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Understanding How Personal Injury Claims Work In North Carolina

I’m attorney Rodney Caudill at Northstate Auto Law in Wilkesboro. Here are some things to know if you’ve been in a car wreck.

After a crash, the first thing you should do is exchange information with the other driver. Once you do, you should contact their insurance company and file a claim. It is basically your official report stating that there has been a crash, and you wish to receive reimbursement for damages you have incurred. This is usually what gets the process moving. On rare occasions, the at-fault party will contact their insurance company, which will trigger the start of the process.

The Evidence You’ll Need

When I meet with a potential client for the first time, I expect them to be willing to share what exactly happened. This is the only way to assess how to best help them with their claim. In addition, it is imperative to understand what to look for in damages from the crash. Sometimes people do not get hurt and thus do not have an injury claim. Instead, they may only have a property damage claim. Other times, an individual is injured but is not the owner of the car they were driving when involved in the collision. Therefore, you need to consider what exactly you should be reimbursed for. If you can explain that in detail when meeting with an attorney, you will significantly help them be able to help you.

The Different Types Of Claims

There are two broad categories of personal injury claims: property damage and bodily injury. The first, property damage, concerns the damage to an item you own. In the case of a car crash, the property we’re most often dealing with is the vehicle.

In North Carolina, a vehicle damaged due to a crash is categorized either as repairable or a total loss. State statute designates a total loss as a vehicle damaged more than 75% of its fair market value. At that point, the insurance company would owe you the full cash value of that vehicle or the price the car would have sold for the moment before the crash. If repairable, the insurance company will work with a body shop or collision center to determine the cost of repairing the vehicle.

If the car is not operable, the person is also entitled to either loss of use or a rental car. This means they can put in for a rental car or opt for a cash payment for the days they do not have a car. If the car is less than five years old and deemed repairable, the person may have a claim for diminished value. With it, they can claim that the vehicle has lost a certain amount of value simply from being in the crash. Any other damaged property in the vehicle at the time of the collision can also be filed as property damage. Examples include child restraint seats, coffee cups and computers.

The second category is bodily injury. These claims include any type of medical expense that you incur as a result of a crash, lost wages as a result of missing work because of the crash, and pain and suffering, which is an amount of money paid to a person because of what they were put through because of the crash. In addition, there are auxiliary damages in North Carolina, such as the loss of consortium. This is when a person files a claim because they cannot manage their household relationships as they did before the wreck. Lastly, when someone dies due to a vehicle crash, their estate can pursue a claim against the other party for the loss of that person’s life.

Crashes With Uninsured And Underinsured Drivers

Collisions with uninsured or underinsured drivers have unique complications. Uninsured motorist coverage applies when a person is in a crash with a vehicle that either does not have insurance or flees the scene. If there is actual physical contact between the vehicle that flees and either the other vehicle or someone’s body – in other words, a pedestrian – North Carolina treats the case as an uninsured motorist case.

An underinsured motorist claim is when your insurance limit exceeds the adverse party’s insurance limits. To demonstrate this, let’s assume you have a 100-300 policy in North Carolina, meaning your policy would pay up to $100,000 in damages to someone else for an aggregate of $300,000. Suppose you get into a crash with someone who has a 50-100 policy, meaning their policy would pay $50,000 to any one person or $100,000 in aggregate. Then that person would have an underinsured motorist claim because your insurance exceeds theirs. As a result, they would be entitled to seek an additional $50,000 in coverage from the injured party’s insurance company.

If you or someone you know is in a situation where they have an uninsured or underinsured case, you should seek counsel with an attorney. Many rules determine how payments are received and processed. Failure to follow the process correctly can cost you a lot of additional money.

Important: Don’t Wait To File Your Claim

In North Carolina, the standard period to file a claim is three years from the date of the incident. If you pursue legal action, you can either file a lawsuit or reach a settlement. If you do neither within the three years, you lose your case. However, if the claim involves wrongful death, then the statute of limitations is reduced to two years.

Get The Experienced Guidance You Deserve

For more information on the personal injury recovery process in North Carolina, please contact me for a free consultation. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling 336-781-4606 today.