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Collins Law Firm :: Blog

Fall 2019 in Wilmington, North Carolina

October 4th, 2019

As the summer season comes to a close this year, there are more cars on the road –schools are fully back in session, and New Hanover County has had a continuously increasing number of residents which is currently at 227,000+.  And, events such as the Wilmington Riverfest and the Cape Fear Fair and Expo attract tourists to add even more to our already crowded streets.

WECT reported this week that there have been three pedestrians hit and killed in a ten day period here in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Wilmington Police Department (WPD) was shocked at the high rate of occurrence of deadly hit and runs in our area recently, even considering the perpetual construction and awful traffic.  The WPD urges pedestrians to be extra cautious and mindful of the laws, especially considering that traffic has the right of way if a pedestrian is crossing the street mid-block.

Police say these pedestrian safety tips could save lives:

  • Walk on sidewalks whenever they are available.
  • If there is no sidewalk, walk facing traffic and as far from traffic as possible.
  • When possible, cross the street at a designated crosswalk.
  • Always look both ways before crossing the street.
  • Look for cars in all directions, including those turning right or left.
  • Never assume a driver sees you. Make eye contact with drivers as they approach you to make sure you are seen.
  • Wear bright clothing during the day and wear reflective materials or use a flashlight at night.

Another common cause of car accidents is distracted driving, whether that is texting, eating, or simply not paying attention to their surroundings.  Only a partial second of distraction is needed for a potentially life-changing accident to occur.  Giving it a second thought before texting while driving could be what it takes to save your life, or someone else’s!  However, eliminating distractions while you’re driving is only half the battle when considering being a safe driver – you also have to be aware of other driver’s movements, and anticipate possible traffic violations, such as running a red light, or failure to reduce speed to avoid a collision.

If you or a loved one is seriously injured in an accident, as a result of someone else’s fault or negligence, we can help you get maximum compensation, meaning money damages, for your pain and suffering, medical bills, and lost wages.

If you are charged with any type of crime in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington NC in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation about what we can do for you.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Labor Day Weekend 2019

August 30th, 2019

Labor Day 2019 in Southeastern North Carolina is expected to be a busy and dangerous holiday.  Being the holiday weekend that traditionally wraps up the summer season, travelers are anxious to get their last beach trip of the year started, and Star News reported yesterday that nearly one-third more fatal accidents occur on Labor Day weekend than a typical three-day period.  In 2017 alone, 354 fatal car accidents occurred during the Labor Day weekend across the United States, leaving 374 people dead.

The Wilmington Police Department (WPD) has handled over 100 crashes per Labor Day weekend for the past 3 years, with none of those ending in fatalities.  However, DWI-related stops have become more frequent each year and in 2018 alone, WPD responded to 13 DWI-related incidents in the Wilmington area.  A larger and more widespread police presence will be on duty for the holiday weekend, so drivers should continue to be cautious, use turn signals, follow the speed limits, remove distractions like texting, and never drink and drive.  More people on the road simply means more opportunities for car wrecks, and it only takes a moment of distraction to cause a life-altering accident.

In addition to an already-expected increase in traffic, with Hurricane Dorian expected to hit land in Florida early next week, there is concern that evacuees from Florida could cause more traffic congestion on I-95, and some may head our way to escape the torment of the storm.

As well as opportunities for more car accidents, plenty of families will be celebrating this Labor Day weekend, and drinking alcohol is part of many of the events.  In the revelry many people will be charged with alcohol related crimes including open container, driving while impaired or driving under the influence (DWI/DUI), fake ID or counterfeit identification, underage drinking, and aiding and abetting these and other crimes.

If you or a loved one is seriously injured in an accident, as a result of someone else’s fault or negligence, we can help you get maximum compensation, meaning money damages, for your pain and suffering, medical bills,, and lost wages.

If you are charged with any type of crime in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington NC in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, call Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation about what we can do for you. In many cases, we are able to negotiate with the charging officer and the district attorney’s office to have a defendant perform volunteer service in order to have the charges dismissed.  Sometimes, that volunteer service can be served on the beach picking up trash, and helping keep our beautiful beaches clean, including Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach, Topsail Beach, Wilmington Beach, and Kure Beach.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

Your Personal Injury Claim and Rule 414

August 16th, 2019

Ever since Rule 414 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, now known as the controversial “billed versus paid” law, was amended in October of 2011, personal injury victims who are covered by health insurance can now only prove damages for the amount that was actually paid, not what was billed.  This may seem logical at first, but considering how insurance companies will negotiate lower payments to medical providers, this can cause insured victims to lose a major portion of what they could have claimed for damages.

A relevant part of text from Rule 414 reads:

“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.”

In other words, if you have $15,000.00 in medical bills, but your insurance company only paid $7,000.00 to the provider at a discounted rate, you, as a personal injury victim, can only submit proof of the $7,000.00 that was actually paid.

Compare this situation to someone that does not have health insurance – they had the same $15,000.00 in medical bills, but since they do not have coverage, they can submit the full $15,000.00 for damages.  This not only causes the person with health insurance to seem like they have lesser injuries, but it also helps the person with no insurance to recover more in damages.  If you also consider the amount of money the insured victim has paid to date for their insurance premiums that will not be brought up as evidence, Rule 414 can absolutely cause issues when it comes time for court.

This law, among the others that affect personal injury victims, are muddying the waters and making it more difficult than ever for an injury victim to recover their full amount of damages owed.  To some jurors and judges, a dollar amount that is submitted for evidence is how they decide the fairness of the damages, and that can be heavily diluted with the imposition of Rule 414.  That is one of the many reasons that hiring an experienced personal injury attorney will be the best option.

If you or someone you know and care about has been injured, or killed, in a car accident or tractor trailer accident, or is the victim of a wrongful death in North Carolina, contact Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

 

Cape Fear Crossing Project Postponed

August 14th, 2019

The planning and design for the Cape Fear Crossing Project has been postponed indefinitely, as of August 13, 2019.

The Cape Fear Crossing would involve a 9.5 mile stretch of road and bridge that would help alleviate traffic congestion to and from the Port of Wilmington.  The cost of the bridge would be approximately $1 Billion, with 80% federal funding, and the other 20% coming from the State of North Carolina.  The Cape Fear Crossing would also impact neighborhoods on either side of the Cape Fear River, including Brunswick Forest and Mallory Creek.

The draft of the State Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP) was released this month, which revealed that the Cape Fear Crossing did not score high enough on the plan to receive sufficient funds to continue moving forward with planning and design.

One deadline to pick a preferred roadway (out of six) set for June of this year was pushed back initially, because of the volume of input at a public hearing held in April of this year, where about 650 people attended at North Brunswick High School to voice their opinions on the new bridge.

To be reconsidered for funding in the future, the project will need to be submitted by the Wilmington Urban Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.  The NCDOT will be releasing the next draft STIP in February 2022.  However, even if the project gets reentered by then, work would not actually begin until 2032 or even later.

When travelling back and forth between Brunswick and New Hanover Counties, be aware of other drivers, as well as construction hazards and emergency vehicles.  Pay attention, abide by the NC laws, and stay safe, especially as we head into this next school season.

However, should you or someone you know get injured in an accident, or receive a citation for a traffic violation in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington, NC, in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, contact Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Karen M. Thompson, Paralegal

2018 Christmas Travel

December 21st, 2018

During this December holiday season, a record-breaking 112.5 million Americans will be traveling, which is a 4.4% increase since last year, according to American Automobile Association (AAA).  While many people may choose to fly this holiday season, it is important for the ones who are driving to their Christmas destinations to be prepared for their travels, no matter the distance. Some precautions you should take to help ensure safe travels include making sure you have gotten a recent oil change, and if not do so, check your tires to make sure they have the right pressure, keep your gas tank at least ¼ full, do not let it go below that, and be sure to secure all luggage in the car.

No matter if you are driving with your family, friends, or alone, traffic may cause stress during your travels. However, it is very important to remember to stay patient in these situations in order to keep everyone on the roads safe. In order to prevent being rushed, AAA suggests that you leave earlier then you normally would because with holiday traffic, delays should be expected. This way, you will not be as rushed and your drive will be much less stressful.

Law enforcement will be present on all North Carolina roads through the New Year, and will be enforcing their annual Booze it & Lose it campaign, which intends to keep the roads safe this holiday season and save lives. After drinking, you should not operate a car, as the consequences of doing so may be deadly. Over the past 5 years, 300 people died due to drunk driving accidents the week between Christmas and New Years.  This holiday season, there will be multiple checkpoints and saturation patrols. If you are caught driving above the legal limit, you will be stopped and charged, but this can be avoided by not driving after drinking.

Please try to stay safe this holiday season. However, if you find yourself in trouble, such as a traffic ticket, car accident, or criminal charge such as driving while impaired (DWI/DUI), please call Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By Sarah M. Collins,  Legal Assistant

Thanksgiving 2018 – Safe Travel

November 14th, 2018

Thanksgiving—traditionally a celebration of the blessings of the year, including the harvest—is generally the begin of the “Holiday Season” in the United States.

This year there is a lot to be thankful for, i.e. higher wages, more disposable income and rising levels of household wealth.  This however is also expected to lead to an increase in Thanksgiving travel with projected 54.3 million Americans to travel 50 or more miles from home which is a 4.8 percent increase compared to last year’s travel.

In an effort to ensure safe travel, the North Carolina State Highway will participate in the Thanksgiving I-40 Challenge, and will be placing troopers every 20 miles along the 2,555 miles long interstate connecting Bartow, California, and Wilmington, North Carolina.

Travelers themselves can contribute to ensuring safe travel and abide by the road rules.  While most everybody is aware of the requirements to follow the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, and burn your headlights, there some other rules which appear not to be known so well:

The Fender Bender Law

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-161 motorists are required to move their vehicles to the shoulder of the road following a minor, non-injury crash.  The failure to do so could result in a $110 fine and court costs.

The Move over Law

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-157 motorists are required to:

Move the vehicle into a lane that is not the lane nearest the parked or standing authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle and continue traveling in that lane until it is safe to clear the authorized emergency vehicle. This paragraph applies only if the roadway has at least two lanes for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching vehicle and if the approaching vehicle may change lanes safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic.

Slow the vehicle, maintaining a safe speed for traffic conditions, and operate the vehicle at a reduced speed and be prepared to stop until completely past the authorized emergency vehicle or public service vehicle. This paragraph applies only if the roadway has only one lane for traffic proceeding in the direction of the approaching vehicle or if the approaching vehicle may not change lanes safely and without interfering with any vehicular traffic.

A failure to obey by this law could result in a $500 fine.

The Keep Right Law

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-146(b) vehicles traveling a multi-lane roadway at less than the legal maximum speed limit shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for thru traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the highway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn.  A violation of this law is an infraction pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-176 (a) and if convicted, North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicle would assess 2 driver’s license points pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-16 (c), or 3 driver’s license points if the violation occurred during the operation of a commercial motor vehicle.

Mobile phone Use by Drivers Younger than 18

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. §20-11(c)(6)  drivers under the age of 18 may not use a mobile phone when operating a motor vehicle except in case of an emergency to call 9-1-1.  Violators may have to pay a $25 fine.

Texting While Driving

Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 20-137.4A motorists are prohibited from using their mobile telephone for text messaging or electronic mail.  A violation of this law may result in a $100 fine.

Spend this Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and/or family, enjoy your turkey and pumpkin pie, and have a few drinks if you wish, but please, be patient in this holiday traffic and if you drink, do not drive – take a cab, Uber, or Lyft or have a designated driver.

However, should you or someone you know receive a citation for a traffic violation in Southeastern North Carolina, in or around Wilmington, NC in New Hanover County, Brunswick County, or Pender County, contact Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

We wish you all safe travel and Happy Thanksgiving!

By Jana Collins

 

 

 

School Bus Safety – Operation Stop Arm

October 15th, 2018

In an attempt to ensure school bus safety, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol is taking proactive steps by launching their annual week-long statewide Operation Stop Arm beginning today, October 15, 2018.   State Troopers will be aggressively enforcing stop arm violations and other traffic violations in and around school zones statewide through the end of school Friday, October 19, 2012.

Colonel Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol said:  “Every child should be afforded a safe means of travel as they attend their respective educational institution”, and that “While this operation is scheduled to conclude on Friday, our efforts will continue throughout the school year.”

As a reminder, we have listed what you are and are not allowed to do with respect to a stopped school bus:

  • Two-lane road – Everyone must stop
  • Four-lane road with no separation – Everyone must stop
  • Four-lane or more with a median or some physical barrier – Only traffic following the bus must stop
  • Center turn lane with less than four lanes – Everyone must stop
  • Center turn lane with at least four other lanes – Only traffic following the bus must stop

Pursuant to North Carolina State Law (N.C.G.S. §20-217), a driver must stop when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, the driver of any other vehicle that approaches the school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area shall bring that other vehicle to a full stop and shall remain stopped. The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.

Consequences for motorists who fail to comply with school bus safety rules:

  • Minimum fine of $500 and a Class 1 misdemeanor if you pass a stopped school bus
  • Minimum fine of $1,250 and a Class I felony if you pass a stopped school bus and strike someone
  • Minimum fine of $2,500 and a Class H felony if someone is killed

While drivers are required by law to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading passengers, it is also very important for parents to talk to their children and instruct them to stop and look both ways when getting on or off of the school bus, just in case a driver does not stop for the stopped bus for any reason.

If you or somebody you know receives a citation for not complying with school bus safety rules or face any other kind of traffic or criminal charges in our area, Collins Law Firm can help.  We have handled thousands of traffic tickets for our clients, and we offer free phone consultations for most traffic or criminal matters. Please call us for a confidential consultation at: 910-793-9000.

By Jana Collins, Office Manager

Hurricane Florence Recovery:  I-40 reopens from Raleigh to Wilmington

September 28th, 2018

For over 10 days after Hurricane Florence made landfall at Wrightsville Beach, NC, Interstate I-40 was closed in sections from Wilmington to Raleigh.  Now, as of September 25, 2018, people can drive the entire length of interstates 95 and 40 through North Carolina.

News outlets reported that North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper said floodwaters receded over this past weekend faster than expected, allowing N.C. Department of Transportation crews to inspect and open both highways by Tuesday morning. The opening of I-40 through Duplin and Pender counties restored the main route in and out of Wilmington to I-95.  Wilmington was completely landlocked for several days because of floodwaters due to Hurricane Florence.

On September 15, 2018, I-95 was closed in parts of NC, and travel up and down the East Coast was disrupted. At one time, the recommended detour was to drive completely around North and South Carolina, through Knoxville, TN and Atlanta, GA.

As the Lumber River and Cape Fear River receded after the storm, I-95 dried out on Sunday, and NCDOT engineers inspected it to see if it was safe to use. DOT personnel found one area that needed repairs which were promptly completed.

Other roads that reopened Monday are the U.S. 70 Bypass at Kinston and U.S. 74 between I-95 near Lumberton and Wilmington.

Governor Cooper urged people to obey road closure signs and not to drive around barriers into flood waters. He said that as of September 24, the death toll from the storm had risen to 35 in North Carolina, and that some of those deaths had resulted from people driving into floodwaters.

In the Outer Banks, N.C. 12 on Ocracoke Island is closed.  It could take until the end of October to have repairs to erosion of the dune and damage to the pavement that make the road impassable repaired.  Until repairs are completed, the ferry between Hatteras and Ocracoke is closed.

Recovery efforts continue.  The New Hanover County Courthouse re-opened on Monday, September 24th.  However the Brunswick County Courthouse and the Pender County Courthouse remain closed indefinitely.

Pender County estimated that about 25 percent of the county flooded, closing major highways and submerging many homes.  Due to flooding, the county remained landlocked for over a week and many residents were forced into emergency evacuations.  Last week water spilled over into the road and washed out parts of U.S. 421, washing out the entire highway across all four lanes.  The emergency manager for Pender County said it could take months to re-open that route back into Wilmington.

Be safe as our community recovers from this historic storm.  If you or someone you know are in need of legal services in the Wilmington area, call Collins Law Firm for a confidential consultation at 910-793-9000.

By David B. Collins, Jr.

Maritime or Admiralty Law

June 28th, 2018

Maritime law, better known as Admiralty law, is a body of law concerning behaviors and activities on the sea. Admiralty law governs the interactions of those who conduct business on the water. Primarily the focus is on international waters, but laws are applied to waters in and around each country.

Americans are often unaware that when they board a cruise ship there are admiralty laws that apply to them. These laws affect everyone that travels on the high seas. They regulate many situations including commerce, navigation, lost cargo, leisure travel and the interactions between seamen and their employers.

Admiralty law is a mix of international agreements and domestic laws. In the United States, this law mostly falls under the federal law. There are instances where it could go to state court, such as personal injury cases that occur on the seas.

There are several rules and principles that apply to actives on the high seas such as maintenance and care, duties to passengers, liens and mortgages, salvage and treasure, and lifesaving on the high seas.  Maintenance and care refers to a situation where a seaman is in service to an employer and the right they have to appropriate injury care.  A seaman has the right to treatment until their journey ends.  Duties to passengers include passengers on a ship that have the right to reasonable care while on the ship.  When a contract disagreement arises involving companies that do business on international water they must have a forum to resolve the issue, which is the liens and mortgages principle. The salvage and treasure principle is when a party recovers lost treasure and other lost cargo, and a question arises as to how to fairly divide the recovered possessions.  Lastly, lifesaving on the high seas refers to there being no salvage for saving a life. Seamen are expected to do their absolute best to save the life of anyone in danger on the high seas.

The U.S. Coast Guard enforces the admiralty laws within their jurisdiction.  In the United States, the Coast Guard has jurisdiction up to 12 miles from our coast, and another limited jurisdiction for 12 miles beyond the initial 12 miles.

Remember when you’re out on the boat for the July 4th holiday that Admiralty laws apply to you and everyone else who finds themselves at sea. Should you or someone you know becomes injured on the water, call the professionals at Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Haley Rouse, Legal Assistant

North Carolina Driver License Suspensions and Revocations

June 15th, 2018

In North Carolina, driving is a privilege.  Some drivers however put themselves and others in danger by disregarding traffic laws and driving dangerously, negligently or carelessly.  Such driving behavior is an abuse of one’s driving privilege and may result in the loss of said privilege.  The temporary loss of one’s driving privilege is called suspension.  Upon successful completion of the terms of the suspension, one may get their driving privilege reinstated.  Some offenses however, warrant one’s driving privileges to be terminated.  This is called revocation.  Upon a revocation, one must meet eligibility requirements in order to get their license reinstated and may need to have an administrative hearing.  Once found eligible, one will need to reapply for a driver license at a driver license office.

Below is a table providing general information regarding common suspensions and revocations.  However, each driving record is different and multiple suspensions may effect one’s eligibility for reinstatement of their driving privileges.

Offense

Length of Suspension/
Revocation

Driving while impaired 1st offense 1 year
2nd offense 4 years
3rd or subsequent offense Permanent
Refused chemical analysis 1 year
30-day civil revocation 30 days – extends until compliance with court

Driving with suspended or revoked license

1st offense 1 year
2nd offense 2 years
3rd or subsequent offense Permanent
Failure to appear Indefinite
Failure to pay fine Indefinite

Speed over 55 mph and exceeding limit by more than 15 mph

1st offense 30 days
2nd offense within 12 months 60 days
Convicted of reckless driving on the same occasion 60 days
Two convictions speeding over 55 mph in 12 months Up to 6 months

Accumulation of 12 points in 3 years or 8 points in 3 years following reinstatement of license

1st suspension 60 days
2nd suspension 6 months
3rd or subsequent suspension 1 year

Moving violation while license is suspended

1st offense 1 year
2nd offense 2 years
3rd or subsequent offense Permanent
Violation of ignition interlock restriction 1 year

Therefore, it is important that you consult with an attorney knowledgeable and experienced in dealing with violations of traffic laws and driving privileges to either avoid a suspension or revocations, or to meet eligibility requirements for the reinstatement of one’s driving privilege.

Collins Law Firm represents people charged with a wide range of traffic matters from simple speeding tickets to serious felony charges. In many cases we are able to avoid the necessity of our clients appearing in court and we help eliminate or mitigate the negative consequences of citations or charges. For most minor traffic matters, Collins Law Firm offers a free initial telephone consultation or we usually have appointments available immediately if you would like to come to our office to meet with a member of our staff.

Should you or someone you know receive a citation for a traffic law violation such as a speeding ticket, call the friendly professionals at Collins Law Firm at 910-793-9000 for a confidential consultation.

By Jana H. Collins