Yesterday afternoon, around 12:30 p.m., a truck driven by the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton and another car collided, leaving Cam Newton with two fractures in his back. The accident occurred when Cam Newton was driving his truck south on Church Street. A driver of a sedan was headed west on Hill Street, and the car and truck collided at the intersection of the two streets. According to witnesses, the collision caused Cam Newton’s truck to flip and land on its side on the I-277 overpass on Church Street. The Charlotte Observer has a nice graphic to show where the accident occurred.
Newton was able to climb through the shattered window of his truck and walk over to the side of the road to wait for medical help. He was treated for about 20 minutes at the scene of the accident before being taken to the hospital. He was released from the hospital late this morning. The other driver was also taken to the hospital.
The Panthers said that Newton broke two bones in his lower back called transverse processes. Although it is unlikely that Newton will play in this Sunday’s game, it is possible that he is not out for the season, and his prognosis is good.
The crash report for the accident was issued this morning and neither Newton nor the other driver was cited. The crash report indicates that the other driver did not see Newton coming on Church Street when he pulled his car out to cross the street. Newton swerved in an attempt to avoid hitting the other car but was unable to avoid the collision. His car then rolled over and landed on its side. At the time of the accident, Newton’s truck was traveling at 35 mph and the other car was traveling at 20 mph.
The intersection at which the accident occurred is listed as the fourth most dangerous intersection in Charlotte over the course of the past year. According to the assistant director of the Center of Transportation Policy Studies at UNCC, the intersection is especially dangerous because of the angle at which the two streets intersect. Hill Street feeds the entrance ramp for I-277 and does not intersect Church Street at a right angle, which makes it difficult for drivers stopped at the stop sign on Hill Street to see oncoming traffic. In addition, Church Street is one way and drivers will frequently speed towards the I-277 entrance ramp or the street’s next intersection at Morehead Street. These two factors together combine to make for a dangerous intersection.
Although neither driver in yesterday’s accident was cited, let’s examine the liability analysis if one or both of the drivers in an accident at this intersection was negligent. First, let’s consider that G.S. 20-158(b)(1) states that
When a stop sign has been erected or installed at an intersection, it shall be unlawful for the driver of any vehicle to fail to stop in obedience thereto and yield the right-of-way to vehicles operating on the designated main-traveled or through highway. When stop signs have been erected at three or more entrances to an intersection, the driver, after stopping in obedience thereto, may proceed with caution.
Therefore, a motorist travelling on Hill Street waiting to cross Church Street is required to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic on Church Street. But how can a motorist yield the right-of-way to cars he cannot see? G.S. 20-158(b)(5) states that
When a stop sign, traffic signal, flashing light, or other traffic-control device authorized by subsection (a) of this section requires a vehicle to stop at an intersection, the driver shall stop (i) at an appropriately marked stop line, or if none, (ii) before entering a marked crosswalk, or if none, (iii) before entering the intersection at the point nearest the intersecting street where the driver has a view of approaching traffic on the intersecting street.
So this part of the statute requires a motorist to first stop at the marked stop line and then proceed to the point where the motorist has a view of oncoming traffic. If a driver does not stop in accordance with the statute, he would violate the statute. However, a violation of the statute is not negligence per se under subsection (d) of the statute which states that
No failure to stop as required by the provisions of this section shall be considered negligence or contributory negligence per se in any action at law for injury to person or property, but the facts relating to such failure to stop may be considered with the other facts in the case in determining whether a party was guilty of negligence or contributory negligence.
Therefore, an injured party attempting to show the negligence of a motorist failing to stop in accordance with the statute would not be able to rely on negligence per se and would have to prove that the motorist breached the duty to exercise reasonable care and that the breach actually and proximately caused the injury.
Now, let’s consider whether our analysis would change if the oncoming car traveling on Church Street was traveling above the speed limit. A violation of the speed limit is considered negligence per se because it is a violation of a statute enacted for safety purposes and the statute does not exempt itself from being considered negligence per se.
If a motorist trying to cross Church Street from Hill Street failed to yield the right-of-way to an oncoming car on Church Street and the cars collided as a result, this could be negligence on the part of the Hill Street motorist. But if the Church Street motorist was also speeding, this could be contributory negligence on the part of the Church Street motorist. A plaintiff’s contributory negligence can act as a complete bar to his recovery of damages, even when the defendant’s negligence has been proven.
Regardless of our liability analysis, it is clear that motorists should exercise caution at this dangerous intersection for their own safety.
If you have been injured in a car accident, contact an attorney at Rosensteel Fleishman, PLLC (704) 714-1450, to discuss your options.