Under North Carolina law, all vehicles (except for utility vehicles that aren’t used on public roads) must be protected by insurance policies. In fact, you can’t get your license plate for your car until you have proper insurance — and many car dealerships won’t sell you a car until you prove you have insurance.
If you drive without insurance, you are not only breaking the law, but you’re also setting yourself up to financially responsible for any injuries that you may cause as well as for any damages to vehicles or other property involved in your accident. Our Charlotte car accident lawyers have seen this issue come up frequently in cases involving uninsured motor vehicles.
Without car insurance, you are taking a huge risk. If you are going to be out on the road behind the wheel of a car, be a responsible person – be a safe and responsible insured driver! Here’s everything you need to know about insurance in North Carolina, including how a lawyer can help if your insurance company doesn’t send you a fair settlement.
Under North Carolina law, every vehicle that operates on a public road must have insurance. This includes personal passenger vehicles, commercial vehicles, motorcycles and, unlike some other states, mopeds. However, there are some vehicles that don’t have to be insured.
Utility vehicles like dirt bikes, ATVs, UTVs and golf carts don’t have to be insured — as long as they are never used for transportation on public roads. This is because they aren’t generally designed to be used in road traffic. However there are exceptions. For example if you use a dirt bike on public roads, it must be registered as a motorcycle, which requires liability insurance.
The state’s minimum insurance requirements include:
What isn’t included in the minimum requirements is collision and comprehensive coverage, rental car coverage or roadside insurance for towing your car or truck after an accident. However, if you can afford these coverages, they can be incredibly beneficial in the event of a car wreck.
You may have some questions about the uninsured/underinsured driver coverage that is listed above. While this coverage can help if you’re in a collision with a driver with less-than-adequate insurance, it’s vital for hit-and-run accidents. In these cases, your uninsured/underinsured driver coverage should kick in to cover the injuries or property damage you sustain if you should ever be hit by a vehicle that leaves the accident scene.
Car insurance is required by North Carolina law; that’s why officers always ask to see proof of insurance if you get pulled over. If you are caught without insurance, the first offense can carry a penalty of $50. The second offense is $100, and the third and subsequent offense is $150. These fines must be paid (and you must show proof of insurance) within 10 days, or your license will be suspended.
But these penalties are small potatoes compared to being in a car wreck without insurance. If you don’t have insurance covering you, you may be on the hook for all the damage to your own car and any injuries to yourself, passengers or other people that you may have hurt. In NC, all of the other people in the wreck you caused (including your passengers) can file personal injury claims against you, which could result in you being sued or having to go to court.
A commonly asked question is whether you can buy insurance that would provide retroactive coverage for an accident that has already happened. After an accident is always a good time to review your coverage with your insurance co, but a policy purchased after an accident won’t cover the accident that you were just in. In addition, that wreck and lapse in insurance coverage may mean any future policies you purchase will cost you more than other drivers that do not have lapsed coverage or at-fault accidents on their driving record.
In short, make sure you have car insurance if you are going to be on the road!
Insurance premiums are your payments for coverage. They’re usually paid monthly or every 6 months. Premiums are generally based on the odds of how likely it is that you will file a claim.
That sometimes is calculated based on a variety of factors that may include:
Each insurance company has their own proprietary formula to decide how much of a risk you are to insure. The higher the risk, the more your premium will increase. So, for instance, a 23-year-old man who drives an expensive sports car may pay a higher premium than a 40-year-old woman who drives a minivan.
Perhaps the biggest factors in the above example are age and gender. It’s been proven time and time again that young male drivers are more aggressive than young female drivers. Mix in the fact that younger drivers have less experience on the road, and the fact that young male drivers generally have higher premiums makes more sense.
Like every state, there are specific details in North Carolina’s car insurance laws that you should be familiar with if you’re driving in this state. For example:
A Comment on Insurance and Providing Rideshare Services
Your “regular” auto insurance policy may not cover any accidents that happen while you’re driving for Lyft or Uber. If you work with Lyft, Uber or some other application that involves your vehicle, speak to your insurance co and the ride share company / app about the type(s) of insurance you need to be fully covered in the event of an accident. Please note that these coverage issues can have a negative effect on you even if you are not the at-fault driver. There are significant disclaimers on most auto policies regarding using your vehicle to provide rideshares or deliveries. In some instances, our firm has been contacted about coverage disputes where the driver was denied coverage because they did not have the proper type of insurance, and this was in a situation where the Uber driver did not even cause the accident!
If you use your vehicle for work, talk to your insurance company and your employer about your insurance coverage!
Commercial vehicles can generally be thought of like work trucks, work vans, tractor trailers, some delivery vehicles and others as well. If you are involved with a large commercial vehicle in a motor vehicle accident or other vehicle that you may think would be considered a commercial vehicle, you should speak to an experienced motor vehicle accident injury attorney because these types of cases are very different than accidents involving non-commercial vehicles. In some accidents an experienced accident lawyer may even want to conduct their own investigation that may involve expert analysis of important evidence such as the commercial vehicle’s “black box” and driver’s log.
For the most part, people driving commercial vehicles have different licensing and insurance requirements for their vehicles. If you have questions about licensing or insurance requirements for commercial vehicles you should reach out to a commercial vehicle insurance broker and the state DMV.
After an accident, your first call should be to 9-1-1 to get a police officer and ambulance to the scene. After you’ve received medical attention and you have spoken to the police, you should consider speaking to an experienced injury law firm before talking to anyone from any insurance company.
All too often people make the mistake of speaking to the insurance company before they realize they should have spoken to a lawyer first. The insurance company may want you to give a statement about the facts of your injury accident and information about your injuries. Such statements can effect whether or not an insurance company pays your claim and how much they pay. If an insurance company gets ahold of you before you have spoken to an accident attorney, tell them politely but firmly that they can get further information from the police report and that you’d like to speak with your attorney before answering any questions.
At Auger & Auger, we always offer free initial consultations. That means we’ll review the details of your case and let you know how we may be able to help you. Call us today at (704) 364-3361 or contact us online for a free, no-obligation consultation. We know how insurance companies work and we have the experience to help you fight for the compensation that you may be entitled to. Give us a call to see how we can fight for you!
Since Charlotte became one of the many cities to be inundated with rental e-scooters in 2017, there has been much discussion about how to regulate e-scooter usage in the Queen City. As we wrote in a previous article last year on e-scooters, there are many uncertainties when it comes to the risks that riders take when they agree to rent an e-scooter through an app on their phone. Some of these concerns include worries related to safety, financial responsibility for accidents or injuries involving rental bikes/scooters and when, where and how the vehicles can be ridden.
The Charlotte City Council has debated the issue and put a lot of time and thought into the rules that are in place for these popular e-scooters. The Charlotte Observer reports that in December alone, Charlotte riders racked up 82,523 trips covering 81,484 miles. With those kinds of numbers there are certainly going to be discussions regarding safety, financial responsibility and how the scooters should be regulated to best impact residents and the city. While the scooters have been very popular and have made an impact for people making small commutes around uptown, there have also been concerns specifically related to crowded sidewalks caused by riders and the scooters themselves when they are abandoned after a ride is over.
After significant discussion, debate and time given to the issue, the Charlotte City Council has enacted the following rules for e-scooter use in Charlotte:
While these rules will certainly impact the way that e-scooters are being used in our city, the Charlotte City Council stopped short of making any requirements related to helmet or insurance requirements. At this time someone renting an e-scooter is not required to wear a helmet when they ride it. Additionally, there are also concerns about financial responsibility for accidents and injuries caused by negligent use of these e-scooters. If someone using one of these scooters in a negligent or unsafe manner causes an injury to another person, there is no liability insurance to recover against in the same manner that there would be if the accident was caused by an automobile. If a pedestrian or someone in a car is injured by an accident caused by one of these scooters, how will these injured people recover money for their medical bills, lost wages or other compensable damages?
At the state level, the NC Legislature may choose to make state-wide requirements that could potentially supersede the regulations that are in place throughout Charlotte, and other cities in NC such as Raleigh and Greensboro. Requiring helmets and liability insurance would be a step in the right direction as far as additional regulations that need to be implemented. The timing of these regulations should also be in a timely manner before too many people are seriously injured with injuries and damages that could be limited under the proper types of government oversight. As the use and regulation of e-scooters continues to evolve, the effects of the current rules will have to be consistently looked at if we truly expect them to have a significant impact.
Auger & Auger Law Firm is an injury law firm that handles cases related to car, truck, motorcycle and tractor trailer accidents, as well as other types of injury cases. Our firm focuses on helping people that have been injured because of the negligence of others. If you or someone that you know has been injured in a scooter, car, truck or any other type of accident involving a vehicle, give us a call. We will provide a free case evaluation to see how we can help. Our phones are answered 24 hours per day, every day of the year. Please call our office at (855) 971-1114.
Drowsy driving can be just as dangerous or even more dangerous than drunk driving.
1.2 million accidents are caused annually by sleeplessness. While watching this video, there will be several accidents in the United States caused by drowsy or sleep deprived drivers.
An immediate side effect of not getting enough sleep is a lack of concentration. Not being able to pay attention because of not getting enough sleep can be dangerous when a sleepy driver gets behind the wheel.
Drowsy drivers can cause accidents when they fall asleep behind the wheel or when they experience a momentary lack of concentration called microsleep. These last for just a few seconds during which time the eyelid will either partially or fully close.
During a microsleep, your brain becomes blind to the outside world for a brief moment. You may experience microsleep and not even realize it.
You don’t have to be sound asleep behind the wheel to cause a serious accident, a brief moment of inattention caused by a lack of sleep and concentration can be deadly! Unlike drink drivers who are late in braking or making evasive maneuvers, when you fall asleep, you stop reacting altogether.
Did you know that after 16 hours of being awake the brain begins to fail? We need more than seven hours of sleep each night to maintain cognitive performance.
Some research has shown that ten days of six hours of sleep at night is all that it takes to be impaired the same as someone that has gone 24 hours without sleep!
One study showed that sleep deprived people, deprived of sleep for 19 hours were as cognitively impaired as other drivers that were legally drunk with a .08 percent blood alcohol content.
Operating on less than 5 hours of sleep, your risk of a car crash increases by three times.
If you drive with just four hours of sleep or less the night before you are 11.5 times more likely to be involved in a car accident.
What about drowsy drunk driving? Consider this: Most individuals are driving drunk in the early morning hours rather than in the middle of the day, meaning that most drunk drivers are also sleep deprived.
Truck drivers are at a greater risk of having a condition called sleep apnea, a condition which causes chronic, severe sleep deprivation.
That puts truck drivers at 200 to 500 percent more likely to be involved in a traffic accident as compared to a non commercial vehicle.
Sleep is important to all aspects of your life, especially your ability to maintain concentration. If you don’t get enough sleep, don’t get behind the wheel. Say no to drowsy driving!
For more information on the importance of sleep, and more sleep related facts check out Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, PhD
If you have been involved in a car crash, you may have someone recommend to you that you seek the services of an experienced car accident attorney who can help you with your case. The typical reason is that a non-lawyer may not be capable of assessing all of the types of damages / compensation that they may be able to recover from the other driver’s insurance company following their car accident.
Without knowledge of North Carolina car accident law, an individual may unknowingly accept a far lower settlement ask for less than they may be entitled to under the law. In fact some injured people may not even pursue an injury claim at all because they may not know that they can! Some people avoid fighting with the other driver’s insurance company over their settlement, believing that the amount of money that they have been offered by an insurance company is fair. Others hold tight to the feeling that they aren’t “the type of person” to sue someone. The truth of the matter is that insurance companies aren’t out for a car accident injury victim’s best interests and utilizing a car accident lawyer and the Court (if necessary) doesn’t make you anything other than a person that wants to protect their rights!
Working with North Carolina car accident lawyers can allow you to be informed of how much your case may be worth. Your lawyers can also assemble the facts and evidence necessary to prove your case and its legal value.
To help you get oriented as to how much your case and injury claim might be worth, take a look at the following categories of car accident damages available to North Carolina car accident victims.
Medical expenses are among the most immediate and quantifiable damages victims can recover after their serious car accident. The average person understands that if someone else was responsible for causing the accident that injured them, they are eligible to recover their reasonable and necessary healthcare costs.
What they may not know is how to accurately and thoroughly document these expenses so that they can recover nearly every penny they spent on their own healthcare. Even if their own private medical insurance provided the initial coverage for their treatments, they still have the right to seek compensation for those costs. (An experienced car accident lawyer will be able to tell you how your own private health insurance may affect your potential settlement – let them know about your health insurance when you speak to them!)
Additionally, a car accident victim may recover medical expenses, including:
A car accident settlement or award may include should certainly consider past related medical expenses, and it may attempt to predict all future medical expenses as well. For instance, a victim who will need multiple surgeries scheduled in the future may receive compensation in advance based on a projection of how much those surgeries may cost.
Injury victims will likely miss work and other income-earning opportunities. Since this outcome is the result of the accident, that lost income can potentially be recovered as part of an injury claim.
Officially, recovering lost income pertains to the loss of the victim’s time they could spend fulfilling their employment duties, the loss of their ability to perform ordinary work, and a reduced capacity to earn money in general.
Compensation for these losses will account for past, present, and future income potential. To project the possible lost future income, a jury is instructed to account for the injured party’s:
In cases of serious injury, car accident victims may be able to request a monetary amount intended to compensate them for the pain and suffering they experienced as a result of the car accident. This pain and suffering must be directly traced to the negligent actions of the defendant. Individuals wishing to add pain and suffering as part of their settlement will be expected to provide concrete evidence to support their claim. An attorney can often assist individuals with the process of documenting such evidence. This evidence can include information from a pain journal or a list of activities that are difficult or impossible because of the victim’s suffering.
Many car accident injuries are so severe as to cause the victim to permanently lose a limb partially or completely. They may also lose the full capacity of certain bodily functions, such as having an eyesight impairment as the result of retinal damage. Such damages may include the permanent scarring or disfigurement of a visible organ, even if the organ functions normally. Calculating the value of a lost limb is complex and North Carolina does not set forth specific guidelines.
In instances where a major accident injury causes the victim to lose their ability to lead a normal life at home, they may be eligible to receive additional compensation. Such losses may include an inability to:
In some rare instances, permanent damage to a vital organ may shorten the accident victim’s life measurably. They may be able to claim that loss of life as part of their general damages in the same vein as calculating lost future income or lost functioning of a limb.
In the event that an individual dies as a result of car accident injuries directly caused by someone’s negligent actions, the victim’s survivors and the representatives of their estate can file a wrongful death case in North Carolina.
A wrongful death claim will account for all medical expenses, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and losses of a normal life as above. The final amount requested as compensation may also reflect what the individual may have been able to recover had they survived.
In cases of extreme “gross” negligence, malicious behavior, or behaviors exhibiting a lack of remorse for harmful actions, certain judges and juries may award additional compensation intended to punish the defendant. These awards are rare, but they are intended to add additional punishment to those who commit heinous acts as both a deterrent and a symbolic action of justice.
Punitive damages are awarded in only the most egregious of cases. Punitive damages are capped in almost every state and there are guidelines on who receives these damages after they have been awarded.
The amount that a person may receive after an accident is based upon many factors. A judge will consider the amount of medical expenses the victim has already paid and how much they may have to pay in the future. The judge may also consider the time a victim is required to spend recuperating, whether the victim is able to return to work, and if the victim’s ability to enjoy life has been diminished.
If you have been hurt in an accident, reach out to Auger & Auger Law. An experienced member of injury team can review the details of your case at no cost to you and help you determine the type of damages that may you may be entitled to under the law. You do not have to take the insurance company’s word for it, speak to a lawyer about your options and what you may be entitled to! (855) 971-1114 We answer our phones 24 hours a day and 365 days a year.
In terms of overall traffic-related fatalities, Charlotte, North Carolina’s Mecklenburg County ranks first — or last, depending on how you look at it. The most populous county in the state also had the highest number of drunk-driving related fatalities as well as fatal accidents involving occupants who didn’t wear their seatbelts.
These facts were compiled over several years by the state’s Governor’s Highway Safety Program and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). The 2018 Highway Safety Plan Report for the state recorded incidents that occurred as recently as 2015. Our Charlotte car accident lawyers want you to be mindful of these statistics and we also want you to be aware of efforts taken by the state to reduce fatal road accidents in Mecklenburg County and throughout North Carolina.
By knowing what’s at stake and how our state intends to fix it, we hope that you will take steps of your own to reduce deadly serious accidents in North Carolina’s biggest city.
According to the 2018 North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program Report, Mecklenburg County ranked at the top of the list of North Carolina counties for overall road fatalities in 2015. The county had 80 overall deaths stemming from motor vehicle crashes that year, beating the #2 county (Wake) by 15.
On the other hand, Mecklenburg happens to be the state’s most populous county. In 2015, census estimates put the entire county, which includes the city of Charlotte, at 1,035,605 people. From that perspective, it makes sense that the county with the most people and likely the most cars on the road would by extension have the highest overall volume of motor vehicle accident fatalities. Looking solely at the county’s rate of car accident deaths per 100,000 people, Mecklenburg has 7.72. This figure means it ranks 90th out of 100 counties.
By comparison, rural counties in North Carolina tend to have a low number of overall road fatalities but a high rate relative to their population. Robeson County, for instance, which includes the cities of Lumberton and Pembroke, had 53 road fatalities in 2015. Compared to its population of 133,375 people, the county had a fatality rate per 100k population of 39.74: over five times the rate of Mecklenburg! Robeson also had the fifth-highest number of overall motor vehicle crash fatalities, making it somewhat of an outlier.
Other, smaller counties had more exaggerated fatal accident rates. Sampson County, with just 63,993 people in 2015, had 25 total road accident deaths, making it #2 in the state by rate.
While one might be able to give context to Mecklenburg’s high accident fatality volume given its high population, but the county has no excuses when it comes to drunk driving and especially seat belt use.
Statistics from the report indicate that between 2011 and 2015 the county had 127 total fatalities in crashes where alcohol-impaired driving was a factor. That figure accounts for nearly 7% of all such fatalities in the state and gives the county a death rate of 1.23 per 10,000 people.
Again, rural areas in the state do tend to have higher rates than that. Hoke County, for instance, accounted for just over 1% of all DUI-related road deaths but had a rate 3.7 times higher than Mecklenburg’s. Robeson again topped the charts with its rate, which was an alarming 4.95.
In this case, even a relative comparison still makes Mecklenburg County and the city of Charlotte far from blameless. DUI-related deaths are entirely avoidable, yet they tend to cause an anguish-inducing amount of fatal accidents per year.
Even more alarming is the fact that Mecklenburg County has had a very poor record of seatbelt use, which directly contributes to the volume and rate of fatal accidents in the region. The report indicated that 44.6% of all road fatalities in the area happened to individuals who were not properly restrained. This figure includes both adults not wearing seatbelts as well as minors who were not given the proper restraints. In total, Mecklenburg saw 90 such fatalities between 2011 and 2015, accounting for just under 5% of the state’s total.
The purpose of the state’s highway safety report was not just to scare individuals into making smart decisions — although that was certainly part of it. Alongside these grim statistics comes a ray of hope in the form of action-oriented programs designed to improve road safety and prevent avoidable deaths.
For example, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department will continue its DWI task force project for the fifth straight year. The program aims to reduce alcohol-related fatalities, traffic crashes and injuries through both enforcement and education efforts. This task force includes seven dedicated officers who cooperate with other local offices to set up DWI checkpoints during peak hours at night, on weekends, and during holidays.
Mecklenburg County has also participated in concerted efforts to improve proper restraint use. 2016 data from the seat belt survey indicates an observed seat belt use rate of 92.7% in Charlotte and the county at large.
Drivers can help with these efforts — and reduce their risk of being part of a fatal crash — by practicing smart, safe driving techniques. Always use a seat belt, never drive impaired, and obey all road laws including posted speed limits.
Every accident can be serious, but the dangers are increased when drivers engage in reckless behavior such as DWI. Even the most careful driver may suddenly find themselves the victim in a life-changing accident.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a motor vehicle accident — remember that you have the right to get legal representation to assist you with your injury claim. You could be eligible for not just medical bill reimbursement but also compensation for your lost wages, pain and suffering, and other damages.
You can contact our Charlotte car accident lawyers today if you have any questions or want to find out how you can have someone fighting for your rights as soon as possible. Get in touch, and we will try our best to answer your questions and see how we may be able to help. Your first call starts our initial case evaluation process. Call us today! Our phones are answered 24 hours per day, 7 days a week! (855) 971-1114