What to Expect After an Automobile Accident

August 07, 2015

Every year, 1 out of every 88 people in the state of North Carolina will be injured in an automobile accident. In many of those accidents, negligent drivers will cause the injuries. And, resulting insurance settlements will likely not be enough to make the injured driver whole. If a driver in the state of North Carolina wrongly injures you or someone in your family you are entitled to full compensation for your property damage and injury. Anyone who is injured in an auto accident should seek legal advice because North Carolina law differs somewhat from many other states in this area. The following are a few frequently asked questions when someone is injured in an automobile accident.

Who is at Fault in a Car Accident?

Determining fault after an accident can be difficult in some situations but here are a few general rules. To avoid liability for an accident, all drivers and passengers must exercise ordinary care while driving. We all have a duty to take ordinary care in most situations including while driving. Ordinary care is simply doing the normal thing you do every day to ensure your safety on the roads, like looking ahead, checking before you change lanes, or following too closely. A driver becomes negligent when they take less than ordinary care on the roads, in another word, careless. Common sources of negligent behavior on the roads include: inadvertently running a red light, speeding, or tailgating. If a driver is excessively negligent, the law defines that as reckless behavior. Reckless behavior occurs when a person knew or should have known that their actions were likely to cause harm to another. Reckless behavior while driving can include: drinking and driving, severely distracted driving, or excessive speeding. If you believe a negligent or reckless driver has injured you or your family you should contact an attorney quickly to evaluate your case.

What can I do to help my claim against a negligent driver after a car accident?

Good news, there are things you can do immediately after an accident to help your claim. First, seek medical attention if it is needed. Your health is the most important issue after an accident and the records formed by doctors can serve as evidence of the damage you suffered. Second, do not make any statements that could be seen as an admission of fault to any other drivers, witnesses or the police at the scene. Third, document the scene and collect evidence yourself. This can include photographing the scene, talking to witnesses and talking to the police. Accidents are very chaotic scenes. In the chaos, evidence tends to get missed or lost. All these steps will insure the evidence of what really happened is preserved. When dealing with a negligent driver’s insurance company or if a court case is filed, good evidence will go a long way to help you in the end.

What can I expect from a negligent driver’s insurance company after a car accident?

While your insurance company may be more willing to corporate with you, do not expect the negligent driver’s insurance company to be so willing to work with you. Insurance companies are in the business of making money so there is little incentive to fully compensate you for your damages. Any insurance company will have a lot of questions to ask you. Keep in mind that any statements you make can be used against you in the case. If you choose to speak with the insurance company without an attorney, it’s always best to communicate professionally and courteously. Polite and professional responses can do nothing but help the process of your claim.

If the insurance settlement is not enough to cover my medical bills, what can I recover in court?

If you are involved in an auto accident where you were not at fault you are certainly entitled to recover your medical cost. You many also recover damages for the loss of wages, time, companionship, and pain you had to endure from injuries. In North Carolina you may be entitled to recover damages for:

  • Medical Bills
  • Pain and Suffering
  • Lost Wages
  • Loss of Consortium (Companionship)
  • Property Damage

Can a person get away with being negligent or reckless while driving?

In North Carolina, unfortunately sometimes the answer is yes. North Carolina is one of only a few states that recognize contributory negligence as a defense to negligence conduct. Under North Carolina law, you can recover for the other driver’s failure to exercise proper care while driving. However, if the other driver can establish you did not take ordinary care at any time surrounding the accident, you will not be allowed to recover any damages. Known as the defense of contributory negligence, if the other driver can prove you were even 1% liable you will receive no money to help with your or your loved ones injuries.  This defense makes obtaining legal council for personal injuries sustained through an automobile accident in North Carolina very important if the claim will likely find its way to court. This is also why it is important to speak with an attorney prior to providing any statements regarding the case.

If you are involved in an automobile accident, contact a personal injury attorney soon after your accident. The days following an accident are critical to your claim. Often personal injury attorneys provide complimentary consultations, so take advantage of that. The money you stand to lose handling the claim by yourself could be substantial. Click here to learn more about Personal Injury claims.

Researched and authored by Legal Intern Jeff Parris.  Ingalls Law, PLLC is based in Charlotte, NC and focuses primarily on Civil Litigation, Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation claims.  For more on this firm, click