Suffering a personal injury is abrupt and often devastating – emotionally, physically, and financially. In some cases, victims can obtain compensation to cover medical bills by filing an insurance claim. However, more serious injury cases or cases of disputed liability may necessitate a lawsuit to recover damages. In either case, a Charlotte personal injury attorney from Ted A. Greve & Associates can help.
Why do I need a personal injury attorney?
When you suffer an injury due to another’s negligence, or careless behavior, compensation is usually available by filing a third-party claim with the at-fault party’s insurance company or a personal injury lawsuit in civil court. Under North Carolina law, a person is legally liable for any damages his careless behavior causes. Of course, North Carolina state laws outline the requirements for determining liability in these cases.
Whether you file an insurance claim and attempt to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company or pursue a personal injury lawsuit in civil court, the burden of proof for showing the at-fault party’s liability remains the same. In order to prove negligence and hold the at-fault party liable for damages, you must establish the following:
- The other party had a responsibility to behave in a certain way or follow certain rules in order to protect those around him (duty of care).
- The at-fault party acted carelessly or otherwise failed to behave appropriately to prevent the injury of others (breach of duty or negligence).
- His behavior or carelessness was the direct cause of your injuries (causation).
- You suffered actual damages, either in the form of personal injury or financial loss (damages).
Types of personal injury claims
Personal injuries occur in a wide variety of ways, but the legal process for collecting damages is the same in the great majority of them. Some of the most common personal injury claims include:
- Car accidents
- Truck accidents
- Motorcycle accidents
- Boating accidents
- Premises liability claims (i.e., injuries on another’s property, e.g., slip and falls)
- Dog bites and other domesticated animal attacks
- Elder abuse, including incidents at nursing homes
- Medical malpractice
- Product liability
If you suffered injuries in any way due to the negligence of another, it may be possible to receive compensation from the at-fault party to cover your damages.
If you choose to file an insurance claim with the at-fault party’s insurer, where you file a claim depends on how you sustained your injuries. For an auto accident, you would file your claim with the at-fault party’s car insurance company. The at-fault party’s liability policy covers some, if not all, of your losses. If you suffered injury on someone else’s property, you need to file based on her homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy.
If you are not sure which insurance company handles a claim based on the facts of your case, contact a Charlotte personal injury attorney for guidance.
What do I need to prove negligence, causation, and damages?
To receive damages, you need to prove negligence and causation, as well as document your losses due to the accident. This relies on evidence. This evidence is the same whether you file an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit.
First, you must prove the other party had a legal duty to take certain actions or avoid certain actions in order to keep you safe. In some cases, this may be easy to establish. For example, a motorist must follow all traffic laws. If a motorist broke a law, it will probably be easy to establish liability. In this case, a police report would be very beneficial, as the report would note whether officers issued a citation to the other driver.
In other cases, it is more complicated. For example, if a dog bites you while in the care of someone other than its owner, you need to discuss your case with a lawyer to determine if the caregiver or owner is responsible for your injuries.
Next, you must show the at-fault party breached their legal duty through negligent action, or inaction. For example, in medical malpractice or nursing home abuse cases, expert witnesses often must testify to what actions most healthcare practitioners would take.
Then, you must provide proof that the negligence caused your injuries. You must prove that if not for the defendant’s actions, you would not have sustained your injury. For example, if you were walking across the street when a car struck you, you can prove that your traumatic brain injury was the direct result of the defendant running a red light.
Lastly, you must show proof of your damages. Because the amount of compensation you receive relies on your actual losses from the accident, your medical bills, past pay stubs, and receipts pertaining to your injury are important. A journal or other record of your physical and emotional struggles may also provide proof of pain and suffering.
What types of damages can I recover?
You can recover two types of damages in a personal injury claim or lawsuit. These include economic damages – those calculated based on actual losses – and noneconomic damages such as pain and suffering.
In most situations, economic damages are fairly easy to prove after an accident. You have a stack of medical bills and proof of missed work. Most monetary losses come with written reminders in the form of bills to use as evidence. Consider all of your losses due to the accident, and collect documentation for each. Include:
- Medical bills for emergency treatment
- Costs of ongoing medical care
- Rehabilitation costs, including physical therapy
- Lost wages
- Lost future wages, if you cannot return to your job
- Costs related to nursing care or assistance with activities of daily living
- Any other monetary losses due to the incident
Noneconomic damages are where most disagreement occurs in settlement talks with insurance companies. The amount tied to these losses is subjective and depends entirely on what you negotiate with the insurance company or the court’s determination. Noneconomic damages can include:
- Pain and suffering
- Mental stress and anxiety
- Loss of enjoyment in former hobbies
- Decrease in quality of life
- Negative impacts on personal relationships
While there are no bills to prove the monetary value of your pain and suffering and other emotional damages, you still need to prove these losses. Keeping a journal including doctor’s appointments, records of treatment, pain level, and notes about your emotional and mental health often helps. Other options include expert testimony and medical records from a therapist or other healthcare provider.
Note: Because North Carolina operates under the contributory negligence doctrine, if an investigation finds you even one percent responsible you will not be eligible to recover compensation for damages. This is why it is imperative that you prove absolute liability.
What are the statutes of limitations on personal injury suits in North Carolina?
Each state sets time limits on how long you have to file a personal injury lawsuit. North Carolina law limits you to a three-year period following the date of the accident. While this statute of limitations only applies to lawsuits, filing an insurance claim before your eligibility to file a lawsuit runs out is advantageous.
While the three-year statute of limitations applies in most cases, the rules are different if the defendant is the government or a government agency. Getting compensation from the government is a complex process, so discussing your situation with a lawyer as soon as possible is important. Advice and guidance from a Charlotte personal injury attorney are key in recovering damages in these cases.
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 is the claim process like?
In the vast majority of North Carolina personal injury claim, the first step is notifying the at-fault party’s insurance company.
When you contact the insurer, expect to answer a few basic questions such as your name, date and location of the accident, and whether or not you sustained any injuries. It is important, though, not to discuss the incident at length with the adjuster. Even if the adjuster threatens that your claim will take longer to process, it is never advantageous to give a recorded statement before speaking with an attorney.
In a simple situation, the adjuster may quickly investigate the case, total your damages, and offer a settlement that meets your needs. In more complicated situations, including those where liability is in question or where severe injuries occurred, an attorney is your best ally. A Charlotte personal injury lawyer may be able to advocate for you through the negotiation process and reach an agreeable settlement without having to file a lawsuit.
Note: Never accept a settlement award before calculating all possible damages (past, present, and future) and always run the settlement by an attorney. Once you accept an award, you cannot go back later and ask for more money.
When a settlement agreement is out of reach, filing a personal injury lawsuit in the North Carolina courts is the next step. In some cases, simply filing a suit is enough to push the insurance company to offer more money.
If it is not, your attorney will collect evidence and build a strong case to support your need for compensation to cover the cost of your injuries. The defendant’s legal team will also launch an investigation and collect evidence in an attempt to show its client was not negligent, that his actions did not cause your injuries, or that your damages are not as high as you claim.
Note: Remember that you must continue medical coverage and follow doctor’s orders throughout the entirety of the process. If an adjuster finds out, during her investigation, that you have ceased going to your appointments or are disregarding your doctor’s orders, she may claim that you are faking your injuries or that they are not as bad as you claim.
Once both sides present the evidence, the rest is up to the Mecklenburg County court judge or jury. If the court awards you damages, you may choose to receive your payment in a lump sum or receive payments over time. Your attorney can request the option that best suits your needs, and will advise you on the pros and cons of each.
If you have been injured in Charlotte, 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
Where can I find a Charlotte personal injury attorney?
Ted A. Greve & Associates is a Charlotte law firm that works with the victims of personal injury accidents in North Carolina. We represent clients throughout the compensation process, from filing an insurance claim to going before the judge in a personal injury lawsuit.
Like most personal injury firms, we work on a contingency basis. This means you pay nothing until we settle your case. If you need a Charlotte personal injury attorney, contact us today at 800-375-9190 for a free, no-obligation consultation to discuss your options.