I was in an accident caused by an uninsured driver in North Carolina. What can I do?
If you have been involved in an accident and discover the at-fault driver was uninsured at the time of the crash, you may be wondering about your options for recovery. Navigating insurance claims with North Carolina state law can be a challenge, which is where a personal injury law firm can come in and provide assistance.
The circumstances of your accident may increase the complexity of your personal injury claim. When you seek help from a Charlotte car accident lawyer, you can rest assured your best interests are at the forefront of the situation. They will help you pursue all available forms of compensation, even when the driver who hit you lacked insurance.
In order to understand your best options in an accident with an uninsured driver, it is essential first to understand the insurance requirements in North Carolina.
Motorist Coverage in North Carolina
States determine the amount of insurance that drivers are required to maintain. In North Carolina, resident drivers are required, at minimum, to have the following auto insurance coverages on their policy:
- Bodily injury liability — $30,000 for one person, $60,000 for two or more people
- Property damage liability — $25,000
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM)
Uninsured Motorist Coverage Provides a Crucial Insurance Lifeline
One fact that can shine a ray of hope on your case is that North Carolina is one of the few states that requires all drivers to carry UM/UIM coverage. This coverage pays the difference between the applicable limits of any at-fault drivers’ liability policies compared to your total accident losses. It can also cover any other passengers riding in your vehicle.
Applicable situations include accidents caused by an uninsured motorist, an accident leading to damages surpassing the at-fault driver’s liability policy limits, an accident with a motorist whose insurance company has gone bankrupt, and a motorist who drove an uninsured vehicle despite having insurance. In some cases, UM/UIM carriers may even provide coverage in the event of a hit-and-run accident or when a driver’s insurance provider denies liability.
There are other types of coverage drivers can add to their policies, including collision coverage and comprehensive coverage. What you choose to add to your base policy depends on multiple factors, including whether you own, lease, or finance your vehicle, the car’s age, and who will be driving your vehicle.
Penalties for Being Uninsured
Uninsured drivers put themselves and others at risk anytime they get behind the wheel. However, some still choose to forgo their legal obligation. Common reasons include the following:
- High insurance costs because of previous traffic violations
- Poor driving record
- Not having a legal driver’s license
- Accidental lapse in coverage
- General carelessness
To discourage drivers from driving without insurance, North Carolina has penalties in place for offenders. Drivers who fail to maintain the proper amount of coverage continuously could face a $50 fine for a first lapse to a $150 fine for a third or subsequent lapse in coverage. In addition to the monetary penalty, drivers could also have their vehicle registration and license plate revoked.
Uninsured drivers can also be held personally liable for any accidents or injuries they cause.
Proving Liability After a Car Accident
If you are filing an uninsured motorist claim, you need to be prepared to prove you are legally entitled to damages. While filing a claim with an insurance company is not the same as pursuing a personal injury lawsuit in civil court, the process can seem similar in proving fault on behalf of the other driver. In other words, a North Carolina car accident lawyer will use largely the same types of evidence and legal arguments for an insurance claim as they would for a jury trial.
On the other side of the coin, the same legal defenses available to an at-fault driver in court are available to insurance companies. For example, an insurance company could try to use the theory of contributory negligence to deny an uninsured motorist claim. In North Carolina, the contributory negligence theory prevents accident victims from recovering compensation if they are even 1% (one percent) at fault for the crash.
As such, it is important to consider speaking with a North Carolina car accident attorney. Remember that insurance companies are for-profit businesses looking to protect their bottom line. Insurance agents will look for any reason to deny your claim. With a lawyer by your side, you can rest assured you will have the best possible chances as a favorable claim and its resulting settlement.
Seeking Compensation From an Uninsured Driver
Car accidents often result in significant damages. For accident victims, it is vital to put a dollar amount on your total losses so that you know what you need to seek to fully recover. The types of expenses car accident victims often deal with include the following:
- Medical Bills — Depending on the severity of your injuries after your accident, you may need emergency medical attention. Even if you do not take an immediate trip to the hospital, you are likely to have medical expenses related to the crash. If you are dealing with debilitating injuries, recovery could take months and require extensive treatment.
- Lost Wages — If your injuries require extensive time off work, you may be dealing with lost wages. Car accident victims should never have to worry about putting food on the table or keeping the lights on while also focusing on recovering.
- Property Damage — Your car and personal belongings were likely damaged in your accident. You could be looking at thousands of dollars in property damage, as well as the inability to get around without a working vehicle.
- Emotional Trauma — Car accidents are undoubtedly traumatic events. As a result, victims in severe or even fatal crashes are likely to develop conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It can take significant time for the pain and suffering of emotional trauma to subside, often with professional help from a therapist.
In many instances, UIM coverage matches the policyholder’s car insurance liability policy. So if your bodily injury meets the state minimum at $30,000/$60,000, your UIM coverage may mirror those numbers. However, say your total losses come to $40,000. You could be left to only recover what you carry in UIM and have damages that outweigh your available coverage. It is always a good idea to discuss insurance coverage issues related to an accident with an experienced personal injury lawyer. They may be able to help you find coverage that you had no idea even exists.
Additionally, if you find yourself hit by an uninsured driver, you should know that it is likely that they may not have many financial resources, so pursuing funds from them directly — usually through a lawsuit — may not be the best recourse for recovering accident damages. In these cases, it is (again) a great idea to speak to an attorney about your options for searching for additional insurance coverage or negligent parties to recover against.
Get Help From a Car Accident Lawyer in North Carolina
If you’re struggling with an insurance company after a car accident, Auger & Auger Accident and Injury Lawyers can help. Our attorneys recognize the challenges associated with serious accident cases, and we’re prepared to try to help you receive compensation for all crash-related damages. In some cases that may even require the filing of a lawsuit and even a jury trial. Every case is different, so please give us a call! The earlier you contact us after a wreck, the better for the sake of your claim. Schedule a free, no-risk case evaluation now by simply calling 800-559-5741 or using our online contact form.