Last Friday afternoon just after 4 pm, a 2004 Nissan Maxima driven by Temikia Gooding, 23, of Kinston, hydroplaned on a rain slick highway near New Bern, crossed the center-line, rotated counter-clockwise, and was struck by a large dump truck driven by Charles White, 49, of New Bern.
The front of the dump truck impacted the Maxima on the passenger's side of the vehicle. The driver of the Maxima and her passenger, Alsheen Wooten, 27, of Vanceboro, were killed in the crash. The truck driver reported that the Maxima suddenly crossed into his lane of travel, and that he did not have time to avoid the collision.
The Maxima was travelling north on NC Highway 43, and the dump truck was travelling south.The investigating North Carolina State Trooper concluded that the driver of the Maxima was driving too fast for the rainy conditions. The investigating Trooper indicated that no charges would be filed against the driver of the dump truck. Knowing what to do if your vehicle hydroplanes is critical for safe driving on wet roads.
Hydroplaning occurs when a layer of water builds up between the rubber tires of the vehicle and the surface of the road leading to a loss of traction. This water build up prevents the driver from being able to control the vehicle as it does not respond to control imputs from the driver like steering, braking or accelerating. This video shows what happens to a car when it hydroplanes:
Here are some tips on what to do if you find yourself hydroplaning:
1. You can prevent skids by driving slowly and carefully, especially on curves. Steer and brake with a light touch. When you need to stop or slow, do not brake hard or lock the wheels and risk a skid. Maintain mild pressure on the brake pedal. This is especially true on wet roads.
2. If you do find yourself in a skid, remain calm, ease your foot off the gas, and carefully steer in the direction you want the front of the car to go. For cars without anti-lock brakes, avoid using your brakes. This procedure, known as "steering into the skid," will bring the back end of your car in line with the front. If your car has ABS, brake firmly as you steer into the skid.
3. Avoid hydroplaning by keeping your tires inflated correctly. Maintain good tire tread. Don't put off replacing worn tires. Slow down when roads are wet, and stay away from puddles. Try to drive in the tire tracks left by the cars in front of you.
4. If you find yourself hydroplaning, do not brake or turn suddenly. This could throw your car into a skid. Ease your foot off the gas until the car slows and you can feel the road again. If you need to brake, do it gently with light pumping actions. If your car has anti-lock brakes, then brake normally. The car's computer will automatically pump the brakes much more effectively than a person can do.
5. A defensive driver adjusts his or her speed to the wet road conditions in time to avoid having to use any of these measures.
At Davis Law Group, we see too many serious wrecks caused by drivers simply driving too fast for conditions. In our experience, if you slow down to a safe speed and leave enough room between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you, you will probably have time to avoid a collision should you need to stop suddenly. Please drive safely, and remember that the life you safe may well be your own or that of a loved one.
In this case, the estate of the passenger would have the right to file a wrongful death claim against the driver of the Maxima. In North Carolina, there is a 2 year statue of limitations for wrongful death claims. This means that the administrator of an estate only has 2 years in which to file a lawsuit or otherwise settle a wrongful death claim. If the administrator does not file a lawsuit within 2 years from the person's date of death, then the wrongful death claim will be barred and no recovery can be made.