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Recently, a 21 year-old woman pleaded guilty in federal court to driving while impaired and involuntary manslaughter for a December hit and run that killed a Fort Bragg soldier. The driver was caught at a checkpoint when Fayetteville police noticed the damage to her car.
Crumpled vehicle
Law enforcement attempts to stop drunk driving before such tragedies occur. The North Carolina Department of Transportation has issued a press release detailing the results of its “Booze It & Lose It” campaign. According to the press release, North Carolina law enforcement officers made 2,866 drunk driving arrests from August 16 through September 2.

If an accident does occur, impaired drivers face not only criminal liability, but they are also subject to civil liability for the injuries they cause. Victims of an intoxicated or otherwise impaired driver may find that the driver’s insurance is insufficient to compensate them for their injuries. Such victims should consider whether there may be additional sources of recovery.

It is important to determine where the driver obtained the drugs or alcohol that led to his or her impairment. An establishment that provided alcohol to the person responsible for an accident may also be liable for the resulting injuries. North Carolina law provides that the local Alcohol Beverage Control Board or a permittee may be liable to an injured person if 1) it served or provided alcohol to an underage person; 2) the consumption of the alcohol it sold or furnished contributed to the underage person being subject to an impairing substance; and 3) the negligent operation of the vehicle while the underage person was impaired was the proximate cause of the injury. N.C.G.S. § 18B-121.

It is also unlawful for an ABC permittee or its employee to knowingly sell or give alcohol to an intoxicated person. N.C.G.S. § 18B-305. While this statute does not specifically provide for civil liability of the seller, the North Carolina Appeals Court has held that it sets the minimum standard of conduct for permittees and violation of this statute could give rise to civil liability if the injured party shows that was intoxicated and that the permittee knew or should have known that he or she was intoxicated when served. Hutchens v. Hankins, 303 S.E.2d 584, 63 N.C.App. 1 (N. C. App. 1983).

Even if the impaired driver was drinking in a private home, the social hosts who provided him or her with alcohol may be held liable under the theory of negligence. Generally, to prove negligence, it must be shown that 1) the defendant owed a duty; 2) the defendant breached the duty; 3) an injury resulted from the breach; and 4) the injured party suffered damages as a result of the injury. The North Carolina Supreme Court has held that negligence may be found against social hosts if the hosts serve alcohol to a person they knew or should have known was under the influence of alcohol and whom they knew or should have known would drive a vehicle soon afterwards. Hart v. Ivey, 420 S.E.2d 174, 332 N.C. 299 (N.C. 1992).

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an accident with a drunk driver, you should seek the advice of an experienced North Carolina car accident attorney. The North Carolina car accident attorneys at Auger and Auger aggressively seek out all avenues of recovery for their clients. Call Auger & Auger at (800) 559-5741 to schedule a consultation.

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Two serious accidents occurred at construction projects at McDowell County schools this summer. On August 12, scaffolding at a construction site at McDowell High School collapsed, causing more than a dozen workers to fall up to 35 – 40 feet. According to news reports, eight workers were taken to the hospital, with two of them being airlifted. Just over three weeks later, a fatal accident occurred at a construction site at the West McDowell Junior High School. On September 3, a worker was tragically killed when a dump truck backed over him. Officials are investigating both accidents.

Construction Scaffolding

These two accidents happened at different locations and involved different employers, but together they highlight the dangers faced by construction workers performing a variety of duties. Construction safety has become a focus of both federal and state workplace safety programs. The Occupational Health and Safety Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor established a construction special emphasis program to decrease construction industry fatalities. This program resulted in 1,812 inspections during the 2011 fiscal year, with citations for 2,251 serious, willful and repeat violations. While significant improvements have been made in workplace safety, federal OSHA statistics show that there were still 738 construction fatalities in the United States during the 2011 calendar year.

An employee who is injured in an on-the-job accident arising from his or her employment in North Carolina may be entitled to North Carolina workers’ compensation benefits. Additionally, the family of an employee who dies as a result of a workplace accident or injury may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits. Workers’ compensation benefits are not dependent upon fault. An employee or his or her family may be entitled to benefits even if the employer was not negligent and did not commit any safety violations. An employee may even be entitled to benefits when the accident was his or her fault.

The laws and requirements related to North Carolina workers’ compensation claims are complex. For example, an employee must give written notice of the accident to the employer and file a claim with the Industrial Commission. Written notice is to be given to the employer “immediately” or “as soon thereafter as practicable” within 30 days of the accident. N.C.G.S. §97-22. An employee has two years from the date of the accident to file the claim form with the Industrial Commission. Failure to timely provide notice or file the claim could potentially bar an otherwise legitimate workers’ compensation claim.

It is important to remember that the employer and the employer’s insurance company do not represent the employee’s interests and may have interests adverse to those of the employee. The employer may not know or provide important information that could affect the employee’s rights. The injured employee should have someone who understands North Carolina workers’ compensation laws representing his or her interests.

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an on-the-job accident, you should seek the advice of a skilled North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney. The attorneys at Auger & Auger have experience fighting for injured workers. Call (800) 559-5741 today to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney at Auger & Auger.

Additional Resources:

Workers’ Compensation FAQs

Related Blog Posts:

Female Construction Workers in North Carolina Face Unique Hazards

OSHA Cites “Fatal Four” Hazards Leading To Construction Fatalities

One Worker Killed, Another Injured At Construction Job in Greenville County

An 84 year old man was killed when his bicycle was hit by an automobile shortly after 5 p.m. on September 6, 2013. According to news reports, the bicyclist was a serious athlete who competed in triathlons and biked regularly. He was familiar with the road and was riding near the right shoulder at the time of the collision. Witnesses stated that the driver had drifted over to the right edge of the road. The driver told officers that she did not see the bicycle until the collision.
Fallen BicycleBicycling can be a fun source of exercise or transportation. A cyclist, however, can suffer serious injury or death in the event of a collision with an automobile. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 667 cyclists were fatally injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2011. Data from the North Carolina Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation shows that 20 cyclists were killed in North Carolina in 2010.

North Carolina has made efforts to increase bicycle safety and education for many years. It developed the first state bicycle program as part of its Bicycle and Bikeway Act of 1974. The Division of Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation provides safety tips and education as well as general information on traveling by bicycle in North Carolina.

Bicycles are considered vehicles under North Carolina law, and as such are subject to the rules of the road. N.C.G.S. § 20-4.01(49). Cyclists must obey traffic signs and signals. They must also ride on the right side of the road, in the direction of traffic.

Along with these responsibilities come certain rights. Bicyclists have the right to ride upon most roads, except Interstate Highways and other fully-controlled limited access highways. Automobile drivers, therefore, must share the roads with bicyclists and treat them as vehicles. The North Carolina Driver’s Manual includes a section on sharing the road with bicyclists. It points out that, while bicyclists usually ride to the right of the lane, they are entitled to use of the full lane. The Driver’s Manual also advises drivers to expect bicycles on all roads except those where specifically prohibited.

Unfortunately, many drivers do not look out for bicycles on the road. Even when they are aware of the presence of a bicycle, some drivers attempt to pass too close or when there is not sufficient room to do so. Seventeen percent of the collisions between cyclists and automobiles in North Carolina from 2005 through 2009 occurred as the vehicle attempted to overtake or pass the bicycle from behind. This number includes instances where the driver was unaware of the bicycle, as well as those in which the motorist saw the bicycle and intentionally attempted to overtake it. These types of crashes resulted in the most serious injuries, accounting for 39% of the fatal crashes and 23% of the serious injuries in automobile – bicycle collisions in North Carolina.

If you were injured or a loved one was killed in a collision while riding a bicycle, you should seek the advice of an experienced North Carolina bicycle accident attorney. The attorneys at Auger & Auger have experience representing people injured by negligent drivers. Call (800) 559-5741 today to schedule a confidential consultation with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney at Auger & Auger.

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Construction HatHistorically, the construction industry has been overwhelmingly male-dominated.

However, there has been a shift over the last two decades, with the number of women in the construction workforce rising by nearly 82 percent from 1985 to 2007. Those figures have declined somewhat since the Great Recession, with some 300,000 women leaving the construction industry in 2010 alone.

Today, women comprise roughly 9 percent of the construction industry workforce. That’s far lower than many other industries (Services industry 59 percent, finance 54 percent and wholesale retail 46 percent), but it’s near the highest it’s ever been. And construction is the nation’s deadliest occupation.

Our North Carolina injury lawyers know that we all benefit from greater diversity because otherwise, we’re limiting ourselves to only half of the potential human resources.

While we have come far in this regard, there is still a long way to go, particularly in terms of female construction worker safety. To this end, the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration recently signed an alliance with the National Association of Women in Construction. The goal is to develop training resources that will serve to help protect women in the industry. Specific focuses will include sanitation hazards, musculoskeletal issues and problems relating to ill-fitting personal protective gear.

Throughout the course of this two-year agreement, the two agencies say they will be committed to the output of fact sheets, training programs and outreach resources.
Coinciding with the announcement of this agreement, OSHA revealed its new Women in Construction web page, which highlights health and safety issue that are specific to female construction workers.

All workers have the right to work in a safe environment. That’s not just a recommendation to employers – it’s the law. But because female construction workers have historically been so few in number, their well-being has too often been overlooked.

While both men and women who work in the construction industry are going to face the same risks in general, there are some unique issues that are going to be of greater concern to female workers.

One of those is the use of personal protection equipment. Far too many female construction trade workers have found themselves struggling to make do with personal safety equipment and/or personal protective clothing that doesn’t fit properly. A good fit is often critical to the assurance that the gear will be effective in the job for which it was intended.

Personal protective gear provided to female workers has to be designed to fit the average female body. If a female worker finds that this is not the case, the employer has a responsibility to provide such gear. Otherwise, the gear isn’t considered suitable for the worker.

Another issue is sanitary facilities. Per OSHA sanitation standard 29 CFR 1926.51, all employers have to provide accessible sanitary facilities for all personnel. Those facilities have to be appropriately maintained and clean at all times.

On construction sites, this can prove a challenge. Many of the temporary sanitation facilities on site are unisex. They are overused, and they aren’t well-maintained. As a result, women use them infrequently. They avoid drinking enough fluids so they won’t have to use the facility later. This puts them at higher risk for things like heat stress and other health problems, such as urinary tract and kidney infections. Plus, when toilets on construction sites aren’t properly maintained, all workers are subjected to a number of serious diseases.
Our North Carolina workers’ compensation lawyers hope that some of the recommended changes intended to help avoid some of these issues will be taken to heart by construction supervisors. Ultimately, small changes can promote immediate safety, morale and overall worker well-being – which in the end promotes optimal productivity.

If you or a loved one is involved in an accident, contact Auger & Auger. Our personal injury attorneys have over 35 years’ combined trial experience and are dedicated to helping injured people recover the compensation to which they are entitled by law. Call us toll-free at (888) 487-0835, or contact us online to schedule your free consultation.

Additional Resources:
OSHA signs alliance, creates Web page to protect safety and health of female construction workers, Aug. 22, 2013, Press Release, OSHA

Related Blog Posts:
North Carolina Court of Appeals Backs Maintenance Man’s Workers’ Compensation Award, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, July 11, 2013

North Carolina Court of Appeals Backs Injured Worker’s Award of Temporary Total Disability, North Carolina Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, June 20, 2013

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