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Often times, people who think they have adequate insurance learn otherwise after being involved in an accident. Some will purchase auto insurance based on price alone, and following an accident, may find they still have significant out of pocket expenses. Unfortunately, insurance agents don’t take the time to explain different coverage options or the drastic effect that selecting the wrong coverage could have on you or a family member. Below, we discuss the different types of coverage that are available to you and guide you to making the right choice when buying insurance.

Bodily Injury
If you cause an accident, this coverage will pay the medical expenses of the injured person(s). In North Carolina, the mandatory minimum bodily injury limits are $30,000 per person, not to exceed $60,000 per accident (30/60), regardless of how many people are injured. Most people carrying these low limits do so because they think they have little or no assets to lose if they are sued, the think it will cost too much to buy more coverage, or they are not aware that higher limits are available.

Most consumers would be surprised to learn that the cost to increase their bodily injury liability limits does not cost that much in comparison to the premium they are already paying, which may explain why insurance agents do not make an effort to sell these higher limits. We recommend bodily injury limits of at least 100/300. Of course, if you have significant assets, you should consider limits in accordance with the value of your assets. Call your agent today. You may be surprised to find out how little it costs to increase your coverage.

Uninsured Motorist (UM)
Unless you specifically decline this coverage in writing, it is included in every policy issued in North Carolina at the same limit as the bodily injury limit. This coverage protects you or a family member if you are involved in an accident in which the at fault vehicle is uninsured, if you are injured by a hit-and-run driver, and even if you are hit as a pedestrian or cyclist. Your UM coverage will act as if it is the insurance policy for the uninsured at-fault driver, and will provide benefits up to the bodily injury limits on your policy.

Your UM coverage cannot exceed your bodily injury limit, and we recommend a minimum of 100/300. If you are insured under a minimum limits policy (30/60), and are injured by someone who does not carry insurance, you are limited to the 30,000 uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy. If the expenses associated with your injury exceeds your 30,000 limit, you are on the hook for paying those expenses. If both vehicles are uninsured, you are responsible for all of your medical expenses.

Underinsured Motorist (UIM)
This will cover your medical expenses when the at-fault driver has a lower bodily injury limit than you do. If you carry policy limits of 50,000 per person, 100,000 per accident (50/100), and you are injured by someone with a 30/60 policy, the at-fault party is considered to be underinsured and you are entitled to recover the first 30,000 in damages from the at-fault driver’s insurance, and the difference, 20,000, from your policy under your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Similar to UM, this coverage is relatively inexpensive to increase, and protects you regardless of your status as driver, passenger or pedestrian.

Medical Payments

We recommend everyone carry Medical Payments. This optional coverage will pay for medical expenses associated with a car accident, regardless of fault. They will pay you even if your health insurance carrier or at-fault driver’s insurance has paid for your medical treatment. Most insurance carriers offer medical payments coverage in the following increments: $500, $1,000, $2,000, $5,000, and $10,000. If you are injured in an accident and incur $2,000 in medical expenses, even though you will recover from the at-fault drivers insurance, and even though those bills might have been paid by your health insurance, if you carry $2,000 medical payments coverage, you are still entitled to recover that $2,000 from your auto insurance policy.

If I Wasn’t At Fault, Why Do I Have To Pay?
Oh, if I had a dollar for every time I heard this or a version of this! The fact is that as many as 15% of drivers are uninsured, and if you are also uninsured or underinsured, you may find yourself in this situation. Let’s say you carry a minimum liability policy, which in North Carolina, is 30,000 per person, 60,000 per accident (30/60). If you are injured in an accident that is caused by someone who does not carry insurance, you will be limited to the 30,000 uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy. If the expenses associated with your injury exceeds your 30,000 uninsured motorist coverage, you are on the hook for paying those expenses. Further, your uninsured motorist coverage limits cannot exceed your bodily injury limits, so in order to increased uninsured motorist, you must also increase bodily injury. If both your vehicle and the at fault vehicle are uninsured, you are responsible for all of your medical expenses.

Now let’s assume your policy limits are 50,000 per person, 100,000 per accident (50/100), and you are injured by someone with a 30/60 policy. Because 30/60 is less than 50/100, that driver is considered to be underinsured. You are entitled to the first 30,000 in damages from the at-fault party’s insurance, and the next 20,000 from your policy under your uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

Father Killed, Family Only Recovers $30,000

A husband and father to a 6 year old child was killed by an uninsured driver. He only had a minimum limit liability policy, and his wife and child could only collect the $30,000 uninsured motorist coverage. Surely his life was worth far more than that, but he did not protect himself or his family.

Not Enough Insurance To Cover All The Passengers

A person with a minimum limits auto policy crashes into a minimally insured minivan occupied by the entire family. All 7 family members suffer serious injury. The $60,000 per accident must be allocated among all 7 passengers of the minivan, leaving insufficient money to pay all medical expenses, and leaving nothing for pain and suffering.

Don’t Be Penny-Wise And Pound Foolish
Do not wait until it’s too late! The worst time to discover you are not sufficiently insured is after an accident. Take the time to review your policy. Consider the needs of your family members who may be drivers or passengers of your insured vehicle. Buying insurance can be confusing, and we are happy to help. For more information, call our office and we will be happy to discuss it with you.

SeatbeltA 14 year old student athlete is dead following a Charlotte car accident involving a hit and run driver, and a driver who did not ensure that her passengers were properly restrained before getting on the road. Fourteen year old David Bell was killed when he was ejected from a vehicle operated by Ginna Stamps. Stamps was driving Bell and other teens home from a basketball game Saturday night when her vehicle was sideswiped by a vehicle that fled the scene. Stamps then lost control of her vehicle, skid across all lanes of I485, and hit the median, which caused her vehicle to flip, ejecting Bell and 2 other unrestrained teens. North Carolina Highway Patrol says it is following several leads to determine the identity of the hit and run driver.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that the leading cause of death in the 3 to 14 year old age group is car accidents. A recent study has found that 46% of the nearly 5,600 children aged 14 and under that were killed in car accidents in 2008 were not properly restrained. It seems that almost every day, we read about young people who die in car accidents, and then we learn that their deaths likely could have been prevented had they buckled their seatbelts. Stamps, the parent of one of the teens ejected, and the person responsible for the safety of her passengers, was responsible to make sure all of her passengers were properly restrained before ever putting her car in drive. Even though Stamps was the victim of a hit and run, she is not without blame in the wrongful death of David Bell, and the serious injuries of the other teens that were ejected from her vehicle. At the moment, Stamps has only been charged with seatbelt violations, a mere 2 points on her license and a $25 fine, while Bell and his family are paying the ultimate price.

Our sympathies go out to David Bell’s family. It is difficult to understand the unnecessary loss of such a young life, and also difficult to determine who should be held responsible. An experienced North Carolina car accident attorney can sort through the details and obtain appropriate compensation.

Crumpled car after accidentA Wilmington car accident has taken the lives of three people, and a fourth is expected to survive. The single car accident occurred on Forest Hills Drive. An SUV being driven by 22 year old Raphael Samuel was caught on surveillance video traveling at a very high rate of speed through the Forest Hills neighborhood in Wilmington, just seconds before it crashed into a tree.

Samuel was not wearing a seatbelt, nor were his passengers, 21 year old Yashica White, and 25 year old Shatia Hankins, who were also killed in this violent crash. A fourth passenger, Demond Jones, is expected to survive.

Police believe Samuel was on drugs when he crashed into a tree, and are continuing their investigation to determine what role, if any, drugs or alcohol played in this accident. According to a Wilmington Police Officer, Samuel’s SUV was seen driving without headlights. The officer turned his patrol car around to follow, but did not activate its lights or siren. The officer reported that as he began to follow the SUV, it took off at a high rate of speed and was found moments later, crashed into a tree. Police estimate the SUV was traveling 85 mph on Forest Hills Drive, and was still going 80mph when it hit the tree. Forest Hills Drive has a posted speed limit of 25mph. There has been speculation that Samuel, a convicted felon, was fleeing from police.

Regardless of the reason Samuel was traveling so fast, these lives could have been spared had they only worn their seatbelts. There is no excuse for not being properly belted. Even pregnant women are advised to wear seatbelts. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that people between the ages of 16 and 24 have the lowest percentage of seatbelt use. Even more disturbing is the statistic that people in this age group represent not just the highest number of car accidents, but also the highest number of fatal car accidents.

So what happens when a driver or passenger is not wearing a seatbelt? Let’s say the car is traveling 60mph. When the car crashes, the vehicle is rapidly decelerating and the frame of the car begins to absorb most of the force of the impact. A driver or passenger who is not properly restrained, however, will continue moving forward at the original traveling speed of 60mph, until contact with a stationary object, such as steering wheel, dashboard, windshield, or ejection from the vehicle, forces them to stop. And if a driver or passenger is wearing a seatbelt? The force of the impact is distributed through the body, preventing the head or upper body from contacting the interior of the vehicle. So why would anyone refuse to buckle up?

In North Carolina, failure to wear a seatbelt does not prevent an injured person from recovering damages for their injuries. In fact, the families of the passengers in this wreck may have a claim against the driver for their injuries and wrongful death. For more information, call the experienced car accident attorneys at Auger & Auger for a free consultation.

Flowers at a graveA Davidson County car accident has claimed the lives of Charlotte sweethearts Shavalos Jameson and Simone McDuffie, and has left Jameson’s stepbrother Trevor Rutherford with life threatening injuries. According to North Carolina Highway Patrol, a car owned by Jameson was being driven by McDuffy when the vehicle abruptly turned into the guardrail on southbound US52 and careened off the bridge, falling nearly 50 feet and on to US64.

Together in life, together in death. Shavalos and Jameson had reportedly been dating for the 5 years since they met as high school students in Charlotte. Family members describe the pair as inseparable and recall how after McDuffie went off to college at Winston-Salem State University, Jameson would make the drive up to Winston Salem every weekend to pick up his fiancée and bring her home to Charlotte.

North Carolina State Troopers do not think that drugs or alcohol played a role in this tragic accident, and are continuing their investigation. Bobby McCall, next-door neighbor of Shavalos Jameson, told WSOC-TV that he had seen Jameson doing repair work on the car earlier that day and he had warned Jameson to be careful. McCall advised reporters that here had been a problem with the tie rod (part of the steering mechanism of the car).

North Carolina law requires the steering mechanism of a motor vehicle to be maintained in proper working order. According to CarTalk.com, replacing steering components, such as tie rods, involves a high degree of complexity. Before undertaking a car repair on your own, CarTalk recommends you consider the following:

-What is the risk of serious injury if something goes wrong during or after the repair>
-What is the risk of serious damage to the car?
-How complex is the repair, and are special or expensive tools required?

If it is true that Jameson’s vehicle did in fact have a problem with the tie-rod, he should never have allowed the vehicle to be driven without replacing the worn out or broken part. The tie rod is an integral part of the steering of a vehicle, and if a tie rod breaks while driving, it will likely cause the driver to lose control of the car.

The North Carolina car accident attorneys at Auger & Auger represent people injured through the negligence of others. A free consultation is available by calling (704)364-3361.

Speeding Semi TruckA tractor trailer truck accident on I85 close to the Gaston county line has left one person dead and another person injured. North Carolina Highway Patrol closed all southbound lanes of I85 near the exit for Sam Wilson Road for several hours in order to investigate and to clear the wreck.

Larry James Grier was killed early this morning when the Budget Rental truck he was driving crashed into the rear of a disabled tractor trailer truck. The other truck driver was transported to Carolinas Medical Center.

According to witnesses, the front end of Grier’s truck crashed squarely into the rear of the other truck. WSOC-TV reports that the driver of the disabled tractor trailer truck did place warning cones behind the truck. Troopers believe that Grier did not see the tractor trailer truck, which was actually in a travel lane, and not on the shoulder. Budget Rental does not require that renters of its moving truck possess a commercial drivers’ license, and anyone with a valid drivers’ license, regardless of experience, can rent a 24 foot moving truck.

Under North Carolina law, all motorists are required to operate their vehicle in a manner that is reasonable for the conditions existing on the roadway, as well as to leave sufficient space between vehicles. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety suggests leaving 1 car length for every 10mph the vehicle is traveling. It is very sad that Mr. Grier lost his life in this accident. Hopefully, the investigation by Highway Patrol will offer some clues as to why he did not see the disabled truck.

Our North Carolina truck accident lawyers realize that when a traffic accident involves a large vehicle such as a tractor trailer, it could result in serious injury or death. If you or a family member has been hurt in a truck accident in North Carolina, Auger & Auger will provide a free consultation.

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