If you are involved in a car accident in NC, you should be aware of the pitfalls that some car accident victims experience that could later hurt your car accident claim.
Below, we will discuss some of the mistakes drivers make after car accidents that hurt their claims – sometimes shutting down their accident claim completely and sometimes reducing the amount of their recovery, including:
Any statement that is made by either party at the accident scene can become evidence in a later civil trial or insurance claim.
Something as harmless as “I’m sorry” might be taken out of context later and presented as evidence of fault – “See, she admitted that she was wrong and apologized for it!”
You should carefully avoid making any statements about who was at fault for the accident, and it is best to avoid casual conversation with anyone at the accident site.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina follows the antiquated and unfair “contributory negligence rule,” where, if you are found to be even 1% at fault, you are barred from recovering any damages – even if the other driver was 99% at fault.
When EMS arrives, let them check you out. Then, follow any recommendations that they make – if they recommend an ambulance trip to the ER, do it. If they recommend you drive yourself to the ER and get checked out, do it.
Your injuries need to be documented if you are going to be compensated for them later, and you may find later that the adrenaline of the car crash was masking symptoms or that you have a “delayed onset injury.”
If you did not seek medical attention immediately after the car wreck, the insurance company will claim 1) that you were not hurt, 2) that you were hurt somewhere after the car accident, or 3) that your injures are not as bad as you say they are.
The insurance company will look for any way to avoid paying your claim or to reduce the amount of damages they are obligated to pay – don’t make it easier for them.
The police officer who responds to your car accident is supposed to take down the names and contact information for each witness to the crash, but they often don’t.
If you can do so safely, talk to the other drivers, passengers, or other witnesses and get their names and contact information. Be polite, stay calm, and offer to give them your contact information as well.
If the officer doesn’t get their information, and you don’t get their information, it will be difficult or impossible for your attorney to track them down later if you need their testimony in your damages claim.
Don’t jump out of your car yelling at the other driver, and don’t engage in arguments or make accusations at the accident scene. If another person is “acting out” at the accident site, let them and don’t engage with them.
Be aware that video or testimony that shows you were belligerent, angry, or uncooperative may hurt your chances of success in a civil case, and it may reduce your recovery if a jury sees you as unsympathetic.
It is illegal to leave the scene of an accident in NC without stopping to exchange your information and ensure that no one needs assistance.
If you do not stop and remain at the scene until a responding officer takes their report, it may 1) result in criminal charges against you and 2) hurt your chances of recovering damages if the accident was caused by the other driver.
The responding officer will complete an accident report that contains information from 1) their observations of the crash 2) your statement to them and 3) statements of the other driver or other witnesses.
That accident report is not admissible at trial, but it is the first piece of evidence that insurance adjusters and attorneys look at to determine liability. If the officer writes a ticket to the other driver for a traffic violation, that will be critical evidence that will help you establish liability.
If you don’t call the police, 1) you could be charged with leaving the scene of an accident, and 2) the insurance company (and a jury) may deny your claim because they are wondering why you didn’t think the accident was serious enough to call law enforcement.
You want to resolve your case as quickly as possible – most people do, and the insurance company will take full advantage of this by attempting to offer you a low settlement in exchange for a release of liability.
Why is that bad?
It’s bad because the insurance company knows that you don’t know how much money you are entitled to after a car accident in NC – including not just your medical expenses, but compensation for pain and suffering, property damage, lost wages, future medical expenses, other categories of damages that vary from case to case, and even punitive damages in some cases.
Also, if you accept a settlement before you have finished treating, in most cases, you cannot go back to the insurance company later to ask for more money.
Your NC car accident lawyer will ensure that 1) you have finished treating your injuries or 2) you have an expert opinion on your future medical costs before settling your case, and your attorney will make sure that you are fully compensated for each category of damages that you are entitled to under NC law.
You should contact a NC car accident attorney immediately if you are injured in an accident that was caused by someone else’s negligence.
It costs you nothing – your attorney will only earn a fee if they win your case, but it can save you frustration and money. Your attorney can:
Your NC car accident lawyer will help you to understand the categories of damages that you are entitled to based on the facts of your case, to demand full and fair compensation in your settlement, and to try your case to a jury if the insurance company refuses to pay.
If you have been in a car wreck that was caused by someone else’s negligence, do not lose hope! Call Northstate Auto Law now at (336) 999-0944 or send us a message through our website to talk to an attorney who cares.