Who Pays Car Accident Compensation In North Carolina?
An experienced attorney explains your options
While an auto accident may be over in an instant, its effects on your life can be far-reaching. Between medical bills, lost wages and damage to your vehicle, you may be out tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. And that's not even accounting for the many less quantifiable costs you could sustain, such as your pain and suffering.
If you didn't cause the accident, you shouldn't have to pay for those costs. Our mission at the Law Offices of Richard Flexner is to help people who have been injured recover full and fair compensation for their losses. That's why we've developed this brief guide to car accident compensation in North Carolina.
North Carolina's "fault" insurance laws
Like most states, North Carolina is a "fault" car insurance state. That means the driver who causes an accident is ultimately responsible for paying any damages (financial compensation) for the accident. There are three ways to seek compensation for an accident in a "fault" insurance state such as North Carolina:
- File a "first party" claim with your own insurance carrier. Your insurance carrier will then most likely seek reimbursement from the at-fault driver and his or her insurance.
- File a "third party" claim with the at-fault driver's insurance company.
- File a lawsuit in civil court against the at-fault driver, who will be represented by his or her insurance company.
Filing a first-party claim with your own insurer
While the at-fault driver is ultimately responsible for compensation, depending on your policy and the circumstances of the accident, you may be able to get some financial help from your own insurance company while your claim against the at-fault driver proceeds. Some types of coverage that can apply in a "first party" claim include:
- Medical payments coverage (Med-Pay):This type of coverage pays your medical bills arising from an accident on a "no-fault" basis - meaning you can collect regardless of who caused the accident - up to the policy limit. It applies to you and anyone riding in your insured vehicle.
- Collision coverage:This type of coverage pays for damage to your vehicle or replacement if your vehicle is declared a total loss. You may be responsible for a deductible.
Note that these types of coverage are optional in North Carolina, which means your vehicle may not be covered. We recommend that you review your policy and make sure you have all of the first party benefits you may need in the event of an accident.
Filing a third-party claim or lawsuit
While your "first party" benefits may cover some of your losses in the event of an accident, if you have sustained a significant injury, you likely need to take action against the at-fault driver. This is accomplished by either filing a civil lawsuit against the at-fault driver (whose defense will be provided by his or her insurance company) or by filing a claim directly with the insurance company.
In North Carolina, the statute of limitations - the time limit for filing a lawsuit after a car accident - is three years from the date of the accident. Technically, you can still file a claim with an insurance company after the legal statute of limitations has expired, but you will have little leverage with the insurance company if you have lost the ability to file a lawsuit. That means it is very difficult, if not impossible to collect compensation after the statute of limitations has expired.
What if the other driver doesn't have insurance?
Under North Carolina law, all motorists are required to carry the following minimum liability insurance:
- $30,000 for injury or death of a single person
- $60,000 total for all injuries or deaths sustained in a single accident
- $25,000 for any property damage sustained in the accident
Many motorists choose to purchase more coverage. However, the cost of an accident causing catastrophic injury or death can well exceed the minimum coverage and sometimes even the extra coverage that motorists may optionally purchase. And some drivers choose to break the law and drive without any insurance at all.
If the at-fault driver in your accident doesn't have insurance, or doesn't have enough to fully compensate you, you do have legal options. You may be able to pursue compensation from the at-fault driver's own assets, but that is a time-consuming process that will only work if the driver has assets to recover.
In North Carolina, all insurance policies include uninsured motorist coverage, which means you can get compensation from your own insurance company if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured driver. Depending on your policy, you may also have underinsured motorist protection - that is, additional compensation from your insurance company if the driver who injures you has some insurance, but not enough to fully compensate you for your injuries.
North Carolina's laws are complex and the insurance system often seems designed to keep victims from recovering full compensation. That's why you need to contact an experienced car accident attorney right away. That's why you need to get Richard Flexner. Call 1-800-FLEXNER now to schedule your free consultation.