What Happens in Car Accident Cases With Multiple Defendants?

Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Car accident cases are almost always complicated in some way, but when there are multiple cars involved — or multiple parties involved in the claims process — it gets even more convoluted.

This is especially true in North Carolina, which is one of only four states and the District of Columbia that follows the pure contributory negligence rule. Alabama, Maryland and Virginia are the other three.

What is the contributory negligence rule?

  • In North Carolina, if a judge determines that you are at fault in any manner — even if you are just 1 percent at fault for the car accident — you cannot recover a penny in damages from the other party, even if the other party is 99 percent at fault.
  • In most states, the comparative negligence rule is followed, which allots percentages of fault to each party and determines the amount of the damages based on the percentage of fault.

If there are multiple cars or multiple defendants involved in the case, the chance that there are multiple people at fault increases. If you are determined to have no fault, then you will be able to seek damages from all the parties that were determined to be at fault.

What is vicarious liability?

One thing you might encounter if you’re involved in a car accident case with multiple defendants is vicarious liability. What’s that?

  • Vicarious liability is when one person, business or entity assumes liability for the actions of someone else. For example, in a car accident involving a company vehicle, if the person driving the company vehicle is at fault, the company would assume liability for the crash. Often, though, an experienced personal injury attorney will go after both the driver and the company.

 

What happens when multiple people are at fault?

When multiple people caused the accident, then if you are 0 percent at fault, your personal injury attorney can go after all of the other people who caused the accident.

But there are also downsides to having multiple defendants:

  • Multiple defendants often means multiple defense lawyers, which always makes things more complicated.
  • If there are multiple defense lawyers, there are multiple angles by which they will try to discredit you and give you less than you deserve — or nothing at all.

If you have been involved in an accident and there are multiple defendants involved, it’s imperative that you contact an experienced personal injury law firm like Robert Armstrong’s office, immediately.

Cases involving multiple defendants take a lot more time, preparation and expertise, and without that expertise, you could be missing out on the money you are owed.

Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.

 

Traumatic Brain Injuries signs and symptoms

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If you’ve ever been in a serious automobile or motorcycle accident, it’s normal to feel off-kilter and out of sorts right after the crash. But how can you tell if that state of confusion stems from a traumatic brain injury?

You’ll need a doctor to determine that, but there are some signs and symptoms you should be on the lookout for in the days and weeks following your accident.

What are the symptoms of a mild traumatic brain injury?

If you have a feeling of disorientation, headache or confusion after your injury this could be classified as a mild traumatic brain injury, which is the most common type of traumatic brain injury. The Center for Disease Control clearly states that a concussion is a mild traumatic brain injury.

Here are the wide range of symptoms that are associated with mild traumatic brain injury:

  • Being unconscious – either for a few seconds or up to a few minutes
  • Feeling disoriented, confused and dazed
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Headache
  • Drowsiness and fatigue, wanting or needing to sleep more
  • Feeling off-balance or woozy
  • Blurred vision
  • Strange or foul taste in your mouth
  • Feeling sensitive to light and/or sound
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings
  • Memory loss or trouble concentrating

If you experienced any of the above symptoms after an automobile accident, you should seek medical care as soon as possible, within one to two days of the injury.

What are the symptoms of moderate or severe traumatic brain injury?

To be classified a moderate or severe traumatic brain injury, you could have experienced any of the symptoms associated with a mild brain injury, in addition to the following troublesome signs:

  • Being unconscious for several minutes or several hours

  • Headache that won’t go away or gets worse over time
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Seizures or convulsions
  • Dilated eye pupils
  • Loss of feeling or numbness in your fingers and toes
  • Unable to wake up from sleeping
  • Drainage in the ears or nose
  • Extreme confusion
  • Slurred words
  • Feelings of anger and aggravation

 

Keep in mind that the “mild,” “moderate,” and “severe” descriptions of brain injuries are there to portray the level of impact the injury will have on your brain’s ability to function. Even if it’s considered a mild traumatic brain injury, your ability to function as you once did may be compromised and you should still seek prompt medical care.

If left unchecked, the temporary symptoms listed above could worsen or become permanent. People older than 65 are at an increased risk of brain injury after an accident, as are patients who are on blood-thinning medications.

If you or someone you love has suffered a brain injury from an automobile or motorcycle accident, contact experienced personal injury attorney Robert Armstrong today.

Should You Handle Your Own Personal Injury Claim or Hire a Lawyer?

Should You Handle Your Own Personal Injury Claim or Hire a Lawyer? Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

It’s the moment no one is waiting for. You’re on your way to somewhere important, and then you get injured in a car accident.

What to do now? Do you hire a lawyer? Do you settle the claim on your own? These are complicated questions. There are a few benefits to settling the claim yourself if it’s a very minor accident with very little injury involved, but even in those cases, taking the case on your own without the guidance of an attorney is risky.

Saving the money on legal fees could end up costing you more in the end if you don’t have an experienced advocate handling all the convoluted details and advocating on your behalf. Keep in mind that an insurance company has lots of lawyers on staff who are trained to figure out how to pay you the least amount of money possible.

When should you hire an attorney for a personal injury claim?

It’s imperative that you hire a personal injury attorney if you have the following conditions:

  • Severe injuries
  • Expensive medical bills
  • Lost wages because of time off work and other factors caused by your injuries

How are your injuries measured?

So, you’ve been injured, but you don’t know if they’re considered severe. That’s one sign that you should consult with an attorney. Here’s how your injuries are measured:

  • What type of injury did you suffer? (Head injury, traumatic brain injury, broken bone, coma, etc.)
  • How long did it take you to recover?
  • How much do your medical bills cost? Will there be other medical costs in the future because of this injury?
  • Is your injury long-term? One that lasts for a year or longer? Have you been permanently disabled and are no longer able to work?
  • How has your quality of life been impacted by this accident and injury?

These are all factors that will determine the severity of your injury in terms of an insurance claim, and the more serious the injuries, the more complicated the case gets.

What can insurance companies do to try to avoid paying you?

Without a lawyer, insurance companies have several methods for denying you what you are owed. These include:

  • Disputed liability – This happens when an insurance company disputes the liability of the person you are filing a claim against. In other words, the insurance company can claim that the person they insure is not at fault, or they can say that there’s not enough evidence to prove otherwise.
  • Refusal of payment – This can be different than disputed liability. Sometimes, the insurance company will refuse to offer a settlement amount, instead forcing you to sue them and take them to court. Without a lawyer, you will have to represent yourself in a civil claim.

 

For all of these reasons and more, if you are injured in an automobile accident, it’s best that you consult with an experienced personal injury attorney like Robert Armstrong. Contact his office today.

 

Understanding your accident report

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If you’ve ever been in an accident, you might have had to read your accident report that follows. It can seem like a daunting document, especially if you’re not versed in the lingo of traffic reports.

You might have some questions about accident reports, and hopefully, we have some answers for you right here.

First, you must understand that the report really contains two documents. It is all contained in the NC DMV-349. It contains a code form which explains all of the numbers in each little box along with another form listing parties, description of wreck and diagram of the occurrence.

Who is at-fault? Is anyone at-fault?

In most cases, you’ll see on the accident report a listing of which driver was at fault, even if no one received a citation. Sometimes, though rarely, the officer cannot determine who caused the accident, so he or she will place the blame on both drivers – or none of the drivers.

If an officer does not determine fault, it can be bad news for both drivers. If you only have liability coverage on your vehicle, then your insurance company won’t cover the costs of the property damage.

Contributing factors

This part of the accident report will list which factors caused the crash. It can either be listed in the form of a number or a written explanation:

  • In many instances, if you have a “0”or nothing in the box that lists the contributing factors, then you didn’t do anything that caused the accident.
  • If there’s anything other than a “0” or nothing at all, then you likely played some part, if not all parts, in causing the crash.
  • Contributing factors help to determine liability if citations aren’t issued at the scene.

Where are citations found in the report?

The citations section of the accident report will list and describe any tickets — or citations — that were given in connection with the crash. This can be done with a citation code or a written explanation – or sometimes both. If you were given a citation but don’t believe you were at fault, you can fight the ticket in traffic court or consult with an experienced attorney to handle your case.

Is your name listed on the accident report?

The drivers of the vehicles involved in the crash will be listed high up on the accident report, but if you are a passenger, your name might not show up until much later in the report – or sometimes not at all.

This is one of many reasons why it’s so important to get a copy of the accident report as soon as it is available. Make sure all passengers in the vehicle are listed on the accident report. If anything on the report is incorrect, or if there are names missing, you’ll need to talk with the police department to try to get your accident report amended.

Accident reports are critical documents that insurance companies and personal injury attorneys use to build their cases. If you or someone you love has been involved in an accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today.

 

10 Negotiation Mistakes to Avoid in Personal Injury Claims

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Negotiating personal injury claims is a very tricky business that’s typically best left to an experienced personal injury lawyer.

But even if you have an attorney — and you should! — there are some things you need to be aware of when it comes to negotiating with insurance companies.

Here are 10 mistakes that could hurt you in the end:

1. Giving a recorded statement to the other party’s insurance company — This is something you should never do, unless you have your lawyer with you when you give a statement. It might seem like an innocuous task, especially if you weren’t at fault, but insurance adjusters are trained to interview you in a manner that might make you say something to negatively impact your claim.

2. Lying to the insurance company — This also sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s important to note. You should always be completely honest when you give information to both your insurance company and the insurance company of the other party.

3. Giving the other party your insurance records too early in the claims process — A good lawyer will advise you not to release your medical records before you are almost done with your medical treatment. This is because your injuries could get worse or change over time, and you don’t want the claims adjustor to have an incomplete file when it comes to your medical problems.

4. Exaggerating your injuries — If you are injured and you have someone helping you with the claims process, then you will get the award you deserve without having to stretch the truth on the extent of your injuries.

5. Talking about pre-existing conditions or injuries with the insurance company

6. Trying to answer every question, even if you don’t necessarily know the right answer.

7. Letting claims adjusters get informal with you — No matter how innocent it seems, you should never have “off-the-record” conversations with a claims adjuster. It’s called “letting your guard down,” and it’s exactly what they want you to do.

8. Using red-flag terms with adjusters — Be very careful when choosing which words you use with the insurance company. Words to avoid include whiplash and other medical terms. Don’t use them without a proper medical diagnosis. Also, don’t talk about complex legal terms like negligence if you are not a licensed attorney.

9. Giving out your social security number or contact information for friends and family to an insurance adjuster.

10. Assuming your claim will be accepted without a lawsuit — Sometimes, a claim can be settled without having to file a lawsuit. But often, that’s not the case.

This is why it’s so crucial to have a solid personal injury attorney on your side. If you or someone you love has been in an accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.

 

 

 

Your Rights as a Passenger in a Car Accident

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Whether you’re the driver or the passenger, at-fault or not-at-fault, car accidents are never fun. There is good news, however, for the passengers in a vehicle that has crashed.

If you’ve been injured in a car accident as a passenger, your case is typically less complicated than a driver or other personal injury case. Why, you ask? Because as a passenger, you don’t bear any responsibility for how the wreck occurred. That’s for the drivers and their lawyers and insurance companies to figure out.

Often, as an injured passenger, you have more rights than the injured driver.

How do you file a passenger injury claim?

First things first. If you were injured in a car accident as a passenger, you need to make sure you get insurance information for all the drivers involved before you leave the scene, if possible.

Second, you need to document everything that happened, from the moments leading up to the crash to the aftermath of the accident. Take pictures and detailed notes.

Then, you need to hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case.

It’s important to remember the following if you’re a passenger:

  • It’s possible that you will be able to recover the full amount of damages, even in a comparative negligence state that determines damage awards based on a percentage of fault with all parties involved.
  • You will likely be able to potentially file claims against the insurance policies of all drivers, thus havins two liability policies come in to cover the event.

What if the insurance policies don’t cover all of your expenses?

In some cases, your injuries might exceed the coverage of the insurance companies you’re filing claims against. This happens when people keep the minimum insurance requirements, or sometimes it can happen when there are multiple people who are injured in a crash. When either of these things happen, you have the following options:

  • You can try to tap into uninsured/underinsured motorist policies for the host driver involved.
  • You can file a claim against your own insurance policy for the amount that is not covered by the drivers’ insurance policies.

As you can see, accidents involving passengers are very complicated matters, but you have many rights and avenues you can pursue in getting the amount of money you deserve.

If you or someone you love was an injured passenger in a car accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today for help.

 

 

 

 

June National Safety Month

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June is National Safety Month, according to the National Safety Council, which makes it a perfect time to talk about road safety topics that often lead to personal injury cases for lawyers.

What are the dangers of impaired driving?

Driving drunk or under the influence of drugs is not only illegal, it’s extremely dangerous. If you are in an accident and it is discovered that you are impaired, the consequences can be very serious.

Here are some statistics about drunk driving:

  • Someone who has a blood alcohol concentration, also known as BAC, of .10 or higher is seven times more likely to cause a fatal car crash than a driver who is sober. That number increases to 25 times more likely if the driver has a BAC of .15 or more.
  • If you drink two beers and weigh about 160 pounds, your BAC will be somewhere around .04. That’s lower than the legal limit for drinking and driving, but you are still 1.4 times more likely to cause an accident than someone who had zero beers.
  • Studies have shown that people begin to lose their ability to see moving objects properly with as little as a .02 BAC.
  • If you are arrested and convicted on a drunk driving charge, you can expect to pay anywhere between $9,000 and $24,000 before it’s all said and done, and that doesn’t include damages to people you have injured in a crash.

How can you avoid distracted driving?

As smartphones continue to rise in popularity, so do the number of accidents that are caused by distracted driving. Here are some tips to help you stay focused when you’re behind the wheel:

  • Limit cell phone use to ONLY emergency situations: The only time you should pick up your cell phone while you’re driving is if it’s an emergency. Otherwise, keep it out of sight and out of mind until you get to where you’re going.
  • Don’t drive when you’re tired: Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and there’s no reason for you to push forward when your eyes start to droop. Pull over and rest until you’re fresh enough to hit the highway and stay alert.
  • Try not to fill your car with passengers and loud music: Having a car full of people can distract you from the obstacles at hand while driving. Try to limit the number of people in your car. And turn the blaring music down!

Tips for avoiding car accidents

We all know that accidents can happen. That is, after all, why they are called accidents.

But there are some things you can do while driving to avoid them. Here are some tips:

  • Try to stay away from the “fast lane” – Often, if you are driving in the far left lane and something happens, you have fewer options for avoiding the obstacle or swerving into another lane to miss being hit.
  • Be aware of blind spots  – You can’t put all of your faith into rear and sideview mirrors. Always turn and look into the lane you are trying to enter.
  • Maintain your vehicle – Bad tires, old belts and other car ailments can equal disasters on the road if they’re not taken care of. Don’t let yourself become a statistic because you waited too long to buy new tires or take care of other problems with your vehicle.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a car accident, contact the law office of Robert Armstrong today for help.

Why Medical Care is Necessary After a Car Accident

Why Medical Care is Necessary After a Car Accident Robert armstrong personal injury attorney north carolina

Oftentimes, when you are in an automobile accident, your adrenaline starts flowing immediately after the crash. When that happens, it’s hard to determine whether you have injuries, because the symptoms of serious injuries are not visible at the time of the accident.

That’s why it is so important to see a doctor as soon as possible after an accident.

There are two main reasons for needing to seek medical attention immediately:

  • The longer you wait to see a doctor, the harder it will be to prove definitively that your injuries were caused by the vehicle accident.
  • If you don’t seek medical attention immediately, you are putting your health and wellness at risk.

What are the symptoms of serious injury after a crash?

Although injuries are not always immediately felt after an accident, there are some symptoms that can occur right after a crash — or several days or weeks later. Here are a few signs that you might be seriously hurt:

  • Severe pain
  • Feelings of numbness
  • Dizziness

What should you do before you see the doctor?

Here are some things you should do while you’re in the waiting room of the hospital or doctor’s office, if you’re able to:

  • Take pictures of scratches, cuts, gashes, bruises or other wounds that are visible.
  • Write down the pain and symptoms you’re feeling and write down your best account of what happened and what caused the accident.

What should you do after you see your doctor?

After you see your doctor, it’s imperative that you do the following things:

  • Properly document the medical expenses you incur.
  • Continue to document those expenses if there are more doctor’s visits to come.
  • Ask your doctor for copies of your medical records.
  • Seek an experienced personal injury attorney to help you with your case.

Reviewing your medical records

When you obtain copies of your medical records, you should review them thoroughly and make sure the following things are completely accurate:

  • Your doctor’s description of the car accident. Make sure all of the details are factually correct.
  • Your doctor’s listing of your symptoms. Did he include them all? Did he explain them well?
  • Your medical history.

Why are these things so important? Insurance companies and defense attorneys will comb through these details over and over, looking for any inconsistencies that they can use to attack your credibility and not pay you the award to which you are entitled.

If you find any errors while you are reviewing your records, make sure your doctor corrects them and gives you new copies of the corrected records.

Car accidents are a huge pain in more ways than one. That’s why it’s so crucial that you hire an experienced personal injury attorney to counsel you and ensure you get the monetary compensation you deserve.

If you or someone you love has been in a car accident, contact Robert Armstrong’s office today.

 

 

What to do if you’re hit by an Uber or Lyft driver

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What happens if you get into a car accident for someone who is driving for Uber, Lyft, or a similar car service? Who can you make a claim against? Will any insurance coverage come into play?

Uber and Lyft are relatively new car services that compete with taxis and other car services in several major cities. Uber and Lyft are similar to many taxi services in that they do not own, operate, or control their cars, and do not hire their drivers. Rather, their drivers contract with them to pick up passengers on behalf of the companies. The major differences between Uber and Lyft, on the one hand, and taxis and traditional car services, on the other hand, is their pricing structure and how customers get an Uber or Lyft driver.

Unlike taxis, customers cannot hail an Uber or Lyft driver on the street. Rather, customers download the Uber or Lyft app to their smartphone and arrange for a driver through the app. Pricing for a ride can vary. Some rides can be cheaper than a standard taxi, and other rides can be more expensive than a standard taxi. One unusual aspect to Lyft’s operation is that passengers do not technically pay for their ride. Instead, the drivers are supposed to receive “donations” from their passengers.

Who is Liable If You are Hit by an Uber or Lyft Driver?

As in any car accident case, the person bringing the claim must be able to prove two things in order to win the case: liability (who was at fault for the accident) and damages (how badly the plaintiff was injured). If you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you must be able to prove that someone was negligent in order to have a claim.

The primary defendant will of course be the Uber or Lyft driver. Your most straightforward legal case will be against that person, and it would proceed just like any car accident claim. You would find out who the driver’s insurer is, and then make a claim with the insurer. 

The other potential defendant, if you were hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, would be Uber or Lyft themselves. However, one problem in suing these companies is that they are so new that their legal liability for their drivers’ actions is still being sorted out in the courts.

Another problem is that Uber and Lyft expressly disclaim any liability for their drivers’ behavior, contending that their drivers are independent contractors, and that the companies do not control the drivers in any way.

That may well be true, but one potential claim against Uber and Lyft is their selection process for their drivers. To the extent that their selection and vetting process of potential drivers is at all inadequate, a person hit by an Uber or Lyft driver may be able to maintain a claim against the company for negligently permitting a driver to operate a car on its behalf.

Is There Insurance to Cover My Claim?

Insurance coverage is another potential problem in a claim against an Uber or Lyft driver. Although Uber and Lyft require their drivers to have car insurance (which is not necessarily meaningful because almost every state requires drivers to have car insurance) and the companies themselves provide some additional coverage for their drivers, there still may be some significant gaps in the drivers’ coverage.

This is because not all private car insurance provides coverage for accidents that occurred while the car was being operated for hire. So, an Uber or Lyft driver’s car insurer may disclaim coverage for any accidents that occurred while the driver was on call.

Again, Uber and Lyft are so new that the legal aspects of their service are still being worked out in the courts. If you are hit by an Uber or Lyft driver, you should certainly contact a lawyer in your state as soon as possible for sound advice on the driver’s potential liability under your state’s laws.

Learn more about car accidents and car insurance coverage.

What to Do After the Accident — Gathering Evidence

The first thing that you should do after any car accident is get the names and contact information of all of the witnesses to the accident. The second thing that you should do is take pictures immediately. If you have a camera or a camera phone, take as many pictures of the accident scene and the cars involved in the accident as you can, from as many angles as you can, before you leave the scene. If you do not have a camera or are not physically able to take any pictures after your injury, ask if anyone else has a camera and is willing to email you the pictures. Otherwise, have a friend or relative take pictures as soon as possible.

You should also call the police from the accident scene. Many states have a law requiring the police to be informed if a car accident causes bodily injury or more than minor property damage, but, in an accident with a taxicab or Uber/Lyft driver, you will generally want the accident to be officially recorded as soon as possible. Insist that all drivers stay around until the police arrive.

 

Understanding Settlement and Release Agreements

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You’ve finally come to the end of the long and drawn out litigation process, and it’s time to settle your claim once and for all.

The way that most cases are ended is not with a jury or a judge, but with a settlement agreement.

Although it sounds simple, it’s usually not. A settlement agreement is a critical and powerful piece of your case.

When should you use a settlement and release agreement?

You should pull out a settlement and release agreement when:

  • The defendant wants to settle outside of the courtroom.
  • The plaintiff in a lawsuit wants to state the terms in which he or she would settle out of court and end the lawsuit.

What should be included in a settlement and release agreement?

Settlement and release agreements should typically include the following:

  • The names and addresses of the parties involved – both the plaintiff and the defendant
  • A brief summary of the dispute and the nature of the claim
  • A statement describing in detail what the plaintiff is getting in exchange for ending the lawsuit or claim. A release is typically only valid if the plaintiff or person filing the claim is receiving something in return for ending the dispute or giving up the right to file a lawsuit. Usually, the “something” is money, and if so, you should state the amount of money. If it is not money, state what it is.
  • A sentence explaining that the release will end all current and any future litigation that could arise from this claim. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  • A clause that binds all people who might want to file a claim (like the plaintiff’s spouse or daughter) to the settlement, thus giving up their rights to file a lawsuit as well.
  • The date when the release is signed by both parties.
  • The signatures of all parties involved. This would seem obvious, but it’s important. Technically, only the person who’s releasing the lawsuit needs to sign it, but it’s a better move for all parties involved to sign the document.  
  • Have witnesses present when the agreement is signed. That’s not mandatory, but if you believe the person could come back and later say that he or she never signed the document, then it’s a smart idea to bring a witness or two with you when you are signing the document.

Depending on the nature of your claim, a judge or another officer of the court might have to sign off on the settlement agreement.

This is why it’s so important to hire an experienced attorney to handle your case from start to finish. Contact Robert Armstrong’s office today for help.