Car And Truck Accident Cases

Motor Vehicle Accident/Tractor-Trailer Wreck on Highway 421 — Four Deaths

Two married couples were traveling north on U.S. Highway 421 near Wilkesboro after a day of Christmas shopping. All four individuals were killed when a tractor-trailer, traveling south on U.S. Highway 421 and operated at a high rate of speed, overturned, crossed into the opposite lane and crashed into their vehicle. This stretch of Highway 421 before the location where the wreck occurred consists of approximately five miles of steep 8 percent grade and sharp curves. There are numerous warning signs approaching this stretch of highway alerting tractor trailer drivers of the steep hill, sharp curves, the 30 mph speed limit, and that truckers should place their trucks in low gear. The negligent driver and his company were hired and dispatched by a motor carrier located in Tampa, Florida, to transport the load despite the driver's extensive criminal record and history of traffic violations. These cases were complicated by limited liability coverage of only $2 million total. However, at trial, plaintiffs obtained judgments of $4.5 million for each estate totaling $18 million. In 2011, the parties ultimately settled all four cases for a total of $5.5 million, consisting of payment under two liability policies, payment for bad faith under Florida law, and payment under multiple UM/UIM policies.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Bus Wreck — Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Plaintiff was the sole surviving passenger in a Toyota Tundra pickup truck that was rammed from behind by a charter bus while traveling in a highway construction zone. The bus, which was traveling at a high rate of speed, propelled the pickup into logs extending off the back of a logging truck. Plaintiff's sister, brother-in-law, and her brother-in-law's father were killed instantly. Plaintiff was forced to remain in the cab with her deceased loved ones for over 45 minute s until she could be extricated from the wreckage. Plaintiff was hospitalized for four days but was later diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder and continues to be treated for this disorder, which her psychiatrist categorized as severe. Plaintiff made no claim for past or future lost earnings and incurred approximately $70,000. in medical expenses. The medical testimony was convincing that the psychological trauma from the accident was a significant injury. In addition to the negligent operation of the bus, the plaintiff was prepared to introduce evidence of negligent hiring and retention. The bus driver had been involved in two fatal accidents prior to the present case, had lost her commercial license on two occasions and had been fired at least four times due to poor driving and job performance. In December of 2013, the case settled shortly before trial for $3 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Tractor-Trailer Truck Wreck On I-40 — Deaths

A brother and sister were traveling eastbound on Interstate 40 (I-40) toward Raleigh when they encountered a line of traffic created by the closure of the three inside lanes. The brother brought his car, a Toyota Echo, to a stop in the right-most lane. A tractor trailer operated at a high rate of speed by a driver with a criminal history struck the Toyota in the rear, then dragged the Toyota the length of a football field after coming to rest against the center median. The Toyota ended up under the tractor truck and was virtually unrecognizable. Both brother and sister died at the scene, though there was some evidence the sister may have lived for a brief period of time after the collision. Accident reconstruction evidence, as well as testimony from the tractor trailer driver indicated that there were no obstructions, sight lines were clear, weather was good, and that the driver had plenty of time to stop had he been paying attention. The parties settled in 2004 for $5 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident / Tractor-Trailer Truck Wreck On I-77 — Death

A 51-year-old man, survived by a wife and two children from a previous marriage (a minor son and a young adult daughter), was killed by a tractor-trailer. The decedent was the operator of a vehicle towing service. While assisting a disabled vehicle on I-77, he was struck and killed by a tractor trailer truck. Decedent earned approximately $29,000 per year and was extremely popular and highly regarded in his community. A settlement video was prepared showing his close relationship with his family and the high esteem in which he was held in the community. The case settled at mediation in 2006 for $3.6 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident / Tractor-Trailer Truck Wreck On Highway 421 — Death

A 51 year old man, survived by his wife and two children was killed by a tractor trailer truck. As the decedent was merging on to Highway 421 from an entrance ramp, the tractor trailer truck moved from the left lane to the right lane, causing the collision. The case settled for $4.1 million after mediation in October, 2007.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Child Struck By Car — Death

A young boy was struck and killed by a car as he crossed the street in front of his house to get on the school bus. The case settled for $3.52 million after mediation in 2004.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Tractor-Trailer Truck Overturned On Car And Caused Fire — Death

A 40-year-old wife and mother of four burned to death in late 2004, after a tractor trailer truck overturned on her car as she was driving up US Highway 21, a mountainous and curvy road, near Sparta, NC, in Alleghany County. The truck driver, who was working for Terminal Trucking Company in Concord, North Carolina, lost control of the tractor trailer truck while driving downhill in ninth gear (out of ten). The decedent, traveling with her mother, attempted to pull her car off the road as far as she could, but was restricted by the side of the mountain. Her car was struck by the tractor trailer truck as it overturned in the curve, and she was pinned inside. Passers-by attempted to extinguish the fire that broke out, but it continued to reignite and eventually consumed the vehicle and burned her to death. Settlement was complicated by the fact that there was only $1 million in insurance coverage available. After two mediated settlement conferences, the wrongful death case settled in May, 2006, for $2.85 million (the amount of the settlement beyond the insurance coverage came from the trucking company).

Motor Vehicle Accident/Mail Carrier Struck By Tractor-Trailer Truck

A rural mail carrier in the process of delivering mail was struck from the rear at a high rate of speed by a tractor trailer truck that was owned by Defendant Owner-Operator and driven by Defendant Driver. The plaintiff was rendered a paraplegic by the accident and also lost sight in her right eye. Her husband pursued a claim for loss of consortium. Plaintiff has one adult child. The driver of the tractor trailer truck had a substantial criminal record. Attached to the tractor truck was a trailer that had been leased by Defendant Motor Carrier Ezzell Trucking, Inc. and provided to the Owner-Operator for use in hauling its loads. Ezzell Trucking contracted with Owner-Operator to haul wood chips which Ezzell Trucking argued made them an "exempt" carrier from the federal motor carrier safety regulations. Complicating this case further was the fact that Owner-Operator operated under his own DOT authority pursuant to a "motor carrier agreement" with Ezzell Trucking which identified Owner-Operator as an independent contractor. Despite the fact that Owner-Operator only hauled for Ezzell Trucking, the motor carrier filed for summary judgment and alleged that it was not liable for Owner-Operator given his status as a purported independent contractor. The firm's attorneys, representing the plaintiff, argued that Ezzell Trucking's Agreement's language was in violation of federal regulations; and further, that Ezzell Trucking was still liable for the acts of independent contractors pursuant to federal regulations and authoritative case law. Summary Judgment was denied and the case settled soon thereafter in December, 2006 for $5.5 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Head-On Collision Resulting In A Traumatic Brain Injury

A 48-year-old woman, traveling east on Highway 55 in Harnett County, NC, was knocked unconscious after being struck head-on when an oncoming car crossed over into her lane. The defendant driver was an employee of Tyco Electronics and had come to North Carolina for product training. He was returning to his hotel after having hit some golf balls at a driving range when he said that he blacked out and lost control of the rental car he was driving. Tyco denied agency. Plaintiff sustained a number of injuries, including a severe traumatic brain injury (TBI), a fractured patella, a right styloid fracture, and a blown right pupil. The case involved extensive discovery of fact and expert witnesses and accident reconstruction (55 depositions). In addition to the agency issue and the liability defense of sudden incapacitation, the defense asserted contributory negligence (for not stopping and/or getting out of the defendants' way). The defense also took the position that plaintiff's TBI, while severe, had healed, and that she had returned to her pre-accident condition, despite the fact that, at the time of settlement, she had been at the Florida Institute for Neurological Rehabilitation (FINR) for over a year. Plaintiff's experts were her own treating physicians, psychologists, neuro-psychologists and case managers. The case settled in February, 2007 for $4 million shortly before trial after two unsuccessful mediations.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Negligence

A 32-year-old woman was driving her vehicle on a dominant highway in Guilford County. At the same time, defendant driver approached the highway on a servient roadway to the left of the young woman. Despite being familiar with the roadway, the defendant driver ignored traffic signs warning of the approaching intersection, as well as clear stop signs posted at the intersection of the roadways, and entered the dominant highway at a high rate of speed. Defendant driver's truck struck the young woman's car in the driver's side door with enough force to eject her from the vehicle despite wearing her seatbelt. She died at the scene. In 2004, the woman's estate settled the case against the driver for $1 million, which represented the limits of the liability insurance policy. Plaintiff also obtained workers' compensation death benefits in the approximate amount of $142,000, of which $71,000 was repaid to resolve the lien. The estate continued to pursue compensation from the defendant driver's employer, the employer's owner, as well as some closely related companies. Shortly before trial in 2006, those defendants paid an additional $750,000, which was not covered by insurance. Settlement was complicated by the fact that one defendant had terminated its excess coverage shortly before the crash.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Rolled Vehicle

The 24-year-old plaintiff was riding in a passenger van traveling to Charlotte with several other military recruits on their way to enlist in the armed forces. They were traveling behind an 18-wheel tractor-trailer on a two-lane road when the van driver attempted a passing maneuver. In the middle of the pass, the van driver contended that the tractor trailer drifted over the center line toward the van. The van driver attempted an evasive maneuver which resulted in a loss of control. The van sped off the side of the road and flipped several times before coming to rest on its roof. The tractor trailer driver denied crossing the center line. There was evidence that the van driver was speeding far in excess of the posted speed limit. The plaintiff suffered a broken leg, arm and back which required hardware implantation, some of it permanent. In addition, he suffered from head trauma. The recruit sitting next to him suffered fatal injuries. The plaintiff settled with the van company and tractor trailer company in 2004 for $1 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Drunk Driver Causes Accident

A young medical student in Winston-Salem was killed when his car was struck at an intersection. The driver of the pick-up truck, who was drunk, was fleeing from a police car at speeds up to 70 mph through a residential neighborhood. The driver pled guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to 35 years in prison, but denied responsibility for money damages. When Tom Comerford represented the victim in a jury trial in 1990, the jury returned a verdict of $7.5 million ($2.5 million in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages). But it wasn't over yet. After the verdict, the attorneys were forced to sue the uninsured motorist insurance companies for bad faith and unfair and deceptive trade practices for refusing to settle and for denying coverage. That case eventually concluded by payment of uninsured motorist coverage from four different sources.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Vehicle Fire From Crash

The driver of a large SUV was burned to death when his vehicle caught fire after being rear-ended on U.S. Interstate Highway 95 (I-95) near Smithfield by a bobtail tractor truck being driven on behalf of a trucking company. Two occupants died, and two survived the fiery crash. All four cases settled before trial in 1998 for the maximum limits of insurance coverage, plus additional compensation from the insured trucking company. Claims were also made against the State of North Carolina and the manufacturer of the vehicle. All were concluded successfully for the victims and their families.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Head-On Collision

A civil lawsuit was filed on October 4, 1999, in Burke County Superior Court on behalf of plaintiff against Timothy Joe Helms and the owners of the truck he was driving (Shelba D. Johnson Trucking, Inc.). The plaintiff (then age 41) was struck head-on and was left severely and permanently injured. His medical expenses at the time exceeded $128,000, and he was determined to be totally disabled (as determined by Social Security). He was not able to return to work. His treating orthopedic physician rated the impairment at "over 40 percent" and stated that he "will have chronic pain, suffering and discomfort" for the rest of his life. After the Complaint was filed, defendants asked for early mediation and requested that plaintiff be evaluated by another physician, who concluded that he had a permanent partial impairment of 50 percent of the whole person (which rating was at least 25 percent higher than any of the ratings previously given by plaintiff's treating physicians). The case settled after a full day of mediation for $2 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Excessive Speed

A man sustained severe brain injuries after being rear-ended by a county deputy sheriff. The plaintiff alleged that the deputy was driving in the rain in a 35 mph zone at a speed over 80 mph without a blue light or siren. The case settled after mediation in August 1994 for $1.35 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Wrongful Death

The automobile collision that caused the wrongful death of Decedent occurred in Davie County, North Carolina on August 18, 2004. At or about 5:30 pm on that day, Decedent was operating a 1995 Honda in an easterly direction on U.S. Interstate Highway I-40, near the Davie-Forsyth County lines. Decedent was the owner of the vehicle. At about the same place and time, Defendant Driver was operating a 2004 Volvo commercial truck and was hauling a trailer owned by Defendant Employer. At the location where the collision occurred, I-40 is a four lane interstate highway divided by a grass median with guardrails between the eastbound and westbound lanes. As a result of construction, vehicles were stopped in the left-hand eastbound lane. As decedent approached the stopped vehicles, she slowed and then stopped her vehicle. The driver was traveling in an easterly direction behind Decedent's vehicle, operating the Employer's tractor trailer at a high rate of speed. The investigating officer estimated that Driver was traveling 80 m.p.h. just prior to the accident. Driver completely failed to reduce his speed and slammed the tractor trailer into the rear of Decedent's vehicle. The force of the impact caused Decedent's vehicle to rotate counter clockwise and collide with a vehicle that was attempting to merge into traffic on I-40 from the on-ramp from NC 801. After hitting Decedent's vehicle, the tractor trailer then collided with the two vehicles that had been stopped in front of Decedent, which caused a chain reaction involving 5 additional vehicles, causing the death of another driver and injuries to numerous others. The tractor trailer jack-knifed and came to rest on the eastbound shoulder. Decedent's vehicle came to rest facing west in the left lane of eastbound I-40. Decedent was killed by the collision. The case was settled for an agreed upon proration of the insurance coverage between the victims of the collision. The parties settled in October 2004 for more than $1.7 million.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Vehicle Collision

A businessman was killed in a motor vehicle collision when he was struck and knocked into oncoming traffic on an interstate highway (I-40). Fault was established by discovery and accident reconstruction. The case was settled in 2002 for $1.2 million, representing the total coverage available from the insurance companies involved.

Shooting/Wrongful Death/$20 Million Judgment

James Milton Johnson, a Forsyth County Deputy Sheriff, was shot and killed by Denny C. Booth on November 11, 2004. Deputy Johnson was returning home with his grandson when they were confronted by Booth, who had moments earlier shot and killed Dwight Allen and his mother-in-law, Reba Idol. Booth had returned to his former neighborhood to confront Allen over a lingering property dispute. When Booth, stilled armed, approached them, Deputy Johnson was able to distract Booth long enough to allow his grandson to escape and to divert Booth's attention from Johnson's home where his wife was preparing dinner. Despite Johnson's efforts to diffuse the situation, Booth shot Johnson five times at close range. Johnson died on the scene. Booth was later shot by law enforcement called to the scene, but survived, and was charged with three counts of first degree murder. Johnson had been married to his wife for forty years, was the father of three children, and had five grandchildren. In addition to serving as a reserve sergeant with the Forsyth County Sheriff's Department, he was a master mechanic and owned his own automobile business. He had also served with the Kernersville Police Department for 28 years. His name has been inscribed on the National Wall for Fallen Officers in Washington, DC. His estate brought suit against Booth for wrongful death. Booth was not represented by legal counsel, did not contest any of the allegations, and likely cannot satisfy any judgment against him. On July 9, 2007, after evidence was presented in Superior Court, default judgment was entered against Booth in the amount of $20 million. Of that amount, compensatory damages were $5 million, and punitive damages were $15 million -- the maximum allowable by law (three times the amount of compensatory damages).

Shooting/Murder/Wrongful Death/$14.96 Million Judgment

Jimmy Blevins was lured from his home in Ashe County, NC and murdered on February 24, 2007. His family offered $15,000 in reward money for information about the case. His convicted killer, Freddie P. Hammer, did not reveal what had happened to Blevins. During this time, Hammer was convicted of killing three other men on a Christmas tree farm and is in prison in Virginia serving five life sentences for those crimes. Over two years after killing Blevins, Hammer agreed to reveal the location of the grave if the Blevins family would agree to transfer the $15,000 in reward money to an attorney to be held for his step granddaughter. Within a few days after the money was transferred, Hammer confessed to killing Blevins and gave directions to law enforcement officers where they could find the body. Blevins was found in a shallow grave. He had been shot in the back of the head. On behalf of the estate, attorneys with the firm filed an Interpleader Action and obtained an Order from the Court returning the money to the family. The estate then filed a Wrongful Death suit against Hammer, who denied the allegations in the Complaint and requested a jury trial. Hammer did not appear at trial and was not represented by legal counsel, and likely cannot satisfy any judgment against him. Since he did not appear at trial, the judge proceeded without a jury and heard evidence of the killing from the Ashe County Sheriff and a Sheriff's detective who heard Hammer confess to the killing. After hearing evidence from Blevins' father and brother, the court entered judgment in the amount of $14.96 million on March 11, 2011. Of that amount, compensatory damages were $3.74 million and punitive damages (limited by statute to three times compensatory damages) were $11.22 million (the maximum allowed).

Motor Vehicle Accident/Tractor-Trailer Logging Truck

A 69 year old man was injured in a collision in 2008, and later died from those injuries, leaving behind a widow and four adult children. At the time, he was working for the NC DOT, supervising inmates working along the side of the four lane U.S. Highway. He was parked off the side of the road in a yellow Chevy Suburban with flashing lights when a logging truck came from behind him, ran off the road, and knocked him 494 feet forward. The case settled at mediation in May, 2009 for the limits of the insurance company's coverage ($750,000) plus $20,000 from the owner of the trucking company.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Hit From Behind

A man was injured in a collision near Boone in March 1996. He was a rural mail carrier and was stopped on U.S. Highway 421, waiting to turn left to deliver mail down a dead-end road. A dump truck weighing more 13 tons came from behind and skidded at least 219 feet before striking plaintiff's Ford Escort Wagon, knocking the car 93 feet forward. Although he sustained no obvious fractures, the plaintiff was severely and permanently injured and will require medication and steroid injections in his lower back for the rest of his life. The defendant's insurer refused to make a serious offer to settle, and after a four-day trial in February 1999, a Burke County jury awarded the plaintiff $320,000. The parties settled a few weeks later for $340,000.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Injured Passenger

A young woman was injured in an auto accident at Spivey's Corner, North Carolina. She was a passenger in a van that was struck by a car that ran a stop sign at that intersection. She injured her back, leg and hand and required internal orthopedic hardware. The case settled before trial in 1991 for $650,000.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Head-On Collision

A man was killed in a head-on collision when the left front steering tire on an oncoming fully loaded concrete truck suddenly blew out and caused the concrete truck to veer left. The case settled at mediation in January 2000.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Child Fatality

A family of five was devastated when a car traveling on an interstate highway (I-95) in Robeson County crossed the median and struck them head-on. A two-year old girl was killed, and her two sisters were injured-one of them severely. The mother and father also received serious injuries. The case was complicated by inadequate limits on the liability insurance policy, Florida laws on stacking underinsured motorist coverage, and claims by the self-funded health plan for subrogation (as allowed by ERISA). The case was successfully concluded for the maximum available insurance policy limits.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Motorcycle Accident

A man and his wife (both in their early fifties) were pleasure riding their motorcycle on a two-lane road near Elkin, North Carolina, when an oncoming car ran off of the shoulder and then skidded sideways, hitting them head-on. They fortunately survived, but both sustained numerous severe fractures and other injuries. The case settled in early 2001, before the complaint was filed, for the defendant's insurance policy limits.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Rolled Vehicle

A young man's hand sustained severe injuries to his right hand when the car in which he was a passenger ran a stop sign and overturned with his arm out of the window. The case settled in 2005 before trial for approximately $207,000.

Motor Vehicle Accident/Defectively Maintained Highway

A woman was injured on a defectively maintained stretch of interstate highway in the foothills of North Carolina. The State denied liability but the trial before the Industrial Commission resulted in an award of $500,000 to the injured passengers in 2003, the maximum recoverable under North Carolina law in this type of case.