While this percentage is relatively small compared to other states (the national average was 12.6% in 2012), North Carolina’s problem with uninsured drivers can suddenly become very serious to someone involved in an accident with a driver who is uninsured. After all, it is the at-fault driver’s insurance that typically pays out the compensation necessary to cover the high costs of medical bills and lost wages.
If you have been injured in an accident by an uninsured or underinsured driver, you’ll be relieved to learn that North Carolina has legislation in place to protect the victims of these types of accidents. Under North Carolina law, all auto vehicle insurance providers must include uninsured motorist coverage in their policies. Certain policies are also required to include underinsured motorist coverage, depending on how much coverage you carry.
Uninsured versus Underinsured Driver Coverage
Uninsured motorist insurance provides a means of recovering damages sustained in an auto accident when the at-fault driver doesn’t have any insurance. Underinsured motorist insurance comes into play if you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver whose own insurance coverage is not enough to pay for all the damage caused by the crash.
For instance, if the at-fault driver only has the North Carolina minimum of $25,000 worth of coverage, and your medical bills total $30,000, you may be able to receive reimbursement for the remaining balance if you have adequate underinsured motorist coverage in place.
The majority of policies will cover injuries caused to you, a relative who lives with you, someone driving or riding in your insured vehicle with your permission, and anyone riding in a vehicle you are driving.
How to Take Action
After being involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver, it’s important to act quickly if you want to be able to protect your right to maximum compensation. Immediately after the accident, you should take the following steps:
Seek medical attention. Even if you feel that your injuries are minor, it’s important to seek medical attention as soon as possible after an accident. Many car accident injuries aggravate over time, while others don’t even materialize for days or weeks after the accident. Promptly seeking medical attention is vital to both your long-term health and your legal claim.
Contact the police immediately. When another driver doesn’t have insurance, he or she may attempt to convince you not to call the police. Nevertheless, a police accident report is essential to your claim, since it’s one of the most effective pieces of evidence for proving you were not at fault. Contact the police as soon as possible—no later than 24 hours after the accident.
Notify your insurance company. After being involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured motorist, you have a responsibility to notify your insurance company. You may be required to make a recorded statement describing your claim.
Do not sign the initial settlement offer. While it’s important to be as cooperative as possible with your insurance company, do not sign any statements before consulting with a lawyer. Insurance companies are first and foremost a business, and in order to maximize their profits, they may attempt to minimize the amount they pay in claims. Your insurer is likely to try and settle your claim as soon as possible, and may offer you a settlement that is much lower than the value of your claim. If you accept their offer, you’ll have to sign a waiver forfeiting your right to sue for additional damages and the right of your insurance company to seek additional compensation through subrogation.
Hire a car accident attorney. The sooner you can enlist the aid of an experienced car accident lawyer in this process, the better. A lawyer can help you understand your options and determine the true value of your claim. Your attorney can take legal steps to ensure you receive maximum compensation, helping you negotiate effectively with insurance companies offering inadequate compensation. If need be, your attorney can help you sue the at-fault driver to recover damages from their homeowner’s insurance or umbrella policy coverage.
Don’t waive your legal rights and chance of securing fair compensation by attempting to settle the case on your own. Consult with an experienced North Carolina auto accident lawyer, who can make sure your rights and interests are protected.
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.