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Proposed Changes to Tractor-Trailer Regulations

Proposed Changes to Tractor-Trailer Regulations

Charlotte, NC Personal Injury Lawyer

The U.S. House Appropriations Committee is considering a fiscal year 2016 transportation funding bill that contains two controversial provisions that affects the requirements for tractor-trailers. The first deals with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA) 34-hour restart rule, which was suspended by Congress on December 16, 2014. The second is a provision that would allow larger tractor-trailers on the interstate highway system and other highways.

 34-hour Restart Rule

 The FMCSA promulgates regulations governing hours of service for tractor-trailers. One of these regulations, which took effect on July 13, 2013, is a 34-hour restart provision. Drivers are not allowed to drive after 60/70 hours on duty in 7/8 consecutive days. A driver may restart a 7/8 consecutive day period after taking 34 or more consecutive hours off duty. This must include two periods from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. home terminal time and may only be used once per week, or 168 hours, measured from the beginning of the previous restart. However, in December 2014, Congress suspended enforcement of this new 34-hour restart period.

The goal of the rule was to reduce excessive work hours that increased the risk of fatigue-related crashes. To reduce fatigue, the rule limits the maximum number of hours per day and week that the drivers can work. It reduces a driver’s average maximum allowable hours of work per week from 82 hours to 70 hours — a 15 percent reduction.

The 2016 transportation funding bill contained a provision stating that before the FMCSA’s 34-hour restart rule is reinstated, a study ordered by Congress of the impacts of the rule must address whether the rule has safety benefits and is better for drivers in terms of fatigue, health, longevity, and work schedules.

 Larger Trucks

 Currently, twin trailers are limited to 28 feet in size to be allowed to operate on the interstate system. In eighteen states, they have been grandfathered and allow 33-foot trailers to operate in tandem. A provision in the 2016 transportation funding bill would increase the maximum length of twin trailers to 33 feet, which proponents claim would allow trucking companies to reduce the number of rigs on the road and allow for more efficiency in hauling the surge of e-commerce shipments. It could also be a boon to less-than-truckload carriers, who could see potential capacity increase 10 feet, or 18 percent.

On the other hand, opponents argue that larger tractor-trailers will mean greater damage to U.S. surface transportation infrastructure, more congestion, and a significant environmental impact.  Additionally, multi-trailer trucks already have a higher fatal crash rate than single trailer trucks.  North Carolina Congressman David Price on the House Appropriations Committee wrote a letter to the Truck Safety Coalition opposing the changes. The Obama administration opposes this provision, stating that the Department of Transportation is currently conducting a comprehensive truck size and weight limits study, and any changes in size and weight limits should be informed by this study.

Crashes involving large trucks killed 3,921 people in the U.S. in 2012, and trucking fatalities have increased in each of the past four years. Compared to single-trailer trucks, twin trailers are 32 percent more often involved in fatal crashes and 200 percent more likely to be in interstate highway crashes.

If you or a loved one has been injured  in a large truck accident, the personal injury attorneys at Bice Law, LLC can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call (855) 500-BICE today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Motorcycle Accidents and Injuries

Motorcycle Accidents and Injuries

Charlotte, NC Personal Injury Lawyer

Thursday, June 4 marked another motorcycle fatality in North Carolina.  When the driver of a minivan rear-ended the vehicle in front of him, it pushed the leading vehicle into oncoming traffic and directly into the path of a motorcyclist heading outbound on South Boulevard in Charlotte.

Earlier this year in Johnson County, a motorcyclist was killed when a government contractor pulled out in front of him on Thanksgiving Fire Road east of Clayton. And last year, of the sixty motorcyclists participating in a charity ride were involved in a multiple-vehicle accident when a beach ball was thrown at or blown into the motorcyclists.

Risk and Responsibility in Motorcycle Accidents

In 2008, North Carolina ranked eighth nationwide for motorcycle accident rates, according to AAA.  In 2012, motorcycles, mopeds, and motor scooters or motor bikes made up roughly one percent of all crashes in North Carolina, yet comprised over nine percent of the fatalities.  Though the 2013 statistics touted an 8.1% decrease in the number of motorcyclists killed, as a class, deaths among motorcyclists, moped drivers, and those on motor scooters or motor bikes actually increased, while the percentage of such accidents relative to total accidents in North Carolina actually dropped.

The exposed nature of a motorcycle leaves its riders dramatically more vulnerable to injury.  But whether motorcyclists are more frequently responsible for collisions or accidents during operation remains unclear.  N.C. Governors Safety Highway Program traffic records coordinator John Stokes concluded that improper riding skills were a factor in 51 percent of the crash fatalities involving motorcycles from 2005 to 2008.  However, a 2003 study by the National Highway Safety Administration suggested that in accidents involving both cars and motorcycles, the drivers of the automobiles were either solely or more responsible for the accident than the motorcyclist fully 80% of the time.

Limits on Recovery for Injuries in North Carolina

North Carolina differs from most states with respect to how fault impacts the amount of damages an injured party will receive.  North Carolina is one of only four states still enforcing a “pure” contributory negligence or fault scheme.  What that means is that in North Carolina, if the motorcyclist is even slightly at fault—even one percent responsible for an accident—he or she is not entitled to recover damages from the party who was ninety-nine percent at fault.  (Many states, including South Carolina allow recovery by an injured party as long as his or her responsibility for the accident is not greater than that of the person he or she is suing.  The amount the injured party will recover is simply reduced by his or her own level of fault, represented by a percentage established by the judge or jury.)  For that reason, a motorcyclist injured in an accident needs a lawyer who will ensure that fault will properly be assigned exclusively to the driver of the vehicle involved in an accident.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law:

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call (855) 500-BICE today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

 

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Obligations to Assist Others in Peril

Obligations to Assist Others in Peril

Charlotte, NC Personal Injury

As the weather heats up, people flock to outdoor, recreational activities.  A trip to the lake or ocean to swim away the scorching temperatures is typically a pleasant summertime activity, but sometimes, things can go wrong.  Drowning is the third leading cause of death from unintentional injury, worldwide.  In the United States, an average of nearly 4,000 deaths by drowning occurred each year from 1999-2010.

So what happens if you are caught in a situation where someone is in peril?

The legal adage that “danger invites rescue” is as true as ever.  In other words, when another person is drowning—or in some other type of peril—it is the natural, or moral inclination of many to attempt to help.  Surprisingly, the law rarely demands that one do so.

This concept is somewhat counterintuitive and foreign to the majority, who would find it all but impossible to sit by while another human perished by any means.  However, legally, an ordinary, reasonable person is generally under no legal duty to act to rescue another who finds him or herself in peril.  Of course, certain exceptions exist.

Dipping a Toe:  When Failing to Attempt to Rescue Another Could Result in Liability

The most common legal circumstance that would require a person to act in aid of another is when there is a special relationship between the two parties.  Though states vary slightly in the special relationships that do or do not create a duty, common relationships that impose a requirement to render aid are familial ones, like husband/wife or parent/child, and contractual ones like teacher/student, business-owner/guest, and mental-health provider/patient.

Certain other circumstances can create a duty to act, most notably when someone actually creates the peril that endangers the person in need of rescue.  In such circumstances, when the would-be rescuer actually created the danger, he or she is legally bound to render aid.

In addition, if a person chooses to attempt to rescue another, that rescuer must then perform that rescue as reasonable, ordinary person would under the circumstances.  The rescuer—having decided voluntarily to engage in the rescue–cannot leave the victim in a worse position, as when others decline to act because the person in peril is already being rescued.

Jumping In:  When Attempting to Rescue Could Result in Liability and Legal Protection of the Rescuer

As noted above, abandoning a rescue attempt undertaken by choice could lead to liability.  Voluntarily attempting to rescue a person in peril will very rarely result in liability.  A rescuer will only be liable for injury caused during a rescue attempt when the rescuer’s efforts were so careless when weighed against the nature of the emergency that his or her carelessness rises to the level of acting rashly or imprudently.  In South Carolina, a person who attempts to render aid in an emergency situation is insulated from any liability by statue under so-called “Good Samaritan” law.  North Carolina observes the same principle, though not by statute.  Moreover, if the rescuer is injured trying to aid another whose peril was caused by a third party, the third party may become liable to the rescuer for his or her injuries.

The Bottom Line

Because danger invites rescue, and danger is inevitable, the law works equally to protect those who choose not to engage in assistance to one in peril, and those who volunteer to do so.  Like so many choices then, in general, the decision whether or not to “jump in” to assist another will be personal.

Of course, to avoid having to choose between a legal and a moral obligation during a moment of crisis, the best strategy is to keep safety first this summer, wherever you are, and whomever you may be with.

Three Summer Water-Safety Tips

  1. Know how to swim. This may seem obvious, but the Red Cross reports that only 56% of Americans who said they could swim could pass a basic swimming skills test.  Before getting in over your head, test your swimming skills.  Swimming classes are available to adults as well.  Practicing in a pool, you should be able to (1) jump into the water over your head, (2) return to the surface, (3) tread water for one minute, turning around in a full circle, (4) swim 25 yards, and (5) exit the pool without using a ladder.
  2. Know the conditions. Most child drownings occur in pools.  In pools, barriers that keep children from entering the pool without supervision reduce a child’s risk of drowning by 83%.  Lifeguards are critical, but are not a substitute for individual supervision of a young child in the water.  If at the ocean, know the meaning of colored flags, do some research on Rip currents, and swim in pairs.
  3. Stay Dry. Drowning by those 15 and over more commonly occur in natural water settings.  Alcohol use was involved in 70% of water-recreation-based accidents.  You should avoid drinking alcohol not only before swimming or other water sports, but also when supervising children swimming.  One of the most important safety practices when in the water is to stay alert.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call (855) 500-BICE today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in North Carolina

Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in North Carolina

Charlotte, NC Personal Injury Attorney

 If you have suffered injuries at work in North Carolina, your employer or health insurance company may have advised you to seek benefits under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act. As a preliminary matter, filing a workers’ compensation claim does not require that injured employees prove that an employer is negligent or at fault for the injury to be compensable. For injuries in the workplace to be compensable, all that is required is that the injury must be accidental and arises out of and in the course of one’s employment.

 What Counts as an Accidental Workplace Injury?

Courts in North Carolina have adopted a definition of an “accident” in the context of workers’ compensation that depends on what is routine in an employee’s normal workday. In North Carolina, an accident is something that occurs when the work routine has been interrupted and unusual conditions are created, which are likely to produce unexpected consequences. It must involve more than an employee’s performance of his or her usual and normal duties in the accustomed way. For an injury to be accidental, it must result from an interruption of the employee’s normal work routine that involves unusual conditions. Therefore, compensable injuries are likely to be injuries that occur gradually over time.

For an injury to be compensable, it must also arise out of the ”course and scope” of employment. This occurs when the injury is a natural and likely consequence or incident of employment and as a natural result of one of its risks. There must be some causal relationship between the accident causing the injury and the employee’s performance of his or her duties in the workplace.

Under the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act, qualifying employment includes employment by the state and all political subdivisions thereof, and any public and quasi-public corporations therein and all private employment in which three or more employees are regularly employed in the same business or establishment. There are various exceptions including those dealing with agricultural and domestic workers and independent contractors.

 What are Injured Employees Entitled to?

 Employees with compensable injuries are entitled to benefits, which include medical, wage loss, and death benefits. Medical benefits provide medical treatment for injuries. Employees are entitled to treatment that is necessary to cure the injury, lessen disability, and relieve pain.  This includes medical services such as doctors’ visits, diagnostic testing, rehabilitation, surgery, prosthetics, and medicine. In some circumstances, treatment may also include an adjustable bed and housing modifications necessary to accommodate physical limitations connected to the injury. Chiropractic treatment may be covered, but if more than twenty visits are necessary, the chiropractor must seek authorization from the employer.

Wage loss benefits involve three different categories.

  • Total disability is the total inability to earn any wages because of a compensable injury. This may be temporary or permanent.
  • Temporary or permanent partial disability is an employee’s inability to earn the same wages earned prior to suffering a compensable injury. This may apply if an employee cannot return to either the same number of work hours or the same rate of pay prior to suffering an injury. Wage loss benefits are calculated at 66.6% of the injured worker’s pre-tax average weekly wage.
  • Death benefits are also compensable in the event an employee is killed as a result of a qualifying work accident. The deceased worker’s dependents are entitled to death benefits and funeral expenses. The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act limits funeral expenses up to $10,000 and death benefits equal to 500 weeks of pay.

If you believe you or a loved one has suffered a compensable work injury, the attorneys at Bice Law, LLC can help you navigate the complex process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call (855) 500-BICE today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

 

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Amtrak and CSX Sue Trucking Company in North Carolina Derailment

Amtrak and CSX Sue Trucking Company in North Carolina Derailment

Charlotte, NC Personal Injury Lawyer

In March of this year, a train collided with a truck that was stopped on the tracks in Halifax, N.C., injuring 55 people. Witnesses indicated that the truck sat on the tracks for quite a while before the train plowed through, and that it was accompanied by a pair of privately owned escort vehicles as well as a state highway patrol trooper. Amtrak and CSX, which were the railroads involved in the accident, filed a lawsuit against the trucking company. The lawsuit alleges that the train collided with the truck because neither rail companies were notified that it was sitting at the rail crossing. According to the lawsuit, the trucking company and the driver were liable because they failed to check out the route beforehand and notify the railroad companies of its situation. The lawsuit claims that the trucking company was negligent in hiring an incompetent driver that had a history of safety violations and failing to adequately train and supervise him.

 Liability in Hiring and Retaining Drivers

 Trucking companies must be careful in hiring truck drivers. They have to exercise due diligence in finding out if a potential employee has a history of negative conduct, from which a company may infer that he or she is not qualified for the position. When a trucking company knows or should have known that the candidate has a negative job history and yet hires him or her to be a driver, the company may be liable for negligent hiring if an accident occurs because of the driver’s conduct on the road.

Similarly, truck companies must be careful in retaining drivers and ensure that they continue to drive safely on the roads. Satisfying this duty of due care may involve regular alcohol and drug testing, reviewing driver logs or inspection reports for accuracy, providing skill and safety training, and imposing consequences on drivers for violating safety rules or falsifying log book entries. If a company knows that a driver on its payroll is no longer safe or competent to remain as a driver but fails to terminate him or her, it may be liable for negligent retention if somebody is injured as a result of an accident caused by that driver.

 Screening Potential Truck Drivers

 The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) promulgates regulations that contain protocols for hiring truck drivers. These protocols include checking a driver’s motor vehicle record and complete background checks, including contacting previous employers.  The FMCSA has a pre-employment screening program that allows carriers, drivers, and industry service providers access to commercial drivers’ safety records. These records contain a driver’s most recent five years of crash data and the most recent three years of roadside inspection data from the FMCSA database. According to FMCSA, companies utilizing the screening have reduced their crash rates by 8% and their driver out-of-service rates by 17%.

FMCSA mandates that trucking companies maintain a “driver qualification” file. As part of that file, they are required to review and document an applicant’s prior driver’s licenses, prior experience, all accidents during the prior three years and any injuries caused, all traffic tickets for the past three years, all prior license suspensions, and all prior employers for the last three years and the driver’s reason for leaving each employer.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a truck accident, the attorneys at Bice Law, LLC can help you seek compensation for your injuries. Contact us today for a free initial consultation.

Contact the Personal Injury Law Firm of Bice Law

The personal injury firm of Bice Law will examine your case to determine the type and amount of damages that your injury warrants, including payments for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and any permanent disability.  We’ll determine whether an out-of-court settlement or trial is the best strategy to obtain maximum benefits for you or your family. If you have suffered injury or harm because of someone else’s actions, take the first step to protect your legal rights – contact the personal injury firm of Bice Law serving both North and South Carolina. You only have a limited time after your injury to file a claim, so act quickly.  Call (855) 500-BICE today or submit an online request  to get a free consultation with a  personal injury attorney. We serve families across both North Carolina and South Carolina.

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