Supreme Court Rules in Fatal North Carolina Auto Accident Case

July 5, 2012, by Michael A. DeMayo

Nearly a decade ago, a fatal North Carolina auto accident took the lives of Mickela Nicholson, Marianne Dauscher, and Michael Layaou on Highway 1010 in Johnston County. The estates of the three people killed sued the North Carolina Department of Transportation for negligence that led to the accumulation of water on the road, which in turn precipitated the fatal hydroplaning accident.

(Nicholson had been driving the speed limit. She veered off the road due to its disrepair. When she hopped back on, the eroded road and slick conditions caused her to hydroplane and slam into the jeep).

The DOT fought back against the lawsuit, claiming that the estates of the descedents could not sue for the failure to “make appropriate repair.”

On the Friday before last, the North Carolina Supreme Court weighed in on the matter and ruled decisively in favor of the estates of the deceased – giving the okay for them to sue the DoT.

Who knows what will happen next? Obviously, no ruling can ever bring back the young people who were killed in the crash. It’s also been nearly a decade since the incident – a decade of uncertainty for the families involved.

The case illustrates how slowly North Carolina auto accident cases can progress through the court system. Especially if someone was killed or seriously injured in a crash – where hundreds or thousands of dollars or millions of dollars might be at stake – the court process can drag on extensively. Plaintiffs can experience an emotional rollercoaster ride, as positive and negative news breaks periodically about the case.

How should victims and family members of victims comport themselves during these intense “ups and downs”?

First and foremost, it really helps to have a solid North Carolina auto accident law firm on your side – such as the team at the Law Offices of Michael A. DeMayo – to answer your questions, keep you feeling in control, and keep you focused on the best possible strategic outcomes. A good law firm can also help you navigate the surprises and opportunities that can emerge as you pursue justice and strive for compensation.

Beyond that, understand that getting over a serious car accident – or the fact that a loved one was in a serious car accident – is a process. There is no one-time “quick fix.” Even if a liable party agreed tomorrow to pay you as much as you wanted for the damages done, you would still need time to adjust to your new reality, and your “emotional immune system” would need to process what happened to you and bring you back to equilibrium.

Try to be compassionate with yourself; to be compassionate with those who might have caused you harm; and to be patient as the wheels of justice move forward. Be sure to educate yourself and connect yourself with great resources – legal, medical, and otherwise – to make the journey simpler and more certain.