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One Strike: Who's Car Is Out?

I. Drive By

It's such a great question, you have to wonder why it is not asked more often. A car accident lawyer, on the other hand, who has experience in the field knows that it's not only a great question: it is often the determining factor in car accidents.

The question: how responsible are you to clear the road of your disabled vehicle, to prevent any further mishap or accident?

II. Hold On Now…The Wheel Deal

At trial, the driver who had struck Mr. Murphy was asked by his own car accident lawyer about the possibility Mr. Murphy might have contributed to the accident. His car accident lawyer asked whether if “at Malpass’ corner could (Mr. Murphy) have gotten (his) car completely off the hard surface road?”

Murphy's car accident lawyer immediately and wisely objected to this question. To begin with, the flawed implication in the question itself: suggesting that it was an entire “hard surface” road, including the shoulder, is part of the presumed response. It was a clever trap, avoided by Murphy's car accident lawyer. Unfortunately, the record, nevertheless, from the trial court indicated that Murphy had answered “yes” to the question. This allowed the jury to hear evidence improperly. It was this key bit of evidence that was challenged all the way up to the North Carolina Supreme Court by Murphy's lawyer.

The plaintiff also attempted to include as “evidence” at their closing argument the allegations they had put in their own Complaint. This was vigorously opposed by the car accident lawyer, who pointed out it was a type of bootstrap thinking. Merely placing it in the complaint did not make it true, or merit the jury's attention to the bald-faced allegations in the Complaint. After all, Murphy’s car accident lawyer argued successfully, that’s why we have trials: to ascertain truth, not just to repeat allegations.

III. Cars Are Not Semi-Trucks

Clearly, the purpose of the person who had hit Murphy was to place all the blame, in any way they could, entirely on Murphy. The fact that this was an attempted pile-on of all factors, in a prejudicial way, was probably not lost on the jury. Jurors are usually drivers, after all. Still, this all-out assault on someone in a car accident requires the expertise of a car accident lawyer to carefully sift through the varied accusations and innuendos. For example, the driver who hit Murphy even argued that Murphy should have put flares out on the road. The car accident lawyer for Murphy conceded that, yes indeed, there is a North Carolina provision for the placement of flares or lanterns. But clearly this provision is a distortion of legal duties. The car accident lawyer pointed out that Murphy had in fact attempted to park his vehicle in a safe position. The referenced North Carolina vehicle safety provision (for flares) applies only to commercial trucks, trailers or semi-trailers that are disabled on the highway…not to automobiles. These special safety rules are not applied “to the driver of any vehicle which is disabled while on the paved or improved or main traveled portion of a highway.”

There was yet another somewhat amazing twist to this case. There was slight evidence to support the possibility that Murphy was perhaps under the influence of alcohol or a narcotic. The court nevertheless agreed with Murphy's car accident lawyer that no sufficient negligence had been shown on the record.

The court went so far as to say “it is regrettable indeed that the plaintiff had suffered such serious injuries in the collision involved in this action. However, the record reveals no negligence on the part of (Murphy) that would justify allegations of negligence contained in the complaint.” This was the final blow to the plaintiff's failed case to shift the blame on to Murphy.

There's an important “words matter, words change” caveat in this case. The North Carolina General Assembly can write language to shift more responsibility onto individual drivers. Drug-involved and repeated accidents are such examples. The changes in driving regulations is another reason it is so vital to work only with the most experienced of a car accident lawyers, to keep up with these potential changes in motor vehicle rules and laws. There may also be important provisions in insurance that effect rights to recovery and costs or expenses involved for recovering from the accident.

IV.   Rebuilding the recipe: Stewing of car accidents

There are almost always going to be reasons to blame one party or the other disproportionately. In America one of the most common reasons for an accident include drunk driving. Almost a third of all fatalities involve drinking. At the same time, it is worth noting that an experienced car accident lawyer looks at other factors as well. Another third of all fatal accidents involve speeding vehicles. Almost one in five accidents occurs because of bad weather. Increasingly, inattention to road conditions is also a factor: while it is rarely enforced in modern law, juries will pay attention to the actions of the driver who could have last avoided an accident.

A qualified car accident lawyer will investigate whether or not distracted driving or these other potential important factors may have been in play as well. The point is that an experienced car accident lawyer will investigate every reason for the accident in order to make sure that your rights are protected based upon the specific facts involved in the accident. In the case we have looked at here, the practical inability of Murphy to move his vehicle safely was also affected by other conditions, including weather, the darkness, and the amount of time involved.

Conclusions:   

There is an important lesson in cases like this, where two experienced car accident lawyers square off against each other to represent their clients. With the best of interests, the facts can often be drawn out. On the other hand, it can be completely lopsided if only one side has an experienced car accident lawyer. It behooves someone to make sure that they are prepared by working, as soon as possible, only with an experienced car accident lawyer. 

So, if you, a family member or a loved one have been hurt in a vehicle accident—or have questions about insurance claims or need help related to a motor vehicle insurance policy, or involving related claims or your legal rights or hearings, please contact us.  You will speak with an auto or car accident lawyer who can best answer your questions.  There is never a fee for this initial consultation.

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