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January 27, 2021

RESPONSIBILITY FOR A SLIP AND FALL ACCIDENT

When most people hear “slip and fall accident,” they probably imagine that a broken portion of a sidewalk or an unmarked wet floor in a store caused the accident. But slip and fall accidents can occur under many scenarios, especially during winter months.

You may wonder since no one controls ice and snow other than Mother Nature, who is responsible for a slip and fall accident under these conditions?

This blog will cover the basics of premises liability law regarding ice and snow in North Carolina and what the law could mean for a personal injury claim.

How Does a Fall Qualify as a Personal Injury?

Falls happen daily, but not all falls qualify as a personal injury under the law. Under most circumstances, to pursue an injury claim, an accident must cause serious or permanent injury and it must have also occurred in a situation which could have easily been prevented by a property owner.

This is why most people think of wet floors when hearing “slip and fall accident.” In these cases, if a store owner failed to mark, or take care of, the potential hazard and someone slipped, accident would clearly fall into the category of a personal injury.

Seek the appropriate medical attention after a slip and fall accident. Be sure to document all the care you receive, medical images such as x-rays, doctor’s notes and any prescribed treatment plan if you plan to file a personal injury claim.

Who May be Liable for the Incident?

In addition to seeking medical care, you must also determine who, if anyone, could be considered responsible for keeping the area where you fell in a safe condition. Examples of who could be liable on specific property types include:

  • Commercial property, such as a department store—the property owner and staff members
  • Government property, such as federal building/courthouse—the building staff, maintenance staff, and government
  • Public property, such as a park—the maintenance team and the city
  • Rental property, such as an apartment building or complex—the landlord, property owner, tenants, and maintenance team
  • Residential, such as a privately owned home—the homeowners and contractors who may have performed recent maintenance

While some of the business, individuals and organizations listed above are technically responsible for keeping their properties safe, you are also expected to follow any posted safety guidelines and exercise appropriate care. For example, if a property owner has a “watch your step” sign posted above a doorway, your personal injury claim may not be valid if you cannot prove that you exercised a reasonable amount of care and still fell.

However, some of the above noted businesses, individuals and organizations are rarely liable under the law. An example of this would be, while the government could be responsible for a slip and fall accident outside a federal building, usually the government as an entity has no control over the conditions at a building, therefore are not liable for any accidents.

When Does an Ice or Snow Incident Become a Premises Liability Case?

In North Carolina, ice and snow slip and fall accidents rarely qualify as personal injuries. In most cases, NC law recognizes that a property cannot be held responsible for the accumulation of any precipitation or be expected to remove all ice and snow at any given time.

There are however certain scenarios that are exceptions to this broader law, such as:

  • If a property owner heightened the poor conditions through reckless or negligent action. Many injury claims occur because an individual behaved negligently or recklessly. In the case of a slip and fall accident, a property owner could be negligent if they failed to notice a broken pipe that caused a dangerous amount of ice. If the property owner knew about this hypothetical pipe and intentionally ignored or put off the repairs, they may be considered to have behaved recklessly.
  • If a property owner had a contractual obligation to remove snow and ice.  Some business owners and/or landlords sign contracts obligating them to remove winter precipitation. If the snow or ice is not removed in a reasonable amount of time, they could be liable for any accidents that occurred as a result. In a situation like this, a property owner could be liable for a slip and fall on ice that accumulated for several days but not for snow that appeared overnight since they would not have had a chance to complete removal.
  • If a property owner overlooked an underlying hazard that was the cause of the incident. If a hazard on the property caused dangerous snow or ice conditions, the owner could be responsible. For example, a property owner can be held liable for a broken paver during any season.

Because winter premises liability claims are complex under NC law, we encourage clients to consult with a trusted and experienced attorney to determine if you have a claim. The team at Hardee, Massey & Blodgett will evaluate any injuries you sustained, the property you sustained those injuries on, and any other relevant information that can help you take the best step toward physical and emotional recovery. Call us today for your free consultation, 252-378-2525.

January 25, 2021

NC PEDESTRIAN FATALITIES ARE ON THE RISE

With the new year comes resolutions of healthier living and more exercise. With the great weather in eastern North Carolina, many  people will put on their shoes, maybe leash up their dog, and head outside for a run or walk. In most situations, this type of activity would be considered great for your health. However, the story changes when it comes to sharing and navigating the roads with cars.

Pedestrian fatalities rise in North Carolina

A report from the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) says that in 2018, the U.S. had the most pedestrian fatalities in nearly 30 years after an increase of 4 percent in the number of pedestrian deaths in car accidents recorded in 2017. This report also showed that North Carolina is one of the states with the largest number of pedestrian deaths along with the highest year-over-year increase in pedestrian fatalities.

The GHSA states that the increase could be due in part to the increase in smartphone use over the past decade, which continues to be a source of distraction for both pedestrians and motorists alike. What this means is that more people are walking and they, as well as drivers, are often distracted by their smartphones.

Common Reasons for Accidents Involving Pedestrians

The GHSA says many factors outside the control of traffic safety officials contribute the number of pedestrian fatalities, the study points to the following reasons for pedestrian accident:

  • Darkness is one reason. Nationally, about 75 percent of pedestrian fatalities in 2017 occurred after dark.
  • Most of the fatalities occurred in the city on local streets, followed by highways. Ten percent occurred on interstates with motorists being struck while standing outside of their vehicles because of a minor accident or a mechanical issue.
  • Alcohol impairment of either the pedestrian or the driver contributed to approximately half of the accidents that resulted in pedestrian fatalities in 2017.

At Hardee, Massey & Blodgett, we help people in eastern North Carolina who have been injured in pedestrian accidents caused by careless drivers and families of pedestrians killed by negligent drivers. During a free consultation, one of our experienced attorneys can review your case and explain your rights to compensation. It is important to report hit-and-run accidents to the authorities and ask for legal assistance immediately.

January 22, 2021

FARM EQUIPMENT ACCIDENT RISKS

There are over two million full-time agricultural workers in the United States alone. Working in the agricultural industry in North Carolina means you are taking on some amount of risk. Often, farm workers are at a high risk of serious or fatal injury working on and around equipment.

In addition, individuals who live on the farm, such as family, can also experience some of risk. Farming is one of a few other industries where non-workers are also at risk of injury. Why is this? The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) better explains who may be at risk of farm injuries.

Understanding who is at risk also means you must understand that any individual who works around farm equipment or lives on property around farm equipment could be at risk. This goes for both youth and adult workers on the farms. Roughly 900,000 youth workers, under age 20, reside or work on farms, with approximately 454,000 of the youths performing work.

For every 100,000 farm workers, about 21 of them suffer a fatal injury while at work, which does not include fatalities. Roughly 100 workers suffer an injury that take them out of work every day with about 4,000 youths suffering injuries work on the farm.

The most dangerous and leading cause of death on the farm are transportation accidents, such as overturned tractors. Tractors and drivers without a rollover protective structure or seatbelts are more likely to suffer injuries, and unfortunately only a little over half of all tractors in the United States utilize this equipment.

This article is meant to inform readers on farming equipment hazards; it is not to be interpreted as legal advice to the reader.

January 19, 2021

STEPS TO PRESERVE BLACK BOX DATA

A crash between your everyday vehicle and a large tractor-trailer can be catastrophic. A tractor-trailer truck can have a big advantage in weight over your typical car, SUV or pick-up weighing as much as 80,000 pounds. This means if your vehicle is struck with a greater impact than you could possibly imagine.

Because of the size and weight differences, the consequences of a truck accident can be extremely significant. However, it can be difficult for someone injured in these types of crashes to receive the fair and just compensation they may deserve. The reason for this is there are challenges involved when it comes to proving maintenance failures by the trucking company and/or negligence of the truck’s driver.

Luckily, there is a device that can help provide the needed evidence so you can prove your case. This device is called an Electronic Control Module, also known as a “black box.” Much like the black boxes you’ve heard about on airplanes, the ECM records data relevant to your truck accident case, such as time driven, overall average speed, highest speed attained, amount of time traveling over 65 miles per hour and more. Most trucks manufactured and driven in the United States since the 1990’s contain ECM’s/black boxes.

Truckling companies know just how valuable the black box is to a truck accident case and they may actually try to destroy it before you can get access to it. It is important for you to contact a truck accident attorney after an accident so they can help you take the appropriate steps to preserve the data. Acting quickly is important because an ECM typically only stores recorded data for approximately 30 days. The steps that should be taken to preserve the black box data include:

  • Limit the movement of or access to the vehicles with a court order
  • File a protective order to preserve the information contained in the truck’s black box
  • Have the data on in the black box read by a qualified company
  • If necessary, seek data from the ECM of another truck that was following the truck involved in the accident.

Since most of the steps noted above require action by the court, you will normally need to hire a personal injury attorney experienced in handling trucking accidents to work on your behalf and obtain the necessary court orders in a timely fashion.

If you or a loved one has been involved in a trucking accident, contact the trusted truck accident attorneys at Hardee, Massey & Blodgett today at 252-378-2525.