Matthews North Carolina personal injury and auto accident attorneys.
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Q: What to do in case of an accident?
- Stop the car in a safe place (North Carolina law imposes a duty to stop in event of a crash).
- Move the car, if necessary, to protect against damage and avoid blocking traffic.
- Call the police, especially when there are injuries or accidents of "hit and run" nature.
- Take as many pictures as possible of both vehicles and the accident scene.
- Get the other driver's name, address, phone number, license plate number, driver's license and insurance information.
- Record the name of the insurance company of the other driver and policy number as it appears on the insurance card.
- Get the names of the witnesses as well as their address and phone number.
- Do not agree to let go of the accident. You may have hidden damage, injury or later have a claim filed against you.
- Call our office immediately for a free consultation (704) 759-6110. We are available 24/7.
Q: Should I handle my auto accident claim on my own?
Good faith claims handling and outstanding customer service are pledges often made by insurance companies and insurance adjusters. Unfortunately, the reality is often sadly different. Today, most insurance companies are publicly held entities with the overriding mandate to their stakeholders to constantly and continuously improve the bottom line.
The current state of affairs unfortunately creates an incentive for companies like Allstate, Nationwide, Progressive and others to cheat on their claims handling.
To maintain profit margins and reach acceptable management goals/budgets,
insurance companies' claims departments are often underfunded or understaffed to properly serve their insureds and claimants.
The emphasis is often placed on controlling claims severities, rather than paying each individual claimant the full amount deserved, without concern for the bottom line. Today claims adjusters are NOT free from the unethical budget constraints, the culture to “keep the claim down,” and monetary incentives placed upon them to lower the value of claim.
Today more than at any other time, you need effective counsel in order to recover the full value of your claim. At Semirog Law we make a living fighting your battles.
Q: How will an insurance company determine who is at-fault in an accident?
The insurance adjuster investigating the accident will attempt to determine who is negligent or at-fault. He or she will consider a number of factors, which generally include: police report, pictures of the accident and property damages, witness statements, statements from both drivers, traffic signals sequence reports and other factors.
North Carolina Contributory Negligence Law bars a driver from collecting damages if determined to be partially at fault. In essence, if you contribute to an accident, you may not be able to collect on a liability claim. Any disagreement will ultimately have to be resolved in a court of law.
Thus, the insurance adjuster will focus hard on finding fault on your part or for any other reason to deny your claim.
It is super important that you immediately preserve the evidence, take pictures, write down names of witnesses, and explain in details what happened to the police officer.
Q: What is the difference between collision coverage and comprehensive coverage?
Collision means physical damage to your covered vehicle caused by an impact with another vehicle or object. This coverage pays the lesser of the cost of repair or ACV of your automobile.
Comprehensive coverage pays the cost of repair or ACV of your automobile less any deductible. Losses caused by the following are considered comprehensive claims:
- Missiles or falling objects;
- Theft or larceny;
- Explosion or earthquake;
- Hail, water or flood;
- Malicious mischief or vandalism;
- Riot or civil commotion;
- Contact with a bird or animal; or
- Breakage of glass.
Q: What is Medical Payments coverage and do I need it?
This coverage pays for reasonable and necessary medical and funeral expenses due to an automobile accident. Individuals covered under this coverage include:
- You or any family member while occupying any automobile, or as a pedestrian when struck by a motor vehicle; or
- Any other person while occupying your covered automobile or any vehicle (private passenger automobile or trailer licensed for road use) driven by you or a family member.
The standard auto insurance policy will pay up to the limits listed in your policy for each individual injured.
The Medical Payments coverage will not provide coverage for any expenses if the injuries occur while occupying a motorized vehicle with less than four wheels.
Q: What is Uninsured Motorist (UM) coverage?
Uninsured Motorist coverage will provide protection when an uninsured driver, who is at-fault, injures you or another covered individual. It also provides property damage coverage. Since 2009 this type of coverage is mandatory in North Carolina.
Q: What is Underinsured Motorist (UIM) coverage?
This coverage will provide protection when an underinsured driver, who is at-fault, causes injury to you. An underinsured driver is one whose limits of liability are less than your UIM limits, and not sufficient to cover the losses and injures you have sustained.
UIM coverage does not provide protection against property damage. The UIM coverage will pay a maximum of the difference between the other driver’s Liability limits and your UIM limits.
You definitely need an advice from an experienced attorney in this situation. The insurance company will not provide coverage if you or your attorney settles the bodily injury or property damage without the your company’s written consent. Calling an attorney here is a must in order to preserve your right under the UIM policy provisions.
Q: What is Negligent Entrustment of a motor vehicle?
You can be held liable in an action for damage for Negligent Entrustment of a motor vehicle if:
- you were the owner or the person legally in control of the vehicle alleged to have caused injuries to another person;
- you gave control of the vehicle to a driver the you knew, or ought in the exercise of reasonable care to have known, was incompetent or reckless;
- the driver to whom you gave control was negligent; and
- it was this negligence that caused the accident.
Under the negligent entrustment theory the owner of the vehicle is held liable, not for any imputed negligence, but by reason of his own independent and wrongful breach of duty in entrusting his automobile to one he knows or should know is likely to cause injury; proof of negligence of the driver merely furnishes the causal connection between the primary negligence of the owner and the injury or damage.
Q: Am I required to report prior damage to my vehicle?
These disclosure requirements apply to anyone selling a car, including individual sellers and dealerships:
- If a car has been rebuilt, this must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered reconstructed if essential parts have been removed, added or substituted.
- If a car has been damaged during a flood, this information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A flood vehicle is one that has been submerged or partially submerged in water causing damage to the body, engine or transmission.
- If a car has been salvaged, that information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered salvaged if it has been damaged to the extent that repairs to make it safe enough to drive would exceed 75 percent of its fair market value. This applies whether or not the car has been declared totaled by an insurer.
- For used cars less than five years old, the seller must disclose damage of more that 25 percent of the car’s fair market value to the buyer in writing.
Q: What is a 'reservation of rights' letter?
When you make a claim against your own insurance policy, your insurance company can do one of three things:
- It can accept you claim without reservation, accepting full responsibility up to the limits of coverage;
- It can reject the claim, or
- An insurer can seize the middle ground by issuing a reservation of rights letter.
When an insurer issues a reservation of rights letter, the insurer is telling you that it is reserving the right to disclaim coverage in the future. Generally, a letter may state the following: "We are investigating this claim but preserve our right to later deny coverage if investigation shows that it is not a covered loss."
Q: What is Respondeat Superior ?
When the driver of a motor vehicle commits a tort while operating someone else’s motor vehicle, the vehicle owner can also be held liable for the harm caused through use of the motor vehicle.
One of the theories of such liability is generally referred to as respondeat superior (vicarious), where the negligent acts of the driver (an agent) are imputed to his principal. This may arise in the employer/employee situations.
Vicarious liability is an exception to the normal principle of individualized fault and enables an injured person to seek redress from another who is not the party primarily responsible.
In a case involving imputed negligence, liability will be imposed on one person for the negligence of another based on the relationship between the parties, or arising from a positive rule of common or statutory law, or contract.
Res ipsa loquitur is an evidentiary rule which in a proper factual setting permits a party to prove the existence of negligence by merely establishing the circumstance of an occurrence that produces injury or damage.
In other words, res ipsa loquitur means that the occurrence itself warrants an inference that the defendant was negligent .
Q: Can I be liable for a negligent act of my spouse?
Not in North Carolina, where spouses have complete immunity for torts and negligence of each other.
Pursuant to N.C.G.S. § 52‑12, no married person can be held liable for damages accruing from any tort committed by his or her spouse, or for any costs or fines incurred in any criminal proceeding against such spouse.
On the other hand, a husband and wife can have a cause of action against each other to recover damages sustained to their person or property as if they were unmarried.
Q: I was a passenger involved in an auto accident. Can I recover for my injuries?
Since North Carolina has no automobile guest statute, a driver will be liable for injuries to his guest if they result from the driver's failure to exercise ordinary care.
Q: I was not wearing my seatbelt. Will I be held responsible?
In North Carolina the fact that you were not wearing a seat belt may not be introduced in an action for damages. In other words, you cannot be accused of contributory negligence in an automobile accident lawsuit if you did not have your seatbelt on.
Q: I was involved in an auto accident. How much time do I have to file a lawsuit?
The North Carolina statute also provides that ''no cause of action shall accrue more than 10 years from the last act or omission of the defendant giving rise to the cause of action.'' Presumably, an action could be brought more than ten years after the last act of the defendant, so long as the injury was discovered within ten years of that act and the action is brought within three years of discovery.
Q: I was involved in an accident.
Will my insurance premium go up?
No insurance points following an accident will be charged when:
- There is property damage only;
- The amount of damage is $ 1,800 or less;
- There is no conviction for a moving violation in connection with the accident; and
- No licensed operators in the household have convictions or at-fault accidents during the experience period (three years).
Q: Do I have a duty to stop after the accident?
In North Carolina the driver of any vehicle who knows or reasonably should know:
- That the vehicle which he or she is operating is involved in a crash; and
- That the crash has resulted in serious bodily injury or death to any person,
shall immediately stop his or her vehicle at the scene of the crash. The driver shall remain with the vehicle at the scene of the crash until a law-enforcement officer completes the investigation of the crash or authorizes the driver to leave and the vehicle to be removed, unless remaining at the scene places the driver or others at significant risk of injury.
A willful violation of this subsection shall be punished as a Class F felony.
In addition, the driver shall give his or her name, address, driver's license number and the license plate number of the vehicle to the person struck or the driver or occupants of any vehicle collided with, provided that the person or persons are physically and mentally capable of receiving such information, and shall render to any person injured in such crash reasonable assistance, including the calling for medical assistance if it is apparent that such assistance is necessary or is requested by the injured person.
A violation of this subsection is a Class 1 misdemeanor.
In addition, the Division of Motor Vehicles will revoke the drivers license of a person convicted of violating these requirements.
Q: Do I have a duty to report an accident?
In North Carolina the driver of a vehicle involved in a reportable accident must immediately, by the quickest means of communication, notify the appropriate law enforcement agency of the accident.
If the accident occurred in a city or town, the appropriate agency is the police department of the city or town.
If the accident occurred outside a city or town, the appropriate agency is the State Highway Patrol or the sheriff's office or other qualified rural police of the county where the accident occurred.
Q: What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.
All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.
In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010. An additional, 387,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 416,000 injured in 2010.
Q: Do I have to disclose prior car damage when selling it?
Absolutely. For used cars less than five years old, the seller must disclose damage of more that 25 percent of the car’s fair market value to the buyer in writing.
If a car has been salvaged, that information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered salvaged if it has been damaged to the extent that repairs to make it safe enough to drive would exceed 75 percent of its fair market value. This applies whether or not the car has been declared totaled by an insurer.
If a car has been damaged during a flood, this information must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A flood vehicle is one that has been submerged or partially submerged in water causing damage to the body, engine or transmission.
If a car has been rebuilt, this must be disclosed in writing before the car is sold. A vehicle is considered reconstructed if essential parts have been removed, added or substituted.
Index of Relevant Terms:
- Absolute Divorce
- Contributory Negligence
- Imputed Negligence
- Defenses to a Negligence Lawsuit
- Driving and Texting in North Carolina
- Emotional Distress
- Punitive Damages
- Res Ipsa Loquitur
- Short Sale
- Traumatic Brain Injury
- Truck Accidents
- Wrongful Death
- Wrongful Discharge from Employment