A chain-reaction crash on the interstate near Concord, North Carolina (NC), left a female passenger in one of the cars dead and a pickup driver facing charges. The deadly four-vehicle collision happened shortly before noon on May 6, 2017.
State Highway Patrol investigators determined that the fatal incident began when the pickup driver came up at speed on a row of stopped vehicles on the Cabarrus-Mecklenburg county line. People were backed up at the Bruton Smith Boulevard exit off I-85 North due to an event at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.
The deceased victim was a backseat passenger in the first car struck from behind. There is no word on whether anyone else suffered injuries.
According to the news reports, the pickup driver admitted to looking over his shoulder to see if he could change lanes and to being unable to stop in time once he turned his eyes back to traffic in front of him. A state trooper explained to the local Independent Tribune newspaper that “it just appears that this was just a true accident, just due to the fact that it was an unexpected thing. … I don’t think he realized that traffic was at a dead stop. It just kind of snuck up on him.”
Despite this, charges of misdemeanor death by motor vehicle and failure to decrease speed have been filed against the pickup driver. Section 20.141 of the North Carolina Code of Laws makes it a misdemeanor to fail to slow down in order to avoid a crash. One of the interpretations of this statute posted to the website of the North Carolina attorney general emphasizes that the actual speed at which an at-fault driver is traveling does not matter for finding a criminal offense or assigning negligence in a civil lawsuit. In part, that finding states.
Subsections (m) establishes a mandatory duty to decrease the speed of a vehicle to avoid a collision even though the speed is lower than the legal limit. Subsection (m) is a safety statute enacted by the legislature for the public welfare. The legislature in passing this safety statute had the intent of making a violation of the duty a criminal offense thereby shifting to the individual the burden to know whether his conduct is within the statutory requirements.
Establishing that the pickup truck driver was traveling at a speed that created the risk for a crash and that the driver was inattentive in the seconds before the crash will make it possible for the family of the woman who died in the rear-end collision on I-85 to succeed with a wrongful death insurance claim. Working with an experienced and caring Carolina plaintiff’s attorney will help the family deal with the insurance company.