July 22nd, 2015
Every day, Crumley Roberts Stands Up! for people in our communities who are dealing with the after effects of horrific auto accidents. Seeing tragedy unfold has made us strong proponents of prevention and has led to efforts which champion safety and education.
Each year, nearly 70,000 people are injured in traffic accidents on the roads of North Carolina (Highway Safety Research Center at UNC). In January, a PEW Research Center survey found that 90% of Americans now own or regularly use a cellphone, and 58% of Americans have a smartphone. The same PEW study found that 17% of cellphone owners do most of their internet browsing on their phone, with 25% of teens doing the majority of the browsing on a mobile device.
Mobile company AT&T made a firm stance with their “It Can Wait” campaign, showing the disastrous effects that texting and driving can have. It is wonderful to see large companies who also choose safety, promote discussion, and raise awareness of the tragedy which can occur when people drive while distracted. Now AT&T is back with the next video in their “It Can Wait” campaign, focusing on the rise of mobile technology.
No text, post, tweet, or other mobile action is worth the horrific impact a serious accident can have on not only you and your loved ones, but, as this video so poignantly addresses, on the multitude of other people involved.
Take a moment and watch AT&T’s new video
“Close to Home | It Can Wait”…
July 20th, 2015
Author: Kathleen Quinn DuBois, Worker’s Compensation Attorney
Crumley Roberts, LLP
Catch Me – I’m Falling!
Falls from working at heights are the cause of many serious and fatal injuries each year. There are many work activities that involve working at heights, including working with ladders, scaffolds, or platforms. Some not-so-obvious examples of working at heights include working over tanks or pits, working on the edges of elevated structures, and working on top of trucks or trailers. The main risk of working at heights is falling – either people falling to the ground due to inadequate fall protection, or objects falling onto people who are on the ground due to improperly securing objects. Taking steps to protect yourself and your co-workers, particularly when working at heights, will help to avoid unfortunate accidents and injuries.
Federal OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) standards mandate the use of fall protection systems to protect workers from falls of greater than four (4) feet, including requiring that a standard guardrail or equivalent be installed along unprotected edges of open-sided floors, platforms, and runways greater than four (4) feet above the floor or lower level, and requiring fall protection at wall and floor openings of stairwells, chute openings, and ladder openings.
OSHA further requires use of a personal fall arrest system/safety harness under certain circumstances. A fall arrest system/safety harness is designed to stop the person (or objects) from free-falling a distance further than six (6) feet and hitting the ground or a lower platform. A safety harness consists of a D-ring anchor, connectors, and body harness. The body harness is designed to absorb the force of a fall through the shoulders, buttocks, legs, and torso. The body harness is designed to be used with safety lanyards, which are anchored or tied-off to a fixed structure above the worker’s body, and which can support up to five thousand (5,000) pounds of dead weight. Proper calculation of falling distance is needed in order to make sure that the correct length of lanyard is being used. Federal OSHA mandates the use of fall arrest systems whenever the employee is six (6) feet above ground and it not protected by a guardrail or safety net, during the assembly or removal of scaffolding with incomplete handrails systems and more than ten (10) feet above the ground, and when using aerial equipment that raises the employee higher than six (6) feet. Personal safety harnesses are also required when working around openings and on any roof without handrails when the worker is less than six (6) feet from the edge. Additional considerations for “tying-off” depend on the kind of work being done and the kind of surface, such as working from trusses, beams, steep roofs, and floating or suspended scaffolding.
Keep in mind the following additional useful tips and good practices for using equipment when working at heights:
Inspect the ladder before and after EACH use; do not use faulty or defective ladders, or ladders that are not in proper working condition.
Use a ladder that is designed for the job or task for which it is intended
Keep ladders away from electrical wires
Tie off ladders at the top and secure ladders at the bottom to prevent slipping
Face the ladder while going up or coming down, and when working on it
Before climbing the ladder, clean the soles of shoes of any mud or debris to prevent from slipping on the ladder rungs
Avoid climbing ladders in wet or slippery conditions
Position ladders close to the work to avoid over-reaching
Open the stepladder spreader fully and lock it in place
Use a ladder that is designed for the job or task that it is intended for
Do not use the top tread, top shelf, or rear part of the steps as support
Face the stepladder while going up or coming down, and when working on the ladder
(3) Mobile Elevated Platforms
Use only on firm and level ground
Wear safety harnesses/fall arrest systems as required by local, state and federal regulations
Keep the platform within safe working limits, and note wind speed and appropriate weather conditions
(4) Fall Arrest Systems/Safety Harnesses
Use the right equipment for the job, AND use equipment according to the manufacturer’s instructions
Make sure the equipment is safety-approved and meets American National Standards Institute (ANSI) safety requirements
Only use equipment that is in good working condition
Anchor or tie-off at levels no lower than your waist to limit any fall to a maximum of four (4) feet
Do NOT tie-off or anchor to a pipe; instead, make sure to anchor to a substantial structure
In addition to becoming familiar with Federal OSHA safety requirements, be sure to also check local and state requirements for fall protection for your safety and the safety of your co-workers.
Taking steps to protect yourself and your co-workers, particularly when working at heights, will help to avoid unfortunate accidents and injuries.
If you have sustained a work-related injury, call Crumley Roberts,
Information in this article has come from multiple sources, including:
“Working at Heights.” Healthy Working Lives, 18 April 2013. Web 8 June 2015
“Fall Protection Threshold in General Industry.” OSHA Training. 1 February 2014. Web 8 June 2015.
Duncan, Erin. “OSHA Safety Harness Requirement.” eHOW. Web 27 April 2015.
“Tying Off and Safety Nets Training Guide.” Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health. Web 27 April 2015.
“Portable Ladders.” Safe Working at Heights, Web 8 June 2015.
July 7th, 2015
Author: Tyler Nabors, Personal Injury Attorney
Crumley Roberts, LLP
North Carolina Rule of Evidence 414 and How Injured People are Subsidizing the Auto Insurance Industry
“Why do I have to use my health insurance if it’s the other person’s fault?” This is a question I receive all too often. When people are injured due to the fault of another person and attempt to seek a fair settlement from an auto insurance carrier, it’s often one sucker punch after another. Not only are they short-changed on their property damage settlement, and not only do they have to wait until they complete their medical treatment before they are compensated for their medical expenses, pain and suffering, and missed time for work, but since October 1, 2011, they are forced to use their own health insurance to cover the medical bills that the responsible party caused them to incur. While this is as unfair as it sounds, it was embodied by a law recently passed by the North Carolina General Assembly that, in effect, requires the injured person to use health insurance available to them to reduce the expense the responsible party is obligated to pay.
On October 1, 2011, the North Carolina General Assembly passed the following law that created the new North Carolina Rule of Evidence 414 that states:
Evidence offered to prove past medical expenses shall be limited to evidence of the amounts actually paid to satisfy the bills that have been satisfied, regardless of the source of payment, and evidence of the amounts actually necessary to satisfy the bills that have been incurred but not yet satisfied. This rule does not impose upon any party an affirmative duty to seek a reduction in billed charges to which the party is not contractually entitled.
In terms of law and rules of evidence, this Rule is rather new and has yet to be interpreted by the North Carolina courts. Unfortunately, the lack of interpretation and examination of the courts has created a “free for all” as to what medical expenses are considered by an auto insurance carrier. The harshness of this uncertainty is felt most by injured people not represented by an attorney. Meanwhile, the auto insurance industry has attempted to pervert this rule in order to pay those who are injured much less than they deserve.
For example, some insurance carriers will require the injured party to direct their medical providers to bill their private health insurance (as well as Medicare, Medicaid, Tricare, and the State Employee’s Health Plan) before the auto insurance carrier will make any offer of settlement. Other carriers will take an arbitrary 30% reduction from all medical bills where the medical providers did not submit the claim to health insurance, regardless of the actual amount owed on the bill. Still other insurance carriers will not consider any treatment where the health insurance was not used. This results in an unfair burden on the injured party to essentially act as health insurance claims agent for the automobile insurance carrier, and in reality, results in an unfair settlement for the injured party.
However, there is a silver-lining to this predicament. While the automobile insurance carriers have attempted to use the lack of legal clarity for this new law to their advantage, an experienced, skilled, and creative attorney can also leverage that same lack of clarity in order to level the playing field. Although the insurance companies often demand it, until a law suit is filed, there is no legal obligation to turn over health insurance information. Portions of medical bills can be redacted to show only the information that the automobile insurance carrier has a right to examine. An experienced attorney can inform you what the law requires you to disclose, as compared to what the carriers want to see. As we all know, “you can’t always get what you want”, and there are protections under the law to prohibit what the carriers can request and obtain. An experienced attorney can help you understand your rights, and strategically navigate around common pitfalls to which many people fall victim.
The law is constantly changing, sometimes in favor of injured parties, sometimes to their detriment. If you’ve been injured, and can’t afford to be taken advantage of, it’s best to trust the advice of an experienced attorney in personal injury law who can protect you, and who can reach the best possible resolution for your case.
July 2nd, 2015
Author: David J. Ventura, Trial Attorney
Crumley Roberts, LLP
Under North Carolina Law, all registered motor vehicles must be insured by an automobile liability policy which carries a minimum $30,000.00 of bodily injury liability insurance. If you are injured in an accident through no fault of your own and someone else is at fault, their liability insurance pays you for your medical expenses, lost earnings and physical injury caused by a negligent driver. Unfortunately, a significant percentage of drivers across the country drive without the required liability insurance. This puts us all at risk of being injured by an uninsured driver who will not be able to pay for the harm caused by their negligent driving.
For instance, in North Carolina, the percentage of uninsured drivers on the road in 2012 was 9.1%. This compares with 7.7% for South Carolina, 10.1 % for Virginia, and 20.1 % for Tennessee.(Source:InsuranceResearchCouncil). In 2012 alone, uninsured drivers caused $2.6 billion in personal injury damages. (Source: Insurance Journal, “IRC: Uninsured Motorists a Perplexing, Pervasive Concern”, by Don Jergler).
In fact, most uninsured drivers cite a lack of money as the reason they did not buy the required bodily injury liability insurance. (Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts, “States Look To Reduce Ranks of Uninsured Drivers”, by Teresa Wiltz). This means that those uninsured drivers are not likely to have the financial ability to pay you for all the damage they caused. One way to protect yourself is to buy Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage from your own insurance company when you insure your car, truck or van.
So what is Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage? They are two types of automobile insurance designed to protect you if an uninsured or underinsured driver negligently causes a wreck. Uninsured Motorist Coverage protects you when you are hit by a driver who has no liability insurance at all. In that situation, your own automobile insurance company pays your damages after you prove the uninsured driver was at fault.
Underinsured Motorist Coverage applies to a situation where you are hit by a driver who has liability insurance, but not enough to pay for all of the damage and harm caused to you. With Underinsured Motorist coverage, once you have collected against all of the liability insurance available from the other driver, your own automobile insurance company pays you for any remaining damage and harm caused by the at fault driver.
Let me give a realistic example of how this insurance coverage can provide some protection if you are hit by a driver who is not insured. Mary is the mother of three elementary school children who works part-time while her kids are in school. Each day she finishes work before school lets out so she can pick her kids up from school. This allows her time to help with their homework, take them to after-school activities, make dinner, and get them to bed. Her husband Ron works a full-time job during the day and a part-time job at night so Mary won’t need to work full-time until the kids are older. As with most folks, finances are tight.
Life was going on as usual for Mary, Ron and the kids until the day a young male driver crossed Mary’s path. It happened two years ago. Mary had picked up the kids from school and was taking them to a friend’s birthday party. The weather was clear and it was a beautiful sunny day. The kids were so excited about the party. Sadly, they never made it to the party that day. Mary was driving down Maple Street about a mile from the birthday party when a young male driver ran a red light and broad-sided the minivan holding Mary and the kids. Miraculously, the kids were only shaken up and frightened. Thankfully, they were not seriously hurt.
Mary was not as lucky. Mary’s left leg was broken in two places, requiring surgery to insert a steel rod. She also sustained a concussion and multiple cuts and bruises from the shattered driver’s window. Mary’s medical bills totaled $25,000.00 and she missed three months of work, losing $3,000.00 in wages. Mary and Ron didn’t have health insurance or any disability coverage to pay for these losses. After recovering from surgery, Mary contacted her insurance company to inquire about the young male driver, and learned that his liability insurance policy had been cancelled for non-payment of premiums only two months prior to the wreck. Despite, this he kept driving around town with no liability insurance. Mary and Ron were out of luck. Two years later, they’re still dealing with the medical debt from Mary’s injuries. They think about filing for bankruptcy. The whole situation has put a strain on their marriage. Times are tough and stressful. The kids can tell something is wrong with Mom and Dad.
While buying Uninsured Motorist Coverage would not have prevented the wreck, it would have lessened the financial harm suffered by this family. In this example, $50,000.00 in Uninsured Motorist Coverage would have paid for all of Mary’s medical bills and would have reimbursed her for her lost earnings. Mary still would have struggled to recover from her physical injuries, but at least the financial harm caused by the uninsured driver would have been lessened.
Now, if we change the facts a little, I can explain how Underinsured Motorist Coverage typically works. Let’s imagine that the young male driver carried the minimum required liability insurance of $30,000.00 but that Mary’s injuries were more severe and required a one month hospital stay costing $35,000.00, and let’s say that Mary missed six months of work and had lost earnings of $6,000.00. Under that scenario, Mary’s total economic damages would be $41,000.00. The young male driver’s liability insurance company would pay Mary $30,000.00, leaving Mary with $11,000.00 in uninsured financial damages. If Mary and Ron had purchased $50,000.00 in Underinsured Motorist Coverage from their own automobile insurance company, Mary would have $20,000 in Underinsured Motorist Coverage available. Once the young male driver’s fault was determined, she could get paid $11,000.00 from her own insurance company to cover these uninsured financial losses. Besides financial losses, Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage also covers physical injuries, pain and suffering, scarring, etc. This simple example illustrates the benefits of Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage.
To have these protections though, you must purchase this type of insurance from your own automobile insurance company. Depending on your situation, North Carolina automobile insurance companies may charge about $100.00 per year for $50,000.00 in Combined Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage. That’s about $1.92 per week to protect you in case an uninsured or underinsured driver crosses your path. Of course, only you can decide if it’s worth the price. As always, drive safely.
And remember, if you ever find yourself in a situation like that of Mary and Ron, give us a call. Crumley Roberts will “Stand Up For You”.
June 24th, 2015
Crumley Roberts is proud to announce the recipients of the Founder’s and Next Step Scholarships for 2015. With a pool of over 300 applicants, these six individuals were selected for their commitment to academic excellence. We are proud of each of them and cannot wait to follow their successes in the years to come!
Kayla Brenwald, of Elkin, recently completed two Associate’s Degrees at Surry Community College. She was awarded the Next Step Scholarship and will continue her studies at Appalachian State University in the fall, where she plans to study Accounting.
Hunter Jones, of Morehead City, has completed her studies at Carteret Community College. She was awarded the Next Step Scholarship and will continue her education in the fall at The University of North Carolina at Wilmington.
Matthew Pfender, of Concord, completed his studies at Fayetteville Community College. He was awarded the Next Step Scholarship, and will be entering a program in Systems Engineering at The University of North Carolina at Charlotte to pursue a Bachelor’s degree.
McDaniel Wynne, of Bethel, graduated at the top of his class from North Pitt High School. He was awarded the Founder’s Scholarship and will pursue a degree in History this fall at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Anna Huffman, of Gibsonville, recently graduated from Western Alamance High School. She has been awarded the Founder’s Scholarship and will pursue dual degrees in Political Science and Psychology beginning this fall with her enrollment at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Briona Pfeifer, of Mooresville, graduated from Lake Norman High School. She has been awarded the Founder’s Scholarship and will pursue a degree in Biology on the Pre-Med track when she enrolls in classes this fall at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
We are exceptionally proud of all of these outstanding students and we wish them continued success in their studies!
June 9th, 2015
Recently my wife and I had the pleasure of taking our two sons on a vacation cruise. The boys (ages 6 and 4) especially love cruises because of the swimming pools and water activities onboard. Of course as parents, our priority is to make sure that our children are safe, especially around water. As it turns out, we all witnessed a lesson in water safety practices.
On one particular day during the cruise, I was in charge of supervising the boys while my wife was participating in an activity elsewhere. Our sons were in the children’s pool area where the water is not more than 2 feet deep. A Life guard was also on duty.
As to be expected the pools were crowded, and sounds of play filled the air. Suddenly, though, I heard the piercing sound of the lifeguard blowing her whistle. Not more than a few feet from where my sons were swimming, the lifeguard leapt into the pool and pulled a young boy from the water. He looked to be around the ages of my children. Staff cleared the pool and the life guard began CPR on the child. The boy appeared to be responsive and breathing on his own when they were taken to the ship’s medical bay. It was a close call for that boy and his family.
I will never forget the look on the mother’s face as she came running up to the lifeguard who was administering CPR to her child.
By that time the pool had been cleared and my boys and I were watching a potential tragedy unfold. I remember thinking just how precious life is, and how quickly it can be taken from us.
This incident happened in shallow water less than 2 feet deep, with a life guard actively monitoring the pool! My sons asked me how it could have happened, so I took the opportunity to reinforce the importance of being safe around water and the potential consequences of failing to follow the rules.
Here are some precautions we take in our family;
- My wife and I always designate who is in charge of watching the boys when they are around water. We never leave the kids unattended. We do not rely on lifeguards. We have two children to watch, the lifeguard has too many.
- Life jackets, life jackets, life jackets.
- Teaching the boys to be strong swimmers and to be comfortable and confident in and around the water.
With summer upon us, I thought it would be helpful to add some additional water safety information that can be found at www.safekids.org. Please visit their website for all kinds of helpful information. From their website;
The Hard Fact
Drowning is the leading cause of injury-related death among children ages 1-4.
Actively supervise children in and around open bodies of water, giving them your undivided attention.
When there are several adults present and children are swimming, use the Water Watcher card strategy, which designates an adult as the Water Watcher for a certain amount of time (such as 15-minute periods) to prevent lapses in supervision.
Whether you’re swimming in a backyard pool or in a lake, teach children to swim with an adult. Older, more experienced swimmers should still swim with a partner every time. From the first time your kids swim, teach children to never go near or in water without an adult present.
We know you have a million things to do, but learning CPR should be on the top of the list. It will give you tremendous peace of mind – and the more peace of mind you have as a parent, the better. Local hospitals, fire departments and recreation departments offer CPR training.
Educate your children about the dangers of drain entanglement and entrapment and teach them to never play or swim near drains or suction outlets.
Have fun this summer and be safe !
Kenneth M. Gondek
Crumley Roberts, LLP
May 28th, 2015
The 2015 scholarship application period has ended, and recipients of Crumley Roberts’ 2015 Founder’s Scholarship and Next Step Scholarship have been chosen from a wealth of impressive applications.
Choosing winners was not easy, but our panel has selected several hardworking, talented students.
Winners will be contacted directly and announced on our website.
Crumley Roberts is proud to support these students in their efforts to continue their education.
August 28th, 2014
Crumley Roberts’ attorneys, Karonnie Truzy and David Ventura, along with co-counsel Charles Everage, successfully represented a family from Charlotte, North Carolina, in a wrongful death case for the loss of their son stemming from a TASER® gun injury he endured at the hands of a Charlotte Metropolitan Police Department officer. A federal jury awarded a $500,000 verdict to the parents of La-Reko Williams.
The incident occurred on July 20, 2011, as the victim was walking away from Lynx Woodlawn light rail station after a fight with his girlfriend. An article from The Charlotte Observer states that responding police officers asked the victim to stop and he failed to comply. He was then struck in the chest by electrodes from a TASER gun carrying thousands of volts of electricity.
The victim fell to the ground and was ordered on his back by officers. The officer alleged he failed to comply and was stunned again. This time though, the 21-year-old victim suffered a heart attack and died.
A lawsuit filed by the family alleged that the second jolt from the stun gun was an excessive use of force. The court agreed and a judgment was issued in favor of the victim’s family.
Charlotte litigation attorney, David Ventura, handled the case for the family, and he says the case highlights the importance of officers using discretion while subduing the citizens they’re hired to protect. David and the rest of the legal team at Crumley Roberts are hopeful the decision will help bring closure to the family of the young victim.
August 13th, 2014
Brain injuries and sports are becoming increasingly connected in the media and in the courtroom. As more and more athletes come forward with medical issues stemming from past brain injuries, we will continue to see these cases arise to determine liability and, perhaps more significantly, we look to these cases to guide the future management of brain injuries by schools, sports clubs and other athletic organizations.
Most recently, the NCAA reached a settlement in a concussion lawsuit brought by former athletes in July. The settlement had little impact on the individual plaintiffs in the case as no damages were included for the former athletes and no injury class action was pursued (they will be able to file individual personal injury law suits if they choose). The big news about this settlement is the commitment by the NCAA to invest $75 million in medical monitoring and research to help determine the long term effects of brain injuries; both sport and non-sport related.
According to the settlement, the medical monitoring and testing will include current and former NCAA athletes which means that athletes that played in the past will be able to receive neurological testing to gauge the extent of any sustained injuries. This testing will hopefully provide greater insight into the long term effects of brain injuries and could potentially open the door for many more individual personal injury suits by former NCAA athletes. In addition, NCAA member schools will also be required to update policies and guidelines surrounding concussion management for athletes.
This settlement confirms that concussions are serious and costly injuries. Significant work remains to be done to ensure that sports at all levels can be enjoyed safely. We are hopeful that developing technologies and increased awareness and research will propel the organized sports community in the right direction.
Brian Kinsley is the Mass Tort/Products Liability Practice Group Leader at Crumley Roberts. He is a Massachusetts native but now calls Winston-Salem, North Carolina home. When not at work, he enjoys cooking and spending time outdoors with his family.
May 29th, 2014
In June 2010, a tragic drowning occurred at a city-operated swimming pool in High Point. The victim, Anthony Lee Hayes, a 17-year-old student at T. Wingate Andrews High School, was found unconscious on the floor of the deep end of the pool and was unable to be resuscitated.
It’s always devastating when a young person dies, but it is especially difficult to swallow when the death could possibly have been prevented. In any case, it is impossible to know what “might have been” which is why we rely on evidence to determine liability in the accident in question. The doctor who performed the autopsy stated that Mr. Hayes had been under the water ranging from 3-5 minutes. Lifeguards were notified by other swimmers that there was someone under the water and that is when they attempted to rescue him. The evidence of overcrowding in the pool in addition to the inattention and failure by lifeguards to detect that a swimmer was in distress generally provides a good foundation for a negligence case. Unfortunately, it was not enough as last month the Guilford County Superior Court dismissed the lawsuit we brought against the City of High Point on behalf of the estate of Mr. Hayes.
Why would a case be dismissed if there is evidence of negligence? Our common sense tells us that someone should be held responsible, or in legal terms, liable, for the accident. I believe that people have an innate sense of justice; however, from time to time there are cases like this where the “letter of the law” does not line up with what we consider to be right. Although I was sorely disappointed with the outcome of this case, I was not surprised. Earlier this year, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied a rehearing of a similar drowning case in Pasquotank County, essentially setting a precedent that a government entity in North Carolina cannot be held liable for performing governmental functions. While one does not generally consider the running of a swimming pool to be a governmental function, if the government provides a service that no one else will that benefits its citizens, the function may be considered governmental in nature.
This governmental or “sovereign” immunity was applicable in our case against the city of High Point. Basically, they could not be held liable – even though there was evidence of negligence – simply because the pool is run by the city for the benefit of the community. If the pool in question were on private property, the outcome would have been very different. Every case is unique, and the same immunity applied in this instance may not always apply when an injury or death occurs on government property. You should always consult an attorney if there is any question of liability or negligence surrounding an accident.
The important takeaway from this case is that you have to be vigilant regarding your safety and the safety of your family. If you spend time at a pool this summer – whether public or private – do not take your safety for granted and do not rely on others to monitor your children. It’s never a good idea to go swimming alone, no matter your age or swimming ability, and you should avoid swimming in overcrowded areas or where visibility is reduced.
Visit www.poolsafely.gov for more information about pool and spa safety.
Karonnie Truzy is a litigation attorney at Crumley Roberts and represented the estate of Anthony Lee Hayes in the referenced case against the city of High Point. He is a seasoned litigator and was recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as a “Top 40 Under 40” lawyer.