North Carolina Car Accident Laws

North Carolina Car Accident Laws

North Carolina is one of just five states with a pure contributory fault system.

This legislation applies if you are in an automobile accident, and establishing who is at fault will be crucial to your recovery.

A car accident might cause severe damage or just slight pain. In either case, North Carolina’s insurance laws and fault system govern how you can recover damages. All the information you require to handle a car accident in North Carolina is provided here.

If you drive, you will almost certainly get into a collision, fender bender, or crash at some point. Everyone gets into accidents, although less serious ones, such as fender benders or slow-moving rear-end accidents, happen more frequently than ones that result in serious injuries.

Even a small accident might leave you uneasy, nervous, and unsure about what to do next. A serious accident could end your life entirely. Regardless of the situation, here’s how to manage a car accident in North Carolina, from the initial stages of the legal process to obtaining compensation.

Basics of Personal Injury Law

It’s crucial to comprehend the basics of personal injury claims. In every civil lawsuit, there is a defendant and a plaintiff. The person who was hurt is known as the plaintiff, and the defendant is whom the plaintiff blames for the injury.

Personal injury law seeks to render a plaintiff whole. Put differently, you can obtain financial compensation to cover expenses and restore your financial situation to what it would have been without the accident.

Only if an injury results in financial loss can you make a claim. Most car accidents cause damage to either vehicle. You can file a claim for the total cost of maintaining or replacing your vehicle. You are only entitled to the car’s expenses if you did not sustain any medically required physical injuries.

Basics of the Liability Laws in North Carolina

Second, understand how North Carolina’s fault laws will significantly impact the proceeds of a car accident claim.

The state of North Carolina only recognizes contributory negligence. The plaintiff is not entitled to damages if they were involved in the accident.

Only four other states—Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia—also employ this method. Even if you have some partial fault, you are still entitled to some damages in every other state in the United States. The amount of your fault and the state’s fault system would determine how much.

It is crucial when filing a claim for a car accident because there are many situations wherein you may not have been at fault for the accident. Still, the court may determine that you might have avoided it if you had moved more quickly or differently.

Here’s an example:

You’re driving east along Main Street. A drunk driver is coming from the other direction. In a thirty-mph speed zone, the drunk driver travels at sixty miles per hour. A traffic light that lights yellow is approaching you. It’s not red yet, so you slow down but eventually drive right through the light. The front driver’s side quadrant of the car is struck by the other driver’s sudden left-hand turn directly in front of you.

Although the other driver was undoubtedly the cause of the collision, the court determined that you could’ve avoided it by braking sooner or acting more rapidly, putting you 5% at fault. Under North Carolina’s pure contributory negligence laws, you would not be entitled to compensation from the other driver.

Unfair? That may be the case. Nevertheless, that’s the way North Carolina’s judicial system works, right or wrong.

The “Contributory Negligence” Rule in North Carolina

When multiple people are liable for an accident, it is called “shared fault.”. ” North Carolina is among the few states that continues to adhere to the legal doctrine known as “contributory negligence.” Under these harsh and frequently unreasonable rules, if you bear any portion of the blame for the accident, you are disqualified from receiving any compensation in a car accident.

It is significant because if a car accident case proceeds to trial, the contributory negligence regulation will bind juries and judges in North Carolina and guide car insurance claims adjusters as they assess your case. If it appears that you are somewhat to blame for the accident, or if the claims adjuster is making decisions based on what is expected to occur in court, be prepared for the adjuster to be quite demanding during settlement negotiations.

Remember that any assumption of liability will rely on your capacity to bargain with an insurance adjuster or convince a court or jury, as there is no objective way to allocate fault.

The practical application of North Carolina’s contributory negligence rule will be explained as an example. In a car crash, let’s assume the other vehicle made a sharp left turn in front of you, and it turns out that you were speeding by seven miles per hour, exceeding the legal limit. Following a civil trial, the jury finds that you are 10% at fault, and the other driver is 90% at fault for speeding. The contributory negligence regulations in North Carolina prohibit you from getting compensation from other drivers. Even if you adjust those figures to 99% and 1%, this strict and outdated rule will still prevent you from being compensated.

North Carolina Car Accident Laws In Durham

How To Make A North Carolina Car Accident Claim

North Carolina is an at-fault insurance state.

Some states mandate that all drivers carry no-fault insurance. No matter who was blamed for the crash, an injured driver in a no-fault jurisdiction can file a claim for personal injury against their insurance policy.

Nonetheless, the injured party has to file a claim under the responsible driver’s insurance policy in an at-fault state like North Carolina. In other words, the at-fault party’s insurance would cover the injured person’s damages.

In North Carolina, following a car accident, you have three main options for getting compensation:

File a claim with your insurer

After a car accident, you can—and should—call your insurance company immediately. If you submit a claim, your insurance company will seek compensation through the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier.

File a claim with the other driver’s insurer

You can also contact the driver’s insurer, who is at fault directly. When you call the insurance company, provide the driver’s license number, the driver’s insurance policy number, and any other pertinent information. Subsequently, notify them in writing that you plan to file a claim.

File a personal injury lawsuit

This is your last resort if the insurance company cannot satisfy you. If the insurance company cannot agree upon who is at fault, they will not readily resolve a claim.

Another problem could be that your insurance company is unwilling to pay enough to compensate for your injuries fully. If you aren’t receiving what you need, speak with a personal injury attorney to ensure you receive all the compensation you are entitled to.

Proving liability (fault) following a North Carolina car accident

Establishing liability after a car accident may be the most crucial aspect of your legal claim because of North Carolina’s strict fault laws.

Your lawyer will use several factors to establish the defendant’s fault:

  1. Visual evidence. Surely a picture speaks a thousand words? Photographs of the accident scene, which show the situation, or video from neighboring security cameras, red light cameras, dash cams, or other cameras can be solid evidence. It’s difficult to contest the truth of what is displayed on camera. After your injury, it’s critical to contact a car accident lawyer right away so they can begin discovery and get any available video footage. They will want to get hold of it as soon as possible because some digital recordings, including surveillance, are only kept briefly before being deleted.
  2. Police report. Even though a police report is a crucial record on file, some people are reluctant to call the police after an accident because they believe the damage is minor. The police will only make a report according to the facts that they see at the scene; they won’t go into an accident scene without any preconceived notions about how the accident occurred. They will also incorporate elements you would miss, such as the state of the roads, weather, signal abnormalities, and other evidence. Insurance companies depend on police reports to evaluate claims because they can provide a complete picture of the incident.
  3. Witnesses. Any person who witnessed any aspect of the accident is considered a witness. That includes anyone who saw what happened leading up to the collision, the actions of other vehicles, the road or road conditions on the scene, the driver’s behavior immediately after the incident, or anything else essential to understand how the accident occurred. Occasionally, there are clear witnesses at the crash scene, such as other drivers who pull over to offer help. Other witnesses inside surrounding homes or places of business during the accident may also exist. If someone at the scene has pertinent information, getting their contact information and name is crucial. Parts of witness accounts that may not appear clear can occasionally be used as evidence by police officers and attorneys, even if they do not believe what they saw is essential. Often, genuine bystanders or other drivers may leave the area when they perceive that police or emergency officials have taken control of the issue. The proof can disappear if you do not know who they are or how to contact them after they leave. It’s crucial to get in touch with witnesses at the scene if you are physically positioned to do so.
  4. Medical examination. The severity of your injuries will determine how much money you receive in settlement. You should get checked out immediately by your doctor, an urgent care facility, or a hospital, even if you think the accident is minor and weren’t hurt too badly. Certain injuries like whiplash may not show symptoms for several days or weeks following an accident. It will be harder to demonstrate that the injuries are related to the incident if you put off getting a medical examination.

Durham North Carolina Car Accident Laws

What Car Accident Losses Are Compensated In North Carolina?

As was said above, the party found to be at fault in a car accident in North Carolina bears financial responsibility for the entire range of losses that followed (referred to as “damages” in legal jargon):

  • The medical treatment cost for injuries caused by an accident
  • Repair costs (or “total loss” settlement) for any car damaged in an accident.
  • The physical and mental pain and suffering of individuals injured in an accident, particularly the impact of those injuries on their lives, and
  • Lost wages and other financial losses due to the accident and its consequences.

Practically speaking, the at-fault driver’s car insurance company is liable for most of these damages up to the limits of the driver’s liability policy.

As we’ll cover later, if a North Carolina driver shares any degree of fault in a car accident, things can quickly go against them.

The Statute of Limitations for Car Accidents in North Carolina

A state statute known as a “statute of limitations” limits the time a prospective plaintiff has to file a lawsuit. These periods change depending on the type of injury you sustained and/or the case you wish to submit.

(Note: a car insurance claim is exempt from the statute of limitations. Any insurance company, yours or other drivers, will demand that you file a claim “promptly” or “at a reasonable time” following the accident, or at the very least notify the insurer of any occurrence that may lead to a claim. That typically refers to a few days, or at most, a few weeks.)

Like most other states, North Carolina has the same statute of limitations for vehicle accident lawsuits as most personal injury cases.

Section 1-52 of the North Carolina General Statutes states that a civil lawsuit for property damage or injuries must be brought within three years after the incident. In a car accident case, everyone injured in a collision—whether a pedestrian, motorcyclist, biker, rider of an electric scooter, driver, or passenger—must bring a lawsuit against any possible defendants within three years of the incident. The date of the accident is when the clock started to run.

If a person dies in a car crash and their family or legal representative wishes to file a wrongful death claim against the driver who caused the collision, they have two years to do so. The “clock” begins to tick on the day of the deceased person’s death, which may be sooner than the accident date. According to North Carolina General Statutes section 1-53, wrongful death cases have a two-year statute of limitations.

After reading this, you might be curious about what happens once you attempt to file a lawsuit for a car accident after the statute of limitations has expired. If such is the case, the party you are attempting to sue (the defendant) will probably make a move to dismiss the case, and the court will probably grant that motion (unless an unusual circumstance arises that allows the time to be extended). Because of this, it is essential to comprehend the statute of limitations as it relates to your situation.

Lastly, even if you believe your case will be settled through a car insurance settlement, giving yourself plenty of time to file the lawsuit strategically is usually a good idea. You will have more negotiating power if you keep your alternatives open during settlement negotiations. Therefore, it could be time to consult with a knowledgeable North Carolina car accident attorney if the statute of limitations filing period is approaching.

North Carolina Car Insurance Requirements

Any claim made following a car accident in North Carolina will likely involve car insurance. The state, like most others, mandates that car owners maintain a minimum level of coverage to:

  • Acquire license plates
  • Legally drive a vehicle on state roads and highways.

So, if you’ve been in an accident and are considering filing an injury claim, it’s crucial to comprehend North Carolina’s car insurance rules.

Get Help from an Experienced Attorney

If you’ve been involved in a car accident in North Carolina, navigating the legal complexities can be overwhelming. Trust Constantinou & Burkert, your experienced legal allies, to guide you through the intricacies of North Carolina car accident laws. Our seasoned attorneys are dedicated to securing the compensation you deserve. Don’t face the aftermath alone—call our law firm for expert legal assistance. 

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(919) 683-1302

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Angela Smith

Business Owner

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