If you are in a car accident with extensive damage to vehicles, you may initially feel worried about everyone’s safety. However, once the shock wears off, the following thoughts are usually “Whose fault is this accident?” and “How much will this accident cost?” Let’s look at why a car accident lawsuit happens and how you can resolve this situation.

Whose Fault Is It?

North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. It matters what percentage of fault you contributed to the accident. For example, if you did not look both ways before crossing a street in a crosswalk and a driver hit you, you carry some of the blame for not performing your due diligence and looking both ways. The more your responsibility, the less your chance of getting a settlement.

What If I’m Mostly At-Fault?

Let’s say you are 95% at fault for an accident, according to police reports, witnesses, and the insurance adjusters. Additionally, the injuries to the other driver and damage to the vehicle exceed the amounts you have coverage for. 

In this case, the other driver and passengers may not get enough reimbursement for their medical bills or to cover the vehicle’s total loss.

The other driver may decide to sue for more. If this happens, they have a good chance of winning a settlement to cover the rest of their damages and medical bills. Their chance of winning a settlement relies on the amount of fault you contributed in the accident.

What is Liability Insurance?

When you are at fault for an accident, your liability insurance covers the damage and injuries of the other driver. In North Carolina, the law requires that your liability coverage be continuously maintained. Your insurance liability coverages include Bodily Injury and Property Damage. These insurance types cover the costs for the other driver’s injuries and vehicle damage. By law, you must carry the minimum coverage requirements, which are:

  • $30,000 Bodily Injury coverage for each person and $60,000 Total Bodily Injury coverage amount for all persons in the accident (If four people each have $20,000 in bills, you will not have enough to pay for the accident from your insurance policy coverages.) Bodily Injury pays for items such as:: 
    • Doctor bills
    • Hospital charges
    • Follow-up visits
    • Wheelchairs, 
    • Crutches, and 
    • Physical therapy
    • May cover lost wages and income 
    • Disability
    • Rehabilitation
    • Pain and suffering 
    • Lawsuit settlements and legal expenses.
  • $25,000 for Property Damage which covers vehicle damage repair
    • Replacement of a totaled vehicle
    • Rental vehicles
    • Tow trucks

Why Car Accident Settlements Happen

There are scenarios where your auto insurance policy will not cover the extent of injury claims. For example, if. If your coverage has a total bodily injury liability limit of $150,000, but the other driver’s medical bills are $200,000, you are still responsible for $50,000 in medical bills. If you don’t have the $50,000 to pay, you may face a personal lawsuit. 

You can also owe more for damage to a vehicle than your limits will pay. If you hit and total a Ferrari worth $200,000 but your property damage coverage is at the state minimum of $25,000, you are short $175,000. This is a daunting debt, but most lawsuits settle out of court and insurance companies generally stay involved in the situation, often paying the legal fees or providing an attorney for you.

Car Accident Settlements If You Are At-Fault and Negligent

Because of North Carolina Contributory Negligence Law, someone even partially at fault has a smaller likelihood of collecting a settlement. However, if you acted negligently, with the other driver contributing less responsibility, your insurance company may need to offer a payment to cover their expenses. Insurance companies provide settlements when there is not a reasonable likelihood of winning in court. 

If you lose in court, you may become legally responsible for paying what your liability insurance would not cover. If you don’t pay and they won’t settle with you, you could end up in court facing a monetary judgment. You could lose everything overnight, including savings accounts or homes. You could end up needing to sell everything you own of value to pay medical or property damage bills. 

Underinsured Motorists Coverage

If the other driver has Underinsured Motorists (UIM) Coverage, this provides an additional payment to them in the case of injury claims you cannot pay through your own insurance. 

You are an underinsured driver if your limits of liability are less than the other driver’s UIM limits, and not enough to cover the injures in an at-fault accident. The UIM coverage will pay a maximum of the difference between your coverage that fell short and the other driver’s UIM limits. 

However, if you settle out of court, the insurance company must sign off on the negotiation or they will not pay.

Insurance Companies are Not On Your Side

It is common to think that an insurance adjuster is on your side and interested in helping you cover expenses. Unfortunately, the idea that they are on your side is not valid. Insurance adjusters are only interested in deciding fault and limiting costs. Their job is to pay out the least amount of money in claims possible. The insurance company’s goal is to cover you enough to stay within the limits of what the law requires, but no more.

We Can Help

An expert traffic attorney is always on your side. At Hogan, Edwards, and Blue, we work for you, finding the North Carolina laws that may help you win a contributory negligence case. In addition, we negotiate with your insurance company and that of the other driver on your behalf. Our experienced attorneys can walk you through every step navigating through the complicated process of determining contributory negligence and settling out of court. Contact us for a free initial consultation and to find out how we can help.