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Auto Insurance and UIM Coverage in SC

No one wants to get into a car accident in the first place, and matters are made even worse when the other driver doesn’t have adequate insurance coverage.  The best scenario in that situation is that a driver has uninsured/underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage.  Even then, a driver must worry that his insurance company, as his UIM carrier, will dispute liability.  A recent South Carolina Court of Appeals opinion illustrates how complicated matters can become in what one might think should be a straightforward car accident case.  It also reveals some of the interesting decisions that a state might make when trying to regulate who, when, and how folks are compensated following a car accident.

In that case, Lincoln General v. Progressive Northern, the practical issue was which gargantuan insurance company would end up paying for damage caused by the negligent driver in a car accident.  One of these insurance companies, the trail court plaintiff, was the UIM carrier, who had already paid up (for the injuries caused by the negligent driver).  The other was the insurance company who had granted a policy to the owner of the negligently driven car.  The policy, however, had an “endorsement” specifically excepting coverage of an individual in the policy holder’s household whose driver’s license had been revoked by the SC DMV.  That sets up the legal issue:  whether an insurance carrier must provide coverage despite a “named driver endorsement” (i.e. a provision excepting a named driver).

The policy backdrop here is that South Carolina law will require liability insurance companies to pay innocently injured drivers except in very limited cases, whether the policy purports to exclude coverage or not.  The idea is that insurance companies should bear the loss, rather than the not-at-fault driver, whenever possible.

This case, however, deals with a specific exception made by South Carolina in the Motor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act (the MVFRA) for these “named driver endorsements.”  Realizing that if insurance companies knew that anybody in a household would end up being covered in the event of an accident, insurance rates might become very expensive for drivers who had someone with a revoked license and bad driving record in their home, the SC legislature allows individuals to add to their policy a named driver endorsement, to specifically exclude the driver with a revoked license.

Despite the MVFRA clearly making this exception, the trial court read the MVFRA as generally requiring coverage up to state minimum policy limits in all cases.  The Court of Appeals rejected this because of the MVFRA’s clear exception for drivers whose licenses had been revoked.

The takeaway here for anyone who isn’t a subrogation lawyer is that named driver endorsements for folks whose licenses have been revoked will be respected and that UIM litigation is sometimes quite complicated.

The complete opinion is included below the fold.

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Four Hospitalized After Head-on Tractor-Trailer Crash–Davidson

Four people, including three children, were hospitalized after crashing head-on into a tractor-trailer on U.S. 64 East near N.C. 109 in Davidson County Saturday.

According to authorities, the crash occurred around 2 p.m. when a eastwardly bound Nissan passenger car collided with a tractor-trailer that was headed in the opposite, westbound lane.

All four people in the car were transported to Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, three with serious injuries and one with critical injuries. The driver of the tractor-trailer was not injured.

Studies from 2010 reveal that 3,675 people were killed and 80,000 people injured in crashes involving large trucks.  During that same year, 276,00 large trucks were involved in traffic crashes.  Of the fatalities involving large trucks reported in 2010, 76 percent were occupants of other vehicles, 10 percent were nonoccupants, and 14 percent were occupants of the large trucks.

Although truck drivers are required to have more skills than the normal driver, the shear size of these vehicles provides reason enough to exercise caution.  When you or someone you love has been involved in a serious accident, the Tractor-Trailer Accident Attorneys of Reeves, Aiken, and Hightower can be there to assist you on your path to recovery.  Call us today and speak directly with one of our lawyers at 704-499-9000 or 877-374-5999 toll-free.  

SC NC Motorcycle Accidents – Airbags for Riders

Safety Sphere Motorcycle Airbag Suit Turns You into a Giant Orange

December 17th, 2011by: Technabob

I’m one of those guys who thinks motorcycles are really cool, but I don’t ride one. I think it’s because I’ve always been convinced that I’d end up killing myself if I tried to negotiate the slick roads and maniac drivers of Chicago in the winter time. I actually knew a guy in college who rode a motorcycle and got in an accident and ended up as a paraplegic, so that doesn’t help with my anxieties.

But if I were to take up motorcycle riding, this would be protective gear which would convince me to ride.

safety sphere

Designed by Rejean Neron, the Safety Sphere is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a special bike suit that automatically inflates into a sphere, enveloping the rider and protecting them from injury if they ever go flying off the bike in a crash. The suit inflates to its full capacity in 5/100ths of a second, and fills with compressed air to cushion the impact. The sphere is made up of two layers of fabric, including an inner layer of thin elastic material, and an outer layer of parachute-type cloth. A battery connects to an electric ignition which triggers nitrocellulose canister, inflating the suit in the event of an impact.

Yes, the resulting expanded suit looks completely ridiculous. I’m reminded of that part ofWilly Wonka where Violet Beuregarde turns into a blueberry, except this time you’ll be turning into a navel orange. Still, I’d rather look stupid than end up dead. From the looks of things, you might still need some Oompa Loompas to come rescue you after an accident, too.

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This is one of those articles that may seem a little far fetched at first. However, given the seriousness of motorcycle injuries and the frequency of such accidents on our roadways, perhaps we should take another look. I like the bright orance safety suit. Afterall, just like with airbags in automobiles, you never want to actually need them. But, despite being as safe as possible, a serious motorcycle accident can occur in an instant because of another driver’s inattention or carelessness. This suit could very well become standard safety equipment for motorcyclists one day. We thank Technabob for introducing this cool technology that may be able to prevent serious injury or even death.

At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP, all of our attorneys are seasoned trial lawyers with over 70 years combined experience. Whether it is criminal or civil, our litigators are regularly in Court fighting for our clients. Two of our firm’s partners, Art Aiken and Robert Reeves, are inducted lifetime members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mr. Reeves has also been named one of the Top 100 lawyers for South Carolina in 2012 by the National Trial Lawyers Organization. Our attorneys include a former SC prosecutor, a former public defender, a former NC District Attorney intern, a former Registered Nurse (RN), and former insurance defense attorneys. As a result of their varied backgrounds, they collectively understand the criminal, insurance defense, and medical aspects of complex injury cases. We welcome an opportunity to sit down and personally review your case. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other law firm. Then call us today for a private consultation. www.rjrlaw.com


Deadly Truck Accident in Rowan County, North Carolina

1 killed in tractor-trailer accident on I-85 in Rowan County

 by GREG ARGOS / NewsChannel 36
Posted on January 18, 2012 at 5:54 AM
Updated Wednesday, Jan 18 at 10:59 AM
SALISBURY, N.C. — The North Carolina Highway Patrol has reopened two lanes of Interstate 85 south in Rowan County after one person was killed in a tractor-trailer accident Wednesday morning.

“This was not our standard accident. We don’t like to see anything like this,” said Deborah Horne, a spokesperson with the Rowan County Fire Marshal’s Office.

The highway patrol says Garry Darnell Wilkerson, a UPS Freight truck driver, crashed a double trailer near exit 79, flipping the truck over the bridge onto McCanless Road below I-85 and leaving one of the trailers dangling off the overpass.

Authorities say Wilkerson, 58, appears to have not been wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the truck when it went off the overpass. No other injuries were reported. A spokesperson for UPS Freight says his company is looking into the possibility that a front tire blowout caused the crash. That same spokesperson called Wilkerson “a veteran driver” with a clean driving record.

UPS Freight says the tractor trailers were not carrying anything hazardous. The driver was mainly transporting cigarettes from Virginia to Charlotte. The North Carolina Highway Patrol and UPS Freight confirm that some of those cigarettes may have been looted by drivers passing by the scene immediately after the crash.

“Some officers from the Sheriff’s Department assisted us by guarding the cargo because we did have some cigarettes that spilled over. Of course, we don’t want any looting obviously. At that point our job is to protect the owner of the cargo,” said Sergeant Barry Hower.

DOT crews have reopened the two right lanes on I-85, but the two left lanes remain closed as they work to clear the scene.

Troopers are advising commuters to get off of I-85 south at exit 79 and use U.S. 29 as an alternate route.

Troopers also said McCanless Road will remain closed for the rest of the day.

We thank NewsChannel 36 for their story showing what can happen in a moment on our highways. We hope everyone who reads this article sees the damage that can quickly occur and slows down. Be Safe. Get Home.

At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP, all of our attorneys are trial lawyers. Whether it is criminal or civil, our litigators are regularly in Court fighting for our clients. Two of our firm’s partners, Art Aiken and Robert Reeves, are lifetime members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. Mr. Reeves has also been named one of the Top 100 lawyers for South Carolina in 2012 by the National Trial Lawyers Organization. Our attorneys include a former SC prosecutor, a former public defender, a former NC District Attorney intern, a former Registered Nurse (RN), and former insurance defense attorneys. As a result of their varied backgrounds, they understand the criminal, insurance defense, and medical aspects of complex cases. We welcome an opportunity to sit down and personally review your case. Call us today for a private consultation. www.rjrlaw.com

 

No More Cell Phones – Are Truckers on CB Radios Causing Few Accidents?

18-wheeler crash prompts cell phone usage ban for truck drivers

Posted: Sep 13, 2011 10:31 PM EDTUpdated: Sep 13, 2011 10:32 PM EDT

By Melissa McKinney

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) –

He made a call that lasted just one second, but the crash that followed killed 11 people.

The accident happened in March of 2010 on an interstate in Kentucky. A hearing revealed that the truck driver from Jasper, Alabama was making a call on his cell phone.

Kenneth Laymon’s truck crossed the median and crashed into a van carrying a Mennonite family.

After that horrific crash, a national highway safety agency wants states to ban texting and hand-held cell phone use by truckers and commercial drivers when they’re behind the wheel.

Alabama has no such law, but the Alabama Trucking Association would like to see one and not “just” for big rig drivers.

Folks at the trucking association have been working with legislators to pass a law banning hand held communication devices for all drivers. They say the problem affects everyone.

And one truck driver couldn’t agree more.

“It’s definitely gotten worse through the years,” says Leo Chenevert.

Chenevert’s been behind the wheel of a truck for more than 30 years. He remembers when pay phones were the only way to call home.

“If a driver had to pull over to use a pay telephone, he wouldn’t be running through the median strip running over people.”

He admits he’s used a cell phone while driving.

“But it’s short and sweet, to the point, and I’m done.”

“Everyone needs to be banned from using a cell phone or at least texting while driving,” says Gene Vonderau with the Alabama Trucking Association.

He says the burden doesn’t just fall on truck drivers. He believes all motorists should be held to the same standard.

“It’s a danger to everyone on the road.”

The recommendation by the National Transportation Safety board to ban truck drivers’ hand held cell phone use will now go to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and all 50 states for action.

“We hope that maybe in the next session it will happen,” says Vonderau.

“We’ve become so dependent on electronic devices…we’re our own worst enemy,” adds Chenevert.

He says he can always spot a driver using a phone–they’re usually not going the speed limit.

His suggestion?  Get a hands-free device.

Federal law already bans cell phone use for any truck drivers carrying hazardous goods.

At Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP, our accomplished trial attorneys have over 70 years combined trial experience and stand ready to hold trucking companies and their drivers fully responsible when their negligence causes serious injury and death.  We welcome the opportunity to sit down and personally discuss your case. Compare our attorneys’ credentials to any other firm. Then call us for a private consultation.  www.rjrlaw.com