Why Car Accidents and Injuries to Workers in North Carolina and Virginia Construction Zones Are So Common

Posted on Thursday, August 2nd, 2018 at 10:58 am    

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), there were close to 100,000 vehicle accidents across the United States in construction work areas in 2015. This represents a 7.8% increase from the year before. North Carolina has had its own issues with construction workers getting injured on the job. The FHWA data showed that the accidents broke down as follows:

  • Fatal crashes. 642
  • One person or more injured:  25, 485
  • Some property damage:  70, 499

These numbers are similar to crashes in non-work zone areas.

According to the Fatal Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 590 people died in construction zone areas in 2011, 617 died in 2012, 579 more in 2013, and 669 in 2014.

Some of the leading factors for work zone deaths are:

  • Not using a seatbelt
  • A driver was under the influence of alcohol
  • 65% of crashes happened during the daytime
  • Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays were the worst days for fatal construction zone accident
  • The summer was the worst season of the year for construction zone accidents
  • Urban interstates accounted for 23% of fatal work zone accidents
  • Urban arterials accounted for 20%
  • Urban areas accounted for 43% of fatal construction zone deaths even though they account for just five percent of the roadway network
  • 41% of the fatal accidents were rear-end accidents which indicates the driver was likely going very fast

North Carolina has 17 Interstate Highways including I-26, I-40, I-85 and I-95. Other main roads include State Highways & Routes 1, 13, 17, 21, 168, 158, 301, 321, 401, and many other roads. There are numerous highways and roads throughout the state that are in constant need of repair and maintenance. Virginia has similar highways, many of which continue from Virginia into North Carolina, particularly the North -South I-85, I-95 corridor. Once upon a time, State Routes 17 and 301 were the primary North-South ways to drive the east coast, before the Federal System.

Construction is done for many reasons:

  • To build new roads
  • To increase the lanes of travel
  • To improve safety
  • To repair existing roads
  • To widen roads
  • To allow for access to new buildings and communities

A great example of road improvement is Route 17 between Chesapeake, VA and Elizabeth City. Many folks remember when it was just one lane in each direction, especially on the Virginia side. It was the sight of many fatal motor vehicle accidents, particularly where the road abuts the dismal swamp canal and it was particularly dark at night.

Now the road is four lanes all the way down, the road was moved east to open farm land, away from the dismal swamp, and there is a new high rise 4 lane toll bridge on the Chesapeake side. The road is now much safer and provides a faster route between the two cities.

Similar to this are the massive improvements made to Route 168, now a toll road in Virginia known as the Chesapeake Expressway. As locals know, this road continues south of the Virginia Border to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Once a pitifully difficult one-lane-each-way trip to the Outer Banks, improvements on both sides have now substantially lessened travel time, even though the road remains bumper-to-bumper on the weekends in the summer. Once can now travel from Moyock, N.C. to downtown Norfolk, VA, in about 30 minutes, making Moyock a bedroom community for many who work in Norfolk.

Why construction accident accidents happen

Some of the common reasons accidents happen at construction zones are:

  • The lanes of traffic weren’t correctly marked. There wasn’t clarity as to which lanes could be used and which ones couldn’t.
  • It wasn’t clear when and where cars should merge if the lanes of traffic were reduced
  • Drivers didn’t have advance warning through overhead signs, other signs, or roadway staff – that they were getting close to a construction site work zone
  • The speed limits weren’t reduced at the area approaching the work zone
  • There weren’t appropriate indicators that road surfaces were uneven, that the surfaces were being stripped, or that the surface of the road had changed from asphalt to some other material
  • There weren’t road crews telling drivers to slow down or to stop. Road crews should also be able to indicate what detour routes are available.
  • The altered lanes appeared to create a safe area for a driver to stop, when in fact it is not safe at all.
  • Cranes, bulldozers, large trucks, and other vehicles were blocking the driver’s views
  • Road debris such as limbs from trees, loose gravel, and other hazards weren’t cleared away
  • Traffic cones weren’t used or weren’t properly used

Who is responsible for car accidents at North Carolina construction sites?

Our lawyers work with investigators and witnesses to determine what happened. If we are unable to settle the case, we may have to move into litigation and take depositions and ask written questions to analyze what the defendant’s version of events is. We have worked with traffic safety engineers to review whether industry standards were met. In some circumstances, we may have to show whether federal and North Carolina regulations, construction codes, and laws weren’t followed.  We also need to determine all the parties involved in the construction work, assuming that the layout or other hazards contributed to the collision.  

Many different people, companies, and entities may be liable for a work zone accident. An investigation usually begins with determining who initiated the construction site work. We review whether the roads were federal roads, state roads, county roads, or even private roads. We work to understand why the work was being done. Was fixing the road the primary task? Or was the need to do work related to some other purposes such as clearing trees from electric lines, raising a new building in a city, or any area, or some other reason?

Some of the possible defendants when a car accident in a construction zone causes injury or death are:

  • Government entities. This includes North Carolina, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, cities counties and towns. Government entities are normally responsible for the design, repair, and maintenance of the roads. There are specific conditions for holding them liable that a respected North Carolina car accident lawyer understands:
    • There are notice requirements that must be met
    • There are statute of limitation deadlines
    • There must generally be a showing that the state had notice (actual or constructive) of a problem and that it failed to do something about it. For example, if the North Carolina Department of Transportation knew that numerous deaths had occurred at a specific intersection, the NCDOT should have, at least, conducted an investigation into why so many deaths happened and if so, corrected the issue if possible.
  • The construction business that was retained to do fix the road, building, trees, utility lines, or other public or private improvement
  • All the subcontractors

Architects, civil engineers, and maintenance crews may also be liable for injuries and deaths when North Carolina construction accidents happen.

Time is critical in construction site accidents. It’s important to have investigators and experts go the accident site, take pictures and videos, speak with witnesses, examine the damage to any personal vehicles, and examine the damage to any construction vehicles or equipment. Construction sites change rapidly. The whole idea behind construction work is to complete the work as soon as possible which makes it hard to verify what the conditions were when the accident happened.

Get Justice. Speak with an Experienced North Carolina and Virginia car accident and highway construction injury attorney today

At the North Carolina Law office of Joe Miller Esq., we have the experience and resources to investigate car accidents, including at construction sites. Once we know how the accident happened, we are skilled at bringing personal injury claims against the responsible parties. Of course, we also assist injured highway construction workers, as well as injured drivers who may have been travelling for work purposes, through both the North Carolina and Virginia Workers Compensation Systems. Attorney Joe Miller has been helping personal injury victims for more than 30 years. He understands how to examine the facts and argue the law. He’ll work to prove liability and to show all your pain and suffering. For help , please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.

Wrongful Death in North Carolina

Car accidents take numerous lives. According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, in 2016:

  • 1,441 people were killed in vehicle accidents
  • 14.20 people died for every 100,000 persons
  • Nearly 1/3 of all highway deaths were related to speeding
  • 15 bicyclists died
  • 151 motorcycle riders died
  • 198 pedestrians were killed
  • 31% of children between 0 and 4 who died weren’t wearing a seatbelt

Wrongful death generally means that the defendant’s negligence caused the fatality. Driver negligence usually includes one or more of the following:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Driving while distracted by a cellphone, GPS system, electronic device, passengers, or other reasons
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Noncompliance with the state traffic laws
  • Failing to follow reasonable and safe driving practices.

When drivers are liable, the owners of the vehicle (if different than the driver) may also be accountable. Car parts manufacturers, North Carolina governmental agencies or subdivisions, and sellers of alcohol may also be liable. There is no requirement to show there was any criminal conduct on the part of the wrongdoer. Wrongful death cases are civil cases. This is distinguished from a driver being injured while on the job. In workers compensation cases, we do not really care so much about fault, as long as the worker was engaged in the business of the employer at the time of the accident. Still, if the work car accident was someone else’s fault, the deceased driver’s family would be entitled to make two claims: Once against the at-fault driver and another for a death claim under the North Carolina Workers Compensation Act.

Who are the beneficiaries of wrongful death lawsuits in North Carolina?

The right of family members to bring a wrongful death lawsuit is governed by North Carolina Statutes section 28A-18-2 Generally, the personal representative of the person who dies files the wrongful death claim. The personal representative is normally the executor named in the decedent’s will. If there was no will, then there are rules for who can apply to be the administrator/personal representative of the estate.

There are strict timelines for bringing wrongful death claims an experienced North Carolina car accident lawyer can explain. The key thing to remember is that it is always good to consult with a respected personal injury trial lawyer as soon as possible after a car accident causes someone to die. It’s also important to show that that the deceased did not contribute to the accident in any way. We aggressively fight to show the responsible defendants are fully responsible for the tragedies they caused.

The personal representative brings the wrongful death claim on behalf of the following survivors:

  • A spouse
  • The children of the decedent
  • Anyone entitled to benefits under the intestate succession laws of North Carolina.

The damage award is not part of the Estate though. This means the funds go directly to the beneficiaries and not creditors. If any beneficiary is under 18, then it may be necessary to appoint a guardian for the child or place the funds in a trust. Normally, the co-parent will handle the funds for the child until he/she reaches 18.

The state statute essentially combines the following two claims:

  • The claim for any damages based on the survival of the decedent after the accident. Some victims don’t die immediately. They may die days, weeks, or even months after the accident date. The wrongful death claim includes the victim’s physical pain and emotional suffering between the date of the accident and death. It also includes all medical during this time and any lost wages or income during this difficult time. Medical bills include hospital surgeries, doctor visits, therapy, medical devices, and medications.
  • The claim for damages based on the death of the car accident victim. Damages can be awarded, according to the statute, for the following:
    • Reasonable costs for the funeral and burial
    • Lost income
    • The loss of the care, assistance, protection, and services, the deceased would have provided each beneficiary
    • The loss of the guidance, advise, comfort, companionship, and society each beneficiary would have received had the decedent lived

The North Carolina wrongful death statute also authorizes a punitive damage award if the facts merit it. Punitive damages are generally designed to punish the wrongdoer to deter him/her from similar wrongful conduct. Punitive damage awards are also meant to send a message to others might act “with malice or willful or wanton conduct.” Punitive damages may be awarded, if for example, a driver drove his car while intoxicated or drove a car that he/she knew needed safety-related repairs.

Generally, all awards are adjusted to reflect the current monetary value of the damages. Generally, a respected North Carolina car accident lawyer charges a contingent fee in wrongful death cases. This means the lawyer does not get paid his fee unless the case settles or there is a jury verdict. The lawyer does get a percentage of any recovery plus reimbursement for fees that were advanced.

Experienced personal injury lawyers understand what is required to prove fault for the car accident. They also understand how to prove damages. Some damages are easier to place a dollar amount on than others. In wrongful death cases, we often work with professionals who can assess the value of intangible losses such as loss of guidance and support or loss of care and assistance.

At the end of the day, though, the primary thing that determines the value of a wrongful death claim is going to be insurance coverage. The minimum limits in North Carolina are $30,000.00. The more valuable cases are those involving commercial vehicles, which routinely carry policies of $1Million. With larger companies, there may also be excess coverage.

Get help now! Make the call to a respected North Carolina wrongful death lawyer today

No amount of money will ever replace the loss of a loved one. The aim of wrongful death cases is to hold the drivers and other responsible parties liable for their actions. Families are entitled to be paid every dollar the law does allow, whether it is due to the fault of another or for a workers compensation recovery. Attorney Joe Miller has helped thousands of injured victims get justice. He has the resources and experience to help you get justice for the loss of a loved one. To schedule an appointment, please call (888) 694-1671 or complete my contact form.