As winter hits North Carolina, car accidents are going to become more common. Ice and snow have already made the roads slick, causing vehicles to slide on the roads and into other cars. When these incidents happen, it’s important to know how to determine who’s at fault.
As Charlotte car accident lawyers, we’ve seen time and time again drivers make one simple mistake that shifted blame for the wreck: Apologizing or otherwise admitting blame at the scene. This simple mistake can have massive ramifications down the road.
It’s important to understand how North Carolina assigns fault for car accidents, and how you can help prove that you weren’t to blame for the wreck.
North Carolina: A Contributory Negligence State
North Carolina is one of the very few states that follows contributory negligence laws. In a nutshell, this means if you’re even a tiny bit at fault for your car accident or contributed to causing your accident or injury, you won’t be entitled to any compensation from the driver even if they are overwhelmingly at fault.
In comparison, most states follow a type of comparative fault model. This means that, even if you’re partly at fault for your accident, you can still recover damages. For example, say one of your tail lights doesn’t work. You’re at a stoplight at 10 p.m., and you get rear-ended, injuring your back. Because your tail light is out an insurance company may make the argument that you’re 20% at fault for the wreck. If a judge or jury agrees with them, the overall amount of the recovery for your damages would be reduced by 20% – because of your own negligence.
If the same scenario happened in North Carolina you would have no legal right to ANY compensation due to North Carolina’s contributory negligence laws.
Proving Negligence in a Car Accident Case
Because North Carolina’s contributory negligence laws are so strict, it’s important to have an experienced personal injury attorney by your side if you’re in a car accident. Together, you and your lawyer can explore the different elements of your injury / negligence claim.
In general, all of the following must be proven to have a successful negligence case:
- Duty of care
- Breach of duty
- Injury due to the breach of duty
- Damages caused by the injury
In North Carolina, there are two types of causation:
- Cause in fact: This one is straightforward. If your injuries wouldn’t have happened without the other driver’s actions, then their actions, in fact, caused the injuries.
- Proximate cause: This type of cause explores whether your injuries were a reasonably foreseeable outcome of the accident. The details of proximate cause can be extremely confusing, but cause in fact and proximate cause are often one and the same. Your Charlotte, North Carolina car accident lawyer can go through the nuances of this legal concept and how it relates to your own case.
2. Duty of Care
In general, drivers have a duty to other drivers on the road. This means drivers are expected to be reasonably careful when they encounter anyone on the road, whether that’s another car, a pedestrian or another party.
3. Breach of Duty
This one’s pretty simple. If the other driver didn’t drive carefully in the same way another “reasonable person” would, they’re said to have breached their duty of care.
4. Injuries Caused by a Breach of Duty
In order to prove negligence, you must be able to prove your injuries were caused by the car accident. This is one of the main reasons it’s so important to seek medical treatment within a reasonable amount of time after your accident. Otherwise, the other driver could claim your injuries were not caused by the accident.
5. Damages Caused by the Injury
It’s not enough just to show that you were injured in the wreck. You must have suffered some kind of compensable loss. This could be property damage, medical expenses, lost wages/earning capacity, pain and suffering or other losses. It’s important to keep track of all expenses associated with the wreck to prove this factor.
If All These Factors Aren’t Met…
Proving all of these factors is the easiest way to prove the other driver was negligent in a car accident case. There may be other legal doctrines that your North Carolina car accident lawyer can explore if one or a few of these factors aren’t met. They can explain these doctrines and your other legal options to you. It is extremely important to meet all of these requirements in addition to showing that the accident was 100% the fault of the other driver. If you come up short in either area, you will not be able to successfully recover against the other driver(s).
Proving You Aren’t at Fault for a Car Accident
As we mentioned earlier, you essentially have to prove you weren’t at fault at all for the car accident to get compensation in a NC accident. Here are some pieces of evidence your lawyer may consider when evaluating your potential injury claim:
Independent Witness Statements
Anyone not in your or the other driver’s vehicle who saw the accident may be an invaluable witness. If you see someone who witnessed the wreck, take down their name and contact information. Provide this information to law enforcement and your car accident lawyer. You lawyer may want to contact them to see if their testimony is helpful to your case.
Photos of the Scene
As soon as you’re out of your car and safe, take as many pictures as you can of the accident. Take photos of:
- The damage your car and the other vehicle
- Road conditions
- Weather conditions
- Skid marks
- Traffic control devices in the area
- Injuries you sustained
- Any other details you may think are important.
It’s always better to have too many photos than not enough!
The Police Report
If police came to the scene of the accident (you should always make sure they do), make sure you get a copy of the police report. We have guides for many cities throughout the Carolinas to help you obtain and read your police report. Also, we are happy to help you get your report if you don’t already have it.
Once you’ve gotten the police report, check it for accuracy. If there are any errors, call the reporting officer and let them know. The officer will make the ultimate decision on whether to revise the report. Remember, the NC Police Report does not determine fault but it can be helpful in determining how an insurance company may react to any potential claims that you submit to them.
Speak to a Charlotte Car Accident Lawyer Today
If you’ve been injured in a car accident in North Carolina, you have legal options. The experienced attorneys at Auger & Auger can review the details of your case and help you figure out how they may be able to help. You may be entitled to compensation. Speak to our experienced team to see what options you have. Call (855) 971-1114 or contact our Charlotte car accident lawyers online today for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.door