Table of Contents
- How a North Carolina Car Accident Attorney Can Help Victims and their Families
- North Carolina Car Accident Laws
- What Are the Most Common Types of Car Accidents?
- What Are the Most Common Car Injuries?
- Possible Compensation in Car Accident and Personal Injury Cases
- What To Do After a Car Accident in North Carolina: 7 Steps
- Experience Counts
- Insurance Questions for North Carolina Car Accidents
- Accident Lawyers in North Carolina: Frequently Asked Questions
- Contact a North Carolina Car Accident Lawyer for a Free Consultation
Getting into a car accident can have surprising and lasting impacts on a person’s life. Those injured may suffer permanent physical injuries, experience emotional trauma, be suddenly unable to pursue the hobbies they once did, and struggle financially for a long time. Accident lawyers can provide some relief by helping victims and their families with mounting medical bills, lost wages, and ongoing pain and suffering.
Our firm’s experience with auto accident cases is an advantage for injured victims. We know too many people suffer financial losses because they do not know that financial relief may be possible. No matter the damages, bills, or lost wages that need to be covered after an accident, insurers know people are often eager to accept any offer, even if it is less than the claim may be worth.
Ward and Smith Personal Injury has extensive experience in motor vehicle accident cases. Our car crash attorneys fight to ensure injured people and their families are treated fairly and are adequately compensated for their unjust losses. One of our North Carolina car accident lawyers can help you determine if you may have a case during a free legal consultation.
Car accidents are an unfortunate part of life. People drive while on their cell phones or under the influence, speed and run red lights, and do not pay attention when the weather is terrible.
The problem is widespread. More than five million fatal and non-fatal collisions happened in 2020 worldwide, and there were 15 deaths per 100,000 people in North Carolina car accidents in 2021. Collisions often lead to health complications as resulting injuries can include paralysis, disabilities, disfigurement, traumatic brain injuries, and chronic conditions.
Injuries can disrupt a person’s life and are expensive to treat and maintain. Care for moderate injuries like fractures and head injuries can cost $10,000 to $50,000, while care for severe, catastrophic injuries like paralysis and disfigurement can cost $50,000 to several million.
Not to be overlooked, more minor issues like back strains and damages caused by whiplash also can make work a challenge and hinder a person’s ability to participate in sports, hobbies, or other things they enjoyed before the accident.
Our local accident attorneys have extensive knowledge of North Carolina auto accident laws. This can be beneficial to your overall case as you will need to know the statute of limitations and filing requirements, and rules regarding negligence, fault, and possible damages.
How is Fault Determined in a Car Accident in North Carolina? Who Can Be Held Liable?
North Carolina is an at-fault state. This means that the victim in a car accident can sue the at-fault driver for any injuries or damages under the state’s negligence rules.
There is a caveat, however. The state is one of only four states with a strict pure contributory negligence standard, so if the victim is even one percent or more at fault for the accident, they may not be able to collect any damages.
Car crash attorneys can help prove fault in accidents, which is essential if you were hit and injured and need to collect compensation for repairs, personal injuries, emotional distress, and more.
Another reason to establish negligence is that it might uncover other parties that may be potentially responsible for payment, like a second driver, the car manufacturer, a trucking company, or so forth. An attorney working with car wreck victims can help determine fault and negotiate the best possible amount.
How Much Time Do I Have To File a Car Accident Claim in North Carolina?
The statute of limitations for car accidents and other personal injury cases in North Carolina is three years. In the case of wrongful death claims, surviving family members must file a claim within two years.
Does North Carolina Have Caps on Damages for Car Accidents?
North Carolina does not cap economic damages in car accident cases. However, your insurance coverage and that of the other driver can affect how much money you are able to recover.
Insurance does not always cover your medical expenses and related costs from the crash, so it is important to have uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage to cover any gaps. The state currently requires liability insurance coverageof:
- Bodily injury for one person: $30,000
- Bodily injury for two or more people: $60,000
- Property damage: $25,000
However, these limits will be increasing in North Carolina beginning January 1, 2025.
A car accident lawyer in North Carolina can further discuss damage caps in your personal injury case.
Many car accidents happen because of human error. There are measures to keep drivers safe, but things like distractions, drugs and alcohol, bad weather, poorly trained drivers, and other issues continue to contribute to accidents.
North Carolina accident statistics show that nearly 2,000 people were killed in a car crash in 2021, and 115,000 were injured. In both cases, injuries and fatalities increased from the year prior.
Here are some of the most common causes of North Carolina car crashes:
- Driving faster than the posted, legal speed limit and leaving insufficient reaction time for other drivers
- Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol and increasing the risk of accidents due to problems with concentration, awareness, and poor judgment
- Distracted driving, like cell phone usage, eating or drinking, or other activities that take your attention off the road
- Fatigued or drowsy driving, which affects a driver’s cognition and performance
- Car and mechanical defects, like failed airbags or faulty parts, that can cause unexpected vehicle breakdowns and accidents
- Hit-and-run accidents that damage property, hurt people, and cause unnecessary deaths
- Other driver errors, like running a red light or failing to yield at a right-of-way, putting pedestrians, bicyclists, and other drivers in harm’s way
- Large truck accidents, like rollovers, sideswipes, and head-on collisions that put passenger vehicles in grave danger
- Motorcycle accidents and collisions with other vehicles because of speeding, alcohol impairment, or inattentive driving
Car injuries are often a direct result of another person’s careless actions and can lead to a broad range of acute, chronic, and life-changing injuries, including:
- Head and neck injuries: A violent jolt or blow to the body and head can result in common car accident injuries, like traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), concussions, skull fractures, broken noses, whiplash, and eye injuries.
- Back injuries: The strong and sudden force of a car wreck can cause damage to the muscles and tissue in the back. Accidents can result in lumbar spine damage and herniated disks, while whiplash can cause other back or spinal conditions.
- Broken bones and soft tissue damage: Direct impact in a car accident can lead to broken bones and bone fractures in the arm, wrist, leg, or ankle, as well as other body areas. Soft tissue injuries, like injured muscles, tendons, and ligaments, can also cause sprains, strains, and contusions.
- Chest injuries: During impact, the muscles between a person’s rib cage can be stretched and torn (usually where a seat belt is worn). Chest injuries range from broken ribs to a crushed sternum or a ruptured diaphragm.
- Internal organ damage: Organs like the liver, kidneys, and spleen can get squeezed and significantly damaged to the point they can cause internal bleeding or shut down. Symptoms might appear as abdominal pain, bruising, fatigue, or pale and clammy skin.
Injuries take a toll on a person’s life and cause financial hardship, especially permanent ones. Attorneys for accident claims can help qualify a victim’s case and pursue the following damages:
- Medical care: An injured person with long-term medical needs will likely incur ongoing healthcare expenses and need reimbursement for maintenance such as hospital stays, emergency room visits, testing, surgeries, prescriptions, therapy, etc.
- Lost wages: A person who can no longer work because of a disability or disfigurement can pursue compensation for lost wages and a loss of earning capacity if they can no longer financially support themselves or their families.
- Pain and suffering: Catastrophic injury victims usually experience adverse effects of permanent injuries, such as physical discomfort and emotional distress.
- Car repair costs: After a car accident, there might be extensive repair costs or a need to replace your vehicle altogether. It is possible to recover money for repairs or the car’s value. There also are potential recoveries for the cost of a rental car or for loss of use.
- Diminished value: Diminished value is the monetary difference between what a victim’s pre-accident car was worth and the market value of the post-repair car.
- Punitive damages: Certain car accident cases involve egregious behavior, such as driving at unsafe speeds or while intoxicated. Punitive damages are rare, but if accident lawyers in North Carolina can prove fraud, malice, or willful or wanton conduct (one of the three), it is possible to recover additional money.
There are many possible damages in a car accident case, and you need a proven counsel in personal injury law to get maximum compensation.
Ward and Smith attorneys have been recognized by one of the nation’s premier legal ranking services for providing clients with credible personal injury counsel. Charles Ellis, Lynwood Evans, and Jeremy Wilson have earned a spot in the 2024 edition of The Best Lawyers in America®. Since 1983, Best Lawyers has upheld its standard of excellence, becoming the definitive guide to assessing legal expertise.
Tensions can be high after a car accident, and the road to recovery can be short or long, depending on the accident, injuries, and other damages involved. Here are seven things to keep in mind immediately after a crash.
1. Get To a Safe Space if Possible
After a car accident, moving your vehicle to the shoulder of the road is wise to avoid further accidents and safety issues for other drivers. A totaled car may not be movable, so you can contact the local police department to help redirect traffic and a towing company.
2. Stay on the Scene
It is illegal in North Carolina to flee a crash, so it is imperative to stay at the scene of the accident until police arrive. During this time, you can exchange insurance and contact information with the other driver. Refraining from oversharing details with the other driver that could hurt your insurance claim or personal injury case later is also important.
3. Report the Crash to Law Enforcement
North Carolina law dictates that you contact the police if you are involved in a car accident that involves personal injury, death, or property damage of at least $1,000. You can get a copy of a crash report from the law enforcement agency that responded to the accident or from the Division of Motor Vehicles, which takes about four to five days to process and includes a small charge.
4. Gather Evidence.
Evidence allows insurance companies and lawyers to establish fault in a car accident as they cannot solely rely on the drivers’ testimonies. Taking thorough photos and video of the accident, scene, and surroundings can be important. Auto accident lawyers are skilled investigators and might reach out to local businesses and individuals (potential witnesses) who might have a street cam or security footage of the accident if necessary.
5. Get Immediate Medical Attention.
Car accident victims should seek immediate medical attention after an accident, whether injuries are visible or not. Physicians can diagnose an injury and see things we do not, especially conditions masked by adrenaline or hidden internal problems, like internal bleeding or organ damage.
Local auto crash lawyers can help you find trusted medical professionals fast and ensure you are given a proper medical exam.
6. Seek Legal Representation.
Car accident lawyers are skilled strategists who deal with car accidents regularly. They know what evidence to look for to establish fault, and they can build a compelling case in your favor to increase your chances of securing compensation. Additionally, they are invaluable as they can handle negotiations with insurance companies and other parties so that you get a fair deal.
7. Let Your Legal Team Handle the Rest
Retaining auto crash lawyers can significantly benefit your case and take the pressure off you. An experienced accident firm can help report the accident to the insurance company, handle all communication with insurers and other parties, negotiate a settlement for you, and represent you at trial, if necessary.
At Ward and Smith, we believe there is a direct correlation between experience and results. Our lawyers take pride in the collective team’s personal injury experience and knowledge of auto accident law, and we put it to the test every day, helping our clients financially recover from serious accidents.
Clients engage with our firm to help with many different types of accident cases, including bicycle, motorcycle, and pedestrian accidents and drunk driving, to name a few. Accidents are an overwhelming experience, from the emotional fallout of physical and mental injuries to job loss to financial pains—and we try to help every step of the way.
We are advocates for you and your financial well-being. Insurance companies will often settle before a case reaches trial, but if it is not a fair amount for you and your family’s needs, our attorneys will represent you in trial. We will continue to fight where it counts and get you paid for another person’s careless actions.
Our approach ensures that a skilled attorney is always ready to answer your questions and move your case forward. Licensed paralegals, certified litigation technology specialists, and other support staff are key members of the team at Ward and Smith. The team frequently travels to meet clients in person, taking on cases throughout North Carolina.
It is not possible to undo the effects of a serious accident. Still, a knowledgeable auto accident lawyer is likely your best chance of getting fair compensation to pay for expensive care and treatment, damages to your vehicle, disability, pain and suffering, lost wages, and much more. Our client reviews testify to our firm’s dedication and values.
If you or a loved one has been in an accident, please do not sign documents from insurance companies without consulting an attorney with your best interests in mind.
After a car accident, many “what ifs,” doubts, and unanswered questions exist. We strive to ensure our clients understand the legal process and feel confident when dealing with insurance companies and other parties. Following are some of the most common questions we get from clients.
What if I can’t work because of injuries from the accident?
Accidents are disruptive and can prevent a person from working in the short or long term. Every job and situation is different, and people can work with their employers to see what is possible if they feel good enough to resume their job duties. One solution is a modified work schedule for doctor visits and medical treatment.
In other cases, it might not be possible to work if a person is seriously injured, and it could mean losing out on some or all of the income you and your loved ones rely on. A car accident lawyer will review the extent of your injuries to determine what a fair amount of compensation may be if you are forced to miss or lose out on work, including lost wages, loss of earning capacity, or lost job opportunities because of the accident.
What if I need to take time off work to care for a loved one, deal with insurance issues, and get the car repaired?
A serious car accident is a family emergency and usually requires a shift in responsibilities and special care for the injured person. Employers must grant eligible employees unpaid and job-protected leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). If your loved one requires constant or ongoing care, check with your employer to see if you qualify and discuss a plan of action and timeframe for your return to work.
Who may be responsible for my medical bills? What if my insurance won’t cover all the costs?
While at-fault drivers in North Carolina are responsible for compensating anyone who suffered an injury or loss in a car crash, negligence must first be established before the at-fault driver’s insurance company pays out a settlement to the victim. The victim is responsible for medical bills until they can get appropriately reimbursed through an insurance claim or personal injury lawsuit.
Insurance companies usually try to undervalue accident claims, so it is always wise to speak with an experienced car accident attorney to ensure the settlement reflects the true value of your claim. Otherwise, you may face future financial losses.
Medical debt judgments can last for years and can result in liens against patients’ homes. Hospitals and health systems usually win as they are entitled to payment, so it is important to pursue a lawsuit if necessary.
Should I sign the paperwork the insurance company is asking me to? What happens to my legal rights if I do sign? If I refuse to sign, what happens then?
Many documents insurance companies produce after an accident are meant to protect the company, not policyholders. Generally speaking, signing paperwork, releasing forms, or agreeing to a settlement is never wise without consulting a car accident lawyer first. Insurance company documents have consequences, and you will likely be held to the terms. It is always in your best interest to speak with an experienced lawyer before signing any document so that you do not give up your legal rights and jeopardize your ability to recover full compensation.
What kind of lawyer do I need for a car accident?
Lawyers that handle car accidents are commonly referred to as personal injury lawyers. A personal injury lawyer can specialize in all types of accidents, so it is important to find a firm that references experience and has successful case results involving car accidents. Ward and Smith handles car accidents and catastrophic personal injury cases.
What does a car accident lawyer do?
Most accident victims do not know the extent or the value of the damages when they file an insurance claim. Insurance companies often deny valid accident claims or try to take advantage of injured victims’ vulnerability with low settlement offers.
A North Carolina car accident lawyer can help you recoup all your potential losses with a personal injury lawsuit, as they will know what your injuries and pain and suffering are worth. You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, property damage (if applicable), pain and suffering, loss of consortium, and more.
How much do car accident lawyers charge?
The outcome of personal injury cases can be unpredictable, so many car accident lawyers share the financial risk with clients and work on a contingency basis. In this type of fee arrangement, a car accident lawyer will get paid a certain percentage out of the final judgment if they win the case. If they don’t win, you won’t owe the lawyer any attorneys’ fees.
Ward and Smith takes car accident and other personal injury cases on a contingency basis. We explain more about our fee arrangement during a free, no-obligation legal consultation.
This article is not intended to give, and should not be relied upon for, legal advice in any particular circumstance or fact situation. No action should be taken in reliance upon the information contained in this article without obtaining the advice of an attorney.
Car accidents are usually only cut and dry when victims experience minor injuries or losses that become a tiny blip after a short while. Accident victims with catastrophic injuries who face years of medical treatment, lost wages, and major lifestyle changes are often in dire financial straits. In most cases, the insurance company’s first offer cannot sufficiently cover these losses.
Ward and Smith is an experienced personal injury firm, and we help people and families recover compensation for negligence and harm that result in life-changing injuries. We have recovered millions of dollars for victims in difficult positions and will do all we can to achieve a favorable outcome for you.
Contact us for helpful legal resources and expert advice regarding your potential car accident case.