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Personal Injury

Miscellaneous Driving Rules

In addition to rules regarding parking a motor vehicle, starting and stopping a motor vehicle, signaling and turning a motor vehicle, and the right-of-way of a motor vehicle, most vehicle and transportation codes contain other driving rules with regard to motor vehicles. Such rules include railroad crossings, mountain driving, and rules with regard to passengers.

A driver has a duty to exercise reasonable care at a railroad crossing. The driver must also yield the right-of-way to any train that is approaching the railroad crossing. Although the driver may not have the duty to stop his or her vehicle at the railroad crossing, the driver has a duty to look in both directions in order to yield the right-of-way to an approaching train.

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Wrongful Death & Survival

Every state has some type of wrongful death statute that allows for a decedent’s beneficiaries to recover damages after a defendant willfully or negligently causes the decedent’s death.

Filing an Action

Some statutes require that any wrongful death action be filed by the decedent’s personal representative, while others require that it be filed by the decedent’s spouse or next of kin.


Wrongful death statutes generally permit recovery for funeral expenses, loss of support, and loss of consortium, which includes comfort, companionship, instruction, guidance, counsel, and sexual relations. Some statutes provide that the decedent’s parents cannot recover unless the decedent had no children. Wrongful death statutes generally do not allow damages for the decedent’s pain and suffering and medical care between the time of the injury and the time of death or for the decedent’s loss of future earnings. The damages are generally awarded to the decedent’s heirs at law or to the estate representative as the trustee of the heirs. Some statutes allow the court to consider the culpability of the defendant in determining the amount of damages to award. Creditors have no claim to the damages.

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Federal Volunteer Protection Act — Applicability

Covered Persons

The federal Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) applies to “volunteers.” Under the VPA, a “volunteer” is a person (including a director, officer, trustee, or direct service volunteer) who performs services for a “nonprofit organization” or a governmental entity and does not receive:

(1) compensation (other than reasonable reimbursement or allowance for expenses actually incurred); or

(2) any other thing of value in lieu of compensation, in excess of $500 per year.

The VPA defines a “nonprofit organization” as:

(1) any organization that is described in section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code and is tax exempt under section 501(a) of the Internal Revenue Code; or

(2) any not-for-profit organization which is organized and conducted for public benefit and operated primarily for charitable, civic, educational, religious, welfare, or health purposes.

An organization that commits a hate crime within the meaning of the federal Hate Crimes Statistics Act does not qualify as a nonprofit organization under the VPA.

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Dram Shop Laws

Under a “dram shop law,” a business that sells alcohol to an intoxicated customer may be liable when the customer injures a third party. Most dram shop cases involve drunk driving. For example, a customer becomes intoxicated at a bar and then attempts to drive home. On his way home, the customer hits a pedestrian with his car. If the pedestrian lives in a state with a dram shop law, he or she can file a personal injury action against the owner of the bar to recover for the injuries caused by the customer.

Dram shop cases sometimes involve other types of injuries. For example, instead of driving home from the bar, the customer drives to a dance club. While at the club, the customer assaults a bouncer. If the bouncer lives in a state with a dram shop law, he or she can file a personal injury action against the owner of the bar to recover for the injuries caused by the customer.

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Interference With a Contract

When parties come together to form a contract, a third party may interfere with the performance of that contract or induce one party to breach it. In such a case, the injured party may bring an action against the third party for interfering with his economic relations with the other contracting party or parties.

Example: A property owner hires a contractor to build a structure. A third party, who is also a contractor, destroys the contractor’s materials to prevent him from performing the contract so that the property owner will hire the third party instead. The third party may be liable for interference with a contract.

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