Our client was hit and killed by a driver on a North Carolina highway. Our client was a mechanic who worked for a company with an assigned work truck. His work truck suddenly became disabled on a rural, 55-mile-per-hour North Carolina highway. Our client got out of his vehicle to inspect what was wrong and wound up getting hit by an oncoming driver.
Precautions Taken By the Victim
Evidence showed that our client activated his flashers and that there was red and white reflective tape all along the rear of his truck. Because he was a mechanic, evidence indicated our client was attempting to repair the hydraulic brakes on the truck and was standing behind it when the other vehicle rammed into the rear of his truck at about 45 miles an hour.
Family Left in Turmoil
Our client was tragically killed at the scene leaving behind a wife of 18 years and a daughter in her early 20s.
Pointing the Finger at the Victim
The driver of the car that smashed into our client pled guilty to a traffic offense for failing to reduce his speed to avoid a collision. Despite this damning fact, his defense lawyers argued that our client was the root cause of the collision.
Key Legal Strategy of Our North Carolina Truck Accident Firm - Find All Available Insurance Coverage
Our deceased client was 49 years old and working two full-time jobs meaning that there were multiple underinsured motorist policies that might apply to the circumstances of this wrongful death case.
Our investigation focused on locating all available insurance policies that provided underinsured motorist coverage even if our client's late husband was not in one of those vehicles. We were able to locate multiple million dollar insurance policies that were required to provide coverage after a careful investigation.
Additionally, North Carolina motor vehicle law has a unique provision that allows a plaintiff (the injured person or a decedent's estate) to demand a three-arbitrator panel effectively requiring that the insurance companies arbitrate the case if the injured person opts for this type of early result and wishes to avoid extended litigation. The widow consented to the three judge arbitration panel on behalf of the estate.
Other Significant Legal Issues Our Team of Truck Wreck Lawyers Investigated
Our client's truck was right in his lane of travel. We needed to prove that there was no opportunity to move it off of the highway in the middle of the night. We had a well-qualified truck inspection and repair expert study the truck which had been moved to storage facility and he found that the hydraulic fluid had completely leaked out from a portion of the brake system. He provided a report that under a failsafe system in this type of truck, the loss of hydraulic fluid immediately applies the parking brakes of the truck. This means that within seconds the truck would come to a fairly abrupt stop no matter what the driver did, and moreover, photographs showed that there was not a paved shoulder to accommodate the size of the truck operated by our client’s late husband.
Randy Appleton, one of the NC truck accident lawyers with our firm, obtained a truck accident reconstruction expert who went to the scene, took measurements and photographs, and also provided a comprehensive report showing that the oncoming driver, that struck and ultimately killed the mechanic, had a straight roadway that was dry and unobstructed for just over 1,000 feet from where he had turned off a separate road. The expert calculated that at 55 miles an hour, the car would have moved at 80 feet a second. Our trucking expert testified about the distance or throw of low and high beam headlamps, and perception/reaction times. One of the important points of the testimony was that the mechanic, when standing behind his work truck, would have had less than two seconds to respond once he heard skidding sounds from the car that skidded and then smashed into the mechanic and his vehicle, entrapping him.
Nonetheless, at the arbitration held in February 2016, the insurance lawyers claimed that it was negligent for the mechanic to have remained at the rear of his disabled truck, even if he was unable to move the truck off the highway. However, our evidence showed that since he was a mechanic he was likely trying to fix his own truck, and was able to assume that the oncoming vehicle would see his flashers and simply go around him on the deserted rural road at 5:00 in the morning at the time that this tragic incident occurred. Instead, when he heard the skids of the oncoming vehicle he likely turned around and realized in horror that the approaching car was going to entrap him. There is a doctrine of law in North Carolina called "last clear chance" which means that even if an injured person might have been negligent or careless in one regard, if the other driver had the last clear chance to avoid a collision, then this operates to place the negligence completely on the driver with the last clear chance to avoid a wreck.
We also offered an economist who analyzed the earnings of the mechanic who was killed, and presented an economic analysis of how much money he would have made through to age 67.
Justice for Our Client's Family
After hearing all the evidence, the three arbitrator panel found that the oncoming car driver was negligent. However, they found that our client was also negligent (most likely for remaining behind his vehicle) but that the last clear chance to avoid the accident was on the driver that collided with our client. Therefore, that relieved our client from any negligence and the panel found that $1.25 million would be the fair compensation damages in favor of the estate attributable to the circumstances.
- Firm Attorneys: Randy Appleton and Richard N. Shapiro
- Paralegals: Becky W., Roz H.
- Court: North Carolina State Court
- Result: Arbitration award of $1.25 million
- Date: February 2016