Answers To Frequently Asked Questions
North Carolina injury law is complicated. At Northstate Auto Law, I’m committed to providing information and answers to car crash victims. I’m Rodney Caudill, a seasoned injury lawyer based in Wilkesboro. Below you will find guidance on common questions I hear.
How long does one have to initiate an auto accident lawsuit?
“Statutes of limitations” govern the length of time one has to file a lawsuit or be forever barred from pursuing such claim. Under North Carolina law, different statute of limitations periods apply to personal injury cases under various circumstances. In some cases, the statute of limitations may be as short as two years, while generally it is three years. However, there are many factors that bear upon when the applicable statute of limitations period expires, including the age of the plaintiff, the type of personal injury claim, the particular facts giving rise to the injury and others.
One must always be absolutely aware of when their statute of limitations period expires or risk jeopardizing their legal rights. An experienced personal injury lawyer can be of assistance in this regard. A potential claimant seeking the advice of an attorney should do so without delay.
In certain cases, there may also be other deadlines that may also impact the case. For example, some claims require specific notice to the insurance company. Furthermore, given that expert and legal analysis must be done prior to filing a lawsuit, you should not wait until the statute of limitations period is nearing its end because the attorney may not have enough time to complete his or her review prior to its expiration.
What photographs and other documentation will be helpful to my attorney in pursuing my claim?
Photographs of injuries, bruises, etc. can help substantiate damages related to medical treatment, and pain and suffering. Photographs of vehicle damage and other property damage can help demonstrate the force of the impact and the extent of the property damage. Finally, photographs of the accident scene, including skid marks, can help establish who was at fault. Obviously, the timing of these photographs is critical. As wounds heal, they do not appear as serious. Therefore, photographs should be taken early on and at each stage of the healing process. Other helpful documentation includes prescription records and lost wage information as I will obtain all related medical bills and records.
Should I accept a check from the faulty driver or the faulty driver’s insurance company?
The acceptance of a check may be construed as a settlement barring any further recovery against the faulty driver, or his or her insurance company. You should not accept a check or sign a release from the faulty driver, or his or her insurance company until after you have completed medical treatment and have been released by a doctor. Otherwise, you risk settling your case for an amount that is insufficient to cover your medical bills and other damages. Insurance adjusters are trained professionals well-versed in the art of settling claims for the lowest possible value. They employ a variety of techniques to convince claimants that they are better off settling their cases themselves than by hiring a lawyer. You should consult an attorney prior to accepting any payment, signing any release or settling your claim to ensure that you are receiving fair compensation and not jeopardizing your right to a full and fair recovery.
Should I give the faulty driver’s insurance company medical authorization?
If you provide the other driver’s insurance company with a blanket medical authorization, you may provide them with the ability to obtain any and all of your medical records, whether related to the accident or not. Information gathered from these unrelated medical records may be used against you in negotiating a settlement of your case. Because medical information is privileged and confidential, you should consult an attorney prior to providing the other driver’s insurance company with medical authorization.
When should I settle my case?
Generally, you should not settle your claim until after you have concluded medical treatment and have been released by your doctor. Otherwise, you may settle your case without knowing the full extent of your injuries and the treatments that will be required for such injuries. At the same time, you must be mindful of the applicable statute of limitations period. You should consider seeking the assistance of an attorney to determine the applicable statute of limitations period and other deadlines that may affect your claims, as these issues are fact-sensitive and can vary from case to case.
What if the faulty driver has inadequate insurance to cover all my damages?
If the faulty driver does not have insurance coverage to the extent of your damages, you may be able to recover under your own insurance policy if it provides you with “underinsured motorist coverage.” It is often advisable to have an attorney review your insurance policy to determine whether or not this coverage is available to you. Settling with the faulty driver’s insurance company may affect your insurance company’s responsibility; therefore, one should consider consulting an attorney before any settlement.
What if the faulty driver had no insurance?
As a practical matter, you can only recover if the faulty party has available assets or insurance. In some instances, a faulty driver who does not carry his or her own insurance may nonetheless be covered by another person’s insurance policy. Additionally, if the faulty driver was acting during the scope of his employment at the time of the crash, they may be covered by their employer’s insurance. If your own insurance policy provides you with “uninsured motorist coverage,” you may be entitled to compensation from your own insurance company if the faulty driver has no insurance. Given the complexity and nuances of these various insurance coverage issues, it is often advisable to seek the assistance of an attorney to determine the existence of insurance or other assets that may be available to satisfy your claim.
May I have my health insurance pay for my medical treatment?
Yes. Your rights to recover damages incurred in an automobile wreck that was the fault of another is not affected by any payments made by your health insurance. Depending upon the terms of your health insurance plan, the payments made by your insurance company may, however, be subject to reimbursement in the event of a recovery by you against the party at fault.
What am I entitled to be compensated for if the other driver was at fault?
Generally speaking, if you are involved in an automobile wreck that was the fault of another, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your medical and pharmacy bills associated with treatment for injuries sustained during the crash, cost of future medical treatment, lost wages, pain and suffering, property damage and reasonable automobile rental charges incurred as a result of the crash. You may also recover other costs directly attributable to the crash, such as towing, storage, etc.
Should I go to the doctor if I’m only “a little sore?”
Certain injuries may not manifest themselves until some time afterward. By not seeing a doctor, you risk delaying your treatment and further injury. Even minor soreness can be an indication of a more significant injury. If you believe that you may have been injured, you should see a doctor. It is not uncommon for insurance companies to argue that the failure of an individual to see a doctor right away indicates that an injury diagnosed later must have resulted from an unrelated event after the crash.
Don’t I need to hire one of those “big firms” on TV?
Well, those big firms do have a place in the system, but I would hope that you give me a chance to prove why my local service is a better option for most folks.
If I have to pay an attorney, will I not get the same amount of money if I just settled for less on the front end?
This is a dangerous presumption based on the belief that a person can figure out what their case is worth. There have been numerous studies that show retaining a lawyer, on average, significantly increases the amount of settlement received so that it offsets what the attorney fee is.
How much is my case worth?
There are many factors that go into valuing a case. The type of injury, the amount of the medical bills and the severity of the crash all play a part in how much you should get paid for the crash.
Why should I hire a lawyer?
I don’t want to sue anyone. Hiring a lawyer in an auto wreck puts an experienced advocate on your side who understands how to prepare, present and negotiate your injury case. Hiring a lawyer does not mean you are suing someone. The vast majority of cases settle with no lawsuit being filed, and lawsuits are only filed as a last resort with full agreement by the client.
How much does it cost to hire you?
I work on a contingency basis. This means I am paid only if you get a settlement from the insurance company. If you do not get a settlement, I do not get a fee. For the bulk of my cases, my commission fee is only 20%.