclamación o procesado una primera apelación, el caso es enviado a la Agencia de Determinación de Incapacidad (DDS por sus siglas en inglés) para tomar la determinación médica sobre si un reclamante está o no incapacitado bajo la Ley del Seguro Social.
  • Todas las oficinas de la DDS están cerradas hasta nuevo aviso.
  • Los casos en proceso continuarán recibiendo correspondencia o llamadas telefónicas relacionadas con su caso si se encuentra en el nivel inicial o el nivel de solicitud de reconsideración. Usted puede recibir llamadas telefónicas del Examinador de Incapacidad sobre su caso. Nuevamente, si usted tiene un caso pendiente, no le debe sorprender que reciba una llamada sobre su discapacidad, historial de trabajo, o actividades del diario vivir.

Los casos continúan yendo a Vistas

  • La Oficina de Operación de Vistas maneja los casos al nivel de Vistas. Los Jueces y su personal continúan evaluando casos y exbibits en evidencia.
  • Por ahora, las vistas se llevaran a cabo por teléfono.
  • Los jueces administrativos estarán celebrando vistas desde sus casas a partir del 30 de marzo usando equipo telefónico y de grabación especial. Aquellos reclamantes que decidan aceptar las vistas telefónicas deben anticipar que dichas vistas se celebren en las fechas originalmente calendarizadas.
  • Los reclamantes no tienen que esperar a ser llamados si su vista está programada por teléfono, usted puede llamar a la oficina de vistas a la hora programada para la misma o puede esperar a ser llamado. Espere que las líneas telefónicas estén ocupadas.
  • Los jueces no están obligados a obviar la regla de presentar evidencia en 5 días, pero se les ha solicitado que sean comprensivos de la situación. (Los reglamentos requieren que los reclamantes o sus representantes presenten evidencia al juez 5 días laborables antes de la vista).

Nosotros continuamos abiertos, y continuamos trabajando en los casos de Seguro Social de nuestros clientes

Las Oficinas Legales de James Scott Farrin continúa operando durante la crisis del COVID-19, a pesar de que nuestros métodos han cambiado. Nuestras oficinas están abiertas, solo para citas, y mucho de nuestro personal se encuentra trabajando de forma remota para seguir las recomendaciones apropiadas para el distanciamiento social, para el beneficio de la comunidad en general.

Si usted entiende que tiene derecho a los beneficios del Seguro Social o Incapacidad, llame al 1-866-900-7078 inmediatamente, 24-horas al día, para una evaluación gratuita. Aquí estamos para usted y listos para luchar por sus derechos.

El Sr. Fleming se unió a Las Oficinas Legales del James Scott Farrin en el 2002. Se convirtió en accionista en la Firma en el 2008 y actualmente lidera el Departamento de Seguro Social. Está admitido a practicar ante el Tribunal Supremo de los Estados Unidos.

Contact Information

Asheville Law Office

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

Charlotte Law Office

301 S McDowell St, Suite 900
Charlotte, NC 28204
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

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

Fayetteville Law Office

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

Goldsboro Law Office

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

Greensboro Law Office

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

Greenville Law Office

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

Henderson Law Office

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

Morganton Law Office

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

New Bern Law Office

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

Raleigh Law Office

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

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

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

Rocky Mount Law Office

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

Sanford Law Office

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

Wilson Law Office

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

Winston-Salem Law Office

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