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school buses

It’s that time of year again, when the younger kids go back to school and the older ones head off to college. Moms and dads also spend a lot of time on the road, shuttling young athletes, musicians, and scouts to a wide array of extracurricular activities.The beginning of the school year is a great time to make a safety evaluation of the family car or the vehicle that a high school or college student will be driving during the upcoming school year.

It’s also an excellent time to have a serious discussion with younger drivers concerning the dangers of distracted or impaired driving.

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traffic signal

Depending upon when, where, and how an automobile accident occurred, even a seemingly clear-cut case can grow surprisingly complicated.

This is especially true when a motor vehicle collision occurs when the plaintiff is on the job. In such a situation, it is quite possible that the issue of subrogation will arise, if the plaintiff has received workers’ compensation benefits due to the accident.

If the parties cannot agree on the amount due under the subrogation claim, the issue will be decided by the trial court hearing the car accident lawsuit.

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city intersectionNorth Carolina follows the doctrine of contributory negligence, under which a plaintiff is completely barred from recovery in a personal injury lawsuit (such as a car accident case) if the plaintiff is found to be even partially at fault in the accident.

The result is often very harsh – much harsher than would be the case in a sister state in which the prevailing rule is pure or even modified comparative fault, which may serve to reduce a plaintiff’s damages but not necessarily preclude compensation, depending upon the percentage of fault attributable to the plaintiff.

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playground structureNegligence cases hinge on four primary considerations:  duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages. The element of duty can be very fact-dependent, especially in cases involving premises liability and the negligent supervision of children.

Recently, a North Carolina appellate court was called upon to review a sizable plaintiff’s verdict in a case in which a daycare was sued after two small children ran into each other on the playground, seriously injuring one of the children.

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law enforcement vehicleGenerally, when a person’s negligence causes a personal injury or wrongful death to someone else, the wrongdoer can be held financially liable to the accident victim or his or her family in civil court. However, when the defendant is a government employee, this is not necessarily true.

Under North Carolina law, a police officer can be immune from liability in certain situations, including occasions in which a motor vehicle accident occurs during the pursuit of a suspect. This is a very unfortunate result for the victim or the victim’s family, since it may leave them with no legal recourse, despite severe injuries or a wrongful death.

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police carAt common law, a person injured by the negligence of a governmental entity or an employee of the government could not recover damages for his or her injuries. While this is not necessarily true in the modern era, there are still serious limitations and sometimes very demanding procedural requirements in suits involving the government.

Under the doctrine of “sovereign immunity” (which is based on an old English rule that “the king can do no wrong”), a lawsuit can only be maintained against the government in cases in which the government has consented to be sued, usually via a governmental tort liability act or similar legislation.

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hospital roomIn a personal injury lawsuit, such as a case arising from a motor vehicle accident, the plaintiff has the burden of proving each element of his or her case (duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages) by a preponderance of the evidence.

In some respects, this is similar to building a physical structure such as a house. If any element of the case fails, the entire undertaking will eventually collapse.

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fishermanMost lawsuits involving a car accident begin with an injured person (or the family of someone killed in a vehicular accident) filing suit against the person whom they believe caused the accident through an act of negligence or recklessness. However, sometimes other issues arise that are resolved through litigation that may be filed separately, either before or after the primary accident case.

Recently, a North Carolina federal court was called upon to resolve a lawsuit filed by an insurance company to determine whether it was obligated to provide coverage for an accident that was the subject of a state court lawsuit.

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alarm clock

If you aren’t a lawyer or employed in the legal field, you have probably never heard the term “nonsuit.” Typically, a voluntary nonsuit happens when a plaintiff files a motion to dismiss his or her case against one or more defendants. Pursuant to N.C. R. Civ. Proc. 41(a)(1), a voluntary dismissal is without prejudice, effectively extending the statute of limitations by one year.

You may be wondering why anyone would chose to voluntarily dismiss a lawsuit, only to have to refile the complaint, re-serve the defendant, engage in discovery a second time, and so forth. The reasons for a nonsuit can be complex, involving issues such as strategy or sometimes an attorney’s hunch that a particular jury will not return a favorable verdict. A nonsuit can be a useful tool in some situations, but the taking of a voluntary nonsuit is not without risk.

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drinksWhen an individual or business acts negligently, a person who is injured by that act of negligence has a right to file suit, seeking damages such as pain and suffering, medical expenses, and loss of earning capacity. Typically, negligence cases arise because of motor vehicle accidents, defective products, acts of medical malpractice, or slip and fall injuries.

However, there are other types of negligence cases that, while less common, are still actionable under certain circumstances. “Dram shop” lawsuits are not filed as frequently as other types of negligence cases, but they can still result in an award of damages against a negligent provider of alcohol in some situations.

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