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Who Pays for Car Accidents in North Carolina?

How the legal system works for injury claims and financial compensation

The financial toll of a car accident can quickly add up to a lot of money. From medical bills for emergency medical care to replacement income if an accident victim cannot work while they’re recovering from their injury, car accident claims can easily be worth thousands of dollars or significantly more.

So who’s responsible for paying those bills? And who decides who has to pay them? Each state has its own unique rules when it comes to car accident compensation. North Carolina is no different. That’s why it’s important to understand how the legal system works in North Carolina, particularly if your accident was caused by another driver.

North Carolina is an ‘at fault’ state – what does that mean?

Like many states, North Carolina has an “at fault” system when it comes to car accident claims. This means the at-fault party must pay for all accident-related expenses for injury victims. This might sound straightforward, but there can often be significant debate about who was at fault. That’s because the at-fault party will often do everything they can to avoid being held responsible for paying for the accident under the state’s at-fault system.

The at-fault system is also called a “tort” system. Tort is a legal term that refers to civil cases in which someone (the claimant, meaning the person filing an injury claim) suffered a financial loss due to the actions of another person who is legally responsible (liable) for the claimant’s injury-related expenses.

Is car insurance required in North Carolina?

Yes. All drivers in North Carolina must have a minimum amount of car insurance. Specifically, North Carolina drivers must have liability insurance in the following amounts:

  • $30,000 per person per claim for injury-related expenses
  • $60,000 per accident for all bodily injury claims
  • $25,000 per accident for all property damage claims

North Carolina law also requires that every insurance company give the policyholder the right to include uninsured motorist coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage allows policyholders to file a claim with their own insurance company if they are injured in a car crash and the at-fault driver does not have insurance. Underinsured motorist protection covers accidents where the at-fault driver has some insurance but not enough to cover the full damage.

North Carolina drivers can also choose to have additional types of car insurance. Optional types of insurance available to motorists in North Carolina include:

  • Collision insurance – Provides financial compensation for damage to the policy holder’s vehicle sustained in an accident.
  • Comprehensive insurance – Provides compensation for damage to the policy holder’s vehicle caused by a non-collision incident, including weather-related incidents (hail, sleet), damage caused by fire, animals, vandalism, etc.
  • Medical insurance – Provides compensation for “necessary and reasonable” medical expenses, as well as funeral services for fatal car accidents.

Note that while collision and comprehensive insurance are not required by law, they may be required by the lienholder if your vehicle is financed.

Who pays for my car accident?

Again, the at-fault party must pay for all accident-related expenses for injury victims in North Carolina under the state’s at-fault insurance system. This often means seeking financial compensation from the at-fault driver’s insurance company.

If your accident involved an uninsured or underinsured driver, you will likely need to seek financial compensation from your own insurance company.

If the negligent driver is driving as an agent of another person, company or other entity, that entity is responsible for the negligence of the driver.

Other times, there can be more than one at-fault party in certain circumstances. Other at-fault parties who may be responsible for paying for your accident can include:

  • Vehicle manufacturer if the accident occurred due to a mechanical defect.
  • Bar, restaurant, or liquor store that sold alcohol to a driver who was already intoxicated at the time and who then caused your crash. This is called a “dram shop” claim.

North Carolina is a contributory negligence state, which means that if you were even partially responsible for the accident, you generally cannot recover compensation for your injuries at all.

That’s why it’s important to talk with a North Carolina car accident lawyer who can get to the bottom of what happened, protect your rights, and pursue full compensation.

How much is my accident worth?

Every accident claim is different. Some might be worth a few thousand dollars. Others might be worth significantly more. What matters is you should be compensated for all your damages including physical pain and mental suffering and loss of the enjoyment of life

What you might not realize is which expenses are covered by your injury claim. Along with short-term medical expenses for surgery or other emergency medical care immediately after your accident, you should receive money for all future medical treatment, including:

  • Follow-up doctor’s appointments
  • Follow-up surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription medications

You can – and should – receive money for vehicle repairs or replacing your vehicle if it’s a total loss and replacement income while you’re recovering from your injury or if you cannot return to work due to a permanent disability sustained in the accident.

Why should I hire a North Carolina car accident lawyer?

Having an experienced attorney on your side after your car crash can make a dramatic difference in the outcome of your case. Instead of the at-fault driver’s insurance company dictating what happens next, your lawyer can negotiate with them on your behalf and seek the maximum financial compensation.

In order to negotiate effectively with insurance companies, your lawyer will likely need to conduct an in-depth investigation into your accident. This often includes obtaining and analyzing your official North Carolina car accident report, interviewing witnesses who saw your accident and consulting with accident-reconstruction experts if necessary. There may also be traffic camera footage or dashcam footage of your accident. If so, your attorney can advocate for access to such evidence.

Many times, insurance companies agree to cooperate and negotiate in good faith once they see you have a lawyer serious about your case. If not, your attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf, especially if the at-fault driver’s insurance company acts in bad faith, refuses to negotiate or denies your accident claim.

It’s also important to realize that you only have a limited amount of time to take legal action after a car accident in North Carolina. The deadline to file a lawsuit or take other legal action is three years from the date of your crash, according to North Carolina General Statute § 1-52(16). That deadline is known as the statute of limitations.

But don’t wait until the last minute to learn more about your legal options. Talk to an experienced North Carolina car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Most offer free case evaluations. Schedule an appointment with an attorney near you right away.

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