On the morning of April 12, 2016, it had rained all night — and was still raining — when the Dodge Ram being driven by defendant Duston Melton crossed the centerline on U.S. Highway 15 in Bennettsville and crashed head-on into Derek Carlson’s Honda Accord.
Carlson did not come out unscathed, but he survived with cuts and bruises and broken bones in both legs. On June 26, the final touches were put on a $1.075 million settlement when the carrier of Carlson’s underinsured motorist policy agreed to pay its $75,000 limits.
Carlson’s attorney, Mason King of the Douglas Jennings Law Firm in Bennettsville, said that the defendant’s insurance company agreed to tender its $1 million bodily injury limit months ago.
“It was a high rate of speed for this particular stretch of highway, but then you factor in the terrible conditions and we were able to convince the liability carrier that they had a huge problem on their hands, including the real likelihood of punitive exposure,” King said.
According to King, Carlson was knocked unconscious and was unable to help describe what happened. That’s where accident reconstruction specialist Mike Sutton came in, helping to determine that bad road conditions and speed — Melton was reportedly traveling about 70 mph in a 55 mph stretch — caused Melton’s truck to hydroplane into Carlson’s vehicle.
Before the crash, Carlson worked as a heating and air technician, King said. He has yet to be cleared by his doctor to return to work.
“He was smart and decided to structure a good portion of his settlement into an annuity, so he’s going to be all right, we hope,” King said. “But he’s still got an uphill battle.”
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SETTLEMENT REPORT – NEGLIGENCE
Amount: $1.075 million
Injuries alleged: Broken bones, emotional distress
Case name: Derek and Gretchen Carlson v. Duston Melton
Case No.: 17 CP 34 00024
Court: Fourth Judicial Circuit Court of Common Pleas
Date of settlement: Jan. 4 for Melton’s insurance company and June 26 for Carlson’s UIM coverage
Attorneys for plaintiff: Mason King and Douglas Jennings of the Douglas Jennings Law Firm in Bennettsville
Attorney for defendant: Settled pre-suit