You’re driving along and BOOM – suddenly you’re involved in a car accident. The best-case scenario is that everyone is fine, no one is hurt, and both drivers let their insurance companies handle everything.
But what if someone is injured?
If you or someone you love is injured during a car accident, the first step should always be to seek medical help and contact a law enforcement officer to file a crash report. You may also want to consult with an experienced car accident lawyer to see what options are available to you regarding a lawsuit and settlement.
Comparative Fault Rules
North Carolina is a “fault” state when it comes to car accidents. In a “fault” state, the driver who was legally at fault for the accident is liable for injuries and damages.
You have 3 options available to you if you’ve been in an accident and are injured or have damages:
- File a claim with your insurance company
- File a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver who is at fault
- File a claim directly with the other driver’s insurance company
North Carolina is also one of the few states that follows contributory negligence. Under this system, you won’t receive any compensation for a car accident if you have any amount of fault.
For example, let’s say you are driving a little bit over the speed limit when another driver doesn’t stop at a stop sign and crashes into you. After trial, the jury decides that the other driver is 90% at fault for failing to stop and you are only 10% at fault for speeding.
But because you share some fault, you cannot be compensated. In order to receive any amount of compensation for a car accident, the other driver has to be 100% at fault for the accident.
This rule in North Carolina can be harsh and seem unfair depending on the circumstances. Since there’s no way to empirically prove fault in a car accident, the assignment of fault will come down to whether you can negotiate with an insurance claims adjuster or persuade a judge or jury in court.
Statute of Limitations in North Carolina
Every state has a time limit – or statute of limitations – for when you can file a lawsuit due to injuries or vehicle damage from a crash. In North Carolina, you have 3 years after the accident to bring a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage in civil court. If you attempt to file a suit after that window, the courts most likely will refuse to hear your case. So it’s very important to pay attention to the deadlines.
If you are pursuing a claim through your insurance company, you should still think about the 3-year deadline in case you want to file a personal injury lawsuit later.
If your accident involved the government, then the 3-year statute of limitations doesn’t apply and you’ll need to start with filing a Notice of Claim.
Car Insurance Requirements
In North Carolina, drivers are required to have appropriate car insurance coverage. The minimum required coverage is:
- $25,000 for any property or vehicle damage caused by the accident
- $30,000 for the injury or death of a single person caused by the accident
- $60,000 total for all damages from a single accident
In addition, all North Carolina car insurance policies include uninsured motorist coverage, which protects you if another driver is at fault but they don’t have insurance.
If you’ve been involved in a car accident and you’ve suffered damages or injuries, you should contact a knowledgeable car accident lawyer today to see how they can help you get the fair and just compensation you’re entitled to.
About the Author
Attorney Mike Schlosser represents victims of personal injury, those charged with a crime, as well as those facing traffic charges. A former Guilford County, North Carolina District Attorney, Schlosser has been in private practice at the Law Firm of Schlosser & Pritchett since 1983 and has been a member of the North Carolina State Bar since 1973.