Flashing Lights to Avoid Blue Lights

Ever been driving down the road, street, or highway and see an oncoming vehicle flash headlights at you? No this is not a Herbie the Love Bug story. Instead, the flashing headlights are typically a “heads up” of law enforcement ahead. Undoubtedly this friendly advice has saved many a motorist from a traffic ticket and made things on the roadways a bit safer. Well, it seems some law enforcement agencies didn’t like this tactic and decided to charge motorists who flashed headlights at oncoming motorists. It now appears that several courts have decided that a motorist’s flashing of headlights, in most circumstances, is protected as free speech under the First Amendment.

If you find yourself snagged with a speeding ticket or other traffic citation DO NOT try to handle it yourself unless you understand the circumstances and potential consequences. Consult a traffic attorney to discuss your situation. Happy and safe motoring!

John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney with the O’Neal Law Office in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues and Debt Defense Lemon Law), and various types of Civil Litigation handling cases across North Carolina. A long-time NCAJ member, he is a former Chair of the NCAJ Consumer Areas of Practice Section and a two-time Ebby Award winner.

Bounce Houses Pose a Significant Risk to Children

Children love to bounce and while everyone recognizes the obvious risks posed by trampolines, a brightly-colored castle-shaped balloon seems like safe fun. Whether these devices are completely enclosed or have side openings, children can easily fly up into the air and fall quickly to the ground, offering countless opportunities to sustain serious accidental injuries. With complex rules and regulations scattered within North Carolina legislation, it often takes support from an experienced Charlotte injury lawyer to help hold all responsible parties accountable.

The Many Risks of Bounce Houses

According to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, an estimated 64,657 children age 17 and younger received emergency room treatment for bounce house injuries between 1990 and 2010. Even more disturbing, they reported a 15-fold increase in these injuries between 1995 and 2010 and a doubling between 2008 and 2010. Nearly 47 percent of injuries, which were primarily sprains and strains, occurred at places of sports or recreation, but home injuries were not far behind at nearly 38 percent.

The following are the most common causes of these injuries:

  • Falls in or on the bouncer (26.1 percent)
  • Falling from or getting in or out of the bouncers (17.2 percent)
  • Accidents involving other users, including colliding with or being pushed or pulled by another person (9.9 percent) or when another person falls on a victim (6.3 percent)

NC Regulations May Not Offer Adequate Protection

The Amusement Device Safety Act of North Carolina contains detailed regulations governing the actual operation and inspection of all amusement devices operated within the state. Still, it is easy to argue that injuries to children in bounce houses may be caused more by childlike behavior than by device defects.

In fact, even the inflatable device operation-specific regulations imposed by the North Carolina Administrative Code to provide appropriate supervision fail to truly address the types of accidents that can occur in a split second when more than one child is using a device.

Liability for these accidents can reside with numerous parties — including another child, supervisor inattention, improper setup and maintenance or improper manufacture. This means parents seeking compensation for injuries to their children need to enlist assistance from a personal injury law firm with the skills and resources necessary to conduct detailed investigations into the precise causes of these accidents.

Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Brown, Moore & Associates, PLLC, represents personal injury and medical malpractice victims throughout North and South Carolina. The firm’s attorneys have in-depth experience in motor vehicle accident and workers’ compensation litigation, and are known as strong advocates for their clients’ interests. To identify all available legal options, call 800-948-0577 or use this convenient online contact form.

How to Prepare for Summer Road Trips

The warm, sunny season is a great time to get on the road with friends and family, exploring the country and various points of interest. To keep you and your passengers safe, we urge you to take a little time to prepare your vehicle and reduce your risk of getting in an auto accident. When it comes to road trip safety, a little preparation and vehicle maintenance can go a long way.

The following road-trip preparedness tips come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:

  • Routinely maintain your vehicle: Regular maintenance on your vehicle reduces your accident risk by eliminating the factor of a breakdown, tire blowout, belt snapping and other common problems. At a minimum, routine maintenance of your vehicle should include:
    • Oil change
    • Tune up
    • Battery test
    • Tire rotation/alignment
    • Tire pressure check
  • Buckle your seat belt every time: Seat belts save lives. They can prevent ejection from the vehicle in the event of an accident and also prevent serious injuries. According to the NHTSA, when front-seat passengers wear a seat belt, their risk of fatal injury is reduced by 45 percent and the risk of moderate to critical injury is reduced by 50 percent.
  • Never drink and drive: Alcohol delays your reaction time, reduces your ability to concentrate, impairs your vision, and makes you more drowsy. All of these things and other effects of drinking make it dangerous to drive and increase the risk of a drunk driving accident. Be a responsible driver and commit to never drink and drive. If you plan to drink, make sure a sober driver has been designated or that you have arranged for a taxi, Uber or other means of getting home.
  • Prevent distracted driving: Distraction is a major cause of car wrecks. Texting, talking on a phone, adjusting audio controls and using GPS navigation can all potentially lead to a distracted driving accident. Put away anything that distracts you from the task of driving during your road trip.
  • Obey “move over” laws: The “move over” law is effective in all 50 states and prevents accidents involving law enforcement officials providing motorist assistance on the side of the road. Move over to the other lane to give the officer(s) a safe distance from your vehicle.

These preparedness measures and any others you have adopted should help you stay safer when traveling the American roadways this summer season.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a car accident, please call the Ricci Law Firm for a free case review at (855) 444-9764. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Ricci Law Firm serve Fayetteville, Greenville, Raleigh and all of the surrounding areas in North Carolina.

Columbian University Neuroscientist Makes a Great Case Against the Drug War

NCAJ member and criminal attorney Jerry T. Hannant, who practices in Wilmington, NC, recently shared an article on Dr. Carl Hart, a neuroscientist and professor of psychology and psychiatry, who gave a compelling TED talk about his research into addiction and how his findings have impacted his view on the U.S. Drug War.

For more on Dr. Hart’s findings and Jerry Hannant’s law practice, click here

I was the victim of a crime – why aren’t the police helping me more?

We receive many calls and emails from victims of crime, mostly sexual assaults, who say the police are not doing enough to investigate the crime and bring the perpetrator to justice.  They want us to make the police take action.  Sometimes a lawyer can help the victim in this situation.  However there is a lot that crime victims can do to help members of law-enforcement do their jobs better in these situations.

First, it is very important to report a crime right away.  This is necessary for the preservation of evidence while it is fresh.  If you were raped, do NOT take a shower or wash your clothes!   Many women feel so disgusted by what has happened to them that the first thing they want to do is bathe. This can destroy essential evidence that investigators need.  If you have been raped or assaulted, you should go to the hospital immediately.  Emergency department personnel have a set of evidence-gathering tools called a “rape kit” that helps them gather hair, fiber, and DNA evidence.  The results are submitted directly to law enforcement.

Victims of sexual assault often hesitate to come forward, and every victim needs to decide for herself what she feels strong enough to do.  Just understand that the sooner you report a crime, the better equipped law enforcement officers will be to help.

Second, it is very important to tell the investigator every detail you can think of. Often, due to societal pressure, victims of sexual assault feel shame about what happened to them, and sometimes they leave out crucial details that they may thing make the crime more demeaning.  Later, they may contact the investigator with more facts.   It is much more helpful to law enforcement if all the facts are provided early on.

Third, if you are struggling to get the support you need, whether from law enforcement or from any other service provider, there are resources to help you.  There are many professionals whose job it is to help victims of crime.  One source of support in our state is the North Carolina Victim Assistance Network.   Another organization providing support and referral services is the National Center for Victims of Crime.   In some situations victims of crime can pursue civil remedies against the perpetrators.

The law firm of Copeley Johnson & Groninger PLLC regularly represents victims of crime in cases against service providers, schools and other institutions that have failed to protect children and adults to whom they have a duty of care.  For more on this firm, visit http://www.cjglawfirm.com.

Debt Collection A to Z: L is for Letter

A staple of the debt collection industry is the dunning letter. Dunning refers to the letter’s mission to influence the debtor to pay up lest face consequences. Generally speaking, sending such letters is legal but there are guidelines as to what must and must not appear.

On the “must” side are usually:

  • warnings that the letter is a communication to collect a debt and any information obtained will be used for that purpose
  • statement of the name, address, and contact phone number for the collector
  • statement of the account on which collection is sought as well as the amount claimed due
  • in the first letter to the debtor, a statement of the debtor’s right to obtain validation of the debt

On the “must not” side are:

  • threats of violence or physical harm to the debtor for failure to pay
  • threats to take action the collector either cannot or does not intend to take
  • false or misleading information about the collector’s status
  • false or misleading information about the nature or amount of the debt

Despite these rules some collectors create their own rules and policies and abuse the collection process. In these cases action is warranted and too often the collector will intimidate the debtor into thinking nothing can be done. Click here to learn a few tips and tactics on dealing with debt collectors. There are state and federal laws regulating debt collection and it is worth consulting an experienced attorney if you believe you have been subjected to letters or other communications and actions that violate these laws.

John T. O’Neal is a practicing attorney with the O’Neal Law Office in Greensboro, NC who focuses his practice in Personal Injury/Wrongful Death, Consumer Law (includes Auto Dealer Fraud/Vehicle Issues and Debt Defense Lemon Law), and various types of Civil Litigation handling cases across North Carolina. A long-time NCAJ member, he is a former Chair of the NCAJ Consumer Areas of Practice Section and a two-time Ebby Award winner. 

Can I receive Workers’ Comp and Disability at the same time?

The short answer is, Yes, you can receive both workers’ compensation and Social Security Disability benefits at the same time. But most often, the Social Security Administration will reduce the amount of SSDI benefits if you are also receiving workers’ comp. Typically you cannot receive more than 80 percent of pre-disability wages, if you are receiving workers’ comp as well.

If you have suffered a job-related injury, then you deserve compensation to help you get the medical care you need, as well as rehabilitative care and replacement of the wages you lose. The experienced workers’ comp and SSDI attorneys at the Ricci Law Firm know how to handle these cases and pursue the benefits that you are owed. Attorney Brian M. Ricci is even a bar-certified specialist in Social Security Disability law.

If you live in or around Fayetteville, Charlotte, Raleigh or Greenville, NC, and want to know more about recovering workers’ comp and Social Security Disability, please call the Ricci Law Firm at (855) 444-9764 for a free consultation. Our attorneys have lengthy experience securing workers’ comp and SSDI benefits for our clients.