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car accidentNorth Carolina law requires car owners to maintain uninsured motorists (UM) coverage on their vehicles in the same amount they are covered by their liability coverage. A UM policy pays if the policyholder is injured in a car accident caused by an uninsured driver — which includes about 7.5% of North Carolina drivers, according to estimates. Underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage applies in crashes involving an at fault driver who doesn’t have enough liability insurance to cover all the injuries caused by the collision.

Recovering compensation for car accident injuries under a UM or UIM policy requires filing an insurance claim against your own insurance policy. However, your insurance company may dispute your claim if the fault is unclear or offer you a settlement that does not fairly compensate you for your losses.

Why You Need an Attorney If You Are Injured by an Uninsured Motorist

If the at fault driver is uninsured, you will be dealing with your own insurance company. You may think that, because it’s YOUR insurance company, they will treat you fairly. In reality, your own insurance company is just as likely to treat you unfairly as another person’s. Threatening to cancel your policy and “take your business elsewhere” will have no effect on the adjuster.

Insurance companies are required to keep a “Chinese wall” between their agents, who sell you the policy, and their adjusters, who pay claims. This means that the agent, who is probably losing a commission, cannot put pressure on the adjuster in order to please his/her client.

When push comes to shove, the only real pressure you can put on an adjuster is the threat of legal action. Actually having a lawyer, instead of just threatening to get a lawyer, makes that threat much more imminent, thus putting much more pressure on the adjuster.

One very significant benefit of having UM in North Carolina is that your policy specifically allows you to choose to resolve the claim by arbitration instead of a jury trial. Arbitration is typically much cheaper and quicker than a jury trial, and the verdicts are typically higher as well. Even though arbitration is simpler than a jury trial, a qualified, experienced attorney is still necessary.

A North Carolina uninsured motorist lawyer with Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. can help you establish fault in an accident and pursue the full extent of your recoverable losses.

Why You Need an Attorney If You Are Injured by an Underinsured Motorist

The mere fact that we are discussing UIM means that you believe it will take over $30,000 to fairly compensate you for your injuries, so you must have relatively serious injuries. Generally speaking, the more serious the injuries are, the higher the expected settlement. The higher the expected settlement, the greater your need to make sure things are done right.

Why would you never close on buying a home without a closing attorney?  A home is such a large investment, you cannot afford to make a mistake. Similarly, a large car insurance settlement is such a potentially large amount of money that you cannot afford to make a mistake. A knowledgeable, honest, dependable North Carolina attorney, such as those with Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. can help you avoid costly mistakes.

Just as with UM, one very significant benefit of having UIM in North Carolina is that your policy specifically allows you to choose to resolve the claim by arbitration instead of a jury trial. Arbitration is typically much cheaper and quicker than a jury trial, and the verdicts are typically higher as well. Even though arbitration is simpler than a jury trial, a qualified, experienced attorney is still necessary.

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What Are North Carolina’s Car Insurance Requirements?

The State of North Carolina requires car owners to carry liability insurance, which pays for injuries the policyholder causes other people in car accidents. North Carolina requires liability insurance coverage that provides, at the minimum:

  • Up to $30,000 for bodily injury to one person
  • Up to $60,000 for bodily injury per accident (multiple people)
  • Up to $25,000 for property damage per accident

North Carolina also requires the insurance company to sell you UM/UIM coverage in the same amount as the liability coverage.

North Carolina has about 7.7 million licensed drivers, and the Insurance Information Institute says 7.4% of them — about 569,800 — are uninsured.

Car owners are free to purchase higher amounts of liability coverage and/or additional uninsured and underinsured coverage, but most carry only the required minimum coverage because additional coverage costs more. In North Carolina, you can only have underinsured coverage if you buy more than the minimum limits of 30/60/25.

If you are financing or leasing a vehicle, the lender or lessor may require you to maintain collision and comprehensive (for hitting an animal, fire, theft, vandalism) insurance in addition to liability and uninsured motorist coverage. This is often referred to as “full coverage.” That does not mean, however, that you have underinsured coverage.

Can You Stack Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Policies?

Stacking insurance is a term typically applied to UM and UIM coverage. Stacking means combining coverage limits for multiple vehicles. A coverage limit is the maximum amount your insurer will pay toward a covered claim.

Whether you can stack UM and UIM coverages can be a complicated question. Generally speaking, you cannot stack coverages within the same policy. In other words, if you have three cars on the same policy, you cannot stack the coverages.

On the other hand, North Carolina law allows interpolicy stacking of uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) policies. This means that if you have two separate auto insurance policies, you can stack those UM/UIM policies together. You can also stack UIM policies if you own other vehicles that carry separate UIM policies with different policy numbers. For example, a passenger in an at-fault vehicle can use that vehicle’s UIM coverage for stacking purposes.

What Does Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Insurance Cover?

North Carolina UM/UIM policies cover the policy owner, any family member living with them, and any other person using the covered automobile with the owner’s permission.

North Carolina uninsured motorist coverage provides protection to the policy beneficiary when an uninsured driver causes a collision with injuries.  UM coverage provides bodily injury and property damage coverage to the victim up to its policy limits.

Underinsured motorist coverage provides protection when another driver causes a collision and the medical expenses for your injuries exceed the limits of the at-fault driver’s insurance.

Your UIM coverage should pay the difference between the underinsured driver’s liability insurance payout for bodily injury and your UIM limits. UIM does not provide protection against property damage. The North Carolina General Assembly recently passed requiring that, beginning in January 2025, all insurance companies sell UIM coverage that does not get a credit for the liability policy’s limits.

After Settling your UM/UIM Claim, Can You then Go after the other Driver?

Once your uninsured or underinsured carrier pays your claim, under North Carolina law they have first right to seek reimbursement from the uninsured or underinsured driver. If the at fault driver has any assets left after your insurance company is fully compensated, the victims can try to get some of their money, too. The unfortunate reality is that people who drive with minimum or no liability insurance are generally “judgment proof.” In other words, they don’t have enough assets to cover the legal costs of getting those assets. In our society, once people start accruing assets, they start buying more insurance to protect those assets. It is rare that accident victims get any money from the uninsured or underinsured driver.

What Happens in a Hit-and-Run Collision?

A hit-and-run accident occurs when a driver involved in a collision does not stop at the scene of the accident, contact the authorities, or leave any contact information.

You should report a hit-and-run accident to the police, just as you would any other collision.

You should never chase a hit-and-run driver or make any effort to physically restrain a person from leaving an accident scene. If you have the vehicle’s license plate number, police should be able to locate the car owner. If you see the plate number or even part of it, write it down or record it on your phone via text or voice. Sometimes, the police identify and locate hit-and-run drivers through surveillance camera footage.

If the hit-and-run driver is not located, there is no auto liability insurance available to the injured parties. Therefore, you will need to file a claim under your own uninsured motorist coverage to recover compensation for your bodily injuries and vehicle property damage. However, North Carolina has an obscure loophole for auto insurance companies. Your UM will not take effect unless the hit-and-run driver’s vehicle and your vehicle make actual physical contact. If another driver runs you off the road without making contact with your car, your UM insurance carrier will likely deny the claim.

Just as in any other auto accident case, if you have health insurance, you should use it to cover the costs of treating your injuries in a hit-and-run accident. The UM/UIM insurance company will almost never pay your medical bills until the claim is settled. Paying medical expenses through your health insurance, if available, will keep medical care providers from sending your account into collections. Whether you must reimburse your health insurance from your auto insurance settlement is a complicated question that your attorney can discuss with you.

If you have collision coverage, it should pay to repair damage sustained by your vehicle in a collision with another vehicle or object, regardless of fault or identification of the second driver. Your insurer should pay the costs of repairing your vehicle or the actual cash value of your vehicle, whichever is less.

A North Carolina Personal Injury Attorney Can Help in a UM/UIM or Hit-and-Run Claim

The personal injury attorneys and staff of Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. stand ready to help you put your life back together after car accident injuries caused by uninsured drivers. We can take care of all the legal issues and communication with insurers so you can focus on your recovery. We will conduct an investigation into the facts surrounding the accident and document every dollar you are owed in damages.

The attorneys at Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A., located in Raleigh, have been helping injured people in North Carolina with uninsured and underinsured motorist claims for more than 30 years. We understand North Carolina law and uninsured motorist benefits. Our law firm prides itself on providing personalized and attentive service to our clients, aided by our state-of-the-art case tracking system. Every case we take is important to us and receives personalized attention.

We have the resources, experience, knowledge, and dedication to handle your uninsured or underinsured motorist claim. But don’t just take our word for it. Other lawyers and judges have rated our legal abilities with the highest level of professional excellence in the Martindale Hubbell Law Directory. They rated our adherence to professional standards of conduct and ethics, reliability, and diligence as very high. You can hear what our former clients have said about us by watching their testimonials.

Many people turn to us for help after frustrating rounds with insurers and bill collectors. Don’t wait to get your life back on track after an uninsured or underinsured driver has turned your life upside down. We offer a free consultation with no strings attached. Educate yourself about your legal options. Whether or not you hire us, you will have a clearer understanding of your rights. You will make better-informed decisions.

Younce Vtipil Baznik & Banks personal injury law team

Contact Our Experienced Personal Injury Lawyers for Help

Let a car accident attorney with Younce, Vtipil, Baznik & Banks, P.A. in Raleigh, NC, review the facts of the car accident and your auto insurance coverage and provide free legal advice about pursuing an uninsured motorist or underinsured motorist claim. We stand up to insurance carriers and demand justice for our clients. We are ready to put our resources and legal knowledge to work toward recovering maximum compensation for you.

Contact us online or at 919-661-9000 today for your free consultation. We will not charge a fee for our services if we do not recover compensation for you. Call now!

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