A recent amendment to Rule 702 of the North Carolina Rules of Evidence specifically authorizes accident reconstruction experts to offer an opinion on vehicle speed at trial without having actually witnessed the accident. This is a major change in North Carolina law, which for years excluded non-eyewitness testimony concerning the speed of a vehicle.
The addition of Paragraph (i) to Rule 702 was one of several legislative changes found in the Motor Vehicle Driver Protection Act of 2006 ("MVDPA"). Although the MVDPA was designed to update the statutes related to DWI prosecutions, the Rule 702 amendment also applies to civil cases. The new rule applies to accidents occurring after December 1, 2006. Since the statutes of limitation for wrongful death and personal injury claims accruing on that date expire on December 1, 2008 and December 1, 2009 respectively, we are seeing an increase in the number of cases in which this new rule of evidence will be applied.
We have always stressed to our clients that early investigation and consultation with an accident reconstruction expert is important in the defense of a motor vehicle accident claim. This new rule of evidence makes early investigation even more vital. Plaintiffs’ attorneys will increasingly retain their own accident reconstruction experts to testify about vehicle speed. The defense must be able to rebut those opinions and provide opinions of its own.
Parker Poe has an accident response hotline for our trucking and transportation clients. The number is (919) 890-4150. You can call any time, day or night. You will reach a Parker Poe attorney who is ready to respond to your emergency anywhere in the Carolinas and coordinate with an accident reconstruction expert to begin the investigation.