Frequently Asked Questions

You ask questions, we give you answers.

We answer a wide variety of questions that we receive from prospective clients, associates and fellow attorneys in this Frequently Asked Questions page.

We try and provide detailed responses rather than just answering yes or no to your questions. We hope this FAQ section provides you with some information about your rights and options.

At Shipman & Wright, we pride ourselves in devoting sufficient time and energy to each of our clients to thoroughly educate and explain their claim in the legal process.

What do I do if I slip and fall in a restaurant?

Restaurant customers are injured every day by slip and fall accidents. Uneven flooring, poorly maintained parking lots, and snow-covered sidewalks are hazards that lead to slip and fall injuries at any business. Restaurants have an additional high risk of customer injuries caused by spilled food and drinks.

Every state has laws that hold restaurant owners to a duty of care to provide a safe environment for customers. This means restaurant owners must do everything reasonably possible to make sure their customers don’t get injured.

A restaurant’s duty of care includes not only following government laws and regulations but also considering events that might foreseeably harm customers. This doesn’t mean every event, just those that similar restaurant owners and managers can reasonably expect.

Rear End Collisions

Unless the rear-ending driver can prove that there were extenuating circumstances—such as being pushed by another car—it is likely that the rear-ending driver will be liable for the injured party’s injuries. As always, it is prudent to contact a local attorney when faced with the prospect of bringing or defending a lawsuit.


In North Carolina, you can file a personal injury lawsuit to recover compensation for damages associated with a rear-end car accident. Damages that may be awarded in a rear-end car accident case include:

  • Medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering
  • Property damage

Can I sue my spouse’s lover for our becoming divorced?

“I can live without money, but I cannot live without love.”  This sentiment — voiced by Judy Garland, who married five times and boasted a net worth of $20 million at the time of her death — might explain why Keith King does not count himself a victor, even after a judge in North Carolina ordered another man to pay him $8.8 million for wrecking his marriage.

But because of precepts borrowed from English common law, there actually is a dollar amount — $2.2 million in compensatory damages and $6.6 million in punitive damages, according to a decision last week by a Superior Court judge in Durham, N.C. The judge found that an affair lasting more than a year harmed King through criminal conversation, meaning adultery, and alienation of affection, meaning responsibility for marital fracture, typically through enticement.

Alienation of Affection in North Carolina is when someone takes away the affections of one spouse for another destroying the marriage. the state also recognizes the claim of Criminal Conversation, which involves the act of having sex with someone else’s spouse. Check out our family law section for more information

The legal argument is scarcely more intricate than this: He had a happy marriage until someone came along and lured away from his wife.

For more information, see this link. and please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

Understanding Damages

Understanding Damages- is it worth filing a lawsuit?

Compensatory damages (sometimes called general damages) are monetary damages awarded to an injured or wronged individual or business to put them in the position they would have been had the wrong not occurred. It is important to note that the definition does not include getting money from a defendant to penalize them or provide the plaintiff with an advantageous outcome but simply put to make the injured party whole again. There are opportunities for punitive damages or recovery of attorney’s fees to deter bad behavior by the offending party, but these are relatively rare and generally upon the discretion of the judge overseeing the lawsuit, and have been rarely awarded in any substantial amounts in North Carolina Courts.

Another form of damages that may be present in a breach of contract action are liquidated damages if they were outlined in the subject contract and are a reasonable expectation of damages actually caused by the breach. Punitive damages may be awarded if the court finds that the defendant’s actions resulting in the injury or loss were reckless or malicious. As a form of punitive damages certain statutes, such as under the NC Unfair and Deceptive Practices Act, allow the possible recovery of double or even triple (“treble”) damages, or attorneys’ fees to the winning party, where there was irreprehensible conduct on the part of the defendant. Statutory opportunities for the recovery of attorneys’ fees for a successful plaintiff provide great impetus for an attorney to take on and pursue a matter. It could be helpful to consult with an attorney to discover if there may be an opportunity for statutory punitive damages or the recovery of attorneys’ fees for any claims in a potential matter.

For more information, see this link. and please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit in a civil lawsuit that is brought by one person or a few people on behalf of a larger group of people who have suffered similar harm or have a similar claim. Class actions can be brought in either federal or state courts, though a recent federal law, the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005, makes it easier for defendants to move class action lawsuits from state to federal courts.

For more information, see this link. and please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

Is it legal for my employer to keystroke me without my knowledge?

Yes, employers have this right. Some states require employers to notify employees about monitoring. North Carolina is not one of those states.

According to the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA), an employer-provided computer system is the property of the employer. Therefore, employers that provide you with a computer system and Internet access are free to monitor almost everything that you do with the computer and Internet access with which you have been provided. This is especially true when an employer gives you a written policy regarding the monitoring of your computer use». (‘Social Networking & Computer Privacy’ by Workplace Fairness)

For more information, see this link. and please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

Is sending someone a lewd gag gift by a mail order service illegal?

This is probably not a good idea. You are also evoking the Jurisdiction of the Federal Government. So, it would be ok if the person you are pranking knows you, and you are identified as a friend of this person. But if you do not identify yourself, and this person decides that this is a threat, rather than a joke, you may be in some trouble.

For more information, read here. Please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

Road Debris

Individuals who suffer injury or property damage, such as vehicles damaged because of a pothole or mailbox knocked down as a result of a snow plow, can file a tort claim to request reimbursement for damages.

For more information, read the NC Department of Transportation’s website here. Please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

Worker’s Compensation

Is a North Carolina Business Required to Carry Workers Compensation? What Can I do if injured at work and they do not carry it?

The North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act requires that all businesses that employ three or more employees, including those operating as corporations, sole proprietorships, limited liability companies, and partnerships, obtain workers’ compensation insurance or qualify as self-insured employers for purposes of paying workers’ compensation benefits to their employees.

Penalties for Employers who do not may face the following:

1) Face stiff financial penalties;
2) Be charged with a misdemeanor;
3) Be charged with a felony; and
4) Be imprisoned.

Read more here. Please contact Shipman & Wright today if we can help you with any of your legal issues.

At-Will Employment

How At-Will Employment Works

At will employment has two main purposes:

It allows employees and employers to work together without long term contracts or promises from either party. If an employee doesn’t like a job or gets a better opportunity elsewhere, they are free to leave. If an employer wants to change wages, benefits, or let someone go, they can do so freely as well.

It can be a defense for employers in a wrongful termination lawsuit. Most employers hope never to have to defend themselves in court over terminating an employee. The best employers have good documentation when they fire someone, such as performance reviews kept in the employee’s personnel file.

Bottom Line

There are so many exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine, that it’s in an employer’s best interest to follow sound HR practices, including stating that “employment is at will” in all employee documentation. Employers should document involuntary terminations with a valid rationale so that they’re prepared in advance to defend themselves against a wrongful termination lawsuit, should one be filed.

For more information, read here. If we can help, call us.

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