Who is At Fault in a North Carolina Car Accident?
After an accident, it is natural to worry about what will happen next. We have all heard horror stories about people ending up in serious debt, unable to pay their medical bills or work to support their family after a serious accident. Rebuilding your life after the accident is often your top priority, but many people in North Carolina do not know where to begin. To make matters worse, North Carolina has some of the most outdated laws in the country when it comes to accident claims. This article will help you understand the laws surrounding car accidents and insurance in North Carolina so you will be able to make a full recovery after your auto accident.
Car Accident Fault Laws in North Carolina
In most states, the at-fault driver pays for the damage they cause to people and property after an accident. If you were not at fault, or if your actions contributed only slightly to the accident, you can expect to receive compensation. This method of assigning responsibility is not the system used in the Tar Heel State. North Carolina uses a system called contributory negligence to determine fault after an accident. Under contributory negligence, a driver whose actions contributed to a collision in any way is unable to receive compensation. To help you understand how unfair this system can be, here are two examples of contributory negligence:
- You are driving straight at eight miles over the speed limit. A driver turns left in front of you when you still have the right of way and causes a collision. The court finds you 10% at fault for speeding. You are eligible for zero dollars in compensation.
- A drunk driver blows through a stop sign driving 80 miles per hour. You are driving the speed limit but drive through a yellow light just as it turns red. The drunk driver collides with you, but the court finds you five percent responsible for the accident. You are barred from recovering anything from the other driver.
Situations like those detailed above are painful and often unfair, but they frequently happen because of the strict North Carolina car accident laws. Only three other states and Washington D.C. use the same system, so it is important to know your rights and the possible consequences following a car accident.
Is North Carolina a No-Fault State for Auto Accidents?
Because contributory negligence makes it difficult to claim another driver was at fault for an accident, you may assume North Carolina is a no-fault state. In fact, North Carolina is an at-fault state for car accidents. That means the person deemed responsible for the accident must pay damages to another driver, passenger, or property owner if they need repairs or medical treatment. Typically, the injured driver will receive monetary compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault driver, but there are a few different ways to pursue compensation after an accident.
- Insurance claim with your insurer: Sometimes it is easiest to file a claim with your insurance carrier. After you file, your insurance company will seek the compensation from the insurance company of the at-fault driver.
- Insurance claim with a third-party insurer: Contacting the other driver’s insurance company can be a hassle, but it is one of the best ways to ensure you receive the compensation you need to recover. Simply give the insurance company a phone call and provide a written notice of your intent to file a claim afterward. Those simple steps should be enough to get the ball rolling.
- File a lawsuit: Taking the other driver to court may seem like an extreme measure, but it is the best option in some cases. If the at-fault driver is uncooperative or the settlements offered to you are less than what you need, consider hiring a qualified attorney for help with your case.
Proving Fault After an Accident
North Carolina’s strict rules on determining fault in car accidents are known as “pure contributory negligence” laws. This means that the victim has to be 100 percent free of fault for the accident in order to receive compensation.
Unfortunately, this task can be difficult to achieve on your own. A knowledgeable car accident lawyer will have the resources to help you prove the other driver’s negligence after an accident. Tactics for proving fault include:
- Visual evidence: Any photographs taken at the scene, video footage from storefronts or red light cameras, and pictures of your injuries are crucial to your case. It is difficult to argue with tangible evidence of the events that occurred.
- Witness testimony: If there were any people at the scene, including passengers, their testimony can be valuable. An attorney can help you encourage people to speak on your behalf and make sure their story supports your case.
- Police reports: When cops arrive at the scene or when you file a police report, officers will be taking notes. They have an objective perspective and will document the events of the accident more precisely than the drivers after a collision. Their version of events could help your case.
- Medical bills: The amount of your settlement is largely contingent on the extent of your injuries. If you were severely injured, go to the doctor and keep records of the treatment, test, prescriptions, and bills you receive.
Remember, contributory negligence laws bar you from receiving payment from the other driver if you were even one percent to blame for the accident. Proving the other driver’s negligence is a necessary step towards making sure you receive the money you deserve after an accident.
An Attorney Can Help
The Raleigh car accident attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., understand how difficult obtaining compensation can be after an accident, especially with the complicated laws in North Carolina. Far too often, innocent people are left with expensive bills and insurance payments after a car accident. You should not have to struggle because of an accident you did not cause. If you were hurt in a car accident, do not hesitate to contact us by calling or filling out an online contact information sheet.