Type of Action: Automobile Negligence, Trucking Negligence, Violations of Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSR’s), Violations of Trucking Company’s Safety Policies, Wrongful Death
Injuries Alleged: Wrongful death case where decedent sustained multiple fractures and internal organ damage. Decedent was 60 year old male on date of collision. His fractures and organ damage required surgeries and intensive care treatment, patient was doing well initially, but could not survive so many serious injuries. Plaintiff’s decedent is a resident of an eastern North Carolina county. At the time of his injury, he was not gainfully employed and was drawing social security due to a back injury. He was happily married to his third wife. He had three adult, non-dependent children from his first two marriages, but all three lived far away. Only one child had seen him in the last five years of his life. Decedent was a volunteer fireman who was driving from him home to the station when the collision occurred; a firefighter’s fund paid his medical bills and their lien was addressed in settling this third party liability claim.
Name of Case: [CONFIDENTIAL]
Court and County with Case #: [CONFIDENTIAL] Filed in a rural county east of Charlotte, North Carolina
Settlement/Trial: Case settled at a mediated settlement conference after numerous depositions of fact and expert witnesses.
Name of Judge or Mediator: Donald Beskind, Mediator
Special Damages: EMS, Surgeon Fees, and Hospital $514,255.15; Funeral $ 1,652.35.
Verdict or Settlement: Mediated Settlement
Date of Verdict or Settlement: Dismissal filed December 2009.
Most Helpful Experts (Name, Title, Location): Mary McMillan, Legal Nurse Consultant, Raleigh, NC; Michael Sutton, Accident Research Specialists, PLLC, Cary, NC (accident reconstruction expert) Michael K. Napier, Napier Diversified Services, Inc., Macon, GA (trucking industry standards) Cynthia Hill, Markay Media, Durham, NC (video production); and, Mark Valentine, The Visual Advantage, Wendell, NC (medical illustrations, courtroom exhibits)
Insurance Carriers: [CONFIDENTIAL]
Attorney(s) for Plaintiff : Philip A. Mullins, IV of Thomas, Ferguson & Mullins, LLP (Durham), 919-682-5648, fax 919-688-7251
Description of Case, evidence presented, and arguments made: This collision occurred in a 45 mph zone on a rural two lane paved road at night. Weather was not a factor. A passenger car under rode the left side of a semi-truck’s trailer that was completely blocking the car’s lane of travel. The trucker initially told investigators that he had pulled to the stop sign, looked both ways, seeing it was clear he began pulling out and then the passenger vehicle claim crested the hill about a 2/5ths of a mile away and just did not slow down to avoid his trailer. He claimed the passenger vehicle was speeding.
The plaintiff’s decedent was never able to voice his side of what occurred that night due to injuries and death. Thus, the defense took the position it was a no-negligence by its trucker and that the collision was entirely caused by the plaintiff’s decedent’s negligence in speeding and in failing to stop when it was obvious the road was blocked. The State Highway Patrol investigated this collision. Without the work of troopers involved, much of the evidence would have been destroyed such that the trucking company and their truck driver would have avoided liability. Plaintiff’s experts used the information provided by the Highway Patrol to establish that the trucker, and not the automobile driver, was solely liable for all damages sustained by the decedent and that the decedent did not have the time nor means to have avoided the collision.
While photographs did show that the trailer had conspicuity tape, side marker lights, and reflective tags around the trailer, which did not control. If the trucker was backing into the side road as plaintiff contended, the ‘cone of light’ caused by the trucker’s headlights would block the decedent’s view of the side markers on approach until it was too late for him to avoid the collision. Through physical evidence, statements by the trucker at the scene, and statements elicited from him during his daylong deposition, it became clear that the trucker was attempting to back into a side road and had blocked both lanes of travel on this somewhat hilly, two lane 45 mph road when the collision occurred at around midnight. Once that became evident, the multiple experts that the trucking company’s liability carrier hired were discredited as relying on unreliable statements by a discredited witness. Depositions of the defendant truck driver, trucking company’s safety director, and accident reconstruction expert were necessary to expose the truck driver’s falsehoods and bring a fair resolution to this case. The decedent’s widow was the administrator of the estate. She focused on vindicating her husband and proving he was not responsible for causing the collision. She was deposed and did well. The Visual Advantage’s illustrations of the injuries and medical procedures were instructive for the claims supervisors in attendance at the mediation.
Amount Actually Recovered for Client: 100% recovery, ie., $1,400,000 (One Million Four Hundred Thousand Dollars).