Auto accidents cause serious injuries, and often leave a lasting impact on the lives of victims. If you were the victim of a car accident in Charlotte, you may be eligible to recover compensation for existing medical bills and lost wages, as well as ongoing healthcare, lost future earnings, and pain and suffering. For help filing a claim or lawsuit for compensation, speak with a Charlotte car accident lawyer from Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. today at 800-375-9190.
What are North Carolina’s auto insurance laws?
Like many states, North Carolina law outlines the minimum liability insurance coverage that all motorists must carry. According to the North Carolina Department of Insurance, these laws require that drivers have:
- At least $25,000 coverage for property damage
- At least $30,000 bodily injury coverage per person, $60,000 per accident
- Uninsured motorist (UM) coverage
North Carolina is a “fault state” which means the at-fault party in an accident is responsible for paying for any property damage and personal injuries sustained in an accident. The law refers to this responsibility as liability, hence the term “liability insurance.”
By requiring motorists to carry a minimum amount of liability insurance, the state ensures those injured in an accident have an option to recoup their expenses and other damages through the liable driver’s insurance company.
In most cases, victims of North Carolina auto accidents have three ways to get the compensation they need to repair their vehicle and cover medical costs. These include:
- Filing a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company based on his liability policy
- Filing a claim with their own car insurance company, especially if they carry a collision policy (If the at-fault driver is uninsured, underinsured, or flees the scene of the accident, victims can turn to their own UM/UIM coverage.)
- Filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver
What should I expect from the claims process?
After the victim and at-fault driver notify their respective insurance companies, the insurers will begin an investigation. Both companies will likely request a recorded statement but you are under no obligation to provide one to the at-fault’s insurance company. You can politely decline or ask the adjuster to direct any questions to your Charlotte car accident lawyer.
Note: You may have to provide a recorded statement to your own insurer as you likely signed a contract promising to cooperate with investigations.
When the adjuster calls, provide the insurance adjuster with your name, the other driver’s name, and date of the accident, but do not give the adjuster any more information. Do not speculate on accident causes, apologize for anything, or downplay your injuries. The adjuster can use this information against you.
The adjuster will need access to your medical records; it is imperative that you only give them access to records pertaining to the accident. A lawyer from Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. can help.
If the adjuster’s investigation finds the other driver at fault, the insurance company will offer you a settlement award. Never sign this first settlement without first calculating your damages and speaking with a Charlotte car accident attorney. If you and the insurance company cannot agree on a settlement, you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
After you file a lawsuit, the discovery period begins when lawyers on both sides will be looking into the accident. Again, make sure the at-fault party’s lawyers only have access to medical records pertaining to the accident. If the Mecklenburg County court finds in your favor, it will order the at-fault party pay whatever damages the court deems applicable.
Note: It is imperative to continue with medical coverage throughout the claims process. If you stop going to appointments or ignore doctors’ orders, the insurance company can use that against you and lower your award amount or offer you nothing at all.
What types of damages can I recover from an auto accident?
Under North Carolina law, victims of car accidents can receive compensation for damages. Most of the damages people consider after an auto accident fall under the category of economic damages. Common economic damages after a car crash include:
- Bills for an ambulance, emergency medical care, and hospitalization
- Rehabilitative care
- Ongoing medical bills
- Lost wages from missed work
- Potential loss of future wages
- The cost of repairing or replacing your vehicle
- The cost of hiring household help to complete tasks you were previously able to do
Economic damages are not the only damages you can recover after a North Carolina auto accident. While you cannot directly calculate noneconomic damages, you can still collect compensation for them. The amounts are much more subjective, but often reach substantial totals with the right evidence and support. Common examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental and emotional distress
- Anxiety and stress
- Loss of quality of life
- Loss of ability to continue previous activities
- Effect on personal relationships
In cases where a defendant acted in a way that was especially negligent, intentional, or malicious, courts may award punitive damages. Courts award these damages in order to punish the at-fault party and to deter any future wrongdoing. Laws prohibit North Carolina courts from awarding more than $250,000 or three times the compensatory damages award (economic and noneconomic damages) – whichever amount is greater.
How do I calculate economic and noneconomic damages?
You cannot just demand an arbitrary amount of money in your claim. You must calculate your damages as well as provide enough that substantiates your claim for damages. To substantiate a claim for economic damages, you must provide:
- Medical bills
- Medical records
- Pay stubs
- Employment records
- Vehicle repair estimates
- Any receipts for services rendered that pertain to your accident (e.g., landscaping or housecleaning bill)
Noneconomic damages depend less on physical evidence, but you still need to take action to ensure you have proof for the amount you request. For this reason, you should:
- Maintain a calendar of your medical appointments, treatments, etc.
- Keep a daily journal detailing your physical pain and the impacts of the accident
- Track limitations that prevent normal activities
In an auto accident, what do I have to prove to get damages from the liable driver?
In order to receive damages from the liable driver, you will need to have proof of four important criteria. These include:
- The law obligated the other driver to abide by certain rules and not act carelessly (duty of care)
- The other driver was negligent, failing to abide by the rules of the road or otherwise behaving recklessly (breach of duty of care)
- This behavior led to your injuries, whether property damage or personal injury (causation)
- The accident caused you physical/financial/emotional harm (damages)
Proving liability in an accident is paramount in Charlotte, because your entire claim to compensation hinges on proving the other driver was 100 percent at fault. North Carolina is a comparative fault state, relying on a doctrine called “contributory negligence.” This doctrine restricts you from collecting any compensation if you contributed to the accident in any way. This is true even if you are only one percent at fault.
Insurance adjusters or the court allocate fault in these cases, so your ability to provide proof that the other party is liable is key. Without proof, or with only weak proof, the insurance company can deny your claim or offer a much smaller settlement. If they believe you played any role in the accident – and do not believe you can persuade the court otherwise – there is no reason for them to offer a fair settlement.
What evidence do I need to prove fault and liability?
Some accidents, especially those caused by overt negligent acts, may not call for in depth investigations to prove fault and liability. When running a red light or following too closely lead to a crash, proving negligence may be easier as the facts of the accident are probably enough to establish liability.
When the fault is not so clear-cut though, determining liability and what percentage of fault lies with which party may require a more intensive investigation. Liability could fall to involved drivers, motorists not involved in the accident, and/or outside factors such as road design and weather conditions. You bear the burden of ensuring there is enough proof to show the other driver was at-fault.
Common evidence you can use in these cases include:
- Pictures of the scene (Take pictures of debris in the roadway, potential hazards, weather conditions, car damage, location of vehicles, skid marks, injuries, etc.)
- Witness testimony
- Police reports
Police reports are commonly used evidence in car accident cases, as they include all the necessary information about the accident, such as vehicle location and damage, officers’ opinions on fault, and any issued citations. If an officer issues the other driver a citation, it makes establishing liability much easier.
You can download a copy of the accident report online for five dollars. You need to know either the accident report number or the date of the accident, your last name, and the location where the accident took place.
You can obtain a free paper copy of your accident report by visiting one of the following locations:
- Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Headquarters at 601 East Trade Street
- West Service Area at 4150 Wilkinson Boulevard
- Your local Division Office
Are there time limits on how long I have to file a claim or a lawsuit?
North Carolina law has a three-year statute of limitations on personal injuries and property damage from a car accident. This means you must file a lawsuit within this limited time frame, or you lose your eligibility.
Note: While this law technically applies only to filing a lawsuit against the at-fault driver, it is important to pay attention to these limits when filing an insurance claim as well.
It is important to note, however, that this statute of limitations does not apply to accidents where the government or a public agency was at fault. The time limit on filing a lawsuit against the government – and, in fact, the entire process – is different and almost always shorter.
If you have sustained injuries in an auto accident, it would be best to seek immediate medical attention. Major hospitals and other medical facilities in Charlotte, North Carolina include:
- Carolinas Medical Center – 1000 Blythe Boulevard, Charlotte, NC 28203-5871 / (704) 355-2000
- Presbyterian Hospital – 200 Hawthorne Lane, Charlotte, NC 28204-2528 / (704) 384-4000
If you were the victim of an accident that involved a government vehicle or someone working for a government agency, contact us as soon as possible after the crash. You need to get started on the claims process immediately in order to receive compensation for your injuries and property damage.
How can Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. help?
Ted A. Greve & Associates, P.A. represents car accident victims in Charlotte. If you sustained injuries in a crash due to no fault of your own, we can help you secure compensation to cover medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages. Contact us at 844-409-0999 to speak with a Charlotte car accident lawyer today.